It had been an ordinary run through a dungeon, just like any other.
They'd packed for the tiring journey through some ruins before setting out, the ancient location itself crafted mostly with structural integrity in mind, though not without a somewhat artistic touch. That combination of qualities was probably why it was still standing; too visually appealing for many to want to cause destruction, too well-built to easily be damaged.
Once they'd entered, they'd trecked through numerous rooms and floors, facing some rather hostile foes all the while, some of which were strong, and others tricky. And as usual, they burned through most of their various supplies along the way.
Thankfully though, like any other dungeon run, they'd stumbled across a helpful Kecleon Shop, the pokemon's station stocked with a wide array of items useful both shortterm and longterm. Some berries and food here, some TMs and orbs there. The Kecleon Shops dotted around the world tended to have whatever one needed while out and about, and the team exploring this dungeon was willing to take full advantage of this.
"Hey, you guys ready to go?" the leader of the team, a mudkip, prompted the group, the supply bag on her back filled full of items from the shop.
"Yes." was the calm reply of a gothita, his own supply bag stuffed to maximum capacity as he gave a nod.
"Yep~!" came the cheery reply of a bounsweet, her bag too packed full of goods as she waited near the edge of the shop, clearly eager to get moving again.
"Alright then. Let's move out!"
With that, they eagerly stepped outside the friendly shop's boundaries, their shopping done, and their bags full of goods for the trip ahead.
The phrase 'huge mistake' didn't come close to describing the events that had just been set in motion by their trip to the shop.
Gothita had been trying to keep up with bounsweet, who had cheerfully taken off ahead. He was already a short ways outside the shop before he realised what had happened, and haulted at that thought.
Mudkip had her moment of realisation just after leaving the boundaries of the shop, and froze as well.
Bounsweet, in her oblivious excitement, had made it over halfway to the nearby hallway before turning around, wondering why the others weren't following her. And why the shopkeeper looked so displeased. That was when realisation struck her, and her happy demeanor was quickly drained away and replaced with anxiety.
In their hurry and excitement to get going, they'd set foot outside the shop without paying the shopkeeper.
Exploration teams, rescue teams, cartographers, and the like were all quite popular hobbies and professions, practiced far and wide by many different pokemon. All of them relied on the Kecleon Shops scattered throughout towns and dungeons. Kecleon Shops specialised so much in supplies and gear for such professions they practically held a monopoly on it.
Despite this however, Kecleon Shops were known to be extremely common victims of theft, robbery, and general attacks. It was such a rampent issue that eventually it began to make itself known not only through their decrease in stock but through the dwindling size of their funds as well.
The Kecleon Brothers™ decided they wouldn't have any of it. Rather than rely on the authorities or the lawful pokemon out there, they took matters into their own hands. Anyone who was part of the Kecleon Brothers™ underwent intense training, their skills in battle honed to a fine art. This coupled with the shear number of employees they had resulted in both raw numbers and raw power to defend their shops from thievery and crime.
While many gave up attacking and stealing from the shops out of fear or respect for the ever-growing strength of the Kecleon Brothers™, many still tried anyway, and some even turned stealing from the shops into a challenge of sorts. The further away you could get after stealing from a shop, the more respect you earned. Those who got away with their crime were highly respected, and those who held their own against the powerful shopkeepers for any length of time even more so.
All of this resulted in the harsh policy of the Kecleon Brothers™:
Pay while within the shop. If you leave without paying, you will be treated as a thief and will be handled without mercy.
Never attack the shopkeeper. If you do, you will be treated as a criminal and will be handled without mercy.
If you are caught, your items will be stripped from you and you will be left with only plain seeds.
Every Kecleon Shop made this policy known. Even if they didn't though, the policy's existance would easily be known far and wide regardless.
The small team faced the kecleon for a moment before each of them quickly rummaged around for every piece of money they had. Soon, a small pile was placed in front of the kecleon, who proceeded to give a brief shake of his head, the message of 'this isn't nearly enough' clear in his expression, as well as the pittiful size of the money pile.
Hurriedly, the trio of pokemon began putting back what they couldn't afford; orbs, berries, everything. The amount of stuff they put back along with what little money they could pay meant they would be able to move along, though with less supplies than they would like. It was better than nothing though, and it was certainly better than facing off with angry merchants.
Though everything seemed to be getting peacefully resolved, it was at that moment things went from bad to worse. Bounsweet, in her haste to return some of the seeds she'd intended to purchase, put down a blast seed just a bit too roughly, and the explosive item detinated with a loud boom. Once the smoke from the blast cleared, it was revealed, much to the trio's horror and the shopkeeper's growing disappointment, the explosion had destroyed an unfortunately high number of items.
The group looked anxiously and hopefully to the kecleon, who gave them a flat stare in return. Their expressions, in turn, became apologetic and fearful. The shopkeeper gave a disappointed shake of his head before then giving a loud snap of his digits that echoed through the halls of the ruins.
One by one, more kecleon arrived in the room, not a single one making a sound, all of them watching the group intently. Whether they'd somehow teleported in or they'd been their the entire time, the small trio of pokemon didn't know. That didn't matter though.
Mudkip and gothita braced themselves while bounsweet let out a soft and frightened whine. Rather than stay and accept the incoming punishment, they did what any group of fearful individuals would do when confronted with impending pain and loss of all their supplies, both brought and gained, at the hands of highly powerful and quite unhappy merchants:
They bolted for the nearest hallway screaming in utter terror and panic.
Bounsweet was the first unfortunate casualty. In her desperate skipping, she stumbled and fell, letting out a startled cry upon impact. They were upon her in seconds, dragging her into the crowd of kecleon pursuing the group, the shopkeepers swarming her like a polite and deadly ocean of green. Her friends skidded to a momentary and stunned hault at this, watching as their friend disappeared from view.
"Bounsweet!" they called in unison to their fallen friend, hearts racing and blood running cold as they realised not only was she out of sight, but the wave of chameleon pokemon was still surging forward at full speed.
"No! Nooo! Save yourselves!" she cried back, fear obvious in her voice. the two remaining pokemon, being too scared themselves to think straight, took off for the stairs again, trying to shut out the screams from their lost partner.
As they ran, the sound of rapidly pattering feet behind them made it known the hoarde of unseen pursuers was drawing ever nearer with each second. Unfortunately, gothita was the next poor soul to fall to their approach. Neither remaining team mate saw it coming, but a long damp appendage stretched out from one of the chameleon pokemon and wrapped itself around the psychic type, ensnaring him in its length.
"Ack!" was his sudden cry as the stretchy tongue gripped him and pulled him back. "Mudkip! Don't stop! Keep running!" he shouted, his normally calm and collected voice frantic and fearful as he struggled uselessly against the tongue's tight hold.
She only slowed for a second before the words registered and she resumed running at top speed. She couldn't hear the swarm of kecleon anymore, only the sound of her own feet pounding the ground and her own heart hammering away in her head as she came closer and closer to her destination.
Soon, she arrived in a room, the stairs to the next floor visible just a short distance away. 'Just a little more...' she thought. As she dashed straight for the exit, she slammed right into something.
Dazed, she looked up to see a kecleon had beaten her to the stairs and was now blocking her path. She backed up franticly before looking around for any sort of escape, and found nothing but the way she'd come, and the surrounding walls, a zigzagging line running across their length. It almost didn't register to her that the other walls in this place didn't have that pattern.
OH ARCEUS NO.
NO NO NO.
Eyes widening in horror, the mudkip watched as, one by one, the kecleon all revealed themselves, the entire room lined with the merchants. Their expressions weren't hostile, but the shear number of eyes staring at her from all angles felt like it was pearcing her right through several times over.
"Your business is always appreciated at our shops." one said as the many chameleon pokemon slowly began closing in, the sound of their approach a steady beat in the mudkip's ears.
"We value all our kind customers." another added.
"Please do come again." said the one blocking the stares, looking almost disappointed like the kecleon way back in the shop had.
They soon closed in, and the mudkip scraemed, the sound of her terror mixing with those of her companions and echoing throughout the ancient halls of the dungeon like some nightmare symphony.