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Written Story Hoenn Mature Gijinka Astra Crystallum- A lightly randomised Emerald Gijinka Story

Thread Description
Local Isekai and Furry Friend Ruin Everything (9. Magma Storm, Part One)

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
Hi everyone! It's that Tookie bloke, the one who mostly does silly screenshot runs, independently trying his hand at something a bit... wordier.

A while back, I had the horrible concept for a gijinka RP that also took concepts from Final Fantasy Tactics and FF14. For various reasons, this never quite materialised, but then hopping on Mirror World gave me the story writing bug again and this concept got dragged back into being.

Also intelligently, this run hasn't actually been played in advance so I can't promise the swiftest update schedule. I genuinely have no idea how this is going to play out on either level, and I can't say for sure I'll earn my mature tag but also I can't say I won't and I'd hate to randomly blindside y'all with "oops i had to age-rate myself up, sorry".

So strap in, enjoy the ride, and if y'all could leave me some feedback to help a still-learning writer that would be majestic of you.

The forest is still. A gentle breeze lightly dusts across the leaves, and is almost imperceptible to the couple enjoying their casual stroll through the woods.

The man is tall, a couple of shades taller than six feet, with thick auburn hair and impassive eyes of the same hue. Strapped to the back of his long travelling coat is a thick, heavy-set sword. Beneath are baggy clothes embroidered with strange symbols, and thin-rimmed spectacles adorn his rather severe face- an expression not helped by the faint scar running up the length of his nose and between his eyes.

The woman is only a few inches shorter than him, with scarlet hair tied back into a ponytail, tall feline ears and vibrant blue eyes. She smiles a lot more than he does, as she bounces on her heels and takes the sights of the morning in with glee. Her build is wiry, with defined muscles visible in places not covered by thick leather hunting gear. Strapped to her belt is an interesting array of knives, which one hand occasionally runs across- even on an otherwise idle sightseeing tour, the habits of a lifetime never truly fade. Her most distinctive feature, however, is a thick bushy tail of the same scarlet as her hair that wags and waves as she walks.

“So, where did your tip say this thing was?” The woman’s voice is light, but the two have been together long enough for the man to catch the slight wariness in it.

“A bit further,” the man says. “Apparently there are some incredibly ancient ruins deeper in that we’ve collectively forgotten about for several thousand years.” He shrugs lightly, and the barest fraction of a smile threatens to crack his otherwise stony expression. “Sounds fake, but at least it’s a lovely morning for another dead-end on the world’s wildest goose chase.”

The woman chuckles. “There is that, I suppose. Almost makes me wish we’d packed for a picnic while we’re here.”

“I’m not the one that wanted to travel light, though, am I?” Yep. There it is. The smile has formed. The woman resists the urge to fire back, and instead rather maturely pokes her tongue out at him.

It’s a fairly long walk, even for the seasoned travellers, and the man is actually rather glad of her decision that they not pack all of their usual gear- he’d definitely be struggling a bit more with the increasingly hot summer day under several hundred pounds of steel. The long, black coat is already pushing his tolerance for heat, but this whole trip was his idea and there’s not a force known to man that would let him concede to her that he might have miscalculated on a trip that was his idea. Eventually, though, the trek bears fruit as the couple steps into a small clearing.

“... I don’t believe it.” The man is restrained in the face of their discovery. “I cannot believe that tip paid off.” Before them is a series of highly ornate stone pillars in the formation of a semicircle on a raised platform. Grass dares to slip through any cracks in the stone floor that can be found, and it’s a wonder that such a thing has been left undisturbed by man for as long as it supposedly has. “How the hell did this place stay under the radar for so long?”

“Kitsune magic,” the woman shrugs. “The tribes have kept our secrets for so long that even we’ve forgotten some of them- it’s a miracle that your system managed to find this.”

The man barks a laugh. “It’s a miracle that that system managed to find anything, honestly. I have no idea what any of the techs were thinking trying to chase Tears.”

“Didn’t stop you jumping on the idea of finding a way back to your world, though, did it?” The woman puts a frown on, but they both know it's more for show than any real frustration. “You boys and your toys, honestly.”

He scoffs. “Oh, like you aren’t interested in seeing where this goose chase ends up.” She’s been… incredibly supportive of the whole thing, really, and it’s quite concerning- there’s no guarantee this won’t be a one way trip, after all. “... You really don’t have to come with me, Rhi.”

“What, and spend the next few years being asked the same questions about you over and over, and listening to the same repetitions of ‘I-told-you-so’ every time I come within fifty miles of the Grove?” She looks at him flatly. “At least you’re good company, and I’d like to see the kind of world that made you. Sorry, Michael, but you’re stuck with me.”

Michael laughs. “Well, there are certainly worse fates.” If nothing else, Rhianne’s deranged luck usually counterbalanced his own bouts of horrific misfortune where everything that could go wrong will go wrong. Generally the sort of thing you need when you’re playing with the whims of time and space. "Aight, so I'm pretty sure I need to put this jewel in the middle of the circle…"

He does just that; an azure gem emits a blue light, and vibrant mana flows out of it and through grooves in the ornate stonework. The lifeblood of magic snakes up the pillars of the ancient altar and into crystals standing tall at their tips, just as the sun's rise hits its peak. Light shines down on the altar, the magic in the crystal adornments redirecting the sun's rays into the altar's centre. This is the sort of magic Michael always wished he could perform, honestly- sod laying waste to his enemies, there was a simple elegance to rituals like this that he found utterly captivating. The rays of light coalesce, and intermingle with those refracted from Michael's offered crystal to form a glowing blue ring.

"... Huh." Rhianne perks up a bit, her ears twitching wildly as the pulsation of magic has her fur standing on end. "It actually worked!"

Michael says nothing, his eyes firmly fixed on the portal that he has created. It's looking stable and inviting and finally he has a way home. It's a lot to take in. Quite a big thing to comprehend, having successfully torn a hole in the space-time continuum for one's own fairly selfish ends. Pretty wild- having something he'd worked towards for years just dangling within an arm's reach.

So he stands stock still for a seemingly interminable moment, gazing into the beautiful abyss, until Rhianne makes a show of clearing her throat.

"Are we actually doing this today, or are you just gonna stand there making 'take me'-eyes at it?"

Fortunately for his continued lifespan, Michael at least has the decency to whip his head away from the sight. "D-don't get all jealous on me," he mutters, trying to salvage some of his dignity as his face goes roughly the same shade of red as her hair. … It's not a good comeback, and he knows it. "... Okay. Yeah. Go time."

They step forward, Rhianne surprising him by clasping his hand tightly, and with their other arms they reach into the shimmering void. As they touch the portal, it ripples slightly, and the roaring begins.

Michael frowns. "... That's not right."

"You don't say."

Something jerks Michael a step closer. "Is now a good time to say how much I appreciate you coming with me on this one?"

Rhianne shrugs as best she can as she too is pulled towards the rift. "As last words go, definitely better than 'you can keep my sandwich'."

"Who actually--"

The portal flares into life, and the two are well and truly yanked off of a mortal coil. Michael attempts to keep his eyes open now he's capable of remembering a time he travels between worlds, but it's a job with the speeds and directions they're being thrown in. Through his occasional squints, he sees a lot of colours swirling in a void, and it's something of a miracle he doesn't throw up- some things, perhaps, are best left unseen. Very occasionally, he catches blurry glimpses of strange new worlds, looking as if they were painted in oils. One- a mountain peak with two strange beasts roaring into the endless sky- is particularly vibrant- could that mean something? He shakes his head; that's not what he needs to think about, he needs to stick to the fucking plan and look for something he recognises and feel the pull of the familiar.

That was the plan, anyway. That lasts about three or four minutes before he gives up and clenches his eyes firmly shut, trusting in the whims of fate.

… Because that's never gone wrong for anyone before, has it?



When they come to, they're on the back of a pickup truck trundling through grasslands. The sound of wheels turning and bumpy suspension triggers an old memory in Michael, and his head has never moved so fast as he jolts upright.

"Hey, you," a new voice says- words that don't inspire peace, "you're finally awake!" It's a jollier voice than the guy in the meme, though, and Michael is quickly pacified. The sounds of talking cause Rhianne to stir, and they soon have a full party.

"... Finally?" Michael zeros in on the key word. "How long were we out?"

"Couldn't tell you!" The man is clearly of a jolly disposition as he chuckles his way through the most basic response. "The two o'ya were clean out when you came hurtling out of thin air! Shaved a few years off o' me, that did!"

Rhianne gives a winning smile. "We'll try to be more considerate next time."

"Not to worry, my dear," he responds, running a hand through wavy hair. "I'm a scholar by nature, and a mystery like yours is like gold dust! How did you do it? Can you do it again? Could anyone else do it!?"

"That… is an interesting set of questions," Michael says. "The summary is, not reliably, as far as we know. Unreliably? … It's not impossible, but I wouldn't want to bet on it happening again."

Truth be told, once he'd had the prospect of a way from one world to another that he could use to at least visit his old one, Michael really hadn't stopped to think the mechanics of it through- just leapt at the bait. In his defense, neither had Rhianne, but winging life and going with whatever had the potential for a good story and a few laughs had been how she approached the last ten years and Michael hadn't exactly convinced her to stop. Flinging herself through time and space? Not the worst idea she'd ever gone along with, not in the least.

"Speaking of our little trip," Rhianne speaks up, "... where did we end up?" She turns to Michael with a smirk. "I'm guessing not where you intended."

"You don't say." There's no real annoyance in Michael's voice; the theory was sound, after all, and if they did this thing once they could surely find a way to do it again. Besides, it's not worth snapping at the one person he can trust to have his back, is it? This is just a setback. … A large setback, but not impossible to recover from.

Besides, it was his fault that the whole thing went incredibly sideways. Can't really take that out on them, and if there's one thing Michael is reasonably certain of, it's that sooner or later somebody or something is going to pick a fight and he will be able to work off some of his rather more gnawing frustrations.

For a brief spell, the conversation turns more casual, and they learn from the man- a Johann Birch- they're on the Daleroot passage between two small towns in the Hoenn region of Gaia. There's awkwardness, to be sure; neither of the travellers is entirely sure how forthright they actually want to be while they're learning the lay of the land, but Birch's enthusiasm is mercifully tempered by tact, and he has the sense to divert away from the questions he sees are getting stilted responses. And so the truck rolls on, crates of all manner of supplies and provisions jostling to and fro on the bumpy gravel path.

"This is a main road, though, right?" Michael eventually asks the obvious question after a particularly noticeable jolt. "Could they not come up with something smoother than gravel?"

"Money, my boy!" Birch shrugs. "Littleroot and Oldale fell off the map in a big way, so the League keep forgetting to divert resources to us. Not to worry, we'll be there soon!"

Ah. That, at least, is something Michael understands.

Rhianne furrows her brow, her ears twitching. She sniffs, first lightly then harder, looking around her, before sighing. "Grab your sword, Michael," she hisses, already reaching for her daggers. "I smell company."

Birch immediately lies as flat as he can manage amongst the crates. "Now, when you say company…"

"Blood and steel." Rhianne nods. "And poor hygiene."

"And we're on a truck on a forested road," Michael says. "How easily spooked is your driver?"

The answer comes when the first axe flies close to the front of the truck- quite easily, judging by the rate the brakes are slammed. Michael definitely stumbles as he tries to unhook his sword with one hand and keep the other on the nearest crate- "Right, okay, guess we're gonna earn our ride, huh?" Not that I'm complaining.

Perhaps they could have predicted what comes next; an assortment of various burly men in furs of grey and brown, scars on full display and an assortment of crude looking weaponry charging out of the trees to surround the poor truck, whooping and hollering and generally unsettling Birch and the poor driver.

Michael stands up, hefting his blade in the direction of the loudest voices. He sucks in a breath, and addresses the biggest of the men- seeing as the usual ruffian hierarchy dictates that that will be the leader.

"Good day, sirs!" Michael's voice is light and cheery, which does match his mood; he's been looking forward to a brisk workout. "You appear to be under the appalling misconception that an unarmed truck would be an easy mark- I'm afraid not!"

"Ooh, one man," the big one laughs. "I'm shakin' in my boots!" He sneers through narrow eyes. "One man, no Trait and certainly no sign of Crystal? You got no chance, pal."

File those away for later. "Heard that before." The faintest edge starts creeping back into Michael's voice as he launches himself over the side of the truck. "Quite a lot, actually."

"Oh?" Big Chungus steps forward, raising his axe with intent. "Lemme guess, they've all got somethin' in common?" He spits. "Heard it before, bud."

Michael doesn't bother responding. Verbally. Physically, though? He's straight on the attack, surging forward at speed and violently disarming his foe with his first savage swings of his sword. The first rule of engaging groups that outnumber you, Michael was taught, is to go hard and fast- and brutal. Make a show of how easily you can take the leader out, and the followers will have to seriously think about whether they want to tangle.

Irritatingly, these did- which, while not the least agreeable of outcomes for Michael and his frankly vicious temper to work off, does suggest that perhaps they are more evenly matched than he'd initially suspected. Which is still fine, he reminds himself. Having to really go for it is far from a problem at this exact moment in time.

As Michael surges towards one group, Rhianne turns her attention to the other side of the truck… and a hefty belt and bandolier of knives. She's not the direct type- not if she can help it, that she's more than happy to leave to her partner in crime. But she's still a bloody good shot, and she's willing to bet she can get a few of the ones on her side of the situation out of the way before she has to dance herself. Just keep a steady hand… aaaaand… away we go! Three daggers gone in five seconds- three men now clutching at various awkward wounds and howling their pain as the fastest draw of the Sacred Grove does what she does best. That leaves… oh, only two? No problem- she can dance around two hulking brutes, for sure. Duck under clumsy swings, twist and weave, trip them up when the dumb brutes inevitably overextend because that's what the sort of thugs that prey on the defenceless always do. No problem, business as usual. Give them a chance to back off- it's the sporting thing to do!- but not a second.

Fortunately for the continued state of Birch's heart, it's a quick rout, and the truck is soon on the move again.

Birch is effusive with his praise. And loud about it, and he doesn't stop smiling or laughing until the truck reaches Littleroot- the sleepy town he chose to make home. It pulls up in a square of some sort, and shortly it's swarmed by a crew of burly men in vests collecting up the crates. With a couple of the burlies in tow, he happily leads Michael and Rhianne towards one of the small town's larger buildings.

"Here we are," he says, holding one arm out. "My Lab!"

It's… not organised. At all. Bulging folders of notes and piles of papers litter every shelf and table that can be seen, and Michael's eyes dart from ornate device to ornate device. Pretty much every researcher he's known would probably have a field day going through all of this, but none of his idle thoughts detract from the real question here.

"So what are you studying?" … No, Rhianne didn't ask the question, but this one is probably an interesting one too.

"Lots of things! The environment, mostly," Birch looks happy to talk, and could probably fill a very long and painful monologue about the marvels of geology and environmental sciences. "But, they're not what I wanted to bring you here for."

"Oh?"

"I heard that man say you didn't show any signs of a Trait," Birch continues, checking a shelf over for something. "But the way the two of you fought that simply can't be right! So… somewhere in here… there's a doohickey I can use to test that theory."

"Run these Traits by me again," Michael says. This does launch a long monologue about the fundamental forces of this world- in essence, a Trait marks people from birth, in severity that differs from person to person. Everyone has one, though most are largely irrelevant outside of gauging long-term potential. Drive and ambition can overcome any Trait, Birch insists.

Birch eventually pulls down the one he was looking for, and sets it down on a pile of papers. "You cannot be completely without a Trait," he insists. "Could one of you just put your hand on that plate there?"

They look at each other and quickly draw for it. Michael smiles as his stone beats Rhianne's paper. Sighing, she complies with the exuberant man's instructions, and the image of a small red fox with curled tails and round eyes looks up at her. At Birch's nod, she steps back and Michael takes her place. The thing that appears… it's green. It's got clear wings and an insectoid body, it's bipedal and it seems to have scythes instead of arms.

If that's Michael's spirit animal, he's very okay with it.

"I should have known!" Birch happily cackles away. "Of course you're a Scyther and a Vulpix! And such potential that you didn't even know about!"

Michael's eyes go wide; he'd thought that after the fights he'd survived in Rhianne's world, they were fairly hot shit, but this one can make them stronger? That's… a prospect, and one he can't say he's not scared of- if he's got a lot to learn, then they're both small fish in a great ocean again.

"So I think I have your next step!" Birch breaks the silent moment yet again. "I think you should make the trip to Oldale! My daughter mostly works out of there- May, great kid, hell of a Trait. If there's anyone around here who can give you a pointer or three, it'd be her!"

And then the manic ball of energy almost pushes them out the door, so insistent he is that This Is The Way.

"Fun one, isn't he?" Rhianne voices the sentiment. "So, off into a big wide world where neither of us knows what to expect, apart from being on the wrong end of the pecking order? Is that it?" The words sound sarcastic, but the tone is bubbly; she's clearly excited by the prospect of a grand adventure. Michael can't even deny that her excitement is contagious- try as he might, it's difficult for him to actually stay low around Rhianne.

"What can go wrong?"
 

Jimcloud

Administrator
Administrator
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Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
3
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May 13, 2019
Messages
848
Pronouns
they/he/she
just got through all of this, this is a nice start! Michael has a fun dynamic with Rhianne, SHAME YOU DONT LET THEM INTERACT MORE OFTEN, TOOKIE. HINT HINT.

This was a lot of fun, though. you do a good job of leading us in with a hook and giving us some interesting info while also giving us the good shit (i liked the battle and i'm VALID). Looking forward to seeing where we go from here.
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
SHAME YOU DONT LET THEM INTERACT MORE OFTEN, TOOKIE. HINT HINT.
that's why we have this run, so i can fill the big team shitpost-shaped hole in my repertoire!



Anyway, this might have been slightly delayed by my incredibly fun and not at all overly ambitious idea of doing two mirror world runs concurrently.

Oh well, better late than never!

No matter where it is or what the purpose is, there really is no better feeling than the start of a new journey as far as Michael is concerned. Once he'd gotten over his initial reservations after the first time he'd ended up in a new world, that was it- he had the bug, and it would stay for a long time. A whole new world, with Rhianne at his side and nothing to pit against it but their (mostly her) wits and the clothes on their back? It was the sort of challenge that Michael lived for. Daunting- oh, very daunting, but nothing he hasn't survived before.

The Oldale Pass is much nicer the second time around, he decides. There's a decided peace to it now, between the lack of a delivery truck's engine sputtering away and the lack of ruffians trying to make a quick buck. Perhaps, were they to veer off the main path and into the forest where Rhianne hears strange noises, they might feel differently, but until they speak to Birch's daughter and have a better idea of what they're dealing with they reach the unspoken agreement that that isn't going on the agenda.

The beaten path is long, but fairly straightforward, and well within their limits- not that either of them would readily admit weakness if they felt it. No causes for concern this time, however, and it's only a slightly winded duo that arrives in Oldale as the evening sun starts to set.

"Right," Michael says, stopping abruptly as something occurs to him. "... We have no idea who we're looking for, do we? We've just got a name and hopefully a passing resemblance, haven't we?"

Rhianne laughs- a beautiful sound to break her silence. "That did occur to me, yes." A small grin forms.

"And you didn't say anything because…?"

"I'm not your babysitter," she shrugs. "This is your show."

That gets a chuckle out of Michael. "That's fair honestly. Note to self; actually push for deets in future and don't just bellyflop into the deep end of the pool."

"That would help, yes."

"So… head for the big building and start there?" There are days Michael actually has his head screwed on and maintains the image of a competent leader- this, evidently, is not one of them. … Which, he's alright with, if only because he knows she's seen him in worse states and still trusts him to not get them killed.

It's more a case of keeping the peanut gallery from getting too loud at this point. Keeping her distracted by new sights and sounds helps, which is the real reason he goes with the most eye-catching thing he can find to start their search. His search. Whatever.

The 'big building', as Michael put it, is… modestly bustling. Near the entrance, a few small groups of people mill about around a kiosk being manned by a tired looking woman with shocking pink pigtails. To the rear, there appears to be a small cafe and bar, with weary patrons munching away at small meals and warily examining drinks that look alcoholic in nature. There's an upstairs, but judging by the burly men standing at the stairs Michael decides that suddenly he's not very curious after all.

As he well knows, it takes some serious balls to play security when everyone in the building is visibly armed. So, if nothing else, he's learned already that this is the place to come to be among his sort of people. Even better, none of the patrons seemed to even bat an eyelid when they walked in. Good show- nothing like the sense of being an outsider being confirmed by silence and mass stares.

… Okay, there's the one woman leaning against a wall with a mean looking spear hooked to her back, who briefly looks up from her phone before returning to whatever she was doing.

Rhianne lightly nudges him- right, yes, actually gathering information entails more than just soaking in the atmosphere. Sometimes it means asking the questions and hoping you don't sound too stupid and uninformed, which is usually her field but as she's decided that today isn't a Helping Day…

"Hi there!" Michael breathes a sigh of relief as the receptionist-looking lady beats him to it. "How can I help you?"

"Hi, yeah." Even however many years later, Michael still effortlessly slides back into his Customer Service Voice. It's got a bit of whiplash to it now with the unfortunate case of scarring not making him look as approachable, but it's still a handy skill to have. "I'm looking for a May Birch? I was told I'd probably find her here."

"I believe she's here, yes," the receptionist nods, already pulling out a phone. "Take a seat over there, and I'll give her a quick buzz for you, okay?"

"Marvellous." Michael follows the nice lady's directions, and gives Rhianne a wide smile as they seat themselves.

Rhianne, a very mature and battle-hardened survivor, pokes her tongue out at him as her only response. It's about what he expects from her, and they both know it.

A couple of minutes later, a chair scrapes across the floor and the woman Michael noticed on her phone joins them at the table. … She's also barely a woman, if Michael's any judge- he'd definitely place her age at about seventeen/eighteen, if he had to make a claim. Still, she's as good a lead as any, and it's not like they're full of options.

"So you're the ones my dad mentioned, are you?" The girl makes a show of looking them over, before nodding slightly. "Nice to meet you." She extends a gauntleted hand- which Michael accepts, hiding his gut reaction to the bright orange scales and the feather motif going on with them. A fashion statement or a nod to her Trait?

"You must be May- I'm Michael, and the… very helpful lady inspecting her nails is Rhianne." He shoots a wry grin at his long-term partner, who shrugs as if to say 'you've got it handled'. "... I'm guessing your dad told you why we're here?"

May smirks. "Something about a washed up fogey's first day in Hoenn showing him how outmatched he is, and him looking to learn how we do things? Is that right?"

That… is brutally accurate. "Oh, good. You don't hold back." Michael laughs. "That would just about be the gist of it, yes."

"And you don't have any problems learning from someone young enough to be your daughter?" May's smirk grows, and Rhianne actually has to fight back a giggle at the girl's manner.

Fortunately for the proceedings, advancing age has at least cooled Michael's temper. "I'll let a fish try and show me how to climb a tree if I think it knows more than I do- I couldn't keep this reprobate around and have a chip on my shoulder."

"And the peanut gallery?" May looks over at Rhianne, not looking entirely impressed with the latter.

"Eh," Rhianne shrugs once more. "I'm just here for the ride- if you can deck him, he'll learn from you, and that's enough for me."

"... Just to be clear, who's side are you on?" May's eyes narrow slightly.

It's Michael's turn to shrug. "Hers. She's not entirely wrong, though- might as well step outside so we can all see what we're working with, eh?"

"Not afraid to get beat by a girl?"

"Wouldn't be the first time." … It’s a dodge and a lie, but that’s not entirely important.

Two of the burlier guards lead the trio back outside, to a ring in a clearing marked out by sandbags. The dirt, thankfully, looks pretty soft; at least the worst that’ll come from falling on his ass here is the requisite dents in Michael’s pride. Which he totally still has. Yeah.

Michael and May take positions on opposite ends of the ring, weapons drawn and poker faces at the ready.

One of the burlies steps towards the makeshift arena, holding up a pair of flags. When he stops, he raises the first of his flags.

“On three.... Two… one… Begin!” The flag drops.

Michael takes the plunge and makes the opening move, swinging in a rather more controlled manner than his usual- the assumption that everything he knew is a lie leading him to take this bout rather more seriously than he otherwise would. He feints first right then left, testing May’s defenses for any weaknesses he can exploit- a favoured position, an angle that nasty spear can’t parry from, whatever works. May is no slouch, though, and his testing strikes are batted away with ease- and, if he’s entirely honest with himself, he isn’t quite as agile as she is. This, then, is perhaps going to end with his face in the dirt.

May’s own assault is rather more focused, and Michael is hard pressed to deflect her more vicious thrusts of the lance. She’s good- definitely a match for most of the lancers that he’s had the pleasure of sparring with, and he immediately shifts tack. It’s time for him to provide his more usual offensive; if he’s going to kiss the ground, he’ll do it knowing he tripped over his best foot. With a grunt, he swings his blade with both hands, the more power-weighted stance an unconscious decision. It does the trick, though, and May is forced to backstep and concede valuable ground. This is the opening Michael wanted, and it gives him a vital opportunity to gain momentum. One blow rains down after another, his angle shifting with each stroke, until May swings wildly in a desperate attempt to block and repeat his own gambit. Her strength carries through, and Michael is now put in the personally uncomfortable position of being pushed back by a slip of a girl young enough to pass for his daughter.

He can talk all he likes, but deep down it's definitely a blow to his ego.

“You’re not bad,” May says as she quickly steps backwards and bends low. “But… not quite good enough!" She springs from the ground, going high- several feet overhead- and the very air begins to sizzle around her. Flames roar into life, encircling the steel of her lance, and she begins to descend. Michael's eyes widen even as he crouches and braces for what is going to be a painful end to the bout.

He still doesn't like fire. A few particularly rough encounters left their mark, and it takes herculean will to not gag at the smells of smoke and fire assaulting his nostrils. The coat may well have been enchanted so it doesn't burn up- and he'll definitely have to do something nice for the smith and tailor that made that happen- but that does nothing for his personal revulsions or the amount of force that May brings to bear with the coup de grâce.

As he falls backwards and his vision blurs, he just about makes out the burly with the flags raising Mays flag to indicate that she’s won the bout. Like that was entirely necessary…



Well, Rhianne could have told most of the onlookers how that was going to play out- and she was fairly sure Michael had seen it coming, too, judging by the shifts in his stance and technique as the fight went on. If she was in a blabbing mood, she could also have told them about the winces and muted shudders that she’d been watching for.

Mostly so she could work out how far below the belt it’d be to rip the shit out of him for this one. Which, by the feel of it, would be ‘quite’.

So, keep it in mind for the next time he oversteps. For all his glib tongue and his gruff demeanour, though, he’s a good boy so it’ll probably be a while before he puts himself in that position with her again. The wound will have healed over by then. Hopefully.

On the positive side, May had certainly proven herself competent! What he might have lacked in strength compared to her, Michael definitely had in technique and raw experience. Vim and vigour had won the day here, certainly, but from what Rhianne could judge it wasn’t quite as decisive a win as May would have them believe.

And Michael had never been one to back down from a challenge- he was more easy going and moderate in his temperament now, sure, but she knew that May would have lit another fire in him. He’d come back from this defeat and let it spur him on whatever road they’d take through Hoenn, and she was definitely looking forward to the ride.

Hell, maybe she’d even learn a few new tricks in this place. Well, useful ones. There was always something to learn from anywhere, if you were determined enough to seek it out and didn’t care how practical it was.

Still. A lady with a staff and pale pink robes was on the scene and fussing over Michael, with what was… definitely magic. Of a vastly different feel to what Rhianne was used to, which was interesting. It had a similar bent to May’s fire- was it related? Was that the feel of Trait magic coming to bear?

Oh, yes. With Michael already coming to, she didn’t even need to hide the sparkle in her eyes at the prospect- this was definitely going to be an interesting ride, even by their high standards of the word.



“Hey, that was quick!”

Voices started filtering through Michael’s ears again, and his eyes opened slowly as he sat up. He looked over the… nurse? Healer? Healer, thanking her even as he cursed his bleary sounding voice.

“Oof.” Muscles ached and seethed as he pushed himself up from the ground- even in this strange new world, they hadn’t yet found a healer that could do much for the lingering pains of overexertion and the brain’s insistence that things should be hurting. “Right!” He clapped twice, drawing more eyes back to him. “Note to self; maybe don’t do that again!” Sniggers and chuckles broke out through their little audience at that. Which was fine; that was what he was going for. Being a good sport, easing the lingering tension and showing that, no, he wasn’t taking it personally.

Hooking his sword back in place once more, he extended one hand towards May. “Good fight, kid- I’m sold.”

May eagerly shook the offered hand. “Great!” Goddamn, that smile was contagious. “Get yourselves set up with a room at the Guild Hall, meet me out front tomorrow morning and we’ll get started!”



The Guild’s idea of a room for the night was both incredibly spartan and yet, compared to some of the kennels they’d stayed in over the years, incredibly luxurious. Ensuite bathroom? Actual beds? Proper shelter from the elements? Madness. Depraved and debauched on many levels.

It was a sore Michael that collapsed onto his bed for the night with little prompting, with Rhianne claiming the second only seconds later. Sure, they were used to sleeping rough, but there was something about having actual mattresses under their back that made the world’s aches and pains fade away just that little bit faster.

“So, uh.” Michael breaks the silence. “Sorry this whole ‘seeing my world thing’ didn’t really pan out for us.” He takes a deep breath- before wincing as he twinges something that’s a bit on the sore side.

“Eh,” Rhianne says, rolling over so he can see her tail starting to wag. “I wouldn’t worry about it.” A sly grin starts sneaking onto her face. “Besides, be honest- this is more fun, isn’t it?”

“... I guess.” He sighs; it feels like a betrayal admitting it, after all his talk of going back to his earth and getting himself that closure with his family that he’d been wanting, but… yeah. New land of adventure with Rhianne at his back absolutely trumps that in his mind. “Yeah… definitely more fun.”

And… if he was completely, one hundred and ten percent honest with himself? Family at this point is the kitsune on the other bed that keeps following him through hell and high water, who was happy with the idea of leaving behind everything she knew to chase him on his latest batch of terrible decisions. The one who’s stuck with him through thick and thin, and the one he’s stuck around even as her history reared its incredibly gruesome head.

“Go on,” Rhianne prompts, her ears twitching. “What are you thinking?”

“Oh, nothing. Well, nothing to do with this entirely not-as-planned trip across the universe.” Michael stops short, and takes a deep breath. “Just… thinking. Angsty teen shit.” It’s a bad lie. It’s a fucking terrible lie, actually, but hopefully she won’t push.

“Ugh.” She screws her face up, but the tone is still playful, “miss me with that shit. Bit late for second thoughts, isn’t it?”
“Oh, I dunno,” Michael shrugs- and winces again because right it’s his fucking shoulder May got. “I’ve gotten from world to world before, right? And this time we had… some control over it. In theory. Nothing stopping us having another rethink down the line, right?”



… He’s still a terrible liar. Still… it’s getting late. They’re both tired, and if he wants to put the conversation off, she’ll let him have that- there’s only one line of conversation he really avoids, anyway, and their first night in another world (still weird, no matter how he tries to normalize it!) is probably not the time to have that conversation.

There’ll be other days to coax that talk about feelings out of him.

He’s been getting slightly better about it, at least.
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4
Big post tonight! It was supposed to be one chapter, but the damn thing got big enough that I'm gonna split it between two spoiler tags so it looks a bit less intimidating.

Camp Nano is off to a fuckin good start let me tell you.

Morning comes all too soon, and it's a bleary eyed Michael that led the way west out of Oldale. Irritatingly, despite it being the crack of dawn, the peanut gallery is bright-eyed and, in Rhianne's case, bushy tailed.

Even after ten years of getting used sleeping as and when, for as much as he could get away with or as little as he needed, Michael still had issues with dawn. Any other time of the day? Fine. Late nights? Sure. But sunrise took a special form of willpower.

They follow May's directions to the edge of a lake where she often mediates- somewhere nice and peaceful off the beaten path.

And, as is so often the case, the first step is indeed meditation. Silent contemplation as earthly matters and racing thoughts melt away into oblivion- something that Michael is well accustomed to, if only because it had so often filled time waiting for things to happen on his… extracurricular work. Through long experience, he soon strips his conscious mind bare, leaving himself only the feel of the ground on his backside and the refreshing morning breeze washing over him. As he relaxes, the breeze feels… different. The air is richer in ways he can't fully articulate. There's… a sort of magic in the air.

But soon even that thought fades. Then, unbidden, a figure appears. It is… mostly humanoid, though with large insectoid wings protruding from its back and long blades where its hands should have been- the Scyther, perhaps, that Birch referred to? Was this his Trait the man had seen?

The thing nods. What it's nodding at, Michael doesn't know.

Then it too disappears at a blinding speed.

Aaaand awake. Again. Lake, trees, calm. Chirpy kitsune and teenaged slave driver. Back to reality for Michael. He sits bolt upright.

Something is different. His vision is sharper- fuck, that’s another pair of glasses gone to shit and I didn’t even break these. Blink once, twice, three times. Yeah, definitely sharper. He looks left, right, and left again- head whipping fast. Much faster than usual.

“You saw it, then?” Concern. Curiosity. … Rhianne, so the latter.

“Yeah.” Michael stares off into the distance- the immediate improvements to his vision take some getting used to. “What was yours?”

“A fox.” … Michael blinks again; honestly, why did he bother asking? Of course the kitsune would see a fox. “You?”

“Weird fucker.” He shrugs. “Some insect-looking thing with scythes for arms. Moved like hell, though.” Which does correlate with the whiplash motions he’s got going on right now.

May looks them both over once, then twice. “... Huh.” She seems genuinely confused. “You were quicker than I thought you’d be.”

“Beginners luck?” It’s a weak offering from Michael, but in recent years he’s been trying to be more humble. And, well… he’s dealing with a teenage girl. Humble is the way to go. Pointing out that Rhianne, as a kitsune, has lived a life almost saturated in her own magic, and he’s spent more time in his own head than most artists spend on their craft? Not humble, no matter how true it might be.

She scoffs- evidently, he’s more transparent than he thought. “Sure. Okay!” Rising to her feet once more, she claps her hands. “I thought I’d have to spend longer on that with you, but I guess all that age and experience had to count for something, eh?”

Let her have that one. He’s dealt with Rhianne and her shit for over ten years, it’s going to take heavier needling than that to get under his skin.

“So what’s next?” Rhianne’s ears perk up; she’s enjoying this.

“Next?” May takes a moment to think it over. “Next, we’re taking the trip to Petalburg- it’s the next city over, they’ve got a few things I need that Oldale hasn’t, and there’s a man there you need to meet.”

“Oh?” Michael leans in- inwardly cursing as he does so. He’d really thought he might have been beginning to shake the habit of trying to take as much onto his plate as humanly possible. But, no, any tantalising hint and he’s off like a bloodhound.

“Norman- he’s a Guildmaster,” May says, “he runs herd over most of the local hunters and the adventurers like me that operate out of Petalburg. He’ll probably have a few jobs for you to sink your teeth into.”

“Well, you’ve done it, now,” Rhianne sighs, forcing as much drama into it as she can. “Hope you’ve enjoyed knowing him for all of fourteen hours, because he’ll be off like a rocket once we get to that city.”

May smirks. “He moves that fast? Didn’t think his joints still worked that well?”

“They don’t,” Michael deadpans. “His ears still work perfectly well, though, and he’s still right next to you ladies.”

“We’re aware.”

… He’s gonna have to split those two up before all is truly lost. Or just get used to being Rhianne’s sole target for barb trading again. “Thought you might. Shall we go, then?”

It’s not the longest trip they’ve ever made, from Oldale to Petalburg. Not the quietest, either- Rhianne and May are getting along worryingly well. Well, mostly worrying; as much as he could live without the needling, he is glad her bubbly demeanour survived the trip across worlds and she’s getting along with the natives. Could have gone much worse, really. And May… well, if the cadets he’d worked with had been more like her, Michael might actually have been happy to stick with raising the next generation that would hopefully make him obsolete. She had a fire to her that he just hadn’t seen in his crop of youngsters- metaphorically, of course. And literally. And… well, most of the drillers he’d met would have taken her personality and backchat as something to wear down, but he’d spent too long being the mouthy gobshite to complain about it in any person following his example.

At least it meant something was going on and engaging their brains. If not impulse control.

But they make it. They don't even head straight for the guild hall- oh, no. It's straight past that, and towards an otherwise fairly unassuming building. May leads the way into a small- very small- dojo. The floor is tatami, expertly laid and not at all comfortable looking, and the rest of the interior is simple wood.

In the centre of the dojo is a man. He's tidy- not a hair on his head is out of place- or grey, no matter what the slight wrinkles daring to show their face would suggest, and his beard has been trimmed to the millimetre. Michael immediately notices two things about him; firstly, he’s immaculately dressed, which would normally be a cause for concern if not for the second.

The second, of course, being the aura he could feel radiating from the man. Michael had often said there was no point to trying to look good in battle because your look would be ruined by the end of it. This was a man supremely confident in his ability to remain untouched, and from Michael’s handle on people’s threat levels he would remain untouched.

“May Birch,” Norman said, one brow arching the barest fraction. “You’re back sooner than I expected- and you’ve brought company, as well?”

“Hi, Norman!” Unlike Michael, May seems unfazed by this statue of a man. “These are Michael and Rhianne, my dad’s latest finds! Guys, this is Norman- Petalburg’s Guildmaster.”

“A pleasure.” Norman extends one arm to Michael- who was expecting a polite handshake and not an unyielding vice grip, but he’s never been one to back down from a challenge, and matches the older man’s clench with a blandly neutral expression. Norman steps back after a few moments of this, giving absolutely no sign of his reaction. Rhianne giggles, having noticed the contest and her partner’s responses, but otherwise says nothing as he bows lightly to her in greeting.

Not for the first time, Michael almost finds himself wishing he was a mind reader.

“What brings you two to me, then?”

“We were told you more or less run things around here,” Rhianne speaks first. “Specifically for those in… our line of work, as such. Wouldn’t want to tread on any toes doing our own thing, would we?”

“Not if we can help it, no,” Michael adds, willing himself to keep his tone and expression neutral- being uneasy around someone that he knows could mop the floor with him with minimal effort is a sensation Michael hasn’t felt for a long while, and he doubts that Norman would take well to his usual brand of insubordinate tomfoolery.

“I see.” Norman takes a moment to stare them both down- not comfortable for either of them. “You consider yourselves Adventurers, then?”

“That’s as good a word as any,” Michael nods his agreement. “Explorative do-gooders with an affinity for violence doesn’t sound quite as polite.”

“But accurate.” Norman nods slowly. Those calculating eyes of his rest on Michael once more, and it’s like he’s all the way back in secondary school in detention- not a comfortable memory, and not wilting under Norman’s steely gaze takes considerable willpower. “... Very well. Report to the Guild Hall- I believe there will be assignments waiting for you.”

And just as Michael opens his mouth to thank the man, the doors to the dojo burst open. A young lad almost falls through the door, heavily panting as he comes to a stop. He’s younger than May, it looks like.

“Brendan?” Norman almost shows an emotion for five seconds. Then it’s back to business as usual. “What happened?”

“Aquas… in the forest…” Brendan heaves out between breaths. “Nougat… sent me…”

Norman takes a moment to ponder this. “I see.” He looks back over at Michael and Rhianne. “You fancy yourselves Adventurers? You’re up first- take the western gate out of Petalburg and follow the beaten path; you can’t miss the Woods. May and I will follow shortly.”

“And me?” Brendan starts to get his puff back, and he stands a bit straighter- enough that all in the room can see the cuts and scrapes he has, and the dried blood staining his clothes.

“You’re getting those looked at, son.” Norman’s tone is firm- the first real change Michael hears, though he’s fairly sure Rhianne’s picked up a few more micro-inflections that his mere mortal ears have missed altogether. “While you’re at the Hall, you can keep an eye on that phone of yours.”

“... Yes, Father.” Brendan offers up a weak smile before he leaves- it’s not hard to hear the disappointment in his voice.

“Guess we’ll see you there, then,” Michael says, offering a cheeky salute as he and Rhianne leave the Dojo.
Ordinarily, they might stop off somewhere they could pick up supplies- maybe medicine, or food, or even new weapons judging by the fact that the ones they brought have seen better days and they really need every advantage they can muster in this strange new land. However, there’s a problem with that- the reason they really need to find work here is because they don’t have any of the local currency or anything they trust to barter. So, instead it’s tearing straight off into the forest for feats of daring-do with minimal prep time.

Rhianne sniffs the air as they enter the Woods proper. She smells… fear. Fresh blood. She takes a couple more sniffs to get her bearings, but after that she’s off like a rocket- and Michael isn’t too far behind her. Which is fairly impressive for a human trying to keep pace with a kitsune- a child of the forest- in her home turf.

They follow the scent until they come across two men- one lying on the floor, clearly wounded, and one in white that looks like he’s trying to heal the wounded. Whether he’s succeeding or simply stabilising the other man is another matter, but whatever he is doing is having some effect.

The wounded man notices them first, grunting in pain as the medic continues his work. Then the medic stands up and turns around to see the two new arrivals.

“Ah!” He initially jumps in alarm, but soon settles- evidently, he’s reached the conclusion that if they meant harm then they probably wouldn’t have waited for him to finish what he was doing. “W-who are you guys?”

“Norman sent us,” Rhianne said, by way of explanation. “Are you Nougat?”

“N-Nougat!?” He sounds shocked. “No, Nougat- Nougat went that way!” He points off into the distance, towards a much more sparsely lit path. “She took the others after those Aqua goons, and they haven’t come back yet!” Distress. Fear. Rhianne looks at Michael as if to say this is who she smelled.

Michael sighs. “It’s never the beaten path, is it? No, that’d be too easy.”

The wounded man pushes himself off of the ground. “Thank you, Felix,” he says, wincing slightly as he does. “I’ll be fine- I can stay out of sight just fine by myself. All I need now is time, right?” He gives a weak grin. “You’d best go with these two; your friends need you more than I do right now.”

“O...Okay,” Felix says. Clearly, someone isn’t convinced. “If you’re sure… you’d best lead the way…”

Michael claps Felix on the shoulder. “Come on- let’s go bail out your buds.”



At the pace Michael and Rhianne set, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Felix is even with them- and he doesn’t talk very much as he tries to keep up with the much more experienced travellers. Through the thicker parts of the forest they travel, the crunching of the leaves underfoot providing a steady rhythm as they run.

“Ah!” Felix eventually says. “That’s them, Mister!”

… And this is how Michael knows he’s getting old; his first thought is actually along the lines of ‘what the hell are they wearing’. Why is that girl wearing a cream-yellow leather getup- he’s all for practical outfits, but creamy yellow is a) not at all camouflage and b) an absolute magnet for dirt and stains! The other girl’s mismatch of bits of armour and street clothes is, at least, a welcome throwback to his own younger years… and then there’s the man. The man in the fucking velvet doublet, looking for all the world like he’d just left a renaissance faire. With a rapier and everything.

“Nougat!” “Felix!”

Oh, this is a happy moment. A mildly touching reunion mitigated by the absolute lack of apparent peril.

“Did you get them?”

“No!” … Okay, this Nougat’s pouting is actually kind of adorable. “They completely vanished!”

“One does not simply vanish in these woods, my dear,” the fop says- and how is it only now Michael notices the bow tie in the shape of a butterfly? That’s a bit tacky, honestly. “Perhaps, now our group is whole- and then some- we might consider a retreat?”

Michael breathes a sigh of relief- thank God he’s more sensible than that outfit. “There are definitely better places for a catchup than this- we should maybe find one of them.”

It’s not much of a plan, but it works, and the considerably swollen group is soon heading back the way it came.



Their attempt to double back is foiled, though, as a huge misshapen toad-thing is blocking their path. There’s the distinct urge to retch as the smell of rotting flesh fills everyone’s nostrils- from it looking at the chunks missing from its thick, wart-covered legs. On its back is a horribly wilted flower hanging from a withered tree trunk and blackened leaves. Its mouth hangs open, with saliva casually dripping down the side of its face.

It’s also the fattest bastard going, and there’s probably no getting around it unless they want to completely expose themselves to it.

“Too late.” Michael groans, before straightening. “Right! Felix, hang back. Rhi, you and Flutters over there-” he completely ignores the spluttering from the man in question “-are our offense- everything you can chuck at this thing, I want it in there yesterday.” He looks over Nougat and the axe-girl next to her. “And you ladies? You want to be the front line?” He breaks from shouting orders, shooting them a wry grin as he unhooks his sword. “Try and keep up.”

And it feels good to be throwing down with some hideous monster. It bellows a roar as he closes the distance, shooting vines from the base of the flower on its back aimed mostly at him- nothing he can’t deflect or cleave through, but enough that he might be in trouble without his backup. Nougat vaults over the ones chasing her and starts raining her gauntleted fists down on the bastard toad monstrosity, and the girl with the axe isn’t too far behind.

From the corner of his eye, he can see a flash of crimson and specks of silver gleaming in the few bits of sunlight that breach the canopy- Rhianne is well and truly in the fray. He’s not sure what Flutters is doing- and god they need to do a proper round of introductions once this thing is dead- but he’s going to hope that it’s productive.

Because the damn thing’s shooting out more and more vines like some kind of fucking bastard plant-based hydra and, despite his Trait being on the faster side, he’s still nowhere near as fast on his feet as the ladies. He can parry, deflect and cleave like a madman- and whatever that Scyther is imbuing him with is definitely helpful- but he’s feeling the strain.

… And of course one of the fuckers slips under his guard and manages to wrap around his throat and start lifting him. Lovely- just what he needs right now, the inability to breathe properly. He reaches down to his belt with one arm, fishing for a knife he can maybe cut the offending vine- because kicking and thrashing never actually achieved anything- when it… drops him? Ah, Rhianne at work again. He shoots her a grateful nod before wading into the thick of the vines descending on Nougat and the other girl.

… Wait. What was Rhi doing now?



Rhianne is having a field day, darting and weaving between the helltoad’s vines- and she’s very much looking forward to getting that favour out of Michael- but they aren’t actually getting anywhere. Not noticeably.

… She’d say you should never send a man to do a woman’s job, but then there’s the two girls he’s with. Well, that’s what she’s here for- for turning Michael’s on-the-fly plans into something that actually work.

She slides underneath another vine before Michael cuts through it, driving her daggers deep into one of the toad’s hind legs. Black ichor sprays from the wound, and the toad bellows once more. Better, it actually throws the vines off for a second- and Michael gives the order to hit it with everything they have while the option is there. The two girls have their own idea- the one with the axe uses it as a springboard to launch the brawler onto its back, who then rains powerful blows onto its neck and skull. And Michael? As soon as the beast rears onto its hind legs, he takes the opportunity to hack and slash at its vulnerable underbelly- only narrowly dodging out of the way as it falls back to four feet. Or was he thrown?

“And my name is Oberon,” the one called Flutters shouts before… a psychic attack? Ah. Thrown, then.

“Noted!” At least Michael is still in good spirits as he picks himself up off the ground, spitting out dirt.

The toad roars once more- this time, thorned vines shoot out into the ground, snaking their way towards the group and striking from below. Rhianne only narrowly dodges the worst of them, and she’s still scraped by a few, and the three frontliners are pushed back quite badly.



“Shit,” Michael mutters under his breath- he’s holding up fine, if bloodied, but the girls are in a bad way. “Get back, you two! Felix, patch ‘em!”

If looks could kill, the foul one Nougat threw his way would probably have saved the toad a job, but the axe-girl did the sensible thing and started pulling her back. Flutters- no, Oberon- had stepped forward to fill the gap, though, darting through the beast’s clumsy swipes and thrusting at its exposed legs with a vicious looking rapier. With him engaging from the right flank and Rhianne rhythmically working away at its left, that just leaves full frontal- and the beast is clearly flagging. The shooting vines are getting clumsier, and Michael actually manages to get close enough between salvos to thrust his own blade squarely through the hulking thing’s mouth and up into its skull.

The way it slumps is almost anticlimactic, really.

Michael heaves his sword free from the newly-minted corpse and sighs at the amount of blood, viscera and nicks the bloody thing had left it with- there’s going to be a long hour or so at the grindstone ahead of him before it’s actually fit for use again. Oh, well. Better that than dead.

They make their way back to the clearing where Michael and Rhianne met Felix in the first place, and the wounded man is still there- not eaten by monsters! Hooray!

… And Norman and May are just approaching as well! Double Hooray! Everything went as well as could be expected.

“You found them, then!” May exclaims. “Good going!”

“Sorry we’re late,” Norman says, cracking a small smile. “Brendan wouldn’t stay put, so we had to get creative.” He glances over at Oberon. “Remind me I owe you some money- I had to borrow some of your special supplies.”

The fop of a man smirks. “I believe your debt is about to climb higher, my friend. Tabitha, your phone?”

“Oh, yeah!” Axe girl pipes up- so that’s her name. “Good job I got the snaps, huh?” She fishes out a smartphone and holds it up to Norman- evidently, while Felix had been working his healing magic on her, she’d been snapping shots of the remaining trio bringing the beast down, culminating with one of Michael and his sword about five feet into a pile of gunk.

Norman looks at Michael and nods. “I’ll have to verify this, of course, but I daresay that you’ll have a sizable chunk of gold coming your way soon. That Venusaur’s been causing problems recently, and it had quite the bounty on it… even split six ways.”

“Oh, thank god,” Michael says under his breath, offering a silent prayer to any deities that still give a shit about him. “Could use a bit of cash.”

“Well, when I get back to Petalburg, you’ll definitely have that,” Norman says in that easy manner of his… before shifting back into his ‘Dad’ voice. “But first… get yourselves back and get those cuts looked at properly, yeah?”

“Will do!” This time, though, the salute is distinctly less cheeky.



It’s a truly uneventful trip back to Petalburg. The walk is quiet, with some polite chatter, but the day’s exertions are beginning to take their toll. Even on Michael.

They troop back into the Guild Hall and slump around a table- and soon the healers converge. Nothing life-threatening, mercifully, but Nougat and Tabitha are worse for wear, having taken the brunt of that last thorny vine barrage. Soon, the nice ladies that cause pain and suffering are satisfied and take their leave, leaving the crew to get themselves a good round of food and drinks, and make proper introductions.

Then Norman walks into the Hall, and all eyes turn to him. He walks slowly over to Michael’s table, and drops the promised bags of money in front of each of the six.

“Your bounties, everyone.” He smiles warmly at them. “Well done, indeed. And…” He turns to Michael. “May tried to get me to welcome you into the Petalburg Guild.” He turns grave at this. “Unfortunately for us both, I’ve had to decline that particular petition.”

There’s some outcry at this, but it doesn’t come from Michael- who, instead, keeps an artfully neutral smile on his face. “Go on,” he says.

“You’re something of a free spirit, aren’t you?” It’s a rhetorical question, and Norman continues on. “I believe inducting you into a localised Guild would be a waste of that spirit, and we would all be better served if you were to continue on in your own way.” His smile is back- and bigger than Michael had expected. “Congratulations, Guild Leader.”

… Guild what now? Michael barely has time to comprehend that before the natives are piling on him to offer congratulations.

“When you’ve recovered and had time to think it over,” Norman says, “our delightful receptionists will have the paperwork ready for you to sign- and I believe you may already have your first recruits, should you accept them.”

“I… can’t see why I wouldn’t,” Michael says. “Well, if you guys are in, then welcome to… uhh…” He pauses. “Right. Yeah. … We need a name.”

“What about Tea--” Rhianne starts, before Michael cuts her off.

“No.” Michael said, raising one hand without hesitation. “We are not calling ourselves Team Shitpost.”
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5
hoo boy this took some time, this ended up doing the last update thing where it got a little away from me, but there was a clear enough point this time i could split it

fortunately it's all also more character beats than it is actual plot progression, which was a pleasant change of pace for me

"No. Absolutely not." Michael is adamant about this; he's not letting that blasted name stick again. "I'm thinking…" He pauses, grinning. "The Crimson Foxes. Well, that or the Hoenn Globetrotters." He shrugs. "Something sensible that we can actually repeat in front of small children."​

"So where do you fit in, then?" The short one- Nougat- folds her arms, leaning back on her chair.​

"Wherever I feel like," Michael says, leaning forward on his. "Normally I'd be all for a dumb name like Squad Goals or Hashtag YOLO, but we get one shot at a first impression, and this is a biggie." It's also more fun to shatter that impression of professionalism down the line, but that won't help his case right now. "So, all in favour of the Hoenn Globetrotters, raise hands?" Two. "... And the Crimson Foxes?" Three, plus his own. "... So that's what a productive group talk looks like- remember it well, because they never happen." Mostly because he never normally takes the lead and controls the flow of them, but this is a new world and a fresh start. It’s time he took a different tack, perhaps.​

“No, they do happen,” Rhianne pipes up. “You just keep hanging around the sort of people that can’t take them seriously.”
“Yes,” Michael agrees, nodding slowly. “I do keep you around.”​

Rhianne chuckles. “Don’t be fooled,” she addresses the rest of the group, “he loves me really! He’s a big ol’ softie underneath that layer of grouch!”​

“Anyway!” Michael speaks up, pointedly ignoring the woman who somehow manages to be his most loyal friend and the bane of his fucking existence in the same breath, “I gather you four all know each other, yes?”​

“Indeed,” the dandy- Oberon, he said his name is- speaks up. “Could this be our illustrious leader’s way of indirectly asking us to introduce ourselves?”

Michael barks a laugh. “I can’t tell if we’re going to get on like a house on fire or if I’m going to hate you- but, yes. That is what I was ever-so-subtly getting at. I’ve got… Oberon… Tabitha… Felix… and Nougat?”​

Nougat shrugs, evidently continuing to be mildly unimpressed. “My folks wanted Gwendolyn- don’t bother asking why Nougat.” She raises one finger before Michael can speak again. “I don’t remember either.”

“Some would say her name is the sweetest thing about her, Your Leadership,” Oberon offers, a sly little grin forming. “Rest assured- they are completely correct.” Nougat flicks a few tufts of blonde hair back behind her ears- which Michael notes is probably one of the better ways he’s seen the finger given.​

“So noted! When you rock up with a black eye, I’ll know who to question.” Chuckling, Michael turns his attention over to the quieter boy in white. “Felix! You’ve said maybe ten words all day! How are you doing?”

“I… I’m good, yeah…” Felix is definitely on the quieter side. Judging by the amount of time he’s spent with his head down, either he’s a very sleepy one or he’s found a truly fascinating pattern in the woodwork on the table.​

“He’s not so good with people,” the other girl, Tabitha, steps in. “He puts ‘em back together well, but freezes up if you so much as thank him!”​

“We’re working on that,” Nougat says. “It’s a slow process.” ​

“Right- and that leaves…. Tabitha.” Rhianne takes over. “What’s your story?”​

“Not much to tell,” the girl says, waving one hand. “Fussy parents, get into the odd fight here and there- usually watching out for Felix. Nothing much exciting happens around here- Master Norman runs a tight ship, you see.”​

“Ahh,” Rhianne says knowingly, taking a long sip from her glass. “So, naturally, you jumped right into it today?”​

“Pretty much!” Tabitha smiles. “Can’t wait to get this show on the road!”​

“So you have enough energy for the two of you,” Michael says. “Cool. So, I’m Michael- I answer to most things that aren’t offensive, and occasionally a few that are. Apparently, being the loudest voice in a room one time qualified me for authority over people in life and death situations.” ​

He takes a breath. “People keep going along with it, so I must be doing something right. The redhead to my left currently looking at her nails is Rhianne- occasionally, she actually deigns to be helpful, but mostly she just provides the vital community service of keeping my ego in check.” He pauses. “I imagine at least two of you will gleefully jump on that job as well. … Possibly three, I’m getting the vibe from Tabitha as well.”​

He gets a lot of looks of artful innocence- yes, if he harboured any doubts on that score, they were definitely gone now. “... Definitely three. Well, as long as you can follow orders when you need to, I can live with getting shit thrown my way.” ​

Somehow, some way, Michael just instinctively knows that his old boss is laughing uproariously at the monumental round of karma that’s landed in his face.​

With the brief round of introductions made, the group pass the next hour or so in idle chatter and work up a decently-sized drinks bill before the younger ones have to start stifling yawns. This is the cue for them to pay up and take to their respective rooms for the night, with the promise of an early start the following morning.​



Once they retire for the evening, Michael sinks into his bedding with a sigh.​

"Alright," Rhianne says, "now we're alone, how do you actually feel about this?"​

"Kinda hate it, not gonna lie." Michael gives something approximating a shrug. "Didn't really want to be responsible for more bright-eyed kids- you know how I feel about that."​

Rhianne perches herself on the end of his bed. "Yeah, but these kids don't worship the ground you walk on- wasn't that your problem with the Council, that the people they had following your lead thought the sun shone out of your ass?"​

"Part of it, yeah." Michael sighs again, closing his eyes. "I… I dunno. I just hate the idea of people looking to me to tell them what to do- we both know I'm kind of a disaster about looking out for myself, let alone anyone else." There's a pause. "Look… I know I'm probably gonna get myself killed. I know you do what you want and you're gonna outlive me one way or another- and I still worry I'm gonna get you killed. Bright-eyed kids without our experience getting out of unbelievable amounts of shit? I… I don't want more of those deaths on my conscience, Rhi."​

"And so the student becomes the master," Rhianne says softly, looking downwards. "Van said that about you, you know," she clarifies as he tilts his head. "He made exactly the same arguments when I talked him into taking you on."​

Michael chuckles, but it's clearly forced. "Van was smart- I was a fucking nightmare to work with when I started out, remember? I'm not surprised he thought I'd get people he cared about killed."​

Rhianne sighs. "He was. But there's one thing you've always done- whether you've meant to or not." She looks directly at him now as she clasps his hand. "You've always proven yourself better than people thought you were- every time. If you won't believe you can do this, can you at least accept that I believe in you?"​

“There are several schools of thought on that,” Michael offers up weakly. “Some might- justifiably- suggest I proved some of my naysayers right when I decided to fuck off through the magic space-time portal.” He sighs as Rhianne’s expression doesn’t change a bit. “... Okay. Fine.” Inhale, exhale. Be graceful, he reminds himself. “I can go that far.” His brow furrows as a thought springs to mind. “... When did you become the voice of reason?”​

Rhianne smirks. “Process of elimination, dear.” As a yawn slips out, she stands up once more. “Must be getting late- should we call it a done deal then?​

”Might as well,” Michael says. “Pretty sure my ego’s taken enough of a battering as it is today.”​

“No such thing.” ​



Once his part in the festivities is over and he's processed the paperwork, Norman is only too eager to retire back to his apartment. From his front door, it takes about five minutes for him to slump into the worn old sofa with a couple of cans of cheap lager and some old crap playing on the TV. It's not even about the programme, really; it's just background noise as he relaxes. The same could be said of the cheap lager- certainly, he could afford better now as the Master of Petalburg, but his nightly ritual is a holdover from poorer days.​

Back when Brendan was little and the family still lived under one roof- before the complications of his work set in- this was the routine he'd fallen into. Though he lives alone now (if visited often by his son), the habit is ingrained and the cheap lager takes him back to simpler days. All that’s missing is the smell of nicotine- but that’s a habit he’s very glad he kicked a few years back when he took this apartment. ​

All things change. Some of those changes are good, some of them are bad. The divorce was amicable enough- they understand now that they made better friends than anything else, and the friendship is in a better place now that they don’t share a roof anymore. He’s certainly a healthier man now.​

Which brings him to the newest change, he supposes- sponsoring the creation of a Free Guild. A fit of madness, perhaps; destined to fail, some would say. Ordinarily, he would agree- and he’s not entirely convinced that it won’t fail. But the important thing is that he’s known men like Michael Alvagarde, and he knows that the younger man, as hard as he tried to hide it on their initial meeting, would bristle at falling in line once more.​

No, Alvagarde was no fresh-faced recruit. With a steely grip and the eyes of an embittered veteran, Norman knew that the two would ultimately clash; it was inevitable, and the longer Alvagarde tried to bite his tongue, the worse the confrontation would become. No, better to have him and those willing to follow his example out in the wild doing good in their own reckless way.​

Besides, he’d seen what they’d done to that Venusaur. There was no danger in the immediate area for them, and with a half-decent head on his shoulders- which, from what he’d seen, the woman was definitely possessed of- there shouldn’t be any in the foreseeable future either.​

Of course, he’s been wrong before. There were those ever-troubling rumours that the Old Ones were stirring once more, and there were the reports that certain followers of the Old Ones were acting more and more openly. Aquas never came this far west, and yet by what the poor Devon man had to say about his experience in the woods they were doing just that now.​

He sighs as he takes another swig from the can. Yes, now he thinks about it, there’s definitely a storm brewing- and he’d be willing to bet his life savings that Alvagarde and his partner are going to end up in the middle of it. With that in mind, he’s certain now that he’s done the right thing for Petalburg in sending those two off into the wilderness with a few of the locals… less inclined for his particular brand of structure.​

At least his son hadn’t gotten entirely caught up in their madness. Best to keep pointing him at the Birch girl- she was the sensible sort, she’d help keep him on the straight and narrow. … And win him that old bet with Johann- he might not be much of a gambler, but by Arceus he’s going to win that bet about their kids.​



The hour is late- late enough that Wallace hadn't expected to be calling a meeting of available hands.​

It's also late enough that he's surprised that Sidney traipses in at all, even if it is in his pyjamas; Drake and Glacia are deep enough in his pocket that he sometimes wonders if they even breathe without his permission, and Phoebe is desperate to prove her merit, but the last of the Four follows the beat of his own drum, so to speak.​

"Couldn't this wait?" Sidney yawns as he slumps into his seat; evidently, this meeting is still either too late or too early for the delinquent's liking.​

"Ladies," Wallace says, staring blankly down the table they use for all of his 'important' briefs. "Gentlemen." He pauses for a moment, before deciding to poke the young man's ego anyway. "Sidney."​

Sidney seems to have not heard this. Either that, or he was just rubbing at his bleary eyes- not that Wallace particularly cared about the exact reasons behind his actions.​

"Uncouth he may be, the young buck does raise a valid question," Drake says. "I trust this is a matter of importance?"​

"Potentially." Wallace bristles at being questioned by his most loyal, but he would sooner die than show it. "An… interesting development has just come from Petalburg, of all places."​

"Petalburg?" The grousing in Sidney's voice is almost physically painful. "You interrupted beauty sleep for hick country?"​

"Quite why Norman settled for the quiet life when he could have accepted much higher office is beyond me." Glacia arches one carefully plucked brow as she looks directly st Sidney. He shrugs; he's used to her barbs by now. Her and Wallace both.​

"Yes, the domain is rather a waste of an excellent man," Wallace nods. "However, it is because he is that excellent man that this missive concerns us." To beat around the bush, or no? "Norman has authorised the formation of a Free Guild."​

Sidney whistles. "Okay, I take that back- Norman did that? Shit, this was worth gettin' out of bed for!"​

Phoebe furrows her brow. "A Free Guild? What does Norman get out of doing that? It's only gonna be egg on his face when that thing implodes like they always do."​

This point hangs in the air like a bad smell- Free Guilds historically have all fallen apart within a matter of months. Without the city to keep people together, most people who fancy themselves as leaders simply don't have the true force of personality to keep a Guild loyal. If anything, a successful Free Guild is usually a small alliance of mercenary bands working a larger scale on a temporary basis.​

"In all the years I have known Norman, I've never known him to back a losing horse," Wallace says. "Ordinarily, I would think nothing of a Free Guild forming, but there are two interesting things about these Crimson Foxes." He pauses for a moment- and if he dared show emotion at one of these meetings, he would definitely laugh at the way the younger two leaned forwards. "We know absolutely nothing about its leaders."​

"Nothin'!?" Sidney scoffs. "I might not be the sharpest tack, but ain't the Aether supposed to be all knowin'?"​

"All knowing does not mean all-telling," Drake speaks, looking down at the table as he does so. "Perhaps this is our mystery to solve."​

Glacia clears her throat. "Indeed; the Aether is not a patient teacher that will answer all questions. Though… truly, nothing?​

"Nothing it would relay to me," Wallace confirms. He notices Drake glancing his way- the older man's concern is touching, but unnecessary. "Put the word out through the usual channels; I want to know everything there is to know about Michael Alvagarde and Rhianne Faebairn."​

"Will do!" "As you say." "It shall be done." "Aight, sure."​

At least they are all good help, even if waiting for Sidney to act like it sometimes resembles pulling teeth sans anaesthetic. Wallace nods deeply, the recognised sign that the meeting is adjourned, and the silence is broken by the scraping of chairs as his Elite take their leave.​

"Drake."​

Well, three. As they leave, Wallace rises, gesturing the oldest and most devoted of the Elite to stay. Without another word, he steps over to the pane window that serves the most fantastic view of Hoenn from on high- even at night, when the silver lighting that keeps the monsters at bay makes such an elegant pattern across the country.​

"How is your acting, my friend?"​

"It is… not as passable as it was," Drake says after some thought. "You wished for me to disguise myself and meet with this Alvagarde?"​

"An idle thought," Wallace says- and it's only many years of them working so closely that lets Drake catch the hint of disappointment in Wallace's voice. "If you don't feel confident in your abilities, though, we can postpone that for now. The game has barely begun, after all- let us not act rashly for minimal reward."​

Drake frowns, but says nothing; criticism of Wallace, in his experience, falls on deaf ears. A storied acting career and many years of being put on a pedestal by the nation has given the Champion quite the opinion of himself.​

"If there is nothing else?" The older man eventually breaks the silence- nobody simply walks out on Wallace.​

"Hm? Ah, of course- no, you may leave."​

When the footsteps fade and he hears the door close behind him, Wallace exhales. Perhaps he is jumping at nothing, but there's just enough intrigue in these mystery mercenaries that caught Norman's eye… and he is nothing if not a showman. They've the making of a grand underdog story, defying the odds to battle their way to the upper echelons of the Guild society- but with one key difference.​

These underdogs will not win the grand prize; rather, they will serve as a convincing display of his own strength.​

One way or another, the people of Hoenn will remember their master.​
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
After an early start, with surprisingly little fuss from the younger members of the new Guild, it’s a deceptively simple trek through the Forest that morning. Following the closest thing to a beaten path- a small gravel track that is little more than a series of waypoints, light travel is the order of the day.

This, of course, means Michael- as the largest and most physically built- ends up hefting their one full sack of provisions over one shoulder, and his weighty sword over the other. Without the several hundred pounds of metal armour he’s used to, though, it’s still well within his abilities; the sack is mostly food for six people and his and Rhianne’s bedrolls. Nougat carries hers and Felix’s, and the other two are deemed capable of carrying their own.

While by their best guesstimates, they will reach Rustboro by the time it gets too late to carry on, Michael is both a firm believer in preparing for the worst and not being caught short-handed. Especially in a new world where he doesn’t have access to the resources of vast military networks to call on.

… He’d like to blame the miserly mercenary that had been his mentor for so long, but really he’d been a stingy prick long before he met Van. His time with the small mercenary band had just exacerbated his ability to stretch every penny as far as possible… which really is a good skill to have right now, given the small amount of funds the Foxes have and the six ways the budget needs to be split.

Eventually- a little after midday, if Rhianne’s sixth sense for the time is accurate- they reach a decently-sized clearing in amongst the trees, and Michael decides it’s time to take a break from walking. There’s a question lingering in the back of his mind, and now is as good a time to answer it.

"So, Tabby," Michael says, once they’re settled. "If the Healer's first commandment is 'Do No Harm', what do you think the first commandment for us Warriors is?"

The lithe blonde takes a minute to think about it, before arriving at a conclusion. "Do Harm?"

Michael smiles. "That's one school of thought, and it's not incorrect. Doing Harm is very important to us, true, but there's one more thing that differentiates us from Rhi and Oberon." He pauses. "Think back to that Venusaur- what did I do that nobody else did?"

"You…" Her voice trails off, as she thinks back. "You took its attacks- you didn't let it stop you."

"Correct." Michael nods; it's not a pleasant truth he must impart, but it is an important one. "Being on the front line means being the first line of defense. To stay up front and really get stuck in? You need to know you can take the punishment that gets dished out- I believe, therefore," he pauses, watching her expression- and Nougat's, as she's started paying attention, "that Do Harm is actually a close second to our first commandment." He sighs. "Our first commandment is Endure Harm."

"But that thing nearly choked the life out of you," Nougat says. Michael's pleased to note that she doesn't even sound petulant either.

"It didn't." Michael pauses. "If Rhi hadn't cut me free, I had a knife ready to do it myself." He looks off into the distance, trying to work out how to phrase this next part. "I won't lie, my approach isn't perfect- nobody's is. If we'd cracked the perfect fight, we probably wouldn't need to bash each other over the head with bits of metal." A tinge of regret creeps into his voice. "But I know what I've seen cost me more lives than anything over the years, and that's hesitation." He looks directly at the girls now. "People flinch and recoil at pain- that's natural and healthy, and we need to listen to our pain. But our job on the front is to soak it up as much as we can and fight through it." He sighs. "If you can't, honestly, I won't hold that against you- it's one hell of an ask. But, it is important that we know if you're up to that now rather than later."

Tabitha pales. "How… how are you going to find out?"

Michael closes his eyes, casting his head downwards. "If you agree to the test- which, if you don't, I'm more than happy to call off and we'll work on alternatives for you- you're going to have to fight through pain." He looks up once more. "You're going to attack me, and Rhianne- and possibly Oberon, if he's so inclined- will work you over with magic. Your job is to ignore them and keep attacking me. The test ends when you back down."

"That's fucked up," Nougat says, folding her arms. Michael nods in agreement.

"It is," Michael says softly. "Unfortunately, it's the most effective litmus test I know." It certainly worked wonders for him when the Council started sinking their claws into him.

"It produced him, for what that's worth," Rhianne chips in lazily. "It's a bastard of a system, but it does get results."

"Again, if you aren't okay with trying it, we'll find something else for you." Michael says, raising his hands in what he hopes is a placating gesture. "But if this isn't the path for you, I'd like to know sooner rather than later."



It's a long moment. Tabitha stands still, deep in thought as she weighs up the decision ahead of her. On the one hand, it's sudden. It's very sudden, and by the sound of it even Michael doesn't particularly want to go through with it. On the other… This is what she's wanted to do with her life- to fight and protect, and prove her Trait doesn't define her. If this is a test of her will… well… As intimidating as it sounds- and Michael certainly seems to have unpleasant memories of the whole process…

“This is how you learned?”

“First lesson, yes.” The older man sucks air in- it looks as though he’s seen what side of the fence she’s on.

“Well, then,” Tabitha says, trying to force cheer back into her voice. “Let’s give it a go.” She notices a wide array of looks directed her way; alarm from Nougat and Felix, bemusement from Oberon, resignation from the boss and vague amusement from the redhead- Rhianne, she was pretty sure the boss had called her. The latter woman rises from the log she was perched lazily on, as Michael mutters something barely audible about terrible decisions.

He calls Felix over and starts firing off questions about how much exactly the young healer can actually fix if need be- Tabitha doesn’t catch all of it, especially not the boy’s mumbled answers, but Michael seems to be satisfied as he claps Felix on the shoulder and sends him back to his reading.

A few minutes later, Tabitha is holding up her axe, standing about eight feet away from the boss. He has that wicked-looking sword of his drawn, and while she’s bouncing on the balls of her feet, he’s got the look of a man who would really rather be shovelling manure from the stables than doing what he’s actually planned for himself.

“Ready, Tabitha? Rhi? Oberon?” He gets three affirmative responses- and his face falls once more. “Alright, then- you know the rules. Rhi, don’t go all in to start with--”

“I wasn’t going to!” Rhianne almost sounds sincere. Almost. Not enough, judging by the sigh the boss lets out- wow, he really does that a lot, doesn’t he?

“Mhm.” Boss shrugs, and looks back at Tabitha- she takes this as the signal to stop bouncing around and start taking this seriously. “... Well, then. Whenever you’re ready.”

She immediately ducks to his right- straight into the path of an oncoming fireball. Coughing, she powers forward with her axe hefted. More of the flames find their mark- pushing her back a few times- and just as she thinks she’s got a second to make her ground up again, she’s bodily thrown backwards. So, Oberon is joining the party, then? Just what she needs- his kinesis is going to make this interesting. Ah, well. Nothing for it. Gritting her teeth, she surges forward, even as the dandy’s powers intensify and slow her movements to a crawl. It’s a long moment, their clash of wills- mercifully free of fire, but fighting through his grip is doing enough of a number on her muscles.

But, as with most things, the man’s concentration eventually breaks, and Tabitha practically flies forward like a rubber band stretched to its maximum- and Rhianne takes this exact moment to line up a powerful salvo of flames. Tabitha grunts through tightly clenched jaws as the barrage hits home, causing her to buckle. Undeterred, however, she carries on, swinging her axe with gusto the moment Michael is in range. His blade whips upwards, stopping her first swing in its tracks, but more come his way, raising in intensity- first from the left, then the right, then left and in a rising crescent. Michael is impressed by her ferocity, at least, if the pleased smile was any indication.

… Ah. And now Oberon is back in the game, forcing her arm to slow- as if trying to swing her axe through treacle. Rhianne continues weaving balls of flame, peppering the younger girl from all angles, searching for a particular weakness she can exploit.

But it doesn’t come; one of Tabitha’s wild lunges is deflected mere inches from Michael’s face, and he raises his free hand.

“Test is over!” He doesn’t even bother to hide the relief he feels. “Congratulations- you pass with flying colours!”

Tabitha steps back, letting her arms- and her axe- fall limply to her side. She stands for a few moments as this sinks in through the adrenaline rush. Her heartbeat begins to slow once more, though breathing normally is… still not happening. As the adrenaline fades more, however, her knees buckle.

“Felix!” Michael calls- the younger man rushes in and starts fussing immediately, whipping up waves of soothing magic to cool the burns and numb the pain she’s feeling.

“Tab! Are you--” Nougat shouts, before Michael interrupts.

“She’ll be fine,” Rhianne says, nodding. “No lasting damage- give it an hour or two, and she’ll be right as rain again.”

Michael nods approvingly. “She’s got the spirit. That’s the main thing- everything else will come with time and experience.” The group notices that, despite his words, his voice is slightly despondent. “Another successful victim…”



A towering woman in silver armour stood across the ring from Michael. From the outside, men and women in robes looked towards the two fighters with bated breath.

“Your test is very simple,” her voice rang out. “You are to attack me until you draw blood.”

Michael scoffed. “Seriously? That’s all I have to do?” He hefted his weighty sword, grinning. “Should be an easy pass, then.” If he’d been thinking more clearly, he might have realised that Dame Cassandra Aravele, First General of the Nephalem Council, probably wouldn’t have made this test as easy as it sounded. He might have questioned it, but his was a singular gaze.

As soon as he charged, he felt the crackle of magic in the air as lightning struck him. He hissed in pain as raw electricity coursed through his body, the spell dancing along his nerves and causing some highly creative flinches. He stumbled forwards, lifting his blade again, and not two steps were taken before another bolt of conjured lightning crashed into his back. Breathing heavily, he sank to one knee.

“Done already?” Aravele didn’t move a muscle. Barely put any tone into her voice. Just stood there, utterly impassive. “I thought this would be a simple test.”

As Michael used his sword to leverage himself from the ground, the air changed once more and a potent ball of flame exploded in his face. Thick smoke filled the air around him- and his lungs, causing a rousing round of hearty coughs; figures, all the fucking years he’d avoided smoking like the plague, and now he was going to end up wrecking his lungs anyway.

Well, maybe not- if he passed the test soon enough, he might get to a healer in time to save them. All he had to do was land one clean hit, right? Just get back on his feet, take a few more steps forward-- and get hit in the back by more lightning. Was he even going to get a chance to act without being brought down again. … No, probably not- was that the test? From what he’d seen of the General, she didn’t seem the kind for wanton cruelty; there had to be more to it than just sitting and watching him get suckerpunched by a firing squad.

One more step forward. Another fireball- aim off, still singed his hair, but it was an opening. He reached striking distance and- predictably- one of the mages got him with more of that bastard lightning. Not a short, sharp jolt, either; this was one of the more concentrated barrages. Typical- and, if he was right, he was just going to have to try and fight the General head-on under the bastard spell.

He cursed under his breath even as his arms began to twitch and twinge- this whole thing was stupid! Fuck, there was no way he was actually going to pull this off! He swung out in a predictable motion that the good General easily parried, and the spell ramped up its intensity. Gods, he couldn’t take much more of this, surely- already his hands were struggling to grip his sword! His increasingly desperate strikes were lazily deflected and batted away, and more of the mages joined in the electrical assault- forcing him back down to one knee as his legs buckled under his own weight.

With heavy, laboured breaths, he looked back up at the General, who was… smiling? God, this was messed up.

“Congratulations, Knight Alvagarde,” she said with… almost- almost- a hint of pride. “You have passed. Just.”

“... Right…” Michael wheezed out. “Cool… great… hooray…” His head was pounding, the smoke was still filling his lungs and his nerves felt like they were on fire- which had an array of very interesting effects on the rest of his body. “Can I… healer?”

“Ah,” the General coughed awkwardly. “Yes. I suppose, yes! Get Clament down here- she’s got a patient!” Two of the men in robes- probably the ringleaders- scurried off in a hurry to comply with her orders.

“Fuck… was…?” Michael trailed off mid thought as he felt himself tipping forwards- it took a worrying amount of time for him to thrust his arms to the floor to stop himself from kissing dirt. “Thought… failed.”

“Well, you didn’t,” the General said. “You continued to attack as long as you were physically capable- and, I suspect, after that fact as well. If not the ability, I’ve certainly seen some of your resolve; the truly important thing here.” She paused, cracking the barest hint of a smile as he looked back up with furrowed brows. “Ability can be honed and knowledge can be imparted- your drive, however, is something I cannot give you.”

“I… see.” And, mostly, he did.

That didn’t mean he liked it, though.

A shame his last conscious thoughts as the flash of white dress crossed his vision were less than charitable.




“Remind me to do something nice for her,” Michael muses under his breath as he sits a little ways away from the rest of the group. He’s having to rationalise this one- badly. She had the out, she could have taken it… This was a proven system, that all the Council’s best had gone through… The fact that, frankly, she’d handled it far better than he had- if only with the advance warning and not just having had the whole ordeal foisted on him.

“Hm?” Rhianne plops herself down on the log next to him- fuck, of course she heard him. Her twitchy fox ears could probably pick up a pin dropping halfway across a city if she wasn’t selectively deaf. “You say something?”

“Just thinking aloud,” he shrugs. “Was sat here distinctly thinking I’d left the Council behind, and not three days later I’m out here pulling their usual shit.” He exhales sharply. “Should probably do something nice for the girl when we’ve got the time.”

“We?” Rhianne’s voice is mild. “It was your idea, remember?”

“Yeah, but you talked me into this whole thing,” Michael says- though nowhere near as lightly as he otherwise would. “You get to take responsibility for our kids as well, you know.”

Rhianne mock-sighs. “Fiiiiine.” She makes a show of rolling her eyes, but there’s no real feeling in it. “So,” she continues, “lunch break, and then light drills for you guys while I work blondie over?”

“Couldn’t have put it better myself.” The smile creeps back onto Michael’s face. It’s remarkable how quickly Rhianne’s antics can achieve that when he’s not strictly the butt of them.



“Sidney.”

“Drake!?” The younger man almost jumps out of his skin, before turning away from the elevator to face his superior.

The elderly Elite purses his lips. “Dare I ask what you’re up to?”

Sidney sighs. “So. I miiiight have stuck around a bit after the meeting last night.” He grins as Drake exhales. “Yeah. The whole act idea? I liked it! So, I figure- I’m young and sleazy, right? Nah, don’t try and argue with me!”

Drake had planned to do nothing of the sort. “Your self-awareness gives you some credit, yes.” He looks the younger man in the eye. “Where is this going?”

“Investigative journalism, pal!” Sidney crows. “Officially, I’m chasing rumours of those Aquas sightings- which is easy enough. It’s the perfect cover, and Rustboro is the perfect place to go on all fronts.”

“Not bad,” Drake says, nodding slowly. The stern, elderly man even manages to smile. “I take it those clothes are what passes for fashion these days?” Those chequers… well, Drake would certainly never have touched them- even if Wallace had asked him to. And the wig certainly spoke of dishevelment; it was amazing what people would willingly choose to wear in the name of self-expression.

“Absolutely not,” Sidney laughs. “Arceus, these are not fashionable. What they are, though, is comfortable and practical- and they don’t ooze wealth, either.” His smile grows as the older man’s discomfort becomes even more evident. “See, bud, this is what I’ve been saying! You’ve been cooped up in our ivory tower for so long, you’ve forgotten how to slum it down there!”

“... Perhaps.” Drake’s voice is oddly wistful as he looks out of the pane window overlooking Hoenn. “So, why Rustboro in particular?”

“Because it’ll take a while for these guys to get there, and I want to be in and unobtrusive before they arrive,” Sidney explains, rolling his shoulders. “And they will go for Rustboro, because that’s the nearest place that actually caters to Guilds- the Hick Triangle is what it is for a reason- and getting a Devon endorsement would get this Free Guild malarkey off to a decent start. Fuck, half of Hoenn works for Devon in one way or another- if they’ve any sense, they’ll try and grease those wheels ASAP.”

“An informed, well reasoned strategy.” Drake nods, and slowly applauds. “Very well- would you like me to appraise Wallace of your decision, or are you willing to face him yourself?”

“And admit to snoopin’ on him?!” Sidney scoffs. “Hell no, bud. If you could phrase this whole thing to him in a way that doesn’t make him want to deck me for eavesdropping, that’d be super.” A shiver runs down his spine, and for once he isn’t even joking; Wallace is a highly competent man, but he can also be very unpredictable, and while he’s a big fan of attention it has to be on his terms.

“Very well,” Drake says- and Sidney swears he could hear the older man chuckle under his breath. “I shall endeavour to keep you on our Champion’s good side.”

“You’re a lifesaver, bud.” Sidney grins, as he turns back towards the elevator and presses the down button.

“Do not mention it.”

The grin grows three sizes as the elevator door opens with a ding. “Don’t mention what?”

Once the magical mystery elevator gets him to the ground floor, it’s just a short walk to the Aetheryte Passage, a wave of his ID, and a very brief stint of keeping his eyes scrunched tightly shut as the magic of Hoenn’s various ley lines whisks him across the country in a matter of minutes.

Stepping out of the circle that is Rustboro’s arrival pad, he walks up to the receptionist on duty and carefully places two gold coins on her desk. With a tight nod and one finger hovering over his lips, he waits for a moment for the girl to pocket the coins and put the arrivals log out of sight for the time being, before ambling off at a leisurely pace.

All he had to do was start blending in with the citizens of Rustboro and listen for anything interesting, without caving to the urge to scratch the itching around the blasted wig.

Drake wasn’t finding out about this part, that was for damn sure.
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
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He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7
Bit more of a breather night tonight, with hopefully some much needed fleshing of our other main players.

The group's tone is much more subdued as they arrive in Rustboro, that much is certain. The late hour gives ample reason for them to split off in their pairs as soon as they reach the Guild Hall and Michael can convince the receptionist there that, yes, three rooms is what they need. One for the two younger men, one for the girls and one for two people that have slept in closer proximity than that many a time over the years with nothing untoward happening between them.

"I can't believe you're okay with that!" As soon as they get behind a soundproof wall and thick wooden door, Nougat lets it out. "Seriously, what the hell!?"

"I was fine!" Tabitha raises her own voice. "He had the whole thing under control!"

Nougat just glares in response- whether it's disbelief in that claim or continuing to seethe at what had been called "The First Lesson", Tabitha can't tell, but at this point she's not overly fussed.

"Oberon wasn't going to give his all, now, was he?" Tabitha meets the glare with her own level stare, even as her voice grows shrill. "He was never going to casually chuck his happy pile of concoctions around, and the boss- well, that was the point, wasn't it? He wasn't going to fight me at all! The closest thing to danger was--" Something clicks in her mind. "... Seriously? That's what this is about? You just being mad about Rhianne throwing you around?"

"She wasn't even fucking trying, Tab!" Nougat whines- with a little catch in her voice, fighting back tears. "No weapons, no magic- it's not fair!"

… And now it makes sense to Tabitha. For years, Nougat has prided herself on strength. Nougat has been the protector, the one that fought for her and Felix. She could accept not being as strong as Norman; Norman is well beyond anyone else in Western Hoenn, and if he put his mind to it he could well be one of the Elite. But Rhianne? A wiry woman who just rocked up one day and isn't even in charge? That's a blow to Nougat's ego- especially with Tabitha herself stepping up to fight her own battles and reverse their roles.

This is about pride, and Nougat struggling with that pride being dented. That realisation is like ice water washing over Tabitha. For a moment, she just stands there and watches her friend, debating how she should play this. The shaking blonde isn't an easy sight, though, and the eyes scrunching shut don't help either.

To hell with it, Tabitha tells herself as she steps forward with outstretched arms. She needs this right now, even if we don't talk about it again. Nougat, surprisingly, accepts the unspoken invitation, barreling into Tabitha's arms and wrapping her own tightly around.

… Very tightly; Tabitha thinks to herself that it's a good job she isn't as delicate as Nougat would like to think. Otherwise, she might actually be out a rib or three!

"I'm gonna beat her," Nougat says from somewhere in Tabitha's shoulder, after a long moment and a few tears that they're both going to pretend didn't fall. "I don't know when, or how, but I'm gonna beat her."



Oberon sees much. Perhaps too much, some would say. He would agree, clarity of sight often means bearing witness to painful truths. He witnesses the subtleties that elude even the most eagle eyed of men- though, if he does not miss his mark, the fair Lady Rhianne may be his equal in that regard.

Yet he cannot perceive the mind of their leader- a man claiming authority when he seems to have such a distaste for it eludes him. Surely, were he of a mind, it would have been of ease to simply deflect Norman's unusually generous offer- yet he accepts the chains of command?

He swirls his vial- a mixture of water, powders and a selection of the leaves and herbs he'd managed to collect on their trek through the forest. Felix makes for a quiet and unobtrusive roommate; not the most thrilling conversationalist, but a calming presence. And, incidentally, as their healer, useful to have around if there is a misstep while he's working away at replenishing his stockpile of poisons and sedatives.

At least Norman is a man of his word, and compensated him fairly for what was purloined. Perhaps in the morning, he'll attempt to visit that little herbalist on the outskirts of Rustboro- spend that coin concocting something new.

The flush of a toilet from behind him breaks his concentration- though, mercifully, his concoction is only mildly jostled. His gloves go untainted this night, at least.

"H-Hey," Felix says, a minute or so later. "'s free… whenever…"

Such a shy boy… I can see why our fair ladies feel the need to coddle him, at least. "Thank you, my friend." Oberon gives Felix a warm smile. "This shall take but a moment."

"I can sleep?"

"Have no fear, dear Felix, your medical prowess shall not be needed this night!" Oberon crows, chuckling to himself as Felix goes an impressive shade of crimson. "Though," he continues, a sterner note creeping into his usually jocular tone, "Given the course of events today, I daresay our favourite little spitfire might need more on the morrow."

Felix looks downwards. "You… really think?" Bless the boy, he's so caught up in healing the physical, he neglects the mental. Or, perhaps he simply finds it overwhelming? Only Felix could say- if he were of a mind to.

"Between our leader's gamble on fair Tabitha and her own embarrassment? Our Nougat will likely be seething away merrily tonight." Oberon looks back to his vial with slightly furrowed brows. "Though, I may have misjudged Tabitha, and she may be able to calm Nougat before they surface in the morning."

"I hope…" Felix nods, visibly shuddering at the prospect of an enraged Nougat. "... What do you think? O-Of him, I mean…"

"I believe our esteemed leader is a very troubled man." Oberon is forthright, if nothing else. Setting the vial down on the table, he turns to face Felix. "If his words were not enough, his eyes are worn and weary. He strikes me as a man who is tired of fighting- of the responsibilities of command." The eternal dandy's voice is highly subdued now. "I do not understand why he accepted this role, Felix- I truly do not, and I am loathe to question him on the subject. I suspect his answer will not be to my liking."



Breakfast, as expected, is a somewhat dour affair. The First Lesson is hanging over their heads, and nobody’s really sure how to broach the unfortunate subject.

“Soooo,” Rhianne breaks the awkward silence, “Michael, when you did that whole thing way back when… did we ever tell you who it was for?”

Michael pales. “I was under the impression it was routine, and nobody ever saw fit to tell me otherwise.” He breathes deeply, running his fingers through his hair. “... This is where you’re about to tell me that that’s wrong and we did that whole thing yesterday for absolutely no reason, isn’t it?”

Suddenly, Rhianne takes a great deal of interest in counting out the exact amount of berries that have been poured into her porridge.

“Rhianne.”

“Well… the thing iiiisss…” Rhianne sighs . “Yeah. Basically, yes. I would’ve thought Cassandra would have told you at some point, but… yeah. It is a compulsory thing- for the Immortals.” She pauses. “Special forces,” she adds quickly, addressing the four slightly confused looks she was getting.

“It fucking what.” Michael's forehead slams against the table in record time. "Yeah, no, she never bothered saying anything. Par for the fucking course…" He mutters something indistinguishable into the woodwork, before sitting upright again. "... Right. So putting aside the question of why the hell I was thrown that far into the deep end… congrats, Tabitha!" He plasters the most neutral expression he can manage onto his face. "You passed a special forces entry test without even knowing you were doing it!"

"As did you, by the sound of it," Oberon says, fiddling with toast and butter as he does so.

"Yeah, but I also got the shit kicked out of me when I did it," Michael shrugs. "... Wouldn't surprise me if that was why I got chucked at it at the first opportunity."

"So does everyone you meet try and kill you?" Nougat looks up from her full Galarian for a few seconds. "Huh. Guess that'd warp your views on pain." With her piece said, she goes back to packing away as much food as humanly possible.

"To be fair, you haven't tried yet," Michael says, chuckling lightly. "And the day is young! But… yeah, huh, it's pretty common. Very good at running my mouth into trouble. I am still alive, though!"

Rhianne notices something. "Tab, you're being fairly quiet through this." The girl in question paws at a platter of assorted fruits.

"Still half asleep," Tabitha half-shrugs, sipping at a glass of juice before going back to her fruits. "So, I get nobody telling the boss about that test, but why didn't he ask?" Four sets of eyes turn to Michael.

"Good question," Michael says. He leans back on his chair, sucking air through his teeth. "Gonna go with… they weren't the best of times- as evidenced by me being fast tracked for any form of elite training. We were so focused on not dying as the world went to shit around us that I forgot to ask some of the important questions, and after… well, what was done was done. Didn't occur to me to question it after all was said and done."

This statement is what manages to end the conversation. Awkwardness, it seems, follows most of what he has to say for himself. Fortunately for all involved, the Rustboro Guild Hall has excellent catering, and putting the most important meal of the day away is quickly deemed more important than an awkward interrogation.

"Aight, then," Michael speaks up once people have stopped eating. "I'm gonna let you guys loose on the city this morning while I find us some actual work." He takes a quick look at his watch- actually, should probably change the time on this thing, there's no way it's half five… "Meet back here around one-ish for lunch. Otherwise, you've got your share of our cash- shop for what you think you need, and if you could keep an ear out for anything… intriguing, that'd be super."

Nougat huffs. "So what're you doing, then?"

"Gonna get my fucked phone looked at first thing," Michael shrugs. It's technically not a lie, either- he and Rhianne will need new SIMs at the very least, and native phones would certainly be less conspicuous. "After that, probably go between here and wherever the local Master holes up and find out what we can and can't get away with doing for the locals."

"I think she's mostly a teacher?" Tabitha leans forwards, propping her head up in her hands. "She's more of a day job person than a lot of Masters."

"Yeah," Nougat scoffs, and yawns as she folds her arms. "Maybe she can teach you how not to be a monumental idiot about asking questions."

"And maybe she can teach you a few new tricks before our next session." Rhianne smiles ever so sweetly at Nougat, making a show of buffing her nails when the blonde scowls at her.



“Bit full of herself, isn’t she?” As soon as they’re out of earshot of the others and nosing their way up and down the main high street, Rhianne has Words to Say about Nougat. “... Do you think I went a bit too hard on her yesterday?”

Michael closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, pointedly ignoring his partner’s wince at the unspoken answer. “Hard to say,” he eventually leads with. “You know I’m fairly crap with people- and at a lot of the other things you’d really think I’d know how to do in this position, but… Hm. You think she’s used to being top dog, do you?”

“She makes it sound like that, yeah.” Rhianne sighs. “Well, I guess there’s really nothing for it. Either she learns or she leaves, right?”

If nothing else, the two of them idly wandering up and down crowded streets and looking for what they need has a comforting familiarity- and, if Rhianne manages to snake her hand into his while he’s more interested in looking for somewhere that deals in phones, he doesn’t say anything.

Rhianne smiles to herself; while she respects his general aversion to physical contact, she is a very tactile person, and it means a lot to her that he’s been trying to overcome that particular issue of his over the last few years. Only his complete lack of self-confidence and rush to deprecating humour to go!

It’s a good combination, really; her infectious cheer and curiosity at somewhere new to explore puts his darker introspections at bay, and his focus on what they actually need keeps them moving at a relative pace- if with the promise that they’ll likely be in Rustboro for longer than he initially anticipated, and that she’ll be able to come back when they’ve sorted the more important aspects of the morning. Like, getting working phones and making sure they can actually work for the money they’d need to go on shopping trips.



Oberon takes the opportunity to ‘escort’ Nougat to the little herbalists he saw on the city’s outskirts- it being somewhere he’d wanted to go, and getting the fiery girl out of the way so she can vent without being overheard by too many of the wrong ears.

To Nougat, a flower is a flower. They look pretty enough, and some of them smell nice, but… they just don’t do it for her- she just doesn’t Get the appeal. But watching Oberon go up and down the shelves and casting his judgemental gaze over even the slightest difference is another matter- if only because it’s such a departure from the carefree dandy that he normally presents.

“So, what is it you’re looking for, exactly?” Nougat breaks the silence. Shit, did that sound too impatient? …. Yeah, too impatient. “You don’t normally get like this. Focused, I mean.”

“Indeed not,” Oberon mutters as he inspects a particularly unassuming basket. “The proprietress of this shop is somewhat known- in some circles- for her cultivation of what were otherwise some of Petalburg’s most elusive herbs and wildflowers, on top of her above adequate collection of arrangements.” He hums, peering further into the rear of the basket. “She has a fair eye for aesthetics, but ‘tis the herbs I require.”

“‘Some circles’.” Nougat repeats. “What, you follow all that Garden Show stuff?” Not that she’s particularly surprised by that conclusion; of course a man with all the vanity and portrayed class that Oberon loves so much would be that far into flowers.

He chuckles. “Not so, my dear- our arrangements are of a somewhat more sinister bent....” Not that their darling spitfire would be entirely appreciative of the details of leveraging fights with herbal concoctions and concentrated venoms. Still, as a wise man once said, honour is for corpses. “But enough of my fixations- what of you? How are you this morning?”

“Eh,” Nougat shrugs. “Been worse, been better- why are you asking?” She looks pointedly in his direction- not that he notices, as artfully busied as he his with his perusal. “You’re the nosiest man I know, I know you heard me and Tab last night.”

“I simply wished to hear it as you wished it known,” Oberon mutters. Quietly, but not so quietly as to go unheard.

Nougat sighs. “Fuck, you’re a thirsty bastard for gossip, aren’t you? You’re worse than my nan, you know.” Still… he’s as sharp as they come. It’s a long moment as she wrestles with her more unpleasant thoughts. If we’re both keeping an eye… “Still don’t get the boss.”

“As expected.” From the position he’s currently in, she can even see the smile he has as he says this. “The man is a mystery, a riddle and an enigma. Quite the vexing one, at that. Though… as I told dear Felix, I am unsure as to how much I wish to know about him...” His voice trails off, and he sighs deeply. “I do believe we have much to learn from him- one way or another.”

Nougat slumps against the wall. “Yeah… I get that.” She breathes deeply, closing her eyes and letting the sweet smells of flowers waft over her for a moment. “So, you’re on board with watching and waiting, yeah?”

“Quite so.” Oberon allows himself a fractional nod- though, whether that’s at the collection he’s finally decided on or in response to her question, she doesn’t know. “We learn his lessons and make our judgements at a later date.” A sly grin forms. “And, of course, refrain from losing our tempers with his fair lady.”

Satisfied with his purchases, he turns towards the register before she can give him the finger. Another successful morning, then. And he even managed to avoid Nougat venting too much! A true win in all regards.




I am.

There was Pain. A great, searing Pain. Steel cleaved my Body and the raging Inferno tore at my very Soul.

On the other side of the Inferno lay only Oblivion.

Or so I thought.

I embraced Oblivion, accepted it as it Was.

Once more, I emerged from the Abyss.

Broken. Shattered.

But Alive.

Oh, yes, I am Alive.

My work is never truly done, you see.

For as long as there is Light, so too shall there be Darkness.

As long as there is Hope… Man shall always know Despair.

They will know My Name, and once more I shall be heralded by the lamentations of the countless damned.

This World...

This World has such rapturous potential.

I do believe I am going to enjoy this.
 

Chess

birds can't hurt me these shades are gucci
Artist
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Team Omega
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
5
Caught
May 13, 2019
Messages
430
Location
in forest floor detritus
Nature
Docile
Pronouns
They/Them/She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Grass
Pokédex Entry
can be bribed with shiny objects and spices to do household repairs. utterly incapable of many things, but does them anyway
Oberon sees much. Perhaps too much, some would say. He would agree, clarity of sight often means bearing witness to painful truths. He witnesses the subtleties that elude even the most eagle eyed of men- though, if he does not miss his mark, the fair Lady Rhianne may be his equal in that regard.

Yet he cannot perceive the mind of their leader- a man claiming authority when he seems to have such a distaste for it eludes him. Surely, were he of a mind, it would have been of ease to simply deflect Norman's unusually generous offer- yet he accepts the chains of command?

He swirls his vial- a mixture of water, powders and a selection of the leaves and herbs he'd managed to collect on their trek through the forest. Felix makes for a quiet and unobtrusive roommate; not the most thrilling conversationalist, but a calming presence. And, incidentally, as their healer, useful to have around if there is a misstep while he's working away at replenishing his stockpile of poisons and sedatives.
hey this entire passage is just really good. 10/10

also hello, The Plot
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
hey this entire passage is just really good. 10/10
thank you, i love my flamboyant perceptive son



Sorry I kinda fell off the face of the earth, but... yeah.

Tonight! Fun banter, more fun banter, plot hooks and setting up something I really hope I can pull off!

Oh, now that was interesting. Not what was said, per se- although the inferred note that Alvagarde seems to have some sort of military training is worth filing away; political tension is always there, and the Kalos-Galarian feud is legendary in its longevity, but outright war is a relic of a bygone age. The Guild system isn't perfect by any means, but it has been fairly successful in nipping would-be warmongers in the bud.

Unless Alvagarde is a compulsive liar- inconclusive- his words and tone paint a defined picture. Not a pleasant one, at that.

Years of provoking Glacia have paid off handsomely, as Sidney can look for all the world like he's not paying the blindest bit of attention to what's going on around him even as he takes meticulous mental notes. While he was listening intently to their conversations, he looked as if he was just enjoying a delicious breakfast. … Which, to be fair, he was- Rustboro's Guild is well funded by Devon, and their catering reflects that.

He doesn't even begrudge paying the non-Guild service fees as part of his guise… though part of that is knowing that between expenses claims and the general levies that make their way to Evergrande, he's going to see that money again in short order. It is, after all, very technically a work expense, even if Wallace doesn't actually know what he's working on yet.

The fact that he loaded up a delicious full Galarian and went for the good Berries in his juice is, frankly, irrelevant- he could eat for a week on one of Wallace's "work lunch" bills.

But… was Alvagarde a threat? Sidney’s initial impression is that he has the potential to be a threat- mysteriously appearing, world-weary individuals being a cause for concern. Perhaps, if Wallace were to take offense and actively work against Alvagarde, then, yes, they would have a problem. But, actually going out of his way to cause problems? Sidney doesn’t see it off hand.

Now, Wallace’s diva tendencies? Those are where Sidney foresees problems arising; calculating Champion Wallace may generally be, he also has a wildly irrational streak when his temper flares. If, in a fit of pique, he were to lash out in Alvagarde’s direction… Sidney strongly suspects that would lead to a bloodbath- one that would end in their favour, of course, but certainly not without cost.

“An’ thank Arceus for that,” he muses to himself- now ostensibly reading the day’s edition of the Herald as his targets stand up and split into their pairs. He debates taking the opportunity to pay his bill and try and slink off after one of them before they cover too much ground, but thinks better of it- the pair most likely to reveal something interesting is also the pair that actually makes a point of scanning the halls before they leave. If they’re always that alert- and he can’t think why they wouldn’t be… trying to follow them around the city will either end in many awkward questions or a spectacle that Sidney really doesn’t want. Well, then. Here’s to an uneventful morning of just lazing about in crowds.

With the bill paid- and a large cup of that excellent Castelicano to go- Sidney is off. It’s a lovely morning for it- nice and mild, clear skies, good for fresh air and minimal chance of too much sun exposure… Could probably do with some tanning, actually- been cooped up in our offices for waaaay too long…


Rustboro is, however, not quite the place to idly listen to the conversations of passers-by; there’s a distinct hustle and bustle about it, and while he is tempted to stray closer to a distinct head of crimson hair and… feline ears? He’d rather not be noticed by them too many times. Aaaactually… wasn’ I sayin’ about those Aquas sightin’s? Might as well do some diggin’ on that front, too- can’t hurt, right?

Sidney would like to think Wallace is above funding and tacitly supporting criminals.

Sidney would like to think a lot of things.



Felix doesn't do well with crowds. A shy, soft spoken waif of a man, he struggles with not getting lost in the hustle and bustle.

At least in a fight, he has a clear goal. Day to day preusing? No such luck. Good thing Tabitha is there to keep an eye on him and occasionally barge through the crowds if need be.

"Been a while, hasn't it?" Of course, being with Tabitha causes its own problems- she's rather fond of talking, for one. Still… she did find them a nice bench away from the main high street before the verbal onslaught started.

"Yeah…"

"Like, I love Gwen and all, but she's seriously overbearing."

… Gwen? Oh. Right- it takes him a second to remember that Nougat isn't actually her name.

"She's not that bad," Felix offers up. His near-whisper of a voice is almost lost in the wind, but Tabitha's got sharp ears.

"You just like your women fussy." Tabitha grins, wrapping an arm around him. "I know she means well- really, I do!" She sighs as Felix gives her a curious look. "It's just… Sometimes, she gets wrapped up in her idea of how things should be, right?" Felix nods, and she continues. "And she's never really been called on it, because none of us wanted to argue."

"... But now… the leader?" Felix takes a guess.

"Close," Tabitha says. "Nah, I was thinking Rhianne- you didn't have to listen to the vent I got subjected to last night." She pauses. "Gwen really doesn't like losing."

"Does anyone?"

"I guess not," Tabitha chuckles. "But she's worse than most- I guess that's what comes of always winning."

Felix looks at the floor, not really sure what to say

"I like to think it'll do her good in the long run." Tabitha eventually shrugs. "Just… got a lot of growing to do- I think we all have. But that's life, isn't it?"

"... Yeah."

"Right!" Tabitha almost leaps off the bench in her sudden enthusiasm. "Well, no use getting broody over it- we're here, we've got a free morning and I don't know about you but I could definitely go for some Devon kit."

Felix stands up, too- if more slowly than his enthusiastic friend. "... New staff," he says. "This one's getting past it."

"Well, let's go, then! To Devon!"



For a brief moment as they leave their first shop, Michael is very glad of this Guild stuff- if nothing else, it does help him smooth things over with the sort of contract writers that would otherwise frown on a man with no background to check. Their funds are mostly depleted, but they do now have phones that work, and within minutes Michael's is already buzzing.

Should probably pick that up… "Hello?"

"Is that Michael? This is Norman."

… Huh. That was quick. "Dare I ask how you have my number?" It's probably some completely innocuous and mundane reason, and he knows he probably sounds paranoid, but a wise woman currently buffing her nails often reminds him to ask his questions.

"Policy," Norman says. Not for the first time, Michael curses blandly neutral voices in settings with no body language. "You're a Guild Leader, your work number is public knowledge. They should have told you that."

"Probably thought I knew," Michael shrugs- he can see the logic in that one.

("Yeah, there's a lot of that going around." Rhianne's helpful addition goes completely unremarked.")

"Playing it close." A faint hint of respect comes from the other end of the line, and Michael hears a faint chuckle. "I'll say no more, then. Good day."


The line goes dead.

An unrepentant Rhianne looks up from her own phone. "Nothing earth-shattering, then?"

"Nah, just a reminder that I've been signed up for no peace or personal space again." Michael grins, spotting a wide open shot. "Although, if I wasn't used to that by now, I'd have to be a special kind of hopeless, right? It's only been, what, ten years?"

"Give or take." Rhianne nods lightly. "Hopefully less- otherwise you owe me an anniversary."

Michael barks a laugh before turning his gaze back to the phone. "How about we earn the coin before we spend it, eh?"

"... That's not a no."

One of these days, Rhianne will actually let him have the last word. It might take a while- a long while- and he may end up having to learn how to ice skate because Hell will likely have frozen over, but he will get the last word. And somehow, in the back of his mind, he hears a grizzled old mercenary laughing uproariously.

But even that grizzled mercenary would, when the chips were down (and the surveillance was definitely out, so he could deny ever having said it), suggest that living in hope is a fine thing. That, even in the darkest of nights, one should continue to hope for a brighter dawn. Mind, he also said you should always push for a hefty deposit on your mercenary work, and that morality was optional if the paycheque was big enough- unless, of course, it meant betraying your squad, because they were the closest thing you had to a family.

Van was a character, alright.



It takes some time, but Nougat eventually manages to drag Oberon back to the city proper. She'd thought that he was only going to be buying a few of those herbs of his- but, no, the doe-eyed assistant with the heart of gold had opened her mouth and they'd ended up in an hour-long debate about the optimum conditions for growing half of the selection and how much of the country's soil could be taken up with berry trees before it was deemed excessive. Yeah, it was good to see him taking an interest in conversation that didn't involve barbs sharper than the bloody knitting needle of a sword at his waist, but how long did it take a girl to offload a tacky novelty watering can?

"You're not seriously going to use that." She draws herself up to her full height of a very intimidating five foot four and glares him down.

His chuckle does not help her mood. "I will, as often as circumstances allow." His voice goes sombre. "Perhaps, if more of us were more interested in creation and nurturing life than finding new ways to tear it down, our world would be a better place."

“Says the man who uses the things we grow for ‘sinister arrangements’.” Nougat scoffs; some days, she really wonders why he still chooses to hang around her- and why, actually, she tolerates him.

“I am a firm believer in giving back to the planet what I take from it.” Oberon nods primly. “More, even, if I can make it so.”

“Right, but what about the hour of my life I’m never going to get back?” That, after all, is the real tragedy here- the hour spent waiting for some disgraced noble to stop flirting with the shop assistant over playing in the dirt.

Oberon smirks. “If you don’t take impassioned debate as a learning opportunity, my dear? That is a personal problem.”

“Because you don’t have any of those, right?”

“My cornucopia of issues is both well documented and besides the point. I’ve had my fun this morning, my dear- this is about you now.”

Nougat yawns widely. “Some days, I wonder why you’re not surrounded by women. Then we have our talks, and I remember exactly why.”

“A crushing criticism from one so successful with the menfolk.”

Nougat winces- she probably should have seen that one coming. "Not my fault the ones interested in me are gross," she mutters under her breath. If she has to hear the word 'tomboy' one more time, with or without the heavy breathing… Ugh, it's enough to break out the shivers. "So, it's my turn to pick the shop, right?"

She's not subtle. At all. Fortunately Oberon takes the hint that he might have pushed too far. "As you say. Lead on, my dear."



A seemingly abandoned house on the city's outskirts has become a hive of worrying activity. Lots of people in red cloaks full of hustle and bustle. Weapons are polished and sharpened, and fresh-faced men and women wear their burnished emblems with pride for the first time. A shout from the largest room- what was presumably once a living room- gets the recruits scrambling in from wherever they are to listen to what their commander has to say.

Matthias revels in the attention; the sensation of knowing all eyes are on him is a rush he constantly craves. The fact that the rookies would probably look that way at anyone who shouts loudly enough and with a half-formed sense of purpose? Completely and utterly irrelevant.

"It's zero hour, folks!" He could perhaps stand to turn the volume down a bit, but he's not overly worried- the amount of stuff that's been smuggled in here to no response or sign of report so far fills him with confidence. "In just a few short minutes, you and I march on Devon!"

He pauses, and the exuberant cheer his minions give is music to his ears. He's been waiting for the Chief to give him his shot at command, and every moment of grunt work that led to this moment was absolutely worth it.

"Why do we march on Devon!?" Oh, he's enjoying this. Really, overly enjoying it. God, he loves public speaking.

"The Crystal!"

"Yes, my friends!" Matthias' voice grows louder still. "The Crystal, long the secret of the Devon Corporation's success, will soon belong to us, the Magmas! For too long have Guilds dedicated to the status quo had free reign over this fair land, and for too long the Devon Corporation has been only too happy to fuel that stagnation! But no more! Today, comrades, we seize that Crystal from the hated Corporation, and set Hoenn on a new course- a brighter course!"

This cheer is the loudest yet.

"Onwards, comrades! Our fellows around the city have their jobs- you have yours! Now, MOVE!"

It's going to be a good day, he can tell.

next chapter hopefully also this month
 

Whozawhatcha

i have too many projects
Pokédex No.
486
Caught
Jul 12, 2019
Messages
59
Nature
Lonely
Pokémon Type
Fire, Flying
AHHHH??? There's a lot I like but lemme snap through other things first:

Not gonna lie, saw the fic opened with not one, but two blocks of character description? Almost closed the tab right then, but I told myself, "First time writing, just keep going," and BOY am I glad I stuck with it! One of the "cardinal sins" of writing I suppose is the information dump, especially of character looks. It's just better to pepper it through so you keep the action moving. My biggest suggestion would be to tinker that opening just a bit so we hit your snappy dialogue faster, because that's what REALLY drew me in. There's odd phrasing here and there, sometimes the writing could use tightening, but honestly? Not gonna nitpick. Half the skills with writing come from the act of writing, and with 8 chapters, I can already see you improving, so. Pfft, just keep trucking honestly.

Now. Rihanne and Michael. Hewwo?? I love them SO MUCH?? Like, first of all, how dare you give them such natural, comfortable, cheeky dialogue? How dare they have history? How DARE they have such fucking chemistry? It's oozing off the page, please put that fire OUT because I'm dying! They're so cute! They're such bastards in love! I'm such a damn sucker for the "mom and dad of the group should actually be married" and you've knocked it out of the ballpark! I could listen to them snark at each other for days. Fuck's sake.

John Mulaney voice: "My wife is a bitch and I love her so much!"

When I started reading, I was worried at first that I wouldn't get things? Since I could tell that there was clearly history not only between them, but with the world at large? But given how things have unfolded, it really detracts from nothing, and I actually LIKE the fact that Michael and Rhi reference things that have happened to them before. It just gives a little feeling that the world (worlds?) is a bigger place than we realize, and that yeah, they're veterans with experiences they can draw on.

Also, color me intrigued about all this dimension/world hopping business. I wanna know where Michael really came from now! It's also very interesting to watch the way they interact with this new world they've been thrown into. Birch? A lovely high-strung dear, I really like him. Fantastic splash of a character.

And speaking of characters!! I love them?? Nougat is such a feral child, and it's going to be GREAT watching her and Rhi clash in the coming days. Flutters might be my favorite right now of the extended cast. (Butterfree, right? Excellent pokemon, criminally underused.) I will say, having them all introduced so fast on their introduction chapter has made me forget basically all of what pokemon they're supposed to be based on. I'm shitty as hell with gijinkas. This breather chapter though? Loved it. Full points. It was nice to see these little snapshots of the characters paired off and their dynamics, and it really did wonders for getting more familiar with each of them. Usually when I blitz through runs like this, names escape me and characters run together, but I definitely feel like I've got a grasp on who is who, here. I think that's also because you just write strong characters.

(Blease bring back May? Please? Pretty please? I love her.)

We've established the world pretty fast with the bandits on the road and also showcased how our main duo are actually pretty outclassed in this new game. You keep dropping hints of the overall worldbuilding here and there that i'm immensely curious about! Mostly what's up with these crystals, and who has them and who doesn't, and how it ties into things. There's a lot I'm curious about honestly, which is a good way to make me return. Your Wallace?? Strangely intimidating?? I'm so used to him being a flighty stupid twink in nuzlockes, hahah. Aaron is a fucking delight to read because he's such a dumb fuck. Reading from other POVs is very enticing and gives us a greater sense of the world at large. Very much appreciated.

But again, I think my favorite thing about it all is DEFINITELY the dialogue. THE SNARK! THE SARCASM!! THE CHEEK! THE SASS!! THE SASSIFRAS!!! Buddy, I don't think you've realized how hard you've pressed a button of mine and it will keep me coming back for more, because I just fucking. Love. Snappy dialogue. And you have it in SPADES. Like, any writer will tell you dialogue can be hard, but I can always tell when Michael is talking, I can always tell when Rhi is talking, or Oberon. They have distinct speech patters that separate them from the rest. You're a whiz with zany comebacks. Even the prose itself gets snarky and I LOVE it. Sign me the fuck up, how do you NOT have more comments.

Anyways, yeah! Now that I've sent what I hope is this absolutely CRUSHING REPLY OF PRAISE, I can't wait to see what else you concoct with this story! I am fed and yet still ready for more! (Also, please make Michael and Rhi furiously make out. Soon. You can't cut the sexual tension between them it's so thick.)
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11
@Whozawhatcha that is one hell of a wall of positivity and i genuinely love that you went that far in on sharing your thoughts, thank you for that lovely feedback



Tonight: Part One of the Magma offensive! Hopefully, Part Two will have swifter turnaround.

Such a beautiful day. The sun shines down, the weather is mild, and everything seems to be back on the up for Michael.

Then the explosions start. The first breaks him out of that rare, blissful moment of calm. By the second, they're already running, weapons at the ready.

"One day," he mutters under his breath. "Was one day so much to ask?" Not that he expects an answer- he knows Rhi lives for this shit, and to be honest, he's not even sure what he'd do with peace at this point.

That doesn't stop him sighing when his phone buzzes again. "Alvagarde," he says, not even caring who's on the other end of the line.

"This is Roxanne," a clearly panicked female voice threatens to deafen him. "If you're still here, can you and yours head to the Devon Building? I-I'm pinned, and they're requesting backup!"

"Noted," he responds, and the line goes dead- no explanation, nothing. "... Crap- we'll need to split, then," he adds as Rhi tilts her head at him. "We're wanted over at what I assume is that bigass tower, and we both know you'll be able to track the others down way faster than I can."

Rhianne hums something, before nodding. "Alright, but you'd best save some for me, yeah?"

"No promises." He shoots her a cheeky salute before running off in his direction- though, if what they've dealt with so far here is any indication, he doubts she'll have to worry about that.

Still! No use charging into battle full of doom and gloom!



Harrison had been having such a good morning. Devon had reported record profits yet again- and the bonus package sliding into his bank account had been greatly appreciated. He'd also got the news that his jackass ex had lost his job, and wasn't karma just a bitch? He'd arrived on the job not half an hour ago in such high spirits.

Now, as he notches another arrow from behind the reception counter, he has to wonder if that wasn't lady karma getting a quick second shot in. Reports were coming in of explosions across the city, lots of hoodlums in matching red were causing chaos, and he was sat in the biggest target going.

"Yes," he mutters as he takes his shot. "Work security at Devon, they said- stable paycheque, they said…"

"You say somethin'?" The familiar deep voice puts him slightly at ease; at least Della's here in the thick of it with him. It is, after all, only right- seeing as she got him this job that might well now get him killed.

"Yes," he sighs, reaching for another arrow. "I was just wondering why I let you talk me into taking a security job."

"Hey, you're gettin' paid to take this shit, right?" The big woman shrugs. "That's more'n most of 'em can say around now."

Harrison groans as the truth of that sinks in- that is one way to look at this mess. And, really, he should have known that no-nonsense Della wouldn't put up with his grousing. Bloody pigheaded woman… still, I suppose I'm not much better… "I suppose." There, that's all the concession she's getting. "You'll want covering fire, yes?"

She vaults over the countertop, landing with a thud. "Long as you don't get my ass." And before he can say anything else- that was one time, bloody Swinub!- she's off into the fray again, roaring as she swings that grotesque axe of hers with gusto at whatever gets in her way.

And he can't lie, the one-woman wrecking ball is intensely satisfying to watch. Even if her size and the way she doesn't let it stop her charging about the place is making it damn hard to line up decent shots without accidentally tagging her.

Oh, well. The Spearow that he claims as Trait is known for its keen eye- it’s time he proved himself worthy of that particular birthright.



Matthias laughs heartily as the plan starts coming together in a big way. Courtney’s teams have really come through with their part, a beautifully coordinated series of bombings to sow panic across the city and keep the local Guild away from massing to stop his teams. Oh, for sure, there were always going to be losses- no op is perfect- but he hadn’t expected this to go as well as it was!

The only downside so far was that he hadn’t gotten to play with his new cannons! The Chief had really rushed them out for him with this op in mind, and he’d barely gotten to do more than throw a couple of warning shots! How the hell is he supposed to lavish praise on the efficiency of Maxie’s work, the way he cares for those who walk the path of Magma, if he doesn’t get to play!?

Matt.” Courtney’s sharp tones come through his earpiece. “Watch yourself- just heard the Leader calling in reinforcements for Devon.

“Oh, really, now?” Matthias practically beams at this new development; this sounds like one hell of an opportunity for play. “Thanks for the heads up, Court.” His co-conspirator says something else in his ear, but his laughter and the prospect of more resistance occupy him too thoroughly to pay her much mind. Straight-laced old girl’s probably only telling him not to get too caught up- like he could hold back now!

Whoever else is dumb enough to get in Team Magma’s way, he’ll have to thank as he burns them to a crisp.



“Hey, come on! We gotta move!”

Felix yelps as Tab yanks him towards the stairs back down. The alarm’s blaring away through the halls of the Devon Building, and the general panic of the people who came straight to the source to buy their latest batch of Devon product isn’t helping the poor boy at all. He clutches his new staff close to his chest with one arm as the hyperactive girl pulls him along by the other, and more than once his gangly legs threaten to trip over the robes he wears.

Security are trying to allay the panic and direct the masses towards the rear exits- the ones normally used by the workaholics starting at the crack of dawn or staying well into the depths of night. They even try to escort Tabitha and Felix away, but she's not having it.

"We're Guild!" She folds her arms, staring the large guards down. "We're Guild, and he's a healer- we can help!" The guards look her over slowly, the concern over her apparent youth evident.

"... Fine," the lead eventually sighs. "You want to get hurt that badly, that's your business- head on down to reception, then. Last I heard, that's where they were fighting."

"Aye aye!" Tabitha fires off a cheeky salute, before dragging Felix back the way they came. He sighs, resigning himself to the fact that even if he did speak up, she'd be too wrapped up in her enthusiasm to actually listen to him.

So much for the perks of being a wallflower.



Sidney curses his luck- he'd come to Rustboro completely unarmed, to complete the guise of a casual journalist. Now he's smack bang in the middle of a meticulously crafted Magma operation, with no sign of the Aquas he'd thought were operating around here, and no sign of Alvagarde or his cronies.

That said… he's no master of unarmed combat, but he is an Elite, if he wishes to lose this disguise altogether. He has options… and, really, if he leaves here with nothing to show for his foray into independent thought, Wallace and Glacia will never let him hear the end of it. Which, he can deal with, sure, but it'd make for bloody unproductive meetings.

"Damn snobs," he grouses as he starts jogging for likely targets. "Damn snobs, and damn me for actually caring what they think of me."



Oberon grunts as a knife tags him, before savagely turning his rapier on the offender- a skin-headed lad that now appears to be regretting his decisions. They'd ended up outside the Guild Hall; an elderly couple had been cornered by the attackers, and the Hall was the safest place Oberon could think to escort them.

… Though, if he'd been playing his usual flavour of chess, he might have figured that the Hall would also be somewhere on the list of targets. But there were defenses to be had, and the elders were agreeable to a safe haven while more able folks dealt with the incursion.

Oberon was aware of the Magmas, of course; he'd followed the rumour mills far too closely, and he may- strictly hypothetically- have snuck through Norman's office a time or two. He hadn't expected to see them this far west- being more commonly seen in the vicinity of Lavaridge and Mt.Chimney, but then before the other day he also hadn't expected to see Aquas this far across the mainland. Ill tidings all around… an interesting time for the formation of a Free Guild, indeed. Or was that Norman's plan all along?

He shakes his head; that isn't the most pertinent of matters right now. What is important is Nougat- she's being awfully quiet, just standing over… a lifeless… ah. Of course. A most unpleasant evening is to follow, then.

He remembers all too well the first time he took life, and she is definitely far more expressive in her feelings. Either she will let it all out, or she will bottle it up- both promise to be trouble.



This brings back memories, and not the good sort. Alone, dashing through narrow streets and fending off the odd assailant… at least now he's older and wiser.

Well, older. The wisdom Michael actually possesses after one knock to the head too many is up for debate; some would suggest a wiser man might, perhaps, step well away from this shit. Meanwhile, he's still gallivanting around like a man half his age, throwing himself into the fray with reckless abandon.

Mind, unlike such a man, he's also long since cast off any illusions that fighting needs to be "fair". If he's behind someone who hasn't heard him coming, then he's only too happy to capitalise on that- as some of the more gleeful attackers quickly found out.

Groups of people who were just looking to cause a bit of property damage, hurt whoever got in their way and generally engage in abject thuggery, tend to change their tune when one of them suddenly has a sword protruding from them. Funny, that. Real funny. Some of the crowd immediately disperse, and some of them take a bit more persuading- though not much, it should be said.

Whoever these people with the M badges are, they don't strike Michael as especially skilled. He bats their weapons away with relative ease, and most run for the hills. Although, with an op as well prepared as this… the majority probably wouldn't need to be. Michael sighs; he'd be lying if he said he didn't feel that clearing out the cannon fodder was a bit beneath him. But that was part of the job, too- and wasn't a fresh start what he'd wanted?

Something flashes in the corner of his eye, and he whips around without thinking- someone thought that a distracted Michael would be an easier mark. On another day, they might even have been right- as it is, though, their crude hammer simply crashes against Michael's blade.

Michael feels a stab of guilt as the youth's eyes bug wide, the fear plain to see on his face. Fresh faces, always so full of hopes and dreams… but it isn't to be. The path of the sword is a cruel and unrelenting mistress, and few walk it to its end.

He can try and put the kid off, though. "Come on," he sighs. "Put it down and run away. Make this clusterfuck work for you, bud."

The kid shakes his head ever so slowly.

Fuck.

Well, there's enough spirit in there to get the kid to charge regardless. Michael can't say he had the same at this kid's age. But the kid isn't fighting at his best- he's definitely shaken, and after parrying two blows, Michael easily uses the flat of his admittedly oversized sword to send the slip of a kid hurtling backwards down an alleyway.

Crossing his fingers that the thud indicates that the poor bastard is just well and truly out, and he hasn't actually killed the guy, he gets moving again. That Devon Building couldn't be too far, could it? It's not like he could miss the fucking huge tower, right?



The screams, the roaring flames and clashes of weapons threaten to overwhelm Rhianne's sensitive ears, but eventually she manages to track down… well, two of them. Oberon is fending off two of these lunatics- really, who wears that kind of vibrant red?- and Nougat is… not. The normally feisty blonde is leaning back against a wall while the man Rhi had sworn was a hapless dandy was thrusting and twirling a rapier with ferocity she hadn't expected.

And if they're focused on him… a grin forms- they won't be expecting her.

Five seconds and three knives later? That theory well and truly pans out. The assailants are either running away or… not moving. At all.

"Impeccable timing," Oberon remarks. "Though, you seem to have lost some weight, my dear."

Rhianne snorts; oh, she likes this one. "He went for the… Devon Building? We're wanted there."

Oberon snaps two fingers. "Of course! This is all a smokescreen for a play at the Crystal- I should have known."

"And her?" Ordinarily, Rhianne might be pleased to hear silence from Nougat's direction. The stillness, downcast gaze and the blood-stained gauntlets, though? Not such good signs.

Oberon leans in closer. "I do believe," he says softly. "That this is our little spitfire's First Time, so to speak."

Rhianne exhales slowly, nodding in understanding. The odds of the younger Foxes having this particular problem were rather high, in hindsight- and she really isn't the therapist to work people through their first kills. Granted, she did manage to get Michael through it- but whether that was actually a good thing or not is still, to this day, up for debate.

… Fuck. She kneels down in front of Nougat, and really hopes she's judged the girl right. "Hey," she says, looking upwards into despondent eyes. "Hey, can you hear me?"

Nougat burbles a sound. Rhianne takes that as something approaching a yes.

"We're going to look for Tabitha," Rhianne continues- and notes that Nougat raises her head slightly at the name. "Do you want to come with us or stay here?" It's a gamble, and Rhianne rather hopes she'll choose to stay put… but it wouldn't be fair to deny her the choice.

It's a long moment, but Nougat eventually nods by the barest fraction and pushes herself off of the wall. "L's go."

As they set off back through the city, Rhianne sets a steady pace and pulls her phone out to give Michael the news.

Eventually, she even gets through! His crackling "Hello there!" puts a smile on her face again.

"I have Oberon and Nougat," she says, pointedly ignoring his usual attempt at humour. "Where are you?"

"Just coming up to the place now," Michael responds. "Looks pretty fucked, though- still quite a few of these red capes trying to get in." There's a worrying pause, and Rhianne presses the phone into her ear before he returns. "... Yeah, I'mma do it, speak soon, bye!"

"And how fares our Fearless Leader?" Oberon really does have a way with words, doesn't he?

"He's living up to that name, alright." Rhianne sighs. Fighting down the slight panic that rises in her chest at the thought of it, she looks back at the skyscraper looming in the distance. "He's going in alone."

"Ah." Oberon blinks, once then twice. "Fearless, indeed. Shall we proceed with gusto, then?"

Rhianne nods once, then darts off. He's done it. He's gone and fucking done it. He's seen people getting hurt or killed because of selfish lunatics, and he's just diving in without a care for what could go wrong because that's what he always does.

It's a bloody good job she loves Michael, really. Not many of the people who can keep up with his brand of reckless heroism have the time of day for it.



Harrison curses under his breath; he's out. He's gonna have to risk it for a biscuit if he wants to contribute any more, and Della's starting to flag as well. At least the crowd looks… thinner?

Then two things happen.

First is the slip of a girl running in from upstairs, dragging some poor bastard with a staff down with her. The second is much more pertinent; the crowd of Magmas coming through the front disperses significantly as some maniac in black with an oversized sword bursts in.

"Hi!" Maniac gives a cheery wave. "... Reinforcement! A whole lunatic ready to hold the line!" … Lunatic is right, Harrison immediately decides. Still… he may be a competent lunatic. There is, after all blood dripping from that sword of his, and from the state of him it doesn't appear to be his.

"Chief!" The girl speaks up, and her paperweight looks up and smiles.

"Oh, thank God for that," Lunatic says. "Just let me… phone back…" he reaches for a phone. "Hey, Rhi! Good news, I have Tab and Felix here with me- yes, yes, everything's fine, see you soon, bye!" He seems almost pleased to have the phone jammed back in his pocket. "Right!" His hands clap together. "Good news! More help is on the way. Unfortunately… more of those chucklefucks are gonna get here first- so, y'know, good luck, let's try not to die!"

"An' who're you?" Della stands up slightly straighter, bristling at the newcomer and his flippant tone.

"I'm Michael Alvagarde," he says- like it means something- and extends a hand. "Pleased to meet you."

Della accepts the hand and, based on her raised brow and the lunatic's wince, she gripped it bloody hard. She nods as she releases her vice-like grip, though. Something about him passed muster?

Harrison sighs deeply at the sorry state of play he finds himself dealing with. But, nonetheless, he ventures forth from behind the safety of the counter to see if any of his arrows can actually be salvaged.

As he scrambles, he's dimly aware of the girl and the lunatic forming up next to Della, and he knows he's going to hate being part of what comes next.

Loathe as he is to admit it, though… he won't be remembered as one of the men who lost Devon's Crystal. If there's anything that can be done, he has to go along with it- he'll never let it be said that he didn't do his job.

Even if he does bitch and moan about it as he goes.
 

Chess

birds can't hurt me these shades are gucci
Artist
Writer
Screenshotter
Team Alpha
Team Omega
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
5
Caught
May 13, 2019
Messages
430
Location
in forest floor detritus
Nature
Docile
Pronouns
They/Them/She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Grass
Pokédex Entry
can be bribed with shiny objects and spices to do household repairs. utterly incapable of many things, but does them anyway
hey goddamn this chapter was a joy to read. Harrison is intriguing and the POV switches really work well
 

Whozawhatcha

i have too many projects
Pokédex No.
486
Caught
Jul 12, 2019
Messages
59
Nature
Lonely
Pokémon Type
Fire, Flying
Fast paced chapter! The switching POVs are interesting (Matthias is gonna be a BOATLOAD of fun as a villain) and really kept that fast-paced hectic nature without bogging us down with lots of heavy paragraphs of action. Still dying to know what the fuck is up with these crystals so I hope we'll get into that soon.

Also: we're at Devon? Steven? Steven Stone? Maybe??

Calling Michael a lunatic was comedy gold, and also:

Eventually, she even gets through! His crackling "Hello there!" puts a smile on her face again.
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
@Chess haha i still can't believe Harrison just sprouted fully formed into the run- him and Della are catches I made, but i still haven't actually used them in gameplay. Fingers crossed all goes well for them!

@Whozawhatcha Crystals, you say? This might be your chapter! Haha, glad the joking around is still landing! we might need it to after the turn this chapter took



And here we are, despite my hellbrain's best attempts! The second part of this Team Magma fest! As a quick heads up, though... this one gets a bit... heavier.

The onslaught is sudden. When the second wave hits, it's a violent surge of bodies in those gaudy red capes crashing through the double doors.

… Which, if he's honest with himself, strikes Michael as a little bit odd. This op otherwise struck him as very well planned, if perhaps reliant on cannon fodder. Why were they all forcing through the fro-- ah.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the flashing light fly off to the side, and he's dimly aware of a localised explosion rocking the side of the building.

So their plan was to punch a hole in the wall from both sides, and that's where the rest of the second wave will come from. That's eminently more sensible, then.

He'd grouse about irritatingly competent opposition, but that would take time he doesn't have. Instead, he settles for barreling into the first unfortunate souls to come through the new entrance- Tabitha and the big woman seem to be handling the front well enough.

The fact these people are all on the younger side doesn't make him feel any better about coming down hard on them, but their age and inexperience is such that it does make his job easier. Kids that have had their heads filled with big dreams of glory and the justice of a cause… Hopefully, some of them will be dissuaded and turn tail.

Michael likes to live in hope.

… Worryingly, though, it's sinking in that he really isn't as young as he used to be, and he's definitely feeling the aches and pains more than he might have before. In hindsight, he probably could have taken that message from May knocking him around handily.

It's a tense few minutes, but he does just about hold it together. Barely. There's an uncomfortable amount of heavy breathing going on, and he's suddenly really glad Rhi isn't here to see him struggling with this.

He's just about to relax and phone the reprobate in question when something thick and metallic crashes through the posh double glazing, and a muscular man barges onto the scene. A… very muscular man, and he's got two of those… are they portable mortars!? The man's replaced both arms with giant slabs of metal- either he's supremely confident in them, or he's a monumental idiot. Which… Well, one of these goons in red has to keep the brain cell, as it were.

There are words that come to mind, but Michael won't give the man that much satisfaction.



Matthias cackles as he wades through the pile of his minions- so this is where the actual fighters are!

"Well, now!" He grins, a vast gaping maw of a smile designed to unsettle- and a roaring success at that, the way they all tense. "Guess I'm not late to the party after all, eh?"

"Of course," the one man grunts- an older fool tightly gripping at a sword. "Course it wasn't going to be that easy."

"Easy!?" Matthias bursts out laughing again, a full-bodied sort of laugh. "Ha, look at you, old man! You can barely stand- you've got no place badmouthing our might!"

"I'unno," the old fool says, shrugging. "The kiddie corps folded pretty damn easy." The effect of the shrug is ruined, though, when he slumps forward.

One of the others- a big woman in fur- charges him while he's occupied with the old one, swinging an axe wildly at his chest. He swings an arm upwards with gusto, and her vicious looking axe almost bounces off of Maxie's wonderous cannon. He follows up with the other arm, and the woman grunts as two hundred pounds of metal collide with her gut.

Irritatingly, though, the bitch has the audacity to still be standing! Now, that's all fine, really- he's yet to play with the actual firepower they have- but that's not the proper response to Maxie's creations! She should be crumpled on the floor, cowering in fear! None of this just looking mildly inconvenienced; doesn't she know who she's dealing with!?

Do any of them!?

The old one surges forward- and damn him, he's still faster than he looks! He slides under Matthias' swings and springs upwards with a solid uppercut to the jaw. Matthias stumbles backwards, chuckling under his breath.

"Tch, so you're not completely past it." Matthias sneers. "Alright, then! Consider yourself honoured, old man! You get to be first- how do you like your steaks!?"

"I'm a vegetarian," he says, laughing at the apparent non-sequitur. That won't last long, though- not once Matthias lets loose!



Ah.

They're not mortars. They're big-ass flamethrowers, and the flames are looking pretty vicious. That explains the steak comment, then. And proves that the vegetarian lie was the correct answer.

… Got quite a bit of range on them, too. Once again, Michael is deeply thankful for the amount of money he spent getting his ratty old coat- once just a relic from a teenaged goth phase and memento of his "first" life- repaired and enchanted to the gills. His blade bears the brunt of the flames, and those that are left dissipate against the finest shielding that money could buy him. Sweat drips from his furrowed brow, and he gets to thinking up a plan; there has to be a way out of this!

… Or, he could throw caution to the winds, heft his sword in front of him in what he affectionately refers to as the "brace" position, and charge in like a dumbass. This guy seems full enough of himself to expect nigh-instant surrender, so he probably won't be expecting that!



Oberon quickly gives up on the idea of actually keeping pace with Rhianne as she weaves through the streets of Rustboro- he's not entirely sure how she does it, but she moves faster than anyone he's ever met, bushy tail whipping every which way in the wind.

The run is giving Nougat something to focus on other than the blood staining her gauntlets, though. That's… something. The Devon Building is hardly missable, either, so if they show up a little after her… well, better late than ready to keel over on arrival.



Well, that was unexpected. The Alvagarde madman is competent after all, as is- irritatingly- the large Magma with the weighty flamethrowers. Harrison peppers the large one with arrows whenever an opening presents itself… which, admittedly, isn't as often as he might like.

Between Della, Alvagarde and the younger one, they do a good job of keeping the Magma guessing. They also do a good job of blocking Harrison's line of fire.

He doesn't seem particularly proficient with the things- whenever he raises them to deflect blows, the flames stop… and between three people, he's on the defensive a lot. They find a steady rhythm that keeps the man from really getting into it, and-- oh, never mind.

Della's hit again, and momentum from the swing sends her crashing into the wall behind him.

The other boy- the one with the staff, runs over to her- a healer, then? He'll leave them to it.

And… what is the Magma man doing now?



That's one down! And the girl's even backing off, leaving just the old fool! Oh, happy days!

"And then there was one!" Matthias almost sings as he launches another round of flames- a burst of mirth that quickly fades as the old fool just won't go down. "Now… how do I… Ah."

A savage grin quickly crosses his face as he remembers how the other trick works, and a vast ball of energy slams into the older man at speed, before he can try and deflect it. Matthias laughs uproariously as the old fool buckles and is sent flying, then turns towards the one who's been firing those silly little arrows at him.

Or, that was the plan, but he stumbles as searing pain flashes through first his shoulder, then his side. Something… stabbing?



"Couldn't have timed it better, could you?" It's a soft mutter, barely audible, but Michael has no doubt she heard it. Rhianne could hear a pin drop a mile away if she was listening for it, and he has no doubt that she's paying attention to his voice.

Big dude's developed a couple of knife wounds, though- amazing what happens when there's a woman around who knows how to get to the point.

Felix is attending to the big woman's injuries, Rhi's here and nobody's out for the count. This is good! This is going well.

Unfortunately, his attention is then split between the blaring of a ringtone- not his- and more of the goons in red pouring through the doors.



Who changed it to that!? Matthias seethes as he picks the phone up and puts it to his ear. "Make it quick, I'm busy!"

"You're taking too long," Courtney hisses down the line. "Roxanne's got us on the run- if you want to get out of here in one piece, you need to move now."

"How'd she pull that!?" Matthias feels his blood boil- that shouldn't have happened! They're Team Magma, they should be walking all over these fools!

"Two things." Angry he may be, Matthias is suddenly grateful Courtney isn't here to express her displeasure in person. "Would you like the version where we met unexpected reinforcements, or the version where somebody decided to dick around with most of our men?"

"Fuck, Court," he yells into the phone, "I've got 'em on the ropes! Give me two- three minutes, and I'll have a route to the Crystal!"

"I don't have minutes," Courtney sighs. "Look, the op's a bust- cut your losses and get out while my teams are covering you!"

"Oh, yeah? Well, what're we telling Maxie?"

"We ran into significant unexpected resistance, and the Crystal will do us no favours with nobody to utilise its gifts." Oh, he can tell she's running, and that she's more pissed now. Fuck. "We can let Aqua have their shot and work from that! I elected not to lose our experimental weaponry in the heart of Devon's influence- there are many explanations we could give Maxie! Now get off your arse, cancel the playdate and move, you oaf!"

"... Fine." Matthias practically snarls. "Fine, I'll just tell Maxie that we lost half of the people he gave us for no flaming reason." He turns to leave the building. "Magmas! Apparently, we've overstayed our welcome- get clear!' Groudon below, this day took a fucking turn."

… And as he goes to leave, two more do-gooders barge in- some pompous looking bastard and a blonde midget that looks like she needs to be kept on a leash. Oh, well- there's a trick for that- all he has to do is hit the ground running, shoot a few flames in their direction and- oh that's a fireball.

Whatever. It got them out of the way, didn't it? The soot stains are a good look on the dandy, though. "Laugh while you can, kiddies!" It's a very good thing he has his back turned to all of them now, and they can't see the pout he's got going on. "Team Magma will have our day! That Crystal will be put to a better use!"

… Courtney might actually kill him. He can even let himself blanch now those jackasses aren't around. She might look demure, but Arceus she'll make sure you don't cross her a second time.



With the leader out of the picture, those Magmas still in the fight soon attempt to disengage- mostly successfully.

Once all is clear, Michael sinks to one knee. Breathing heavily, he takes a few moments as exhaustion washes over him. His joints are stiff, and he can feel the bruises forming where he got tagged a few times in the fray; the coat may have held up against the damage, but it doesn't do so well for actually absorbing impact.

And he's left with the distinct impression that, a few years ago, this fight would have ended on far better terms for him.

A minute turns to five, and around him is eerie silence- evidently, he's not the only one taking his time. With a grunt, he forces himself off of the ground, and winces visibly as he realises that something got knocked loose again. Probably that sodding hip- how many more times is that joint going to cause problems?

"Everyone still breathing?" … Yeah, okay, it's not the most inspired question. Even he knows it. It gets responses, though! They might be grudging in some cases, but he soon has six confirmations! Rhianne is first- and he's torn between being glad she's unharmed and an unkind moment of wishing she'd have the decency to show her actual age. Tabitha pipes up next, then Oberon, and Nougat and the strangers after.

… Felix. He's… in the back… clutching a bloodied… staff…

Running is stupid. Running makes the pain in his hip worse, but he stamps down on that and focuses on the kid he's been put in care of. The kid looking down at a bloodied staff and the back of someone's head.

Michael sinks to the floor once more.

The loss of life that comes with his profession is, while tragic, somehow not the greatest loss.

It's the loss of innocence that really gets Michael. The look of horror on Felix's face as he sees the blood on his hands- metaphorically and literally. The twisting realisation that Michael can practically see written over Nougat- Nougat- that this day will never leave her. Tabitha, wrapping one arm around a vacant Nougat even as her own body shakes and shudders.

Part of him sometimes feels the dead are the lucky ones. The dead, at least, can be at peace. For them, the horror of strife is over.

It's the living that will bear their scars.

He spends a long moment staring at the floor, the white marble now flecked with crimson. He's not especially religious- Gods exist of course, but he and they don't generally mix- yet he still finds himself offering prayer. Not for himself, or even the dead; but that the wounded souls of his charges might be soothed.

Christ knows he's no therapist.

And yet, you are exactly what is needed.

Oh no. Oh fuck no he is not hearing voices. His eyes dart wildly, hoping that anyone else is reacting to something that can't be seen. Of course, the only one is Rhianne, and she's watching his reactions more than anything.

Come to me, O Leader. They will follow.

… They'll follow what now? Michael tenses- exactly what is speaking to him? This shit has never ended well for anyone, and he certainly wouldn't expect to be the first.

There is much We must discuss, Son of the Astral Veil. Surely thou wouldst not bid us parley in this manner? Follow the pulse of mine Power.

… Michael sighs deeply. Every coherent thought bouncing between his last two brain cells is telling him to walk out of the Devon Corporation, to try and get the kids out of here and put this mess behind them.

Then there's a flash of azure light, and his body takes a life of its own. Internally, he rages and roils as the voice- whatever it belongs to- exerts a strange power and compels his body towards the rear of the building, through back rooms and down flights of stairs.



Rhianne surges forward to try and pull Michael back after her shouts fall on deaf ears, but a woman- a large one- bars her path, holding one arm out.

"Crystal's got him," she grunts. "We'll follow- together. No sudden movements. Crystal won't like that."

… Now she thinks about it, with her head away from the fighting, Rhianne can feel something stirring. Something powerful.

Not wanting to look ignorant, she nods tightly. There will be an explanation for this, however she has to get it. "Lets go, then." Michael doesn't go anywhere alone, not if she can help it. "Wouldn't want to keep it waiting, would we?"

"Hm." The big woman shrugs. "I'll carry the shrimp. You lead, then- an' keep cool."

It's a long walk, through to the lower levels of the building. Rhianne holds back a shiver as they descend- a good mile underground, they end up, and they're clearly not directly under the building's main structure anymore. As kitsune, a child of the forest, she is perhaps unusually sensitive to the earth around her. Underground is cold, dark, and generally not a good place for her. But this is where Michael has been taken, so here she treads.

The group passes through a door, and Rhianne's jaw drops.



Michael glares up at the gleaming blue stone that dares to radiate such a light. Standing at five feet and hovering in the air, the stone carries an aura of unyielding power.

At last, the voice rings out once more, with an amused lilt. You arrive, Warriors mine.

"Beg pardon." It's not posed as a question. Michael isn't asking. "Who's trying to recruit me now?"

"Dost thou truly not know?" Gasps abound behind Michael. "Dost thine purpose truly elude you, Champion?"

"No." It's a bold statement, filled with all the vehemence he can fit into a single syllable. "No, we're not doing this- I am done with being a puppet." That blasted flash blinds him for a moment, and the onlookers are treated to stilted dancing like they've never seen. "Funny."

"Hatred doth lurk within thine breast, Astral One." The voice grows cold, and Michael breathes sharply in response. "'Twould be wise of thee to temper thine irreverence- my use for thee will not protect thee overlong."

Michael has to really bite his tongue at the audacity of this bitch, whoever- or whatever- it may be. "So, will you actually deign to inform this mere mortal of what it is you want, or should we keep this pissing contest going? I'm easy."

"Thine crude wit is something of a disappointment, yes." The disembodied voice grows neutral once more. "To business, then. Thou hast surely noticed the darkness that encircles this land, yes? I simply insist one thing of thee, Astral."

There's a pause. A long one. Michael taps his feet expectantly as the bitch drags it out longer.

"Where darkness dares fester, Light must shine all the brighter." The blue light emanating from the stone intensifies, as if illustrating the point. "Astral One, thou will be mine Light!"

… Well, then. What did he say to that- what could he say, to this thing that seemed to see free will as an optional suggestion?

Fuck, Michael hates his life some days.

... Oops? All will be explained in the next chapter. But, we have the presence of a Crystal now! And Michael is torn between playing smart and playing the smartarse, always fun!
 
Last edited:

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
80
Caught
Jun 16, 2019
Messages
425
Location
Southern England
Nature
Lax
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Poison, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #15
oh my god have i actually managed to do three updates on the trot of this weekend thing? wack

it's almost like having a schedule, and Camp NaNo is back next month! lord help me

Tonight! We do some stuff, dump some lore, and set the stage for the next leg of this journey!

The room freezes. All eyes are on Michael now as he yawns. Loudly.

"Now, I get that the magic rock seems privy to some of the more inner secrets of the world, and that's fine and dandy." His tone is casual, but the more perceptive of the group catch the way his body tenses. "What I don't get, is why you want me to clean up the mess."

"If not this Duty, what else wouldst thou do?" The light flares from the Crystal once more. "I have seen the Truth of thee, Astral One; thy Path be the path of strife. A soul burns within thee that cannot abide Injustice such as that that stirs in Our world."

Michael sucks air in as he looks up at this impudent rock; there's no need to just blab all his secrets like that! "So, say that, hypothetically, I do go along with this." … He already knows he will, no matter how he grumbles and grouses, because the fucking magic rock has the right of him. "Would there, perhaps, be more of a directive going on here, or would I just be doing my usual shit with something of a divine mandate?"

If he was paying more attention to his surroundings, he might have heard the gasps and goggles of the natives shocked that he'd dare mouth off at the Crystal. … And also Rhianne trying valiantly to stifle her snickers in the background.

"I would bid thee seek my brethren." The voice of the Crystal grows blunt; perhaps Michael would be wise to curb his tongue. "The Eternal Pyre, the beating heart of Mount Chimney. The Mistral Aerie, the source of the winds blowing freely from atop the Eastern City of Trees. The Wellspring of Origin, ensconced in the depths of the Eastern Sea. Raise thine blade in our name- and still thine irreverent tongue, and be rewarded beyond compare."

"Hmm… rewards beyond compare…" Michael strokes his growing stubble- he's probably going to have to shave soon. "What if I don't want those?" He pauses for a moment, before realising he should probably clarify that last point. "What if I'd rather not do the Chosen Hero shit- what if I don't want to be put on that pedestal?"

"Then, it is as you initially supposed." There's a slight lilt in its voice now, as if the very universe is mocking Michael. "Thine original intent, with perhaps a modicum of focus. The Cities the mortals know as Lavaridge, Fortree and Sootopolis- in those places, perhaps, wilt thou find answers."

"Perhaps." Michael nods fractionally. He's well resigned to being part of this nonsense now- there's no way he'd be able to leave those Magma lunatics unattended.

"Though I must express a concern, Champion." Michael winces as the voice turns severe once more. "Thee and thine partner- thy power lies dormant. The blessings of the Progenitors should flow freely through thee." Light flares once more, brighter than before, and Michael instinctively raises an arm to shield his eyes. A burst of something powerful flows through him, and the light dims.

"It is done." The Crystal seems… satisfied. "A boon, to thee and thine, as a gesture of faith. I trust it will not be misplaced… Warriors of Light."

On that ominous note, the light emanating from the Crystal fades completely.

Michael sags violently.



With the esteemed leader suffering the after effects of the Crystal's whims, it is, perhaps predictably, Oberon that speaks first.

"My dear," he turns to Rhianne, arching one perfectly groomed brow, "I do believe the irreverent one owes several explanations- perhaps ones you can provide, as he seems ill-possessed of his faculties at present."

"Perhaps." Rhianne maintains an artfully neutral expression- while she respects the power these Crystals clearly have, and her story does gain credence from the words of the magic rock of destiny… it's not entirely her story to tell. "He'll have a few questions of his own- so will I, actually. Should we maybe get out of here and let him wake up before we all start interrogating each other?"

"Guild's got good food," the big woman grunts out.

"And Arceus forbid Della go hungry," the wiry archer grumbles. "It's as good a place as any, though." He pauses, looking the group over. "I'm Harrison, by the way- now we've gotten the more pressing business past us "

Once the latest round of introductions is made, the now-eight make their way back through the twisting corridors and staircases that aim to deter casual visits to Rustboro's greatest treasure. Eyebrows are raised as Rhianne slings Michael over her shoulder in a fireman's carry with minimal effort- "Eh, he'll live", but the actual hike to the Guild Hall passes without incident. Those injured in the attack have evidently already been moved to an actual hospital.



Harrison awkwardly looks about the group from his end of their booth, all lightly picking at their food… well, except Della. Nothing gets between her and the sacred ritual of eating. The younger ones appear to be struggling with the day's events, and the older woman is torn between her meal and shooting glances at the lunatic that occasionally makes a noise or three from the seat next to her.

And then he wakes with a start. "... Eh? You couldn't get me a bed?"

"We were hungry," the woman at his side says. "And apparently the inquisitions were booked for five seconds after you woke up."

"Interesting plural there," the lunatic- Michael, his name was?- chuckles. "Are we doing some inquisiting ourselves?"

The woman gives a sly grin. "I assumed you'd like to know exactly what it is you've just signed us up to work for, yes."

Harrison suspects he could grow to like this strange woman- he's never seen someone wear the ears and tail of their Trait constantly, but then he's rarely left Rustboro for more than a quick jaunt into Petalburg Woods. The world is a vast place, after all, and from what he inferred from Alvagarde's chat with the Crystal, it's about to grow somewhat.

… Why, exactly, didn't he just turn his alarm off and roll over again this morning?



A still groggy Michael accepts the soda glass without thinking and takes a large swig. Normally, he might take a moment, but… well, the fact he's conscious at all right now is a minor miracle.

"So, you've all got questions," Michael eventually says- and hoping that only Rhianne can see that holding his head high is taking concerted effort. "Shoot."

"The Crystal referred to you as the Astral One," Oberon immediately says. "You appeared to understand what was being referred to." For a fleeting moment, Michael curses the dandy's sharp wit, but this one was going to come up sooner or later. "Would you care to explain that?"

Michael stares off into space, running a hand idly over his stubble. Knowing that this one was going to come up doesn't make it an easy one to answer. "I'll answer that with another," he eventually answers. "How comfortable are you with the idea that yours isn't the only world?"

"Well, there are those legends around the Guardians of Space and Time, and the… theories around the Aether…" Oberon trails off, his face paling. "... You're… you're actually serious, aren't you? The Crystal… cannot lie, but…"

"Yeah, we were kinda hoping that wouldn't come up anytime soon."

"Well, you were," Rhianne says with a grin. "I've been waiting for this."

What follows is a very rough outline of the circumstances that led Michael and Rhianne to Hoenn, omitting the whole Open War thing. The general despair at the state of a world that thought he was worth putting on a pedestal, and the desire to escape that. The trek through an endless forest. The fateful trip through the Portal.

"One moment," Harrison interjects. "Could you… describe the beasts on the mountain?"

"I was trying not to vomit, actually," Michael groans out. "... Yeah, not ideal info over dinner, but… yeah. I remember… one of them was very pink, on two legs… and the other… blue? On four?"

"Shit." All eyes turn to Oberon- profanity being most unheard of from him. "Palkia and Dialga." He goes even paler, somehow. "You were summoned, Michael. Quite why… or exactly how… I have no idea. But something most powerful has vested interest in you."

Michael's head slams against the wooden table. "Course it fuckin does," he mutters into the thick oak. "Never an easy jaunt, is it?"

"My turn," Rhianne says once it's apparent that Michael is actually rather happy to keep his head down. For once. "These Crystals- what's the five-year-old's version of what they are?"

"They're Light, so the story goes," Tabitha speaks next, running one hand through her dark hair as she tries to remember her schooling. "Hoenn has four of them- representing Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. They're kind of a mystery, still, but they're sources of great power, and they've protected us from Darkness for as long as anyone can remember."

Rhianne nods, accepting that for now. "Fair enough. So we've been called here and these great powers would want to offload some of their responsibilities on the guy currently trying to make himself very small next to me. Next?"

"Well, what are you planning on doing?" Harrison leans forward, resting his chin on one hand.

"Probably follow the trail." Michael forces his head back up to stare the eagle-eyed man down. "Rhi and I were gonna do the travelling mercenary thing regardless; that's kind of our thing. Now we just actually have a list of destinations."

"... Can I ask something personal?" Tabitha speaks up after a moment. "How do you… deal with it? Knowing you've killed someone?"

Michael sighs deeply- this being the other inevitably of taking people their age along with his nonsense. "Me personally? I have to remind myself that they'd do the same to me. That by ending one life, I've possibly saved more lives from them. … But everyone's different." He looks downwards. "The Crystal can wait, I think. We're gonna stay here for a little while, give you guys some time to process the whole Death thing before anyone that still wants on my wild ride moves on."

"We're not children," Nougat pouts. The overall effect is ruined by how subdued her voice compared to her usual boisterous attitude.

"No," Michael nods his agreement. "But I was a fair bit older than you the first time I killed a man, and it still fucked me up for a good while- if you trust only one thing out of my mouth, trust that this isn't an age thing. We're gonna take some time to process, to plan, and for you all to decide if you still want to be part of my madness."

"An' if we want in?" Della looks up from her food.

Michael shoots her a small smile. "Then that gives you time to get your affairs here in order, doesn't it?"

"Are you--" Harrison blurts, before Della cuts him off.

"You're bored," Della states bluntly, with a tone that would make Michael giggle if he wasn't worried about being next. "You've coasted through life. You're good at this- I know you are. 'S why I got you the Devon job in the first place. Seeing Hoenn'll be good for you- an' if you don't come, you'll be lonely without me.

Harrison huffs into folded arms. "Fine," he pouts. "If you insist, I dare say I'll only wake up strapped to your back if I don't go along with you."

Della barks a laugh. "Nah," she grins. "I'd probably just drag you along the floor."

On that happier note, some of the tension lingering in the air eases off- and, as the yawns start coming, it's off to the rooms before too long.



He wakes to the feel of snow against his face. Of aching bones. The warmth of blood warring with the fresh chill he feels beneath him.

The sound of crunching snow faintly reaches his ears as he forces himself off the ground.

A blood moon. Fresh snow falls around him, intermingling with the blood spilt this day. Stone walls and spires surround him, the great masses of grey standing strong against the blur of red and white from above and below.

Crimson Snow. What a way for these poor kids to go. Young lads and lasses, so full of hope. Such promise.

All dashed to nothing in this frozen fortress. All gone. All dead.

Michael steps forward warily; he's had this nightmare before. He walks the length of the courtyard, trying to avert his gaze from the carnage around him.

A man in tattered green armour, lifeless eyes staring up at him.

Felix, eyes scrunched shut as he lies in the fetal position.

… This is a new addition.

A woman in white robes, now stained crimson. Defiance lingers on her face.

Nougat, crumpled in a corner and Tabitha on top of her.

The Knight Commander, her radiant silver armour melted through in places.

No matter how many times his nightmares return to this place, he cannot look away from a single one.

The chief, lance splintered. Broken. Face down.

Oberon, his refined features contorted in fear.

A great mass of scarlet fur, whining. Blue eyes look up at him, tears welling, before life leaves the kitsune for the last time. Even Rhianne is not sacred.

He is the Survivor. This is his lot.



Look well, Alvagarde.




Even in the nightmare, even knowing how this always ends, Michael reaches for his sword. A familiar mist coalesces in the sky above him, blotting his view of the blood moon.


Did you miss me?




Gleaming gold eyes shine out through the mist. Rhythmic thunder booms overhead, as if laughing at Michael's misfortune.


Oh, you poor, misguided soul. Fear not, my child- I will never truly leave you.




Lightning strikes around him. It gouges deep into the stone, stirring up blood and snow in a visceral display.

He looks up.

A mighty bolt flashes once more.


Michael wakes with a start. His heart is going like a jackhammer. His breathing… well. Not good.

It's fine, he tells himself. It's fine, you're fine, she's fine. Nothing to see here, just a nightmare.

He sighs, and rolls over again.

Hopefully, he can scavenge another hour of sleep without waking Rhi.

funnily enough, before this sort of... happened, i was thinking this might be the last chapter of rustboro- but we know where these magical macguffins are now! bits of the overrarching plot are slowly coming together!

next chapter is back to the more fun character moments before the adventure starts anew, i swear
 

Rumors

Or so they say...
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Pokédex No.
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245
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male
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A Pokémon shrouded in hearsay and urban legend, spoken of only in whispered tales and hushed gossip.
All righty, I got caught up with this after looking into it a bit ago. Took me a moment, but that's what happens when you save your reading for lunch breaks because home time is for Responsible Stuff™ and Discord friends demanding a burnt sacrifice of sacred free time every night.

So, a good high(?) fantasy romp is always fun to come across. There's been a few on the forum that I've come across but this is one of the few that have held my attention. I deeeefinitely think it has to be our protagonist duo who really keep me here. Those two just play so well off of each other and, well, everything else. Whereas a lot of the Isekai protags and the like are kinda dull blank slate protagonists crafted out of cheap vanilla ice cream, these two come in already bringing a lot to the table and interesting questions and mysteries to solve about them. A lot of people start with rookies, but there's something to definitely be said about starting with veterans, even if sometimes it makes me feel like I'm starting into the second book of a series without seeing the first.

Now, because you tagged yourself as Critique Level 3, I am legally required to mention that, so far, I don't quite feel like the other characters are holding up nearly as well just yet. Honestly, outside of Oberon and maybe Harrison, I have a bit of trouble keeping up with which name belongs to who. I think this may be in part that they've all been dumped on us almost all at once and it may be an entirely me problem. But, as long as nobody goes and dies, then they ought to have a chance to shine and make themselves distinct. There's a lot of solutions to this and you seem to be on the right track, such as with Nougat's reaction to killing.

Another bit, though you've been getting better at this, some of the earlier parts feel rushed. For example, Birch, May, and Norman definitely had a feel of being more plot devices rather than characters since they all three pretty much show up, grab Michael by the shoulders, and then shove him in the right direction. Though, since you've hit the whole Devon plot and stuff, you've slowed down to let things develop and build rather than having characters go "Gimmie plot! Kthxbai!" Now, not saying all segments of your story need the multi-chapter treatment and all, but I'd suggest definitely keep in mind how you built stuff up here with Devon, Magma, and the Crystals.

Anyway, unless you're a jerk and do something like killing of Rhianne, I'll be reading as you update, even if I'm kinda spotty on the commenting at times.
 

Tookie

The Immoral Bard
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Team Alpha
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425
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Southern England
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This user does not exist. All impressions to the contrary are propaganda pieces and not to be trusted.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #17
@Rumors: Thank you. THANK YOU. This is the feedback I desperately needed and if I wasn't a coward I'd probably have the decency to set myself at 4 or 5.



At an hour Michael would classify as "ungodly", he ventures forth from their room; Rhianne either being well asleep or just humouring him. Sleep isn't on the agenda tonight, after all- his unconscious mind is only too happy to keep drifting back to crimson snow.

He's not surprised to see that the ground floor of the Hall is still inhabited- a soldier's work is, unfortunately, never done. What is a surprise is that Oberon is still down here, nursing a glass of something deeply red.

"Morning." Michael greets as he pulls up a chair next to the younger man.

Oberon smirks. "You look well, esteemed leader."

Michael's most eloquent response is to yawn. "I blame the rock-induced nap. I normally sleep like a baby."

"Might I suggest not provoking the next Crystal our paths cross with, then?"

Michael snorts- Oberon and Nougat are definitely a refreshing change from the yes-men he used to get saddled with. "No promises." He pauses for a moment, staring intently at the whirls in the oak of the table before looking back up. "How're you holding up?"

"Well enough." Oberon takes another sip of his drink- must be a juice of some sort, because Michael can't smell alcohol. "... Why do you ask?"

"Jus' curious." Michael shrugs lightly. "You looked like you took that whole thing yesterday better than the others, but… I dunno, that's not always a good thing."

"Ahh." Oberon flashes a knowing grin. "Subtlety is not your strong suit, sir. No, if you must know, theirs was not the first blood on my hands." He nods slowly. "Though, if you were of a probing sort, I would concede this is the first time I've been present, so to speak."

… Well, if he's going to talk while they're alone, Michael would be a fool not to listen. "Oh?"

"You know, of course, that I have an interest in botany, so to speak? Particularly the properties of certain herbs and flowers?"

"Ohhh." Michael smiles broadly, nodding lightly. "Someone's had their hand in the poison jar, have they?" He regrets the sing-song tone he took, though, as the younger man wilts slightly. "Hey, nothing wrong with pragmatism," he adds hurriedly. "First thing Rhi taught me was to do whatever you have to to end a fight before it starts."

"Advice you clearly took to heart."

"Hey, I don't rub your nose in your foibles."

"'Tis but a matter of time. And actually finding a flaw in my august self." Oberon smiles once more. "Many have tried, all have failed."

"The mark of a humble man, I'm sure." Michael nods sagely. "So you play with poisons, big deal. I regularly share a room with someone with intimate experience with slitting people's throats in their sleep."

"No wonder you sleep lightly, my friend."

"Eh," Michael waves a hand. "I figure if Rhi was actually going to off me in my sleep, she would've done it by now. Probably somewhen where there would've been less cleanup and nobody around to ask questions." He blinks a few times. "... That sounded more reassuring in my head. Nah, I'm just used to cat-napping as and when I can- you'd be amazed how little sleep you can learn to live on."

Oberon chuckles. "If I may, I would prefer to leave such endeavours in your no doubt capable hands."

"'If' being the key word, here."

Oberon barks a laugh before downing the last of his drink. "Point well taken. Perhaps now would be an opportune time for me to take my leave and sleep while I can?"

"Do."



Shortly after breakfast that morning (and Michael was well placated with much caffeine), Rhianne had the absolutely fantastic idea of stealing Nougat and Tabitha for a morning of "girl time". Or, specifically, getting the girls out of the way so Michael could try and coax some words out of Felix.

Or maybe she just fancied getting ice cream, and this felt like as good an excuse as any. She wasn't telling, even though Michael had given her one of those looks that said he wasn't entirely buying her story. He was a sensible man, didn't pry too closely.

Didn't always pry closely enough, but there was always time to work on that.

Nonetheless, she soon had the girls spirited away and they were quickly nestled into a booth in a small ice cream parlor she'd seen yesterday- which had mercifully survived the Magma incursion. It was snug, and more importantly they were the first customers of the day. There was, therefore, the possibility of discussing sensitive topics out of earshot.

Which is what she'd let the two girls believe, and not dwell on the fact that a crowded parlor would let their conversation get lost in noise, because nobody is a keener eavesdropper than a waiter. Terrible gossips, as well.

"Is this supposed to make us feel better?" Nougat is still pretty sullen. With Nougat, though, that just means sulky bitchy rather than her usual aggressive shot firing.

"No," Rhianne shrugs. "I just wanted ice cream." She probably shouldn't laugh at the baffled look on Nougat's face, no matter how much she wants to. That wouldn't be helpful. "But, if you did want to talk about anything away from the men…" She mock-shudders. "Unless you want Michael to give the Death talk?"

Nougat considers this. There's a long moment as she sits and mulls that one over in her head, and the other two quietly work at their sundaes. "... Point taken." Nougat eventually answers. "You know he's a bit of a psycho, right?"

"Well, yeah." Rhianne puts her spoon down and looks directly at the blonde. "Everything he knows about our line of work, he learned from me. He's a bit more gung ho, true, but that's what you get when you cross my broken moral compass with a messiah complex a mile wide."

"Damn." Nougat doesn't put her spoon down. It sort of does that itself. "So, the killing thing… it gets easier, does it?" There's a definite bitterness in her voice.

"Michael would have you believe it does, and from watching him over the years, he's definitely gotten better at dealing with it." Rhianne sighs. "But, again, he's the moral one of us. Me? I was raised… differently."

"There's a story there," Tabitha says. Not quite judging, yet. Tabitha is the reasonable one of the two.

"I was younger than either of you, the first time." Rhianne answers the implied question. "Ins and outs do not make suitable ice cream conversation." Pause, while Nougat picks up a spoonful of hers. "Especially not while you've got all that strawberry syrup going on there."

There's a delightful splutter.

"So you'll just leave us hanging, then." Nougat is less than impressed.

"I think you'd be happier people if I did." Rhianne smiles at her discomfort. The story isn't pleasant, true, but it has a happy ending! It's just not exactly the sort of thing two barely adult girls need to hear first thing in the morning… but if they insist.

"Try us." Wow, Nougat really hates the high-handed approach.

Rhianne can't help but laugh. "So, picture this. Little waif of a girl, a couple of years younger than you. She thinks she knows everything."

Nougat snorts loudly. "Good to know you haven't changed much."

"She thinks she knows everything," Rihanne repeats herself. "She decides to make her own way in the world- she's always been the independent sort, you see. So, one night, she's lost in the big city- she's a country girl, not used to all that." The good humour slowly fades from Rhianne's voice, leaving a cold monotone completely out of place coming from her. "Enter, a big man. Loud. Outspoken."

Tabitha is a bit faster on the uptake, given the way her eyes widen.

"He's very helpful to the girl. Suspiciously so." Rhianne continues. "Thinks this entitles him to something."

Nougat pales now- now she gets where this is going.

"That man died that night." Rhianne's voice is ice now. "Laid one hand on me. I asked him to move it. He didn't, so I removed it. And quite a lot of his blood, as it turns out."

Nougat pushes the strawberry sundae to one side. "I'm guessing you don't regret that."

"Not really." Some of the warmth starts creeping back into Rhianne's voice. "I probably could have gone more karmic if I was thinking it through, but… nah." Of course, if she'd had half the wits back then that she had now… Well, there was no real use dwelling on that now- it wasn't like she really remembered more than lashing out with a knife and not stopping until the man was definitely dead.

"But… yeah, if you want someone to commiserate with you, Michael's the better bet." Rhianne continues. "He was a wreck after his first time." In hindsight, if she was pressed, she might concede that she'd been something of a bad influence on him.

Tabitha twirls her spoon between her fingers. "Hmm. So there's hope for us yet?"

Rhianne goes back to her sundae. That is a question she's not really equipped to answer. "Depends what you classify as 'hope'," she eventually says. "Does it get easier? In the sense that you get used to dealing with it in your own way, yes."

Tabitha nods slowly, taking a moment to savour the taste of lemon. "And… if we decided this wasn't for us? That this isn't something we can just learn to get on with?"

"Then that's how it pans out," Rhianne shrugs. "You'd be a better person than me, at any rate." Michael would also be more than happy to get them well out of this line of work, if they asked… But she'd let him be the one to tell them that.

Nougat slumps forward in her chair, looking down at her hands. "Seems pretty fucked, when you put it like that."

"Look around you," Rhianne says. "Look at what happened here yesterday- maybe stop in at a hospital while you're at it. Did those Magma people care what happened to anyone else?"

Something in Nougat snaps again, as she practically leaps out of her chair. "So that makes it fine to go down to their level, does it? They don't care, so why should you- is that it!?" Arceus above, if this is who he learned from, no wonder he's a fucking psycho!

Rhianne, however, has seen much scarier in her life than a young girl trying to be big and intimidating. "If you still care, then you haven't really stooped to their level, though, have you?" She smiles sweetly. "That's all that really separates you from the animals, and to be honest? It's all you really need."

"Uhh…" Tabitha raises a hand as she interjects. "You mean 'us', right?"

"Nope!" Rhianne's response is both abrupt and worryingly cheerful. "I know what I am. I know damn well I can be a callous bitch and put myself and my family above all else." Well, what family she chooses at this point- which is a resoundingly short list. "For what it's worth, though? I hope that conviction serves you better than so many others."

If only because she knows Michael would be happy to see someone actually turned away from his path.

Nougat snorts. She looks like she has something she wants to say, but evidently thinks better of it and settles for storming out of the parlor instead.

"... I should probably try and calm her down." Tabitha looks apologetically at Rhianne, before following Nougat out of the building.

Rhianne shrugs; she was paying for those sundaes anyway. So, if she were to shoot a quick text to Michael warning him of an angry blonde… that would leave her free to enjoy what the girls hadn't eaten before they left.

A shame to let them go to waste, after all, and she's hardly going to be the one that'll get through to Nougat. She'll leave that to her favourite bleeding heart.



Michael had intended to make a quiet morning of it just talking the whole thing through with Oberon and Felix. He'd thought that that might be more conducive to getting something out of the boy- and also by sheer coincidence getting the two most disruptive out of the way for what was certain to be a finicky talk.

And then Roxanne had gotten in touch again. She'd wanted to meet him and he'd thought that he could find something either on the way there or the way back that would take Felix's mind off of… well, everything.

In hindsight, he probably should have expected the area around the school she worked at to be the worst affected, if she'd been a priority target. On the plus side- for a given value of "plus"- said day job had been put on hold. Evidently, having the school wrecked qualified the kiddies for a day off.

So the three pile into Roxanne's office. Michael takes an offered seat, Oberon hovers behind him, and Felix finds a corner to occupy until they can leave.

"So," Roxanne says once all three are settled. "The Crimson Foxes?"

Oberon flashes a winning smile. "Our namesake is elsewhere."

Michael makes the introductions. "The call sounded somewhat urgent," he says, leaning back in the chair.

Roxanne nods. "Norman phoned ahead; apparently you don't like to stay still for very long." She smiles. "I wanted to thank you in person for what you did at Devon."

"I got my ass kicked a bit and sassed the Crystal, I didn't exactly do much."

"Oh, no, you did exactly what you needed to." Roxanne shakes her head. "If the Crystal had somehow fallen into the wrong hands…"

Michael raises his hands. "Well, I won't turn positive vibes away." Gods know he could certainly use more of those in his life. "Or a more tangible gratitude, if that's going. Mouths to feed, equipment to replace, and all that jazz."

He'll just ignore the fact that some of their spending is perhaps avoidable if he reminds certain people who helped teach him how to pinch every penny.

"I-I'm sure that can be arranged." Roxanne appears slightly taken aback. "It wouldn't be much, with the repairs, but…"

"Anything you can spare would be appreciated." Michael winces internally- he certainly could have been more diplomatic with that ask. "It doesn't have to be immediate, either- we might be here longer than I'd planned."

"Oh?" Roxanne looks skeptical.

"See, I've got a few younger folks." Michael leans forward. "Yesterday was the first time they'd fought other people." He pauses, hoping she catches his meaning. "Now, before that, I had planned to be out of your hair as soon as humanly possible. But, plans change, and I think I'd like to give them time to decide whether this travelling Guild thing is the life for them." He takes a breath. "And while we're here, I'm fairly sure a few extra sets of hands to do leg-work wouldn't go amiss.

Roxanne bristles at that- there's a certain high-handedness about him that rubs her the wrong way. "You are, are you? And exactly how long is it you wished to grace us with your presence?" The temperature in the room seems to drop with this question.

"No more than a week." Michael says casually, not even pretending to be intimidated.

"A week." Roxanne looks him over slowly. It's been a while since she's met someone that doesn't cower under her stern gaze. "You promise no more than a week?"

"Hand on heart."

There's a long pause as Roxanne mulls it over, attempting to maintain some control over the situation. "... Fine," she eventually grinds out. "You'll have your week. Was there anything else?"

The message is clear; the answer had better be 'no'. Fortunately, Michael is a touch beyond picking fights just out of spite. "No, thank you." He gives a polite smile. "Would you prefer we saw ourselves out?"

"Do."

Oberon picks the exact moment the door closes on their way out as his time to speak up. "Another sterling example of diplomacy, esteemed leader."

"You know, you could've played good cop instead of letting me just blunder my way through that, right?" Michael chuckles.

"I could indeed," Oberon nods. "But would that not have undermined your quest to assert your independence from the Guilds, such as it is?"

"Fair point," Michael says. "Gonna be dicey if I need a favour from her later, though."

Oberon smirks. "Perhaps you would better be served seeking Devon's aid instead?"

Michael sucks air in. "... Yeah, probably."

Now, why couldn't Oberon have said that ten minutes ago?



In Petalburg, another Guild Leader is also having a trying morning. Norman slumps forward in his office chair as May gives him her most winning smile.

"So," Norman sighs. "You not only want to deprive me of my best hunter, but you want me to let my son loose on the world?"

"You let me," May points out.

"After many lengthy conversations with your father, yes." Norman is now seriously reconsidering his stance on keeping alcohol in his office- if nothing else, brandy would take the edge off of this conversation. "And even then I was reluctant."

"Brendan's more than capable." May's voice grows serious. "He'd be with me- and I know you respect my ability. He's older than I was when you let me out in the field by myself- where's the problem?"

Norman's jaw clenches. "The 'problem', as you put it, is that the world is a more dangerous place now. Noticeably."

"Because of Rustboro." May nods; she'd seen the reports of a presumed terrorist attack, and the people who'd been trying to fend the Magmas off.

"Partly."

"... The Crystals." May can connect the dots. "You think this is just the beginning."

"It will be," Norman nods. "The Aether is stirring, May- I feel something Dark in the air."

May knows better than to argue that point- but there is an angle she can use. "But you know who probably would take Brendan along if we asked him, right?"

"Under no circumstances." Norman knows exactly who she means. "I will not trust that man with my son." May's eyes widen at the sudden intensity in his voice. "He may be competent- I agree with that. But I won't trust him with something that important."

"But you were happy to turn him loose on Hoenn without much thought."

Norman stands up. "I have two responsibilities, May Birch." His voice is low, scarcely above a whisper. "My son is one of them. Petalburg is the other. Michael Alvagarde and I, I suspect, would clash terribly if we had to coexist. While I would agree that the man means well… he is very much a loose cannon. Better he be pointed well away from us."

May blinks. "... I see," she says stiffly. "Th-thank you for your time."

Norman allows himself another sigh once she's well out of the room. May isn't wrong, he reminds himself- if he were being entirely rational, yes, Brendan is as close to an adult as makes no difference. Yes, he let the less prepared of Brendan's school year go out into the wild with less fanfare. But the urge to protect his child from a darkening world is strong, and he trusts no strength other than his own.

… It's close enough to lunch when he looks at his watch. What he needs right now is food, and possibly a stiff drink. He'll need to think about this one.

okay wow i really just need to keep michael and rhianne joined at the hip so they don't just fuckin depress me at every turn and can riff off of each other

and, y'know, i should maybe dial back the reminders that this isn't the best pair of role models for aspiring young adventurers? let this stay the fun, low drama fantasy romp?

Next time: Felix and Della will actually exist as more than one-line mentions I swear to god. Harrison will get more screen time! And some other stuff too.
 

Chess

birds can't hurt me these shades are gucci
Artist
Writer
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Team Alpha
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Pokédex No.
5
Caught
May 13, 2019
Messages
430
Location
in forest floor detritus
Nature
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They/Them/She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fire, Grass
Pokédex Entry
can be bribed with shiny objects and spices to do household repairs. utterly incapable of many things, but does them anyway
"Nope!" Rhianne's response is both abrupt and worryingly cheerful. "I know what I am. I know damn well I can be a callous bitch and put myself and my family above all else." Well, what family she chooses at this point- which is a resoundingly short list. "For what it's worth, though? I hope that conviction serves you better than so many others."

If only because she knows Michael would be happy to see someone actually turned away from his path.
i am as always here for the shitpost duo, but also this last line hits hard. And this whole thing is just a very concise description of where these two are right now

also nougat is so important
 

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