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Despite all the work he had been doing in Mauville and Rustboro, Tristan hadn’t been to Lavaridge since the attack. There were just too many people in this small town. He wondered how many might have gone to other surrounding towns, or to go live with family in other cities. This surely couldn’t be everyone displaced by the explosion.

Moving through the throngs of bodies took a bit of time for the thin man. Ether had an easier time of it given his affinity for knowing what was about to happen and all. Still, it took some time to get to the pokestation.

Of course, along the way he would listen to the cacophonous din of people talking, hoping to pick up something, anything that might have pulled on a lead. Still in his costume-ish purple suit, he made sure to grab the attention of the nearest Ranger to let them know that he was here and had his team looking into a few leads.

In the meantime, Veritas floated her way through the crowds with pure grace while Vertigo essentially kited her and Oracle kept watch from above.

There was some anxiety around flying these days, what with that Draco Meteor that came out of nowhere the night of the attack and all. While the Air and Gale Rangers kept the skies rather safe, at the same time it was heavily regulated - a lone over-sized Xatu was sure to draw attention. Hopefully that kid Tristan spoke to reported to his superiors, and Oracle wouldn’t be harrassed.

The four (Ether, Vertias, Vertigo, and Oracle) would keep in constant communication via telepathy, with Ether relaying important information to his trainer. Otherwise, Tristan’s Pokemon were telling and showing each other what they were experiencing. While Oracle focused on Mind Reader and Future Sight, along with the Telepathy, she would really only be able to glide from updraft to updraft so she could focus her mind to find… someone. Something? Somewhere??

Beyond that, it was also a good view to ensure that Veritas and Vertigo weren’t being trailed or snuck up on.

Veritas wound her way towards the bathhouse, keeping a keen sense on that decidedly unusual mixture guilt, embarrassment, and fear. While these three particular emotions mingled throughout the people here, the mixture of all three in this way was unique. If nothing else, she hoped to help someone who was in such distress.

All the while she was listening in, both physically and telepathically, to those around her. She was intent on finding the source but certainly wouldn’t engage. Rather, she and Vertigo would get a physical description of the person - height, weight, hair color, eye color, skin color, clothes - and maybe follow to confirm suspicions or learn more. The pair, much like Oracle, would continue to Mind Read those around them, and perhaps their Miracle Eyes might pick up on someone… something?

Vertigo, of course, couldn’t help but think up some Nasty Plots to prank random individuals as they worked.

It was some kind of bubble. There was a strange void surrounded by these emotions swirling strongly with each other. One the second floor. Yes. A bedroom. An arrow. Some kind of confrontation. Two people, though they weren’t looking at each other. They were looking at the void.

Someone didn’t want to be found. Was it the contact or had someone confronted the contact and didn’t want to be found out and knew how to shroud themselves psychically?

“The Quay...Rustboro.”

It was a faint echo, slowly drowning in the growing void that was swallowing this odd mixture of emotions.

The words echoed throughout the consciousnesses of all four of Tristan’s Pokemon at nearly the same time; their psychic connection to one another rather strong. These words were relayed to Tristan himself as he entered the Pokestation. Something else to keep an ear out for, he thought.

Vertias was instantly intrigued, and so decided to wait outside. It would be rather odd, after all, for a Gardevoir to enter a bathhouse of all places. Or, so she presumed. Instead, she would wait outside somewhere she wouldn’t be immediately noticed.

Vertigo, however, wasn’t so patient. Despite Vertias’ request, Vertigo went ahead and floated up to this second story to peek into this window. He’d use some telekinesis to draw a curtain or shade if one might obscure his vision.

Oracle, at this point, decided to land somewhere with a decent view to witness the past and future of this place, of these people, at the same time. While this was an inherent trait of Xatu, it was something Oracle herself rarely employed due to the stress on the mind and soul.
“Major,” Tristan offered with a nod. Lights flooded the streets from various flashlights and lanterns held by the half dozen Rangers clearing whatever alleys or side streets they passed.

Major Harry Burque was a somewhat rounded individual slightly shorter than Tristan himself. Despite this, he was known as a powerful, not simply strong, man who commanded the respect of any subordinate.

“I’d say it was nice to see you…”

”Spare me, Major. I need to get in touch with a Watcher...”

”Why?” There was an intensity that was starting to dissipate as the pair focused on the issue at hand. Still, the back-and-forth interruptions were unwelcome.

”A Draco Meteor destroyed the top floor of this office and flew off. Oracle didn’t see them.”

”Yeah, let’s have the professionals handle this.” Picking up his comm, he called for any available Watcher. Tristan sighed, rolled his eyes, and walked off towards the main explosion to see how he could help.

Oracle soared above, keeping watch and pointing out individuals running away. Tristan would have Ether, Veritas, and Vertigo Teleport to intercept these individuals, determining if they looked suspicious and detaining them if that happened to be the case. These individuals would be gathered at a secure location determined by the Rangers that had started to set up a base of operations while Tristan continued walking towards the chaos at the center of the city.

The rest of his team remained vigilant around their Trainer, but would encounter no one on the way. By the time the pair made it to ground zero the situation seemed under control. Bodies were strewn every which way, Pokemon and people. Blood splattered the ground and screams dissipated into the distance.

It was a difficult scene as Ground Pokemon worked to put out the electrical fire while Chancey and Blissy worked to find and save any survivors that they could. Bodies were starting to be covered with white sheets already. Tristan just stood there and watched, not quite sure what to do. For once, his mind was blank - incapable of analyzing the current situation.

His Pokemon, however, were not so paralyzed. They worked with the Rangers and their Pokemon to clear and secure the area. Any suspicious individuals detained by Ether, Veritas, or Vertigo were questioned extensively, more than a few by Tristan and Veritas themselves.

Despite their best efforts, they were able to learn nothing more than “Jonton was back.”

One day at a time; that was all Tristan allowed himself to think about as he, along with hundreds of volunteers, worked to clear the wreckage. Of course, Tristan himself did little by the way of manual labor, choosing instead to have his team perform “heavy lifting” (via telekinesis, of course).

What most concerned this particular member of the Elite Four was the fact that they could determine so little from the remains or the survivors. Any efforts to read their minds were thwarted; something that only stirred up more anger and frustration in the slight man.

Tristan made a few trips back and forth from Fairfax Hospital during this time. Failing to learn more from the survivors but also doing what he could to gather illicit glances at whatever evidence they might have had on their bodies or overhear any conversations from the Rangers stationed as bodyguards. He might also happen to overhear any who were conducting interrogations.

Through these eavesdroppings Tristan only further confirmed that the only information they were able to get was that “Jonton was back”. Tristan himself knew little of this individual. Yet, soon enough, he was reminded that this very likely must have been the illegitimate Fairfax kid.

What was he doing back? Is he really responsible for all of this. Is he really that mad at his family to blow up Mauville and kill innocents? What was the goal here? Or was it just a game for something else?

And how the FUCK were these idiots able to protect their minds from Veritas’ telepathy?

Too many questions and little, if anything, to go on. A frustrating position to be in, but not one Tristan thought he would be unable to overcome. Indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time he was so utterly in the dark.

Whenever he spent time back in Mauville he felt some sense of unease. The Rangers, who were somewhat skeptical, yet not without reason, made Tristan need to tread carefully. It was altogether unusual, after all, that an Internal Affairs Inspector was helping in such a manner. Of course, Tristan was previously an Investigator for the Rangers. While that may have been many years ago, his current position never sat quite right. Sure, he was glad to have routed some corruption within the ranks all those years ago, but that trust he used to have had since been shattered.

In discovering what he could, given this, he was somehow approached by a messenger with a note.

After reading it, Tristan’s eyebrows involuntarily furrowed slightly for a fraction of a moment as he considered what this all meant. Even though he had been working for Marilda for years now, he had never met her in person. Much less summoned to her home.

Fighting past the surprise and confusion, Tristan realized this would be his best, and probably only, opportunity to try and figure out what Lady Fairfax knew about all this. She, after all, had him veritably chasing his own shadow for months now. He figured a woman of her stature would know something.

Or, at least he hoped she might.

”I guess we’re going to Faifax Manor…” Tristan reached down and, in a moment, the two were transported to their destination.

-----

The Fairfax Manor was labeled inaccurately. It was comfortably a castle. The only building in all of Hoenn built from giant blocks of stone collected from Meteor Falls, Mt. Chimney, Granite Cave, Sootopolis, and Ever Grande. The patterns of the stones were organized in a way that appeared purposeful. Sootopolis Limestone was peppered along the corners of the structure. Granite Cave Granite made up the borders of windows and doors. Meteor Falls Slate and Mt. Chimney Sandstone made up the majority of the structure with the more ornate features of the architecture made of Ever Grande Marble. The courtyard between the walls and the gates of the manor were filled with lush gardens full of exotic plants and stately trees. Full-time landscapers paced through these gardens each day to keep it as manicured at all times as possible. The summer had the garden produce large red apples that were brought to the kitchens or sold at the local farmer’s market. Fees could be paid to precious few each year to enter the grounds and pick from the trees personally.

Each side of the silver-steel gates stood a large Land Ranger and his partner. An awning just large enough to shield one from the sun was placed into the pillars above each.

Tristan approached these Land Rangers with an assuredness that displayed his station. The two individuals were unknown to the middle-aged man, and so sized them up.

”Impressive…” he thought to himself. Ether was not quite so impressed, staying close to Tristan as the pair approached.

”I have a summons from Lady Fairfax,” he announced, holding out the missive he had received only moments ago.

The large man took the parchment from the Elite Four member to feign inspecting it before giving it back. “It has neither her seal nor her signature. You do not have a summons from Lady Fairfax,” he said matter-of-factly. He shifted his posture back to standing stoic and still and looking forward at nothing.

There was a moment of frustrated pause as Tristan internally sighed, closing his eyes to hide the fact he rolled them at this brick of a man. ”Can you… can you check with her, please?” Having never done this before, he was somewhat at a loss as to how to go about it. His mind started to race as he considered what he was supposed to do here.

“No,” he said with a short exhale that pushed the word quickly and forcefully from his chest.

”How might I go about scheduling an audience with Lady Fairfax, then?” His tone was trying, very hard, to be civil and formal.

“You,” he said as to stress the point, “do not.”

”Ah, yes. It seems you were confused by semantics.” There was a slight pause before he rephrased, ”How do I go about requesting an audience with Lady Fairfax?” While he was utterly ignorant in this moment, that didn’t mean he was necessarily stupid.

This time the Ranger’s eyes snapped toward the diminutive man. “You,” he said in the same manner as before, “do not.”

”Ah… yes, of course. I was thinking of someone else. My apologies, good day,” he jabbered with a false bow. ”I’ll leave you to it, then.” With that, the slight man twirled on his heels and practically ran away.

”You get a look inside?”

”Yes…”

”You think it’s a good idea?”

”No…”

There was a lot left unsaid - speaking this way allowed for emotions and stray thoughts to bleed through leading to, perhaps, a more comprehensive form of communication than simple speech. The two were decidedly confused about the whole thing - why would Marilda summon them to her manor, but not through the proper channel? Was this some sort of stupid joke to make him look, and feel, stupid?

Probably.

Was this a test to prove to her that he was still, in a way, loyal to her?

Probably not.

Did she want him to break in or something?

He sure hoped not.

But, what else could he do at this point? While Ether wasn’t necessarily a stickler for the rules, he didn’t feel confident about slinking their way around a place, likely heavily guarded, that they had never been in before, and had no information about as far as what was inside.

As soon as the pair moved to a position that was outside the line of sight of the two uptight Rangers Tristan would reach down. As soon as his fingers fell upon the velvet fur of Ether the pair disappeared only to reappear near a pear tree in the gardens, facing the Manor, though able to crouch down to hide behind some weird bush thing.

“That’s enough of that, Sir Aeros. Follow me, please,” a feminine and strong voice sounded from behind a bush right next to him.

Even with Ether’s peerless awareness, Tristan still jumped somewhat at the voice. He was, however, able to avoid making a sound and turning to look upon her without drawing much in the way of attention to himself.

Her face was plain. An oval of porcelain bordered by straights of black. She wore a kind of bonnet he’d only seen in fairy tale books as a child. Her dress was strange. Black and white and a confusing mixture of modern and victorian. It was a niche fashion trend that had started a few months back.

“She’ll be disappointed,” she said as plainly as her face.

”Uh… sorry? He thought to himself, not a clue about what was going on. Certainly not his favorite position to be in; one that he was not quite familiar with.

Her gait was shallow and short but rapid. The dull heels of her shoes clicked against the hardwood floors stained a deep mahogany when they passed through the enormous gate that was the front entrance. These contrasted with the sharp clap of Tristan’s custom leather shoes, as well as his longer gait, commissioned by someone close to Marilda herself. More individuals in similarly strange clothing paced with purpose and haste across and down the grand hall.

“This way, please.”

They passed by many pieces of furniture, clearly commissioned for specific purposes that were difficult to immediately identify. Some appeared to have no purpose at all other than to be a strange show of carpentry.

The rug they walked down silenced the woman’s heels and the man’s shoes. But the echoes of other hired keepers sounded around them, filling the negative space despite the statues and decorations and paintings and furniture.

The last turn brought them to a corridor lined with immense statues of men that all looked remarkably similar to each other. ”A bit much, don’t you think?

”You don’t really surprise me anymore. Ether spoke of humans in general, of course.

The farther they walked, the older the craftsmanship appeared. At their bases of these statues were simply labeled with roman numerals descending as they approached another enormous gateway.

It began to open as they passed the one marked “V.” The woman did not slow her pace, expecting the doors to open enough for her to pass through in the time it took to reach them. The gap formed by the doors revealed the image of another diminutive woman perfectly framed by the intricacies of the doors themselves.

She stood there with her hand clasped in front of her. The gown she wore was light in both fabric and color. There were so many layers, too illusioned to count properly. Her hair was high this day. It was a light gray with some streaks of brownish red. She stood upon what looked to be some kind of exaggeratedly large step that would be the beginning of stairs. However, it was easily twenty feet wide and stretched back to the other end of the room until it met the wall between two huge wide-paned windows. A large chair made of wood and stone and metal sat at the center with the woman standing regally before it. The chair was ornate. It took more than one lifetime to craft such an impressive piece of furniture.

This was her throne in Hoenn.

“I see you failed to destroy the note,” the woman standing regally before the throne said in a soft yet strong voice that filled the entire space. She clearly spent a lot of time here.

“Disappointing.”

There was an uncomfortable pause. Tristan, for his part, instinctually put his hand over the spot of his lavender jacket where the note was currently. There was a bit of defensive resentment at her assessment of the situation.

“And you failed to make it here promptly. I expected more of the Elite Four.” To that, Tristan clenched his jaw for a moment, more than a little annoyed at all the presumption directed at him.

The whole literal throne thing didn’t really help either.

Her tone lacked condescension, but her words did not betray her. “Regardless, I’m glad you could make it.”

She rested herself upon her throne. Her forearms gingerly rested on the arms of the cathedra and she crossed her legs under her gown that completely changed shape when she did so. It was tailored specifically for this purpose.

“I’ve brought you here because I have fewer subjects that I can trust.”

”Seriously… subjects?” Ether was similarly disinterested in the designation.

“With the attack on Mauville, Jonton has become quite the thorn in my side. I’d like to see him properly pruned away.”

“I should have had him euthanized when he arrived,” she admitted, turning her head up toward the corner behind Tristan. He wasn’t quite sure how to consider the particular and specific way she worded that while she considered this alternate reality with an unsettling level of fondness. Tristan, in kind, was so unsettled, but remained still and stoic as he listened to Her Majesty’s monologue.

“Nonetheless, you’ve proved the most capable thus far.”

”Oh… hey thanks… Tristan closed his eyes slowly, internally rolling them.

”Even still, my most useful of subjects has recently gone silent.”

Tristan again shut his eyes for a moment, for some reason surprised at the whiplash she was giving him. Praise then veiled insult… alright, then.

”I’d like you to search for her and all of the information she has and then neutralize her.” Lady Marilda’s eyes widened slightly as she sliced through Tristan’s form as he couldn’t help but blink rapidly at the… suggestion? Order? He could have sworn the corners of her lips twitched with some kind of excitement.

She laughed.

It was the most “proper” laugh he had ever heard, whatever that meant. Her chin raised slightly and she brought a lax hand toward her mouth as if to cover the indecency.

“I jest,” she said with a coy smile. “Please check to make sure she is not dead. If she is, find out what happened to her and learn everything you can of what she’s learned thus far. I don’t know how her intel leaked about Jonton. Perhaps it was one of his own lackeys that possessed less disciplined lips than others.”

She trailed off some as her mind wandered for a moment. Tristan, for his part, was doing his best to make sure he properly understood her convoluted and twisted manner of getting her point across. “But she was certainly finding her way toward him. She made sure to gloat about that whenever we’d correspond. But I digress. The point is, she has information and has yet to apprise me.”

She turned her head slowly in the other direction and gazed off for a moment. “But if she’s decided to turn against me, you are required to make sure she can not.”

”I… My Lady, I have… many questions...” His mind was racing as he did his level best to keep up with this mountain of vague, potentially misleading, information.

Marilda would cut him off before he could get out any specific questions. “She simply goes by the title ‘Ms. Shade.’ I’ve never seen her and she’s never revealed her location. She wouldn’t be as effective if she had…

“However, I do know she is fond of her Zoroark that she calls Finster. I also know that she does not work alone. She mentioned having connections in Lavaridge and from Olivine in Johto. That is all I can give you to aid in your investigation. I’m sure that’s quite enough.”


Her head turned toward him as slowly as it had turned away.

”I…”

Her eyes once again sliced through Tristan. “Hoenn is about to see horrible events in the near future should you fail.”

Many long moments passed throughout which Tristan knew better than to try and speak. “You’re dismissed.”

While most might have been defeated given the information revealed posed more questions than answers, this was a boon to the Investigator. He had names and ideas of personalities. At the very least, he now had some leads to follow and ideas of what strings to pull along the way.

It wasn’t going to be easy by any means. This was going to take a while until he got a good break. Still, while he had dozens of questions zipping around his head, he bowed to her and touched Ether to teleport themselves back to an alley he liked to get “lost” in while there.

In seemingly the same motion he released Veritas, Aequitas, Vertigo, and Oracle. A silent conversation took place among the group, Ether filling in what details Tristan may have overlooked in the moment. The whole process took not quite a minute before they were back in their pokeballs (save Ether of course). Tristan moved himself out of the alley to stare blankly at the empty street.

Usually this street was busy enough, but with the rebuilding, this was still a district that hadn’t been resettled.

Setting out, Tristan let Major Harry Bigboy know that he was going to Lavaridge to look into a lead. He let the Major know to just contact him if he was needed back in Mauville.

So as to get the last word in, even before the full word had left his mouth, Tristan touched Ether to teleport to just outside Lavaridge. He’d first let out Veritas, Vertigo, and Oracle, directing them to have a look around and not get into too much trouble, while he and Ether went to the Pokestation to do a bit of eavesdropping.
Victory Road
Days Ago


“Houndoom, let’s do this!” a young man yelled, his voice rumbling through the caverns. Before the Trainer’s voice dissipated, Houndoom’s roar blasted throughout, causing retorts by wild Pokemon wandering within the caves.

“Hm… six,” Tristan counted in his head, noting that this was the sixth Pokemon that had been revealed in this contest.

The challenger was Lucius Princo from Veilstone City in Sinnoh, a rather plain looking individual dressed in clothes that signaled some form of modest wealth. He was somewhat dirtied by his trek through Victory Road, unsurprisingly, though not nearly as bad as many Tristan had typically witnessed.

Even so, this couldn’t compare to Tristan’s tailored mauve three-piece suit, custom-made leather shoes, and red silk tie. The sun’s rays shone through the cave’s exit as a sort of halo around Tristan’s body as he stood between Lucius and admittance to the Championship.

While this Lucius had already more than proven himself, the rules were the rules. Only three of the so-far six Pokemon Lucius had called upon were significantly hurt. Tristan was curious if he would get to see two more different Pokemon, or if this Lucius had only prepared the six.

Three figures stood off to the side – the other members of the Elite Four who had been defeated by the challenger. Fredrick Vant, specializing in Dark-type Pokemon, was a bookish young man with thick framed glasses that didn’t sit on his nose quite right. Bingham Keetra, specializing in Ghost-type Pokemon, was an elderly man dressed in similarly fine clothes to Tristan standing at some form of lax attention to display his long history as a former Ranger and Gym Leader. Then there was Lois Preato who specialized in Steel-type Pokemon. She wore a fitting pant-suit with little in the way of embellishments, allowing her impressive physique to be on display.

All four were rather impassive as they observed the event. Tristan did lift a brow when Houndoom was brought forth to battle Pandora, his affectionate Jynx. Ether, Tristan’s Espeon that never left his side, lifted his head to look at the source of all the commotion. Seemingly bored, he lowered his head back down, but kept his eyes on the Houndoom.

At this point Jynx turned to look at her Trainer, seeing him nod to her and she nodding in kind. “Ready?” Tristan posed.

“Let’s do this,” the young man replied.

Off to the side, Bingham uttered, “And… begin!”

And begin it did with an impressive Flamethrower billowing out of Houndoom’s maw as it pounced to close the distance. A mix of Powder Snow and Icy Wind proved a minimally effective shield against the attack, leaving Pandora sweaty and breathing heavily.

“Hm…” Tristan thought to himself. “Aurora Veil,” he muttered, barely loud enough for anyone to hear. Tristan’s Jynx brushed her hair out of her face and waved her hands around to create a sort of armor in the form of a beautiful gown. “Frost Breath next time,” he mentioned again. Pandora would nod at that and wait for only a moment before a new offensive was unleashed.

“Dark Pulse!” Lucius called out. Not quite ten feet from Jynx, globs of sickly dark energy rushed out from Houndoom. This met a cone of ice and snow to cushion the blow against the armor Pandora now sported. She seemed mostly unaffected by the attack, and so Tristan took advantage to suggest, “Miracle Eye. Confusion.” The requests were minimal, but more than satisfactory.

Her eyes glowed a deep gold despite the following Flamethrower melted away what remained of her Aurora Veil, but allowed her the opportunity to mentally assault the Houndoom. The lull in the battle allowed gave Jynx the chance to close the distance to give her new friend a nice peck on the cheek.

Now the Houndoom simply had no idea what was going on.

“Return!” Lucius raised the pokeball and recalled Houndoom, only to find that Tristan had done the same. Before Lucius could ask what he was doing, Tristan called out, “Arine!” to reveal a Starmie to oppose the challenger now. Lucius shook his head with a furrowed brow, but didn’t dwell on it. “Luxray, you’re up!” Tristan again lifted his brow with intrigue. Ether didn’t raise his head this time, not quite concerned with a mere Luxray.

“Round two,” Tristan mentioned.

“Ready?” Bingham called out. “Begin!” he shouted.

This Luxray, as well, thought to take the initiative, an opressive Thunderbolt exploding from its body, hitting Starmie dead on.

No! Starmie was at the edge of the cave, unharmed!

Wait, it was at both sides of the cave!

Luxray had to take a moment to figure out what was going on, but that was more than enough time for Arine to Rapid Spin it from above, landing a good hit. Luxray growled out in displeasure, but by the time it started to Discharge, Arine already hit it with an Aqua Jet.

This Luxray was tough, though, and it would take more than that to take it down. Ignoring the pain, it Discharged a wave of electricity in all directions, consuming Starmie again… only for it to dissipate. It was a Double!

Now there were two Starmie a couple yards away. “Light Screen,” Tristan suggested, and a barrier arose in front of both of them. “Calm Mind,” he mentioned, and the Starmie stood there for a moment, the great gem in its center pulsing a dull glow.

“Thunder Fang!” For all of Luxray’s power and toughness, it was not quite fast. By the time it reached the Light Screen, falling through without resistance, it would fall upon a visage of Starmie – another Double. From across the cavern a Water Gun shot at Luxray, hitting it hard in the side. Luxray growled again and released another Thunderbolt.

The massive amount of energy shattered the Light Screen as soon as it touched, leaving Starmie steaming despite the Rapid Spin it attempted to shrug off some of the damage.

“Brine…” Tristan offered with a serious expression. Starmie didn’t miss a beat and released a torrent of water from each of the ends, spinning wildly to create a sort of water cyclone that this particular Luxray would only be able to partially evade.

Luxray seemed to understand this and instead of trying to move out of the way, released an improbable amount of energy, creating a Thunderous boom throughout the caverns. It raced up the water crashing upon it, threatening to toss it back even while it clawed into the stone to resist flying through the air.

Once all was said and done, Tristan’s Starmie was battered, nearly beaten. Luxray seemed to be a similar position, however.

“That’s enough, Arine…” And, with that, Tristan had it return to its pokeball.

“Luxray, you too…” Lucius seemed relieved that they were not going to continue.

“I call upon Aequitas…” With something of a flourish, Tristan revealed a Gallade to oppose this challenger now.

Gallade stood tall and proud. Indeed, it was noticeably taller than the average Gallade. “Starapter, let’s go!” Lucius shouted.

This time Tristan nodded with a “Hm,” glad that he was allowed to see the rest of Lucius team. Lucius certainly did his homework, ready for anything that might be thrown at him.

“Final round!” Bingham announced. “Ready? Begin!”

Aequitas was already Working himself Up even as the Staraptor raced towards him with an Arial Ace. At the last moment, Aequitas swiped at Staraptor as they met, hitting the Arial Ace with a Mach Blade (i.e. Punch). While this resulted in Gallade being pushed back a few yards, he was able to stop his opponent there in front of him.

The two locked – arm to wing, blade to blade. A tense moment passed before they jumped back from one another. Gallade decided to size up his opponent while Staraptor tried to keep the pressure up with a whirlwind to get Gallade up in the air and immobile. Somehow, though, Sir Knight was able to Detect it, evading each attempt. The purple glowing in his eyes was still fading when he locked eyes again with his opponent.

No matter, it thought, and proceeded to rush Sir Knight with a wicked looking Drill Peck. Similar to the last time, Gallade met the Staraptor with a strong Slash, causing both to bounce off one another, though still look somewhat weary from the attempt.

This time it was Aequitas’s turn to push the offensive, sending a Sphere of his own Aura towards Staraptor. Like Luxray, it seemed not quite quick enough to attempt to evade the attack, and instead met it head on with its own Wings of Steel.

A small explosion erupted around the Staraptor, but when the smoke cleared it was no longer there! Nearly hitting Gallade, he parried the attempt, having Detected it yet again. Proving itself able to learn and adapt, Staraptor buffeted Aequitas with a rather powerful Gust, lifting him off the ground and unable to move.

Taking full advantage, it attempted a full power Wing Attack, connecting against Aequitas’s Cross Chop, but still sending him through the air and landing in a roll on the ground. Now breathing heavily, he raised his bladed arms, ready for what came next.

“I yield…” Tristan admitted to the surprise of only Lucius; the rest of the Elite Four seemed unaffected by the announcement. The challenger blinked rapidly several times, not quite believing it.

“But…” Lucius start.

Tristan interrupted. “Our job is only to determine if you are skilled enough to participate in the Pokemon League Championship,” he started. “You have more than proven your ability. Well done, Lucius Princo of Veilstone.” A beat passed before he offered, “Congratulations.” There was a faint smile on his lips as he moved to the side and lifted an arm, allowing him through to Ever Grande City to rest, recuperate, and stay until the Championship was held, if he so desired.

Slateport City
Night of the Mauville Explosion


“You’re going to tell me what I want to know, or I will let Veritas show you what she does to people who try to hide things from me.” Tristan, now dressed in black with a black sport coat draped over his shoulders, stood in a dimly lit room in the Harbor Warehouse nearly an hour passed midnight in front of a terrified man seated in a wooden chair in a far corner.

Ether kept watch while Veritas, Tristan’s Gardevoir, crept closer, a determined look on her face. Off to the side was Vertigo, Tristan’s Alakazam, juggling three crates via Telekinesis – his job done for the time being.

“I’m tellin’ ya! I don’t know nothin’!” The disheveled man pleaded with the now Private Investigator. Tristan, however, was not quite convinced. Or he wasn’t quite ready to leave with nothing; not without trying everything.

He sighed and shook his head, waving his hand to allow Gardevoir to sift through his mind to figure out what he knew. The whole process took only moments, her hands on either side of his head as her eyes glowed in lilac and stared deep into him. When she released the man, letting him slump and fall on the floor unconscious, she turned back to Tristan and shook her head. The three of them shared no spoken words, but rather conversed through thought.

“He doesn’t know anything.” Veritas reiterated.

“That can’t be possible.”

“I’m telling you, there was nothing there.”

“I didn’t get anything either.” Vertigo chimed.

“Fucking shit… we’re going to have to come up with a plan to figure out what she knows.”

“Gladly…”

“Vertigo…”

“What!?”

“That’s enough…”

“Something’s happened…” Tristan looked to Ether, hair standing on end. He brought Veritas and Vertigo back to their pokeballs and touched his Espeon to be transported to just outside of Mauville.

Mauville City Limits
Night of the Explosion


“Let’s go…”

With that, Ether teleported them to the location of the secondary explosion (that had not happened yet); not quite what Tristan was expecting.

He didn’t really need to concern himself with it because his first act is always to release his team. Ether and Veritas took up defensive positions around their Trainer while Vertigo and Aequitas immediately looked for trouble. Oracle, his Xatu, flew up to get a better vantage and start to understand what was going on.

Chaos reigned and Tristan’s eyes darted around to figure out what he could despite the pitch black now that the city was cloaked in darkness. It took a few moments, but he recognized where he was – one of the administrative offices that handled the power grid. It was one of the secondary ones, but Tristan knew it to hold many sensitive documents, most of which were only available in hard copy.

Reflects and Barriers erected around Tristan just as the top floor exploded in time with another explosion some ways off. The Elite Four member and Ranger Investigator winced at the bright light, yet was unaffected by any heat or debris that fell.

“Everyone,” Oracle thought to Tristan. Only a moment’s beat passed before the rest of Tristan’s team was released. Arine, Pandora, and Zen materialized in a right angle around their Trainer and were immediately apprised of what was going on - one of the many benefits of telepathy. Zen, Tristan's Metagross, stationed itself on the main road, closer to the main explosion in case anyone or anything came from that direction. Arine and Pandora, meanwhile, moved to scout the area with Oracle.

Vertigo and Aequitas lifted themselves to investigate what was going on in the building now alight with flames lapping from the broken windows. Vertigo parted the flames with a Light Screen to allow them both entry.

“Get out,” Oracle commanded of the pair. “Now.” When Oracle said that, it was imperative to listen. Not a moment after they floated out of the window, the top floor was utterly destroyed by an impossible Draco Meteor.

“Fuckin’ A…” For the first time in a long time, Tristan was actually scared. “Are you alright!?”

“Yeah, yeah. We’re fine.” Vertigo seemed almost bored with it.

Tristan knew better, though, and sighed with relief.

“They’re flying off.” Clair reported.

“Did you see who it was?”

“No.”

“Fuck…”

By this time several Rangers showed up. They were quite tense and almost attacked the Elite Four member, given the darkness.

“Mr. Aeros!” A voice called out. “Glad you could join us!”



The gold flecks in Akacen's eyes seemed to shine ever so slightly at the sight of his old friend, Brother Brightwood. It was he, after all, that had been his first and longest companion and friend since leaving the Scholia Arcana in Tierm all those years ago.

Though, of course, that was a mere blink of an eye to someone as long-lived as an elf.

True to form, the both of them had hardly changed since they last saw one another. Even so, Akacen took a moment to take in the sight of Brightwood as he was. "Brother Brightwood," he started with a smile both on his face and in his voice. He didn't say anything more, as it was to be an unspoken conversation of sorts that the two would share.

While there was a joy in seeing his old friend again, there was clear, at least to Brightwood, conflict and worry. The Headmaster might do his best to cover that up, and succeed in the eyes of most people, Brightwood was not so easily fooled.

Even so, there was not all that much time to dwell on this as the echoes of several feet soon wafted up to their ears. Isshyim, in her endless grace and beauty, extended an arm to offer a seat to the serious, if not brooding, human. The long cuff of her sleeve fell over a foot from her wrist, the gold border, along with the pure white of the bulk of the robes she wore, did not shine; rather, they glowed in the sunlight that pierced the space.

She said nothing, nor did Awoan. It so happened that the three of them were quite aware of recent conversations.

Following behind Master Brightwood was Captain Caelynn with Lieutenants Kephalos and Tumise in tow. While Caelynn kept most of her same outward appearance, Kephalos and Tumise had changed quite a bit since they were last seen. Kephalos, for his part, had aged only somewhat, it would seem. Perhaps it was his now-bald head and purple tattoo on his face, with a matching one on his bare left arm. Always heavily armed, the Greatsword and Glaive he carried, along with a shortbow and quiver, would overcome most any other man. While shorter than Brightwood, he was perhaps stockier and carried the equipment over his scale armor that shone - no, glowed - with seeming ease.



Tumise, on the other hand, had matured quite a bit since he was first recruited from Jocarol. All the new responsibilities seemed to have settled on capable, if not still mischievous, shoulders. Wielding daggers, a rapier, and a crossbow, it was clear that the smaller human favored maneuverability and stealth over raw power. More than anything, though, it seemed that he "filled out", as they say.



Akacen would nod and offer back a hello in kind, but it seemed to be Isshyim's time to speak this time. She, too, nodded in greeting to the wood elf and offered, "It is good to be back. Of course, I learned much..." And that was it; she would offer no more at this point. Sure, she offered the slightest of smiles in return, but it left much to be desired - as she typically did whenever she spoke. Instead, she would again extend an arm to each couch, offering all three of them a seat on the long couches, able to each fit five individuals comfortably.

As the three of them sat down, both Kephalos and Tumise having to adjust their weapons in order to do so without damaging anything, Akacen commented, "You all look good." It was a meager compliment, but the intent and feeling behind it revealed so much more than the words. While reserved, Akacen was not necessarily lacking in emotion.

"Still... one more... she is nearly here," Isshyim mentioned, as though it were common knowledge. Typical for her, of course, but still off-putting to those who weren't so used to it.

Isshyim nodded first, as she was the first one addressed. Akacen followed suit, of course, and ended up being the one to speak. "Yes, Priestess. You look... wonderful." He seemed to have some trouble with that particular compliment, but it was clear that his lessons were starting to stick.

"Please... sit..." Isshyim offered the couch that had the fewer seats taken and waited for her to sit down. Akacen, for his part, gazed at this reunion. His mind raced with this and that thought, his eyes trying to take everything in before they got into all of this.

"Saviors of the Eastern Reaches," Isshyim started with only a touch of grandiosity. "I trust you remember the request you received from Zariel's minions?" She would wait a beat before continuing. "She plans to force your hand. You must go to the ruins of the Yuan-Ti temple to prevent the destruction of Theodthyrth." She spoke with such assurance that it was sometimes difficult to realize that she spoke in possible futures that she had witnessed only through her font, currently stationed directly behind her in the middle of one of the great windows facing west.

Akacen's face distorted in displeasure and unease. It had always been in the back of his mind, but it was too soon. However, it would have always been too soon, he figured. "Yes, of course," he started with a shallow nod. "I will go alone..."

"You will take your companions here with you," Isshyim interrupted just as he uttered the word alone. Her timing was impeccable, as always. "Otherwise, you will be bound to her service, and all of existence will be undone."

The look on the moon elf's face suggested that he didn't quite believe that the threat this "Zariel" posed could be any greater than summoning the Elder God of Infinite Destruction to the Material Plane. Or, perhaps he was merely incredulous in the inference that he alone could start a tip in the balance that would result in this cataclysm. He, of course, knew better than to argue with Isshyim's directives. Too many times had they proven true, and she had not said or done anything that would call her predictions into question.

"You will leave in the morning." The statement was just that - a declarative that would be followed without question. "Rest and prepare. Awoan, please give them anything they might need."

"Yes, Headmistress," Awoan responded dutifully behind her charge.

At this point Isshyim waved them all off without a word. Not contesting this, Akacen stood and bowed to the Headmistress and turned to leave. The hardened soles of this otherwise soft shoes produced dull claps against the stone floor, once off the rug. While the cape hung heavy on the Headmaster's slim shoulders, the white robes he wore rippled in the still air as water. The silver staff clapped in resolution against the stone, muffling each other step fall.

Down on the second floor, the Gathering Hall and Library, Akacen would wait for his comrades to join him. Several students looked on with curious gazes, though Mumed was there to usher them to their tasks, duties, or studies soon enough so as to leave them with at least some privacy.


I suppose I'll try opening this up???
The Goliath, sprawled out in the back of the cart, half hanging off as it were, grunted as he shifted to try and get more comfortable. Whether it was out of effort or out of the zealot's words would be unknown, as he had hardly spoken two words to those he now traveled with.

While the strange female and unusual male had helped to stabilize and heal him following his encounter with a Dire Wolf somewhere far in the wilds, he was less-than personable. At least, as far as the pair could make out at the moment.

As they traveled, the half-giant, who only gave the name "Stormcaller", fiddled with a javelin as though it were nothing more than a stick. The warhammer he carried with him had been settled beside him, and the shortbow and quiver propped up against it. Given his physique, even though he was nearly falling off, it would seem, he took up about half of the cart in his current position. Reinforcing his less-than amiable demeanor, he did not apologize or otherwise suggest that he was concerned that he was taking up so much room.

Laying back, fingers interlaced behind this head, cradling it on the bed of the cart, he gazed at the clear sky...
Are we all on this cart, or are we all separate?

If we're all using this cart, then how long have we been doing so?
@Phoenix Is this still happening?
dndbeyond.com Bebe!

Campaign

Create a 20th level character, maximum health, and start with 1 very rare, 1 rare, and 1 uncommon magic item of your choice.
Choose from anything in published material (races, classes, sub-classes, spells, etc.).
Feats are allowed.
Multi-classing is allowed.

I am more than happy to give insight into the world, just ask.

Stats are point buy: Start with 24 points.
3 = +9
4 = +7
5 = +5
6 = +4
7 = +3
8 = +2
9 = +1
10 = 0
11 = -1
12 = -2
13 = -3
14 = -4
15 = -5
16 = -7
17 = -9
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