The small amount of ambient light given off by the Espurr's eyes gave the cave walls a purple hue. It also alerted nearby feral pokemon to his presence. Not that it mattered too much. The ferals that roamed the cave were much too weak to do any real damage. What concerned him more was ensuring he had enough food. Oran berries and apples were scattered thinly across the floors of the cave but his stomach's growl persisted nonetheless.
He sat for a rest and dug through his bag for an apple he had saved. It was getting rather mushy, and it'd be a waste if he let it go bad—he hadn't seen another one in quite a while. He leaned back against the wall. The subtle breathing of the cave as far-off, unoccupied rooms shifted and changed only added to the illusion that the cave was alive, and that the small Espurr had been swallowed whole.
A dull thud, amplified by minutes of nothing but light chewing and far off scampering, rang out as the apple core fell to the floor. The scampering that had been a calm backdrop suddenly turned into a frenzied sprint, a crescendo soon broken by the threatening roar of a rabid Growlithe, charging hungrily. The Growlithe was tossed aside by a wave of psychic energy, cracking painfully against the cave wall. The fearsome, fiery canine fled more quickly than it had charged, leaving behind nothing but pleading, reverberating whimpers.
The layout had probably changed enough now that there were fresh apples and berries laying around somewhere. Wondering how a cave produced such things often perturbed the Espurr, but food was food, and if the food had any… adverse side effects… it surely would have manifested in his week or so living there. He rose, strapping his bag back to his back, and continued his search.
His earlier snack more teased his stomach than satiated his hunger. His belly's constant complaints kept him well on task, and he searched the ever-shifting dungeon for what felt like hours before he at last came across an apple. As his luck would have it, a small Budew had already started snacking on it. That Budew had found it first. In all fairness, it was theirs. The Espurr had faced this quandary more than a few times in his stay in this cave. Every time he'd decided not to bully others out of their finds, even if the others were ferals, but every time, he'd also grown hungrier. It'd be so easy to overpower the tiny thing. It wouldn't even be an inconvenience to fill his belly just that much more.
The gnawing of his gut finally overcame his self-imposed morality. A telekinetic force lifted the small pokemon from their dinner. It didn't even fight back. It just cried. It mewed small pleas to its attacker. The Espurr wasn't sure if it was pleading for its food or its life, but he cried too as he stole the partially-eaten apple and ran away, dropping the sobbing Budew unceremoniously behind him. The apple, conspicuously salty, made him feel somewhat full and very empty. With his will sapped for the day, he made his way to one of the wider rooms of the cave and curled up into one of the corners. It'd be hard to sneak up on him here without waking him. As usual, the cold stone floor put up quite the fight as he closed his eyes and tried to force himself to sleep. The moisture dripping from his face didn't help either. After a few more minutes of mentally scolding himself, sleep reluctantly found him.
Some distant murmurs awakened the Espurr. He was about to nod off again until he realized he could understand what the pokemon were saying. He shot up. A sentient pokemon was probably going to be a lot stronger than the ferals that hung around and mystery dungeons were a common hideaway for criminals.
"…ain't even usin' it for nuthin," a sly voice echoed through a tunnel that most certainly didn't exist when the Espurr went to sleep.
"Using it? It's a memento. Do you expect me to just swing it around my head and thwack everything with it?" came an indignant and much more feminine reply.
"It'd be much more useful as money in our pockets," a third voice wheezed. At this point the Espurr, doing his best to keep his eyes from glowing, went to investigate the dispute. He hid behind the entryway into the room, just peaking out from behind the corner. Lamps attached to their bags illuminated the room. The insignias on the bag showed them to be an exploration team.
"If you're so concerned about its usefulness maybe you can find out firsthand if it works as a flail."
"I don' think ya get it, we ain't askin' ya anymore," said what the Espurr could now see was an Ekans.
"What do you mean? You're not saying you're gonna take it, are you?" Replied an Eevee, protectively holding a gemstone hanging from a chain around her neck.
"That's the idea," the third pokemon, a Koffing, replied.
Until recently this conversation would have made the Espurr's blood boil. Now it just reminded him of what a scummy pokemon he really was. He hoped he wouldn't have to get involved.
"What?! Do you think Wigglytuff is gonna let that slide?" the Eevee threatened.
"You gonna tell 'im?"
"OF COURSE I'M GONNA TELL HIM!"
"Well damn, ain't it a shame. Poor lil girl here got mauled by some ferals in Cobblestone Cave. I hope the guild don't take it too hard when we tell 'em ya won't be makin' it back."
"Yeah, big shame."
The Eevee radiated anger. "Is… Is this the entire reason you made a team with me?"
The Eevee sprang. With one swipe of her claws she sent the Ekans flying backward. In the same instant the Koffing belched a huge cloud of noxious gas that quickly enveloped all three of the pokemon. It was a dastardly tactic. The clouds of gas had nowhere to go in the small room. It wouldn't take long to deprive the Eevee of any breathable air, but the two poison types would remain rather unaffected. Realizing this, the Eevee unleashed a flurry of attacks on the Koffing. The furious scratching and kicking quickly took its toll, knocking him into walls and floors only for him to bounce back right into another swipe of her claws. The Ekans threw himself mouth-first, attempting to land a bite. The Eevee gracefully avoided the attack, but the coughing that rumbled from her throat made it clear that the smog was working as intended.
The Espurr, shocked at how quickly things escalated, sat scared in his hiding place. This wasn't just thievery. This was murder. His self-preservation and his morality were so soon at odds with each other again. These pokemon looked tough, and he wasn't certain how much he could help against them, even with his type advantage.
The Eevee kept up her flurry of attacks on the Koffing, who weakly tried to spit globules of sludge at her. It proved to be absolutely ineffective as even while choking the Eevee could easily avoid the small projectiles. One last quick attack sent the Koffing cracking to the floor of the cave, immediately knocking him unconscious. The Eevee had a smirk on her face despite inwardly hacking. Physical exertion with little breath was proving to be a lot for her to handle, and she could do very little when the Ekans sprang on top of her. She bit and clawed wildly as the Ekans constricted. The weight collapsed the weakened Eevee, and the Ekans wormed his way around her neck. His lithe body was just out of reach of the Eevee's flailing paws. The eevee began to turn pale.
"STOP!" The yell carried throughout the entire cave. Telekinesis ripped the Ekans from the Eevee's body and crushed him against the ceiling. The Espurr, fearing the murderous intent of the Ekans, slammed him repeatedly into the ceiling, even though he was already unconscious. As quickly as he could he grabbed the Eevee and pulled her away from the toxic cloud. Her limp form didn't show promise, but she was still conscious when he set her down at a safe distance.
"Are you ok?" The Espurr asked.
The Eevee replied with a violent stream of hacks and coughs. "Bag…" she croaked weakly.
The Espurr obediently and frantically opened her bag and looked for something, anything, that could be of use. Ripping his eyes from the delicious apples inside, he saw quite a few berries and pulled out a ripe-looking pecha berry. He held it up to her mouth and let her eat it out of his paw. It would do a lot to help with the poison she inhaled. He similarly administered a handful of oran berries and she began to slowly regain her strength.
"You certainly took your time," She said, now with enough strength to sound annoyed, "I'm glad you came and helped, but you coulda popped out of your little corner a bit sooner."
"Oh, you saw me?" Espurr averted his eyes, disgusted with himself for being so hesitant.
"Yup. Well, I'm still glad you came when you did," she said, giving him a warm smile when he met her eyes again.
"I really didn't do much at all…"
"So, ya gotta name?"
"Me? Oh, uh yeah. My name's Xan." The Espurr replied.
"I mean yeah, but it feels like you're saying it wrong."
The Eevee giggled, "Well my name's Eva." She rose and put a paw to her chest.
"It's nice to meet you, Eva."
"Likewise," she responded cheerily.
"So… What are you going to do about those guys?"
Eva looked rightfully pissed. "I'd like to leave them to rot, but the guildmaster will get pretty angry if I come back without them… I dunno if I can carry them, though…"
Xan was visibly relieved that they wouldn't be left for dead. More so because he wouldn't have to feel guilty about it than for their wellbeing. "I don't mind carrying them. They're poison types so my telekinesis works especially well on them."
"The guild is all the way in Treasure Town, I don't wanna drag you all that way when you probably need to head home soon."
"That… won't be a problem…" Xan's voice wavered.
Eva looked Xan up and down, contemplating. "Yeah, I guess you should come with me then."
Xan and Eva made their way out the entrance of the cave. The two incapacitated pokemon hovered above them.
"You're sure you'll be fine? Treasure Town is a good three-hour walk from here," Eva warned.
"Yeah, they seem light as a feather. I'll be fine."
Their walk continued in a tense silence.
"So, living like a feral?" Eva inquired.
"It's a bit of a long story."
"It's a bit of a long walk."
Xan's brow furrowed.
"Sorry, you don't have to say."
"No, it's fine. I uh… I'm just a bit… scary."
Eva waited for the story to continue. When it didn't come Eva decided to help fill the dead air. "This gemstone," she began, eyeing it affectionately "the one they were trying to take, belonged to my mother…"
"Oh… I suppose it must mean a lot to you then… were you really young when… when you lost her?"
"What? Oh no, no. She's not dead."
"She's just… not around much. She's part of an exploration team—PsyShock."
Xan's eyes somehow grew wider. "Esther's your mom?"
Eva nodded smugly. "She's helped so many pokemon, and I wanted to do the same. It's why I joined an exploration team of my own! …But uh, that didn't go well." She gave a slight nod towards the two poison types.
"How do you know those guys, anyway?"
"I… don't…" Eva's smugness melted in an instant.
"You went alone into a dark cave with two pokemon you didn't know?"
"That's really dumb."
"No shit." Annoyance began to dominate Eva's tone. After a terse moment of silence, she sighed. "Sorry. I know it was dumb. It was just… I wasn't allowed to make an exploration team by myself, no matter how much I begged Wigglytuff to let me into the guild. I wanted to start helping people as soon as I was old enough, and those guys said they'd let me join their team and I accepted without thinking."
Another silence followed. This time, it was Xan that broke it. "Is it hard having a mother who's always away?"
"It wasn't too bad. Mom taught me to be independent from a very young age, and she had helped just about everyone in Treasure Town at some point, so they were eager to help her daughter however they could. I got by just fine."
"My… my parents…"
Eva's ears perked up. She was eager to finally learn something about her impromptu travelling partner.
"My parents are very superstitious. They had many spells and talismans that they said drove away bad omens. I was walking back from school one day, excited to tell them everything I'd learned about mystery dungeons. They got so angry. They told me that those were places where the evil permeating the land welled up. They'd decided that the school was teaching me very dangerous things and forbade me from going. I went anyway. I loved school. It was the only place I got to talk with other pokemon. My parents didn't approve of me doing so. They ended up locking me in my room 'for my own good.'
"So, I'm a psychic type," Xan continued, "and for as long as I can remember I've had a bit of trouble controlling my powers, especially while sleeping. When I dream of something that really enflames my emotions—mostly nightmares—my mind tends to psychically project it. At least, that's what the school nurse told me. My parents assumed that these projections were manifestations of the evil trying to attack me. Well, until a few days after they locked me in my room. As the loneliness ate away at me the nightmares became more frequent and more terrifying. My parents concluded that I'd been fully possessed by the evil and forced me out.
"I didn't have anywhere to go. I figured that a mystery dungeon like Cobblestone Cave might be a good place to take shelter. The feral pokemon were fairly weak and there would probably always be food to find."
"Food?" Eva, who'd been listening intently the entire time, finally chimed in. "Don't tell me you've been trying to live off the few apples that you find on the ground in there."
Eva stopped in her tracks, pulling a couple apples from her bag and handing them to him. "You must be starving."
Xan felt like it would be polite to decline the food, but he found it hard to do so when his mouth was full.
Eva grew more concerned when she saw how he ferociously devoured the fruit. "How long were you in there?"
"Sumfin lik aweek," Xan disclosed, refusing to cease his chomping for a second.
"A week?! I'm getting you a place to stay."
"Non-" Xan swallowed a larger bite than he probably should have. "No, you don't have to do that. I'll be fine."
"It'd be better if you got a proper place to sleep."
"You really don't-"
"Try and stop me," Eva said with a distinct finality.
Xan couldn't help but let a smile breach his face as he started on the second apple.
"That should be the place up ahead," Eva said, pointing.
Xan was shocked at what he saw. A giant Wigglytuff towered above the tree line in the distance. "So uh… that Wigglytuff guy you were talking about… how'd he get so… big…"
Eva let out a rather unfeminine guffaw. "That's the guild building," she said, wiping a tear from her eye, "I will say that it's certainly not what I'd call aesthetic."
After a few more minutes of walking, they approached the front of the building. The giant, Wigglytuff-esque visage was surrounded by a sturdy-looking fence and torches that weren't lit at the moment, as it was day. At the base of the building was a grate that covered a hole in the ground right outside of a solid stone door.
"POKEMON DETECTED. POKEMON DETECTED. PLEASE STEP ON THE GRATE!" a voice called from the hole. Xan jumped at the sudden yelling, nearly dropping the two still-unconscious pokemon.
"It's me, Eva," she called back.
"I MUST AUTHORIZE, PLEASE STEP ON THE GRATE!"
"Ugh, fine," Eva relented, stepping onto the grate, "I also have a guest who'll be coming in with me."
"FOOTPRINT IDENTIFIED AS AN EEVEE, PLEASE ENTER."
The large door slid open, revealing a staircase. Eva motioned for Xan to enter with her. He followed, bringing the other two pokemon in with him. They traveled down the staircase, and first came to a cheery Chatot. Hearing the footsteps he looked up and squawked upon seeing the incapacitated poison types.
"Get them to nurse Chansey's room right away!" he commanded, throwing his paper down to lead the way.
"Yes sir," Eva said. She and Xan followed closely behind. They burst into an outer room, somewhat close to the entrance, and found several beds strewn about inside. Xan gingerly set the pokemon down on two of the unoccupied mattresses. The Chansey inside immediately stood to attention and rushed over to the injured pokemon.
"You two, come speak with me!" Chatot yelled, leading them back to his office. He motioned for them to sit before closing the door and perching himself intimidatingly on the front of his desk. "I want to know, exactly, how a trip to Cobblestone Cave managed to incapacitate two of our more senior explorers!"
"THEY TRIED TO KILL ME!" Eva yelled back.
Chatot was shocked at the sudden outburst. He composed himself, then stared back at her skeptically. He turned to Xan "And you saw this happen, I presume?"
Xan gulped and nodded.
Chatot sighed and perched himself back behind his desk. "That's quite the accusation. Do you happen to know why they'd do such a thing?"
"They wanted to pawn off my gemstone and I refused to let them," Eva said, matter-of-factly.
"Those two have a reputation of acting selfishly," Chatot began, "but trying to murder someone is a much more serious matter. You," he said pointing at Xan, "I'm going to have to ask you to stay until those two recover so we can get everyone's story strait."
"What do you need those scumbags' side of the story for? I already told you what happened," Eva snapped.
"You gave me an accusation. I'm not going to say I don't believe you, but as someone who doesn't know what's happened I need to get all the information I can before I decide what to do."
Eva huffed, slumped in her seat.
"That mutt just out an' attacked us outta nowhere!" the Ekans wasted no time exclaiming.
"Yup," the Koffing endorsed.
"Eva just attacked you for no reason?" Chatot interrogated.
"Well naw, not for no reason. I jus' asked if she'd considered sellin' that perty necklace of hers to help the team out. Then she jus' up and attacked us both."
"Yup, that's what happened."
Eva was flailing about in Xan's grip, doing her damnedest to land another blow on the lying duo. "You two are so full of shit I swear I am going to shove that Ekans up every last one of your holes, floaty boy!"
"Eva stop, you're making a really bad case for yourself right now," Xan pleaded.
"I'd certainly say so," replied Chatot. "Well, if there's no other evidence besides witness testimony and there are two witnesses on either side, I can't definitively conclude much. But I can say with certainty that whichever is the case, Eva certainly should no longer be on a team with the two of you. I think you all can agree with that."
"You're damn right!" Eva said stamping her paw.
Both the poison types simply nodded.
"Well then, that's that. Ekans, Koffing, you're free to go." Chatot said, ushering them out of his office. "Now, Eva. I'm sorry to say, but rules are rules, and we can't have you on an exploration team by yourself."
Eva immediately deflated. "But it's not my fault!"
"That may well be the case, but exploration work is much to dangerous to do alone. Not even your mother would brave the mystery dungeons by herself."
"But not a lot of teams are taking newcomers right now! And now I've got two pokemon telling everyone that I attacked them out of nowhere! Nobody's gonna want to let me on their team!"
"Well then, how about you try instating a new one. You could do it easily with your new partner there," Chatot replied, motioning to Xan.
"I mean, I only recently met him. I couldn't ask so much," Eva replied, looking to Xan with a wagging tail that betrayed her hope that he might accept anyway.
"I wouldn't mind," started Xan, "I kind of need job and a place to sleep right now so this'd be pretty convenient for me."
"Thank you so much, Xan!" Eva exclaimed, pulling him into a rather sudden hug. Her wagging tail managed to kick up enough wind to start blowing papers around.
"I have to say though, I get dream projections sometimes, and I don't want to worry anyone if that's going to be a problem."
"Dream projections, huh," Chatot began, "That's certainly rare, but from what I've read pokemon typically grow out of it eventually. As long as it's not so common an occurrence that it keeps the other teams from getting their proper sleep, I don't think it'll be too much of a problem. I will have to let the other teams know, though. I'd imagine it'd be rather chaotic if it happened and they didn't know what was going on."
Xan nodded. He felt his own tail wagging behind him.
"Now, if I could get you both to sign a few forms…"
"And here's the room I've had set up for the both of you." Chatot said, ushering them into a room in an even lower floor of the guild. The room was furnished with only a rustic table, a lantern hanging from the ceiling, and two piles of hay to act as beds. "Now, I'm going to need a team name from you two rather soon, and we still need to get a proper guild tour in since Xan's here, but that can wait for the morning. It's getting rather late."
"Alright, thanks Chatot," Eva said cheerily.
"No problem. You two just make sure you get some rest now," Chatot said, closing the door behind him as he left the two of them alone.
"Thanks again for joining a team with me," Eva said. "You really didn't have to."
"No, like I said, it works out really well for me. Besides, mystery dungeons are amazing and I'd certainly like to see more of them."
Eva giggled a bit. "I kinda figured spending a week in one would make you sick of them."
"As long as I've got this guild's food to come back to, I think I'll be fine," Xan said. The dinner that the guild's resident chef put together for everyone left a lasting impact on him.
"Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad you said yes." Eva crawled into the haypile, curling up and yawning. "I think it's about time we hit the hay."
"Yeah, I'd say so," replied Xan, blowing out the lantern before curling into his own bed. "Good night, Eva."
This is my first crack at a fanfic and I'd like to get better. It'd be lovely to have some criticism from some of you more experienced fic writers to get me there. Thanks in advance~