Kiri Kaitou Clover: It is rather amusing to see Wigglytuff and the others pretend to be the villains, despite being clearly unmasked. Thanks!
PsychicEevee0103: I'm glad you enjoy this series so much, and sorry for the wait. I had to finish The Future of Little Hope, as well as attempt juggling four other stories.
Emblem of Light: Thank you. I hope you continue to enjoy.
ProfessorLugia: Thank you for all of the praise and support you've shown this series. I always try to come up with new ideas and appropriate interpretations of "real life" versions of the in-game attacks and abilities, like in the anime.
On with the story!
Chapter 2: Independent Issues
It was easy enough to get out of the pit with Terrence flying Yrja up and Martha burrowing through the earth while Regina simply flew up herself.
After Terrence glanced back and collapsed the chamber with Ancient Power, evening out the earth so that nobody tripped, Team Rapid continued onward.
They saw Teddiursa and Ursaring standing on the shore of what Martha assumed to be Luminous Spring, looking at a box set there. She observed the water to note that it still didn't have its light.
Ursaring's call got her attention, "What happened? We thought you'd be right behind us."
"Just investigating that lead I told you about," Martha answered easily. "Nothing of note, though. What's that box, there?"
"Don't know, really. We just found it here," Ursaring answered.
Teddiursa shook his head, "It definitely wasn't here the last time we came. I want to open it, but I'm also getting a creepy feeling from it."
"You know, it would be nasty if it's a booby trap or something," the larger bear agreed. "So we've been debating whether we should open it or leave it be."
Martha nodded, "Well then, we'll open it. See, we're here as part of the guild's graduation exam. They said to bring back the treasure from here, so it must have been placed here by one of the members."
"I see," Ursaring said as he stepped aside. "Then you should open it."
The Eevee kept her distance though, with the rest of her team, "Still, while I'm sure that it's safe, we should probably check to make sure it's not trapped. Terrence, if you could open it from here?"
Terrence waved the two bears over, and then lifted a pebble with Ancient Power once they were behind him. Moving it right up to the button of the box's lid, he popped the lock and the box opened slightly with no ill effect. Wriggling the tiny rock inside and willing it to push the lid back on its hinge, the treasure of Luminous Spring was revealed.
Terrence dropped the pebble with a flat expression while Martha chuckled.
"A Perfect Apple," she noted.
Terrence unceremoniously plucked the fruit out of the box and dropped it into the Treasure Bag. Yrja shook her head, "I guess it does suit Wigglytuff, if your stories of his attitude are true."
Right after that statement, a flash of light flared around them. In a practiced motion, Team Rapid immediately moved into a protective formation around Teddiursa and Ursaring. Terrence took up the rear with Martha at the front and the remaining two teammates protecting the flanks as another quick flash lit up the area. A slower flash illuminated the spring before it coalesced into a pillar of light shining upon the center.
"Is that…?" Regina muttered in awe.
"Light…" Ursaring said. "Light is shining down!"
"Luminous Spring regained its power!" Yrja cheered.
The group moved forward to investigate, the two bears taking the lead. They stepped onto the water, the surface holding even Ursaring and Terrence's weight with barely a ripple, neither of the large Pokémon sinking a bit. A voice echoed through the clearing.
"Those that seek awakening… The resumption of time… has brought light here again. If you seek evolution, step forward."
"I knew it!" Teddiursa proclaimed. "I knew that Luminous Spring would be revived!"
"Good for you, Teddiursa! You've been looking forward to evolution for a long time!" Ursaring smiled.
Regina was literally buzzing with anticipation, but Martha made eye contact and gave a nod of acknowledgment. The Tiny Bee Pokémon calmed down, seeing in her leader's eyes that she'd get her turn.
Teddiursa stepped into the light and the voice spoke again.
"Those that seek awakening… This is Luminous Spring. Do you seek to evolve?"
"Do you need an item to do so?"
"Nope! I don't need one!"
"So be it… Seeker of awakening… Let us begin."
The light became intensely bright, to where the other Pokémon could only see Teddiursa's silhouette, but it remained localized in the pillar somehow, to where it didn't blind them. The small Pokémon's form grew massively, his head becoming less round as his body and limbs enlarged. After the relatively simple transformation completed, the light faded to its normal luminosity, revealing another Ursaring standing in the center.
"Yay!" the former Teddiursa celebrated, conflicting with his now fierce image. He walked back to his friend's side, "Hey, Ursaring! I've evolved!"
"Congratulations!" Ursaring laughed. "All the training you went through finally paid off!" Then he looked at their practically identical appearances, "Now it's hard to tell us apart… But good for you!"
Martha looked back at her recruit, "Regina, would you like to evolve as well?"
"Yea," she replied with the minimum required politeness, already flying forward.
"Those that seek awakening… This is Luminous Spring. Do you seek to evolve?"
"Do you need an item to do so?"
"So be it… Seeker of awakening… Let us begin."
The light flared and Regina's silhouette went through a much more complex change than the freshly evolved Ursaring.
Her entire body seemed to compress until a single honeycomb with wings remained, even the antennae pulling inward. From that piece, a new body rapidly grew outward, a torso expanding back with a neck, taking the wings with them as a second, larger set grew right above them. The honeycomb-shaped head also grew some extra details, two mandibles on the bottom and blunted horn-like projections atop. From the round torso, more continued to sprout, two skinny arms with clawed hands at the sides and a slender waist extending from the lower back. After the waist reached a certain point, it widened into a slightly conical shape.
With that done, the light faded, revealing Regina's new form. Martha took in her appearance in wonder, from the new black patterns adorning her body to the red gem set in her forehead. She had met Maribel's grandmother, a Staraptor, before. So she knew that evolution altered your appearance, but she never expected that a change could be so radical.
'So this is what a queen of Combee looks like,' Martha mused. Then as Regina looked at herself in what Martha could only guess was awe, the Eevee regarded her other unevolved teammate.
"Are you going to give Luminous Spring a spin too?" she asked.
Yrja shook her head, "I'll want to talk about it with Chad first. I wouldn't want to make him feel bad that he can't evolve. You?"
"I'm in no hurry," Martha shrugged. "We have one of each stone, and I want to think long and hard about which form I want before I kiss my Adaptability goodbye."
"Hm, fair enough," Terrence nodded. "I can't evolve, but I don't know what I'd ever do without my Pressure to intimidate the opposition."
Once Regina finished taking account of her appearance and new moves, she nodded to Martha, who nodded back and said, "Let's get back to Treasure Town."
Martha dismissed her recruits to wait for her at Spinda Café and fill in the others while she took the Treasure Bag and went to the guild.
Once she arrived at the deepest sublevel, she found everybody already waiting for her. If she looked closely, she could see evidence of their fight. Chatot, Sunflora, Diglett, Dugtrio and Croagunk looked like they had a cold, each of them sniffling, Bidoof, Corphish and Loudred moved stiffly, as if sore, and Chimecho had a slightly paler stretch of skin on her white body—a scar from the Night Slash that had yet to go away. The only one looking largely unaffected was Wigglytuff, who stood there with his usual grin.
Once Martha handed over the Perfect Apple, Wigglytuff cheered, "You've passed the graduation exam!"
A couple bursts of confetti rained from overhead as the other apprentices clapped.
"Congratulations!" the Guildmaster continued. "You did it!"
Martha remained silent, and Wigglytuff tilted his head after the clapping stopped, curiously asking, "…Oh? Not celebrating? Are you maybe not happy?"
The Eevee shrugged with a tilt of her head, "Well, yes, I'm happy. And it's admittedly a bit appropriate that my training here at the guild began and ended with retrieving an item. But it's not like I did anything that special…"
"That's not true at all!" Wigglytuff emphatically denied. "Don't you understand that what you did was incredible? You went and brought back a fantastic treasure in a Perfect Apple. But even better than that… You defeated that horrifying Grandmaster of All Things Bad, didn't you?"
"Oh?" Martha asked in a faux innocent tone that caused the other guild members to tense up slightly. "And how did you know that I met the Grandmaster? I certainly didn't tell you…"
Wigglytuff's smile seemed awkward now, "…Lucky guess! That villain is such a scoundrel that he attacks everybody."
"Really? Because I've asked around and my two most well-informed recruits have never heard of him," she continued. "Furthermore, Ursaring and Teddiursa – well, Ursaring, now – play in Mystifying Forest all the time and they've never seen or heard about the Grandmaster either."
"Also that Grandmaster of All Things Bad looked veeery similar to you, Guildmaster," Martha added with a knowing look. "A doppelganger, in fact."
She let the guild sweat a bit before sighing and shaking her head regretfully, "I can only imagine that you've been chasing him for years, trying to stop him from doing bad things and having someone mistake him for you. If only he hadn't gotten away from me, I could've turned him over to the police."
Even Martha knew she was having way too much fun with this.
"Don't worry, Martha," Wigglytuff reassured, even as he still looked slightly nervous about his cover being blown. "We'll keep a lookout and catch that wicked Pokémon!"
"I'm sure you will," Martha smiled.
Chatot cleared his throat and smiled back, "Anyway! You have now officially graduated from the guild!" Privately, he thought, 'Note to self: Make the graduation exam explicitly guild-exclusive.'
"From now on, you will no longer be bound by the guild's strict regulations," he explained. "You'll be free to operate as an exploration team totally on your own!"
Martha dared to hope and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, "Does that mean my team and I get to keep all the reward money from missions?"
"No," Chatot answered. "Unfortunately for you, that aspect doesn't change at all. Graduation from the guild means you're still affiliated with us. Your team, Team Rapid, can operate only because of this guild. So you'll need to accept that as part of being an exploration team."
'Figures,' the Eevee thought with a slight pout.
Wigglytuff chimed in, "Anyway, you have passed the exam with flying colors! I hope you'll keep up your great work as explorers!"
Martha simply gave a warm smile in response to all of the praise from the other apprentices, and promised to visit every now and again.
"Thank you, everyone," she said sincerely.
That night, all of the recruits and even some of the other guild apprentices gathered at Spinda Café for Martha's party celebrating her graduation. Natalie and Chad had even been invited along. Even though the other apprentices had to go back to the guild early on to get ready for the next day, she had already received a gift from Wigglytuff's Guild. As start-up funds for Team Rapid, she'd gotten ten thousand Poké.
Everybody was still marveling at Regina's evolved form as she held a cup of Green Tea and a saucer in her hands. The fact that she had hands to hold them with was perhaps the most shocking thing about it.
Tempest had wanted to go to Luminous Spring right away, but Martha immediately shot it down, saying that it was too dangerous to explore at night. And while the badge could get him there, without a mission to authorize a teleportation back, he'd have to make the return trip on his own. He grudgingly agreed to hold off until the first thing tomorrow.
Maribel had her own cup of Sky Gummi juice as she listened to Terrence regale her with his fight against Wigglytuff. She was impressed that he managed to hold his own until help arrived, and amused by his theatrics. The Aerodactyl made for a great storyteller, gesturing wildly and mentioning the feats that he'd seen the other teammates do.
He swept his hand, "…And Regina sent Croagunk clear to the wall with Gust before Yrja gave a quick assist to freeze him against it! But I couldn't watch for long, since Wigglytuff caught me with his Double Slap. But I only let him get a couple of hits before I ROARED and blew him away to catch him with my Iron Tail on the rebound! And he wasn't immune to my Pressure, either—I saw his hand trembling from the effort!"
"Good thing you were there to fight him, then," Maribel commented with a smile. "And thanks for the Sky Gummi."
"No prob!" Terrence laughed. "It's what I do!"
Tempest was talking with anybody who would listen that he was going to evolve tomorrow, even Psymon. The Water-type just gave him an odd look and said, "Good for you. Personally, it doesn't make much difference to me whether Luminous Spring has its light or not."
Augustus mainly kept to his own drink, but eventually got bored of that and talked with Ferra about various battle strategies. They critiqued each other on various aspects, pointing out flaws and generally ironing out each of their fighting styles.
Felix demonstrated his proficiency with his flames, making a ball of fire in his hand that he morphed into various shapes—even a miniature female Nidoran, much to Natalie's amusement. This was, of course, under Tisha's careful observation from a distance.
Yrja and Chad were practically glued to each other's side the whole evening. They'd had their talk about Yrja's evolution, and Chad said that she could evolve if she wanted to. He fell in love with her personality over her appearance. So what if she grew taller than him? That just meant there was more of her to love! The two of them had been sharing loving whispers in between socializing with the others ever since.
Martha talked with Wattson, since nobody else seemed readily willing to interact with him. Nobody could hear what they were saying, since the mood of the party had spread to the rest of the café, making the whole chamber abuzz with the din of music and conversation.
"…?!" Wattson asked with an incredulous expression.
Martha nodded in response.
The party died down after a few hours, and Team Rapid started discussing their intention to go home after a few more drinks. At that point, a few realized a problem that Martha might have.
"Where are you going to stay, though?" Psymon asked. "Weren't you living at the guild?"
"The same place I stayed before I joined the guild. I wasn't homeless," Marta answered.
Tisha twirled her bone club, "Are you sure you'll be fine by y'self? Natalie and I would be glad to have you."
"I wouldn't want to impose," the leader answered. "Besides, this way I'll always be able to hear the news in Treasure Town. I live in Sharpedo Bluff."
Felix blinked, "Wait, what…? You live in a bluff?"
Chuckling, Martha hopped off of her chair and tilted her head for the team to follow her.
Team Rapid headed out the west side of Treasure Town and saw a splendid view of the sea from Sharpedo Bluff. Without preamble, Martha kicked a bush aside and off the cliff, deciding that she didn't need it anymore if she was going to live there full-time now.
Each member descended the stairs, except for Terrence, who was too large and flew in through the bluff's "mouth". They saw a hollowed out chamber with a tiny freshwater spring and some crates containing wood, hay and other supplies.
Terrence nodded his approval, "Pretty nice place. Cozy, with a view of the ocean and all of that."
"What do you do if it rains?" Maribel asked. "Wouldn't water flow down the entrance?"
"Oh, there's a large flat rock outside that I can plug the entrance with. The nose of the bluff keeps any water from flowing inside the mouth easily," Martha answered. "Incidentally, if any of you need to see me, you now know where to find me."
The team nodded and started leaving,
"Oh, Tisha," Martha said as she waved for the Ground-type with her paw. "Can I talk with you for a moment?"
Tisha turned around with Natalie, a curious expression on their faces. She patted her younger sister, "Run along back to the café, Natalie."
"She can stay. This involves her too."
While Martha started her discussion with the Cubone, another conversation took place several miles away.
"Our agreement says I get fifty."
"That's for leads you get. Twenty percent."
"I can literally keep this up all night."
Martha, Tisha and Natalie returned a few minutes later and rejoined the last leg of the party. Soon, all of Team Rapid was about ready to go home for the night and went their separate ways.
As Regina left the crossroads, having bid all of her teammates goodbye, she flew up to Martha.
"It is time," she said.
Martha shook her head, "Not yet. You're getting a good night's sleep at my place first."
"We can ill afford to tarry!" Regina insisted.
"What good would it do you to get there completely tired out?" Martha countered. "You're staying at my place so that I can make sure you get some rest. Consider it leader's orders."
The Beehive Pokémon crossed her arms, "That is abuse of power."
"It's for your own good."
"Hey! Terrence, Felix! Wait up!"
The two Pokémon turned with a questioning grunt. They both lived to the north, in the slightly arid region. Terrence because he used to live in the mountains, and Felix because he didn't want to burn any plants if he felt like practicing his fire. But they knew that Wattson lived nowhere near them, so why did he follow them?
The night came and went, Martha leaving a Substitute awake at the entrance of her home to make sure that Regina didn't sneak off. Eventually, the evolved Pokémon decided to actually get some rest, if only because her escape was blocked.
On the way to the crossroads, Chimecho met up with Martha and told her that she could now change the leader of her exploration team. From now on, any member of Team Rapid could represent for her instead of being limited to one squad that she led. Martha nodded, saying that it was great news, and thanked Chimecho before leaving.
When the two of them arrived at Spinda Café, everyone but Tempest was already in attendance. Terrence gave his usual boisterous greeting to the two, and Regina took her seat.
"Now, before we begin our missions for the day, I have an announcement to make," Martha said.
Yrja tilted her head, "Shouldn't we wait for Tempest?"
"If he's late, then he'll just have to learn that time waits for no one," the Eevee shrugged. "I said to meet in the morning; it's the morning. His loss."
When she had everyone's attention, she continued, "Now, I'm sorry to say this, but Regina has requested to be released from Team Rapid."
Everyone at the table looked surprised, and Martha held up a paw to stave off the questions, "Please allow her to explain."
"We joined this team, yes, and have grown fond of working with thee," Regina explained. "But, we have obligations that we needed evolution to fulfill. We must go now, but we shall send a suitable replacement thine way once matters are settled."
"What sort of-" Psymon started.
Martha interrupted, "I'll explain tonight, after missions. For now, Regina, are you ready?"
"Yea, verily," she nodded before bowing to the other recruits. "It has been our honor to work alongside thee."
"Regina Amberlyn," Martha said in a solemn tone, "you are dismissed from Team Rapid, and shall be returned to your place of origin, Nectar Hollow."
The leader's badge glowed white before Regina's resonated and vanished. After that, she got enveloped in a sphere of white light before she disappeared as if teleported.
"Her last name's Amberlyn…?" Maribel muttered while the team was still in shock for the most part. "Why does that sound familiar?"
Martha took out her envelopes, "I'll explain later. For now, I have missions for all of you."
Tempest buzzed across the land in his new evolved form, having made the trip to Luminous Spring with his badge after he woke up. Though, it turned out that he couldn't evolve directly into Flygon. There was a (in his opinion) stupid cooldown time of a few days needed before he could evolve into his final form. Still, he had finally become a dragon after such a long time of being stuck on the ground. He could even fly!
The Vibrava's wings buzzed with a droning sound as he sped towards Treasure Town, his Red Goggles hung around his neck. The sun was already well above the eastern horizon, but he figured that the twenty minute trip from Luminous Spring can't have been that long to wait. And he would be fully evolved in a few days, so it would only be a matter of time before he caught her eye.
He'd been holding a crush for one of his teammates, though he'd never admit it to the others. In his mind, if he was just impressive enough, then she'd surely notice him, just like the first time they met. He'd inspired her to keep training.
Once Tempest arrived at Spinda Café, he looked around for their table, only to find Martha sitting there with a job letter. She didn't even have a drink. He flew over, a bit disappointed that the big reveal of his evolution would have to wait until the team got back.
At the monotone, Tempest knew that the Martha in front of him was a Substitute, which explained why she was still here with no drink.
"Everybody else, including my creator, has already left with their assignments," the double explained. "Yours is right here."
"I wanted to stop at Luminous Spring first," Tempest excused as he landed on the table. "Regina got to evolve yesterday, so I wanted to show my own evolution to her. I'll still get the mission done, so-"
"Ah yes, I should probably tell you as well, since you missed it," Martha's substitute explained. "Regina was released from Team Rapid."
Tempest stopped right before picking up the letter, feeling like he just got the ground pulled out from under him. The Vibrava turned to the messenger with a shocked expression before he narrowed his eyes.
"You're lying," he said, because it just couldn't be true.
The clone's face didn't change in the slightest as her eyes stayed on the job letter by Tempest's feet, "I was not ordered to lie. If you'll take your job, then my task will be com-"
"Shut up!" Tempest shouted. "What do you mean she got released?!"
"She requested a release from Team Rapid, due to prior obligations elsewhere. I am not ordered, nor obligated to tell you the details, as my creator has elected to explain tonight," the double replied.
Then she tilted her head, "Why do you react so strongly? I may not have emotions, but I do have memories, and none of my creator's memories note you taking a vested interest in Regi-"
Tempest shot a Sonic Boom to dispel the clone, but it wasn't enough.
"-na. It was unwise to attack me, as my creator will kno-"
Another blast of concentrated air did the job.
Martha blinked at Luminous Spring, where the teammates that wanted to were taking turns evolving. A few, though, had decided to skip that step and warp straight to the dungeons that their missions took place at. She had just gotten the memories from the messenger that she'd left Tempest. Psymon, being one of the ones to wait around for his squad partner to finish, noticed his leader's furrowed brow.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
The Eevee shook her head in frustrated resignation, "I shouldn't have to deal with stuff like this so soon after graduation…"
Regina opened her eyes and took a deep breath of the smells her home was known for. Yellow-leaved trees surrounded her, but the foliage wasn't colored so for the season, or illness, but from the properties of the trees. Nectar Hollow, as the name implied, was a great spot for honey production and a popular nesting spot for Combee, Vespiquen and other Bug-types that coexisted.
'At least it was,' the Vespiquen thought dourly. Then she clenched her fist, 'And it shall be, once again.'
As she flew into the surrounding trees, looking for her target, she thought back to when she asked Martha to release her from Team Rapid when she evolved.
Martha walked with her to Sharpedo Bluff and looked out over the sea's waves. The two of them just watched the water for a moment before the leader decided to break the silence.
"You ask me to talk to you moments before we head to see Luminous Spring," Martha speculated. "This has to do with the reason you always wanted to evolve, doesn't it?"
"Yea," Regina answered in a heavy tone. "We suppose you've wondered why we lived in a forest without a Vespiquen to guide us or the male Combee in there?"
"Admittedly, no, it never really occurred to me to ask about that. But since you brought it up…"
"Banishment," the Combee answered with a bit of acid that Martha had never heard before. "Another Vespiquen killed my mother and had me banished to that wood."
"You're not from Apple Woods?" Martha asked. Then she paused in surprise. "Did you just say 'me'?!"
Regina shook her head, "Nay to the former. We grew up in a mystery dungeon dubbed Nectar Hollow that lay betwixt Apple Woods and Oran Forest. Also, we talk in this manner as homage."
"To…? Oh…" Martha realized when Regina kept staring ahead. "How could this Vespiquen have defeated your mother? Wouldn't they both have Power Gem? That would be good for-"
"The usurper wears a Vespi-Torc," she answered. "Why do you think we chose a Nectar Bow? The thought of wearing the same accessory as that Vespiquen strikes us ill."
"And when you defeat her, what next?"
"We will rule the kingdom as our mother would have," the Combee answered. "For that reason, we implore you. Release us when we evolve. We must fulfill this task and avenge our queen and mother."
"Queen…?" Martha asked incredulously. "That makes you…"
"A princess," Regina answered.
Regina's thoughts about the past stopped when she detected some leftover pheromones—the mark of a queen directing her hive. She followed the trail until she reached a glade with a carved out honey tree acting as a throne. Four dead-eyed male Combee hovered nearby, acting as the occupant's personal guard. To most, it wouldn't seem like much of a threat, but Regina knew she'd be in trouble once she gave them an order. She herself only had her drones instead of true Combee to aid her. But she had to fight through it.
A Vespiquen slightly larger than Regina sat in the throne, her abdomen visible in the center cell of her beehive-like dress. She didn't seem surprised at Regina's appearance and pushed off of the throne's arms with her hands while her wings started buzzing to fly her in the air. A golden necklace with an onyx gem set in the center sparkled on her neck in the sunlight. The usurper Vespiquen, called the Empress by herself and those who fear her.
"Hello, little bumblebee," she greeted. "Welcome home."
Another chapter a week later. Do me a favor and don't get used to it. (^v^;)
See you when I see you.