Chapter 5: The Way of Thievery

Larvesta receives word from a thief that another Deadly Sin is currently hunting him and his team. Though reluctant to face another Sin after his encounter with Snorlax, Larvesta does not wish to overlook any risks that may arise in his struggle with Lilligant. After thanking the townspeople for providing Team Valiant with shelter, Larvesta sets off to the den where the Sin of Greed has made his home. As he expects, many dangerous traps and enemies await him within the occupied cavern.

After yet another arduous trek to his next location, Larvesta and the rest of his team arrive just outside the hideout where the Sin of Greed has invited him. Unusually, the base looks less like a criminal headquarters and more akin to ruins belonging to an ancient people.
"Well, I guess he is called the Sin of Greed," Rapidash says, breaking the silence. "It only makes sense that he hole himself up in a place where his avarice can impose itself onto lots of valuable treasures."

"True, true," Larvesta replies. "What did that cat burglar call this place again? Fossil Excavation?" he thinks.

"I'll be honest, I'm still kind of shaken from my last encounter with a Deadly Sin. Getting crushed and squished by that monster, and being turned into one of his toys is just… Ugh… I dread to think about it," Mienfoo adds.

"If you don't want to accompany me in there, I will let you sit this next battle out. I won't force you to fight in a scenario you would rather keep out of," Larvesta reassures her.

"Thanks for your kindness. That said, I'll still contribute however I can to this fight. I want to make up for what happened with Snorlax, so I'll help you out in any way I can," Mienfoo responds.

"In any case, I suggest planning out our course of attack before we get ambushed by whatever lies within that place," Rapidash advises.

"Being a thief myself, I can say with confidence that sword-bearers will be at a disadvantage against those throwing daggers they like to carry around. I suggest focusing on our bow and axe fighters instead," Froakie recommends.

Larvesta sighs and thinks "Well, I guess that means I'll probably be dead weight this time… Can't exactly sit this one out, but I guess I won't be able to add much if my enemies have the advantage against me…"

Taking Froakie's suggestion, Larvesta brings Patrat, Carnivine, and the two Basculin brothers along for the ride. Feeling he can get away with a few more teammates this time, he also enlists Trevenant, Froakie, and Cacnea for this mission.

"Looks like I'll be staying behind this time around, then," Mienfoo speaks.

"After looking through things, I'd say it's best if you and the others keep watch near the entrance and make sure nothing gets down here to ambush us. Nothing against you personally, I was just taking Froakie's suggestion into account," Larvesta explains.

"I see. Don't worry, you're good," says Mienfoo. "That said, do promise me you'll let me tag along when we fight that Deadly Sin?"
"Very well. I'll keep that in mind," Larvesta promises.

"Thank you. Now you three do the boss proud, guys!" Mienfoo speaks to her three soldiers.

"Don't worry, I won't let either you or Larvesta down, Lady Mienfoo," Carnivine assures. The Basculin nod in agreement.

A number of thieves, brigands, and myrmidons scatter around the early levels of the cave. Leading the charge was an Alolan Meowth who was waiting near the end of the current portion of the cavern. "Those Team Valiant cronies should get here any minute now… Hopefully we can at least stall them for fifteen hours while those slaves fix that crooked wall leading to our vault," he mutters to himself.

Alongside the bandits, a green spider with a tome tied to his back was nervously crawling around the cave, weaving his way through the brigands and thieves, and being extra careful not to attract the attention of any who could squash him like a bug.

"I knew splitting up with Tynamo was a mistake… If only Mr. Mime was here, he could provide backup while I go scout this area for information… Heck, even that green armored guy could be of use to me, for as cranky as he can get…" the mage quietly says.

Back at the entrance, Larvesta and his chosen soldiers start their journey to the Sin of Greed's lair.

Patrat immediately rushes headfirst into the action. He aims for some weak-looking thieves near the entrance, and is able to land a decisive blow on one of them.

"Bwahaha! Nun can escape da might o' da mighty Patrat! Howz dat for a first move, eh!?" Patrat boasts to himself. Unfortunately, another thief he was planning to take out evades his sight and rushes to alert the others to his presence. Shocked and back down to reality, Patrat tries chasing the thief before they can gather backup, but he is too late as a brigand and myrmidon both arrive to support the thief and intercept the intruding Team Valiant.

Patrat attempts to take on the three enemies at once, but is only able to find himself competent against the thief. The myrmidon slashes at Patrat with their sword, but Froakie arrives in the nick of time to intercept the sword-wielder with a throwing dagger.

"Man, what a kid," Froakie condescends the reckless brigand. "You should know better than to go steel ablazing in a mission like this. The most basic rule of hideout infiltration is not to alert others of your presence."

"Oy! I found me en oppertoonity ta strike, so instinct told me I gadda make my presence known! Run off with dat 'dun't alert odderz uv yer presence' nonsense!" Patrat rebutts.

"What did you just say!?" Froakie angrily asks.

"I dun have time fer your nonsense lessons! I got me a life werth livin'!" Patrat tells Froakie.

Their arguing leaves the two of them vulnerable to the remaining brigand, however, and the axe-wielder manages to land damaging blows on the two lowlifes in the middle of their bickering. Luckily, Larvesta manages to fend off their adversary before the two of them lose their lives.

"Hey, are you two alright!?" Larvesta asks his teammates.

"Well..." Froakie starts, somewhat crippled from the injury. "Maybe if that... reckless pack rat hadn't jumped the blade… I might not be needing medical treatment right about now!"

"I mean…" Patrat begins to respond. "We wer' gunna get cawt sooner or later. Might as well take 'em all on from da start!"

"Both of you. Please keep the arguing outside of battle," Larvesta warns Patrat and Froakie. "A house divided cannot stand, and I'd hate to see Team Valiant become even remotely divided in its infancy." Froakie and Patrat glare at each other for a moment, but ultimately decide to drop their hassle for the time being. They treat themselves to some Oran Berries, and together, Larvesta's group delves deeper into the cave.

Cacnea, Trevenant, and the members of Mienfoo's group journey towards a different path than the one Larvesta took, and fare better than Patrat did against their adversaries. The teamwork Carnivine and the Basculin show off gets the group far in journeying through Persian's den.

After landing a bullseye on an enemy, Carnivine lets a snide remark out loud towards the opposition. "Heh, these lowlifes don't know what hit them. I imagine we'll have this area cleaned out in no time."

"Yeah! You go, Carnivine! Let's send these thugs crying all the way home!" Bas shouts out.

"This is only the result of being in league with Lady Mienfoo," Carnivine gloats as he fires another arrow at an enemy.

"I sure wish she could see how much butt we're kicking right now. Hopefully, when we take on that Sin of Greed guy, we'll be able to show off our teamwork at its peak," Culin comments before taking a swing at another foe.

"The three of you sure have a lot of respect for your leader, don't you?" Cacnea remarks before letting out a sigh. "If only I could say the same thing about mine…"
"Hm?" Carnivine notes. "Oh, yeah. You used to fight for that Lilligant jerk, didn't you."

"Yup. He talked about it with us back at the village we were resting up at," Culin explains. "Looks like it's something he really doesn't want to go too deep into, though, so I wouldn't press too hard on it for now."

"That is correct," Cacnea confirms. "In any case, we have another target we should be aiming towards at the moment, so I suggest we head in the direction of the leader of this band of rogues."

Eventually, Cacnea's group stumble across the spider mage. Startled, he jumps back and threatens to strike the group of soldiers. "S-Stay away from me, you burglars! I can fend for myself!" The spider gets out his tome and begins to chant an incantation.

"A wind tome?" Trevenant wonders. "That's a rather unusual choice of weapon for a bandit…"

Before long, though, the mage finishes his incantation and unleashes a gust of wind at his opposition. In spite of his vulnerability to magic spells, Cacnea steps in front of the others to shield them from the move. This proves to be an unwise decision, however, as the gust damages Cacnea severely, dropping him onto his knees.

"Ack! Looks like that bandit seems different from the-" Cacnea starts, before getting a closer look at his target. "Wait a minute, I think I know you…"

The green spider gives a nervous expression towards Cacnea's towering might. "Huh, what do you mean you know me?"

After a bit, Cacnea starts to remember the spider mage's name. "Aren't you that mage I had a run-in with a while back? Spinarak, your name was?"

Spinarak thinks for a moment, and soon remembers the knight towering above him from before. "You know, now that I think about it, you do seem kinda familiar…"

Despite recognizing the mage in front of him, however, Cacnea is still suspicious of Spinarak, and questions him further. "Anyways, we're out clearing this cave from the bandits lurking in. You with these goons?" he asks, pointing his lance at the spider.

Spinarak is quick to rebuke Cacnea's claim. "W-what!? No, not at all! I'm on a task to fend these guys off as well! My master, Mr. Mime sent me and my buddy here to strengthen our magic."

"Oh, so we're doing the same task aren't we?" Cacnea says, relieved that he is not speaking with an enemy. "Tell you what, I'm working for some guy that wants to fend off Lilligant over at Primeval Forest, and he wants some new teammates to help him out. Mind letting us recruit you for a bit?"

Hearing Lilligant's name makes Spinarak hesitant to take Cacnea up initially. "Lilligant, huh…"

Spinarak glances some at Cacnea and notices the scratched emblem on his armor. "Wait… That emblem… Aren't you with Lilligant's army yourself?"

Cacnea turns his head to the side and groans, not wanting to be associated with someone like Lilligant. "I used to be in her army, but things grew nasty with her, so I eventually withdrew. The scars on my armor's emblem aren't battle injuries, if you were wondering. I joined Team Valiant so I could get her to see reason alongside the rest of his army. It's a dangerous task, sure, but one I need to fulfil."

Cacnea's words resonate with Spinarak. Seeing an opportunity to better himself, he accepts the invitation of his new enemy's former knight. "I see… That does seem like an ambitious task... Very well, I'll help you out. A mission like that would do wonders on my resume!"

"Alright then, welcome to Team Valiant. Make the boss proud, young mage," Cacnea invites, now in a somewhat better mood from getting new help for the cause.

Cacnea is still injured from taking Spinarak's surprise attack, though, so Trevenant patches him up with his Heal staff so that he can get back in on the action.

After a bit more trekking, the branching paths eventually merge back together, reuniting Larvesta's two groups and introducing Spinarak to more members of Team Valiant.

Noticing a new member aiding with the onslaught, Larvesta goes over to Spinarak to greet the young mage. "Oh, are you helping us now as well?" he asks.

"Yes, I am. Cacnea invited me to join him so that we can all eventually get the strength to face Lilligant and her army," Spinarak responds.

"Thank you for your service. I am Larvesta, leader of Team Valiant," Larvesta introduces.

Spinarak proceeds to introduce himself to Larvesta as well. "In that case, greetings, Mr. Larvesta. You must be the boss here. I'm Spinarak, a wind mage studying under the wise Mr. Mime. Though I'm not the most durable soldier you could ask for, my magic can dish out tons of pain towards our enemies. I hope you'll find me to be a nice addition to your team!"

With himself introduced, Spinarak goes forth to continue the onslaught against the Deadly Sin's underlings.

Meanwhile, the two teams exchange information between each other regarding what had happened in the split path. "So, did you find anything of interest along the other path?" Carnivine asks Froakie.

"Not much. I found a treasure chest with 500 Poké in it, but for the most part, it was just me and Patrat bickering with each other and Larvesta trying to break the two of us up," Froakie says.

"Well, if ya' di'nt keep trahyen to restrain meh from dravin mah aks into doze baddies, I tink we wuld have dun moar werk instead of havin' dat Larvester feller get 'iz 'ands derty!" Patrat argues.

The two of them start complaining again, with Larvesta once again trying to tone down the mess, but Carnivine blocks the arguing out, not wanting to get caught up in the two bandits' dirt slinging. The team proceeds further into the cave, Froakie picking up an Iron Axe from a chest along the way.

Though it appears that the team is slowly but surely making it to the first major checkpoint in the area, in turn, more powerful enemies are also appearing to block them out. Mienfoo's teammates are able to fend off the opposition somewhat decently, but even they show signs of struggling against the Sin of Greed's underlings. Cacnea and Larvesta go over to the axe cutter duo and their archer companion to help take out their enemies, but though they do better than the trio at fighting back, they still struggle to completely oppose the enemies they are faced with. Rather, it ends up being Spinarak who helps Team Valiant with their plight, summoning a wind spell to knock out a good portion of enemy thugs.

Larvesta thanks Spinarak for his help. "You know, that was a pretty cool move you were able to pull of there. Most people wouldn't expect a spider to carry tomes and practice casting spells like that."

Spinarak accepts Larvesta's compliment, the pattern on his back also changing to a smile. "Thanks, boss. I appreciate it. I've got another friend called Tynamo who I was adventuring with, but we ended up getting separated while we were exploring this area."

"Tynamo?" Larvesta asks.

"Yes. He's a small white eel who practices thunder magic and also studies under Mr. Mime," Spinarak explains "I hope I can catch up to him before he gets himself hurt..."

"Alright, I'll keep that in mind, then. If we run into Tynamo while we're exploring this area, I'll let him know what's going on," Larvesta promises.

After some more journeying, Team Valiant finally reaches the checkpoint, where they confront the Alolan Meowth guarding the remainder of the cave from intruders. Larvesta and his comrades prepare their tools for the battle.

Confronted and nervous, Meowth gets out his sword to fend off Larvesta and his force. "Dag nabbit, you've been ransacking this place for quite some time now. Guess I'll have to clean up your little mess…"

The Alolan Meowth charges at Team Valiant, attempting to strike the axe-wielding Patrat first. Patrat attempts to get out of the way, but finds himself struck by the underling nonetheless. Patrat is, however, able to get in a decent counterattack before Meowth could evade the Beast of Brutality's swing. From behind, Carnivine also tries to get in a shot at his target, but unfortunately for him, Meowth is able to dodge the arrow with little trouble. "Dangit, I was doing just fine on the way here. Is my focus not working right now…?" he utters to himself.

Froakie, annoyed by Carnivine's misfire, gets out a throwing dagger and throws it at the enemy, getting in a much cleaner blow than his teammate. Froakie glares at Carnivine for his failure, much to the latter's irritation.

The Basculin brothers are next to attempt a blow on Meowth, striking at him with their axes. Meowth, however, is able to parry the two fish with his sword, and strikes back, knocking them aside. Luckily, Trevenant goes over to them to mend their wounds.

Larvesta analyzes the situation to see what he can contribute to the fray. He draws out his sword and attempts to strike the Meowth from behind. He is able to land a decent blow, but his opponent counters with an even greater attack, wounding Larvesta. The Meowth attempts to strike Larvesta for a second time, but the insect barely manages to parry his blow, lessening the damage.

Spinarak, feeling he can make good work of the situation, gets the enemy's attention. The Meowth rushes towards Spinarak, but the spider is able to dodge his strike. Spinarak chants his wind magic on the enemy, knocking him out and finishing the battle.

"Mreeeoooww! Guess that's the end of the last life for me…" says the Alolan Meowth as he faints from his battle wounds, concluding the immediate conflict.

"Alright, I think that should wrap this skirmish up nicely," Larvesta says, brushing his hands in relief. "Could some of you go back up and bring the others down here?"

After a short while, the teammates who were not selected to clear out the first part of the cave make their way down to the end of the area.

Larvesta begins discussing the journey so far with Rapidash, but in the background, Oshawott is seen conversing with Froakie about the same topic.

"So, how'd your exploits this time around go, my partner?" Oshawott asks.

"It probably would have gone smoothly were it not for the antics of a certain pathetic pack rat over here," Froakie remarks.

"Dun' wanna talk abawt it, ya' stooped toad. Mishen'z alreddy ovuh. No use en cumplainen' anymoah," Patrat counters.

"Oooooh… I see we have ourselves a lover's quarrel here," Oshawott remarks. "You two should keep in touch with each other more often. They say bitter rivals make interesting bedfellows, after all."

Both flustered and aggravated at Oshawott's snide remark, Froakie and Patrat raise their voices even higher at him. After several minutes of constant spitballing, the two of them exhaust themselves from their choice words towards each other, and, taking Larvesta's earlier warning into account, ultimately decide to lay low.

"Well, in any case, Rapidash, that seems to be the last of those brigands…" Larvesta comments.

"For here, anyways. That Sin of Greed is still waiting for us down in the nadir of this cave," Rapidash interjects.

"Hopefully, at this rate, we'll have this mission cleared in a flash," Larvesta responds. He lets out a sigh of exhaustion.

Though the entrance to the lowest floor is just in front of Team Valiant, Rapidash notices an unstable wall nearby and decides to investigate it.

"Hm? What are you looking at, Rapidash?" Larvesta asks.

"I don't know…" Rapidash says. "But it looks like whoever was here was trying to block off what was behind this area…"

Rapidash rams himself into the wall, and as he predicted, the stones used to blockade the path collapse, revealing a secret entrance beside the one the Alolan Meowth was guarding.

"Whaaa…? A secret path…?" Larvesta asks.

"Yep. Looks like it," Rapidash answers.

"You think… this might be where the Sin of Greed is actually residing?" Mienfoo chimes in.

"Nah, I doubt it," Oshawott argues. "You don't just leave your king piece off the playing board in a round of chess. Why would this warzone be any different?"

"Oshawott has a point. If Persian wants to greet us personally, I doubt he'd put himself somewhere where we can't get to him," Larvesta adds on.

"Oshawott, Larvesta, this is a Deadly Sin we're talking about. They're not the kind of guys who we can expect to play a fair match against," Rapidash warns.

"What, are you saying that loser actually did hole himself up behind a potentially inaccessible path?" Oshawott asks, his attention provoked.

"Maybe. Maybe not. What I can say for certain, though, is that this path must be of importance if the Deadly Sin wants to keep it blocked off," Rapidash replies.

"You know what, you do raise a fair point as well, Rapidash," Larvesta comments. "If this path was blocked off by whoever is stationed here, then even if it isn't where the Sin is residing, it would probably still be in our best interest to check out what's behind it."

"I agree. If everyone else is willing to go through with this, then I say we start getting ready while we're still together. Are you all okay with this?" Rapidash announces. The rest of the team agrees to venture into the blocked off path.

With a decision made, Team Valiant starts planning to make their way into the hidden passageway.

Meanwhile, in an elegant castle deep in the forest, a meeting is being held between queen and soldier.

The ruler has a regal look to her, with what looks like a verdant dress and a golden collar and footwear. Ironically, the flower on the queen's head is wilted, creating a juxtaposition with the rest of her look and giving her a somewhat ominous presence.

Finally, the soldier begins delivering his message: "Lady Lilligant, I have received word of a new rebellion forming in the Sand Continent."

"Oh? Another one of those silly riots? Bah, I'm sure it won't amount to anything. The soldiers I have patrolling the Sand Continent should be able to purge them in no time," Lilligant boasts.

"Well… I don't know if it will be that easy, milady. The force in question was able to defeat the Sin of Sloth in the abandoned mines just past Sahra Town, and I believe at least one of your turncoats is actually aiding them in their efforts," the soldier warns.

"Huh? Did they, now? I must say, defeating one of the Deadly Sins is certainly no easy feat, but still, I doubt they have the firepower to pose a serious threat to us," says Lilligant. "That said, depending on who is supporting that band of misfits, I would suggest at least keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't become too dangerous. What are their current whereabouts, if I might ask?"

"Last time we spotted them, they were leaving a village to travel in the direction of the Fossil Excavation," the soldier informs. "Lilligant, we have soldiers venturing there to intercept the Sin of Greed. Should we also fight the other enemy force?"

"If we could take out both the rebellion and the Sin of Greed's gang, that would definitely be a huge boon for us," says Lilligant. "Still, I don't think they'll be able to hold their own against two enemy forces…" She thinks for a moment. "Right now, the rebellion is the one more focused on our downfall, so I say go after them first, then if needed, retreat and gather reinforcements to take out the Sin of Greed."

"I understand milady. I will deliver our message to the force in Fossil Excavation as soon as possible," the soldier says. He delivers a salute, then gets out a Warp Orb to teleport to the force.

"Hmmm… Another insurrection dares to spawn against me? No matter, even if they were powerful enough to eliminate the Sin of Sloth, these fools will never be able to topple me and my empire. My soldiers will have them dealt with before dinnertime!" Lilligant gloats. She lets out some smug laughter at the thought of crushing some more insects for trying to knock her off her high horse.

With the journey to the Sin of Greed interrupted by a surprise passageway, Larvesta ventures into this secret room to ensure there are no unaccounted foes in his battle. He is unaware of what lies within the vault, but interesting things await him and Team Valiant when they reach the depths of the hidden chamber. With Lilligant also preparing to intercept his forces, will Larvesta's team be able to endure this deviation and still come out on top in order to combat the main objective? Though they believe so, their adversaries are more than willing to put up a fight to ensure Team Valiant is stopped dead in their tracks.

-TO BE CONTINUED-