It was late in the night when the entire guild managed to traverse through Cactus Fields and stopped in front of the largest Giant Cactus . Before they could meet up with the with the owner of the Thirsty Cacturne however, there was a huge commotion as a group of rough looking Pokemon scampered down from the front door, chased by an angry Miltank wielding a scary looking spiked club. Turns out it was the owner of the saloon herself, and truth to be told, Logan was rather perplexed by how fast she switched from demonic fury into a perfectly friendly person. She looked scary strong too.
Turns out the inn didn’t have enough rooms for the bulk of the guild members despite its size. With several loud complaining and groaning from several members (and a condescending protests from the ever-sneering Andalusstian Ambassador), supplies and tents were pulled down from the caravan and everyone began to work.
Tristan decided that Logan should stay with him and Tor since the state of his health wouldn’t allow him to do much of anything. The Buizel agreed, though he was a bit disappointed then Theoden told the three that his friend had managed to pay for a room in the Thirsty Cacturne and he had intended to stay in the saloon.
“We’ll still see each other ‘round.” The bandaged Gabite had said, patting Logan’s head with a fond smile. “I’m sure Luke and Cassidy will have tasks for us to do tomorrow. Now you just rest. It’s been a long journey for us.”
Logan couldn’t help but nod at the Explorer. A thought suddenly occured to him. “Um, Theoden…”
“You can call me Theo, you know.” The dark blue skinned dragon interjected airily. “I’ll see you around then, Logan.”
“Yeah, right, Theo.” Logan corrected sheepishly. “See you around.” He added, giving a small wave to the retreating figure of the Gabite.
On the other side of the camping ground, Derek had shown a surprisingly skilled hand in preparing a campsite, which Ardor found surprising to a degree.
“Well, I dunno, I just… did it.” The Monferno had said, scratching the back of his head in slight confusion when he and Ardor got their tent righted up.
The hooded Quilava couldn’t help but let out a small grin. “Good then. I think you’re slowly recovering your memories.”
Derek shrugged, but it did keep him thinking. “Cael, you said something about a memory block in here, right?” He turned to the Honedge as he tapped his head. “You think it might have been weakened when I evolved?”
“Hmm… it is a possibility.” Cael hummed, swishing his tassel from side to side. He always did that when he’s pondering about something. “Your whole being did undergo an intense restructuring, so I think that block might be weakened to a degree.”
“Make sure to tell us if you experience flashbacks, alright?” Ardor intoned as he unrolled a couple of thin mattress inside the tent.
“Okay then.” Derek nodded with a slight smile as he went to move their equipment and belongings into the tent. The scarfed Monferno suddenly blinked and turned around when he heard several raised voices near the entrance to the Thirsty Cacturne. It sounded like several people were arguing heatedly. Nearly everyone in the campsite heard it too.
“I wonder what’s that about?” Cael mused.
Ardor hummed thoughtfully as he dusted his paws off. “I guess I’ll go check it out. You two stay here and guard the tent, alright?” He said, already moving towards the source of the noise.
Derek gave him nod. “Yeah, sure.”
As it turns out, it was Reuben Hetterich, who was looking quite murderous. The impeccably groomed Mienshao could be heard muttering a few comments about inept guilds and no sense of respect when he spotted Ardor looking at him from the sides with raised eyebrow.
“Oh, it’s you…” He drawled, mouth twitching in a sneer. The ermine seemed to blink for a moment, taking a good look at Ardor for a moment, before he nodded to himself. “This might be a perfect chance… At least there’s a competent Hunter around this dump.”
Holding back a snarky retort, Ardor settled for a curt nod. He had a feeling he won’t like what Hetterich will say next. “What can I do for you?” He asked, biting his lip.
“I have a proposition for you.” The Mienshao drawled, waving his arm towards the Thirsty Cacturne. “Those good-for-nothing Researchers had the Luxury Suite booked for their leader and her assistant, forcing me to be stuck here in the middle of this spike filled hellhole.” A prominent scowl had appeared on the Mienshao’s face, making him appear even uglier.
Ardor let out a small sigh. Figures. “What do you want me to do then?”
Reuben smirked. “I want you to deprive Solstice and Flint of the luxury suite.”
“You heard me.” And the ugly scowl was back. “My preference is that you cause them as much embarrassment and inconvenience as possible. You could, say... frame the Sandshrew for scuffing the floors, say, or steal from the safe and plant the spoils in their luggage, whatever. I will leave the method as you please.”
Ardor was silent for a moment. “...I see.”
“My only condition is that you avoid causing excessive damage to the suite. As much as I want to harm that lout of an innkeeper, I’d like show my benevolence by paying for the remaining night, and any damages caused.” Reuben continued, lightly dusting his claws on his expensive red cloak. “Oh, and there must be nothing to connect me to your activities, do you understand? Absolutely. Nothing. I have a reputation for being untouchable to uphold.”
“Of course you do.”
“I’ll reward you handsomely for your effort.” The ermine continued, his scowl settling back into his usual sneer. “Now hurry along and get to work. I’d prefer if I can view this entertainment as soon as possible. Mmm… perhaps I can get other Hunters to help you incase you fail...” He added in an afterthought.
“Yeah, right.” The Quilava scoffed, glaring as Reuben retreated from the area. Muttering a curse under his breath, Ardor turned around and began to make his way back towards his tent. There’s no way he would sink so low to become a hired thug for a spoiled, whiny, rich boy.
He was too annoyed by the nobleman that he didn’t really look where he was going, and nearly walked straight to Robin. Quickly regaining his balance, Ardor grimaced when he finally recognize the hooded form of the Banette. “Sorry ‘bout that sir… Wasn’t looking.”
Robin just gave Ardor an easy smile and waved his hand. “It’s alright, no harm done.” Said the hooded Hunters Guild Chief of Operations. “The lodge and campsite are quite packed tonight. With so many guild members and locals around, someone is bound to bump to each other.”
“Ah, yeah.” Ardor let out a weak chuckle whilst nodding in agreement.
“I see you’ve made friends with our… special guest.” Robin continued, his smile fading slightly.
“I assure you sir, I’m not complying with Hetterich’s wishes.”
Robin grinned at him. “Oh, I’m much certain of that. Don’t you worry.” He chuckled, making Ardor relax somewhat. “You seem to operate on a set moral code, which is always good. That leads to my request.” He hummed lightly, eyes flicking towards the suite on top of the Thirsty Cacturne and the shadowed form of Hetterich a few ways down.
“You want me to stop that team or whomever he had hired from kicking out Miss Solstice and Flint from the suite,” Ardor guessed with a slight grin, “without drawing any kind of attention to me, or even the foe.”
The wide grin Robin gave him couldn’t be more wider. “I see we have several sharp recruits, good.” He nodded, feeling rather pleased. “Yes, you would be correct. I suspect it won’t be much trouble for you. I can see you’re quite experienced in this kind of work.” He chuckled. “I suggest you make your move quickly. I think our nobleman might have come into an agreement with some of our more unscrupulous members…”
Ardor turned, peeking through a rather large tent, just in time to see the Mienshao handing a small sack of Starcoins into the hands of a rough looking Bisharp. The ‘mon gave Hetterich a jerky nod, and it dashed off with three of its team members following with glee written in their faces.
“Alright then.” Pulling his hood up, more of a force of habit than anything, and turned to nod at Robin. “I’ll try to keep the noise down.” He said, making his way towards the inn. This should be quite easy, he thought, as he tailed the group of four, who were heading towards the back entrance of the inn.
Robin merely waved at the hooded Quilava, blinking when the Fire-type practically blended into the shadows. “Now, aren’t you an interesting one…” He intoned, mostly to himself, before he floated away, with plans to round a few more Hunters to foil Hetterich’s childish, but potentially destructive plans.
A few feet away, a lone Lucario standing by the light of the nearby campfire seemed to follow Ardor’s movements with his bright amber eyes. A small smirk tugged on the jackal’s lips. “You’re never one to turn away from trouble, huh?” He murmured as he pulled the collar of his cloak and walked away.
Alistair, or Ace, as he preferred to be called, could not be more elated. He and his crew were starting to get agitated after two days doing nothing but walking around, guarding a blasted caravan wagon. The Basalt Halls provided an ample amount of destructive diversions, sure, but the Bisharp was itching for some action by the time they arrived at this ugly, sandy dump surrounded by idiots and weaklings.
The opportunity could not be more perfect, he thought with glee as he twirled the sack of starcoins with his claws, entering the Thirsty Cacturne in a leisure pace with his crew behind him. No one spared them a second glance, which was good. Now… where’s that private suite again? Oh yes, the top floor.
“So boss. What should we do after we secured those nerds?” Boris, a Haunter, asked as the group of four trudged up the stairs.
Ace rolled his eyes. “Must you ask? Plunder everything. I don’t care what that bitchy rich guy wants. Ransack the whole place if you feel like it.” He waved his claw dismissively.
“Heheh, good.” Boris chuckled to himself. “Let’s get these wimps.”
Rio and Brooks voiced their agreement loudly behind the Ghost-type.
Ace grunted. Their level of enthusiasm can get really annoying at times. “Will you two fuckers be quiet? Those researchers might hear you, you morons!” He hissed. All three Pokemon quieted down, but Brooks gave the Bisharp a small glare, which Ace returned with double the intensity. The Electabuzz could disagree with him all he liked, but he’s still the boss in his group.
Rio just gave a noncommittal grumble, the tip of his ever burning lizard tail twitching. Ace gave the two of them a long, hard look before motioning for them to continue climbing.
The four of them soon reached the top most landing, which leads into a short anteroom where there stood a single door at the other side. From the voices behind it, the researchers seemed to be getting their things sorted. Perfect. He could hear Boris giggling in anticipation and Brooks’ antennas crackling with static electricity. Rio, just grinned maniacally, and Ace could tell that the Charmeleon was ready to tear down the walls with his razor sharp claws if he ever so wanted.
With a small smirk, the Bisharp gave his crew a jerk of a nod, turned, and delivered a roundhouse kick that would burst through the door, if not for a solid kick that hit the back of his head.
“I honestly didn’t expect a Hunter would stoop so low to become a muscle for hire.” uttered a voice from on top of Ace, who had found himself face down to the wooden flooring as a foot pressed down on his head. The unknown intruder jumped when Boris launched a Shadow Ball right at it. There was yelp as the attack struck Rio who had moved in to attack the unknown ‘mon.
“Who the hell are you, punk?!” Brooks thundered, running in with a Thunder Punch at the figure. Ace managed to look up quick enough to see a Quilava wearing a black and gold trimmed hood dodging the attack before jumping on top of the Electabuzz and delivered a swift kick to Rio, who had recovered enough and rushed in with Metal Claw.
The Charmelon was out in an instant, after slamming his head to the wooden beams.
Growling, the Bisharp pulled himself up and went to slash the smaller Fire-type. “The hell with you, cunt!” His claws met with empty air, and his face was met with a searing ball of golden fire. “Gah!”
The Quilava didn’t even pause to look at Ace before he delivered several more Incinerate at the only Haunter in the room, effectively searing the purple colored spirit, and delivered a swift Crush Claw towards Brooks’s chest, mindful not to gouge too deep as his energy claws pierced through fur, skin, and muscle. Blind with pain, the Electabuzz went for a random punch, which the Quilava barely dodged.
“Die you!” Boris screeched, launching another Shadow Ball, which the Quilava avoided by jumping out of the way, which then burst on Brooks, who instantly fainted.
“You’re being way too loud, you know that.” The hooded Fire-type said, launching a firey whip which curled around the Haunter’s gaseous body and slowly burning the Ghost type. Another whip flew just as Ace, who was snarling with rage, attempted to get up, hitting the Bisharp across the face. “Now be silent.” With a successive series of punch, the Steel-type was out cold, while the remaining Haunter screeched again as he was burned, before he too, fell limp against the floorboards.
Ardor let out a sigh as he wiped his forehead. This particular team might proof to be more destructive should he had arrived later. Though, he couldn’t much do more than move two steps towards the unconscious Hunters when there was a thundering footsteps from the stair, and a Sandshrew’s head poking out from the suite’s door.
Sherman surveyed the four unconscious bodies, the lone hooded Quilava, and her two guests who had come out from their suite. Folding her arms, she turned towards the Fire type. “Explain what happened here.”
Ardor gave a dismissive wave as he let out a small incredulous sigh. “It was nothing, really. My friends here got way too carried away with their drinks and decided to explore around for a bit. Stairs and alcohol doesn’t really mix, you know. Knocked themselves out cold after rolling down from the bar.” He said, feigning an air of carelessness, which seemed to convince the Miltank somewhat. Flint was looking at him with narrowed eyes though.
“Ah, right, right. Just carry ‘em downstairs. I don’t want drunk guests sleeping around the floor.” Sherman gave a small huff, before her frown was replaced with a large smile. “Want me to help ya with them?” She indicated the Bisharp and Electivire.
“That would be helpful, thanks.” Ardor nodded with a grin. He hefted the Charmeleon’s arm over his shoulder. “Come on bud, no more drinking for you guys.” He chuckled to himself, turning for a split second to gave a subtle nod at Flint and Solstice, promising an explanation soon, before he headed down the stairs.
Robin will have a field day after this.
“More caravans, huh?” Tor remarked dryly as he looked at the assignment paper Tristan had got them. “I suppose this will be fun.”
“It’s either this or setting up an information booth, which I suspect you won’t like at all.” Came Tristan’s reply as he loosened the strings of his vest and squinted at the harsh sun above them. Man, he should’ve bought that broad brim hat back in Andalusst. “And I’ve given the patrolling task to Logan.” He gestured to the Buizel who was sitting right beside him.
Tor grunted, but he gave a small nod at the explanation. “Make sense I guess. How’s your arm, kid?”
Logan blinked. “Oh, well, it’s much better now. Doesn’t really hurt when I try to move.” He said, smiling a bit. Dr. Leo’s pill and ointment sure is fast acting, which he was grateful for. The Vaporeon told him that with enough rest, his arm should be healed by three to four days.
“Good. Well, we best get going now.” Tristan uttered, looking over the western desert. “That caravan needs all the help they can get. Stay safe, Logan.” He gave the young Buizel a pat on the shoulder before departing with Tor, who gave him a small nod.
Logan watched the two go and couldn’t help but feel quite awed. They seemed so composed and confident... especially Tristan. That Prinplup was really cool alright. Especially during their dungeon exploration. He couldn’t help but think Tristan as a captain of a sail ship, or maybe even the navy of an unknown land, given his precise manner of speech and accent…
Shaking his head from the thoughts, Logan covered a yawn and headed towards the group of Explorers who had been assigned patrol duty. It would be a nice pace after what happened in Basalt Halls.
It soon turned out to be quite boring, however. Perhaps it has something to do with his arm on a sling? Logan quickly found himself sitting by one of the cactus guard posts with a Baltoy who didn’t speak much, watching the arid desert outside the perimeter of Cactus Fields for any sign of attack.
So far, the Buizel had entertained himself by watching the wind shape the sand dunes in the distance, but soon boredom caught up to him and the Water type wished that he had brought something to distract himself with.
“... The Warrior was bright last night.”
Logan blinked. “Wha?”
“The Warrior constellation.” The Baltoy repeated, glancing up to the clear blue sky. “It was bright last night.”
“Okay…” came Logan’s reply, unsure what to make of that comment. “You like stargazing then?”
“Only when the sky is clear.” The Baltoy said again. “Sometimes Andalusst has too many lights.”
“The night sky here is very clear.”
Logan nodded. “Too cold for me though.”
“... Really? So that’s why everyone was huddled near the bonfire last night.”
The Buizel just stared.
Half an hour later and a few yards away, in the middle of a rocky outcrop, Tristan fired a barrage of highly pressurized bubbles at the incoming horde of Gibles who had come charging towards the downed caravan cart. The ball-like dragons yelped and rolled away when the Prinplup’s attack pelted the sand covered rock around them.
Meanwhile, Tor was engaged in a one-on-one fight with a particularly vicious looking Garchomp. Bursts of electricity exploded around their general vicinity, scorching the sand, blasting the surface of the rocky cliffs, interlooped with powerful blows and sharp bites. One particularly powerful Double Kick later, the Garchomp fell to the sand, groaning. The group of Gible and Gabite, who had been hiding behind the cliffs could only watch in shock as the Luxio had basically taken down one of their strongest fighters. Tor simply smirked and fell into another stance. “Alright, who’s next?” He gestured with his outstretched paw.
Needless to say, the dragon-sharks ran away, only to stopped when a pair of Grovyle and Servine rushed in and tied them together. The rest of the Gabite “tribe” were quickly subdued by the Explorers and the Nomads.
“Well, I’d say that’s a job well done.” Tor remarked, massaging his neck. That Garchomp has a rather strong chop.
“Mmm… perhaps.” Tristan hummed, looking back at the caravan they had just saved. “Let’s hope there wasn’t anything damaged.” He said, turning to one of the wagons. It was manned by Marshtomp and a Manetrike, both were clad in a full desert gear. The Marshtomp spotted the two Explorers and grinned widely.
“Thanks for saving us.” The Mud Fish Pokemon said, wiping his brow with the cloth of his flap hat. “We’d be done for if you lot didn’t come, we managed to protect our goods and equipment with minimal damage thanks to you and your group.”
The Manetrike nodded her agreement. “Yes, we owe you guys.”
“Your caravan should have waited for us in the first place.” Came Hathor’s voice. The Marshtomp winced, along with the rest of the caravan ‘mons. Tor noted that the group of 20 ‘mons consisted mostly of Water, Flying, and Electric types.
“Yes, well, our captain told us to head out for Geoda City when she got sick and tired of waiting.” The Manetrike told the Camerupt.
Hathor huffed. “Foolish move. Where is she then?” She asked.
The Manetrike gestured to a lone figure of a Swellow, lying unconscious in the nearby wagon. “She hit her head when flying too close to the cliff when the fight started.”
Tristan sweatdropped. “I see…”
“Well…” Hathor blinked, before she gave the Manetrike a nod. “I see. Now, let’s just get your caravan righted. When you’re ready, the Andalusstian Explorers here will escort you to Cactus Fields to rest for the remainder of the day.”
“Thank you.” The Marshtomp nodded, which Tristan returned.
James Holford was up and running, setting up his beloved chemistry set with various ingredients spread about the table, with various berries he had found and collected in the Cactus Fields. There was a large abundance of Salac and Agave berries, which was fine by him. Now… he would just need to plan and come up with the perfect tequila recipe. Hmm…
“Leo, what do you think?”
The Vaporeon blinked up from the bottle of Thirsty Cacturne’s homemade brew of Salac Tequila. It had the sweetest, but a rather strong smell. “I think I’m gonna like spending time here.” He grinned, sniffing the bottle again before he poured the contents into a small shot glass and downed it, smacking his lips. “Ah, that’s a good one.”
Jim looked sideways at his roommate. “Less drinking, more thinking.” He said with a small hint of exasperation. “Really now, drinking alcohol in the morning.” He mock chided.
“Says the Zigzagoon who likes to practice his violin at three a.m.” Leo shot back.
“Mmm… touche.” Jim shrugged and continued to set up the distillation set, filling up the containers with water. “Well then, doctor. Any ideas?”
“Being a fan of alcoholic drink doesn’t make me an expert in brewing, Jim.” Leo raised an eyebrow as he looked over the ingredients.
Jim simply smiled. “Something tells me that’s not quite true. Just tell me what’s on your mind, doctor. I’m too lazy to guess your inner workings of your mind today.”
Snorting, the Vaporeon picked up an Aguav berry and inspected it. “They say we just have to make a variation of their tequila right?”
Leo nodded. “Right. I think I know what to do.” He looked over the equipments Jim had prepared on the kitchen counter, absentmindedly noting that the other researchers in the room were busy taking ingredients from the storage room. He allowed himself to grin a little. “Looks like we’ve got the right equipment. Okay, we would need a bluk and razz berries for the additional liqueur and syrup, sitrus berries for the juice, and then we need to prepare carbonated water.”
“Carbonated water? Well then, this drink will be interesting.” Jim mused, obviously intrigued. “Well then, let’s get to it doctor.” He said, rolling adjusting the sleeves of his vest.
The two quickly began to work. Leo quickly went to wash the fruits and began to juice the sitrus berries, while Jim began the process of carbonating several liters of water with a rudimentary carbonator device he had constructed using several glass bottles, tubes, baking soda, and whatever he could find from the kitchen. Then, he began the process of distilling the bluk berries for the liqueur, while Leo went to make a syrup out of the remaining bluk berries with the rest of the razz berries. The result was a thick, bright red syrup with a distinctive sweet smell. The last step was to distill the aguav and salac berries into the tequila, which Leo found quite hard to do at first, but with Jim’s guidance, the Vaporeon soon got the hang of it. The distilling process of the two alcoholic beverages took half of the day, with a lot of waiting and controlling the process was quite taxing with a fragile equipment.
In the end, the two Researchers got what they needed, and it seemed to be quite the success.
“I can say your bluk spirit is quite perfect, though our salac tequila doesn’t seem to really match the level of Thirsty Cacturne’s brew… but I’ll shut up now and let you do the work.” He added hastily when Leo sent him a glare that promised pain if he continued commenting. Leo just gave Jim a grunt before he began mixing the ingredients together.
First, the Vaporeon filled the four tall glasses with ice cubes to the brim, and then added their recently brewed salac tequila halfway full. The clear alcoholic drink turned yellowish when he then filled the rest with sitrus juice, which he shook to make sure they were mixed evenly. Then, the bluk liqueur was added, which Leo made sure to be mixed lightly. He then added the syrup, which was poured in carefully and very, very slowly as not to mix the whole drink too much. The end result was a bright yellow drink which gradually turned red to the bottom.
“Interesting… it’s almost as if we’re looking at a sunset or sunrise.” Jim remarked, peering close to the drinks.
“I call it ‘Sunset Salac Tequila’.” Leo said with a grin as he added slices of oran berries to the lip of the glass. “It’s not an original recipe of mine, if you’re wondering. I figured the people here might be interested by something more refreshing.” He added, watching as Jim took a test sip. “What do you think?”
Jim hummed and smacked his lips. “Predominantly sweet with tangy undertones. It’s definitely refreshing. The flavors of bluk, razz, salac, and sitrus berries were mixed quite well.” He said, drinking more as he leaned back on his chair. “I’m sure the patrons will like this, especially during the usually sweltering hot days... Well then, I think let’s serve these to the patrons and see if we can make more for the cookout tomorrow.”
Leo nodded, pouring himself one glass of the drink before he placed the remaining drinks onto the trays. This was the most entertaining task the researchers had given them in ages, he mused as he gulped down the drink.