Don't Dwebble With Trouble
Story :3

Haven't written anything in waaaaay too long, so here's something that took a little longer than it should have. Lower ranks too, since I'm so out of it. I feel so rusty it's ridiculous. This is probably not edited as much as it should be.

Info at the bottom.


?Hey, good lookin',? a smooth masculine voice called out.

Ivy had sensed him approach before he spoke, so she finished the sentence she was writing on her paperwork before looking up. She meant to politely ask what he wanted, since a lot of the younger staff were nervous to come near her for some reason, but when she saw who it was, what came out of her mouth was, ?Oh, it's just you. What do you want??

The man in question pulled a fist to his vest-covered heart as if pained, but there was laughter in his eyes. The grin never left his tanned face. ?Ouch. Like a knife,? he said, flicking his head to get some of the red-brown hair out of his eyes.

Leo, one of her fellow Elite Rangers, was known for his smooth tongue and luck with the ladies. If she wasn't mistaken, some of the other guys had a competition going on with him. The challenge was to woo as many of the secretaries as possible. Leo was winning.

?You bet,? Ivy responded as she set her pen down. She thought it was fun to counter his suggestive comments. It made work more fun.

The man got closer and half sat on the edge of the desk, folding his arms across his chest. She was lucky this was in the main work area, which meant all of the shared desks were missing personal belongings. If there had been anything on the surface of this one, he probably wouldn't have moved it. She didn't work out in this area often, since each Ranger had their own personal office, but sometimes she liked to hear everyone else moving around.

?What, is it a crime to want to talk to a beautiful woman?? he asked, trying to put an innocent look on.

She rolled her eyes as she sat up straighter, pulling at the collar of her black turtleneck. She knew she wasn't Leo's type. He preferred more feminine women, usually of the blonde variety. Madison was a good example of this with her barely-acceptable low-cut shirts and bobbed yellow curls. He was currently sneaking glances at the secretary over his shoulder. Ivy just shook her head.

With Ivy's long red hair and sarcastic tone, they were a bit at odds against each other. She tended to laugh at his supposedly-suave comments, and he continued to offer them up as she dismissed them. It was like a game, since none of it was serious. That was just fine for her, though, since she was busy enough with Park-related work. She didn't need to worry about Leo too.

?Right. So what's up??

?Well,? he started, turning his attention back to her, ?Argent reported from the Woods that there was some strange rock damage. He couldn't stay to check it out, since he's with a Trainer, but he thought it looked like the Dwebble's work.? He shrugged. ?Normally that wouldn't be a problem, since they make shelter like that, but if they're doing enough damage to be noticed, something must be up. Go check it out for me?? he added sweetly, flashing his teeth at her in a brilliant smile.

Ivy sighed. ?And you can't go because...??

?I have some... other things going on,? he said, looking over his shoulder again at the honey-colored woman behind the main counter.

?Uh... huh.? She could guess what he was thinking.

She was used to these kinds of chores really, so it didn't bother her very much. They had normal patrols too, but these were special cases. Occasionally, the Rangers had to check out specific aspects of the Park that were called in. It was against policy to do so while guiding a Trainer, since that wasted the Trainer's time, so one of the free Rangers was sent out to do it.

Usually it was just a waste of time, but her paperwork wasn't the most interesting thing in the world. With another sigh, she relented.

?I guess I can cover for you just this once. You owe me, though,? she added, pushing on the mahogany desk so her rolling chair floated backward.

Leo turned and gave her that charming smile again. ?Thanks, Ivy. You're the best.? Then, he shoved off the desk and stalked toward the counter much like a cat would approach its prey. Ivy would be worried for the secretary, but Madison had proved she could handle herself.

?Remember that,? she called after him, knowing he probably didn't hear it.

Ivy got up and stretched, hearing that pop in her spine. She had been sitting a little too long. Being a Ranger was great outdoors work, but the paper trail part of it wasn't nearly as fun. Unfortunately, if she wanted to get paid, she had to do both parts.

She weaved around the desks in the center of the room and passed the long, marble counter on her way to the hallway. She smiled when she heard Madison's giggles and the low hum of conversation from other Rangers working. The scanner clicked and gave off static sounds every once in a while when a Ranger in the field chimed in. There was something comforting about familiar things. Work provided that for her.

She pushed open the wooden door to her office, intent on getting her equipment. Everything was in the place she left it, which meant nobody had been snooping. Sometimes things would be missing, and then she had to spend time hunting down the culprits. The long wooden table against the wall to the right was still neatly organized, however, and all of the drawers on the filing cabinets in the back were shut.

Due to the number of Rangers and the size of the outpost, a lot of the offices were small, like hers. Some of them used to be broom closets. Still, her steel desk fit in the center nicely, with enough room to walk around it without bumping into any of the walls. She reached toward the desk to grab her phone and clip it to her belt when she saw the creature curled up in her rolling chair.

Haji, her Espeon, was sleeping on and off. She was picking that much up from his brainwaves. Thanks to their mental connection, they could communicate mind-to-mind. A lot of Psychic-typed Pokemon could do that, she learned. The bond let her know a lot of things about him and vice versa.

The purple cat was parked in his favorite spot. He was seemingly motionless, but apart from the signature in his mind, she knew he was awake when his forked tail flicked up and down once. Darker violet eyes looked up at her as she reached for her long vest on the back of the chair. The red canvas was just a shade darker than the gem in the center of the Psychic Pokemon's forehead.

She swung the coat over her shoulders as Haji's voice brushed against her mind. ?The Woods have been quiet,? he said. He already knew where she was going thanks to their mental connection. Sometimes she didn't know what to make of his advice. He was often subtle.

?Yeah, I wonder what's got the Dwebble worked up, if that's what's going on. You wanna come?? she asked. Haji often went with her on expeditions. She thought it was mostly to watch out for her. He was funny like that.

In response, the cat closed his eyes. ?I will stay,? he answered, content to nap.

?Sure,? she said to her office as she checked the pockets of her vest. ?Maybe Vergil will come with.? She felt the sarcastic vibe roll across her mind from Haji even as she said it, and she knew that that cat was probably right. Vergil, her Gallade, didn't really like her too much. She had been trying to connect with him for weeks, but nothing was working. Helping him evolve from his Kirlia state hadn't changed anything between them.

She padded the contents of her black pants, making sure she had everything she needed. While they weren't supposed to interfere with the wildlife, she sometimes made exceptions. As a Park enforcer, she took it as her responsibility to make sure all the Pokemon here were safe. If one of them was injured she wasn't going to let it suffer. If the Dwebble really were damaging things, the Rangers were going to have to stop it anyway. It would disrupt the other wildlife.

She said farewell to Haji as she left, going back down the hallway and into the main room again. Both Madison and Leo were gone, not so surprisingly, but she paid little attention to it as she headed for the door. Once outside, she was blasted with rays of sunlight, and she had to cover her eyes as she looked around.

At least it was a nice day. The radio had called for rain, but there wasn't a trace of it. There were hardly any clouds covering up the blue sky, and it was a moderate enough temperature for her turtleneck not to be roasting. She would wear something a little more airy, but from all the traipsing around she did, she got too many scratches and cuts if she didn't cover up.

Normally, her Crobat came out to greet her, but today the air was empty. Instead, her attention was drawn to a tree on the edge of the dusty lot. She headed over here, calling out a greeting as she approached. The Woods were just a little beyond the main outpost.

?Hey, Vergil,? she said, smiling at the Gallade leaning up against the foliage.

The human-like Pokemon had his green arms folded across his chest, and he was glaring at her. Ivy forced herself to keep that smile plastered on her face as she stopped in front of him, despite his attitude. He was slightly under her average five foot seven height, with white legs and body. There was also a pink horn in the center of his body that some said centered his power.

She wasn't sure how developed his mental capabilities were, though. She assumed that he didn't make that mental connection with her because he didn't want to, but it crossed her mind that maybe he couldn't. Vergil could talk to Haji, however, and she wasn't sure if Pokemon and humans varied with communication. She wasn't sure if he could read her mind like Haji could either.

?I'm going out to the Woods to look at something. Do you wanna come with?? she asked. She was desperate to do anything to try and bond with him. So far giving him his space hadn't worked, but she was sure if she ordered something, it would just backfire too. They were in limbo.

In answer to her question, he turned way from her deliberately, putting his back to her. Ivy sighed softly. She tried.

As she marched to the Woods, she tried not to let Vergil's actions sting. It mostly worked. It helped that she was stubborn too, so she kept her head held high and her eyes focused on the row of trees that walled her destination. She wasn't going to give up on him, but she wasn't perfect. Some days she just got fed up. The trying worked both ways.

He was like Dual, Chainy's Gallade, in so many ways, but they differed in personality greatly. She got along very well with the other Pokemon, but Vergil refused to have any sort of connection to her. It wouldn't normally bother her so much, since plenty of people didn't like her, but her Pokemon were all the family she had left. If they were stuck together they might as well get along with each other. Maybe one day she'd figure out the answer to their problem.

She came to the entrance to the forest and checked her radio speaker clipped to her vest collar to make sure it was functioning. They were a semi-new piece of equipment for all the Rangers, since reception with phones was shaky in some spots. Using the radio system worked much better, since they could report right to the main outpost. It was handy if there was a problem.

Apparently whatever Argent had found was a problem. She unclipped her phone from her belt and pulled up the stats page to see where in the Woods she was going. All the areas were numbered, but since they were reused in each major section, they had names too. If someone just said area one, it was hard to tell if they meant the Lakes or Oktori. It looked like she was going to Black Brush, a patch of woods on the northern side of the forest.

She put her phone back as she ducked into the darkened woods. It was sunny, but the overlapping canopy blotted out the light. She remembered a couple of Trainers she took here had been frightened by the darkness and the eerie snapping of the twigs underfoot, but she was used to it by now. She and her Crobat often trained here, since it helped develop the bat's senses.

The Woods were quiet as she turned from the neatly-rowed trees to a wilder part of the forest. There was plenty of underbrush here, and the trees were larger in circumference and scattered around. Fallen trunks were strewn about the ground in places, overgrown with foliage and serving as hazards to those walking. There were gently rolling hills too, and with the bushes, it was hard to see ahead in some spots. The particular area was somewhat flat and clear, though. It was a good place for a battleground, and she had taken Trainers in this direction several times.

It was where she found Argent's marker too. The area was quiet, and there was no company but the fallen trees and bushes. She found the pile of rocks that had been reported, and Ivy was amazed at the size. There had to be over twenty various-sized rocks all pulled together into a pile. Some had deep green moss stains, but most were that boring shade of gray that furniture tended to turn if it wasn't dusted.

It was a strange sight, and Ivy's brows furrowed as she neared. The scorpion-like Dwebble made their rock homes by spraying a corrosive acid from their mouths that melted sections of the stone away until they could fit inside. However, it was weird for so many rocks to be in one place. Some Dwebble did stay together in groups, but she hadn't seen a pack this large. They were pretty rare on the mainland, being hidden away in the most wildest of deserts, and even though this was a protected habitat, there still weren't that many. Something like this would've been noticed by one of the Rangers if it was normal.

She crouched down by one of the large rocks that was easily up to her knees while standing. There were sections of the rock melted away, but there were no Dwebble that would choose a rock so big. They wouldn't be able to carry it around. The other rocks were all similar too, with unnaturally wide holes dug into them.

?You know,? she said to nobody in particular, ?these edges aren't as smooth as they should be.? She ran her hand over one of the edges, feeling the bumps and cracks in the stone. A Dwebble's acidic liquid also repaired rocks, making them useable. ?Could they be man made?? she murmured. There were a few chemicals on the open market, as well as a few that weren't, that could've done this, she supposed.

She was just speculating, but if that were true, that meant someone else was in the Park. She was very sure a Ranger wouldn't have done this, and if it was some sort of experiment, there would've been some record of it. That could mean poachers.

There were occasionally problems with them. She had dealt with them at Mount Deckbi as well as the Lakes. Poachers were bandits who came in to steal Pokemon to turn a profit. What happened to the creatures after that was usually decided by how much money could be gained. The welfare of the Pokemon wasn't always a priority.

Some of the poachers' schemes were violent, like the fire-bombing of the Ranger outpost in Pastoria, and most operations were designed to be quick. Rangers all over the world hunted these criminals down to put an end to the suffering of Pokemon. Here at the National Park it was an even bigger issue, since this was the largest existing reserve. They even had on-site police officers to help monitor.

Poachers hadn't been much of a problem until lately. Activity had increased.

Something caught her eye then, between two basketball-sized stones. She frowned as she reached down for the small rectangular box. The device fit into the palm of her hand easily. It was a cool steel that was painted black, and there was a small red light on one of the small ends. It was familiar, and then she realized where she had seen it last.

When she took a Trainer named Fawkes to the Gardens, she had found a similar device on top of the Virizion statue. Haji had said it was giving off a strange energy. They had encountered some in Deckbi as well, and those were making the Pokemon act strangely. She wondered if this one was doing the same as she stood back up. Being bonded to Haji gave her a little sensitivity to energy, but that was only while he was close to her. Since he was back at the outpost, she was just plain human. It was just a black box to her.

Then, the bushes rattled a warning, and Ivy jerked her head to the right just as a small orange bug crawled out of them. It looked like a mix between a crab and a scorpion, with two larger front claws and a thin body. Of course, half of its form was hidden within a slate gray rock. Its tube eyes looked up at her, and she didn't like what she saw. This was one of the Dwebble.

It made an aggressive noise as it pounded both of its front claws into the ground. The sharp points dug grooves in the hard soil, reminding her that those claws could tear skin just as easily. It made another noise as it crawled forward, its rock covering floating behind, held up by the hidden tail within.

Ivy put her hands up in a peaceful gesture, trying to back away slowly. She didn't know what was making this Pokemon so unruly, since those in the Park were generally good-natured. Most were excited to come across a Trainer, but this one clearly had other plans. She tried to think of what Pokemon she had with her, and Candle and Brin were the only ones she came up with. Neither were suited for this. They were too battle-oriented. Pokemon were last resorts in cases like this.

As Rangers, they were supposed to avoid confrontations if possible, so they could prevent damage and trauma to the wild Pokemon. They weren't allowed to catch any except when on runs as Trainers themselves. This left her with few options.

She took another step back when her boot caught in something, pitching her backward. The small box in her hand went flying as her arms flailed out, trying to move so she could catch herself. If she hit her head on a tree, it was lights out. She faintly heard the crunching sound of the device smacking up against the pile of rocks as she twisted her body.

She managed to land on her side instead of her head, and she scrambled backward as she tried to regain her feet to get more distance between her and the bug. However, the warning noises from the Dwebble had stopped.

Ivy looked up to find that the little orange Pokemon shaking itself like it had dust on it. Then, it scuttled over to the rock pile and poked at the destroyed box with one of its claws. It looked over at her with a curious tilt of its head. ?Dwe?? it called, as if unsure what was going on. It acted like the first few minutes hadn't happened.

Confused, she rubbed the back of her head as she rose to her feet. In doing so, she spotted what had caused her to fall. There was a hole about six inches across scooped out of the ground. She hadn't noticed it before, but now that she was looking down, she saw that there were several other holes in the area. Most of the holes were shallow, and she could see that some sort of rock shelf had been hit, preventing digging further.

She briefly wondered why this hadn't been mentioned too. Reaching down to the soil, she found it still loose and slightly damp in areas. That meant they were fairly recent. As far as she knew, Dwebble didn't dig holes for fun.

There were a few Bug-type Pokemon in the Woods that liked to dig holes, but what was the purpose?

A noise from the rock-carrying Pokemon made her abandon that thought and go over to inspect the broken device. It had smashed against the largest boulder in the group. ?Web!? the bug said as she got near, seeming much more pleasant than their first encounter.

?You okay?? she asked as she inspected it, but the Dwebble only continued its happier noises.

The Pokemon looked fine, so she crouched down to look at the box. One of the plates had fallen off, revealing a network of red and green cables within. She wasn't a technophile, so she wasn't sure what it was, but it didn't belong here. If the device was making the Pokemon act strange, it wasn't the work of the Rangers.

The red light had gone out, so whatever energy it was giving off must've been stopped when it was destroyed. ?I should probably take this,? she told the bug as she picked up the pieces. If there really were poachers here, it could be used as evidence. Like in Deckbi, there really didn't seem to be another explanation. The question was if they were still here or not.

She pocketed the fragments and stood back up, looking around. Nothing else looked out of place, but there were a lot of Woods. She supposed it wouldn't hurt to have a look around before heading back. This investigation wasn't over, but if there were others here, she wanted backup.

Before she could leave, however, a sharp squeal sounded through the area, echoing through the air like it was on a megaphone. Then, a rush of Pokemon came hurtling through the bushes. Small orange scorpions dashed out the brush, scrambling over and around each other. Some of the Dwebble had rock shelter and some were bare, but all of them had a sense of buzzing panic to them. Before she could act, another form came through the foliage with a low growl.

A small red-brown fox with three orange curls on top of its head followed the bug group. Ivy recognized the Pokemon from its shiny coat and six extra curls on its tail. The problem was that there were no Vulpix in the Woods, and Deckbi was too far for one of them to stray.

?Vul!? it cried as it hunched down on its front paws and released a small billow of flame in front of it. The other Dwebble all scurried around to her side of the rock pile in response, and they trembled as they huddled as close to the stone as possible.

This was something she could interfere with. If it was a Trainer, this would count as a strike for disrupting Park property, and that allowed her to step in as a Ranger. If it was an intruder, that gave her double the right.

The Vulpix took a deep breath, and since she was in the way, Ivy knew she had to act quick before it blasted her. Faster than she could think she reached inside her vest and pulled out a Pokeball, dropping it as she had to lunge to her left, close to the rocks. She backed up flat against the largest boulder as the fire erupted in front of her. A stream of a Flamethrower ruffled her hair and caused beads of sweat to form on her forehead as she barely dodged the attack.

As the flames stopped, there was a sharp, ?Luuure!? Ivy looked out to see that Candle, her Chandelure, had popped out of the ball she dropped.

The Ghost-type Pokemon looked much like the decorative candle-holders that were displayed on the ceilings of fancy homes. She had four curly arms with blue-flame tips, and her eyes were yellow orbs pasted on a globe of light blue in the center of her body. Another flickering blue flame danced on top of her head. Candle faced down the Vulpix fearlessly, calling out sounds of protest.

?Candle, there might be poachers. We can't let this Vulpix hurt the Dwebble or the Woods.? Before Ivy could give further instruction, the Vulpix was charging up another attack, and by how the temperature increased, she knew it was going to be big.

?Dwe, dwe!? caught her attention as one of the Dwebble peeked around the largest boulder. Ivy took the hint and darted around to join them, crouching down low with the bugs. She called for the ghost to follow, but Candle never game around into cover.

Then, a sharp cry from the Vulpix filled the area as a giant wall of flame rushed across the field on the other side of the boulder. ?Candle!? Ivy called out as the flames ended. The woman scrambled around the rock to look for her Pokemon, hoping she was alright.

To her relief, Candle was fine. In fact, she was looking better than fine. The ghost was bouncing up and down in mid air, and her flames were burning even stronger than normal, dancing with energy. Then, Ivy remembered her Flash Fire ability, allowing her to absorb Fire-type attacks while powering up her own. She must've blocked the Vulpix's Heat Wave. The fox was glaring at the ghost, growling low in its throat. Ivy supposed she'd be upset if a foe foiled her plans too. Thankfully, nothing was on fire either.

Then, she head voices beyond the trees. She couldn?t see them, but the shouting easily echoed through the area. ?Where'd them bugs get off to?? a man said, and she knew they had trouble.

?Get the hounds on them!? a female voice rang out. In response, Ivy heard a canine howl rush through the trees. It was repeated by several others, and the noise was growing louder.

?Nice work, Candle,? she praised hurriedly. ?Keep that fox busy and try not to let anything catch on fire. I'll call for help.?

She watched as the Ghost-type phased out of visibility for a few seconds, only to reappear moments later right in front of the fox. She pulled a sudden, striking face as she did, and the Astonish attack startled the fox enough to send it pitching backward.

Ivy reached for the radio on her vest and hit the talk button. Her call would go straight to the main outpost, where a bulk of the staff were working. ?Rangers, this is Ivy Frost in the Black Brush section,? she declared loudly. ?This is an emergency. Poachers are in the Woods, and I need backup. I repeat-?

She didn't get to finish.

Something barreled into her, knocking her to the ground hard. Her shoulder slammed into a downed log as she tried to cover her head with her hands, and she felt the small radio dig into her bone. Ivy hissed in pain as she rolled away from the fallen tree, her body tense as she tried to find what had crashed into her.

She followed the momentum to get her legs under her, and she managed to stagger to her feet before her eyes landed on the culprit.

He was a younger man, probably around her twenty two years of age. He had sandy blond hair that was hanging in his face from running into her. As he straightened up, she saw he had outdoors garb, complete with camouflage jacket and cargos. Curiously enough, there was a gray or silver bandana tied around his neck, emphasizing his outlaw status. Any other time she might have laughed.

That was all the look she got of him. In one quick movement he pulled out a black object and took aim at her. She recognized the shape of the stun gun too late, and her last coherent thought was that she was lucky it wasn't a real pistol, because she wasn't going to move fast enough.

?Sorry, sweetheart,? he said, and then he fired.

The shock slammed into her body like a kick from a Ponyta, and the leaves rustled under her as she dropped to the ground with a thud. The sparks wound through her muscles, and her limbs contorted painfully in protest, leaving her almost curled up in a ball. She swore ? or at least she tried to. What came out of her mouth was little more than a jumbled murmur as the electric current made her body numb.

Her eyes clenched shut against her will, leaving her in darkness. It was a reflex to the pain that would soon pass, but she struggled to wrench them open anyway. The loss of sight only amplified her other senses though, and beyond the jarring pain that coursed through her, she discovered that the Woods had become very loud.

Twigs snapped and brush thrashed as pounding steps and nasty yips came closer. She heard the Dwebble squeal again, and sharp barking filled the area. The Woods became a whirlwind of sound as she struggled to distinguish what was going on. There were more than three distinctive voices in the howling. She hoped Candle was okay.

Then, there was the crackle of a radio that wasn't hers, and the blond man spoke again. ?Them Nincada better be done, Rachel.? There was a faint response, but the other Pokemon were making too much noise for her to overhear. ?Rangers are comin'. I got one. She should be out for a while, but there'll be more.?

Ivy tried to move her legs again, but they wouldn't respond. They were like heavy stones tied onto her limbs. Her heart raced as she battled her helplessness, and it was one of the scariest things she had ever experienced.

?Forget the dang rocks!? Blondie suddenly yelled, making the dogs quiet for an instant. They must've been used to the loud pitch. ?We'll transport as is. There ain't time. I'm comin' around with the hounds now.?

Transport? They were making rock shelters to move the Dwebble out of the Park. That explained the pile. Dwebble tended to exchange homes as they grew, which was why some of them didn't have rocks on their back. It was probably easier to stuff the bugs into a rock and drag them out than fight with entirely squirming creatures.

Ivy let out a steady stream of breath as she slowly tried to raise her eyelids again. This time, they relented, and the world became visible once again. She found that the hounds consisted of several other Fire-type Pokemon, including two hell hound-like Houndour, another Vulpix, and one shaggy Growlithe that seemed to be in charge of the small pack.

The blond man whistled, and the fuzzy ears on the orange and black-stripped canine perked up. With a sharp bark, it drove the fox and the two black and white ribbed dogs into a formation around the bunched-up Dwebble. Sharp bursts of flame caused the group to lurch ahead. The ones without rocks would be vulnerable to the fire, and their fear made the entire pack easier to move. Just like that, the man drove the bugs farther north, which would be closer to the docks and an escape route.

?Finish up here,? he commanded as he headed over a hill, giving her one last look as he disappeared into the brush.

She only had a couple seconds to wonder who he was talking to before a growl reminded her that the first Vulpix she had encountered was still here. Over by the rock pile, the little fox hunched low. Ivy could see the tension in her back legs, marking her ready to strike. She ordered her limbs to move again, but there was still no answer. She and the Fire-type were the only ones in the clearing.

With a snarl, the fox raced toward her, and she could do nothing but watch. Did that mean Candle had...?

Suddenly, a thick purple-gray fog rolled in between her and the foe, masking the field. A heavy thunk sounded, and Ivy saw the red body of the fox flop onto the ground outside of the smoke. It rolled to its feet quickly, but then a sharp ?Luuuure!? called out, and the fox was suddenly imprisoned with five orange-red beams scattered around it in a star shape.

The Vulpix tried to break free of the cage, calling up another fire attack. However, as soon as the flames touched the bars, they reacted, and the fire was abruptly cut off. Ivy marveled at the strength of Candle's Imprision. Since Candle was a Fire-type, it meant that she and the fox shared a lot of the same techniques. The ghost was mirroring the fox's attacks with her own, effectively nullifying them. The cage would buy them a little time. Although, that would mean little if she couldn't move.

The chandelier floated over to her with a crease on her normally smooth orb face. She called out softly, trying to see if Ivy was okay. The Ranger tried to smile and found that her lips did move a little bit. Very carefully, she sounded out, ?Stun... gun.?

The ghost was quiet for a moment as she processed what had happened. Then, two of her black arms curled slightly as she rose them up. Four tiny yellow orbs formed around her, and they shook and glowed with a cackling energy. Ivy knew what she was doing, and she nodded slightly as she closed her eyes.

The electricity then burst, the shocks trailing through her for the second time that day. She couldn't help the sound she made as she cried out, and then she was amazed that she could.

Her muscles screamed in protest, but when she tried to unfold her leg, it listened. Ivy then straightened the rest of her limbs, even though it hurt to do it. She closed her eyes as she let the majority of the pain ebb away, the frustrated cries from the Vulpix reminding her that they had a time limit.

She was breathing heavy when she opened her eyes again, but she made herself sit up. Her body felt stiff and heavy, like she was made out of sandbags. She looked over to Candle and smiled. ?Thanks,? she said slowly, feeling the tiny shocks in her jaw start to fade away. It was smart of the ghost to manipulate her electrical Hidden Power to try and reverse the effects of the stun gun. Ivy was more surprised than anything that it worked, since she didn't think that was possible. Maybe she got the idea from Imprison.

Getting shocked twice still sucked, but at least she could move.

Ivy moved her red hair to the side as she reached for the radio on her collar. She held the button down only to find that there was no response. One side of the plastic box was starting to fall off, so it must've broken when she fell. She sighed. She had no choice but to go after the group, backup or not.

It probably wasn't the smartest decision she ever made, she thought, struggling to brace herself on the fallen tree trunk so she could stand up. Her legs gave out once, but the second time she was able to rise with only a small wobble. She tried to take a step, tripped, and painfully rose back up onto her feet. She would make it over that hill if it killed her. She was glad she at least caught which direction they were headed.

It may not have been a great idea, but this was her job. Being a Ranger meant putting Pokemon first always. It wasn't just a tour guide job with a fancy uniform. She was here to protect the Pokemon, and that was what she was going to do, damaged or not. There might not be backup coming, and she couldn't just let them walk away with those poor Dwebble. It went against her very nature to allow it.

She strengthened her resolve and took another step. She didn't fall.

?Lure,? Candle said behind her.

Ivy turned back to her and saw the worried crease of her yellow eyes. ?I'll be okay.? She thought it was hard sometimes being human and not being able to help the Pokemon, but looking at her Chandelure now, she wondered if sometimes they felt the same thing.

?We got them on the run now. No stopping here,? she said with a small smile. ?Wear that fox out if you can, and don't leave it alone. We don't need a forest fire on top of everything else. I'm gonna see what me and Brin can do up there, okay??

As Ivy asked, she held out a fist, much like younger people did. Candle looked at it for a minute before that cheerful curve came back to her face. The ghost took one of her cup-shaped hands and knocked it against Ivy's.

?See you at the top,? the Ranger told her, and then she staggered toward her destination while trusting her Pokemon to handle the mini fire-starter.


Traipsing through the underbrush wasn't easy when her limbs were only half-working, especially when there were sunken holes and fallen branches to tangle her feet up in. She could still feel the tiny shocks every time she took a step, but she kept pressing on. There wasn't time to nurse wounds.

With huffing breath, she finally cleared the last hill. Then, her eyes went wide at the sight before her. She had come to another incline, only it was running east and west to her north and south route. The slope had been plowed, allowing for two sets of tunneling tracks that ran from the top all the way into the bushy end and beyond. Brush and other plants had been uprooted, giving the whole thing a dirt road appearance.

Thunder rumbled overhead as she debated which way to go. If she could be any luckier today, there were only three poachers. That was still up for debate, but she could hope. Judging from what the blond man said, he was working alone. That probably meant that the other two were on the bottom of the slope. It was easier to chase something downhill.

Mind made up, she stepped out to cross the plowed path. She felt that familiar pull in her left foot, and like the other times today, she fell forward as something had snagged her boot. She hoped tripping wasn't going to become a regular thing. She needed to pay more attention or she was going to get hurt worse.

Tripping probably saved her life.

A rumbling came over the peak of the incline, and in a rush of wind, a boulder about half her height came tumbling down the slope, stuck into the dug tracks. It barreled past less than half a foot in front of her nose, disappearing in a rattling of foliage.

Ivy's eyes were wide as she blinked, wondering just how many times she was going to get lucky. A screech brought her out of her thoughts, and on instinct she rolled to her right and down the slope. She rolled to a half sitting position as she looked back, and another bug was there to greet her.

This one wasn't happy either. Two brown, hooked claws supported an all white body with tiny green wings on top. Two whisker-like appendages stuck out on either side of its face. It was clawing that the ground impatiently. The Nincada was half inside the hole she had tripped over. It had probably been his home. That brought her back to the holes near the rock pile. Were the poachers using wild Pokemon to dig holes, or did they bring more in?

She had no time to think about it, because the bug started forward. Before she could move, a beam of red light shot from her belt and manifested into a Pokemon.

A large brown Pokemon appeared between her and the bug, becoming the body guard that he usually played. Thick pink veins stood out on the muscly Pokemon, and despite the slightly larger red nose, he looked nothing but tough. Two stone pillars shook the ground as Brin stamped them, and they stopped the bug in its tracks. The Conkeldurr huffed, and the bug scurried away wide eyed.

?Nice timing,? she said as he turned around, taking one of his massive hands off of his stone weapon so he could help her up. She winced a little as he wrenched her to her feet. Brin gestured toward the road, so she explained. ?There are at least three poachers here trying to steal a group of Dwebble. I'm fairly sure one is working up on top,? she said as she pointed. ?And there are a few more at the end. I'm not exactly sure what they're rolling rocks down for, but they had a pack of dogs. Candle is caught up with a Vulpix back there,? she added as she tilted her head in the direction she came from.

Before she could say any more, Brin took one of his hands and placed it on her shoulder, using the other to point down the road, to the foliage that was hiding whatever was happening on the bottom. Then, he brought his hand back to his chest to gesture to himself and pointed toward the top of the incline with his other hand.

Ivy understood what he was saying clearly, but she was still hesitant. She didn't know how many poachers there were exactly, and sending her Pokemon off alone was dangerous. What if they had something worse than a stun gun? And would a stun gun affect a Pokemon in the same way it did her?

She didn't have time to waste standing here, but she wasn't sure if she would forgive herself if she sent him and something awful happened. She often had nightmares of her Pokemon leaving and not coming back, just like her brother.

Calm black eyes looked back at her, and she thought of all of the Dwebble. After a moment, she nodded. She was a Ranger, and her Pokemon probably understood that better than she did. There was a time when she had to trust them to take care of things, and it looked like now was going to be that time.

Another crunching sound came over the hill, followed by a boulder. Quicker than she thought possible, Brin moved out into the path. He set his two pillars next to him as he clasped his hands together, and then when the rock came close, he swung downward. The stone crumbled into pieces, stopping its descent in front of the Fighting-type Pokemon. Brin looked back at her with a happy curve to his eyes, and Ivy knew he'd be alright.

She nodded at him and took off down the path as fast as her limbs would allow, trusting Brin to take care of the rocks. She really shouldn't stay on the road, but it was hard to traverse through the jungle of weeds, and she was running out of time.

She cleared the mini forest of brush and branches until she found the rest of her culprits. A squeal echoed, followed by a sharp bark, and Ivy watched as one of the Dwebble that had been edging toward the side of the dirt road scrambled backward in fright. With a whoosh, it then disappeared downward.

A yell of some sort came from the side, where she saw two people, a man and a woman, monkeying with something underneath the dirt road. She saw strands of a net before another sharp bark drew her attention back over to the bugs.

The Dwebble were huddled in the center of the road, trying to stay away from the two hounds on either side. One was the other Vulpix, who was breathing short bursts of flame as a warning. It was sufficient in keeping the Dwebble in that tight bunch on the slope. A Houndour was on the other side, doing the same thing as the fox. Its red underbelly was mostly hidden as it hunched down, looking like it was ready to pounce on the first insect to cross that dirt line.

Ivy inched closer, and as she did, she saw that the two poachers were tying the ends of the net to a harness strapped on the remaining two dogs. The path was littered with holes too, and she realized that they had been chasing the Dwebble into the spaces with the dogs and rocks so they would fall into the trap below. The dirt trail extended farther than this area, and she saw remnants of the rolling rocks as they had slammed into trees and other obstacles ahead.

Why did they go through such an elaborate plan? It wasn't simple to herd an entire group through the forest, but surely it was easier to just chase them into the net in the first place?

Then, she had an answer. As the Houndour by the path sent a streaming flame up to the group, one of the bugs on the end retreated into its shell as the fire rushed around it. When the flames stopped, the Dwebble peeked out unharmed. Maybe the rock shelters made them too hard to chase for long.

The Growlithe barked then, and she realized it was looking right at her, alerting the humans to her presence. She swore again as she tried to close the distance between her and the others faster, but her limbs just weren't working. Still, she almost managed to get to the group of bugs before the man could dash up the grainy slope. He had responded first, rushing to stop her as the woman, supposedly Rachel, ducked to the ground for something.

She couldn't really hope to stop both of them and their Pokemon when she was alone. She wasn't that optimistic. What she could do was stall for time. If Brin or Candle finished with their tasks, they could come to her aid. Rangers might be on the way too. Minutes could matter, and the longer she could delay them taking the Dwebble, the better.

The man had curly brown hair, and from his movements, he meant to try and grapple with her. Since he had at least six inches of height on her, she didn't think that was too good of an idea. Even if she was fast, he still had better reach, and he outweighed her. If he had any skill at all in hand to hand combat, he would easily win. All she knew were some quick street moves that she had picked up over the years. If she got out of this, maybe she would actually seek out some type of formal training.

As it was, she used the only tool left to her, and that was momentum. Girls weren't weak by any means, but a man with any skill would eventually overpower them in a normal fight. So instead, she put a little extra speed into her steps despite her muscles' protests, and when he made to grab her, she clasped her hands together like Brin had done and swung upward.

Her fists connected with his jaw and he went down, falling away from her and rolling down the slope. She knew she didn't knock him out, but at least she surprised him. She had to do something. She followed the dust clouds he made with her eyes, and from there she could see that an opening had been dug under the path so they could pull the Dwebble out. If the dogs were tied up, all they had to do was pull.

Ivy allowed herself a small second of victory for stunning the man, and that was a mistake.

The woman, Rachel, had found what she was looking for. Ivy saw the familiar black and tried to dodge to the side, but her legs couldn't keep up with all her movements. They were still sore from being stunned before.

A sharp pain went through her entire body, and for the third time that day, her limbs were electrified. She cried out as she went down, not able to manipulate her fall. Her chest hit the ground before her face, so she didn't hit her head too hard when her chin slammed into the ground. Still, her eyes filled with tears from the impact, and she collapsed in the middle of the path. Her orbs stayed open this time, almost painfully wide as her body dealt with the electricity.

She cursed her own stupidity. There was a reason it wasn't wise to rush into situations like this. Since Blondie owned a stun gun, it made sense that his coworkers did too. Now she was incapacitated again, and she didn't foresee getting out of this one that easily.

The Dwebble, frightened by her movements, scurried even more, causing all but a few to fall into the deep holes and the net below. She heard growling near her feet and knew that the Houndour was over there somewhere. From her position facing downhill, she couldn't see it, and that only made the noise more threatening. She could barely see over the ledge closest to her head, and she was met with a blazing green look of rage from the woman.

Rachel and the man looked similar to the first one she had encountered, with clothes fit for the rough outdoors. They all had that strange silver bandana too, and she made a note to look into it. The woman's long, dark hair was partly plastered to her forehead from the sweat.

?Finish tying up the net,? she barked to the man, throwing down the stun gun into an open pack near her feet. ?I'll deal with the witch.?

As she said it, she pulled something from her belt behind her back. Soon the glinting metal came into focus, and Ivy's heartbeat reached a fever pitch. The Ranger struggled with her frozen limbs, desperately trying to make them work. They didn't respond.

Curly seemed to realize what she was holding too, and he almost tripped over his own boots as he caught up to her and grabbed the arm holding the weapon. ?Rachel, what are you doing? Stop!?

?Get your hands off me!? she snarled right back at him, jerking her arm away from him in a harsh motion. ?I'm making sure she doesn't get back up.?

The man paled a little and tried to step in front of her. He made placating motions with his hands, but it didn't have a lot of affect on Rachel. The Growlithe behind him growled low in its throat like it was defending her actions.

?Please, think about what you're doing. We could go to jail for this,? he said, trying again.

Rachel waved him off like she would a fly. ?If we get caught we're going to jail anyway. I have a family to feed, and I'm not gonna let some prissy animal activist get in my way.? Her eyes seethed, and Ivy knew that nothing any of them did was going to change the woman's mind. She knew that type of desperation.

She was running out of options as well as time. Seconds seemed to drag on as the man got out of Rachel's way, and Ivy felt that encompassing doom lingering on her skin. There wasn't anything she could do to stop this, and it terrified her. It was different when she could go down fighting. Here, lying immobile, she was drowning in her own fear as her pulse drummed loud in her ears.

Haji was too far away. The outpost wasn't close enough for her to reach him with her weak mental ability. Still, she tried. She screamed and thrashed in her mind, doing what her voice and body could not. If she was even part Psychic for real, maybe she could have contacted him. If he had heard the radio, he would've been here by now.

She even called for Dual, thinking that the Gallade might be nearby. He would help her if he could. She called for anyone in that silent scream. Nobody came.

The man went back to hooking up the dogs while Rachel trudged up the slope slowly and purposefully. All Ivy could do was glare at her. Her breathing sped up, and she had that nasty flash of her life come across her mind in scattered memories, reminding her of all the things she had never done. She wanted to feel sorry for the woman so desperate that she would resort to murder, but Ivy found she had no pity left. All she felt was anger.

?Better you than me,? the woman said, crouching down in front of her. Ivy got a good look at Rachel's worn features before she raised the knife up. The dogs kept up their symphony of barks and howls, growing louder in pitch. Then, she swung.

A blinding pink beam came slicing through the air at that moment, flying over the slope and Ivy's body. She felt the heat of the energy rush across her face as it struck the knife with a twang, knocking it out of the woman's hand before it could touch her.

If her face was working correctly, Ivy's would've looked a lot like the shocked Rachel's. The woman barely had time to turn before a green and white blur came sliding into her, sending her sprawling down the slope and into the grass. The tall Pokemon standing in her place was breathing slightly heavy, glaring down the side of the road to where Rachel had fallen.


Ivy couldn't believe it. She stared at him, not knowing what exactly to feel. Her heart was trying to beat out of her chest, and her mind was a maelstrom of conflicting emotions. Vergil had come?

On the edge of her vision she saw Curly rush over to the woman, pulling her to her feet once he saw she was alright. Vergil hadn't really hurt her. He had just knocked her down. She would probably have a couple bruises, but she wasn't done yet. The knife was lost in the grass, at least.

Rachel pulled herself away from him as she regained her footing. Her glare was turned toward the Gallade instead of Ivy now. Her Pokemon was good at that too. Vergil just glared right back, and the Ranger wondered what he was thinking. She wondered why he was here at all. Sure, she was glad, but he was the last person she expected to see.

The Fighting-type glanced back at her, but she couldn't decipher what the look meant. There were a lot of things she didn't understand about him.

Rachel got a hard look to her. ?If it's a fight you want...? she said, trailing off. She called to the untied Fire-types sharply, and their ears perked as their heads turned toward the woman. ?Nina, Brutus, roast him.?

Ivy saw Vergil tense in response. She didn't know how well he could fight against two opponents, let alone much at all. He wouldn't let her train with him, so she couldn't judge his level. She couldn't command him in her current state anyway, so he would be fighting this battle alone.

Air in hot waves came rushing up toward her as the Vulpix breathed a thick Flamethrower up the path. From behind, she felt a similar rush of energy and figured that the Houndour was doing the same. Ivy couldn't move to get out of the way. She couldn't even warn Vergil.

Thankfully, none of that was necessary. Almost as quick as the fire streams appeared, the Gallade threw one of his green arms in front of him, like a knight bearing a shield. An almost-invisible screen of blue light formed around him in a dome. The fire licked at the surface, but it was repelled by the protective force. It blew the flames outward and away from her. It was so bright that she saw nothing but Vergil's shadowed outline standing between her and the danger.

Vergil continued to tense as he tried to guard against the two onslaughts of fire. Ivy could tell that his strength was giving out as he struggled to keep his arm in front of him. If the duo Fire-types could keep this up, eventually the two of them would overpower him.

The Psychic-type was at his limit when there was another rumble from above. The Protect shield started to fade as Vergil flinched. Then, like Kyogre itself had ordered it, the sky opened and it started to pour.

Water washed down on them, splattering mud as it slapped the dirt path. The Vulpix's stream of fire immediately cut off, ending in a sizzling wisp of smoke seconds before the Houndour's did the same. The rain would render their Fire-type attacks almost useless as well as make them uncomfortable. Sprinkles splashed up onto her face, but Ivy still saw the fox recoil from the sudden downpour with a displeased cry.

Vergil noticed too, and the fox became his first target as he dashed off the path faster than she could follow. He reappeared in front of the Vulpix with his arms up, and he wasted no time lashing out close range. Ivy didn't think Close Combat was wise to start out with, since it was a somewhat reckless move. If he focused on attacking too much, that left him open to other attacks.

?Quick, Nina, Will-o-Wisp!? Rachel called, and Ivy inwardly winced.

Vergil knocked the fox away, but he was forced to take a quick breather as he panted. He didn't know how to pace himself. Before he could respond to the new threat, the fox's eyes glowed as five ghastly flames formed despite the rain. They shined with silvery energy, and in a chain that weaved like a snake, the mini fires wrapped around his middle and extended arm.

The Gallade flinched back in pain, and that only proved to make it worse. Even with the cooling rain, the slightest of movements would irritate a burn.

Vergil held out his undamaged arm straight ahead, and his eyes glowed with blue as a similar aura appeared around the Vulpix. The fox was left frozen as he lifted it into the air, and after letting it hover a moment, he sent it flying with his psychic power. The creature slammed into the man ducked down by the Growlithe, and the dog yelped as the three were thrown together. That might slow down their plan a little.

Vergil then drew his limb back, hunching involuntarily over his damaged midsection. His choppy motions gave away his frustration, but he was pretty stubborn, so retreating was probably not on his agenda.

With her head touching the ground, Ivy heard the thudding against the wet path before the black blur of Houndour sped past her. With Vergil tending to his wounds, he left his back exposed. The dog was going to barrel right into him.

Vergil, the Houndour!

Even if she couldn't call out vocally, she had to help her Pokemon. If Vergil had heard her plea before, maybe he was still listening.

The Gallade's fan of green hair whirled as he flashed around on instinct, drawing his green arms across his chest in an X shape. The Houndour snarled as it leaped from the hill, and Vergil barely struck out in time. He slashed his arms out, and a wave of lime green energy formed feet in front of him. The attack hit the incoming dog, and it whined as it was thrown back onto the path.

Water from the impact sloshed her way, and Ivy could see the mud embedded in the dog's coat as it recovered from the impact. She imagined her own underbelly looked the same. Within seconds the Pokemon recovered and rolled onto its feet, ready to lunge again. This time Vergil wasn't fast enough, and the dog bit down on the fighter's already-singed arm.

?Don't let up!? Rachel shouted from the sidelines somewhere. She must've moved, since Ivy couldn't see her anymore. The Growlithe and other Houndour encouraged their teammate too, howling together in a background symphony.

The hound listened to the order, and Vergil made a pained sound as the dog snarled, still holding onto the limb with sharp teeth. A smokey energy formed in its muzzle, and the dog used the energy to further damage its foe. The Psychic-type tried to shake it off, but he was struggling. Since the dog was much smaller compared to Vergil, he couldn't get a good hit on it. The burn was also making it harder for him to move, and Ivy could only watch him flail.

Ivy tried to move her body again, but there was still no life in it. All of her limbs felt like heavy stones, and even that small effort took all of her breath. She could only lay in the mud and watch. At least she was turned enough to watch her Pokemon fight.

Then, the ear to the ground picked up another noise, much like she had with the Houndour. It was a gravelly scrape, and her mind immediately recognized it. There was a boulder coming down the path.

With gritted teeth she tried to wrench her body again, only to be unsuccessful. Why did she have to fall in the middle of the path? There was no way that rock wasn't going to hit her if she didn't get out of the way. Her stomach soured even as she tried not to think about what that meant for Brin. She hoped he had just missed one.

The tumbling sound grew louder, signaling the rock's approach. Ivy wasn't watching Vergil anymore, instead desperately trying to roll or wiggle or something to get her out of the way. There weren't any Dwebble left on the path. The remaining ones must have been scared off by the attack on Vergil. She could faintly hear the group rumbling below, their sounds coming through the pores in the dirt path.

Suddenly, her skin hummed with energy, and in a flash, Vergil was in front of her again. She barely had time to process what was happening as he quickly scooped her up and flashed out of sight. That familiar feeling of the air closing in around her followed, meaning that the Gallade had teleported with her.

She was amazed again that he had stopped what he was doing to make sure she was okay.

She didn't have a lot of time to think about it. When they reappeared safely in the grass, a basketball-sized orb of green energy slammed into them. Ivy went tumbling from Vergil's grip, rolling into the soaked brush.

Luckily, she rolled to a stop on her back, and that let her see what was going on. They were several yards away from the raised dirt road, and she could now clearly see the Dwebble stuck underneath the slope straight ahead. If her eyes were working right, she thought she noticed a few Nincada there as well, all stuck inside the net the man was finishing up. The rock that had threatened her went rolling past the dugout, picking up a little more speed before it smashed into a tree. She was glad that wasn't her.

The Gallade shook himself off from the attack as he took a couple of wobbly steps. He steadied himself shortly after, seeing a new threat had been added to the battle. The Vulpix had recovered from where Vergil threw it, and it was growling at him. It had to be responsible for the Energy Ball.

The Houndour was a few feet away from the fox, and it was clear that they meant to double team him. Rachel was no longer watching, trusting them to take care of the battle. Instead, she was frantically searching through the grass. She had to be looking for the knife, though Ivy wasn't sure how much good it would do. If Rachel wanted to kill her, all she had to do was come over here and do it. Maybe she was worried about Vergil interfering?

Before either of the enemy Pokemon could attack, Vergil charged in with a sweeping punch to the dog. It yelped as it was thrown back, but then the Vulpix was there, nipping at his heels. Ivy knew the Gallade was tired. His movements were slowing down, and with each swing he took, the two Fire-types were starting to get a couple more in. He wouldn't be able to keep this up for much longer. To distract them and give himself a few seconds to breathe, he started teleporting around, causing them to chase him like he was some sort of treat.

Then, Ivy caught sight of the brown-haired man. He quickly stood up and moved to the side, yelling, ?Go!?

The cream tuft of hair on the Growlithe's head jerked back as it lunged forward, leaving its partner Houndour to follow. The harnesses pulled, and as the two dogs dashed, the net was yanked out from the path. The insects inside called out as they tumbled carelessly over the rough ground, getting soaked by the rain. They were making a break for the docks.

The net! she tried calling again, hoping Vergil would hear. If the group kept their travel path, they were going to run right into her.

Vegil's form flashed up on the slope, and she saw him catch sight of the two dogs making a beeline north. The two he was fighting started to head for the road to chase him, but the Psychic-type just winked out of sight, appearing across from her. He threw one of his arms back and concentrated, and Ivy could feel the energy from his attack charging.

The traveling pack veered a little to the right so they would avoid her, and Vergil waited for the group to pass between them before he unleashed his technique. Another vivid pink beam came flying as he swung his arm out, and it arched through the air before sweeping across the net. The twines snapped, and the insects all came tumbling to a stop, dazed and stumbling. With the loss of the weight, the two pulling dogs tripped from all of their extra effort.

Vergil disappeared back to his own fight as Curly started running toward her. It occurred to her that she had spent a lot of time being protected by Pokemon today.

?Dwe?? a voice beside her asked, and Ivy looked to see one of the orange Dwebble standing next to her head. She thought it might've been the same one she first encountered.

As she watched, more of the insects came into her line of sight. A few of them without rocks held their claws up and tilted their heads, as if wondering where the rain was coming from. Some looked relieved. They didn't have to fear the fire attacks as much now.

Curly stopped about ten feet from the line of insects, calling to the dogs somewhere behind her. In response, the Growlithe and the other Houndour came around to his side, growling at the insects. He was going to try and herd the rest to the docks.

?All right, boys, nice and easy,? he said, causing the dogs to step forward and make a low, menacing sound in their throats.

?Dwe dwe!? the insect closest to her called, not moving back an inch. After a second, other Dwebble echoed that cry.

A few of the flat Nincada crawled up too, and then they started to hum. The Dwebble joined in, and soon the earth started to rumble underneath her. Working together, the Pokemon all slammed down on the ground at the same time. The earth rippled, surging up like a wave and shooting toward the dogs. With a yelp they were toppled over by the technique, and even the man fell back from the tremor. She thought it might be a Bulldoze. The bugs weren't going to be taken advantage of anymore, it seemed.

They weren't done there, however. With a slosh, some of them disappeared underneath the ground, spiraling down into the dirt and pulling the weeds with them. Remaining Dwebble were starting to pick up rocks and shooting them at a rapid rate. The one nearest to her balanced a fist-sized stone on its tail before throwing its body forward, making a catapult. The stone flew and smacked the recovering Growlithe in the face, causing it to cry out.

Something about the bugs fighting back was panicking the man, and Ivy saw that worried look in his eyes as he started to take backward steps. He was going to make a run for it. Ivy looked at the closest Dwebble and tried to communicate that with just her expression, but she didn't know if it worked.

A call from the man drew her eyes back over to him as he toppled backward again. Three Nincada and a ...
Well, I did say I would claim this. SO CLAIMED. It will be up soonish, maybe -- depending on when I can get enough time when I'm not super tired or busy. Please bear with me, but I promise I won't take too long.
Introduction: You start off the story with a tone of easy conversation -- the banter back and forth between Ivy and Leo sets a homely and humorous mood at the start of the story. The mood at the start of the story is important to set right, or your story may end up seeming a little off when the mood suddenly changes -- of course, you can have subtle transitions in mood if you're able to write it that way, but most readers will generally expect the mood of the story to remain more or less the same throughout the piece. I'm not saying that's what you've done in this story -- it's just something to look out for in future. I mean, the mood does change gradually in the story, but there's always a sort of lightness about it, which is quite refreshing, really. It's nice to not have to filter through a grimdark story.

As for the introduction of the characters, you're going the right way about it. You tend to name characters with no introduction to them beforehand -- it's not too much of a problem, really, but I only find that it can be problematic when names are just produced from nowhere without any prior description of them. It feels like you expect the reader to know about the characters already -- which they would if they went near the National Park, but you can't really expect people to base their knowledge of a character on affairs that lay outside of the Stories forum. I mean, the whole naming and then explaining later thing is an okay way of introducing your character -- you're able to put a name to them and then you're free to say what you like, which saves you the hassle of trying to find a way to put the name in after your introduction to the previously-nameless character without seeming too abrupt. Both ways pointed out have their pros and cons, so it's up to you which one you use, but I'd say that the method I suggested is generally easier on a reader.

However, by no means is the suggested method the best way of doing things in some cases. Take Argent, a character mentioned out of the blue by Leo. Since Argent isn't actually present there, you're still able to keep the readers' interest in him through the fact they don't actually know what he is like yet. In that, you're still bringing a new character into the story without all the hassle of describing him and so on. It's really a sort of case-by-case sort of thing. Your main job when introducing characters is really to decide how they should be brought into the story. Neither of the two ways are actually the only way of introducing characters, though, but they're probably the more common ones. Just keep it in mind. ^^

As well as that, you're assuming that people know you're talking about the National Park -- which I know about, but some people might not. You mention Rangers several times throughout the first few paragraphs of your story, but you don't state their job. The thing is mainly that you don't set a location properly for the story -- I don't blame you for slipping like that, because if we're writing about something that's familiar to us, we tend to assume that other people will know what we're talking about. Of course, a learned reader might be able to deduce, from the fact that we're talking about 'The Woods', that it is to do with URPG's National Park, but you can't count on readers to do all of the guesswork, especially about something as standard as a location. As an author, your job is to inform the reader of these things. In truth, you could be talking about any 'Woods' anywhere. In an introduction, telling the reader about the location(s) in which a story is taking place is as equally important as introducing characters or conflict.

Oh, hey! There's something I haven't talked about yet. Conflict, that is. You bring up the conflict through the beginning conversation within the story -- Leo throws it out almost nonchalantly. Given his seemingly lax attitude, this could be interpreted as just him not taking it seriously. However, the casual way in which what turns out to be the lead-up to the main conflict is brought up could make the reader believe that what has just been said doesn't have any relevance to the story. That's not bad in honesty, because you can be all tricksy when writing and be like, "HEY, TURNS OUT THIS REALLY IS IMPORTANT!" However, the way it's presented only makes it seem like a mild mystery, which a misconception reinforced by what you've described Ivy as thinking -- that it's just going to be a 'chore'. I'm not sure if the sort of casual approach to the conflict was really what you intended or not, but usually things like that are brought up in more dramatic context, and the characters -- depending on their personality, of course -- would generally have a little more concerned reactions, I think. Ivy comes across as being vaguely interested.

Your introduction wasn't bad at all -- the main error was the whole 'National Park' thing. Keep in mind when you're writing something that is familiar to you that it will not usually be familiar to other people. Think of it this way: your readers are all dumb people, so you have to explain a lot to them.

Plot: OKAY. Random summary time. So, Leo starts chatting up Ivy and tells her to go investigate something; Ivy wanders off and begins to inspect all the rock damage and stuff, and begins to suspect poachers. Mind control devices are discovered and it turns out poachers are behind all the strange activity going on. From then, it's a race to try and stop the poachers from achieving what they had set out to do. It's a well thought-out plot, really. As I said, the casual way in which the problem with the Dwebble is introduced sets the mildly mysterious atmosphere, but it's later revealed to be something much more serious. The way you've tried to manipulate the reader by sort of doing a tricksy inversion thing is actually quite clever of you, my dear Winter -- you turned their (assuming I'm right) initial conceptions upside-down. It's always cool to be tricked cleverly when you're reading a story. It's not likely that someone will get mad because they weren't right about a story. ;p

The plot, in general, is fine. Since you're only really shooting for Medium-rank, there's nothing worth pointing out -- rough guidelines suggest that there should be a decent plot and stuff, which you've went quite a bit above. There's nothing that is too out of place in terms of your plot, and I understood everything perfectly well. There's nothing in particular to worry about, really, in terms of your plot. What I really liked about the whole 'plot' category (idk what to call it) was that, as well as the main plot of the whole poachers and stuff, you've got a subplot or two running behind the scenes -- namely the whole Ivy/Vergil conflict. While giving you something to talk about from time to time when things are running a little low in other areas, this also helps with CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. (woo, resurgence of the fancy capsboldthing)

Your main human characters in the story are Ivy, Leo and Argent. Ivy, being the actual 'main' of those three, is obviously given the majority of the time in the story, and thus she gets developed as a result. Through the various paragraphs where she is wandering about, talking to her Pok?mon and doing her job, we learn various aspects about her -- like how much she knows about her job, and how her relationship with Vergil the Gallade is a bit... on the rocks. You give Ivy a personality during the story, which is a fantastic trait in itself -- you're not endlessly describing her, but we learn, through her reactions to certain situations or her thoughts on certain things, a lot about her.

The flow of your plot is fine, too, except there is a small thing I want to comment on (see detail/description section). Good job on most of your plot!

Grammar/spelling: Nothing worth commenting on. :<


Detail/description: Your description is, for the most most most part, brilliant. You vary it up with advanced vocabulary, you use all those similes and all those other linguistic devices. I'm getting too lazy to say much at this point. Blame my immense fatigue. You're a little too focused on visuals, though -- although I have noticed a good many instances of some of the other parts of sensory description added in, like the feel of the temperature rising due to Vulpix charging Heat Wave and the leaves rustling as Ivy fell on them or something. However, I felt that the very vast majority of the description was given over to visuals, so we didn't get the full view -- I didn't see much of smells and sounds within the story. Even though they may be less important than visuals, they are still quite important, so I'd like to see you including just a bit more of those two senses in the future. That way, the reader gets a full grasp of what's offered.

For the thing I had mentioned in the plot section, though, I'm going to elaborate. The flow of your story is kinda disrupted by the fact that you keep stopping a lot of the action to keep explaining what's going on, and also to write about what Ivy thought of a certain occurrence. I think that may be your general role-play style in the Park rubbing off on your story writing -- it's not exactly the sort of 'ranting' that one would spot in the park most of the time, but it's quite close to it, I guess. While we do want to see a bit about Ivy, we don't need an explanation about everything. Some issues need explanation; some don't. It's up to you to decide where explanation is necessary, of course.

Length: BLEH. I think the count I got was slightly lengthened by the random spacing thing that you couldn't help, but that's all right. You're still well within the range for all of your Pok?mon.

Outcome: All of the Pok?mon are captured. The story went beyond what you needed, in all honesty, with only minor errors in your writing here and there. I know you're a very experienced writer as is, so I don't really think you had many doubts about how this was going to turn out. For being 'rusty', you did rather well. Keep in mind both the location/assumption issues and how you keep the story flowing.

^^ Keep up the good work in future stories! psh, I know you will without me saying that. ;p
Thanks, Buoy ^^ I appreciate you grading this even though you're busy with school things.

I'll definitely keep the things you said in mind. I did think about the National Park and the other senses thing (which is why there are some random added things like the howling of the mons and whatnot) while I was writing, but when I got into edit mode I was pretty much sick of looking at it after like a week so I just said w/e XD
WinterVines Wrote:Thanks, Buoy ^^ I appreciate you grading this even though you're busy with school things.

I'll definitely keep the things you said in mind. I did think about the National Park and the other senses thing (which is why there are some random added things like the howling of the mons and whatnot) while I was writing, but when I got into edit mode I was pretty much sick of looking at it after like a week so I just said w/e XD

Hehe, no problem.

And hey, I understand. It was a very well-written story regardless. ^^

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