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A Real Sea Gem

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The blue waves seemed to dance upon the ocean’s surface; a slow waltz in 3/4 time, as they swayed side to side and up against the harbour before taking a step back again. Wingull bobbed up and down on the waves like small boats, whilst in the distance, real boats glided across the blue. In contrast to the peaceful sea which lay but metres away, the docks were bristling with life; more of a fandango or quickstep as people bustled around the docks in double time. Dockers hurried about, loading and unloading cargo onto the many ships that were either soon to set sail or finally arriving to shore after long, treacherous journeys. Some sailors staggered off of ships, lacking their land legs after such long periods at sea. Meanwhile, others chattered amongst themselves, some joking, a few making emotional farewells, as they prepared to embark on various voyages, very well knowing they may never return. Soldiers adorned in crimson red coats with high leather boots and tricorn hats patrolled the pier, stone faced expressions as they judged each and every person they lay their eyes on. Both the lowest of the low and richest in the land intermingled in this one place. Where the land’s end, the world’s of all intertwined.

Among the many ships, one in particular stood out from the rest. Not only did it tower above in comparison to the others, not only was its structure skilfully crafted and sturdily built, but the fuss that surrounded it was immense. Printed on the side of the ship was “Devon Trading Company” in bold capital letters.There was much discussion, a couple in hushed whispers, as the boat was loaded and prepared for departure. Whatever the cargo that had been loaded onto the ship was, it was clear to anyone passing by that it must have been of utmost importance. Multiple security Metang were being guided onto the decks, and the crew aboard must’ve been almost twice the size of a regular crew. Soldiers stood guarding the ship and those who were around it, giving icy glares to any person who so much as looked at the commotion in a slightly odd way.

Overseeing the whole affair stood two men, one a father and the other a son. Both were clearly in high standing, as indicated by their impeccable posture and high cut fashion. The older of the two turned to the younger, who seemed to look a little concerned as he watched a Metagross slowly board the ship.

“Is this level of security really necessary, Father?” the young man questioned, looking away from the ship towards his parent.

“Verily so. The cargo aboard this ship is of great worth and concern. We must ensure it is safely delivered to the redcoat headquarters in Lilycove as requested of us” the older man replied.

“But you won’t even tell me what it is. Do you even know yourself?” the younger retorted, bothered by the vague nature of the situation.

“That’s not important, Steven. What matters is that it is delivered promptly and safely to its destination. It was emphasised to us that the object must be protected at all costs; we must take extra precautions just in case.”

Steven doesn’t seem much comforted by this, and simply shifts his gaze back to the ship, adjusting his cravat, as though it’s maybe a little too uncomfortably tight. He may have overlooked and carried out many trading deals throughout his so far relatively short life, but never had he been involved in a trade of such high scale. Metagross were rare and powerful Pokémon, with Devon owning just 4 in total, only to be used in emergency situations. The fact this metallic behemoth was being boarded along with the cargo spoke volumes about the significance of the mystery treasure. Then again, remaining on good terms with the redcoats was vital to retain a strong successful business as one of the world’s largest goods traders. If they fell out of favour with them, they fell out of favour with high society. The name of the Devon Trading Company and the family name of Stone would risk ruin.

Sensing his son’s unease, Steven’s father put a hand upon the young man’s shoulder which was tight with tension, catching his attention again and causing him to look back. Mr Stone smiled reassuringly, “I doubt any harm will come to you, there’s nothing to fear.”

“I know. I do trust you. The mystery behind it all just… irks me.” Steven sighed, the tension releasing slightly in his shoulders. “It shouldn’t be too long a trip either. According to Glacia’s route and calculations, if weather conditions are optimal, it should take 6 days for us to reach Lilycove.”

“Excellent. She’s usually on the mark with this sort of thing.” Glacia had worked for Devon under Mr Stone for a number of years, and her proficient skills in map reading and route planning had landed her in favourable positions alongside many missions with Steven.

"All ready to set off, Captain!” a voice called from the ship, quickly discovered to belong to a young man leant over the ship’s sides.

“Good! I’ll be aboard in a moment, Sidney!” Steven shouted in return. The red haired young man turned back from the ship’s sides and walked further onto deck to continue his job.

Steven fully faced his father, putting a hand on his arm and saying his goodbyes, “I’ll see you when I return, Father. I’ll send a Metang to inform you when we’ve arrived in Lilycove and are returning”

The once happy and confident expression of Mr Stone dulled, “This is farewell then for now I suppose...” he responded, with a slight dreary tone.

It seemed as though it was time for his Father to do the worrying and for Steven to be the comfort. “Don’t say it like that. It makes it sound as though I’m never coming back”

“I’m sorry. I just… I’ll be glad to see you return” Mr Stone said, trying to hide his sorrow with a smile. It was always like this when Steven had to leave for somewhere. After all, the only family they had was each other, and the idea of losing the one family member he had left- the one thing that was left behind when the love of his life was so cruelly taken away- was the most agonising thought in the world. Steven looked at his father with his cerulean blue eyes- his mother’s eyes- before pulling his Father into his arms and hugging him tightly. Soon, Steven felt the the hug being returned, before quickly the two separated, and with a mutual glance of acknowledgement, Steven turned away and began to walk away to board the ship. Just as Steven’s leather boots made contact with the wooden ramp, his Father’s voice called out to him,

“Oh, Steven! When you come back, I’ve been able to organise a wonderful meeting for you with Lady Jasmine of Olivine in the Johto region. Not only do you share similar interests, but she’s looking for a fine male suitor such as yourself!”

Steven stopped walking and had to physically restrain himself from groaning, instead opting to roll his eyes whilst his back was turned, so that he couldn’t be seen.

“Thank you Father, that’s marvellous…” he said, just about managing to mask his sarcasm, turning his head briefly to flash a fake smile before hiding his face further under the brim of his bicorn and turning back to continue boarding the ship. But just as he was about to take another step forward, the familiar voice shouted up to him once more.

“Oh! And I’ve ordered you your very own periwig, so you’ll be able to make a stunning first impression. It’ll be the latest in fashion!”

One of those things!? Steven grimaced at the thought. If periwigs were the height of fashion, then he’d rather be a fashion disaster. The date suddenly seemed much more appealing in comparison to the thought of wearing one of those things on his head. The idea of wearing one to said date was a nightmare he dreaded to dare think about. Through gritted teeth, almost choking on his own false cheer, he answered, “....Great…. Thank you… Now I really must go. Goodbye”. He hurriedly finished his sentence before making his way up the ramp at a fast pace, not only to avoid further conversation, but so he did not look down at the sea directly below him as he walked over the wooden ramp. One misstep, and surely he’d fall and sink like the Stone he was; he never had learned to swim.

He stepped up onto the deck of the ship and surveyed the scene, as many shipmates made final preparations and Metang became accustomed to their surroundings and began to settle down.

“Captain on deck!”

The various crew members stopped what they were doing to face and salute Steven, who boldly stood out from the rest in his fine clothing complete with a long admiral blue coat and bicorn hat. Observing his crew, 4 stood out to him. These 4 crew members were more than just spare hands; they were skilled and trusted teammates and long time friends. They were his elite.

Firstly, he looked over to the one to announce his arrival on deck: Drake, a sea hardened ex-navy veteran who worked as the disciplinarian. He could organise any crew, no matter what a shambles they were in, and knew well how to steer a ship through even the most vicious of storms. Despite his outwardly intimidating appearance, Steven knew that Drake was wise and kind. Years on the sea had taught the old man all there was to know, and having known the man his whole life due to his Father’s long time friendship with the navy veteran, a close, family-like bond had developed between them.

His glance then shifted over to the redheaded man that had called out to him earlier: Sidney. As a youth, he was greatly troubled, living rough in the cities and involving himself in petty crime for which he was eventually caught. Having been sent to do hard labour for Devon, slowly he’d worked his way through the rankings and was now a well respected and liked member of the crew, and being a similar age to Steven, almost felt like a brother. Though he was hot-headed and didn’t always know how to hold his tongue, Sidney was a valuable asset, and knew the workings of the boat better than anyone. If something was wrong with the ship, Sidney would be the first to know, and the first to get it fixed.

And then, it was Glacia. A long time working partner of The Devon Trading Company. Never once had a ship guided and navigated by her ever been lost. She was cold and collected, and barely anything phased her decision making. Decisiveness and quick thinking was an important quality to have in her role, and she had an abundance. Her cold demeanour may discourage some from approaching her, but she cared for the crew. She had the role of ship medic as well for a reason; she was like a strict mother, appearing uncaring and scolding you for your mistakes, but never failing to help you when said mistakes caused damage.

And finally, there was Phoebe, the youngest of the group. Enthusiastic and optimistic, she was able to keep spirits high with her presence, which almost seemed otherworldly. A hardworking midshipman, she complete any tasks thrown her way. Ever since Steven first met her, she had always been cheerful and easy to get along with. This delivery would be the largest scale and longest trade she’d yet to have been involved in, and Steven had no doubts that she’d excel.

“At ease. You may continue your work” Steven dismissed the crew, and they returned to what they were doing.

Phoebe quickly bounded over to him, brimming with excitement, suddenly stopping in front of him, barely managing to keep still. “Steven! Ste- I mean, Captain! Did you see the Metagross!? It was humongous and looked so powerful!”

Steven chuckled a little at her enthusiasm. “Yes, I did see. Then again, it’s hardly easy to miss”

“This trade will be a breeze! Nothing’s gonna stop us with a Pokemon like that on our ship!” she said, brimming with confidence. Clearly the prospect of an unknown presumably precious cargo and week long trip didn’t phase the young recruit. If anything, it only seemed to motivate her more.

“You say that, but a pirate crew could easily attack~!” Sidney teased, overhearing and joining the conversation. Phoebe looked back at Sidney, the mention of the subject bringing her shining confidence down a notch. “And you know what they say? Dead men tell no tales. So if we are attacked, it’s likely that we’ll all d-”

“That’s quite enough, Sidney” a cold, strict voice sneered as Glacia cut in between the two, forcing Sidney to take a step back as he sulked, his fun ruined. “Our planned route doesn’t even cross through heavily pirate infested waters. The likeliness we’ll even see a pirate ship is minimal.” This information calmed Phoebe, and the reassurance was certainly appreciated by Steven. He had a lot on his shoulders. He did not want things to go poorly. He gave Phoebe a warm smile and looked over the group, deciding some more assurance would be helpful.

“Either way, I believe that with all of us working together combined with the security that’s been planted on this ship, should anything bad happen, we’ll make through the situation. As Captain, it’s my duty to guide you and keep you safe as I can. I promise I’ll do my best to fulfil that duty”. This seemed to do the trick as the group seemed to ease a little more.

A fourth made their way over, Drake joining them to make five.“Captain Steven. Everything is prepared. We’re ready to set sail when you give the command.”

“Thank you, Drake. Then let us make haste at once.” Steven directed. Everyone proceeded to prepare to leave, taking their rightful positions on ship as Drake barked commands to the crew. Before long, the sails were hoisted as winds were caught within them; the ship untied from the docks, it began to slowly float away. Steven looked out over the waves back at the port, as slowly the city of Slateport faded into the distance, only to be replaced with the deep, blue oceans. He lingered for a moment as he watched the land disappear, a twinge of nerves within him, as though scared it was the last time he’d ever see it. But no, that would be foolish to think as such. He would be fine. They would all be fine.

Finally, he pulled himself away, and strolled across the deck to the Captain’s quarters, where he could focus on other things and maybe find some peace of mind.

Chapter Text

CAPTAIN’S JOURNAL

Day 3

Third day of transit and everything is running smoothly. The winds have been high and the sea has been calm, so progress has been good and steady. We are currently on schedule to arrive at the predicted date, hopefully by mid-noon. The crew are all hard-working; we’ve only had to deal with one slacker so far, but after some stern words they quickly changed their attitude. Phoebe is noted to be doing particularly well- especially considering this is their first long term transit. The Pokémon have all done well in protecting the ship, and the Metagross has not yet been needed to deal with any problems. The cargo still remains a mystery, but is safe and sound. If things continue as they are, we should encounter no troubles and be back in Slateport before the end of a fortnight.

In unrelated matters, I’ve been studying the evolutionary stones I found during a recent excursion to Rusturf tunnel. I’ve found that the Dawn Stone genuinely seems to refract light differently at sunrise compared to other times of the day, making it appear to almost sparkle, not unlike a person’s eyes when filled with enthusiasm, or how the sun shines and reflects off the sea when the sun is just dawning over the horizon. The Dusk stone, as I expected from said name, seems to work in exact opposite. As the sun sets, the stone appears to glisten, but the purple tones only grow deeper and darker; more rich and vibrant. It’s fascinating to see these phenomenons occur in person. I will continue to study them and write any further findings here, which I can then transfer to my notes back home.

Dusk, 22-06-17XX

 

Steven places the quill back into its inkwell and leans backwards in his chair, stretching out his arms with a small grunt, before leaning forwards again and shutting the journal. His desk was lit up by candlelight chandeliers, which gave just enough light to see across his desk and the remainder of the room. Beside the journal sat his bicorn hat, neatly kept with a single Skarmory feather decorating it. The gemstones sat on his desk both gently reflected the flickering light of the candles, which shone down onto the large-scale map that covered the desk completely. A complete map of the Hoenn seas and territories just beyond. He had the maps for all other so far discovered regions too, which were kept inside the wooden draws of his desk along with plain paper and spare quills and inkwells. A bookshelf kept previous journals and any other useful information, such as how to repair any specific damages the boat may obtain; not that Steven ever found they needed them. Sidney was more informative and accurate than any book could ever be, and unlike the book, Sidney could actually repair things. A few weapons were lined on the walls: swords and pistols, if ever they were needed to protect against an attack. Hidden around the corner, separately from the rest of the room was a bed, and considering it was a bed on a ship, it was fairly comfortable. The Captain rose from his seat and wondered over to the doors to his quarters, peeking out through the small circular window. It was rather dark now, and the crew had gone to their quarters, leaving the Metang and Metagross to patrol the deck, moving silently and working like clockwork, unshakably fixed on their task. He knew he should probably rest, lest he wanted to appear unorganised and groggy the following morning. A man of his standing could not be seen to rise late; tardiness simply would not do. He only wished that days were longer, so he could get away with staying awake longer to continue on his studies. Geology was always a key interest. If he could, he knew he would happily solely dedicate his life to the practise, but he had other work to do. He couldn’t simply leave his father to run Devon alone. Not only would that add a mountain of stress to his father’s shoulders, but as a family business, it was only seen as right for the eldest son in the family to take over once the father had passed away, and as the only heir, how could he dare to turn his back?

To do well in life, one had to make some small personal sacrifices. In order to maintain society’s favour, good money and good name, Steven had to push some of his own personal feelings, passions and opinions to the side. It was what was seen as right to do and therefore must be right to do. Even if the weight of these things were heavy upon his shoulders. Even if something about this way of thinking felt wrong. Even if it left him feeling continually unsatisfied… It must be right. Everyone else did the same, everyone must feel this way. That is how he justified it to himself.

Looking away, he went over to his bed, taking off his long coat, boots, cravat, waistcoat and other superfluous clothing and accessories, till he was just left in his shirt and breeches. After neatly tidying away, he allowed himself to collapse onto the bed with a long exhale as he closed his eyes and let himself finally relax. He lay on his back, and opened his eyes to stare up at the wooden ceiling, as he felt the motion of the boat gently rock side to side. Time passed- who knows how long?- and Steven felt his eyelids grow heavy, as he slowly felt himself drift away into unconsciousness.

 

A blue pulse of light flooded his vision and quickly faded. His eyes shot open. He found himself on his knees, trapped inside a cave of such great size, that he felt totally insignificant. The blue light flashed again, seemingly coming from something further within the cave. He tried to stand, pushing himself up from the ground, but invisible chains only pulled him down. No matter how hard he fought against them, how much he yelled and yanked and heaved, nothing was strong enough to let him to his feet. Gasping for breath, he took time to look around at the cave walls. Ancient inscriptions and images lined the walls like an art piece, yet the images and words seemed all scrambled, and he could not interpret for the life of him any such detail. The blue glow continued to pulse, and Steven felt a deep urge within him to investigate. He turned his head back in the direction of the light, only to find standing in front of him a figure; an indiscernible illusion that looked down upon him. An indescribable feeling fled through Steven’s entire being, not quite fear, not quite excitement, but a rush of…. Something. He reached out a hand towards the blurred figure, his pulse suddenly racing as he reached closer, a tremble in his hand that spread throughout his body as the something only increased… he felt a touch. The illusion held his hand and pulled him to his feet, allowing him to finally stand. Now, he had to get to the light. He began to run towards the light, the illusion running beside him, not letting go, helping Steven to run faster and overcome boulders and obstacles that slowly began to block the way. The light grew brighter and brighter, they kept running faster and faster until the light was within an arm’s reach. The captain stretched out his spare arm to clasp onto the light, but the moment he did, he felt his other hand become free and the unknown feeling vanish. He spun round to look for the illusion, to only be greeted with darkness. The cave had disappeared, and instead, he felt wet sand beneath his feet and all around him the weight and cold touch of the ocean, yet he wasn’t drowning. He looked down at the light within his hands. A strange blue glowing orb of light pulsed in his palms, and he could feel the power that seemed to emanate from it. Before he could truly figure out the form of the object beneath the glow, a tremendous blood curdling roar shrieked and echoed throughout the depths, so loud he could feel it reverberate in his bones, and left him only feeling dread. The noise was continuous, wailing with such ferocity it made him feel sick, as it grew louder, and a monstrous form hung silhouetted before him. Markings across its body blazed with the same blue shine as the orb, and thousands of white daggered teeth. It floated towards him, the soul tearing screaming now so torturous he desperately curled into a ball, his arms wrapped around his head in a futile attempt to stop the noise and the creature proceeding any further. He screwed his eyes shut, the cry reaching a climax, the beast surely about to devour him whole!-

 

T     A     E           K     L     I           L     A     K     Ä     T   

 

Steven’s eyes shot open as he lurched forwards and sat up with such urgency that he almost fell over again. He was physically shaking, cold sweat pouring down his back. His eyes darted around the room, as he found himself safely in bed. It had all been a nightmare. He rubbed his face and combed his fingers through his hair as he gasped for breath.

“Oh thank Arceus…” his voice trembled, relieved that such events were mere fantasy, though he’d never experienced a fantasy anything quite like that. It was so vivid, so real, and the feelings he felt all seemed to have been genuine. He could not name the strange feeling he’d felt in the dream still, but one thing was certain: he did not wish to relive such a night terror ever again.

As his mind began to calm and he came back to his senses, he realised that there seemed to be noise coming from outside his quarters, and maybe the boat was rocking a little. It took him a moment, but as he became grounded and the haziness of sleep and panic vanished, he was thrust into a reality he did not wish to be in. A great clamour of clashing metal and the yells and screams of both people and Pok émon filled the air. Explosive blasts rocked the ship with such force he almost fell out of bed and the uncanny whirring of riled up Metang and Metagross could be heard all around. The fading adrenaline from the panic of the nightmare suddenly kicked back into full force and flooded Steven’s veins, but this time not with flight, but fight. As quick as a flash, the blue haired Captain raced to his feet, pulling on his coat and grabbing his hat and tugging it down onto his head before rushing to look out through his door. The boat suddenly jolted sideways, throwing Steven sideways into the walls of his quarters as what sounded like a blast of pure energy pierced the side of the ship. He pushed himself away from the wall, stumbling as he hurried to see the scene that was unfolding outside. He flung the door open and stared out across the ship. What he saw before him was a night terror. No- it was worse. It was total pandemonium. The once clean wooden decks were now a canvas to a masterpiece of carnage. Bodies lay sprawled across the decks in a vast array of poses that all told a story of each crew member’s last moments; individually painted with unique strokes of crimson reds and blacks and blues. Not only did the lifeless carcasses of humans decorate this collage, but the metallic husks of Metang also lay splayed across this picture. The image alone seared itself into Steven’s eyes, a visual he knew he’d never be able to remove from the walls of his mind. The very breath in his lungs seemed to turn to daggers, his heart beat drumming painfully in his chest, like a percussive accompaniment to the music around him; the music of battle cries, last moments and monstrous attacks; a symphony of death. All that unravelled before him was some sadistic pantomime that seemed all too large to be real, but it was all so very, very, painfully real. He felt like an actor within the scene, struck to the bone with stagefright with all lines forgotten, as everyone else played their part, and he stood there, frozen and useless. He felt the invisible cold and boney hands of death trail across his shoulders and rest there, as though the spectre was an old friend who he was soon to acquainted with. The smell of blood and demise filled his nostrils. Every single one of his senses was being ambushed, and he was totally defenseless, in complete overload.

“STEVEN!”

A grievous, high pitched yell brought Steven slightly back to his senses, as he suddenly felt Phoebe crash into him and cling to his body with all her might, terrified beyond all means. She was so scared, she trembled like a child, as did Steven as he looked down at her, unable to find words as his tongue was held down by all-consuming horror. He finally convinced his eyes to take a look away from Phoebe and away from the bloody mural that lay on the deck in front of him, to observe what was really going on.

No, no, NO!... Arceus no…But, it was impossible? This shouldn’t have happened, this is…

Pirates. Their ship was smaller and had a smaller number of crew members, but it would seem that numbers had no bearing on the results. These savage seafarers were merciless beasts, and played by rules different to that of others who passed over the sea’s surface. It was at this moment, Steven truly realised that in comparison to these vagabonds, he and his crew were merely passersby on the ocean; tourists that graced its expanse. Pirates though? Pirates owned the seas. It was their home territory, and as all good leaders should know, one can not win a war on the other team’s home turf. Their combat skills greatly outmatched Steven’s crew, and the Pokemon that kept firing attacks and ramming into boats were born and bred Water Types who could easily maneuver through the sea, which held all the advantage. Sharpedo kept slamming into the boat’s sides and distracting the Metang and Metagross with their attacks, and easily doing great damage with Dark Type attacks that the metallic Psychic types just couldn’t hold their own against. Amongst the chaos, Steven could see Sidney in a one on one struggle against one of the pirates. Both unarmed, swinging wildly at each other, fists flying in all directions as they tried to gain the advantage. For a moment, the pirate seemed to corner Sidney against the boat’s sides, and though the brute had more strength, the redhead made up for lack of it with cunning. As the attacker closed in to deliver a final blow to toss him overboard, Sidney ducked and dived between their legs, before quickly rolling onto his back and kicking both of his legs out into the back of the pirate, who was unable to react as quickly. The force of the blow was staggering, and the mariner was sent hurtling over the ship’s sides with a final shout of shock, before crashing into the Sharpedo filled waters below. Though the move was smart, Sidney was suddenly at a huge disadvantage on the floor, as another pirate rushed over, readying to kick Sidney’s head in whilst he was prone. Steven would have warned him, if not for the spectre of fear which haunted him, but in a short moment, a loud bang rang across the deck and the pirate slowed, falling to its knees, before collapsing inches away from its target, blood pouring from the back of their head.

“Sidney get a MOVE ON!” a gruff voice commanded, as Drake marched up to him, gun in hand, dragging Sidney to his feet and shoving him in the direction of Steven and the Captain’s Quarters, before quickly turning to dispatch an oncoming bandit that thought they could best the veteran. Drake was never to be underestimated, and doing so would only lead to one result.

“Steven!? What the fuck, where were you!?” Sidney barked at Steven as he approached the Captain, his body language showing anger, but his eyes showing total panic. Steven desperately searched for words, but all that came out was a stammer and hoarse croak as fear’s hands only continued to tighten around his neck.

Another thump, as the body of yet another pirate crumbled to the floor to add to the artwork on the deck, placed their through another of Drake’s own strokes, as Glacia who was normally calm and reposed, sprinted from where she had been trapped, bruised and battered. Drake, with a final few shots, managed to take out a few more of the attackers, but even he knew they were overwhelmed. He quickly joined with Glacia, as the two ran towards Steven, and before Steven could do anything, he was dragged into his quarters along with the rest of his elite, as Drake locked and barricaded the door with all he could to buy them time.

“This won’t hold them out for long.” Drake panted as he stood back from the door and looked over to the rest. “The best thing we can do is surrender and listen to their demands, then make a choice as to whether we obey. Do you agree, Captain?”

“I d-don’t want to die!”, Phoebe sobbed, only burying her head further into Steven’s shoulder. “Steven, what do we do!?”

“...Steven, are you alright? You’re being awfully quiet”, Glacia looked with concern towards him.

“Pull yourself together, man! We’re about to get slaughtered or taken captive here!” Sidney stressed, pacing up and down, holding his balled up fist with his other hand.

All the words the Elite were saying only seemed to echo in Steven’s ears, almost sounding muffled and out of focus. They all seemed to look towards him, coming closer, asking more and more questions that only grew more and more unclear, distorting further and further.

Steven… Steven! ….Steven!? …. STEVEN!?

His skin white as a ghost, his face clammy, his knees grew weak. He felt as though a hole had opened up beneath him, those cold hands of fear strangling him as they hauled him down, as he felt himself fall and the world faded to black.


For the first time that night: Nothing.

Silence.

Chapter Text

For so long, there was nothing. He’d completely blacked out, but slowly and surely, his senses began to awaken again. He was restrained against the back of something hard, he could feel coarse ropes around his legs and torso, there was no way he could move. Suddenly he could feel the chill of the cold sea winds against his skin and through his hair; his coat and hat were gone. He felt movement around him; clearly he was on a boat and tied next to others. And then the silence began to fade, indistinct voices slowly tuning in, creaking wood as people moved around on the decks. The smell of sea salt filled his nostrils, and then, the black began to fade into light, as his eyelids opened and haze began to focus. Yes, he was on a ship, but it wasn’t his ship. He looked out over the ocean, and what he saw made his heart jump into his throat. A ship - his ship- completely shipwrecked, slowly sinking down into the ocean’s depths, with a few Metang quickly flying away from it, clearly damaged from the tremendous battle, heading back towards the mainland. He stared in horror as the wooden craft disappeared under the ocean’s waves, along with so many members of his crew, his research, his journals, his stones, his belongings… They were all lost.

For a moment, Steven’s focus remained solely on the spot where his ship had once been, before his attention was drawn to his surroundings. Tied to the mast of a ship along with his Elites, surrounded by pirates who seemed all too amused by their captives. Sidney was shouting and arguing with some, who only jeered and tried to push him further for a bigger reaction. Phoebe was shivering, unable to do anything but whimper as the stares of the pirates seemed all too intimidating to dare do anything else. Drake’s face was stern, incredibly composed, as he kept trying to interject Sidney’s rage and get him to calm down. Glacia simply studied the scene, her facial expression seemed collected, but her eyes said otherwise.

“Aw, looks like the sleepy Snorlax has woken up~” a voice mocked. Blue eyes were drawn to a group of pirates that stood before him, specifically, the one pirate who talked to him, and more so than that, what the pirate had upon his head. Sat upon his head, tilted slightly back so the brim of the hat would not obscure their vision, with a single Skarmory feather poking out of the side.

... My hat? … My hat…. MY HAT .

Give me back my hat!” he snarled, to which the pirate only smirked, but it caught the attention of the Elites.

“Steven! It’s about time you woke up! Thank Arceus!” Sidney shouted to him, taking a break from his argument to acknowledge his Captain.

“We tried everything we could Steven, but they overpowered us… We’re sorry.” Drake added, an almost apologetic tone to his voice.

“No, don’t apologise.” Steven replied, and was about to add more when the behatted Pirate took the hat from his head and waved it in front of Steven’s face.

“What? You want this back~?” they taunted, others behind him snickering as Steven followed the hat from side to side, like a Skitty watching a piece of yarn being held in front of them, ready to pounce. The difference being that Steven was unable to pounce, and instead was stuck to one spot, the tension to leap into attack rising, but unable to fulfil the action. Frustration grew within Steven, but he didn’t let it show. He couldn’t let the torment get to him. He couldn’t let them see that their mockery was getting to him. That would show weakness; he could never show weakness. He simply scowled at the rabble from down his nose. They may have the upper hand, but they were still inferior to him. At least, that’s what he was telling himself.

“Oh you don’t want it back?” the pirate said with feigned shock. “In that case, I think that I’ll just keep it for myself. I think it suits me- a real seafairer- better than some rich snob like you”. They placed the hat back onto their heads and stepped back for a moment, before pulling another one of the pirate crew forwards. “Well if you don’t want the hat back, do you maybe want this back~?”. The pirate that strutted forwards stood in front of Steven and flaunted the very familiar looking, long, embroidered, admiral blue coat they were wearing. Steven felt his teeth clench and his hands ball up into fists. He tried to keep his face neutral, but whether that was enough to cover his true feelings was unclear, as the pirate continued to parade in the long coat. In his coat. The way they were all being treated made him feel like they were some kind of freak circus act; only there to be made fun of and tortured for the sick amusement of anyone but themselves.

“Alright men, that’s enough of your fun. Now it’s my turn”. A woman’s voice cut through the crowd, and all fell much more quiet, as they parted like the seas to let her through. Steven watched as a tall woman with long, black hair and deep blue eyes strided towards him, and he couldn’t help but feel he’d seen her somewhere before. The female pirate leaned in towards Steven, their eyes at equal level, her lips pulled into a cruel smile. “And so here at last, we find the debonair Devon heir, the lead Captain on so many a trade- so handsome and bold!- tied up like some useless animal; weak and pathetic” she ridiculed. His brow furrowed at the comments, wishing he could fight back and reject them with all his might, but it then hit him; who she was. His brow suddenly slackened, his eyes now showing sincere shock.

“...Izumi? What are you doing here!? I thought you left Devon to-”

“Hush!” a cutlass was swiftly pulled upon Steven, the point held against his neck. Steven knew better than to put forward a challenge in such a disadvantaged state and swallowed his words. “It’s Shelly to you now. I said I was leaving Devon for better opportunities, and that’s exactly what I did. And now, look at me! I have an entire ship to lead myself, kept safe by an armada of others, some of the most valued traders in the business being kept alive only by my word, and most importantly, the treasure which so rightfully is needed by our leader. The treasure that you have now so clearly failed to deliver to those Redcoat bastards”

The treasure?... The treasure. Steven had completely forgotten about it amongst the frenzy. It was now he wished more than ever that he’d actually had the nerve to secretly try and break into the chest himself to discover what exactly it was. Instead, he’d simply left it in the cargo hold, positioned directly beneath his quarter’s on the ship, where he could have so easily got to it and done so if he had wished.

“So that’s how you knew how to find us… You know all of Devon’s routes! The exact weaknesses of the Pokemon Devon use on their ships! And with any connections you still have with Devon, you found all the information you’d need to know to find this so called ‘treasure’ and ransack our trade!”

“Look at Detective Handsome over here~! So smart! So cunning! So… utterly… foolish.” Lowering the cutlass, a soft chuckle dripping with malice escaped her lips, her cronies doing the same, creating an ensemble of snickers, which grew into raucous laughter as Shelly rammed her knee into Steven’s chest, knocking all the air out of him, making him choke as he fought to find breath again.

If Sidney had not been tied to the mast, he would’ve done the same to her, but harder. “What the hell was that for!? Leave him alone, he hasn’t done anything!” he angrily growled.

“Quiet!” she hissed, now bringing the bladed weapon upon Sidney.

“What’re y’gonna do? Kill me? Fine, do it! Rather me than him!”

“Sidney, don’t make a fool of yourself!” Drake retaliated. “You’re still young… If anyone must die first, then let it be me”

A small gasp could be heard from Glacia. “Neither of you should be sacrificing yourselves before the other!”

“I-I don’t want anyone to d-die!” Phoebe stammered between sobs.

“Hey! I’ve got an idea!” a pirate in the back shouted. “If they can’t decide who dies first… We should kill them all at the same time!” Approving cheers came from the pirate crowds, a few drawing their weapons as though ready to commit the deed.

“That’s enough!” Shelly stomped her foot to the ground, and the din was quickly silenced. After a pause, she continued, “These aren’t just common prisoners. These are more… let’s say… Special guests. And we must escort them to the grand opening of the Captain’s greatest event; the Aqua Armada’s most grand moment- the Grande Finale of days as we know them. The inheritor of Devon deserves only the best after all, and so he and his close companions here will have the greatest honour bestowed upon them! The honour of being killed by Captain Aogiri himself- and not only that! Once they’re dead, their bodies shall hang upon the sail masts as trophies; examples as to our power and the fate that will await all those who dare question us.”

An uproar of jubilant cheering erupted from the crowds, whilst Steven and his Elite felt their very souls quiver in despair, as they pictured their corpses being used as flags, like some kind of power symbol. Shelly turned to look at a group of her underlings, giving them clear instructions.

“Now, take our guests of honour to their, let’s call it, temporary accommodation. Make sure they’re comfortable~”

The pirates cut the ropes tying Steven and the elites to the mast and roughly dragged and hauled them across the deck. There was no point trying to fight back anymore, they were totally outnumbered, and though Sidney squirmed for a moment, even he finally gave in. The group were lugged under the ship’s decks, before finding themselves thrown into a damp, dark cell, where the only light came from the cracks in the wooden floorboard ceiling above.

“Enjoy your stay! Sleep tight! You’re gonna need your beauty sleep for the big day~!” one of the shipmates scoffed, as they locked the cell doors and promptly left, chattering away, leaving the 5 in the haunting quiet of death row.

No words are exchanged between the group. Shared glances are all that’s needed; nothing needs to be said. They all take a seat on the cell floor, and each can only sit and reminisce. The way that each individual sits and stares speaks volumes louder than conversation could. Phoebe sits curled into a ball, resting her head upon Glacia’s shoulder as her eyes swim with tears that roll down her cheeks and drip onto the wooden floor; totally dismayed. Glacia sits with her legs tucked beneath her, even in this dire state managing to somehow keep ahold of some of her composure and grace. One of her arms wrapped around Phoebe’s shuddering form, the other against her legs, her hand clasping the fabric of her dress as though it somehow brought her stress relief. Her eyes studied the floorboards, contemplative and thoughtful, as though trying to plan ahead the little time they had left. Sidney sat in the back corner, leant partially against the back wall, whilst leaning forwards slightly, his legs pulled up slightly and his arms lying between his legs, his hands still balled up into fists. He stared out into the distance, looking lost, as though without a cause anymore, but behind those eyes a spark of anger that could burst into flames if ignited by the smallest ember. Drake sat with a strong posture, his hat pulled over his eyes; unfathomable. After so many years at war on the seas, this surely wasn’t a new situation to him, but with no foreseeable way out, how could he ever be content or accepting of the situation? His sturdy body language and face would not tell a thing. A war hardened veteran was never easy to read, though it could be said that this show of apathy was only there to prove that he felt just the same as everyone else.


Steven sat up against the front of the cell, his hands clinched to the cell bars, his forehead leaning upon them as he sat upon buckled knees. His head hung in shame, as he felt guilt draped over him like a pall. His mind spun with the same thoughts over and over. He had failed his crew. Failed as a Captain. Failed his Father. Why hadn’t he woken up when the attack begun? He should’ve heard from the sheer amount of noise a Sharpedo makes ramming into the side of a ship. And then why, when he finally was awake, finally able to help, did he stand there like some kind of porcelain doll, unable to do anything but watch through glassy eyes; feeling too fragile to do anything of use? Good gosh; how pathetic he was. How useless. So wholly futile . Whatever the treasure was, it was in the hands of vagabonds now. This cryptic treasure that clearly held so much more meaning and power than he could have ever guessed. Whatever it was, now it was in the wrong hands, and whatever potential it contained, would be abused for murky and dark schemes that Steven couldn’t begin to fathom. How could he when he still had no clue what it was? And now, he would die, having never feeling like he accomplished anything in life that he thought was of meaning. His biggest achievements being that he was born rich, was a good tradesman, and that he never worn a periwig. How worthless. He wasn’t worthy of being Captain to such a good, loyal crew, who would all now perish for his oversights. With nothing that could be said, nothing that could be done, all he could do was wait. Either for the inevitable, or some kind of miracle.


 

The briny deep was serene; an absolute contrast to the events which had unfolded in that very spot just hours earlier. A rather small, but none the less beautiful ship bobbed upon the waves of this gravesite. Many Pokemon surrounded the boat, bringing ruins from the ocean’s floor up to the surface, throwing them onto the boat’s decks, where they were being inspected. Upon those decks, a small crew busily chattered amongst themselves.

“It was here. You can clearly see the remains of the wreckage, and from what the Huntail gathered… Well, if anything survived, they’re damned lucky”

“Damned lucky is an understatement, James. But on the other hand, knowing what those kafhakäh are like, they may have kept a prisoner or two for their own sick entertainment to do Kyogre knows what with”

“From my observations, Tahuk , I can determine that the attacking ship headed to the South-West, likely back to the rest of the Armada”

“Back to Archie…”

“...Get the Pokemon ready. We’ll have to make double speed to catch up with them. And prepare for battle. They won’t get away with this, not now they have the Orb. We must get it back. It is our duty, for our people…”

Chapter Text

Time is a fickle thing. When it should move quickly it crawls at a snail’s pace, and when it should move slowly it darts forward at a breakneck pace. For the five poor souls trapped in that dark, dank cell, time was but a concept of which they now had no grasp. Had it been minutes? Hours? Days? None could say. Each kept slipping in and out of consciousness as sleep came and went; staying for short visits only before departing and leaving them to face reality again. That reality being that this cell was their coffin, as they were being unceremoniously transported to their funerals in a large wooden hearse. Conversation was minimal; with such a bleak outlook it was hard to say positive things, and no one wanted to bring the mood down any further. Steven had lost count of how many times he’d uttered the words “I’m sorry”, only for the others to assure him it was “not your fault” and that it was “ok”; no matter how many times they responded with this, he never felt like it was the truth. It would never be ok. They were all going to die.

The noise of the pirates working above deck was just background noise at this point, a constant that kept them grounded yet reminded them of their situation. They all knew that when that noise changed, when commotion became calamity or all became deadly silent, it would likely ring the hour of their doom. And so they waited.

Steven was only half conscious when what they thought was that bell struck. He felt the knot in his chest tighten and his ears prick as he quickly fully awoke, trying to make out what was being said above deck. Something about a “thick fog” suddenly enveloping the ship, making it near impossible to navigate through. The knot in his chest loosened, though only a little. He looked round to the Elites, who all seemed mostly unbothered. A fog just meant delaying their destiny, not preventing it. But it was then, everything changed. The sound of screams mixed with a cacophony of water and waves and creaking wood, as though something had just come bursting out of the murky sea depths and crashed down back onto the ocean’s surface, displacing all the water around it as it took its pride of place back up top. Whatever it was that had breached the surface was giant in size,as the boat was rocked so fiercely that Sidney was misplaced from his corner and went tumbling across the cell floor, Steven only staying in place due to grabbing the cell bars just in time. Footsteps had turned into frantic running, and it wasn’t long before the thud could be heard of people jumping aboard the decks. A high pitched cry unlike that of which Steven had ever heard before rang out from around them, presumably from the ocean waters, before the sounds and impacts of scratches and bangs and blasts seemingly encircled the ship. This madness… Steven knew it. After all, he had been victim to it only hours (or days) before. A pirate attack.

The group began to subconsciously huddle together in the centre of the cell, as though being a group may offer some kind of protection. Steven knew that not all pirate crews got along, that many had enemies, but what would become of them should these attackers win? Would his Elites and him be slaughtered where they stood, or just find themselves prisoners of a different captor? There was nothing they could do though. They’d simply have to be patient and wait for the result. There was a loud thump above their cell of something rather large hitting the deck; the body count had begun. The battle above raged on for quite some time, slowly the noise racket fading bit by bit, until finally they heard a familiar female voice shout, “Abandon ship! Move it!” and the noise of boots as they dashed across the deck and jumping off the sides of the boat onto Sharpedo, which snarled and splashed as they quickly could be heard speeding away.

“Wait… that voice was Shelley's! That means the invading pirates have overthrown and taken over the Aqua ship…” Steven thought to himself. Now what would happen was anyone’s guess. The five simply sat clustered together in silence as they listened and watched for what would happen next. Chatter could be heard, but not understood. Not because the talking was too quiet, but because they spoke in some language that none of them had ever heard before. A tongue that sounded far different from their own, filled with breathy sounds that reminded them of the sea breeze. The pirate group must’ve come up with a plan of some sorts, as they could be heard walking across the decks in different directions, likely to scout the ship and collect any and all items they wished to scour and take for their own. Soon, footsteps could be heard descending the stairs beneath deck, some splitting off in one direction, but the others growing louder as they approached them. Two pirates entered into the cell room, swords drawn out for safety in case someone was to attack them. They may have been pirates, but they looked different to any pirates Steven had ever seen; they were certainly different to the Aqua’s. The Aqua pirates were all rough brutes and had faces painted with dark (and possibly murderous) intent. They had no sense of pride for themselves, only for the name of the Captain they worked under. These pirates held some sort of… elegance about them. Well, that was the first word that came to Steven’s mind. They had some kind of sensibility and poise; they held themselves with pride and had great dignity to them, a quality which Aqua seemed to entirely lack. The first pirate noticed the group in the cell and seemed a little startled, quickly calling over to the second to redirect their attention to the group, rather than the barrels they were nosing in.

“J-James! Otka! Säs aec sihanä nuk!” They said in a hurried tone, pointing their sword towards the group to indicate exactly what they were talking about. The second pirate- clearly called James- looked annoyed, as though not quite believing the other at first, but upon seeing the group in the cell, he let out a small gasp. “Säs aec!” 

“Hae dlou iu di?”   The first asked the other, looking a little wary, as though panicking about the situation. James however did not panic, and instead responded in a calm tone.

“Iu dli nali sä hanoho.” He said before pausing to look back at the crewmember he was talking to. “Alex, nali sä hanoho” 

“Aye, oo säf hae?”  t he other questioned, their worry not yet subsiding.

“Iu takli tao wa sä Tahuk”.   James let a long, heavy sigh out through his nose, clearly finding the other’s constant questioning frustrating.
“H-Hae kli Tahuk Usaeli d-di?”   Alex stuttered, at which point James finally lost his patience with the shorter pirate and snapped loudly at them, stamping down his foot as he hissed through his teeth.

“ALEX, hashkä! Nali sä hanoho!”.   The shorter pirate flinched backwards, freezing for a moment before replying.

“...Aye, James…”.   And with that, they quickly ran out of the room, up the stairs, calling to the other members of the pirate crew.

Steven had watched the whole thing play out in confusion, not really understanding a word that had been said. He could gather that one of them had been sent off to do something but that was about it. Not only did he feel confused though, something about the way they spoke sounded oddly familiar . It bothered him greatly. He couldn’t put a finger on where he’d heard it before but something about it seemed to stir something within him. Then again, his mind was in no fit state to recall anything much.

After a short time, the pirate called Alex returned, followed by other members of the pirate crew, all muttering amongst each other as they came towards the cell. In total, Steven counted 8. The group inside the cell all just watched, their eyes darting from pirate to pirate, as they awaited to see what would become of them. They felt like caged animals, their fates in the hands of those that now stood surrounding them. One of the pirates- rather skinny and of medium height- held in their hands a ring of keys. They must’ve either stolen the keys from the Aqua’s or found them whilst ravaging the ship. Looking through the keys, they began attempting to open the lock to the cell. The remaining pirates all had their weapons drawn and pointed, so that if Steven or any of the others dared to try and make their escape, it would be guaranteed to fail; they’d be skewered alive. A loud clack could be heard as the lock on the cell clunked open, followed by a long droning squeak as the cell door was pulled open. The pirates then filed inside, pulling the Elite and Steven to their feet and then escorting them back out again. James and one other pirate restrained Steven, guiding him, practically dragging him along, as Steven could barely find the strength or energy to walk. As he was being pulled out, it was then he noticed one particularly muscular and large pirate that was not helping to move him and his crew out of the cell; they instead were carrying a familiar looking chest.

They now had the treasure.

For better or for worse, who knew? But now, he wished more than ever before that he had been told what was in the damned chest. He wished he’d had the nerve to dare go against the rules and look inside. Maybe all of this could’ve been prevented, or at least he could’ve been better prepared if he had knew. Or maybe it would have all been the same. As they were hauled above deck, the feeling of fresh sea air hitting their faces was a welcoming feeling, and after some initial confusion, some part of them settled as they could finally look out into the sky and see that it was evening. It must’ve been approximately one day that they had been captured for, though it could’ve been longer. Steven looked down from the sky and over across the waters, and alongside the Aqua boat, was the ship that had conquered them. Though smaller, the design of the boat was quite unlike any Steven had ever seen before. Such detail and care in every single part; beautiful carvings engraved the boat’s wood. The boat seemed deeper rather than wide, as though perhaps some of the ship itself may be submerged underwater. After gawking at the boat for some time, the Captain and his Elite soon found themselves being taken aboard the ship they were admiring, crossing via wooden planks laid across by some of the crew to let them safely navigate from one to the other.

Feet touched down upon the vessel. No longer were they riding clearly through Hell’s Gates. Now, they were in some kind of purgatory, their fates unclear. Whoever was the Captain of this ship would be their judge. Would they continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Or would they somehow be redeemed by this unknown magistrate. As the pirates muttered amongst themselves, perhaps trying to decide what to do next, it occurred to Steven that unless something was done, they may not get a word in about their own fate. They could die never knowing what the treasure was. They could die as the innocents that they were. All this time, his dread had been choking him. His vocal chords were being muted by the anxiety that plagued his person and the shame in his spirit. But in this moment of revelation, he found his voice freed.

 

“Parley!”

 

The commotion stopped. Surely, they must’ve understood that one phrase, even if they didn’t speak the same language. One of the pirate group stepped towards Steven, his appearance easily memorable due to the tattoos that painted his arms, starting from his knuckles and weaving over his forearms, as though they had grown there.

...Hae diou yo hähsek? The pirate questioned, a slight menace in their voice, before speaking again “...What did you say?...”. The accent was thick and totally unfamiliar.

“Oh so they can speak our language. Why the hell didn’t you jerks say anything before!?” Sidney fumed. His rash actions lead to the pirates holding him to quickly react, raising their swords to the red head’s neck in an attempt to shut him up.

“Sidney, please just…” Steven sighed deeply, so worn out that he couldn’t truly be bothered to finish scolding him, instead glaring up at the seafairer stood before him and continuing with a low but firm tone. “Parley. I am the Captain of this group. My crew and I were captured by the ship you just so happened to claim. I just want some straight answers, and I know that the one law obeyed by pirates, sailors and all shipmen alike is that the Captain of one crew may request to speak with the Captain of another through ‘Parley’... So, if you would please… ” All nerves he had were subsided by the sheer determination he felt within himself for answers and a just reasoning. This was the one final chance they had, and he had took it. The pirate took a step back from Steven, clearly feeling the sheer power of his presence. After a moment of exchanging looks with the other crew members, as though quietly conferring with each other on what to do, he turned his back on Steven and walked away, towards a set of rather beautifully embossed doors, befitting for only one role within a ship's crew: The Captain.

The group had thought the long wait for their executions aboard the Aqua ship had been tedious. It was nothing compared to the wait they experienced now. The time was shorter, but of course, time is fickle. This wait was nothing short of excruciating, each could feel time tangibly tick by, each second become heavier and more painful as they stood there, eyes affixed to the doors, watching for the slightest movement to suggest the message they anticipated had finally come.

Sure enough, the time came. The wooden doors swung open as the messenger returned. “The Captain has agreed to speak with you, and only you.” No message had ever sounded sweeter, no words ever quite felt so wonderful. Now, he had a shot at redemption for himself and his crew. They would not die without a word. “Nesbit”, the pirate continued, looking over to the brawny pirate carrying the treasure, “ Takli haj i sä rootäh wa sä Tahuk ”.   The other gave a short, strong nod, striding forwards and then nudging and guiding Steven towards the Captain’s quarters using his elbows. Steven stumbled forwards as he trudged towards the doors, before being stopped just outside whilst Nesbit knocked. Steven took this moment to turn and look back at his Elite, who despite being captive, were at least all still together, for what could be his final time. But there was no time for farewells, as from behind the doors, a voice replied.


“... Yereke. Enter”