Two years ago, an orphaned teenager from the Administrative District of Unova was dragged into what would become the greatest adventure of his lifetime. At a time when the debate over Pokemon and Trainer rights had expanded into a long and bloody conflict, a different sort of catastrophe was happening in a world occupied entirely by strange labyrinths known as "Mystery Dungeons" and unusually intelligent Pokemon. From its fortress in the dark Glacier Palace, a rogue Legendary named Kyurem set out to destroy all life in this world through a mysterious entity called the Bittercold. Dragged into this new world and transformed into a Pokemon, the boy met new friends, helped build a new exploration guild known as Pokemon Paradise, and eventually freed the Pokemon from the disaster that had threatened to wipe out everything they had built.
For his efforts, the boy was eventually sent back to the human world, but at a cost- he would never be able to return, and the Pokemon he met would lose all memories of his existence.
By some miracle of fate or intervention of the gods, the boy's story did not end here. Not only did the companions he had met remember him, by pleading with the very core of the world itself they managed to contact the boy and grant him the power to travel between the human and Mystery Dungeon worlds as often as he wished. And while the boy happily traveled back to the Dungeon world, it is clear that his experiences after being sent back to human civilization scarred him more than he is willing to let on. That, and something sinister going on behind the scenes in Paradise looks like it could potentially tear the guild apart...
Even in the heat of battle, Adam mentally calculated every move he made. Parry to the left. Quick punch to the gut and two jabs to the shoulderblades. *boom* Like a polished dance routine, he leaned back on his tail and gave a spectacular two legged kick that sent the Toxicroak flying. Catching his breath, he straightened himself and glanced over to a Servine duking it out with a Krookodile on the other side of the clearing. "You doing alright over there?" he called out in mild concern.
The emerald, bipedal snake flicked out her tounge and smirked. "Well enough," she replied. A swarm of razor sharp leaves was battering the Krookodile into submission, and every time it tried to struggle towards her she smacked it with her vine whips. "It's strange though, these creatures seem much stronger than the ones we're used to." For all the cuts and bruises the Ground-type was sporting, it still looked as determined as ever to close the gap between it and his partner. Type advantage gave her the edge here, but one good critical hit...
Adam growled and turned back to his opponent. Sure enough, the Toxicroak was struggling up from the tree it had smashed into, looking dazed but otherwise none the worse for wear. What the hell? Adam wondered. These guys hardly know how to fight, but... even Munna's thugs couldn't take damage like this. The wildling let out a sinister gurgle that inflated the poison sack on its chest. Adam calmly held up his arms in a boxing guard and bobbed on his hind legs, waiting for the Toxicroak to charge. Instead, he was rewarded with the sight of a black, oozing mass the size of his body being hurled directly at his face.
Adam's eyes widened and he launched himself to the side. The attack splashed into the ground next to him, immediately dissintigrating the grass and rocks it landed on and letting off a vile smelling steam. Veteran explorer or not, one hit from a Gunk Shot of that size would be quite painful. But this tells me he doesn't want to take me on in melee again. Which means he's learning, Adam thought bitterly. I don't get it. They're just normal dungeon spawn, right? They shouldn't be this difficult to deal with. An instinctive sense of danger pierced at his brain and he leaped back, dodging another corrosive projectile. Fine, if you won't come to me, I'll just come to you.
He could sprint much faster now than he ever could as a human, but with his reactions shot into overdrive every step felt like a move in a carefully orchaestrated chess match. He flattened his body to minimize his profile, arching around the side of the clearing to use the trees as cover. Even from 100 meters away he could easily make out every twitch and blink of the eye the Toxicroak made, and without even thinking he adjusted his path slightly to sidestep another incoming attack. In the space of a few seconds he had already closed the gap.
Time seemed to move unbearably slowly as Adam got within a few meters of the Toxicroak. It looked like the creature had given up launching blobs of poison at him, instead bracing for the incoming attack. But it's just standing there, Adam analyzed. And its poison pouch is still inflated. Hardly a position to defend from. A sudden idea hit him and he smirked. Unless he's not really trying to defend against me at all. He immediately dove forwards and punched his arms into the ground, launching himself clean over the Toxicroak's head. Sure enough, the Toxicroak had tried to engulf him with another attack at the last instant, which now missed the airborne explorer entirely. In a flurry of motion Adam landed behind the creature and unleashed a series of slashing attacks on the creature's back, his claws quickly coated with a sticky red blood.
The Toxicroak groaned and flailed forward, futilely attempting to mount some semblance of a defense. Adam calmly grabbed one of its arms and spun it around, using the leverage to land devastating overhead swing that flattened it into the dirt. Without waiting for a reaction he stepped over the Toxicroak, headbutting it repeatedly and then jamming one of his long, razor sharp tusks into the creatures slimy gut. He wrenched his head sideways, feeling the satisfying crunch of torn bone and organs. Sighing, he shoved himself back up to ensure the wildling was really good and dead.
Then the Toxicroak did something Adam had not prepared for- it spoke.
"You Dragons never did fight fair," it croaked in a soft, weezing voice. It appeared to be having difficulty staying conscious.
"That's Fraxure, you miserable filth," Adam replied coldly. He didn't know why he said it, and immediately regretted that he did. Interrogating the creature would have been far more useful than trading insults.
"It doesn't matter. You'll never find-" the Toxicroak let out a loud, agazonized cough, and a trail of blood spilled down its mouth. "You'll never find the boss, and you'll never get your friends back." He turned to the still stunned explorer with a menacing grin. "You will pay for what you've done, Adam of Post Town." With that it let off a last raspy breath and slumped over.
"Wait, what?" Adam grabbed the creature's shoulders, shaking them frantically. "Who the hell are you? What did you do with the townspeople, you sick bastard?" The Toxicroak's body limped helplessly against Adam's struggles but there was no semblance of a response. "Shit..." Adam muttered, punching the ground in frustration.
In the distance, a large impact shook the ground beneath him. Adam spun around to see his partner holding an enormous tree in her extendable vines, one which she had apparently ripped clean out of the ground and was now battering the the Krookodile with. "Wait!" he yelled, nearly tripping over the Toxicroak's corpse as he ran towards her. *THWOOM* The downed lizard sunk into a crater as the Servine bashed it again, its limbs now bent at odd angles. "Flora, WAIT!" he shouted again as he dashed forwards, already fearing the worst.
His partner turned to him and smiled, casually dropping the tree to the side with another loud crash. "Don't worry, I think I can handle one enemy on my own, Adam." Her emerald, leafy coat looked tattered and bruised in a few places, but she was otherwise none the worse for wear. "I still don't get why you're refusing to use any Dragon type attacks. Though that was some cool looking... um... what did you call it? Martial artists?"
"Matial arts," Adam growled. "And forget the attacks for a moment. Those Pokemon we just fought? They weren't wildlings, they were bandits. One of them spoke to me before it... passed on," he said uncomfortably. He shuffled his back paws a little. "It knew something about the kidnappings, and it said that we'd never find his 'boss', whatever that means. I was hoping that we could get some information out of it."
"You're welcome to try," Flora said casually, walking over to the Krookodile's body and giving it a light kick with one of her delicate, leafy feet. "I don't think Quag will be giving us much of a reward for bringing back this sorry mess though." She gave a small giggle. "Say, you want an Oran Berry or something? We should probably be prepared if there's going to be any more excitement today."
Adam stared at her contemplatively, unsure of how to react. Flora was his closest friend and the kindest person he had ever met, but the way she was completely nonchalant about death creeped him out sometimes. In fact, most Pokemon he met seemed to be dismissive towards it, never really concerning themselves with what kind of legacy they'd leave behind or worrying about an afterlife. With how short and violent life in the Mystery Dungeon world could be this attitude was probably necessary, but his apprehension towards it was one remnant of his human life that he could never overcome.
"Aaaaaadam, you there?" Flora said teasingly. "Come on, don't go spacing out on me when we have a mission to finish!"
Adam blinked and shook his head. "Don't worry, I'm fine. That bandit was a pushover. Just a shame we have nothing else to go on." He sighed, looking for the stairs that would take them to the next floor of the dungeon. "What about you? Looks like lizardbreath here gave you a few scrapes."
Flora smiled mischeviously. "Oh, that's what you think. Take a look at this." She took a step back into the sunlight pouring through the trees and dramatically held her breath. Pressing her thin, flipper like arms together, she closed her eyes and suddenly glowed in a striking green burst of energy. As if by magic, the tears in her leafy skin began to weave themselves together, the bruises fading until her coating was perfectly unblemished. In under a minute she looked as if she had never been in any battle to begin with.
"Regeneration", Adam muttered, looking on in wonder. "That's Synthesis, right? When did you have time to learn a move like that?"
"Virizion taught me," Flora replied playfully, running up to Adam and rubbing herself affectionately against him. Her body radiated an unnatural warmth that Adam assumed was a side effect of the move. "You're not the only one trying to get stronger, you know. I wanna be the toughest Grass type Pokemon ever!" She gently pulled his arm closer to her, staring up at him with sparkling ruby eyes.
"Um..." Adam sputtered, trying to resist blushing. He glanced back over to the tree she had been using as a club. "Well, given the number you just did on that bandit I don't think that will take very long."
"Really?" she practically beamed at him. "We're gonna beat those bandits, and then you can teach me all about those, you know, martial artists!" She ran off a few steps and jumped up as much as her short, springy legs could allow her, hitting the air with some exaggerated punches and kicks.
"Martial arts," Adam said, barely suppressing a laugh. Flora attempted a two legged kick like he had used against the Toxicroak earlier and ended up flat on her back. "Maybe you should take it one step at a time though, that's a little bit di-" A soft gust of wind brushed up against his scaly hide and he suddenly felt a twinge of anxiousness. "Tell you what, Flora. We finish this dungeon, and then I'll show you a super secret technique I've been working on."
Flora instantly hopped up like nothing had happened. "Super secret? I wanna see it! Come on, show me!"
This time Adam really did laugh. "Alright, fine." He looked through the treeline ahead, scouting out for possible hidden items or traps. "But we should hurry up. It's not like this dungeon is just going to end fifteen floors in!"
An hour later, Adam and Flora stood face to face with Quagsire's rewards station and shop, looking significantly more dirty and exhausted than when they had left. The mudfish opposite them rarely failed to take everything in stride, but even he was somewhat surprised to hear the result of their mission. They did have a reputation of taking on difficult rescue missions and finishing them by any means necessary, but to hear that one had been finished unexpectedly...
"I can't believe that dungeon really ended only fifteen floors in!" Flora remarked, shaking her head confoundedly but otherwise looking nonplussed.
Adam's mood was considerably more sour. "Ended? You call that ended? Look at this!" He pulled out a slightly tattered roll of parchment from his travel bag and slammed it on the table.
Quagsire's eyes widened considerably. "Hmmm... your Marked Scroll?" he asked in his usual slow drawl. "But I don't understand, did you-"
"What do you see here?" He growled, unrolling the parchment, which was covered with a neatly traced ink map which appeared to be formed of a network of rectangular rooms. A Marked Scroll was a valuable treasure, enchanted to automatically mark the shape of a dungeon floor as exporers traveled through it and clear itself as soon as they moved on to a new floor. Only a handful of these scrolls existed even in Pokemon Paradise- mostly owned by veteran explorer teams- and they were all fiercely guarded.
"Well, I, hmmm..." Quagsire pondered. "Don't seem to see much beyond the usual..."
"There was no exit of any kind!" Adam replied, growing increasingly angry. "There was no stairs, there was no portal, there was nothing! That spirit wind would have kicked us out of the dungeon and cleaned out our inventory if we hadn't used an Escape Orb!" He rolled up the parchment and slammed it back into his bag. "I want to know what the hell happened there that we spent all day trying to track down the Pokemon who needed us and then we ended up in the middle of nowhere."
Flora rubbed her arm against Adam's back. "Come on big guy, we did the best we could! You've only been back one day, I'm sure we'll find them eventually."
Adam sighed and pressed his face into his paws. "One day and I've already failed someone who was relying on me." He pressed an arm into the desk, a spark of fury burning in his eyes. "I won't lose them again."
After a few uncomfortable seconds of silence, Flora piped up again. "Well, look. There's no point staying upset over this. Maybe there was something odd about this dungeon that we missed." She looked back quizzically at Quagsire. "You ever heard of a dungeon with multiple staircases in each floor? Maybe we took a wrong turn somewhere and got stuck."
"That bandit knew my name, Flora. He knew we were coming," Adam quipped.
Quagsire's face brightened up slightly. "Hmm... well... I have heard of some usual dungeons popping up after you left, Guildmaster."
"What unusual-" Adam replied, suddenly thrown for a loop. "And don't call me that, please, Adam is fine."
Quagsire grinned mischeviously. "Well, Adam... let's see... I have heard of explorers coming across this one dungeon where you lose all of your strength and training the moment you step inside. And another where you get hungry many times faster than normal." He rubbed his belly expressively, as if imagining a meal himself. "You have to bring a stockpile of apples or sweets inside or you'll faint from hunger before you ever make it close to the end of the end of the dungeon."
Adam blinked incredulously. "Hunger? That sounds horrible! Who would ever want to travel through a dungeon worrying about something like that?"
"I don't know, it sounds kind of exciting to me," Flora said with a giggle. "Anyways, Quagsire, if you wouldn't mind looking into this- see if you can find any more information about this Temporal Forest. I think this is the first time we've ever been in it, and it would be nice to be a little more prepared it we have to go back." She looked around eagerly at the rows of shops behind him. "There's a few things I want to take care of. Then I'll try asking around, see if I can't get some information from some of the friends of the kidnapping victims." She nuzzled Adam's shoulder and then turned to dart off into the crowd.
"Hmm... and your reward for the mission, miss?" Quagsire called after her.
"Oh, just give to Adam, I'm he'll find something useful for it." Flora called back, already running to meet a pair of large dog-like Pokemon that Adam didn't recognize.
Adam whipped around back to Quagsire, looking surpised. "Now wait just a minute. We didn't finish the mission, I am not taking-"
The *clink* of a small bag of coins being dropped on the counter. "Hrmmm," Quagsire murmured, staring at the Fraxure far more intently than usual. "The way I see it... you went through a difficult dungeon, you took down a pair of dangerous criminals... and you got us one step closer to figuring out where we can find these villagers. I think that's worthy of a reward of some kind."
Adam slowly grabbed the bag, realizing there was no point in arguing with him over it. "Well, just don't be offended if I don't spend it all buying you apples and sweets," he quipped.
"No... I wouldn't dream of it," Quagsire said with a sigh, his face looking like he was already lost in some sort of daydream. It was hard to imagine that the entire guild relied on this Pokemon for not only handing out mission rewards but holding and rehabilitating captured criminals.
Suddenly feeling a lot more helpless than he was out fighting in a dungeon, Adam turned to meet the rest of the guild that he had spent several months away from. The once barely occupied center of town was now bustling with shops and groups of explorers he had never met before. An incredible amount had changed in the few months after the Bittercold crisis, and they no longer resembled the group of scrappy survivalists that had inched their way from nothing but dirt to a settlement resembling civilization. Nominally, Flora and Adam were still in charge of Paradise, and as long as the other veteran members still supported them their decisions were as good as law. But if I can't earn their respect, Adam thought anxiously, if I can't protect the people I'm supposed to be leading, I may as well give up now.
In the back of his mind the other words the Toxicroak spoke- the ones he had not told even Flora about- still prickled at him. "You will pay for what you've done." He dreaded to think that his actions could have somehow caused the streak of attacks that were now targeting Paradise and Post Town. Were these some old followers of Kyurem out for revenge, or something else entirely? Maybe if he asked around town like Flora, he would begin to find out.