Beginner Run: After, Sandy Beach
#1
1.

The outer edge of the Sandy Beach is pretty scenic; if it weren't a protected section of the Park, designated to the preservation of wild Pokemon and their habitats, it'd be a huge tourist trap. Most of the time, the place is gorgeous, with sunlight warming the sand and sweet ocean breezes cooling the beachgoers, while the waves lap, soothing and gentle, against the sands.

That is emphatically not the case today.

"This is nuts," Margo mutters as the wind practically blows her into the beach's outpost. Undertow, her faithful Swampert, looms behind her, his bulk providing a bit of shelter. There's no sunlight today; the clouds have covered the sky, turning it pale gray, and the waves are everything but gentle. Margo looks out the window and watches the roiling tides warily. The ocean won't reach the outpost, but it's gonna give Margo and the Trainer she'll be running with an interesting day.

Fortunately, things haven't quite broken into a full storm yet. There's no rain, and it doesn't look like there will be any for a while. It's still feasible for Margo to take her beginner on a quick tour of the beach, it'll just be cold. The fauna will be different, too - squalls will chase beachdwellers like Wingull right off, and the heavy current will drive a lot of shallow-dwellers either to the shore or the depths.

Undertow picks up one of the folding chairs and moves it aside to settle across from Margo, sitting on the ground instead of a chair that could never dare to hold his weight. Ignoring the way the old card table rattles beneath her - we really need to get management to replace these - she pulls out her phone and scrolls through her files for the day's run. This "Kouryu" guy is pretty much a kid, only fifteen years old, but he seems competent enough. She makes note of his team - they're not really adapted for beachside battles. That might create some issues, though it's nothing that a bit of care and creativity can't manage.

Margo sits back in her chair and casts a glance back toward the window facing the path inward. It's a bit of a hike from the front gate to the beach outpost, but not terrible; there were a couple of those goofy rental carts docked at the gate when Margo came in, so Kouryu hopefully won't have too much trouble getting here. 

But she's glad she got here early, so that she could take in the terrain. "Hey, big guy," Margo says, and Undertow gives her an expectant look. "I'm gonna let the Trainer take point, of course, but we might need your help actually scaring up some Pokemon for them to fight. You up for playing a bit of hide-and-seek with the wilds today?" The Swampert's sharp beak crooks in a grin and he nods. "My hero."
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#2
Intro - 1,879 characters

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Unfortunately for Kouryu, he trusted his own two feet far more than his driving skills, and as such he immediately opted to just walk quickly down to the beach instead. Though cold and windy, the trip gave him plenty of opportunity to gauge the shifting gray sky, which he watched with some unease. The beach had been an appealing option largely because it would be harder for an enthusiastic Fennekin to set anything important on fire, but if the weather worsened, they would be completely exposed.

Picking up his pace, he supposed he would just have to make the best of it for now. Trainers and Rangers couldn't always have their pick of the weather, and he wasn't about to back down just yet.

It didn't take long for the beach to come into sight. To no surprise, it was quite a bit windier out in the open than it had been at the entrance, and Kouryu's brow furrowed as he watched the roughened waves beating against the shoreline. Hopefully not all the Pokemon here are in hiding, he mused, otherwise this run really will be short.

And speaking of Pokemon... He reached back to pat the side of his bag and said, "You're still awake back there, right?"

There was a muffled yip in response.

"Good. We'll be starting soon, so try not to doze off."

Stepping onto dry sands, Kouryu adjusted his jacket and ran the rest of the way to the outpost, quickly ducking inside. He spent a moment to get his bangs out of his eyes but otherwise didn't bother fixing his hair's wind-tossed disarray; normal disarray wasn't much of an improvement anyway. As he caught his breath, he took note of the outpost's current occupants with interest.

"Ah... I hope I'm not late?" he said tentatively, facing them properly. "I'm... Kouryu Kisaragi. Are you the Ranger I'll be working with today?"

Please please PLEASE be someone I can deal with, he prayed fervently as he awaited her response.
After's Stats -|- Park: Kouryu -|- Sketchbook
Art Capture Hub -|- Art Cash Hub (TBA)
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#3
2.
The door bangs open, nearly blown off its hinges by the collaborative efforts of the winds and a young Trainer. Margo and Undertow both look up sharply to see a windblown kid in the doorway. Margo blinks - her Trainer dossier had mentioned that Kouryu was less than five foot by a fair margin, but she hadn’t quite expected him to look so young.

Still, he’s definitely the right kid. If Margo didn’t recognize him from his info, she does when he introduces himself pretty much immediately. “That’s correct,” she says, answering his question first. “I’m Margo Sterling. This big lug is Undertow,” she hooks a thumb toward Undertow; she glances back to see him offer the Trainer a courteous nod, “and he and I are going to escort you through Sandy Beach today. It’s good to meet you, Kouryu.” She stands up and offers a hand, aiming for a cordial shake.

Margo steps forward, zipping up her jacket - though she doesn’t bother putting the hood up, since the wind’s going to rip it away right off the bat. “You may have noticed that Rayquaza’s practically on the rampage out there,” she says drily. “This is gonna be a bit of an interesting run, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Just try to make sure you use your Fire-type attacks with the wind rather than against it - though I don’t expect you’ll have much reason to use them.” 

Undertow hoists himself up and holds the door for the humans, before squeezing his massive bulk back out through the doorframe. “See, winds like this are going to make most Pokemon go to ground, but I figure that’ll just give us an excuse to meet some different ‘mons than normal. The plan is to have Undertow go underwater and try and attract a few wilds. He won’t hurt them or provoke them - just get some of the curious and-or battle-ready Pokemon on the beach. We’ll need to go right down to the shore, though.” She gestures the group toward the slate-gray sea with a smile at Kouryu. “Ready when you are.”
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#4
2,223 characters

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Margo and Undertow. Got it.

"Good to meet you, too," Kouryu replied with a slight nod, relieved at Margo's demeanor. He hesitated for a moment when she offered her hand, but when he took it, his grip was firm.

- "This is gonna be a bit of an interesting run, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Just try to make sure you use your Fire-type attacks with the wind rather than against it - though I don’t expect you’ll have much reason to use them." -

He listened intently as Margo spoke, nodding a bit at her assessment. With Matsuri in his bag, she wouldn't be able to use most of her Fire attacks anyway - unless he perhaps turned and angled her so they would be going behind him instead of right over his shoulder - but he agreed with Margo; there likely wouldn't be an issue.

(So he hoped, anyway.)

She continued her explanation as they moved back out onto the beach. Blinking into the wind, Kouryu eyed the waves once again, still rough and unchanged from moments before. Undertow underwater... Kouryu had no idea how far out he would have to go, but he hoped that neither the waves nor the Swampert's namesake would prove to be a concern for him.

As Margo's explanation wrapped up, the young Trainer reached over his right shoulder and unzipped the largest pocket of his bag, just enough to leave a gap without the rest of it flopping backward. Matsuri popped up through the opening with an excited yip, peering over his shoulder and sniffing the air intently.

"You heard what she said. Try not to set me on fire, all right?" said Kouryu. "You'll mostly be backup for Sojiro today."

Matsuri yipped again and nuzzled his cheek. He gave her a light ruffle, then reached down to unclip a Poke Ball from his belt. Not wanting to take chances with throwing it in this wind, he released Sojiro manually, watching the resulting light take shape... then blinking at the fairly not-a-Zoroark Pokemon that formed instead.

"Krookodile, huh?" he prompted. "Feeling nostalgic, are you?"

The illusory reptile grinned, showing off rows of pointed teeth.

Kouryu gave a quiet snort. "Suit yourself. Just keep your illusions around you alone for now so I know where you are."

Sojiro nodded, and Kouryu did one last run of his mental checklist. His Pokemon were out, Matsuri wasn't in danger of running off into trouble, his supplies were within easy reach... He nodded to himself and looked to Margo once more, prepared to follow after her.

"All right, I'm ready."
After's Stats -|- Park: Kouryu -|- Sketchbook
Art Capture Hub -|- Art Cash Hub (TBA)
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#5
3. 

To Margo’s immense relief, Kouryu seems to be taking her warnings seriously. That’s an issue with a lot of young Trainers - they get out on their own, on their first adventure, and forget whatever education they’ve had because they’re sure that their Pokemon could never cause a problem. Fortunately, that’s not looking like it’ll shape up to be an issue. 

A sudden flash of light catches Margo’s eye. She expects to see a tiny black fox by Kouryu’s side, and is taken off-guard by the huge Krookodile looming large beside the young Trainer. Based on Kouryu’s words, this illusion is something of a familiar one. That's pretty impressive; not a lot of Zoroark can remember other Pokemon well enough to copy them so completely.

As expected, there aren’t any Pokemon on the beach. Margo begins marching right down toward the shore, making sure that Undertow, and Kouryu and his Pokemon, don’t get far behind. “Alright, Undertow,” Margo says when they reach the water, and the Swampert nods his big head. He drops onto all fours to stroll down to the water, pausing a moment at the edge of the foamy sea before diving straight in. Margo makes a mental note to get him a good mud bath later. Saltwater isn’t good for the Swampert’s skin, and it’ll irritate him if he doesn’t wash it off. 

“You know, your Zoroark's Illusion abilities are really something,” Margo says, turning to admire Sojiro’s rows of gleaming white false fangs. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear by Rayquaza’s claws that he’s a Krookodile. If you don’t mind my asking, where’d you happen on a Zoroark? I hear they’re pretty rare; I’ve only seen a couple of them. That I know of,” she adds wryly.

As Margo waits, she sees a finny head popping up a couple hundred feet down the beach. “Looks like Undertow’s found something. Let’s go see.” 

Trainer Stats
 

Pokemon Stats 
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#6
3,872 characters

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Kouryu and Sojiro kept pace with Margo with relative ease, the former striding resolutely after her and the latter a step behind. Neither of them had been to a proper beach before, but Sojiro seemed a good deal more taken with the novelty; he kept watching his toes press into the damp sand and repeatedly looked back at his non-Illusioned footprints.

As Kouryu watched Undertow disappear beneath the roughened waves, Sojiro trotted down to the ocean's edge, curiously observing the water that splashed over his feet and mildly disrupted his Illusion. Kouryu glanced down at his own feet and belatedly realized that his shoes were going to be absolutely caked with sand by the end. If he wasn't careful, he'd have half the beach in them before long... but at the very least they should be able to keep out the water.

Having been momentarily distracted, he nearly jumped when Margo suddenly commented on Sojiro's appearance. The aforementioned Zoroark looked up and smiled again at her praise, standing a bit straighter - at least until Matsuri chittered something at him. Apparently it was a comment that he didn't quite appreciate, given that he made a low huff and turned his head up away from her.

- "If you don’t mind my asking, where’d you happen on a Zoroark? I hear they’re pretty rare; I’ve only seen a couple of them. That I know of." -

Kouryu blinked. He didn't mind the question, really, but...

"He, uh... found me, actually," he replied slowly. "In an alley in Castelia."

He paused for a moment, deliberating over how much he should say. How much did she even want to know? He didn't want to overshare - after all, they had just met and babbling about things would be weird, wouldn't it? - but what he had said wasn't exactly a full answer... Margo seemed to be waiting patiently for him to make up his mind though, so maybe a brief explanation would be okay?

He glanced aside to Sojiro, and at his encouraging nod and a nuzzle from Matsuri, Kouryu decided to continue.

"I was running from some classmates who were harassing me; ended up going right down a dead end." He gave a humorless snort. "I probably would've gotten stabbed and stuffed in a dumpster if they'd had their way, but as it turned out, Sojiro had been hiding out back there. He crawled out in this same Krookodile Illusion; scared the hell out of them and they ran off, and then he decided to show me his real self."

He decided not to mention that up to that point, he'd been thinking he was about to be dinner. Dark alley, cornered by a giant predator, no Trainer nearby... Not the most ideal situation, particularly for someone as small *ahem* height-challenged as he was.

"Apparently he took a liking to me," he said instead. "I brought him home to give him some food and treat the wounds that he had, and he decided to stick around... so we've more or less been together ever since."

There. He hadn't said too much, right? That was pretty much the story...

He frowned, briefly casting his gaze to the Pokemon in question. They had met when Sojiro was just a Zorua, but his Illusion had been spot-on even then... Kouryu had his suspicions about his companion's previous situation, but he figured that probably didn't bear discussion right now, so... he was probably done talking.

He looked back to Margo for her reaction only to see that her gaze had shifted to further down the beach. Following her line of sight, Kouryu spotted Undertow poking his head out of the water some ways away.

- "Looks like Undertow’s found something. Let’s go see." -

A sudden burst of excitement and nervousness welled up within him. Would this be their first encounter?

In any case, he was more than grateful for a distraction from his awkwardness. He nodded and glanced to Sojiro, giving a quick tilt of his head in the direction they were going. "Ready?"

The pseudo-Krookodile nodded back, and the pair set off after Margo.
After's Stats -|- Park: Kouryu -|- Sketchbook
Art Capture Hub -|- Art Cash Hub (TBA)
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#7
4.

((First encounter! And kind of a roundabout approach to befriending. Feel free to specify Krabby’s gender in your post, though Nature and active Ability remain at Ranger discretion.))

Margo’s first instinct when Kouryu begins his story is oops, I’ve stepped in it, and even though Kouryu keeps talking willingly, she’s pretty sure she didn’t miss the mark too badly. She tries to keep a neutral expression on her face as Kouryu speaks, but she can’t fight down sympathy and unease. Stabbed? Stuffed in a dumpster? Heavens above, is Unova really so violent that kids would try to maim each other? The dry, almost casual way that Kouryu talks about it is heartbreaking.

It’s a minor miracle Sojiro stepped in when he did, Margo supposes. She can’t help but feel a little surprised that a Zorua - a Pokemon traditionally said to rely on tricks, ambushes, and deception - would put himself in danger to help a complete stranger. Her own Pokemon have gone through a lot for her, and she'd do pretty much anything for them, but most of that bacon-saving occurred after Margo had already bonded with them a bit. 

Nothing about Kouryu’s team or Sojiro’s history explains the in-depth Krookodile illusion, but Margo decides not to press that particular issue. It’s bad enough that she dredged up something so dreadful. “That sounds like it was hard for both of you,” she says, turning to look Kouryu in the eye for a moment. “But it’s good that you found each other.”

Speaking of finding, Undertow is plainly visible now, half-surfaced and swimming in quick circles. As Margo makes her way through the scrub at the beach’s edge and down to the sand proper, she can see that his fins are raised and every now and again he kicks off with an extra quick paddle. The cycle breaks almost as quickly as Margo notices it. With a sharp, pained yelp, Undertow surges up out of the water. There are a few superficial scrapes on his skin, but there’s something a bit more urgent than scuffs and scratches on him. A Krabby is clinging to his tailfin with both claws, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to let go any time soon.

“Oh, heavens,” Margo mutters, approaching slowly. Neither Undertow nor the Krabby go anywhere - Undertow’s well-trained enough to not let the pain make him too cranky; the Krabby’s too stubborn to let go of Undertow, and just glares at Margo defiantly. Margo’s first instinct is to get out her good gloves and start prying Krabby’s pincers open, but then inspiration strikes her with a way to keep Kouryu engaged. She still takes her gloves out of her bag and pulls them onto her hands, but as she does, she talks. “You know, we might be able to solve this peacefully. Have you got any snacks or anything on you, or do you have some way to distract this Krabby here? If you can keep it occupied, preferably happy, it’ll probably loosen its grip enough to help me get it off Undertow without hurting either of the Pokemon.”

Encounter Stats
[Image: 98.gif]
Krabby/??? Gender/??? Ability/??? Nature/100% HP - Firmly attached to Undertow’s tail.

Trainer Stats
Terrain: The shore of Sandy Beach. The wind is blowing strongly and the sky is overcast. Undertow’s got a Krabby on him, whoops!
Remaining Encounters: 2.
Pokemon Encountered: Krabby (Friendly...?).
Pokemon Captured: N/A.
Inventory: Park Ball (5), Lava Cookie, Poke Doll, Energy Powder Plus.
Character Count: 8,164 / 10,000

Pokemon Stats
Sojiro the Zorua/M/Illusion Ability/Calm Nature/100% HP [Illusion of Krookodile]
EMs: TM Substitute
Matsuri the Fennekin/F/Blaze Ability/Jolly Nature
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