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MATURE: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Mercenaries of Dawn

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Nearly a decade before the events of the Meteor, and twenty-five years prior to the arrival of a new human to the Pokemon World, there are no Rescue or Explorer teams. Instead, there are only mercenaries.

On the Air Continent, a young Combusken mercenary takes up what seems to be an unusual, but otherwise regular job. However, the events of that night will send him on a grand adventure across the continent. It is the tale of a fierce rivalry, the support of friends, one desperate plan... and a tale that will shape the future.
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Disclaimer: I do not own any of the properties that will be mentioned or explored in this story. They are all owned by individuals with alot more clout then I do. I do not make, nor intend to make any money off this story. It is a fanfic that is for fun and to get myself out there, and not for profit. That is all on the matter.

Note from the Author: This fanfic will be avaliable on Spacebattles, Sufficent Velocity, Thousand Roads, Bulbapedia, Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own. As for when I can get posts up, I don't know myself, but I will try and update as regularly as I can. Do note I am actively employed, working on multiple creative projects both writing and art related and trying to reconnect with some of my older hobbies and interests.
Mercenaries of Dawn is a prequel to the events of my other PMD fanfic, Guardians of Balance. You do not have to read GoB to understand the events of MoD, but it will certainly help! This also takes place before the events of the video games, taking place nine years before the events of Rescue Team and twenty-five years before Guardians of Balance. There will be nods between the two series, so do be warned.
Taking into account of the above, there will be points where Mercenaries of Dawn will halt whilst Guardians of Balance reaches it's next major events, but otherwise, the two will run alongside each other. Whilst I do hope to make future GoB chapters shorter, MoD chapters should hopefully be shorter on average compared to GoB chapters.

Also, as a warning. This series will get dark at times. Sure there are a few laughs and heartwarming moments, but it is a dark setting compared to regular PMD. There will be curses and possible gore in here, although I will be always keep this SFW. Either way, you have been warned.

Now, without further ado...


POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN
 
Chapter I.I - Friendly Neighbourhood Mercenary
Hello.

If you are reading this, well, I believe the typical saying is that I am already dead.

That would be somewhat cliché though. I hope that I am alive and well if someone is reading this for whatever reason that may be. So, allow me to introduce you to this diary instead. My diary. Or rather, a combination of my diary notes and what memories I could recall and hadn't written to paper at the time.

What you have in your hands/paws/fins/wings is the story of my life. Or at least, from what I can recall or am aware of. There are gaps, especially in my very earliest years of life that I have struggled to fill in. I've made sure not to embellish the details, just put down the good, the bad and… the plain awkward.

I would, however, direct you towards the bookmark that I have left stuck into the pages. You will find it labelled as Mercenaries.

Consider this the most important series of chapters in my life. I was young and enjoyed the thrill of battle too much. But it was an era of its own. We didn't have Rescue Teams or Explorers on the Air Continent back then, or anywhere for that matter. The idea of a united continent wasn't even a dream. All we had were a cluster of villages and hamlets scattered across the land.

And when a job needed doing, the villagers would turn to the Mercenaries, Pokémon who sold their services to those who needed them.

I was one of those mercenaries, taking it up both as a lifestyle and as a way of making a living. I didn't have any higher aspirations.

That was until one night. A night during which I found myself on a new journey. It would lead me to meet my team-mates. It would develop a rivalry that drove me to lengths I'd never go to before. And I'd face a threat… and a truth that I could have never imagined. Something that would define my actions right up until today.

So why do I direct you there? Well, if you are who I think you are, you will be looking for answers. Or at least something that can help you find the answers to what has been happening – or had – to the world as a whole. Maybe there was some context that you missed, and wanted to clarify it. Even if I am otherwise unavailable, you can refer to this as needed.

If not, then I hope this gives some context to my life, and I welcome you to read through it. Especially with the recent events of this world.

Either way, I wish you well, and hope this gives you a better glimpse at the events of this world. Or lets you understand myself. As a Mercenary, a Rescuer and an Explorer.

Warmest regards,

Rex, Guildmaster of the Robinswood Guild and former Mercenary of Air Continent.




POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I – RISING STARS
CHAPTER I – FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD MERCENARY

Twenty-Five Years Ago
Nine years before the Meteor Crisis


The Azumarill slowly backed up, panting desperately as her eyes flicked left to right, desperate for an escape route. The group of five Pokémon crept towards her, forming an arched line before her. The bandits were trying to box her in.

She felt cold rock bump into her back, a quick glance behind her revealing the cliff rising above her. She was cornered now, she had already managed to get one good hit in but-

The water type winced, feeling the spike of pain running down her arm. She glanced over, seeing the flicker of blood coming out of the slash wound.

At the head of the bandit group, a Golduck rubbed his hands together, his red eyes glowing with barely concealed humour. "Come on lady… pass us the key to that chest you traders were carrying, and we probably won't have too much fun…"

Hissing back, the Azumarill tried to find a way out. Could she blow one away? No, the formation was too tight, she wouldn't get through in time.

The Golduck shrugged, "Up to you then. Boys, let's get her."

The bandits took a step forward.

The Azumarill clenched her fist.

A shadow formed over the bandits. "I wouldn't do that if I were you!"

The five bandits snapped their gazes up, wincing as the sun shone in their faces.

An orange-yellow Pokémon dropped down between the Azumarill and the bandits. He was avian in shape, standing on two grey legs and had arms ending in long claws, with a brown satchel tight around him.

The Combusken flashed a grin, "Because trust me, it ain't worth it."

The Golduck snarled at him, eyes burning, "Who the fuck are you punk?!"

Rolling his shoulders, the Combusken started to pace before them. "The name's Rex." He declared, "Just your friendly neighbourhood mercenary. I tend to get paid for protecting traders but… well… after seeing what you guys were doing, I figured I'd go in and help out."

Rex glanced back towards the Azumarill, the humour disappearing from his face, "Alright?" he said quietly and sincerely.

Nervously, the Azumarill managed to muster a small smile before nodding back.

Turning back towards the bandits, Rex scraped his claws against each other, narrowing his orange eyes on them. "So, walk away now, or you'll get what's coming."

The bandits turned towards the Golduck, who's fists clenched, "You think you can boss us around?! Come on boys!" The gem on his head glowed, "Let's teach him a lesson!"

Raising his claws, Rex settled into a combat stance, "Gonna be honest here…"

The Combusken flashed a grin, "Was kinda hoping you'd say that."

And with that, Rex leapt towards his opponents.

A Poliwhirl charged towards him with a raised fist first. The Combusken rolled forward, ducking underneath the punch. His claws glowed white as he slashed them at the water-type, his target cried out in pain as he was flung back. Rex didn't miss a beat, snapping his arm up to block a swipe from a Persian.

Pain flared up along his arm, but with a grin on his face, he willed the fire within him to ignite. Heat rushed through him and the flames flashed around his body.

The feline's eyes widened as the fire-charged kick smashed into his chin. As he cartwheeled away, Rex now let his whole fist glow, striking the Poliwhirl coming back at him with a crack.

Water blasted past, the Combusken managing to twist his body out of the way of the water gun. As he skidded back, a Venonat started pumping out a purple mist towards him. Bad move!

His chest burning, Rex snapped his head forward, the fireball shooting out of his open beak. The Ember punched through the mist, burning it away as it struck the bug-type.

As the Venobat tumbled away, a Dodrio screeched, it's three heads snapping at him. Grinding his beak, the Combusken backpedalled, snapping himself from side to side as each head stabbed wildly at him.

As the tenth strike missed, Rex backflipped out of reach, his claws glowing white again.

The Dodrio's three heads screamed as they started to charge – just as the boulders slammed into them and cut them short.

Rex smirked as he lowered his arm, a scrape mark in the ground from where he had unleashed the Rock Throw. "What the-"

The Golduck had taken a few steps back, his beak agape as he stared at his groaning and comatose companions. Rubbing his hands together, the Combusken raised a brow, "Still got a chance to call it quits." He quipped.

The duck hesitated, only to inhale sharply and blast out a beam of water.

Rolling aside, Rex hit the ground running. Clamping his beak shut, the Golduck only had enough time to stagger back before the Double Kick came in, striking him across the face. A second pair of kicks left the water-type moaning and grabbing hold of his feathers, Rex flung his opponent away.

The bandit slid across the ground on his face, legs comically raised before he finally halted. Groaning, the Golduck pushed himself back up to one knee and spat out a bloody globule.

Rex couldn't help but whistle, "Okay, gotta admit. I didn't expect you to take that."

Snarling, the Golduck turned to face him, "How did you think I got in charge of this crew!? I'm tougher than I look!"

His eyes flared blue, the air beginning to pulse around him, "And you are now going to do exac-"

The iron ball smacked this side of his head with a dull whump. Rex winced as the bandit leader slumped over and faceplanted the ground without a word.

Standing in his place, the Azumarill flicked her iron tail behind her as it faded back to its original blue, glowering at the motionless, but still softly breathing form of the bandit.

"Ouch." Rex said, finally taking in a breath and shaking himself loose, his heart rate already beginning to slow. "Nice swing."

"Thanks." She replied, pulling a weak smile. Suddenly, she quietly coughed, clutching her bleeding arm. "Been itching to do that for a while."

Reaching into the satchel, Rex pulled out a blue oran berry, "Are you okay?" he softly asked, striding to her and offering the fruit.

Coughing again, she managed to restore her smile as she took the fruit from his hand, "I'm fine. Got unlucky there. And don't worry, I've just got over the flu again."

Rex raised a brow, "Again?"

She rolled her eyes, "I tend to get ill a lot. Doesn't stop me though, I have to get some money in somehow." She took a bite of the oran berry, sighing with visible relief, "I'm Allisa by the way. Rex right?"

Smiling, Rex nodded back, "That's me. Seemed like you needed help."

Allisa chewed on her lip, "You're not going to charge me, right?"

Rex waved his arm reassuringly, "Hey, spur in the moment things are free of charge. Besides, sounded like these guys had it coming. Speaking of which…"

He cast a wary eye over the softly moaning forms of the bandits, "We better get these guys tied up. They'll probably have a bounty on their heads anyway. Mind giving me a hand?"

With a happy wag of her tail, Allisa winked, "Gladly."

Within a few minutes, the six bandits were tied up around a tree with thick, heavy-duty rope. Rex knew the smarter option would be to bring them with him, but he knew there was a village not far from here. It would be easier to call on the local guards to help bring them in, and they wouldn't be going anywhere any time soon.

Allisa, her arm no longer bleeding, started leading the way back towards the trail. "It's not my caravan." She explained, "I just happen to be the one guard they were willing to get on loan."

Rex couldn't help but feel sorry for her as she visibly slumped, "Figured I'd have a better chance against these guys in a fight. And if I led them away from the caravan, the merchants could get away."

He made sure to lean forward into her vision, "Six, seven on one? That's not easy. First time out of the village right?"

"Pretty much." She sadly replied, "You made that look easy though."

Rex hesitated for a second, before placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, "Hey, luring them all away? That's a brave thing to do. Besides, I've had a few years of practice on my own." He explained, "It's not my first rodeo."

The Combusken let his mind wander back a few years, back to when he was just a Torchic with lofty plans. He had lived in one of a handful of tiny hamlets on the Air Continent, his dad being a guard whilst his mother was a seamstress. A small little community where not much happened. But that wasn't enough for Rex. Every so often, a Pokémon or two would wander into town, looking for mercenary work. Maybe there was a bandit that needed to be taken out, or an item recovered from a dangerous forest. Or perhaps, even to delve into one of Air's Mystery Dungeons for some valuable possession. And the young Torchic would hopelessly follow them around, wanting to hear about their adventures. Some wanted nothing to do with him, but a handful teased him with some snippet.

As soon as Rex was old enough, he pledged to follow in their footsteps, to have his own adventures beyond the walls of the hamlet as a Mercenary himself. He nearly chuckled at the memory, naturally his parents weren't that eager for him to go wandering off. But despite that, they eventually scrouged enough to help their son chase his dream.

A flicker of warmth formed in his breast at the image, he had been on the road ever since. He had evolved into Combusken during one of his early fights against bandits. Vagabonds who tried to take whatever they could from the few caravans travelling between the settlements, if not the hamlets themselves.

And fighting them was just one of many jobs Rex had done over the last five years.

The Azumarill nervously rubbed the back of head, "T-thanks. I'll try and keep that in mind."

"Don't beat yourself up over it." Rex replied warmly as they stepped through some bushes, "We all start from somewhere."

When he looked back forward again, he was greeted by a pair of unmoving wooden carts. One had been tied to a rather nervous-looking Tauros, the other by an annoyed looking-Rapidash. Sat atop the second one, a Nidorina was rooting in the back, eyes wide as she was trying to find something. "Can't we get moving already!?"

At the foot of the carriage, a Nidorino was busy fiddling with a wheel at the side, his movements rushed as he tried to secure a bolt in place. The Rapidash snorted, flames flickering as he stomped the ground, "No shit!" he started to fiddle in his harness to shake himself loose, "Forget the goods! We can get you both to the town."

"I'm not letting those crooks take this cargo!" the Nidorino barked, hissing as he snapped his paws away. "Once you are all moving, I'll go and look for Allisa!"

"She can look after herself!" The Rapidash replied, "And we don't have time to-"

He fell silent as his eyes settled on the approaching guard and mercenary. "Well fuck."

The purple Pokémon spun round, eyes wide as he held up a rather pathetic-looking stick at them, "Get back you ruffian-"

His own words teetered off as he processed the scene before him. Unable to hide his bemused huff, Rex flicked a mock salute, "Howdy."

"I…err…" fumbled the Nidorino, unable to process his own speech.

"Don't worry Colin." Allisa said, "This mercenary helped me deal with the bandits."

"M-Mercenary?" His eyes went wide again with alarm, "G-GG-God! I can't afford-"

Unable to contain it, Rex laughed warmly, coughing to cut it short. "Don't worry! I just figured you guys needed some help. No need to pay me for that."

Only then did he finally relax, lowering the stick and visibly slumping. "Oooh… well. T-Thank you Mercenary! A-And you Allisa! I'm glad to see you are unhurt!"

He managed to stabilise himself, planting himself back down on four feet as his Nidorina companion likewise calmed down and poked her head out of the carriage, a wooden pot held in her hand. "Where are the bandits though?"

Rex motioned with his head back the way they came, "Tied up back there. Should be able to get a bounty claim on them, 50-50 with Alissa here."

The water rabbit flashed a flicker of surprise, only for the Combusken to casually elbow her side with a grin. His chest warmed up again as she beamed back in delight. Yeah, Rex had done the bulk of the work, but she had taken a big risk in getting the bandits lured away. They weren't the strongest bandits in the world, and he suspected she had managed to get a few hits in to soften them up. It didn't feel right to claim any bounty without at least giving a bit up for her.

Allisa strolled over to the Nidorino and handed over a large bronze key, "And this is still safe."

Colin smiled as he took the key back, "T-Thank you again Allisa! I'll make sure the chief hears about your efforts! You've helped keep us afloat!"

The Azumarill blushed as he turned to face Rex now, "I didn't catch your name?"

"Rex." Replied the Combusken, walking over to join them, "Just happened to be passing through. You don't mind if I come with you to the village?"

The Nidorino got back onto his hind legs and clapped his paws together, "A-Absolutely! You're more than welcome!"

Leaning to one side, Rex peered back towards the carriage wheel, noticing that it was barely hanging on. Must have been how the bandits stopped the caravan. He strode up towards it, "Thanks, let me handle this."

Grasping hold of the wheel, Rex grunted as he moved to shift the wheel back into place, finding it easier as Allisa stepped in to resecure the bolt. With a clunk, the wheel settled back into its original position. The Rapidash stomped the ground again, this time in satisfaction, "Finally!" he exclaimed, "Can we get moving already?"

As the Nidorina settled back onto her seat, Colin started scrambling for the front carriage whilst Rex and Allisa followed him from behind. "Of course, Beck!" he exclaimed, "And Rex my man! I must give you some kind of reward!"

Politely, Rex shook his head, "Don't worry about it, it felt good just to help."

"No, I insist!" Colin replied as he scurried up into the seat of the carriage, the Tauros out front looking visibly more relaxed. "I won't take no for an answer!"

So much for saying he couldn't afford a merc. Rex mused, unable to hide his bemused smile. "I'll tell you what. If you don't mind me staying somewhere where I can lay my head down for the night, I'll take that as reward enough."

Blinking, the Nidorino slumped into his seat with a warm smile, "Very well! You have yourself a deal, Mister Rex! Climb aboard! It's not that far from Windford!"

On cue, the carriages began to move, continuing down the trail. Rex clambered onto the back of the cart, stopping to help Allisa climb aboard. The water-type sighed as she sat down on the deck, arms crossed her stomach. "Thanks." She whispered, looking more serious. "Are you sure about the bounty?" she asked, "I'm already getting paid extra for helping guard the caravan, you need it more than me."

Rex casually leaned against the wall of the car, letting the sun warm his face. "It's fine." He explained, "It's not just a job for me."

He smiled as he looked towards the trail. "It's my life." He said warmly.

And so, the caravan picked up speed, making its way towards its destination.



This was an average day for me. A bit more unorthodox than normal, but otherwise, fairly mundane. As far as I was aware, I was on my way to another comfortable night with good company.

Little did I know, I would find myself headed towards the place where my real journey would truly begin.


And so. It begins.

It's finally come. The prequel to Guardians of Balance has finally come in the form of Mercenaries of Dawn. It will be running alongside Guardians of Balance, so hopefully with the shift to shorter chapters, it should make it easier to handle both together. Either way, I hope this leaves you interested for more!
 
Chapter I.II - An Open Offer
POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I – RISING STARS
CHAPTER II – AN OPEN OFFER

Rex weighed the pouch in his hand with a satisfied smile before placing it back into his satchel. It had taken a bit of time to get the bandits gathered up and locked within the small collection of cells that the town had, but getting the bounty was worth it, enough that the sun was beginning to set.

"Thanks for sharing the bounty." Allisa said, both hands grasping her pouch. "You've got no idea how much this will help out back home."

"You did half the work." Rex admitted, "It's the least I can do."

The little hamlet of Windford only had a few wooden huts that lined a single road, surrounded by wheat fields. It would have looked borderline unremarkable, save for one little windmill that stood at about twice the height of the biggest hut, its sails lazily spinning. "You live here?" Rex asked as they started walking down the road.

"I do. My parents live just at the end of the road." She waved a paw towards a hut at the other end of town. "So… what's your plan now?" she asked, "Stay over at Colin's for the night and then what?"

The Combusken could only shrug, "I don't know. If there are any jobs around Windford, I can look into those. If not, then I might need to move on."

Allisa frowned, "Always moving?"

"Yeah." Rex admitted, "I might stay an extra day, make some plans but I've got to keep looking for the next job." He scratched his beak, "I heard there is a little village called Baram to the west of here. Might try that out."

"Baram? Thats on the coast, right?"

"Maybe?" Rex said. "I've not got that far over before."

Baram might not even be the best idea. There are a few places I could go to. There's Avio. Or one of those camps around Mount Thunder. I'd have to check it out tonight.

They reached Colin's hut, a slightly larger structure with the two now-empty carriages left unattended. "Don't worry." He said warmly, "I'll still be hanging around tomorrow for a while."

"I'll hold you to that." Allisa replied, "I feel like I owe you a drink at some point."

Rex smiled, "You don't have to. Still… it sounds nice."

"If I get my hands on something, I'll let you know." Allisa said with a grin, "See you around merc."

Rex watched the Azumarill go with a smile. She would make one hell of a mercenary.

With that, he made his way inside the hut.



As it turned out, Colin didn't have a whole lot of space inside his hut. Not only did he and his wife stay there, but it also happened to be three of their kids. Luckily for Rex, they had a small shed out back that doubled as a spare room.

Rex happily took it of course, if only to have some privacy. Besides, given how hyperactive one of the kids had been, he was glad he wasn't having to sleep inside.

With stars easily visible from the open door, Rex poured over his map, keeping a candle lit by him whilst trying to work out the next best place to go. Baram was getting bigger last he heard, but it was a fair distance off. There were other villages and hamlets along the way though, so he could try and pick up jobs on the road in that direction. Of course, there was always plenty of work in the east, where the terrain was rougher so the need for an extra pair of hands was always needed.

The Combusken sipped a mug of hot coco, something he had picked up from the southernmost parts of the Air Continent. He didn't normally bring it out, but he figured it'd help him make his decision on where to go next.

Maybe I could brush past Mount Thunder and follow the mountains towards the coast. There aren't particularly big villages that way, but it should be quiet. Then I can follow the coast towards B-

Something rustled, snapping the Combusken out of his thoughts. Stiffening, Rex fixed his eyes on the door, going deathly still – there it was again. Another rustle outside. The shed was at the edge of the wheatfield, but the wind had died down for that evening. Was it one of the kids? No, he had a clean view of the back of the hut, he would have seen them coming.

Quietly, he placed the mug aside and rose to his feet, keeping his claws at the ready as he approached the open door. He leaned out, scanning the surrounding area behind Colin's hut. Nothing.

Trying to make sure that he didn't make any sound, he crept to the corner of the shed. He stopped just short, willing the fire within him – his own fire-type energy – to start simmering, ready to fully flare up.

A sharp clunk rang out, "Shi-!"

Rex spun around the corner, grabbing hold of a furry target and slamming them against the wall. "Wait wait! I'm not a thief!"

Struggling in the Combusken's grasp was a Furret, his eyes wide as the avian's claws rested against his chest. "L-Let's not do anything hasty here!" he said.

"Why did you sneak round back then?!" Rex questioned, motioning with his free arm. "Not that you were that sneaky."

"I wanted to talk to you!" the Furret explained with a squirm.

"Could have gone through the front door for that."

"I tried! But one of those kids kept trying to poke me with one of those horns!" He shivered worryingly, "Do you know how poisonous those guys are?"

Rex just managed to restrain the chuckle, Well, that explains everything. Must be the hyperactive one not being able to control his poison.

Instead, he raised a brow, "Fair point. But how do I know you are being honest?"

Ceasing his fidgeting, the Furret took a nervous breath, "Because I'm a merc too!"

Stiffening, Rex released the normal-type, letting him slip to the floor.

"I saw you come in with the caravan." He explained, brushing himself down, "And I figured you might be looking for another job."

"Aren't we always?" Rex replied, rolling his eyes. "Why not keep this job to yourself then? You could just take the Poke without me knowing."

"I figured we could tag team it. And its an open offer, the client's calling on a load of mercenaries for it. They want like, twenty at least?"

That startled the Combusken, mercenaries normally operated alone or in pairs. And in one case, he heard of a four-mon team. But never in double digits. If that did happen, the mercenaries would be fighting each other with overlapping jobs.

But to call on so many at once? What could be so important for someone to call on those numbers?

Perking up, Rex motioned for the Furret to follow. "Okay. Consider me intrigued."

Back inside the shed, the two sat down across from each other, Rex passing over a small cushion for the Furret to sit down on whilst Rex used the bedding he had. "I didn't catch your name?" Rex asked, taking a quick sip from the coco as he passed over a small chunk of bread to the mammal.

"Foster." He replied, catching the snack and taking a small bite out of it. "You?"

"Rex."

"Well, nice to meet you Rex." Foster did a mock tip of an invisible hat. "Look, sorry for the-"

"Don't worry about it." Rex replied, "Those kids are nuts. You've been doing merc work for long Foster?"

"Four years. From the Square."

"The Square?" Rex mused, stopping himself from taking another sip.

"Its a little hamlet, not far from Baram. I was going to start making my way back that way when this job came up."

Rex nodded back at him, "Five on my end, from Caelfall." He started leaning forward, placing the mug to one side. "And speaking of that job… twenty mercs? Are you sure its not some prank?"

Reaching into his satchel, Foster pulled out a slip of paper and laid it out between them, with Rex bringing the candle over. "It was dropped off by post all over southern Air." Foster explained, "By those Peilpper guys."

"The Post Office? I thought those guys were just doing stuff over on the west coast." Rex said, staring at the other mercenary with disbelief.

"Must got paid more by a village headmon." Foster said, pointing towards the text on the sheet.

Calling on all mercenaries! On behalf of the village of Blackridge, we request your aid in clearing bandits from a recently discovered ruin at the foot of the central mountains! The village will provide payment in the form of a share of 60,000 Poke. If you seek to aid us, please come to the camp at the foot of the mountains, west of Blackridge by the night of the full moon!

As Rex read the message, he could feel his hands shake at the words. 60,000 Poke!? That's insane! We could easily walk away with a few thousand alone!

He'd been to Blackridge once before, it was easily the largest village on Air, surpassing even Baram and nestled at the very heart of Air Continent. If any village can muster up that much money, it would be Blackridge. But to even hear them toss that much out on mercenaries was beyond him.

"Thought you'd like the idea!" Foster said with a gigantic grin on his face.

"It sounds crazy!" Rex exclaimed, forcing his limbs to cease shaking. "If it was any other town, I'd write it off."

"And we're not far either!"

The Furret pulled out a similar map to the one Rex had, pointing at the twin dots that represented Windford and Blackridge. In that moment, Rex's heart sank, "You've got one problem." He reached over and poked a forest between the two settlements with a claw. "That is impenetrable. We'd be two days late if we tried to walk around it towards the south. So unless you know how to fly, we're dead in the water."

There was a little gleam in the Furret's eye. "Ah, you say that! But there is a way." He drew a direct line between the two towns with a digit, "There's a patch of softer ground that runs through the forest, along an old fault line where the trees are less dense. I know Dig, so we can get under some of that foliage. Couple that with your fire-type abilities, and we should be able to cut our way through."

Frowning, Rex watched as Foster pointed towards a narrower section of forest, trying to imagine the state of that section. It was only a few miles north of Windford, and the area itself only had to be another half a dozen miles after that. It would still take a couple of days to reach Blackridge, but they would get there on time.

"How do you know about this works?" he asked, an iron lump in his gut.

"Well…" Foster pulled a sheepish grin, "I did kinda go in there a little bit the other day. I didn't go very far, but… it works."

Rex looked back towards the map again, scratching his beak. It could put Blackridge in reach. And that cash… it's very difficult to pass up. Still, why so many mercenaries? What could be so important about a ruin?

He leaned back against the wall, "You don't just need me to get to the forest. So why tell me about this?"

Foster sat back up, suddenly looking nervous. "We both know that jobs like these never happen. Not with this much cash up for grabs. Some mercs headed that way might… err…"

It didn't take psychic powers for Rex to grasp what he meant. "Might try and encourage 'accidents'."

It was rare, but not unheard of for teams of mercenaries to operate, only for one to mysteriously perish, allowing the surviving mercs to get a bigger share of the profits. Rex hadn't had to suffer with that. But with so much money up for grabs and with so many mercenaries about, the risk was a lot greater.

"Yeah…" Foster replied, looking suddenly nervous. "I can handle one or two mercs at once, but twenty? Might be a bit too much for me to handle. But as a pair? Might stand a better chance."

He flashed another grin, struggling to hide his nerves, "So… whatcha think? Up for teaming up for one job?"

Rex reached for the mug at his side, glancing inside before quickly finishing it off. It was a strange job, and risky. He couldn't quite shake off that feeling of discomfort that came from it. Too many mercenaries in one place with a huge share. It almost sounded too good to be true. But at the same time, it was too much to pass up. The message did seem authentic, most paperwork was routinely handled by the Pelipper and the paper appeared to be the same grade. Even if it turned out to be some kind of trick or prank, it would place him close to Blackridge.

That, and he had a feeling that Foster wasn't some kind of crook. Mercenaries didn't normally get dragged off to forests to get robbed or killed, not out of the blue.

With a huff, Rex leaned forward again, extending his hand out. "Alright Foster. You've got a deal."

Suddenly looking a lot less nervous, the Furret shook his hand.



The two made their preparations the following morning. They didn't want to take any chances about the forest in case they found their path blocked and had to work their way around it. If they were lucky, they could arrive a couple of days early at the camp. Rex used some of the Poke he had to purchase a handful of supplies from Colin (despite the Nidorino insisting he take a discount), namely some food and berries. Still, he'd keep his eyes peeled for any other berries and even seeds along the way too.

There had just been one final detail they needed to sort out.

"You're leaving already?" Allisa asked him at the edge of the hamlet, looking somewhat deflated.

"If we want to get on this job on time." Rex admitted sadly, "I can't really pass it up."

The Azumarill sighed softly, "Gotta do what you gotta do." She admitted.

"Don't worry!" Foster said with a slight cheer, "I'm sure Rex will be back round before you know it!"

Rex flashed a grin of his own, "That's the plan."

When Allisa stared blankly at him, he propped up a brow, "To have that drink?"

"Oh! That!" Allisa blurted out, starting to blush. "I'd like that."

The Combusken winked at her, "Then make sure you've got it ready. I won't be long."

Shaking paws one more time, Rex and Foster set off along the north road, turning back only briefly to wave their goodbye to Allisa. And as it turned out, one of the Nidoran kids had sprinted out of the house to join her, waving back at the two mercenaries as they finally focused their attention on the road ahead.

The road to Blackridge and the mysterious ruin.

And so we move on towards the first main event of MoD. After some feedback from GoB, I'm making an effort to try and have more happen in the initial chapters and have the plot be more driven, so things should take off alot quicker in MoD. Hope you enjoy this shorter chapter!
 
Chapter I.III - Attacking the Ruin
POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I – RISING STARS
CHAPTER III – ATTACKING THE RUIN

You might assume that Foster would lead me to a group of bandits within the woods, attack me in a pre-planned position or even just leave me to rot in that forest. But that was far from the truth. Turned out the new forest path was being explored by a logging team, and our journey through the woods had been aided by their prospecting efforts. The areas that hadn't been reached were something myself and Foster could clear without much challenge.

It had been a reasonable trip that allowed us time to get to know each other. You are probably wondering how I managed to handle a Furret in our first meeting? Well, turned out that Foster was far smaller than most members of his species. A runt of the litter so to speak on par with me in size. In turn, I talked about my life before leaving Caelfall.

The pair of us became fast friends.

We cleared that forest sooner than we expected, and made our way south towards Blackridge. We could have taken an extra day to rest, or to gather additional supplies, but we decided to play it safe, and get to the camp and sign on for the job as soon as possible. We didn't even stop in the town, only passing by the local Pelipper outpost to get a rough idea of where the camp was.

We arrived a day early, in the evening, in time to come across a rather weird bird.




"Oh trust me!" cawed the grey and blue bird, a small stack of papers off to one side of him, "You need to try the new gummi drinks they are brewing! Maybe you could all make your way over once this big job is done! Something to splash your hard-earned Poke on!"

A few other mercenaries surrounded the bird at the edge of the camp staring at either him or his papers with a mix of bemusement and confusion as Rex and Foster approached. The Combusken frowned as he looked over the scene, "Any idea what that bird is Foster?" he asked.

"I thought you knew." Foster replied, looking taken back, "I haven't seen that species before."

"A Corvisquire!" came the sudden shout, as the two mercenaries nearly jumped in surprise. The avian – this Corvisquire – had turned his attention towards them, "I'm not from around here!"

"You're not?" questioned a Bayleef in a feminine tone, "You come from one of those islands?"

The bird rubbed the back of his head, in deep thought, "Islands… yeah! Let's go with that!"

Rex picked up an advert from the paper pile, glancing at the concept of this gummi juice, At least no one has dreamed up making alcohol from gummies. He turned towards the strange bird. "Who are you?" he asked, eyes flicking between the ad and the bird.

He pulled a mock bow, "Perry! At your service. Just another humble post-bird." He sprung back up with a smile across his face, "I'd love to stay and chat, but I do need to go and get some more of these ads out before I fetch some cigars for that mouthy Sergeant Major!"

Foster's eyes went blank, "Sergeant Major? What Poke-"

Rex was only blinking in confusion as Perry pulled a salute, "I'll leave the ads with you, tally ho!"

And before any of the assembled mercenaries could react, the Corvisquire flew into the air and into the night.

The Combusken tried to track the strange bird, but Perry was already out of sight. Rex's stomach fluttered, "He was rather… erm…"

"W-Weird?" Foster replied.

"Yeah. We'll go with that."

"Tell me about it." said the Bayleef, the grass-type walking towards them, "You two here for the job at the ruin?" she asked.

"That's why we came out here." Rex replied with a light shrug, "You've still got space?"

"Just about." She looked over the pair with a curious eye, before rolling her head towards the camp. "Come with me, the client is just doing some final details of the plan. He can fill you in."

The Bayleef led the way in, showing the way towards a large tent in the centre. As they walked, Foster quipped up, "So, there are twenty of us here?"

"Eighteen actually. The plans changed."

That earned a frown from Rex, it was never a good thing for the details of the job to change out of nowhere, even considering the range that the job papers would have been dropped off at. It meant rushed plans or sudden developments.

Or both.

"What's going on then?" Rex asked quietly.

"The client can explain, but the short answer is there's been a change in the bandit situation."

The Combusken and Furret shared a concerned glance as they reached the entrance and strolled inside behind the Bayleef. Inside under the bright candle light was a round table, almost completely covered in maps. At the opposite end was an Electrabuzz, pouring over them with a practised eye.

With a little cough from the Bayleef, the electric type casually looked towards them, "Ah, you've come for the job?"

"We have!" Foster said, standing on his back feet and leaning against the table, "So what's going on? We know there's bandits and a ruin to deal with."

Rex couldn't easily shake off his discomfort as he joined the Furret at the table, I know he's worried as well, but Foster might start disregarding the risks. I've got to be careful.

"We heard that there's been a change?" Rex asked.

Nodding, the Electrabuzz motioned towards the maps, "Let me introduce myself first. I am Quentin, the head guard of Blackridge."

He tapped part of a terrain map with wooden shapes resting on top. "I've been managing some of the expeditions into Murky Pass."

"Murky Pass?" Rex replied, narrowing his eyes.

"It's a Mystery Dungeon." Quintin explained, "It's been around long before Blackridge even formed and it's become quite the local legend."

Foster's ears flickered, "Whatcha mean?"

"No one's been able to work their way through it."

Rex's frown only deepened, A dungeon that hasn't been cleared? Sure, no one can map them and they are always changing, but you'd think one so close to a town would have been searched through by now. "How does this connect to the ruins though?"

The Electrabuzz's fingers twitched, "Because someone found the ruins at the other end."

"Wait a second." Foster stuttered with a sharp tilt of his head, "I thought you said no one has got to the other end of the Dungeon."

Another twitch ran through the Electrabuzz's fingers. "No thanks to someone finding a way around the dungeon."

That hit Rex in the stomach hard, W-What? How could someone bypass a dungeon! Everyone knows that you have to go through the dungeon to reach the end!

"And before you ask." The Bayleef said, having stayed in the tent, "I was just as surprised as you guys."

"T-Then what way did they find!?" Foster questioned.

Quintin leaned forward, tapping on a point of the terrain map where some of the contour lines had narrowly converged. "There's a cliff running above where the dungeon runs through. A climber was navigating around it when he stumbled across the end of it. There seems to be part of the dungeon's boundary that seems more… distorted than the rest. He ended up falling in and left by the front entrance."

"And the bandits ended up following him in." Rex mused, starting to connect the dots together.

"Not at first. He got spotted leaving the entrance and had the way to the bypass beaten out of him."

A few sparks flickered between Quintin's antennae. "The people of Blackridge have spent a great deal of time trying to find out what's at the other side of Murky Pass. We have no plans on letting that all go to waste because some bandits decided to loot the ruins. Ruins we want to survey for the benefit of every villager in Blackridge!"

His fist slammed into the table, nearly knocking the Furret off the table and sending a shiver running up the back of the Combusken's neck. He could understand the frustration of being upstaged, especially when ruins were concerned.

Rex had heard of a few old ruins on his travels, but never took the time to visit them. Many just happened to be old walls or columns that had been left around for years. Was the ruin hidden behind Murky Pass so much more?

There's a lot in the air with this… I need more info.

"What's the plan then?" Rex questioned.

Quintin sighed, leaning back away from the table. "You and the other mercenaries are going to breach that bypass and force the bandits out." He explained, "There's a very good chance they are going to have a pair of eyes on it, so we need you to hit them hard and fast before they can try and mount a defence. Then you can sweep the ruins and secure them for our people to investigate."

"Any idea on what kind of Pokémon are on the other side? Any numbers?"

"Out of at least twelve? We know there's an Altaria and an Exegguator." Quintin explained, "And at least one ghost type. But beyond that, not much."

"We were going to lead with a ghost type and an electric type." The Bayleef added, "Hopefully we can catch any defenders off guard with that and clear a path for the rest of us."

Simple… but with only one access point it is risky…

Foster managed to lean against the table again, "Okay, but how have things changed? Are there more bandits heading this way?"

"No. Not that." Quintin said, his hands gripping the table. "We've heard that there has been a competing client."

Instinctively, Rex started shaking his head, the whole job had just turned into a competition, and that was immediately a major problem. "Do we know why?"

"How many are they sending?" Foster asked.

"No idea. Seems like they have an interest in the ruins too. As for how many…"

He gritted his teeth, "Two."

Rex blinked, "That's it?"

Quintin shook his head, "From what we've heard, they're elite mercenaries. A team calling themselves Night Aura."

Foster's mouth dipped open as the Bayleef cut in, "Some hotshot pair of Pokémon alright for going into Murky Pass."

"They're going through the Pass?" Foster yipped, "But no one has got through there!"

Rex felt himself go still, They tried to make a run for Murky Pass? Why take the risk? They could just follow us from behind. Then again… they'd run headlong into the back of the other mercs. I've not heard of any mercenary team called Night Aura, nevermind any team giving itself a name! How good do they think they are to handle the dungeon?

"If they want to struggle in there, just makes our job easier!" Foster replied with a grin, "I'm still up for clearing out some bandits!"

That's sudden! Rex almost recoiled at Foster's unwavering interest. There is a lot we don't know! Granted the pay just got even better, but it's a big risk!

Rex may have enjoyed a good scrap here and there, but he'd still at least like a better idea of what he was jumping into with some freedom to take his own path. But here, the mercenaries were just bodies to throw into a gauntlet, with another competitor potentially hanging around in the wings.

It didn't feel… wise.

Foster elbowed the Combusken in the side, "I'm sure Rex here would be more than happy to throw some extra muscle in to help!"

"Fire-fighting combos are pretty hard to beat." The Bayleef admitted.

Quintin merely tapped his table with his fingers, "Help Blackridge secure the ruins, and the reward will be far beyond what you will get elsewhere."

Rex nearly flinched again, barely managing to recover by scratching his chin to feign some internal thoughts. Despite the risk, there was one thing that kept tugging at him.

If he left now, he'd be leaving Foster out to dry. The Furret hadn't led Rex astray at any point and had been friendly enough on their journey. Foster had come to him to ask for help, and it was not just to get here. Turning back now would feel like a plain betrayal, and that made Rex more uncomfortable than running into danger.

Well… it's part of the job.

Pulling his hand away from his beak, Rex nodded towards the Electrabuzz. "Alright, I'm in."



The following evening…

The assembled mercenaries carefully crept along the cliff face, either holding onto the ropes drilled into the rock, or tip-toeing along the wooden platform that had also been set up before their arrival. Some of the villagers had worked to establish the route to this so-called 'breach' and the bandits had managed to, if somewhat poorly, finish the job.

A trio of flying types accompanied them, slowly gliding around the cliffs. They had been lucky that the wind had died down, otherwise they'd be clambering along the rocks themselves.

Rex ground his beak as he shuffled around a sharp outcrop, taking care not to let his feet slip. Foster crept in close behind, the Normal-type panting as he kept his eyes focused on the rocks.

"You holding up alright?" Rex asked, halting for a moment.

Foster nervously nodded, "Yeah… just keep moving okay? I'm not great with heights."

Not pushing the Furret any further, Rex focused on the path ahead. He tried to not think about the dangers, instead, he focused on the climb.

Soon, as they reached a small hollow in the cliffs, he saw the breach. He nearly missed it, a faint shimmer at the edge of his vision. It was a ring not unlike a mirage.

No wonder it took a climber to find this place, not much reason for a bird to stop here and anyone flying by would barely see the breach. Especially once the wind was up.

Foster sighed with visible relief as he stepped into the hollow, "Finally… we're here."

Rex flashed a grin, "Should be easier height-wise hopefully."

"It's just a scree-slope from here on out." Called out Ingrid - the Bayleef who had first greeted them – as she stepped into the hollow. "I'm not sure how'd we get in if it was just a sheer drop."

Foster shivered, "Please don't put that image in my head…"

Ingrid flashed a wink, walking by the pair.

"Alright." Quintin said as he came up behind the last of the mercenaries. "Scouts, let's get ready."

Turned out the Electrabuzz had volunteered himself to go along with them, being the head guardsmon after all.

A Mareep and a Haunter moved towards the breach, getting a pair of ropes ready to serve as the signal to attack. The other mercenaries started checking over their equipment where berries like those Rex had were ubiquitous. But there was a mix of gravelrocks, seeds, the odd dart and Rex even noticed a rare wand sticking out from a rucksack.

Rex picked a small boulder to sit on as he started to check over his stuff, making sure he hadn't lost anything. Foster did the same, settling down next to the Combusken on another rock. "So, try and tag team it as much as we can?" the Furret asked.

"Aye." He replied, satisfied as he approached the ship. "We wouldn't want to get caught out."

He kept the words deliberately vague, not wanting to imply that it wasn't just the bandits they were worried about. There was still that risk with such a large pot to have a stake in.

On cue, the scouts declared themselves ready to go, and Rex raised a closed fist towards Foster, "Ready?"

With a happy grin, Foster did the same. "Aye aye!"

The two bumped their fists softly together before rising to their feet. Ahead of them, the Mareep and Haunter had positioned themselves at the edge of the breach, the latter grasping some of the rope, whilst the former had it wrapped around their side. They shared a singular nod, and jointly moved forward.

The air rippled like water as the pair went through the breach, the ropes trailing behind them, the only indicator that someone had moved through. The other mercenaries slowly started creeping towards the entry point, eyes focused on the two ropes, each one marked with two ribbons, the first being red, the second being green. If only the first ribbon went through, it would be a warning not to enter. If both did, then were clear to rush through.

No one wanted to think about what the outcome of no rope making it through.

The mercenaries held their nerve, waiting for the signal.

"Get ready." Quintin warned, "We'll have to move quickly."

Rex tightened his grip on his satchel strap, his heart slowing down. Come on…

One of the ropes went flying through the breach, taking both ribbons with it.

"Go go!" Ingrid barked, the grass-type charging for the breach. With a roar in reply, the others surged after her. Finding himself joining the ruckus with a bellow of his own, Rex followed, feeling the heat from the distortion as he ran for it.

He instinctively took a breath and closed his eyes as he pushed through, though it didn't feel like he was slipping into water, instead, it was like he was sucked in, his feathers being pulled forward with him.

The feeling vanished as he heard the blast of a Thunderbolt.

His eyes snapped open in time to see the shadowy ball racing towards him. Gasping, he threw himself aside, the attack flying past his head. He heard someone cry out behind him, too deep to be Foster. He rolled across the gravel and managed to get back upright, his feet sliding and threatening to topple him. Open ground ran downhill towards a smooth rock clearing. Down there, five bandits were waiting for them, firing off their attacks from below.

Rex started running, fighting to keep his balance. He eyed the Exegguator, a stout figure amongst the bandits below, laughing almost drunkenly as he fired off his Leaf Storm. Letting the heat rise in his throat, the Combusken spat out an Ember, the little fireball hitting one of the 'heads' of the Exegguator and sending him stumbling back. The assaulting mercs took their chance, pushing further onward and slamming into the ranks of the bandits.

Taking his chance, Rex looked back, feeling a flare of warmth as Foster skidded down the slope behind him before continuing his run. As he reached the bottom, a Machop burst out from the battling mercs, her fist glowing. Rex growled, claws glinting as he blocked the strike with his arm and slashed back. The fighting type countered with a block of her own, and swept her leg low, forcing him to jump to avoid it, countering with a kick.

The two duelled like that for a moment, blocking or evading each other's strikes in a ten-second bout before Rex's Flame Charge caught her in the chest, knocking her away. A nasty crack rang out he slammed his fist under her chin, snapping her head back and leaving her to topple to the floor.

As the sound of battle began to die down, he could hear Foster's whisper. "Holy…"

On one side of the clearing was the exit leading out of the dungeon. On the other, the mountain beckoned, where carved into the side was a massive entrance. At the top of a short set of stairs, pillars of granite stood proud and tall in the rock face, grooved with strange patterns across their surface that would almost look like writing. The pillars were holding up a triangular 'roof', where a sizable crater sat in the centre of it, removing whatever once used to be there.

Rex's eyes widened, his breath stolen from him. By Rayquaza's… no wonder everyone's trying to get in here!

Emerging from the ruins, the blue and white form of an Alteria appeared, hovering overhead. "By the gods! What's that rack-"

The Altaria shook in mid-air, his voice rising, "Are you kidding me!?" He yelled, loud enough for a few mercenaries to flinch. "BE GONE!"

His beak opened wide, a multi-coloured ball forming within. "Dragon Pulse!" Foster shouted, "Out of the way!"

Instinct took over as Rex sprinted to the side just as the blast of light surged forward. Mercenaries screamed as they were blown away, too close together to avoid the attack. Foster had joined Rex by his side as a water type came flying towards them. "Get down!" he barked.

"Wh-"

Rex's hand slapped against the Furret's back, forcing the pair down as the water type sailed overhead. Foster gasped, head whipping towards the avian. "T-Thanks!"

"Anytime!" Rex replied, getting back up to his knee as the Altaria changed position, charging up another Dragon Pulse.

"Rex! Throw me at him!"

He swore he felt his back click, looking back towards the very determined-looking little Furret, "Foster, that's-"

"Just trust me! Do it!" he snapped, spurring the Combusken into action.

He grabbed hold of the normal type's back, grunting as he hefted him up. Foster may have been smaller than most of his species, but he still had a fair bit of weight in him. Muscles screaming, Rex roared as he threw the Furret up into the air towards the Altaria.

"Try a piece of this!" Foster screamed, recoiling back just before the Ice Beam rushed out of his mouth.

The Altria didn't even try to dodge, a panicked scream ringing out as the ice attack hit its mark, knocking the dragon bird out of the air and into a mass of fresh bandits, pouring towards the front of the entrance. The mercenaries cheered, whilst Foster landed with a big smile on his face. Rex jogged over to the Furret's side, unable to contain his beaming smile, "That was amazing!" he exclaimed with delight, skidding to a halt by his side,

"Hey, gotta try some new tricks here and there!" Foster chuckled.

At the ruin entrance, the remaining bandits were silent, save for the squawking Altaria pushing himself up to his feet, not quite down yet. "Fall back!" he shouted, "Into the ruin!"

"After them!" Ingrid bellowed, her bruised form stomping forward, "Let's get our pay!"

With another victorious roar, the mercenaries charged, and in a mad panic, the bandits began to pour back into the ruin. Sharing a grin, Rex and Foster joined in the roar and threw themselves into the attack.



As it turned out, that would be the last good moment of that night.

Because not long after that, it all went to hell.


This Chapter took far longer to write than I wanted to, and more was supposed to happen here, but the Chapter once again started getting longer again, and by my own new rules on length, Chapter 4 will have a particularly signifincant event that will truely kick MoD's story off. And as a bonus, I get to post this on Christmas Day.

Hope you enjoy this chapter, and speaking of which, Merry Christmas everyone!
 
I like this a lot so far. I enjoy stories with mercenaries, and adding Pokémon to it makes it all the better. Rex is instantly endearing: he's tough yet kindhearted, and he's got some sick fighting skills. Keep it up.
 
Here is my review so far of the fic
Episode 1 - Chapter 1
This story seems to have an exciting spin on your typical rescue team set-up. The concept of mercenaries is interesting and provides almost a slightly more cautious or hostile approach to the world around these pokémon which is intriguing. The chapter starts with a showdown between a single pokémon and their five assailants, which gives me PMD vibes– a throwback to being attacked on a beach with the time relics. The chapter ends by completing the focus shift from our Azumarill victim to, I assume, what is to be our main protagonist, Rex. Rex seems interesting enough. It is hard to tell too much about him at this point, seeing as it is only the first chapter, but the end brings us to the idea of this grand adventure that is about to occur, nicely seen through the use of a caravan.

Structurally, the story reads pretty well. Each paragraph and section adds to the previous section consistently and tidily at a well-thought-out pace. My only gripe is the dialogue tags. I often see it and am guilty of making the same mistake, but the way I was taught by someone I once met was action = full stop, speech wording = comma.

For example,

He whispered, “My name is Jeff.” Jeff rubbed his hands together. “I like money.” The amount of money in Tom’s pockets was unknown to Jeff, but quickly, he added, “Do you like money too?”

The characters so far have seemed reasonable; as stated above, Rex looks interesting enough. You have made it clear very early on that there is a bond between Colin and Allisa, which is excellent; the big question we are left wondering
is where Rex fits into all of this. Will he meet them again? I suspect it's possible, given their early introduction to the story.

Episode 1 - Chapter 2

Opening this chapter with Rex staying with Colin is a great decision. It gives us a chance to learn more about Colin and Rex. Colin is already starting to become my favourite character - being kind and genuinely seems like a good guy. Also, in this opening, we get a little bit of world-building, like some place names and some general mapping, although I hope this gets expanded upon later, as in a PMD world, places can seem very compact at times. Later in the chapter, these place names are mentioned again, specifically emphasising a place called Blackridge. I am glad you justifiy its importance to the characters. However, I am not quite sure of its significance regarding the plot yet.

Foster the Furret seems an excellent little addition to the story, even if he doesn’t seem to be in the frame for long. I like how you use Foster to create specific plot points and add to the worldbuilding. At least he is coming along for the trip at the moment. I hope you further use him to explain things about the world we may not understand. While Foster and Colin take more of a front seat with Rex in this chapter, Allisa seems to take more of a back seat, and I assume this is due to her staying while the others head off in the next chapter, as alluded to at the end. It's not necessarily a bad thing—just an observation and assumption I have.

Lastly, regarding the story's structure, the pacing is consistent with the first chapter, although I am unsure about the plot. I assume something important is coming up with the mysterious ruins mentioned at the end of the chapter, but time will tell if this is the case. Grammatically, the only thing I have noticed being slightly off is the dialogue tags, as mentioned in the above review. Therefore, overall, the grammar is good, and the spelling is on point.

Episode1 - Chapter 3

The lead-up to this chapter’s writing in the little Rex’s notes at the top does give me cause for concern for the safety of Rex. That cute little Furret planning something evil? Please, no, he is too cute for that (Furrets are cute). I like this opening; it throws a little potential spanner in the works. However, as these are just Rex’s notes, I’ll move on to the main event.

The plot seems to have thickened slightly, with plans thrown out the window. The introduction of Quentin the Electabuzz is pretty neat, as Electabuzz feels very overlooked in the world of Pokémon. Also, I cannot help but be reminded of Quentin from Nightmare on Elm Street, which is an excellent set of movies. His character gives off the impression that he knows what he is talking about and that the others should follow him. His explanation of the dungeon’s status and connection to the ruins, as mentioned in the previous chapter, leaves many questions. What are the ruins? Why are they in a dungeon? For someone to have reached the end to find the ruins, the dungeon must have been cleared, so why isn’t it cleared? Also, I like further down how we find out that Foster fears heights. I hope you play on this much later in the story, as it would be a great call back to this early-on section.

Plotwise, I am going to be honest: if I were a pokémon and there was a place called Murky Pass, I wouldn’t be going there, primarily if bandits are known to be around there. So these characters are investigating around it, and this dungeon is written in a way that shows just how important it is. Toward the end of the chapter, we get to meet the Altaria. The Altaria is written and described in a way that gives off early boss vibes. This is great, it gives Rex and the others an actual threat to deal with, even if the Altaria retreats for now.
 
Chapter I.IV - Fallen Mercenaries
POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I – RISING STARS
CHAPTER IV – FALLEN MERCENARIES

Rex leaned against the grey wall, panting as he wiped his face clear of sweat. The side of his gut throbbed from a well-placed strike from a sneaky Beldum. It was nothing that a well-placed Flame Wheel-powered kick couldn't deal with, but it was still enough to leave him wincing.

The Mercenaries had surged into the temple, hot on the bandit's heels and making a solid push through an open atrium, bare save for carved pillars that held up the ceilings. They didn't have much of a chance to look around though, as the bandits fled into separate tunnels, forcing the mercenaries to split up to pursue their targets. Rex and Foster got running down one of the side paths, sticking alongside a pair of Surskit and a Munchlax as they followed a subgroup of the crooks.

Little by little, they pushed the bandits further into the temple. The bandits would try and fire off blasts of water, sound and the odd fireball to slow the mercs down, but the mercs pressed on, occasionally catching one criminal who couldn't quite fall back quickly enough and was swiftly knocking them down.

Still, progress was slow, there were what appeared to be touches, glowing with a soft blue light in a container rather than an open flame. Rex only spared a moment to look towards the strange contraptions, only wishing they were a bit brighter as the place was still dark, often hiding openings to smaller chambers that were offshoots of the tunnel to ambush them. One of the Surskits fell victim to one such attack, slumping against the wall and forcing her panicking companion to drag her away, leaving the remaining group to advance alone.

It was not long after that when the bandits launched their last attack, a trio composed of a Beldum, a Starmie and a Banette. It had caught the mercs off guard, but Rex had managed to recover quickly enough to blow the Steel-type away. As did Foster, the Furret throwing out a Surprise Brick Break to put down the Starmie.

But as for the Munchlax…

Foster frowned sadly as he closed the Normal-type's eyes, the Pokémon slumped against the wall near the still form of the Banette. It took a dual move from Rex and Foster to stop the Banette, but it was too late to stop the ghost-type before he got his kill move in. The poor merc didn't stand a chance.

But that was the last of the bandits, at least in their tunnel.

Foster moved over to the Combusken's side, wincing as he shook one of his legs, slightly charred from a fire or electrical attack, "You alright Rex?"

Rex nodded, grinding his beak as he rubbed his bruised body, cursing the Beldum for landing such a hard hit. He may have been a fighting type, but with such tight spaces, even he struggled. "I'll live, just wish we stopped that Banette sooner."

"Tell me about it…" Foster replied with a hiss, turning towards the still forms of the bandits, "Do they think they can hold us off like this?"

Rex glanced back down the tunnel, eyes narrowed, It does seem a bit daft, there haven't been any traps, so were they just desperate to flee down here? Or did they find another exit further back?

Either way, they had to scour further ahead, maybe they'd come across the other mercenaries further ahead. Pushing himself away from the wall, Rex managed a pained grin, "Come on, we need to keep moving."

The duo pressed onwards, using the strange touches as their guides. Rex finally took his chance to inspect them as he walked past, realising that indeed, there was no flame inside them at all. Instead, he couldn't help but think that the lights were humming. How long have these lights been lit for?

He had no idea, nor any idea on how they worked as they rounded another corner and entered a four-way junction, a pair of corpses laid out across it. One bandit and one mercenary.

Foster scurried over to check them both, chewing his lip as he did. "Looks like the others have been through here!"

"But what happened?" Rex questioned, feeling stiff as he directed his narrowed eyes across the tunnels, noticing how empty the tunnels were, including what he hazarded a guess as the path that led deeper in. "And where is everyone?"

He bared his claws, trying to pick up any signs of battle or movement, readying himself for the next threat.

Something thumped, and the Combusken spun towards the new tunnel to find Ingrid stepping out of a side room, her body mostly pristine save for a few scuffs across her hide. Exhaling quietly, Rex nodded her way, "Ingrid, you alright?" he asked.

The Bayleef nodded back at him with a narrowed gaze, "Yeah, you two still kicking?"

Foster pulled a weak smile as he stepped towards her unsteadily, "Well enough, some of us had to fall back…" the smile faded away as his eyes flicked towards the bodies behind him, "We still lost one of our own."

Ingrid's gaze barely settled on the bodies, "Yeah. Lost a few ourselves. The Altaria was a smart bastard."

Rex frowned, feeling a shiver run through his feathers. Ingrid seemed strangely cold to the fate of their comrades. Could just be the rundown from combat. It can do strange things to Pokémon when it's not just a fun bout.

Still, he couldn't shake off his discomfort.

The Bayleef flicked her head towards the tunnel leading further in. "The Electrabuzz is further in with the rest of us, must be interrogating the last bandits now."

Rex blinked, "It's all over?"

That can't be right… they must have had more bandits to deal with than we did, or at least a similar amount. How did they blitz through so quick?

"That's great!" Foster uttered with a sigh of relief, still visibly shaking as he entered the tunnel, "What are you doing down here then?"

"Trying to gather everyone in." Ingrid replied with a bored tone. "Follow me. It's quite a sight.

She started to turn down the corridor.

The Combusken felt his fingers twitch, wanting to say something to stop Foster, something felt off. Ingrid didn't seem like the type to backstab them at the camp or the cliff, but the change of behaviour wasn't something he was expecting.

As he stepped forward, his side throbbed sharply and unable to contain it, he let out a faint hiss.

"Here." Ingrid said.

Rex looked up to catch an oran berry that flew to him, "Get that checked out." She added, "We'll go on ahead."

"Just wait a second…" Rex started, "I can keep-"

"Don't worry!" Foster said, jogging over and patting his shoulder. "You can catch up!"

"Foster!" Rex hissed, "Just stop and-"

But it was too late, Foster and Ingrid were already running down the corridor, leaving the Combusken behind as they disappeared into the darkness.

Damn Beldum! How did that thing manage to hit me?! Now Foster is running off to who knows where-

His side throbbing, he knew that steel-type had a good hiding place at least as he bit into the berry and ripped a piece off to rub against his side. Feeling the pain subside, he started to jog after the other mercs, Ingrid did give me an oran, maybe it is just her being numb-

Rex halted in his tracks as he caught a glint from the side room. The one that Ingrid had emerged from. And it wasn't blue.

He took a step back, and saw the pool of blood spreading across the floor. Feeling his limbs tighten, Rex sneaked towards the opening, willing his claws to sharpen, ready to slash at any threat hidden inside.

As he stepped into the entryway, his legs suddenly went wobbly, and he grabbed hold of the wall to hold himself up.

Two corpses lay inside the side chamber, lit under the cracked 'touches' that now allowed white light to shine through. One was the Altaria, his neck bent and twisted at awkward angles.

The second was that of a Bayleef.

She lay on her side, her eyes black and devoid of any life. Deep cuts covered practically every part of her body, her legs, her torso… and one particularly deep slice in her throat.

I-Ingrid!

The revelation shook the fire-type to his core, it didn't matter if Ingrid killed the Altaria in the fight. The aloofness, the chill in that voice… the Pokémon that Foster was with…

They're an imposter!

His heart pounding, Rex sprinted out of the room and into the tunnel, in hot pursuit of Foster and the doppelganger Bayleef.

The tunnel twisted and turned, with only the hum of the strange touches along the walls. His mind was focused on Foster, he knew the Furret didn't think about the risks as much as he did, but he didn't think the normal-type would have ended up in this situation! And who was the imposter? Night Aura? Did they somehow punch through the Mystery Dungeon? But Quintin said it was impossible! Unless they were amongst the bandits or the mercenaries all this time!

Doesn't matter now! I have to get to Foster!

When he finally burst out of the tunnel, his mind suddenly went blank.

He had emerged into a spacious chamber with walls of solid granite, only the walls had glowing cracks running all along them. The floor was smooth underneath him and ran towards a set of low, but large steps that climbed towards a sizeable obelisk at the very top. The obelisk itself was also covered in blue cracks, softly pulsing without any pattern. The roof was now gone entirely, and Rex could see starlight above his head.

The Combusken stared at the scene, only to sharply shake his head. There was no time to waste!

He sprinted up to the steps, sometimes bounding up too at a time. "Foster!" Rex shouted as he ran, "Foster!"

"Rex?" came the bark back, coming from towards the top of the stairs. His heart pounding, he vaulted the last step onto the summit. The large obelisk was surrounded by four smaller ones, unmarked with blue markings. Where the hell are the other mercs? Did they get ambushed or held up?

That was when he saw Foster at the foot of the central obelisk, his fellow mercenary turning to face him. He's alright!

Foster worked up a confused grin, "Hey, what's going on? This place loo-"

That was when crimson blades punched through the Furret's chest.

"Foster!" Rex screamed, reaching out for Foster, too far away to help.

Pain rushed across Foster's face as he gasped for air, slowly being lifted by the crackling blades, his feet hanging limply off the floor. The Furret looked down at the weapons, wheezing as he finally looked back to Rex, his eyes wide and bulging.

"R-Rex…" he stammered.

Then his head dropped and went limp.

Rex could only watch, blood pounding in his ears as Foster's body was thrown aside, revealing Ingrid, the crimson claws retracting away from her leg.

Her eyes now glowed a bright blue as she pulled a mocking smile, "What an idiot."

His entire body twitching, Rex roared, charging for grass-type and leaping into the air, willing the fire to ignite into a new Flame Wheel. "You bastard!"

The Bayleef raised her arm just as his fire-empowered kick connected with a thud, only to be smothered out with a flow of crimson energy.

"W-What!?" Rex squarked, just before something invisible tightened around his feet and threw him back. Wincing, he skidded across the stone floor, glaring at the Bayleef. She should be in agony from that! What the hell is this?!

Laughing, 'Ingrid' inspected her seemingly uninjured arm before slowly walking towards the Combusken. "You think it'd be that easy?"

As Rex clenched his fist, the air around the Bayleef shimmered and with her body distorted… and started to reshape itself. The Combusken went cold as the yellow-green form of the Bayleef was replaced with a grey, fully bipedal form in its place. Red patches of fur and claw covered her body, although that was all overshadowed by the massive, voluminous red mane.

A Pokémon that Rex didn't recognise at all.

"What… what the fuck are you!?" he shouted, unable to make sense of this new form.

The fox-like Pokémon bared her canines into an even more mocking smile, her eyes closed. "I just happen to be a Zoroark." She replied, her eyes opening to reveal cold blue eyes. "I'll give you one chance."

The smile faded away as the Zoroark glared at him, her eyes softly glowing. "Surrender or Die."

Rex felt his claws shake, finding himself looking between her and Foster's still body. His heart pounded harder and unable to hold back his anger, he settled into his fighting stance. "I don't know who you are." He growled, his claws glowing white, "But I'm not going to let you get away with this!"

The Zoroark laughed, crimson light forming around her claws with a click of her fingers. "You have no idea how much I wanted to hear that."

Unable to restrain himself anymore, Rex charged, slicing with his claws.

White and crimson claws clanged against each other, the Zoroark countering with her's. Rex threw Slash after Slash, aiming high and low to try and force her back. But with every strike, she deflected his, unmoving.

She ducked on his tenth swing, sweeping her leg out too fast for him to stop.

His feet were swiped out from underneath him, sending Rex tumbling to the floor. Grunting, he started to stumble up-

Crimson claws rushed down at him, and with a cry, he rolled aside just as the attack stabbed into the rock where he was.

He scrambled back to his feet as the Zoroark glared at him. "I've got to admit, you're doing better than the other mercs."

"What did you do to them!?" Rex questioned venomously; hand pressed against the floor.

She merely shrugged back, "Took a few of them out. The rest should be easy pickings for my partner."

So it's true! She's…

Rex snarled at her, "Team Night Aura."

"Congratulations." She stated, sounding fed up, "You've managed to use more brainpower than most of your kind."

With another screech, Rex scraped his claws into the ground, firing the Rock Throw at her. She pounced upwards, black and blue rings shooting from her arms. Gasping, Rex leapt away from the Dark Pulse, evading the attack.

His heart pounded as he skidded back again, panting for air, She's strong! His legs wobbled as he rose back to his feet, H-How can I beat her?!

He willed his raw strength to flow into his limbs, Alright, Dark Pulse, dark fur, Night Slash, she has to be a dark-type!

Lunging back at her again, he fired off his Double Kick, hoping to catch her with a fighting-type move. She rolled away, his kicks beating into the ground. He swiftly ducked her fresh claws, and retaliated with Brick Break.

His attack connected with her arm, the fox wincing from the blow. Rex didn't grin, trying to will more of that energy through him. Tough enough to take that kind of hit!

With another cry, he tried Brick Break again, but she evaded, forcing Rex t-

Her claws glinted white as she swiped at him, forcing the fire-type back. Then she swiped again and again, pushing him further away. As the Fury Swipes ceased, he tried to throw himself back at her with his own Sla-

Only for her foot to smack into his. Gasping, Rex stumbled, his slash cutting empty space as the Zoroark slipped past. Rex tried to spin back at her.

The Dark Pulse speared into his chest.

Rex screamed as he was thrown off his feet, pain exploding across his body. He sailed through the air, his body slamming into hard rock.

Into the central obelisk.

The blue cracks burst into bright light, energy crackling across the surface… and straight into Rex.

Blue light flared across his vision, agony pulsing through his flesh. He screamed even louder, images flashing through his mind. Symbols, shapes and hieroglyphics burnt themselves into his head, threatening to blow it open.

Seconds felt like an eternity before the energy faded away, releasing him from the obelisk.

Rex hit the floor like a rock, hot enough that he could feel his sweat vaporise from his skin. Dark blobs floating across his vision, Rex tried to push himself up, but his arms wouldn't work, shaking violently as the only thing he could do was weakly look up at the Zoroark, slowly walking towards the wounded Combusken with her crimson claws ignited. Got… gotta… keep… fighting…

But his body was giving up on him, his eyes slowly drifting closed as he fell into darkness…

*****

-ie here.

Rex stirred, W-What?

A young voice chuckled in the darkness, Hold on to your feathers mate. I'm not about to let you die here.

Red light flashed before Rex's eyes.

*****

With a cruel smile on her lips, the Zoroark raised her claws, "Pathetic beast." She purred, as the claws fell onto the still form of the Combusken.

The colours of the rainbow exploded in her face. Snapping a bark, she stumbled back, shielding her eyes from the intense light. "The hell…"

She refocused her gaze on the source.

Rex was now back on his feet, eyes closed as the multicoloured energy flowed around him. His body suddenly became enveloped in white light, and the Zoroark's mouth could only drop as he grew larger, his body changing shape before her eyes.

Like he was evolving. And yet… he wasn't. Not quite.

There was the briefest flash of a teardrop-shaped symbol over Rex's form, and with a final blast of light, he was fully revealed.

The Pokémon that stood in the Combusken's place was covered in red and black feathers, towering over the fox as flame ignited around his wrists. A V-shape crest dominated his angular head, with a hooked beak at the other end.

Raising his leg into a new combat stance, the Mega Blaziken's blue eyes snapped open.

The Zoroark growled at him, claws fully igniting again, "What the fuck is this!?"

Rex glared at her, feeling the newfound power rushing through him, "I don't know." He said, "But it's just what I need to put you down!"

Fire whipped around his legs as he sprung forward, the Flame Wheel-powered kick rushing through the air at her. The Zoroark leapt back, hissing as flame licked at her face. Not stopping, Rex charged in again, throwing attack after attack and forcing his hated foe back. The Zoroark's eyes were bulging, alarm setting in as she tried to slash him back, only for his claws to deflect it away, opening her up.

He didn't even power up a move, opting to slam his fist straight into her chest with a crack. Gasping, she was thrown back, but she managed to keep herself on her feet, sliding back across the ground. He struggled not to smirk, flames erupting from his wrists. Time to finish this!

With a powerful screech, he leapt up, powering up his fire attack as he dove down towards her, ready to strike her down!

The blue shape dashed in front of the Zoroark in the blink of an eye, a blue beam of light spinning in its grasp. Rex could only bark in surprise as his foot struck the spinning bar, sending a jolt running up his leg as he flipped away. As the Mega Blaziken landed, he finally caught a glimpse of the new arrival. A blue-black canine, also bipedal, stood between him and the Zoroark. Grunting, the Pokémon fell to one knee, slamming the ethereal bone in his paws into the floor to hold himself up.

Snarling at the new arrival, Rex willed the flames to reform around him, "Get out of my way!" He roared, ready to strike again.

All that power suddenly rushed out of him, and with a flash of light, Rex felt himself shrink and change within a heartbeat. H-Huh?

Weakly, he lifted his arms to find his original cream limbs. "W-What!?"

The blue ball of energy slammed into his chest like a missile. Air rushed out of his lungs as the world spun and swiftly went dark.

For about ten seconds.

Groaning, Rex's eyes fluttered open, his entire body throbbing. Planting his paws into the ground, Rex pushed himself up to his knees.

A short distance away, the blue canine was helping the Zoroark up. Rex blinked, trying to make sense of the new Pokémon. Where… where have I seen that Pokémon… Lu… Lucario…

"Thanks for the save partner." The Zoroark purred as she rose to her feet.

The Lucario responded with a lightly rough, but gentle voice. "I'm just glad I got here in time." He held up a hefty-looking pouch, "I got what we need. The client will handle the rest. But we need to get moving, more bandits are coming."

"Shame." The Zoroark pouted, "I was looking forward to another scrap."

The two turned away.

Violently shaking, Rex scraped his claws against the floor, "H-Hey! Wait!" he snapped. "We're not finished!"

Team Night Aura turned back to him, the Lucario's brow furrowed, "We've done our job, why should we hang around?"

The Zoroark rolled her eyes, "Come on, let me shut him up." She said, taking a step towards the Combusken, only for the fighting type to block her with one arm, narrowing his eyes at her.

"You… you need to pay for what you've done…" Rex spat, shaking as he tried to get to his feet.

The blue-furred Pokémon's features softened, his eyes drifting off to one side. "I'm sorry about the other mercenaries. It's not personal."

Rex glared at him, "You made it that way…", his insides burning up, wanting to throw himself at them and rip them to shreds!

He looked somewhat hurt at that, only for the Zoroark to cut in, "It's not personal. If you can't handle a few deaths, you shouldn't be here." She leaned in, growling into the Lucario's ear. "Let me kill him. He's going to be a problem."

Slowly, the Lucario shook his head, "What's the point? He can't fight. And the bandits will find him soon enough."

He turned away, "Another time, perhaps."

With that, he started walking away. And with a final glower of her own, the Zoroark moved to join him.

A tremor ran through the Combusken. "Don't you walk away!" he bellowed, trying to step after Night Aura, "I'm not done with you… with…"

His body suddenly weighed like a sack of lead, what was left of his energy fluttering out. His eyes rolled back as he slumped to the floor.

The last thing Rex saw was the face of Foster, his eyes blank and lifeless.



A gentle warmth flowed over Rex, stirring him from the depths of unconsciousness.

As his eyes fluttered open, he found himself looking at a bright sky, the sun shining down at him. Leaves rustled in the wind and he could smell a welcome aroma of wood.

Huh? Where… where am I?

Slowly, Rex sat up to find himself in a large grassy clearing, cut in half by a stream running through. Trees surrounded him and the clearing on all sides, but it was all completely dominated by a single massive tree. This tree's trunk was wider than the entire canopies of its smaller cousins and rose easily more than a hundred metres into the air, likely more.

Rex stared at the giant tree, now feeling very small at the sight of it. Its size was far beyond anything he had ever seen. Far beyond anything he expected from the Air Continent.

"What… what is this place?" he finally stuttered.

"Glad to see you've woken up!"

Something thumped behind him, the Combusken jumping around in shock towards the source.

Standing atop a small boulder by the edge of the river was another Pokémon he did not recognise. A small, bipedal white rabbit with flashes of red-orange fur on his ears and feet.

The rabbit winked an orange eye at him. "How's it hanging?" he asked warmly.

Well holy hell. This one went in a new direction, I hope you guys enjoy this chapter throwing things through a loop.
 
Review of Episode 1 - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Episode 1 features more of my favourite little furret, which is a major bonus, at least until…. Well… anyway. I love the adjectives around Foster running, I can picture him zooming off right now. I also like how you up the stakes in this chapter. Especially when poor Foster gets whacked pretty badly. The place these guys are in is a real death trap, huh? Fire and steel threats lurking about. I assume it is going to be super dark too, to make it far easier for them to accidentally uncover one of these threats.

We get to meet a major threat though, don’t we? I love how you make the Zoroark incredibly strong off the bat. It gives me some Homelander entrance vibes – and that scene of them and Foster getting hit is unforgettable.

Be aware of missing commas, we don’t want a “Let’s eat grandma” situation. It only happens once or twice in speech, but just so you are aware of it, an example is “You alright Rex” – there should be a comma after alright. Remember, if you are addressing someone, the comma goes before their name; if you are doing an action to someone, it does not. I am glad the rest of the tags were adjusted though to fix the errors pointed out previously, although a few errors still exist on that front, it is now much cleaner.

I am a little confused by the ending, but I think that is supposed to be like that, right? Rex has just reawakened from it all. I think the slight disconnect works well. It’s almost as if parts of Rex’s memories are missing.
 
Chapter I.V - The Friend, The Spirit and the Swordsmon
POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I – RISING STARS
CHAPTER V – THE FRIEND, THE SPIRIT AND THE SWORDSMON

Welp, this took far longer than I planned to actually complete. But I finally committed a good deal of time to actually finishing this chapter, which essentially concludes the early chapters of MoD. I hope this chapter is enjoyable, even with the greater length.

Rex grunted as he lifted the trunk, his muscles straining from the mass. "Go!" he barked.

"On it!" Foster responded, diving underneath to the other side. "Just give me a sec!"

"Hurry!" the Combusken stressed, shunting his shoulder underneath the trunk, holding up not only that but the one directly above it.

Something scraped across the ground, and the Furret shoved the boulder into place. "Alright!"

Gasping, Rex lowered the mass onto the boulder, the wood creaking as it took the strain. Not waiting, he slipped underneath and strolled onwards. "Going's getting tougher Foster." Rex said, "Are you sure we're going the right way?"

"Positive! My compass is still saying we're heading west." Foster replied, checking the device in his paws, "We just need to keep pushing through. I think I can see a clearing."

Grinding his beak, Rex stepped ahead of the small Furret. They had already spent a day in the depths of this forest, and it was already getting harder to work through the dense foliage. Their moves had been helping them, but they were having to take more detours or brute-force approaches.

It was starting to wear on the Combusken a bit, but as he peered through the vegetation, he could see it thinning out. Should be a good place to catch our breath.

"Come on." Rex said, claws glowing as he started to slash deeper into the wood. It was mainly branches now that stood between them and the clearing. Just a little further, and they'd be clear for a moment.

Only a handful of metres from the edge, a small, unassuming trunk blocked the way, leaning slightly to the side but otherwise headed upward into a small mess of leaves. Might as well keep it simple.

Rex's Slash attack whistles through the trunk like a knife through hot butter, leaving what was left to fall aside.

Then came the sound of crunching wood above him. Rex snapped his head up to find a dark shadow falling-

"Watch out!"

A weight flew hard into his back. Squeezing his eyes shut, Rex felt himself flung forward to thump onto grass. A crash rang out behind him, and with a wince, he rolled over to find that a much larger tree had come down right on top of where he had been.

Groaning between him and the fallen tree, Foster shakingly rose to his feet. "Woo…" he wheezed, rubbing his forehead before flashing a grin at the fire-type. "That was a close one!"

Ignoring the throbbing in his back, Rex flashed a grin of his own, "I suppose you can say that. Thanks."

"Anytime!" Foster cheerfully replied, helping pull the Combusken to his feet.



Present Time

The white-red rabbit's ear twitched as he looked over the Combusken, "What?" he asked, "Not seen anything like me before?"

Rex blinked, looking up and down the rabbit before him. "Wh-what? I… I was in a ruin, an-and there were no-"

He stuttered, slowly looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings. Radically different from what he was in before. Did… did I get moved? Am I dead?

The sharp click of digits snapped the Combusken's attention back. "Mate? 'ello? I'm standing kinda dramatically on a rock here?"

The rabbit raised a brow, prompting Rex to shake his head. "Sorry. I… I'm just not sure what's going on."

"Yeah… fair enough. I mean, that was one wild ride."

His mind refocusing, the mercenary narrowed his eyes at the new Pokémon. "Right. Who are you? What are you?"

The Pokémon blinked, pulling an embarrassed smile as he rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah… I think I got called a lot of names? Warrior? Explorer? Maester?"

Odd... Rex frowned, "Well you've got to have one, right?"

Slowly, the rabbit nodded, "Sa… Samiel. Yeah. Samiel. That's my name."

"Rex." Introduced the avian, still wary, "I haven't seen your species before Samiel."

Samiel looked thoughtful again as he tapped his thought, "Cinderace? No… I seem a bit small for that." He looked himself over, running a hand past his ears. "Actually, yeah, I'm a Scorbunny."

"Scorbunny?" Rex asked, frown deepening as he looked over the white rabbit. "I don't think that's a species on Air."

The Scorbunny winked, "Probably because you've not come across our home ranges. Wherever they are…"

Huh? Is he from that new continent they say is down south, then? Or somewhere else entirely?

"Anyway, you can thank me for saving your skin."

Rex blinked, "What?"

Rolling his eyes, Samiel hopped off the rock. "You don't remember? You waltzed into that ruin and, quite literally, got your ass handed to you by a pair of Pokémon you should have had the type advantage against. It would have been pretty embarrassing if it wasn't for the fact those guys were pretty damn good at their jobs. No offense."

The Combusken's pulse raced as the memory of the battle rushed to the surface, of those murderers killing Foster and the other mercenaries.

His eyes flashed red, "Night Aura." He growled, his body quaking.

"Yeah, those guys." Samiel admitted with a visible wince, "Good thing you went flying into the Obelisk so I could flow into you. I wouldn't have been able to trigger that Mega Evolution otherwise."

The anger flushed away in a second as Rex's mouth dropped. "W-Wait, what?" The memory of the fiery power that surged through him and transformed his body. How he started to push Night Aura back. "That was you?"

"Well, how else did you think you went all super karate chicken on those guys? You can thank me for that." He groaned softly, rubbing his temples, "And damn was it hard work. That was like stubbing your toe on a wall and having it amplified five hundred times all over everything. Know my pain."

Wait… Samiel helped with that? But how could he even do th-

The blue symbols flashed across his mind again, as did the voice that spoke to him not long after that.

"Of course!" Rex exclaimed, feeling his limbs strengthen again, "I heard you just before I transformed!" A sudden pang of sadness wormed its way into him as he looked down at his limbs, not those of a Blaziken, but a Combusken. "Would have been nice to keep that form."

"Price of taking a shortcut." Samiel said.

"Still, that must mean you're…" Rex started, a claw pointing towards his head.

The rabbit grinned, "Yep, I'm in your head dumdum! Thanks for the lift!"

Now it makes more sense; when I hit the obelisk, Samiel must have somehow gotten into my head. But what was he doing in that thing?

Samiel strolled towards the mercenary, scanning his surroundings. "So, any ideas what this place is?"

Rex scratched the bottom of his beak. The trees flanked them on all sides, but the massive tree still caught his attention. "Don't ask me." Rex replied as the Scorbunny walked past him, "I've never been here, never mind seeing a tree even half that size."

"Well, I don't recall seeing it either." Samiel admitted, his arms crossed as he stopped and looked up at the tree. "We have to be connected to it though, right?"

Rex shrugged, still scratching his beak, "This has to be some kind of dream, so aren't they always a bit off? Like I said, I don't have any connection to this place."

Samiel's voice was calm and neutral as he replied, "Maybe you don't. Not yet."

"Huh?"

Samiel turned to face the Combusken, waving a hand towards the tree, "Maybe this place will be important to you in the future. Maybe it'll be the same for me. Just in the past instead."

"That doesn't make much sense," Rex replied, bewildered at the Scorbunny's words. "How can we be sure I'll end up in this wood? And why your past?"

Sighing, Samiel strolled back to join the Combusken, "With the future… eh… hard to say. Let's just call it my gut." He coughed sharply, "A-A-As for my bit… well…"

The Scorbunny stopped, arms behind his back as he looked towards the ground. If anything, he looked ashamed. "I… I don't know how I ended up in that obelisk. Hells, my first memory was you slamming into it."

Rex felt himself deflate slightly at Samiel's words. He had only heard rumours of Pokémon losing their memories, but it was still enough to chill him to the core. And that was on top of the fact that Samiel had got into his head. He couldn't even imagine what that might have been like.

If he could trust this Samiel, of course, it could have just been a dream for all he knew. But dreams were awkward at the best of times.

"I'm sorry to hear that." He replied, "That being said… I don't really know how I can help. Any ideas?"

A little smile formed on the Scorbunny's lips, "Actually, that's what I was going to bring up."

He took a few more steps towards the Combusken, shaking himself off as if steadying himself. "Trust me, I have no idea how I got into your head or how I got into the Obelisk. But I bet someone does, the one who hired those Team Night Aura folks."

Rex crossed his arms, more out of suddenly feeling cold as Samiel continued, "Look… those guys beat the crap out of you. They left you for dead. And I've got a good eye on people." He casually pointed a finger at the mercenary, "You want payback."

Looking away, Rex sighed quietly, feeling his arms quake now. He was so close to taking them down after how callous they were. Forget the lost payday. They killed Foster. Someone he had got along with so well, along with the other mercenaries. They have to pay…

"Meanwhile." Samiel said, pointing to himself, "I want to find some answers about what I am. Why I woke up in that Obelisk." He extended open palms towards Rex, "Our goals are aligned. We both want Night Aura taken down a peg."

"What are you saying?" Rex questioned, "That we team up?"

"Exactly!" replied the rabbit with a clap of his hands. "I can power you up; all you have to do is carry me around. Plus, two minds are better than one."

He placed his hands on his hips, "Plus, finding out how we are connected to this place. So whatcha say?"

Rex scratched his beak again, resisting the urge to take a step back. A part of him figured that this was all too sudden, that this was just a dream, or this seemed incredibly convenient. But if Samiel was telling the truth, he offered a means for the mercenary to take Night Aura down. And if he did save his life, then that meant Rex owed Samiel one.

Slowly nodding, Rex extended a paw out, "Alright Samiel, you've got a deal."

Flashing a giant smile, Samiel shook the paw. "Great to hear! My dear partner in destiny!"

Rex blinked and recoiled, "What?"

Wincing, the Scorbunny pulled the paw away, visibly blushing. "Y-Yeah… that came out a lot better in my head. Sorry." He rubbed that paw against his chest. "Partners will do j-j-just fine."

Chuckling in response, Rex crouched down, "Alright, so… how do we get out of here then?" he scanned the nearby trees again, "Just wait it out?"

Samiel rubbed the back of his head, "Well, we could… or that crook could snap you out of it."

"What cro-"



The water hit him like a wave, jerking the fire-type back into consciousness as he gasped for air.

"About time you woke up!" someone grunted. Shaking his head, Rex looked up to find a Marowak and a Polywhirl looking down at him. Grinding his beak, he tried to lunge at them, only for something to tighten around his hands and legs, stopping him. Blinking, he looked down to find a large bar near the floor. His legs were stuck underneath the bar, low enough that he couldn't just slip his feet out. His arms were also bound by rocky chains that tightened around them.

The Marowak smirked, "Don't think you can get out so easy!"

A headache started to form across his temples as Rex looked back up to them. They were inside a ruined stone building, a small campfire ablaze inside the otherwise empty space, with the only way out being a single crumbling doorway. "Where… where the hell am I…" Rex groaned.

"None of your concern; you won't be sticking around for much longer. Should get a solid price on your head." replied the Polywhirl, visibly sniggering. "You and the fair lady there."

He wafted an arm aside, and Rex turned his head to find a white and green Pokémon next to him. A Kirlia, whose hair was tied back into a ponytail, save for a few bangs hanging across her face as she looked down towards the floor. She was also secured to the bar, with silver chains wrapped around her arms instead. Anti-type chains. Rex realised it, We're not breaking out with moves.

The realisation of what they meant by price dawned on him as he turned back on the bandits with a growl. These aren't bandits… they're slavers.

The Marowak and the Polywhirl started backing out of the hut, smirking the whole time. "Don't keep yourself too occupied, we've gotta have some fun later…"

Sick bastards…

The two slavers strolled out, leaving Rex and the Kirlia alone.

They must have followed behind the mercs. Rex realised, Probably to talk with the bandits or snatch up any survivors. I've got to get out of here and fast. Otherwise I'll be on a ship to the outer islands with no way home. But with these chains, I can't use moves to break out. I'm gonna need help to break them, either by force or other moves...

He turned back towards the Krilia. Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing softly as if meditating. "Hey." He started, "Miss? Are you alright?"

The Krilia sighed, but didn't respond.

"Look." Rex said, unable to reach her, "I'm a mercenary ma'am, I can break us out."

"I'm male." Came a deeper but effeminate voice.

Rex blinked, "Um… what?"

The fairy-type lifted their head to look at the Combusken, speaking in the deeper voice. "I'm not a girl. The slavers don't seem to understand some of us happen to be born male."

Feeling himself cringe, Rex felt a lump in his throat. The alternate hairstyle, the deeper voice… it was now becoming glaringly obvious. "Ah… sorry about that."

The Krilia merely shrugged in response. "It's not the first time I have heard it."

Still feeling embarrassed, Rex directed his gaze towards the bar. Their shackles were bilboes, Rex realised. The bar went through a series of hoops buried in the ground, locking it in place whilst it was secured by a large screwed-on end cap that was out of reach to prevent them from pulling it free.

If we could just break that cap off, we can remove the bar and get free.

He turned back towards the (male!) Kirlia, whose red eyes had also settled onto the endcap. An endcap that Rex realised was coated in a layer of rust.

Fire and fairy type shared a look. Then with a silent agreement, jointly grabbed hold of the bar.

It took several sharp pulls of the bar to loosen it even partly, and several more after that before, with a sharp clang, the endcap pinged free, allowing the pair to slide the bar free. Taking a brief moment to roll his ankles, Rex rose to his feet and reached out his still attached chain. The Kirlia's eyes glowed briefly purple, the air shimmering around the chain before it promptly shattered.

"We need to get moving." Rex declared as he struck the fairy type's silver chain with a hot Ember, "Those slavers might be back soon."

"Not before I get my possessions." The Kirlia replied, quickly approaching the entrance and peering through, "I'm not leaving without them."

Grr… there's a good chance my stuff was stored in the same place. Sharply nodding, Rex moved to join the fairy-type. "Fair enough, any ideas on where to look?"

Looking through the entrance, Rex looked down a grassy hill towards a sizable lake, where a cluster of tents and a handful of wooden huts stood at the shoreline. A few bushes lined the way down a dirt track towards the encampment, and along that was a lone canvas tent with a fire lit. It was still dark, but the sky was already turning blue. It wouldn't be long until sunrise.

The Kirlia pointed towards the wooden huts down at the main encampment. "They'll use those for storage." He explained, "We'll find our gear there."

"Then we better get moving whilst it's still dark." Rex replied, "Make the most of the darkness whilst we can."

Directing their attention towards the nearest tent, they quietly began moving towards it. Rex had no idea what the Kirlia did for a living, but he was clearly smart enough to stick to the longer grasses and bushes. A gentle wind blew over the hill, masking their approach.

A rustle brought them to a halt; a mumble rose from the tent before the Marowak emerged, moving off to one side into the bushes.

Realising they needed to get those slavers out of the way, Rex caught the fairy-type's attention, pointed to himself and the Marowak, then towards the tent.

With a careful nod, his fellow escapee crept towards the shelter, not quite what Rex wanted, but he had to trust the Kirlia. Instead, Rex snuck slowly towards the Marowak.

The ground type was shuffling into position before a bush, softly humming to himself. It was all too easy to get himself right behind the Marowak, and with a pounce, he wrapped his arm around the reptile's throat and squeezed it tight.

The ground type flailed, claws grasping at the avian's arm. But Rex tightened his grip, and with a brief whimper, he went limp in his arms. Rex lowered the slaver slowly to the ground, whereas back at the tent, the Kirlia emerged and nodded to confirm that it was done.

Together, the two continued down the hill.

As they approached, the gentle din of activity began to pick up from the camp. Laughter and subtle clangs of metal came from the tents, and small fires were scattered around to provide a limited amount of light. Rex's heart slowly pounded as he and the fairy-type approached the edge, but the slavers did not seem so concerned for security, as there was no patrol running around the outskirts.

Even so, Rex felt twitchy as they snuck into the camp, avoiding the fires as he moved deeper in. He'd freeze as a drunken slaver stumbled past the tents, his heart racing momentarily, ready for a fight if they were discovered. But instead, they would wander past and leave the two clear to move through further in.

Either way, in silence, it didn't take long to reach the huts at the centre. One of the doors had been left hanging open, another example of the slavers slacking off on their security. More voices rang out, from round the corner, close.

"Inside!" The Kirlia hissed, and the pair slipped inside and into cover. A trio of slavers laughed as they strolled past, too embroiled in their discussion to notice them. As their voices faded, Rex sighed and directed his gaze into the hut. There was another door with a wooden grate for a window at the other end of the square structure and shelves on either side, loaded with bags and crates.

Amongst them was Rex's satchel, and he quickly recovered it, finding his possessions still there. A glance behind him confirmed that the Kirlia had recovered a similar satchel and had already slung it over his shoulder. But his eyes were narrowed as he scurried from crate to crate in near silence. But Rex could see from his gritted teeth he was frustrated. Just who is this guy?

"You missing something?" Rex asked, slinging his satchel over his shoulder.

"I am." the Kirlia replied, "It has to be here…"

A moan worked its way through the closed door. Rex stiffened, letting his claws extend a touch. Approaching the door, he peered through the grate. Outside was a small clearing in the tents, alongside a larger campfire.

And kneeling in between was a trio of tied Pokémon, a Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, and across the way, sitting at the other end of the campfire, was a slaver guard, a Bagon, his eyes locked on them.

"Shit…" Rex uttered.

The fairy-type paused his search to look through the window, his eyes narrowing at the sight. "Merchants. I saw them when I got caught."

Rex ground his beak, seeing the look of fear spread across their faces. If it wasn't death, then the fear of being taken to gods knows where was an entirely different matter. "We need to get them out of here."

"How?" questioned the Kirlia, "If we try breaking them free, we'll have to fight the dragon." He sharply nodded towards the guard. Rex narrowed his eyes, seeing the Bagon's gaze fixed firmly on the trio. It may have been a pre-evolution, but it was still a dangerous opponent to deal with in a fight. At the very least, they seemed more concerned about security than the other slavers. Any fight would lure attention, and then it would quickly be over for the pair.

Then we need something big. Something to grab the slavers attention and off us. There has to be something easy to exploit… A light went off in his head. The tents…

He moved back to the other side of the hut, eying the diverse selection of canvas shelters through the open door. "We'll distract them then."

"How?" questioned the fairy-type.

Eying some of the more distant tents, closely packed together, Rex took in a deep breath and spat out a half a dozen Embers. The little fireballs shot through the camp into his targets, instantly setting the canvas ablaze. Rex swiftly shut the door, watching the flames rapidly grow and spread to the other tents. "Now to give it just a moment…"

At first, there was nothing. Just the crackle of the campfire and distant laughter. Then came the panicked shouts and cries as the slavers started to realise what was happening. Feet stomped past the hut as Pokémon rushed to deal with the flames.

Rex backtracked to the second door, catching a glimpse of a final few slavers running past for the fire, leaving the Bagon and the captives alone. Damn, that Bagon isn't going to move?

"You best hurry." The Krilia stated, searching another crate, "They'll get those fires out in short order. I'll be right behind you; I nearly have what I'm looking for."

Rex was about to question what he was looking for. But the Combusken knew he didn't have time. Instead, willing his legs to strengthen, he barged through the door with a bang.

All four Pokémon outside snapped their gazes onto Rex, the Bagon's eyes narrowing as he turned to face him, but the fire-type was faster as the Double Kick slammed the Bagon in the chest, sending him rolling across the floor. Grunting, the blue dragon skidded across the grassy ground and charged back at Rex, head down.

The Combusken stepped aside, claws glowing as he dodged the Headbutt and Slashed at its back. It turned on him again, and Rex tried to slash it aga-

Jaws clamped down on his arm. Rex roared as the dragon's eyes flashed red, the grip tightening and locking him in place.

Unable to kick himself away, the mercenary took a desperate shot.

The Bagon screamed as Rex's claws slashed across his eyes, instantly releasing his jaws. The dragon fell to his knees, clutching his face as he sobbed. Hissing as blood dribbled down his arm, Rex took his chance and sprinted for the three captives, their eyes wide in terror even after his claws cut them free of their bindings. "Head for the trees!" Rex barked, "The slavers will be back soo-"

A roar came from behind him, and Rex spun to find the Bagon back on his feet, eyes bloodred and close to bursting as blue flames flickered in his jaws. Shit!

Rex stepped between the Bagon and the captives, ready to take the-

A sharp whistle rang through the air, enough that Rex had to wince at the sudden pain in his ears. The Bagon's eyes widened as it spun round, its back now marked not only with Rex's claw marks, but a deep, bloody groove.

That was when the sword pierced through the dragon's heart. Heart missing a beat, Rex could see the slaver's eyes roll back as he toppled to the floor, falling smoothly off the blade.

Standing gracefully above the corpse was the Kirlia, a slightly curved, slim sword held in hand. With an efficient blade flick, the blood flew clear, leaving a pristine silver weapon at the ready. Rex blinked, his eyes flicking between the blade and the fairy-type, his thoughts whirling in his head. That's… he's another mercenary!

"We must go!" The Kirlia stressed, jogging towards them, "The fire is spreading, but slavers are already backtracking!"

The Combusken's gaze snapped to behind him, a dark cloud beginning to rise above the hut and tents. Holy – what was in those tents!?

"You heard him!" Rex barked, turning towards the three smaller Pokémon, "To the trees!"

That caught their attention, and the trio fell in line with the two mercenaries, barging through the tents and out of the camp. Rex led the way, checking their fronts and the sides for any slavers rushing to intercept them. The Kirlia took up the rear, sword at the ready for anything coming from behind.

But as they reached the edge of the woods, no one came. Rex skidded to a halt, quickly hurrying their charges into the trees. He looked back towards the camp. They had risen slightly above it, and he could now see the flames spreading further into the camp, figures rushing around, trying to desperately put them out. A good quarter was now up in smoke.

"Hells!" Rex uttered as the Kirlia joined him, "How did I do that much!?"

"Oil, I think." The Kirlia said, sheathing the sword into a scabbard. "I overheard the Poliwrath say they had been harvesting it."

Harvesting it… Rex sighed, not wanting to think about where they got that oil.

Instead, he turned his attention to the Kirlia. Pulling a small smile, he nodded towards the mercenary, "I'm Rex." He said, extending his paw, "Thanks for the help there."

The Kirlia didn't return the smile, but releasing his grip on the sword hilt, he shook the Combusken's paw. "Alain." He replied sincerely, "I'm a mercenary."

Knew it.

Rex felt his grin widen, "Same."

That earned a respectful nod from Alain as they let go, their gazes turning briefly back towards the burning camp. No one was pursuing them. "We better get out of here." Rex said, "We can work out where we're headed when we're outta here."

"Agreed." Alain replied, "Come, before the others get themselves lost."

Alain led the way back into the woods, following the telltale glow of the Charmander's tail flame. Rex took a final completive look at the camp.

"Come on!" Came a familiar voice, startling the Combusken, the feathers on the back of his neck rising. H-Huh!?

"Seriously?"
Samiel chuckled within his head, "Do you really want to wait for these guys to catch us? Go on! After the sword guy!"

Jerking into action, and knowing he was right, Rex took a sharp breath and sprinted into the trees after the others.



The events of the night in the Ruins had shaken me in more ways than I could fully process. I had lost a friend I had come to trust and respect. I had been humiliated and defeated by Team Night Aura, who not only wiped out us mercenaries, but took out our payday with little effort. And that was before it turned out that in the midst of all this, I now had an amnesic Pokémon enter my head as a passenger. A Pokémon with the ability to empower me.

Samiel offered to help me track down Team Night Aura. A chance to take them on directly and to make them pay for what they had done that night. In exchange, I'd help the Scorbunny find his answers. There was every possibility at the time that it was just a dream, but that power-up wasn't something I could write off. It was a chance and a deal I had to take.

That battle ultimately would set me on a journey that would take me to nearly every corner of the Air Continent as I settled into my newfound goal. A journey that would, as I have said before, lead to a rivalry… and something far more significant.

And as I fled the slaver camp, little did I know I was running alongside not only a fellow mercenary, but the first of my teammates…
 
Review of Episode 1 - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of Episode 1 features more of my favourite little furret, which is a major bonus, at least until…. Well… anyway. I love the adjectives around Foster running, I can picture him zooming off right now. I also like how you up the stakes in this chapter. Especially when poor Foster gets whacked pretty badly. The place these guys are in is a real death trap, huh? Fire and steel threats lurking about. I assume it is going to be super dark too, to make it far easier for them to accidentally uncover one of these threats.

We get to meet a major threat though, don’t we? I love how you make the Zoroark incredibly strong off the bat. It gives me some Homelander entrance vibes – and that scene of them and Foster getting hit is unforgettable.

Be aware of missing commas, we don’t want a “Let’s eat grandma” situation. It only happens once or twice in speech, but just so you are aware of it, an example is “You alright Rex” – there should be a comma after alright. Remember, if you are addressing someone, the comma goes before their name; if you are doing an action to someone, it does not. I am glad the rest of the tags were adjusted though to fix the errors pointed out previously, although a few errors still exist on that front, it is now much cleaner.

I am a little confused by the ending, but I think that is supposed to be like that, right? Rex has just reawakened from it all. I think the slight disconnect works well. It’s almost as if parts of Rex’s memories are missing.

Thanks for the feedback again! I meant to reply sooner but I got buried in work. Glad to see you enjoyed the chapter, especially with the Zoroark!

I'll try and keep in mind about the commas as well in future chapters as best as I can.

As for the ending, I can see why it would be a little bit confusing. It is supposed to be dilbrately confusing, so Chapter V should help add some ideas about what exactly this is. I will give one clue, it is kinda related to Guardians of Balance.

Either way, thanks for the feedback again!
 

This is a review for the Goddess of Silverware, Randomness and Weekly Reviews aka the V-Wheel. I was assigned your story, well, one of two and of the two I chose this one.

The story we are opening today has the title Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Mercenaries of Dawn. And when a title comes like this, there's one thing I'm contractually obligued to do and that's mention the common trope in this fandom of titling stories "PMD: [Noun] of [Noun]", presumably after the Explorers games. Now, as it turns out this story is actually in continuity with (the author take on) Explorers so in this case it fits! And thus I sits

Let's cover both "Opening Page" and "Chapter I.I", which I take it more or less is "Chapter 1.1" but in good ol' Legalese.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the properties that will be mentioned or explored in this story.
You make my nostalgia soul cry in nostalgianess. "I Do Not Own" Fanfic Headers and stuff were a big staple of the 90s, maybe the early 00s. They could oftentimes get quite silly. This one is quite sane. Pretty good ordering on the content warnings, the syndication notes and all of that A/N Stuff. It really need a return to form in this genre.

Also,

, there will be points where Mercenaries of Dawn will halt whilst Guardians of Balance reaches it's next major events, but otherwise, the two will run alongside each other.
Honesty and specificity on your publishing and syndication model, a fair warning for your audience, and an intent of continuation of two stories. Now that's something we don't see much of in the fandom.

After this meta intro we get more of into the story proper. And so, let's go!

Hello.

If you are reading this, well, I believe the typical saying is that I am already dead.

«N-NANI!!!!» — review explodes.

]

Competitor for shortest fiction ever. Good job everyone, story is over, V-Wheel is pleased.

(No, really, the author of the document having to clear things immediately after is just nice. I take it this will also speak of his character traits, later.)

This story begins with telling a story, or writing a story, but the way it is described it's not like the author is expecting this to be found. At the same time it's described as a recollection of events sepcifically during the author's lifespan, which from the summary and notes tells us this was Not That Long Ago.

(Then again, 10 years is forever in Internet Time. Super Mystery Dungeon is going to be 10 years old next year!)

But it was an era of its own. We didn't have Rescue Teams or Explorers on the Air Continent back then, or anywhere for that matter.
So we start with the idea that this is a Prequel Trilogy of sorts, and exposition begins with a bit of in-universe documentary. We are told of a time before the Rescue Teams, but we are adivised there will be gaps. Hopefully the archives are complete. This is where the fun begins.

One interesting element I see is that 10 years or so is quite a short time to change the world so... particularly? The way the PMD games sell us the adventure, is that Guilds / Rescue Teams / Explorers Whatever are somewhat well-seated in the functioning of their societies. So if this story follows that model, it means the changes must have been drastic to turn mercenary work into basically the Former Mercenaries Guild of the Air Continent. Basically excising Mercenaries as a job, but hopefully not as a people, and unifying workers into Guilds... with the logistics and societal challenges this implies, not to mention introducing the evils of Capitalism (that 90% fee...) and speaking of what can be considered of a "Nation Continent", one step above the silly human concept of a Nation State.

If this change took only 10-ish years, then I'd take it for some mons the world got turned umop episdn... but for many others It Was Tuesday. Dragons, ghosts, inorganics, lithomorphs / minerals... for them, this change might as well fell like it came in the space of a blink. Let's see how various characters react to this in-the-coming if the clues are in-universe.

What you have in your hands/paws/fins/wings is the story of my life.
Awareness of Morphological Diversity! It's lacking Mandibles and Tentacles tho.

And when a job needed doing, the villagers would turn to the Mercenaries, Pokémon who sold their services to those who needed them.
Okay but, philosoraptorically, if I need a mon to cook and a mons sells me their service to cook, are they a Mercenary? Talk about a "lethal chef"... dun dun duuuun.

I was one of those mercenaries, taking it up both as a lifestyle and as a way of making a living. I didn't have any higher aspirations.
Famous Last Words before being thrusted into Protagonist Mode, I'm guessing? :p

Warmest regards,

All in all sounds like an interesting way to sell the premise. "Here's how the world was yesterday. If you're trying to figure out how it changed, here's how we had to live through it" kind of thing. Sounds like a good read, and it seems to gel well, to me, with the idea of this world about to face a significant, if not severe, societal change of the abrupt kind of speed and that people still feel needs som Explaining.

We also get the flat out admission that this recollection will be the retrospective from more or less a position of authority, so this author is being honest on a lot of things and basically swearing that their recollection here at best is "99% True Events".

And thus we are thrown into adventure as it was cast.

CHAPTER I – FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD MERCENARY

Chatot: "Parker! Get me pictures of Ariadosman!"

We start with a citizen in trouble in the rocky (v)alleys of "New Yorkmonworld", an Azumarill female against a gang of five all for some treasure. The Golduck lead, sharing an Egg Group with the victim, makes the obvious threat that we expect from New Yorkers (hey, it's that or New Jersey). Then when the going gets rough, it is time for the local "hero" to show up, Combusken mercenary Rex Parker.

A Combusken protag means it was also a good call for me to Sits with this story.

Tephros: "At least some Combusken are getting screentime!"

Yeah hello there, my own old Combusken got his own screentime shortly ago. (He's been complaining for more in my mindspace ever since.)

We get the ISO Standard between-landing Hero Introduction, after that the genre-mandatory offer to the thugs to turn tail and flee from the rather demanding screentime which involves getting wrecked off in a protagonist introduction scene, and after they refuse, well,

they get what they asked for when they decide to Try It.

Tephros: "So this is where they're about to get a beating? This Combusken is outnumbered and we don't even know by who yet."

Well don't worry that part is now solved. Up until this point only the Golduck lead among the group was described but we quickly get to Loser Introductions for all the others. Because they're introduced by Losing. We have first a swirly boxer, who goes first with a boxing punch. Rex's already jumped in first and wants to evade into the opponent's punch for an attack.

Tephros: "Rex's going for the ol' ↓↙←+LP roll-cancel into →+MP. A classic touch denial play but I think not comboing into Shoryuken or Sanren Geki was a lost opportunity."

Yeah I'm not sure they teach those in this universe. Still, it knocks the opponent away. After this comes the best cat of another universe, and he manages to land a solid hit.

Tephros: "Into a high guard even. It is a risky defense of Rex against a quadrupedal Pokémon."

Well, cats do eat chicken in... uh, some universes, and Persian has the advantage of size. Not this time tho, Rex is quick to flare up into a kick.

Tephros: "Looks like neutral to →+HK break considering it hits to the chin. Does this count as a Tech Cancel?"

Cats grab good so I'm gonna say yes, but here the author has the last word. Good for knocking the cat away fast, because the Poliwhirl is already back up.

Tephros: "On the turn-around Rex goes for a →+HP crack, so I guess the Poliwhirl had managed to get pretty close before Rex freed himself?"

Seems that way. However there is now another attack coming in, a water gun presumably courtesy of the leader Golduck. Good thing the thug leadership does get involved here.

Tephros: "The old Extra LP+LK Side-evade does the trick and right away Rex can turn to counter Venonat's range with an LP Ember from range."

Hey hey hey! LP+LK? I thought we were talking Capcom here, not SNK!

Tephros: "I do whatever I want until you give me more screentime."

Fiiiine. (MadWolf, don't let this happen to you :p )

In the meantime, I have to say congratulations for giving screentime to a Venonat. They are seldom seen in this fandom otherwise, and while the little critter did not manage to do much, it's better than nothing considering the severe disadvantage.

Tephros: "After that a Dodrio comes attacking and goes for a CQC break-in. On Rex's part, he has to dance it away and, given the conditions, avoiding ten pecks in a row is quite an achievement!"

That's at least three pecks evaded per head. Pretty nifty and Rex does have the advantage of space. However I'm guessing the Steam Achievement here must have been 25 evades or something like that? Because no one is celebrating what is IMO a notorious introductory feat.

At the close of that Rex takes initiative with a Rock Throw and the first part of the fight is over. The initial part of the assault was an abject failure for these thugs, with only one assailant managing to land a sort of solid hit on Rex, and then they get kicked around with the storyline phasers set to stun for their trouble.

All that's left is then the Golduck leader who is notoriously more capable, in that he goes down at the three attacks instead of one... at the hands, er, tail, of Azumarill.

Tephros: "Dash-cancelling into a couple Double Kicks and from there picking a toss grab maybe was a bit too much. I feel making the Golduck kiss the ground with a grab cancel into →+MK would have been less disrespectful."

Mon, I concur but you gotta be fair. That Golduck threatened to do non-PG13 things to the Azumarill. We can't have that in this nice and orderly community, not 10 years before they're about to face annihilation by Meteor.

(...Now I'm wondering who is the Sephiroth in this continuity)

So yeah maaaaybe deserved. Quite a quickie and fun fight too.

Still, maaaan, I don't know what the recruitment practice standards for thieves are like in this corner of the universe, but they really need to improve on that - the more considering the world is about to change and heroes are about to Unionize! We can't get a world with a promise of cool heroes if the Level 1 Plot Thugs are losers! Now where is the town razing scene...

All that solved, Rex nets himself six bounty bags for later. Allisa, the Damsel in Distress, explains her situation as a decoy so that the caravan she was tending to could get to safety, which had her luring away the thugs. A bit of an idiotic thing on their part, to separate from the caravan completely, perhaps they misjudged their prey as Too Easy... oh well.

The Combusken let his mind wander back a few years, back to when he was just a Torchic

B a b y !

torchic_v2_by_clinkorz_d4yb951-375w-2x.png


(artwork by clinkorz @ dA)

Also, backstory part. It seems Rex was a Torchic with aspirations (but not too big ones) and his parents loved him very much. But, well, I guess he lacked both Arms and Resources. Fortunately his parents loved him very much so they made a good effort to help when he came out to them as Wannabe Adventurer Mercenary, and he was eventually able to go out on an adventure.

Tephros: "Torchic must be brave! Not having arms must not weigh down your desire for adventure."

It's good that so far it had turned out OK for him. Shows that parental love and care truly makes a lot of value for the growth of a good personmon. Also the mental image of lil' birb mons chasing other mons around and piping at them so they can hear stories is just too cute, Torchic or otherwise. I'm imagining ducklings here but hey.

Tephros: "..."

...What? You want to do that in your next appearance?

Tephros: "...No." blushes

Then don't complain about screentime. You're getting some here, sorta.

Anyway, the two characters talk about things quickly then they get back to the main road and the Victim of the Week's cart, where they are greeted by uuuuh

aaaah

okay, a Nidoran adult couple, which is nice and lovable and all because Nidos - but also,

a Tauros-Rapidash-pulled carriage?

...Unsure if sapient just yet. Iiiiinteresting.

At the foot of the carriage, a Nidorino was busy fiddling with a wheel at the side, his movements rushed as he tried to secure a bolt in place.
Marked for later. ^_^

Also, did I mention Nidoran adult couple? I'm taking we'll be learning a bit more about them after this.

The Rapidash snorted, flames flickering as he stomped the ground, "No shit!" he started to fiddle in his harness to shake himself loose,
Sapient and speaking! Phew. This continuity seems to have dodged a bullet.

I feel Rapidash just wanting to up and flee makes lots of internal sense, considering the species cast we saw for the thugs, and his matter-of-factly "Allisa can look after herself" is also well-paired with his own internal strengths if it comes to getting the Nidorina and Nidorino out of trouble.

Of course at this point is where Rex makes himself known and...

The purple Pokémon spun round, eyes wide as he held up a rather pathetic-looking stick at them, "Get back you ruffian-"

Okay, look.

If, by this point, anyone is wondering how can a Nidorino hold things or secure a bolt in place, I say no worries. Eevee can canonically hold juice. Plus, I write Nidorinos and I can absolutely say without bias, holding things is probs the least tricks they can perform. o3o

(And no one seems to have questioned it that I saw, to that's the better.)

Rex flicked a mock salute, "Howdy."
Oh good, he has the "Howdy" accent!

Tephros: "...What's a 'Howdy' accent?"

You know! it's the thing! Howdy! Quite a well-known sort of local accent in English that sorta shows you might be Rural Good (unless you are in fascist states like Texas). Here's the thing: you could have had it if you had been voted to go into Heartache instead of Kalas, you know?

Tephros: "...I have my own voice, thanks."

I'm liking Rex more by the minute, tbh. Now what I wonder is, is this from nurture and are we going to meet more 'Howdy' characters, or does this is a personal perk of Rex that's come with the Lucky stat boosts?

Also with how the fight went and how the introduction with the cart people is going, Rex gives off a "lil main character who has earned the rank of Lucky" kind of vibe. Let's see how it holds for later.

A bit of conversation later, the current quest ends well: with thugs tied up, presumably to be cashed in for social credits actual money later on, hopefully still alive; and Bronze Key added to the Key Items bag (or is it the key Items bag? We may never know...). Furthermore, and most relevant for now, Rex accompanying the caravan to the next town to take a bit of rest.

Which means...

The Rapidash stomped the ground again, this time in satisfaction, "Finally!" he exclaimed, "Can we get moving already?"
Berecien: "Careful there of rushing things, pal... This might be the only screentime you get."

The Nidoran couple get their things up and going, and Rex joins them climbing up to the cart to accompany them to this place called Windford that 1.- he is now going to get to to spend the night and 2.- is totally getting razed by the Plot Masters over the next chapter to provide some revenge impetus lol.

Little did I know, I would find myself headed towards the place where my real journey would truly begin.
I WAS ONLY KIDDING PLEASE DON'T RAZE IT

And so the chapter ends. There's Author Notes at the end too (man, now this is AO3 vibes) and this essentially begins a long story and story-set with far reaches into the world of the games (or this setting's interpretation of it) and eventually Guardians of Balance down the road.

I'm mostly hoping, given the kind of story so far, the fact of Mercenaries, and the meta warnings that things are not necessarily going to be Peachy, that this intro does not lead into The Witcher: Mystery Dungeon because maaaan, I have a love-hate relationship with those games and their take on the trope of the drifter hero. The music and the ambiance are stellar and I'll always headcanon Pukei Pukei as Geralt's Monstie / Starter Mon but boy does it make me feel bad for people every time there's a choice with no clear happy path. Which is, more or less, always.

Oh well, congratulations to you for being able to keep up two stories into the same expanded setting, this a pretty nice twist on the goings of History for a games-PMD setting that I usually don't see much, and here's hoping Rex has an easier going and he can enjoy whatever can be enjoyed of this world before it gets upended by Capitalism, Meteors and Ice Emo Crystals.

Cheers!
 
Chapter 1-5 Review
I like how you incorporate the relationship between Rex and Foster throughout the chapter, with Rex taking charge, and Foster being the support. I wonder if this will change at some point, when Foster’s skills become more important than Rex’s leadership? Either way, they have found themselves in a little bit of a mess, and I enjoyed the way in which their predicament was described.

The introduction to Samiel was perplexing. His self-discovery process, where he had to examine himself to understand his identity, was an interesting choice. However, his conclusion that he was too small to be a Cinderace, without considering the possibility of being a Raboot, was a bit confusing. Clarifying his thought process could help the reader better understand his character.

The introduction to Foster's (my favourite furret’s) fate here is so sad. I wish we’d gotten more time to know him. Was it ever established as to why Rex has yet to evolve into Blaziken? Is it an age thing in this world, or a strength thing? That would add a lot more depth, I think, to the world’s structure—as both have their merits and drawbacks.

Regarding the time skips and introduction to the kirlia, I am glad you made it very clear when it happened, although I am not sure what is real and what isn’t. I cannot recall if the time difference between this adventure and the present day was mentioned in a previous chapter, so it might be worth considering adding a notation depicting how long it has been – if it is real, anyway. The jarring nature of it, if some of the sequences aren’t real, are very well written and place the reader in Rex’s shoes (if he wore shoes, that is).
 
Chapter II.VI - Getting the Bearings New
POKÉMON MYSTERY DUNGEON
MERCENARIES OF DAWN

EPISODE I - RISING STARS
CHAPTER VI - GETTING THE BEARINGS

The sun was now high in the sky after the several hours spent on the run, as Rex and Alain escorted the three smaller Pokémon away from the slaver camp, working to put as much distance as possible from said camp before someone decided to follow them.

It eventually became apparent that the slavers weren't on their tails, and Rex called the group to a halt at a small rocky creek within the forest.

A small waterfall tumbled down a short drop at one end of the creek, before the water carried on into the trees. There were plenty of small boulders to rest on and a handful of isolated trees to provide shelter from the sun.

Rex sat on one of those boulders, carefully sorting through his possessions. He may have recovered his satchel, and knew that a lot of his possessions were there at a glance, but he still wanted to be sure he had everything. Even if he did, he had no idea if the slavers had thrown anything extra in, or reshuffled it all.

Luckily, everything was accounted for, save for one thing. His poke.

I suppose that was obvious for the slavers to take.

With a heavy sigh, he began to reload the satchel, casting a glance across the creek. The Bulbasaur and Charmander were tucked in under the rock formation by the waterfall, whilst the Squirtle was lazing in the stream itself on her back, all memory of the desperate escape shoved out of the way.

Finally, there was Alain. The Kirlia was sat on a boulder at the other side of the stream, running a sharpening stone along the length of his sword. He knew weapons like that were extremely rare, especially with all the moves being thrown around.

"Kinda strange to see stuff like around, huh?"

Rex jerked upright at the sudden voice, his head swivelling round to find the source.

"Oh for the love of- seriously Rex, you really need to stop reacting like that! They'll think you are losing your marbles!"

As the realisation settled in, Rex narrowed his eyes and clicked his beak hard in annoyance. Maybe be less… spontaneous?

That earned a chuckle from Samiel, "Well, how do you want me to do that? Tap the inside of your skull? Not exactly an easy place to work in. No offence."

The Combusken rolled his eyes, Point taken. It's just something I'm not used to.

"Alright, I'll give you that."


Rex directed his gaze back towards the other mercenary again, inspecting his weapon before returning to the sharpening. It's not a common thing to see anyway, even with mercenaries.

"Ah. The blade itself seems… vaguely familiar, but then again, that could be the case with any sword."

Huh…

"So, what's the plan? You are short on money. At least, I think that's money anyway. We're gonna have to make more if we are going to get the gear we need to take on Night Aura right?"


Rex scratched his beak with a single claw. He did want to take on Night Aura, but he knew money alone would not be enough to help him in the fight with them. He needed to become stronger, faster and more able to take them on head on. Maybe even other mercenaries to back him up.

Still though… money would be a good start.

If only he had a better idea on where they were.

"Well, if you are unsure on where to start, why not ask some of the others? Maybe they are local to here. That sword guy might have passed through here before."

Rex huffed to himself, I suppose you are right.

Slinging the satchel over his shoulder, Rex stood up and hopped across the small stream, walking towards Alain. Even if Alain wasn't familiar with the terrain, the two of them might have been able to work something out.

"Alain." Rex said as he walked towards him, "You doing alright?"

The Kirlia didn't look up, his eyes still focused on the blade, "I'm fine. Yourself?"

Used to talking to quiet and withdrawn Pokémon from time to time, Rex nodded back, "Yeah. Thanks again for the help in getting out."

"Of course." Alain replied. His sharpening stone ceased moving, hovering in place. "What did you do?"

Rex's next question quickly died in his beak to be changed at the last moment, "I'm sorry?" he managed to choke out.

Alain's eyes narrowed, "The slavers only kept the strongest fighters away from the camp. That was what I managed to sense. I was wondering what you did to warrant that."

Rex directed his gaze towards the treetops, thinking back to the ruins, trying to think about what kind of state the place was in when he passed out. Lots of bodies for one.

"A job I was on went wrong." Rex said after a moment, "A lot of people got killed. They must have found me unconscious and figured I was a threat."

The Combusken thought he had caught the faintest glimmer of blue flash across the Kirlia's eyes. He knew he wouldn't be able to stop a psychic-type from getting into his head, but he knew that psychic powers were something that had to be learned and trained with as well.

"I see…" Alain mused, his mouth twitching, "Curious."

Rex narrowed his eyes, feeling the feathers at the back of his neck stiffen, "Did you read my mind?"

Unexpectedly, the psychic-type let out a faint chuckle, "No. I did not. Psychic powers are not my speciality. But I do tend to sense stray thoughts. I didn't pick anything from you though."

"Okay, that might be me." Samiel chimed in, "Our thoughts might be overlapping enough that he can't get in your head."

This time containing his reaction to the Scorbunny's words, Rex tilted his head as he relaxed again, "More of a swordsmon then?"

Alain lifted the sword up into the light. It was silver, with a gently curved blade with a single edge. It almost seemed more like an art piece than a weapon. "You could say that. Don't worry. I don't have intention of reading any minds, even on the job."

As the Kirlia lowered the weapon, Rex found his opportunity, "Speaking of jobs. Any idea on where we are? We need to try and work our way back to civilisation of some kind."

Alain cast his gaze around the creek, as if looking for some landmark. "I… do not."

Rex did his own scan, even though he knew there was nothing around that he would immediately recognise either. "We need to try and get above the canopy." He said, "Try and spot one of the mountains."

"And use that as a landmark." Alain finished for him, "A sound plan."

With a shrug, Rex continued, "After we get these guys somewhere safe, we can worry about the P-"

"You know we are on the western side of the Central Mountains, right?" said a rough, but feminine voice.

Standing off to one side of the two mercenaries was the Bulbasaur, the grass-type looking between the pair. "I mean, you could have just asked me. I live around here."

Rex glanced over to Alain, who seemed only slightly stunned as he swept a bang of hair back.

"Yeah. Told you one of these guys would know something." Samiel chimed in.

I noticed. Rex grunted mentally back, before turning his attention back towards the Bulbasaur, "Sorry, what was your name again?"

A giant grin spread across the face of the grass-type. "Betty."

Rex nodded back in greeting, "Rex. So… are we near any big towns or something like that?"

The Bulbasaur cracked up laughing, "Big towns? If you count that little hamlet Riverwood and my family's homestead."

Rex leaned back slightly at the words, "Your family has their own land?"

"Hell yeah!" she exclaimed, a vine reaching to her side and pulling out a scrap of paper. "Got the whole family here!" She held up the paper, revealing a sketch of dozens of Bulbasaurs, several Ivysaurs and a handful of Venusaurs all posing next to each other. Rex's eyes drifted towards the top of the image, where wrapped in a pair of vines was a single egg.

That's… new…

"You… put an egg in your family portrait?" Alain weakly muttered.

"Hey!" Betty snapped, "That's gonna be my little cousin! Bruce!"

Rex felt his spine crack as he stiffened, "How do you know they're – you know what, nevermind.". Rubbing his forehead, Rex decided to change tac. "I think I went through Riverwood once before. Any idea on how to get there?"

Betty's features hardened, "You won't get to the main road from here. Your best bet would be to follow the stream north, it leads to the old iron mine." She jabbed a vine in the direction of the small waterfall, heading up hill.

Alain frowned, "Why cut through a mine? There would have to be a better way round."

Biting her lip, Betty shook her head, "Not really, unless you want to go the wrong way to get to our homestead, and that's even more out of the way. You'd be looking at days to get to the road from there. The mine you could clear in a day. We couldn't really offer anything other than a place to rest anyway."

There was something that bugged Rex, and it wasn't to do with the long trek via the homestead. "I've got a feeling that the mine is abandoned, right?"

"Only for about a year." Betty confirmed, "The vein ran out last I heard."

Rex grinded his beak gently as he processed this, abandoned mines never just ran out of stuff unless the tapped vein was tiny. "If we did go that way… there would have to be something else up with that mine."

Betty shrugged, "I heard some stuff about the mine starting to get low on oxygen, but that's right at the very bottom of the mine. A friend of mine said that you can just cut across the top levels and be fine."

Scratching his beak, Rex looked back towards the treetops. It would make sense to take the long route round, maybe even restock there. But a part of him really needed to get to the town as quickly as possible, not only to replenish his supplies, but also immediately look for any news coming from the direction of Blackridge. If he had been lugged by the slavers all the way across the Central Mountains, then word of the ruins job would have surely spread to Riverwood, maybe even further. Even if the outcome wasn't being shouted out, he could still potentially get an idea on what had happened since just from the jobs on offer.

Maybe he might even find Night Aura there. Or a clue leading their way.

There's still one thing to check.

He turned back to Betty. "Don't you guys need help getting to your homestead?" he asked, "If you get in trouble again-"

"Ah, don't worry about us!" Betty cheered, a big, toothless smile forming, "Most of the Ferals round here are right wimps! We'll be fine."

Well, I guess I have to take her at her word. She does know the area.

With that, he looked back towards Alain, who had now sheathed his sword. "What do you think Alain?"

The Krilia stuck up his chin, "If she is confident that they will be safe, I'd be more interested in reaching the town. I could do with the work."

Nodding at that, Rex crossed his arms, "You don't mind if I come with then?"



Rex and Alain bid farewell to Betty and her travelling companions an hour later, with the former taking the time to double check if the others were okay with carrying on to the homestead on their own. The Bulbasaur would only cheerfully confirm they'd be fine, before the trio thanked the pair for their help in freeing them from the slavers.

Relieved that their spirits were high, the two mercenaries stepped up the waterfall and began to follow the stream towards the mine.

The stream was easy enough to follow under the tree cover as they walked alongside each other, only moving ahead of the other as they stepped over a boulder or log. Alain moved in silence, taking care not to catch his sword on anything. Rex meanwhile felt his mind turn inward.

Samiel? You still in here?

Rex felt a pressure run through his forehead just before Samiel spoke again, "Aye! Not exactly anywhere else to go. What's up?"

Just thinking about Alain's psychic power. You said he might not be able read my… our minds?


The Combusken swore he could sense the rabbit nodding, "Yyeah… I kinda had the idea that our two minds would cancel each other out. Not like we become vegetables, but more like two waves hitting each other and disappearing. The water is still there, but you can't see how it's moving."

So, in other words, psychic types can't read my mind.
He rubbed the back of his head as he walked onwards, That's pretty handy then.

"Well, don't think you are immune here."
Samiel warned in a firm tone, "A more powerful psychic type like a Gardevoir or an Alakazam will probably still be able to get in your head. And a psychic attack is still going to hurt like a B-I-TCH."

I'll keep that in mind.
Rex replied as he shifted his attention to Alain, the Kirlia pausing for a moment to inspect the path ahead. "You been a mercenary for long?" the fire type asked, pulling in next to him.

"Five years." Alain replied, "Just making ends meet."

Rex raised a brow at that. He knew some Pokémon who did the mercenary work just for the money, but for most, it was a lifestyle choice. "Pretty difficult way of making Poke." He noted.

"It is something I'm good at."

This time, the avian frowned as a new thought formed, "I'm guessing that reason is why the slavers put you up there too."

The Kirlia merely shrugged, "You could say that. A caravan I was camping with got attacked by the slavers. I was the only one who managed to take out a few of them when they killed one of their hostages."

Bloody slavers. Rex growled mentally, Always finding some way to ruin lives.

His anger must have been obvious to the Kirlia, "At least we disrupted their operation." He said.

"Agreed." Rex replied, looking briefly towards the narrowing path ahead. A little spark went off in his head as he realised something. If Rex and Alain both needed money, then depending on the jobs available, it put Rex and by extension Alain into a difficult position. Who would take what job? Would they have to scabble over one job?

There was only one easy solution.

"Speaking of operations." Rex started with a shallow breath, "When we get to Riverwood, how about we partner up?"

This time, there was a faint hiss as Alain's head twitched, "I work alone."

Not letting himself flinch, Rex continued, "And that's fair enough. I'm only thinking until we both get some Poke in our pockets. After that, then we can go our separate ways." He hesitated for a moment before speaking again, "It saves us scabbling over one job."

With a grunt, the fairy-type's eyes narrowed as he mused the proposal. After a couple of seconds, he crossed his arms and turned back to the avian. "50-50 split. No more, no less." He stressed. "But only until we have enough to get ourselves reestablished."

Feeling himself get a bit lighter as he realised that was about the best outcome he could have hoped for, Rex extended a paw out, "You've got yourself a deal."

The two shook hands, their pact made.

"Smart move. Maybe we could learn some tricks along the way." Samiel suggested.

Maybe. Rex responded, before turning his attention back to the stream. "Come on, let's get to that mine."

The pair continued onwards, following the stream further uphill until finally, they reached the lower slopes of a wooded hill. Built into its base, a dark tunnel propped up with wooden support beams, gaped open in the side of the hill. The stream flowed slowly out of it, emerging out of the darkness.

Alain's eyes flashed blue briefly as he peered into the tunnel, one hand placed on his sword, "It's not going to be easy to find our way around."

Eying a rusty lantern by the entrance, Rex scooped it up to find a candle still inside. "I can help with light."

As Rex spat a little Ember onto the candle to light it, Alain cast a wary eye, "Let's be careful with that." He warned, "We don't know what we could set off in there."

The Combusken sealed the lantern, making sure the candle flame didn't start dimming. "Any dust in there should have settled down by now. We'll just go slow and make sure we avoid going deeper into the mine then we need to."

Regardless, as a precaution, Rex gathered a handful of thick sticks and some abandoned rags near the entrance to wrap around them. He passed one over to the fairy-type, who cast a curious eye over the assembled touches. "You seem to know a fair bit on the topic."

"A few Pokémon from our village worked in a mine." Rex explained, feeling a faint flicker in his heart as he was reminded of home. "They had to take precautions with firedamp."

"Firedamp?"

"Flammable gases. Methane mainly. My dad couldn't work in the mines, but he knew enough to teach me how to stay safe in case I ever got stuck in one."

With the torches ready and the lantern lit, Rex hefted his metal light source and looked towards the cave entrance. "Ready?"

"Ready." Alain confirmed, and together, they walked into the tunnel. The darkness soon became all encompassing, with only the light of the lantern to guide their way and the sound of the water trickling down the stream in the centre. It was an outflow tunnel for any water that entered the surface levels of the mine, hopefully to divert it away from the deeper sections. There were none of those strange lights that were in the ruins. Would have been-

The Combusken's chest clenched tight as red claws flashed across his eyes. He stumbled forward, a hand instinctively snapping out to hold himself up, taking care not to let the lantern slip out of his grasp. Rex hissed, feeling his chest relax. "Shit! Easy Rex! Try not to think about it."

Alain's eyes flashed blue again as he spun round towards him. "What's wrong?"

Grinding his beak as he pushed the memory aside, he shoved himself off the wall. "I'm alright." Rex said, not quite believing his own words. "Come on."

With a narrowed eye from Alain, they carried on. But Rex still felt a shiver run down his spine as he moved, trying to keep the memory of the fight resurfacing. What the hell did happen to him? He clenched his free fist tight.

"Might be a side effect of the Obelisk." Samiel said, "There's probably all sorts of stuff about that thing we don't know about."

I'm just hoping it doesn't happen for a while…


The journey through the tunnel was straight forward, with few bends and corners to come across. Even the few junctions they found had all but one path boarded up with planks.

That was when they heard the fluttering over the sound of the increasingly louder water.

Alain stopped first; a hand raised to stop Rex. "Do you hear that?"

"Yeah." Rex replied, eyes narrowed as he raised the lantern, trying to pick out something in the darkness. But there was nothing. "Can you sense anything?"

Alain closed his eyes, taking in a breath as he seemed to focus inward. There was a brief shimmer of a blue aura around the Krilia, before it just as quickly faded away. "There are Pokémon ahead, but that is as much as I can glean. Ferals perhaps?"

The Combusken's claws clicked together, all too aware he couldn't just start spitting out fireballs to deal with any sheltering feral Pokémon in case he set something ablaze. "Not even an idea on how many or how far?"

A quiet tut came by, "Like I said, not really my speciality."

I wonder why he hasn't trained his psychic powers…

They pressed on, the fluttering getting louder as they moved, now accompanied by something squeaking. Zubat most likely, Rex reckoned. But they still had no definite idea.

Regardless, no Pokémon appeared before the pair finally emerged inside a larger chamber. It was about ten square metres across, with three separate tunnels leading out apart from the one they had just exited. The water flowed in from a thin beam of light in the ceiling, before flowing along a channel leading to the outflow tunnel.

But at the centre of the chamber was a gaping hole, where a ramp slowly circled the wall deeper into the depths.

"I've tried to sense them again." Alain whispered, one hand now gripping the hilt of his sword as he scanned their surroundings. "I can't work out much else, apart from they are down one of these tunnels."

Rex kept his claws ready, using the lantern's light to check the remaining parts of the ceiling. There was still no sign of the feral Pokémon acting without any sentience, but Rex could still hear the flutter of wings down below. Down in that deeper shaft.

We might have some luck then.

Feeling some of his concern fading, Rex directed his gaze towards the far tunnel, gently sloping upwards. "Come on, if we keep quiet, we won't attract what's down-"

"Err… hello?"

Rex stiffened as he spun towards the source… that shaft leading deeper into the ground. Alain was also looking in that direction, evidently not needing psychic abilities to hear that.

"You know, you can be as quiet as you like." Came the voice, quiet but still clearly trying to project. "Just, well, not too loud. Like, try not to laugh, okay?"

"Maybe… we should just move on." Alain whispered, a befuddled look on his face.

Frowning, Rex kept his eyes on the hole, "Probably would be best to check."

"Guys! Come on…" the voice growled, "I'm not exactly in a position to do anything here."

With an uncomfortable itch growing in the back of his mind, and with no idea if it was just his conscience or Samiel prodding him, Rex approached and peered over the edge and down into the shaft.

A couple of metres down, hanging just above part of the ramp by his legs and a trapped bag strap, was a Zangoose, slimmer and smaller than most. But otherwise he still fairly stocky and had a tuft of hair on top of his head. A pair of pink eyes looked up towards him with a sheepish look. "Yep… I can explain this!"

Samiel whistled inside Rex's skull, "Okay, I can't wait to hear this."

Rex leaned back for a second, taking a moment to process the sight below before looking back down, "Are you alright?"

"Y-Yeah!" replied the normal-type, "Apart from the sudden headaches and coughing fits." He mustered another grin, a bit more… cheesy than before.

"He's delusional." Alain stated, joining Rex in looking down at him.

"Whoa… when did Gardenvoir get really big ponytails?" asked the Zangoose, his vision looking a little cloudy.

Grinding his beak, Rex moved for the ramp, "It's because he's upside down!" he hissed, "His lungs are getting crushed. Hang on, I think I can pull you down!"

He placed the lantern at the very top of the ramp before descending one half turn to get underneath the Zangoose. He noticed that the strap belonged to a satchel on the Zangoose's person, and that had not just wrapped up around both his legs, but around another piece of rope that had been left hooked on the wall by the miners. "How did you even get stuck here?"

"A big bat flew into me." The Zangoose replied.

At first, Rex scoffed to himself. Alain may have been partly right, being hung upside for so long was going to cause problems.

But when he looked up again, he found the mammal glaring at him with narrow eyes. "It's down at the bottom. And if we aren't careful, it's going to come flying right back up after us."

The cool, quiet tone of his voice caused Rex to freeze. This was not a lack of oxygen. This time, he meant it.

"Alain." Rex started, "Keep watch on the shaft. I'm cutting him loose."

Rex willed some of his strength into his claws to use Slash, already causing them to glow softly white. He couldn't risk using fire in here, so his claws were the next best thing. But he would still have to jump and hit the rope. Take that out, and the Zangoose should land on the ramp.

"I won't be able to levitate you." Alain warned, crouched on the edge. "Are you sure about this?"

"It's the best bet we've got." Rex replied.

"Ugh… hold on." groaned the Zangoose as he started shuffling in place, "I'll try shifting my bag, should make it easier to-"

That was when the glass ball fell free from the satchel and bounced off the floor. Rex spun, his eyes immediately locking onto the blue sphere, and instinctively reached for it, but it was too late.

It rolled over the edge and into the abyss. Rex could only watch as the object disappeared into the darkness.

A sharp crack rang out from below, and with that, the fluttering went silent.

When it returned, it was louder, much more rapid and was accompanied by a very clear sound.

The sound of gnashing teeth and painful shrieks.

Samiel's voice went very quiet.

"Oh fuck…"

Well, this one took a while with multiple projects again, and it's not the most action packed post, but it does set the stage for some of the stuff that is due to come. Hope this is an enjoyable return to MoD!
 
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