Chapter 1: The Prince of Pugilis: Part One
The Pugilian Colosseum was a marvel; the smooth sandstone walls pierced the cloudless cerulean sky, enclosing the arena within from the vast world outside. The exterior walls were topped like castles in deep burgundy clay, the same color as the famous left-handed Hitmonchan’s boxing gloves that had slammed Conkeldurr the Great square in his clown-shaped nose over thirty years ago. Gold trim rounded out the extravagant arena, boasting prowess, wealth, and maturity just in its appearance alone. However, Pugilis had much more to offer than just aesthetic.
History was made within The Pug news time and time again, with records being broken before the team of Smeargle journalists had even updated the new holders. However, today was special, as it marked the 20th anniversary of Pugilis’ rise to the most prosperous country in Ransei: King Pangoro’s victory in The Great EdgeQuake, a multi-generational war in the west.
The Fistival, as it quickly became known as, had steadily grown in popularity as Pugilis recovered from the war, with numerous speeches, classes, and games associating with times for celebration. Balloons, streamers, pop-up shops--all filled the streets and neighborhoods close to the Pugilis capital in the week leading up to the festivities. Banners were spread along walls, doorways, and signs to advertise and commemorate the event. Recently, its numbers surged since Pangoro’s own Prince Riolu, named Ryuunosuke, became old enough to participate in one of Pugilis’ most valued activities: the Pokemon battle. Riolu was once again dominating the young adult category, and today could earn him his thirteenth consecutive win.
In one of the dimly-lit prep rooms beneath the colosseum stands, a teddy-bear Pokemon waddled slowly along the dirt floor, her stubby brown legs squeaking lightly on each step. Usually, Stufful would give the prince a quick pep talk and shove him on his merry way out the arena door to start the action. This time, though, she put a round paw to her head in distress and then threw it out in protest at the bipedal puppy royalty.
“You’ve been on a roll here, Prince Ryuu. Twelve consecutive wins? Great work so far. But this Hariyama is a big one. What’s the game plan this time?” Stufful asked.
“I plan to navigate my opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them with brute force,” the prince replied blankly. His deep brown eyes were closed and his mask-like face was covered in the shadows of the dark room.
Stufful’s sharp gaze shot an angry aura into the air. “I’m fixing to make bank if we pull this one off. I need you to stop fighting with that stick up your royal--”
The Emanation Pokemon cleared his throat loudly, raising a furry fist to his mouth. “I fight by the Kakutou. You know that.”
Prince Ryuunosuke was a young, energetic Riolu. An only child of the war veteran King Pangoro, the Riolu was given undivided attention as crown prince of his kingdom. Ryuu was infamous for abiding by the Kakutou Code, an ancient (and arguably outdated) dedication to physical attacks, believing only direct hits are worthy exchange. Though the Lucario bloodline was renowned for its aura, the prince--raised by his father--was one of few who still practiced the respectful vow.
“Yeah, yeah, trust me, I know. Still, let me teach you that move this time. Your little puppy paws might not cut it against Maku,” she frowned, imagining a small dog getting squashed by the sumo wrestling Pokemon.
“Stufful, I acknowledge and admire your dedication as my manager. However, you know perfectly well that I do not trifle with stat raising. Besides, Maku has a large body with disproportionate arms, and he has not yet learned to wield his weight properly. I will not yield and go against my own code for either of your sakes.”
The Riolu paced relentlessly in the arena chamber. To his left, the opening in the room led to the light of the showdown. He stepped closer.
“You’re gonna lose that moxie again, just like you did against The Medichampion,” Stufful said, shaking her head at the memory. “You’re too old school for your own good. I’ma see if I can get that money back…Be careful out there.”
. . .
“On the left side, we have our next challenger, the polished Hariyama, an up-and-coming star from the Sumo District!” squealed a referee Mienshao, his whip-like arms extended dramatically toward the left side of the stadium. He wore a black-and-white striped shirt over his pale purple fur and sported a tall white hat trimmed in gold. As his arms waved with elegance, golden tassels flailed in the wind at his shoulders. Despite the black and white, he was easily the most colorful person in the stadium.
In the stands, many Fighting-type Pokemon, some as former competitors and others as spectators, cheered on the event with a deep, hearty roar. Pokemon of other types and kingdoms also watched in the stands--varying from neighbor nations like the Fire-type kingdom of Ignis to the distant Avian Kingdom of birds in the east. Notably, Prince Scyther of the subsidiary Chrysalian colony took a front-row seat. Pokemon from all over enjoy the Fistival-- due in part to the games and unusually playful atmosphere of the Fighting-types, but also to diplomatic and political motivations as well. In the closest rows to the chalk-outlined arena, a pack of Smeargle were taking notes and painting portraits for news headlines across the Ransei region.
“Hariyama is coming off a fresh evolution into today’s matchup. He’s in his mid twenties, having grown up as member of the Fundoshi sect of his family line, and has made a name for himself in the Sumo District since his time in diapers. He seems fired up to go against our own prince in this year’s Fistival!” Mienshao said, ending his announcement almost in song.
Hariyama stepped out from the shadows and stomped a large sumo foot into the clay arena. He let out a bellowing battle cry that resonated deep from within his belly. His large, pale body quaked in enthusiasm, and the crowd cheered at the energy.
“And on our right side, with twelve consecutive wins in our arena, we have the esteemed Prince Riolu.”
The crowd roared in excitement, causing reverberations throughout the colosseum. Prince Scyther remained in his seat, unmoved and fixated on the other prince’s entrance. A sense of disdain filled his eyes.
Hariyama’s body first shivered in anticipation, but that anticipation was soon eclipsed by nerves as the shadow of the young, prodigious Prince Riolu stepped into view.
. . .
“Right this way, Lord Scizor. His Majesty is waiting for you in the conference room.”
Scizor was led in by an anxious Heracross, one of many rhinoceros beetle servants that littered the Pugilian grounds, and guided deep into the dim conference room of the palace. The path was lit only with scattered lamps that burned weakly along the smooth, windowless walls. Scizor strained his tired eyes into the darkness, but he could only make out a few feet in advance. The tap of his metal cane echoed across the hallway, each tap in rhythm with the scurrying of the Heracross. He uttered a light curse under his breath; how had he regressed so far?
The Fighting/Bug-type servant quickly showed Scizor to a red armchair, padded with lightweight wool shorn from newborn Mareep, and thanked him for his services to the kingdom. The nervous beetle stared at the insect, who was still standing, for a long second, his knobby exoskeleton clicking in the silence, and then turned his gaze across the ovular table, made of the finest oak in Greenleaf. Heracross bowed, paid his respects to the king, and left for tea to give the two privacy.
“Thank you, Heracross,” the king spoke with gusto. Only his outline present, he struck a match and lit a lone candle at the table’s center. The flame violated the candle wick, taking over with ease. The wick quickly became overwhelmed by the flame’s power. He looked back to the welcomed guest and cleared his throat. “I appreciate you for coming in, Simon. I know it’s gotten harder for you these days. Please, take a seat.”
The Pincer Pokémon grimaced as he struggled into the cushioned armchair. He set his metal cane against the arm and scuffled around to its front. His legs shook with the stress until he finally plopped into a comfortable position in the velvet fabric. He stretched his worn limbs, the red shell riddled with dents and scratches. Battle scars, his son had insisted. Dents nonetheless.
Scizor strained his eyes to make out the host; the king had a brutish figure and a gaze that would send a Serperior into paralysis. A large, proud bear Pokemon, King Pangoro’s jungle of thick black and white fur hid the sheer size of his musculature. He was only but a decade younger than Scizor, yet he was gifted with seemingly endless youth. In the back, his long fur draped over his shoulders and extended out like a cape. In every sense, he was like a model superhero.
“Nice to see you again, Maurice,” Scizor said with a weak smile.
“You’re looking as young as ever, Simon,” Pangoro cracked. He fiddled with a long, thin shoot in his mouth, moving his tongue to play as he thought.
“And you look old,” Scizor said back with a quick chortle. “My son has been taking care of much of my responsibilities, so I have been living my last few years in peace. The Chrysalian Colony will remain well cared for, it seems.”
Heracross returned with a delicate tray carrying two porcelain cups of hot tea stirred in the hot springs of Ignis. He set the tray on the table and bowed as he exited, disappeared behind a pair of orange curtains, and scuttled toward another chore in the palace.
Pangoro lifted his cup before replying. “Of course it will, my friend. As it is subsidiary to Pugilis, I can only promise the best staff to assist with your son’s supervisory.” He took a sip from the porcelain and his face twisted, flicking his tongue out. “Needs some sugar,” he said.
The king glanced over Scizor’s back towards the exit, saw no sign of his aides, and pulled a small jar out from under the table. “They’ve been trying to watch my sugar intake, so I have to snag some when no one’s looking. Luckily no one in the kingdom has the Frisk ability,” he jested.
Scizor smirked. “That sounds inconvenient. You should be careful, though, Maurice, or you’ll gain that weight back.” The Bug-type lord grabbed the tea cup with his pincers, which snapped the ceramic white handle right off. The cup shattered on its small saucer and hot tea flicked onto Scizor’s exoskeleton. He cursed Arceus and brought his hands toward his wrinkled, frowning eyes. “I can pay for that.”
The King of Pugilis laughed and sent for a servant to fetch a more proper cup for Scizor. Another Heracross came in to sweep the porcelain remnants up and bowed as he exited. The two were left alone once more.
“And how is your Riolu?”
. . .
Few Pokemon have been recorded breaking the ten-win streak. As their matches became progressively harder, their challengers often spent more time researching weaknesses and training advantages to thwart any attempts at a sweep. As such, Prince Riolu was never expected to reach such heights not just once, but twice, at his age--particularly because of his reliance on Kakutou-style attacks and inexperience in defending against ranged strategies. His previous loss to a Medicham was a crushing defeat; due to its Psychic-type attacks, he only managed a stray punch or two before being taken down with ease.
So as Mienshao waved for the fight to begin, and Hariyama steadied himself firmly into place, Prince Riolu’s chances to succeed were split: it would be his quick wit and intuition versus Hariyama’s sheer mass and clear advantage in varying attack styles.
“Aaaaand……” Mienshao paused to add tension.
He narrowed his eyes and focused ahead.
A black back paw launched off the ground as Riolu swiftly leapt to the heavyset Pokemon. His feeler ears waved at wild angles in the inertia of his precise zig-zags. His right arm changed from a light blue to a shiny steel. He reared it back and went in straight for the belly punch.
“And there’s Prince Riolu’s classic Bullet Punch priority! To you young folks, that’s a Quick Attack variation he learned from King Pangoro’s own teachings! How will Maku respond?” Mienshao narrated, though no one seemed to be listening. Everyone was focused on Riolu’s amazing speed.
The prince felt his body lurch toward Hariyama and went in for the direct hit. His arm extended forward like a bullet first exiting the chamber of its firearm. The attack was an easy guarantee at damage; not many Pokemon could counter such sound strategy.
Splat!! Hariyama, who had remained unmoved during the entire display, surprised the prince with an even truer first guarantee. His large palm slammed Riolu back, knocking him from his footing and causing the Bullet Punch to waver.
“Maku counters with a Fake Out! What an easy flinch...”
The crowd booed at the cheap play, however Riolu had not flinched. He landed on his back foot and, his Bullet Punch still in the grasp of Maku’s outstretched hand, switched dominant hands--transferring the metallic fist from his right to his left--and pushed the Steel-type attack into the jaw of the Arm Thrust Pokemon.
“...except it appears he forgot the prince’s Inner Focus!”
However, Hariyama quickly recovered and used his original palm, the same that had caught the fist, and slammed Riolu into the dusty arena floor face-first with a powerful Knock Off attack. Riolu crashed hard, yelping on impact, but he quickly entangled his feet with Hariyama’s and launched a Low Kick to send the sumo wrestler down as well. In one swift series of attacks, both Pokemon used every instant for counterplay.
The pale Fighting-type’s eyes bulged as he felt his weight go down to the ground, however he quickly smirked and fell sharply onto his backside to create an Earthquake attack.
Riolu noticed the facial change and sprung to his feet, jumping a leap of adrenaline into an empty Sky Uppercut attack--a move only aiming to get him off the ground. The colosseum quaked as the arena became filled with cracks from the powerful attack. Dust rose into the air, causing many Pokemon in the stands to start coughing fits.
The prince, still in the sky, slowly fell down to a prepared Hariyama sitting below. Desperate for ideas, Riolu realized he was falling to his own demise. The entire exchange had occurred in all of thirty seconds. However, the fall felt like an eternity. Desperate, he turned a fist into a Bullet Punch and rocketed toward the heavy-bodied opponent.
Hariyama waited for the Riolu, falling fist-first, to get within the range of his final attack. The Fighting-type slammed his belly hard in preparation and thrusted his arms into a Close Combat attack, countering Riolu’s Bullet Punch and slamming into his face. Riolu’s body twisted downward, his head falling back and his feet going forward from the blow of the impact.
The prince looked at the crowd while upside down middair. He saw Prince Scyther swallow deeply in the front row. He seemed anxious and impatient. Other fans, though, were nearly foaming at their mouths at the intensity of the battle.
With only inches until his head would hit the ground, Riolu used a Low Kick on Hariyama’s belly to desperately rocket away from the threat. The opponent Pokemon was knocked back by the initial shock, though the move was not a direct hit. Nevertheless, Prince Riolu succeeded in giving himself time to crash with distance between them and recover from the landing. His health dipping low, he felt dizzy from the barrage of attacks. Hariyama, too, was sweating from the fast pace.
“I am honored to participate in such a match, however your record ends with me, my Prince,” the evolved Pokemon rumbled.
Riolu smiled. “I am humbled to claim my thirteenth victory to such a viable opponent.”
. . .
Pangoro’s bright smile quickly turned indifferent. His eyes, first filled with laughter, died in quietness. The panda fiddled with his shoot as he carefully chose the right words.
“Ryuunosuke is a great fighter--perhaps among some of the strongest in the kingdom, even. He has fantastic raw power, nice speed, professional etiquette…but he fights like a Pancham, not like a Riolu. His connection with aura is, well,” he paused, “it isn’t there. If Akari were here, she could train him in aura much better than I or Mienshao ever could. He needs help, but we can discuss that another time.”
At the mention of his friend’s late wife, Scizor felt his stomach churn unapologetically. It was time to move on from the family chat. “I love our catch-ups, Maurice, we need to do them more often. But just tell me: what is the real reason you called me here? On the Fistival, of all days?”
Pangoro grimaced at the topic change and cleared his throat. He grabbed the shoot from his mouth and began fiddling it between his fingers. The Fighting-type king said with a chuckle, “You always were the straightforward one.”
. . .
With newfound determination, Riolu began racing once more to the towering menace. Hariyama were notorious for their bulk and stamina, however their durability also offered an avenue to victory.
The prince dodged a Knock Off attempt and slammed Hariyama squarely with a powerful Sky Uppercut, causing the Pokemon to hop backward on one foot from the blow. Hariyama, his stamina now reaching its end, desperately slapped the air with a Close Combat. The fist hit Riolu between the eyes and opened to grab his skull. Blood flew from the young prince’s nose as the crowd gasped in fright. However, the fight wasn’t over. Riolu, nearly faint from the direct hit, created a deep red energy surrounding his fist. His head still locked by the opponent, the prince swung his body forward and threw a Counter attack straight into the enemy’s belly. Hariyama spit out in pain and lost his grip on the prince’s skull as Riolu drove his fist deeper into the torso.
Between the defense drops from the several Close Combat attacks and the reversion in Counter, Riolu’s powerful attack seemed to be in slow motion when compared to Hariyama’s blowback. The Arm Thrust Pokemon rolled across the arena and against the colosseum wall. He writhed in pain until he loosened the tension in his muscles and resigned from the game. Prince Riolu, follower of the Kakutou, had earned his thirteenth win.
. . .
“Do you remember when we all joined together to stop Terrera from overtaking central Ransei so long ago? Akari and I were a great couple, but you and I were a great team. Those Excadrill were a piece of cake, but that Steelix was a toughie,” Pangoro chuckled. “We really showed—”
“Spit it out, Maurice. What do you need?”
The dim room became silent. Pangoro shifted uncomfortably in his seat and let out a large sigh. He fiddled with his shoot and eventually nodded to himself. “Back then, things were easy for us. You were younger, I was happier—but you can’t tell me now that you’ve been ignoring the Morning Sun party’s rise in Ignis? It’s a threat to Southwest Ransei, and we both know how hard it is to balance the fire-water-grass kingdoms. We can contain their radicalization before it spreads,” he explained. “Simon, you know your kingdom is also in danger. Ignis is a very offensive nation and should have no trouble disposing of the weaker kingdoms.”
Scizor’s face remained unchanged. He finished his tea and set the cup on the wooden table. He grabbed a napkin from nearby and wiped his scratched claws until he could see his reflection. The deep indentions and scratches filled him with memories of war and triumph. “The Morning Suns have won Lord Volcarona’s support in restructuring their trade and workforce systems. Stepping in her boundaries would be an act of war, Maurice. We’re too old to deal with these affairs. Leave it to the kids.”
Volcarona was a high-ranking noble of the Fire-type kingdom known as Ignis, but she was notorious for overriding the authority of the Ignisian King, a Pyroar sorely out of touch with his constituents. Volcarona’s violent tactics were very noticeable abroad, however no one dared trifle near Pugilis’ main base. They feared it would be a red flag for King Pangoro to take action. As such, Volcarona was able to rise in power and fight the many political parties that made Ignis an unstable time bomb.
The Fighting-type frowned at the harshness in Scizor’s words. “I understand your worry, but do not fret too much; our ally in Aurora is willing to surround Ignis on its southern front. Between our two armies and the spread of status effects by your Bug specialists, we should be able to avoid too much damage and monitor Ignis until the ideology dies,” he pled.
“Lord Volcarona is a Bug-type herself. She knows my kingdom’s capabilities and has a respectable following within my own--and technically your own--walls. I don’t understand how we would change the outcome in any capacity, Maurice. My men aren’t well-equipped and our economy has fallen on harder times than before.”
Pangoro’s voice rose in desperation. “Simon, this isn’t something we can put off for too long. Our children shouldn’t have to put up with a threat that could spread toward Greenleaf’s and Fontaine’s kingdoms. The elemental trio would be too difficult to stop. We will offer some generous trade agreements if you partake in our efforts.”
As Scizor grunted when he attempted to get up from his chair, a Heracross quickly came to hand the Pokémon his cane and steady his balance. “My Lord, I’m not sure that would be good for the Bug-type Pokémon, fighting Fire,” the aide squeaked his own opinion.
Pangoro threw a fist on the wooden table and growled. A vein poked out from his white fur from the blood rush to his head. “Heracross, you are in no position to assess this situation. Kindly butt out of foreign affairs.”
The Bug/Fighting type cowered at the bluntness in Pangoro’s voice. “Forgive me.”
In response to the concern, Scizor looked back at his old friend and slowly blinked, coming to a hard squint as he thought. “I am not interested in coming home with any casualties,” he said.
Pangoro stood from his chair, scooted it backward with the back of his legs, and set his palms against the table. “And you won’t have to. Just send your troops that can fly. Drop a few Poison Stings and Stun Spores and we’ll be golden,” Pangoro assured him. “If you lose any of your men, I will personally give their families my condolences and take any repercussions. We can handle the offense against Ignis if you can simply cripple them.”
The Chrysalian Lord processed Pangoro’s words carefully and then smiled. “Very well then, my friend. We will lend a hand in your containment of the Morning Suns. However, we will need some time and funds to gather troops together once again. Chrysalia has long since abolished its mandatory inscription and our military budget is minimal at best.”
“Thank you, Simon. I won’t let you down. This is to protect the legacy we built together.”
Scizor nodded in nostalgia, though he obviously felt a lot of pain and weakness in his body. “A legacy I hope you can continue with my son once I pass on. I’m starting to feel like Akari had before...” he trailed off.
The statement hit Pangoro hard. “That will always be my greatest shame. I’m so sorry, Simon.”
The two embraced in the conference room, a certain unspoken understanding floating between them. Two old war friends from neighboring kingdoms, giving offspring that likewise found kinship; it was a wonderful tale of the past that was sure to be passed on for generations.
. . .
“Prince Riolu has made a new personal best at thirteen consecutive wins in the colosseum!” Mienshao shouted.
Riolu stood up and wiped the blood from his nose. The win was much closer than he cared to admit, but a win was a win. The crowd was roaring in excitement; Prince Riolu was an obvious favorite, however the sheer tension of the match made it exciting for everyone involved.
Stufful ran from the sidelines and jumped on the prince into a hug, knocking the both of them down on the arena floor. She squealed in excitement and kissed him on the cheek, which made Riolu flinch and touch the bit of slobber left on his face in disgust. A proud Mienshao came scrambling toward them, arms flailing.
News reporter Smeargle began frantically flicking their tails along their canvases to paint the next headlining story. Vendors in the stand began handing out Riolu-themed cakes and Fistival memorabilia. However, one of the seats on the first row was oddly empty.
“Now if you’re done celebrating blatant violence,” a new voice came from the megaphone, “I’d like to have my two-minute speech that was promised to me.”
Riolu, Stufful, Mienshao--the entire stadium turned to see Prince Scyther of the Chrysalian Colony standing on a podium in the arena’s center. The entire colosseum went silent in awe of the distraction.
“I’m glad you all had your festival headliner be two young Pokemon beating one another senseless. That capitalizes on an issue I wish to bring to light.”
People in the crowd began booing at the distraction from the Fistival. Someone dared throw a pebble at the Bug/Flying type in jest, which brought a wave of laughter across the stadium. Prince Riolu remained silent.
“The Bug-type colony of Chrysalia is on starving times and you, our suppose kingdom, are too busy celebrating to notice the increases in Berry tax and ore distribution are actively detrimental to our workforce’s well-being. My father has grown sicker from his disease, and yet no medication, no research, and no contributions have gone to help our colony adjust. Please,” he said between boos, “sign my petition to the Pugilian monarchy to offer more research funding and inventory so my people are not starving while slaving away in production. We’re part of Pugilis, too.”
“Get off the stage!” one Pokemon screamed.
“Go back to your hive!”
“What a pest!”
Prince Scyther watched in awe, his wings twitching at the discrimination. He slid his scythes together and screamed out in one last attempt. “Please, support the Bug-types that help create the furniture you sleep in and seasonings you top your meals with!”
Smeargle all around started to depict the spectacle--obviously to paint Scyther in a worse light than Chrysalia already had. Many Fighting-types considered Chrysalia was too weak and a liability that Pangoro felt obligated to take on. As such, no one took seriously the mistreatment and bigotry.
In the background, fireworks began to sparkle and stream in the sky. Fans from the colosseum wandered out of the stands and into the streets, where vendors and other activities were to take place after the annual highlight match. Soon, only Riolu, Stufful, Mienshao, and Scyther were left on the arena grounds. King Pangoro and Lord Scizor walked onto the field to survey the young Prince Riolu’s condition.
“Congratulations, Ryuunosuke, I heard about your victory over Maku. You’ve grown into quite the young man over the past years,” Lord Scizor said as he balanced his weight on his cane. Scyther quickly came to help steady his father.
“They were fighting for sport, Father. I don’t understand damaging your own kind,” he said with disgust.
King Pangoro coughed to get his son’s attention. Riolu hopped up, knocking Stufful down in the process, and ran to hug his dad in victory. Pangoro spun his son around in his arms and set him down on the ground.
“Who gave you permission to bleed?” he laughed as he wiped a drop from Riolu’s nose. “I heard it was a fantastic match, I’m so sorry I missed it. We were planning on making the second half...how long did it take?”
Riolu shrugged. “I don’t really remember.” He looked to Stufful.
“Maybe a minute and a half,” she said.
“Oh, my Lord, it was splendid! He finished his opponent off in seventy-seven seconds. I’ve never seen such a reactive match in my two weeks as referee!” Mienshao squealed. At the looks from Scizor and Scyther, he frowned. “The last guy was used as a prop in the Conkeldurr / Machamp match a few weeks back. I’m just a sensei filling in.”
King Pangoro was taken aback. “You took down Maku in less than two minutes?” He fiddled with the end of the shoot inside his mouth. “I heard some negativity on my way here...What was the commotion afterwards?”
Everyone looked to Scyther.
“Your Majesty,” Scyther said, the words sounding like a sin escaping his lips, “your people are bigoted pigs.”
“Like an Emboar?” Mienshao asked. “Or like a Mamoswine?”
“I was thinking more like a Grumpig,” Stufful said with a hushed laugh.
“Enough,” Pangoro said. “Prince Scyther, I assure you I will look into these matters--”
“I don’t care about that right now, Sir. With all due respect, your allotment for this month is barely enough to survive on.”
King Pangoro glanced at the other Pokemon in the stadium awkwardly. “I had no idea you were an economist. I will look again at the numbers and present what is possible for your citizens. Though it appears we live comfortably, the politics going on in Ignis right now are making trade agreements tighter.”
“That’s Tauros shi-”
Scizor shook his head. “Son, there is a time and place for this conversation. Please stop disrespecting King Pangoro. By going over my head, you’re also disrespecting me.”
Scyther’s face went from outrage to helpless anger. “Forgive me. We’re leaving. Enjoy your Fistival, Prince Riolu. Congratulations on beating up your fellow citizen. Let’s go, Father.”
Lord Scizor smiled at the Fighting-types surrounding him and complied with his earnest son’s demands. The two made their way out of the arena, as do Stufful and Mienshao. As Riolu and Pangoro walked away, a thought struck Riolu’s mind: Why did Scyther’s distress seem authentic? He quickly dismissed the question and trusted his father’s judgment. Prince Riolu went on ahead of his father to enjoy the firework show.
“I wish there was something I could have done,” Pangoro sighed, his shoot drooping.
. . .
Three Months Later
Funerals were no stranger to Riolu. As his father was universally acclaimed as the strongest authority in all of Ransei, they were invited to the funerals of all world leaders and global icons. The only unpleasant experience was with Spectra, the Ghost-type Kingdom; its government insisted the king was dead to host a funeral, and then the king popped up as a “ghost.” The first gag was lighthearted, however the other twenty-two were not. And for some reason, several warlords continued to believe every time.
Besides, funerals meant the prince could wear his black suit, which made him feel much older than nineteen years old. The tight-fitted pants in particular made him look taller. His father had, however, made him dispose of the tall black hat that went with it.
Lord Scizor, a long-time friend and partner to King Pangoro, was known as a major component of the EdgeQuake shock from decades ago. Pangoro, Riolu’s late mother Lucario, Scizor, the Auroran king Oranguru, and an often-drunk Quagsire were credited with bringing the downfall of Terrera’s reign. Losing another member of that band was a blow to his father’s happiness. Only Pangoro and Oranguru remained from the heroes of the past.
The funeral was open-casket. Riolu came and paid his respects as a suitable prince was expected. He was relieved from crafting a speech, as now-Lord Scyther wished only for Pangoro to speak on his father’s behalf. Bug-types littered the outside funeral arrangement; Beedrill, Scolipede, Vikavolt, Shuckle...all of which were poorly dressed, some shrill and tired, and others hateful and staring at Riolu with an unwavering hatred. Other lords, like Oranguru of Aurora--the other remaining hero--and those of nearby kingdoms came for the headcount.
Then there was Volcarona. Her popularity had skyrocketed following Scyther’s speech at the Fistival months back; many began to realize her initiative to threaten the wealthy of Ignis for supplies was effective. Her influence had spread in other kingdoms, and there was a certain local support system under each government that now had to be monitored. The fiery red wings flapped ferociously in the commotion as Scyther began to speak.
“Thank you all for coming here today. We are here to celebrate the life of my father, a public hero and private father. I am very sad to see my idol pass on, but I am glad he is no longer stricken by that horrid disease. I understand there was no treatment, but that did not make coming to terms with it any easier. May we one day have the funds to research such dangerous threats,” he said, then paused to eye Pangoro. “We have several important guests with us tonight, and I would first like to ask King Oranguru of Aurora to speak about my father’s ambitions and success.”
Riolu tuned out Oranguru’s speech, which seemed very basic and bland. Other Bug-types began speaking on Scizor’s character and kindness. Soon enough, it was Pangoro’s turn.
The panda king walked over to the speaking platform and sighed. “Simon was my best partner, my best man, and my best friend. I only wish we could have spent more time in his health,” he said, pausing similarly on the disease’s mention. “I wish I could have found that cure in time…”
Riolu lost his train of thought on Pangoro’s speech once he noticed Volcarona leaning in to whisper something into Scyther’s ear. The colony ruler made a scowling face at first, then glared daggers into Pangoro’s soul. Riolu felt worried, but he put his reservations at ease.
“...And I’m glad I could help start the rebuilding process of Chrysalia with such a brilliant leader. I have learned a great deal from our friendship, and I can only hope to pass that on for the next generation.” He paused again. “Please don’t kill me off, though, Ryuu!” he laughed.
The crowd mimicked his chuckling until Scyther announced it was Volcarona’s turn to say her parting words. King Pangoro rejoined Riolu and they listened, both on edge, to what the grassroots campaigner was about to say. Remembering his deal with Scizor to stop Volcarona has now fell through, Pangoro bit at the shoot in his mouth anxiously.
“Lord Scizor was an idol and a friend,” she said with great calmness. “I am very sad to see a fellow strong Bug-type exit the world when it is still full of discrimination. I understand the situation in Chrysalia is dire; it seems similar to those who find themselves homeless and in poverty under the rule of King Pyroar in Ignis. My party, the Morning Sun Party, has made it our goal to provide for those in need, by whatever means necessary,” she said, and then stared directly into Pangoro’s eyes as she finished her speech. “I believe it is a basic, Arceus-given right to offer the current food and health options available to the 1% to the rest of the population. And I intend to one day make that happen.”
Prince Riolu looked over at his dad, who seemed to eaten something too big to swallow. One last look at Scyther told Riolu that, somehow, others were getting the wrong idea about the kingdom of Pugilis.
. . .
Another Few Months Later
“Hyaa!” Riolu shrieked, using a Sky Uppercut to knock a Gurdurr off her feet and against the back wall of the dojo. She pulled a white flag out and waved it out of desperation.
“Alright, sensei, I believe I am ready for a move that doesn’t come as naturally. Like Drain Punch,” he insisted, stretching his arm out and shaking his wrist sparingly.
“Give Ryuu something to keep him from losing to another Croagunk,” Stufful said, sticking her tongue out after pointing out another major loss for Riolu.
“You are a terrible friend,” he said with a nasty snarl.
“I don’t have to be your friend. Right now I’m your bodyguard,” she smiled. “Assigned by your daddy, upper management. Remember?”
“I think you should call it a day, kiddo,” Mienshao said with a shrug. “Unless you’re willing to unlock that aura thingy inside your thick skull.”
Riolu growned. “In the Kakutou, we fight only with our fists...and legs..and, ugh,” he said, flustered. “We fight with our bodies, not special attacks or forces like Aura. If my father can do it, so can I.”
“You’re literally the aura Pokemon,” Stufful said.
“And you’re a stuffed animal,” Mienshao giggled. “But anyway, Riolu, it’s the weekend, and I have a date with a fine-looking Sawk in thirty minutes, so you’re gonna have to deal with it~”
Riolu made an awkward face and dismissed Mienshao.
“Is there a problem?” the sensei asked.
Stufful furrowed her brows. “Why don’t we get some Onigiri or something?”
Riolu nodded. “I have worked up quite the appetite.”
“I heard he’s really sturdy,” Mienshao murmured as he went into the back of the dojo to clean up. “Might be a keeper.”
Mienshao told the rest of the young Pokemon training inside to get washed up and head home. Riolu and Stufful exited the dojo and began walking outside along the red cobblestone bricks.
The air was very still. The sky was a bright orange as the sun planned to set behind the hills within an hour. The gold trim shined deeply alone the red clay of the inner city walls. The countryside plots and villages were alive with chatter in the distance, but the inside of the city was quieter than usual.
“Wait, let’s get berry juice,” Stufful said with a giggle. She pulled Riolu’s arm toward the nearest bar, but he wasn’t so sure.
“For the last time, I’m not allowed to drink. I cannot let anything taint my reputation.”
“Well I have no reputation, so you’re taking care of me tonight!” she said.
Prince Riolu looked up at his palace. One day, his father would be handing the reins of the kingdom to him. The beautiful red-and-white kingdom, a status symbol of industrialization and wealth in western Ransei, was a dream come true. He could never be more grateful than to take in the sight of laughing children, blossoming young love, and successful families thriving within the confinement of Pugilis’ walls.
Stufful ordered two drinks anyway, which she intended, Riolu suspected, to offer to him anyway and then drink down once he rejected. He smirked at how predictable and comfortable everything was.
A quiet buzzing could be heard in the distance, but Riolu wasn’t paying attention. He was too involved in what he did have--an engaging dad, supportive friends, and the most powerful kingdom in Ransei.
Stufful walked back while balancing a tray of two berry juices on her head. She spots something in the distance, though, and the tray clangs to the ground, causing the red drinks to spill and stain the cobblestone. At least the red wouldn’t stain, though.
“Ryuu, wh-what’s that?” she asked.
Ryuunosuke, the Prince of Pugilis, turned his head toward the sun, where a large moth with red wings and a white body towered overhead. The distant buzzing grew louder, and soon dots were scattered along the horizon. The defense alarm went off throughout the kingdom, a deafening siren Riolu had only heard on drill days. Once one of the specks became close enough to be distinguishable, the prince realized today was no drill. Lord Scyther and an army of angry insects had arrived and surrounded the kingdom with a sizeable force and a threatening formation. Volcarona remained high above as she watched the attack on Pugilis commence in extraordinary fashion.
This would be the fall of the once-beloved Pugilis.
To be Continued
Chapter 2: The Prince of Pugilis: Part Two
Prince Riolu quickly realizes his kingdom is under attack, but is he capable enough to stop the rebellions surrounding him?
“Ryuu, wh-what’s that?” Stufful asked, her voice cracking in fright.
The buzzing grew louder. Soon enough, the Fighting-type residents of Pugilis were scattering about in search of loved ones and reasonable shelter. The ones that stayed behind began climbing toward the capital’s outer wall to reach the height of the insects. Riolu and Stufful remained in place, silent, as the buzzing swarmed around them.
“I need a better look,” Riolu eventually whispered. Before Stufful could comprehend, the prince darted from the wide cobblestone road and raced toward a set of inside stairs that hung along the wall.
“Wait! Wait! What’re you doing?” Not given much choice, the plushy Pokemon reluctantly followed, her legs squeaking slightly on each step.
Prince Riolu made it to the stairs and ran up the side of the white clay wall, which extended over 30 meters into the sky. The incessant buzzing only grew louder. Between stone steps, he glanced down at the capital below and watched the remaining confused bystanders struggle in indecision. Stufful followed distantly behind him, but that wasn’t going to slow him down.
He jumped onto the last step, rocketing over to the top surface of the capital wall. Though the sky was dark with insects, he glanced over at the countryside along the outskirts of central Pugilis. Farms, suburbs, villages--all of them had Bug-types hovering above. On the ground, there were Pinsir, Scyther, Escavalier...many others watched properties and monitored families. Yet none took action.
The setting sun was still partially covered in Volcarona’s silhouette. The faded blues and purples of sunset were replaced with a brownish mass of hateful aura. Though Riolu hadn’t mastered sensing such energies among individuals, the collective hate was unbearable. A chill went up his spine and out his feeler ears, causing them to tremble in a dreadful, adrenaline-fueled excitement. He looked over at the wall defense guards. A Conkeldurr held his position as head and screamed for scattered troops to get into formations and prepare fire. The sturdy Fighting-type was a family friend, however he worked somewhat independently on defenses as his own operation. He didn’t take the social hierarchy too kindly.
“Sir Kronk, was there any notification of confrontation from my father?”
The high-ranked general spat phlegm off the edge of the wall and, satisfied, watched it fall to the cobblestone road far below. He brushed his large lips together and moved a heavy hand from one of his concrete blocks to Riolu’s small shoulder. With a look reflecting both anticipation and regret, he shook his head and twitched his clown-like nose a couple times.
“Son, I haven’t heard nothing ‘bout yer daddy. But from the looks o’things, that little pest up there’s ‘bout to,” he said with a grimace. “‘ese little roaches got no idea what they’re in for.”
Stufful, out of breath, collapsed at the top of the stairs. “This is overwhelming,” she cursed.
Riolu followed the seasoned general’s gaze and saw Lord Scyther getting closer to the wall.
“Lemme jus’ toss a stone here an’ end this bugger,” he said. “In fact,” he glanced toward a Primeape, who held a megaphone in his hands anxiously. The Pokemon was pacing around, unnerved, barking orders for preparation. “‘Ape, tell ‘em to fire at-”
Riolu’s eyes widened. “Sir, with all due respect for your position and loyalty to my father, you will do no such thing. They have yet to initiate any sort of attack and I will not condone any irrationality until my father has given his word. You will stand down and wait for orders, nothing further.”
Stufful bit her lip and stared between the two Fighting-types. Prince Riolu was a prince, but this was the defense squadron that was hand-picked by the king. Riolu’s jurisdiction didn’t really stretch this far.
“...And you will let Lord Scyther go to the castle, but him alone. We will settle this as diplomatically as we can to avoid Bug-type casualty.”
Conkeldurr growled at the power move, but it was that exact leadership that legitimized Riolu’s regality in the eyes of the populace. “Yes, Prince.” He turned to Primeape once more. “Spread this ‘round the wall: don’t engage nothin’ ‘less they start it. Prince’s orders.” He stopped, felt Riolu’s sharp gaze, and rolled his eyes. “And let the flyin’ Caterpie through.”
Bug-types were notoriously weak, after all, and Riolu even acknowledged the stereotype. Strong against Grass-, Psychic-, and Dark-types, sure, but any resident belonging to those subtypes was only neutral to their moves thanks to Fighting’s natural resistances. But Bug was weak to both the common Rock- and Fire-type moves often in practice at the dojos, including Stone Edge, Rock Slide, Blaze Kick, Fire-Punch, etc. The only major advantage the Bug-types had was…
“The sky,” Stufful whispered, looking up at the blur of bodies growing larger and closer. It seemed she just realized the situation’s magnitude. “Riolu, this is...this is really bad.”
He nodded. “I need to get to Dad.” Before heading for the stairs again, he glanced at Conkeldurr once more. “Please, heed my words: do not start an unnecessary war.”
. . .
A Few Months Back
Scyther stared down at the open casket in silence. Most of the guests had left the funeral by now, and King Pangoro--the hypocritical “uncle” Scyther had always been forced to “admire”--was among the first to leave his father’s resting place. But this moment wasn’t filled with hatred for Pangoro, or envy of the privileged little Riolu that always towered over him (even though Scyther was always so much taller and better equipped!). The young prince-turned-lord scratched his scythe hands together nervously. It was his turn to lead the colony and help the Bug-types thrive again. Starving as a subsidiary was not their path.
The funeral room was spacious; the walls were far enough apart to line the lengths of several Scolipede from head to tail. Nonetheless, Scyther felt constricted, suffocated, as if this were his own coffin. The pressures of the colony was on him. He let out a sigh at the heavy burden he would bear alone.
“It gets easier,” a voice whispered from behind Scyther’s shoulder. He flinched, drew his scythes into an attack position, but caught himself at the sight of Volcarona. She had given such a long speech for his father’s sake, and while she was indeed a Bug-type (and had a strong bloodline within Chrysalian history), she was an Ignisian politician, and Ignis was notorious for producing nonsense terrors and reformists. Still, he listened to her calm, soothing voice. “Moving forward--it does get easier. You’ll miss him, but that’s about all you can really do.”
He didn’t know what to make of the comment. King Pangoro was his father’s closest friend, yet the king had never extended emotional support beyond the superficial. Scyther only witnessed a political relationship in public; the real kinship had long since faded in his eyes. He hadn’t been comforted by someone else before, but it felt warm in all the loneliness surrounding him.
His voice was unsteady. “I swore growing up that I’d find the cure. But Chrysalia never had the research, the resources. He would never even talk about it, I… I didn’t know what to do,” he said, scythes drooped.
Volcarona’s blue eyes adjusted and her head twitched erratically. “Lord Scizor had the same disease that took dear Akari from King Pangoro,” she said, referencing Riolu’s late mother. “Both died heroes. But you know what’s interesting?” she paused.
Scyther soaked the information in. He only knew the disease was somehow related to the Great EdgeQuake from decades ago; Pangoro, Lucario, Scizor, and a few others were instrumental in stopping the catastrophe.
“It’s a wonder how Pangoro remained unaffected after all these years, considering those he loved most were suffering day after day. At least he inherited the monarchy in the end,” Volcarona finished. After seeing Lord Scyther’s empty face, drained of all composure and formality, she smiled (as best a moth could) and gave the prince some distance to process her statements.
The words were like reading the solution to a word problem; the answer was already in plain sight. And then everything clicked. Pangoro had married into the royalty; the Lucario dynasty had ruled Pugilis for decades, and this was the first time a non-Lucario king presided over the throne. Pangoro was but a no-name immigrant knight anointed for swooning Akari at a young age. Had he used the opportunity to his advantage? What research had he done? Was there a cure?
“We’ll be in touch,” she said, flying from the funeral. As she flew, Scyther’s expressionless face twisted in a pure rage, finally finding an outlet for the frustrations and grief of discrimination and loss.
. . .
The almost throbbing of the buzz was a comfort to Scyther. It was reassurance that he was leading the charge to take back their kingdom, their sovereignty, and he had an army to support him. He even had outside support helping lead the charge. No longer was he “just” A Bug-type. He was a Bug-type Pokemon, and he deserved equal representation and basic rights.
“My Lord,” an incoming buzz from a Vespiquen arrived. “It appears the guards have been instructed not to attack.”
“Very good,” Scyther affirmed. “Stay at your posts and do not make any first moves. Someone will act out and we will play accordingly. I am en route to the palace, ETA about ten minutes.”
“That’s not all,” she said through the noise. “We’ve detected movement outside the kingdom, though we cannot identify the spies.”
Scyther pressed onward. “Disregard. Most likely spectators. Proceed as planned. Volcarona’s assembly will be arriving shortly to prepare the raids.”
After passing over the innermost palace wall, Scyther just barely made eye contact with the canine prince watching below. He closed his eyes and flew forward.
. . .
Prince Riolu reached the bottom of the stairs and launched himself in the direction of the castle. Scyther was no doubt going after his father in this shameless surprise attack. Dragging Volcarona into their political relationship spelled disaster for Chrysalia’s allotment for the foreseeable future. Uprisings wouldn’t be tolerated.
He zig-zagged across the streets, dodging brave Fighting-types prepared to defend their kingdom. Many of them, children included, were willing to stand up against the colony.
“Ryuu!” Stufful trailed behind once more, her four legs squeaking as she ran as hard as she could. She was always falling behind her friend and superior, and the gap only widened since entering adulthood.
“Refrain from attacking! Do not initiate!” Riolu screamed along the streets as he ran, repeating every few blocks.
“Ryuu!” she screamed. He turned around and Stufful pointed back to the top of the wall--the same one they had just left moments ago.
At the top, Conkeldurr was at a standoff with none other than Volcarona, the Ignisian proletariat’s undisputable icon. A weird red cloud, which stood out in the dark grey of the insect-infested skyline, had enveloped the two. Volcarona hovered just off the ground, while Conkeldurr held his concrete blocks with a death grip. The tension between them was unmatchable.
Suddenly, Conkeldurr’s muscles tensed and he swung a block in the air, almost hitting the cunning Fire-type, and then lashed out at her with his second block. Volcarona visibly fell from the top of the Pugilis Inner City wall--her limp body steadily dropped to the ground. Riolu screamed out, helpless, and the buzzing that had stayed outside the inner city quickly amplified.
“ATTACK!” a voice screamed, though Riolu wasn’t clear on whether it was a Bug-type or Fighting-type that had said it.
To his horror, a swarm of Combee erupted over the edge of the wall and spread across the city streets. Yellow masses were in every sight; across each neighborhood, over each house, almost coming 1:1 with the residents themselves. A large, feminine queen bee emerged last, her regality (at least, to Riolu’s knowledge, among her species) on display provocatively. Vespiquen reared her honeycomb shaped body backward and initiated a city-wide Attack Order. Dozens of Beedrill came behind, stingers at the ready, soon after, and they began using Poison Stings and Twineedles on the Fighting-types that braved the fight. This marked the first attack on Pugilis in decades.
“Ryuu, we have to get back to the dojo,” his friend said in awe. “Those kids are still there, and they have no one to save them.”
Prince Riolu felt it was an easy choice. As the future ruler of his kingdom, he had a duty to protect those he cared about. And in the Kakutou Code, those you cherish first are the ones with room to improve. These children had so much children.
“Right,” he said. “My father will have to wait.”
A quick glance, though, told Riolu that Scyther was already past the wall and on his way to the castle. Did he know the war had started? Was this his intention?
. . .
Salandit could be considered one of the most invasive species of Ignis. Before not even five years ago, the population of the sneaky lizard was maybe eight harmless males. There wasn’t a need for a part Poison-type in the Fire-type kingdom; Fire was already super effective to grass and at least resisted the fairies that Poison-types could defeat with ease.
But in Viperia, a kingdom far to the east of southwest Ransei, so far that not even Prince Riolu had visited in his years of regality, the Fire typing was a coveted asset. Viperia was a kingdom plagued by the many Steel-types that ran amok in their domain of Valora, but also in many other neighboring kingdoms as well. The Salazzle squadrons of Viperia were renowned for their devotion and technique to poison Steel-type Pokemon with a nearly incurable Corrosive Toxic. The Salazzle had no reason to migrate so far to Ignis when they were treated well just based on their species’ typing.
One Toxic Lizard’s journey, however, created a newfound threat within Ignis. Poison was a great typing used in torture and force during regime change. As King Pyroar had slowly lost the trust of his subjects in this decade, an aspiring Salazzle and her 100 male Salandit servants found their place in Volcarona’s army--the Morning Sun Party.
She had battled her way through the defenses of Pugilis’ outer walls, having poisoned many weakened Pokemon that were left for dead, but she personally felt it was underwhelming compared to the Fighting-type kingdom’s reputation. The inside spoils--the quality furniture, the surpluses of food stock, and the overall atmosphere--were certainly living up, however, and were prime for theft.
The lizard leader slithered her tongue and walked between the ranks of her lesser male counterparts. On each step to a new group, she narrowed her eyes to slits and monitored her subjects’ faces. She could smell any possible weaknesses.
“Squadrons A through M, remain outside the capital and begin collecting the supplies. Let the bugs deal with the meatheads; we’re bringing this loot home tonight. That was the deal. The rest of you, come with me.”
She stopped her march midway through Squad S and towered over one of the Salandit. He had a light grey scratch scar across his left eye and held an undeniably dopey, helpless expression. He gulped at her gestures, her singling him out, and stared straight ahead without making eye contact.
Salazzle bent down. “And I expect no hesitations in my troops, right Number Seventy-Six?”
He gulped again, then nodded.
“Good,” she said, changing focus, “I’d hate to remind you the values of a Salandit again.” Her tail, a whip-like, sleek appendage that was toxic to the touch, twitched in intimidation and made the meager Salandit put a tiny hand to his eye scar. “Now let’s spread the wealth, everyone.”
. . .
Prince Riolu was in horror as his kingdom, his very being, was crushed all around him. The schoolhouse, the colosseum, the side shops and cobblestone roads of his youth--demolished. Scolipede steamrolled the buildings into mere rubble along the spreading fires and thick smoke that encircled them.
He and Stufful ran back toward the dojo, dodging as many hostile Bug-types as they could. One Beedrill had gotten in their way at one of the restaurants, but a Take Down attack from Stufful had knocked it back long enough for them to continue running. The recoil damage, though, meant Stufful was no longer at full capacity.
They made one last turn by the same bar Stufful had visited earlier and walked into a thick black smoke that felt much thicker than the rest of the area. Riolu’s eyes stung, causing him to blink hard and strain. He stopped in his tracks and focused ahead of him, trying to sense the aura of other bodies around him. The smoke, however, made a swirling black mass surround and suffocate his attempts at connection, and he found himself trapped--
--And Stufful, still at max speed, had limited field of view, so she did not have the time to stop before running hard into Riolu. The two were sent flying across the debris-covered road. Riolu landed with a hard thud! and looked up to find their dojo, the place he had trained and built his reputation for years, already destroyed.
The walls were smashed in, with only a stray section or two still intact. The burgundy ceiling had mostly collapsed, and the once-sacred mats and training gear were now disintegrated into nothingness--it was all gone. They looked around in the smoke and only found deep red stains along the brown floors.
“It’s too dangerous, Ryuu. The fire’s spreading quickly. I-I can’t do fires,” Stufful whimpered.
“Someone survived,” he said, his voice getting desperate. “Sensei, the children--someone had to have survived!”
Prince Riolu closed his eyes once more, replacing himself in the deep smoke surrounding his mind. He faced the dojo, scanned the building, and felt for any signs of life. There’s always that one survivor. He strained his eyelids, feeling as though they’d plow together and crush his eyes, and waited. Sure enough, after seconds of intense pain and concentration, a small blue light emerged within the rubble.
“I’m going in.”
Stufful took a moment to process her superior’s words before cringing as he jumped into the fiery massacre. She called out, but she couldn’t go near the fire--her Fluffy ability meant she wouldn’t last a minute. Stufful wiped her damp forehead and waited, worried, when suddenly a Pokemon slammed into her and darted back with its powerful U-turn attack. She was launched several feet across the cobblestone, skinning one of her paws until it began to bleed. Stufful winced in pain and looked up at the shadow cast over her--a threat she would face alone.
. . .
Scyther stopped fluttering his wings and gracefully landed on the king’s very balcony with a determination that seemed unmatched by Arceus itself. He looked around at the expensive bamboo chairs and used his hand scythe to slice one into shreds. The high-quality lifestyle that his Bug-type kingdom sorely deserved, but was never given. They never had a chance.
Behind him, a small ladybug Pokemon landed on the balcony edge. She nearly collapsed in exhaustion from her quick flight to the Bug Lord, so he was very skeptical of her competence as she gasped for air while grasping chairs to stand up.
“Your...Your Highness,” she wheezed. “Your speed is astounding; it took me two Agilities just to catch up with you!” She coughed for several seconds before continuing. “Anyway, I’m here to report that the mass Stun Spore is going to be happening soon. The Butterfree and Vivillon have gathered and are waiting for your approval.”
Scyther nodded. “This is the palace, Ledian. I will be sheltered inside, so you may start the Stun Spore as soon as possible. I also have Cheri Berries readily available if I were to be affected. Please, leave. This area is still very dangerous...the panda king has yet to show himself.”
Ledian agreed, inhaled deeply, and flew in the direction of the buzzing mass that remained above. Scyther approached the glass balcony door and found a dark body gazing back from the other side. He gulped, excited to finally approach as an equal, as a threat, and raised a scythe at the door.
“Hello, Your Highness,” a Heracross quietly said. “King Pangoro is this way.” The Pokemon was equally calm and terrified; it seemed to understand the attack, however that did not lessen the impact of watching a city implode.
“Thank you, my brother.”
Heracross, one of many feeble servants, felt his heart skip a beat at the recognition. He felt like blushing; he was never considered much in Pangoro’s eyes, yet this young lord was capable of harboring such courage and acceptance just based on one’s typing?
. . .
“Squads X and Y, you will round out the eastern portion by raiding the supermarket. I suspect some of the citizens have already looked for rations, but you are going to steal from even the thieves. This is for our family in Ignis.”
Several Salandit were dismissed and quickly scampered out of the abandoned drugstore. They all held sacks about their size--at full capacity, these bags would be almost impossible to lug around. Regardless, they were sent on a mission.
Salazzle watched two of the last three groups take on their tasks and comply with ease. However, there was a squad she had purposely skipped because of its...underperformance. She rolled her eyes as the time came for their assignment; so many of the males were incompetent--stupid, even. But these four soldiers were some of the dumbest, weakest Salandit she had ever witnessed. They were definitely not contenders to help further the Salandit species.
“And Squad S,” she said, pausing to look at the sorry troops, “Check out the dojo for any spare equipment. I’m sure most of it is ruined, but surely even you can’t screw up finding something in the mess. Am I right, Seventy-Six?”
The few other members of the group, who were also as feeble-minded and discouraged, glanced sympathetically at the one member who was identifiable. Seventy-Six’s scar made him easy to distinguish and target any discipline or stress. The rest of the Salandit were only identifiable if they responded to their numbers/groups.
The Pokemon emitted a cowering whimper of fear. “Yessir--” he caught himself. “...Agh, ma’am. Yess’am?”
Seventy-Six swallowed at Salazzle’s unimpressed expression and quickly grabbed his bag to exit. The other group members reluctantly followed.
“I expect nothing from that group,” she said dully. Volcarona’s vision for an equal society, where every Pokemon is given the same opportunities and resources, will never change the fact that scum exists under society’s feet.
. . .
Seventy-Six had split up with the other three in his group; while he went inside the dojo, they patrolled around the perimeter, looked through a small storage building of supplies outside, and continued to damage the debris. The other Salandit always seemed to resent him. It was true, though. He knew it deep down: he was the root of all their problems. He never had the gall to take down an enemy or spray someone with his toxins. He didn’t want to, either.
The young lizard Pokemon tiptoed within the fire-engulfed remnants of the training dojo. He saw the crushed corpse of a Croagunk that was caught (and squashed) amid the caved-in ceiling. Seventy-Six, feeling guilty, assured himself that the debris killed Croagunk on impact and that it did not suffocate with its Dry Skin. The bodies of Tyrogue and Timburr lathered the dojo floor with drying blood stains. The Salandit shivered and moved past, looking for any sort of loot. Many of the would-steal items were already demolished; the punching bags and dummies that were every gym’s staple had already been engulfed in flames. Uniforms were covered in soot, their pristine condition now tarnished in ruin.
And then he spotted it: a long, undamaged white scroll that read “Kakutou” was still hanging on one of the still-standing sections of the wall. Seventy-Six had no idea what it meant, but it sure looked like a prize. The path to it, however, was cluttered with debris. He would have to do some labor to snatch the prize.
The Salandit turned over a loose piece of ceiling and flinched as the limp, pale arm of a Machop was revealed underneath. Seventy-Six froze and looked around the frenzy of fire that was now licking at objects within the building. It was getting dangerously close to the prized scroll. He started to move past, but he heard the muffled cries underneath--somehow, this Pokemon was still alive. The Fire/Poison type looked back and forth between the scroll and the struggling Pokemon and eventually squealed, his brain fizzling out.
Seventy-Six took one last look at the Kakutou scroll and slowly pried the rest of the debris off the Pokemon’s body. He checked for a pulse just to double-check, and sure enough the Pokemon was still alive. He sighed in relief before dragging the incapacitated Pokemon through to the backyard of the dojo. The other Salandit were still inspecting other locations, so Seventy-Six’s little side-quest would go unnoticed. When he was sure Machop was far enough away that someone would find and capture him before the fire did, the lizard Pokemon quickly snuck back into the dojo, smoke now billowing like a factory, and desperately searched for that scroll.
“Now, where was I?”
. . .
Prince Riolu, enraged at the destruction of his training haven, impulsively threw a powerful Sky Uppercut into where the aura had emanated from. There was no time for conversation, compromise, or a sanctified duel. In this moment, lives were at stake. The fist landed beneath a strange Salandit’s throat. The Fire/Poison-type Pokemon had a scar sprawled across his left eye like he were a seasoned veteran. It was surely behind much of the destruction of central Pugilis.
The punch landed squarely, knocking Salandit against a rock and causing it to choke and cough on its own spit. Riolu knew he had only a few instances before the fire engulfed the rest of the building. Smoke was making it difficult to breathe and his aura-sensing could be considered “weak” at best.
“W-wait! I’m not-” the Salandit pled, waving its hands in defeat.
The Fighting-type prince spent no time listening to his enemy’s excuses. He launched another Bullet Punch that blasted the Salandit outside the building debris. As the poor Pokemon flew through the air, it watched as the Kakutou scroll lit up in flames, now worthless. It sighed in defeat once more.
With the threat gone, Prince Riolu searched the floor for any survivors. “Hello? Is anyone alive? It’s your prince. I’ve come to rescue you,” he said loudly, frantically moving rocks and equipment.
Bodies of young children--children Riolu had personally instructed in recent years--were tossed about the floor; some were crushed by debris, others were twisted and gory in details Riolu tried his best not to picture. Blood was streaked across the leftover walls and floors. There were no survivors left. The prince went to the back of the dojo, where Mienshao’s office had been, but the Pokemon was nowhere to be found. Blood spatters covered his desk, but there was no corpse.
He turned around to exit and found the flames had caught up with him. Riolu had no choice but to bust through the remaining wall. A strong Bullet Punch sent remaining bricks flying, so Riolu jumped through and land in the smoky backyard. Chalk lines for arenas were now smeared and stained red. There were no Bug-types to be found, but they had clearly plowed through the area already.
Prince Riolu turned to find Stufful, but a small lump in the yard quickly drew his attention. It was a Machop--somehow one of the children had made it out of the dojo. The hopeful Emanation Pokemon ran over to check the Pokemon and was relieved to find a pulse. Riolu bent down and scooped the Pokemon onto his back. He leapt out of the smoke and ran around the dojo’s perimeter, back to the middle of the street, only to find a showdown already taking place at the dojo’s front door.
Stufful, bruised and bleeding, was taking on a Scolipede all by herself. The enemy Pokemon was a large, towering Bug-type with a deep red body and purple circular patterns all around. It and more were responsible for Steamrolling the buildings and Pokemon--the fact Stufful had taken one on by herself spoke volumes to the Fighting-type prince. In his current position, Riolu was to the left of both Stufful and the Scolipede.
“Ryuu, stand back!” she said, then eyed the Machop on his back. “Take that kid and get out of here.”
Prince Riolu’s face became twisted in indecision. “I can’t leave you in this condition.”
Stufful, still maintaining her distance with the Bug-type, turned toward Riolu with a smile. “Thanks, Your Highness, but I took an oath to your family. It’s kinda my job. I’ll handle the overgrown Weedle, you get out of here.”
It was true, though, that Stufful pledged her services to his family. Many Fighting-type Pokemon were fiercely loyal to and proud of their monarchy. There wasn’t a case of dissent in any of the subjects since the start of Pugilis’ golden age. Still, to leave his friend alone like this...
The Scolipede scoffed and replied in an angry, sophisticated voice. “I truly am tired of your needless oppression. Volcarona will steer us all on the right path.”
But Scyther is your lord, not Volcarona, Riolu thought to himself. Who are you working for?
“Ryuu! Get out of here!”
Before any other insults could come about, the Megapede Pokemon rolled into a ball and began rolling directly toward Stufful. Riolu was frozen in place, Machop still on his back. He could make a run for it and save Machop, or he could put the Pokemon down and save the more competent soldier.
The Scolipede rolled closer, Stufful stood proudly in place, and Riolu felt his stomach flip in distress. He couldn’t make the choice--it wasn’t fair to either Pokemon. What would his father do?
Before Scolipede reached Stufful, who had accepted her fate, Riolu noticed a small stone wedge launch from the ground in front of the Normal/Fighting teddy bear Pokemon. It wasn’t exactly a shield, per se, but rather a...ramp? Riolu felt a shadow come over him and glanced up--a purple figure had gone unnoticed until it was already in range of the prince’s attacks. Who was known to possess such speeds?
Mienshao landed on the ground on his left foot and kicked off further. The stone ramp grew larger and Stufful closed her eyes, bracing for impact. The Scolipede, unable to see the spectacle, rolled onward. It went over the stone ramp, launching itself high in the sky. As it uncoiled, realizing it never made impact, the Bug-type screeched before landing in and finally imploding the remains of the fiery dojo. The dying fire was rekindled, erupting in a larger roar. Stone walls and waves of fire crushed and drowned the Megapede Pokemon in its own allies’ destruction.
Mienshao walked back, Stufful already in hand. From behind, a blue karate specialist Pokemon removed the large stone that had protruded from the cobblestone. It was the Sawk that his sensei had mentioned earlier.
Both the prince and his guard were in awe at the spectacle. Mienshao dropped Stufful onto the ground and scanned the two Pokemon for wounds. The extraverted Pokemon smiled wide after seeing them still okay.
“Glad to see you two are still at it. I can’t believe this is happening. I had just left the dojo for my date when this happened. I received word from your father to find and escort you to safety, so let’s get going and we’ll catch up later.”
The sensei pushed Riolu and Stufful away from the castle’s direction and insisted they retreat. He saw the young Machop hanging weakly on Riolu’s back. “Is that Takeshi? From the dojo? Dear Keldeo, his parents in the Sumo District have been searching for him amid the destruction. Gimme.”
Machop moved from Riolu’s back to being cradled in the older Pokemon’s arms. All around them, more destruction occurred. Sawk brought up the rear of their party, throwing Stone Edge attacks like darts to knock Beedrill out of the air. A Primeape and his Mankey children were also seen throwing rocks and punches at bugs all around. Hawlucha were jumping from rooftop to rooftop of what buildings remained and tried to mitigate the aerial advantage.
“There’s a small task force of us here in the capital that are doing damage control. The king himself has been out fighting Bug-types around the central capital.”
Riolu frowned. “Do you know where he is?”
“He received a note from one of the enemies to meet Scyther back at his castle. He had no choice but to cooperate. I’m not sure if he’s going to take the kid out, but he needs to stop the destruction. He gave us permission to kill on sight.”
The party of Fighting-types instinctively look toward the central wall as a large beam of light into the sky. The rising moon’s lunar light quickly became as intense as during the day. The sky turned blue and clear of clouds. A Sunny Day attack had been called on the kingdom.
The artificial sun was then blocked out once more by a rejuvenated Volcarona. The buzzing grew more intense and the frenzy of Bug-types once again became feverish. A yellow cloud of dust appeared from below the mass of still-hovering Bug-types that surrounded Pugilis. Riolu wasn’t immediately sure what it was, but his main concern was his father.
“That looks like a Stun Spore cloud,” the Sawk said, his deep, intense voice breaking the awed silence.
Mienshao nodded. “This is not good. This could stop the entire resistance movement. Where are the Limber Pokemon at? The squad of Hitmonlee? Are they still in the countryside?”
“I’d imagine they’re--” Sawk started.
“I’m going to find my father, sensei. Thank you for saving us and taking Machop. Please find some cover for him.”
Both Stufful and Mienshao knew the statement was coming. Prince Ryuunosuke of Pugilis was the most by-the-book, predictable Pokemon in the kingdom. Without much disagreement, Mienshao bitterly nodded and wished them luck.
“Get to the castle as soon as you can to avoid paralysis, my prince. I’ll find somewhere safe for little Takeshi here. And don’t worry about me--this is actually a great bonding experience as a date. Wouldn’t you agree, Sawky?”
The blue Fighting-type Pokemon, rather quiet and focused, blushed slightly amid the destruction around him. “Yes.”
Riolu smiled awkwardly. “I’ll see you on the other side of this, sensei.”
Stufful (somewhat begrudgingly) followed the Pugilis Prince’s quick pace to the castle, the heart of the battle. They dodged dropped corpses and briefly fought nearby threats along the way, never fully stopping to engage. There wasn’t much time between Scyther’s outrage and Volcarona’s Stun Spore plan. They had to move quickly.
. . .
The prince and his guard finally made it to the steps of the castle. He looked up at the home and felt an invisible dagger slide through his heart. Blood stained the cream steps, which were cracked and broken along the staircase. Spires above, where lookouts and other servants lived, were already broken and crumbled on the ground. The main section, however, was mostly intact; King Pangoro must have restricted the damage as best he could.
While bugs were buzzing all above, it appeared that they were still focused on dispersing the Stun Spore and avoiding being hit by the blast. It would likely land in just under a minute max. They were lucky to make it to the castle steps in record time. Prince Riolu ran up the steps and Stufful quickly stepped in front of him to open the door--a weak attempt at consistency.
The door swung open and just inside, Prince Riolu met a Heracross servant face-to-face. The blue-shelled beetle remained in place, no signs of slackened posture or relief to see his prince. The bug wasn’t about to move.
“Hello, Heracross, nice to see you are safe,” Riolu said cautiously.
The lack of “prince” hit Riolu hard. Only his father had permission to call him by his full name without a dignifier, though Stufful sometimes got away with it. The disrespect Heracross showed in this time of need was evidently an establishment of power.
“I’m going to check on my father.”
“I’m afraid I’ve been ordered to not let you pass.”
“By my father? Your king?”
The Bug-type didn’t answer. Riolu stepped forward and watched it brace for impact.
“This is a matter to be settled by Lord Scyther and King Pangoro, Ryuunosuke. You have no authority.”
The prince felt a heat of embarrassment overcome him. How could one of the most dedicated servants dare to defy him--and simultaneously respect Scyther? Was this something only a Bug-type was capable of? No member of his kingdom dared (nor wanted to) defile his rule.
“I’m going to this meeting.”
“I won’t allow you.”
Prince Riolu lurched forward and instinctively ducked under the first hit of a Close Combat attack. The young Emanation Pokemon solidified his fist into a hard metal and sprang a Bullet Punch against Heracross’ chest. The Pokemon was knocked back, but its defenses were sturdy.
Stufful, still tired from her battle with Scolipede, lunged for a Take Down but was swatted away by Heracross’ Brick Break. The slam knocked her back, sending the Normal/Fighting-type spiraling across the floor until she hit a pillar nearby. A small trail of faded red blood streaked behind her as previous wounds opened up anew.
The prince launched a strong Sky Uppercut into Heracross, sending the Pokemon into the air, but its blue horn emitted a white light and landed a Megahorn attack that brought Riolu to the ground as well. The servant paced between the two Fighting-types and sighed.
“I’m sorry, Prince, but the discrimination and toxic economy of this kingdom has brought it to its downfall. Chrysalia will take this mistreatment no more.”
“Heracross,” Riolu said, getting up from the floor. “You are not of Chrysalia...You’re a citizen of Pugilis. You belong here.”
His opponent swallowed hard. “I appreciate the kind words, but I cannot pretend I am not a servant here because of my typing. These are my people, too.”
Prince Riolu felt the direction this conversation was going. The servant felt mistreated and would run to Scyther and Volcarona without understanding the consequences of his betrayal...and of trusting the enemy. There was no turning back.
“I’m going to finish you off, but I will leave you alive, prince, so you can experience the same undignified lifestyle that I have. You will still serve the monarchy you cherish, but under a more fair management.”
Heracross jumped forward, his horn glowing blue in the attack. Riolu immediately recognized it as an Aerial Ace; those in the kingdom with access automatically had an advantage in the arena. He braced for the impact, moving his arms in front of him, and winced at the damage Heracross’ horn had slung. His hands bled from the attack and his health slipped lower and lower. In a desperate attempt, Riolu moved one of his hands, causing the Aerial Ace to push through to his chest, and punched a Counter attack down on Heracross’ head before the attack would pierce any further. The Bug-type servant smacked to the ground, crushing the tiled floors. Riolu fell back, weak, and landed hard on his butt. Stufful was still in the corner struggling to get out of the puddle of her own blood.
Riolu jumped back to his feet and walked across the castle’s main room’s floors. All the artwork and sculptures of famous Fighting-type generals and kings had been smashed and sliced, no doubt from Aerial Ace attacks. The prince’s own bust, which had been recently placed following his streak at the arena, was reduced to dust.
Before he could get to Stufful, though, another figure entered the doorway. Riolu froze. Mienshao could have come as backup, or maybe one of the others for further orders. It could have been another Bug-type follower looking for a match.
But it wasn’t. The figure was none other than Volcarona herself.
“Hello, Prince Riolu. I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get to properly meet. You’ve grown since the funeral,” she said with ease.
Riolu felt tears coming to his eyes, but he quickly pushed them back. Fighting-types don’t cry. Fighting-types go out with clenched fists. The rage he felt for this one Pokemon--the source of Scyther’s hateful vengeance, Heracross’ betrayal, and the looting and destruction in Pugilis--was monumental.
“If you’re looking for a fight, I’ll gladly give you one,” he said. “I’m not letting you make it to my father.” He put his fists up, though his body was scarred and bloody all over. One of his eyes had somehow started swelling shut.
Volcarona glided in the air and entered the room. “Oh, my dear, I’m not here for your father quite yet. I’ve entrusted Scyther to stall him for now. I’m here to tie up some loose ends.”
The air was still. Riolu felt his heartbeat in his throat. He felt like screaming and vomiting and crying all at the same time. The rage that filled his heart replaced any hint of innocence that he had. He looked up the staircase that stood in the middle of the main hallway. Just a flight of stairs is all that separated him from the conversation between world leaders. He was so close.
“I understand you’re quite the battler, and that Counter attack would be a cheap way to stop an upcoming world leader.”
“What do you want?” he spat.
She paused. “What do I want? I want every Pokemon to have the same opportunities. Your kingdom is a great inhibitor for all of western Ransei, my Prince.”
“And why aren’t you taking over your own kingdom right now?”
“Overthrowing Ignis means little to the east...right now. Successfully ending discrimination of Bug-types, fueling the economy with your surpluses, and ending years of brutal economic inequality in the region means Pugilis is the best political target to further my message beyond just localized ‘revolution.’ Afterward, my takeover of Ignis will no longer look like fringe reform. It’s the dawn of a new age, Prince Riolu. The rise of the Morning Sun Party. Chrysalia will be living proof of the effectiveness of wealth redistribution.”
Riolu remained speechless.
“Unfortunately for you, my next step is removing the rest of your family from the equation. It’s nothing personal.”
“Why don’t you come try, then?” he said.
The prince pushed his feet off the ground in an attempt to then land and jump from the pillars into an aerial attack. Volcarona’s long-range special attacks would struggle to keep up with close physical strategies.
“With the Sunny Day up, there’s no chance for your silly tactics. I am so sorry you had to grow up in this hostile environment. Goodbye, Prince Riolu.”
He lunged toward Volcarona, who hadn’t made a single move. His fist grew heavier in its steel form and he planned to land a solid punch on her, even if he couldn’t defeat her.
Volcarona simply closed her eyes, breathed in deeply through her mouth, and unleashed a Fire Blast that sent the entire ground floor to pieces. The fire swallowed up Riolu, the damaged Stufful, the unconscious Heracross, and blew the windows and wall completely out one side of the castle.
Riolu watched the blinding sea of orange surround him and lick at his skin with its sinful intent. The move stopped any momentum he had built up. His fist burned first, sending a wave of pain up his arm, and he was forced to stop the Bullet Punch from singing his hand off.
In all of the orange pain, he lost any sight of Volcarona, Stufful, the staircase. His father. His aura. The chance he needed to solve the conflict. The trace of self-respect, pride, and happiness. Prince Riolu, at this point in his life, had lost everything dear to his privileged little heart.
The fire sent his body flying out of the castle’s destroyed wall. He was blasted with the debris and fell several feet in the air on the downward slopes of the hills. He limply tumbled in the pieces of rock that scattered the roads. The Emanation Pokemon felt his vision disappear as he went from seeing orange fire and grey stone, to the yellow Stun Spore cloud that had been dropped from above, to eventual black. He couldn’t move his body, he couldn’t check for his safety, he couldn’t glance for Stufful or Mienshao or his father. It was all over. Pugilis lost, Riolu lost.
Prince Riolu’s eyes rolled in the back of his head as he laid in the rubble of his own castle. All around him, the onslaught of violence and destruction continued without a moment of silence.
. . .
“I ----- one! I think ---- him!”
“---- - Riolu! How many ----- are -- Pugilis?”
“-- -- okay?”
“Put --- on ----- ---- the ------!”
Unaware of the time, place, and people around him, Riolu’s consciousness slipped in and out. His vision remained blurred and mostly black. He felt like was floating inside himself. Helpless, he couldn’t resist whoever was lifting his body.
“Prince Riolu?” someone said.
“Dad,” he struggled a whisper.
He couldn’t comprehend or recognize the voice. His mind was elsewhere.
“Don’t worry, we’re gonna get you out of here. Put him in the cart.”
Chapter 3: Normal
The large wooden crate slammed to the floor, popping open the lid and revealing another full inventory of ripe berries. A few blue fruits escaped from the box and rolled across the fresh green landscape. One of them may have gotten bruised, but that was okay; for once, there was plenty to go around in Chrysalia.
“Pinsir, please take these Oran berries to the central huts by the wagons. We’ll have the Whirlipede help roll them out to everyone once the sun rises. I think this was the last main shipment from Pugilis, but I’ll have Ledian to check with Volcarona on our share,” an exhausted, satisfied young Scyther said with care. He was extremely dehydrated from the long day of labor. “Thank you, my friend, for helping with the heavy loads this week.”
“Of course, my lord. A pleasure,” the brown Bug-type said with a grunt. He placed the crate on his back and slowly trudged toward a large cluster of wagons that had settled away from the unloading zone.
King Scyther stretched out his scythes and back in an extended yawn. He glanced around and admired the Bug-types hard at work. Durant were building new tunnels for supplies to run through the kingdom. Butterfly Pokemon were carrying light loads and offering immediate rations to the impoverished families that lived along Leaky Creek. The many bees dispersed necessities among The Hive, a run-down, large beehive village located far south of the capital.
“The kingdom is already looking healthier, Your Highness,” a voice came from behind.
“Yes, Heracross, and it is all thanks to your species’ cooperation. Without your detailed mapping and intellect, we would still be searching for rations and luxuries. I greatly appreciate your contributions. They will not go unnoticed,” he smiled and noticed the sun setting over Chrysalia’s purple border walls. “As will those who gave their lives or health for our cause. Please, go back to your family for the evening. We can continue work tomorrow.”
Scyther put a scythed arm over Heracross’s shoulder, as if knighting him, and then he left the unloading scene. He took off from the ground, leaping from the short-cut grass, and buzzed over the kingdom. The royal purple rooftops were still faded and crumbled, but with their new supplies and allies it would be fixed in due time. The walls, likewise, were in ruin. The grand Hive monument in the southeast was outdated and unsafe for the current residents. Even the spider nests lacked innovation. In this moment, any attack would result in devastation. Volcarona hadn’t made any moves, though. She seemed an ally through and through.
The light breeze drifted leaves and petals through the air. Small lantern lights were scattered within the hexagonal honeycomb town. For once, though, the parents and children near those lights weren’t starving or dying like just three weeks prior. They were growing stronger, healthier. They were looking to the future rather than scavenging the present. This was the dawn of a new beginning for Chrysalia, a kingdom of new hope.
The ubiquitous buzz of town slowed to a lull. Scyther landed at the steps of the central capital’s castle, which was left by his father for his supervision. The castle of a proper, valid kingdom. Not a colony under privileged leadership.
“If only you could see Chrysalia now,” Scyther whispered, looking over his modest, damaged home. The castle would have lower priority than the town’s infrastructure, but it would be fixed. And Scyther, the rightful heir, leader of the Bugs, could finally enjoy sovereignty and peace.
“You would be so proud of me.”
. . .
A light, fluid humming came from the hallway; it was the pace of a sweet, plump Pokemon thumping into the floor. The doctor had a round body, the pink on its sides looking like a small vest on a cream figure. The ears were like umbrellas, and small curls of fur dangled below like jewelry. The Audino, twirling one of those curls, soon screamed in sheer terror upon finding her patient not only awake, but crawling on the floor. Her clipboard fell with a clatter, sending sheets of paper flying.
“G-g-guards!” she choked. “I need some help here! D-Ditto!”
She ran to her patient’s aid, but she herself couldn’t get him to comply and return to his bed. The prince was resisting. A young purple blob, a wave of living jello, came in and quickly changed into what Ryuu believed was a mirror image of himself, though he figured whatever drugs were in his system could have caused some hallucination anyway. The prince scrunched his eyes and felt his head swim.
The Riolu copy came running and pulled the weak prince over its shoulder. Ryuu was put back in bed, despite his greatest efforts to escape, and he eventually laid still--though he was far from compliant.
“ Where’s my dad? Where’s my dad?” Riolu moaned, then tensed up once more. “This isn’t my kingdom. Take me to my kingdom!” His body was shaking on the bed.
The Ditto’d Riolu and Audino looked at one another uneasily. Audino hastily ran to make a call or two and notify management of Riolu’s awakening. She was relieved to temporarily drop her obligation to the patient.
Ditto transformed back into its blobby shape and sat on Riolu’s lap on the bed. “Please, young prince, calm down. We are sending word to the king immediately. You will be briefed of the situation as soon as possible. Until then, all you can do is calm,” it paused, exhaled heavily, and maintained eye contact, “down.”
Much to the Ditto’s surprise, Prince Ryuunosuke did not push further. Instead, tears welled up in his eyes until he blinked them away. “What king are you speaking of? My father? I need to know what happened to my kingdom. To my people. Why am I in--where is this?” he asked, losing focus. Riolu pushed the Ditto onto the floor and looked out the nearby window. The prince realized he was very, very far from home.
“Where the hell am I?”
Beyond the glass window, a rinky-dink kingdom of blandness desecrated Riolu’s vision of luxury and splendor. Plain one-story houses littered outside the landscape, and the prince noticed the bleak black-roofed white building theme throughout. The town square had rather modest side shops and peasant villagers walking about casually. The glamour of the Pugilis capital was gone. The impressive colosseum, the beautiful reds and golds of the rooftops, the prideful nobles and talented children--all gone. This kingdom, the domain of Normal, was all too obviously Aurora--a kingdom on the other side of Ignis. How’s he going to make it back?
. . .
King Oranguru pushed the door nearly shut, though a crack of darkness remained visible between the door and its frame. Its squeaking hushed and it settled in place.
“Prince Ryuunosuke,” a deep, raspy voice came from the king’s mouth. “I had heard you’d awakened. I’m glad to see you are well.”
Riolu took the cue and slightly bowed to show respect. “Hello, King Oranguru. I thank you and your staff for the hospitality, but I’m not sure about doing well--”
“You can thank my nurse, Claudia, for her work. She was actually among the rescue group I had staked outside your kingdom.”
Oranguru sounded pleased with his choice, but Riolu couldn’t wrap his head around anything that happened. Why did some Normal-type heal him instead of the hospital at Pugilis?
“I’m not following, your Highness… You were--you were spying on us?”
Ditto gave an uncomfortable glance at Oranguru for the accusation, but the king put a hand up to wave it off.
“Your father and I have been friends for many generations, young prince. He could feel the bloodlust radiate off Simon’s child and felt it a threat, I suppose. He was afraid a calamity may strike the kingdom and asked for my assistance.”
Riolu frowned. “My father would squash any sort of rebellion or threat if he were to sense any sort of sentiment arising. He was talking with Lord Scizor and even Scyther concerning Volcarona’s rise in just the past few weeks.”
“King Pangoro honored Scizor’s wishes to keep his son in power. While he had offered counsel, I’m afraid the Heracross that were assigned to Scyther had similar resentment for your father. They wanted to dethrone him. Pangoro slowly became aware of the shift and tried to keep the Heracross closer to him, but the typism that runs, well, ran rampant in your kingdom jaded any attempts he made prior to the battle.”
“So what happened? How did I get here, and where is he now?”
King Oranguru sighed deeply, scratched at his side, and gestured for Ditto to take over. The dismissal threw Riolu off guard; how could someone so involved in politics not care to discuss them at great detail?
“My lord assigned a team to scout the area and wait,” Ditto started. “I led the group--we had a Tauros for transport, Noctowl for night and aerial watch, Smeargle for status moves, and your nurse Claudia was the one who healed you on our ride back. We searched for survivors in the wreckage and only found a few--we started shortly after the violence stopped, but by then Volcarona must have taken many captive. You were in a pile of castle ruins flung far to the west. We weren’t sure you would make it, but you held on the whole time. We were truly grateful to save the prince, if nothing else.”
“‘If nothing else’ meaning what? How many of my people are being held prisoner?”
Riolu felt like he was running a fever. He was becoming numb to all emotion, he had to be; it’s like skipping to the end of a novel. He can get the adventure later--where is his father?
“We’re not sure. It’s been three weeks and--”
“Three weeks? I’ve been unconscious for three whole weeks?”
“And as for your father--” Ditto stopped, stared hard into the ground, and gulped. “We found some bloody fur that looked like a match. None of us were strong enough to remove the debris, but it was definitely a Pangoro under there. I’m sorry. We’re just glad we could save one legacy of Pugilis, which had really helped our--”
Riolu’s blue face burned red, his eyes stinging with tears of shame. “I don’t fucking care how glad you are, or how sad you are. You took me away from my kingdom and sabotaged any chance we had at victory.”
Ditto’s face, already expressionless by default, remained deeply so.
“Your father gave us clear instruction. He told me you were the priority if--”
“You don’t get to tell me what my father’s priorities were. How many others were saved?”
“We brought on a few more that were injured, but their wounds were nearly as bad. One died during the route back home. We had to go through the forest to avoid Ignis, and the other Pokemon gradually died along the way...We had to decide where to put our resources, and we followed your father’s words.”
“And I have to live with that my entire life.”
The room was silent. The large orangutan king bit his lip and hung, heavy and limp, at the doorway. The small Ditto agent had no words to retort or explain. Their defense, honoring a beloved king’s words, which they still believed was right, somehow felt weak in the presence of this child prince.
“I’m going to ask you to stay here for the time being,” Oranguru finally muttered. “I can’t risk the PR or rumors right now, and you’ve got a giant bounty on your head by Volcarona herself. Since your corpse wasn’t found, they will not be taking any chances.”
“I’m sorry, your Highness, but are you asking me to remain captive in this hospital? I should be given a fleet, or a militia, or something, so I can charge in and save my people,” Riolu spat disrespectfully.
The door suddenly squeaked open a little before swaying back in place. Oranguru side-eyed the intrusion and looked over to Ditto, who seemed sympathetic to Riolu’s worry. “I understand and commend your dedication to the crown. However, I’m not risking any of my citizens for your kingdom’s shortcomings. I guess I cannot hold you here in your room against your will,” he said, “but I am telling you: do not try to leave this town. I want Volcarona to find this out as late as possible. And Ditto will keep an eye on you, for both your sake and others’.”
Upon seeing Riolu’s scowl, he added: “If you won’t honor a nation’s king, at least honor its people.”
Flustered, the young prince felt betrayed by his own mantra. “I understand,” he said. “I will stay within the main kingdom for the time being.”
Oranguru’s eyes narrowed as he stroked his beard. “Very well. I have a council meeting very shortly, so I will ask you to excuse me for now. I will return tonight to ask and answer further questions.”
With that, the intelligent Pokemon swung the door open and exited in modest haste. Ditto and Riolu remained in place for several seconds before Ditto turned to the heated prince.
“Wanna go get ice cream?”
Though he had so many questions, concerns, and cries floating around in his head, eating at his conscience and burning in his stomach, Ryuu nodded. “Okay.”
. . .
“What’s happened with Scyther?” he asked, voice cracking after a long walk of silence with his savior. “Is Chrysalia established now?”
Ditto’s body, which rolled fluidly in the dirt, shivered as it took too large a bite of Vanillite-brand vanilla ice cream. It threw its slime “arms” up in distress and accidentally dropped the ice cream that topped his cone. The vanilla landed with a plomp! on the dirt, adding a light brown layer to the white dessert. Ditto stared at its mess, started to descend and eat the ice cream, but stopped itself at the catch of Riolu’s glare.
“I won’t eat it,” he said, ashamed, and they kept walking. He chomped the cone in a two-bite combo and burped a few brown crumbs everywhere. Riolu’s face was slightly disapproving, but he wasn’t bound to impose or step out of line.
“Scyther has worked diplomacy into his colony and they have announced legitimacy. All of the kingdoms except those up north have recognized it as a nation in fear of domestic protests...or Volcarona herself, I guess,” Ditto said. “As for Pugilis, we aren’t sure what’s happening yet. There are laborers there now that clear debris and rebuild, but we believe they are turning it into a colony or camp of sorts.”
Riolu nodded. He wasn’t sure what to say, but he felt embarrassed to have fallen from grace so quickly. He was at the top of the world, the pinnacle of success and pride. Now he doesn’t even have a citizenship? Could he call himself a prince?
“And Stufful? Is my friend still alive?”
Ditto shook its head. “I don’t really know the specifics on individual citizens, we just searched the ruins quickly and ran before detection. The Butterfree with Compound Eyes were a major threat.”
The prince bit his lip in worry for the pink teddy bear Pokemon. She had sacrificed everything to help him, and even if she’d be happy he was alive, he couldn’t bear the pain of knowing she’s gone. Perhaps not knowing was for the best.
The two Pokemon walked into Town Square, a warm assortment of local shops and restaurants strewn alongside the path. The bustle of every locale rang true Aurora’s statistic as the second-largest nation in Ransei; the many species and lineages of Normal-types proved the massive kingdom, while modest and watered-down to accommodate such population levels, an important economic and social catalyst in southwestern Ransei. Bird Pokemon flew above and occupied the rooftops in the more urbanized area. Child Teddiursa and Happiny ran in the streets, falling and giggling all the same.
Interestingly, Pokemon of other types were present as well. A Monferno and his Aipom child ate cotton candy and laughed at the stickiness on their fingers. A Maractus stood in the middle of the path while shaking her maracas and dancing for tips. Riolu had never seen such integration in Pugilis; tourists frequently visited and stayed for extended vacations, and a few Smeargle were given visas to write for the king, but no one else ever settled in the kingdom. It was meant for Fighting-types.
“Why are there non-Normal-types in your kingdom? When my father brought me here years ago, there weren’t nearly as many.”
Ditto smiled. “We accept everyone here, and since Aurora doesn’t have much of a culture or speciality of its own, we meld everything together to form our own niche. You’ll find many Pokemon from neighboring kingdoms and even a few from those in the east. We try to focus on our nation’s diversity to amend the scandals of past. Twelve percent of Aurora citizens aren’t Normal-type, and that’s the largest in the world.”
Prince Ryuu was very aware of the scandals that frequently occured in Aurora; with a kingdom so big, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone all the time. King Oranguru’s approval rating was much lower than Riolu’s father’s had been due to budget cuts and priorities to accommodate the rising lower class. A housing crisis from long ago nearly led to the king’s forced removal. Still, this was a feat not even Pugilis had managed.
A Pidgey flew into a small shack nearby before another took flight and exited the same window. The second bird had a small pouch around its neck; Riolu immediately recognized it as the Pidgey Delivery Service. The Pokemon--as well as a few Pidove, due to expansions--were paid to deliver news and small items to great distances.
“The PDS headquarters is here,” Ditto said after setting its gaze to match the prince’s. “We tried establishing a branch in Pugilis but your father liked the newspaper service better; it gave Passimian a delivery niche.”
Riolu nodded. He never experienced such delivery, as Heracross always briefed him on global politics, but the Passimian were Pugilis-specific. Perhaps a PDS system would have benefited the kingdom greater.
“Oh-ho, there you are, Jesse! Can I cash in that favor?” a wide-eyed Vigoroth asked from behind.
Ditto, still facing Riolu, frowned before flipping into a smile and turning to its friend. “Vigo, how’s life treating you? I’m kind of tied up right now, but la--”
“Listen, your cousin’s busy doing a party right now and Taylor’s on a “house call,” if you know what I mean. I need a Gogoat rep to convince these buyers my milk isn’t from a regular Miltank. Transform for me real quick? You’re the only one that’s free right now.”
Vigoroth’s red lick of fur on his forehead quivered nervously. His long, muscular white arms dangled nervously at his sides and his pupils darted from side to side without pause. “Pretty please? You owe me!”
Ditto rolled its eyes. “Really? Ugh--fine, okay.” It looked back at Riolu. “I’ll be right back, don’t get into trouble. I really don’t want another lecture from Seymour about orders.”
Riolu watched the purple blob glow white and extend into a large brown torso with a leafy mane down its back. It reared its curled horns back and stretched its hooved legs with a groan.
As the Ditto-turned-Gogoat followed the Vigoroth into a nearby dairy cafe, Riolu heard it whisper, “You really need to stop these bogus delicacies, Vigo. No one here can afford them anyway.”
And with that, Prince Riolu found himself in a sea of Normal-type Pokemon searching for food and gear in a maze of wooden shacks and small pop-up stores. He first stood in place obediently before realizing now was his time to move. He looked back at the “Gogoat” Pokemon before disappearing into the Pokemon current and getting swept further down the path.
. . .
First out came a young Ledian, nervous and stressed, as she soon adjusted the podium and tested the makeshift megaphone cone for voice projection. Not long after, several other Pokemon made an appearance--a muscular Heracross, which caused the Heracross species in the audience to squeal in joy, a serious, rigid Vespiquen, aged but intelligent, a Steel-type Escavalier with sharpened lances raised, a ninja Accelgor, shurikens at the ready, and finally an unnerving Shedinja that hovered lifelessly in place.
The lineup was interesting and promising, but the main event was King Scyther’s eventual arrival. The nobility finally walked out of his castle with a haste in step as he walked past the long line of fully-evolved Pokemon. Each one stood tensely at attention as he continued by. The king yelled for his members to be at ease, and the six (including Ledian) relaxed on stage. King Scyther looked out at the crowd--hundreds of Bug-type followers had cleared their schedules to attend his first address. He smiled at the cheering, which continued for an entire minute straight, and eventually brought up a sharp scythe to dull the noise.
“First, I would like to extend my thanks to all of you for making time for me in your busy day. Thanks to our recent victory, we have plenty of work to do,” he said, then instinctively paused as a roar of applause and excitement rang through the audience again. “I am very humbled and excited to represent the Chrysalian kingdom as its rightful monarch. We have suffered all forms of bigotry and typism in every kingdom of this cursed region. Arceus knows there is no room for discrimination in His kingdom.”
The easy lead-in to applause rolled through again with incredible results. The crowd, ranging from baby Weedle to overgrown Vikavolt, was amazingly diverse and equally pleased with King Scyther’s words.
“And before I begin introductions, I would like to recognize several key groups of people who have gotten us this far. First, the Chrysalian military, which consisted of over an astounding 30% of the population, we are indebted to your service. We lost many great people three weeks ago, people that I wish could still be here with us today, but their lives will not be forgotten as we continue to grow and expand our empire. It is because of them that we have this privilege.” He paused respectfully after noting the casualties, though King Scyther immediately glanced toward the back of the audience.
“I would also like to thank the Morning Sun Party for its global ambition to oust corrupt governments and monarchies from Ransei’s kingdoms. For too long has the wealth disparity caused by King Pangoro destroyed our economy. And thanks to your military force and strategy, we’re no longer tied to such toxic relationships.”
From the back, a fellow Bug-type Pokemon flew across the Chrysalian crowd to the platform and podium towering above. The confident moth Pokemon had a white body, radiant red wings, and a ferocity that made Scyther himself nervous. She observed the crowd, analyzing from left to right, and enjoyed the applause that rang through the air.
“Thank you, my fellow bugs. This has been a great victory for our type, and as a dual-type bug I am so relieved to have confirmed that change can happen. Pugilis stood too tall for too long, but now they are no more. King Maurice has been slain. However,” she stopped, side-eyed a quiet, slightly nervous King Scyther, and focused forward again. “Prince Ryuunosuke, though scorched by my Fire Blast in the Pugilis castle, was not found among the casualties. We have reason to believe he may still be alive.”
The Bug-type crowd of Pokemon was at first paralyzed by the words, by the Pugilis monarchy still being active, but then began to boo and shout expletives about the prince. Volcarona slightly smiled, though Scyther remained expressionless throughout.
“I’m very sure we all want rightful vengeance,” Volcarona shouted, and many screamed in agreement. “That is why,” she said, “we are going to hunt him down one more time.” After the audience reacted overwhelmingly positively, she became serious once again. “And before I exit the stage, which I thank King Scyther for allowing my being here tonight, I just want to remind everyone of the calamity happening down south in Ignis, where King Pyroar is still mismanaging the distribution of resources to the many suffering Fire-types within the kingdom. Not too different from Pangoro, in fact, but we are facing resistance without real compromise, and we cannot simply put the lives of many lower-class Fire-types at risk. Until we have found a solution, please keep our fellow Pokemon in your thoughts through these tough times. Thank you.”
With that, Volcarona glided off the stage and brushed past Scyther very slowly--almost provocatively--and the new king gulped from the display.
“And now, our king once more,” Ledian squeaked into the megaphone before flittering off in embarrassment.
“Thank you,” he said, “and thanks to Volcarona for her strong camaraderie. Now, I would like to introduce some new leaders that deserve praise and esteem. First, this Heracross is the same aide to King Pangoro, though by “aide” he was thoroughly treated as a slave due to his Bug typing. His loyalty--as well as that of the other Heracross from the kingdom--will be rewarded. He will be my own personal aide, though in a much more dignified, recognized manner. Vespiquen of the Hive will act as one of several generals along with Escavalier, where the two will work together in offensive and defensive measures as they see fit.
“And these two Pokemon here,” he continued, referencing Accelgor and Shedinja, but then paused.
We are going to hunt him down one more time, she had said. One more time.
He shook his head at the thought. “They will be actively assisting and managing the affairs of our kingdom with the Morning Suns. Both have strong espionage capabilities and will act as a “council” to Volcarona’s mission. Please, treat these individuals as you would royalty. I appreciate your attention today. May Chrysalia continue to thrive as a haven for Bug-types worldwide!” Scyther shouted to an ecstatic, hopeful crowd, though his slightly twisted face suggested a growing concern from within.
. . .
“Dog boy, buy this Choice Band and I’ll throw in a Pecha Scarf for free!” another said close by.
The voices were drowning Riolu’s thoughts as he wandered through the maze of markets. In the fervor of the business, no one seemed to recognize the prince as royalty or even as a Fighting-type in light of the destruction of his home. Did they even know? He wasn’t sure what he was searching for--an exit, maybe, but to what? Where would he go?
The aura Pokemon immediately sensed someone’s gaze resting on him for too long. He glanced around, though no one in the crowd seemed suspicious or alarming. Maybe it was a vendor, he thought, but his Inner Focus offered a clarity that rarely led to such paranoia.
“Get your Slowpoke tails here! Slowpoke tails!”
Prince Riolu pushed past the sweaty customers in the afternoon heat and continued deeper in Town Square. Soon enough, the tables of berries and adventure items were replaced with antiques and rarities. The sellers were shadowed by roofed sheds or umbrella stands; it felt very impersonal and risky. Random items ranged from Greenleaf furniture to metals from the distant Valora kingdom. Most of the items, Riolu knew, were knockoffs or stolen goods. Nevertheless, he was interested in what the vendors chose to sell.
He kept observing, smirking, and judging silently until he heard a chilling statement from a smooth, cunning male voice in the distance.
“Artifacts from Pugilis! Get your rare keepsakes of the former greatest nation!”
His heart panged and leapt into his throat to see the claim for itself. He wasn’t sure about any “artifact,” but if something survived the raids and thievery, he had to have it. It was his culture, and it shouldn’t be sold on the streets.
Prince Riolu whipped his head to the source and walked to the display. The table itself was rickety and needed support to stand straight, while the faded red cloth that covered it was filled with holes and stretched strings of fabric. Riolu looked through the items: a scribbled Kakutou Scroll that had the name misspelled, a boxing glove with a forged Hitmonchan signature (Riolu had several in his personal collection), and a painting of his father with “King Riyou” written across the top. They were…
They were fake. Even in the shady markets, nothing remained of his kingdom. The prince bit his lip, not sure whether to feel upset the items were being sold for profit or because they weren’t even real.
“Ah, I see you’re looking at the Fighting scroll. They, uhh, they say in Pugilis the code stands to fight…fight everyone to triumph and reign supreme...or something, yeah,” the vendor said unsurely.
Riolu looked up to see who would stoop so low, who had such disrespect, to sell phony products about a modern-day tragedy. The Pokemon was a young Buizel, probably around his age, with sleek orange fur and a slicked-back haircut. A yellow flotation sac circled around his neck and blue fins along his arms. A split, cream-tipped tail wagged from the back. The Buizel had a large, open smile shining for his customer to drop some change. The prince noticed an air of confidence, perhaps arrogance, from the Pokemon, and he could feel their personalities already clashing. This was his antithesis; a confidence with no source, a sense of irresponsibility and lack of care.
“Actually,” Ryuunosuke said calmly, “that scroll is supposed to mark the Kakutou Code, a discipline that limits us to only physical attacks in face of combat, which we do not actively look for.”
Buizel’s face, a full-on smile seconds prior, twisted into a slight frown. “I see...You’re, uh,” he said, glancing Riolu up and down several times, “You’re...a resident of the kingdom, then?”
The prince raised an eyebrow.
The vendor hiccuped. “Hey, uh, Gerald, make note of that next time, yeah?” he called deep into his tent. Riolu squinted to see a Smeargle painting letters across a scroll canvas. “You said you don’t look for a fight?” he asked with another look at Riolu’s muscles.
Sensing the gaze, Riolu flexed his arms lightly, showing now-modest muscles through his short fur, and narrowed his eyes. Though his figure had slimmed due to the weeks while comatose, he still had enough mass to appear threatening to someone so slim and slimy.
“Depends on whether you’re going to continue shitting on my kingdom,” he said coolly.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s yours anymore, kiddo,” the Buizel joked, sucking air in through his teeth.
Prince Ryuunosuke of Pugilis was never one to actively search for a fight; only in contest or threat would he willingly engage combat. That day, however, he felt like picking a fight after all.
In no time, Riolu readied his fist and launched an anger-driven Sky Uppercut straight to Buizel’s chin. He was ready to see the Pokemon spurt blood across the dirty, grassless Town Square. He wanted an audience to understand the consequences of further defiling his kingdom, to fear smudging the Pugilis name into the ground.
Instead, his attack missed. The prince opened his eyes to see the youthful Buizel in the air instead. The otter grabbed onto Riolu’s arm and swung off to land in the crowd. Riolu looked around among the customers to find the sham salesman, but there was no sign.
“Cute punch,” a voice whispered in his ear. Riolu’s fur stood on end.
Riolu turned around to the voice and felt his shrill tail get squeezed, again from behind. A yelp of surprise accidentally slipped between his lips and he felt his cheeks grow red.
“Was that a squeal? Did you just squeal right now?” the otter smiled playfully.
His face burned and he threw another punch Buizel’s way, though the foe merely shifted his head to dodge the attack.
“Kind of repetitive, don’t you think?” he said, tilting his head to the side. “Are we doing this right here?”
The prince threw a fist near Buizel’s head and then slammed a left hook Bullet Punch across his cheek. The otter fell to the ground and Riolu went in for another attack, but he was too slow.
“Decent power behind that one,” Buizel muttered, rubbing his sore cheek. “No fair.” He stared Riolu down a second more before shooting a stream of water into the prince’s face. He giggled and ran off from the now-spectating audience. Riolu, dripping wet, lost sight of the Pokemon in the crowd. He sighed and closed his eyes. In his mind, the Emanation Pokemon traced a weak aura signature and jumped in its direction. Though his training was still inadequate, he concentrated enough to eventually catch up.
The two Pokemon took turns attacking one another, running into stray tables, and eventually made it out of Town Square along the dirt path to the east. Both were exhausted and drenched in sweat and water. Riolu, however, showed no signs of letting up.
He sent a Low Kick Buizel’s way, but the Pokemon jumped up last minute to dodge the sweeping move.
“Aren’t you tired yet?” Buizel wheezed.
“Not until I’ve stopped you,” the prince said with a choke.
The two Pokemon finally collapsed by a sign post that directed travelers to the northern Ignis exit of town. Another direction pointed southeast to Fontaine, the Water-type kingdom. To the far west was the Grass-type Greenleaf nation. The two were far too tired, though, to bother.
“Why are you so offended again? Got cousins there?” he asked between heavy breaths.
Riolu wiped a wave of sweat from his damp forehead. “I’m the Prince of Pugilis. I was there when it fell,” he said quietly.
The Buizel immediately felt awkward as he pieced together the context. “I see...So you were upset I was selling fake memories to you, yeah? I get that,” he stopped, then shrugged. “But it’s not my problem. I need the cash, you see.” He stared at Riolu’s saddened expression.
The prince rolled his eyes and refused to look the Pokemon’s way. “You really are the bottom of society,” he muttered in disgust.
“That makes two of us,” the Buizel smiled, eyebrow raised. He leaned into Riolu’s face with a sly grin. “Welcome to the bottom of society.”
. . .
“Hey,” he started as he thought.
“Um, hi,” Buizel said weakly.
“Take me to Ignis and I will forgive your insolent behavior.”
The otter Pokemon blinked. “Say what? Why would I do that? I can literally run away right n-”
Riolu, in a sudden burst of energy, threw himself overtop of Buizel and pinned the slippery Pokemon to the ground. Though his figure had weakened since three weeks ago, his muscle mass easily trumped Buizel’s thin limbs. While the otter gulped after being overpowered, the prince looked him deep in his ocean blue eyes and maintained a constant glare.
“I can’t stay here,” he said adamantly. “Take me to Ignis and I won’t get the police on your fraudulent ass.”
Buizel’s light blush sharpened into seriousness. “Fine, let’s go, Your Highness.”
The two struggled to stand and leaned against the sign before starting in the direction to the fire kingdom. Neither said anything until Buizel coughed: “You only caught me because I’ve been in the heat all day.”
Riolu smirked to himself, but he was humiliated for being attacked in a public space. Yes, he had been in a coma for weeks, but he was the prince of the kingdom of combat. Some rat thief wasn’t going to make a fool of him. Regardless, he was too tired to argue victory.
They eventually made it to a small wooden gate at the outskirts of the kingdom. Through it would lead a winding path toward Ignis, which the prince knew was a rigorous path: the Oblivion River was one of the four rivers that led to Ignis, which itself was situated on a surrounding lake. Each river was infamous for varying effects that emanated from the water. No one knew the source of the supernatural, but it plagued folktales and even textbooks. For the Oblivion River, travelers would experience forgetfulness and complacency. Some even reported their abilities temporarily changing to Oblivious, but survivors cannot always remember the details.
“I’m not going down that river, Puppy Prince. You can deal with that on your own,” Buizel shrugged after reading the map.
“I don’t need you to accompany me any further than the dock,” Riolu said dryly. “Now let’s get going.”
Before the two Pokemon could take another step, however, a large shift in wind brought both to cover their faces. Riolu felt a large bird Pokemon’s wings flap against the wind and he stepped back just in time to dodge an eagle landing on the Ignis road sign. Riolu and Buizel fell to their butts on the cool ground and watched in awe as a Braviary ruffled its red and blue feathers and squawked into the air.
“Prince Ryuunosuke of Pugilis, I presume?” he asked in a deep voice.
Riolu felt Buizel’s gaze as he gulped in the presence of such a marvelous Pokemon. “Yes, is there something wrong?”
“The King is very upset in your behavior today. I’m afraid I’m going to have to detain you for the night until he has time to talk with you.”
Riolu felt the sting of shame as he realized he left Ditto back at the marketplace. He was willing to leave without a second thought. He was in no position to fight back, though, so he was stumped.
“And as for you,” the war eagle said with a gesture to Buizel, “I believe you’re wanted for theft, no? I saw your poster near the Kitty Village up north. The Delcatty you stole from is pressing charges and you may be facing serious jail time.”
The prince looked to Buizel with suspicion and the Sea Weasel Pokemon shrugged again with a goofy smile. Both Pokemon reluctantly hopped onto the Braviary’s back and rode into town once more, their attempted journey halted by politics once again.
. . .
The few that were there now posed no threat; they were drained physically and mentally. No confidence existed among the imprisoned--well, perhaps there was a single exception.
The main entryway that connected the underground prison to the castle above suddenly swung itself open and, almost as quickly, was forcefully closed. The air inside was thick, and the stench of unwashed bodies grasped and grappled for release. Faint light came only from weak torches on the other side of the cell row. Dust flew freely and hugged the lungs of everyone inside.
From the dark doorway came King Scyther, fresh off his debut announcement of council and leadership. He had maintained excellent composure through the speech, though Volcarona’s contribution did bring an undeniable concern. A lump formed in the king’s throat at the complexity he had placed himself in. He snapped out of his trance of reflection and walked past several jail cells to view the royalty he had managed to salvage.
Along his walk, he passed several other cells of prisoners of war. A Mienshao laid weakly in a pile of straw. A Hawlucha occupied a room nearby. The defensive Conkeldurr that had started it all was shackled and anchored to his bedpost with no free range movement. This would all be temporary until their relocation was ascertained; however, Scyther moved once more to reach the end of the cell block.
“Hello, Maurice,” he said calmly.
The light from the nearest torch dimly lit the swollen, scarred face of King Pangoro. He had a very large scar across his chest from the slash of a scythe, and his body was bruised and bloodied all around, but he was ultimately healthy. The middle-aged panda refused to speak, however, and he refrained from eye contact.
“I trust Ledian brought your dinner as instructed,” the Bug king said, then continued: “and I will take your silence as a ‘yes.’ It’s been three weeks, Maurice, and you haven’t said a word. I know I did not cut your vocal cords.”
No response. Pangoro refused to even grunt or clear his throat at the remark. He remained as rigid and still as before.
“Listen, Maurice, I am concerned about the power dynamics in my relationship with Volcarona. I don’t like this anymore than you do, but it looks like I’m requesting your counsel.”
The words flickered a glimmer of hope in the fallen king’s eyes. Movement occurred in all of the neighboring cells, though no one dared speak or interrupt the conversation. Nevertheless, the silent energy that danced in the prison was undeniable.
“And why,” King Pangoro finally muttered after weeks of silence, “should I do anything to help you?”
Lord Scyther stood from his crouching position in a snap. He paced the walkway outside the cells and brought a scythe forward to make a point, but he caught himself as he reminded himself of the real pawn in his plan.
“Because Ryuunosuke is still alive, and Volcarona wants to kill him.”
The thick air became fragile once more--the stirring froze, the energy ceased. A shiver ran down the king’s worn spine at hearing the words. Ryuunosuke is alive. He knew there was a chance to come out of this with his life, his son, and maybe even his kingdom, but he had to play his cards right. He had to play the game. King Pangoro kept his eyes jaded, his breathing steady, and finally looked King Scyther in his beady eyes.
“What are you requesting,” he started, and then reluctantly added one more manipulative little addition: “Your Highness?”