Eva awoke to soft whimpering, and she forced her heavy eyelids open. The moonlight filtered through the window, the faint illumination giving her darkness-adjusted eyes just enough light to see. A wispy silhouette shivered in the corner of the room. Eva shot up, messily flailing backwards and scattering hay in the process. The silhouette's whimpering continued unhindered. Eva rubbed the grunginess from her eyes and recognized the petite likeness of a Budew in the shadowy visage.
She looked to Xan, who was curled in a restless slumber. His face was scrunched tightly, and his arms and legs twitched sporadically. Around him more of the same darkness that constructed the Budew twisted into an amorphous cloud. It began to condense. It formed a gaping maw around which a predatory face took shape. It glared at the shadowy Budew with a malicious hunger. From the dark cloud came dark hands, clawing their way out with fingers long and sharp like talons.
Eva was frozen in place. She could hear every hammering beat of her heart, and with every echoing thump, strength waned from her legs. She closed her eyes and took several deep, calming breaths, quieting her heart enough to think. She forced her foreleg up, taking a step closer towards the unconscious Xan and the monster who now had the helpless Budew pinned between his fingers. Fear pulled her away, but her legs pulled harder. She managed to get right beside his sleeping form.
As the monster lifted the Budew towards his waiting maw, so too did Eva raise her foreleg, placing it gently on Xan's head. Everything froze. She caringly stroked his head, following the flow of his fur. The tension in his face melted and so did the apparition. His ragged breathing found a comfortable rhythm again. Eva sat herself down and continued to stroke his head, now more to calm herself than her new exploration partner.
"NEW DAY EVERYONE, TIME TO WAKE UP!" a voice thundered through the guild. A chorus of groans followed.
Xan's eye's fluttered open and he gave out a yawn. "It's nice to sleep on a bed again. I feel so refreshed."
Eva was stretching her forelegs out in front of her, her rear high in the air, giving her pose a sensuality that Xan did not overlook. "I'm glad you slept well." She had a knowing smile on her face. "We have a busy day today."
The door burst open. "EEVEE?! ESPURR?! YOU TWO STILL ASLEEP IN HERE?!" came the booming voice of the Loudred.
The two pokemon winced in pain. "Yup yup, we're awake. You don't have to worry about us," Xan said, hoping the conversation ended there.
"OH GOOD! I'M LOUDRED, FEEL FREE TO ASK ME IF YOU NEED ANY HELP! THE MORNING BRIEFING WILL START SOON, BE SURE NOT TO MISS IT!" With that, Loudred left, politely closing the door behind him.
"Is that going to be common?" Xan asked, trying to make out his voice over the ringing in his ears.
"Every morning," Eva replied, finally removing her paws from her ears to take her more natural stance. The small table that usually lied in the center of the room had shifted a few inches with Loudred's deafening roar. Eva casually pushed it back.
"So does everyone just go by their species name around here?" Xan asked, finally standing up from his bed.
"It's a common formality in the guild. We don't need to be so formal amongst teammates though, Xan." She dragged his name out a bit, making it clear that they were very firmly on a first-name basis. "Now come on," Eva continued, "you don't want to be late for your first briefing, do you?"
Xan and Eva walked out into the large room that made up most of the lowest floor of the guild. A small crowd of pokemon conversed lively as they made their way to the back. "Alright, seems everyone's here," Chatot projected over the now dying chatter. "Now, as most of you are already aware, we have a new team here, along with an entirely new guildmember. Everyone, make young Espurr feel at home."
A cacophonous babble of greetings met Xan, and he replied with a weak smile and a small wave. Eva was occupying herself by glaring daggers at the Ekans and Koffing across the room. They seemed eager to leave once they noticed.
"Now, for those of you headed to Krabby Cove, know that there's been a few cave-ins reported recently. Thunderstorms are ravaging Berry Woods and Amp Planes. An influx of criminals has taken to hiding in Mt. Bristle. Please keep all of this in mind while you prepare for your missions for today. And be sure to prepare well. You're dismissed. Oh, except you two," Chatot said, waving down Eva and Xan as the crowd dispersed. "Forgive me for giving you another tour so soon, Eevee, but I figure it's important for Espurr to learn his way around here."
"I'll survive. Go ahead and start the tour," Eva prodded.
"Let's get to it, then! Now, you must be familiar with the bottom floor already. The guildmembers' quarters down the hall, the mess hall on the other end of the floor, dinner starts at five and ends at seven. Please try to return from your assignments before then. The guildmaster's chamber is through the door in the back of the briefing room, which is, of course, the room you're standing in." His wings pointedly danced towards the area of interest with the experience of someone who'd done the whole spiel hundreds of times.
Eva raised her paw with a mischievous grin. "So, why's the guild built into a plateau?"
Chatot's stoic professionalism turned to child-like glee. "Well, as I'm sure you've noticed, thanks to my suggestion to build our guild here, we've been able to put in these beautiful windows down here, even though we're supposed to be two floors underground. This way we can have good ventilation throughout the entire guild, which is absolutely mandatory if you happen to have an influx of fire types in the guild at some point in time. It also allowed us to use fewer resources than if we were to construct the whole of the building above ground. Dugtrio's construction-"
Eva's giggles leaked through the paw she had in front of her mouth.
Chatot cleared his throat. "Anyway, let's move up to the next floor, shall we?" Chatot said, leading them to the stairway.
They emerged into a large room accented by Chatot's desk in the corner, a door directly opposite his desk, a door directly behind his desk, and two large bulletin boards covering most of the back wall. "Now, behind my desk is my office, across from it is Nurse Chansey's station. At my desk is where you'll submit any guild changes such as employing new members. The small basket at the front is where you'll put your assignments for the day, that way we know where to come get you if you're… late getting back.
"Please report directly to Chansey's station if you've suffered any serious injuries," Chatot continued, shifting his gesture towards the far door. "There aren't a lot of medical facilities close by, so if you find someone else who's injured, even if they aren't a member of the guild, please bring them here. If they need to go to a proper hospital, she has systems in place to get them there as quickly as possible."
"Now, on to the assignment boards. The board on the right has many kinds of assignments. Some are simple things like helping someone retrieve a lost item from a mystery dungeon. Some are exploration assignments meant to help us gather more data on particular mystery dungeons. Some are simple escort assignments for more well-to-do pokemon who wish to go safely explore a mystery dungeon. The rewards for doing an assignment are written on the bottom of each sheet.
"The board on the left is reserved specifically for criminals. Each one of these sheets is a wanted felon who'd taken refuge in a mystery dungeon. Your job will be to incapacitate them and bring them back for officer Magnezone to further process. We have them ranked from one-star to five-star, five being the most dangerous, and one being the least. Taking out more dangerous criminals will get you more reward, but don't bite off more than you can chew. If we have to come rescue you, not only will most of your possessions likely be stolen, but we will charge you a fee for our wasted time.
"You may take up more than one assignment at any one time, so long as they all require you to go to the same mystery dungeon, but again, please don't be late getting back. Now, sometimes we'll have more urgent assignments that we need to have done immediately. In that case, I will personally give a team the assignment. Do you understand all this, Espurr?"
Xan nodded his head.
"Good. Now, you're new to Treasure Town, aren't you?"
Xan nodded again.
"In that case I think I'll have Eevee show you around town. Normally I'd do it myself, but I need to get caught up with some paperwork, and, to be honest, she probably knows the place even better than I do."
"You got it, Chatot!" Eva replied, her chest puffed out proudly.
"My assignment for you both today is to make sure Espurr gets properly acquainted with the town, and to return with a name for your exploration team before dinner. I'll let you get started, then. See you two soon."
"See you soon, Chatot!" Eva said, grabbing Xan by the arm and pulling him the rest of the way up the staircase and out the guild.
The town unfurled from a centralized fountain that proudly stood as its primary landmark. The town square that made its periphery served well as a gathering place for all the pokemon that lived there. Eva knew that it was the first place anyone from out of town needed to see, and it was where she finally released Xan from her hold.
"This is the town square!" she said with a theatrical flourish. The liveliness made it preferential real estate for a small shop, real estate that a couple of friendly Kecleons didn't miss the chance to sweep up. "And that's the Kecleon Brothers' shop," she motioned toward the stall sitting on the northwest corner of the square. She walked up to it, Xan following loosely behind.
"Oh hello Eva! Are you here for some supplies?" The smiling green Kecleon said, wasting no time getting to business.
"Not right now, just showing the new recruit around town!" Eva's cheery demeanor permeated every word.
"Bringing us some new customers, eh? Guess I'll forgive you for loitering around then," the bright purple Kecleon standing beside him added.
Eva swiped his teases away with a paw. "Anyway, this is Xan, and Xan, this is the Kecleon brothers."
"Nice to meet you Xan," said the green one, "If you need supplies or food I've got everything you could need!" The Kecleon held up various items, readying a more pointed sales pitch before being interrupted by the other.
"And if you need something on the fancier side, I'll be who you talk to."
"Fancier?" Xan pressed.
"Wares," he elaborated, "TMs and orbs mostly. They can get a bit pricey, but they're no less a necessity."
"Oh, alright," Xan said, replying wholly because he felt as though he had to.
"Sorry to cut this so short," Eva began, blocking the green Kecleon's renewed attempt at selling a rather flawless-looking apple, "but I've got a lot of things to show Xan today!"
"Alright, see you soon," the Green Kecleon called as they took off, his mild irritation peeking through his words. The sound of muted arguing rung behind them.
Residential buildings formed a vague wall around the square that gave way to four footpaths leading in the cardinal directions. Eva first lead Xan up the path leading north. At the end of the pathway was a small side street that had two conspicuous buildings. One was shaped like the head of a Delibird, the other was shaped like a Meowth.
"This is Delibird Item Storage and the Meowth Bank," Eva explained. "They're pretty self-explanatory, but very important! It's nice to not have to carry everything around, and its dangerous to carry too much money. Every town needs its storage facilities and these are ours!" Eva wasted no time having Xan set up accounts with the two pokemon depicted in the architecture, and Xan let himself be dragged along back to the square and then down the southern path.
At the southern end of town stood a building that resembled the dull look of the residential houses. It had the same muted walls with the same dainty windows, the same wooden roof supported by the same rugged beams, and it had the same quaint door. It certainly was not one of the residential houses though. Despite the camouflage the massive size of the place gave it away, as well as the big sign above the door that read "Inn" in flowery, intricate letters.
Eva threw the door open and revealed a shocked Gardevoir, who's surprise at the sudden breach faded away as she saw Eva's cheery smile. "Hi Miss Gardevoir!"
"Hi there, Eva. You seem a bit excited today." The Gardevoir's eyes then found the purple eyes of Xan. "Ooooooh." The friendliness behind her smile made way for a knowing sultriness. "Are you two looking for a room, then?"
"O-oh… uh, no… no, that's not it," Eva's blush was as evident in her voice as it was on her face.
"Mm, you want some of our other services then? Pan and Pam are quite energetic and would probably be able to… keep up with some young pokemon like you."
A door at the back of the room slid open and a Plusle and Minun ran out, standing at attention beside the Gardevoir. "Did you call for us, Miss 'Voir?" the Plusle asked before noticing Eva. "Oh hi Eva! Come to visit?" The two of them were in excessively frilly maid suits, their skirts extended from their legs, giving their silhouette a nice bell shape. Their ears poked through the cute hats they wore.
"Actually I wa-" her hopes at explaining herself were dashed as the Plusle then noticed Xan.
"Oooooooooh." The Plusle and the Minun giggled in unison. "It's about time you brought a boy in, Eva," the Minun teased, his male voice taking Xan aback.
Eva's attempts to cobble together words gave them ample opportunity to introduce themselves to Xan.
"I'm Pam!" said the Plusle.
"And I'm Pan!" said the Minun.
"Pan?" Xan questioned, "That name seems a bit strange." The words had slipped out of his mouth before he realized how rude he was being.
"Oh, wanna know why I'm named Pan?" he asked playfully, looking to Pam for the answer.
"Hmm…" Pam said, pretending to be deep in thought, "It probably has something to do with how hot he can get me." Pam punctuated her sentence with a chaste kiss to Pan's cheek and a very unchaste grope to his groin.
Pan replied with a flirtatious growl that heavily implied he was about to bend her over the small counter that separated staff from visitor.
"ACTUALLY," Eva finally managed, getting everyone's attention. "This is Xan, my new exploration team partner. I'm showing him around town." Eva looked shyly away from everyone's gazes.
"Oh, well why didn't you just say so. Hello Xan, I'm Miss Gardevoir."
"May I get your real na-"
"You," Miss Gardevoir said, cutting Xan off, "will call me Miss Gardevoir." There was a sensuality to her sternness that managed a blush out of the more stone-faced Espurr.
"Anyway," Eva began, tapping Xan with a bit more force than was necessary to halt his stares, "I'm afraid we won't be needing a room or any other services." Pan was too distracted nibbling on Pam's ear to take the tonal hint to cool it.
"I'm glad you brought him in. You've found yourself quite a cute one," Miss Gardevoir said to Eva with a smile. She then turned to the two electric pokemon. "Why don't you two do your jobs and go clean a couple rooms for me." The two ran back through the door they came out of, Pam giving Pan a playful tackle as the door closed behind them. "And I want you to actually clean the rooms please!" Miss Gardevoir called after them, "I swear if I find one drop of cum I'm docking your pay!"
"So umm, thanks for letting me come show Xan around," Eva began, pushing Xan towards the door, "It was nice to see you again, but we should probably be going now, so many places to see." Eva didn't even give Miss Gardevoir the chance to say goodbye as she dragged Xan out of the Inn as quickly as she could.
Eva had made her way back to the square and down the street leading west before her embarrassment subsided enough to speak to Xan. She brought him to a very cute, round building on the edge of town. The smell of freshly-baked pastries wafted out from the windows. "This is the Kangaskhan Café, I thought you might get hungry running around town all day, so I was thinking we could stop here to eat. And maybe figure out what our exploration team name will be."
"Sounds like a plan," Xan said, smiling back at her. He wasn't too hungry, but he thought it'd be nice to sit with Eva in a café.
The door chimed a little bell as it opened. It caught the attention of a Kangaskhan who was clearing some dishes off a table. "Oh hey Honeydoll," she said to Eva, "go sit yourself down wherever you want." She grabbed the rest of the dishes and disappeared into a door at the back of the café where the kitchen was.
"C'mon." Eva lead Xan to a small table with two chairs near the center of the café. There was a small lantern hanging above it, but it wasn't quite bright enough to quell a romantic atmosphere. They sat in the chairs, sitting in an awkward silence until the Kangaskhan returned with a couple of menus.
"Ooooooo little Eva's done found herself a man," She said with a very familial glee in her voice. "So what's your name, Dollface?"
Xan smiled back at her. "My name's Xan."
"Xan," the Kangaskhan repeated with a girlish giggle, "So what about Eva is it you like so much?"
Eva wasn't done blushing for the day. "Actually, he's my new team member," she said, "I'm showing him the town."
"Mmhmm, I'm sure, I'm sure," the Kangaskhan replied with playful sarcasm. She handed them the menus. "Well, my name is Shawna," she said to Xan, "And I hope you have a wonderful time at our little town here. Can I get you anything to drink to start out with?"
"Do you like tea?" Eva asked Xan. "If you do you'll love the tea here."
"I'll have some tea then," Xan told Shawna.
"Me too," said Eva.
"Alright you too, don't get too saucy while I'm gone, now."
"She seems sweet," Xan said as she got out of earshot.
"She is. She's a mom to everyone in this town, which now includes you."
"Have you thought at all about our team name?" Eva asked Xan.
"Names are tough," Xan sighed.
"They don't have to be! We could do something simple like mash our names together."
"Xaneva? Evaxan? I don't think anything in that department works too well." Xan stopped to look over the menu. The pastries listed made him drool a bit. Pastries and pies with every kind of fruit and berry available to the town. Xan had a bit of money he had scrounged during his time in the cave, but a paranoid thought of overspending dug at the back of his mind. "Do you maybe want to split a slice of oran berry pie?"
"As good as that sounds I don't think I should. Pies get a bit messy when you can't really hold a fork."
"Ah, that makes sense. I guess I'll get some anyway."
Shawna returned to their table, she set down two saucers in front of them with teacups perched atop them. "Are you two ready to order something?"
"Yes ma'am, I'd like a couple pecha danishes." Eva ordered.
"And I'll have a slice of oran berry pie."
"Alright," Shawna said, taking their menus from them, "call me if y'all need anything else, alright?" she said, leaving the two alone.
"A lot of teams play with their types to get names, but I don't know if that'd really be good here," Eva said, putting the conversation back on track, "I… um… I'm not really sure right now what type I want to be when I evolve."
"It must be nice to have that kind of choice though; I'm psychic no matter what."
"I mean, sure it's nice to have that choice but it's also really scary, y'know? It might just be the biggest choice of my life and… and what if I pick something I end up hating? What if I become a Flareon only to find myself thinking I could have had more fun in the water."
"I never thought about that..." Xan rested his head on his hand, thinking. "Well, I can try and help you figure things out. We'll be doing a lot of exploring together and I'm sure some new experiences could give you plenty of insight into what you want to be."
Eva smiled back at Xan. "I think I'd like that an awful lot."
"Maybe our team name could reflect that kind of…" Xan searched for words. "undefined nature you have right now." Xan thought some more. "Team Undefined," Xan added jokingly.
Eva stifled a giggle with a paw. "I think Chatot would be furious. He'd just think we never came up with a name."
"Team Branching Paths."
Eva's giggles continued. "People will think we're grass pokemon." Eva calmed down enough to start thinking on her own. "But it might be nice to stick to this idea of… potential?"
"It's a start."
Shawna returned from the kitchen carrying two plates, one with a couple of small danishes covered with a pink jam that was gingerly placed in front of Eva, and one with a slice of oran berry pie that was much larger than Xan was anticipating. Xan couldn't help but stare as it was lowered down in front of him. "You two eat up, and again, holler at me if you need anything."
"Thank you, Shawna," Eva replied before the Kangaskhan left again. She grabbed a danish between her two front paws and brought it to her maw. She had demolished half of it in the span of two bites. Xan lifted the fork left on the plate with his telekinesis. He shoveled out a bit from the tip and brought it to his mouth. The soft, cooked berries burst as he chewed, and the flakey crust almost seemed to melt. Xan couldn't help but let out an approving moan as he shoveled more of the pie into his mouth.
Eva giggled at him. "Good right?"
Xan couldn't give her more than a nod as he stabbed the fork further into the now quarter-eaten pie.
Eva finished her danishes and watched as Xan continued with the pie. Xan noticed her watching and swallowed so he could finally speak. "Do you want some?" Xan asked innocently.
"Again, I can't really hold the fork," Eva reminded him.
Xan scooped some more pie onto the fork and held it up, offering it to her. Eva blushed again, but tentatively opened her mouth. Xan brought the fork to her mouth, and she closed her lips around it before Xan pulled the fork away. Her blush spread. "Mmm, it's really good. It's been so long since I've had pie." She said around the food still in her mouth. Xan continued eating the pie, occasionally offering Eva another bite that she'd bashfully accept. Before they knew it, the plate was clean.
They sat in silence for a bit before Eva spoke up. "I guess we need to go pay now."
Xan nodded in agreement.
They payed their bill and left, the silence followed them all the way to the town square.
"We still haven't decided on a name," Eva reminded Xan. "Do you want to sit here for a bit and try to figure one out?"
Eva hopped up onto a bench in front of the fountain. Xan sat beside her.
"I've been thinking about it," Xan said, "And I think I might have a good idea."
Eva waited patiently for him to continue.
"So, on the subject of potential… You know that old metaphor comparing choices to paths? It seems to me like there are so many paths we come across. So many vague branching side streets. And no matter how similar, the paths are never quite the same as they were yesterday, and we never really know how until we walk them. They almost seem like mystery dungeons in that way." That voice in the back of Xan's head nagged at him for being pretentious.
"This is really sweet and insightful, but I'm not sure what it has to do with our name yet." Eva said.
"Well, how about a name that tries to convey that feeling?"
"I think that'd be nice, but do you think we could convey that in a couple of words?"
"I have one idea. Maybe something like 'Team Wavering Divergence.'"
So, I've picked this back up, and I hope things work out so that I don't have three fucking months between updates continuing onward. I promise to do my best to start updating at a much quicker pace.
Anyways, here are some answers to some questions no one asked.
"Do you have a plan for this story?"
Yes, though mainly just an outline for the major plot points over the course of the entire fic. The individual chapters are much less premeditated aside from the planned story arcs that will have to span over multiple chapters.
"What's with some pokemon being called their species instead of their name?"
This was definitey intentional, but honestly, it's more for ease of writing and reading than actual world-building. My idea was that the species name would function similiarly as a last name. Basically species names are much more formal and given names are much more personal. The benefit I get out of this system is that I do not have to come up with a lot of names immediately for minor characters (names are hard), but can introduce names as characters gain more prominence in the story. I often have a hard time keeping up with which pokemon have which names in a lot of stories I've read, and I hoped that this system would also help readers, but maybe it's only solving a problem rather specific to me.
"The Inn was very obviously inserted to be a source of weird, fetishistic porn scenes to keep the attention of horny readers before the main characters get down and dirty."
Not a question but yes, that's exactly what it is. Well, I do have a couple ideas that'd give it actual plot significance, but yeah, ya got me.