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Old August 1st, 2015 (7:53 AM). Edited October 10th, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Age: 22
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Take Off
The Woodworker and the Adventurer
19/7/1064 AP




"'Ey, barkeep! Give me another round! I'm dyin' over here!"

All around, the cacophony of conversations and clanging glasses resounded off the walls of the inn. Local patrons from the floodplains of central Sonara, the young and old, the adventurous and the docile, all here for one reason or another, gathered at the bar of the inn for drink and socializing. A drunkard sat at the bar, the alcohol hitting him hard as he heckled the bartender for another round.

"You've had a lot already, are you sure about that?" the barkeeper, a Graveler, asked the intoxicated patron.

"'Course I'm sure!" the patron, a Kirlia, slurred out, waving his glass aimlessly in a daze. "Fill 'er up, my friend!"

The Graveler gave a grin, pouring the drink as ordered. "You better not make a mess in my bar, you hear?"

"Perish the thought!" the Kirlia replied. "Keep 'em comin'!"

"That guy's gonna lose his lunch," a younger 'mon, a Timburr named Emmet, remarked, sitting at a table with his small group. "He'd better not chuck on my feet..."

"Never mind him, Emmet," another spoke, a Hitmontop. Emmet was young, and easily distracted; the Hitmontop knew that Emmet had to focus though, at least for the time being. "We've got work to do."

"Indeed," the third one said, a Machop. He seemed young as well, though not as young as Emmet. He leaned over in his seat, analyzing the map they had sprawled over the table. "So, Daniel, where do you reckon we go next?"

"Let's see..." Daniel, a Scrafty, replied. The dark type was much more serious than his companions, and the eldest, his attention directed solely to the task at hand. He began to flip through the pages of a small, beaten-up notebook, before landing on an entry he needed. "I think we're on the right track." The Scrafty took a pen, tracing a line from where they started, to where they were, before placing a finger to his chin in thought. "The last expedition went into western trail here... but they returned empty handed..."

"So we should take the eastern path here, then?" the Hitmontop asked, pointing out the opposite path on the map.

"That's what I'm thinking, Miller," Daniel replied with a smile. Miller was always trying to be helpful, something that would come in handy for this trip; it was one of the reasons Daniel had brought him along. "We can cross around the mountains here. It's likely that if the woods are here, they'd be somewhere near the river, which runs along the eastern side."

"It's dangerous to stray from the trails," the Machop remarked. "Lots of wilds there, I've been told." The younger 'mon grimaced slightly, not too pleased with the prospect of exploring uncharted lands.

"So what?" Emmet added in. "You worry too much, Smith! Where we're goin', I'll take on any old wild!" He spoke loudly, puffing his chest out with pride. "Ain't no wilds going to stop me!"

"Easy now, Emmet," Smith replied, smiling a bit at the young one's enthusiasm. "We'll have to keep our wits about us, don't you think?"

"Ah, I can't help it, Smith," Emmet replied. "We're going after the Wyron Woodlands! I'm too excited!"

The bar went from a state of wild ruckus to silence within a second. Pokemon were left with their tankards mid-air, looking at the wee Timburr lad. "Did you..." the Graveller bartender started, "did you just say Wyron Woodlands?"

The Kirlia drunk chuckled once and that set off a gust of laughter that rocked the inn amidst the Sonarean floodplains. "Wyron Woodlands!" a Magmar pounded his tankard on his table, glancing around the patrons with a wide, mocking smile. "Good God, I haven't heard of that one in a while!"

It was common knowledge that the first mention of those fabled woodlands was made fifty years ago by a man who was branded the village idiot after he returned from the northern mountains, claiming to have found a hidden spot among them where the trees were with red leaves and silver trunks. That was the Wyron Woodlands, and many said the Gods of the forest lived there, and no other Pokemon was allowed to enter. But the woods had never been found, not even by flying Pokemon.

"Don't let the lad drink too much, now!" Someone from the back shouted. Emmet slinked back into his seat, his face bright red in embarrassment.

A Palpitoad local leaned towards the table with the company of fighting-types. "The Wyron Woodland's a lost place, maybe it don't even exist!"

"Oh yeah?" Smith replied, the Machop raising a fist at the Palpitoad. "What happens when we find it, then?"

Smith was stopped by Daniel putting a hand on his shoulder. "Easy there, Smith. You won't convince them," the Scrafty said, casting a glare at the Palpitoad. "You mind your business, and we'll mind ours."

The laughter was continuing, until someone shouted something. And the laughter was cut as if by a knife.

"I'll find it," a man said, drawing the attention of the bar to himself. It was a smiling Infernape with clever blue eyes, sitting with his legs crossed on top of the on the sofa close to the wall. "Give me one day."

"One day?" someone asked, "you wouldn't find it in a million!"

"He's drunk! Put him to sleep!" The drunkards started laughing and cackling and choking on their drink again. The Kirlia spilled his eleventh drink out of his nose.

The Infernape slammed his hand on the table to create a sharp sound. He threw a fat pouch, full of doobloons judging by the sound of it, on the table. "Five hundred pieces says I can do it in one day. You'll all get your share if I fail!"

The people in the bar considered it quietly. Some even whispered among each other.

"How do we know you're a man of your word?" the Graveller bartender asked.

The Infernape shrugged. "Ah, I guess you don't. But if I win, you don't have to give me five hundred."

"Then what's the catch, mon?" the Palpitoad asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "What's the point of you making this bet?"

"There's no catch. The look on your faces should be enough," the mon said, smiling keenly. He took his pouch from the table and strode through the bar. "I should be off now! See ya!"

As he had his back turned to them, an insignia fastened on his back was made visible. The insignia had Frivolous! written on it in elegant cursive handwriting. The Palpitoad squinted hard, trying to read it, and once he did, and realized its meaning, his expression grew dramatic.

"But!" he managed. The Infernape was gone, and the bar was plunged into chaos again.

"The Frivolous Explorer!" people bellowed.

"Bah, what does he know?" Emmet scoffed. The young lad was assured of he and his group's own victory over any one 'mon. "No fancy explorer is going to get to find the Woods before us. We've got the upper hand! He's just drunk out of his mind."

"Didn't seem much drunk to me," the Palpitoad from the nearby table said, "don't ye know the Frivolous Explorer, boy? Isaac Sawyer?"

"No, should I?" Emmet replied. "He doesn't seem that great to me if I've never heard of him."

"Be mindful of your words," the Hitmontop said to Emmet. The Timburr pouted slightly, before keeping quiet. Miller offered a nod to the Palpitoad in apology. "I've heard of his name, but I don't know much. What's his story?"

"We all know 'bout Sonara and Antara and Tundara," the Palpitoad started, "but that man's known for discovering Orthros. Bet ya don't know what that is. Most people don't. It's a land to the very south from Carajol; he took a fleet of ships there, and they travelled for eighty days and eighty nights to reach it."

"An immense journey," added the bartender Graveller, who was overhearing the conversation. "But they didn't get any farther than the shores of Orthros, no. Too dangerous, but there's no stopping the Explorer from returning there."

"No, no," the Palpitoad disagreed, "haven't you heard? He's organizing an expedition in Tundara to find the Frozen Breach to the north pole!"

An old Magcargo on the Palpitoad's table shrugged towards Emmet the Timburr, slightly drunk, but the quiet kind of drunk. "Sounds like a brave man," he admitted.

"He sounded like he was drunk," Emmet replied with a shrug.

"Seems he has a thirst for adventure," Daniel said finally, looking at each member of his table in turn. "You think we can match that kind of dedication?"

Miller, Emmet, and Smith all agreed enthusiastically, looking at the Scrafty with determined expressions. With that, they began to plan their trip for the next day, the rest of the bar returning its normal routine.



***






The next day, the small group had set out on their journey, their supplies neatly packed away in a wagon, with Miller holding the reigns on a Rapidash to pull. Flowing water could be heard, the path running parallel to a nearby stream as the river began to overflow, as it normally did during the early months of spring.

The floodplains were open around them and a breath of air touched their faces, inspiration for the quest they had undertaken. When the sun was sinking to the west, the grass became golden and the rivers shone with the beginning rays of a sunset.

The mountain range at the heart of Sonara stood tall at the end of the floodplains they were making their way through, and they were turning to orange every minute that passed.

"Wow..." Emmet said, staring up in awe at the mountains before them. "How tall do you reckon those are?"

"Taller than I would like to find out," the Machop, Smith replied, walking beside Emmet. "Hey, Mr. Darcy, you think we'll find the Woods today?"

"With any luck, we will," Daniel replied, walking ahead of the group with map in hand, only partially paying attention to where he walked. The Scrafty was too fixated on the map to look up, yet he seemed to know where he was walking. "My family spent years looking for these Woods. I know it exists, and they were close to finding it. Their efforts won't have been in vain."

"You must be mighty proud, then," Miller said, the Hitmontop keeping a steady hand as he steered the rapidash. "I say we'll find it. No way we can't!"

"I admire your enthusiasm, Miller," Daniel replied. "But let's keep our heads level. We'll not find them by zeal alone."

"Say, Mr. Darcy," Emmet began, the Timburr walking up closer to the Scrafty. "You think the workshop will finally start to bloom if we find this? I hear Wyron Wood is a bit difficult to work with, if you don't know what you're doing."

The Scrafty gave a small laugh, patting the boy's back lightly. "Trust me, Emmet, the business will really pick up with this. My father taught me how to handle Wyron wood, and his father before him. Why do you think they've spent so long trying to find the Woods?" Daniel took his eyes away from the map, looking up at the tree-covered mountains as they walked, his eyes darting across the green landscape. He wiped the sweat from his brow as he walked. "More durable than oak, they say. The refining process is special... but it creates a superior craft, when handled properly. I'll teach you all the method when we find it."

"We'll find it! Don't you fret, Mr. Darcy!" Smith responded enthusiastically. The group continued traversing the path, the wind blowing softly across the plains as the tall grass wavered in its force.

"But what about that other guy?" Emmet asked. "That fancy explorer person. You think he was serious?"

"Maybe, maybe not," Daniel replied, giving a huff at the mention. "I don't think he'll find it, even if he was being serious. He doesn't have the clues that I possess."

An hour later, as they were about to climb the first steep slope of the mountain, they spotted the man they were talking about. The Infernape was standing still on top of a rock, with a hand on his forehead, protecting his eyes that were contrary to the sun so he could see down below. He was observing them as they got closer. "Hello! I thought I might find you on the way there," he shouted to them cheerfully.

Daniel and his crew suddenly stopped, Miller pulling on the reigns to make the Rapidash stop. The four of them cast suspicious glares at the Infernape, when Emmet suddenly stepped forward angrily.

"How did you get here?" the Timburr demanded, thinking the Infernape to be a cheat. Daniel placed a hand on the young 'mons shoulder, pulling him back slightly.

"Now then, don't be so rash," the older 'mon said, before turning to the Infernape. "I suppose you were serious about finding the Woods, then."

The Frivolous Explorer let out a short laugh. "Of course! I'm a man of my word." He paused for a second, his eyes sweeping through the small company now that they had gotten closer. He quietly considered for a few seconds. "I was just having a break," he mentioned with a smile, pointing backwards with his thumb. Smoke was rising to the sky behind him.

"Join me if you like."

Daniel eyed the explorer cautiously. "I apologize," he started, "but I've got my group already."

"We're going to the same place, aren't we?" the Infernape stated. "Let's find the woods together!"

Daniel mused over the idea for a moment, when Miller interrupted.

"We'd stand a better chance of finding it with assistance," the Hitmontop said quietly towards Daniel. The Scrafty nodded once, inspecting the Infernape up and down, the fire-type expectantly waiting for an answer.

"Very well," Daniel replied. "We can help each other out, then."

"Excellent!" the explorer shouted and waved them over to his small camp.

There was a stick of meat over the fire. "Do you have food?" he asked, "I would give you my own, but I only brought lunch. I travel without carrying many things." He sat near the fire on the dry ground and turned the stick round.

Daniel turned towards Miller, the Hitmontop rummaging through the wagon and pulling out some fruit that they had packed, handing a piece to each of them. A quick break would be good, Daniel thought, signaling for the others to rest.

"So... what led you here?" Smith asked curiously, the Machop sitting cross-legged near the fire. He was sure that they were the only ones who could have gotten here, on the right path, yet this explorer seemed to know the way as well.

The Infernape cast his eyes upon the floodplains that extended beyond them. The sunset gave him an orange hue and there were shadows in the few wrinkles of his weathered face; from up close, it was apparent that the Infernape was a middle aged man who had travelled through all sorts of places, and you could see the weariness of it all on him, but also the excitement.

"I've been to the other side of those mountains. There's a blind spot between mountaintops where no 'mon has access to. A fabled woodland, apparently already sighted, should be there. And, this spot where I set up camp was close to the where the river is the narrowest, so I could swim across without much fuss." He turned his black eyes to Smith.

"What's your name?" he asked him kindly.

The Machop swallowed his food, wiping his mouth before speaking. "Smith," he said simply. "Smith Williams. You're... the fancy explorer, right?"

"Fancy?" the Infernape said, aghast. He let out a jolly laugh. "Why not? In all seriousness, my name is Isaac Sawyer. Branded frivolous by some, so I made it my brand." He was referring to his insignia with the word "Frivolous" written on it. "And your names are?" He looked upon the others.

"Miller Brandenson," the Hitmontop said, giving a small nod where he sat.

"Emmet Grey," the Timburr said afterwards.

The Scrafty stood up, looking over Isaac once more. "I'm Daniel Darcy." He held a hand out to the Infernape as introduction. "A pleasure."

Isaac Sawyer stood up as well to shake the Scrafty's hand. He nodded happily. "Good to meet you all. Where do you come from? Liverte?"

"That we are," Daniel said with a nod. "A bit far from home, now, but it's worth the trip. Yourself?"

"I was born in Otawa, northernmost Antara," Isaac said, his face lit by a very fond smile. "Quite far from here. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd never heard of it." He chomped on the meat stick and chewed. There was a pause, then he swallowed and said, "say, how come you lads are out here, looking for those woods? What are you hoping to find there?"

"First, I would like to pose the same question to you," Daniel said, narrowing his gaze slightly. He wasn't too trusting of the Infernape's intentions, and knowing that he was a famous explorer didn't increase his confidence. He'd rather the location of the woods not be widely publicized. "Why are you after the Woods? You want the fame of having found it first?"

Isaac looked at Daniel carefully, attentively. "Nah," he responded immediately, "I never sought fame with my discoveries. I never cared much for it, although I admit it has helped me by opening paths closed to many 'mon. I'm an explorer because I wish to find as much as I can about the world I live in." He'd sat down and leaned backwards on his arms. As the sun sunk further into the horizon. "Maybe help make it a better place on the way there," he added.

"So it's all for your own personal achievement?" Daniel asked. "You're doing this for fun, essentially?"

The Infernape nodded. "Quite," he said, "nothing makes me feel more alive than setting my feet on new ground. Seeing new things, smelling new scents, meeting exotic and different Pokemon, learn of their troubles and hopes. The fact that it pays is just a side bonus; I can survive without money."

"I see..." Daniel replied. "In any case, I'm after the Woods for myself, too, in a sense." The Scrafty sat down, leaning against the wagon and biting a chunk of his fruit. "My friends here and I, we run a little business back in Liverte. A modest workshop, working with wood and lumber to provide furniture and other such things. It doesn't pay much, but it feeds us regardless." He looked over his group, the three of the them listening to the conversation intently.

"Mr. Darcy says Wyron Wood is special," Smith chimed in, before suddenly turning to Daniel with concern. "Oh, sorry, I should have asked. Can I tell him?"

Daniel nodded, before the Machop continued. "The Wyron Wood is special, and Daniel says he knows how to handle it properly. If we find the woods, he's going to teach us how to handle it, and the business can grow. He says Wyron wood is coveted for its durability and aesthetics."

The Scrafty nodded again. "My family's been looking for the Wyron woods since before I was even born," Daniel said. "My father, and his father too, both knew the secret to handling the wood, but they never found the source. They taught me how to handle Wyron wood myself. I intend to make sure their efforts weren't in vain."

Isaac was also listening carefully. When Smith revealed the reason the group was after Wyron Woods, he glanced downwards, thinking to himself. These people want to have the monopoly on the woods... the Infernape reflected quietly, glancing to Daniel understandingly, before returning his attention to the conversation. "Woodworkers, then," he said. "I admire you. It doesn't sound like an easy job." He turned to Daniel with an idea in mind. "And your father and grandfather have been looking for the woods, you say. Your business is old, isn't it?"

"Passed down through the generations," Daniel answered. "It's a modest living, but it's worthwhile."

Isaac nodded. "I admire you," he said again. "Keep doing what your heart aches for." He nipped on his meat stick and listened to the fire that burned away the last of the sticks he'd gathered. The mon in the company resumed their lunch quietly.

Once he was finished with his meat stick, he threw it in the fire and let out a sigh as he was getting up on his feet.

He dusted off his legs, and then his hands. "Time to go! Everybody ready?"

"Yup!" Emmet said cheerfully, the Timburr rising to his feet. The others nodded as well, as Daniel gathered his things and set off.

"Indeed. Let's get going, then."

They started scaling the steep slope of the mountain. Soon, they were surrounded by giant rocks as the sky dropped into a midsummer night, and the first star appeared. Emmet and Smith lit torches with Isaac's help. The fire lit their way into the mountainous path of grey rock. The steep ascend didn't allow much room for conversation, as their breaths went into their footing.

The Infernape ascended first with a carefree, light footing, as if he was dancing. Daniel pressed onward as well, turning back to see the rest of his group. Smith carried on, holding his torch high, but Emmet looked to be growing tired. Seemed his youth was not enough to carry him the whole day. "Only a bit further, Emmet," Daniel said aloud to the younger 'mon. "When we reach the other side of this mountain, we'll make camp." He stood next to Smith, using his torch to illuminate the map in his hand. "My father had a camp just on the other side. It should be apparent when we get there."

"Has your father told you the way?" Isaac asked. He wondered if said father was still alive to this day, and as if Daniel heard his thoughts, he said:

"Not directly," Daniel answered, folding the map and tucking it away in his satchel. "He urged me to reconsider this trip, saying that it was 'admirable' but that I shouldn't 'waste time looking for the Woods.'" Daniel sighed a bit, before his stoic expression returned, chasing he doubt from his mind. "He might have lost hope, but I haven't."

"We'll find it, Daniel," Miller said confidently. "We've invested too much to not find it."

"We'll see," Daniel replied. "I want to find them as much as you guys, but let's not get our hopes up too high."

Something brief passed through Isaac's eyes. He liked these woodworkers; they seemed honest people, and they deserved the best. He now felt that his heart would break if they failed to find the woodlands.

They continued onward for a while longer, the winds becoming more fierce the higher they traversed up the mountain, balancing with the heat from the midsummer sun as it set. The chirping of insects began to arrive, as the daylight faded, rousing the nocturnal pokémon from their sleep.

Smith kept his wits about him, holding his torch up high. Though wild attacks were not common in this part of the floodplains, one could never be too careful, especially and they were treading uncharted territory.

"You look worried," Daniel remarked, watching the Machop. Smith was busy scanning the environment, making sure nothing snuck up on them.

"Just keeping an eye out, Mr. Darcy," Smith replied.

"We're nearly there," Daniel said reassuringly. "Only a bit farther now."

As he said that, the group began to descend, having reached around the mountain to the other side. The walking was easier now as they moved down, no longer battling the incline. Night had fallen almost completely over their path, the chorus of insects growing louder and louder as the moon took its rise.

Finally, after two hours of travelling well into the night, they came to a cave embedded in the side of the mountain. It might have gone unnoticed, but Daniel stepped closer to the edge, motioning for Emmet to hand him his torch. The Scrafty shone the light at the walls, before finding a metal holster stuck into the stone, easily slipping the torch inside, resting it against the wall.

"This is the spot," Daniel said triumphantly. "We'll make camp here and set out in the morning."

Isaac looked away from the cave to see the shadow of another mountain before them. That must be Mount Airthal. Around it, the stars had appeared fully, as they were far from the lights of civilization. Below him, he could hear the pine trees faintly moving with a breath of wind. The air was very humid and stale this close to the ground; it made Isaac miss the fresh air while they were climbing the mountain.

"There will be wild Pokemon coming after us here," Isaac warned the others, "best set a lookout. I'll draw the first watch." His eyes were drawn to the fire of the torch. From experience, he knew that the beasts of the forest normally did not like fire and fled from the sentient Pokemon who used it... but there were beasts that were drawn to it. And perhaps, worse than wild Pokemon, the sentient Pokemon living in this area would see them in the night. Intelligent Pokemon were usually more dangerous than predators.

But the worry slipped quickly from him and he turned to the others who were settling down with their backpacks and torches. They made a cozy fire in the small cave, which was spacious enough for all of them. Isaac sat near the entrance and waved the weary lads good night. "Go on, get some sleep," he urged.

Emmet and Smith yawned as they set up their bedrolls, giving quick goodnights before falling to sleep. Miller had begun to secure their things for the night, before he too retired.

Daniel, instead of sleeping, walked over to Isaac. "Let me keep watch with you," he offered. "It'd be better with some company, don't you think?"

Isaac would protest, but it was true, he did want company. "Fine by me," he said as the Scrafty sat at the opposite side of the entrance to the cave.

Daniel took a seat, crossing his legs as he leaned against the rocky wall. He had taken to reading one of the journals he brought with him, one that belonged to his father. He looked up idly at the Infernape at they kept watch. "I appreciate your helping us," he said quietly. "Most people think us to be lunatics looking for fairy tales."

Isaac looked at the Scrafty without saying much at first. "Smith said you knew how to work with the Wyron Wood," he said mildly, without making a deal out of it. "How come? Have you ever worked with it?"

"Not the genuine article, no," Daniel replied meekly. "I've been taught the method, though."

"Your father and grandfather taught you, correct?" Isaac remembered, "how come they know how to work with it?"

Daniel looked out to the landscape below them, musing on the question a bit. "There was a time when my family did have the location," he started. "My great grandfather had actually found it... or so he claims. He hadn't told anybody, not even his son, and he died in an accident, suddenly, during a hunting trip. He took the location with him to the grave, though I'm sure he intended to tell someone..." he sighed a bit. "But... he passed before he could do so, and so the secret was lost with him. My grandfather tried to find it himself, and when he was too old, his son - my father - went searching instead. Neither of them found it, though they both knew how to handle the material. It's a family secret."

Isaac nodded gravely and understandingly. That must have bee a great loss for the Darcy family.

With his back against the wall, the Infernape drew an object that was sheathed into his belt; a peace pipe, with four differently colored feathers attached to it. A blue feather, a white feather, a green feather and a red feather. He loaded it with a bit of a purple-colored tobacco that looked very much like ground Cola Berry.

With the first puff of smoke, he said, "I believe every man's dream is a fairy tale. Some are just more tangible than others. I like to help men with vision - they make this world a better place. Don't mention it." He inhaled deeply again and closed his eyes, letting out the smoke to rush into the open sky.

Daniel eyed the Infernape as they sat, putting his reading down. Truthfully, he was still a bit cautious over what Isaac would do if they were to find the Woods. He was a famous explorer... it seemed only natural that people like him would want to publicize their findings for fame. Were that to happen, it would defeat the entire purpose of this trip. Perhaps it was conceited of him, but he would rather the public not know about the Woods; It would greatly help his business if he had the only source...

"Fancy pipe," Daniel commented, realizing he was staring in silence. "Where did you get it?"

"That will be quite a story," the Infernape reflected. "I got it during my trip to northern Antara. Through the Far Across Zone, into the Hakiwara region." That usually surprised people. It wasn't often that you met somebody who had gone into the Hakiwara region... and returned to tell of it. Northern Antara was the most isolated area of the Known World by the ethereal boundaries known as the Far Across Zones - fortunately, because its residents, the human-like Pokemon of the Megistean Empire were relentlessly territorial. But it was a common misconception that there was no way to enter and get out alive, according to Isaac's experience. "I entered the region from the east, where the sentient Pokemon are pacifistic - yes, that kind does exist in the Hakiwara region. They are called Inathi. These Pokemon worship the sun and the moon and the earth and the sea; they've built temples across the tallest mountain range in the Known World in Antara and must be one of the oldest surviving civilizations we've ever encountered. I ventured with my team into the tallest mountain, in the heart of the continent. The natives called it "Nose of the World", because of the streams of air that escape its gaping chasms near the mountaintop."

Isaac let out a quiet laugh, tilting his head. "I didn't believe it either, when I first heard of it. I believed it later. The monks who lived near the top claimed that the Nose of the World shapes the wind and its patterns at its whim, and it makes the four winds blow through the land, breathing life with spring and cold in the winter. I don't know if any of it is true. But they gave me this pipe. See the four feathers?" he asked, "they represent the four winds. White for the north wind, blue for the south wind, green for the west wind and red for the east wind. I suppose that white is for the snows in the north, blue for the clear sea and sky in the south, green for the Green Skyline that consumes the west and red... I'm not quite sure how red fits." He chuckled. "I'm sure if I travelled to Osenia, I would be able to tell.

The one who gave the pipe to me told me that, as the Nose of the World breathes life into land and sea, so too will I and my children use this pipe to breathe life into my surroundings. I liked that," he remarked, "but I believe all I've breathed so far is a bit of cola berry." He laughed loudly and instantly regretted it, glancing worriedly at the sleeping ones inside the cave.

Daniel glanced inside the cave as well, seeing that the others were still asleep. He turned back to Isaac, looking again at the pipe with a newfound intrigue. "You really have been all over the world, haven't you?" he said. "Must be exciting. This is probably the farthest I've ever been from Liverte."

Isaac made a mental note of that. Another puff of smoke came off of him, shaped like a chubby Mareep full of wool. "Do you have kids?" he asked.

Daniel raised an eyebrow, before nodding. "I do. Two boys, and a third child on the way," he said with a small smile. "Rowdy little scamps, I'll give 'em that."

"Aren't they?" Isaac smiled a naughty smile that reflected the nature of a child. "I have two of my own, both near-wild. Can't blame them. I was worse in their age."

Daniel gave a hearty laugh, smiling at the thought. "You know, nothing makes me happier than coming home and seeing their smiling faces." He let out a sigh, thinking back to his family at home, his wife and kids. "You ever get to see your kids much in your line of work?"

"It might surprise you, but yes. I often take the two of them with me on trips that I know are safe. I haven't done any major expeditions lately, but if I do, I know we will have to part ways for a while... and that makes my heart heavy as a rock. But, even if they are with me, my work has me focused on it. I regret not spending more time with them, and I fear that one day, I might lose them forever..." Isaac looked outside the cave, his gaze weary and his sun-wrinkled face wistful. "They have grown so well. I procured proper tutors for them, but the younger one, Jonathan, refuses to study." But he said that with an amiable smile, as Jonathan was the one who reminded him of himself when he was a child. "He always wants to play."

"My boy Nicholas is like that as well," Daniel said with a slight grimace. "It's a shame... he is by no means unintelligent. He's got a sharp wit, and a sharper tongue, but he doesn't apply himself to his studies." He sighed a bit, his smile beginning to fade. "His brother, Thomas, is more attentive to his education, but Nicholas has been getting into trouble a lot at school..." He turned his look outside, gazing over the landscape, the vastness of the wilderness. "Don't get me wrong, they're both wonderful children, and I love them... I hope to hand the business down to them someday. Nicholas would make a fine businessman... but only if he applies himself."

He shook his head a bit as he finished. "My father says I need to be tougher on the boy... but I don't want to be the overbearing parent. It's difficult to find the balance between love and discipline."

"Was your father tough on you?" Isaac asked.

Daniel nodded slightly. "He was tough when he needed to be; tough, but fair. I wouldn't be the man I am today if it weren't for him."

The Infernape said nothing, but he understood where Daniel came from. It was his personal opinion that being harsh was an effective way to raise a child, but not the best. He himself did not need to discipline his children. They had so much love and respect for him that if he asked something nicely, they would oblige. But he felt he could not explain that to Daniel. Something like that was hard to put into words.

He glanced out of the cave, wondering what new landscape he would see come morning. "Let me ask you - why exactly did your father and grandfather stop their expedition?"

"Just... no luck," he said, turning to his notes. "They all theorized that the woods somewhere around the section we're in now, but they could never find it..." He pulled out his map, tracing the path of the river with his finger. "They thought it'd follow the river, somewhere, but the river runs into Mount Airthal, and it's too steep and rocky to climb."

The Infernape grabbed the corner of the map to steady it so he could take a careful look. The shadow of the mountain he had seen outside their cave was a mountain far away in the west from where they were now; it was just huge, so the shadow made it seem close. Between them and that mountain, he saw on the map, there was a forest and a river snaking through it; a river that came down from that mountain.

"We should consider moving in a parallel direction to the river - the mountains around this forest obviously don't hide the woodlands," Isaac noticed, "the mountains to the west of this forest have not all been explored wholly. So far, Pokemon preferred to take the easiest routes through the range, and neglected to reach places much too far out of their grasp. If the Wyron Wood exists, it is west from here, and we had best stay close to the river."

"Then we'll try that," Daniel said with a nod. "We'll head straight to the river and build a boat. It'll be faster than going on foot."

"You'll build a boat?" Isaac asked, half-troubled, half-laughing. "That will take too long," he added, his mind jumping to the bet he'd given. He had to be back to the floodplains come next sunset. Now, a small part of him regretted having gotten himself into this silly bet; the distances were too great for him to speed through. Yet, another part of him pushed him to try harder and pull through no matter what - which was usually the motivation that drove him forward most of the time in his life.

But Daniel had no obligation to be there, at the inn, next day's afternoon. The company of woodworkers had the capacity of doing things at their own pace.

"Too long?" Daniel said with a chuckle. "You haven't seen my crew in action." He gave a nod over to those sleeping. "The younger ones, Emmet and Smith, they know their way around a handsaw. They might be young, but they've definitely got the knack for this job. We can build a good boat in less than an hour. Take us right upstream."

Isaac let out a puff of smoke and continued sucking on the pipe, smiling behind it. "Worthy lads," he commented. "Sounds like a long day, tomorrow. You should sleep, regain your energy. I'll do the same once my time watching is up."

"If you insist," Daniel said with a shrug. "I enjoyed our conversation. I'll see you tomorrow." With a yawn and a stretch, the Scrafty headed inside the cave, taking rest inside his bedroll for the long day ahead.




***



As the sun rose, the group wasted no time in packing up and heading out. Soon enough, they made it to the lakeside, the clear stream gently flowing downward.

"Alright boys," Daniel said, turning to his group. The three of them looked eager to get started. "Boat and oars; you know the drill."

With a quick nod, the three began to get their tools ready. Finding a sizable tree, Smith grabbed hold of an axe, hacking at the base as the rest of them cleared the space. With the Machop's strength, the tree was down in a matter of minutes, crashing down to the ground with a loud slam. Immediately, Emmet and Miller set to work.

"Stand back," Miller warned, the Hitmontop hopping on his head and beginning to spin rapidly, using a Rapid Spin to peel away the bark of the tree, with Emmet following behind to further shave away the wood. Daniel turned to Isaac with a proud smirk.

"The best and brightest, right here," he said with a grin. After a moment, the tree was nicely stripped and smoothed, as Emmet and Smith set to work cutting it horizontally in half, utilizing a large saw and standing on either side as they worked.

Finally, with the tree in half, Emmet jumped on top with a grin. The Timburr cracked his knuckles and spat on his hands, rubbing them together before going to work. In a flash, he began to Chip Away at the inside of the trunk, hollowing out a space deep enough for the four of them to sit, woodshavings flying out to either side of him. In only about half an hour, the tree had been rebuilt and constructed into a crude boat, oars and all.

"Not the fanciest, but it gets the job done," Daniel said. "Very good work, gentlemen!"

Isaac laughed happily. He was sitting under a tree, in the shade; Daniel had told him to opt out of the process, as he would just get in the way. "Bravo!" he cheered, "excellent. Your boys must be the best woodworkers in Sonara!" He clapped his hands for the lads.

Emmet stood proudly over their construction, as the others and Isaac gathered the oars they had made and began to push the boat towards the water. Miller began to pack up the supplies from the wagon, handing each of the crew a small backpack with essentials, and leaving the rest locked away.

"What of the steed?" Miller asked.

"Secure her to the shore, and leave her some food. We'll be back soon enough." Daniel replied.

Isaac glanced back at the Rapidash that was carrying the wagon so far. The steed neighed. He neighed back. Jumping on the boat, he waved at it and he was sure the animal looked sad. "We'll be back soon," he assured it. He thought that wild Pokemon may have been dangerous around these parts, but he didn't think any of them would challenge a Rapidash, so the steed was safe.

The river was relatively calm as they went. As it was summer, it was very shallow, but their "boat" was fit to travel through it without much problem. They just had to row. Upstream they continued, though the flow was weak enough that it wasn't a problem pushing against the river. The early morning birds began their calls, echoing throughout the vastness of the mountain range; a call, a response, a call again, dozens of different species uniting in one natural song.

Daniel held a hand out of the boat, letting the water gently caress his fingers. It was cool to the touch, refreshing in the summer heat. "Almost makes you want to take a vacation here, no?"

"That's what I first thought when I came here," Isaac mentioned. "Although vacations are part of my job," he joked. He stood from his spot at the back of the boat and glanced around the forest. The breeze never came, so the pine trees stood still. Soon, after a few hours, Isaac knew that the sun would roast this place and the Kricketunes would be screeching all day, till it was night again.

Emmet and Smith were rowing tirelessly. The tall pine trees on each side of the river parted, allowing them to see Mount Airthal that towered before them, a big shadow in the horizon. That seemed to be their destination; the mountain was too steep for trees to grow even on its lower altitudes. The vision was clear and fog-less, but no trees were visible, let alone the iron-colored tree trunks that could only be found in the Wyron Woodlands.

"Let's shoot for that mountain," Isaac shouted to the others. The two rowers nodded, increasing their pace as they approached the mountain. They occasionally switched the men on the oars after Isaac insisted he wanted to row as well.

For the evening, when their strength begun to wane, they stopped briefly for lunch on the calm shore of the river. The singing of the birds had stopped in the meanwhile.

As they closed the distance, the group could hear rushing water, the current getting stronger as they pressed on. A large waterfall was at the end of the river, rising up to the top of the mountain and crashing down into a small lake below. A rainbow could be clearly seen in the mists. Daniel and his crew were staring up in awe at the sight, before the Scrafty gave orders to bring the boat to shore.

"Well, here it is," Daniel said as they made land. Daniel approached the waterfall, standing near it and feeling the mist carry over his body, cooling his scales. He peered down at the river, seeing the rocks and fish through the clear water. As he gazed, something caught his eye. He knelt down, reaching for what looked to be a small twig, caught between two rocks in the river. Bringing the branch out, he stared at it intently, the wood not matching any of the trees around them.

"This is Wyron Wood," Daniel exclaimed, analyzing the branch. "But how did this branch get upstream?"

Isaac's feet were splashing on the shore in his hurried rush to examine the branch. The water didn't bother him at all. When he took it to his hands from Daniel, he noticed it had this silver hue mixed with the usual brown of wood. This is what made the fabled Wyron Woodlands so special; their iron-like trunks. And he was now holding proof that they existed! He raised the branch triumphantly for the company of woodworkers to see and said, "here is evidence that what we seek is somewhere at the end of this road! And it must be very close, too!"

He pointed at the huge waterfall that was coming down from the tall mountain in front of them. "This branch came from up there," he observed, "we need to follow its trail up the mountain."

Daniel turned upwards to the top of the waterfall, a look of uncertainty on his face. This is where his father and grandfather had failed in their excursion. Could the Woods actually be on mount Airthal? "This mountain is too steep and rocky... How could the Woods be up there?"

They all looked up to Mount Airthal. It was bare of any trees.

"You would be surprised what backward wonders one can find on this earth," Isaac commented. "We need to scale this waterfall. Get your hiking tools ready!"

The Infernape explorer suddenly glanced off to the side, above the trees. "Anybody noticed how there are no birds in this area? We could hear them singing in the morning, but now..." his eyes were drawn to the sky. He couldn't see a single one of them. "They've vanished. Something about this area is a bit off!"

"Scale a waterfall?" Miller asked with uncertainty. "Are you sure that's possible?"

"We're about to find out," Daniel said, reaching into his pack and pulling out a hook and rope. "If the Woods are up there, hiding, then I intend to find them."

The group hadn't planned on any rigorous mountain climbing, but Daniel had urged them to pack the tools required regardless. It seemed his insistence was warranted, as the group now found themselves preparing to scale the waterfall. Off to the side of the raging water, Daniel went first, tossing the hook up to a nearby ledge; he tested the rope's security, before using it to pull himself upwards, looking down at his crew and waving them forward. "Come on, I'll secure the rope and you all climb after me."

Isaac didn't follow up the others on the rope. Instead, he jumped on the rocky wall. His long fingers and toes found the smallest inch of ground to hold on to; the rock rose vertically from the ground, yet he was able to ascend quickly, and he looked safe too. "I have my own ways," he mentioned to the others next to him. "I'll be going up ahead; try to catch up."

He stuck very close to the wall as he climbed. His fingers looked as if they were made from glue. As he went up, it looked very much like he was crawling on the ground, but vertically.

Daniel looked up at the Infernape, a determined expression on his face. "Boys, pick up the pace! I think Isaac wants to race us!"

They barely heard the Infernape laughing through the sound of the waterfall.

Climbing during this time of the day was difficult for the company; the sun was harsh, directly on their backs and above their heads. Many times, they reached mounds where the river formed ponds before ascending further up in the face of the mountain. Their direction must have shifted, also, according to Isaac's compass; and now they were seeing a part of the mountain that couldn't be seen from below: a great chasm in the center of Mount Airthal.

"It looks very much like Arceus sent lightning at the heart of the mountain, tearing it in halves," Isaac shouted. The mountain had three tops, all leaning inwards over each other; this formation of rocks, Isaac had scarcely seen in his years as an explorer. Its core had to be made from the cursed ancient stone that many buildings of old that were still standing were made of. This mountain had to have that rock in its core, for its extremely steep, blade-like tops to stay in the air like this.

The explorer them, who was always a bit ahead, guided them and showed them the right path to go up when the company seemed to be stuck. They weren't experienced in mountain-climbing, more than a few times they reached impassable rocks and Isaac had to help them around or above.

By the time they reached the final mound the sun had hid behind the mountain tops. They found themselves in a small plateau surrounded by the giant mountain blades that rose for many miles above their heads. This was the heart of the torn mountain, hidden from sight.

Isaac helped pull up the lads, and together they traced with their eyes where the river was going, inside a forest, at the bottom of this chasm. The forest had trees with fiery orange leaves and silver colored tree trunks that shone in the light.

"Whew," Isaac let out, his hands on his hips and a smile on his face. "I knew it was here."

Daniel finally reached the top beside Isaac, staring down at the chasm before him. "I... this is it, isn't it?" His mouth hung open, gazing almost dumbfounded at the sight. "No wonder it's been hidden for so long... it's not on the mountain, it's inside of it!"

The rest of the crew followed behind him, each of them equally as awe-stricken by the sight. The land seemed untouched by people, completely secluded here in the base of the mountain, free from any disturbances. The sunlight shone in directly from the top, illuminating the orange leaves on the trees as they swayed gently in the breeze, dancing like fire in the wind.

"This is really it?" Emmet said, taking a few tentative steps forward. "Did we actually find the Wyron Woods?"

"Let's take a closer look," Isaac suggested. He was wary, but he didn't show it. The others hadn't noticed, but there was no sign of beasts in this chasm whatsoever. That usually meant that something more powerful than the common wild Pokemon had scared them off.

The company followed the river from the rocks into the shining forest. Even amongst the beauty and tranquility of the woods, something strange lurked in the air.



***








Once inside the forest, Daniel and the others walked up to each tree, examining them thoroughly. Their keens eyes could tell the type of wood just from outside glances, and it was immediately apparent that this was the Wyron wood they were looking for. Sturdier than iron, people said. Maybe that was true, maybe exaggerated, but whatever they were saying, one fact was clear: Wyron was treasured for its special qualities. Only able to be tempered by the right techniques; techniques that Daniel possessed, passed down from his ancestors when he was a boy.

"It's going to be difficult getting the wood in and out of here," Miller commented, running his hand across the smooth bark of a tree.

"Hopefully, we won't need much," Daniel said. "I want to keep this place as beautiful as it is now."

"This is amazing," Isaac exclaimed in juvenile excitement, blowing fallen orange leaves from the ground as he rushed to climb each tree. He hugged a branch, putting his face close to the iron-like wood. "Such beauty! Oh! The color of these trunks!"

The Infernape looked up, to the gap between the three mountain peaks. The chasm couldn't see the sky from any other side; Wyron Woods were completely surrounded by the mountain. No wonder it hadn't been seen for so long that it was considered a myth. Not even the recently invented airships couldn't see it from afar.

They went further into the forest, a forest deathly quiet from any sound but the constant murmur of the river nearby. There were many streams across the ground, slithering towards it.

Their discoveries weren't over yet. Their walk through the forest took them in front of a pond; the rays of the sun shone brilliantly through the tall trees, more elderly on this side of the forest. The waters were shimmering. On an island on that pond, a structure made from the same wood as the trees: a seven feet tall totem, silver and brown mixed together to make it seem like it was made from iron.

From the base to the top, it was carved into the likeness of several pokemon species: the face of a Cacturne at the bottom, followed by the eyes of a Sableye, the horns of a Tauros, and finally the jaws of a Sharpedo at the top, it's menacing red eyes as frightening as the real thing.

Daniel waded through the shallow pond to the totem, placing a hand on it. A sense of unease washed over him, as if prompting him to leave. He turned towards the others. "Feel this," he said. "Am I the only one who can sense this?"

Isaac walked carefully around the totem, before daring to approach it slowly, with a grace in his footstep that showed that he was ready to leap back. He touched the totem with his hand, and felt it too. There were no traps, nor was this a vile thing, but it was created for a dubious purpose, and the magic it carried was very rare. It was pushing Isaac away. He felt a sense of dread, looking in the red eyes of the angry Sharpedo high above him, which seemed to be staring down at him.

"I can feel it too," he said to the others as he took a few steps back from the totem. "A subtle, repulsive aura. A trick, for the weaker minds of the wild Pokemon to repel them. That explains why we didn't encounter any beasts on the way. Not even birds live here."

Emmet touched the pole next, before taking a step back in fear. The Timburr glanced up anxiously at the totem, feeling as if the Sharpedo would swim right at him and swallow him up. "This thing is freaky..." he exclaimed, a slight shiver running up his spine. "I guess that explains why there are no birds here... it's making me want to run away just looking at it."

"But why would someone want to keep the birds out?" Miller pondered. "Wouldn't this place be a safe haven for them?"

"Why indeed?" Isaac wondered out loud with one hand on his hip and the other on his chin, looking at each animal represented in the totem. The Cacturne, the Sableye, the Tauros and the Sharpedo. He had seen this combination of Pokemon before. "Perhaps the Totem's purpose is to conceal this area," he mused. He had an idea as to why that would be, but he had little proof that it was true, so he chose not to share it with the others at that time. If he ever confirmed his theory, he would share it. "Welp!" He said loudly, turning his back to it. "Ignore it for now!"

He splashed across the waters of the pond. The others gave one last look at the totem, before moving away from it behind Isaac.

"I'm quite tired," the Infernape said, "what about you, company?"

"Perhaps we can camp here for a bit," Miller suggested. "Set up a fire, get some food before we head back."

"Sounds like a solid plan," Daniel remarked. "After all the climbing, we could use a break."

In a few moments, the crew assembled a fire, using their own materials they brought with them so as not to burn the prized Wyron trees. They quickly heated up their rations, eating happily, content with their endeavors so far. Completing their mission had left them all in high spirits.

Isaac didn't want to sit down, though. His idea of relaxation was a walk in a newly discovered area. He still had energy, even after the long climb up. "I think I'll take a walk around here. Be right back," he said to the others and walked away, waving with his back turned to them.

The company of woodworkers relaxed around the fire. Everyone was ecstatic, as the future was promising.

"Can you believe it, Mr. Darcy?" Smith asked rhetorically. "It exists! It exists and we've found it!" Emmet nodded in agreement, joy evident on his expression.

"With this the business will be sure to take off!" the Timburr exclaimed. "Everyone in Liverte will be clamoring to get the Darcy's famous craftsmanship!"

Miller was fiddling with a branch of Wyron, staring at it intently and thinking of the possibilities. "I could make a fine, sturdy bookshelf out of this," he stated. The wood was smooth, almost soft, yet its sturdiness was known the world over. Wyron Wood lasted for years, seemingly immune to age and damage, even in the harshest of environments. It was even rumored to have regenerative properties, but due to it's rarity, it was something that was never truly observed. "Imagine, Daniel, fitting a wagon with wheels from Wyron. You'd never have to replace the wheels as long as you lived, I reckon!"

Daniel smiled at the group's enthusiasm. He chuckled softly, taking a bite from his own meal. After all these years, he thought to himself, remembering the years his father and grandfather spent looking for the woods. We've found it. Your efforts were not in vain...

"You all should be proud of yourselves," Daniel said warmly. "We've done a great thing today. Couldn't have done it without your perseverance."

They passed the next few moments in cheer, all of them discussing the possibilities of their discovery. The crafts they could make, the repairs they could do... they all knew that they'd certainly be the talk of the town for this monumental feat.

"Remember," Daniel said finally, "this is now our trade secret. We may be the ones who know how to handle this wood, but we need to be the ones who control it, too. This wood is our specialty, but it can only be so if we're the only ones who have it." He shook his head slightly, a small grimace crossing his face. "I know it's selfish, but we have to keep this to ourselves, alright? We have the monopoly here, and furthermore, I'd like to keep this forest in pristine condition. If someone else finds it... we can't be sure how they'd treat it."

Daniel glanced over each of them, his eyes stern and serious. "This is a secret that remains between all of us here, at this spot. We don't tell anybody; not our friends, not our family, nobody. I trust you all will keep your word?"

"Yes, sir," they all said in unison, nodding as Daniel spoke. Emmet, however, raised a hand in objection. "But what about Isaac? Do you think he'll go telling people about this place? Matter of fact, where is he?"

Daniel glanced around, seeing no sign of the Infernape. "He said he was going for a walk..."

"I knew it!" Emmet said, disgruntled. "He probably left already. He's going back to the inn to get his doubloons back, I bet! We shouldn't have taken him along."

That moment, something drew their attention upwards, where a shadow had jumped from a branch into another, and then downwards, close to their fire. It was Isaac.

"I would not do that," he spoke calmly, with only the hint of a friendly smile, although his look was intense. "I have nothing to gain from that bet. I would only lose my five hundred if I could not find these woodlands; no one would pay me back five hundred if I found it. I accepted that from the start."

Daniel gave a weak laugh, a slight grin on his face. "I suspected you were still here," he said. "You speak of five hundred doubloons as if it were pocket change. That's more than I make in a year!"

The Infernape let out a chuckle. "This wood will change how much you make in a year, I believe... as it happens, I don't care about money. And I heard what you said, about having the monopoly on these woodlands... don't worry about it." He said calmly. "You and your friends are very noble, Daniel, and you have made your profession very much like you. I have understood from what little time we've spent together what the woods around us mean to you, and I know very well that others would not respect them as you do. I feel it would be selfish of me to spoil the treasure that you have found here."

Daniel nodded slightly as Isaac's words. "I appreciate your cooperation, and you have my sincerest thanks," he said, standing up and approaching the Infernape with his hand outstretched. "Your help was invaluable. I'll find some way to repay you, I promise."

The sun slipped away from the gap between the peaks. The time of the sunset was approaching; time was running out for the bet, as Isaac would need to start now, if he wanted to win the bet so he wouldn't lose his five hundred. But he just stepped in front of the Scrafty and shook his hand, drawing him close with his grip. The Scrafty smirked as he did, before lunging his head forward at the Infernape's.

Infernape and Scrafty joined foreheads; a known gesture of friendship between Daniel's species. The Scrafty gave a hearty laugh, patting Isaac's shoulder. "You've got a thick skull! Most people can't take a headbutt from a Scrafty."

Isaac smiled broadly. He could still fell the eerie aura of the totem emanating from the strangely colored woodlands. The brunt of the sun above their heads was gone, but his soul was warm. He did not know why at that moment, but he felt this gesture of endearing closeness signaled the beginning of something great.
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Old August 4th, 2015 (11:29 AM). Edited December 5th, 2016 by GastlyGibus.
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GastlyGibus GastlyGibus is offline
I can't hear ya, ya talkin' to me?
     
    Join Date: Jan 2014
    Location: The city streets
    Age: 24
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Naive
    Posts: 169
    The Deep Dark
    26/9/1064 AP




    The iron vessel that father and son had embarked on was docking on the port of Liverte. On its very prow, the Infernape hugged the high rail, somewhat sick from the meal he'd had, as his son, a Chimchar lively as a wild flame, stood on the foil of the ship. Together, they watched the workers on the port helping to prepare it for the ship's arrival.

    "Dad," Jonathan, the teenage Chimchar, said, "tell me again about those woods!"

    "Again, Jon?" Isaac complained, but he wasn't mad. "I've told you the tale a hundred times now."

    "One more time!" the little one pleaded genuinely.

    "How about you let Daniel tell you the story? I wouldn't like to rob him of the pleasure, anyway."

    Little Jonathan already knew very well who Daniel was, from the story he'd been told. An honest and noble woodworker, who also had kids of his own. Friends for him to play with, once they visited Daniel's home. Getting to see a new city, and the prospect of meeting Daniel and his family and making friends out of them made him so excited.

    The Chimchar jumped further ahead onto the foil and stood on it with perfect balance like an acrobat.

    "Look at me, dad!"

    "Don't go there," Isaac cautioned him gently, "the fish below are looking for a meal!"

    "AH!" Jonathan exclaimed and dropped into hugging the foil, for fear of falling down. He peeked to the side, looking for the hungry fish, but he couldn't find any. "Where are they?" he asked.

    "They're hiding now," his father said, glancing down in the dirty, murky waters of Liverte's port. If there were fish on this kind of water, little Jonathan would probably make a meal out of them before they could.

    The bell tolled and the passengers begun to disembark. Once father and son were on the port, they realized they had no idea where to go. They knew the name of Daniel's shop - Darcy's Woodworks - but Liverte was quite a huge city.

    "There's a blimp," Jon shouted to his dad, pointing at the sky. It was a blimp with the face of a Pikachu formally dressed with a pipe. He had a smug, toothy half-smile and looked very much like a proper pirate in a suit. "Who's that?"

    "That's the Trade Prince Ignacio," Isaac said between his teeth, without much enthusiasm. The Trade Prince ruled this city, as he owned the overwhelming percentage of businesses and land on the island of Liverte; Isaac had heard someone on the ship say that that Pikachu owned more than seventy per cent of very much anything that was on the city, and that sailor continued to say that his ownership extended to the citizens of the city as well. And a Trade Prince is never a benevolent ruler; the common men and women could never live in harmony with a monster born from crony capitalism above their heads.

    When Isaac pointed out the face of Ignacio on the propaganda blimp, though, the grim facts of reality escaped Jonathan. The little Chimchar was thrilled to be there and it showed on his face; he had already found something else to soak up his attention.

    "A lighthouse," the child said, "we should go there, dad! To the top, see all around the city."

    "Afterwards," Isaac said, "we will."

    Jon ran out of the docking area impatiently, looking around the street. This face of the city was a poor one; the houses were made half wooden, half from stone. That would be where the dock workers were living, mostly.

    "Stay close to me, Jon," his father chided him. "Let's go."

    They chose a random direction and begun walking, both having a happy and carefree step to them that made them look so much alike. The air of this city was different than what Jon had experienced so far in the clean, fresh Carajol sea, where they were coming from. The stench of the port was foul, and there was a saltiness in the humid air.

    "How're we gonna find it?" Jonathan asked.

    They asked some workers near the dock and they said they did not know where Darcy's Woodworks were, nor what they were exactly.

    They had some luck soon with another resident they asked as they were passing outside his house. They pointed them to near the docks, in one of the poorer neighborhoods of the city, and in about half an hour, after asking around the busy but almost helpful citizens, they found it.

    The shop itself was modest in appearance, though it appeared to have been newly renovated. A small sign hung out by the door, a fresh paint job depicting the silhouette of a Diggersby, with the name of the establishment below:

    Darcy's Woodworks

    "This is it," Isaac said, smiling. That was the seal he had seen on the letters he had received from Daniel.

    "This is the woodworks?" Jon asked, a bit disappointed. "I thought it was going to be bigger."

    "Mind your manners inside," the Infernape said in a slightly severe tone.

    "A'ight, I will," the Chimchar promised. They walked in and another bell tolled.

    The inside of the shop was small, but crammed with all manner of things, all neatly organized and labelled. Various pieces of furniture lined the walls, from shelves, to dressers, to chairs, desks, and other items. On another side, there were empty picture frames, small figurines and sculptures, knick-knacks and other souvenirs. Some shelves had small toys and games for children, and even some chess boards for the more mature game players. Jon already jumped into the game section and stared at the toys he found most fascinating, usually the airships and Pokemon figurines that belonged to notorious pirates of the old times.

    Isaac glanced at the heavier items, the furniture; some of them had the distinct color of the Wyron wood. A desk, crafted brilliantly with that silver and brown material, and a comfortable chair for bipedal Pokemon with leather handles. They all looked wonderful, and pricey as well, but Isaac would bet they were worth their weight in gold. He made a note to buy something to honor the wood and the craftsmanship put into it.

    At the back end of the store, behind the counter, stood two workers; a Drilbur, looking young and youthful in age, and beside her, a Hitmontop working at the bench on the wall, facing away from the door. The Drilbur greeted the pair with a friendly smile and wave as they entered.

    "Welcome to Darcy's Woodworks," she greeted cheerfully. "Can I help you find anything today?"

    "Yes," the Infernape said, "I'm Isaac Sawyer. I here to see Mr. Darcy himself." Then he noticed the Hitmontop, who had his back turned to him and working on something. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "Mr. Miller! Glad to see you again! Jon! Come here."

    The little Chimchar made a few leaps from the toy section and landed next to his father. He looked up at the Hitmontop who'd just turned around. The woodworker's face broke into a wide grin upon seeing who it was. "Well look who it is!" he said joyfully. He turned around, poking his head through the door behind the counter. "Mr. Darcy, you've got a visitor here for you!"

    "Coming," a voice called back. A few footsteps were heard, before a Scrafty stepped out from the door, giving a hearty laugh once he saw who was there. "Aha! Welcome, friend!" He stepped out from behind the counter, reaching his hand out for a shake. He looked down at the Chimchar standing beside Isaac. "This your boy, then?"

    Isaac placed his palm on Jon's head. "He is," he said proudly.

    "I'm not a boy, I'm a man," Jon yelled playfully and flexed his arms. "Wrooaarr!"

    His father laughed, "he's half-wild still," he commented, "but at least he doesn't bite now. How are you, my friend?"

    The two grabbed hands and pulled close, patting each other on the back quickly. Jon stepped forward on his own and raised his hand high at the Scrafty - because he was very short - for him to shake it. "Hello, sir!"

    Daniel took the boy's hand and shook it firmly, smiling widely. "Pleasure to meet you, lad," he said, turning back to Isaac. "I've been doing splendidly, due in no small part to your assistance." He looked around the shop, crossing his arms, as if proud of what he had. "It don't look like much, but it's a start, and it's gettin' better all the while." He began to head back towards the counter, waving for Isaac to follow. "You must have traveled quite a ways, why don't you come inside?"

    Isaac nodded. He was more tired than he looked. "Three weeks by sea," he said, "that's how look it took us to get here from Modistra... I don't recommend the trip. If you ever go somewhere far, fly there." He and Jon followed Daniel Darcy towards the back.

    "Well, feel free to kick up your feet and relax a while," Daniel replied. "You're always welcome here." He led them to the back of the shop, past the work area and machinery towards another door, which lead to a living area for the family. It was a simple room, a fireplace in the back with six chairs arranged in a semi-circle, a small, low coffee table in the middle. "Have a seat."

    Isaac took his seat against the window, so he could look at the garden outside, and his son sat on the floor, next to him.

    Suddenly, Darcy turned towards a staircase, bringing a hand to his mouth as he called out. "Nicholas, come downstairs, there's someone here to see you."

    "Alright..." a voice called back, sounding a bit less than enthusiastic. Soon enough, down the stairs walked a young boy, a Scraggy, joining next to his father with a slightly confused expression. He looked at the Infernape, studying him for a moment before looking back to Daniel. "Is that the explorer guy?" he asked bluntly.

    "That it is, son," Daniel answered. "Nicholas, this is Isaac and his son, Jon."

    Nicholas gave a small wave, seeming a bit apprehensive. Jon waved back, hoping he and the Scraggy would get to play together. "Hello..." the Scraggy said simply. "Can I go back upstairs?" He said quietly.

    "Oh, come now," Daniel said, patting the boy's head. "Why don't you stay a bit and chat? Make some friends." Nicholas gave his father a pleading look, one that said 'Do I have to?' Daniel returned with a stern, authoritative glare, causing the Scraggy to sigh, tentatively taking a seat with his father.

    "My wife has Thomas and Richard out for a walk," Daniel commented. "She'll be back any minute, I'm sure."

    Isaac looked very carefully at Nicholas, yet also discreetly. His look was genuine, kind and welcoming. "Hi," he said, then to Daniel, "he looks strong. Have you taught him how to fight?"

    "Fighting?" Daniel said with shocked. "Goodness, no! I'd be ashamed if my son had to resort to violence to solve his problems." Nicholas simply fidgeted in his seat, glancing down at his feet.

    "Oh," Isaac let out, surprised, but he said nothing more. He glanced at the Scraggy knowingly. Jon, too, had noticed. That kid knew how to fight already, and he'd probably learned on his own, without his father's knowledge. He could even part of a bunch of the mean kids he saw in the neighborhood around Darcy's shop, Isaac thought.

    Nicholas looked up at Isaac, a bit bothered by the fact that the Infernape was looking at him. What was he doing? He squirmed lightly in his seat, silently wishing he could go back upstairs.

    Isaac sensed that the kid may not want to talk, so he asked the father instead. "Does he go to school?"

    "He does," Daniel replied with a smile. "I'd like for him to take over the business when he's old enough, but ultimately it's up to him to decide what he wants. Even still, he'll be an educated lad." He looked down at Jon, seeing how the boy resembled his father. Even though he was the same age as Nicholas, Daniel could sense that he wasn't as... mature? He thought it rude to ask about that, though, returning Isaac's query. "What about your boy, Jon?"

    "I don't go to school," Jon stated defiantly. His head could barely be seen from the top of the coffee table.

    "I'm teaching him all he should know of in his age," Isaac quickly added, to avoid confusion. "You see, fate was so that when Jon was born, he was taken into a community of half-wild Pokemon and was raised there, away from civilization. I wasn't aware that he existed until four years ago," his tone had grown a bit wistful and the wise ones would see his pain through his smile. "I could tell you the full story, sometime," he said, ruffling his hair and looking to the side.

    Jon, sensing that his father was sad, jumped on him and hugged him from the neck, wrapping his legs around his chest. "Don't worry, dad." Isaac laughed and put one arm around the Chimchar.

    "Little guy," he murmured, scratching Jon's head.

    As Daniel was about to speak, the shop bell rang, as a feminine voice called out.

    "Daniel, we're home!" A moment later, and a Fraxure walked into the room, another younger Scraggy at her side and a small Axew infant in her arms. "And I see we have guests!" she said with a smile, nodding and bowing slightly towards the Infernape. "You must be Isaac."

    "Daddy!" the other Scraggy shouted, rushing at Daniel and latching onto his leg. Daniel laughed and scooped up the child in his arms, looking towards Isaac again. "Isaac, I'd like for you to meet my wife, Sophia, and my two other sons. This is Thomas," he said, rubbing the Scraggy's head lightly, before gesturing to the baby in Sophia's arms. "And that's Richard."

    "Pleasure to meet you, finally," Sophia said. "Daniel told me how you helped him. We all appreciate it, truly."

    Isaac got up from his chair to greet the Fraxure openly; the Chimchar shifted from his neck so now he stood on his shoulder. "It was nothing," the Infernape said humbly, "I couldn't have done it without Daniel and his team." That was partly a lie; he could've found the place by himself, but he couldn't have done it in time for the bet. With the boat the woodworkers made in less than an hour, they probably saved themselves a day of travelling on foot.

    He and Jon looked back at Daniel with his other Scraggy son, Thomas, who was a bit younger than the eldest son, Nicholas.

    "Hey!" Jon shouted at the kid, leaving his father's shoulder to leap in front of him. "Thomas! Let's go play outside!"

    "Can I go out and play, dad?" Thomas asked, with Daniel giving a nod.

    "Sure you can. Nicholas, why don't you go out there with them?"

    Nicholas gave a small sigh, as Thomas practically grabbed the poor Chimchar and rushed out to the back yard excitedly, with Nicholas following slowly behind them.

    "So then," Sophia said, cradling Richard in her arms as she sat next to Daniel. Isaac sat as well. "My husband told me what you gave up for him. What was it... 500 doubloons?"

    The Infernape raised his hands with a concerned expression, "oh no, don't look at it like that. I don't want you to feel indebted."

    "Even still, I feel as if I have to repay you, somehow," Daniel added. "The Wyron wood is a godsend for the shop, and I don't know if I could have found it without your help."

    Isaac smiled amiably and waved his hand. "I liked that pendant in the souvenir section," he mentioned. He'd seen the price, it wasn't anything important, but that was the reason he wanted it. "I could put a picture of my family there."

    "Consider it yours, then," Daniel said with a smile. "It's the least I could do."

    "So what brings you to Liverte, then?" Sophia asked.

    "Business," Isaac commented, obviously not very content, "I must convene with a few colleagues of mine. We are looking for sponsors for an expedition we are planning to make in Tundara. You might have heard of it in the news. Our goal is to find the Frozen Breach that will lead us through the North Pole to the other side of the planet. Problem is... there is no evidence that such Breach exists, and the World Leaders are all doubtful that such an expedition would be a good thing for either of them..."

    Isaac did not specify, as he would then be presuming, but he was quite assured that the World Leaders were all in bed with the Government, the organization that united all nations of the One Faith in Arceus and protected them with a single army, the Aeronauts, also known as Marines. And the Government would not want to expand the borders of the Known World before it had conquered all of it.

    "But there is one leader that seemed favorable of it in his letters: Emperor Cyrus of Exathor," Isaac spoke fondly, "I will discuss with my team whether we should visit Exathor next and request his assistance."

    "Well, if you need a sled or some snow-shoes, you know who to talk to," Daniel said with a chuckle. "You're a busy man, I'll give you that."

    Isaac laughed with Daniel, "you know how it is with having a job that you were made for. You're always busy, because you like it."

    "Too true, friend," Daniel replied.

    "Speaking of which, Daniel, I walked by Marlet street with the boys today," Sophia said, gently tapping Daniel on the arm. "The houses there look pretty damaged, but I'm sure once the area is off of lockdown, you could lend a hand with reconstruction. You know, get your name out there. You'd be doing a good deed as well."

    "Ah, right," Daniel said with a nod. "Nasty piece of work, that."

    "What happened?" Isaac asked, intrigued.

    Daniel seemed surprised that Isaac didn't know. Then again, the event was recent, and Isaac, being a traveller, might not have heard of it. "Well, are you familiar with Old Liverte?"

    "Old Liverte, of course," Isaac said, arching his eyebrows. A hundred years ago, the island where Liverte was built on was struck by a tidal wave coming from Carajol sea to the east. The city was demolished and many people lost their lives. But those who were left sought to re-build their city on top of the old one. Over the years, constructions rose above the original level of the half-destroyed and abandoned buildings. That area became known as Old Liverte, and was buried completely underneath the new city. All entrances had been sealed for many decades now, long before Isaac, Daniel or Sophia were born, and the less educated citizens of New Liverte had forgotten that the post-tidal wave ruins served as the foundation for the ground they were standing upon and the houses they lived in.

    Isaac had learned of this story as a young lad among many other stories from his own father, a respectable, adventurous transporter in Otawa who loved to tell tales of the far away places he had transported goods to. Old Liverte was somewhere he would have liked to explore as a kid. Daniel making mention of Old Liverte was particularly fascinating. "A city sealed underneath a city," Isaac commented, "I've heard about it, hard to forget."

    "Indeed," Daniel added. "I'd love to see it for myself, but, well, it's been closed off."

    "Just recently, the ground over in Marlet street gave way," Sophia began. "It collapsed and cracked in several places. Nobody was severely hurt, but the damage done to the property has forced the city to close it off until it can be fixed." The Fraxure shook her head slightly as she spoke. "Rumors are spreading that the foundations of Liverte may not be as strong as they used to be."

    ***

    Meanwhile, outside, in the small garden, Jon and Thomas were having fun, with Nicholas sitting a small distance away. Jon and Thomas were playing on a small playground that Daniel and company had built in the garden. The two boys were sitting on a seesaw, happily distracting themselves as Nicholas simply looked at them, bored. He idly picked at a flower, plucking the petals away in an attempt to entertain himself. He didn't much feel like playing kid games with his brother and this new person.

    "I thought he was my age?" Nicholas thought to himself. "Seesaws are for babies." He wasn't too keen on Jon at this point, thinking himself much more mature than the Chimchar.

    Jon grabbed a stick from the ground nearby and stood on his seat on the seesaw. "I'm a pirate!" he roared, raising the stick high in the air. "Look, I got a sword! Pick up a sword, too."

    Thomas picked up a stick too, hitting it against Jon's and pretending to sword fight. "Arrr!" the Scraggy cried, swiping at the Chimchar diligently. Nicholas gave a tut at this, still sitting from afar.

    "Come on!" Jon shouted at Nicholas, "you too! I can take you both," he boasted. He may have seemed immature at that moment, but he was being serious. He held his stick expertly, and it looked very much like an extension of his arm.

    "No thanks," Nicholas said plainly.

    Scraggy and Chimchar continued to swing at each other, until Jon roared, putting all of his strength in a downwards blow that broke the stick of his opponent. The Chimchar swung his own stick to his other hand and pointed its edge at Thomas, letting out a shout that sounded like a ha.

    Thomas gasped, his stick broken as he tossed the pieces to the ground. "Oh yeah? Well I'll use my fists!" The Scraggy playfully leaped at Jon, pushing them both to the ground. The children began to wrestle.

    Nicholas was watching from afar, rolling his eyes as they started to 'fight.' He hurried over and forcibly separated the two from contact. "Cut it out, if you guys get hurt, mom's going to get real angry!"

    "Sorry, Nick..." Thomas said, his head hanging low.

    "I was winning," Jon said to both Scraggies, as if it was an important accomplishment.

    Their ears caught something coming from the living room, where the adults were. They were speaking of Old Liverte. Jon ran to the window and hid beneath it; Thomas followed right after him. They were both intrigued.

    "What are you doing?" Nick asked his brother.

    "Shh!" Thomas whispered, peering into the window. "I wanna hear what they're saying!"

    Jon had been told of Old Liverte by his father recently. It was one of the stories Isaac used to entertain him during their three-week journey through Carajol.

    The adults were talking about Marlet Street, how part of it had collapsed, as the foundations Old Liverte offered were slowly crumbling.

    "Huh," Jon whispered to his new-found partner, "I bet we can get to the underground now!"

    "As if," Nick said scornfully. "The place is surrounded by police. You couldn't get in there in a million years." The Scraggy crossed his arms, as if confident that Jon couldn't do it. "I mean, I know how to get in there, but I'm not going to tell you."

    Thomas looked at his brother, wide-eyed. "You know how to get in there?" he asked curiously.

    "Yup," Nick said proudly. "Me and my friends were going to go there today, actually." He spoke of his friends differently, making the distinction that Jon was not his friend.

    The Chimchar narrowed his eyes at Nick. "You won't tell us?" he asked, "why not?"

    "Because I don't want to," Nick said curtly. "You're not cool enough to hang out with me and my friends."

    Jon gritted his teeth, his face beet red. "You'll take that back sometime."

    Thomas got between them so they wouldn't start fighting. He turned to Nicholas, his expression pleading. "Please Nick, can we go? I'll... um..." The younger Scraggy struggled to think of something he could do for Nick, when an idea hit him. "If you take us, I'll do your homework for a week!"

    "You can't even do your own homework," Nick said with a laugh.

    "I can too!" Thomas replied angrily, before once again begging with his brother. "Can you please take us? I wanna see the old city!"

    Nick smirked. He partially enjoyed lording over Thomas with his maturity. "No. You can stay here and have fun with him," Nick said, referring to Jon. With that, he went back inside, leaving Thomas and Jon alone in the garden.

    Jon's eyes didn't leave Nick until he was out of sight. Then, he said to Thomas with a determined expression: "we'll go to Old Liverte, it's not like they can stop us."

    "But we'll get in trouble if we get caught..." Thomas said, crestfallen.

    "It'll be fine," Jon assured him, "nothing's gonna happen to us! Come on, let's go find us two swords for tonight!" By swords, he meant the sturdy pine sticks that could be found in the garden.


    ***


    Night came quickly. The woodworkers and Darcy family were working till late at night this day, so the family dinner with the guests could not happen. Isaac had been given fruit for dinner. He and Jon were at the garden, as they'd requested they sleep on a tree. Jon disliked to sleep indoors and Isaac slept with him outside to keep him company.

    Once they'd eaten their fruit, Isaac said to his son, "don't go out of the garden. You might get lost in the city, and you won't know how to get back."

    That daunted Jon. Looking into the honest blue eyes of his father made him feel like he would betray him if he just went to Old Liverte now, like he was planning. "Yeah," he said sadly and jumped onto the pine tree in Mr. Darcy's garden, climbing onto a branch and hugging it. His father lay down on the roots of the tree and very soon, he was heavily asleep. Jon could tell by the rhythm of his breath. And he also knew he could sneak away while he was sleeping.

    From up there, he could see the street. Even if he wanted to sleep, he couldn't; the street lamps were still on. It had to be very dark, like in a jungle, for him to sleep comfortably.

    As Isaac slept, Jon heard a rustling in the grass behind him. Looking down, he saw Thomas the Scraggy looking up at him in the tree.

    "Nick left for Old Liverte," he whispered. "Come on, let's go and we can follow him!"

    "I can't," Jon said, his small face visibly upset in the light of the lamps. "My father said not to go out..."

    "But you said you wanted to go," Thomas said quietly. "Nick was talking to his friend before he left, talking about how there's treasure down there! Doesn't that sound fun?"

    Jon scratched his big head with both hands, looking down, immensely troubled. He couldn't resist the challenge, plus he now wanted to prove Nick and his friends wrong. He would beat them to the treasure. It won't be so dangerous, Jon thought to himself. He jumped down from the branch.

    "Let's go," he said to Thomas, handing him the stick he'd use as a sword. "Don't lose it." Together with their swords, they jumped the fence of the yard. "Which way?"

    Thomas looked around, before catching sight of Nick as he turned and headed down an alley way. "This way," he said. "We'll follow him to Marlet Street."

    The pair wandered the streets of Liverte, the dim light from the streetlamps giving them vision.


    ***


    Nick kept an eye out for any policemen patrolling the streets. He had been out here enough to know where they liked to keep watch, and he knew how to avoid them. The police had a low presence in his neighborhood, but it still helped to know their movements and habits. The teenager walked through the alleys, stepping over trash bags and scaring away stray wilds looking for food. Eventually, he came to an intersection of alleys, where his friends were waiting for him; a Sableye and a Murkrow.

    "Where's the others?" Nick asked.

    "'Ey, Nick, what's up?" The Murkrow greeted. "Peter's parents caught him and wouldn't let him go, and Markus chickened out," he answered.

    "Hehe, we don't need'em anyways," the Sableye added. "We can get in there and have fun without 'em!"

    "Their loss," Nick said. Suddenly, the group was interrupted by another young child, a Meditite, approaching the group cautiously from the end of the street.

    Jon and Thomas showed up moments later, hiding from Nick in the corner. From here they saw what happened next.

    "I-I heard you were going to Old Liverte..." the Meditite child asked. "I know we're not r-really friends or anything, b-but..."

    "No, you can't come with us," the Sableye jeered, jumping in front of the boy and getting in his face. "So bug off, squirt, before I call your mommy on you!"

    "Eep!" the Meditite cried, stepping back from the Sableye. "P-please, Skyler?" he asked again. "I want to see the c-city... and I heard there was treasure down there..."

    "Who told you that?" the Murkrow suddenly demanded, flying up and flapping his wings in the child's face. "Are you spying on us, huh?!"

    "N-no!" the Meditite said defensively. "I'd n-never spy on you, Lucas! I j-just overheard you guys talking one day, and I th-thought..."

    "Just get out of here, now," Nick said, joining beside his friends. He smacked his fists together menacingly, causing the Meditite to tremble in place. "This is for the Skull gang only! Get lost!"

    The Meditite, now thoroughly threatened, ran away from the group, a sad look in his eyes as he left.

    "Good, got rid of the brat," Skyler the Sableye said. "Now we can get around to business. Where do you think we'd find treasure down there?"

    Jon grimaced as if he'd tasted fruit gone bad. He always had a strong dislike for 'mon who would bully other 'mon. "Tsk," he said to Thomas, "that's not right."

    "Come on, guys," Nick stated to his two friends. He peered out of the alleyway; just outside was Marlet street, cordoned off by the city guard and restricted to the populace. The area was blocked by a red tape that warned of danger. There were few policemen here, surprisingly, standing around idly in front of the sunken street. A long, thin crack extended down the middle of the road, the houses on that block visibly tilted inward towards it.

    Nick waited for the right moment, when the police had their backs turned, before the group suddenly dashed out quickly towards the street, slipping past them undetected.

    Jon had taken Thomas up the rooftops, where he felt more comfortable in. The Scraggy and the Chimchar leaped from one roof to the other, landing into one of the houses that were leaning inwards to the crack. They both saw the Skull gang vanish inside the crack silently; the policemen were almost sleeping on their feet, so they did not notice the lightfoot shadows jumping into the forbidden zone.

    The crack smelled sweetly. Too sweetly. Something fishy was going on. Jon and Thomas soon discovered what it was: the walls of a wine cellar of a nearby store had collapsed and the barrels had broken and spilled the aged drink everywhere. The Chimchar splashed through it no problem, after he took a whiff of the finger he'd plunged in the wine, to make sure it wasn't dangerous. Fine wine, his father would say.

    There was no other way to go in the cracked road but inside the wine cellar. The Skull gang had disappeared inside a hole on the floor of the cellar; Jon could hear their feet splashing somewhere down there. He glanced at Thomas next to him. This must have been the way. "You ready?"

    "Mhm!" Thomas happily replied.

    Jon leaped first, extending his arms in a free-fall while holding his stick; the hole wasn't so narrow so he could stir himself around, light as a feather as he was. He used to sky dive like this from the highest rocks in Guntama forest into its lakes; it was one of his favorite feelings in the world. But down here, it was dark, and he couldn't see the earth approaching him. His instincts told him when the ground was near, so he landed softly and rolled. It wasn't such a huge distance, but it sure felt like it.

    Thomas arrived shortly after. The two of them splashed quietly into the wine that was spilled around. His stick tumbled to the side and he went to pick it up.

    The Skull gang must've gone on ahead, as they could not be heard down there.

    There was light coming from ahead.

    'Ahead' was a wonder like none of the two boys had seen before in their lives. Wooden houses, worn by time and moisture, dirty with mud and dust, built into the walls of a tunnel with a low ceiling. They were illuminated by a fire coming from the corner. The air was thick here and reeking of rot, but that wouldn't stop the kids. Not even close.

    Jon's eyes swept through the houses with the broken windows and fungus growing on their rotten wooden walls. Those houses were more than a hundred years old, but they were standing their ground. There was one sign at the end of the street, which had fallen over, half buried in mud. It read, Marlet Street. This was the old Marlet Street.

    "This is it," Jon said, all choked up from excitement. He ran to the houses and peered inside. The rooms had almost been destroyed, but household things like a vase or a cauldron were still on the shelves. "This is awesome! I love this place."

    He held his stick with both hands, pretending it was a weapon. "We're pirates now! Looking for treasure!"

    "Arr!" Thomas said, joining beside his friend as they began their exploration. "Come on, let's find some treasure!"

    The pair set off, down into the streets of Old Liverte. Somehow, despite it's age, the old streetlights of this place - the ones that hadn't blown out over the years - were still lit. The two boys didn't think too much on that, naive as they were. With those lamps, it was luminous enough for them to continue onwards. All around them in the tunnels, the remnants of a time long-past stood tall and lonely, as if waiting to be inhabited again, yet left abandoned here in the underground. Some of the structures were destroyed beyond repair, of course, and the sight of them grew increasingly as they approached the eastern part of the town, without really having any knowledge of where they were headed or in what direction.

    Thomas and Jon continued to search the area, looking through windows as they traversed the rotting streets. A photo in a broken frame here, a toy there, dust and cobwebs choking every corner. Nothing that could be called 'treasure' though. The boys were getting impatient.

    "Where's the treasure, man?" Jon whispered to his partner worriedly, as if the treasure would be going away soon and they had to hurry.

    "I don't know," Thomas said with a shrug, scratching his head. "If I were a treasure in a secret city, where would I be?"

    They came upon a park, grey in the damp light of the lamps. The tunnels were wide here, allowing for room to breathe in the park. There was a swingset and a seesaw between two trees, one trunk fallen and both of them withered. Water dripped from the ceiling into a small pool amidst the park, soaked by the sand-covered ground. The dismal sight upset Jon, somehow. He started to realize that this place wasn't just a new location that would yield a fun experience and treasure - it was the place that had been hit by a tidal wave, where hundreds of people had lost their lives.

    "There's only dust and rot down here, let's get out," Jon said, somewhat disappointed.

    "But we haven't found anything..." Thomas replied. "I haven't even seen Nick yet. Maybe if we find him, we can find something cool."

    Thomas motioned for Jon to follow him. He began taking note of where they were going, hoping they wouldn't get too lost the further down they went. They took a turn down another street, leading into a tunnel that went deeper into the city.

    At the end of that tunnel, there was another cave, much like the one they got in earlier, at the park, but larger. They heard voices now echoing in Old Liverte - those were coming from the Skull gang. Jon and Thomas glanced at each other and made themselves quiet instinctively. Once inside this cave, they jumped on a barrel next to a wall, and from that on a roof of a low house. Jon could now hear the sea, and he could see it too.

    Lighting was plenty here, so they could see it all. This was the old port of Liverte, buried and half destroyed, but still standing. The sea had sneaked into the street level; between houses, waves licked the sandy roads. Not only that, but vessels that had crashed into the city during the tidal wave were still there. Some were docked in between the houses closer to the water. A hundred years ago, masts were a common thing, as the vessels were primarily seafaring. Among the rows of the streets that led to the drowned port, a ship with torn red sails and a Crossbone Morty flag, the flag depicting a Marowak skull-and-crossbones.

    "Look!" Jon pointed at the flag, "it's a pirate ship!"

    That was where the Skull gang had gathered. The ship had crashed on the sandy shore of the street between two houses; it was leaning slightly, with its belly open, like a wounded beast. Nick and the others had just gone inside it. Almost as soon as they did, Thomas and Jon could hear the group cheering.

    "Take a look at all of this gold!" Lucas the Murkrow said, flapping his wings excitedly as the Skull gang explored the inside of the ship. "I can't believe we actually found it!"

    "You're welcome," Skyler said arrogantly. The Sableye had her arms crossed as she gave off a tut. "Lucky for you I decided to do some digging around and find out about the treasure in the first place."

    "Oh yeah, we're lucky all right," Nick said triumphantly. Skyler had read about this ship, the Dirty Deed, in the library. Having heard about the legend of the treasure associated with it, and doing some more research, she eventually came to out the ship's final resting place.

    Nick waved his hands, motioning for the group to get to work. "Come on, let's find something to carry this in. We can take some now and come back later."

    The Skull gang quickly found empty bags scattered across the inside of the ship. In moments, they each filled their bags and began to head out back to the deck. On top of the roof, Jon and Thomas held their breath.

    "How much gold do you think this is?" Skyler asked.

    "It's more than you youngins' need, that's for sure, hohoho!"

    The Skull gang stopped in their tracks. Towering before them, his menacing shadow covering them all, was a Garbodor. He bore a devious grin and laughed a wicked laugh, showing off his sharpened teeth. Beside him slithered a Seviper, the snake eyeing the teenagers with malice in his eyes, baring his fangs. These two weren't kids, they were fully grown and dangerous looking adults.

    "Well well well..." the Seviper said, flicking his tongue at the group. "Looks like someone is trying to make off with our treasure. Why don't you kids just put that down and go home? It's awfully late..."

    "Wh-who are you?" Nick asked, keeping a firm grasp on his bag of treasure. He dared not show any fear, not outwardly. Inside, he was terrified beyond belief, but he held his ground. "We found it first!"

    "Aww, how sweet," the Seviper taunted. "He wants to be brave."

    "Ohohoho!" the Garbodor laughed again. "That's a great joke there, lad. Now, enough funny games," he said, his voice suddenly growing intense. "Drop the treasure, an' we won't have to hurt ya!"

    From behind the Garbodor, a motley crew of nasty looking 'mon appeared from the shadows on the deck, each of them twitchy and itching to fight. "This here ship belongs to me now, Captain Amadeus!" The Garbodor gave another hearty laugh, his crew laughing with him, before he slammed his foot to the ground. The rest of his lackeys fell silent immediately. "And Captain Amadeus ain't above smacking around some kiddies, if they've earned it!"

    "Crap," Jon whispered to his partner, watching the scene from the rooftop. "We should do something!" he urged.

    The Skull Gang froze. As confident as they were, they had heard stories of Amadeus; he was one of the most notorious pirate captains in Liverte, with a reputation for his cruelty and sick sense of humor. They were not well-liked, but like other pirate crews, they were allowed to dock and lurk in Liverte, as they were the Trade Prince's lackeys. And it was no secret that pirates like Captain Amadeus struck deals with Ignacio; they would do the dirty business that the police of Liverte could not do.

    There was no way the three of them would be able to take on Amadeus and his weathered crew.

    "What should we do?" Thomas asked, staring down at the scene below as it unfolded. "Those are pirates! Real pirates! They'll lop our heads off if we try to do anything!"

    Jon squinted, scanning the area on the deck of Dirty Deed; a dozen pirates, Captain Amadeus and his first mate, the Seviper, there were no dark types among them... while the Skull gang was exclusively made from dark-types. "I've an idea," Jon whispered back, "see those lights?" he pointed at the four intact and functional lamps of the street in front of them, which must've been lit by the pirates when they got down there. These were lighting the entire area. "Put them out! Let's go!" The Chimchar and the Scraggy leaped from the rooftop.

    "Now then, the gold, drop it," Amadeus said in a threatening tone. He took one step forward, his heavy feet shaking the deck of the ship. The Skull Gang sunk backward, before a street light suddenly blew out.

    "What the?" The Garbodor said, before a second went out. Then a third. Finally, the last street light went dead, with Amadeus growling angrily in the darkness.

    "Raaah! Who turned out the lights?!" he shouted. The Skull Gang seized their opportunity, each of them being able to see well in the darkness. They grabbed their loot and ran off the ship as fast as they could, not even turning back to look at the pirates.

    Suddenly, one of the pirates, a Torkoal, began to spray fire from his mouth, illuminating the area and nearly burning Amadeus in the face.

    "Watch your breath, mongrel!" the Garbodor rebuked, before seeing that his quarry had escaped, the teens running off the docks into the streets. He roared furiously, pointing his clawed hand at the gang. "Get those kids! Now!"

    "R-run!" Nick stated, as the group sprinted away as fast as they could go.

    "I am running!" Skyler stated through heavy breaths.

    "Run faster!" Nick said again. They turned down an alley, frantically navigating through the streets of old Liverte to get back to the exit. The port area was dark thanks to Jon and Thomas, but the rest of the city's lamps had been lit, so the pirates could find them any moment. After several minutes of running, the group paused for breath, seeing as they were far enough away to take a breather.

    "You... think... we... lost them?" Lucas said in-between breaths.

    "I'd rather... not stick around... to find out," Nick replied. "The exit is close... let's get going before they find us."

    "Thomas, c'mon," Jon's voice was heard around the corner, "this way!"

    Just as they turned, Jon bumped right into Nick. The Chimchar cursed, having fallen down. He picked up his wooden stick and jumped up, offering Nick a hand.

    Nick looked at Jon with shock, before seeing Thomas running right behind him. "What the- how did you get here?!" Nick demanded, looking at Jon angrily. "I told you guys not to follow us!"

    "Yeah, well, you're not my daddy, so you can't tell me what to do," Jon said, but at the same moment, he turned and started running. "Where's the exit?!"

    "It's right over there," Nick said, pointing down the alley. "Just stay close and-"

    "Gotcha!" a voice said, as a pair of hands reached out from the ground and grabbed the Scraggy by the feet. Phasing through the floor was a Banette, his zipper mouth shining brightly in the light of the lamps. "They're over here, boss!"

    As soon as the Banette cried, from around the corner fat Amadeus came waddling, chuckling to himself as he slowly made his way towards them. The Skull gang was blocked in the alley, surrounded by pirates on all sides with no method of escape. The stood petrified with fear, uncertain of what fate lied in store for them.

    "You know, I was going to let ya off easy," Amadeus said with a grin. "But now you've gone and tried my patience. Now you're gonna learn why I'm the most feared pirate in Liverte!"

    "Now now, Amadeus," the Seviper said, slinking up beside him. "Remember our deal with Ignacio? No killing the citizens..."

    "Ohoho, I ain't gonna kill 'em," Amadeus said with a hearty laugh. "I'm gonna teach 'em to respect their elders!"

    They were surrounded from both sides of the alley. Jon bared his teeth, his head pumping with rage. The fire on his rear end was blazing. Nobody was going to get hurt unless he had a say in it. He raised his wooden stick sideways in front of him, holding it from the middle like a battle staff. "We'll see who'll be teaching whom about respect!"

    Amadeus howled at the Chimchar, looking down at Jon with amusement. "Ohh, little monkey's got a stick! Look out, men!" He laughed again, before a Croconaw pirate stepped forward in front of the Chimchar, and in front of Nick stood a Sandslash, the two pirates drawing rapiers and pointing them forward. "My men've got swords."

    Jon didn't seem daunted. "I think I'll just stick to my stick," he retorted. He attacked first in a very obvious attempt to smack the Croconaw on the head. The water type swung his own sword that would cut right through the stick, but the Chimchar changed the direction of his blow. Small as he was, the Croconaw's sword missed, and the stick came sideways and cracked the pirate's ribs. It happened so fast, the stick struck like lightning, and the pirates did not realize what happened until after the Croconaw started howling. He'd fallen over and Jon jumped on his back, smashing his stick on the back of the Croconaw's head with a roar and knocking him unconscious.

    The Sandslash swung her sword at Nick, the Scraggy narrowly avoiding the slash and retaliating with a Sand Attack. With the ground-type momentarily blinded, Nick jumped up and smacked the sword out of her hand, swinging at her legs immediately after with a Low Kick, slamming her down and knocking the wind from her lungs.

    Just then, Nick and Jon's brief moment of victory was interrupted, the Chimchar dropping his stick as he was lifted into the air by a pair of metal fingers closing around the back of his neck, the Banette shoving Nick back away. "Ohoho! These runts got some fight in 'em! My crew's gonna remember what you did to them," Amadeus said, nodding towards the unconscious Croconaw and Sandslash. He smirked as he brought Jon close to his face, his rancid breath causing the Chimchar to gag slightly. "Think you're tough with that little stick of yours, boy?"

    Jon squinted, gritting his teeth and holding his breath. The stench was horrible. Just being close to the Garbodor was unbearable. He tried punching the fat man's face, but his arms were not even nearly long enough and he ended up making a fool of himself. The other pirates let out a gust of laughter that rocked Old Liverte. "Ngh!" he let out and gasped fire, but the embers merely licked the Garbodor and dissipated.

    Amadeus wiped his face from the embers, the fire barely even fazing him. "Take their gold, boys, while I figure out what to do with 'em." The pirates did as commanded, roughly seizing the bags of gold away from the Skull Gang. Thomas stood close to Nick, the older Scraggy holding his brother tightly as the Seviper slithered up and circled the group.

    "And just who are you, anyways?" the Seviper inquired slyly. "Kids like you shouldn't be exploring the underground. It isn't safe."

    "None of your business!" Skyler shot back, eyeing the Seviper daringly. The Seviper simply flicked his tongue at the Sableye, causing her to recoil slightly in fear.

    "Oh, but it is my business," the Seviper replied. "It's my job to study all the ins and outs of Liverte... this is our turf, after all, and it's my duty to keep an eye on things. So..." he glared at the group, paralyzing them with fear. "Who are you?"

    Jon had given up his struggle, meanwhile. He closed his mouth in frustration, but then he realized it might be better if he opened it again and spoke up. "I'm Jon Sawyer, son of Isaac Sawyer, the Frivolous Explorer!"

    "The Frivolous Explorer?" Amadeus said incredulously. "Hah! You must be pullin' my leg, boy!" The rest of the pirates laughed at the boy... except for the Seviper.

    "It wouldn't be outlandish for that to be true," the Seviper stated simply. "I heard that Isaac himself was coming to Liverte. Maybe his son decided to do a little exploring of his own. He shares the same species as Isaac, too."

    "That's right!" Jon shouted at Captain Amadeus, "my father's in town. Better run back to mommy!"

    Suddenly, Jon found himself smacked across the face by the Garbodor's hand, Amadeus shooting him an angry glare. "You watch your mouth, you little pipsqueak! Don't you talk about my momma, you hear?!"

    "Concentrate, Amadeus," the Seviper said, before turning back to the other children. "So then, are you friends of Jon, here? Any special ties to the explorer?" The Seviper saw that Nick was holding onto Thomas, seeing the two Scraggys with their faces full of fear. "You two must be related," he said with a smirk. "And who might you two be?"

    They stood silent for a moment, before realizing they'd be hurt if they didn't answer. "N-Nicholas," Nick said finally. "Nicholas and Thomas..."

    "Oh, the Darcy kids," the Seviper said, as if deducing some great mystery. "I've heard all about your father and his little business. He would make a fine 'business partner' in the future, I'm sure..."

    "My dad wouldn't work for no filthy pirates!" Nick spat back, merely causing the Seviper to grin.

    "I'm sure we could make him see our way of thinking," he said evilly. "Your father wouldn't want to know what you kids were doing down here..." Suddenly, the Seviper brought his head close to Nick's, the Scraggy feeling the snake's cold breath on his face.

    "Now, you listen here, boy," the Seviper said, his tone growing serious. "I know everything that goes on in this little city. You make one mention, one little slip of what happened here tonight, and I'll make sure losing the business will be the least of your father's worries."

    Nick and Thomas glanced at each other worriedly, before the Seviper resumed his interrogation of both Lucas and Skyler. Once he determined all of their identities, he smiled to himself, content in the knowledge he procured. Once the pirates had secured all of the gold, the Seviper gave a sharp whistle, signalling for them to leave. Amadeus threw Jon to the ground, back with the others. "We'll be taking our treasure now. And remember..." the Seviper added, his red eyes piercing through the group. "I'm always watching."

    With that, the pirates turned and left, taking the treasure and the boat out of Old Liverte, leaving the young 'mon free to leave. The kids glanced at each other, staying still, unable to believe they got out of it alive.

    Finally, Nick turned to Jon, looking at him sternly. "I told you not to follow us!"

    Thomas suddenly spoke up, still trembling from the ordeal. "D-don't yell at Jon... I made him come with me... it was my fault..."

    Nick looked at Thomas with shock, holding the boy's shoulders firmly. "You could have been killed, Thomas! What were you thinking?"

    "Dude, I think we all would have been killed," Lucas stated, the Murkrow dusting his feathers off and sighing in relief. "It's a miracle they didn't just slaughter us right then and there."

    "I'm going home," Jon muttered, slouching skeptically towards the hole, his face all moody. In his mind, this was a defeat. He couldn't have done anything to that pirate, because he was small and young. Rigid determination overcame him. I'm going to evolve, some day, and lake pirates like him won't stand a chance against me, he thought.

    After finding a ladder, they got up to New Liverte quietly. The Skull Gang dispersed quickly, without much to say. They were too afraid to speak. Thomas and Nick stayed close to one another, Nick holding an arm around his younger brother to comfort him. They were all more than a little rattled.

    "So... where'd you learn that?" Nick asked Jon.

    "What?" Jon asked, confused at first, until he realized Nick was probably asking about the stick. "The jungle," he said, then clarified, "Guntama jungle in Antara. Mon fight with sticks there." He glanced at Nick's hands. "I saw what you did. She didn't stand a chance!"

    "Eh, I've gotten in a few fights..." Nick admitted, almost seeming ashamed of that fact. "Father doesn't want me to... but you gotta learn how to fight, right? You certainly know a thing or two. The Croconaw ate the dirt."

    Jon, who was sad over his helplessness up until now, busted a wide smile that showed all of his teeth. "Oh yeah! But I've brought down bigger mon. I want to beat that Garbodor. I will."

    Nick gave a small laugh, only partially sharing in Jon's confidence. Quite frankly, after tonight, he hoped he would never have to see that ugly pirate ever again. He wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulder protectively at the thought of Amadeus. "Listen... I'm... I'm sorry for... well, tonight. It's my fault... I shouldn't have bragged about it. We shouldn't have gone there in the first place... I put us all in danger, and I'm sorry...."

    The Chimchar glanced at the two Scraggies, his blue eyes staying for a bit on Nicholas. He didn't think a rebellious boy like him would ever apologize. But the truth was, they were all in fault. Jon didn't know if he could keep it a secret that he went out of the garden, despite his father cautioning him not to. The other two Scraggies did not know, but Jon had a hunch his father would already know that they had sneaked out, so eventually he would be forced to confess.

    "Hey man, you couldn't've known these pirates already found the place. We all thought we were goin' for a stroll," the Chimchar said. He never thought it'd be dangerous.

    "It's okay, Nick," Thomas added, holding his brother tightly. "We're safe now. I'm the one who followed you..."

    Nick eyed Thomas, for a moment, giving him an acknowledging nod. He then turned to Jon. Perhaps he had misjudged the Chimchar; Thomas certainly seemed to like him. The walked the rest of the way in relative silence, before finally making it back to the Woodworks.

    Jon jumped over the fence to Darcy's garden on his toes, very quietly. He jumped high and grabbed himself from a branch. Sleep wouldn't come; he felt like training till the morning. No adult was going to beat him. Hugging the branch, eyes still wide open, he looked down. Isaac lay upon the grass, with a hand on his chest and a thick root as his pillow. The rhythm of his breath had changed. Perhaps he had already felt his absence...

    Meanwhile, Nick and Thomas snuck in the front window. They had always entered and exited like this on nights when they weren't supposed to be out. Once inside, the two gave one last hug, before retiring to their separate rooms, quietly tip-toeing through the house.

    Nick looked out his bedroom window, seeing the moon beginning to fall. It would nearly be morning soon, and he doubted he'd get much sleep tonight, considering his parents woke them early for chores. He quickly hopped onto his bed, closing his eyes to try and get as much rest as he could before the sun rose.
    __________________
    "Johnny rocked that golden circle, and all those VIPs, and that music that had freed us became a tired routine.
    And I saw his face in close-up tryin' to give it all he had, and sometimes his eyes betrayed him, you could see that he was sad.


    And I tried to rock on with him, but I slowly became bored
    Could that man on stage with everything somehow need some more?"

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      #3    
    Old August 17th, 2015 (8:35 AM). Edited August 19th, 2015 by Plumbum.
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    Plumbum Plumbum is offline
    The Dandy Highwayman (That You're Too Scared to Mention)
       
      Join Date: Jun 2014
      Location: Chichester, UK
      Age: 23
      Gender: Male
      Nature: Naughty
      Posts: 95
      A Business Proposition
      3/1/1065

      The ship was of a kind rarely seen in Liverte. The size of a Galleon, designed to attract attention - the hull resplendent in a silvery-white that left obvious a few scars from a scuffle along the way, flying golden Contenan colours high above the Sonaran blue and a plaque on her rear quarter bearing its name - Gallant Journey - and the family crest of the Téanis family that she served.

      At this early hour, the deck was lit up by electrical lamps, a faint yellow glow around the deck as a restless Ampharos paced back and forth all alone, were it not for the Blaziken alongside him, stood to attention. He had decided, he would wait for the day before he came to the 'mon he had business with.

      "Concerned there, boss?" the Blaziken said, with just a hint of mockery in his voice, to which the Ampharos flashed a hint of a smile.

      "Not in the slightest, Wilson." He grinned, even. "I am merely... excited. The prospects of what we set out to do once the morning finally dawns..."

      "...is a secret, yeah?" the Blaziken reminded his boss. The mercenary's job was clear. Wherever the project ended up being hosted, he was to ensure it was a secret until it was complete.

      "Yes. But there is nobody to hear it, no? Only those who already need to know. But think about the challenges we are to embark on. If everything they say about this Wyron Wood is as true as I hear, then a ship of it will be the owner of the skies!" even in his hushed tones, the Ampharos' enthusiasm shined through. The journey from Avégnon had been long and he had waited through it all. "I would have preferred if they were able to meet us aboard the Gallant. It would be easier to keep our plans from prying eyes and ears. But it may not be." He paused for a second, gazing over the dockyards of Liverte. "We will enter the city in two hours. Day will have broken by then."

      ----

      "Do you suppose it's genuine?" Miller said, concerned. The Hitmontop scanned over the contents of the letter again and again, as if unable to comprehend what was written. He knew full-well what it said, though he had a hard time believing it.

      "I suppose we'll have to wait to find out," Daniel replied with a shrug. The Scrafty was more at ease than his friend, yet still bore a slight trace of apprehension. A few days ago, the company had received an odd letter from one Mortimer James Téanis detailing a secret project he wanted to commission them for. It didn't state what the project was, or why he had requested them specifically, though Daniel suspected it might have been related to the Wyron Wood. It would make no sense for it to be otherwise; a wealthy noble from abroad suddenly taking interest in a small, family owned business in the slums of Liverte? It had to be because of their specialty.

      "You want someone to go with you?" Miller asked, looking over the shop. It was early morning, and they hadn't yet opened for business. A quick trip to the docks wouldn't put them in any trouble. Daniel shook his head, giving a slight chuckle.

      "It's fine, I'll go myself," Daniel replied. "I suspect this man is either looking to cheat me, or is legitimate. Either way, I can handle it myself."

      "Right," Miller said with a nod. "I'll tend to things here while you're gone. Do tell me how it goes, alright?"

      "Of course, of course," Daniel said happily. "If it is legitimate, I'd have to tell you. You'd be working on it! Hah!"

      Miller laughed a bit at the joke, before handing Daniel the letter with a smile. "True, true. Well then, you'd best be off. Don't want to keep Mister Téanis waiting, hm?"

      "No, I don't suppose I would," Daniel said with a smirk. He took the letter and tucked it away, turning and heading out the door into the streets of Liverte. The morning sun was just beginning to rise, the Scrafty taking a breath of the city air before departing for the docks.

      Once he reached them, the Gallant Journey would be readily apparent, her gangplank now meeting the dock - the Ampharos, Mortimer, readily visible, making idle conversation with an Emolga, but a Blaziken and a Grovyle stepped forward down the gangplank - both of them well-armored, a gilded set provided by their current employer, inlaid with gems, a crest on their helmets, both with their faces obscured. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the area. This dock is private as long as this ship is docked here." the Grovyle said, polite, but more than ready to male the Scrafty leave the area. He'd doubted too much possibility of a fight, but he was anxious for one, and anybody would do.

      "I believe I have business with you... erm... boss," Daniel said, a bit surprised at having armed security for a simple business meeting. He pulled out the letter he had received, holding it out to the guard as proof.

      "See? He's fine, mate." The Blaziken looked down on the Grovyle after snatching the letter and giving it the once over, his disappointment clear even though only his eyes could be seen. "Now, do I have to treat you like a dog and keep you on a leash, or are we gonna show the guy aboard?" he said, turning and motioning the Scrafty to follow him aboard.

      Daniel followed the odd pair up the gangplank to the ship itself. His eyes went wide once onboard; it was unlike anything he had ever seen. Daniel had worked on a fair number of vessels before, but this was clearly built with luxury in mind. What he wouldn't give to take a week off on this beauty.

      As the Scrafty came closer to the Ampharos, he would start to hear what he was saying to the Emolga. "...she is nine, Lydia. Do you think we can tell a nine year-old what to do?"

      "Eleanor is getting out of hand!" the Emolga shot back. "There is being nine, then there is actively defying every word I say!"

      "She is young! Have you considered that she defies you and I because you push her too ha-" Mortimer began, although he was sharply cut off by the Blaziken clearing his throat - craning his slender neck over, the Ampharos saw the two guards, with the Scrafty in tow, hefting a sigh, before he quickly turned back to her. "I have business to attend to, love, but please... We've been having this argument since we left port..." he started, before he trailed away into emptiness - and Lydia, void of an answer, huffed, returning to the ornate forecastle, slamming the door behind her. "I apologise for the interruption." he began to the Scrafty, without directly addressing him. "There should be no further distractions in our business today. I presume you are Mr. Darcy, seeing as my guards have allowed you on board my ship?" he said, standing tall once again. With his arms held behind his back, in a smart, expendive custom-fitted jacket, as well-groomed as he was, not appearing even remotely close to his age, Mortimer... still couldn't get away from the fact he was an Ampharos. But he definitely looked like a 'mon who meant business.

      "I am," Daniel replied simply, holding a hand out in greeting. "I take it you are Mr. Téanis?" He couldn't help but idly glance at the jacket the Ampharos was wearing; more expensive than anything he could buy, that was for sure.

      "Most certainly." Mortimer reciprocated. He had noticed Daniel's eyes wandering about the ship, about Mortimer's person. "Splendid, isn't she? The Gallant Journey is my flagship and something I am endlessly proud of. She has been designed to the most exacting standards, with the lastest techmaturgy we have available in Contena - I am constantly retrofitting her to keep up! She has electronic controls and gadgetry, powered by leak from the Electric-type crew members aboard her, she has meteorology tools aboard we could but dream of a year ago, phlogistron motors have come and gone, each more powerful and more efficient than the last... In fact, I believe she is the limit of what we can achieve with the materials we have available to us." There was a light in the Ampharos' eyes as he rattled off features of his greatest ship - but why wouldn't there be? He was singing the very justified praises of something he owned; but even still, he had put a very strange stress on the word material...

      Daniel glanced about the ship, his face lacking any sort of strong emotion. He was certainly enamored with the construction, he had to admit, though the bragging of the noble was beginning to wear on him. "It's a mighty fine vessel," Daniel said politely. "Far greater than anything I've rode upon, to be sure."

      "Then today must be special, for certain!" Mortimer responded seeming positively animated - he hadn't even noticed the Scrafty becoming irritated. "Perhaps... I should speak of things more relative to you. The hull of this vessel is formed of mixture of standard hardwoods and softwoods... however, we have been innovative and reinforced the superstructure with steel! Sir, do you know how heavy steel is? This ship travels at speeds that could embarass a Shuckle, even if it will outlast one!" Mortimer visibly had to stop himself for a second and check there was nobody stood at the docks that might have heard him. He made a couple of gestures to the guards, ordering them to the gangplank before he leant down and hushed his voice. "I have been waiting for the day somebody would stumble across a superior material and I have it on good authority that you may have such a material."

      Daniel nodded, almost sagely. He knew that was what this whole ordeal was about. "I see you've heard of our specialty," he said knowingly, a small grin on his face. "Pardon my bluntness, but how did you hear of us? Sonara isn't exactly next door neighbors with Cotena, and I have to wonder how a nobleman of your... prestige has learned of us." Truthfully, Daniel had no idea who Téanis was or how much prestige he had, if any, though he assumed with such a ship as this he must have had some.

      Mortimer had his doubts that the Scrafty knew anything about him, but he was correct to assume the Téanis family had prestige. They were a well-known name in Contena - easily one of the wealthiest families too... "We may perhaps not be neighbors, but Contena and Sonara are certainly close in other ways." he glanced upwards, at the colours his pride flew - a Contenan gold above the Sonaran blue; technically, to represent Contena's status as a colony, he should fly the Blue Pride higher aloft, but he was far too proud for it. "If you will, I am not even technically a foreigner to you. In the letter of the law, Contena is a colony belonging to Sonara. But I am afraid I cannot say anything about my information sources. I hope you should understand that I would want those kept close to my chest."

      "I see," Daniel said, his eyes seeming a bit distrustful of Mortimer. "I suppose that's neither here nor now. Let's talk business," he added, crossing his arms and standing straight. "What can Darcy's Woodworks do for you?"

      Mortimer chuckled a little. "I told you already, did I not? I have been waiting for a superior material from which to build a ship. You have that material and the skills to work it and I have designs and the resources to support any reasonable cost you may have to undertake the project and to reward you quite handsomely for it." The Ampharos beckoned over a young Drilbur, taking a blueprint from the boy and handing it to Daniel. "Despite his appearances, this young man is a ship-building savant. He and his team would support you, if you would kindly take on this project." Mortimer had expected that Darcy's shop would be far too small to take on the task alone - but all he needed them to do at the minimum was to bring their special wood, prepared in the forms the shipwrights would need to bring his newest plans into existence. The plans he handed over were for, in fact, a relatively small airship - although one outfitted every bit as lavishly as the one they were stood upon - and the key factor of its construction was the material; the prized Wyron wood that had earnt Darcy a name he didn't even seem particularly aware he had.

      "An entire ship?" Daniel said, looking over the blueprints in awe. "I tell ya, I've worked on ships before. I'm no stranger to it, but building an entire vessel from scratch?" he pondered. Even with help, he wasn't sure if he could withstand a task of this magnitude. "I'll admit, it hasn't been done here... not by us, anyways."

      "I understand... I am willing to support you with any extra labour you may require; I had considered your outfit is small and I have ensured there are enough resources in place to support you with the process." Mortimer did seem a little off-put by Daniel's doubt, but he wasn't going to give up on the idea so easily. After all, there were few forces in the world that could deter a noble who simply wanted something. "Perhaps... you simply need some time to decide if it is within your capabilities. If it is not, this venture might be nothing but a waste for the both of us."

      "Well, I don't doubt that I could do it..." Daniel began, keeping his eyes fixed on the blueprints. It'd be difficult, but given that this noble was prepared to give him whatever he needed, not to mention the kind of payment he'd get for a project of this scale, it was far from his mind to refuse. "It'll take some time, and some money, too." He mused for a moment, thinking on how long it'd take to complete. "Altogether, I'd say we could have it done in a year, if that is agreeable to you."

      Mortimer nodded, arms now crossed across his chest. "A year is well-acceptable, I have but one condition. This project, until the day of its completion, must remain a secret. Not a stray whisper to any prying ears." Of course, Mortimer's main motivation with the secrecy was simply so he might be the first to have such a ship, that others who might want this great opportunity couldn't think to draw up plans until his was complete. "As you may have expected, I have made my own provision, but it will require your co-operation."

      "A secret, hm?" Daniel said, before nodding in agreement. "We'll make sure this project is kept under wraps, although it might take a bit longer if so."

      "There is no quarrell; simply knowing my newest Journey is being built will tide me. Aside the fact, I would not wish to rush you." Mortimer smiled. A good deal, not too much haggling... "I will bring people later to account the materials and, of course, a suitable fee for yourself. In the meantime, if you would like to take tea? You are aboard my ship, after all and I have been showing my guest terrible hospitality!"

      Daniel glanced up at the sky, taking note of the sun's position and making an estimate of the time. The shop was probably just opening, but they could survive without his presence for a while. "No worries, friend. I can stay for a spot of tea."

      "Excellent! I prefer if I can be on positive terms with my associates. Sour relationships..." Mortimer seemed to take a pause for a second, glancing towards the same pair of mercenary guards that had been most closely assigned to him. "...They do not make for excellent business. Come, come!" the Ampharos said, almost immediately dropping that hint of discontent in his voice and leading Mr. Darcy across the deck of the Gallant Journey and into her forecastle - which was, surprisingly, entirely for Mortimer and Lydia. Most of the space one could see from outside of the outside was filled from the inside in one grand room - a lounge of sorts and only one door that led for a place for the two to sleep. There was a well-stocked bookshelf, huge, soft chairs - one occupied with the dimunutive form of an Emolga. Perhaps the most bewildering addition to this lounge was a stone fireplace, but noble tastes were often very strange... "So, this is my abode in the sky, Mr. Darcy." Mortimer once again had that note of pride in his voice, although he turned away to a matronly-looking Blissey. "If you will prepare us some drinks, please - including whatever our guest will have."

      Daniel nodded at the Blissey. "Just some green tea, if you have it," he said simply.

      The Blissey gave them all a respectful nod, taking a leave to fetch some drinks. "You would be more hard-pressed to find something we do not have!" Mortimer chimed in, taking a seat aside his wife - although they shared a glance, the air between them was still frosty from the argument they had been having out on deck. "Lydia, this is our new business partner. Mr. Darcy has agreed to work with us on our plans!"

      "Your plans." Lydia scowled as she corrected him, causing the Ampharos to awkwardly clear his throat before he continued.

      "...But I lost my touch with my manners! I haven't taken the time to learn about the man himself!" Even as the Ampharos excitedly cooed, Lydia seemed much less interested, the Emolga appearing almost bored.

      "Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Téanis," Daniel said as politely as he could, trying to ignore the awkward tension between the spouses. Daniel quickly took a seat opposite the Ampharos, his eyes briefly wandering around the interior of the room before looking back at Mortimer.

      "If you want to tell us something, don't feel shy. Arceus knows that my husband talks about himself enough." Lydia snidely added, earning a hefty sigh from Mortimer.

      "Well..." Daniel said, shifting slightly in his seat. "Not sure what you'd want to learn from me. I'm not the most interesting person in the world, I can assure you."

      "No?" Mortimer enquired. "Well, I see a fellow business 'mon in front of me and all business is interesting to me. We are similar people in very different settings, you know..."

      Daniel chuckled lightly. He wouldn't consider himself business savvy; he was far too modest for that, even though by all accounts he was a businessman. "I don't know about that" he said jovially. "I do appreciate your style in vessels, though. This ship truly is a marvel to behold."

      "And I'll sing the praises of my vessels to the sky! Ohoh!" Mortimer chuckled at the stroke to his inflated ego. "This man is such a flatter, do you not think so, Lydia?" he was giggling, grasping her paws in his hands and trying to defuse the air, at least for now, but she was not looking receptive. "Surely, Mr. Darcy, have you not praises of your own to sing though?"

      "You sound like my wife, now," Daniel said teasingly. "If I have anything to sing praise for, it'd be her."

      Mhm.." Mortiner considered, although he was breifly cut off by the return of a certain Blissey, with tea for all of them to drink. "Thank you... but, as I was saying, you have a sentiment I can share. My business provides for my family and - although they don't always realise it, " he punctuated his point, squeezing the Emolga's hand, to which she had to disguise a little reflexive smile. "I love my daughter and my wife dearly."

      "Perhaps we are similar in that regard," Daniel said with a warm smile. "I wish my own wife were here with me, but she is busy running the shop in my absence." He took a sip of his tea, giving a quiet sigh of contentment. "How old is your daughter?"

      Mortimer became quickly intrigued by Daniel's line of questioning. "Oh? Our young lady Eleanor, she is the small age of nine. She took after her mother's species-"

      "-and her father's energy." Lydia helpfully cut in, seeming to warm to the conversation a little.

      "...not to mention her mother's very own... 'strong spirit' from time to time." Mortimer chuckled. "If there is something my darling wants, she will not rest until she has it!"

      "Sounds like quite the handful," Daniel quipped, giving a small laugh. "But it's why we work hard, isn't it? To provide for them," he added with a smile. "I've three boys at home. Kids can be a hassle, sometimes... but I love them just the same."

      "Like you... well, like you probably know." Lydia confirmed with a nod. "Although... I think some of the boys are less trouble than our Eleanor." There was a note of genuine concern in the Emolga's voice - she really did want the girl to grow up ready to one day head the household, however Mortimer seemed a little more jovial.

      "But I am certain that three boys could be kings of calamity together that would eclipse even her!" The noble felt... a very strange vibe from the conversation. It was... very relaxing to speak with someone to whom decorum wasn't important. Perhaps even, the Ampharos found it refreshing to have the pressure off for some time.

      "Oh, trust me when I say only one is needed to be the king of calamity," Daniel said with a chuckle. "And they have daily disputes over the crown to further add to it." The Scrafty enjoyed familial discussions. His family was probably the most important thing in his life, truthfully. He gradually sank into his chair, becoming more comfortable as he took another sip of his tea. "Even still, the joy children add easily outweighs any of the chaos they cause, don't you agree?"

      "But of course!" Mortimer bellowed. He liked this man, the accord they had struck. If everyone he did business with was this pleasant... it would truly be a dream world. "I am inexorably proud of my young Eleanor, even at her early age! She shows such... brightness. I am certain whatever choices she makes, they will be the right ones. I am sure that you feel the same pride. It is a parent's nature, no?" Even as he spoke, the Emolga seemed to frown with discontent, but something prevented her from opening her mouth and arguing this time.

      "I do..." Daniel said, albeit with less enthusiasm. He was proud of his children, in the sense that all parents are, to some extent. Yet, at the same time, his oldest was beginning to become rebellious, and it seemed as though the second child was following in the same footsteps. "And if we're not certain, we can guide them, at the least," Daniel added.

      Lydia looked up to Mortimer and back to Daniel. Her eyes narrowed, in what could easily be a glare, if only an Emolga had any way of looking intimidating. "Oh, of course! You can 'guide' them all you like, but once you get them where they're going, they'll still kick back at you when you're so damn relaxed!" her comments' target wasn't clear - it seemed almost generally addressed at the pair of them; and it certainly caught Mortimer's attention, whose head slowly crept over to her, slack-jawed disbelief written across his face.

      Daniel merely blinked a few times, before shaking his head slightly as if to regain focus. "I... suppose?" he said tentatively. "Guidance has to be accepted, really." He sighed a bit, before returning his gaze to Mortimer. "Either way, it's up to them. We can only offer guidance and hope for the best."

      Mortimer opened his mouth to speak, but was sharply cut off by Lydia. "Of course, you can hope. That's nicely passive enough for you, right?" she jabbed an accusing paw at Mortimer, who nervously tried to intervene.

      "Okay... that is quite eno-"

      "- No, I"m not done!" the Emolga burst at him, a particular fore in her eyes; she did NOT like being interrupted.

      "It is enough!" It was unusual for Mortimer to raise his voice this way, but he was all-too-aware of how readily Lydia was insulting their guest to make a point to him. The Ampharos cleared his throat before she could speak again. "Perhaps, Mr. Darcy, it may be a better plan if we conclude our business later..." he suggested. He didn't like asking him to leave, but in the long-term, it might be a little more painless.

      Daniel gave a humble nod, standing up slowly and bowing lightly to the both of them. "We can meet at another time, then," he said simply. He held a hand out to Mortimer, giving a friendly smile to the Ampharos. Mr. Téanis seemed pleasant, at least. "I look forward to doing business with you."

      Mortimer gave him a respectful nod, standing up with him, intentionally making sure he stood between Lydia and Daniel as he reached out a hand to shake with Daniel. "I will if nothing else, show you out myself. I will have people come in the evening to draw up the contract and cost the project up? Perhaps after you have closed? I would not like to further interrupt your work."

      "Sounds like a plan," Daniel said affirmatively, shaking the Ampharos' hand firmly. Despite the unpleasant circumstance of their parting, the Scrafty was smiling broadly at the prospect of business. Perhaps, if this project worked out, it could be exactly what he needed to bring the woodworks up to speed. "Store closes at 6, so feel free to show up around then. We can talk details down at the shop."

      Mortimer nodded again, quickly checking back to Lydia as he led Mr. Darcy out of the forecastle. "Then that is when I will make my appearance. For now, though, I shall bid you adieu. I must, see to some other business before the sun sets, regardless."

      "Of course," Daniel said with a nod. "A pleasure to meet you both." As he finished, Daniel was promptly escorted off the ship by the same pair of mercenaries, waving goodbye to Mortimer as he left.
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      Old August 28th, 2015 (4:55 PM). Edited December 31st, 2016 by Ray Maverick.
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      Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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      The Safe Journey
      Jonathan & Nicholas



      Jon's father had figured out that the Chimchar had strayed out of Darcy's garden in the night. The little one had no choice but to tell him what happened, knowing that he wouldn't be mad. Jon was happy to hear Isaac promised to keep it a secret, but he bid him to be careful in the future. That wasn't the only good news for Jon, though. The next day, after Isaac had met the rest of his exploration team, they had visited the Trade Prince Ignacio of Liverte; when they returned, it was decided that Ignacio would indeed take part in the funding of the expedition to the North Pole, so their preparation had to be made in Liverte - which meant that Jon and Isaac would be staying.

      Although the Darcy family welcomed them to stay at their home, Isaac would not hear it; he chose to rent a house in the neighborhood, very close to Darcy's Woodworks, and Jon was sent to the nearby public school where Nick and his brother Thomas also went. Isaac and Daniel hadn't spoken about it, but they were hoping that their children would become great friends, so they did everything in their power to bring them close. Jonathan was already settling down and getting used to the urban environment. He wasn't the best friends with the Skull gang, as he had quickly formed his own group of friends in the school, but he was still good friends with Nick and Thomas. Sometimes, they would take walks to the hill where the Lighthouse was built; at other times, they would explore the countless alleys in the dock area, not that Nick hadn't conquered them already.

      Three long months passed with everything falling into place. And then, Darcy sealed that deal with the rich merchant from Contena.

      That Sunday, they all had dinner at Darcy's house to celebrate the luck and growth of the company. The days slipped away quickly after that.


      15/6/1066 AP


      The construction of the ship was taking longer than a year. The materials weren't easily acquired, especially the large amount of wyron wood that had to be cut down by the woodworkers. The distance it traveled in secret from Mount Airthal did not help either. And it had to be undertaken in an area without many prying eyes, so the docks of Liverte were out of the question. Instead, the ship was being made in a cave near the shores of Cap Cove of Sonara, just below the floodplains at the heart of the continent, very near the island of Liverte, but nearer to a fishing village.

      Jon had been bugging his father and Nicholas for almost a year now, wanting to see the ship. The young boy had been impressed by how the woodworkers had crafted items with wyron, this wood that he had never seen before, and now he was eager to witness the ultimate creation of wyron: an entire ship. First, he and his father had joined Daniel on one of the secret rides up to the Wyron Woodland of Mount Airthal to see the wood being harvested. It was one of the greatest adventures for the youngsters. Now they were going on another great one: Mr. Darcy was going to show them the cave where the ship was being built!






      Jon and Nick had just arrived to the small town aboard a carriage led by an aged Makuhita who was missing all of his teeth. An acquaintance of the Darcy family, he was nice enough to bring them here from the shore where they disembarked from the boat coming from Liverte. Darcy and his colleagues were working on the ship during the day and stayed at an inn in this village during the night for the past few weeks, as they had all the materials they needed now for the completion of the ship, and they needed to be working on it non-stop.

      Mr. Darcy had written letters to his wife, inviting both Jon and Nick to see the nearly-completed ship. Nick, of course, had bragged that he had worked on it before, and he had indeed, earlier this year.

      "Agh," Jon complained when he jumped out of the cart. "Three hours stuck in this carriage! If my mom asks, never tell her about a near-death experience like this." He stretched himself out with abandon, facing the Makuhita. "Nghh. Thanks old man. See y'around."

      "Thure thildren, thend my regardth to mithter Darthy!" The Makuhita waved at them and prodded the Girafarig to walk further into the village.

      The Chimchar glanced around. There wasn't much to see except some boats by the piers and a few stray houses between the trees. The air was salty and hot; it smelled of summer.

      "Alright, let's get to the tavern," Nicholas said. Jon blinked. What tavern? he was about to ask, having forgotten about Daniel's instructions to seek out the main locale of the village, where most of its residents gathered for the day and night's drink, and wait for him there.

      The Scraggy waved goodbye to the Makuhita, before heading forward and motioning for Jon to follow. "Maybe we can get something to drink while we're there. I've got some extra money on me."

      Nick continued onward through a town, walking with a much more casual demeanor than his usual one. His hands were kept in his 'pockets,' whistling a light tune to himself. For him, it felt nice to be so far from home. Back in Liverte, he had to keep his appearance of a bully and tough guy, but not here, and not around Jon. Here, he could be more at ease.

      Jon soon discovered that the image he had in his mind for the village was leaps and bounds away from reality. There wasn't much to see here. The village consisted of modest residencies, a main road paved with only a bit of grass-covered cobblestone, a general store and a tavern near the pier, with open view to the boats and the sea. They got past some strangers on the road who looked sideways at Nick. Jon caught those glances and shifted his eyebrows.

      People did not like Scraggies. They didn't like any dark-types, in fact. It had become a stereotype that dark-types would rob you blind at the first chance they got, even if they seemed harmless at first. The problem was, as the society rejected them as functional members of it, it was more likely that dark-types became the stereotype thieves or bullies. They had all the tools in their arsenal to cheat people, after all. But where Jon was coming from, he did not know any of that, and although he had already been exposed to plenty of it in Liverte, he had not realized the prejudice against dark-types.

      "I don't like the looks they're givin' you, man," Jon said in a hushed voice, leaning towards the Scraggy but still staring at the strangers who'd returned to their business.

      "Eh, just ignore them," Nick said dismissively, trying to hide his irritation. "I've been ignoring them for a while now. I'm used to it."

      "Used to it?!" Jon shouted, incredulous.

      "Yeah," Nick said, almost surprised that Jon didn't know. Nick knew that Jon hadn't grown up in the city like him, but it seemed so much of a second nature to the Scraggy that it felt strange that Jon wasn't aware. "People don't like me because I'm a dark type, even if only partially." He shrugged a bit, bothered but not heavily. "They think that dark types are up to no good, or that we're going to hurt somebody or do something bad.

      "So that's why the Skull gang's getting crap," Jon said, "you people are all dark-types, aren't you?"

      Nick nodded quietly. "That's how we started, actually. Most of us were picked on and bullied, just because of our type. We only had each other as friends..." he seemed almost sullen, before shaking his head. "But we eventually got tired of being treated like dirt. One day, as some tough graveller kid was cornering me as usual, I... well, I had enough."

      They'd both slowed his pace on the cobblestone path; it wasn't usual that he managed to hear Nick talk like that about himself, so he wasn't in any hurry to get anywhere. He was looking at him, prodding him to go on without saying much.

      "I punched him," Nick said, almost proudly. "Right in his sorry face. He never picked on me again." The Scraggy looked up at the sky, his expression seemingly void of emotion, as if unsure of how to feel. "The other kids all saw it. They didn't pick on me any more. My friends were all happy for me, and we kind of stuck together after that. We decided that, if we wanted to stop people bullying us, we had to push back. That's how we started our little group."

      Jon was quiet, processing what he'd just been told without responding for a while. They reached what seemed to be the plaza of the small village, which seemed to be just the cobblestone path dispersing into many directions between the trees and a house here and there. The tavern near the pier was in their sights.

      "I would've punched him too," the Chimchar decided.

      Nick raised an eyebrow at Jon. Most 'mon, his father included, would have told him that resorting to violence wasn't the answer. Jon was the only person who agreed with Nick. "Well, the other kids were scared of us after that. It felt good. Constantly being picked on... then turning the tables." For a second, it almost looked like the Scraggy was grinning, though he quickly hid it away. "Felt good to punch that kid. Got what he deserved."

      Nick looked ahead, seeing the tavern Daniel has instructed them to go to. "Come on. We can get a drink before we set off."

      The tavern had set its tables on its open garden, in the arbor's shade. The sea was just a few meters from that area; it looked like a great spot to enjoy the summer breeze while having a good meal. The place only sparsely populated, a few 'mon sitting at the counter with their drinks, a slender Furret behind the counter cleaning the mugs. At the side of the room was a Leavanny, sitting at the piano playing a simple tune to amuse himself and the patrons.

      Jon jumped on a small stool, occupying the table that was near the sea. "Oi!" he cheered at the Furret, "beer for me and my friend!"

      "Aye," the Furret nodded.

      Nick took his seat at the table, turning to face Jon. "I guess we wait here for my father, then."

      Jon glanced around the tables. There were a few companies gathered in the tavern, people from the village. Two Surskits on a low table were looking at him and Nick sideways, murmuring.

      "More strangers," one of them said in a low voice, "that's out of the blue, isn't it? And then there's that ship flying the Crossbone Morty sailing around the cove... you think they're pirates?"

      Jon ignored their conversation, busying himself with counting the coins he had on him. But Nick was listening to the two Surskits closely.

      "No, they don't much look like pirates," the other Surskit said. "They're just young pups, can't you see?"

      The bunch nearby was quiet, Pokemon hunched on their chairs and cushions. They seemed to be native fishermen enjoying their slow evening after a morning of hard work. A Dwebble, the loudest one, was the spirit of the group; he instantly caught Jon's attention.

      "Bart!" the Dwebble shouted to the Furret, "we're workin' an appetite here, tell yer wife teh whip some of those Cloyster specialties of hers. And let's see some more merriment!"

      "Hey!" the Chimchar shouted equally loud, standing on top of his chair and pointing at the Furret rudely, but all in good spirit. "I want that too!"

      The Furret only laughed at the group, motioning for them and Jon to settle down. "have some patience, friends, there's plenty to go around!" He glanced into the back room, shouting into the kitchen. "Got a few more Cloyster specials, honey!"

      "They'll be up in a flash!" a voice called back, presumably the barkeep's wife. The Furret waved a hand at the Leavanny, signalling the 'mon to play a livelier tune. The bug-type happily obliged, nodding and picking a new musical piece for the bar.

      "Kid, ye sure ye wanna be tastin' o' this dish?" the Dwebble asked him, "they be extra spicy, and fer a youngster such as yerself..." he glanced at the rest of the men on the table slyly. They all exchanged laughing looks.

      "Yea, I'm game," Jon said. "No sweat."

      The Dwebble nodded, grinning. "What's yer name, kid?"

      "Captain Jon," the Chimchar said and put his fist on his chest, giving him a smug look. "Scourge of the skies."

      The company of old fishermen broke out in laughter. Heads from the other tables turned as well. Jon sensed it wasn't a mocking laughter, so he just grinned.

      "D'ye hear that mon?" the Dwebble yelled mid-laughter, "scourge o' the skies, hah!" As the laughter died down, his eyes were drawn on Nicholas. "And who's he? First Mate Louis? Hahaha!"

      Jon looked at Nick questioningly, as if asking him, are you First Mate Louis? Louis was an infamous pirate, first mate to the legendary Captain Flint, the Pirate King who terrorized the seas and skies of the Known World. His crew disbanded many years ago, but their memory was still fresh in the places they had been in.

      Nick gave a small laugh, motioning for Jon to sit down. He didn't want to draw too much attention to himself right now. "Maybe someday, but not now," he joked, turning back as the Furret brought their drinks to them, as well as setting two steaming cloyster plates down, one to the first table, and a smaller serving to Jon. They smelled fresh; they must've been caught right this morning.

      "Enjoy, lads" the Furret said cheerfully, before returning to his duties. Nick took a small swig of his drink, eyeing the dish hungrily. Jon immediately noticed and he pushed his steaming plate in the middle. There was enough for the two of them, and Jon wasn't as hungry as he seemed to be.

      He grabbed one of the small cloysters with his fingers and gobbled it down in one go. The men from the nearby table were watching him carefully, to see his reaction. It was indeed spicy; Jon's favorite.

      The Chimchar gagged and grabbed his throat with both hands and the fishermen started laughing uncontrollably right away. "AHH! MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE!" He grabbed his beer and splashed it down his throat.

      He was pretending, of course, to put on a show. The native tribes in Guntama jungle specialized in far spicier foods, so his tongue was well trained.

      "How hot is it?" Nick asked, hesitantly reaching over and grabbing one of the shells himself. He inspected it closely, before popping it in his maw without waiting for an answer.

      "Not hot enough," Jon whispered naughtily, raising his eyebrows. The others didn't hear him.

      Definitely hot, but nothing Nick couldn't handle. "Not bad..." he murmured, taking another sip from his drink.

      A few minutes passed... then an hour... then another. Nick and Jon sat at the table near the sea the entire time, waiting for Daniel to arrive, but something was keeping the elder Darcy from arriving on time. Nick idly tapped his fingers on the counter, his head resting on the wooden bar with a glazed expression.

      "Hey pops, we'll meet you at the tavern, right?" Nick said to himself in a mocking tone. "Right, son, just wait there and I'll take you to the site." The Scraggy sighed, looking expectantly outside the garden, on the road. "Where are you?" he asked himself.

      "Errh," Jon let out, sinking back into his chair with his eyes squinted in boredom. "This blows, man," he said, half-drunk from all the beers he'd had to entertain himself. Suddenly, as if he'd gotten an idea, he leaned forward on the table with his arms upon it, watching Nick seriously, re-invigorated. "What if we find the cave on our own?" he said in a low voice. "Can't be that hard, I bet it's around here somewhere. Yea, let's do that."

      "We're supposed to wait for my dad," Nick said quietly, not taking his head off the counter. "What if we leave and then he shows up?"

      "He'll find us easily," Jon insisted, "don't worry about it, man, your father's not stupid."

      The company of fishermen on the nearby table had heard the young men mention waiting for a person named Daniel. The Dwebble said, "ye waitin' fer sumbody, mon?"

      "Not anymore," Jon said, leaving a few silver berries from his pouch on the table next to the empty plate. Jumping from his chair, he shouted to the company of fishermen, "Oi folks, ya know where we can find us a boat?"

      "Ol' Bill's could lend ye his, I say," the Dwebble said, "don't reckon he's much use fer it nowadays. That ogre's grown too heavy in his old age fer it to float!" The small bug nudged the Shuppet next to him, raising his eyebrows with his mouth open, and the company exploded in laughter yet again.

      "Aye," Jon said, making a gesture with his hand near his forehead to show his gratitude. "Let's get goin'," he told Nick.

      They found Bill very easily; he was a humongous Nidoking that was sitting on the pier; the man was so heavy that the wood of the pier was bent under him. He was staring at the sea dreamily, having set his fishing rod next to him. It was Nick who approached the aged fisherman, as Jon was lolling about on the small dock, jumping from pole to pole and from rock to rock, crouching to watch some Chinchous lights in the dark waters.

      "Excuse me," Nick said politely. His father had taught him to be respectful to his elders. "We were told you had a boat that you could lend us?"

      "Eh? Who?" the Nidoking mumbled, woken from his trance. He turned his head lazily to look at the Scraggy with his mouth half open. "My boat? I don't use it no more... take it, she's the one over there." He pointed in front of him, at a bumboat that was secured on the pier. A tiny blue flag was fixed on the aft of the vessel. "But you return it by nightfall, ya hear? I love my boat, kiddo."

      Nick was taken aback at how easy it was. "Sure thing, mister," he replied. He waved to Jon, gesturing for him to follow. "Thanks. Come on, Jon, let's go."

      Jon leaped on the boat and stood on its bow on one foot, and kept his balance, despite it being rocked slightly with the waves. Nick quickly untied the vessel and began to pilot the boat out into the open waters. He waved back at the Nidoking, thanking him again before turning out to the water.


      ***


      Meanwhile, hidden near the shore, a mighty pirate galleon waited, belonging to Captain Amadeus. The Dirty Deed was her name. The Garbodor was standing at the bow, balancing a black top hat on his head. His first mate, the Seviper, was busy monitoring the village with a spyglass.

      "Say Barnabus," Amadeus said, trying to look up at his head. "You suppose now that I'm rich I should try lookin' more fancy? I kinda like this here hat."

      The Seviper sighed in annoyance, clearly trying to focus. "Now why on earth would you want to look fancy?" He quickly looked over at the Garbodor, rolling his eyes. "Where'd you get that ridiculous hat anyways?"

      "I found it at that village," Amadeus replied. "Maybe I could be a fancy pirate! Usin' big words like marvelous and indub... dubib... errr..."

      "Indubitably?" Barnabus asked.

      "Yeah, that!" Amadeus said. "I'd be a fancy pirate!"

      "Amadeus, I am trying to concentrate... wait a moment..." Suddenly, the Seviper caught sight of a small boat heading out from the pier. He studied it for only a second, instantly recognizing the two teens piloting it. The Seviper whistled for Amadeus to come over, the Garbodor begrudgingly putting his hat down to waddle over. "Take a look at them."

      Amadeus brought the spyglass up to his gaze, spotting the boat and giving off a rumbling laugh. "Ohoho! Them's be those two kids from the underground, ain't they?"

      "Indeed," Barnabus replied. "What do you suppose they're doing here?"

      "Beats me," Amadeus answered, returning to adjusting his hat.

      "Hmm..." Barnabus said, taking back the spyglass and keeping an eye on Nick and Jon.

      "Forget them, they're just a bunch of punks," Amadeus scoffed. "Not worth the time, I say."

      "Really, now?" Barnabus said, eyeing his captain with a look of arrogance. "Are you forgetting? These are the kids who almost stole your treasure in Liverte."

      Amadeus narrowed his gaze at the Seviper, his expression growing serious. "What are you saying, Barnabus?"

      "I'm saying that I highly doubt they're just out here for an afternoon boat ride," Barnabus said with a sly smirk. "If they're out here taking a boat, it's obvious that they're going somewhere specific. Who's to say that they're not after more treasure?"

      The Garbodor's eyes grew wide at the realization, before giving Barnabus a stern glare. "You keep those kids in your sight. If you lose them for even a second, I'll yank your fangs out, you hear?"

      "Perfectly," Barnabus replied with a tut. He returned to his spyglass, keeping an eye on Nick and Jon's small vessel.


      ***


      Nick had already been in the cave where the ship was being built, so he took the boat straight to there. It was around the nearest bluff, the entrance hidden from the sight of most vessels that traversed Cap Cove due to its location. As soon as they made land, Nick tied the boat to a nearby tree, quickly running inside the cave with Jon in tow.

      It didn't take much walking for them to get to their destination. Illuminated by torches, in the widest part of the cave, was the vessel in question. A large, or so it seemed to Jon and Nick, mighty vessel, made with a mixture of Wyron wood and other materials. It was a brigantine in terms of type, but instead of sails, the masts that protruded to the side supported one blimp on each side of the airship. The metallic hull that was installed above the silvery body of the ship was painted jet black, shining under the lamp on the ceiling of the cave. It also sported a forecastle, more heightened than the common flat-deck forecastle of a normal brigantine. Its sidewings on the back were beautiful, made of a leathery-looking cotton.

      Jon was sent in a trance when he saw this marvel of techmaturgy inside the cave. He loved airships more than anything in the world. His eyes darted to the rudder atop the forecastle; he'd give anything to take it to his hands and pilot the ship up and away.

      His daydreaming was interrupted by a shout.

      "Hey, boys!" Miller shouted, the Hitmontop standing atop a large scaffolding as he worked. He saw the two approaching, greeting them with a friendly wave and a smile. "Nicholas, where's your father?"

      "We got tired of waiting," Nick replied with a shrug. "How's the work going?"

      "We're a little behind, but it goes well," Miller replied with a grin, looking over at the ship with pride. It was nearly finished, the exterior in almost perfect condition. "She'll be done before the month's end, I guarantee you that!"

      "Sweeeet," Jon drooled in pure amazement, circling around the ship. The hull was made from the silvery wyron wood with the hint of brown in it; it was reinforced with tristanite. A Skarmory figurine was fashioned out of the same wood on its bow. The ship had no ram as it looked to be designed for transport rather than combat.

      The woodworkers had built it on the sandy floor of the cavern, in between some rocks to stabilize it. Jon jumped on those rocks and then onto the deck with ease. The deck was made from a simple brand of wood that Jon wasn't familiar with. It was the kind of wood that most airships of the Avian Naval Forces were made of; expensive and smooth. The Chimchar got on his knees and put his opened palms on it with delight showing on his face, as if he was looking at a hot chocolate cake straight out of the oven. He lowered his head on the deck and sighed dreamily. "You're so beautiful, baby," he whispered.

      "Ain't she, though?" Miller said, walking up behind the Chimchar, with Nick following him. "You a lover of ships, lad?"

      The Chimchar looked up to the Hitmontop. "Who ain't a lover of ships, mister? All kinds of mon wanna fly!"

      "Too true, lad," Miller said with a smile. "Unfortunately, this beauty ain't for us. This here's for that Mr. Téanis fellow." The Hitmontop put his hands on his hips, admiring the ship as he stood on the deck. "Even still, he asked for the best money could buy, and that's what we're going to give 'em!"

      Nick walked along the deck as well, simply running his hand across the railing and feeling the smooth sheen of the wood. "It's awesome..." Nick said quietly to himself.

      "Oy, Miller, you reckon it's time for a break?" a voice called up from the ground, from one of the workers. Miller looked down from the railing, nodding down at him.

      "Sounds good to me," the Hitmontop replied. He turned to both Nick and Jon. "You guys want to join us for some lunch?"

      "Nah, we just had lunch," the Chimchar said.

      "Yeah, we're good," Nick said. "Is it okay if we look around the ship for a bit while you're gone?"

      "Hmm..." Miller mused, placing a hand to his chin, before breaking out in a wide grin. "Ah, who am I kidding? Of course you can, Nick. Just be careful, okay?" With that, Miller walked towards the scaffolding, gathering the rest of the workers as they headed out for a meal.

      "Let's climb to the blimps!" Jon whispered to Nick excitedly, careful so Miller would not hear him.

      "Alright, just be careful," Nick repeated to Jon.

      "Be careful," Jon said in a mocking voice, "you sound like my mother!" The Chimchar jumped on the chains at the side of the ship and started climbing agilely. He hugged the bottom of the blimp once he reached it; it was made of rubbery cotton that was dipped in white paint and Jon quickly discovered he could stick to its surface easily. Propelling himself upwards on the highest level was as easy as climbing a tree.

      Nick climbed up after the Chimchar, though it wasn't as easy for him, with one hand trying to keep his shed skin from falling to the ground and the other hanging onto the chain. "Slow down!" he called out jokingly.

      Jon sat on top of the blimp. One of the lamps the woodworkers had installed to light the cave was just above his head; the ceiling wasn't too far away. If only it was the sky!

      "I am the mighty Captain Adrian Rochetto!" Jon suddenly shouted, looking below, at the deck of the airship. "Welcome aboard my ship! You've got two choices, scab! Join me, or walk the plank! Har, har, har!"

      "Adrian who?" Nick asked with a laugh. After a moment of struggling, the Scraggy finally made it to the top with Jon, eyeing the Chimchar jovially.

      Jon kept pretending. "Adrian who? Faithless heathen, down to the black depths with ye, and never come back!"

      "Oh yeah?" Nick said haughtily, pulling up his shed skin and puffing out his chest. "Make me, you big yellowbelly!"

      Jon copied him. He flexed the muscles of his thin arms and took an angry impression. "I will take you down, otherwise never again anyone shall call me Terror of the Paralean Coast!" The Chimchar charged wildly at the Scraggy with his hands extended as if he wanted to choke him for real. He was so caught up in the passion of the moment that one looking at his face couldn't tell if he was playing or not.

      Nick reacted by bringing his own arms up to defend, smiling broadly as he did. He was no stranger to a brawl, whether playful or serious, grappling with the Chimchar and roaring as he dragged him down to the rubbery floor of the blimp, attempting to pin him down.

      Jon pushed back with his legs. They joined foreheads as they tried to overpower each other. The Chimchar showed his teeth and growled. "No man has... ever beaten me in single combat!" he boasted.

      "Until today!" Nick retorted, laughing loudly as he wrestled with the Chimchar. The two continued to roll around, attempting to overpower each other.

      In the following hour, the two kids ran around to all the places of the ship, always fighting an epic battle between Captain Adrian Rochetto and an aspiring young pirate while the airship was going through a storm. Their imagination helped it become so that Safe Journey, as they discovered the ship was named, was rocking with the wind. At one point, Jon jumped onto the rudder to command Captain Adrian's ship, Head Crusher, but for some reason it wouldn't stir. It didn't matter - he pretended it worked and ordered his men to fire at Nick's ship, which was the deck, where the Scraggy was standing.

      After the two ships had their psychic barriers brought down and their sidewings destroyed, it was time to board the enemy. It didn't matter who had won the battle in the air - it only mattered that it was boarding time, which meant battle. Jon left the rudder and jumped on its railing, shouting AERAAAH! and leaped onto his opponent. They rolled on the deck and fought for real. By the end of it, they were panting heavily with their backs against the stylus, the makeshift mast in the middle of the deck that supported and brought balance to the two blimps.

      Jon had a slightly blackened cheek from a punch Nick had thrown, but he was laughing with his eyes. "You know how to put up a fight!" he said, then took another quick breath. "Captain Adrian recognizes your skill."

      "So, does that make me part of your crew then?" Nick said in-between breaths. He had a few bruises as well, though the Scraggy had endured far worse in his serious fights.

      "Aye!" Jon shouted, raising both his arms up. Then, he fell over, laying on the deck and sighing. "Yer part of my crew now, scab! No going back!"

      Nick laughed heartily, lying flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling of the cavern. He brought his hands to rest his head on, sighing heavily as he recuperated. "So... who's Adrian, anyways?" he asked, dropping the act.

      "You don't know Captain Adrian?" Jon said, as if only just know he realized. "He's the Terror of the Paralean Coast, most feared pirate in Carajol. And he's like a second father to me, one of the greatest men I know - yea, pirate and captain, and a great man, you heard right. Met him when I was a kid, around eight years old, in Guntama. When I was exploring the jungle's coast - just had to roam, ain't anything that can hold me in one place - I saw a bamboo hut, few meters from the sea; I got curious so I stayed in that area, knocking on the door every morning. Just had to know who lived there and why. Every time I knocked, he'd only tell me to go 'way. So I found a way in." Jon laughed loudly. "I saw his fat ass - a Slaking, gods he was so fat - laying on a hammock and underneath it, the biggest pile of treasure I ever seen. I thought my eyes were fooling me with all that shine. He was angry... but we got along no problem. Big and mean he looked, yea, but he was lonely and craving some company. He told me he always wanted kids of his own and that his son, if he had ever had one, would be just like me."

      "So why was he living in a hut, then?" Nick asked. "If he had so much treasure, I'd think he'd live in a fancy mansion or somethin'."

      Jon looked perplexed too, folding his lips as if saying, I don't know, either. "I told him, with all that gold, we could both go live in those palaces the Inathi people build for their preachers. He said no, said he needed to hide from some Government... didn't know what he meant at the time. But, that old man was a pirate for sure, I knew, and it turns out he was. Captain of the famed Head Crusher, and he'd stolen all that gold from a treasury, so he'd gone into hiding. Taught me many things, that bastard... you know what I told him, some time after I met him? I told him, why hide? You're a pirate. Pirates go where they please - they don't hide like scared Rattatas. So, that was it, he flew out of the Hakiwara zone on a raft and took me with him to someplace I hadn't heard of before or dreamed that it could exist: Modistra! We traveled for months to get there. Old man kept saying how it was almost halfway across the Known World, but I didn't know what that was."

      The Chimchar wiped his nose and pushed back his hair from his face. "He assembled his old crew back there and took over the island. Been in charge ever since..." he shook his head, smiling gratefully. "He's the second best thing that happened to me, after my real dad. If he hadn't taken me to Modistra, I'd have never known my dad, or mom."

      "You weren't with your dad, then?" Nick asked, raising an eyebrow. He partially knew about Jon's story, but the details still eluded him. "Adrian kind of adopted you, I guess?"

      "Adopted?" Jon said, as if Nick had offended his ancestors. Being reminded of the fact that you were adopted in Guntama was an insult. "No way! I never saw it like that, anyway... but I'd no dad then either. He didn't know I existed. I know he's regretting that, and I forgive him. We're only mon, we all make mistakes."

      "What about your mom?" Nick said, seeing as how Jon always talked about his father, but never his mother. "Where was she?"

      A knot had climbed into Jon's throat. It was bitter for him to think of these things again. "She was there, too, in Hakiwara, just not in the jungle. We never talked when I grew up there - we never even met, I think. She was stuck in the region - nobody knew how to pilot a ship through the Far Across Zone, except Adrian. We returned in Hakiwara with my dad years later to get her out. He'd said to me again and again, he never knew mom and I had been in the region all this time, and that he'd have come looking for us earlier. As to why I never grew up with mom... I'm not sure, either... I think she just dropped me as an egg in the jungle somewhere. I don't know. Dad told me the times were harsh in Guntama when I was born, so she did that to protect me. I don't know, man..." the Chimchar shook his head doubtfully. He was never sure his mother actually loved him by the way she acted toward him. It was like she forgot he existed at times.

      "Adrian told me not to worry. Said she did love me. He even started a fight with me 'bout it," Jon smiled at the remembrance of the angry Slaking brawling with him to convince him his mother loved him. "Adrian, what a great man! He's my inspiration. I want to become a pirate like him, captain of my own crew, and we'll roam the seas and the skies like he does. We'll go where we please. We'll be dangerous."

      "A pirate?" Nick asked, a bit concerned. "Aren't most pirates bad, like that Amadeus guy?" Nick had only had experiences with the evil sort of pirates. Liverte was crawling with them; thugs, the whole lot of them, constantly bullying the town into giving them 'protection money,' which was pirate speak for theft. They'd even visited his family from time to time, though Daniel usually knew how to handle the situation calmly. "Why would you want to be a bad guy?"

      Jon rubbed the side of his neck uncomfortably as he lay on the deck. "I don't wanna be the bad guy," he said, "I'll be a good pirate. I won't be mean unless people force me to."

      Nick couldn't help but stifle a laugh at Jon's answer. A good pirate? Ludicrous. There was no such thing! "A good pirate?" he asked. "If a pirate was good, he wouldn't be a pirate then!"

      Jon said nothing in response. Adrian was good enough of a man for him. He wanted to be like him, and that was the end of it.

      "I don't think I'd ever want to be a pirate..." Nick said, partially to himself. "Pirates don't do anything good. They... they take from people, and they hurt people, and they only care about themselves." The Scraggy shook his head, condemning the actions in his mind. "My dad says I might get to run the business when I'm older. If things picks up, I think I'd like to do that."

      "Boys?" Suddenly, Miller called out for them, the Hitmontop searching around the ship for the two. "Daniel's here. He wants to talk to you two."

      "Uh oh..." Nick said, gulping slightly before turning to Jon. "We forgot about dad!"

      "But I'm a pirate," Jon said out loud, having ignored everything Nick had said. "I go where I please, when I please..." he said jokingly, but his voice trailed off in a whisper. "Gotta hope he buys that."
      __________________

      *** Open Blue OOC ***
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        #5    
      Old September 9th, 2015 (5:31 PM). Edited January 20th, 2017 by GastlyGibus.
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      GastlyGibus GastlyGibus is offline
      I can't hear ya, ya talkin' to me?
         
        Join Date: Jan 2014
        Location: The city streets
        Age: 24
        Gender: Male
        Nature: Naive
        Posts: 169
        No Leaf Clover
        17/6/1066 AP

        The Shellder on the desk kept ringing non-stop. The Trade Prince averted his gaze from the city's night lights below his office at the top floor. He'd told Semele he did not wish to be disturbed at this hour.

        The Pikachu jumped from his expensive dragonskin relaxation chair onto his desk in the middle of a clean room with cool, modern decor. He picked the Shellder phone with his small hands, pried it open and brought it to his ear. "Yeah?!" he shouted.

        "Hi, sir, sorry to disturb you, but you seem to have persistent visitors." His secretary spoke from the other end of the line.

        The Pikachu, frustrated, raised one hand near his face and shut his eyes, trying to cool off his nerves. "What did I say, Semele, just half an hour ago?" he said, barely managing to keep his voice steady.

        "I know, sir, no visitors, no disturbances, nothing at all," the secretary said quickly, realizing the dangerous tone of the Trade Prince. Suddenly, another voice was heard arguing with Semele, and the shell on the other end was audibly yanked from her hands.

        "Oy! Ignacio! You're not gonna let your favorite captain upstairs to see ya?" The booming voice of Amadeus came from the other end.

        The Pikachu threw the phone on the desk, gritted his teeth and grabbed his head with both hands. His mouth formed the word psyduck! and he tossed his arms in the air and looked out the window. But not for long. He put the phone back in his ear and hummed in a mellow tone: "Amadeus! How nice to hear you again, how are you? Come on right up, actually. Semele!" He yelled, "let him up!"

        And with that he hit the button to end the call and sent the conch flying across the room. He cussed silently multiple times again. That brute again! I thought I was done with him for the month!

        No sooner had he said that then the elevator could be heard coming up, and before long the large Garbodor had arrived, his deep laugh echoing throughout the Pikachu's office. Barnabus slithered beside him, looking as collected and calm as ever, as Amadeus looked around the room in awe. No matter how many times he'd been here, the pirate was always impressed with Ignacio's trappings.

        "Ohoho! How ya doin', Ignacio?" Amadeus greeted with a wide grin. He walked right up to a large table in the center, adorned with a bowl of fruit and snacks, grabbing a large watmel berry and biting into it loudly. "Nice place ya' got here. Could use a good private stage, preferably with some pole dancers," he added, chuckling lowly to himself, yet still much louder than most folk.

        The Trade Prince was now sitting on his chair behind his desk. "The pole dancers belong to another place and time, but I'll consider it," Ignacio snickered. He lit a fat, black cigar with a spark and offered one to the Garbodor. The Garbodor had to take that offer, because as Ignacio had said himself, he does not like sharing, so when he does share, they have to be accepted.

        Amadeus gave a toothy smirk, eagerly grabbing the cigar and waiting for Ignacio to light it with his finger. He drew in a large breath, exhaling a large cloud of smoke, much blacker and thicker than the puffs of smoke from Ignacio. "So, what's up, doc?"

        "Port license deals with petty and over-ambitious merchants, dealing with police brutality complaints from insignificant hopeless peasants," he said with a smirk as he stared at the Garbodor. He let out a puff of smoke. "The usual stuff, you know," he commented in his sharp tone.

        "Strictly business," Amadeus commented. "Don't waste any time, do ya?"

        I think I'm wasting my time right now, the Trade Prince thought, but he said instead, "what brings you here at this hour?"

        "Aww, you really got nothin' to say?" Amadeus said almost whimsically. Barnabus simply stood off to the side, rolling his eyes. "No surprise rewards for your favorite captain, eh? Nothin' at all?"

        Ignacio let his usual charming business persona drop just for a moment to stare at the Garbodor with his mouth half open and his brows furrowed, incredulous. He was stingy with his gifts to World Leaders - and a lowly pirate - a pirate - had barged into his office, expecting a reward of some sort. He shook his head in confusion, as if shaking himself back to reality. "What, what reward are you talking about?" he said quickly, gesturing questioningly with his hand.

        Amadeus laughed again, the large pokémon looking over at Ignacio with a grin. "Come on, no sense in hiding things from your old pal Amadeus!" He crossed his arms, before raising an eyebrow at Ignacio. "You got me a present, didn't ya?"

        The Pikachu turned to Barnabus and showed him his captain with his hand. "What is he talking about?" he demanded to know. He was getting impatient with these imbeciles bothering him at this hour.

        Barnabus sighed, obviously as annoyed with Amadeus as Ignacio was. "We were doing our business in Liverte, as usual. We found a large ship being constructed, I assume a project of yours, judging by the scale and secrecy of it. Amadeus seems to think it was being built for him, but I told him not to get his hopes up."

        The Trade Prince's interest was piqued. "Tell me more," he commanded. "What exactly did you see?"

        Barnabus raised an eyebrow, confused as to how Ignacio wasn't already aware. "You mean it's not yours?" Barnabus mused. Such a large project would certainly have been under the ownership of the Trade Prince, as least, Barnabus thought as much. "In the fishing village just shy of Liverte, hidden in a small cove there. We'd snuck in, in pursuit of suspicious characters, and we saw it; a large, ornate ship, being built in secret. Looks like it's being built for both defense and luxury, as a merchant ship." Barnabus eyed Ignacio with a narrow gaze. "I assumed it belonged to you."

        Ignacio's temper was rising. The shipyards all belonged to him, as well as the materials to build ships with. Ships sold well, so the Trade Prince of Liverte had to make sure he and only he could craft and sell ships. And someone was messing with his business, it seemed. He tried to appear calm. He took out the cigar from his mouth and looked to the side. "And who was making that ship?" he asked in an almost sweet tone. Poison hid behind his voice.

        "I do believe I saw the Darcy's child going in there," Barnabus said, flicking his tongue in a sinister manner. "I had thought you commissioned the Woodworks."

        The Pikachu tapped his fingers on his desk and simply gave a fake smile. Then he laid back on his chair, exhaled and pushed the hair from his eyes. "I see, very well," he said carefully. "No, I did not commission them. They are doing this behind my back. Amadeus..." the Pikachu said in a friendly manner, always smiling, but his black eyes were deeply etched with something evil. "I do have a reward for you, for bringing me this valuable information." He took the cigar out of his mouth and battered it into the ashtray. "You do know about the limit I have set to the protection money you pirates may require from the peasants of this city?"

        He joined his hands in front of his face and leaned forward on his desk so they couldn't see his mouth. "Next time you visit Darcy's Woodworks, demand ten times your regular fee. The next time... add another ten times. And the next time... and the next time. And if they don't comply, just remember that this time, the rules about violence, family sanctuary and destruction of property do not apply to you. Nobody will mind if you are..." he furrowed his brows smartly and nodded quickly as he said, "a bit harsh."

        Amadeus brought his hands together at the mention of violence and destruction. "Oy... so you want us to send a message, ey?" He giggled lowly, an evil laugh of ill-intent. "That can most certainly be arranged."

        With that, the two were dismissed. As Amadeus and Barnabus sat in the elevator on the way down, the Garbodor turned to his First Mate, raising an eyebrow. "So... I'm not getting a new boat?"

        Barnabus have an irritated sigh, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "No, you're not getting a new boat...."

        ***

        30/6/1066 AP

        The relative quiet of the Woodworks soon became broken, the front door slamming open. Two burly looking 'mon, a Vigoroth and a Pignite, strode in, each wearing a crooked smile. Daniel turned from the counter, glancing at the two warily; he knew who they were, as they had been here numerous times before. Pirates under Amadeus' command, here to collect their monthly 'protection money.' The Pignite went to examine the wares, with the Vigoroth approaching the front counter.

        "It's your favorite time of the month, Mr. Darcy!' The Vigoroth said sarcastically, striding up to the counter and staring the Scrafty down.

        "Ah, yes, that time when I'm legally robbed," Daniel said disdainfully, motioning for his assistant to go towards the back.

        "Aw, don't look at it like that," The Vigoroth said with a chuckle, leaning his elbow on the counter. "We told ya, it's protection money."

        "I am no fool," Daniel spat back. His assistant returned as he spoke, carrying a briefcase of money for the two pirates. "I see your little racket scheme for what it is. Just take your money and go."

        The Vigoroth grinned, taking the briefcase and opening it up. Ten doubloons, as they normally received every month. The Vigoroth gave a tut at the count, raising an eyebrow at the Scrafty. "You're missing a few."

        "What?" Daniel said angrily. "That's ten doubloons! That's what you get every month! No more, no less!"

        "The fee just went up," the Vigoroth explained. "Times are tough, you know? Boss is askin' for fifty silver on top of this."

        "Fifty silver?" Daniel retorted. A relatively small amount compared to ten doubloons, but the principle offended him. "You're going to haggle me over pocket change?"

        "If it's pocket change, then it should be no problem, right?" the Vigoroth replied. "Or do I have to get the message across more clearly?" He turned back towards his Pignite partner, the fire-type snapping his fingers and holding a small flame up in his hand, as if ready to begin burning the place down right there.

        "Thieves," Daniel accused, before reaching towards a small chest under the counter. He counted out the fifty silver berries, before angrily slapping them on the counter. "There! Take your money and leave!"

        "A pleasure doing business with you," the Vigoroth said with a smile, tipping an imaginary hat and bowing slightly. With that, he whistled for his partner, signalling the time for them to leave. He closed the briefcase with the extra fifty silver, before walking out and whistling merrily to himself as the two left. Daniel simply eyed them with scorn, silently wishing an ill fate to fall on them, before sighing. Miller walked into the room slowly, seeing the two pirates just before they left.

        "It's pocket change, like you said," Miller spoke softly, trying to help alleviate the Scrafty's mood. "They just got a bit cocky."

        "Yes, but still," Daniel replied. "The fact that they think they can come in here and extort money from me because they're pirates? And to ask for more than what we agreed? Brutes. The whole lot of 'em. Bullies and brutes."

        "Easy there," Miller said, placing a hand gently on the Scrafty's shoulder. "It's nothing we can't handle."

        "You're right," Daniel said with a sigh, calming down slightly. "Sorry."

        "It's fine," Miller replied with a smile. "Hey, you mind helping me out with this project in the back? Take your mind off things."

        "Of course," Daniel said, following Miler to the back of the store. The Hitmontop was right; fifty silver or no, it was nothing they couldn't handle.

        ***

        1/11/1066 AP

        The cold wind blew across the hull of Amadeus' vessel. Above deck, slightly shivering in the cold, sat a Linoone, the pirate leaning over the railing with a shellder phone next to him.

        "Ey, boss. Yeah, they ain't payin'," the Linoone said. The voice on the other end spoke, with the Linoone paying close attention. "... no sir, they told us to leave. I think you finally started to bleed them dry. They ain't payin'."

        The voice on the other end replied, causing the Linoone the raise an eyebrow. "... no money? Well, what else we take? We can take their merchandise, or..." the voice interrupted again, before the Linoone could reply. "... yeah, I know about the kid. What about 'em?" There was silence from the normal type, before his eyes went wide.

        "For real?" he said, shocked. "Just like that? ... no, I'm not arguin' with ya, just sayin'. ... oh no, it's a great plan, it's just... oh, wow." The Linoone listened to the voice on the other end, nodding every now and then, before finally smirking. "Yes sir. I'll get the boys right on it."

        With that, the Linoone hung up the phone, placing it to the side before calling out below deck. "Ey, Amadeus! Boss's got a job for us!"

        ***

        3/11/1066

        Thomas Darcy was walking home alone that night. He had been visiting a friend, studying for their exams the next day. His brother Nicholas had warned him about walking Liverte at night, but Thomas was close enough to home to attempt it anyways. The young Scraggy had made this trip several times before, returning unharmed every time.

        Thomas turned a corner, very near to the workshop, and his bed, yawning lightly at the thought of sleep. It was getting late, and he had stayed past his intended time. As he walked, he heard a rustling behind him. Before he could even turn to investigate, a hooded figure jumped down from the roof, startling the teenager and causing him to fall over.

        "Going somewhere?" the figure asked. Thomas couldn't see them clearly, but he could definitely see the sword the figure was sporting. A scabbard like that could only belong to a pirate. He turned to run, only to find another set of hooded figures behind him as well. The Scraggy trembled on the ground, gripped by terror. He looked around, seeing no police or citizens in sight.

        "P-please... I'm just going home..." Thomas pleaded, stuttering. "I-I don't have any money..."

        "Oh, we're not after money," the hooded figure said with a laugh. He reached into his cloak, brandishing a rope. Even from the shadow on his hood, Thomas could feel the eyes behind them staring him down with malice.

        ***

        4/11/1066

        The next morning, bright and early, the Darcy family began to awake. Daniel sat at the kitchen table, sipping his morning coffee and reading the newspaper. "Boys, it's morning, up and at 'em!" he called upstairs.

        "Morning, honey," Daniel's wife said, the Fraxure behind him moving to his side and kissing him lightly on the cheek. "Up already?"

        "I couldn't sleep..." Daniel remarked, giving a light sigh.

        "I see..." Sophia replied. She knew why; he was too worried over their finances. The past few month, the pirates had been steadily adding more and more costs to their 'protection funds.' This past month, they couldn't even afford to pay them the entire amount, so high had its price risen. Daniel wouldn't show or admit as such, but inside, he was afraid of the retribution the pirates would give to them once they came back.

        Sophia placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "We'll pull through this, just wait and see," she said, trying to cheer him up. Daniel gave a weak smile, patting her hand with his.

        "Thanks, Sophia..." he said. Suddenly, Nicholas came running downstairs in a panic, completely out of breath. Daniel turned to his son questioningly. "Nick, where's Thomas?"

        Nick couldn't look his father in the eye, keeping his gaze fixed on the floor, as if in shock. Finally, he took a deep breath, exhaling loudly and looking up, his eyes filed with dread.

        "Thomas is gone...."

        ***

        20/4/1071

        All was silent at night in the streets. Save for the infrequent pedestrians returning to their homes, or those without homes shuffling in the alleys for shelter, the city lay still. The moon cast its white light across the near-empty roads. The guards patrolled the streets at this hour, their heavy footsteps echoing through the air, casting shadows as they walked.

        From up on the rooftops, Nicholas could see everything in this district. Might have even considered it beautiful, were he here for the sight-seeing. But he had a job to do. He didn’t particularly care for the sights either way. He had lived here his whole life; there wasn't much of anything in Liverte that he hadn't seen before. He quietly slipped towards the edge of the roof, deftly climbing over and silently falling to the ground. He hugged the corner, making sure the patrols were clear so he could cross. When the shadows passed, he made his move, quickly dashing to the next alley unseen.

        He kept close to the shadows. Even amongst the alleys, safe from the guards, the danger persisted from the lawless, the downtrodden, the drug addicts, and the petty thieves. Perhaps they might have been willing customers, but that was not his call. The Scrafty continued swiftly through the winding pathway; luckily, there didn’t appear to be any trouble.

        Soon enough, Nicholas spotted a small beam of light piercing the alleyway. It was faint, but surrounded by the darkness, it shined like a great flame. As he got closer, the light became framed by the door it emanated from. Inside was a small tavern, and beside the door stood a hooded figure.

        “Right on time,” the figure said, removing its hood to reveal the lithe face of a Servine. She looked over the Scrafty with a coy smile.

        “Let’s just get this over with,” Nicholas replied, crossing his arms impatiently. The Servine rolled her eyes, her grin not leaving her face as she led the Scrafty into the small bar. Inside, gentle music was playing; a slow, relaxing tune to ease the aching joint and spirits of the patrons after a long day. The Servine took a seat at a nearby table, with Nicholas standing at attention behind her. It was a quiet night, though in this part of town and at this hour, such was to be expected. Nicholas kept a watchful eye over what few patrons there were, making sure they kept to their drinks.

        “Can I get you anything?” a voice spoke up, as an Audino waitress slowly walked towards the table. She appeared older, small wrinkles beginning to form along the contours of her face, though she kept an amiable smile towards the two.

        “Just two Mago Ales,” the Servine replied. the Audino jotted it down, before walking away to retrieve the order. Nicholas looked down towards the grass-type, a look of uncertainty in his eyes.

        “You sure these guys can be trusted?” he asked. His tone bore no uncertainty. Nobody could truly be ‘trusted’ in this business. Rather, it seemed he was making sure she herself was aware of the danger. A pointless question, to be sure; no matter if she did trust them, she was far too laid back to give any serious thought to the concern.

        Before the Servine could answer, another group approached their table from the back, a small Poochyena, along with an imposing Poliwrath escort. The grass snake looked up at Nicholas, still bearing her devious smirk. “Looks like we’re about to find out.”

        “I thought I said to come alone,” the Poochyena said angrily. He hopped up on the seat, sitting on his haunches, the Poliwrath crossing his arms as he stood behind the smaller ‘mon. He nodded his head towards Nicholas. “Who’s this?”

        “A bodyguard,” the Servine replied matter-of-factly. “I don’t see anything wrong with him coming along, seeing as you have a guardian of your own.”

        The Poochyena growled, before shaking his head. “Whatever. Just give it to me.”

        “No,” the Servine said, staring the Poochyena dead in the eyes. “Payment first.”

        The dark type rolled his eyes in annoyance, motioning to the Poliwrath behind him. The larger water type reached for the pack strapped across his back, pulling out a small pouch of coins for the Servine and placing them on the table. The Servine followed suit, reaching into her black cloak and producing a small, wooden box, sliding it on the table towards the Poochyena.

        Nicholas took hold of the coins, weighing them in his hand and peering into the bag before nodding his approval at the Servine. The Poliwrath, likewise, took the box, examining the contents and giving the Poochyena a favorable nod.

        “The boss says he’s going to need double next week,” the Poochyena stated, turning from the Poliwrath towards the Servine. The latter’s smile faded slightly at the mention.

        “That’s going to be difficult and you know it,” she replied, trying to hide the irritation in her voice. “Finding the materials for this product is hard enough as it is.”

        “Hey, it ain’t me givin’ the order,” the Poochyena said.

        “Well, you can tell the boss that she’s-”

        “That’s enough! Don’t move!”

        The group turned abruptly to the door, staring an angry Kadabra in the face, metal spoon pointed at them. “None of you move. You’re under arrest for possession and distribution of illegal substances!”

        The Poochyena jerked his head to the Servine with a scowl. “You led them right to us!”

        “Me? They probably smelled your rancid breath and followed you here!”

        “Both of you, shut up!” the Kadabra barked, a duo of Solosis coming in behind him. “Make this easy on yourselves and come along quietly.”

        The Servine grinned to herself, putting her hands up, silently reaching into her pockets with her vines. In one swift motion, she grabbed a small pouch from her cloak, throwing it the ground forcefully and causing the contents to explode in a bright flash. Smoke covered the room, and Nicholas felt himself grabbed by the arm from behind.

        “Come on! This way!”

        The Servine made a mad dash for the back window, Nicholas nearly falling over from being dragged. He eventually gained his footing, dashing forwards after her as they vaulted out the window into the alleys.

        The once peaceful quiet of the street was now turned to chaos. Inside the tavern the patrons began to cry out, the Kadabra barking orders at his men as they began to spread out in search of the Scrafty and Servine.

        “How did they find us out, Selena?” Nicholas asked the Servine frantically. She grabbed his arm again and ran down the alleys.

        “Beats me,” Selena said, almost whimsically. How she could remain jovial in such duress was beyond Nicholas’ comprehension. However, she moved swiftly and urgently down the winding paths, effortlessly avoiding the trash and debris scattered throughout. “No time to worry about it now. Let’s just get out of here!”

        Selena relinquished her hold on Nicholas’ arm, the two of them sprinting full speed down the path, trying to find a way to the rooftops to escape their pursuers.

        A moment of running, and the pair was stopped, their progress impeded by a dead end.

        “Come on, this way,” Selena said, beginning to go back the way they came. “There’s another path just-”

        “Stop right there!”

        “Muk…”

        Selena swore under her breath. Behind them the authorities managed to catch up, cornering them in the dead end of the alley. The Kadabra held his metal spoon up in attack.

        “Possession of illegal substances, intent to distribute, and resisting arrest,” he rattled off, annoyed. “Come along with us, now, before I have to get violent.”

        Nicholas readied himself for a fight, but Selena stood still, her worried expression quickly changing into one of mischief.

        “What are you planning?” Nicholas whispered.

        “Cover your eyes,” Selena answered.

        Before Nicholas could object, the Servine grabbed a small vial from her robe, throwing it into the group of guards. “Here, catch!”

        The glass vial shattered on impact with the ground, exploding in a brilliant flash of light and sound, dazing the guards and causing them to fall over from the sudden blindness. Nicholas barely brought his arms up to cover his face, and before he knew it, Selena had already thrown her vines to the top of the roof, holding an arm out to the Scrafty.

        Nicholas grabbed her small hand, Selena lifting them both up speedily to the rooftops. With the guards incapacitated and a good head start, they wasted no time, making a mad dash away from the scene, leaving their pursuers in the dust.

        ***

        Selena hopped across another building, traveling the roofs with Nicholas in tow. She panted slightly, but otherwise kept going. Nicholas was running just behind her, though the Servine was moving much faster than he was.

        “Slow down!” he called out to her. Selena only turned slightly with a grin.

        “Oh come on,” Selena teased. “What’s the matter? Can’t keep up?”

        Nicholas chuckled slightly, pausing for a moment to catch his breath. “What if I can’t?” he said with a small smile. “You trying to ditch me already?”

        “Oh, trust me,” Selena said, giggling lightly. “If I were trying to ditch you, I’d be long gone by now and you’d be back in the alley with the guards.”

        Nicholas laughed, finally catching up to the Servine. “Fair enough,” he said. “Where are we going, anyway?”

        “My place,” the Servine answered, returning to her trek with Nicholas following. Despite having a close-call with the authorities, Selena seemed as chipper as ever, racing across the rooftops with Nicholas, daring him to beat her. Try as he might, the Scrafty couldn’t keep up with the serpentine woman, Selena using her agility and her vines to quickly climb her way across the roofs.

        A moment later, they were looking up at a large clock tower. It was in extreme disrepair, apparently abandoned many years prior. The clock face at the top had ceased movement, and it cast an ominous shadow over the rest of the city. Most of the entrances had been barred up, but Selena had found her own way in. She slung a vine up to an open window higher up, again holding her hand out to Nicholas to carry him up.

        The two ascended up the wall, reaching the window and clumsily rolling inside. A long, spiral staircase traveled both upwards and downwards from where they stood. Selena began climbing up, motioning for Nicholas to follow.

        Reaching the top of the stairs, there stood an old, wooden door. Selena quietly opened it, the two of them stepping inside and shutting the door behind them.

        Nicholas took a look around the room. Large and circular in design, it appeared to be a room that was once for tourists and visitors. A small window at the edge gave view to the rest of the city, and the walls were made of simple cobblestone. However, the room had been repurposed for living by Selena. Various desks, shelves, tables, and chairs had all been haphazardly arranged around the place, each one littered with books, tomes, alchemy ingredients, and other knick-knacks that the Servine had adopted over the years.

        “Home sweet home,” she said, walking over to a chair that had been placed near the window. She reclined back into it, kicking her legs out and leaning the chair backwards as she stared out the window at the night sky. “Beautiful view, isn’t it?”

        “I suppose,” Nicholas replied, uninterested. He took a chair and placed it next to hers, sitting at the window, leaning forwards with his head resting on his hand. “That was too close for comfort,” he stated simply, referring to their run-in with the cops.

        “Here, I got something to make you feel better,” she said, reaching into her robe and pulling out a bottle of Mago Ale.

        “Where’d you get that from?” Nicholas asked with a smirk.

        “Swiped it from the bar as we left,” Selena replied with a smile and wink. “I wasn’t leaving without my drinks.” She popped off the cork, taking a long swig and letting out a heavy sigh of contentment. She handed the bottle to Nicholas, the Scrafty taking an investigative whiff of the drink. It smelled sweet, almost like a fine wine, though he imagined it to be much stronger than that. He took a swig himself, wiping his mouth afterwards and giving the bottle back.

        “So, I guess we lie low for a while, huh?” Nicholas asked. “The marines are probably on to us now. Would do us some good to keep quiet for a bit.”

        “Are you kidding?” Selena asked with a laugh. “Lying low? Where’s your sense of adventure?”

        Nicholas couldn’t help but chuckle at her enthusiasm, giving her an almost disbelieving glance. “Hey, not that this isn’t fun or anything, but I kind of prefer to be outside of a jail cell.” Selena grinned, taking another sip from her bottle before handing it back to the Scrafty, who in turn took a swig of his own. “Money’s no good if you’re locked up.”

        “Oh, but that’s half the fun,” Selena began whimsically. “The sense of impending danger, the thrill of the chase, the… interesting characters you meet.” She flashed a wink at the Scrafty, who couldn’t help but blush at the gesture.

        “As interesting as those cops?” Nicholas teased. “If they caught us, I doubt it’d be much fun.”

        “You know what your problem is?” Selena said jovially. “You worry too much.”

        “And your problem is you don’t worry at all,” he quipped back, smiling lightly. Maybe she was right. Perhaps he did worry too much. Then again, he was only in this business for the money. He wasn’t here as some kind of way to ‘fight the system’ or rebel. He was here because it was a good way to make money, and make it quickly. Not just for himself, but for his family. If things got too dangerous and something happened to him… he didn’t want to think about what would happen to them.

        “Well, you need to lighten up a bit, have some fun.” Selena said, looking over at Nicholas with a devious grin. “Just relax.”

        “I can’t relax,” he said sarcastically. “I know you’re just having fun here, but I’ve got my own reasons for doing this. I’d rather not get caught, you know?”

        “I understand,” Selena said, nodding. She looked over at the Scrafty with a knowing glance, sly and teasing, but also… respectful. She stood up and stretched her body out, loosening her aching muscles before walking forward to lean over out the window. “I can get a bit careless at times,” she said lightly. She turned to Nicholas again, almost pouting. “You have to have your money to help your family...” she said, almost deflated.

        Nicholas shrugged, taking another drink from the ale and handing it back to Selena. She took another sip, before looking back out the window. “One day, we should ditch this town.” She turned back to Nicholas, an excited look in her eyes. “Me and you! We get enough money and just… leave!”

        Nicholas chuckled at her suggestion, walking up from his seat to join her by the window. “And just where would we go?”

        “Anywhere we want,” she replied, gesturing with her arm over the expanse of Liverte. “Nobody to worry about, no responsibilities to anyone, just making our own rules.”

        “It sounds nice,” Nicholas said, grimacing. “But you know I can’t leave. Not now, anyways.”

        “Yeah, I know…” Selena replied, sighing heavily. She leaned to the side, resting her head on Nicholas’ shoulder. “You have to stay here and be the provider. How noble of you,” she said, almost teasing, though she knew that Nick held this matter in high esteem.

        “Hey, I’m just doing what I gotta do,” Nick replied.

        “Nothing wrong with providing for your family,” Selena said knowingly, humming whimsically to herself. “Some ladies like a man who can provide, even though they might not admit it.”

        “Oh yeah?” Nick said with a smirk, looking down at the Servine. “What about you?”

        “Oh please,” she retorted, huffing playfully. “I can’t sit by and let someone else have all the fun, can I?”

        “Does that mean I can’t provide for you too?” Nick asked in jest. Selena simply giggled to herself, before moving her head off of his shoulder. She circled around in front of him, placing a hand gently on his chest and looking in his eyes, the Scrafty returning the glance.

        “There is something you can ‘provide’ for me,” she said with a wink. Before he could respond, Selena reached her head forward, grabbing Nick’s lips in a quick kiss, before drawing back and chuckling lightly.

        “And just what can I ‘provide’ for you?” Nick said suggestively, wrapping his hands around her waist.

        “I think you know,” Selena replied slyly.
        __________________
        "Johnny rocked that golden circle, and all those VIPs, and that music that had freed us became a tired routine.
        And I saw his face in close-up tryin' to give it all he had, and sometimes his eyes betrayed him, you could see that he was sad.


        And I tried to rock on with him, but I slowly became bored
        Could that man on stage with everything somehow need some more?"

        Reply With Quote
          #6    
        Old September 27th, 2015 (3:05 PM). Edited May 3rd, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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        Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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        First Evening
        15/6/1076









        "LOOOUIS!" the Monferno kicked the swinging doors of the bar open. With a merry step he jumped to a stool. "C'mon mate, pour me a slug of it," the young man said earnestly.

        "Ahoy, Duncan," the Bibarel bartender cheered. He owned the place for years - built it with his own hands - and he was always happy to see the Monferno, one of his regulars show up after work.

        The Monferno grabbed the mug Louis served him and swung the liquid down his throat, spilling some of it on his ultramarine jacket. The mere smell of it was enough to entice the Gods. He'd been dreaming of this magically crafted ale all day and night.

        He jumped down from the stool and headed over to the biggest and loudest bunch in the bar. "OY!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, walking with a bit of swagger, "you didn't notice me come in just now, did you? Or you just pretendin' you didn't see?"

        The company of pirates looked up at him. The fattest Slaking Carajol had ever seen was sinking on a giant cushion especially made for him; anyone could tell he was the Captain from his black tricorne hat, big and lavish with charms and trinkets of all sorts. He was wearing a loose red robe of fine silk. Duncan knew the story about that one robe; it was stolen from an Antarean merchant who dared cross the Paralean Coast without paying tribute to its Terror, Adrian Rochetto, the man on that cushion.

        The pirates looked like they were interrupted, and such a disturbance would warrant a near-death beating, but the doctor of the crew, a Watchog with a mustache, a top hat and a cane welcomed the Monferno warmly. "Look who it is," the man mused, sitting cross legged on a high stool.

        "Duncan!" Adrian bellowed at the top of his lungs, much like Duncan did just a few moments before. The Slaking showed his rotted teeth, half real, half golden in a great grin. "C'mere, boy, sit with us." In front of him on the table was a great plate full of sweets, tasty berries and Modistran delicacies, all for Captain Adrian himself. Duncan could already imagine how the doctor would have scolded him earlier about his eating habits.

        For a vicious pirate, Adrian was well loved here in the island of Modistra. He did not harm citizens who avoided to provoke him and the Marines were sweating when his strong hands took justice upon themselves; the Governor was at the pirate's mercy, as far as Duncan knew. After all these years, Adrian had made the Governor as much a pirate as any other member of his crew, just like he did with "family friends", as he called them, like Duncan. But Duncan was his favorite, and Adrian was Duncan's favorite.

        Before he took a seat, the Monferno bumped fists with a Magby named Voss; she was the Cook of the Head Crushers, Adrian's crew. "Didn't see you," the Magby said to him, "but we did hear you. You're loud, captain!"

        'Captain' Duncan slammed his mug on the table and leaned backwards with a proud look on his face. "Not much good ever came from quiet!"

        "Who came up with that line?" Milo, the doctor Watchog said and the Tyrantrum of the crew held back a laugh.

        Their Slaking captain half-shut his eyes and raised his finger. The Head Crushers knew he was going to say something that he considered important so they had to pay attention.

        He pointed the finger at Duncan. "This man," Adrian said in a low tone, but audible despite the bar's flute and guitar. "This man knows things you lot've yet to learn," he said intensely. "Quit mocking him, scabs, and hear me words, he'll be great one day. Feared across the seas and skies!"

        Duncan waved his arm, nah. "Maybe," he said jovially. "I don't plan on it. Besides, I've an honest job now."

        "A servant?" the Tyrantrum scoffed, "hardly an honest job, kid, how much they pay ya?"

        The Monferno thought about it. "Not much, Cookie," he said. "At least, not for what I do, mate." People in Modistra already knew what he had been hired to do, take care of an elderly lady who was quite forgetful as of late and tend to the needs her businesswoman of a daughter who was working her way up to be the first Trade Princess Modistra ever saw. But he was nothing more than a servant, like Cookie the Tyrantrum said.

        The Slaking waved his fingers heavy with golden rings with precious rocks on them like he was playing a huge invisible harp. His grin had a golden edge to it and his eyes were widened almost maniacally as he stared at the Monferno. It was the kind of mannerisms that reminded the citizens of Modistra that Adrian could have been insane. "Gold, lad," he said in the same low tone he used before, "pretty stones, fine clothes, treasures and wonders you or any common man ain't never seen before, don't that entice you?"

        Duncan glanced down at his ultramarine jacket. That was his uniform as a servant; he didn't even think to change out of it on his way to the bar on his hurry to taste that famous ale. He never thought he could or should wear better clothes. His jacket always sufficed. As for gold... he never knew what to do with it. His sister was better with that handling that noise. "Yeah," he admitted, "I want that too."

        "Then sail with me, lad!" Adrian shouted. "We'll conquer Carajol together."

        It was many times Duncan had heard of that proposal. In fact, Adrian had asked him to join the Head Crushers the moment Duncan convinced him to leave Guntama and go back to Modistra to reassemble the crew. Ever since, the Slaking requesting that he join him was a frequent occurrence. Duncan always had to say the same line.

        "Thanks old man, but a deck only pulls the weight of one captain at a time."

        Adrian never took it personally. He laughed deeply with a kind and toothy grin. "Aye, you want to be captain, of course..." The truth that Duncan didn't know was that, if he had chosen to join the Head Crushers, Adrian would groom him to be their next captain. They were at it for a long time. Adrian's generation of pirates was getting old, and they needed new and hot blood to reignite their passion.

        The gentlemanly Watchog with the top hat had finished his drink and was now twirling his mustache. "Sir, I believe it is time for a story to brighten the mood," he said.

        The fat Slaking emptied his mug in one go, and so did Duncan. They slammed them on the table in a similar manner.

        "Cue with the music, it's time for a story," Captain Adrian bellowed. His shout rocked the wooden bar whole.

        The cheerful music stopped immediately. Patrons, pirates and citizens alike, rushed from upstairs and downstairs, and the musicians joined them quickly. Soon, the entire bar had gathered around the table where the Head Crushers and Duncan were seated. Some had taken stools or chairs, others had taken cushions and the rest were just sitting on the floor. It was that time of the day again. Louis the Bibarel looked up from the beer glasses. The patrons who wanted more to drink simply gestured at him - during story time, no one was allowed to talk.

        Outside, the cheery evening sun of Modistra was drowned in threatening clouds. Very dark and heavy with rain, they carried one of those sudden storms that were so frequent on the tropical islands of Carajol Sea. The wind picked up and the palm trees on the beach leaned to the side, their leaves shaking like rag dolls. A vicious downpour started. Thunder cracked nearby and lightning lit the sky, now as dark as midnight.

        "Do you feel safe whilst ashore, lads?" Adrian begun, putting a show for the patrons. "You should not! For we in Carajol are never far from the sea, and the sea hides greater dangers than we could think..." Dark had fallen. Voss the Magby lit a candle in front of her captain, so his face was lit in a way that his characteristics were made intense. "Legends speak of an ancient monster," he continued, "a terror that none have seen, yet all know about: the Leviathan. Eyes white and glowing with godly power, body a hundred miles long in size... it stirs into the ocean's blue down the farthest trenches of the depths. As it moves, it sends us storms that last for seventy days."

        Duncan was hearing the downpour crush into the hull of a ship that Louis had used for a roof when building the place. Others glanced worriedly outside too, as if wondering if that was one of those seventy day storms. But that could not be right, as seventy day storms did not occur in this area of Carajol... they were known to occur elsewhere, though. That's what had gotten people's attention. But Duncan had already heard of the tale from Adrian himself, when he was a child.

        "The beast roamed freely in the Ancient World, it's said," Captain Adrian continued. "Immense castles of dark clouds gathered when it surfaced and torrential rain raged and poured with no stop. The world was in peril. The water rose over the shores and into forests and towns, drowning whole islands. The Leviathan called lightning from the skies to fulminate foes who dared stand against him. Many did - notably, I say, a city that is now long lost in time, that most of you have heard about; Atlandea the City of the Cascades. Right, hearties! The Atlandeans fought hard, they did. But the power of the beast was much too great, and their city was swallowed down into the depths. That's why they called it the Sunken City after. And the beast's triumph made him bolder, stronger. Other cities were abandoned because of the heavy, relentless rain. And other cities were vanquished forever, smashed into bits by tidal waves that he caused when he writhed in the middle of a furious storm, their remains washed away into nothing. Twas a cataclysm that changed the world forever, aye, and the Leviathan was said to be unstoppable. Until one day, a brave crew of pirates challenged the monster!"

        Captain Adrian raised his sword embroidered with sapphires and rubies to the air with the determined expression that brave crew must've had. "Enough, putrid terror, down to the black depths with ya!" He shouted, and his crew mimicked his gesture for the show, and the listeners of the story cheered them. Fat Adrian lowered his sword and placed it on the table in front of him and leaned forward. His brown eyes swept past the patrons who had calmed down now, listening intently, seriously, entranced by his storytelling. "Cannons fired and swords tasted blood!" the Slaking spat suddenly, scaring a few of the younger mon. "The giant harpoon they'd prepared shot through the monster's pale eye. And as it was struck, a single droplet of its tears was spilled on the deck of the brave crew. It became a jewel prettier than a pearl, blue and transparent as a sapphire, and it was said that it held the power of the oceans. After that, the beast writhed in pain and sunk to the depths below, never again to rise. That is the tale of the Sea God's Tear."

        As they were about to start cheering for the end of the story, the sound of the heavy rain suddenly grew louder as the doors to the bar were suddenly thrown open, the large shadow of the gargantuan Garbodor strewn across the bar floor. Behind him were several other vile-looking 'mon, and the Garbodor carrying a wicked grin.

        "Captain Amadeus..." one of the patrons whispered to themselves.

        "Oy, don't stop the story on my account," Amadeus said jovially, his great footsteps shaking the floor under him as he hobbled inside, seeking shelter from the storm. The rest of his motley crew followed in, each soaking wet and irritated as they took to their tables.

        Duncan watched the soaking monstrosity walk into the bar nonchalantly. The crew who followed him close behind, as wet as he was, was called the Poison Vipers; they operated mainly on the Eastern Sonarean Coasts, yet they were somehow in the heart of Carajol. The Monferno raised his eyebrows. He was impressed, and it wasn't only him; Milo the gentleman doctor had a slightly mocking smile, despite the sudden tension others showed. Duncan leaned to him and whispered, "I bet their Navigator is still trying to figure out how a compass works."

        "Barkeep! Gimme a round for me an' my boys, huh?" the Garbodor shouted, before turning to Adrian, as if waiting for him to finish his tale. "Oh, pardon me," he said sarcastically. "Do go on."

        Many lines were crossed now. Captain Amadeus was a pirate scorned by the Pirate Alliance of Carajol, of which Captain Adrian was a respected member. The Poison Vipers weren't welcome here. Modistra was Rochetto territory; it had been for a couple of decades now, that much was known amongst the pirates of the alliance. And this bar, namely Louis' Spot, had been frequented by the Head Crushers for most Evenings; they and the barkeep were so close that they devised their plans to plunder together, and the bar had transformed into something no less than Captain Adrian's base of operations. For another crew to barge in like that, in a place like this, it was a challenge.

        Plus, nobody talked during story time. Ever.

        Amadeus had placed his order, but the Bibarel didn't move to set it up. He was cleaning the beer glasses calmly inside and out with a rag with a none of my business attitude.

        The Head Crushers were staring at the Poison Vipers. They were calm, yet Adrian said in a low tone, "easy, now, lads." Duncan's heart started beating faster, having heard of the threatening tone of the Slaking, and he busted a naughty smile. The storm was about to enter the bar.

        "Ahoy there," Captain Adrian shouted, his voice loud like thunder, "do you know who I am, scab?"

        "Remind me," Amadeus said in a challenging tone. Of course he knew who Adrian was; it was more insulting to pretend he didn't. "I'm new 'round here."

        The Seviper sitting next to the Garbodor, Barnabus, simply flicked his forked tongue at the Slaking, as if daring him to make a move. Amadeus looked over the rest of his small crew, smiling contently and laughing slightly, as his crew grinned back. A few of them looked over at Adrian's crew, and at Duncan, their eyes reflecting the haughty attitude of their captain, Amadeus.

        The attention of the entire bar was upon the Slaking who looked at the Garbodor dispassionately. Until he pointed at him with his thumb, as if showing him to the others around. He laughed once and then the Head Crushers and the Monferno burst into laughter. It was absurd.

        "These rookies are lost," the Monferno shouted between his laughs, "oy! What kind of backwater place you come from where they don't know Captain Adrian?!"

        The patrons yelled and cheered, raising their mugs in the air in a single cry. They had no idea who Amadeus was, but Duncan did, and he knew he wasn't coming from any backwater place. In Liverte, Amadeus's turf, Captain Adrian was notorious to this day. Amadeus, by pretending not to know him, just seemed like a lowly, ignorant pirate who didn't know the ropes in Carajol.

        The round for the Poison Vipers wasn't coming. Amadeus looked angrily at the Bibarel, tapping his table impatiently. He completely ignored the Monferno taunting him, directing one of his men, a Scrafty, to the bar to grab a pitcher.

        Just as he was about to grab it, the Bibarel from behind the bar placed a hand on his. "I can't serve you lot," he said gently. "It's against the rules. My apologies."

        Duncan threw back his chair with force, creating a loud bang as he stood up and pointed at the Scrafty. "Keep 'way from those mugs," he shouted.

        "Duncan," Dr. Milo said and raised his arm to stop him, "let them drink if they please."

        "What rules you talkin' about?" The Scrafty said impatiently. "I'm a customer, ain't I? Me and my crew want some bloody drinks!"

        "I implore you, do not anger me," Louis the Bibarel said. There was something in his aura that was very intimidating. A very rare thing for a barkeep, but those who knew who that Bibarel really was before he became a barkeep should have known to back away from his wrath.

        "Calm down, Tom," Barnabus said, hissing slightly. The Scrafty pouted slightly, before turning back to the Bibarel, then hastily scanning the room. He spied a pitcher on a nearby table, still full to the brim, before seizing it for himself and taking it back to his table.

        Louis glanced on Captain Adrian, who turned to Duncan and nodded. It only happened within a second. The Monferno leaped off the floor above a few heads and landed in front of the Scrafty. A bamboo staff seemed to have appeared out of nowhere on the monkey's hands, and the first swing was aimed at the mug. The glass flew across the room, crashing against the wall and covering it in the stench of ale and alcohol. The Scrafty, and indeed the rest of the Vipers, stared at the Monferno with disdain.

        As soon as that happened, Tom stood up, the Scrafty staring down Duncan viciously, drawing his sabre from his hip and pointing it at the fire-type, earning a gasp from the patrons. "Ey! Monkey boy! What's your deal?"

        The Head Crushers stood up immediately when they saw a drawn weapon, and it was the sign for the Poison Vipers to stand up too. Only the sound of the downpour outside could be heard for two seconds, then the bar plunged into chaos. Duncan charged audaciously at his opponent, swinging his bamboo wildly aiming for the Scrafty's head for a knockout hit. The pirate barely managed to avoid the speed of the blow.

        As the Vipers stood up to fight, Tom jumped back away from the fray. He kept his sword pointed at Duncan, giving the Monferno a brief once-over. "Come at me, furball!"

        Duncan dodged a flying mug as he stepped back, holding his staff by its one end as if it was a real sword that could cut through steel and not a piece of wood. An experienced swordfighter would be able to recognize the stance he assumed as the battle stance the Megiddo take when they are fighting with Steam Blades. Much like the Megiddo, Duncan charged quickly forward again, attempting to finish his opponent in one blow.

        Tom smirked, stepping back and spinning once, building momentum and directing a powerful swing of his blade at Duncan's staff, the steel slicing through the wood effortlessly.

        "Hah! What am I, a dog? You going to play fetch with that stick of yours?" he mocked, before stepping forward and slicing again, this time aiming for the Monferno's throat.

        Duncan thought fast, threw his useless staff away and grabbed the mug on the counter. It was thick with filth over the years and while held in a bundle, it made for a good cushion for the sword, which got stuck in it. In the second his foe was vulnerable, the Monferno shot a surefire Mach Punch on his ribs.

        The Scrafty recoiled back in pain, grabbing at his ribs and growling. He ripped the mug off his blade before clenching his hand tightly at the hilt, almost seeming to charge the blade itself with energy. In reality, he was performing a Dragon Dance technique, building up his speed before dashing wildly at Duncan and swinging equally as fast, trying to claim the Monferno's head.

        With nothing on his hands, Duncan leaped off to the side in an Acrobatics move, spinning mid-air. His feet launched him off of a table where pirates were throwing attacks at each other and he grabbed one of the lamps hanging from the ceiling. The thing swung around and he leaped at his opponent from above.

        Before he could land, a mighty roar echoed through the tavern, coming from Captain Amadeus. The Garbodor had lifted one of the round tables, holding it high before tossing it effortlessly through the air like a disc, aiming directly at the unsuspecting Duncan. The thing hit him on the side before it crashed into the bar, destroying almost half of it.

        "My precious boy!" Captain Adrian bellowed, his eyes widened in manic rage. His head's fur was shiny from an ale that had been emptied on top of his head.

        The Slaking went berserk and roared and pounded his fists onto his wide chest. It was like actual quakes rocked the inn, the sound was equal to that of a megaphone so loud that it shook the floor. "Duncaaan," the captain grabbed a Weezing from the main head and smashed it on the floor like a basketball, then kicked it onto an Arbok. He body slammed the two mon and advanced towards the enemy captain, Amadeus, using his tree-trunk-like arms to batter, throw and smash anything and anyone on his way. In his unstoppable rage, he was spitting out words and insults that were barely understandable. "Gasbag of a corsair, the muk you have for blood will be spilled on the walls of this bar!"

        Captain Adrian led his charge with a Hammer Arm that would do exactly what he'd described if Amadeus was not fast enough.

        Amadeus might not have been fast enough, but a certain Seviper certainly was. Barnabus reacted quickly, aiming a Knock Off directly at Adrian's legs to trip the Slaking over. The trick worked and the great man tripped and fell forward on a table, crushing it to bits with a grunt under his enormous weight. He roared angrily and was quickly getting up; the Magby the Head Crushers had for a cook was ready to protect her vulnerable captain, so neither Barnabus nor Amadeus could finish Adrian off for the Flamethrower that was shot towards them.

        Amadeus took notice, barely side-stepping away from the flames. He raised a fist, poised to strike back, until Barnabus swiftly wrapped his tail around the Garbodor's arm.

        "We leave," he ordered. Despite him only being a first mate, Amadeus took his advice very seriously. "This is getting dangerous."

        "Aw, but I was having fun!" Amadeus said, before nodding, disappointed. "Alright, Vipers! Back to sea!"

        The rest of the Vipers still standing turned and followed their captain. Tom gave one last glance at Duncan who was recovering amidst the wreckage of the bar, wishing he could have killed the Monferno. Another day... he thought, before taking after the rest of his crew. Within seconds, they rushed outside, abandoning the bar and the mess they had helped create.

        "Hey!" Duncan shouted, getting up dizzily. "You can't just let them get away!"

        The Slaking was leaning with one hand against the wall, breathing heavily. He was the first one that Dr. Milo rushed to help. "Sir, are you alright?" he asked worriedly. Captain Adrian grabbed his throat, his breathing very loud and ragged and his eyes a bit lazy for the lack of oxygen, but he gestured that he was alright. The table he had crushed under him wasn't, though.

        The Watchog doctor rushed to Duncan who waved him off. "I'm fine, doc! That was nothing!" He had a scratch on his head and to his side, but no broken bones, dislocated limbs or massive wounds.

        "A resistant one, aren't you?" Dr. Milo mused. He then begun tending to the other patrons who were hurt.

        The Bibarel appeared from the side of the bar where he had crouched. Duncan saw the man's rage for his bar being treated like that. "Sorry," he said to him.

        "Ah," Louis waved his arm, suddenly the rage slipping off of him, "it's fine. It's not like the bar doesn't get trashed every other weekend."

        "Right," the Monferno laughed, but he got serious quickly. That Bibarel had to be very powerful if he once was the First Mate of the former Pirate King. "Why didn't you fight? You could've taken all of these rookies on your own!"

        "But then my bar would be in worse condition," Louis the First Mate commented with an enduring smile.

        Meanwhile, Captain Adrian had caught up his breath. "Men! Duncan!" he bellowed, then turned to the Magby, "and woman. Let's go after them! They ain't leaving my island unscathed!"

        "Aye, sir!"

        When the bunch of pirates burst out of Louis' Spot, they saw that it wasn't raining anymore. But the rain clouds weren't gone either; they hung on the skies like giant ghosts, making them bleak and miserable.

        The pirates glimpsed another bunch of mon descending the path on the hill that led to the city of Modistra; from their uniforms and badges, it was obvious from afar that they were Marines, soldiers of the Avian Naval Force - or ANF for short. Their feet were splashing on the watery slope rhythmically as they moved into formation. Most of them were Machokes, a very common mon among Marines.

        "You're too late, as always, scabs," Captain Adrian's thunderous voice reached their ears. He was mocking them, as the pirates of Modistra never expected help from the friendly Marines.

        The Marines of Modistra were especially trained... not by the Government, but Captain Adrian himself, who had tamed and beat them into submission. They policed his island, they made sure the citizens were protected, but disputes were always solved between pirates only.

        "We're sorry, sir!" the Marines shouted, and their leader, a Nidorina, said, "on our way here we saw a man resembling a wanted pirate, he and a few others were headed for the city in a hurry."

        "Chase after them," the Slaking commanded.

        The Marines immediately turned direction and went back to where they came from.

        The Head Crushers were politely keeping pace with their obese and out of shape captain who was panting, waddling through the beach as quickly as he could. His feet sank into the sand and it was a great strain for him to pull them out. His breathing became heavy again and he was wheezing soon. He stopped and knelt, leaning on his knee, his massive shoulders rising and falling with every long breath. The Tyrantrum, the Magby and the Watchog stopped beside him.

        "Those sweets, sir, I did warn you they are absolutely not good for you," the Watchog said worriedly, blowing air towards his captain with his hand and supporting his shoulder.

        Duncan, who was up ahead, stopped on his heels as well and glanced back. What he saw broke his heart: these middle aged people were trying to help the older man up. He could see the sadness very clearly etched on their faces.

        "Jonathan!" the Slaking yelled, wheezing and grabbing his chest as if in pain. The Monferno was surprised to hear the Slaking use that name to address him; it was a name he hadn't gone by for a long time.

        His surprise only momentary, he leaped quickly and knelt in front of Adrian, putting one hand on the big Pokemon's shoulder. "Take it easy, old man," he warned.

        The Slaking let out a loud laugh and landed his enormous palm on the monkey's head. "You're sweet, boy, don't let that kill you. Go in my place! Burn those bloody bastards to the ground!"

        Jonathan nodded as he looked into the kind, brown eyes before him, his mouth a firm line of determination. He patted the Slaking's shoulder and pointed at Dr. Milo as he got up to leave. "Take care of him!" he shouted and bolted off.


        ***


        Just outside the city of Modistra, on the golden beach, a mighty galleon was docked. Jonathan could see it from the top of the hill where he was now, but there was forest between him and it, quite a distance, and he could already see the Poison Vipers boarding their vessel. His feet were all wet by the mud the rain had left behind...

        And his foes were already speeding off the cove and taking off. The blimps of the galleon took it straight up and its body left the water. A rain of droplets followed and the airship was off within seconds.

        "Gods, damn!" Jon cussed, kicking the ground.

        The whole thing made no sense either. A captain of ill-repute showing up at Louis' Spot uninvited, one that had not even docked his ship on port, just on some cove, perhaps hoping to make a quick escape.

        That's what this was, a quick escape. The Poison Vipers just wanted to cause trouble...


        ***


        Tom stormed up to the door leading below-deck, the Scrafty's feet pounding into the wooden frame angrily as he walked.

        "Where do you think you're going, boy?" Barnabus asked, sensing the pirate's attitude.

        "I'm going to ask our dung-brained captain what the hell he's thinking!" Tom spat back. The Seviper quickly zipped in front of the Scrafty, blocking his way, motioning with his head for him to follow.

        "Come with me, I'll explain..."

        Tom raised an eyebrow, before sighing in annoyance and reluctantly following the snake. Together they walked to the edge of the ship, Tom leaning over the railing to look down at the lights of Modistra below. It was night now, and the city looked even more beautiful than the day. But it wasn't quite the time to admire the view.

        "So? What in the bloody hell was that?" Tom suddenly asked. "Storm into a bar, a bar we don't even own, just to start a fight and then run like a bunch of rattatas?" He grunted once in anger, but Barnabus simply chuckled at him. "What're you laughin' at?"

        "You have so much to learn, dear boy," Barnabus said with a smirk. He flicked his tongue once, looking down over the expanse of the darkening forest of the island. "You know this is not our territory, yet you don't know why we come here. Tell me, why do pirates stake claims on lands and claim territory?"

        "To keep other people out. Let 'em know who's in charge." Tom said confidently.

        "Exactly. To keep others out. So, what happens when someone comes into your territory without your permission?"

        "I kick 'em out, easy," Tom said. "Which is what just happened to us."

        "Yes, but what does it mean?" Barnabus prodded further, hoping Tom would stumble along the answer himself. "A man walks into your territory looking to stir up trouble. Surely he's not just there with a death wish."

        "Then what does he want, if not to take over?" Tom asked.

        "Perhaps he hasn't the strength to fully conquer his enemy at that moment, otherwise he would simply do so." Barnabus continued. "Perhaps he's looking to get your attention. What does that mean?"

        "... it means he's intent on taking your land..." Tom said slowly, realizing it.

        "Amadeus might be foolish sometimes, but he's not completely without reason." Barnabus added. "This little fight was not just that. It was a message. A message to Adrian, to let him know he's not safe anymore in his own turf."

        "So... it's like a declaration of war?" Tom asked. Barnabus simply nodded in response.

        "You're getting the picture," Barnabus said. "Amadeus is looking to expand his reach, and he has his eyes set on Modistra."

        "I don't understand," Tom added. "Why declare our intention if we haven't the strength to just... take it? We could wait until he lets his guard down, then strike when he least expects it!"

        "And how will he let his guard down if there is none to attack?" Barnabus said slyly. "A man is most secure in his own home. To get into his home, you have to provoke him out. Force him to make the first move. And then you seize him when he is vulnerable."

        "So we're making Adrian move, then." Tom said, understanding the situation.

        "The message is sent. The Poison Vipers have attacked his territory, and surely our friend Adrian will not let that slip from his fingers so easily. He is lazy, but not uncaring. He will move to secure his land... and in the process, we will find the opening we seek."

        Tom stared down at the ground, looking over the land. Forcing Adrian to move first... to rally his forces. It seemed almost insane to prod the beedrill's nest like that... but Barnabus was a cunning man, always plotting, always up to some scheme. Tom knew that the snake wouldn't do such a thing lightly if he hadn't an agenda to push.

        "The chess board has been set. He is white, we are black, therefore it is his move that opens the game," Barnabus said, leaving Tom's side to tend to his other duties.

        "One more thing," Tom said, turning back to the Seviper. Barnabus stopped in mid-slither, craning his head towards the Scrafty.

        "Yes?"

        "That Monferno... is he a part of Adrian's crew?" Tom asked.

        "No," Barnabus said curtly. "He is a petulant child, and nothing more. He wants to ally himself with Adrian? Then he will be cast aside along with the fat man."
        __________________

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        Old October 2nd, 2015 (3:06 PM). Edited December 11th, 2016 by GastlyGibus.
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        GastlyGibus GastlyGibus is offline
        I can't hear ya, ya talkin' to me?
           
          Join Date: Jan 2014
          Location: The city streets
          Age: 24
          Gender: Male
          Nature: Naive
          Posts: 169
          Second Evening
          16/6/1076






          Foggy and humid. Weather that never suited the Scrafty, not before, and certainly not now. He had never been so far from home before, considering he never traveled much as a child. Modistra was so different from Liverte, almost alien, but he wasn't here to enjoy himself, so on he went. He was here to meet someone. An old friend, one that had promised to help him.

          Nick glanced around at the city; the light of the moon combined with the bright of the streetlamps helped cast a reflective sheen on the moistened concrete. Every so often, the trolleys of Modistra would pass by on the streets as he walked. He had briefly entertained the idea of taking one of the trolleys, but doing so would likely cost some kind of money, not to mention he wouldn't know where they would let him off.

          Eventually, though, Nick found his destination. A simple looking shop, reading "Lucas' Loans" out front, with the silhouette of a bird's head with a coin in its mouth. The lights were still on inside, and Nick could see a receptionist working behind the glass window. Nick pushed the wooden door open, ringing a bell affixed to the inside to announce his entry. Upon the chime, the receptionist inside peered from her desk, smiling at the Scrafty as he walked in.

          "Hello! Welcome to Lucas' Loans," she said cheerily, the Hoppip looking through a pair of thin glasses. Nick gave a forced smile, before walking up to the desk and leaning slightly against it.

          "Hey, I'm here to see Lucas," Nick said bluntly. The Hoppip raised an eyebrow, before shaking her head slightly.

          "I'm sorry, but Mr. Cottrell is far too busy at the moment to-"

          "Tell him it's Nick. He specifically asked me to come."

          The Hoppip's expression changed, placing a hand on the shellder phone on her desk. With the press of a button, she rang for Lucas' office. "Mr. Cottrell? You have a visitor, Nick, here to see you."

          "Send him in!" the voice called back quickly, sounding quite excited. The Hoppip nodded, before turning back to Nick.

          "His office is just down the hall," she said, pointing to the door behind her. Nick nodded a thanks, before proceeding down the hall as instructed, the Hoppip returning to her duties. In moments, Nick had reached the door, the words "Cottrell's office" printed on the front. Nick knocked twice, before the voice inside called again.

          "It's open! Come on in!"

          Nick turned the handle, opening the door to the spacious office of Mr. Cottrell. Various bookshelves lined the walls, each piled with all manner of legal textbooks, encyclopedia, economic code, and other such academic works. In the center, sitting behind a large desk, was a Honchkrow, the avian bearing a wide grin as he met eyes with the Scrafty.

          "Nick! So glad to see you!" he said, motioning for Nick to sit in the luxurious chair in front of him. "Please, have a seat. I haven't seen you in... years!"

          "Good to see you too, 'Mr. Cottrell,'" Nick said with a grin. He glared about all the trappings of the Honchkrow's office; all the bearings of an ordinary office belie the true nature of its occupant. Lucas ran an honest business, of course, providing loans for his customers and other services. Unbeknownst to the general populace, however, the Honchkrow was an information broker, with several connections to the criminal underworld. He worked in tandem with a much larger network of information gatherers, cooperating to know most anything that went on in Carajol and beyond. If there was something you needed to know, Lucas surely could find the answer... for a price.

          "Oh please, it's Lucas to you," the Honchkrow responded. "You don't have to go all fancy on your friend, do you?"

          "Nah, I'm just pullin' your leg," Nick said, taking a seat. He laughed slightly, before his expression turned serious. "Hey man, I appreciate you doing this."

          "Anything for a member of 'the Skull Gang,'" Lucas said with a smile. "Hah! 'The Skull Gang.' Those were the days, eh? Still can't believe we picked that silly name!"

          "Hey, it was cool at the time," Nick quipped back. "So... what's the latest?"

          "Well, you got my last message," Lucas said, rummaging through a drawer in his desk, pulling out papers with his feathered hands. "The Vipers were definitely seen meandering about Modistra's seas. Wasn't sure what they were doing. None of my contacts could get close enough to figure out, and the Vipers never seemed to stray too far inland to do anything out of the ordinary. Well, until yesterday."

          "What happened?" Nick asked.

          "They decided to poke Adrian, that's what," Lucas said, almost laughing in disbelief. "Yesterday, they strolled right into Louis' Place, the bar just by the shore, and caused scene. Louis was pissed, and Adrian even more so. I believe Amadeus and his crew intend a territorial dispute over Modistra."

          "So he was definitely here," Nick mused. Lucas nodded in response.

          Perhaps he's still in Modistra now...

          "In the flesh," the Honchkrow added. "I recognized his foul stench the moment he arrived inland!" he quipped, chuckling lightly to himself.

          "So, Louis' Place?" Nick asked.

          Lucas rummaged through his papers again, producing a small notebook and pen. He quickly jotted down directions for the Scrafty, before tearing the note and giving it to him. "Mhm. Big bar carved into the hull of an upside down ship. You can't miss it."

          Nick glanced over the notes, nodding once before putting them in his pocket. "Thanks, Lucas. You really came through for me."

          "Think nothing of it," Lucas said, waving his wing dismissively. "Hey, I heard about your family. I'll be pulling some strings to get a little extra cash your way."

          "Thanks..." Nick said. Normally he'd turn down free charity, but at this point, being so far from home, and as desperate as his family was, he was willing to swallow his pride. "You're a good friend."

          "You as well," Lucas said. He stood up from his desk, approaching the Scrafty and patting his back in a warm gesture of brotherhood. Nick returned the gesture, before turning to the door.

          Soon enough, Nick was back out on the city streets, the Hoppip inside offering a wave goodbye with a smile as he left. Nick glanced down at the directions he had been handed, noting a small bill folded up inside the note, along with additional instructions.

          "Take the trolley! It's much faster."

          Nick smiled faintly, almost invisible in the night, before looking up and waving down a trolley as it passed by. With the money given to him, he paid his fare, taking a seat as he was taken to his destination.


          ***


          The weather was moody this evening, the usual bright sun of the tropical summer hidden behind piles of heavy rain clouds that took up the entire horizon. A brawny Monferno stood on the edge of the dirt road, glancing upwards. Drops of rain landed on his perplexed face and a breeze climbed up and through his jacket. He loved all kinds of weather, as long as they happened in their appropriate season. Cloudy weather at the start of summer in the Cayeiras was nothing but a bad omen.

          He yanked the top of the mailbox, but the damn thing didn't open. It was old and its blue paint had fainted over the years. "One day, I'll fix ya," he promised as he carefully unstuck its small port with his long fingers to get it open.

          The loads of mail was a pleasant sight; one of them could've been the very letter he had been waiting for for all these years: a letter from dad. He rummaged through it quickly in the same motion he was doing every Sunday for the past few years. His eyes were trained to look for the name of the sender.

          But none of it was from dad. He stopped looking and sighed in disappointment; thunder cracked from afar, deep into the sheaf of clouds in the horizon. He felt rain on his forehead, prompting him to finish here quickly.

          Second thing he did was look for his name as the recipient and indeed, two letters were addressed to him. He picked the one with the fancy envelope first; its stamps looked interesting. This letter was coming from the Novayas, sent by his mentor in sword play, Iketani Riwano.

          Inside the letter was a picture of Iketani, a Sawk with many wrinkles on his laughing face, wearing a giant hoop of vines and flowers and standing in front of a palm tree, the sea on his back. At his side hugging his waist was a Gothorita blushing with affection, and he had put one arm around her, holding a bottle of what looked like ale, and the other arm raised in the air, the thumb sending the okay message. They both looked pretty drunk and the young man in front of the letterbox couldn't help but smile at his teacher's antics. He flipped the picture around and saw something the Sawk had written.

          You should've taken my offer to come with me to the Novayas, Duncan. Ditch your family and go on an adventure!

          With love & affection,
          Your teacher, Iketani


          Jon snickered. "One day," he said to the smiling picture of the Sawk and the wench and plunged it inside his jacket's pocket.

          Next up was a letter coming from... Jon's expression tightened, his eyebrows drawn together. He picked up the very much plain looking letter very carefully and felt its weight between his fingers. It would be best to carry that among the rest of the letters, for safety reasons.

          He entered the house's yard with all the letters on his hands. In the garden, he glimpsed two baby Pidoves chirping on top of the neatly taken care of arbors that were full of spring flowers. The threatening grey gathered above Modistra and another thunder crash sounded.

          "Get inside!" Jon shouted at the wild birds as he showed them the cote. His mother had ordered him to build that thing at the edge of the yard, so it would 'fill the space between those two cypresses'. He wasn't sure if he'd built it for the birds or just to fill the space between the trees so their yard would look nice.

          The birds flew inside, sure enough, and Jon, through the main path, entered the arbor in front of the house. The wooden shutters were screeching slightly as the wind picked up, striking the bleached out walls of the old residency. The drizzle had just started.

          "I'm back," the Monferno shouted. He headed straight to the living room.

          Outside, the house looked aged and traditional, but inside it was modern. The floor was made of a brilliant, shiny and expensive wood, much like the furniture which all looked brand new. The curtains and carpets were made of Modistra's heaviest, richest and rarest blood-red thread - procured by Jon's sister who owned several tailoring establishments.

          The woman in question was a Sableye, two years older than Jon. Her name was Pan, short for Pangaea, a name that his father came up with. She was sitting on a leathery sofa chair next to the fireplace, one leg up on the other and leaning on her arm. There was always something snooty about the way she looked at everyone and everything.

          "What were you doing outside?" she demanded to know.

          "Was just gettin' the mail, Pan," Jon showed her the letters on his hands.

          "Mail, you say?" his mother's voice came from another sofa chair. Another Sableye, much more elderly, although you couldn't tell the difference, she'd sunk in her chair with a blanket over her. Her name was Dora; the diamonds she had for eyes had lost their shine, they were pale and dreamy, matching her sleepy state. She barely acknowledged Jon.

          Between the sofa and the chairs in front of the fireplace, there was a table that was fashioned by Darcy's Woodworks in such a way that it was a physical map of the Known World, colored with great detail by a famous artist from Exathor. Antara was the most mountainous piece of land, so there were many bumps on the table where Antara was. Jon placed all of the letters on the Carajol area.

          "Anything for me?" Dora asked tiredly.

          "Nah," Jon said. "It's all for Pan."

          "Oh, goody," his sister let out, obviously pleased, as she leaned in to grab the bunch of mail. "Hey little brother, why don't you light the wood on the fireplace?" That was more of an order rather than a suggestion.

          Despite the weather, it was hot and humid inside. "What for?" Jon asked, but then he glanced to his mom who was buried in her light blue blanket.

          "Mother wants it lit," Pan said insistently, so Jon did as he was told. A long, dragon-like flame rose from the wood once he blew flames on it. He was about to grab the last letter addressed to him and go to his room, but he was stopped.

          "Sit for a bit," Pan prompted him as she opened her letters with a her claws. The Monferno was a bit distraught, but he dove in the sofa and exhaled. He was already rubbing the leather impatiently within seconds. His mom and sister's company was never enjoyable. "Ooh!" Pan exclaimed eagerly. She tilted her head, grinning in an affectionate manner as she read the letter. "Aww! My dear Sebastian!" Her cute act dropped almost immediately, and her diamonds she had for eyes flashed with greed. "Those wool merchants from the Bola region were... persuaded... to sell their wool at such an unfortunate season for them. You hear that, mother? We're going to be even richer very soon."

          "Ah, lovely Pan!" the older Sableye said with a proud grin peeping out of her blanket. "You are such a smart girl, as always. Your father would be so very proud of you."

          "I know," Pan said confidently.

          Jon raised both his eyebrows in mock-amazement and looked over at his sister with a hugely indifferent, evidently terribly disinterested expression that would come across as comedic to a third party. "Woah," he said, his tone almost deadpan, "how'd you manage that?"

          Pan had learned the times when Jon was mocking her, so she picked it up, but she didn't lose her attitude. "I figured complex concepts such as business would confuse that tiny, dry thing you call brain, brother," she retorted.

          Jon laughed some, as he knew not to start an argument with his sister, especially in front of his mother. They were the only two people in the world that he couldn't beat to a pulp if things got out of hand.

          As Pan realized Jon was done, she kept looking through her letters. "Useless... nope, nothing here," he threw some away and kept looking. She giggled once and took one letter and hid it under the pillow of the chair. Jon stared at the dancing flames in the fireplace, bored out of his mind. His mother noticed the letters on her daughter's lap again.

          "Mail?" Dora asked. "Anything for me?"

          "I told you, mother, no," Pan said patiently.

          Dora got moody. "When is my husband coming back, do you know?"

          "I don't know yet," the Sableye said.

          "Do you know where he's gone?"

          Jon sank back into the sofa with a troubled expression. This again... she forgot. "Dad's gone to Tundara, mom," he reminded her, "remember, the expedition to find the Frozen Breach?"

          Something flashed in front of the elders Sableye's diamonds and she opened her mouth, as if she remembered something. "Ahh," she let out after a second, her eyes drawn past her son to the window where the drizzle left its mark. This was usually a sign that she remembered something. But Jon could never tell if she really remembered or not.

          Pan returned to her letters as if nothing had just happened. But it broke Jon's heart. His father was missing for two years now, as far as they knew. All contact with the expedition was lost, and it was like a stab to be reminded of it every time they had to explain it to their mother.

          He turned to his sister and spoke in a low tone, so Dora wouldn't pay attention to them. "When are we gonna go find dad?" he said.

          That was a matter that he was anxious to tackle, something he and his sister had been talking about. The young Sableye glanced up from the letter she was checking out and then to her mom quickly, making sure she wasn't listening. "I'm working on it," she said, avoiding his look now. "We need to find a ship."

          "Why can't you just buy one?" Jon pressed her, still making sure he didn't speak too loud. "You've a muk ton of money!"

          Jon knew she had sent letters everywhere requesting for assistance from Exathor and Liverte, but evidently, no reply had come back yet. Pan would want to wait till they got free help instead of paying for it, and that infuriated Jon - every day that they waited, it was more likely that their father would be dead inside an iceberg, and Jon couldn't bear to think of that.

          His sister smirked in disturbance. "Impossible," she declared, "do you know how expensive a ship is, man? Don't be stupid! Not to mention hiring an able crew for a suicide journey!"

          The Monferno grabbed his forehead, trying to contain his anger and impatience. He leaned forward on the sofa towards her, raising both his hands for his attempt to convince her. "Pan, let me find us a crew," he whispered.

          "Right!" his sister let out, "and who would be its captain? You, Jon? Is that what you're dreaming of? Have you forgotten what happened the last time you tried to be captain? You had to change your name!"

          Jon leaped out of the sofa and for a moment he towered over the chair of his sister. She was a severe and independent woman, but even she for a moment cowered in her seat for fear of the fury she saw in her brother's face. It did look like he was going to hit her, but he would never raise a hand against family. He instead picked up his letter and bolted off to his room.

          The Monferno slammed the door to his room and went straight to his desk. He placed the letter on the side and yanked a drawer open, pulling out a hidden bottle of Louis' magically crafted ale. The blood was rushing into his face and blushing his cheeks. He put the bottle in his mouth and downed it in a couple of tries. He threw it away and drew his chair under him and sat hunched, staring into the lamp that was lit.

          He shook his head as a chill ran through him.

          A little sob got his attention.

          There was a ball of fur under the lamp on his desk. A Swinub just the size of his hand was sobbing for him. He placed one hand on her and brushed her dense brown hair appreciatively as she approached. He would need her help for what was about to come.

          He placed the envelope in front of her. "Smell it, Mocha," he told his pet, "is it dangerous?"

          The small Pokemon had even smaller hands but she managed to pick the envelope up and sniff around it with her rose-like nose. Once she was done, she pushed it to him. Jon knew if it had anything malicious in it, she would have started growling. He let his eyes fall into the name of the sender.

          From: Puzzle Pirates

          That name written with ink made his chest ache in emotions pent up for a long time. After he saw what this was about, he was definitely going to need a lot more than that bottle of ale he just had.

          He tore the letter with a knife he kept on his desk.

          It contained a single piece of paper. It was a crumbled and re-straightened Wanted poster from a few years ago, one of those the Government published to list the Public Enemies who threatened the Known World. Generous bounties were given to those who would exterminate Public Enemies, as they were always presented as villains and propagandized as dangerous and deadly, and some of them were.

          Spoiler:


          The picture shown in the poster was himself, a Monferno, eating his own tricorne hat with his eyes widened in untold fury. On another setting, that picture would have looked comedic. The poster read:

          Wanted

          ~ Dead or Alive ~
          Public Enemy #64
          "Furious Jonathan"
          No further information on his identity
          260,000 golden berries

          - The Avian Naval Force -

          Below the picture, a signature of the senders was drawn handsomely with ink, and words were written underneath:

          We know who you really are, "Duncan".

          Jonathan remained staring at that line. We know who you are, he thought. He exhaled calmly. His emotions were sucked back in. It was no use to let them out now. So be it, Puzzle Pirates. When next they meet, they were going to feel his fury, and they would know that this threat was a mistake they should never have made.

          He took an empty envelope from the drawer as well as a piece of paper. Mocha handed him the inkpot and she looked him in the eye, although her eyes were completely covered in her fur. Jon petted her and as thanks for giving him courage.

          He stuck his thumb in it and scooped a good a mount of ink.

          A round black spot with his fingerprint in the middle was left on the piece of paper. After it had dried off, he slipped the piece of paper into the envelope, and wrote on it the sender, Jonathan Sawyer and the recipient, the Puzzle Pirates. The Pelipper mailman would find them easily enough.

          Once outside, he yanked the mailbox open on his first try and pushed the letter inside. Louis' Spot was his next destination.


          ***


          The bar had been closed for reconstruction after the destructive visit Captain Amadeus and his crew had paid it, but no reconstruction was taking place at the very moment. The Head Crushers were holding council, with the First Mate Louis present. Captain Adrian and his crew looked like they were going through intense yet quiet discussion. The only client they would allow in during times like these would be no other than Jon.

          The Monferno limped inside Louis' Spot.

          "Ahoy, Duncan," Louis greeted him as he went behind the bar.

          "Hey," Jon said, unsmiling. "Hit me hard, throw me a mug," he said.

          "Alright. What's gotten you so down, lad?" the Bibarel slid a mug on the part of the bar that wasn't destroyed. The Monferno caught it. He downed the ale in one go and grunted.

          "Things, mate," he replied. Louis understood that the young man didn't want to talk about it; otherwise he'd have already started talking. He was perplexed to see someone as open as Jon refrain from talking about his troubles. It was obvious Jon just wanted to drink his Spot dry, so he placed a whole bottle of ale in front of him.

          "Luck be with you," the Bibarel said. That fit in every situation he could think of. "Join us when you're done. Could really use another head in this discussion."

          Jon had drank the bottle of ale that Louis served and two more when he joined the Head Crushers. He felt the blood rushing into his head, making him a a bit dizzy. A normal Pokemon would have passed out after a couple of those bottles of that magical brew.

          Once he was done, he drew a chair to the table where the pirates sat, put it with its back against it and leaned forward. "So," Jon said drunkenly and with renewed spirits, almost smiling, "what's this about?" He also noticed the two members missing from yesterday were there now: their Navigator, Kyrce the Pinsir, and their Psychic, Fergus the Grumpig.

          The Slaking had his paws joined in front of him, leaning forward in the table much like everyone else. Jon had never seen him so intense; Adrian didn't acknowledge Jon sitting with them.

          "That damn pisspot!" the large man snapped. "I'll crush him, when I find him!"

          "Calm, now, sir," Dr. Milo said in the serene tone that he used to soothe his captain.

          "Let it slide, it was nothing more than a threat," Fergus the Grumpig said. "Please!"

          "We're a family here," Captain Adrian shouted. "And they dare come into our home, and smash it up?! And you scabs want me to do nothin' about that?!"

          "Do something," Jon shrugged, "but not something idiotic, captain."

          "Exactly!" Dr. Milo said, raising his hands in a gesture. "Thank you, Jon."

          "Way me sees it," Cookie the Tyrantrum said, "that was a bait, aye. An' it ain't me sayin' this, twas Milo. He reckons they tryn'a get us out of Modistra with this hit."

          "Nah, not gonna work," Fergus said, but he wasn't sure of himself. "Right, cap'n?"

          The Slaking seemed troubled as he pouted, like a kid without ice cream. He looked unintelligent, but Jon knew he was not.

          "This is ridiculous," Voss the Magby said. "Hey, captain? I ain't cookin' no sweets if you keep on being like that! We're way above those brats, we're gonna act like it. Keep a cool head and ignore them."

          Jon thought for a second, then said, "Amadeus and his lot have to be sailin' around the Cayeiras, captain. If they plan to run another rug, maybe you should prepare to ambush them in your turf. But don't go chasin' them."

          "Eyy," Captain Adrian let out, half shutting his eyes. "Jon, that's a kinda middle ground... I like that better. I'll ambush 'em."

          Jon suddenly felt his bladder. "Gods, all that ale. I've to go take a piss," he announced and got off his chair quickly. "Be back quickly."

          He exited through the back door of the bar. The moon had appeared betwixt two mazes of clouds. The sound of the waves in the peaceful shores reached his ears; he ended up walking a bit to get to that palm tree on the small dune on the beach. He just had to climb up to the top of that tree and piss off the edge of the hill.

          After about two miles of walking, hands in his pockets, Nick had reached the bar. He examined the area, disheartened by what he saw. The place looked to be restricted, the path blocked and no patrons in sight. Yet, oddly enough, he still saw people inside, and lights, however dim, flickering from inside. He'd just reached the small plaza just outside the building when he saw a sign that said, Closed & under construction! GO AWAY!.

          Nick looked briefly at the sign, then back at the bar. Somebody was there. He wasn't here to drink or to patronize the area, he simply wanted answers. And if someone was still there, it might have been the owner. Undeterred by the obstruction, he walked past it to the bar, an odd sort of determination etched on his brow.

          "Anybody home?" he called out, standing just a few feet away from the bar itself.

          The voices inside the bar went silent. Someone yelled from inside, "are you blind or drunk or stupid?! Go away!"

          A Bibarel appeared at the doorstep, looking suspicious. "Didn't you see the sign on your way here?" Once he saw the Scrafty, he was suddenly alerted. That man looked like the Scrafty in Amadeus' crew.

          "I ain't here to drink, I just got some questions," Nick called back. He didn't like being insulted at first, but he let it pass for now.

          "One second." The Bibarel disappeared from the doorstep.

          A moment later, a fat Slaking with a sword with rubies and sapphires fastened on his belt blocked the entirety of the door. He looked down upon the visitor rather sternly. Then, he glanced back inside the inn. "That's not him," he said, then turned to the Scrafty. "What'd you want, kid? What kinda questions you wanna ask at this hour?"

          Nick breathed a sigh of relief, before returning to his questions. "Little pidgey told me Captain Amadeus came here the other night. I'm lookin' for 'em."

          The Slaking furrowed his eyebrows and looked at the Scrafty from head to toe. His expression was doubtful. "So, you're lookin' to join them?" he asked, although he knew that was probably not why.

          Nick almost looked insulted, getting angry at the very idea that'd he join those low-lifes. "Join them? I'd sooner rip off my crest!" he said indignantly, pointing to the scales on his head. "I ain't friends with the guy, and from the looks of things here, you ain't too cheeky with the fella either."

          The Slaking sucked on his teeth loudly, looking down at him indifferently. "Sorry to disappoint you, kid. Amadeus and his crew left the island yesterday," he said, turned around and closed the door.

          Nick furrowed his brow, an irritated look on his face. He went up to the door and knocked loudly. "Come on! You don't have even the foggiest idea where he'd go? Hey!"

          "I wish I knew," the Slaking shouted from inside, "I'd go smash his face in."

          Nick grumbled to himself, sighing again. The Slaking didn't seem inclined to help him out. He huffed once, before turning to leave. "Fine. Thanks for nothing, wanker!" With that, he pocketed his hands and turned to leave, muttering swears under his breath. "Jolly good waste of time. Arseholes."

          Amadeus was here, that much was clear. The place was trashed, and according to Lucas, it couldn't be anyone else. Why this fat Slaking wouldn't even offer assistance was beyond Nick. Defeated and disgruntled, he began to make the trek back to the city. He'd find a hotel to spend the night, and head back to Liverte in the morning.

          Jon returned to the bar ten minutes later from his piss. "Oy, fellas," he greeted.

          "Ahoy, boy how big is your bladder?" Captain Adrian teased him, seemingly having found his spirits again, "you were pissing for ten and then some!"

          "Was not," Jon denied it as he took his seat. "So, you came up with some plan?"

          The Head Crushers all looked at him. "Nah, mate," the Tyrantrum said. "We was interrupted by some Scrafty."

          "A Scrafty?!" Jon shouted, his mind darting to the man with the sword he had faced off with yesterday in this very bar. "Who was he?" The others saw his expression and hurried to clear things up.

          "Nah, wasn't him," Cookie spoke again, "looked like him, though. I ain't seen Scrafties lookin' so similar. They both had the same accent too, foreign-like."

          "Yeah," Voss the Magby agreed, "from east Sonara, sounded like."

          Jon brought his hand to his head, his fingers rushing through his hair. He was suddenly in deep thought. "What'd he want at this hour?"

          "He was lookin' for Captain Amadeus. Not to join him, 'pparently," the captain said. "It looked like he had beef with them Poison Vipers."

          What are the chances? Jon thought. He got up from his chair. "I gotta go. I think I know that person."


          ***


          Nick had just made it out of the woods, back to the streets of Modistra. Lights were still lit in the shops, but not many. It was late now, nearing midnight, Nick figured. He kept his eyes open for an inn or hotel where he could spend the night. A city as big as Modistra would likely have them, he thought, especially so close to the shore.

          "Hey! Wait up, man!" someone shouted from afar. A shadow was rushing through the sands of the beach Nick had just passed; the night veiled the mon's features.

          It wasn't long before the mon caught up. He stood in the middle of the road, just within range of the lamp light. Now it was obvious that he was a Monferno. "Nick?" the stranger said.

          In the dead of night, as frustrated and tired as he was, Nick at first didn't even recognize the 'mon in front of him. "Yeah, what's it to you?"

          "It's Jon," Jon yelled, ecstatic, approaching him with his arms spread for an open, welcoming hug.

          Nick blinked twice, as if trying to clear his vision. "...Jon?" He suddenly remembered; Jon lived in Modistra, and Nick had almost completely forgotten. "Jon Sawyer, is that you?" He asked with a laugh. His demeanor changed in a flash, a broad smile encompassing his face as he accepted the gesture. He quickly embraced the Monferno, before drawing back and bringing his head forward to headbutt the fire-type.

          Jon patted him on the back and brought his head in to meet the Scrafty's forehead. He tried to remember when the last time they saw each other was. It was shortly after Nick's family business had completed the construction of that ship of Wyron, when they were both just fifteen years old; Isaac had moved to Aerdom with the rest of his family, so the two got separated. "Nine years," the Monferno said, his eyes glowing with joy. "What in the name of the skies are you doin' here?!"

          Nick gave a hearty laugh, happy for once since he'd arrived here. "Nine years indeed..." Nick said with a sigh. "I'm here on... personal business. Lookin' for someone." His expression suddenly fell again, remembering the reason he'd arrived here.

          Jon put his hand on Nick's shoulder and took him along down the road. "You're lookin' for someone," he repeated, without shouting this time; this situation intrigued him, as he would be the best man to help his friend in this case, if that someone was on Modistra. "I'll help you find him, count on me. Who's he?"

          Nick was thankful for the offer, walking down the street alongside his friend. "I'm lookin for that fat man, Amadeus." Nick seemed to shudder at the mere mention of the pirate captain's name. "Heard he was tip-toein' around Modistra, so I came here first chance I got."

          Jon's face became as bleak as the rainclouds when he heard of the pirate's name. "Amadeus was here yesterday," he informed him in a low voice. They took a turn to the right, passing below the branches of two huge trees on each side of the road. They were descending further into the city, as the houses grew prevalent and the gardens became smaller. "That bastard smashed Louis' Spot well, and he bailed after that. He's not on the island. Tough luck, man."

          "That's what I heard," Nick replied with a sigh. "I was plannin' on sticking around for a while, seein' if that low-life would come crawlin' back or something."

          Suddenly, a bright flash coming from up ahead blinded them. They stopped put. "Who goes there?" they heard someone shout. "I see two Pokemon!"

          "Muk, it's the marines," Jon cursed, "point that thing away!" he shouted and the flashlight was pointed at the trees. They saw two Machokes with the blue band with the symbol of the ANF: the vane and the anchor. Jon knew those two men; they were ambitious senior members of the guard who were looking for a promotion. One time, when he was younger, he'd gotten in trouble for beating up one of them, and that one had stamped him ever since.

          "Look who it is! It's Duncan!" the Machoke said with a smirk and swagger as he approached. Jon knew it was him from the scar his Mach Punch had left on his cheek.

          "Oy, up late?" Jon asked.

          "Indeed," the marine's partner said nonchalantly, pushing what little hair he had on top of his head back.

          Once they got closer, though, they realized that the Scrafty that was with Jon looked terribly alike the Scrafty they had seen yesterday, heading for the Dirty Deed, Amadeus' galleon. "Wait a minute," the Machoke with the scar furrowed his brow. "You're that Scrafty who caused trouble in Louis' Spot yesterday!"

          "Like hell I was!" Nick retorted. "I ain't ever been in the city in my life!"

          Nick cursed mentally. First Adrian, then the guards, thinking he was someone else. Now it was confirmed he was on the right track.

          The two Machokes nudged each other with sharp looks. "You're under arrest for vandalism and injuring harmless civilians, but most of all for disrespecting the Governor's peace in Modistra!"

          They moved in, but Jon blocked their way, raising an arm. "Woah there, you're too fast. This is a mistake. You got the wrong man, that's a different Scrafty." Jon glanced at his friend, prompting him to say something.

          "It wasn't me, alright?" Nick said, casting an angry glare at the accusing Machoke. "Just because it so happened to be another Scrafty. Piss off!"

          The marines glanced at each other. "Looks the same, sounds the same," the one with the scar said, "it's him! Don't move! If you're friends with an enemy of Rochetto's, then you're conspiring against him!"

          "Touch me and I'll give you a matching scar for your other cheek!" Nick said, raising a fist to attack.

          They skittered towards the Scrafty, but the first marine didn't make it past Jon, who leaped at him. The punch he shot with blinding speed connected with the Machoke's face. The Monferno fell on him, bringing him down. The pent up rage he had for what had happened in that evening was coming out. The Machoke turned his head to the side to spit out blood and a tooth. "I told you," Jon said between gritted teeth as he raised his fist for another blow, "it's not him!"

          The marine's partner kicked the Monferno off of him. "Even if you're tellin' the truth, you just made things a lot worse for you, buddy," he called him out as he helped the fallen Machoke up. Luck was so that Jon had almost beaten up the same Machoke who hated him for the earlier beating he'd given him. "Just come with us for a night and we'll call Rochetto to clear things up, but I ain't sure you're getting out of attackin' one of us just like that."

          "Oh yeah, that's what they all say," Nick replied. Cops in Liverte always threw out the "we'll just clear things" routine, only to abuse their power and lock you away forever. "I ain't spending the night in a bloody cell!"

          But Jon remembered what Pan said about controlling his anger and using it at the right times. He stood straight and took a breath, his rage slipping away from him. He had a killer headache, he realized, probably after all that drinking that never got him drunk. "Easier that way," he said reassuringly to Nick, "they really mean it. Rochetto's tight with the Governor, so these rookies ain't got a say in muk. We'll be free tomorrow."

          Nick glanced at Jon, his expression one of disbelief. The Scrafty never trusted the cops... but at the same time, he knew Jon was more familiar with Modistra. He grumbled, throwing up his hands in mock surrender. "Fine. You'd better be right."

          The marines each took a pair of hand cuffs from their belts. "Follow, and be nice about it."

          The Machoke with the bloody mouth snickered as he put the handcuffs on Jon's wrists. "You're not gonna have fun, I guarantee that," he said.

          "When I get out, meet you on the graveyard," Jon whispered threateningly, "I'll feed you the rest of your teeth!"


          ***


          There wasn't a jail in Modistra, as the crime was so low. Criminals were handed over to Captain Adrian who passed judgement, and he was known for how meticulous he was in his investigation, how fair a judge he was, and how harsh the punishment for crime was. That rendered any jail cell mostly useless, so the old prison that had been built had been turned into a school. The only place the marines could officially confine people in was the top floor of the lighthouse.

          This wasn't a common lighthouse. Underneath it was a cathedral dedicated to the One Faith; the light coming from its top wasn't to guide vessels airborne or seafaring, it was to signify the unifying power of the light in the middle of the night. The people of Modistra gathered around the cathedral during certain times of the year to celebrate the One Faith, and the lighthouse was lit only then. On all the other days of the year, it served as the only jail cell in the city.

          That's where Jon and Nick were put to spend the night. There was some hay around for some reason, so ironically, it was very comfy. Jon was almost glad he didn't have to return to his house that night, and with Nick there, if his head wasn't throbbing, he would have a great time.

          "Bloody brilliant..." Nick whined, lying flat on his back on the hay. "I get to spend the night sleeping on hay like some farm animal."

          "It ain't so bad," Jon said, smiling, "better than most of the affordable inns and motels in the city."

          Nick scratched at his arms, the hay beginning to stick to his scales. "Bleh. I've got hay in places hay is not supposed to be." He adjusted his shed skin, pulling it closer to himself to keep the hay from rubbing all over his bare scales. "At least a hotel would have a pillow."

          Jon put his back against the railing that protected the inactive lamp of the lighthouse. He glanced outside the window at the clouds which had cleared for a bit, allowing sight of the moon. Its light fell gently on Modistra, and their jail cell had the courtesy to show them all of it. He took his eyes off the city and fixed them onto Nick as he leaned back, relaxing. "Your family alright?"

          Nick grimaced. "... no, they... we aren't," he said, correcting himself. "We've hit a rough patch, I suppose. Thing's ain't been the same since Thomas... well, you know." He shook his head, clearing his mind. "Took me quite a while to save the cash for this trip."

          Jonathan nodded in understanding. He was able to relate to Nick after all these years; he knew what it was like to lose a dear relative. Years before, the Sawyer family had received a letter from the Darcy's, informing them that the middle sibling had been kidnapped and that the authorities didn't know what to make of it, but the whole neighborhood knew it was Amadeus and his crew... "Still haven't found him?"

          "Actually..." Nick began, suddenly growing angry. "I did. That piece of piss Amadeus took him. That's why I'm here." He spoke plainly, as if hiding his feelings from Jon, yet his fists were held tightly. He wanted nothing more than to leave that stinking Garbodor in a bloody pile on the floor. "I'm going to find that fat bastard, and I'll show 'em what comes to mongrels who mess with me and my family."

          Jon did not show it, but his chest stirred and he felt a pressure on his throat as he swallowed. The image of that Scrafty wielding a sword flashed before his eyes. I hadn't noticed it was him, he reflected, aghast. I almost killed my friend's brother. He drew a breath to calm himself. Almost was the key word. Thomas was still alive. "Saw him yesterday at the bar. He was with them, part of their crew like. No doubt it was him."

          "He was... what?" Nick said, startled. His eyes grew wide, staring down at Jon. "You saw him?!"

          "I did, just didn't know it was him. I thought he looked familiar, but he acted like one of them, obeying Amadeus' orders and followin' them willingly. Would've never thought that was your brother."

          "He was followin' them?" Nick asked, almost as if accusing Jon of lying. "There's no way. Are you absolutely sure it was him?"

          Jon looked offended, and it showed in his tone. "I know what I saw." His eyes were closing, as his fatigue was catching up with him.

          "No, no, you're right..." Nick said, sensing Jon's offense. "Maybe... he must have been their slave or something. No way he'd follow them willingly..."

          "Hell if I know what happened to him," Jon muttered. He suddenly realized how tired he was and how welcoming that patch of hay looked.

          He turned to the side with his head on the hay, feeling himself fall quickly into the arms of sleep, although he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep properly with the head he'd made. "Give me a few min..." he said sleepily.

          His sleep was troubled. He kept shifting his body around and ended up waking a few hours later, in the middle of the night, all cramped up and more tired than before. He had a bad taste in his mouth so he swallowed and his eyes lazily found Nick, who looked like he hadn't closed one eye during the night.

          "I fell asleep," Jon mumbled tiredly.

          "I didn't," Nick said blankly. He couldn't sleep. How could he? His mind had been too busy racing over what Jon had told him. He hadn't moved from his spot the entire time, his eyes fixated on the moon just outside. "Can't sleep."

          The Monferno exhaled audibly on purpose, staring at the ceiling. A breeze was coming from somewhere, even though the circular window of the lighthouse was shut. Nick kept his focus outside, before sighing lightly. He needed to clear his mind. "So... what have you been up to all this time?"

          Jon begun telling him about his life after they were separated. He lived normally, happily, in all the cities he had stayed with his family, he'd made lots of friends and had seen interesting things. He told him about how his father sold their house in Aerdom and gave the majority of his wealth into the biggest expedition he was planning, the expedition to Pagos, the northernmost land of ice in Tundara, in a quest to find the Frozen Breach that would lead him to the North Pole. Of course, Nick knew about this, as it was all over the news of first world countries like Liverte. He also knew that contact with the expedition was lost about two years ago.

          In addition to that, his mother's memory was growing worse. They had gotten the doctor of the Head Crushers, Milo, to examine her, and he had concluded that she was suffering from a disease that made her memories liable to vanish or be moved and altered.

          The more he talked to Nick, the more he remembered how good of a connection they had as children, and although they had been through a lot, they hadn't changed much when it came to their demeanor. He felt he could share a bit more about himself than most people of Modistra knew.

          Nick simply nodded in response to the things Jon told him. He missed having a close friend like him during the past few years.

          "So... Duncan?" Nick asked, remembering their encounter with the marines earlier. One of them had called Jon by that name instead. "What's up with that?"

          "There's a whole story why I've to live under a different name now." Jon sighed almost painfully. "The most dire truth about what I've done is this. Accomplish my childhood dream, I did: I became the captain of my own ship. Let me tell you a story... almost three years ago, before my father left for Pagos," he said, "I set sail from Modistra with two friends of mine that I'd made whilst here, Mako and Morgiana; we wanted to be privateers and earn a fair prize. Our airship would be going to Osenia; recently, her captain had perished from an illness, so the Navy appointed a Vice Admiral to lead the journey in his place. Only that captain was a stick in the mud, a gasbag and a headstrong landlubber who'd no business being on the deck, let alone command a crew. Inefficient and with no knowledge, I bet he'd oiled his way up in the marine ranks, 'cause I doubt anybody saw him captain a ship before."

          Nick chuckled lightly. "Good ol' Navy blokes. Gotta love 'em," he said sarcastically.

          "Ain't that right?" Jon mimicked his friend's laugh. "Anyhow... we, the crew, complained when he chose to ride through a shortcut to the Osenian region that would take us through harsh conditions - far to the east of Carajol, beyond the Novayas, it's called the Dead End, if you've heard of it, and for a good reason. The ship survived, just barely, but its blimps were left tattered and broken, so we were forced to sail the vast Osenian sea, without indication of where to go next, and without the advantage of flight.

          Things only got worse for us, 'cause of the captain's inability. Some sailors thought they didn't wanna die in those barren seas with nothing to our name, so they had the brilliant idea to mutiny, and they dragged me into it. I couldn't say no - it was either that, or die with the rest of the captain's loyalists and boot lickers. I was friends with the whole crew, so that made me a good captain in their eyes," Jon said sarcastically, "I made Mako and Morgiana, my closest friends on board, my First Mates, even though I hadn't known them all that well. I wasn't keen on killing the former captain - I am no murderer, or at least I wasn't, at the time... but the others went ahead and did it anyway. Kicked the doors open to his cabin, grabbed him by the neck and limbs and tied him. His marine loyalists had the same fate. They made them all walk the plank."

          Jon stood up from the hay and put himself on the railing of the window so he could take a look outside. It wasn't such a long time ago that he had experienced these things, yet he felt numb about it, in contrast to how he felt once he saw good men being swallowed by the sea.

          "They sent a bottle of ale to the bottom of the sea and cheered for the birth of the new crew that they named the Puzzle Pirates. Under my command, the ship reached a port in Osenia, where we were able to restock on supplies, although there weren't any shipyards nearby to fix our blimps and get our flight back. I remember though the lush jungle and the hours I spent on the beach... captain of my own ship, the whole of my crew were friends that I trusted and depended upon. I was ready to conquer the world." He shook his head, his mouth tightening bitterly, and he looked down at the city's night lights.

          "We set sail for a new course as instructed by the residents of that island, to the next nearest island with a dockyard and knowledge and tools for fixing an airship. But we discovered midway that the distance was far greater than we imagined for a seafaring ship, and the wind had stopped blowing. We'd have gotten there if we had flight, but on the sea, were were stuck with no wind.

          We were forced to disembark on an unknown, uncharted string of islands... Mako and Morgiana and I went inland to explore. But I was betrayed by those people who I considered friends. We were noticed by a wild tribe that was native to those islands, so they threw them off their tail by making my own tracks more obvious... at least, that's how I think they did it. But they didn't know how I'd grown up, so they didn't count on me surviving an encounter with a tribe of wild Pokemon - I befriended them, too late, 'cause the Puzzle Pirates were gone." He had a sultry expression on. He paced a bit in front of Nick, kicking a bit of hay to the side.

          "They just... up and betrayed you?" Nick asked, confused. "Why?"

          "I had no idea why they had done it," Jon replied. "But once I escaped that island, and came upon civilized soil, I saw a wanted poster of myself. They had used me so that I'd get the blame for the mutiny, and Mako and Morgiana could take over an unsuspecting crew after they had gotten rid of me, all the while avoiding all the heat that came with the slaying of a Vice Admiral of the ANF. My old crew had forgotten me, thinking me lost after the lies they were told. Mako became captain and Morgiana was now his first mate."

          Even after all he had just said, Jon smiled at nothing in particular. The bitterness was gone now, although the fury was well kept underneath. On the surface, it now seemed to Nick that he had not been affected.

          "I got a letter from them this evening," Jon added. "My wanted poster and a threat underneath. Knowing Mako, they're gonna ask for money. I sent them back a piece of paper with a black spot. You know what the black spot is?"

          Nick shook his head. "I don't."

          Jon looked the Scrafty in the eye, his face half hidden in shadow. He looked very serious. "It's a death threat," he said, "sent by pirates to declare judgement for a crime that violated the code of conduct. If there are no words describing the punishment on paper..." he paused for a bit, his expression growing sharp. "Then the punishment is death."

          "By pirates?" Nick asked, glancing inquisitively at his friend. "You sayin' what I think you're sayin'?"

          The dark clouds that were amassing on Jon's face kept piling up. He hadn't thought on it much, actually, what him sending that black spot meant. It just felt right at the time. But now the path before him was becoming more clear. "Aye," he said, "they'll be crushed before they crush me. I'll form a crew and set out of this bog I'm stuck in."

          "So you're going to do it..." Nick said, his tone devoid of any emotion. "You're going to become a pirate, just like you always dreamed of, huh?" He wasn't too sure how to feel about the situation. In his experience, as much as he trusted Jon, there was no such thing as a 'good' pirate.

          "I already got a taste of it," Jon said, "this is the life I want to lead. And since you're here, why don't you come with me?" he asked, like it wasn't a big deal.

          Nick suddenly stood up. He walked over to the railing, looking out at the skies. When he was kid, playing with Jon, they'd often make-believe that they were pirates. He shook his head solemnly. "You're my friend, Jon, but I don't think I can join you. Pirates have done nothing but ill to me and my family."

          Jon wasn't going to give up. "I'm not going anywhere without you. I'll do my best to convince you this is the right choice!"

          "I can't," Nick said again, more steadfastly. "I have to go back to Liverte. I can't afford to abandon my duties... my family." He grimaced, turning to face Jon, a regretful look in his eyes. "I'm practically the only thing standing between us and starvation."

          Jon gestured with his arms before crossing them and leaning backwards against the rail nonchalantly. "All the more reason to become a pirate. We'll take booty that deserves to be plundered, and believe me, there's enough of it to be found. Your family won't want for anything after you return to Liverte a man of quality, with gold and stones spillin' out of your pockets." For Jon, it was only a matter of time to convince him.

          "I... I'll think about it." Nick said finally. "I'm tired. I need to sleep for tonight."

          "Yeah, whatever," Jon said dismissively. He didn't want to sleep any more, though. All this talk about captaining his own ship had gotten him fired up. The Scrafty lay to the side and shut his eyes, and soon he was sleeping.

          The hours passed. The moon sunk into obscurity and the first rays of the sun emerged from the horizon. Wingulls cried and some came to stand on the railing, just outside the window, and look inside at Jon. He almost made a rude gesture and was about to tell them to psyduck off, but he could use some company. But as he didn't have food, they left quickly. He became so very bored after that, he was exhaling and rolling his eyes. Prison was boring!

          But the morning was here. Maybe those marines would let them out soon...

          The sun was well up in the sky and its rays struck the Scrafty's face directly. Nick winced, blocking the sun with his eyes, muttering to himself. "Five more minutes..." he whined, before groggily opening his eyes. He slowly rose to a sitting position, looking out towards the sun. It must have been close to noon, judging from it's position. "They gonna let us out soon?" Nick asked.

          Jon shrugged. "I knocked a while ago, no answer. I bet those skulks sod off, left us here to rot."

          "I told you," Nick said, annoyed. "Can't trust those mongrels." He rose up to stand, looking out again over the railing. "Let's get out of here."

          "Halt," Jon said, "cool down. We ain't going anywhere if Adrian can help us get out without fuss. Just wait it out, man, a couple hours at most, I'll make it up for ya when we get out." He fixed his blue eyes carefully on Nick's. His gaze was unusually penetrating; the sun shone brightly behind his head. "So are you coming with me or not?"

          Nick frowned slightly, looking down at the ground. He thought for only a minute, but in the silence, it felt much longer. Finally, he looked up at Jon. "You sure we'll be making gold?" he asked bluntly. "A lot of gold?"

          The Monferno shrugged nonchalantly. "Wouldn't be worth it otherwise. Come on, man, you think anybody would be doin' this if the pay off wasn't big? An honest man can't make four dimes when the Government leeches the fourth."

          Nick looked Jon directly in the eye. He could tell the Monferno was serious, more serious than he'd ever seen him. "... I'll go with you." He said finally. "I can't promise it'll be permanent, but I can help you if we get paid."

          Jon offered his hand for a handshake, smiling. Nick grabbed the Monferno's hand in turn, shaking, before smirking slightly, dragging him in for another headbutt.

          "Welcome aboard."
          __________________
          "Johnny rocked that golden circle, and all those VIPs, and that music that had freed us became a tired routine.
          And I saw his face in close-up tryin' to give it all he had, and sometimes his eyes betrayed him, you could see that he was sad.


          And I tried to rock on with him, but I slowly became bored
          Could that man on stage with everything somehow need some more?"

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            #8    
          Old October 4th, 2015 (7:16 PM). Edited November 28th, 2016 by Ray Maverick.
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          Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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          17/6/1076
          ... Next day, early in the morning, but in a different place ...



          The water in the glass rippled slightly with the gentle movement of the airship. The large, round Blastoise on the captain's seat observed it for a while now as he smoked his cigar. Shellder-phone in hand, he called the bridge. "Steady her to our course," he ordered, "I don't want my water spilling now, you hear?"

          "Aye, sir, right away! Those were but a few clouds in our turbines, but we altered our altitude to avoid them."

          "Hmprh," the Blastoise grunted on the speaker, cigar in mouth.

          "Oh, sir, since you called! Lieutenant Harvey is on his way to your office. We just received a letter with the High Speed Mail Service, I think you ought to read it."

          A rapid knock came on his door.

          "Come in," the Blastoise captain let out as he smashed the phone down.

          In came a shaking Tangela holding a letter. "Lieutenant H-Harvey reporting in!" the aeronaut shouted, using a vine to salute the Blastoise. "Sir Basil, Air Marshal, sir." The door swung shut, shaking the walls of the circular office.

          The water almost spilled. "Arrooo!" Basil let out, and Harvey cowered in the corner. "Watch it," he said.

          The Tangela begun a fit of coughing. At this altitude, they couldn't open any windows, so the Air Marshal's office was always as filthy as a factory's chimney, what with his non-stop cigar smoking.

          "Your water, sir, yes! It mustn't spill," he managed to say once he was done coughing. Lieutenant Harvey, or anyone else aboard the Riefmore right now, could never understand the Air Marshal's obsessive need to keep the water from spilling, and he himself never bothered to explain. Harvey had spilled it once by accident, but the Air Marshal wasn't around thankfully, and he was able to clean up the mess. He was clumsy by nature as a Tangela, so from that point since, he avoided going anywhere close to the glass at all costs.

          So from a safe distance he used one of his vines to deliver the letter to Air Marshal Basil from, who grabbed it and tore it impatiently.

          "Arh?"

          "Letter from the Headquarters, sir."

          The Blastoise searched blindly in his drawer for his small, round glasses without taking his eyes off the letter. He kept it away from his eyes to read it properly.

          "Arh, would you look at that," Basil shouted, "finally! Some action!" he reached behind him, on a glass display where his cherished Steam Blade was, drew it and the two stones that he could load it with out and placed them all on his table.

          The blade was only a hilt with a socket where one of the two stones could fit in. It could be loaded either with the Fire or the Ice Stone, and the blade that was fused after it was activated had the attributes and appearance of either element, fire or ice.

          Steam Blades were originally crafted in northern Antara, in the Hakiwara region, to be wielded only by the Megiddo, their powerful human-like warriors. Their descend upon the Bola region and their defeat there left a few prototypes of this weapon, and soon they became popular in the rest of the Known World, although not widely used and depended upon.

          Basil cast the Fire Stone aside and loaded the other stone into the hilt. Cold steam emerged from it and a thin line started to materialize on the desk. Ice suddenly sprung out of the hilt, forming a shiny, sharp and barbed blade of super-hardened ice that could cut through anything like a cake.

          The Tangela stared at the blade on the desk and swallowed and the Blastoise grinned. "Hmprh! Tell the bridge to change our course. We're going to the Cayeiras. Looks like the higher ups decided to open their eyes and root out Modistra's Governor."

          "But, but, what is wrong with Governor Edvin, sir? Modistra has become prosperous under his rule! No citizen has ever had cause to complain! It... it is unfair to overthrow Governor Edvin."

          "Do not be so short-sighted, swab. Edvin doesn't rule, Rochetto does. But Rochetto's busy now, warring with a petty pirate crew... we'll find an opening and raid the Castilio. And it doesn't matter if Rochetto has brought prosperity to the island. He is no more than a pirate, and like all pirates, they must face the aeronaut's bronze hammer of justice. If Rochetto's strong enough to face us after his confrontation with Amadeus, and I pray that he is," the Blastoise gently touched the ice of his blade, his eyes flashing behind his glasses. His blade craved for justice! But he didn't finish his sentence. "Hmprh. Now get outta here."

          "Y-yes, sir, as you say!"
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            #9    
          Old November 26th, 2016 (10:01 AM). Edited January 6th, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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          Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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          ... Around fifteen years ago ...


          "That's that," Adrian shouted when he saw Modistra's shores, after several hours of journey through the sea. "Cast ye eyes upon true civilization, little Duncan."

          The fat Slaking almost took up half the available space in the haggard raft he and Duncan had thrown together in Guntama. Thankfully, back then, "Little" Duncan was truly little - just a Chimchar, so to him, the space was a lot. Still, after so many weeks at the sky, he was sick of the isolation to his stomach. He was the jungle boy - he was used to walk for dozens of miles every day in Guntama Jungle.

          "Yes!" the Chimchar exclaimed, climbing to the broken prow of their battered raft. His eyes fell upon the first houses of the city port. Structures of the like he'd never see before. His eyes were quickly drawn to the forest that surrounded the city. "There's a jungle here too!"

          "Aye, kid. Nowhere near's big as Guntama, but it'll feel like home to ye." The Slaking threw back his head, opening his mouth wide for a monstrous yawn. "Sweet home..."

          The Chimchar looked back at him with a smile that radiated happiness. "This is your home, ain't it captain?"

          Captain Adrian nodded, giving him back a toothy smile. "Always," he said.

          Once they were ashore, they took a shortcut around the city and headed straight for Adrian's house, deep in the jungle. It was a cave under a huge, ancient tree whose roots dug into the hollow space below.

          "Dan!" Adrian shouted, but nobody answered back. "Dan! Adrian's here!"

          Just when they entered, someone called from outside.

          "Ahoy," Adrian shouted, looking down upon the Elgyem. "And what'd you want, scab?"

          "Adrian Rochetto?" the Elgyem inquired. "Is that you?"

          "Captain Adrian Rochetto for you, scab," the Slaking said.

          "I heard you were headed towards our island," the Elgyem said gravely. "It was on the news."

          "Oh ye? I'll be damned." Adrian went into his home, not looking back, Duncan following him close. The Elgyem dared to step inside. "Dan?" Adrian called out.

          The cave was completely empty. Not a single thing to be found that would make it resemble a home.

          "Dan's not here," Duncan murmured, his stomach churning a bit. Adrian was gone for many, many years.

          "You passed through the Paralean Coast on your way here," the Elgyem explained, "folk..." he coughed, looking away, lest he provoke ire. "Recognized you." Adrian and Duncan had beaten up the rookies that had taken over Paralea after the Head Crushers had disbanded. The ruckus that occurred was too great, it seemed. "Press caught word of your return. Well, I thought I should be the one to tell you..."

          The Slaking pursed his eyebrows. He was starting to get pissed. "Hold, scab. First, who in the name of psyduck are you?"

          "I'm a priest," the Elgyem said quickly. "Came here to talk to you, before the governor does, as a favor to Father Elusius..."

          The Slaking's face lit up. "Elusius... that bastard, how's he?"

          "Sick, in bed. He would've come himself otherwise."

          "One foot in the grave, ain't he?" Adrian threw back his head and laughed so loudly that the cave shook and the birds outside were scared off. "He'll live. That bastard's more resilient than Shuckles!"

          The Elgyem didn't laugh at all, in fact he didn't seem enthusiastic. "He told me to tell you about your father... Dan. He passed away four months ago."

          All laughter slipped from Adrian's smile and his face darkened. His eyes were cast to the ground and he stood completely still, as if absorbing it. Duncan looked up at him with eyes that became teary right away, his happy mood completely shattered.

          "We buried him at the hill next to the lighthouse," the Elgyem informed them, turning to leave. "Father Elusius sends his regards."

          That evening, Adrian sat quietly in front of the grave, facing the sea, for many hours. He didn't sob or cry. His face was made of stone. Duncan wasn't so well. He'd cried a lot, hugged the Slaking, and tried to sleep next to him but failed. Duncan never knew Adrian's father personally, nor had he heard a lot about him, but he knew by instinct Dan meant a lot for Adrian, and again by instinct he could sense the Slaking's grief, which in turn made him grieve.

          Adrian, sometime after the sun had gone down, placed a large hand on the Chimchar's head. "Ye know how it was, Duncan," he said, his voice coarse. "After my crew split, and I left for Guntama, I'd accepted. I knew I'd never see that bastard again after goin' into hiding."

          Little Duncan sobbed, hugging the Slaking's leg and pressing his face into it. "But... he was your dad." He looked up to him, eyes red from all the crying.

          The Slaking's smile was pained, and barely a smile. Grief showed in his eyes, but there was something reassuring about his look. "Aye. But I will live with it. We must learn to move on... You, too. Learn to move on."


          ***


          Present
          17/6/1076


          The skies looked bleak that day. Captain Adrian's eyes reflected the clouds and the beams of the sun as he stared into nothing, reminiscing. Voss the Magby was piloting the ship as Adrian slacked off on the poop deck; the Slaking lay on a great cushion.

          Adrian normally wasn't a fan of that kind of weather, but the thick clouds allowed their airship, the Head Crusher, to prowl through the skies around the island of Modistra in obscurity.

          "Been sometime since we went huntin', cap'n," the Tyrantrum shouted from the open hatch on the deck. "My guns were startin' te rust. Kah!"

          "Captain!" Dr. Milo shouted from the Crow's Nest. "Ship sighted at ten o'clock! It's the Dirty Deed, sir!"

          "Amadeus," Captain Adrian said behind his teeth. "That bloody bastard's still here." He jumped up from his cushion immediately, removing his red robe of fine silk. "Voss, take 'er up in the clouds! I don't want 'em seeing us. Cookie!" he roared, "start loading hell for these lowbies."

          "Aye, Cap'n! We're gonna give 'em sumthin' raw, a'ight."

          "To battle stations!" Adrian roared. A Grumpig stumbled out of the bunghole.

          "Fergus!" Adrian said.

          "Captain!" the Grumpig replied hastily.

          "You stay near me, pig, ya hear? I'll need ya hand for this. I'm gonna teach that landlubber the tough of the tough kinda lesson, personally."

          "Hoo," Fergus exhaled, widening his eyes and glancing at the Dirty Deed awkwardly. He knew exactly what his captain meant. It was time to go apemuk. "Aye, cap'n!"

          A great fuss started on board the Head Crusher as the crew readied for battle.

          "Cap'n!" Cookie shouted from belowdecks, "them gunwalls are loaded up to brim!"

          "Ready, men!" The Slaking looked at the Magby at the wheel. She gave him a grim, but determined smile, and they nodded at each other. Their airship plunged from the dense clouds, coming to soar in firing range, parallel to the Dirty Deed.

          "FIRE!" Captain Adrian bellowed, and cannonshots tore the sky.

          The Vipers were ambushed, and for the first shots, they had no time to put up their shields. The shot rained over their airship, sending splinters flying and shaking it whole.


          ***


          Third Evening


          As Jonathan was shaking his friend's hand, his eyes drifted on the window. What he saw made his face darken with worry; he ran to the bars to get a better look.

          Unmistakably, it was an ANF aircraft, easily recognizable from its steel hull and singular blimp that carried it, but most importantly by its wings and turbines. It flew above the city of Modistra, headed for the Castilio, up in the mountain. Marines were common in Modistra, but what made Jon worried was that those weren't marines from Modistra.

          Across its right wing, golden letters formed the word and numbers Riefmore 109. "Dang!" Jon shouted. "Marines! Real marines!"

          Nick gave a puzzled look to the monferno. "'Real' marines? From where? What are they doing here?"

          Jonathan ran his hand through his hair, his eyes following the Riefmore closely as it became smaller and smaller. "Fort Luc," he said. "Riefmore... it rings a bell. Wait! Yes! That's the ship of that wacky Blastoise, Air Marshal... Basil. Uh-oh," the Monferno bit his bottom lip. His gut churned. "Hell if I know what they're doing here, but if it's an official check-up, we're 'bout to go to war."

          Nick suddenly grabbed Jon's arm. "Wait a tic, you didn't say nothin' about no wars. What's going on here?"

          Jon glanced back at him. "Then let me clue you in, brother. Adrian doesn't like marine strangers on his island. Just doesn't abide them, and they know it. If they go to that Castilio, he's gonna smash them to bloody bits." He glanced out the window, waiting to see the Head Crusher peek from the horizon. "Just wait and see."

          Nick put his hands on the railing, watching the ship as it sailed through the air, heading towards its destination. The scrafty looked around for other ships, for something other than these marines to show up. Minutes passed and still... nothing. "Mate, I don't think your friend Adrian is showin' up."

          Jon's face hardened when he realized Nick was right. Adrian's response time to threats was amazing. He had connections to the entire city - anything that happened, he would know of within minutes. Then, he remembered what had been said the evening before, when talking about Captain Amadeus and his crew... Captain Adrian had promised to ambush him.

          Jon cursed. "Adrian's out of town!" he shouted in panic. "He was going to ambush the Vipers!"

          "Adrian went after 'em, didn't he?" Nick said. "Well, I don't think Adrian's lettin' us out of here any time soon. How's about we bust outta here?"

          "I like that notion, brother," Jon said darkly.

          The Monferno cracked his knuckles as he walked to the door. "HEY! Guard!" He banged his fist on the steel door. "We're getting out of here!"

          A second passed, then a 'mon from the other side said, "What did you just say?" They heard footsteps; someone was approaching the door. Jon turned to Nick, giving him a nod. Let's go. The Monferno raised one fist, preparing a Power-Up Punch that would make short work of the steel door. Nick likewise took a step back, clenching his fists and charging up strength, enveloping himself in a faint, fiery aura with Dragon Dance, then readying his hands for a Brick Break.

          The Machoke that arrested them stopped right outside the door. "What the hell are you two--"

          The Brick Break and Power-Up Punch were shot at the steel door at the same time, unhinging it and sending it flying to the back of the other room, along with the poor Machoke that was standing behind it. Jon started running, laughing wildly with adrenaline pumping through him. The Machoke lay down unconscious with the heavy door on top of him, his back against a wall. "Rest in peace, pal!"

          Nick couldn't help but smirk as well, rushing down the stairs behind his friend, turning briefly to the machoke that lay in a crumbled heap on the stairs. "You best keep lyin' down," he said smugly, before leaving the lighthouse with Jon.


          ***


          There was an uproar in the city of Modistra. Two more ANF airships had docked into port while the Riefmore had gone up ahead in the Castilio; the city was being overrun by aeronauts.

          "What in the Sea God's name's goin' on!" Jon shouted as he stood on the edge of a roof, watching the port. Airships were leaving as soon as possible - pirates, probably, or merchants who didn't want to get caught in the storm that was coming, or both. "How'd they know?" the Monferno said out loud. "That Adrian would be missing... They know."

          "No time for that, we'd best get movin'" Nick said, looking over towards the docks. "You got a ship or some way for us to take off?"

          That was a reasonable question. Jon followed Nick's gaze to the docks. His eyes fell upon a ship made of a wood with silver and brown complexion, flashing under what small beams of light fell upon it from the cloudy skies. "Yeah," Jon said, his face lighting up with a half smile. "I got one. There!" He pointed at it.

          Nick's eyes went wide once he caught sight of the vessel. There was no way... "Is... is that...?"

          "Oh yeah," Jon muttered, as flabbergasted as Nick. It was like some sort of miracle. Nick had a dozen questions, but no time to answer any of them. There was no doubt that was the Safe Journey, the very ship his father had built, made of pristine Wyron wood. What it was doing here and who was flying it, he didn't know, but he did know one thing. That ship was his, and he had every intention of taking it back.

          Jon arched one eyebrow as he exchanged glances with his mate. He grinned, knowing Nick was thinking the same as he was.

          They both took off like rockets, jumping from roof to roof; it didn't take them many paces until they landed on the docks, at the side of the airship. There was really no mistaking it now. The hull of the Safe Journey had glistening silver strands inside the brown of its wooden hull and mast. Its blimps were colored light blue, and a Skarmory figurehead was fashioned beneath its prow.

          "It's beautiful," Jon said, taking one moment to relish it. He noticed there were people on board; merchants from the looks of it. "You ready, brother?"

          Nick pressed his fists together, cracking his knuckles. "You know it."

          Scrafty and Monferno walked up the plank like they already owned it. A Heatmor from the deck noticed them first. "Hey! You can't be in here!"

          "Shut your gob!" Jon shot a Mach Punch at the 'mon's jaw, and he didn't even see it coming. The Heatmor was launched across the deck, rolling heavily face-first into the railing. "We're taking over!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, then turned to Nick and said, "Find the captain. We have a bit of "convincing" to do." The Monferno looked up at the Safe Journey's quarterdeck, where the rest of the ship's security was, his hands forming fists. "I'll take care of these guys!"

          Nick nodded quickly, dashing off towards the stairs that led belowdecks whilst hearing grunts and screams from outside. Belowdecks, he encountered little resistance, only meeting a few ship-hands organizing their supplies. They all turned at the stranger as he arrived, as Nick only gave them an emotionless glare.

          "Captain. Point me to 'em," he ordered. The merchants, unprepared and ill-equipped for a fight, did as ordered, as a Nuzleaf hesitantly pointed towards the captains quarters. Nick didn't waste any time, heading straight for the captain, fully preparing himself for a fight.

          With a swift kick the door to the captain's quarters flew open, swinging violently on it's hinges and slamming into the wall with a loud crash. The captain, a haughty looking Wigglytuff, looked up at the intrusion, a mixture of anger and shock on his wide eyes.

          "And just who are you?" the Wigglytuff demanded, standing up from behind his desk and leaning forward.

          "Shut up," Nick retorted. "This 'ere's my ship now, you and your buddies have about five minutes to pack your stuff and leave."

          "You think you can just barge in here, take my ship and leave me high and dry while the marines blow Modistra into dust? Sorry, but that's not going to happen!" The captain looked fearful, but spoke with as much courage as he could muster, readying himself for a fight.

          "Come and get it, wuss!" Nick answered, raising his fists and preparing for combat. The Wigglytuff surprisingly moved first, angrily flipping his desk to the side and charging at the scrafty with a Double-Edge. With little time to react, the tackle slammed into Nick, the latter barely able to raise his hands and catch the attack, being flung back by the force. He deftly managed to stay upright, planting his feet behind him and skidding along the wooden floor, stopping his momentum and glaring angrily at the Wigglytuff.

          Nick raised a fist, gathering a dark aura in his hands and suddenly shouting, running wildly at the wigglytuff and delivering a brutal Payback, knocking the wigglytuff clear off his feet and sending him sprawling back onto the floor, landing with a great thud. As unaccustomed to battle as the merchant was, the attack was enough to weaken him considerably, the former captain only able to give out a pained groan as he lay still on the floor. Nick stood up and wiped his brow, turning to the other hapless and frightened merchants.

          "Take your stuff and go," Nick said plainly, the merchants immediately doing as commanded as Nick grabbed the Wigglytuff and whipped him around, securing his hands and hauling him up to the deck. "You're coming with me, fluffy."

          When Nick reached the deck, he saw Jon had bodied a Stunfisk and an Accelgor and was dusting off his hands. When he saw the Wigglytuff that was being carried by Nick, he laughed. "Where you off to, captain?"

          "Unhand me at once you filthy pirates!" the Wigglytuff cried, struggling in vain as Nick kept his hands tied. "You have no right to be here! I'll see to it the marines throw you all in a cell!"

          Jon squatted next to the Wigglytuff for a moment and looked at his face. "Mate, the marines put us in a cell yesterday, but guess what. We're out now. How's that!" The Monferno gestured his head at the Scrafty and got up. "Just throw him off."

          "You wouldn't dare!" the Wigglytuff cried, beginning to squirm in a vain attempt to escape. Nick only shrugged, giving a light smirk as he brought the Wigglytuff to the edge of the ship, leaning him over the edge to look down at the waters below. Without waiting for another complaint, Nick effortlessly tossed him over the edge, the Wigglytuff letting out an indignant squeal as he crashed into the blue, the splash nearly reaching up to the deck of the boat.

          The Wigglytuff rose to the surface. "Filthy robbers!" he screamed, shouting curses at the two as he slowly and weakly swam back to shore before running off into the distance.

          "I think we're done here," Nick said to Jon.
          __________________

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          Old November 29th, 2016 (4:30 PM). Edited December 5th, 2016 by Turnip.
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          Turnip Turnip is offline
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            People Go Eat And They Find A Guy And There's A Bit Of Ruckus But Not Much


            Jon and Nick had tried to start the Safe Journey's engines from the deck; there was a level next to the rudder, which Jon claimed could flare the engines so they could get off the port now that things were getting hot, but no such thing happened, so down to the ship's depths they went. They thought they could start them up manually.

            The engines just didn't want to start. "Come on!" Jon shouted, slamming his open palm flat on the machine's top. "Tank's full, see?" He pointed at the needle. "Muk!" he kicked the air in frustration. "Sod it. We'll need to find us an engineer. A crew, while we're at it. Can't pilot a ship of this size just the two of us anyway!"

            "How much time do you say we've got, brother?" Nick asked, crossing his arms and pondering over the situation. "I mean, those marine pikers just got here, yeah? Think we've got a bit of time before things get hot?"

            The Monferno showed his front teeth in a grimace, looking to nothing in particular. "Nah, not much time, but I'm gonna bet some people will wanna get the hell off this island ASAP."

            They took the stairs to the deck, and as they walked, Jon continued to explain the situation to his friend. "Captain Adrian and the likes of him have made Governor Edvin, the one we have now, flat like a plank: they walk all over him as they please. My gut tells me that Air Marshal's here to remove him, and I bet us two and loads and heaps of other people who live on this island won't stomach the knob that's gonna replace him. You feel my drift?"

            "Sounds just like Liverte," Nick said with a sarcastic grin, following behind Jon with a bit of speed in his step. "Thinkin' they're all right and proper when it's just one bloke pullin' all the strings."

            As they walked down the plank, they saw other ships were leaving port. Some of the more acute 'mon of the island were lining up to the skipper's house for a ticket out of Modistra. Jon glanced behind him, at the Safe Journey; he didn't want to leave her unguarded like that. He was about to tell Nick that perhaps it was best if the Scrafty remained behind, but someone on the street caught his attention.

            "Jonathan!"

            It was an exasperated Sableye. She had her hands on her hips and tapping her foot; Jon cursed inwardly. How did she get here? "What exactly are you doing?" Her diamond eyes darted to the Journey and back at him. Jon put an arm over to stop his buddy from getting too reckless with a stranger. "Hey, Pan," Jon said amiably, and to Nick he said, "Nick, this is my half sister! Lovely lady. She was going home now, and we were on our way."

            Nick took Jon's cue, giving a simple nod to the Sableye. "Mornin'," he said plainly.

            The Sableye opened her mouth as the two 'mon walked past her, but Jon spoke before her. "And by the way, it's Captain Jonathan now. It's happening, sister. I got a ship now, and I'm about to get me a crew to man it. Nick here's the first man to join."

            Without looking back, he added, "You'd best not get in my way. It's too late."

            Jon didn't see it, but the smallest of grins appeared on Pan's face. She turned to where Jon and Nick came from and climbed up the Safe Journey.


            ***


            Monferno and Scrafty both raised their heads to look at the sign. The Roasted Goldeen, it read. "Good spot," Jon commented.

            He kicked the swinging doors open and the entire tavern went quiet for just a second, before they saw it was Duncan: then they started cheering, and the pianist in the back played a merry tune. Nearly everybody knew the Monferno. Jon bumped fists with a Buizel and greeted a Graveller, all smiles. "Barney!" Jon motioned at the Corphish bartender, who raised a pincer to wave at him. "A round for everybody!" the Monferno roared as he threw him a bag of coins that he'd taken from the Journey's stash. The patrons shouted and rapped their mugs of ale and rum on the tables, creating cacophony. Those were the people of Modistra that Jon knew and loved: loud, sociable and music and ale-loving. They all were either oblivious to what was going on in the city, or they didn't care.

            Nick just kept his arms crossed, eyeing over the patrons with an expressionless gaze. They seemed like a lively bunch, moreso than in the bars he'd frequented in Liverte. He briefly thought to question Jon's judgement, but decided against it. He and Jon took the only available table, in the middle of the tavern, and a Chansey came to serve them right away. "Two of the shop's specialty, and ale," Jon ordered.

            The shop's specialty was the roasted goldeen, as its name made obvious. The Goldeens brought to the Monferno and the Scrafty, though, were too roasted. Parts of it looked charred and black; Jon liked his food hot and spicy, but that looked too much, and he touched none of it for the time being, as his attention was turned elsewhere. Nick simply grimaced at the food. "Specialty?" he mumbled to himself, idly poking at it. Even the slightest nudge caused it to break away and crumble like burnt paper. He didn't even want to take a bite, simply pushing the dish to the side and reclining back in his chair. "Hate to meet the mug who calls this their 'specialty.'"

            Jon didn't seem to hear him through the noise. He suddenly jumped on the table and raised his mug in the air; the patrons caught sight of him. "Good health to everybody!" the Monferno shouted and downed his ale in one go. "Good health!" The tavern echoed, and the patrons raised their mugs and did the same as Jon. "Now that I have your attention," Jon shouted, getting serious, and the tavern quieted down a bit to hear him out. "I'm here to offer you an opportunity," he said, his gaze drifting from one corner of the place to the other. "A one in a lifetime opportunity." He paused. "I have gotten myself a pretty ship. Safe Journey's her name, she's docked five minutes a walk from here. Join my crew! We're taking off soon. Our aim? Lots of gold and treasures - anything that we fancy, we'll make ours. Glory, on top of it! History will remember our names!"

            "That's the same speech every single dream sayer recites when they are ready to die." A lone Furret stated snidely. The Furret was positioned in a corner of the room, a simple bandanna about his mouth not working well in muffling his voice at all. "You know how many have already preached to this choir about adventure and glory days and made it two days out there on the open sea? I'll let you two take a few guesses at the number. If you really wish us good health then you wouldn't bother asking us to sail with your crew. I bet you haven't sailed with a full crew at any point in your life. Better to die at sea with a competent captain than one who lacks experience."

            Jon's glare fell upon the Furret with the band, but he remained calm. The rest of the patrons didn't seem too excited either. The Buizel Jon had greeted earlier spoke up. "Duncan, I know you've been wanting to become captain for a long time now... but you don't look ready for that." Some patrons agreed in low murmurs, others said nothing.

            The Monferno nodded and stroked the side of his mouth as if stroking his beard. "You're wrong," he said to the Furret with an iron determination, and turned to the Buizel. "And you're wrong. You all know me by one name, Duncan..."

            He took out a piece of paper from his pouch. He always kept that with him. It was tattered, but its message was clear to everyone as he unfolded it under the lamplight. He turned around, circling on the table, to show the entire tavern; some patrons let out gasps, some widened eyes and others held their breaths.

            "I am truly Furious Jonathan," he declared in a growl, letting the anger for the Furret's words show on his face as he brought his wanted poster next to his head. The resemblance was absolutely unmistakable. "I've sailed under marines in voyages to Osenia; I've captained my own ship before. You all think I'm some weak rich boy of the suburbs, eh? It just so happens that I took my retirement early! You know what it says here?" He roared, pointing at the number on the wanted poster. "Public Enemy Number 64."

            Some of them knew the story of Furious Jonathan. What was mostly known was that he claimed the number 64 by mutinying against his captain, a high ranking ANF officer, whom he'd allegedly slain. Some of the patrons who were aware of that part left the tavern, trying their best to remain undetected. In those who stayed, the number 64 inspired awe and fear, and they didn't ask many more questions. There were thousands of pirates out there - to be in at least the top 100, one would have to be made of the hardest, baddest stuff. Whispers and murmurs overtook the tavern.

            "He's close to Captain Rochetto," Jon overheard someone say.

            Nick suddenly looked concerned, tapping at the table beneath the Monferno. "You sure this is a good idea, mate?" he whispered. He didn't like the looks of some of these patrons...

            Jon shook his head slightly, still looking at the crowd. "Of course it is," he said in a low voice so only Nick could hear. But he really wished it didn't have to come to this.

            The Furret stared out at the poster, then narrowed his eyes, "I call bullcrap!" He spat out as he got off of his seat and landed on the ground with a soft thump, "There can be no way you're Furious Jonathan! I might not personally know the guy, but why would he head out here to a random pub to recruit mon off the street? With that reputation you bet I would be sailing around searching for the brightest for my crew!"

            Jon drew his eyebrows in, frowning. "Hey pal, I gotta start from somewhere--"

            The Graveller he'd greeted before stood up. "I'll join, count me in." And someone else as well. "Me too!"

            "Form a line," Jon said as he jumped back into his seat. His heart beat fast; there really was no going back now. He had lived his life in Modistra comfortably so far under the guise of Duncan... he could never return to that life anymore. Having nothing to do as a small line formed in front of the table, he chomped on the roasted goldeen that he'd left untouched until now.

            It was charred black, but it had the spicy edge of dragonfire to it. The more he chewed, the faster he wanted to eat the thing before him. "Muk," he said to Nick, "Did you get a taste of this?"

            "You've a stronger stomach than mine," Nick said with a slight grin. "Looks worse than my cooking."

            Jon slammed his palm on the table, making his mug fall and roll on the stone floor. "The cook, Barney! I want to see the cook. Bring him over here!"

            "Cook!" The Corphish cawed, "come 'round now, quickly!"

            "Ahaaaaaaaa~!" Came the suave voice of the chef, increasing in volume as they approached the doorway. "To what do I owe this honour, my crustacean friend?"

            Jon grabbed the remains from Nick's plate and gobbled them down. "This is some fine cuisine," he said with his mouth full of charred fish. "That's the best goddamn goldeen I ever ate!" Nick only huffed at his response.

            "Hmm? Oh!" From out of the kitchen emerged the cook, a mighty Hydreigon levitating a few inches above the ground. Perched upon each of his three heads were a top hat and a monocle each - slightly foggy from the kitchen work - and around his neck and across his body lay a delightfully flowery apron emblazoned with the words 'Kiss The Cook'. To top off the bizarre ensemble, the dragon shot Jonathan a delighted smile. "Bless your heart, dear boy! How wonderful it is to see such joy emerge from a meal of my creation. I thank you verily for your patronage!"

            Jon looked at the Hydreigon ecstatically and with a bright, happy smile. The others in the tavern didn't seem to share Jon's enthusiasm about the food. That mon was a spectacle from head to toe; Jon recognized an aura of strength coming from him, and he made up his mind instantly. "Join my crew! You have to!" he said cheerfully.

            "Join-? My, goodness gracious! I'm truly flattered, good sir, but," the Hydreigon gestured to the kitchen behind him. "I cannot bear the thought of what my fellows would do without me were I to leave at such short notice..."

            "Maybe hire a better chef," Nick mumbled under his breath.

            "IS THE FOOD HE MAKES EVEN EDIBLE?!" A Wobbuffet shouted from the back.

            "You shut your mouth," Jon yelled loudly, pointing threateningly at the mon. "I say it tastes good, so it tastes good!"

            "You heard him!" The Graveller from the line said, "the food tastes good, and that's all there is to it!"

            "No!" A Hariyama with a scarf stood up. "It's horrible! Ever since that joke of a cook started working here, the roasted goldeen dish's been ruined! For heaven's sake..."

            Someone from the line threw threw a mug on the Hariyama's face, emptying ale on his scarf. "Oh, you little..." The fighting-type bull rushed into the line in front of Jon's table, knocking three mon into another three and their table.

            "Psyducking hell," Jon cursed as the Roasted Goldeen turned into a battlefield within seconds. There were two sides involved: one side agreed that the food was terrible, and the other side agreed that the food was terrible, but they didn't want to disagree with Captain Jon.

            Tables and chairs were thrown all around, mon were being punched, kicked and bashed; the Wobbuffet from before flew right out the window.

            That was another quality of the folk in Modistra: they just couldn't resist a good fight.

            The taverner was beyond mad. Barney the Corphish was shaking with fury, glaring at the Hydreigon. "YOU ARE FIRED!" he bellowed, although his voice was almost drowned in the fuss. The eccentric dragon in question appeared momentarily surprised, as well as confused at the sudden ruckus, before composing himself and turning to Jonathan.

            "Terrific news, my fiery friend!" announced the Hydreigon. "Due to recent unforeseen circumstances, I have found myself open for employability! You may call me Cook, and you may consider me your ship's cook - might I inquire as to the name of my gracious employer?"

            "Furious Jonathan," said with a sharp smile and a clever way of arching his brow. "But you can call me Jon."
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              #11    
            Old December 4th, 2016 (7:57 PM). Edited December 7th, 2016 by Sweet Dreams.
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            That Sunk'n Feelin'

            Things got hectic at the Roasted Goldeen, and Jon, Nick and the newly recruited Hydreigon bailed before the marines had a chance to show and muck the dandy, merry fight all up. Next, they were headed for the Sunk'n Modistrian, a tavern ran by the lovely barmaiden Mary, old but still beautiful. They were sure to find all sorts of scoundrels and brigands there, as well as the occasional creature that climbed up from the fiery pits of hell itself; it was a den without law, except that of Mary's, and she couldn't care less who it was that stepped through her door as long as they carried silver with them. Everyone was welcome to a tankard or three of their (usually) fine beer or whiskey or ale.

            Jon had just finished explaining this to Nick as the three 'mon took shortcuts through dark alleys to reach the place. The Monferno looked at the Hydreigon; he made for a peculiar sight, as he still had the monocles and top hats for each of his heads, and the apron which he seemed to have forgotten to remove. "You ever been to the Sunk'n Modistrian mate?"

            "I can't say I have, dear boy," Cook replied. "Though I can't particularly say why. Must be the odd name, I suppose. Why replace the e with an apostrophe? I dare say sunk'n and sunken are pronounced identically - when I say them, at the very least. Terribly confusing business."

            Nick gave a confused glance to the Hydreigon, eyeing him up and down before turning back to Jon. "No offense to you, mate," he started, gesturing to Cook, "but are you sure this guy's good for your crew?"

            Jon waved a hand without worry. "He'll do fine!" Nick simply looked back at Cook, unconvinced.

            "So, er, what's your name again, Mate?"

            "Oh! Where are my manners?" The Hydreigon turned to the Scrafty with an apologetic smile and a hearty chuckle. "You may call me Cook, good sir. It is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, mister...?"

            "Nick," he said simply.

            "Ah! Young Master Nick! A noble name indeed; wear it with pride, my friend!"

            Nick raised an eyebrow. A most peculiar fellow, this Cook was. "So... er, I guess Jon's taking you as the chef, right? What other things can you make?"

            "Chef, cook, whatever you wish to call it - Cook is indeed the preferred term when I assume the role, however. As for what I can make...?" The dragon put a hand to his chin in thought. "I suppose, of all things, food would be the most common thing. Yes, definitely food. Though by no means have I not dabbled in the finer arts of drink! And perhaps indeed, the mysterious world of consumables treading the line in-between the two... oh! I just had a thought. Gather round, my boys!" Abandoning his previous train of thought, Cook gestured for the other two 'mon to huddle around him conspiratorially.

            "Er, we don't have time for this, do we?" Nick asked.

            "Quickly, quickly!" Cook urged. "It shall only be a moment."

            Jon leaned in excitedly, ignoring Nick. "What's that Cook?" Nick begrudgingly followed suit.

            "Ah, splendid!" The dragon exclaimed, before lowering his voice to a hushed tone. "Now, it bears mentioning that I am not the only one here wearing a hat; the chap to the left of me is named Francis, and on the right is Xavier. I do love them so, but they can be dreadfully excitable and a touch on the unruly side. Do try not to rouse them, as they should, for the most part, remain fairly dormant."

            Jon was glancing back and forth between the Hydreigon's "hands". "And the monocles and hats? They wear them for fancy?"

            With a sigh, Cook said, "Oh, I'm sure they would hardly do anything were it not for me feeding and dressing them in the morning."

            "Very... interesting," Nick said, glancing to Jon again. "You sure you want this guy?"

            "Yeah!" Jon exclaimed without a doubt in his mind, and off he went. "Let's go mates. The Sunk'n Modistrian awaits!"

            "Tally-ho!" Cook exclaimed, following after.

            The tavern Jon was after was in the less reputable parts of the city, which Jon usually avoided. Marines knew to avoid these parts, as they were occupied by mostly outcasts and the like, the folk from the bottom of the barrel. It was these types of folks that the three 'mon encountered in the street; some were left staring at them, others whispered at each other while looking at Jon, who was acute enough to notice. Word got around fast in Modistra, he reckoned. The cute and kind boy Duncan from the suburbs would have now become the sort of hardened criminal that the folk around these parts respected.

            The Sunk'n Modistrian was an old place, at least a hundred years old, with dark wood that was supposed to be painted black, but its color had faded with time. Its windows were half broken, half dark with dirt; the building was located in one of the older squares in the city, which had seen kinder days than the ones it was going through now. It was covered in the rich shade of a sycamore, under which two aged Lombres were playing chess, completely apathetic. Already they could hear drunken singing, although it was too early in the day for music to start playing.

            ♫ Come, take a drink... and be sure to take it slow!
            for we'll be here till tomorrooow!♪


            Jon didn't need to look up at the faded letters plastered above the door. "We're here, mates!"

            Inside the Sunk'n Modistrian, the three 'mon found the sort of folk they were expecting to find. The tavern was less crowded than the Roasted Goldeen and by a glance alone Jon could tell Mary's costumers were more questionable than the former place. A Patrat was singing his heart out, already drunk so early in the morning, or perhaps he never left from last night.

            In a corner at the back of the bar, a Marowak was patiently fiddling with a watch. There were mechanical pieces strewn about on the table and a sign was propped up that read "WILL FIX THINGS FOR DRINKS". None of the other customers seemed to pay it much mind, aside from casually casting glances over there every once in a while.

            "Ahoy, Mary," Jon greeted the barmaid, giving her a smart smile. She was a Simisage in her mid-forties, with a few missing teeth and grassy hair styled in a mohawk. She expertly handled bottles, dishes and two or three tankards at the same time with her tail which she used as an extra hand. Jon had heard stories and rumors about her sharing a passion in her youth with a certain fat and loud Slaking, but never from those two, always by their friends, as it seemed it hadn't ended well.

            "Well, if it isn't Duncan," Mary said somewhat suggestively. "Or should I say Captain Jonathan?"

            Jon nodded at her slowly, shifting his mouth in a not bad form. "The rascals 'round here already got the word to ya?"

            "You know how it be, cap'n," she said in her low tone voice. "We're all one big family here..."

            "Oh, and it shows," Cook floated up with a smile and a wave. "Salutations! What a lovely establishment."

            "Mmmhm," the barmaiden purred. "So what can I get you boys? You want some beer?"

            "Nuh-uh," Jon waved his index in front of her before any of his mates could speak. "Not of your beer, lady. We know you like to thin it with water. We'll have whatever's pure in your lovely bar."

            The Simisage gave him a crooked grin. "That stings," she said, but she only seemed amused. Using her tail, she caught a bottle of whiskey from the shelf behind her without even looking. "Whiskey'll do."

            As the group paid attention to the Simisage, and the drinks she was readying, the door to the establishment cracked open slightly. In a blink of an eye a small form scurried inside, managing to quickly make his way to the rear of the tavern and out of sight.

            Jon emptied one of his pouches onto the bar; some more of the silver coins he'd taken from the Safe Journey's stash came sprawling out. The Simisage's teeth shone. "That for everyone in the bar, boy?"

            "Aye," Jon said, facing to the rest of the tavern. "Drinks for everyone! The next round's on me!"

            The patrons raised their mugs in the air and shouted. Some did nothing at all, one of them being a Krokorok.

            The Krokorok in question was occupying a table in one of the darker corners of the tavern. He was leaning back on the sofa with the black velvet-like fabric that was built into the wall. Jon noticed him immediately, because he looked to be as shady as one could be: he was wearing sunglasses, a dark coat with a star perched on his left breast and a yellow symbol describing an anchor with wings emblazoned on both left and right upper arm areas of his coat. At first Jon thought he was a marine, but marines never wore that kind of attire around those parts. Still, that symbol looked awfully familiar...

            He appeared to be eating fish and an egg; when Mary passed by his table to leave him a pint of beer, he lowered his snout so he could look at Jon above his sunglasses. His gaze was void, uninterested. He took a sip from the beer and returned to his meal.

            Nick had his arms crossed, once again eyeing the patrons on this tavern inquisitively. He shared eye contact with the Krokorok in the jacket for only a moment, but no words were shared. Instead the Scrafty simply turned to Jon, giving a simple nod to let him know he'd be at the bar.

            Jon raised the bottle of whiskey. "Health and luck to everyone!" he shouted, then drank, and the patrons did the same. "I'm Captain Jonathan, or Furious Jonathan, whatever. I'm building a crew destined to become great! I've come to offer each of you an opportunity to join my crew..."

            "I'll take it!" Cook said with a grin.

            Jon glanced at the Hydreigon confused just for a second, but he thought he could make something out of this. "Alright mate," he played along, "you'll be my cook, then!"

            "Splendid, when do I start?" The dragon asked. "Fifteen minutes ago?"

            "Fifteen minutes ago!" Jon agreed, "You hear that everybody? We got a cook. Now, we're lookin' for a doctor, a navigator, an engineer and a gunner..."

            There was a light clatter as the Marowak in the back put down their tools. It could be pretty difficult to discern the actual gender of a Marowak thanks to the skulls that they wore, but this one was probably female. Goggles adorned her forehead, and though she could be seen to be wearing gloves, her hands had still been quite deft while she had been working. She cast Jon an unimpressed look and spoke up in a low, somewhat gruff voice. "You want 'mon to sail with you? Any 'mon at all? Without even askin' a single question." Here, she threw Cook a meaningful look. "With a half-baked crew like that, you ain't gonna last a week." Nick cast a wayward glare at the Marowak.

            The Hydreigon waved cheerily, "Hello!"

            "Hello," she responded with a nod, almost entirely out of reflex.

            Jon smiled cheerily at the Marowak. From the looks of it, that person was an engineer, if they were fixing stuff for drinks. "I don't much care for folk who can't do their part," he said, shrugging. "I've already rejected a bunch of 'mon, you know. Last place I visited we had a line full of peeps and I only picked one." He pointed behind him with his thumb at Nick. "This Scrafty's our carpenter and boatswain. He and his family of carpenters built our ship, the Safe Journey, and he knows every in and out about it... bet there's no one in this hole who can beat him in a fight, either." He smirked nastily. "As for me... I'm one third of my crew right now," Jon spoke up, "if you wanna have me prove myself, I'll fight anyone on this island. Anyone. No matter how strong. And I guarantee you, as is my captain's duty, I'll make a body out of them."

            "Number 64," a voice spoke up. It was coming from the Krokorok, who was eyeing the Monferno above his sunglasses. "Furious Jonathan," he said in a flat voice void of emotion. "You worked in southwest Osenia... wasn't for long, and a while ago, but some folk over there still want you dead." When he saw Jon's surprise, he added in his deadpan, weary voice, "You could say I know a bit about you."

            "Do I know you?" Jon asked rudely. He couldn't quite place his finger on it. His eyes darted to the symbol he had on his arm, the yellow winged anchor. He thought he'd seen this man in this outfit on a newspaper or something.

            The Krokorok stared at him with a deadpan expression for a few long seconds. "Naaah, probably not," he said finally, shaking his long snout and going back to his meal. "Carry on."

            The Marowak, unable to make sense of the exchange, instead turned to address Nick. "You built the ship?" she asked, genuinely curious. "What's she like?"

            Nick didn't seem like he was paying attention, swishing around a mug of whisky and staring idly. He took a swig, before gently placing the mug down on the counter, wiping his lips. "She flies," he said plainly. "Nothin' much else to it."

            "C'mon brother, you can do better than that," Jon joked, without expecting Nick to do so. He took it upon himself. "We got a schooner that's built for speed. Two blimps, two masts, one engine, three wings, shields, guns and an Ethereal Spirit Core... but that's not all. You'll have to see for yourself, but she's built not with regular wood. She's really one of a kind, as she's built with Wyron Wood... you folk here may not know what that is, but you know when you see that kind of wood. It glistens like silver."

            "So the wood is funny coloured?" asked the Marowak, sounding somewhat puzzled.

            "Aye," Jon said proudly, "Brown and slick-looking with strands of silver in it."

            "That ain't so impressive."

            Jon just smiled and nodded at her. "I would think so too if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. It's a ten minute walk from here. We can have our talk over there if you want."

            "Can I finish my drink first?" Nick asked.

            "Yeah," Jon said, taking a sip straight from the bottle of whiskey.

            "Alright," said the Marowak mildly. "I'll need to pack up my tools as well, and then I'll come see this ship of yours. If that's alright with you, Mary." She addressed the last part to the Simisage behind the bar, though even as she said that she was already carefully stowing away all her tools into a bag.

            Jon thought he saw a twinge of distress in Mary's eyes that he couldn't quite explain. But it was quickly gone. Mary glanced at him with certainty, then back at Kayri. "'Course," she said with her crooked half-smile, "who am I to stop you? Go right ahead, sweetheart."

            "See you in a bit, Mary." The Marowak flashed her a comforting smile, to which Mary responded with a nostalgic one of her own. Before long, she nodded at the crew. "Alright, I'm ready. Let's go."

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              #12    
            Old December 8th, 2016 (7:30 AM).
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            "Oy, flower man! Give another!" Frag called out drunkenly, tossing a few golden berries in the general direction of the barman. The diminutive Chespin was already having trouble staying upright on the barstool - the drink wasn't helping either. Though this place wasn't an actual tavern, the 'juice bar' managed by the Sunflora brothers was the only place he had found in Modistra to sell his favorite drink: leppa cider.

            "Bah, this drink not as good as Osenia. Osenia drink better, made with real fruit!" Frag called to the barman as another coconut pitcher slid in front of him.

            "Well, uh, you're like, entitled to your opinion, uh, sir!" the polite but clearly insulted sunflower replied.

            Grabbing the pitcher as mid-slide, Frag downed its contents in one swift motion. Pfah. Still worth staying here for a little. Especially with all the trouble back home. he thought, wiping his mouth. Going anywhere near Osenia at this point was practically suicide, and as far as he knew, the Firemaws could have their goons in any major rat-city over there. His plan for now was simple - lay low for a few months, possibly make some quick cash, have a good time, and head back to Osenia when things things got quiet again. With the help of some friends there, he might even make enough money to replace his leg with something better than a stick.

            "Damn right." a voice suddenly replied to his left, snapping him out of his drunken stupor. Frag glanced to the side. A few seats away from him was a Glameow, elegantly sipping at her drink. She had a pink bow tied to her tail, and an a large, golden earring - the latter instantly attracting Frag's attention.

            "I've had better juice served to me in prison. I'd watch my mouth though, wouldn't take a gamble on which of the twins is there like that." she whispered in his direction, momentarily glancing over at the barman. The Sunflora twins, Doom and Bloom, were known for their wildly mismatched personalities - while Doom was cheerful, kind and polite, his brother Bloom was the total opposite; known for his violence, crudeness and poor anger management. Thankfully, Doom was the one on shift for now.

            "Pffsh. Frag not scared of angry plant. Pin missile take good care of!"

            "Ooh, I like a man who's fearless~" the cat Pokemon purred, sliding over to his seat.

            "Hah! Frag fearlessest guy in town, baby! Took down full ship once!" the Chespin grinned, motioning for Doom to come over and slamming a handful of berries on the countertop. "Another! And one for lovely girl also!" he called.

            "Jolie, if you please. Lady Jolie." the Glameow wrapped her paws and around his waist, her arms slowly inching towards his backpack.

            "Ho ho, lady? Frag never meet lady before. Or maybe, every girl become un-lady with Frag! Bahaha!" Frag laughed.

            "You must've collected a whole lot of spoils then, with all your ship-smashing~" Jolie teased, as her paw slowly reached into the unsuspecting Chespin's bag.

            "Ohh, yes! Frag get much money! And also very special thing..." he paused momentarily to look around, and leaned over to Jolie. "Artifact of the explosion. Amazing, yes? Let me show."

            The Glameow had no time to react as Frag reached behind his back and into his bag, ruffling around its contents. Suddenly he stopped. "What the..." he muttered, feeling the furry paw he had just touched quickly pull out. "Hey! What you think you doing?!" he hissed, turning around to face the Glameow. "You want pretty hand cut or what? No touching bag!"

            The cat Pokemon instantly backed off. "N-no, I was only-" Then suddenly she stopped, her expression shifting from surprise to a malicious grin. "Oh, please, help me!" she suddenly screamed out, pretending to be terrified of the Chespin. "This rowdy man is threatening me with his weapons! Oh, will none of you strong, brave 'mon help such a delicate lady such as myself?"

            "What?" Frag asked, confused. "What you talking about?" Moments later, he turned around, coming face-to-face with a small crowd of less-than-happy-looking patrons closing in on him. "Hey boys, you hear this? Crazy cat lady calling Frag 'threatening'! Hah! Best joke, yes? Ah... boys..?"


            ***





            It was a ten minute walk to the docks, just like Jon had said. The company was slowly growing in numbers, so Jon was very happy and he started whistling, hands in the pockets of his blue jacket, his step more carefree than before. They crossed the bridge, which was unusually crowded with Pokemon and carriages. Noise was coming from that side of the docks. Folk trampled over each other to find a ship to get off the island; it seemed everyone had caught wind of what was happening.

            "Here we are! Avast, lads, and behold!" he announced with glee, gesturing towards the Safe Journey as soon as they were able to see her between the other ships. He glimpsed a dark shadow on the prow, looking down upon them. The Sableye was hiding well.

            "Jon," his sister said, "we need to talk in private. It's urgent."

            "Oh, rot! Can't it wait? I wanted to show off my new ship!" He glanced behind him at Nick. "You introduce our friends to Safe Journey. Set us up to leave port on a moment's notice. I'll be off for just a moment."

            "Oh, I'm ever so excited!" Cook exclaimed, floating toward the ship. "Cheerio, my captain!"

            "Cheerio, mate." Jon watched what crew members he'd mustered so far walk up the plank. He squatted next to the pier and spat down in the waters, waiting for his sister to get down off the prow. "A'ight Pan," he said, once the Sableye emerged like a shadow from the ground next to him. "What is it this time then?"

            "They're apprehending Governor Edvin as we speak," she got to the point in a low voice, and Jon saw her cunning expression. She was very, very happy for some reason. "The marines are taking him away from the island... probably to prison, for life. You know how it is. I noticed you didn't fail horribly to gather a crew this time."

            "As you expected?" Jon whispered snarkily. "This time I've made it clear as day. Number 64 and everything, no implying I've captained a ship before, no beatin' around the bush. I'm goin' all out. Furious Jon is back in business."

            The Sableye stared at him, incredulous. Then she let out one of those exaggerated, exasperated sighs of hers. "What the hell's wrong with you? You've a huge bounty on your head! Pirate hunters will be tripping over themselves to get you! I'm almost tempted to give you in to collect it!"

            Jon shrugged. "Let 'em come. And what's stopping you?"

            "You're gonna help me strike a profit, of course. Oh, and you're free help for finding dad."

            Jon nodded, smiling. He spat in the waters again. "Not bad. So you done? Can I go now?" he chimed sarcastically.

            "No. That first part? About making profit? You're gonna start now. Tell me... you want to make real money, brother? Then listen to me very carefully, because I know you're like to botch this. There's a ship out there, government owned, which will be transporting a shipment from Liverte to the Novayas."

            Jon looked at her with mouth half open, suddenly getting serious. If Pan was to make a mention of that kind, a fortune was sure to be involved. "Now we're talkin'. I need details. What kinda ship? What kinda shipment?"

            "Her name is Apolucia. A galleon, heavily guarded, owned by the Trade Prince Ignacio- how do I know, 'cause I know he's building a resort out there, in the Novayas, and the loudmouth's bragged about it to everybody! Apolucia's transporting gold, statues, furniture of the best kind, and the most expensive stuff a freakin' Trade Prince can afford and can't be found in the nearly barren islands in the Novayas, it's there for his resort." The diamond eyes of the Sableye shone, and she grinned, her tongue slightly sticking out. She was like a voracious, greedy animal when she talked about riches. "Looots of gold, little brother. The pay off's going to be big. But it ain't gonna be easy." Pan shook her head. "No, not gonna be easy. Ignacio's taking extra measures of protection. Little bird tells me the ship'll be taking unusual routes to avoid coming upon pirates - they'll be taking a detour in the Long Blue--"

            "The Long Blue?!" Jon exclaimed. The Long Blue was a perfect description of its name - it was a huge ocean to the south of Carajol Sea and the boundaries of the Known World. No ships generally travelled those skies, as there was no land to be seen for weeks worth of journey. "That's several dozens of miles off the nearest phlogistron station! They're really gonna waste that much time and fuel for a detour?!"

            Pan frowned and shook her head, disinterested in those details. "They're thorough, I suppose. As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, the same little bird told me there's a confiscated map describing the exact route Apolucia will be taking somewhere inside the Castilio."

            Jon was nodding in understanding, staring off into the waters below the bow of his ship. Pan continued. "That's another opportunity for you. Find some more people and go to the Castilio - take everything you can hold in your hands and bail. And keep an eye out for that map."

            "A'ight, gotcha," Jon said, getting up.

            "If you do this, Jon," Pan said in a serious manner, "If you raid the Castilio now, they'll come looking for you. Here," she handed him a paper. "Those are coordinates to a safe place to ensconce yourself in. I believe it's the last bit of land in the south, before the Long Blue, but I don't know. Get yourself and your crew a navigator and find out on your own. Oh, and one more thing! If you manage to loot Apolucia, I want 10% of what you'll find there."

            "5% or nothin', sister," Jon said dismissively, and off he went to the docks.

            "8%!"

            "5% or nothin'. If my crew learns I'm giving you that much they'll hang me for the wingulls."

            "Ugh! Fine! Pirate through and through, eh Jon?!"

            The Monferno bust a half grin. "Pirate through and through," he muttered to himself.


            ***


            The skipper's dockhouse wasn't far from the Safe Journey. That was the place where Modistra's skipper, Mr. Mayland, conducted his business in; he was the boss of the fencers all across the Cayeiras, the string of islands to which Modistra belonged and served as a capital of. Mr. Mayland himself wasn't a pirate, but he was legit enough with the government to peddle off all cargo stolen by pirates. Technically, he was the one paying half of the pirates of Carajol.

            Jon intended to ask for some help for finding good people, but the place was crowded beyond imagination. He couldn't even see the dockhouse. "Psyduck's sake," Jon said under his breath. All those people had gathered there to bribe the skipper for a way out of the island, or to get him to pull that string or the other for a safe passage to some other island. "Psyduck it," he decided. "HEY! You all wanna get off this island?" he shouted at the top of his lungs. Even the shops, taverns and stands on the road could hear him. "Then I'm here to offer you a way out - only if you're good enough to join my crew!"

            "Duncan!" A delirious Durant immediately approached him. "We're friends, right? Right?! Pick me, I can swab the deck--"

            "I'm FURIOUS JON now!" the Monferno roared. "Public Enemy 64."

            Suddenly, the door to a small building near the docks burst open. Moments later, a small figure hurried out, followed by dozens of much larger figures chasing after it.

            "Where'd he go?" a Breloom snarled, scanning the massive crowd of pirates and merchants.

            "You're dead meat, kid! Nobody messes with lady Jo and gets away with it!" the massive Gourgeist behind him called out. The gang of Pokemon behind him grunted in agreement, spreading out to find their unfortunate target.

            "Crap, crap, crap..." a voice muttered to himself, just behind Duncan. It was a Chespin, holding a coconut in one hand and a rather peculiar acorn-butted gun in the other, and looked like a drink had just been poured all over him. Suddenly his eyes landed on the Monferno.

            "You say something about getout?" he asked, rushing over to captain Jon and pushing over the Durant next to him.

            "Hell yeah," Jon said, without yet noticing the pirates that were after the Chespin. "You want out? We'll be takin' a doctor, a navigator and a gunner!"

            "Ok, deal, sure, Frag be your anything, yes, sure." Frag replied, nodding vigorously. Glancing over his shoulder, the 'mon gritted his teeth anxiously. "We go now? Please?" he urged, readying his gun.

            Jon finally noticed the incoming Pokemon. "Hey, hey, hey," the Monferno raised a hand to stop the Breloom who was heading in first. "Where'd you think you're going?"

            "Out the way, fireass." the fighting-type growled, pushing him aside and glaring at the Chespin cowering behind him. "Boys! Found 'im!" he called, cracking his knuckles and taking a step forward. "You think you can play hide n' seek with us, runt?"

            Jon bust a smart smirk. He glanced at the Chespin and whispered, "C'mon mate, we can take 'em." To the Breloom, he shouted, "Oi, cloyster. Did you just call me fireass? Guess that means I'll hafta introduce ya to the pavement." And without further warning, Jon shot upward in the speed of lightning in an acrobatic attack, spinning around and landing on the Breloom's shoulders, the force knocking him down backwards into the cobblestone. The crowd around them started yelling and cheering; fights in the harbor came and went as often as ships. The Monferno raised his fists for the Diggersby next to the Breloom, who was preparing his attack.

            Caught off-guard by Jon's sudden decision to go on the attack, Frag's expression shifted from concern to a sadistic grin. "Frag like the sound of that!" he yelled back. As he spoke, a massive Gourgeist crashed in front of him, the Frustration attack barely missing the Chespin as he jumped backwards. Before he could manage to get up, Frag pelted the pumpkin with seed bombs, the projectiles latching on to its body and weighing it down. Then, with a sudden slam of his fist, every bomb exploded simultaneously, sending both Pokemon - and any nearby spectators - flying in opposing directions. Frag landed swiftly on his 2 feet, reloading his gun in the process.

            Sailors and pirates all around watching the fight let out a howl. Jon's attack was next. Right hook Mach Punch to the Diggersby's stomach, and the Mud Shot it was preparing was left unfinished as he was forced to flinch, lean forward and clutch his belly. Left hook Mach Punch struck him on the face, spinning him around, and to finish it, another right hook on the ribs that sent him flying.

            "COME ON!" he roared to the others from their crew, raising his fists and doing little jumps to keep himself agile. "Who's next?!" His response came in the form of a massive shadow ball, thrown by the Gourgeist of earlier. It seemed their scuffle had alerted the gang's other members, and all six of the angry Pokemon surrounded the two fighters.

            Frag grinned. "MONKEY MAN! COVER!" he called out. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out a massive, tube-shaped magazine, and slammed it into the butt of his gun. Laughing maniacally, the Chespin unloaded the bullet seeds into his enemies, their pitiful ranged attacks merely bouncing off his skin. "BAHAHAHAH! I AM BULLETPROOOF!" Frag screamed, advancing forward to chase down the last few of the gang members who had enough sense by now to run away from the insane duo.

            Jon barely had enough time to move out of the way. "Holy muk," the Monferno shouted as he watched the pirates retreat, chased down by the Chespin's destructive onslaught. They fired attacks at Frag as they stumbled over themselves trying to get away, but most of them missed and none seemed to harm the Chespin.

            "We won't forget this!" one of them shouted as they bolted off down the road.

            Someone from the crowd warned everyone that the marines were coming; Jon glanced around at the 'mon they had bodied and decided they needed to bail. "Let's get outta here pal. I wanna introduce you to my ship."

            Monferno and Chespin began running on the pier, headed for the Safe Journey. "Beautiful gun," Jon commented, "how'd you do all that without dyin'?"

            "Hah! You no hear Frag? Is bulletproof! Family trait." Frag beamed, holstering his gun. "Frag like the way you fight! You go like, pow, pow, yes? Not an amateur at this!"

            Jon showed his white teeth in a cocksure grin. "You kiddin' me, who the hell do you think I am! I've been at it since I could stand on two! Call me Jon, mate, Furious Jon. And you are?"

            "Frag - just Frag. And holy muk, you are the Furious Jon? You not kidding when you were saying that earlier?! You is legend in Osenia, yes?" the Chespin replied. Making friends with someone as dangerous as the 64th, now that was something worth his time in Carajol.

            "The Furious Jon! You look like you've been in Osenia," Jon said cheerfully. "Crazy place!"

            "Hah! This place even crazier!" Frag laughed. "Best tourist spot!"

            "A'ight, this is it!" The Monferno said, pointing at the Safe Journey. "That's my ship! She's got everything we'll be needin', she does! Meet the Safe Journey! Yeah, "Safe"... we'll have to change it sometime, if you catch my drift, Frag. But welcome aboard, mate."
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              #13    
            Old December 10th, 2016 (6:17 PM).
            GastlyGibus's Avatar
            GastlyGibus GastlyGibus is offline
            I can't hear ya, ya talkin' to me?
               
              Join Date: Jan 2014
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              Posts: 169
              She'll be sky-worthy soon


              Nick did as Jon ordered, escorting both Kayri and Cook aboard the vessel. "She's seaworthy, well, soon as the engine is fixed," he said simply. The Scrafty turned to the Marowak, analyzing her and trying to gauge her thoughts. "She good enough for you?"

              She gave the ship a long, steady look of appraisal. "Engine needs fixin'?" she asked as she ran her hands along the wooden planks. When she gave it a light knock with the large spanner that she was clutching, the wood clanged unexpectedly. The sound rang out clearer and tinnier than she would have expected; closer to metal than anything else. Her expression didn't change, but she let out a thoughtful, "Hmm."

              "It does," Nick said simply, crossing his arms. "Fuel tank's full, but she won't start up. Once that's fixed, should be right as rain."

              The Marowak seemed to mull things over before giving one decisive nod. "Alright. First, you find a decent navigator, and then I'll be willin' to join your crew and fix up that engine of yours. I can go take a look at it now," she offered, "see what might be the problem. But I ain't joinin' no one without someone who can fly this thing without crashin' it."

              "I'm sure Jon's got someone lined up," Nick replied, suddenly heading below deck and motioning for the Marowak to follow him. Something seemed to catch the eye of the Hydreigon who had been following behind them, and with an intrigued hum, Cook floated elsewhere. "Engine's down here if you wanna look at it." She did so with no complaint. Her gait was pretty confident, indicating that she was pretty used to traversing an airship, though not necessarily a flying one, perhaps. Once they reached the engine Nick stopped, giving it a once over, shaking his head. "I fix boats, not engines. Couldn't tell ya what's wrong with it."

              The Marowak let out a low whistle. There was a spark of admiration in her eyes where there was only keen interest before. She ran her fingers along the outside, almost tenderly, before she began summarily removing plates of metal to take a closer look at the cogs and other mechanisms inside. It didn't take too long to identify the problem.

              "Here," she said, "you're missin' a part." She pointed to somewhere inside the engine. Throwing Nick a weird look, she added, "It's pretty important. I don't know why it might not be here, 'less somebody took it out on purpose."

              Nick grumbled something under his breath. Wigglytuff bastard... Even still, he gave an approving nod to the Marowak. "Well, if you don't want to fly with us, I'm sure Jon could throw a few coins your way for fixin' it. Entirely optional, of course."

              "Not gonna turn away a job," she said. "I actually have a part that should work well enough. I'll go get it for you, maybe get my things together, and if you get a navigator by the time I return, we can talk. If not," she shrugged, "you'll get your engines fixed. No foul."

              "Sounds good to me, mate," Nick said with a slight nod. "'preciate it either way."

              The Marowak smiled a little and held out a hand. "Name's Kayri. Pleasure doin' business."

              "Nick," he replied curtly. With that, he turned and began to head up deck. "I'll be preppin' the ship here."

              Kayri made to leave, but before she did, she called out, "For the record, if the rest of the crew're even half as good as you seem to be... Well, I would love to be here when she flies." Without waiting for any type of response, she made her way back out from the Safe Journey and into the streets of Modistra.
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              "Johnny rocked that golden circle, and all those VIPs, and that music that had freed us became a tired routine.
              And I saw his face in close-up tryin' to give it all he had, and sometimes his eyes betrayed him, you could see that he was sad.


              And I tried to rock on with him, but I slowly became bored
              Could that man on stage with everything somehow need some more?"

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                #14    
              Old December 14th, 2016 (1:43 PM). Edited December 21st, 2016 by SV.
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              SV SV is offline
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              The Doctor(?)


              Jon had just sent Frag on his way to the Safe Journey, when he heard a scream for help coming from the nearest alley. Normally, he would've ignored it, but he knew that voice. Jon knew that voice pretty well, as he had shared merriment with the man that owned it, and he liked to sing when drunk. His name was Memphis of the Harbor, a popular fellow who was competing for the title of the drunkest man in Modistra; Madam Mary from the Sunk'n Modistrian claimed he'd never been sober, not even when he hatched from the egg. Even still, Jon knew first hand he was good company, and he wouldn't harm a fly.

              More shouting came, and Jon ran faster; he managed to make out what was being said from around the corner.

              "Where is Rochetto?" a gruff voice shouted. It belonged to a Hitmonchan wearing an ANF hat. An Aeronaut, Jon thought, tightening his fists. This guy must've come with the Air Marshal's bunch... doesn't look like he knows how things are handled here. The Hitmonchan fired a powerful punch on the stomach of a drunken Spinda, forcing him on the ground.

              "You're not gonna talk, are ya pal?" the Hitmonchan continued, smashing his knee on the Spinda's face. The poor Pokemon fell with his back on the hard concrete, breathless and with a bloody nose and head. "I said," the Hitmonchan underlined his words, "Where is Rochetto? We know drunks like you are his accomplices! This is island is no longer his, maybe if you get that through your head, I'll start breaking some of your bones to teach a lesson!"

              "I don't know where he is!" Memphis shouted out. "Help!"

              "Oi, tough guy," Jon shouted angrily. "You think you're a proper hero, eh? Let him be! I know where Adrian is."

              "Duncan!" the Spinda shouted, looking at him from the ground, then raising his eyes to the blue sky. "Oh, thank Arceus."

              The Hitmonchan turned around and eyed him with a martial artist's eye. Captain Adrian taught Jon one of the most basic principles of the martial arts, and that's to know your opponent before you fight them - the Hitmonchan had a black belt around his waist, item that the jungle martial masters of Guntama thought was a weakness, as it let your opponent know that you used fighting-type moves. The second thing Adrian taught him was how to counter that kind of moves. After that, foes like the Hitmonchan before him had become Jon's breakfast.

              "You know where Rochetto is, monkey?" the Hitmonchan questioned.

              Jon smirked smartly, preferring not to answer the question. "You aeronauts gotta deathwish comin' to his island, I'll tell ya that. 'Cause even when he's not near, there's folks like me who'll stomp you flat and stuff you on a cannon and fire you back to wherever the hell it is you came from."

              "I guess I've to floor you before you talk," the Hitmonchan retorted; with that, he fired a Mach Punch that struck Jon on the chin. He didn't expect him to be so fast, but innately he knew that Hitmonchan had been practicing day and night on a punching bag, live or not.

              The second move of his foe's practiced combo came shooting immediately after; a swift Sky Uppercut that threatened to catch Jon unaware, if he hadn't anticipated it. He leaned backwards just enough to avoid the blow, gripped the wrist of the thin, exposed arm that the Hitmonchan had extended for his attack, and twisted with all his weight behind it. The Hitmonchan cried out in pain and rage before his whole body made a swirl mid-air and hit the ground hard. He attempted to get up as fast he could, but it was over: Jon jumped on him, pinned him down between his legs, and unleashed a flurry of Mach Punches on the marine's face until he stopped struggling, his head falling back into unconsciousness.

              Then, the Monferno grabbed him by the neck and slapped him till he blinked dazedly back into consciousness momentarily. "Captain Adrian says hi," the Monferno said. "You go tell that to your buddies now."

              Finally, pushing the Hitmonchan's chest, Jon got up and spat near the floored marine's hat, which had been scattered two paces away. He wiped his mouth and turned to the direction he thought Memphis was in.

              "How very charming," Responded a voice from that direction. But it didn't come from Memphis. Instead, if originated from a Grovyle. The 'mon was modestly dressed, a shabby vest and tie combination with a tattered overcoat. A large set of smudges and spills of some unknown substance (or a combination of them) covered this ensemble. If it was once worth something, those days were long gone. Instead, all that he appeared to be was a vagrant, common to the streets by every sense of the word. In one hand, he held a bottle of some cheap liquor he had likely salvaged along the streets. His other, empty hand sloppily guided itself across Memphis, as he seemed to check up on the Pokemon.

              After a few failed attempts (likely from the drink), the Grovyle managed to grab hold of Memphis's head and examined it. "Hmm... you'll probably live, once you get yourself examined," He concluded with a sloppy nod of his head. He rose up from the ground with a bit of a wobble.

              Jon had the impression that he'd seen this Grovyle before, a couple of times on the street, outside the Sunk'n Modistrian, wearing the exact same clothes and clutching a bottle of booze of one kind or the other, and one time in a dark alley like this, sharing a cola joint with a Gligar degenerate. Always drunk. Always looking like a mess.

              "Ahoy," Jonathan called out, cracking his knuckles to relieve them as he approached the haggard Grovyle. The Monferno glanced at Memphis, who was muttering how thankful he was to both of them, and offered a hand for the Spinda to help him up on his feet. After the Spinda got up, he stumbled drunkenly away from the alley, murmuring and rubbing his head and his back where he'd been hurt.

              "You a doctor, Rags?" Jon asked the Grovyle, having noticed the way he'd looked at the Spinda. He couldn't begin to fathom why a doctor would be in the state that Grovyle was in. Jon thought Doctors were some of the richest, easy-living people on Carajol.

              The inebriated Grovyle glanced at the Monferno and responded. "Well, of course," He stated sarcastically. "Because every stumbling pauper who just so happens to analyze a head injury is most definitely an educated physician."

              Jon chortled at the Grovyle's snark. Perhaps he was wrong about him, and he was just a vagrant. But he remembered that the 'mon's vest and tie seemed to be expensive, and some would argue that wearing any clothes in this side of the world was a sign of professionalism and cultured spirit. Still, it wasn't just the clothes that gave Jon the impression that the Grovyle was once a man of stature. It was also his movements, the way he spoke. "I'm Furious Jonathan," the Monferno introduced himself, uncertain of what compelled him to. "Public enemy number sixty four, scourge of Osenia, where even the wingulls want to rob ya. Maybe that don't mean much to you, but I'm making a crew. A pirate crew. I want to get back into the game. And it just so happens we're lookin' for a doctor."

              The Grovyle cocked an eyebrow and briefly listened to Jon announce himself. He briefly swayed left and right as he observed the Monferno in silence, the amount of liquor in his body clearly giving him some trouble. When the Monferno concluded, the Grovyle examined his near-empty bottle in his hands, and shrugged his shoulder. "I suppose there are worse ways," He stated, seemingly mostly to himself. The Grovyle quickly put the bottle to his lips and downed the remainder of it in a few large gulps, before he smashed it onto the ground in dozens of pieces. "You know, my memory is a bit hazy. Perhaps I was a doctor once. Or was it a musician?" The 'mon pondered to himself as he raised a finger to his chin. "No, no, it was an archaeologist, was it not? Hmm..." The 'mon shrugged his shoulders again. "Well, regardless. Brigand, musician, navigator, doctor. Use me as you will. And call me what you will. I care not. But Allen Canders is the name I was born with. Escort me to your ship, won't you, Curious Jonathan?" He asked, seemingly agreeing to accompany the Monferno without hesitation, or any formal invitation to join.

              Jon concurred with a slight bow of his head and a smile.

              Captain Jon was walking with a carefree, merry step. He seemed to be too happy to carefully consider who exactly he was bringing along. "Doctor, musician or archaeologist," he mused, looking at the Grovyle with a great smile. "Which one is it, Rags?" One would think he didn't care if the Grovyle was any of those things.

              "Mmm... mmm?" The Grovyle had been busy dragging his feet along behind Jon. He had stumbled a few times along the walk, but caught himself before he fell too far and caused damage to himself. "Are you referring to me? Rags, is it? I suppose I must be a tailor, then," He responded dryly. "Bestow upon me your torn pantaloons!" He declared drunkenly, as he flung his arms wildly, though he did so without a smile. "And I will take care of the rest."

              Jon gave him a funny look, having the suspicion that he was making a bad joke. He found himself wondering if this guy would be up for the job. There was no time to find another doctor - willing doctor, because it usually took some doing to convince a legit doctor to leave their safe, stable and well-paying occupation for a life of piracy. The other option was to kidnap one, and that, Jonathan refused to do.

              Jon found the Scrafty at the plank, staring at their newly recruited doctor. "Yo, brother," the Monferno greeted him, "Rags here'll be our doctor. He's a lil' drunk... not a little, in hindsight. Looks like he's drank Modistra dry. So don't listen to 'em."

              Nick gave an exasperated stare at the Grovyle, turning back to Jon suddenly. "A drunk? You picked some random, drunken mongrel off the streets to be a doctor?" The Scrafty bowed his head for a moment, muttering curses to himself before looking back up. "Jon, you know I ain't no pirate, I don't know how you people do things, but I'd much prefer if the person patchin' me up was sober while he did it!"

              "He'll have to do," Jon said, leaning in towards the Scrafty. Now that their faces were close, he spoke confidentially, and with a somewhat urgent tone. "We don't have time to be going from doctor's office to doctor's office. Pirate or no, you know damn well most doctors are too well off to even budge from here. Listen," the Monferno said reassuringly and with a down to earth expression, raising his hands. "I know he's a doctor. I saw him examine someone - I'll tell you later about it. If this guy needs to do doctor stuff, we're gonna make sure he's sober when he does it."

              Nick just sighed, looking at Jon with a stern expression. "I hope you're right. I'm trustin' you on this, and I'm hopin' you'll come through, for both our sakes."

              Jon turned to Allen. "C'mon," he said, extending an arm to guide the Grovyle up the plank. "Up you go. Welcome aboard."
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                #15    
              Old December 15th, 2016 (9:15 AM). Edited December 15th, 2016 by GastlyGibus.
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              GastlyGibus GastlyGibus is offline
              I can't hear ya, ya talkin' to me?
                 
                Join Date: Jan 2014
                Location: The city streets
                Age: 24
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                Taking care of business

                Nicholas stood by the edge of the Safe Journey, running over the day’s events in his mind. He ran a hand over the smooth railing of the ship, a faint hint of a smile crossing his face; finally he’d get to see this ship - his family’s ship - sail. Hopefully this crew of Jon’s would prove competent enough. It wasn’t for lack of trust in Jon himself; Nick felt he could probably trust his life with the Monferno. More a lack of a trust in the crew’s integrity.

                They’re pirates, Nick thought to himself. They ain’t like normal folk. The idea of becoming what he hated the most was almost sickening to the Scrafty… but he knew Jon wouldn’t let them become like others. He’d never met a good pirate in his life, but he knew Jon to be good, and if even if he was a pirate, he trusted his judgement.

                The sudden arrival of footsteps behind him broke his thoughts, causing Nick to turn around to face the source.

                “Ship’s all prepped to go, Jo-” Nick stopped. Before him stood a Linoone, the pokemon bearing a small pack strapped to his back, standing on his hind legs and tilting his head, scanning his eyes over the Scrafty.

                “Nicholas Darcy?” the Linoone asked. “Lucas sent me, heard you were locked up. He’s arranged for passage back to Liverte, but…” the Linoone looked around at the ship, nodding once in approval. “It appears you’ve already found a way home.”

                Nick crossed his arms, eyeing over the ship as well before he suddenly remembered. He was about to leave Liverte behind for a very long time. He had no alibi for his absence, and with the hectic nature of the day so far, it’d slipped his mind. “Psyduckin’ hell…” Nick cursed, shaking his head. He looked up again at the Linoone, raising an eyebrow. “Is Lucas leaving Modistra too?”

                “Leaving Modistra?” the Linoone repeated with a laugh. “Lucas is nothing but an honest businessman, he has nothing to fear from the marines.” The Linoone sported a coy smirk, as if proud of the person for whom he worked for.

                “Good,” Nick said sternly. “Listen, I’m going to have to make an arrangement with Lucas when this is all over. I don’t know where we’re headed, but I’m going to need to get in contact with him once we land.”

                “You’re travelling with Furious Jonathan now, ain’t ya?” the Linoone asked. He took note of the ship they were on, as if committing it to memory, nodding again. “Shouldn’t be too hard to keep tabs on a wanted pirate,” the Linoone said confidently. “Want us to keep tabs on this ship of yours?”

                “Just until we land, yes,” Nick answered. “I don’t know if we have time to get things situated now, but I’m not going back to Liverte. Because of that, I need to make sure my family’s kept safe, and I’m going to need Lucas’ help.”

                “Say no more, friend,” the Linoone said, raising a paw in reassurance. “Lucas has eyes and ears all over this great big world of ours. Wherever you land, we’ll have one of our scouts get in contact with you. We’ll get you back in contact then, and you can discuss your arrangement there.”

                As they spoke, a sudden movement caught their attention. Looked to be another marine ship heading to Modistra, likely marine reinforcements looking to secure the perimeter.

                “Looks like things are heating up,” the Linoone said plainly. “I’ll relay this info to Lucas, let ‘em know you’re safe and sound.” Nick nodded, the Linoone beginning to turn and leave the ship.

                “Tell Lucas that’s twice now I owe ‘em,” Nick called out to the Linoone. The Linoone turned his head, chuckling a bit to himself.

                “I’m sure he’ll think of some way you can repay him,” the Linoone said with a smirk. “You can discuss the finer details later. Judging by the look of things, I’d say the sooner you leave, the better.”

                With that, the Linoone took off, whipping away at an incredible speed and practically vanishing from sight. Nick turned back towards the marine ships again, before looking out towards the docks again. Wherever Jon was, he didn’t have much time left.
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                Could that man on stage with everything somehow need some more?"

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                  #16    
                Old December 23rd, 2016 (6:30 PM).
                Magnificent Magilou's Avatar
                Magnificent Magilou Magnificent Magilou is offline
                Perfalmost Victory!
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                There's A Fight, But Not Really, But A Stowaway, But Not For Long!


                Nick had taken back down belowdecks, making sure everything was prepped for take off. Suddenly, he heard a low, quiet rumble from somewhere in the engine room. Nick paused, glancing around for the source of the noise, venturing back down and scanning his eyes on every corner.

                Better not be any vermin in here, he growled. The last thing he needed was for his own ship - the ship he'd helped construct - to be infested due to the carelessness of the previous owners. He walked around quietly, coming to a large grouping of barrels and stopping, keeping an ear out for the noise to reappear.

                Inside one of the barrels, a small, rather sneaky Emolga sat quietly and quite bored out of her mind. She had honestly lost track of just how much time had passed since she managed to sneak away on one of the ships that docked back at the Sea Fleet. The accommodations were cramped. She was quite sure that she had lost all feeling in her tail. And most of all, she really needed to find a restroom. Still, little Nim could not help but muster up a small smile at the thought of how her life long dream of adventure and wonder was finally coming true. Managing to shift around in the barrel ever so slightly, the Emolga leaned close to a small peep hole that she had managed to carve into her little hideout.

                "I wonder where we even are right now...?" Nim wondered to herself as she tried to get a small look around from inside the barrel. "I've been in this thing for so long, I'm sure we probably managed to sail halfway around the world by now! Maybe." Pulling herself away from the peep hole, Nim sighed quietly and glanced up at the top of the barrel. "I hope we get to a dock or something soon... I really could use a good stretch... and I'm getting pretty hungry too..."

                As if it had been rehearsed, her stomach decided to chip into the conversation with a rather noisy growl. The Emolga pouted at the sound, reaching down to pat her belly softly. She suddenly found herself wishing that she had packed a few berries for the trip.

                Outside, Nick froze, immediately moving to the source of the sound. He walked over to a barrel, throwing the lid off violently and peering inside. "Oi! What're you doin' in here, you little ankle-biter?"

                Nim slowly turned her head upwards, her eyes growing wide as she spotted a rather angry looking Scrafty drilling right through her very soul with a nasty looking glare. The area around the two of them got so quiet, Nim could have sworn she heard a pin not only drop, but echo throughout the entire world... from under the sea. Eventually, the Emolga seemed to snap back to reality. A rather flimsy looking grin taking hold over her mouth.

                "...This is a fine barrel you've got on this ship! Yes sir, I can tell right away I can!" Nim suddenly exclaimed. The little Emolga shot out from the barrel, gracefully landing on the edge of its top. "Very sturdy, it is! Good, solid, steel rings keepin' it all wrapped together! Yep, it doesn't get much better than this!"

                She hopped off the edge of the barrel, slowly beginning to walk away from the Scrafty. She paused, quickly spinning around to flash him a bright smile. "The name's Anita... Anita Ryde! And it's my job to check out and inspect the conditions of barrels on fine vessels such as your own! After all, a faulty barrel can lead to a headache down the road, what with loss of supplies, food and water... you name it! I was a little doubtful at first, but I can tell you're takin' tip-top shape of your barrels!" Giving a quick wave, Nim turned and began to walk once more. "Now if you'll excuse me, I better get back to work and check out another ship's! Good day!"

                Nick immediately leaped after her, grabbing the flying squirrel by the scruff of her neck and holding her up to eye level. "Oh no you don't, you little sneak," he said angrily. "You must think I was born yesterday, givin' me that joke of a story, mate." He eyed her intently, as if deciding what to do with her. "Maybe I should just throw you overboard."

                "W-Why would I lie about the fine craftsmanship of your barrel?!" Nim demanded. "Only those with the purest of hearts would do such a wonderous thing!"

                "You listen here, ya fruit loop," Nick started. "I'm about three seconds away from tossin' you overboard, so you either wisen up and spill the beans, otherwise... you'd better be a good swimmer."

                "Alright, alright... Look..." Nim sighed. "I'll tell ya the truth... But, come here... I wanna whisper it. It's kind of embarrassing..."

                Nick narrowed his gaze. "Is this the part where I lean in close and you try to swindle me?" Nick asked pointedly. "You gonna zap me when I do it and make your grand escape?"

                "Of course not!" Nim shouted. "What kinda lowlife do ya take me for?!"

                "The kind of lowlife who stows-away on other people's property," Nick answered. He held the Emolga up high, as if demonstrating her lack of bargaining in the situation. "Now tell me your little secret, you little rat. Ain't nobody around here but us, no need for little whispers and dainty **** like that."

                "Look, we can make a deal right?" Nim questioned. She figured that just maybe, she could play to the Scrafty's nice side. If he even had one, that is. Quite honestly, Nim did not hold her breath to him having much of one. "I mean, I've been on this ship for a while and you didn't even know I was here, right? This can be our little secret!"

                "I ain't much interested in keepin' secrets," Nick said bluntly. "Hope those wings of yours aren't just for show, otherwise you're about to get very wet very quickly."

                Nim cursed under her breath. So much for playing the pity card. The little Emolga glanced her captor up and down. Chances were he was not the one to take onto threats either. Then again, she really did not have much to lose at this point. Nim was not about to let her dream slip out of her fingers before it even had a chance to begin properly. Returning her attention back to the Scrafty, Nim's eyes narrowed.

                "Well... I don't plan on getting wet...!" she snapped back, trying her best to try and sound tough. A ball of light began to spark and glow as she spoke, as if adding ammo to her threat. "If it's a fight you want, I'll give ya one!"

                "Cute, the puffball wants to fight," Nick said, still keeping her hoisted in the air. "Give me your worst."

                "Then put me down, big guy! Unless you're too scared to fight me for real!" Nim taunted back, the ball between her paws growing bigger and brighter.

                "Ah, challengin' my honor, eh?" the Scrafty taunted. "If honor was important to me, I probably wouldn't get here right now." Even as he spoke, he clenched his free hand into a fist, beginning to store up energy for a powerful attack. "So go ahead, throw the first punch, we'll see where it gets ya."

                "Welp... Don't say I didn't warn ya..." Nim thought with a grin. Slowly, the Emolga brought the ball of electricity towards herself, causing it to disappear entirely. It was almost as if the ball went inside of her. Then all of a sudden, Nim herself began to glow. Sparks began to pop and zip wildly around her furry, little body. Her hair quickly began to stand on end, as little cracks of electrical energy began to zip and zap all over her body.

                Nick felt the zaps on his hand, half dropping, half throwing the Emolga to ground in anger, steeling himself for whatever the little sparkplug had to throw at him. "Alright, tiny, come at me!"

                "You're gonna regret this," Nim replied with a grin. She hunched over, taking a stance as if she were getting ready to charge headfirst right into the Scrafty... before suddenly turning and bolting straight out of the room. "See ya around~"

                Nick cursed to himself. Part of him wanted to just let the little cretin run free, less hassle for him. But now his pride had been hurt, and that was something he couldn't allow. Without waiting he ran straight after her, intent on capturing her again and stuffing her back in the barrel she hid in. Maybe he'd bolt the lid shut for good measure.

                Nim scurried as quickly as her stubby little legs could carry her. The Emolga kept glancing over her shoulder as she ran, taking a moment to see if the Scrafty was catching up to her as she fled. Thankfully, he did not seem to be catching up, but that did not fill her with any relief. She still needed to find some place to hide, after all... And there was that whole issue of not knowing just where in the world she was going. Chalk it up to being in a barrel. but her navigation skills of the ship itself left a bit to be desired.

                "Oooooh... Why can't there be a map or somethin' hangin' on the walls?!" Nim questioned as she turned another corner.

                Just as Nim turned, she bumped onto something. When she managed to take a better look, she saw it was a Monferno. He was blocking the way completely. "Woah there, shortie," he said, glancing behind her at Nick, who seemed to be running after her. "And who's this?"

                Nick caught up to the two and stopped when he saw Jon. "She's a stowaway," he said, a trace of breathlessness in his voice. He quickly regained his composure, standing up straight and crossing his arms. "Caught her hidin' in one of the barrels."

                "A stowaway?" Jon raised an eyebrow, taking his eyes back to the Emolga. "Or you're part of the old crew who used to run things here. Which one is it? I want to know, 'cause... if you're part of the old crew, well, those guys ain't welcome here anymore, and I'm gonna have to help ya out the door."

                "I wasn't on any crew, I swear!" Nim quickly replied. "I was just tryin' to take a tour around the ship... and check out your fine barrels..." She paused, an idea forming in her head. She pointed angrily in the Scrafty's direction "When that guy over there started talking about tryin' to kill me and eat my bones! Please, ya gotta help me!"

                "I didn't say nothin' you little weasel!" Nick retorted angrily. "Jon, you really' gonna believe some rat over me?"

                Jon glanced at Nick, then back at Nim, and put a hand under his chin, an amused grin spreading on his face. "You're trespassing here, sweetie. Means, whatever he said to you, I wouldn't mind if he hung you from the prow for the Wingulls! Haha! You were checkin' out our fine barrels, yeah right! How 'bout you tell me where you came from, and where you're goin' to?"

                Nim puffed out her cheeks, shooting the Scrafty a rather nasty glance. "I was just tryin' go on the same adventure that other pirates go on... I didn't have a ship, so yeah! I snuck on board!" She turned as she spoke, staring the Monferno right in the eye. "I didn't have a ship of my own... well, not one reliable enough, anyways... So I snuck onboard to live my dream life of an adventure on the sea! So... If I gotta fight to make that happen, I'm not scared to do it!" She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest as she spoke. "I snuck on board back when the ship was stopped at the Sea Fleet. As for where I plan on goin' on it? I dunno. Depends on how long it stays afloat!"

                Something flashed past the Monferno's eyes as he looked down on her. "You wanted to go on an adventure?" he said, his tone having softened greatly. His expression was a lot more sympathetic. "Alright. But I ain't having stowaways on my ship. We're pirates, we won't go 'round pickin' flowers and knittin' sweaters. Can't have anybody lollygagging. Everybody's got a part to play here, and they're gonna play it as best they can. You understand that? And as for this ship, the only way you're sailin' with her is if you join my crew."

                "You're gonna let that little shrimp join?" Nick asked incredulously.

                Nim's eyes seemed to shine brighter, stars literally starting to take shape in her eyes. "Y-Yes! Yes, of course!"

                "Hold on now," Jon said as he glanced at Nick reassuringly and raised a finger at the Emolga. "Didn't say anything about you joinin' just yet. If you wanna join, you'll have to be useful. You wanna swab the deck? You wanna help our Cook cook and our Gunner load shot into our guns?"

                Nim's tail seemed to droop along with her ears as the Monferno listed off a set of jobs she could partake in. "...I dunno how to cook... and I really dunno anythin' 'bout loadin' a gun... And I haven't had to do much cleanin' ever since my older brother lost that bet with me... I doubt I'd be very good at it, ya know?"

                "So what can you do, then?" Nick asked in irritation. "No free rides here, you do your share of the work or you don't get anythin'."

                "Well... I dunno... I mean... I was a merchant's daughter... But we're not exactly gonna sell anything... and that sort of thing was boring," Nim mused. "Before I left home, my old man did send me to study abroad for a bit... I really dunno how much it would help, but I did learn A LOT about navigation and such, I did!"

                Jon was happy to hear that. "You learned 'bout navigation?" He asked cheerfully, "Why didn't ya say sooner? Alright, then! You'll be my navigator!"

                Nim absolutely beamed. "I'm in the crew!" She turned and smiled in an almost taunting manner to the Scrafty. "Did ya hear? I'm in the crew~"

                "Wonderful..." Nick said sarcastically. He gave Jon a silent gaze, once again hoping the Monferno knew what he was doing, before turning to the stairs and heading above, to the deck. "Well, when we fly into a hurricane and crash into the ol' blue, I'll know who to blame."

                "Obviously the hurricane!" Nim retorted.

                Jon gestured at the Emolga, having ignored everything that was said. "C'mon, let's get to the deck. I've an announcement that needs making!"

                As they were passing outside the bathroom, they saw the Hydreigon in there. "Cook!" Jon shouted, "What're you doing in there?"

                "Oh? I was just admiring the kitchen!" The dragon exclaimed with a grin of wonderment. "Nice and sparkly! Certainly excited to work in here, though I can't say I'm entirely sure why there's been some kind of cheese left out on the side..." Cook caught himself, glancing down at the new face. "Oh, hello there! Pardon me - is this another member of our crew? Very pleased to meet you! I am Cook, the cook!"

                Nim couldn't help, but smile back. She quickly scrambled onto Jon's head, making herself a bit more on eye-level with Cook. "Me too! I'm Nim, Nim the navigator! Nice to meet ya, too!"

                "Hey, that's the bathroom mate, not the kitchen," Jon said and let out a gust of loud laughter while holding his belly. He did nothing to shoo the Emolga off his head. "Funny guy, eh?"

                "Yeah, he is!" Nim agreed, while cautiously giving the cook a strange look. She suddenly found herself worried that he may have actually been trying to make a meal in there. However, she wanted to make a good impression with both of her male crew members, so the Emolga decided to let her questions on the matter stay hidden for now. "That guy who was chasin' me could learn a thing or two from ya, I bet!"

                Cook nodded absentmindedly, mystified by the 'cheese' that he had picked up off the counter next to the sink. "Now, why would someone put cheese in a bathroom?" The Hydreigon wondered, before shrugging and having Xavier swallow the pale yellow bar. "No matter. Lead on, my captain!"

                "That looked more like soap to me," Jon muttered, trying not to laugh as he headed up the stairs. "Come, Cook! We're about to fly off!"
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                  #17    
                Old January 3rd, 2017 (12:13 PM). Edited February 4th, 2017 by Greiger.
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                Greiger Greiger is offline
                A mad mind... hehe
                   
                  Join Date: Sep 2011
                  Location: A water pond, duh!
                  Age: 26
                  Gender: Male
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                  Posts: 2,011

                  A strategical planning session! The mysterious Furret appears!


                  The sun was setting, covering the houses of Modistra in a golden light. The Third Evening was coming to its end... Jon had found everyone he needed to find.

                  He felt safe walking upon the wyron wood of the deck. It was like the ship itself was happy to see him, or so he believed. "Oi, people," he shouted for everyone around. He stuck his head into the hatch on the deck so everyone belowdecks could hear as well. "Oi! Come up now, everyone! Cook, you bring us some food!" Jon ran to the mast, where a barrel, empty by the looks of it, was abandoned, and dragged it in the middle of the deck. "Gather round! I've news that concerns everybody on this ship!"

                  "Right away, Captain!" The Hydreigon's voice called up from belowdecks. "I'll see what I can find!"

                  "Monkey man! You are back!" the Chespin from earlier shouted in reply to Jon's announcement. "Where you go? Trying to set up Frag with red-crest over there?" he pointed jokingly at Nick. He'd been pacing around the Safe Journey while waiting for the Monferno, unsure whether he should get on deck or wait for his return.

                  "Frag!" Jon shouted, glancing down at the pier, where the Chespin was standing. "Come on up, mate!"

                  It was then that he spied the Marowak heading towards the ship as well. This time she was wheeling a sturdy looking chest behind her, and a heavy sack slung over her shoulder in addition to the bag that she had been wearing earlier. When she caught sight of him, she nodded and called up, "I'm here about the engine. Dunno if, uh, Nick mentioned it?"

                  "Hey!" the Monferno greeted her, "you know what's wrong about the engine?"

                  "Guess not, then," she muttered dryly. "Well, you're missin' a part, but I went and fetched somethin' for you." She tugged pointedly on the sack over her shoulder as she proceeded to board the vessel. "He mentioned maybe some coin, and I mentioned that maybe if you had a navigator I might be willin' to consider settin' sail."

                  The Monferno chortled with his easy manner, took a deep breath and yelled, "NIIIM!" He looked down the hatch of the ship one more time. "I dunno where she went, she was with me just a minute ago!" He looked at the Marowak with a cocksure grin. "You bet we found ourselves a navigator!"

                  "Jonathan," The inebriated Grovyle chimed in as he was leaning over the side of the ship. "It appears someone's dumped the contents of their stomach onto the side of your vessel," He explained as he pushed himself off of the rail and stumbled over to sit down. He leaned his back against the ship and exhaled deeply. "I'd advise getting someone on your janitorial division to look into that. So, what's this 'news' business? Are we to invade some perilous, fortified encampment? Perhaps loot from some important, well-guarded minister? Something else you ruffians typically deal with that most certainly will lead to our demise?" He asked morbidly, with his head beginning to sulk down to his chest to rest.

                  Kayri seemed surprised to see the Grovyle there. It wasn't difficult to figure out that she'd probably seen him around quite often, since they'd both frequented the Sunk'n Modistra.

                  Nick crossed his arms, casting Jon a wayward glance, before turning to address the Grovyle. "We ain't got no janitor. You make a mess, you clean it." Bloody drunken arsehole... he muttered, looking back towards Jon and trying to push aside his withdrawals. "What news, eh?"

                  "We might, Rags," Jon replied, thinking Allen was facetious when speaking about their demise, "Give me a moment and I'll explain! Kayri, you too, stay awhile."

                  After a short while, a noise from near the main mast brought with it a teapot and a platter of bread, cheese and berries from the shaft of a dumbwaiter. Jon was very amused to see a device of such luxury in practice. "We've one of those?" he muttered. He'd only seen rich people in Modistra use dumbwaiters to lift food to the upper floors of their mansion, but he'd never see it installed on a ship. He wondered what other kind of surprises awaited him on the Safe Journey.

                  Once the dumbwaiter lifted the platter at the deck level, the Hydreigon Cook arrived from belowdecks carrying, with some effort, a table and a few chairs.

                  "What-ho, chaps," the dragon grunted as he placed the furniture down on the deck. "Nothing cooked, I'm afraid, but I suspected we hadn't the time. It should all be fine. I don't think bread needs to be cooked..."

                  The crew he'd recruited so far had all gathered in front of Jon, taking their places around the barrel. "A'ight, people," Jon started, wearing his serious face and clapping his hands once before putting them on his hips. "We're new and all, but I've got an idea where to start. Listen close now. In the fort of the city, there's a confiscated map. You wanna know what's so important about this map? It details the path of a galleon, Apolucia, which carries the Trade Prince of Liverte's goodies on it - every scoundrel's dream." He glanced at Nick. "That's right, Ignacio's gold and other valuables. But the Trade Prince is smart. He wants to avoid pirates like us, so he commissioned the galleon to take an unusual route over the Long Blue. I know exactly what island it's headed for so we could wait for it there, but to strike it so far out in the sea, where there's no ANF to protect it, oh," he let out, grinning smartly, "it's gonna make it a hell lot easier. So! I thought we oughta make ourselves welcome in Modistria's Castilio and make that map, and whatever else of value we find there ours, but as you and the whole city knows by now, there's marines already raiding the place, so we'll have to deal with them. The night's began, and we'll be able to catch them by surprise. I'm gonna put this up for a vote. Who here wants to go after that map right now? Aye or nay? Speak one by one!"

                  Jon grabbed bread and cheese from the table Cook had brought and gobbled them up, waiting for everyone's vote.

                  Nim's eyes were bright with excitement, her tail twitching back and forth at the mention of raids and treasure maps. "Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Me! I'm so ready to go after it, Cap!"

                  "Stealing a treasure map from the ANF," Allen murmured from his seated position. He rested one arm on his knee and looked up at the others. "How very typical. Ah, but I suppose I expected too much climbing aboard some random brigand vessel," The Grovyle sighed. "I suppose there are worse ways. Very well, Captain," He stated sarcastically, giving the Monferno a very weak and mocking salute. "If that's how you intend to kill us all, consider me... hmm, I don't quite remember the word I was looking for..." The Grovyle drunkenly began to doze off slightly.

                  "I would rather take a short while to become adjusted," Cook said hesitantly. "But if the crew is excited to press on, then so be it."

                  "A map to good ol' Ignacio's boat?" Nick said. In a rare display, the Scrafty smiled, albeit one of treachery. "If it means I get to stick one to that sorry son of a b***h, then I say we go right for it. You think Ignacio's on that boat?" He asked with a low chuckle. He knew the Trade Prince wouldn't be there, but Nick sincerely wished he would be. Jon shrugged, but he had the same treacherous look about him as his friend.

                  Kayri looked around uneasily. "You sure we can take 'em? 'Fraid I might not be much use in a fight like that. And... I kinda agree with him," she said, gesturing at Cook, "I'd rather find my feet a bit before chargin' into some dangerous quest. Plus, I'd like to see if your navigator can actually fly this thing, first."

                  "Bah! AFN people are joke!" The slightly muffled voice of Frag called from behind them. As the Chespin popped his powder-covered head out of the cannon he was inspecting, he flashed them a half-toothy grin. "Once we fix guns, of course." He gave the cannon a light loving tap.

                  "I would recommend you alter that attitude of yours, small one." A soft voice stated. Off to the side, but barely a few inches away from the group, and leaning against one of the ropelines, was that Furret that had been in the tavern during their first recruiting spree. He still wore a bandanna over his mouth, muffling his voice somewhat. "The ANF are no laughing matter. There is a very good reason as to why they control so much territory. There are plenty of stupid mon in this world, and plenty of stupid mon can be extremely cocky. Get my point?" The Furret asked as he turned his head to stare at the group, "If you head in thinking it'll be a cheese walk you'll all end up skewered and tossed in the ocean as chum meat. Not trying to say you can't do it, but without a good plan you all wouldn't stand a chance. By the way, your security sucks."

                  "Oh yeah?" Jon said loudly with his usual nerve, "And what d'you know about security, tough guy?" He was somewhat phased he hadn't heard the Furret climb on board of his ship. Usually, he could hear 'mon breathing near him, after having spent so many years hunting in a jungle brimming with both wild and sentient Pokemon who wished you were dead. This guy must've had some sort of training, he reflected as he glared at the Furret with the black band over his mouth.

                  Casually the Furret glanced down at his paw, not even bothering to look Jon in the eye, "Hm? Oh well I know it's pretty idiotic to have every single crew member together in a meeting and leaving other parts of your ship unsecured. I know it's pretty idiotic that you all talk so loud that even if any of you were trying to listen to other parts of the ship you would be distracted, so distracted that no one would have heard the very soft patter of feet climbing on board. I could have easily slinked down below deck, grabbed every valuable I saw in less than five minutes flat, and walked back up and casually leaped over and onto the port boardwalk and could have walked away. Just saying." He said, only shrugging in response.

                  The Monferno took a few steps towards the Furret, shaking his finger at him and letting a threatening smile take over his face, one that didn't reach his eyes. "Yet here you stand," Jon pointed out, slightly spreading his arms theatrically. "Now that you're in front of me, give me one reason I shouldn't kick your ass!"

                  "Because...." At this point the Furret's voice became far softer as he hurriedly muttered something under his breath. "There, said it. So we're good now. Am I on the crew now?"

                  Jon pushed his eyebrows together and stared at the 'mon with a mouth half open. He put a finger behind his ear, stirring it towards him. "Come again? What was that you said at first?"

                  "Because... it was pa-" Again, his voice lowered just barely being heard as somewhat of an embarrassed blush began to form along his cheeks, "Okay, said it. Just accept me on the damn crew now." He muttered out angrily.

                  "No, no, pal, now I'm curious and need to know why," Jon said, easing up on him. If the Furret man wanted to join Jon's crew, he couldn't be all that bad.

                  The Furret crossed his arms and lowered his head further, "Stupid bet! You happy!?" He snapped out, trembling in place, "Stupid mon at the tavern had me swear on an my mom's soul to join if I was wrong. Guess what? I was wrong! Happy? Now am I on the damn crew or not?"

                  "You lost a bet?" Jon asked, disappointment obvious in his look. "I can't let you join just 'cause you lost a bet! You've to make that choice yourself!"

                  "Did you bet that bandannas over your mug were still cool?" Nick said sarcastically, causing a snarky chuckle from Jon.

                  The Furret lowered his head further, his paws tightening into fists, "I swore on my mother's soul." He stated, "You HAVE to let me join."

                  The Monferno exhaled loudly through a round mouth, scratching his forehead as he looked to the side. "I don't have to do anything, pal," he retorted finally. "I'm a pirate! I do what I want! But tell you what. You look crafty. You heard where we're goin' and what we're goin' to do. Join us for the ride, let me show you how I do things, and you show me how you do things. And if it goes well," he shrugged, "You're in."

                  The Furret gave a quick nod, "Thank you. I'll serve this crew faithfully, you have my word on that."

                  "Great, a drunkard, a trigger-happy rodent, a wack-job dragon, and a wannabe mercenary," Nick snidely commented. This crew is gonna be the death of me...

                  "Yes, how incredibly charming," Allen once again chimed in sarcastically from his seated position.

                  "Alright!" Jon yelled, raising his fists in the air and laughing. "That's that! We're goin' after that map!"

                  "Tea is ready!" Cook announced suddenly and jubilantly, immediately reaching for the pot and beginning to pour out several cups. "Everyone help yourselves to bread and cheese and tea! In celebration of new crewmates and blossoming friendship on a physical ship!"

                  Jon grabbed more bread and cheese from the table and munched on it with a great craving. "Everyone, prepare for take off! Frag, you put those cannons where they need to be, we'll be using them."

                  TheFurret glanced at what this cook considered tea, shaking his head a bit at it. It didn't look like his sort of tea.

                  "Da, captain monkey man!" Frag grinned, scurrying back to the cannons.

                  "Nick," Jon shouted, "You take care of the anchor-- wait!" He stopped, mouth full, and looked at the Marowak engineer, all concerned. "F**k, I forgot. The missing part. I can trust you with it, right?"

                  "The missin' part won't take long," replied Kayri, looking away from the Furret and back at Jon, "but I ain't clearin' the ship for flight until I give the engine a complete once-over, just in case whoever took the part in the first place decided to play any other tricks. That might take a bit more time."

                  "Huh?!" the Monferno let out, all concerned. "I hate waiting! Damn! Okay then, you do your thing, and I'll have a look around, see if anything's amiss!"

                  "Better wait for a bit than for the engine core to explode while we're halfway through the sky," she said bluntly. "And maybe you can use this time to... strategize, or somethin'." This last part was said in a rather doubtful tone, like the Marowak didn't think that Jon had ever come up with a strategy ahead of time in his life. With that, she grabbed all of the things that she'd arrived with and headed belowdecks to the engine room.

                  "Oh, but going in a fiery blaze of exploding mechanical pieces wouldn't be the worst way," Allen commented snidely again, motioning wildly with his hands. "At least we'll put on a show for other adventurous passersby!"

                  Jon glanced down at one side of the hull, then the other side, looking for anything out of the ordinary. He checked one of the barrels on the mast; it was full of apples, and nothing else. "Yo, Nick," he shouted. "Let's go down the hold, do some checking out. Furret, you too, help me out here, will ya?"

                  "Who's gonna babysit the drunk? Wouldn't want him stumbling over the edge of the ship," Nick said, mockingly gesturing to the Grovyle beside them and chuckling, before following after Jon. "Sure, let's get going already."

                  "I assure you I am perfectly capable of walking forthright of my own accord off the ship just fine, thank you very much," Allen piped up at Nick as he followed Jon.

                  The Monferno waited for the Furret then they all began their descend to the lowest level of the ship, the hold. As Jon and Nick had previously seen, the engine room was at the same level as the hold, of which the two Pokemon had only caught a glimpse. Jon was curious to see what the Safe Journey was carrying in her hold - perhaps it was some of that rich man's treasure! But then it would have been better guarded. They would be more alert for stowaways and the like, rather than treasure.

                  "The Marowak said we ought'a strategize, so that's what we'll do," Jon said as he walked down the stairs, "We're gonna find some trouble with the Riefmore for sure, but by night, luck favors the thief. Any ideas on how to take 'em on, folks?"

                  "Simple. Get a scout on land first and scan out the fort" The Furret stated. "It'll be plenty big, but a single mon will have an easier time sneaking around and finding wherever it's located. From there they send a signal to the boat outside and everyone on board will launch an attack."

                  They reached the hold, which seemed half full of crates covered with cloth. "Let's open some, see what's inside," Jon muttered. The Furret kept on with his plan.

                  "If I know anything about the typical guard they will rush out to see what the commotion is with pure curiosity. The scout inside takes that opportunity to rush in, snag the map, and make his way out. Everyone heads to a designated meet up point and there you go."

                  Nick peered into barrels absentmindedly, nodding at the Furret's explanation. "What kind of signal would it be, though?"

                  "Something that is hard to see." The Furret explained. "Can any of you see in the dark?"

                  "Not me, not as well as Nick anyway," Jon said as he kicked open a crate. "Corned beef," he announced.

                  From above decks, Cook cried, "Huzzah!" Jon glanced upwards, thinking that must've come from the kitchen... or the bathroom, there seemed to be no difference between the two for the dragon.

                  "I can see well in the dark, but I ain't really one for sneakin' around," Nick said plainly.

                  "I say leave that up to... what's your name?" Jon asked the Furret.

                  "Samuel." The Furret replied. "And I'll be the one to sneak inside. As for a signal, you all have binoculars, right? Of course you do, pirates and all. I'll find a parapet to climb on top of and wave over your way. Give me a few minutes after that to get back into place and we'll be good."

                  "One more thing we could do is sabotage the Riefmore," Jon suggested as he checked out other crates, "You saw our gunner, the Chespin, he's just a tiny spot, we can sneak him on board that thing."

                  "You trust that guy to be sneaky?" Nick retorted. "I feel like he wouldn't be able to set foot on the bridge without shoutin' his presence to everyone on board."

                  "I dunno about him bein' sneaky, but he helped me body some nobodies earlier and let me tell you, he can do some damage, so if there's one 'mon with us who can put a dent into somethin' as large as the Riefmore, it's gonna be him, one way or the other."

                  "So Sam's going to sneak into the Castilio, give us the signal, and then we bust in, yeah?" Nick asked, crossing his arms and shrugging. "Then pipsqueak up there busts up the ANF's ship so they can't properly defend themselves. We go in, grab the map, punch out some pikers, and then leave." He turned to Jon, raising an eyebrow questioningly. "Am I right so far?"

                  "... Aye. That's about it."

                  "Then let's get goin' before the marines get wise to what we're doin'," Nick said curtly.

                  "Agreed." Jon stopped when he'd reached the far end of the hold. "This is it. Bunch of supplies, nothing much of value. Nothing suspicious in sight. Looks like we're done down here, mates."

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                    #18    
                  Old January 15th, 2017 (11:44 AM). Edited January 15th, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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                  Ray Maverick Ray Maverick is online now
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                  Pirate Raid on the Castilio


                  Two hours passed, and the night had fallen wholly. The stars had made an appearance, and the music from the nearby pubs and taverns across the docks had gotten louder as the folk of Modistra visited for their nightly merriment. If this was a usual day, Jonathan would've likely been in Louis's Spot, having mugs from that magical ale while in the company of the Head Crushers. Now, he had his own crew to manage, and he had a feeling he wouldn't return to enjoy those things in a while, but he didn't mind much. Other things awaited him in the future.

                  While waiting for the Marowak he'd recruited to finish her work on the engine, the captain thought to investigate his quarters, located at the sternmost point of the ship, under the so-called poopdeck. He'd been there before. He and Nick waded through every room on the Safe Journey, when they were teens and the ship was being made. But the Captain's Quarters had then been empty, so when Jon walked in, he was pleasantly surprised. The room was everything you'd expect a rich man to build for himself.

                  A chandelier hung from the ceiling, multiple candles perched on top of it, none with fire in them yet. The light was coming from the tall windows at the opposite side of the room; it was the dim light from the taverns, paired with the lamps of the street outside.

                  In front of him was a table with the map of Carajol spread open on it, a candle and a mug of what smelled like coffee. The chairs were made of red leather and lined with a polished, bronze wood. Jon whistled. That Wigglytuff's fat ass was well serviced, he thought, stepping to the table to examine it and he felt his feet touch upon delicate stuff; looking down, he saw he was on an elaborate Tyrantrian carpet made of blood red and golden thread. Same as the heavy curtains that hung from each side of the windows.

                  To his left was a cabinet with a mirror above it. Berries and wine were served on a platter, and next to those was a more worrisome object... a skull, seemingly staring at him. Jon chuckled, unafraid, thinking he would make it a game trying to figure out to which Pokemon species such a skull would belong to. His attention was drawn to his right, where two bookcases were built into the wall, and a bed of red velvet with white cushions between them. "Sweet!" he exclaimed. "Pan will be so jealous!"

                  This would be his home from now on.

                  As Jon examined his new quarters, Nick casually walked in, seemingly inattentive to the decor around him and looking straight at the Monferno, who had jumped on the table and was trying to reach the chandelier. "The engi's nearly finished, ship'll be ready for takeoff then," he said plainly, tilting his head at Jon's actions. "...er, what're you up to?"

                  Jonathan was about to show Nick around but he forgot all about his quarters the moment he heard takeoff. He let out a monkey-like laugh, all excited, and landed in front of Nick. "I'll tell you later!!! You ready, brother?!"

                  Nick seemed noticeably less enthused than his friend, leaning lazily against the door frame. "As ready as I'm gonna be, so we should get movin', yeah?"

                  "Hey, what's up partner?" the Monferno asked cheerily. "We about to be rich! We got a crew! We can be anywhere in the world tomorrow! Why the long face, man?"

                  Nick grimaced just a bit, trying not to be too serious. "I know I'm just repeatin' myself here, but..." he turned his head out the door, seeing if anybody was listening. "You sure this crew is good? I don't think we can trust 'em."

                  "It'll be fine!" Jon said with an easy smile, but got for a rare moment for Jon, he got a bit serious, even stern. "If there's one thing my first time bein' captain taught me, it's to not judge by appearances! Let's put 'em to the test first, brother, and see what happens."

                  "I'll be keepin' my eye on them," Nick said with a nod, before shrugging. "We'll see. Let's get this thing airborne, shall we?"

                  Jon patted him quickly on the arm and headed out. "You lift the anchor and we're off!"

                  Once upon the deck, Jon saw Kayri. "Everything lookin' good? Fire her up when ready!"

                  She was folding up a thick apron that smelled strongly of grease. "Nothin' else wrong with her other than some shoddy maintenance that I can see," she said. Her movements were just so slightly fidgety, belying her calm demeanor, though he couldn't tell if it was because she was excited or anxious. Seeing the ship's crew start bustling into action, Kayri headed back belowdecks, calling out something about monitoring the engines during lift-off.

                  Jon ran to the mast, shouting, "OI! Turn off all lights! We ain't about to let 'em see our approach! And draw the plank!" He grabbed onto the lamp that was hanging from the mast and put his hand right into the flame to kill it.

                  Soon, the whole ship was dark, the only sources of light being ships nearby and the taverns across the street. From the mast, Jon was off to the bridge, to grab the wheel. Like his feet on the deck, his hands on the wheel felt at home. The burr of the engine filled the bay when it started up, sending slight tremors across the entire ship. Jon couldn't help but bust a great smile. He glanced next to the wheel, at a lever with a red light on its top. The first time he'd pulled one of these all the way down, he'd almost launched the airship right into the bay, and learned an important lesson.

                  Nick felt the rumbling of the engine as it began to churn, walking slowly belowdecks and running a hand gently across the wood of the hull. A brief smile crossed his face, faint, but there. He'd never seen the ship completed, let alone in flight. It had been taken from them long before that.

                  Guess I finally get to see you sky-worthy...

                  As the engine roared the Scrafty began to quicken his pace, heading to the deck to pull up the anchor and rig the sails.

                  Jon left the wheel momentarily to touch the wires rising from the deck up to the blimps. The flammable flogistron traveled through those very wires to make the journey from the fuel tank to the blimps; since they were hot, Jon could tell the ship was ready to move.

                  Jon returned to the wheel with a smile so wide that made his eyes looks smaller. He pulled the lever upwards from its base as if pulling a stick out of the mud, and the ship shook. Then he pushed the lever forward. "Oh yeah," he said, feeling the blood rush on his fingers and toes from the excitement. The chains tightened upwards as the blimps wanted to fly, slowly lifting the ship from the bay. "That's it," Jon said, feeling like a surgeon on an important operation.

                  During the airship's quickening upward ascend, the sound of droplets of sea water could be heard. First, the buildings of Modistra dropped from their sight, and then the masts and blimps of other ships. Jon rolled the wheel to the side and pushed the lever forward. It seemed to be the same model as the airship he'd piloted before. The deck angled slightly as the ship really took flight, the sails bloating with the wind.

                  Soon, they were high up in the air, flying rapidly above Modistra's lights. It was nearly cold; Jon thought they ought to look into activating the shields to ward it off, when they'd gotten everything done. The Monferno jumped on the railing on the bridge, one hand still on the wheel, and glanced down at the city to orientate himself. With a slight motion, the wheel came rolling to the right place, and the ship was put on a course for the Castilio. "We'll be there in five," Jon announced, great smile on his face as the wind pushed the hairs of his head back.

                  The burr of the engines and the seething winds was all they could hear for a while; this late in the night, it was very dark without lights on board, so one would have to be careful in his step, even though the ship wasn't going fast. Jon couldn't see past the wheel, let alone past the bridge. The lights of the Castilio were enough to guide him, though; he could see them coming from the mountain. As they approached those lights steadily, Jon shouted, "Hey, Sam! You're up first, how do you wanna do this?"

                  The Furret tightened his bandanna and peered at the sight. "I can hop off on land. Not too close, mind you. Just drop me off and I'll worry about getting inside. You focus on your own end."

                  "Alright hearty," Jon shouted back, pulled the lever backwards and pushed it in, like plunging a stick down in the mud. The ship rocked and started to lose height and speed. Jon left the wheel momentarily to glance down at their distance from the ground; it was tough for him to see anything at all. "Sam," he called out, "You can see in all this muck, can't ya? Jump out when we're low enough!" The Monferno thought he was hearing the rustle of the leaves that were stirred as the ship rushed past them, but he didn't break a sweat. This was proper madness, Jon's sort of madness. They could hit a tall tree any second while flying this low.

                  Frag glanced at the furret, raising an eyebrow. "Uh, is fur guy man going to, like-"

                  Sam waited for a moment, eyeing the landscape, before he suddenly jumped. "He's off," Jon announced, pulling the lever back into full stop, passive mode.


                  ***


                  His jump happened to land him on tree branch that he quickly scampered down and slid down to the ground. Taking in a deep breath the Furret made his way across the dark territory and toward the lights he saw in the distance. There was ALWAYS a back door in these kinds of place. As he got closer and closer to his target area Sam made sure to glance about, just in case any guards were loitering about in this area. So far it looked as if any guards here were more than likely inside. Now, how to get in? He wasn't sure if the distraction was going on yet, and he couldn't hear any sounds of battle. He might as well worm his way inside and get a few looks around the place. He did see one tree that hung nearby and scampered up it. He figured it would give him enough of a height difference to make a jump, but he had misjudged the height of the wall. He would need something more than the tree to get him up and where he needed to go.

                  It took Sam a moment to think before he dug into his pack and eventually pulled out a small climbing pick. No wall could hold him out with this. He readied it and slammed it into the wall, smirking as he saw the stone crumble to make a small hole. He made one near the base of the wall and one above it. Placing two paws against the holes he began to slowly rise, using his other two appendages to keep himself steady against the wall. It was slow going, but he eventually managed to make his way up further and further until he finally caught sight of the top of the wall. He had to be rather quiet at this point, making sure to leap up and over the wall. He fell down into a roll and laid down as low as he could. He had to find a wall or some shadows pronto. There just so happened to be a wall that he pressed against, keeping himself as still as possible. He had to get his bearings first, then he would begin tracking down his target.

                  He waited for a few minutes, but no guards passed by his position. He sneaked across the wall and peered around the corner, once more spying no guards nearby. Where was everyone? Had the ship already started the distraction? That was his cue then! He dashed forth and made sure to keep to the corners, just in case. He soon got to another viewpoint where the front yard was visible, there lay the Riefmore. Something else he heard was the sounds of footsteps, and of shouting. Something was going on in here. Sam made sure to stay low as he dashed through the empty hallways, keeping his eyes out for any sort of directories on where he was. It would be in some sort of room, or somewhere like an officer's quarters. He was working against the clock here.

                  The electric lamps trembled above him, after he took a corner, then he saw someone in the middle of the hallway. It all happened in the fraction of a second. The hallway was long, and the Pokemon Sam saw momentarily, a Charmeleon, was quite far from where he was. In a bizarre manner, that Charmeleon seemed to be staring at a wall, but the moment after Sam was made visible through the corner, the Charmeleon was turning his head to look at him.

                  Sam felt every muscle in his body freeze. He had been in this situation before countless times. It was more of a coin flip, but he if he remained still enough, and he was in the right position with the shadows, then he found that by not moving his body would naturally blend into the shadows. The only problem here was that there were lamps up above and his movements had already been detected. His hand already reached down toward a pouch, fingers moving just slightly as they clutched onto a kunai. All he had to do was throw it.

                  Now that the Charmeleon had fully turned his head, Sam could see some peculiar markings on the left, previously hidden side of his face. Dark, tribal tattoos with purple stripes rippling through them were drawn elaborately on half of his head, down his neck and on his arm. He was looking at Sam's direction, but Sam couldn't tell if he had been found out. The distance between them was great.

                  Then, the Charmeleon walked straight into the wall. The cold brick swallowed him up and he vanished.

                  Sam blinked in surprise, starting forward a bit, then quickly rushing to where the Charmeleon had been standing earlier. There HAD to be some sort of hidden entrance here. On top of that, it meant that he wasn't alone here. Those sounds he heard earlier had to have been the guards. Were prisoners kept here and had there been some sort of prison break? Or had some tribal mon managed to attack here? He couldn't focus on following this Charmeleon, so the Furret turned his attention to rushing down the hall again. He had to keep his eyes peeled for guards, but also tribals too. With the commotion going on it meant it would be even easier to get into some private quarters, and he had a feeling he was getting there soon. He was deep in the castle now, so there had to be something juicy around here!

                  Eventually he found his way near some room, with signs nearby on them. One such room labeled was a document room. Bingo! He pushed his way in, smirking at the deserted area and rubbed his paws evilly together. He made his way around the room, opening a few drawers to peer inside. Most had schedules and other unimportant papers hidden inside, but none of it was what he needed. He didn't CARE if taco Tuesday WAS this Tuesday! He needed a bloody map!

                  Just as he turned, he saw the Charmeleon sitting with his back against a wall. The warmth had been sucked out of the room with his presence. He had appeared with no sound. "Don't be alarmed," he said with an amiable tone, raising his hands. That Charmeleon, despite his gruesome body tattoo, seemed not to be vicious; he looked old, past fifty, but his body was all tight muscle, like he was working out every day for several hours. He did not mind seeing Sam there. "I'm trespassing here too. We're on the same team."

                  Sam snorted, "I figured. No uniform or symbol." He peered into another drawer, angrily pulling out pamphlets. "Who needs so many pamphlets?" He hissed out angrily. "Seriously? You know where a map is? They have got to have a map here, or I swear I am going to blow a gasket."

                  The Charmeleon gave him a look of amazement mixed with surprise. It took him a moment to respond, as if he was calculating. "I don't know where the map you're looking for is," he said, evidently knowing already about Apolucia's schedule. "But I can still give you one answer. I know where it isn't! I've looked for it everywhere, but in the Governor's own chambers, in which he has confined himself. You might ask why I haven't gone there already... I'll give you two answers. One, he's locked himself up in that room and doesn't want to come out. Two... since you showed up, I'm no longer after that map. It was just a distraction for me." He smiled in a friendly manner, and Sam caught his gaze examining him from head to toe. That guy wasn't mad at all!

                  Sam stared silently at the Charmeleon, this time readying the kunai he had in his bag, "Last time a mon looked at me like that things went south pretty fast." He muttered angrily, "So... given you're here and the guards are obviously preoccupied with other things, I can only assume you've been busy tying them up with distractions. I have no reason to attack you at the moment, but if you try anything I will plunge this in your neck. I'll get that bloody map then. I'll get in and out and he won't even realize it."

                  The Charmeleon just ignored the threat and gave him a nod and a smile of approval. "Best way in is through the window outside. Don't take my word for it. Good luck."

                  Sam slowly backed up out of the room, making sure to hold his weapon up before finally slamming the door and pacing down the hallway. What to do? He could call for the distraction... but if there were already guards fighting it out with others then that could cause more reinforcements to protect the governor... on the other hand, it could serve as another distraction. He had to chance it. He was already inside, so the best bet was to call on the others to do their part, and at least let them know he was in position down here. He made his way back through the halls, still seeing no guards about. He had caught sight of a tall sentry tower that likely served as a position for a mon with binoculars. He caught sight of the door and tugged at the knob... only to find it was locked. Grumbling under his breath the Furret pulled out his kunai again and pressed the tip into the lock itself, working it gently to pop the door open. He closed it right behind him and raced up the steep staircase to the top. A bit out of breath the Furret raised his tiny arms and began to flail them back and forth. They were ready to go!


                  ***


                  Captain Jon was hugging the lance-like beak of the Skarmory figurehead the Safe Journey sported on her bow as she floated gently mid-air, spyglass in hand and looking at the Castilio through it. The forest below them was pretty quiet; Jon assumed the Governor must've had all patrols withdrawn. As a safety measure, he'd stirred the ship between the two tall cedar trees that he knew were there for a long time; the landscape of Modistra's jungle was as familiar to him as the shape of his own palm.

                  Through the spyglass, he stared at the Castilio for several minutes, munching on a Nanab berry to pass the time. There were four sentry towers, all with active spotlights, only one of which had aeronauts on it; they had their spotlight focused on the Riefmore, the menacing airship that was touched down on the front yard. Jon had seen little movement. The aeronauts all seemed to be in the fort, even the sentries and patrols, except the ones on the tower.

                  Suddenly, his eye caught movement on one of the sentry towers. The Furret of his crew was blocking one of the spotlights, waving his arms and flailing his body wildly. "Muk," Jon said after he realized the Furret was there earlier and he just hadn't spotted him. He dropped the berry and got on his feet in a hurry.

                  Seconds later, he was behind the wheel and pushing the lever forward. From a low, passive rumble, the engines burst to life again and the ship rocked yet again with slight acceleration. As they got closer, Sam must've turned the spotlight of the tower the other way, so the approaching airship remained shrouded in the dark.

                  "Nick, I'm gonna bring us close to that sentry tower," Jon shouted, rolling the wheel to get the ship on the side of the fort; he didn't want it flying right above the grounded Riefmore. "You toss a hook for Samboy to climb up, yeah?"

                  Nick grabbed a long, sturdy rope from belowdeck, quickly tying a three-pronged hook to one end. With one end securely weighted, he began to spin the hook to the side, building up momentum before letting go, throwing the rope up to grapple at the ledge of the sentry tower. "All set, mate," Nick stated, loud enough for the crew to hear but quiet enough to stay hidden.

                  Jon immediately pushed the lever back to its neutral place, easing the ship into a halt next to the sentry tower. The rope extended several meters, so Jon could keep her steady above the jungle at the same level as the top of the tower, well outside the range of the fort's lights.

                  Sam made sure to shift the light away for the moment, but just a bit. He quickly scampered on the rope and onto deck, "I know where the map is." He panted out, "But look, there are some other mon here as well. Someone is attacking the fort, or attacked. No guards in the halls or anything. It looks like they are mostly trying to keep the governor safe in his chamber, if I had to guess. And that's also where the map is."

                  Jon glanced beyond the wheel at the area of the fort's roof. He'd been inside the Castilio before; he knew where Governor Edvin's chambers was. "He's in his chambers with the map?" The Monferno knew exactly what that meant, but he didn't share. There was no time. "Just wanted to keep it close, I guess. Suits me fine. We're goin' in."

                  As he'd seen previously, the Riefmore was exposed. "Frag! You in for some boom boom pew pew?"

                  The Chespin's ears, hands, feet, gun and grin perked up at the sound of the words. "Bah, about time!" he exclaimed. "Frag want to see this baby's JOKE POWER! Or like, powder. Get it, because similar? CHAAAARGE!" he screamed, posing dramatically while pointing his finger at the castle below them, despite the fact he had absolutely no control over the ship's direction anyway.

                  The Monferno grabbed his belly with one hand and cackled coarsely. "You know Riefmore Frag? Yeah, that ANF aircraft over there! We need to put a dent in that thing before it puts a dent in us!"

                  "You got it, captain! Frag make bastards pay for flying in skies of the captain monkey!" he growled, punching into his fist aggressively.
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                  Old January 31st, 2017 (4:47 AM). Edited February 4th, 2017 by Foxrally.
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                  Man Overboard

                  Jon let the airship build some speed, before he rolled the wheel so the vessel's starboard aligned with the wall of the fort and pulled the lever back like a handbrake so they came into a complete halt right outside the Governor's window. "Where's our navigator?!" Jon shouted, not caring for subtlety anymore. "Let someone else take the wheel!"

                  White light shone on the Monferno's tightened fist as he jumped on the railing. "Let's go, boys! Everything we grab is ours!" He roared, and his Power-Up Punch knocked the window off its hinges. The blow was so strong that part of the wall collapsed as well, raising a small cloud of dust.The sound of cannonfire echoed from behind him as the rest of wall was blasted to pieces by Frag's rather poor aim, as the shot nearly hit the fire-type.

                  Frag let out a deranged giggle as he loaded another shot into one of the ship's two cannons, pointing it towards the castle before quickly remembering the task Jon had set for him. "Oh, right right, riffraffmore, right. Frag got job to do!" he announced to nobody in particular. He grabbed the cannon he had armed by its rope, and pulled it over to where the second one was, directly facing the grand airship the marines had come in with - The Riefmore. Hah. Stupid name. Frag thought as he loaded a cannonball into the second cannon. He had a perfect shot from here, albeit a little far, he would surely hit at least an engine or other important part of the ship, just like Jon had instructed.

                  "FIRE!" he screamed, pointing at the ship before coming to the realization that there were literally only two guns on the ship. He let out a disappointed sigh, and with a sharp tug of both ropes the two cannons fired. He watched as the shots fell pitifully short of the Riefmore, landing in the rocks in front of it without even making much of an impact. Frag growled, "Bghrrah! Stupid old weapons! Why they make them so... so... bad?!" The shot hadn't even attracted any attention from the guards at the Riefmore, the latters probably thinking it was aimed at the castle.

                  With shot like this, even Frag would make better ammo than this muk. the Chespin thought to himself in annoyance as he reluctantly began to reload the cannons. "Wait..." His eyes grew wide and his grin grew wider as the seed bomb-shaped gears in his head began turning. Immediately dropping the cannonball he was holding, he rushed up to the storage of the ship to grab all the gunpowder he could. Hearing the commotion as Frag scrambled up from the gundeck, Cook poked around the doorframe of the kitchen to see what the cause was. In his right hand he held a saucepan containing a stick of bread that was decidedly aflame. Spotting the Chespin, the Hydreigon's curious expression split into a grin.

                  "Ahoy, shipmate!" The dragon exclaimed. "Is something the matter?"

                  Frag stopped in his tracks, suddenly noticing the ship's cook and realizing he had gone to the kitchen. He'd seen the Hydregion float around, but was too busy ogling his beloved cannon on the way he hadn't thought of stiking up conversation yet. Either way, it was perfect timing from the dragon - he needed help. "Ah, flying hat man! ...or mans. Frag not sure who head is and- bah, anyway! Yes, something is very matter! Frag looking for aaaaallll gunpowder on this ship. Can you help find?"

                  "Oh, certainly, my dear boy! One moment - I'll return to cooking this later," The Hydreigon turned and plonked the saucepan down on the counter, the bread inside collapsing under the force and crumbling to ash immediately. Cook paid it little mind. "I would expect there to be gunpowder on the gundeck, but barring that there should be some in the Storage Room. I'd be glad to help you search there - two pairs of eyes are better than one, after all. And four pairs even better than two! Ha hah! Ah, but I get ahead of myself - it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, friend! Frag, was it? Absolutely charming name! The name's Cook, my good lad. I cook! And with all this talk of gunpowder, I must discern that you are the gunner, yes? A fine profession!"

                  "Good, good, cooker man!" Frag beamed before suddenly stopping. "And thank you. People like Frag in field of boomonomics is very, ah, under-appreciate." he added melancholically. "You was in ship before Frag yes? Show where gunpowder is, show!"

                  "Ah, yes, of course - time is of the essence, and all that," said Cook, floating past out of the kitchen and towards the storage room. "The search should be fairly painless. Of all things, gunpowder seems a substance that should be made easily identifiable."

                  Frag followed close behind, smelling the air. It's true, he could usually smell gunpowder from a mile away, what was...? "Uh, Cook man, you keep gunpowder in kitchen? Is not spice you know."

                  "In the kitchen? No," the dragon chuckled. "If that were the case then we needn't venture out to retrieve some - though I suppose it's possible that the things produced there may provide an explosion of flavour..."

                  It took Frag a good few seconds to understand what cook had just said; as much as he enjoyed a good.... well, whatever cook was making, his past experience with ingesting explosives hadn't exactly ended up great. He shrugged off the thought however, knowing the professional clearly knew what he was doing. As they entered the storage room, they found it filled with commodities and miscellaneous crates, probably meant to be traded by the former occupants. In the corner were three large barrels marked 'GUNPOWDER', which looked like they'd never been moved for years.

                  "Excelsior!" Cook exclaimed, turning to the Chespin as he approached the barrels. "Success - how many of these do you need, my boy?"

                  "All many." Frag smirked, rubbing his hands. He ran over to the first barrel and cracked his knuckles. The Chespin wrapped his stubby arms around the wood, grunting and wheezing as he tried to lift it off the ground ever so slightly. After a few seconds he let it drop, panting. "Ok, ok.... maybe.... -huff- only one many..."

                  "Well, I can probably carry a few," the Hydreigon offered, levitating down and grasping three between his arms with a grunt. "Er... to the gundeck, yes?"

                  "And beyond!" Frag chimed. "And yes, to gun deck also. Close enough." The dragon-squirrel duo soon emerged from belowdecks, and Frag waved Cook over to where the cannons were. "Ok so, on count of, uh, number you like, you breathe the fire into barrel. And then, Frag go aaaaaaallllll-" he made a sweeping arc motion from the Safe Journey to the Riefmore, "-the way there. Need to put powder in cannon though. Extra can just be on ground, is ok. Best plan, da?"

                  "Er, a fantastic plan, yes," Cook huffed, carefully placing the barrels down on the floor. "Perhaps a minor adjustment to consider - typically, cannons on deck are armed with large metal balls rather than, er... members of the crew."

                  "And?" Frag asked, grunting as he attempted to tip the barrel over, but to no avail.

                  "Well, large metal balls aren't nearly as valuable as friends! That, and they likely cause slightly more damage on impact with a ship, my boy. I've not personally experienced being fired out of a cannon, but I don't imagine it being the most pleasant of experiences..." the Hydreigon chuckled, reaching one hand out to wrench open the top of a barrel and offering the other down to Frag.

                  "Bah, don't worry, Frag done it before! ...probably. Memory get fuzzy when drunk." Frag reassured, climbing up Cook's arm. Once he reached the height of the barrel, he reached behind him into his backpack. After a few seconds of rummaging, he pulled out a large, horn-shaped funnel, and filled it with the black powder. "Besides, Frag bulletproof, yeah? Is family trait. Best thing Frag has after sexyness." the Chespin noted. "Come, come, help fill cannon! You put powder also! You will see- it will be best. Joke."

                  "Bulletproof?" Cook raised one eyebrow, pondering the claim as he picked up the open barrel. "I suppose that makes sense - rings a bell, at any rate. If you are absolutely sure, I will assist you with your, erm... unique plan-" just in front of one of the cannons, Francis (Cook's left hand) let out what sounded like a squawk and Cook lost his grip on the barrel he was holding. Gunpowder splashed out of the container and spilled all around and on top of the cannon in front of it, leaving the whole area covered in explosive powder. "Oh, drat," the dragon cursed, levitating over to pick up the barrel and stop the last of the spillage. "My apologies, my boy. Let us use a different cannon..."

                  "Nononono, it's PERFECT!" Frag exclaimed, hopping off the dragon and landing with a slight poof onto the mound of black powder. Dumping the contents of his horn onto the rest of the pile, he made his way over to the cannon and squeezed himself into the barrel. "Ok, Cooker friend! Frag ready!" he said, flashing the dragon a thumbs-up.

                  "A-are you absolutely sure?" the Hydreigon asked Frag, still hesitant. "Oh, this can't be good for the woodwork..."

                  "YATTA!!" the Chespin screamed maniacally, slamming the sides of the cannon impatiently.

                  "Well, er... o-okay then," Cook relented, small amounts of Dragonbreath beginning to lick at the outside of Xavier's mouth. "Best of luck to you, Frag. Do stay safe, my boy."

                  And with that, the dragon held a puff of purple flame to the cannon's wick - just barely rising above the mound of flammable powder - and floated off in a hurry to evade the imminent explosion.


                  ***


                  The Monferno had leaped nimbly from the railing into the open room, which was rivaling his captain's quarters in expenses. A dozen things worth stealing were immediately apparent: super-expensive carpets and furniture fashioned with platinum lining, cushions and blankets sewn with goldthread, golden awards on the walls and lots of cabinets that looked stuffed with jewelry. And of course, Governor Edvin on top of it all: a Lickilicky almost as tall as the ceiling, sitting on the chair of a low coffee table, horrified at what came through his window.

                  "Hello," Jon said cheerfully, walking around the rubble.

                  "Duncan?! Oh, thank Arceus, Rochetto sent you? Those fiends outside my door demand I go out--" Before he could finish, Nick dropped into the room as well. Edvin's eyes fell upon the others. "Who are you?!"

                  "The gold fairies," Nick said sarcastically. "We come in at night, take your gold, and give you somethin' in return."

                  The governor had gotten up from his chair. He was livid, but it was hard to take him seriously with his fleshy cheeks pushing into his mouth. "And what would that something be?"

                  "My fist, if you don't shut up and sit down right now," Nick threatened, holding up his fist and seemingly charging it with power. "So pipe down, tubby."

                  The Lickilicky turned to Jon, but the Monferno was the one to speak first. "We heard you're resisting arrest." Jon grimaced, shaking his head. "Stalling for time, I know. Looks like there's no slimin' your way outta this one without Adrian around, and you're psyducked for life no matter what, so let's reach an understanding. You let us take everything you own, including Apolucia's schedule, and we'll let you live." The captain nodded towards Sam and Nick. It was time to start looting. "Might even let you escape, out of courtesy for the service you've done Adrian."

                  "You're lucky Jon here's nicer than I am," Nick added. "I'd have just fed you to the marines."

                  Sam snorted, "No wonder it was so easy to get in. Former marines it looks like." He made his way to a drawer, already looting about, "Whatever, as long as you're not with the law, I suppose. If he moves I can slice him, right?"

                  "Put him to the psyducking ground if he moves," Jon said, grabbing the velvet curtain and tearing it right off, to throw it back on the deck of the ship. Next, he grabbed the awards. All that gold seemed enticing to touch.

                  "Not my precious trophies!" the Lickilicky begged.

                  "Shut your gob!" the Monferno shouted. "When I said everything, I meant everything!" As he spoke, Nick opened a cabinet on the wall, loaded to the brim with valuables.

                  Rapid pounding came on the door. "Governor Edvin!" A voice was heard calling imperatively behind it. "We waited long enough with this farce! We have proof now that you're conspiring with pirates! Open this door, in the name of the Thousand Arms, or I'll break it down!"

                  Jon's glance flew around the chamber quickly. They hadn't loaded nearly enough stuff to make a solid profit, let alone find what they came for in the first place: the map! "Where's the map?" he demanded of the Lickilicky as Nick was pulling the cabinet on board the Safe Journey.

                  "Here is your map," the Governor said, producing a crumpled, old-looking piece of paper from beneath the tablecloth... then tossing it in his mouth.

                  "Holy psyducking muk," Jon erupted angrily, lounging at the man and grabbing him by the throat. He punched his gut twice, forcing the air out of him, but it was too late. The Lickilicky had swallowed. The uppercut the Monferno threw next was for vengeance; it shot the Lickilicky off the ground, he smashed his head against the ceiling, then fell down heavily.

                  "Sorry," the Governor said, dazed and barely conscious, "I'll make you a new one once we get out of here!"

                  A loud crash followed, and a huge dent was put into the steel door that protected the chamber of the Governor. A bulky Pokemon wanted to get in.

                  Sam had been busy putting a few gems in his bag as he snapped his head to the door. He undid his belt and pulled out one Kurin, tossing the bag to Nick, "Get it on board. I'll handle it. Get it ready and I'll follow."

                  "You just dug your own grave, beefy," Jon said behind his teeth as he pushed the Lickilicky up to his feet. "Nick! You keep loading muk, Samboy and I'll take care of the incomin' badges!"

                  "You sure we got time for that?" Nick asked.

                  "We'll make time," Jon said decisively, cracking his knuckles and slipping into a battle stance.

                  That moment, a metallic screech filled the chamber and the door was blown off.

                  A Blastoise had bashed his way into the room, standing as tall as the Lickilicky had before. He wore a white ANF hat and a sash with their symbol, the winged anchor, around his arm. A black cigar was smoking all over his face, held to the side of his face by deeply yellow teeth. There was something cold about his gaze that made Jon instantly wary; he looked to be a very strong opponent, perhaps some of the strongest he had faced yet. Captain Adrian used to talk about Basil with resentment; he was one of the hard-ass marines that ran Fort Luc, the easternmost genuine marine fort still standing. The Air Marshals of Fort Luc had been a thorn to the pirates' back for decades now, as they were occasionally running rags like the one Basil had pulled, luring pirates out of their home and re-capturing the place overnight. It wasn't that, though, that made Basil earn Adrian's contempt, it was Basil's absolute nature, a true practitioner of the marine's doctrine of Absolute Justice. Basil was someone who would see a thousand civilians killed if one dangerous pirate died with them, and that, Adrian could not forgive.

                  "Air Marshal Basil, sir!" A Tangela came running next to him, then he saw the Lickilicky jumping on the ship. "He's escaping!"

                  "Hmprh," the Blastoise let out. "I know, swab. I have eyes too. So you're Adrian's boy?" Basil asked, rather indifferently. The light coming from his blade forced shadows to dance on his face.

                  "That I am," Jon said as he was tightening the blue band around his arm, readying for a fight. "And since he's away, that gives me license to smash your head so far into your shell that it comes out on the other end!"

                  "Arh, tough talk. You're just a rookie," the Blastoise grinned. "Rookies drop dead quickly."


                  ***


                  A few seconds of flying (or rather, not-so-graceful falling) later, the explosive Chespin landed unceremoniously into a barrel of gunpowder near the Riefmore's back end. The impact resonated around the airship as if another shot had been fired from the SJ's cannons, and hit its mark.

                  "Muk! How'd one of their shots get through?" Frag heard distant, slightly muffled voices call out to each other as he popped his head out of the stash of powder, coughing loudly. He could hear footsteps coming closer, and the ship was well-lit enough for him to know it was at least two Pokemon. For a brief moment, he considered jumping off, or hiding. Wait, no. Not-hiding is entire reason Frag is on ship! Stupid! He gave himself a mental smack to the face. He waited a few more seconds for the guards to get closer - he knew it was two of them by now - one of them had scuttle-like footsteps while the other seemed to have normal legs.

                  "Wh-whass'all tha' abou', then?" the first, an Ursaring, growled. "Did the wind break a barrel or somethin'?"

                  As soon as he judged that they were close enough, Frag rose dramatically from the pile of gunpowder and debris, gun drawn and seed bombs loaded. "SURPRISE INSPECTION, FNA PEOPLE!" he screamed maniacally, firing a bomb at the first moving guard he saw. Unfortunately, it was the shorter of the two- a Corphish. The water-type was blasted backwards as the bomb exploded in front of its face, with its partner barely avoiding the explosive himself.

                  "Rrrah! Intruder! How'd he even get on board?!" the Ursaring cursed. The bear Pokemon growled and charged at Frag, his fist glowing white, ready to strike with a hammer arm. The Chespin ducked under the punch, using its momentum to grab the bear by the arm and fling him past his target, landing with a crash into the barrels behind him. "Why you..." the bear grunted and began standing up.

                  Frag cackled as he stepped backwards. "You fail exam, big boy!" he piped, before throwing a lit fused-seedbomb onto the pile of explosive powder. The Ursaring barely had time to open his mouth before the powder around him exploded violently, sending both him and the slightly unhinged gunner flying and leaving a gaping hole in the deck. Frag giggled and coughed simultaneously and he stood up, slapping his knee. "Best -cough- joke, best joke!"

                  But the noise drew attention, and out of the hatch came a dozen 'mon, all with the symbol of the ANF, the winged anchor, somewhere on their person. An Electrike stopped by the Ursaring who had fallen on his back next to the mast, barely conscious. The Ursaring pointed at Frag. "Crazy..." Then he fainted, his hand falling heavy on the deck.

                  "After him!" The Electrike growled, and the new batch of marines divided into two teams, with one of them to confront the Chespin directly. The other was rushing behind him. "You're surrounded, scallywag!"

                  "Bwah! You think Frag stuck with you?" Frag cackled, reaching behind him. "No, is you who is-" he stopped mid-sentence, his smile fading. After a second of more patting around, he slowly retracted his hand, laughing nervously. "-muk." He hadn't reloaded his bullet seed canister since their tussle in Modistra. He readied his gun, looking around in panic for an opening which he could blast through to get a vantage point.

                  Just then, another 'mon ascended from the hatch: the Charmeleon with the gruesome tattoos. They glowed purple, even in the night. His hands were held together by cuffs. Once he saw him, the Electrike marine starting growling. "How did he break free?!"

                  "You left me alone down there," the old Charmeleon said with an apologetic smile. "You shouldn't have." Then, with one wide motion of his arms, he broke the heavy cuffs on his wrists like they were made of play dough. They fell on the deck with a shrill metallic sound, and the marines let out frightened cries.

                  The Charmeleon's eyes fell upon Frag. "So you're the one who's causing all this trouble. Impressive!"

                  "Heh, Frag maybe bring too much trouble." the Chespin replied, rubbing the back of his head. Noticing how the rest of the marines were cowering to the fire-type, he grinned maliciously. "What? You NFA babies too afraid to fight when is fair now?" he taunted at them.

                  The Electrike's team turned to face the Charmeleon, who was readying for a fight, doing circular motions with his arms, as if to stretch them. "Get him!" the marines shouted, and before hesitating for a few seconds, their melee fighters charged in all at once. "Criminal! Pirate!"

                  "A fight it is... oh, you won't like where this is going," the Charmeleon said, having finished stretching his arms.

                  His tattoos bled with what seemed like dark energy, trickling down into the tightened fist of that arm. When he threw that punch in the air, it was like a wave of shadows was launched at the group of marines who flinched when it engulfed them. The stream of dark, thick fog in the form of a giant fist was so large that it took up almost half of the length of the deck. It flew right through its targets and the Electrike, finally falling upon the door under the bridge, the one that led to the navigation room, smashing it to bits. Wood flew everywhere, and the shrieks and cries of those tore the night sky.

                  All 'mon in front of the Charmeleon had been floored with a single hit. It wasn't anything a regular Charmeleon could do, certainly. From a first glance, one could say he possessed one of those rare artifacts that granted him a move that a Pokemon of his species couldn't under ordinary circumstances ever learn, but he didn't seem to be carrying any item of the sort. His only distinguishing feature was the tattoos.

                  When he was done with the first group of marines, the Charmeleon made a leaping motion, as effortless as if he was flying, and landed on the railing of the airship's bridge, just to get a better angle on the group that was going after Frag. They looked about to attack the Chespin; the Charmeleon struck first. A giant, shadowy blob was shot at the group from his arm, crashing on their feet much like an explosion and launching them screaming into the air, bits of that shadowy energy clinging onto their bodies like embers. The part of the deck that received the attack caved in and collapsed, the wood consumed by violet-colored energy.

                  Frag stared at the fire-type in shock and awe. Half of his mind was telling him to get as far away from this individual as possible, while the other, much more Frag-like half wanted him to run up to the Charmeleon and egg him on. "Holy muk, fire man! You is got to teach Frag that trick!" the Chespin called out from below.

                  The Charmeleon slightly twisted his mouth, giving Frag a strange smile. "That would take a few hundred years..." He looked up from the Chespin, as something had garnered his attention.

                  A third group of marines, bigger than the first two combined, was running towards the Riefmore from the fort. Those marines looked to be the rest of the ship's crew. The Charmeleon, without looking at Frag, commented, "It looks like there will be more. You can run if you want to."

                  "Pfsh. Frag run from this bunch of loser people?"" the Chespin asked mockingly. "They will run from Frag!" As he spoke, he reached up his shoulders, where his backpack was connected, and grabbed two little straps which were attached on either side. Pulling down firmly, the two spikes on his bag - which had appeared decorative at first - shot off like rockets, leaving a trail of spiralling smoke behind them. Frag looked up the spikes flew up into the night sky and out of view. "Wait for it..." he said, raising his hand. "Three.... two.... one... aaand...."

                  Nothing happened. The marines were getting closer and- "BOOOM!" Frag yelled out as the Pin Missiles landed right on top of the guards, sending bits of rock flying in all directions. Frag let out a maniacal laugh, falling backwards as he clutched his stomach. "BAHAHAHA! Frag got them good!" he cackled.

                  The Charmeleon seemed amused to see the marines get pinned on the ground. However, most of them hadn't died.

                  The airship suddenly shook. Those on the deck heard the engines boom into life. The motion was instant: the singular zeppelin-like blimp above their heads rose upwards, tightening the chains around the main body of the aircraft. In a violent tremor, the deck was forced into the air. The vessel was gaining height so rapidly that the deck became a very steep incline. The Charmeleon seemed unnaffected by it or the sudden quaking, keeping perfectly on his feet; he looked towards the navigation room. "Someone's in there," he said with his usual manner, like nothing important was transpiring. "Grab onto something, and try not to fall off."

                  Unfortunately for Frag, the Chespin was still busy stifling his laughter and wiping away his tears and lost his footing, sending him tumbling down the steep deck before landing into one of the marines they'd knocked out earlier. Again with an impossible leap, the Charmeleon flew right in front of the doorstep of the navigation room.

                  "Stay away or I'll shoot!" the marine inside the navigation room screamed. The Charmeleon ignored him and entered; after four gunshots, a scream was silenced, and the airship began to rapidly lose height; it was headed straight for the fort.


                  ***


                  Air Marshal Basil and Jon both reached for their Steam Blade hilts at the same time. Once they were activated, it was like a heat wave struck the room, as the Fire Stones on each of the hilts shone and magma spilled forth from them, forming an ethereal, elemental blade.

                  "Give it up, pirate! We outnumber you! You will be crushed!" Lieutenant Harvey, the Tangela, cried out.

                  Jon ignored the Tangela and rushed in with a sideways lash, forcing a parry from the marine's sword of magma. Fire burst momentarily from the clash of the blades. The Monferno went for a second and a third strike, his intention to make the Blastoise back off into the doorway, blocking it entirely. No more marines could come into the chamber that way.

                  "AROOOO!" Basil roared, bringing down his sword in a vicious blow that tore the ground apart, flaming rocks shooting in every direction.

                  Jon swirled and swung his Steam Blade once more, and the Blastoise parried. His defense seemed impenetrable.

                  A distant explosion could be heard, outside, on the fort's yards. One of the marines in the hallway behind Basil shouted, "Air Marshal, sir, there's trouble with the Riefmore!"

                  "Arh! Then deal with it, swabs! Go, all of you! I don't need you here!"

                  "Yes, sir!"

                  Jon heard all of the marines leave. "Looks like my mate out there's gonna do ya ship a good one," he said smugly.

                  The Blastoise gritted his teeth, chewing on his cigar. "Tsk. You're gonna regret this, rookie." His new blow was a hard one to counter; Jon felt a jolt go through his blade's hilt and into his wrists. The next blow made a similar effect. The Air Marshal was using his superior weight behind each attack, and Jon found himself on the defensive. His foe wasn't as skilled with the Steam Blade as his former teacher, Master Iketani, but he seemed to be using his physical strength to pack his blows with a shattering power, power which Jon managed to match.

                  Meanwhile, Sam took up Jon's slack and rushed at the green beast, kunai in hand. He sliced at a tentacle, "I've been meaning for some salad lately. I think you'll do."

                  The Tangela screeched as what remained of a tentacle of his was thrown on the wall, where it stuck. A Growth forcibly made him appear bigger, and he responded with a Hidden Power: grey-colored orbs flew around him at first, then were shot at the Furret.

                  Sam quickly ducked down low, the orb managing to scrape along his back as it slammed into the wall, "Hey, dinner is supposed to be nice and complacent!" He snapped out. He placed the handle of his kunai in his mouth and quickly dived under a desk, "Sheesh! Bad manners all around!"

                  Floating rocks were conjured around the Tangela in an Ancient Power technique; he lashed out a vine, sending them to strike at the desk, burying it. "I know Ancient Power!" Lieutenant Harvey childishly proclaimed. "If I defeat you, I know I will evolve. And then you won't be able to call me a salad anymore!"

                  Sam, using his small size to his advantage, managed to quickly scurry to a new hiding place, "You still will be!" He called out. "Just saying!" He formed a fist with one paw and shot out a Sucker Punch at the overgrown celery. The blow struck right into the Tangela's face, launching him right into the wall. He moaned, trying to get up.

                  "Stop... calling... me... a salad!" he shouted, sending a vine in a sideways motion to lash at the Furret.

                  Sam grunted as the vine slammed into him and sent him slamming into a bookcase. "Well... it's true." He grunted out. "You like croutons, right?" He rubbed at his ribs, "I like croutons, especially with a salad. Like you."

                  Nick saw both Jon and Sam beginning to fight. He had half a mind to join them, but he had a hostage to secure, and they both seemed to have things under control for the time being. "Come on, fatso," he ordered, jabbing a fit into the Lickilicki's back. "Try not to bust a hole in the deck with your weight."

                  With every parry between Captain Jon and Air Marshal Basil, their blades of magma ground on each other, producing embers that flew in the room. The Blastoise raised his sword high, and Jon was prepared to dodge it this time, but instead, his foe blasted him with a Hydro Pump from his cannons. The Monferno heard the water buzz right past his ear, barely dodging it. He shot an attack of his own, a Mach Punch, which struck the Air Marshal on his exposed stomach, before he leaped back to avoid the next stream of water, but it was impossible from so close a range.

                  The Hydro Pump struck the Monferno on his chest and shot him across the room and through the wall. Jon, floored on the deck of his ship, blinked a few times, trying to comprehend what had just happened, his Steam Blade burning through the wood next to him. He felt like he was soaked to the bone, and his breath had gone out. His eyes went immediately to the hole on the wall, where the Governor's window used to be. The Blastoise had recovered from the Mach Punch and was advancing with determination, the cigar still puffing on his mouth despite everything going on. "Psyduck," Jon coughed, grabbing his Steam Blade as he shakily got up. He was not about to let that marine get on his ship.

                  "Edvin, you filthy bilgerat," the Air Marshal shouted as he approached, "I hate cowards more than I hate pirates. I'll see you in prison, you've my word on that!"

                  "Tosh," Jon shouted back, raising his Steam Blade, "You ain't ever gonna see him again 'long as I've a say in it." He was careful in his wording deliberately, because as soon as he had gotten hold of that map, he was planning to maroon the treacherous governor on a nameless rock somewhere in the open sea.

                  Just when the two swordsmen prepared to clash again, the ceiling of the governor's room exploded into dust and rubble. "What the hell," Jon shouted, looking up.

                  The Riefmore had crushed right through the roof right into the governor's room, right on top of the Blastoise.

                  Captain Jon couldn't see what became of Air Marshal Basil, but now was the time to call it a day and disappear for good. He wasn't sure what had happened with Frag on the Riefmore, but with the marine aircraft so close to them, they were in danger of being annihilated by its cannons - aircraft commanded by Air Marshals were known for their extremely destructive weaponry.

                  Jon deactivated his Steam Blade by pulling out the Fire Stone and ran to the wheel. The air was filled with dust, smoke and cries from the Riefmore; Jon thought he saw the Chespin jump back on board. "We're outta here," Jon announced, pulling the lever up, as far as it would go, and the engines boomed. The chains and wires strained as the two blimps shot upwards, pulling the ship with them into the night sky. And with a push of the lever forward, Safe Journey launched ahead. Jon had no time to glimpse back to see what was happening to the Riefmore, but it didn't seem to be in the air at all.

                  The things they'd grabbed from the governor's room fell over after the sudden acceleration. When the airship gained sufficient altitude, Jon spun the wheel, setting course for the south.
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                  Old February 6th, 2017 (2:24 PM). Edited February 7th, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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                  Evening Star


                  They were well out at sea now, flying low as the weather was smooth and the waters calm. Last time Jon had checked the clock on his quarters, it was around nine in the evening. No one seemed to be in pursuit, or if they were, they hadn't seen them yet. All the lights had been turned on again, and all the loot they'd stolen in their first raid had been piled into a small mountain on the deck, before the main mast; Governor Edvin, their big prize, as he had Apolucia's schedule in his head, was well tied up and chained belowdecks.

                  He didn't know if it was because of skill or dumb luck that they managed to get away, too - the Air Marshal had the upper hand in their face off the whole time. Jon wouldn't let those details bother him. He was in a festive mood. "Every hand on deck!" he shouted, shaking the bell that hung from the main mast. "C'mon, everyone! Take a gander at our spoils." There was a considerable amount of gold and silver to be found on the lining of furniture, the trophies and the jewels found inside the drawers. Jon thought his sister would get so excited she'd faint if she saw the things they'd managed to grab on their first day.

                  Frag's eyes sparkled with greed as he saw the pile of riches they'd amassed in the attack. "Hohoho, this loot even sexier than Frag!" he said, grinning.

                  "A hefty prize," the Monferno bragged with one of his great smiles, once everyone was present. "So," he shouted, "I thought we oughta formally celebrate, and take the chance to introduce ourselves to each other. Only proper that we know who we're sailin' with." Hands inside the pockets of his jacket, he slammed one foot on a cabinet that had fallen over in front of him. It was the cabinet with the most valuable jewelry in it. "I am Jonathan Sawyer. Also known as Furious Jonathan, rightly so. My aim is to become a better man. Oh, just joshing y'all. I'm already at my best! Hah! My true aim is to make a fortune so vast that it puts Trade Princes to shame, and have fun doing it. And if I have to snap some of the heads of the corruption I see in our world on my way there, then so be it." There was also the thought of going to the Frozen Breach, to find his father, but that was a business best left to be discussed later...

                  Nick simply crossed his arms, only halfway paying attention to what was being said as he scanned over their loot. This'll do... this'll be just peachy, he thought to himself. If they could make loot like this every raid, well... maybe this pirating thing would be worth it. He grumbled at the notion of introducing himself, idly turning up with his species' signature, disinterested glare. "Nick," he said curtly. "Here to make money, and that's pretty much it."

                  Sam looked about and leaned back, crossing his arms as well and pulling his bandanna up a bit, "Sam, just Sam. I'm here to get coin. My services are open to you all. Though for my usual jobs I do expect a bit of coin thrown my way as a token of appreciation."

                  "Oh, that's awfully gracious of you!" Cook beamed. "What services do you provide, my good 'mon?"

                  "Killing anyone you don't like." He replied simply. "And cutting out their tongues to prove that I did kill them."

                  "Oh, dear me," the Hydreigon winced. "Nothing for me, thank you."

                  Samuel couldn't help but smirk under his bandanna at that.

                  Looking at the order in which they were sitting, it took Frag a moment to realize he was up to speak. "Oh! I am Frag! Sexy machine bean Chespin from Osenia!" he called, posing dramatically. "Frag on board because, ah... muk, why Frag on ship again?" he muttered to himself, looking down and frowning in confusion. "Oh right, cat lady. Ah, Frag here because captain monkey is! Number sixty something!" he winked at Jon. "Money also reason. But is given. Frag very purposeful guy." he noted smugly.

                  After a momentary pause, Cook cleared his throat and spoke up. "Oh, er, my turn? Aghem, salutations, everyone! My name is Cook - I will be the ship's cook. I'm here to cook! It's very nice to meet you all properly. I welcome the blossoming of beautiful friendships between us all!" The Hydreigon hesitated for a moment. "Or, perhaps, er, adequately distanced... amiable acquaintanceships, if that is more to your taste. This is Francis," the dragon held up his left hand, and then his right. "And this is Xavier. They're a little dormant for the moment, but I'm sure they're as glad to be here as I am."

                  Kayri looked at each of the hands as they were introduced and nodded as if making a note of it. For the most part she'd acted fairly disinterested in the fortune that they had in front of them. "Name's Kayri," she said, "though most people call me Gadget. I'm here 'cause I'm workin' on a personal project--somethin' nobody's ever done before. But I'm stuck." She gently ran her gloved hand over a part of the wall with an expression of keen interest. "There's so much in the world I ain't even heard of, and some of it could be the key to finishin' it. And if not," she shrugged, "I've just gotta invent somethin' new."

                  "Orurgh..." Came a noise from the stairs leading to the lower decks. Out came Allen, appearing as if he had just awoken. He clutched his head and groaned. "Must have rendered myself unconscious... what's all this, then?" He questioned, as he stumbled around the deck. The alcohol seemed to have worn off, and now Allen was dealing with the repercussions.

                  Jon raised a hand in greeting and put on a great smile. "Hey, Rags! Everybody's just speaking out their name. It's your turn now!"

                  "Oh... well," Allen mumbled as he clutched his forehead and squeezed, hoping to relieve the pressure of the pain. "Allen Canders... where am I again? Ah, right, the pirate ship... yes, yes, I recall now," He nodded his head and looked around the deck. "Yes... well, there it is. Allen, at your service," He nodded his head, before mumbling lower. "For however much longer that may be," He sighed and suddenly remembered another point. "Was anyone injured? I remember you were all doing something quite idiotic, if I recall."

                  "Hmph!" Jon let out, "Tosh! It wasn't idiotic. Look at this!" He kicked the cabinet in front of him, "It's loaded with shine!"

                  "Best to keep yourself outta harms way," Nick added derisively. "Drunk bastard puttin' you on the operatin' table might do worse than whatever injuries you get."

                  Jon reached for a bottle of the Governor's fine wine, which was stacked among the loot, and he found platinum goblets inside on of the drawers. "Of the finest wine for my crew!" With a neat trick of his fingers, the cork of the bottle was shot off. He chuckled greedily as he poured one for everybody; the governor would mourn that bottle. "I hope you all are thirsty!"

                  The Monferno raised his goblet in the air. "To prosperity! And deep pockets to fill. From this day forward, we'll be known as..." he glanced down at his left arm. The blue band Captain Adrian gave him when he was a child was tied around the muscle. Jon liked to think that that blue band symbolized the love of a family... "The Blue Band Pirates!"

                  The night sky suddenly lit up behind them. A vast source of light bathed everything in a golden light within a second. Jon, speechless, glanced towards the direction where it was coming from, and he forgot all about the fine wine in his hand. He ran to the stern of the ship, to get a better look at what was happening.

                  "Flint's beard," he shouted.

                  It was like the sun had instantly risen from the north, peeking through the clouds. The sky was illuminated in the colors of the sunset as if by a million explosions.

                  "It can't be morning already..." Sam muttered out.

                  "Whoaa!" Frag exclaimed, running over beside Jon. "Muk, is biggest boom Frag ever seen!"

                  "That would be the sun, Frag," Cook chuckled, gazing wistfully upon the sight. "A 'boom' of the perpetual kind, I suppose. Burning as brightly as it did aeons ago, sure to burn for aeons to come - and yet, a view no less captivating now than it ever was, wouldn't you agree?"

                  "That's not the sun," Jon said, "The sun just set in the west few hours ago. Whatever this is, it's coming from the north." Jon took it as a great omen for the journeys that were to come. "It's a sign from Arceus! Come on, raise your glasses! To the great Pirate Alliance! To endless riches, to fame and glory, to eternal life!" The Monferno drank all of the contents of his goblet and began laughing and cheering when he was done. The sight of the source of light strangely invigorated him. This was the beginning of something great, Jon felt. Adrian once told him how it was when he formed the Head Crushers and set out on his first journey; it was the very same thing. It was time for Jon to leave everything behind: his house in Modistra, his former job as a servant, his family... and put all of his hopes in the future of this crew.




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                    #21    
                  Old February 6th, 2017 (2:42 PM). Edited February 6th, 2017 by Turnip.
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                    Nick Goes Looking Around And Finds Cook In The Kitchen Who Could Have Guessed He'd Be In There Wow


                    The ship had begun to sail away, heading southwards for now. As the ship had already been primed beforehand, and needing no repairs or maintenance at present, Nick decided to do a little inspection of his own of the crew.

                    Maybe you're just being paranoid, Nick thought to himself. Jon picked out all these guys, and you trust Jon, don't ya?

                    Still, he had to at least gauge for himself whether they were good enough or not. Even though he trusted Jon, he wasn't too keen on trusting pirates... or at least people who joined up with pirates. Of course, he himself technically fell into that category...

                    Shaking his head, the Scrafty decided to take a peek in the kitchen. At the very least, if he was going to be flying on a ship for most of his days now, he had to make sure the food was edible, if not palatable. Inside, Nick spotted the Hydreigon with little effort - Cook was leaning over the hob, humming a tune as he bombarded a tray with several gouts of purple flame. Whatever the tray contained couldn't be seen through the raging inferno of draconic fire, but the smoke rising from it and the smell it was generating made it clear that whatever substance it might once have been had probably been simmering for a little too long.

                    Nick leaned against the wooden doorframe, tapping loudly on the wall to get the dragon's attention. "Oi, mate."

                    "Ah! Ahoy," replied the Hydreigon, blasting the poor tray with fire for another moment before, at last, relenting. He turned to the Scrafty with an excited grin. "I think it's almost done! Anyhow, to what do I owe the pleasure, young master Nick? Care for some tea?"

                    Nick idly stepped inside, glancing at the now-incinerated mass of what was once food in the pan. "I'm just doin' a little... inspection," he said with a grimace. "Think you cooked that a lil' too hard, mate."

                    "Too hard?" Cook raised one eyebrow worriedly, but as he turned to the pile of soot and prodded it gently with one of his hands he chuckled. "Ah, no, it's fine! Soft as silk!" With that problem sorted, the dragon ventured to another counter to fetch some teacups. "Say, did you want some tea? I didn't catch an answer, and I'm certainly beginning to crave a cup myself..."

                    "Er, sure, I guess," Nick said plainly. He wasn't one for tea, usually, preferring drinks with a little more kick to them. Moreover he was concerned that somehow the Hydreigon would burn the tea, as if that were even possible. At the very least he'd give it a try.

                    "Ah, splendid," the Hydreigon hummed, beginning to pour the hot beverage. "So, my boy, how has your day been?"

                    Nick shrugged. "Well, I'm doin' something I never in my lifetime thought I'd end up doing, nor did I want to do, so there's that," he said finally.

                    "Indeed, new experiences are often daunting," Cook concurred. "But then, where would we be without them? Safe to say that a cook of all people knows of the greatness that can be found trying things that you suspect won't work. I wonder who first conceived the idea of putting a leaf in hot water? Doesn't immediately strike me as a stroke of brilliance, but here we are today. Speaking of which," the dragon turned with a flourish, bringing forth two full cups of tea and escorting them to the small table in the room's centre. "Come, have a seat."

                    "Eh," Nick replied. As strange a fellow as Cook seemed, he definitely was erudite for a pirate, and polite, too. Nick glanced at the steaming tea cup in the Hydreigon's grip. "... is it safe?" he asked. He'd never had tea before.

                    "Safe?" the dragon chuckled. "I should hope so. The water came off the boil a fair while ago, so it should be down to around sipping temperature for 'mon of less heat-resistant capacity. Have you not had tea before?"

                    "Er, no, I haven't," Nick admitted, taking an inquisitive whiff of the steaming cup. It actually smelled quite nice he admitted. Certainly better than the stench of ale he'd grown so accustomed to.

                    "Ahhh, you've been missing out, Nicholas!" The Hydreigon jokingly berated him, taking a long sip of his tea and letting out a satisfied sigh. "Many say it's an acquired taste, but I've been drinking the stuff for years and I still don't really taste anything. Still, the pleasant aroma is undeniably comforting. Nothing quite like a warm cup of tea on a cold night."

                    "I see..." Nick said. Well, only one way to find out if this stuff was any good. With a bit of hesitation the Scrafty took the cup, taking a sip. He wasn't used to hot beverages before, but the taste was definitely... soothing. Ale was comforting, in a way, but not in this same manner. This was much more soothing. ".... not bad," Nick said finally, a bit surprised, taking another, larger sip. "Not bad at all, actually..."

                    "I'm glad," Cook smiled.

                    "...huh," Nick said. Cook was right, he definitely had been missing out. While he wouldn't drink tea all the time, it definitely was something he'd have to have more often. "Not at all what I expected..."

                    The dragon chuckled again, "Back to the whole 'putting a leaf in hot water' deal, no? Perhaps a sign this new experience you didn't want to do won't turn out so badly. Though, of course," he hesitated for a moment. "I never specifically asked what the subject of your new experience was - I suppose it could, for all I know, be something entirely unexpected. Wearing your pants inside-out. Consuming only liquids. Being in a kitchen? Sitting down? Er... where was I?"

                    Nick cocked an eyebrow. "Come again?" he said. "You lost me there, mate."

                    "So did I, I'm afraid," Cook admitted, clearing his throat. "Ah, well. Perhaps that's enough philosophy for me."

                    "Well, at least the tea is good," Nick admitted. "Food could use a little work, though."

                    "Ooooooh, might I be in the presence of a cunning connosieur of the culinary arts?" The Hydreigon waggled his eyebrows. "Well, I aim to please; anything you need, I will do my utmost to provide to you! As long as it is within my power and/or exists in storage somewhere, consider the effort made to grant your wish. What tips have you to share with me, young master Nicholas?"

                    Nick chuckled lightly, taking another sip of his tea. "Well, for starters, if it's black, you cooked it too much," he said with a grin.

                    The dragon chuckled hesitantly. "Er... too much?"

                    "Yeah, too much," he repeated. "I ain't lookin' to eat charcoal for dinner, mate. I wanna taste something, you know? Like this tea, this stuff is great."

                    "Aghem, er- certainly! Consider your request fulfilled; I shall keep my experimentation with charcoal restrained to my own, er, dishes!"

                    Nick seemed surprised by his attitude. For someone who had joined a pirate crew he seemed too... polite. Too refined. He thought he might actually get along with this fellow. "So tell me somethin'," he asked. "How's a guy like you end up joinin' a pirate crew, huh? You don't seem the type to me."

                    "Hm?" Cook seemed confused by the question, tilting all three heads at the Scrafty. "I thought you were there for my recruitment?"

                    "I know, but I never expected you to agree to it," Nick said. "Doesn't seem like your line of work."

                    "Cooking?"

                    "Piracy, mate," he clarified.

                    "Piracy?" Cook waved a hand dismissively. "In this climate, I'm afraid to say, a pirate is no more likely to be a bad 'mon than an apparent hero of the ANF is. Terrible amounts of corruption going around. Nasty business. I find it's a lot easier to judge 'mon as they come regardless of profession - and our captain, Jonathan... he seems like a good 'mon, and from three different angles, no less!"

                    "Corruption is right," Nick said, almost spitting at the mere thought. "I dunno. Never met a decent pirate in my life. Almost makes my skin crawl thinking about..." he began, before stopping, simply taking another sip. "Eh, nevermind."

                    "I should hope you've met a few decent pirates, seeing as you're now part of a crew of them, my boy," the Hydreigon chuckled.

                    "I need the money," Nick said, almost defensively. "Tried making a honest livin'. Since I'm here now, bet you can tell how well that turned out."

                    "Now now, Nicholas," Cook warned. "The times are harsh, and life can indeed be harsher, but you do seem awfully comfortable with Jonathan for a 'mon who simply needs the money. Why, that charming young lad seems to treat you like family, I dare say."

                    Nick shrugged again. "He kind of talked me into it," he said plainly. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see how things go, eh?"

                    "Ah, I'm sure all will be fine. Even if there are a few bumps along the road, as long as there's a cup of tea ready to help wind down afterwards, then- XAVIER!" From a puddle of tea beneath Cook's mug - which was now more than half empty - the Hydreigon's right hand stared up at the middle head blankly.

                    "Me? That was Francis," claimed the hand. "Francis did this."

                    "You are still sitting in the puddle, Xavier, and Francis is below the table. It could not be more obvious that you- FRANCIS!" Right before Cook's eyes, his left hand rose up from beneath the table and crashed into his mug of tea like an Arbok snatching a Ratatta in its jaws. The pottery shattered and crumbled in Francis' mouth, and tea splashed out from the wreckage and flowed pitifully out from the broken cup. Still chewing on shards of mug, the left hand met the disappointed stare of the Hydreigon's middle and, instead of offering some kind of feeble excuse or an attempt to deflect the blame like Xavier, simply screamed like an absolute mad'mon.

                    "Oh, for goodness' sake- both of you are on time-out for the rest of the day!" Cook announced, rising from his chair. "And no dessert!" The pained wails of the lesser two of the Hydreigon's heads were drowned out as the dragon donned his oven mitts, muffling what little noise they still made until they ceased. Cook took a deep breath and, once he was sure the hands were quiet for good, said, "Goodness, I'm ever so sorry, Nicholas. Those two can be terribly unruly."

                    Nick looked on in a mixture of confusion and amusement. "I can see that," he said, stifling a laugh. With that, he finished his tea and rose to his feet. "Er, you need some help cleanin' up?"

                    "No, no, do not trouble yourself, my friend. I'll just... eat it, or something like that..." Cook murmured.

                    "... okay, then," Nick said finally, taking his cup and stowing it away with the other dishes in the kitchen. "Then I guess this, er... inspection is done with, yeah?" He turned and began to walk out, stopping at the door frame and looking back. "Oh, and thanks for the tea. That's good stuff. Keep some a' that stocked, would ya?"

                    "Oh, certainly! It would be my pleasure, Nick - I must try not to drink it all too quickly. Have a good day, my boy."

                    "Same," Nick said. Well, at least Cook was nice. Maybe he was being paranoid. No way of knowing until he 'inspected' the rest of the crew though, and he had every intention of getting around to that eventually.
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                      #22    
                    Old February 8th, 2017 (11:13 AM).
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                    Foxrally Foxrally is online now
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                    Tensions Rise

                    Three days after the Evening Star, Jonathan was sitting on the prow, his feet hugging the lance-like beak of the Skarmory figurehead of his ship. A few feet below him was the sea, torn in waves as the Safe Journey blew past the surface in great speed. He had left the wheel to Cook, who seemed able to pilot an airship, and instructed him to fly very low, to avoid detection from marine vessels. He was free to enjoy his day, the breeze, the smell of brine... at least until captain's duty called.

                    Using the spyglass he had found in the captain's quarters, he scanned the horizon for any ships luckily (or unluckily) passing by. They were flying in a high traffic area; during this season, Skyways from the east to the west appeared directly above them, and merchants and transportation ships took advantage of them to head west... and usually became prey for pirates. But he wasn't keen on running onto any trouble right now, even if it would be just him that was causing it. His first priority was getting to the coordinates Pan had given him. From the maps he had looked at in the captain's quarters, those coordinates were leading them to the southernmost point of Carajol... in the middle of blue. There was nothing there. But Jon wasn't afraid. Because southern Carajol was very sparsely populated, with small islands that were far between each other, and no great natural resources on them, cartographers hadn't yet been interested or attentive when mapping it - there were numerous uncharted islands and cays, where civilization had not reached yet. Jon theorized that the coordinates led to such an island, which would be more than ideal for their hideout.

                    The seas around them were empty. They had seen the lights of something yesterday night, but now it was all quiet.

                    Jon heard light footsteps behind him and turned to see Frag approach. The Chespin had a small, mallet-shaped bottle in his hand. "Hey hey, captain monkey man!" he called, leaning forward on the railing near the prow. "Pretty skies, yes? What is you looking for?"

                    "Oy!" Jon said excitedly, glancing at his mate. "Looking for any ships. Trying to stay out of their way."

                    "Hah!" Frag chuckled. "Yeah, so.... about that." he began hesitantly. "Captain monkey ship nice and cozy, yes, but is there chance we get to land sooner than later? Frag need dose of solid ground. And also, you know, paymenting." he added casually. "Want some? Is cider. Cooker man found in kitchen."

                    "You offering me a drink?" Jon said, "Hell yeah I want a drink!" He jumped back on the deck, grabbed the bottle out of the Chespin's hand, took a few great gulps. The cider left a warm feel in his throat, just how a fire-type like him liked it; and it tasted of apple, one of Jon's favorites!

                    Handing back the bottle and casting his gaze upon the sea, he said, "How long it's been since we left Modistra? Three days? 'Fraid we've more than that ahead of us till we reach our destination." He looked at the Chespin, suddenly suspicious. "What'd you mean "paymenting"?"

                    Frag took a swig from the bottle and wiped his mouth after letting out a loud burp. "You know, salary, money, compensating, yadda yadda. Frag wanted to ask, so not forget later, yes?" His tone was nonchalant, but Jon could tell it had a hint of antsy behind it.

                    "Salaries?" Jon smiled at the notion, shaking his hands, "No, no, we're not doing salaries. We divide our loot."

                    The Chespin laughed hesitantly, unsure whether Jon was joking or not. "Heheh, yes, yes. But for serious though, no more joking." the amused expression faded from his face. "Exploding ship was fun and everything, but Frag not come here for free. Got service fee, outside of loot. You number sixty four, should know that."

                    "Woah, partner," the Monferno said, frowning as he realized Frag meant what he was saying. "For real, we don't do salaries. Everybody just gets a share of the loot. That's how it's always been."

                    "Bullmuk, not for Frag. Is how we do it in Osenia. Frag not care what pirate people do in Crapajol. You got problem?" he growled, stepping up to the Monferno and looking him in the eye defiantly.

                    The Monferno in turn threw him an furious look. "Yeah we got problem," he shouted, "I ain't giving nobody a damn salary! You'll get paid in loot like everyone else!"

                    "Oh yeah?" Frag shouted back, emptying his bottle before smashing on the ground. "Frag make you learn Osenian rule, one way or other." He gave Jon a powerful shove, stumbling forward a little in his drunken state. "Fight me, rattata!"

                    Jon staggered backwards and fell into a set of barrels, nearly knocking them over. "Oh you wanna fight?!" Jon shouted, jumping up, seemingly unharmed, and raising his fists. The Mach Punch he threw was aimed at the Chespin's jaw. Frag barely had any time to react to the blow, which hit much harder than he had expected. The drunk, diminutive grass-type was thrown backwards by the punch, landing painfully on his back a couple feet away. The ruckus had attracted the attention of the other crew members now, and heads were turned towards the fallen Chespin.

                    Frag took a moment to get back up, still stunned from the blow. "Ha... haha, you hit good, captain. You do Osenian way after all, eh?" he wiped his mouth and charged back at Jon. "But Frag not let-"

                    Jon barred his teeth at Frag, a vein pulsing on his forehead. Being much more of a physical fighter, he easily countered the charge by sidestepping, grabbing his arm and twisting it. The Chespin found himself with his back on the deck and the Monferno standing over him.

                    "You go looking for a fight on my ship, you're gonna get your ass beat, pal!" Jon shouted angrily at him.

                    Frag let out a noise that was somewhere in between a curse, a cough and a wheeze, raising his arm weakly before letting it drop back down on the ship. "D-da, captain..." he croaked, rolling sideways in pain. He couldn't fight back, and Jon had beaten him fair and square. He didn't have the right to speak up anymore, the winner of the fight was the one with the last word - that was the Osenian way.

                    Jon, seeing that he conceded, offered a hand to help Frag up. The Chespin painfully agreed, hoisting himself up and grunting in pain.

                    "Just what I'm the bloody hell is going on here?" Nick called out as he arrived on the deck. "I'm down tryin' to fix muk and I hear... this." The Scrafty cast both of them an irritated glare, arms crossed and waiting for an explanation. "Well?"

                    Frag opened his mouth to say something, but suddenly closed it again as he motioned for the Scrafty to wait and ran over to the side of the deck. His stomach gave a violent lurch and he proceeded to empty its contents all over the side of the airship, charred-goldeen and bad-drink included. He hobbled back to the captain and his first mate. "Euugh... Frag not handle drink well." he moaned and clutched his stomach. "Is -hic- no big problem."

                    "Frag boy's just drunk," Jon said, his anger having dissipated quickly. It was like he'd already forgotten any animosity towards the Chespin. "We just had a small disagreement over paymenting!"

                    Knew this was a bad idea. .. Nick grumbled. "Try not to break anything else, then," he said finally, groaning in annoyance. "This ship's worth more than you are."
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                      #23    
                    Old February 8th, 2017 (4:48 PM). Edited April 7th, 2017 by Ray Maverick.
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                    Landing on Antigua


                    By the end of the sixth day on their journey in south Carajol, they had passed by many islands, all of them uninhabited. They had seen a couple of sails on the horizon, but they never got too close, and a skyway did nearly push them off course, but in the end the right track was found again. The start of the seventh day found Jon anxious to reach his destination. He had retreated to his quarters and was studying all the maps of the region he had found. He knew the Safe Journey was closing in on the coordinates Pan had given him; at the pace and direction they were going, he expected to find the uncharted island the day that was dawning.

                    There was a knock at the door with a voice calling out, "Captain, a moment of your time?"

                    Jon looked up from the maps he had unfolded on the table. "Yeah, come in."

                    The Furret opened the door and quickly stepped in, closing it behind him, "... So." He said. "Who is Rochetto?" He asked, "And the Governor seemed to be on a first name basis too, Duncan." He remarked.

                    Jon chuckled in the easy way he had, leaning back on his velvet chair. "Rochetto, as in Adrian Rochetto, the pirate who's in charge of Modistra," he said, confident that Adrian would have dealt with the Poison Vipers - there was no way he would lose to such rookies! "He was in cahoots with the Governor who was running the island. You could say he's like family to me. Governor knew we were close, so he probably thought I was there to do Adrian's business of stepping in and sending those marines packing - as part of the deal those two had. And as for the name Duncan... that's what Adrian calls me, and it's the name I went by on Modistra, to hide from my reputation as Furious Jonathan."

                    Sam nodded, "Right now you're the head of your own crew. It's not as bad as I imagined, but I do need a promise from you. You seem to know a few faces around in the pirate business, faces who could end up clashing against us. As pirates I imagine we'll have to push into other territory. I doubt any other crew would be fine with us swooping and snatching up any treasure. When that time comes, and if any friends of yours show up to ruin our day, let me know. It's one thing to attack a third neutral party, it's another to go against a friend in combat. You won't show hesitation at all during our journey... right? Cause that hesitation means someone's head gets chopped off."

                    The Monferno shrugged. "A fight is a fight. I don't hesitate there, partner. And I put my crew above everyone else. If somebody feels like messing with us, no matter who it is, they'll get sunk." He toyed with a cotton ball he had on his hands as he looked at Sam somewhat inquisitively. "You're not from around these parts, are ya? Listen," he said, leaning over the table and his maps with a confidential look, "We're a pirate crew now, and pirate crews in Carajol don't just barge into other crew's space." He raised a finger, as if to draw attention to his next statement, "Doesn't mean we never will. We'll just have to pick our battles. All I'm gonna say."

                    "I AM from here, and I know how it works. But I know men like you. You won't be content with just exploring Carajol. You'll head out to other areas too. I see that glimmer in your eyes whenever you talk about this crew. You have high hopes for us. And high hopes don't stay in one single place." Sam replied. "When we head into other areas, then that's more up to grabs."

                    "Ahh," Jon let out, a big smile overtaking his face. He sensed he and Sam were on the same page. "Everything outside the Pirate Alliance's reach is fair game."

                    "Of course." Sam closed his eyes, "Onto my second point. I do know some locals and some places. I know the cities well enough to sneak around and get us to some good places. Point of the matter is I can get us around. I know hiding spots, friendly faces, the like. You want a big payout? Let me get to one of those spots and we'll start off smoothly."

                    Jon sized him up quickly. "What kinda jobs are you talking about?"

                    Sam said nothing, but judging by how the muscles along his face moved, he was clearly smiling under his bandanna, "Trust me, you don't want to know. Just know I offer my services to very wealthy clientele."

                    Jon put his palms together in front of his face and looked to the side, kind of preoccupied. It took him a few moments of pause before he spoke again. "When the time comes, I'll need to know," he said decisively. "The crew has a right to know what they've set out to do." Jon had other concerns as well, which he didn't speak of at the moment. Judging from the way he had heard Sam talk and how he'd seen him move, quietly sneaking around, he could tell he was an assassin, and the jobs with the big payout he was proposing must've been assassinations. Crews that were part of the Pirate Alliance had to be careful if they were to undertake assassination contracts - if the victim of the contract favored the politics of the Big Five of the Alliance, it would be like shooting themselves in the foot.

                    Sam shrugged, "I'll run it by you, then. This is a good way to a start though. For a crew, we either plunder and raid, or we get paid handsomely. And one way tends to be more secretive. And we need to build up some wealth before we reveal ourselves to potential threats, no?"

                    Jon assumed he meant wealth with which to buy guns and gear with. He glanced at the clock on the wall, and then got up from his chair. "Agreed," he said simply. "I've to head out. We're nearing our destination. We'll talk more in-depth about all that muke when the time's right."


                    ***





                    Nick was standing on the updeck, leaning lazily on the railing and peering out idly over the horizon. The sun had just started its ascent, beginning to cast a bright, orange light across the water. Through half-open eyes, Nick spotted another grouping of islands, right in their path. "Ey, Jon," Nick called out. "More islands. What's it look like?"

                    Jon snapped awake. He had dozed off huddled up inside the cup of the Crow's Nest, where he'd climbed to be on the lookout for any islands. He took a peek at the sea in front of them. The wind from up there ruffled his hair. When he saw the string of islands, he perked up and looked at them through his spyglass, then checked a map he had pinned under his weight. There was no sign of such a formation of islands near the location where they were supposed to be. "I dunno," he shouted back, "These aren't even on the map!"

                    Once Jon got behind the wheel, the airship started to lose height as it headed straight for one of the islands. Jon decided he would go for the smallest one first; they were quite far from each other.

                    The moment he saw that there was a beach where they could make a landing on, Jon tolled the bell tolled twice, calling everyone on the deck. "This is it!" The Monferno shouted, "We're at our place!"

                    The island got closer and closer, and the beach Jon had set his sights on larger and larger. It looked like there was a mountain on the island, whose flat part was thick with a jungle of palm trees. From the altitude they were flying at, they could see the islands from above easily; there was no sign of civilization like a harbor or a town anywhere on them.

                    In a few minutes, the Safe Journey was flying in line with the beach and quickly losing height and speed; Jon was checking for reefs in the shallow waters, but the beach looked to be made of the golden kind of sand everyone wants to spend their summers on. Awesome, Jon thought with a huge smile and pushed the lever as far in as it would go. The vessel came to a stop, landing with a splash. When the ship landed, it got stuck on the sand of the shallow waters of the beach.

                    The island greeted them with the sound of waves that washed the golden shore and the distant cry of a Mankey.

                    "Anchor!" Jon shouted, and he jumped in the middle of the deck. "Listen up, Blue Bands! This island and whatever's on it belongs to us now. It's off every chart I found in my quarters, and it doesn't look like there's anybody here but birds. We're good to call this a safe haven from the law. This is where I want to build our hideout. But before we do that, we oughta have a look around. We'll form three groups and head out there. Someone should stay behind and guard the ship. Let's all agree to be back here on this beach by midnight." Jon's eyes swept across the crew. "I'll go with Cook. Sam, you're with Frag, and Kayri's with Nick. Good?"

                    Samuel nodded, glancing at the Chespin, "Sure, why not?"

                    "Da, captain!" Frag saluted enthusiastically. "Frag and Fur Man make sure any trouble on island stops being trouble!" he slammed his fists together. "If find. Hopefully not." he added.

                    "Nick," Jon said, "I'll trust your group to find us a place to stay the night. Throw something together if you have to, as long as it doesn't fall over with the first breeze, and make sure it's got a good place to land the ship nearby."

                    Nick nodded an affirmative, his expression changing to one of slight... excitement, perhaps? "A hideout, eh? I'll go have a peep around, then."

                    Jon raised both his fists in the air and shouted excitedly, "Alright, let's do this!" He motioned towards the Hydreigon. "C'mon, mate, off to the jungle we go."

                    He jumped off the extended plank, landing on the beach lightly. The sand was soft beneath his toes, and cold from the night's chill. The Monferno glanced behind him. "I'll head east with Cook. Nick and Kayri, go north, and Frag and Samboy go south, see if you can reach the top of that mountain. See ya!"

                    The captain, full of energy, ran across the beach at full speed towards the thick jungle, expecting the Hydreigon to follow after him. The dragon paused momentarily, glancing from Jonathan to the rest of the crew hesitantly.

                    "O-oh! Just a moment, captain!" Cook cried out to the energetic Monferno, hastily gathering together a collection of paper bags and rushing over to the others. "Hello, everyone! I thought we might get hungry if these trips take a while so, aghem; I made you all some packed lunches! Nothing too fancy, just a couple of sandwiches, but please, here! Take a break, have a picnic, enjoy, my friends! Must be off, so I'll leave these just here, lest I lose sight of our dear captain. Cheerio, my dears!" As carefully as he could, the Hydreigon left the brown bags on the ground and took off after Jon as fast as the phantom force that propelled him would take him.

                    Jon, meanwhile, had plunged into the jungle, jumping from branch to branch agilely and with the speed you would expect from a Monferno. It was most obvious that in the jungle, Jon felt like home. Cook was momentarily losing sight of him in the greenery for a few moments, before he saw him again, leaping to another branch ahead and again fading out of sight.

                    "You can fly, Cook?" he heard Jon shout somewhere ahead.

                    "Erm, yes- where are we going, captain?" The Hydreigon asked warily, for the most part ignoring the question. "You wanted to stick together, yes?"

                    "Yeah!" Jon shouted, "I dunno where we're going. I want to see what the island has to offer." Just as he said it, he leaped towards the thick trunk of a palm tree and climbed his way up. He stopped just before the top, his face close to some kind of fruit that looked like a coconut. "Hey! You know what this is?"

                    "Goodness gracious," Cook breathed, glad to have caught up to the Monferno. "I- er, oh! Yes, those are nice! Can't quite recall what they are called, though."

                    "I'm gonna take one for later!" Jon said, and tried plucking it out, but something poked him from above. "O!" he shouted angrily, almost letting go of the trunk. He protected his face with one hand while with the other he reached up. What he ended up grabbing was a Pikipek, who started chirping and thrashing in his grip; it was hiding in the crown of leaves of the palm tree. It tried pecking his arm, but the Monferno used his other arm to grab the beak.

                    Once the Pikipek realized it couldn't escape, it remained still, staring at Jon. It looked quite angry, for a wild Pikipek, but it didn't speak a word. "You're lucky I ain't hungry," Jon said to it, and released it.

                    As the bird flew away, the Monferno plucked the coconut-like berry. "Damn! It's hard as a basketball," he said.

                    "Ahh, but the prize inside is so flaky and refreshing!" The Hydreigon assured his captain, floating up to his level. "And the water inside - like a cool breeze, but to drink! Certainly, I should procure a few for the pantry..."

                    Jon held the berry under his arm and leaped to another tree. He and the dragon resumed their trip through the jungle, keeping as high from the ground as possible. They had to stop a couple of times, as Jon spotted a Rhyhorn and wanted to observe it. At the second stop, he remained staring at a cluster of palm trees. "We're being watched, my friend," he whispered to Cook.

                    "Oooh," the dragon chuckled, leaning in to Jonathan conspiratorially. "How so? Do you think someone is interested in our impending picnic?"

                    "Look at the palms over there. You see them?"

                    Concealed under the green, there were birds with red feathers standing still as statues. They were hardly visible, but their eyes followed Jon and Cook's every move; they never moved, not even when the two pirates looked directly at them. "Pikipeks," Jon whispered. "Like the one we saw earlier. I've seen lots of wilds in my life, they never stand still like this." He looked at Cook with a mischievous grin. "I don't like being watched. You wanna help me catch one of those? I want to see what this's about."

                    Cook tilted his head, squinting through the treeline until he spotted the spooky birds. "Catch one?" He repeated with a hint of scepticism. "I can't imagine why you'd want to catch a wild 'mon like that. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to investigate, though. Perhaps with a handful of breadcrumbs?"

                    Jon glanced at the birds quickly, and shook his head. "Nah, they won't be fooled that easily, if they're keeping their eye on us."

                    "Fooled? What's deceitful about feeding birds breadcrumbs?"

                    "These birds are smart," Jon said, "They're not here for food, they're here to watch us."

                    "Ah, but why not try regardless?" Cook smiled. "Then, at least, we shall have the moral high ground."

                    Jon looked to be considering it for a moment. He thought it would be a good test to see if what he had said was true. If the birds cared for more than food, they would probably be in trouble. "Go ahead."

                    The Hydreigon accepted the invitation with a nod of his main head, reaching into his sandwich bag and fiddling about with it to garner an assortment of crumbs. Once satisfied, the dragon cheerily approached the motionless animals, humming along the way and brandishing his crummy offerings.

                    "Hello, jungle-friends!" He greeted the Pikipeks, undeterred by their lack of ability to speak or, indeed, understand speech. "Fear not, I bring gifts!" Cook shook some of the crumbs out, a good distance away from himself so that his proximity wouldn't scare the birds away.

                    The attention of the Pikipeks turned to the crumbs, but they didn't make a move, like normal birds would when they saw bread. Their gaze turned to the two pirates... and then they flew away.

                    "Psyduck!" Jon cursed. He quickly climbed up a tree and deployed the retractable spyglass he had on his belt. He followed the movement of the birds closely; they were flying east, further into the jungle. The same direction the first bird Jon had caught flew in, he noted.

                    "Gracious me, Jonathan," Cook chuckled, only mildly disappointed at the birds' disappearance. "You really should watch your language, my boy - the Pikipeks will think you improper!"

                    "They're the ones who could learn some manners! Spying on us like that. I'm gonna teach them a lesson. Come on," Jon shouted, and he pressed on through the jungle, following the direction the birds had escaped towards.
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                      #24    
                    Old February 12th, 2017 (3:26 PM).
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                    Building a Hideout and a Rapport

                    As soon as Kayri stepped down onto solid ground, a sense of relief immediately washed over her. Being a Ground type, she couldn't help but feel uncomfortable up in the air; a feeling only somewhat alleviated when she was in the engine room and listening to their low rumble. She'd spent the past week or so simply tinkering with the engines, streamlining some of its functions and performing some more maintenance work. Unfortunately, hiding out meant that she hadn't actually gotten the opportunity to speak with much of the crew, even the one person she was most interested in.

                    Kayri placed the brown bag that Cook had passed on to them into her own backpack before casting a thoughtful look at the Scrafty beside her. Well, lucky for her, this was a golden opportunity.

                    She cleared her throat and asked, feigning casualness, "So our orders are to find a place to build some kinda 'hideout', yeah?"

                    "Something like that," Nick replied with a shrug. For a 'mon setting out for construction, he packed awfully light, carrying only a small backpack which he'd thrown over one shoulder. With a crack of his neck he stepped forward, eyeing the trees surrounding them, as if making a mental note of their size and type. "Nothin' fancy, just a little shelter for now. Quick and easy, just gotta find a good spot."

                    Kayri continued to watch him from the corner of her eye. "Are you gonna use that metal wood of yours for the shelter then?" Her expression was as inscrutable as ever, but there was a definite undercurrent of eagerness to her voice.

                    Nick shook his head. "Ain't got none here," he said, a bit of disappointment in his tone. "All I've got is what you see here. These trees look usable... if only temporary." He continued to walk through the forest as he spoke, reaching into his pack and pulling out a machete, effortlessly cleaving a path through the flora in their way. "Depends on if our buddy Jon wants to make this a permanent hideout I s'pose. Don't think I can get any Wyron wood way out here, though..."

                    Kayri followed Nick's path, glancing at the trees around them. She couldn't tell what made them usable or not, but she trusted Nick's assessment. "So this Wyron wood... occurs naturally?" Kayri asked, surprised. She'd assumed that they'd somehow cured ordinary wood or otherwise manipulated it into what it was. "I've never heard of somethin' like that before. Then again, I don't normally deal much with wood myself. Engineerin' is more of a metals thing." She swung her spanner a bit as if to demonstrate. "Though... to my eye, you could pretty much say our ship's made from metal and be about as right."

                    "In a certain sense of the word 'natural,' I guess," Nick replied. "Ain't nothin' natural about it if you ask me, but I know what you mean, and there is a place where it grows. Very secret, very secluded, and nobody knows it but me," he added, seeming a bit proud of the last bit. "Sounds like superstition, I know. Most people still think so, but it's as real as it gets."

                    "How come you're the only one that knows where it is? Somethin' like that has gotta be plenty sought after. Wouldn't people be followin' you out to wherever the wood comes from?" She kept staring at the trees around them as though she could turn them all into the elusive Wyron wood through the sheer power of her gaze. Another thought occurred to her and she turned back to Nick. "And speakin' of which, how do you handle somethin' like that? You couldn't treat it like wood, since it's kinda metal, but you couldn't treat it like metal either, 'cause it's wood."

                    Nick smirked lightly at her question. "Like I said, most folks think it's just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. They don't think it's real. Called my dad nuts, they did, said he'd never find it and was wastin' his time." He paused for a moment, a quick swing of his blade making quick work of the vines in his path before he continued up the steady incline. "Even after he found it, though, he knew people might get wise to it, so we never took much of it. Only for special pieces, special... projects," he added, nodding back towards where they'd come from. "Like our ship. Dear ol' dad taught me how to handle it, how to use it, but truth be told we never worked with it much for exactly the reason you said. Didn't want people gettin' wise." He paused for a moment, casting a sideways glance at the Marowak and grinning just slightly. "As to how to handle it? Can't tell you, family secret," he said with a prideful chuckle.

                    "Family secret..." mumbled Kayri. That was unfortunate. "Well... you say you're only usin' it for special projects," she said slowly. "I dunno if you remember, but I mentioned before that I'm workin' on a little somethin' of my own." She caught Nick's gaze and held it steady. "I've been thinkin' that maybe this special wood of yours could be one of the keys to helpin' me finish it. But of course, I ain't entirely sure of all its properties, so I haven't quite figured out how exactly I could use it yet." She paused for a moment, making sure Nick knew that she was very serious about what she was saying, before continuing. "But if I ever figure it out, would you be willin' to work on it for me?"

                    Nick tilted his head a bit, sensing she was serious, before shrugging. "Depends mostly on how this little adventure of ours goes," he said finally. "Though I s'pose there's no harm in it. 'Course I couldn't tell you where to get it or how to work it, since... well, family secret," he repeated, swinging away at another branch, seeing the top of the mountain just a little further ahead.

                    Kayri nodded. "Of course. I have trade secrets of my own, so I can respect that. Could I take a closer look at a piece of the wood, if you don't mind? Tryin' to figure out how to use material that you know almost nothin' about can be difficult." There was a small smile on her face; the conversation had obviously put her in a good mood. "Ah," she said when she caught sight of the mountain, "I shoulda asked earlier, but what makes a spot good for buildin'? What should I be lookin' out for?"

                    "Tryin' to get to the top so I can get a better view," Nick answered, chopping away another branch. "Just need some flat land, no rocks or mounds in the way; somethin' we can use as a sturdy foundation." As he finished, her turned to her again, his expression changing to a more musing one, mulling over her request. "I could let you look at a piece of it. The Wyron, I mean. What would you need it for, anyway?"

                    Kayri seemed contemplative. "...Have you ever heard of somethin' called the World Gear?"

                    "Nope," Nick replied plainly. "Should I have?"

                    "Nah. Not many folks have. I guess you could say it's a bit like your Wyron wood," she said with a small smile. "There're stories about it, but no 'mon's ever found it. They say that the World Gear's an important part of the whole world's ecosystem; that it influences how nature itself runs." Kayri waved a hand, gesturing at the trees and sky all around them. Turning back to Nick, she said with a steely determination, "I want to build a compass that will point me to the World Gear itself. It's never been done before. Most 'mon who've heard the stories don't even believe it's real. But I know in my bones," she tapped the skull that she wore, grinning a bit at her own joke, "that it's somewhere out there. I'll be the one to find it, or spend the rest of my life tryin'."

                    "Sounds just like my dad," Nick said with a tiny grin. "Kind of sounds crazy, but there again, they said the Wyron Woods was crazy, and it turned out to be true, so who knows?" he added with a shrug. "Not sure how the Wyron fits in with it, but can't hurt to try."

                    Kayri's gaze grew sharper and more businesslike. "I've got some rough blueprints, but, thing is, the technology just don't exist yet. There are some bits I got planned out that just can't be made with anythin' that I know of, and there are some bits that I ain't got a clue for how I'm gonna make work. I figure, maybe if I go 'round and learn of as much as I can about things I don't know about yet, maybe some of those things will lead me to the answer I'm lookin' for." She gave Nick a small shrug. "After all, you ain't gonna know what things you don't know 'til you know 'em, ain't that right?"

                    Nick gave a light chuckle, making one last cleave with his blade before venturing on. "I guess you got me there," he replied, making it to the top of the hill and catching a glimpse of the rest of the island. The sun was now high over the horizon, leaving Nick and Kayri with an excellent view of their surroundings.



                    Nick's eyes scanned the island, catching sight of a very large tree down below, larger than all the others. He pointed Kayri towards the sight with his machete. "Give that a gander, yeah? Think we should check that out?"

                    Kayri followed Nick's gaze and looked at the tree for a short while, appearing to be studying it quite intensely. "Nick," she said, nodding thoughtfully, "I really ain't got a clue about trees."

                    "Well I'll tell you that's the biggest damn tree I've ever seen," he replied, motioning for her to follow as he began to head down. "Might be a good spot to build somethin'."

                    She followed him down the incline, not looking particularly bothered by the fairly strenuous trek they'd had so far. Though, of course, Nick's the one who'd been doing most of the work. "Not a lot of trees where I'm from. Mostly just bones." She grinned rather wryly. "My kind gen'rally like it there."

                    "Not many from my place neither," Nick replied. "More like a forest of metal, right miserable place." The way down was a lot less strenuous, with Nick able to maneuver around most of the foliage without much effort. "My granddad used to have a cabin out in Sonara, smack-dab in the middle of the forest, though. Love to live there permanently if I had the means." As he finished he cocked his head a bit to the side. "Where you from anyway?"

                    "Tyrantria, in Antara. Dunno what you might have heard of it. You?" Kayri's bag got snagged on a branch as she followed Nick and she had to take a minute to free herself and check that nothing got damaged.

                    "Liverte, far east of Sonara," Nick answered. "Nothin' but metal and smog. Don't know much of Antara, never been there."

                    "Antara has a lot of different kinds of 'mon in different kinds of places, an' none of 'em play nice," she said. It was difficult to tell whether she was being fond or critical of her homeland. She livened up when she asked, "You're from Sonara? The technology there's somethin' else, from what I hear. And it ain't just for bombs like back in Tyrantria. I definitely wanted to go there sometime, see what I could maybe learn."

                    "Ain't nothin' to learn but how to get ripped off," Nick said critically. "At least in Liverte, the tech's only used to line the pockets of the Trade Prince, nothin' else."

                    "Ain't that a familiar story," Kayri murmured, her eyes a bit faraway. "Whole cities start fallin' apart and good folk suffer. This ain't what Arceus would have wanted for us. Don't you reckon somethin' had to have gone wrong somewhere, for the world to end up the way it is?" She sounded almost as though she were musing to herself, but her eyes were intent on Nick.

                    "Nothin' gone wrong, just people doin' what they do best," Nick answered dryly. "Greed and selfishness, all it is, and unfortunately for the rest of us, greed tends to net you a bigger payday than anythin' else, which gives you the edge over the good, decent 'mon and lets you play 'em for fools. Bein' a good person just doesn't reward you like people'd like it to."

                    Kayri nodded, obviously cataloguing what Nick had said somewhere in her mind. "Greed. Maybe it is just as simple as that," she said. "Seekin' personal gain is strayin' from the path set out for us, for sure. But now might not be the best time for all this philosophisin'." She craned her head up to fully take in the sheer mass of the tree as they approached. Its roots were thick and long, squirming so far outwards that they had to start navigating their way over them even as far away as they were. "That really is one huge damn tree."

                    Nick peered around, glancing at the tree; the trunk was wider than their ship, and it's height extended so far beyond the rest of the forest, blanketing the ground almost completely from the sun. Nick nodded in approval, taking a quick look around before turning back to the spectacle. "Damn straight," he said, seeming to grow a bit excited at the sight of it. "Seems as good a place as any to build a little hideout, don't you think?"

                    "Just tell me what you need me to do," Kayri replied. She'd seemed a bit uncertain, but seemed more than willing to follow Nick's lead, since this was his area of expertise. "Like I said, I don't know much about plants or trees, but I have a bit of experience workin' with lumber. Remodeled an airship once." She paused. "It ended up crashin', though."

                    Nick set his pack on the ground, turning his head from side to side and cracking his neck, readying himself for work. "Just follow my lead and this'll end up better," he said with a smirk. He didn't bring many tools, but he figured between the two of them they could make do with what they had. "Go on and clear the land a little bit, we'll need a solid surface to start proper..."
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                      #25    
                    Old February 13th, 2017 (11:43 AM). Edited February 27th, 2017 by Turnip.
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                      Jon And Cook Follow Some Birds Because Hey I Guess There Are Worse Ideas


                      The jungle was hot and dry at this season, just how Jonathan liked it. That forest was different from Modistra's; it was more tropical, the flora wilder and seemingly untouched by civilization. He and Cook had dashed past wilds like a Liepard and a Parasect, who would have gladly attempted to eat them, if they weren't so far above the ground. Jon had also encountered an Arbok up in the branches who tried to attack him; he ended up grabbing its tail and flinging it across the forest to get rid of it.

                      They had seen more Pikipeks, but those were flying about, watching them from afar, way out of Jonathan's range. The birds were wary now, he noticed, as if their comrades had warned them of something. Every so often, the Monferno would climb at the top of a tree to make sure they were going to the direction the Pikipeks had flown to. He was intent on finding out what was going on with those wilds that behaved strangely.

                      After hours and hours of trenching through the dense forest, and crossing over many streams of water, they reached a place that was more humid. Jon heard the waterfalls before he saw them, after he was done climbing a steep, rocky hill that grew from the ground like a knife. Mists that covered this part of the jungle rose with the strength of the waterfalls. With a quick look around, they could tell that they were in the heart of the island, where the jungle was the thickest and the wildest. But the most impressive part of it was the giant trees that sprouted between lesser ones.





                      The Hydreigon and the Monferno saw a flock of Pikipeks flying towards the largest and tallest of those trees.

                      "Look there, Cook!" Jon pointed. "Pikipeks!"

                      The Hydreigon squinted into the distance, and as Cook was about to speak his left hand uttered out a sinister "Yum!"

                      "Francis, mind your manners," Cook berated him. "We are civilised creatures who will not snatch up and consume another at the drop of a hat, however small. No?"

                      In response, the smaller head turned as if to face the main one, then turned a little too far off into blank space. "Traitor jums," it spoke, its eyes completely out of focus.

                      Jon laughed at Francis and said, "What's up with him?"

                      "Oh, Francis is just being silly," Cook assured his captain, absentmindedly patting the smaller head. "Should we follow the birds, master Jonathan?"

                      "Yeah, we will!" Jon shouted, "I'm gonna teach those bastards not to spy on me!" Suddenly invigorated, he rocketed downhill, jumping on a tree once he ran out of ground to run on. As the captain blended with the jungle again, Cook heard him shout, "You ready to lay the smackdown on 'em?!"

                      "Erm-!" The Hydreigon hesitated, distracted by his efforts to keep up with the Monferno that he couldn't entirely see amongst the dense foliage. "Probably best not to jump headfirst into, er... 'smackdowns', no? And pardon me, but- er, when we're, ah, darting through the forest... as we are now, it becomes somewhat difficult... to respond properly, in... in conversation!"

                      Jon didn't respond to any of that. With a few leaps on vines, branches and trunks, in less than five minutes he landed at the foot of the tallest of the gargantuan trees. That part of the jungle was teeming with Mankey and bird and other animals' screams. It sounded like they were having a party to Jon's half-wild ears. "Woah," he said, his eyes sparkling in amazement when he raised his head as far back as it would go to look at the entirety of the tree that rose from the mists. Its green roots were thick, and bigger than a regular house in Modistra; its shade seemed to Jon the coolest of all shades in the forest, or maybe it was the damp air and the sound of the waterfalls nearby that made him think that. "Nice tree!" he said to himself, "Wonder how old it is. Must be hundreds of years old!"

                      "Thousands perhaps, at this size- where-?" Cook flew past where Jon had ended up, failing to see the Monferno, and began to circle around the rest of the tree. After a short while he paused, spotting a small-ish hole in the side of the trunk's base that resembled a kind of cave entrance. "Er, Jon! Jonathan, my captain, did you head down here?" Cook called down into the tree.

                      "BACK OFF!" A 'mon with a squeaky voice screamed from inside. "Back off, you monster! I am armed!"

                      "O-oh! My apologies!" The dragon replied. "I'm just looking for a friend! Did another 'mon pass into this place a few moments ago?"

                      After a few moments, the 'mon inside the tree said hesitantly, "N-no? I saw nobody! Go away!"

                      "What the hell's going on here?!" Jon shouted, diving into a patch of grass next to the hole.

                      The 'mon in the hole started screaming.

                      "Oh, Jonathan, there you are!" breathed Cook. "We should probably leave and come back more delicately, the poor dear in there sounds terrified!"

                      "Hell no, I ain't goin' back now!" Jon shouted, and his eyes turned to the entrance. I knew they were sentient, Jon thought, pissed off more at himself for not figuring it out earlier than with the birds. But then he thought that the screams that were coming from inside the tree didn't sound like a bird... they sounded more like some other animal.

                      "HEY! You, in there! Come out and we'll have a little talk!"

                      "I beg you, go away!"

                      "Okay! I'm coming in, then!"

                      "NOOO!"

                      The Monferno bullrushed straight into the hole, expecting to find some sort of resistance that he aimed to trample with his reckless charge. But there was no resistance.

                      He found himself in a round, spacious room... with no bird in sight. Jon glanced upwards; the giant tree's trunk was hollow. Far above his head, light entered in beams from several other holes like the one he had just entered from. Stairs had been carved into the sides of the circular room, so one could walk to the top by going round and round and round... it would take hours to climb all of those stairs.

                      And when Jon looked down below, he saw a Pansear cowering in a corner and crying. Jon was surprised. That 'mon was the one who was talking to them earlier, and he was definitely sentient. He looked no older than sixteen. "Hey pal," Jon said, his expression having softened considerably once he saw him. "Sorry for barging in like that."

                      "Jonathan, for goodness'- oh..." As Cook floated onto the scene, he calmed down and gave his captain a hesitant glance. "Thank heavens. Perhaps... a more gentle approach next time, master Jonathan?" Clearing his throat, the dragon carefully lowered himself slightly closer to the ground and turned to the Pansear. "Are you quite all right, my dear boy? I'm terribly sorry to have startled you - I can assure you we mean no harm."

                      "Wh-who are you?!" the Pansear said, retreating even farther. "What are you doing on this island?!"

                      "My name is Cook!" The Hydreigon said with a smile. "This is Jonathan! We are exploring! What might I call you?"

                      The Pansear looked at them with teary eyes, reluctant to trust them. "Pans," he said, managing to stand upright now that he saw the Monferno wasn't advancing any further. "You can't go exploring this island!"

                      "I can go exploring anywhere," Jon said, undeterred. "Who's gonna stop me?"

                      "Uh," the Pansear let out, "my boss. He's the Kahuna of the island, and if he says you can't explore, you just can't." He seemed very proud of his boss.

                      "Erm, well, I don't recall him telling us not to explore... or making us aware of his presence, for that matter," Cook offered, stroking his chin. "Still, it is very nice to meet you, Pans, and I'm sure it would be wonderful to meet your, er, 'Kahuna' as well! I understand if you may still be wary, but if it isn't too much to ask, do you think you could direct us to him? I'm sure we wouldn't want to be unintentionally stepping on anyone's toes by being here."

                      The Pansear looked like he would melt into the wood with fear and worry, but in the end he agreed. "Follow me." He took the stairs up, heading for the top of the hollow trunk. "I spoke too soon," Pans said, "I don't think my boss actually said anything. He's sleeping all morning, and no one dares to wake him up."

                      "Wait a min," Jon said, "We're heading up! That's where the Pikipeks went, Cook."

                      "You noticed the Pikipeks?" Pans said.

                      "Yeah, we did," Jon said, "What's up with them?!"

                      "They're the boss's eyes. All across the forest. Nothing escapes them," the Pansear said fondly. "So, you're from the outside world?! How is it there?"

                      "Not without its problems, but wonderfully exciting nonetheless," Cook beamed, glad that the younger 'mon seemed to be less petrified. "Lots to do and lots to see. How are things here, my good lad?"

                      The Pansear seemed hesitant to say anything. "How are things here - well," he started, "Good?" He chortled awkwardly.

                      Jon had started to pant for breath after all the climbing; one look down was enough to make a 'mon afraid of heights dizzy, but it just made him excited. They were going to the top! I'll be able to see the whole island from up there! Out loud, he said, "Nice place!" between breaths.

                      "I'll tell the boss you said that," Pans said, "His birds made it. Pikipeks are woodpeckers, you know."

                      They had to stop a few times on their way to the top to catch their breath. Jon felt like it took them hours to get there, but eventually they reached one of the holes where the light was coming from. Even though the stairs continued their ascent further up into the tree trunk, the Pansear chose that hole to exit in.

                      Several hundred feet above the ground, they walked upon a branch as wide as the deck of the Safe Journey; it twisted and turned, leading them upward into the foliage of the giant tree. If the wind picked up, it would be impossible to tread upon the branch as you would just be knocked over, but the wind was tame that day.

                      Jon immediately noticed hundreds upon hundreds of Pikipeks sitting on leaves, in every direction. Some were staring at them with hostility, other ignored them and were chirping and singing loudly, coming and leaving from their home. It was a huge network of birds that spread all across the island, it seemed, and this was their base.

                      "Don't hurt them!" Pans said.

                      "I won't," Jon promised.

                      "Wouldn't dream of it," Cook concurred.

                      Their road led to a green patch at the treetop that was under the shade of other branches higher than the one they were on. That green patch was in fact a thick platform of leaves and vines that was sturdy enough to be walked upon, and in its shape, it looked very much like a birdnest. No Pikipeks could be found near it, so that place was quieter. It seemed like they were afraid to wake him up.

                      And in the center of it was roosting the largest Toucannon Jon had ever seen. His lower body was disproportionate to his head and beak, at least three times larger - his belly was that fat, and his wings blended in with all of it. He looked like a snowball made by a giant, sitting as he was in the grassy nest. Jon doubted that 'mon could ever move from there, let alone fly.

                      The Toucannon's eyes were closed, and he seemed to be asleep.

                      "Here he is - uh-oh," Pans said, "He's still asleep! I have to wake him. Wait here!"

                      "Wow!" Jon whispered, leaning towards Cook while still looking at the Toucannon. "This guy's competing with Captain Adrian for the fattest 'mon in Carajol!"

                      "Now now, Jonathan, be polite," the Hydreigon berated him, chuckling despite himself.

                      "Boss?" The Pansear whispered while leaning close to the Toucannon. "Boss? Wake up, boss!"

                      The Toucannon opened his eyes almost immediately, like he wasn't asleep. "Pans! What have I told you about waking me?" The bird croaked. Despite them being just a few meters away, he never seemed to notice Jon and Cook standing on his nest.

                      "Yes, birds your age need a lot of sleep," the Pansear said, as if he'd heard that before. "I would never wake you without a good reason! Listen, listen! We have... uh, visitors!"

                      "Visitors?" The Toucannon said suspiciously, and Jon picked up a definite Sonarean accent. He's not wild, he reflected.

                      A Pikipek appeared behind the fat bird and floated over his boss's head, holding a monocle's chain on his beak. The monocle fell down on one of the Toucannon's eyes, allowing him to look and see, and finally notice the two 'mon on his nest.

                      "Dear Gods!" He croaked, half startled, half irate. "Who are you?! What are you doing here?"

                      "We're pirates!" Jonathan said proudly.

                      "Ahoy, friend!" Cook greeted the boss. "Smashing choice of eye-wear!"

                      Through half-shut eyes, the Toucannon studied the Hydreigon, who had the three top hats and monocles of his own. The smaller bird above him had to adjust his position so the monocle fell in front of the eye; he seemed to be trained to do this, and to have been doing it for years, because he was more precise than Jon could've imagined to be possible. "I wear that for lack of choice rather than fancy," the Toucannon pointed caustically. "I am damn near blind, you see. A myops, the finer folk say. I can't see farther than my beak!"

                      The Kahuna seemed more laid back, Jon noticed, once he had mentioned they were pirates. "I am Captain Jonathan," he introduced himself with the kind tone that came naturally to him.

                      "And my name is Cook, my good sir," the dragon said with a respectful nod. "Indeed, the best of apparel is both practical and pleasing to the eye, is it not?"

                      The Toucannon nodded slightly in agreement at Cook's comment, before he continued. "Hmph, and you're pirates, eh?" He didn't speak with contempt, Jon noticed. Many 'mon from Carajol loved pirates, and regarded them as liberators. Thanks to the Government, the regimes that governed Carajol Sea were highly authoritarian in the past, and the unlawful lives of pirates served as a balancing force. Pirates were the people's answer to a Government intent on taking advantage of them. Jon thought that the Toucannon was old, and from the sound of it, he had been outside that remote island at one point in time. And he might have lived through times when pirates made heroes of themselves. "And what are you pirates looking for out here?" The Toucannon continued. "There's nothing to be found on this bloody rock!"

                      "We're lookin' for a place to build our hideout," Jon said earnestly. "This island's perfect. It's not in the charts, to my knowledge, it's not near a trade route that could lead unwanted folks here."

                      The Toucannon studied Jon with his critical stare, that he delivered with his eyes halfway shut. "You came here at the wrong time, lads. Don't tell my children what I'm about to tell you..." Jon glanced at the Pikipeks on the branches, watching the conversation from a good distance. He assumed that's who the Toucannon called 'my children'.

                      "Quiet as a grave," Jon promised, and the Toucannon nodded, closing his eyes. It may have been Jon's impression, but the giant bird seemed relieved just to be talking to them.

                      "There's a wild 'mon here on our island with a thirst for blood and a frenzied look. I thought myself the Kahuna of this damned rock, and rightly so, as there was no 'mon to stand up to me, until she showed up. My children know about her, they see her all the time. She's a Fearow, beats my size even, and she flies all around the place like she owns it. She feeds on our best food, and she even feeds on us, that monster. I fought for my land and family, I did." He turned his beak to the side, and Jon saw an ugly crack that rose vertically from his mouth. "I blasted her with my beak so hard, it cracked... and she survived. My children don't know I lost that fight. If they learn, they'll lose hope. They're still waiting for me to chase her off, but every day that passes, I feel less able to move. My age is catching up to me."

                      "Hey, no need to worry about it," Jon shouted with certainty and a smile, having forgotten all about the Pikipeks spying on him and the hideout he wanted to build. He cracked his fingers all at once, and then one by one, saying, "Leave that up to me! Where I come from, we eat wilds like her for breakfast!"

                      The Toucannon's severe expression didn't seem to soften, but he said, "I'd owe you thanks if you did. Her lair is up on that mountain, that's where you'll find her."

                      "You got it, bird," Jon said. He glanced at the mountain with a hint of worry. He had sent some of his people towards that direction... he hoped they were alright.

                      "Call me Raphael," the Toucannon said.

                      The sun had began to set, a gold and violet hue slipping into the colors of the sky in the west. Jon noticed that the Kahuna had an amazing view from his nest. He could see very far, in all directions, almost the entirety of the island. Only the southern shores were blocked from his view by the mountain. They could even see their airship from up there. "It'll have to be tomorrow," Jon said, "I promised to my crew to return at midnight. C'mon, Cook. Let's get back! And prepare your recipes for roasted fowl!"
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