Knightfall here! This is a side story to my main work, PMD: Overthrown, and thus will share the same universe. It is encouraged you read it before moving on to this story.
Rating will be around PG-13 to 15 for the occasional scenes of violence and some themes present in the later parts of the story.
Operation: Saltus Valley
Chapter One: Under the Ice
"We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.â€
– <Author Disputed>
â€œState your name and species clearly into the Frism.â€
There is always a time for everything. A time for growth. A time for decay. A time for summer. A time for winter. Everything has its rightful place of when, where, and how it is supposed to occur. Dialgaâ€™s mighty heart determines how far and fast the stream of time will flow, whether it will strike rapids, or burst its banks at the slightest agitation. There is a time to live, and there is a time to relinquish the desperate hold on the mortal realm to transcend onto a higher plane.
â€œDid you not hear me? State your name and species.â€
Verus was a world of time. Controlled, directed, and guided every step by its never-ceasing measures. It was built in an attempt to create a perfect world after the great conflict which had for so long rendered it asunder. The previous world had been consumed in order to shape the existing one from the ashes. For these long centuries, the balance was kept. The imperfection sealed away and the innocent allowed to flourish in a bountiful world free of prejudice. That was until corruption finally caught up with the current state of affairs, dragging it down into the depths of depravity and immorality.
â€œDo you need me to hit you? State your damn name and species for the record. Do it, otherwise Iâ€™ll call in the guards again and this time Iâ€™ll grow deaf to your screams.â€
A figure, hidden by the dim light shining from the flickering torch mounted on the wall, was slumped on the wooden table. His legs were immobile against the cold iron supports. His heavy restraints clinking as his once-sleek body sagged in defeat. The PokÃ©monâ€™s blue skin was chafed raw against the slightly rusted cuffs linked around his wrists. He let out a weak groan as he let out a cough that felt like his body was wrenching his lungs from his torso.
The interrogating guard came into the small circle of torchlight. The globular being floated above the rough surface of the counter, his circular face and underdeveloped body and organelles suspended in a viscous green mass of organic gelatin. His beady black eye twitched as one of the limbs stretched forward towards the exhausted prisoner. The gel solidified as it forced its way around his unresponsive head and gripped the entire space of the blue, spiked cranium. The captive had little idea what was happening to him, only that his body was on the verge of collapse.
A mischievous glint flashed in the Reuniclusâ€™s eyes as a pulse of cyan energy shot outwards from its central body in the green cytoplasm through the extended limb and finally reaching a terminal at temples of the blue Pokemonâ€™s skull. Vivid images of the past: choking smoke, blistering winds, and the faces of the cursed all shot into the forefront of his fatigued brain from the blackest pit of hell.
The sunken eyes of the Golduck widened in utter terror while memories long since buried by time were pressed into his sight. He shook his head wildly, attempting to throw off the gelatinous hand that gripped him and the twisted images of the citizens now crying out to him for his help. He tried closing his eyes, hoping that the darkness would purge the demonic incubus from his mind, but to no avail. They cried out to him, still after all this time, while their shattered faces froze in the bitter cold of their penal realm.
Before he could scream in a final act of desperation as the stone-cold limbs grasped his skin, contaminating him permanently, the Psychic-type law officer released his tight grip on his psyche. The Golduck wanted to fall to the table again, his body needed the rest, but the fear had crawled into his spine and kept it straight as a ruler. The suspended PokÃ©mon grunted as he left the prisonerâ€™s side and returned to his original post directly across the counter.
â€œIâ€™m going to ask one more time before I get the truly invasive Psychics down here. State your name and species so we can get this over with!â€ the expressively annoyed PokÃ©mon demanded, slamming down an odd ice formation on the splintery surface of the table. The pokÃ©mon slowly moved his arms and legs, rattling the chains that bound them as he shifted forward onto the table. Splinters pressed into his river-blue skin and webbed hands, but he was far too numb to their trivial pain to notice. His stoic gaze locked with the floating officerâ€™s as he sucked in a breath through his bent beak and readied his worn voice.
â€œName: Jackson, Jack for short. Species: Golduck.â€
â€œPlease state the charges you were arrested under and former ranking,â€ the interrogatorâ€™s voice droned as he went through the standard procedure. Jack closed his eyes as he thought of his response, wanting to spent as little of his remaining energy on it as possible.
â€œRanking: Gold Badge: First Class, Kingdom Disaster Response and Containment Unit, otherwise known as Gold Squad. Charges: Serving my king dutifully, preventing a mass genocide, and destroying the most dangerous artifact in Verus.â€ Jack felt the psychic force from the disgruntled officer paralyze his upper body and smash his unvolunteering head into the wood.
â€œIâ€™m not here to hear your comments on the matter. Donâ€™t make me have to squeeze your mind again. Now again, state the charges brought against you.â€ The Golduck panted as he painfully raised his bruised head. Blood dripped from his nearly shattered nose as the darkened prison cell swayed dizzily in his eyes. The grey cobblestone floor rocking sideways along the similarly-built stone wall. Fire danced and split in the air as his temporarily duplicated vision slowly restored itself to normal functioning. Forcing back an urge to vomit, Jack gripped the sides of his throbbing head as he made his mouth choke out the â€œcorrectâ€ facts.
â€œCharges: Arson … grand theft … murder, … high treason,â€ he uttered in between gasps of agonizing fire that seemed to consume the inside of his skull.
â€œGood, good. Now, eat this,â€ the Psychic-type officer gruffly ordered. Jack barely managed to look up as a small, round berry materialized in front of him. Its speckled blue surface reflected the light of the fire as his webbed hands wasted no time in snatching it up and shoving it into his beak in one gulp. His eyes shut from the sudden twinge of hurt, but was almost immediately dulled by the rush of the healing properties of the Oran juice.
â€œAs soon as you can talk without sounding like a Glameow slit your tongue and shoved it down your throat, you are going to explain to this Frism just what happened three years ago in the Saltus Valley Province.â€ The very name sent a convulsion that wasnâ€™t from the pain down his spine. As the Oran worked its otherworldly reconstructive powers on his failing body, Jack sat up once again to face the floating PokÃ©mon in front of him.
â€œOfficer Hythal, do you know what happened there? Not what the Kingdom told you, but what actually happened there, in Saltus Valley?â€ The Golduckâ€™s voice was barely beyond a whisper in the darkened chamber. The Reuniclus betrayed no emotion or response from his face inside the green jelly. The prospect of death being only a few yards outside the hall gave him fuel for the fire beginning to combust inside of him. It had been three long years since then. And now, as the clock ticked closer and closer to the end of his life at the Kingdom stockade, he would make sure that his story was recorded.
â€œWhat I say here is true. Every word, officer. What I did was a crime if you trust the reports from the teams that investigated afterwards, but thatâ€™s only if you chose to believe them. What Iâ€™m going to tell you if the truth: the truth about what happened in Saltus Valley and Post Town.â€
Saltus Valley: Three Years and Two Weeks Earlier
It had long been told that the King of Silver came from the eastern lands. Ever since the beginning of the Days of Ash, the first among the scattered species of the land was one who had clawed his way up from the depths of the chasm with his claws. His stature against the unceasing waves of war was that of a shield, single-handedly pushing back the senseless onslaught. For several long years, this endured: the Innocent pitted against the Guilt-Ridden as both sides let go of their morals to unleash the fullest measure of destruction upon their foes.
However, as time passed following their secession from the empire of evil, the eastern lands once again grew lawless and wild. The King forgot his homeland and fled to the coast where he built up high castles and towers to bring order to the world. But in his efforts, the eastern mountains and valleys were left to their own devices. And so they remain, in definition they were one with the Kingdom, but have little involvement with the burgeoning empire.
It was in these distant and uncharted lands, and the chain of mountains that extended to the western coast across the continent that became known as the Borderlands, that oddities of the climactic sort were wont to occur. It was in the western end that the star nearly fell from the sky and and time nearly ceased to flow, but in the east, it had been quiet. Its disaster was far more potent, far more latent, and far from unpredictable.
Saltus Valley was a place where the outside world never seemed to bother on account of it being of seemingly little importance. Tucked away like a single star in the vast fringes of the galaxy that was the Kingdom, officials in Silver City barely recognized it on the censuses that went through every now and again. It became a place to exile political prisoners and various PokÃ©mon that too eagerly voiced their disdain with the monarchy. Because it was so removed of temperate climate and possessed an amiable population, there were no qualms about moving to this piece of absolute paradise. The cool, lush forests and protective mountains provided an aura of ease about the valley, allowing a culture unlike the increasing greed and corruption of the Kingdom surrounding it.
It was the end of spring when the Incident occurred. At the time, no one knew what it was, nor of the disastrous consequences it was about to rain down upon them. That day, the gods of Verus turned away from the Valley as in the course of thirty unforgettable seconds, the world changed. Under the calming rays of the late spring sun, a time of life and creation, a flood of dread and death swept from the fallen fortress of ultimate evil. The heroes had overlooked one pivotal piece, and now it had exploded in a supernova of absolute zero over the natural culvert of the mountains.
From on the opposite side of the mountains, the citizens of Post Town, a regional trading hub located on a barely traveled crossroads, watched with uncertainty as an ominous white mist rose from inside the Valley. The astronomical sign of hope and happiness that had recently reemerged from the glaciers of the northern end of the Valley had disappeared once more under the endless cold mist that drifted into the sky like an unending tower to the heavens. And so, it remained for fourteen long days.
Inside the Valley was a mystery. No one was able to scale the mountains to see what had caused such a catastrophe, nor if there were any survivors from the thousands of souls that inhabited the isolated townships within. If they had all been killed by the strange mist, or if they were stumbling around in the fog for an escape, there were no answers. It was that reason that King Nickolas Lucario in Silver City swiftly set up a squad of the finest fighters and explorers the Federation and Royal Army had to offer to investigate and potentially mitigate the impact of the disaster.
Gold Squad was the lucky one, if such a job could be called fortunate. Entering uncharted and potential hazardous and hostile territory was never an issue for them. Regardless of where the situation was, they managed to surmount it. Their finest hours had come from such low-points in the Kingdomâ€™s history such as the Stun Seed Gas Crisis in Abor Town that threatened to permanently paralyze half the nation once the winds changed, and the infamous Battle of Volcanic Pit which ended the Second Bandit War in the Borderlands. They possessed a tangible aura of confidence and superiority which suited them well and won them the adoration of the crown and subjects alike.
The synergistic combination of these two factors lead to them being selected by unanimous decision by the Senate and King, the later of which gave the twenty PokÃ©mon squad his personal thanks in settling the matter. It was their directive to restore Saltus Valley and rescue who they could. And so, with heads held high with the promise of eternal good favor and rewards from their nation, they set forth to the lands which held their greatest trials against them like a sword waiting to strike.
The Amara Salis Sea, The Kingdom, Western Borderlands
Splinters. Why in the name of Suicuneâ€™s Wind did we have to use the cheapest galleon of the fleet for this job? The one ship that had to be built entirely out of splinters… The thoughts of a healthy Golduck wondered as he plucked another of the devilish miniature spears of pine out of the thin webbing on his feet. He sat against the sturdy railing of the swiftly rocking boat as he held his right leg over his left. His eyes narrowed in concentration as his claws carefully caught the visible tip of the wooden piece invading his body and pulled against the deeply embedded artifact.
Tears began to bead on the Water-typeâ€™s eyes as he pulled harder against the unyielding thorn of pure and unrelenting evil. Fortunately, the splinterâ€™s resolve broke first and vacated the sensitive skin between his clawed toes. Jack let out a triumphant laugh as he held his enemy up to his face, examining his relinquished foe in closer detail. It was hardly worth his attention, and deciding this, Jack vanquished the prisoner of war by throwing it over his shoulder into the churning depths of the sea rushing below him.
â€œTâ€™is thaâ€™ a tear I see on yaâ€™, Jacky?â€ The accented voice pulled the blue PokÃ©mon out of his victorious thoughts and back onto the unstable deck of the Kingdom Royal Navy clipper. He looked up to see the thickly armored bipedal PokÃ©mon looking down on him with his usual grin plastered across his steel jaw.
â€œYouâ€™d be tearing too if you had a thorn stuck in your foot, Calur. Donâ€™t you start with that!â€ Jack laughed as he hopped to his feet to stand up in front of the large Steel-type. Calur laughed, a tremendous roar that seemed to make the entire deck shudder, and possibly gave heart attacks to the unfortunate PokÃ©mon bunking underneath the bow of the ship.
â€œThaâ€™ ainâ€™t no thorn, mate! Try thaâ€™ piece again when yaâ€™ get a real injury!â€ Calur heartily joked, patting the Golduck on his shoulder. Jack was unprepared for the assault by his physical squadmate and felt his legs buckle under the massive pressure forced down on them. The Aggron immediately stopped his giant paw from accidentally pummeling his downed partner and offered him the same hand up. The Golduck eagerly accepted the â€˜monâ€™s offer and was thrown to his feet an instant later.
â€œBy the storm, Cal, youâ€™re going to dislocate my shoulder by the end of this clean-up job,â€ Jack said with a playful smile as he leaned his back up against the rickety railing.
The Golduck took a deep breath of the sea air. He always loved the missions that came out this way, rarely were they assigned a job from this sleepy corner of the Kingdom. The entire environment was one that acquainted itself with him excellently the very first time he had come its way. The Amara Salis Sea was the strongest reason he enjoyed doing jobs in the region. The giant inland sea was an oddity, even for a land dotted with spatial anomalies as if they were ticks on the back of one of the stray dogs that roamed the alleys of Silver City.
The salty air mixed with the thick covering of grey clouds which obscured the sun behind their tumultuous masses. Waves swirled and crashed about them, constantly spraying the worn deck with a mist of stinging water. Jack was one of the few among the unrivaled Gold Squad that liked the journey along the sea. Aside from the floor of splinters, the Water-type enjoyed the harsh winds of water droplets and rocking ship. There was an unseeable quality that instinctively made him feel right at home among the waves and wind. For the three days they had traveled on the ship, only now had the weather decided to act in this manner.
â€œYaâ€™d best be carefal, Jack. I heard thaâ€™ Kalitkaâ€™s goinâ€™ on the warpath today. Sheâ€™ll have you tied up and shipped back taâ€™ Silver if yaâ€™ donâ€™t take this job serious,â€ Calur warned grimly as both PokÃ©mon could distinctly hear the muffled curses and swears coming from their commanding officer from below deck. Jack winced as he heard a door slam against its frame and the enraged footsteps of his leader quickly moving up from the central stairwell. Jack quickly stood from his reclined position against the guardrail and gathered up a small brown pouch with a strap from the deck.
Just as the Golduck slid the leather strap over his shoulder, a wooden door just across from the capstan slammed open, its rusted hinges screeching as it swung wide to reveal a white-furred vessel of anger. There was almost no time to brace as she shot a withering glare in their direction. Jack felt his skin prickle as the PokÃ©mon strode across the deck. The jagged crimson streak across her chest seemed to glow in intensity as she approached, the line of color having no rival against the dull brown wood or the grey skies. She stopped right in front of the two soldiers. While she was a foot shorter than Jack, her biting stare seemed to make both him and the towering Aggron shrink rapidly in her sight.
â€œWhat are you both doing? Did you not hear the announcement that landâ€™s been spotted?â€ she asked, waving her pointed claws towards to bow of the ship and the dark mass of land that began to emerge from the fog.
â€œUmm… We were honestly just relaxing up top now that the stormâ€™s passed. I didnâ€™t think weâ€™d arrive that quickly,â€ Jack sheepishly admitted as he rubbed the back of his head with his webbed hand. The Zangoose simply closed her eyes and let a swift stream of air hiss from between her clenched teeth. Jack looked out of the corner of his eyes at Calur, the mighty Steel-type doing the same to him. The unmistakable presence of fear was evident in both.
â€œThereâ€™s no time for relaxing! We make port in ten minutes, and I want us on the move towards the mission in eleven! Get your hides down below and help the others pack the cargo or else Iâ€™ll chop you both up and dump you overboard for the Sharpedo! Move it!â€ the commanding Zangoose snapped as she dug inside her own satchel and dug out a small-handled object that had a large, curved, blood-red blade tied to the base. She brandished the weapon, holding it up to Jackâ€™s neck as she slowly circled in between the Golduck and Calur. Jack, wanting to keep the contents of his throat inside his skin, obliged to let her though as she got behind the two.
â€œGet moving, you slackers. Thereâ€™s crates that need to be positioned to the gangway, and Cal, youâ€™re going to be one of the primary movers.â€ The Zangoose jabbed the Seviper tail knife towards the direction of the lower decks. Calur lead the way, crunching the decaying wood floor as his giant form ducked to get under the narrow passageway down.
â€œIâ€™m glad those relaxation sessions with Liya have helped. Itâ€™s been three days on this ship and you havenâ€™t stabbed anyone yet. Good job, Kali,â€ Jack said to her with a chuckle shortly before the aforementioned blade once again became well acquainted with the skin of his neck. The laughter died on his beak instantly. Behind him, the Zangoose bristled her fur and urged him to move downwards.
â€œFirst, what did you call me? And second, just because I havenâ€™t yet, doesnâ€™t mean you wonâ€™t be the first, Jack. If you havenâ€™t noticed, Iâ€™m a bit stressed over this mission and trying to keep things running to course is a nightmare. So, try any of your â€˜wiseâ€™ talk, itâ€™ll be overboard tied to a cannon for you,â€ the Zangoose swiftly replied, her voice swelling with rising rage as her breathing hastened.
â€œYou know, it isnâ€™t good for you to be this stressed. We havenâ€™t even landed yet … Kida,â€ Jack noted, quickly adding in the Zangooseâ€™s prefered name of choice. As Jack feared for his life, he got the chance to see the Zangoose closely for the first time that day. She looked as if she had missed out on a night or two of sleep, and had failed to keep up the sharp, uniform style to her white fur as it was now starting to become matted in a few places.
â€œThanks for your concern, Jacky, but as soon as weâ€™re back on schedule and on land, Iâ€™ll feel a whole lot better. But for now, you, down below. Now,â€ Kida snapped while she shoved him through the passageway to the lower areas. But before she turned away, Jack saw her give him a faint smile. Smiling a bit to himself, Jack jogged through the cramped hallway as he turned down the tight passages until he skidded to a stop in front of a doorway.
His temporary quarters had already been packed, the few belongings he personally owned inside his leather pack, and the general mess had been cleaned. All that remained was the tool that he had come to love leaning against the rocking wall. He bent down and gripped the cool metal grip of the steel artifact. Jack swung it into his hands, examining the sturdy companion of over a dozen missions for blemishes. The icepick had saved his life on multiple occasions, probably more than he could remember at this point in his career.
Jack vaguely wondered when Gold Squad would be returning to the small port of Fedczecka in the far north, where he had bought the handy tool from a kindly blacksmith in the marketplace. He had only returned there once afterwards, and not nearly for enough time to properly thank the Machamp working the furnaces. With a shrug, Jack clipped the bottom of the handle to his equipment belt on his right side.
â€œStill the best batch of Silver PokÃ© I ever spent,â€ he remarked as he patted the ever-sharp edges supposedly forged from the skin of a Registeel. Jack doubted the validity of the claim, but the dual-sided pick had yet to fail him and it made for a good story, so he allowed the rumor to persist. Exiting his cabin, he rounded the corner and descended into the main cargo hold where the vast majority of his squadmates toiled at Kidaâ€™s tasks.
There, for exactly the next ten minutes, he helped the other PokÃ©mon carefully hoist the small host of crates to the pulley and platform system. From there, he, along with Calurâ€™s massive form, went back up to spin the tense ropes of the capstan for the cargo lift. Together, the entire Gold Squad managed to have each of the crates in position on the top deck as it glided into position at the darb harbor town.
Greycliff City had earned its name not from the cliffs that surrounded it, but from the perpetual gloomy atmosphere that appeared to smother the port. The PokÃ©mon working the moorings appeared to be just as grey and lifeless in the overcast light from the grey clouds above.
Jack hated coming here. It was the only downside of traveling on the Amara Salis Sea. This port was the only one capable of taking in a ship of their size safely. He figured he knew why Kida had wanted everything to be ready to disembark and leave as soon as they arrived. He had nearly forgotten how horribly depressing the town was.
No wonder why this place is called â€œThe Dreamerâ€™s Pyreâ€. It looks like a thousand of them were burned and this town is what was left… he thought as he internally criticized the town.
The metal-roofed buildings always carried the appearance of just surviving an ashen rain. Even the streets, supposedly built out of white stone from the cliffs, carried a mood-crushing grey color to them. As soon as the lines were secure on the docks below, Kidaâ€™s voice startled him out of the hypnotic trance the lifeless cityscape had drawn him into. At once, he began the process of controlling the cargo platform as it was hoisted down onto the dock below under watchful eyes.
â€œLook alive! The Drifblim are here to take the stuff. Go help make it ready for them!â€ the Zangoose shouted as she vaulted over the side of the ship and descended down one of the mooring cables with her claws to the rickety dock. Jack looked up from the capstan bar as he saw the group of three primarily purple blimp creatures floating down from the sky over Graycliff City.
The gentle-hearted Drifblim had been the primary source of transportation of rescue and exploration teams back during the bleak days of political tensions and crises. While most had solemnly returned to their homeland far beyond the mountains in droves during the downturn in business, a few stayed behind to continue the legacy. Fortunately, despite its shortcomings, the Royal Navy and Army had done well with securing a contract with this particular flock for cargo transport. As the Ghost-types wrapped their trailing arms around the wooden crates, they joyfully exchanged conversations with various members of the Squad, including Kida.
â€œYou all have no idea how glad we are to see you. This would be truly impossible otherwise,â€ Kida calmly spoke. Jack noticed that her tone towards the floating PokÃ©mon was not reflective of the stress she exhibited earlier. â€œGeraz will go with you all to make sure you reach the right location. Is that acceptable?â€ Kida asked as a being of wings and talons clattered to the deck beside her.
Geraz was the most aerially competent bird Jack had ever met. He had once seen the Fearow dive from miles up in the sky and pierce an apple with his spear-like beak. The Flying-type could be trusted with a job, that much Jack knew. After a few last confirmations of directions, the Drifblim started to ascend into the skies with their payload of crates. After an affirmative nod from Kida, Geraz took off into the sky, his expansive wingspan making the task of monitoring the flock a light one. While the brown-plumaged bird became a speck in the distant grey skies, Kida immediately reverted to the attitude she bore on the ship.
â€œAlright, that was the easy part. You lot, gather what supplies you have left and letâ€™s march. Itâ€™s eleven miles to Post Town from here through mountains and valleys. We will arrive before sunset, is that understood?â€ she iterated, her naturally compelling voice receiving a hearty cheer from the milling group of Gold Squad. Jack tightened the straps of his pouch and belt, making sure that they would not slip off him during what he knew would be an eleven mile long sprint to the trading town. Calur carefully stepped off the cargo platform onto the dock and followed along beside Jack as they began their swift hike through the hollow harbor town.
Fortunately, the horrible, little town eventually left their sight as they exited the city gates and entered into the arms of the widening foothills that ascended into the unnaturally tall Divine Mountains. The vast stone edifaces crowned with spires of snow glittered mockingly at the sunâ€™s melting rays. The band of PokÃ©mon pressed onwards, stamping over the dew-ridden grass and dusty trails of the forested hills. Jack remained alert and upbeat as he and several others, with Kidaâ€™s slight encouragement, took the opportunity to fight the feral PokÃ©mon that lived in the woods.
The training, combined with the relentless pace that the Zangoose set at the front of the party, made the trip fly by in what seemed like no time at all. One moment, Jack swore he just concussed a rather feisty Raticate with a blast of water, and then just another moment later he found himself trudging up a steep stone trail through the final pass in the Divine Mountains. The Golduck didnâ€™t even notice the sunâ€™s position change in the sky while he was busy perfecting his combat skills with both his elemental attacks and true physical strategies.
Maybe youâ€™re having a little too much fun with this, Jack. You should try and take this seriously, a little voice inside his head, possibly his conscious, suggested. As Jack contemplated following its advice, he found himself in the rear of the group of twenty PokÃ©mon alongside Calur.
There the two PokÃ©mon shot off into one of their varied conversations that concerned everything and nothing at all. That was one of the best things about his Aggron friend; after several years, the two of them just seemed to be able to create topics to discuss out of thin air and continue their talks even under dire conditions. Jack found himself debating the proper way to knock out a charging Stantler while he crossed the craggy pass, and which of the many taverns they had visited on their missions had the absolute best drinks in the Kingdom. Fierce breaths of winter threatened to stall their talks at times, but not even the worst of these frigid breezes in the holy mountain range could break apart their excitable conversation.
Once their squad had left the mountainous areas, the alien and desolate land seemed to instantly terraform into a series of smooth hills that were blooming with the lush grass carpet of spring. The fresh air emanating from the vibrant grass came like a benevolent slap to Jackâ€™s face after most of the day among the lifeless Greycliff Town and in the crags of the Divine Mountains.
â€œSorry to interrupt, but I asked for what happened in Saltus Valley. Not what happened ten days before the incident,â€ Officer Hythal huffed, slamming his green hand on the table, and snapping Jack out of his thoughts. The Golduck simply bowed his head and sighed as he gave a half-hearted tug against the chains that bound him.
â€œI expected that when you wanted the full story, you actually wanted the fully story, not the abbreviated version. Allow me to condense the Incident into a few choice words: â€˜coldâ€™, â€˜hellâ€™, and â€˜failureâ€™. There, is that short enough for you, Officer?â€ Jack shot back, his claws scratching against the rough grain of the table in irritation. The Reuniclus appeared to be stunned for a single moment, his internal structures going still with disbelief before regaining his forceful posture.
â€œVery well, Jackson. Have it your way. You may continue, but can we at least move it along until we get to Post Town and not spend fifteen minutes describing the scenery?â€ Hythal softly conceded as he turned away from the Golduck. Jack let a small smile pull against the frown in his beak as a small part of his mind celebrated the pointless victory.
â€œAlright then. So, Post Town was just as I expected it to be for being a frontier town…â€
It was the exact opposite of Greycliff. Plants, trees, and flowers seemed to line every path in the bustling, mirco-city. There was something about the town that screamed the glories of life at every available opportunity, as if the entire city was ecstatic about being alive. A small waterfall spilt from the spring at the top of the central hill that supplied the town with clean water. The sparkling mist from the falls rose like an ethereal snow over the town square.
Just about everywhere Jack looked, he saw a rows upon rows of tents, shacks, and shanties filled with foods, fruits, and dungeon exploration equipment all stationed right next to each other. There were Orbs that held the power to change the weather, enigmatic disks that possessed the power of ancient skills and attacks, and a wide assortment of highly illegal seeds. Jack briefly considered how many of these merchants would be arrested on the spot for their wares.
Shrugging away the thoughts of calling in the illegal operations, Jack gave into the temptations of buying a few of the oddly shaped seeds and spheres of blue glass. His mind suddenly filled with the things he could accomplish with the purchase of these items. Aside from the colorful merchants, there were only surrounding streets filled with houses of various shapes, sizes, and designs. While he had seen more unique dwellings from his travels around the Kingdom, Post Town was doing its best to endear itself to him.
After being stalled at the city gates for several minutes with Kida yelling at Geraz for directing the Drifblim porters in the wrong direction, the group finally entered the inner reaches of the trading town. Almost immediately, the ambling crowds turned to look at the rugged band that marched into their city. Jack was certain that this was the first time that some of them, especially the wide-eyed children, had seen a true Kingdom soldier.
â€œThis place doesnâ€™t get much action if a military squad like us gets a full-blown reception the second we walk into town, huh?â€ Jack asked Kida. The Zangoose seemed to have temporarily let go of the stress that burdened her as she dismissed the squad to interact within the market.
â€œHeh, I think youâ€™re right for once. Weâ€™re being treated like heroes, yet we havenâ€™t actually done anything yet. Either that or they think of us as a freak show that just rolled in,â€ the Zangoose said with a light laugh as she caught an orange berry that was tossed her way by a passing rescue team.
â€œHospitality at its finest, right there,â€ she commented happily as she bit into the freshly picked Qualot.
Jack immediately looked behind and waved a hand to the passing PokÃ©mon team. The yellow mouse and primarily blue otter stopped and dug out another berry, this one pink in color. The Oshawott gave it a firm toss that Jack snatched out of the air with a smile and wink. He examined the berry for dead spots before he raised it to his beak.
The Pecha was gone in two bites from the Golduck. Tossing the remaining leafy stem to the roadside, Jack returned to the crowd around his team, wanting to ask in the limelight just a little longer. The impromptu celebration of their presence eventually settled down in the two-story inn directly beside the townâ€™s spring and natural waterfall. Inside, the main floor was crowded with exhausted members of Gold Squad ordering plates of steaming food or milling among the interested citizens.
Jack saw Efang, the Arbok poison specialist, smoothly chatting with a Liepard in a corner table of the cafe, while Terminance, the odd Trevenant, seemed to be enjoying himself as he listened to the excited conversations around him at the counter. Jack slid onto a stool next to the haunted tree and called for two drinks from the Timburr barkeep. Within no time, two wooden goblets clattered down the smooth counter and came to a rest in Jackâ€™s outstretched hands.
â€œQuite a shindig theyâ€™ve put on for us, wouldnâ€™t ya say?â€ Jack asked, holding out the second cup to the tree PokÃ©mon. Terminance, one of the best fighters when it came to forest missions, shifted his trunk and single, gleaming, crimson eye to Jack.
â€œI am inclined to agree, young Jackson. This is a very festive atmosphere they have put on for our arrival. Though, something inside me worries about how this imbibement in the others will affect our performance tomorrow. I think that it would be wise if we ended the festivities and rested,â€ the Trevenant said, his voice sounded like the groaning of trees in the woods.
â€œYouâ€™re a buzzkill, you know that, right? Though, as much as I want a drink, I think youâ€™re right to some extent. We should see about getting to Kida,â€ Jack remarked as he took a light swig of his drink.
â€œGet to to point already, son. Thereâ€™s not a lot of time until youâ€™re due to die,â€ Hythal grumbled as he psychically tapped the torch to increase the light. Once again, Jack leaned back in his uncomfortable metal seat with an exhale of exasperation.
â€œYou want me to skip to Post Town, and I skip to Post Town. Now you want me to bypass Post Town. What am I supposed to tell you then?â€ Jack asked, his voice was muffled as he placed his aching head down against the table.
â€œI want you to get to the actual Incident. I want to know how your side of this tragedy plays out. So please, get to the point.â€
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