OVER THE WINDS AND WAVES
A postmon's job is never done! When a wingull apprenticing at one of the continent's largest post offices fails an important assignment, he's thrown into a chance encounter with a strange pokémon who shows him a world far beyond the scope of the post office.
Entry for Thousand Road's Friends and Partners one-shot contest. Ending contains spoilers for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity.
"…ey, wa…up… Come on, …ak up… WAKE UP!"
A wingull toppled over the edge of his perch with a surprised squawk, landing straight into a mess of nesting materials.
"And about time too. Could you imagine the amount of trouble I could have landed myself in if I had just let you slack off like this?"
Still disorientated from the fall, the wingull turned his gaze upwards to see his roost-mate. She was another, slightly larger, wingull who had taken to sitting on her roost-mate's perch the moment he'd fallen off. The smaller wingull folded his stiff wings back into place, refocusing his attention back to his roost-mate.
"Come on Breezy. Are a few more moments of sleep too much to ask for around these parts?"
"A few more moments?! Crest, it's almost an hour past moonset. The boss wants you to—"
"What are you, a dark-type? You're just saying that to get me out quicker. You of all pokémon should know that I never sleep-in past… Oh." Crest's words trailed off the moment he bothered to look out the window. Sure enough, the once deep shades of black and navy had brightened enough for the last remaining stars to fade away into the sea of soft purples.
"Oh no oh no, I overslept again. Why didn't you say anything sooner? Wait… you said that Ms. Dragonite wanted to see me?"
Breezy nodded, which left Crest with the most mareepish look a wingull could muster. He gave Breezy a weak chuckle, bolting off in a mess towards the main hall. Ducking and weaving, he created a path through the crowded, twisting, halls—almost slamming himself face first into several bags, corners and other obstacles along the way.
By the time Crest reached the grand scope of the main hall his feathers, along with any other nesting materials, were sticking out in every direction; looking more akin to an agitated skitty as opposed to any type of wingull. Crest stared beyond the cascading walls adorned with a long series of descending perches and windows; just stopping itself at the base of a large, circular desk. Seated in the center of the carved out ring was a dragonite, sorting through a tall stack of papers.
Upon seeing his boss, Crest dove towards the main desk—avoiding the flurry of beating wings entering and exiting the gargantuan hall; bags and bills filled to the brim with all assortments of mail. Crest touched the ground floor for less than a second, landing directly in front of the dragonite.
"Good morning, Ms. Dragonite. You said you wished to see me?"
Ms. Dragonite did not lift her gaze from the stack of papers she'd occupied herself with. "You're late." Her voice, though quiet, carried a powerful presence, capable of putting any misbehaving pokémon in line. Crest shrunk into himself as Ms. Dragonite continued, "I asked that you be here at moonset but now that you've finally arrived; you're getting your first cross-continental assignment."
"You heard me. You've been apprenticed to us for long enough and are more than capable of fulfilling this task." Ms. Dragonite pulled out and unrolled a large map of the world, setting it in front of Crest. She pointed at the tail of the large northwestern continent, running through the details of the assignment. "Your destination is Crescent Bay, near Eliga's southernmost tip. You'll be given a special note to hand to your assessor; a pelipper wearing a bright yellow bandanna. It'll be sitting right on top of the town's post office—you can't miss it. It is imperative that you do not overshoot and find yourself stranded in a Mystery Dungeon, such as the Cape of Wonders or Scalchop Beach. It's happened more times than I care to count—I don't want to see it happening again. Have you got all that?"
At Crest's nod, Ms. Dragonite proceeded, "Very good. You depart tomorrow. Deadline's on the 17th day of Hemit. One week."
"Wait, only a week? It's at least a three-day flight from here to Eliga's westernmost edge for a wingull like me, it'll take more than a week before I even come close to reaching Crescent Bay."
"This is a test of your speed as well as your stamina. Besides, winds are predicted to be in your favour—giving you a distinct advantage over our other apprentices. Pass and you'll be able to start working with us full-time; fail and you'll be spending more time as one of our apprentices. Does that sound fair?"
"Yes, Ms. Dragonite."
"Very good. Use today to prepare for the journey from here and back. Rest well and best of luck. Oh, and for Oriana's sake, go clean yourself up; you look like you rushed here the second you fell from your perch. Dismissed."
The day went by without a passing glance. Crest kept his bag light to not slow himself down with its weight, much to Breezy's worry and insistence that he pack more. The next morning, Crest awoke before moonset for the very first time in his life. He was up earlier than most, including the post office itself, whose halls stood in silence, with naught but a draft passing through. Careful not to disturb that stillness, Crest crept through the spiraling halls, gliding down towards the main desk the second he passed into the main hall; ready to pick up the required note.
"Excuse me, Ms. Dragonite?" Crest whispered, drawing her attention.
"Up nice and early for once?" Her voice remained flat however her scaled features couldn't hide the smile crawling its way up into the corners of her jaw. She retrieved a small pink note from one of her many drawers, securing it to Crest's left leg with a small, silver badge as she recapped the assignment's criteria from yesterday. "…You're expected to complete the journey even if you fail to meet the deadline. In the event of an emergency, press the button in the middle of that badge around your leg and help will come your way as soon as possible. Have you got all that?"
"Yes Ms. Dragonite."
"Excellent, you're dismissed. You're free to leave at any time, however you'd best be going sooner rather than later."
Crest nodded, returning to his roost to pick up the small satchel that he'd prepared for the journey ahead. Careful not to wake Breezy from her slumber, Crest flew up to the small window that overlooked the miniature roost. He consulted his map one last time, the dawning skies brightening themselves enough for Crest to see where he was going. Confident in his abilities, Crest took off from the windowsill leaving the post office and Breakwater Town for what would be the longest time in his life.
The flight to Eliga was proving itself far brisker than Crest expected. He'd reached the mountainous forms of Yanpei's margins in two days and passed over Yellow Point not even a day after that. Not a cloud suspended from the sky, the winds blew in his favour and the waves below were cheering him on. Sure, he had a few close encounters with the odd feral pokémon, whether they tried to strike from above or snap at him from below; yet his maneuverability had proven itself to be superior. Land hadn't been sighted for more than a day and a half as he flew over the great, dividing expanse that surged between the two continents.
However, as the winds began to slow, it took Crest another day to reach Eliga's boundaries—keeping the continent's coastline in view at all times. Time was trickling away at a steady pace. At this rate, he'd never reach Crescent Bay in time, he'd have to start flying overtime to give himself any sort of chance of making the deadline. He forced himself to flap his wings—growing heavier with each passing flap—more often to maintain his glide, driving himself to the brink of exhaustion just to make it to the bay before moonrise.
Then the world slowed itself to a halt.
A deluge of pain washed over Crest as he plummeted towards the beckoning waves, unable to make sense of what had just happened. He felt a distinct lack of a certain weight on his left leg, hearing something splash into the waters below. Crest was unable to process anything else as a powerful set of talons wrapped themselves around his body; crushing and stabbing, getting a tighter grip on him.
Crest's vision blurred as the intensity of the pain ramped upwards. He tried to focus on his assailant, seeing only the grey and fiery orange underbelly of a much larger, feral bird-pokémon. A talonflame. Crest panicked. He'd been warned of feral talonflame by the many pelipper of the post office; telling him about how wingull were a favourite meal of theirs and how some would intentionally fly far from land for the chance to catch themselves one—they were just as bad as dark-types in that regard. The talonflame's black tail fanned out behind it as it turned towards land, taking Crest far from his intended route.
Any attempt to struggle only caused the larger bird to tighten its grip. If he could just get a clear shot…
Angling himself just right, Crest unleashed a weak water gun at the talonflame's head. It gave out a shrill cry. Stunned by the intense stinging sensation that the water attack left, it loosened its grip on Crest giving him the opportunity to wiggle out of its talons, falling into the alpine terrain below.
Crest tried and failed to open his wings and fly away, again and again. What would open instead was a blossom of pain deep within his breast and left wing. He couldn't get a proper look at himself through his dizzied gaze, all that he could glean was that his left-wing had almost been crushed. Blood was continually trailing from it while his reddened feathers were sticking out in all sorts of directions. The right one seemed to be fine, at least. The talonflame didn't follow him, scared off once it realized that its prey would fight back.
He crashed into a dense brush of dried grass which was nice enough to leave him alive in one piece with a series of what would be some nasty looking bruises if he didn't have any feathers to cover them. Blackness overtook Crest's vision as he saw the clouds above racing towards Crescent Bay without him. At least he wouldn't be a talonflame's meal.
The skies had yellowed by the time Crest awoke from the depths of unconsciousness. His entire body throbbed in a rhythmic ache with attempts at movement crescendoing that pain into an intense jab. He was stuck, left to admire the darkening skies accompanied by the sound of the wind's swift jog rustling through the thickets. However, as Crest continued to take in the sights and sounds of an approaching moonrise, he swore that he heard something else shifting through the grass nearby. Taking what was his only possible chance for help—praying to the Moon and Stars above that he didn't just alert another feral pokémon to the location of an easy meal—he called out. "Hello? Is there anybody there?"
The sound of shifting grass stopped, leaving Crest in silence. His heart skipped a beat as a second voice called back out to him. It sounded feminine. "Yes, I can hear you. Where are you?"
Crest had never felt so relieved hearing a stranger's voice. He called back again, even louder, wincing in pain. "Over here! I'm in a patch of dry grass. Can you see me?"
"There's dry grass everywhere," the voice replied in a more sarcastic tone. "Are you, by any chance, up on that ledge?"
A ledge? Was he on one? He couldn't tell, not that he had any chance to clarify, as the stranger spoke again.
"I'll be up there in a moment. Hold on."
The scrambling of claws on hard rock drowned out every other sound in the area, ending on the note of a small thud of grass buckling beneath a greater weight. Crest turned his gaze to the source, revealing a dark pokémon heading his way as it kneeled beside him. Getting a closer look at his rescuer revealed to him a sneasel. The small crest of feathers by the left ear meant that she was female, as if her voice hadn't already been a dead-giveaway.
"Oh boy, you're looking rather worse-for-wear aren't you? I can patch you up but all my stuff's back at the village I'm staying at, so I'll have to take you there." She took another glance at Crest's battered form. "It's not very far from here. Can you at least stand up?"
"I'll try." Crest's focus shifted to attempts to roll himself over—working past each trust of pain each time he moved a muscle. Once on his feet, Crest fought beak and wing to keep himself standing. Sneasel turned around not long after revealing a pattern covering her back. It stood out like snow on dark rock, depicting some sort of flower encircled by a pair of dragonic heads. The flower rested on three sets of what Crest inferred to be wings. Two smaller sets spread across her shoulder blades whilst a far larger set trailed down the length of her back in perfect symmetry, stopping just above her tail-feathers. Crest had never seen anything like it.
Sneasel hopped back down the ledge, preventing Crest from admiring the strange markings any further. She shouted back to him, "Come on! It'll get dark soon."
He limped towards the ledge folding his wings. However only the right one responded, leaving the left to jut out at an awkward angle. Sneasel was waiting for him just below carrying a stuffed satchel, just beyond her was a well worn path carved into the grass.
"So—ow! How do you expect me to get down from up here?" Crest inquired. Indeed, the ledge was twice Sneasel's height with no reasonable way of climbing up or down without claws like hers.
"You could jump and I'll catch you," Sneasel proposed. "I promise to be gentle!"
With no other option at his disposal, Crest gave her a reluctant nod. In any other circumstance, he'd have been mistrustful of such a pokémon but now, he couldn't afford to be suspicious. If the dark-type was being honest, he'd just have to put up with her until they reached this alleged village; then he could receive help from a pokémon of a more trust-worthy type. Crest jumped.
She was much softer than expected. Warmer too. He cracked an eye open, looking up at the sneasel. She took it as a query. "Don't worry, I'm fine," she reassured. "I'll carry you the rest of the way. You're very light, so it's no problem for me."
Careful not to disturb any of Crest's wounds, Sneasel made her way up the makeshift path. Just as Crest was dozing off, Sneasel decided that she wanted to keep him talking. "So, where are you from? There aren't any wingull around here—only the occasional pelipper who deliver the mail. And how did you end up beaten up on that ledge?"
Crest didn't have the faith nor energy to answer her, he just wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Not that it mattered as just a few moments later, Sneasel's pace quickened, jostling him back to reality.
Encroaching his vision was the sight of an old village reclining against the steepening landscape. Crest managed himself a brief glimpse at the sign hunched beside the settlement:
Sneasel wasted no time, cutting through the village, bringing Crest in front of a tired inn. Sneasel threw her satchel by the door, entering the building with a lightened load. A spindly druddigon lifted its head from the reception desk, nodding at Sneasel, setting it back down again once Sneasel took to the stairs.
"You live here?" Crest asked, breaking the long silence between the two.
"In a sense. I pay, they let me stay. My room's the second one on the left. I'll go turn in my work for the day once I'm done patching you up."
"Hold on. You're not taking me to a healer?"
"I'm tight on Poké and I'd prefer to save whenever possible. I have the right equipment and experience patching up injured Pokémon—besides, I've watched the healers 'round here work and they're pretty second-rate if you ask me." Crest was unconvinced, prompting Sneasel to sigh and give a half-hearted smile. "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
"Why should I?"
"I brought you here to help you? If I didn't want to help, I would've left you out on that ledge."
"Well…" Crest stuttered as he was being set down on a bedside table. "How do I know that you're not pulling some kind of trick—you know, the thing that you dark-types love doing?"
"What would I gain from that?" She opened a drawer just under Crest, pulling out a small healer's-kit. "Now this will sting a bit, so hold still." She began coating an odd-smelling salve—a common mixture of oran juice and heal seed powder—over his wounds, wrapping bandages around them once the salve had set. When Sneasel had reached his left wing, one of her claws poked his side, eliciting a loud squawk and the frantic flapping of his good wing.
"Sorry! Sorry, I tend to forget how sharp these claws really are whenever I'm doing stuff like this."
"What do you mean you forget how sharp they are? Haven't you been living with them your whole life?" Crest hissed.
"It's uh… something I don't pay much attention to. Anyway! That's all for now. You won't be using that wing for at least another four weeks. I'll redress your wounds in the upcoming days." Sneasel stood up and made her way to the door.
"Hey, where are you going?"
"I need to finish that job, you know, what I was doing before I found you?"
"Won't be long." And with that, she was gone leaving the room in silence.
Crest took the opportunity to admire his bandaging. His entire chest was wrapped in the stuff, his wing pinned tightly to his side. His attention turned to the room that encapsulated him which, while tidy, wasn't very well organized. Papers detailing payment plans, maps, and some kind of cipher scattered themselves across the rough shelves. A simple straw bed was bundled in a corner and a small window—not too dissimilar to the one back at his roost—perched on the wall opposite to the door. Looking through it revealed little aside from the fact that dusk had settled over the village. With little else to look out for, Crest waited for Sneasel to come back, sensing each still minute pass. He stirred again the moment he heard the sound of creaking stairs.
Sneasel's head peeked into the room, followed by the rest of her body, satchel looking much emptier now. She turned to Crest, taking a brief look at her handiwork. "How are you faring over there?" No answer. She tossed the satchel in the general direction of her bed, landing with a clatter. With muted mutters, Sneasel revealed a small pouch of Poké, placing it on the closest shelf.
"So! I guess you don't know any other place to stay around here—so I'll be your guide. Any places you wanna see?"
"Is there a post office here?"
"'Course there is. Why? Do you need something delivered?"
"Why else would I be asking? Before I was attacked by that talonflame—"
"Well that explains the injuries," Sneasel mused, cutting off Crest mid-sentence. "I thought they looked familiar."
"Yes, anyway. I was being tested for something and I need to let the assessors know what happened and why I'll be back much later than expected. As soon as possible."
"I see. I'll take you first thing tomorrow then."
"Thanks. Do you have some fresh paper and an ink-pad lying around?"
"As you can see, there's plenty of paper lying about," Sneasel chuckled in an admittance of embarrassment. "As for the ink-pad, I saw one lying about in one of these drawers. Just give me a sec…" She trailed off, scavenging through each drawer. After successfully relocating their contents to the floor, Sneasel held up a small black box with a triumphant grin. She probed the pad, noting the amount of ink that transferred to her claw. "It's a bit dry, so you might have to press a bit harder to get enough ink on the page."
"That'll do, just give it here." Sneasel obliged, placing the pad and a loose sheet of paper right in front of him. Crest thanked her and began speaking of his journey and current circumstances in footprint runes—asking for the information to be relayed to Breakwater Town's main office. Once finished, Crest rolled up the sheet of paper. "All done. The assessor will handle things from here."
Sneasel nodded. "Well, now that you're done, I suggest you get some rest and let those wounds start healing."
"Isn't it a bit early for that?"
"If you want to go to the post office as soon as possible, we're going to need an early start. Besides, it's not as if there's much to do—everything's closed now—so I normally go to bed around this time just to spare myself the boredom."
"Aren't sneasel supposed to be nocturnal or at least crepuscular?"
"Not this one," Sneasel said with a yawn—stretching all the work she'd done for the day out of her system. "I'll definitely do something less physically demanding tomorrow. I think those deliveries have given me a lifetime's worth of heavy-lifting. You're fine sleeping on that bedside table, right? I could give you some of my bedding if that makes things more comfortable for you."
Crest didn't know how to feel. Here he was, being forced into the care of a dark-type with no say in the matter. He didn't want to trust the thing but he felt as if he had to. What if this was all some kind of trick and the sneasel was just waiting for him to let his guard down to reveal her terrible game? He looked back at her sleeping form—he didn't want to do the same but he was so tired.
With an ever-growing reluctance, Crest gave in placing his head beneath his wing, allowing the gentle rush of sleep to overtake him.
Crest awoke to Sneasel's warm smile. He'd almost panicked but calmed as the memories of yesterday's events reopened themselves to him.
"Rise and shine sleepy-head. Slept well?"
"I suppose so."
"Good to hear. How are those wounds feeling?"
"Sore but they don't hurt as much as they did yesterday." It'd all dulled to a slow ache. Nothing stabbed at him anymore but he'd still have to contend with the pain for a while longer.
"Mhm. Ready to head off to the post office then?"
"Oh right, of course!" Crest grabbed the rolled up note in his beak, about to jump off the bedside had Sneasel not picked him up in time.
"Come on then," she chipped, setting Crest on the floor—gauging whether or not he was fit to walk. Seeing him strut towards the door with little limp or hesitation prompted her to follow.
When the two stepped out into the morning light, Sneasel pointed to a cliff standing high above the village. "The post office is up there, you'll see a bit of the village on the way there."
Crest followed her at what he considered a safe-distance. The village was tiny, with a population that didn't seem to go above 50. Passing by a few stores, the path ascended further upward as it began wrapping itself around the cliff-face. The path ahead thinned as the pair climbed the stony coils. Sneasel placed a paw against the shifting closer and closer to the wall of rock solid beside her whilst Crest trotted on ahead, right in the middle of the path. It took several more minutes of climbing for the simplistic post office to settle into view. It squatted itself on the cliff-top, its structure worn against the mountain's winds. Crest entered the building to see a sleeping pelipper attending to empty shelves. He spoke up.
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Wha…?" The pelipper gave Crest a tired look, forcing his tone into something cheerier. "Sierra Village post office at your service! How can I be of help?"
"Just a delivery. I need this note taken to Crescent Bay right now!"
The pelipper huffed—an unpleasant, guttural groan. "Listen kid: I ain't doing any deliveries today. Wait for the next guy—he'll be here in another three weeks or so."
"But this is urgent! I need this delivered now!"
"Kid, the sooner I get back to Noe Town, the better. I ain't taking any pit-stops for this."
"I apprentice at Breakwater's Town main office. I was given an assignment to deliver a note to someone in Crescent Bay but I was injured on the way and fell here." Anger began to bubble within Crest's voice as he gestured to his bandaging. "I need to alert them of my circumstances."
"Breakwater Town you say?" The pelipper's eyes narrowed as he shifted his gaze between Crest and the note, a slight smile working its way into the edges of his bill. "Fine, but it'll cost ya. Let's settle on 500 Poké. Upfront."
"What!? You can't charge for deliveries, it's against etiquette!"
"Not to me it ain't. If you're gonna waste my time like this, I expect to be compensated in some manner. No Poké, no delivery, so cough it up."
"I have good authority to report you for this!"
"Yeah, good luck with that kiddo. The post offices here don't do jack shit with their reports."
Sneasel spoke up from the entrance, "Wingull… please just leave it." Her focus shifted to the pelipper. "I have the money but it's back in my room—could you wait for just a few more minutes?"
The pelipper grinned. "See, your friend here's talking sense. Be a good boy and keep ya beak shut and you'll have your note delivered in no time." He looked at Sneasel, "You have 10 minutes before I bump it up to 750."
Sneasel needed little convincing. She ran off, leaving Crest alone with the mangy thing, which had started to doze off again. An eternity passed before Sneasel returned with the pouch of Poké, sliding it towards Pelipper.
He looked over the cash and laughed, "Well would ya look at that! A dark-type who's able to keep her word. And here I was expecting it to be counterfeit. Very well then, I'll deliver your little letter. Just remember to keep this between us. Was a pleasure doing business with you." The pelipper proceeded to take both the letter and cash in his bill and took off, leaving nothing but a mess of frayed feathers.
When Crest was sure that he was gone he hissed, "I'm reporting him the moment I return to the main office. Why did you give him the Poké?"
"I was trying to help. You said that it was urgent, and if giving him the Poké was going to convince him, then I didn't see a reason not to."
"Oh… thank you. I uh… never expected a dark-type to be so honest."
"Have you ever met another dark-type before?" Sneasel's face showed no expression. It was clear that this wasn't the first time that she had this conversation.
"Well, no… I only know what everyone at the post office tells me."
"I see. I myself have met plenty of dark-types on my travels and not once have they deserved the reputation they have here. Meanwhile, that pelipper was far more in-line with the stereotype. You've got to be more open-minded about these things. After all, you don't know when one is gonna save your life." She looked at Crest's bandagings and smirked at that last sentence. "So what's Breakwater Town like? It's quite far from here."
"Yeah, it is. The main post office is huuuuuge with a bunch of windows and roosts for all the mailmons—mostly pelipper but there are a few other species in there too like pidgeot, swellow and I think I saw a dodrio once. It's run by Ms. Dragonite, now she's a serious one—"
"Anything outside the post office?"
Crest was caught off-guard. "Well… no. I don't see much outside the glimpses I get during the training routines, they say it's to keep me from 'getting distracted'."
"Surely there must've been a time before that."
"Before that? I hatched in that office and began training the second I could fly. Apparently, some of the big offices steal eggs from feral pelipper and raise them to be the ideal mailmons. 'Lot easier than just getting a bunch of pokémon to sign up for the job, even though there are some who do."
A blank stare fixated itself on Sneasel's face—it was blatant that this was the first time she'd heard of it.
"Not that it bothers me! That's just how it is. We're expected to fulfill our role as postmons just as kecleon fulfill theirs as shopkeepers but enough about me, what's it like living out here?"
"Uh… uneventful. I do a bunch of jobs around the village and I earn enough to get by but some of the jobs I get can be rather interesting. Like, sometimes, I might be asked to go into this thing called a 'Mystery Dungeon' and other times I'll discover something about the village, like a hidden passage. I also get quite a number of free days and whenever that happens, I like climbing up this cliff to admire the view. It takes a lot of my mind and I appreciate it for that."
"Ahhh okay, maybe I'll understand more when I see for myself."
Sneasel smiled but said nothing else in response. In silence, the two descended the cliff. When the pair reached the village again, Sneasel spoke up, surprising Crest.
"I'll see if Hakamo-o has any jobs on offer. His work doesn't require much effort and he pays really well." She hurried along, Crest trailing close behind, stopping herself right in front of a tent filled with all sorts of accessories. Right at the back, muttering pricings under his breath, an aging hakamo-o was busying himself with his wares.
"Ah, why if it ain't me favourite lil helper. How's it goin'?"
"Good as ever! Any jobs or errands you need help with today?"
"Well, since ya offered, I suppose I could use yer help fer somethin'. A new supply of baubles just came in and I need 'em organized and displayed nicely."
"Easy! I'll do it as quickly as possible—for the right amount, of course."
Hakamo-o chortled, "It's a deal and since ya've been so helpful, you can pick out anything you'd like here—as a gift. Sneasel was beaming and started digging through the large tangle of jewelry while Hakamo-o continued on about his supplies. "Been getting stuff from all over Kythra recently. The one that came in today is from Solunadia, so expect a lotta…"
Crest's mind drifted from the conversation, taking in the moment. Sneasel's sheer joy, Hakamo-o speaking with such passion about his wares… it made him realize that he had nothing to compare it to. All he knew was work. Preparing for work, speaking of work, just work. He shook his mind of work and allowed himself to be taken in by Sneasel's happiness and when he did, Crest felt a strange warmness stir within him.
Everything had changed since Crest had started living life in Sierra Village. With him being unable to help out with Sneasel's work, there was so much free time at his disposal. He always tried to be by her side, absorbing every new experience each passing day.
Sneasel kept the accessory from Hakamo-o wrapped around her ankle. She'd picked out a rather elaborate-looking bracelet—she was just as surprised as Crest with how easily Hakamo-o parted with it considering how valuable it looked. Crafted from many smooth, white stones dotted with luminescent flecks; the detailed carvings that composed the loop of the bracelet depicted what Crest thought to be waves, bobbing in-time with the wind. Meanwhile, Sneasel inferred that, since the bracelet came from Solunadia, they were sand dunes, rolling into themselves under the wind's influence. Sitting in the center of the winding bracelet was a ring of blue stones encircling three, elegant scales that appeared to be either blue, silver or white depending on where the light struck them. A lightning bolt-like pattern coursed through them, giving them an even greater sense of finery.
Crest couldn't even begin to visualize what pokémon those scales would have belonged to and it seemed like he wasn't the only one; for when he'd asked Hakamo-o about it, he'd shaken his head saying that he had no idea. While the question still gnawed at him, he decided to pay it no further mind.
The days raced by. Crest's wing was no longer pinned to his body and he could feel it strengthen with each stretch and exercise that Sneasel had made him do. Alongside the strength of his wing, his friendship with Sneasel grew with each passing day. He couldn't put his wing on it but he could feel that there was something different about her. Her entire presence felt so open and comforting. It was as if he could travel to the furthest reaches of the world with her and everything would still be okay. He didn't understand it, nor did he try to.
Soon, Crest was freed from his bandaging and his wing strong enough to carry him back to Breakwater Town. He'd have to leave Sneasel. It'd been more than a month since their first meeting and the more time that passed, the less ready Crest was to make the journey back. He had to return to his duties, lest he face the consequences for shirking work. The pair made their way to the cliff where the post office sat and exchanged their parting words.
"Now, don't you overexert yourself. You don't wanna become easy talonflame bait again," Sneasel hummed.
"I'll be sure of it. Think I've learnt my lesson from last time."
"Glad to hear it. I'm going to miss having you around, you know." The words slipped out with little fanfare. She had gotten used to seeing the little wingull around and his absence would take time to get used to.
"I'll miss you too. I'll be sure to visit you as much as I can!"
"But what about your work? Won't someone notice?"
"Probably, but it's not going to stop me. You're the first real friend I've had. All my workmates just talk about that: work. But you talk so much more than that. You talk about a bunch of stuff that isn't work and I like that a lot. I wanna start talking about non-work things with my workmates too, maybe then I can start calling them friends! But I'll need to visit you if I need to find stuff to talk about!"
"I'll be looking forward to it then, Wingull."
"Oh, it's Crest. You can call me Crest now." A spur of the moment decision marked the first time Crest had ever given his preferred name to someone outside the post office. It just felt right to give it to her, she more than deserved it.
"Alright then, Crest. I'll be waiting for you here, then."
He nodded and took off with a running start, ready to soar over the winds and waves again. Sneasel watched him from below with a smile. As Crest gained altitude, a short gasp escaped Sneasel when she was struck with a sudden realization: she hadn't told him her name yet. She ran to the cliff's edge and, as loud as she could, shouted, "Elliana! My name is Elliana!"
Crest had a hard time making out her words but the moment he heard them, only one thought danced across his mind; What a funny name.
"So, you failed." Ms. Dragonite was unimpressed. Her disappointed tone of voice was biting.
"Yes, Ms. Dragonite." Crest had returned to the post office exhausted a few minutes ago. His left wing was stiff with aches, and began his best attempt to explain himself; from losing the note and the badge to what he'd been up to during his extended absence.
"Yet you didn't see to alerting either me or the assessor. Why?"
"What? But I did send a letter to the assessor about the circumstances, surely they must've received it."
"Not a word of it. Do you really think you can get away with lying about this sort of thing?" Her eyes narrowed.
Crest flinched. "No, no of course not! It was that pelipper. He lied to us!" The sudden realization dawned on Crest that the pelipper had never intended to fly to Crescent Bay. He was just taking advantage of the situation to make a quick buck. It made his blood boil.
"The pokémon who rescued me. She showed me the way to the village's post office and paid the pelipper once he demanded payment for delivering the letter."
"I see, I'll file a report to Noe Town but you mustn't see yourself getting attached to strangers. You understand that they just distract you from your work, correct?"
"Yes Ms. Dragonite."
"Good. Nonetheless, this failure has put a large dent in your time training with us. To make up for this, you'll be continuing your apprenticeship for one more seasonal cycle from today."
"An entire seasonal cycle? But that's more than a year! I've only been gone for a month and a half, what do I need all that extra training for?"
"Making up for lost time, unlearning any unwanted habits from strangers and ensuring that you're properly prepared the next time you're given a task to that scale."
"But I was prepared. I was just caught off-guard by that talonflame," Crest moaned.
"Then perhaps you might want to see to using that extra time to learn how to pay attention. You're dismissed. Tomorrow, I want to see you right here at moonset to begin your extra training."
Crest could only lower his head in response. He trudged his way back to his old roost, at least he could tell them about Elliana and the things she taught him—they'd understand. Once he reached the roost, he was greeted by the sight of Breezy and the rest of their roost.
"Crest! Crest, you're back!" Breezy trilled, voice quavering.
A chorus of questions from the rest of the roost peaked the second Breezy opened her beak bombarding Crest from every direction ranging from the "what happened"s to the "what took you so long"s all the way to the "why did you write to us"s.
"Ack! Give me room to breathe and I'll tell you everything." The room went still in a heartbeat, allowing Crest to tell his tale to the entire roost. "That's better. Everything was going well until the day before the deadline…" He recited the events that had transpired over the course of his absence, leaving no stone unturned—placing a lot of focus on Elliana and the relationship he'd built with her. The roost made no sound until Crest finished his story. "…and that's why I'm going to start taking days off to see her again. I want her to show and teach me more things that isn't mail delivery—"
The roost exploded into a flurry of worried squawks and flapping, resuming their assault of questions.
"Crest, have you gone mad?"
"You'll be caught before you make it to Yellow Point!"
"What would Ms. Dragonite think of this?"
"You trusted a dark-type?"
"You're being taken advantage of!"
"I bet she wants you to go back so she can use you to her liking!"
"Yeah! Crest, you should know better than this—it was one of the first things we were taught!"
"How could you be so foolish?"
"Forget about it."
Crest's shouts cut through the dissenting voices. "I could've died if she didn't rescue me! How could I not be at least a bit grateful for that?"
"She must be playing with you. If she didn't have some sort of agenda, she would've left you alone. Crest please don't be difficult… Please… Don't do this."
"But she's not like that! She's kind and clever and warm—"
"Warm? How can an ice-type be warm?"
"Not literally! I mean that whenever I'm around her, I get this warm feeling within me—like we could do anything together and we'd be okay. It was as if… we completed each other." Like raindrops trickling down a clear wall, the words fell out of his beak. Complete—that was how it felt being around her, only realizing that with her lack of presence. "That's… that's why I want to see her again… because I miss that warmth."
"No, Crest. You're staying here. Ms. Dragonite will put things back on track and get rid of those unwanted thoughts of yours. Oh, please don't be upset, we're trying to help you, not hurt you. Does Ms. Dragonite know about this?"
"Yeah… she does."
"Good. Now go get some sleep. You'll start feeling better once you realize that you escaped that nasty trap that that sneasel was setting for you."
Tears pricked the corners of Crest's eyes, vision blurring as the entire roost flew back to their perches—falling asleep as soon as their heads were tucked under their wings. Their words cut deeper than any talonflame's claws. He looked back at Breezy, whose face was wrought with worry. She tried to comfort him.
"I'm really glad you're back. Even if I don't think you should see that sneasel again, I'm glad she saved you."
"It's not true, you know. What everyone said about her, it's not true."
"Crest, I want to believe you but I just can't imagine it. But even if you'll never see her again, you still have me, right?"
"I guess so…"
Breezy smiled. "Well, goodnight then."
Crest had never felt more isolated from the world around him; numb to the roost's presence and Breezy's hollow affirmations. He wished that he'd just kept his bill shut or at least omitted the fact that Elliana was a dark-type—maybe then they would've listened. The echoes of the roost's objecting words still ringing in his head. However, the more he thought about what they said, the more determined he grew to see her again—an opportunity just needed to present itself.
The first light of moonset touched the roost, stirring Crest from the monsoon that'd become his thoughts. With no sleep to aid him, Crest slogged his way towards the main hall, ready to start the new day with a stale set of jobs. Ms. Dragonite didn't even wish to acknowledge him, recapping Crest's daily set of jobs like clockwork. He'd once prided himself with this work but now, the days were just repeating themselves. Menial task after menial task, letter after letter, blending together in a viscous mush. Sometimes he'd get a delivery to another town like Baram or Metemall but Crest couldn't care less. He just wanted to see Elliana again.
Only one thing of note happened on these deliveries, when Crest had noticed something strange. The job was just like any other, a simple delivery to an important figure in Metemall town—something about a Rescue Organization—however when he'd arrived to deliver the note to the gothitelle, Crest caught a brief glimpse of her four daughters. Whilst there was nothing out of the ordinary with the eldest, second, and youngest; there was something strange about the third one. She didn't resemble her mother and sisters at all; sporting a thicker coat of fur, smaller ears, and a more angular facial-structure. However, what caught Crest's attention was the markings on her arms.
While very different in design, they reminded him of the mark he'd seen on Elliana's back. He didn't ask about it then as it had slipped his mind one too many times but he'd be sure the next time they saw each other. Perhaps there was some kind of method of marking fur that he didn't know about. Would they work on feathers too? He might consider getting one for himself if they did. As Crest was thinking about all the potential designs that he could cover himself with, his train of thought was halted in its tracks the moment the third daughter noticed that she was being stared at. Not taking kindly to it, she shot Crest a glare that screamed at him to back off, causing him to make an audible squawk and fly off to continue his work. Psychics. He could never get used to them.
The long string of deliveries to Metemall town revealed an opening to Crest. By the time he returned to the office, Ms. Dragonite had departed for Baram Town to organize a few things there. It was the perfect window to make the flight to Sierra Village. Nobody suspected a thing, thinking that Crest was doing more of the regular busywork. He slipped out—taking off towards Eliga—without so much as a passing glance.
It took him five days to reach the small village Elliana called home, arriving not long after moonrise. Elliana, as promised, was waiting for him on the cliff with the squatted post office. Her anklet glistened in the moonlight, drawing Crest's attention. With a holler, Crest dove towards Elliana, allowing himself to be caught by her.
"Elliana! I'm back! Like I promised!"
She set him down, beaming. "It's been quite some time, huh?"
"Yeah, but I'm here now! I missed you and your warmth so much!"
"My warmth?" she giggled. "Crest, I don't have much of that to go around—ice-type, remember?"
"Oh, not like that! I meant the warmness I feel inside whenever I'm around you. I feel complete around you."
"You do… I-oh."
Elliana's smile faded causing confusion to ebb and flow throughout Crest's thoughts. Did she know what that meant? Elliana changed the subject, stopping him from considering any other questions.
"Let's head back to the inn, we have a lot to talk about. How long are you planning on staying, by the way?" Elliana started making her way down the path to the village, giving Crest a very clear view of the marking on her back.
"A few days at the very least. I want to make the most out of our time here."
"As do I. How's work been for you?"
"Terrible. Everything is just so boring now. I keep thinking of our time here and I keep wanting to come back to you."
"Surely something interesting must've happened during your time away, right?"
"Well, there was one thing. On one of my deliveries, I saw a pokémon with these weird markings all over her arms. It reminded me of the one on your back." Elliana went still. Crest continued, "and it really got me thinking about how you can get them. Is it a method of marking fur? Does it work on feathers because it looks really interesting and I would like something like that—Elliana?"
Elliana stared down at herself, muttering something beneath her breath. She looked back at Crest, gaze serious, voice drained of all enthusiasm. "Follow me. I need to tell you something." She quickened her pace to something Crest was not used to following, refusing to slow down until both of them were in her room. Elliana stood in the center, unmoving.
Between pants Crest asked, "What do you need to tell me? What's wrong?"
Elliana took a deep breath. "It's this marking that you see on my back. I've had it for as long as I have been here."
"Since you've been here—ohhh, so it's some kind of birthmark?"
"No. I mean when I first came to Sierra Village. I come from a place that is very, very far away—so far that you won't find it on any map."
"It must've been quite the journey…"
"So then how did you get the mark?" Crest's attitude perked again. "Did the pokémon back at your old home give it to you as a parting gift? Why did you leave? Could you at least tell me what it's called, I might try to visit it one day!"
A sad, hollow laugh reverberated throughout the room. Elliana had no choice but to smile at Crest's sincerity. "No crest, no one gave it to me. You can't paint fur in this way—it's a permanent fixture of this body."
"This body…? What does that mean?"
"Crest… despite what my appearance will tell you, I'm not a sneasel—I'm not even any kind of pokémon capable of changing their appearance, like a ditto or a zoroark, for that matter." She hesitated, "I'm a human. A human who was called to this world to apparently save it."
Human—the word was new to him. Was it possible for non-pokémon beings to exist? He had a rudimentary knowledge on the Ancients, but Ms. Dragonite shot down any further questioning about them telling him that he shouldn't distract himself with children's stories but something else Elliana said caught his immediate attention. "Save this world? Save it how?" The world didn't seem like it was in danger.
Elliana shook her head. "I don't know. One night I had a dream, someone was calling out to me, asking me to do something important. The dream just stopped before I was told of anything of importance. I woke up, not as myself but as a sneasel with a mouthful of dirt. I suspect that the mark on my back is some kind of branding, you know to keep track of me. But ever since that initial dream, I've heard nothing. I don't know what to do or where to even start. At this rate, I'll be stuck here for the rest of my life."
"Oh… well at least you still have me by your side."
Elliana turned back to face Crest, a teary look in her eyes. "None of this bothers you?"
"Why would it? I'm your friend! It doesn't matter if you're not really a pokémon, you're still Elliana to me!"
She began smiling again. "Thank you. It… means a lot to me." For many long, drawn-out minutes the two sat in fragile silence. Delicate enough to be broken with a single word.
"Alola." Crest gave her a confused look. Elliana obliged him an explanation. "You wanted to know the name of the place I came from. It's Alola."
"That's a nice name. I like that name. I bet it's a nice place too."
For the rest of the night, the two did not utter a single word; reveling in each other's company.
When Crest had to leave Elliana again, he ensured that he'd make his visits far more frequent. The amount of time he'd stay in the post office diminished with each passing visit. Every time they saw each other, Crest asked Elliana if she had any more dreams—the answer was always 'no'. The risk of being caught increased by the day but Crest didn't care anymore, nobody would stop him, until Ms. Dragonite halted him in his tracks one foggy morning.
Her stern voice halted Crest in his tracks. "I take it that you're leaving to deliver the mail and not departing on another one of your escapades."
Crest stuttered, "Me? Shirk work… I-I would never—"
"Wingull. You know I'm not stupid. You've been vanishing from the post office for weeks at a time and these periods have become more common with each passing month. I take it that you're visiting that stranger who patched up your wing?"
"N-no… You said so yourself, she was just a distraction…"
"And it seems that I was right. Seeing that you can no longer be trusted, from now on you're forbidden from leaving this building without supervision—both during and outside of working hours. Report to me everyday."
"You can't do that!"
"I can and I will. You should be thanking me for your punishment should be far more severe. Now leave the departure windows, you'll be summoned back once I've given you the appropriate supervision."
"That's not fair!" Crest's hissed. His feathers stood on their ends.
"What's not fair? The fact that you've been abandoning your post for weeks and you're only now being punished for it? Because if so then yes, it is unfair for me, not you."
Crest offered no rebuttal, choosing instead to glare at the floor. He was steaming in anger as he flew back to his roost, Dragonite watching him with her ever-present, authoritarian gaze. Navigating through the tangled mess of halls that had grown more and more unfamiliar with each passing day. Crest arrived at the roost with a screech of frustration, throwing nesting material all over the cramped room—getting some on himself—unaware that he wasn't alone. Breezy had been resting at her perch, privy to everything happening below. Awaking with a start, Breezy flapped her wings distracting Crest from further vandalizing the roost.
"Crest! What's gotten into you? What are you doing to our roost?"
"It's not 'ours' anymore," Crest said bitterly.
"Wh-what do you mean?"
"I'm leaving. For good."
"Why?! What about everyone, the post office?"
"I don't care anymore!"
"But what about me? Aren't I your friend?" Her voice stilted in the anguish but Crest didn't care to hear her.
"Doesn't matter anymore. I only care about Elliana. I'm going back to Sierra Village to spend the rest of my life with her."
"Crest you can't… What will Ms. Dragon—"
Crest spat at her name. "I won't listen to her ever again! That worm doesn't command me anymore!"
"Crest please, you're not listening to reason… you can't just quit just like that—"
"I can, and I will… right NOW!"
Too late. Crest had taken off through the roost's window, flying away as fast as he could. Breezy could only sit there, watching Crest's diminishing form against the sky for the last time.
Crest's emotions transfigured themselves into the powerful winds and waves of a great storm, leaving him reeling. He refused to rest, to eat, he just kept flying towards his destination. He needed to see Elliana, everything would be alright then. It had to be.
Sierra village was covered in a thick layer of clouds, colouring the skies grey. Crest, worn from his lack of rest, flew high above the village searching for Elliana—she wasn't in the usual place. Maybe she was still working, or maybe she was back in her room. He scanned the entire village and when that produced no results, he searched the outskirts only to be presented with nothing again. Fine. He descended towards the village center, ready to ask for her whereabouts.
"Excuse me, Mr. Hakamo-o."
"Oh, it's you. Been a while hasn't it?"
"Yeah. Do you have any idea where Sneasel is—you know, the one who helped you organize your wares?"
"Ah, that kind lil thing. I'd tell ya in a heartbeat if I had any clue but she's been gone for just over a week. Last time any o' us saw 'er, she was following a chandelure, just after moonrise. Now, I have no idea what it said to make 'er run off like that but I'm certain that she must've explained it to someone—especially since she'd been expectin' you to come visit any day."
A weight began forming within Crest's chest. Trying his best not to sound panicked, Crest demanded, "Who can I ask then?"
"Yer best bet would be the keeper of the inn she was staying at, since that's where she'd been living the moment she arrived to this place."
"Understood. Thank you."
Crest made a frantic pace towards the inn Elliana had called home. Once there, he leapt to the innkeeper's desk and inquired, "The sneasel who was staying here, second room on the left. Where is she?"
The druddigon eyed him closely. "You're that wingull she liked, huh? Was a chandelure who came asking if there was a sneasel 'round these parts. When I told him that one was staying at this inn, he asked to see her. I agreed after a bit of convincing and let the two talk for a bit. Were locked in that room for over an hour and when Sneasel finally came out, she just told me that her stay here had ended—just like that—her stuff had been packed too but before she left with the chandelure, she asked me to give you these." The druddigon handed Crest a folded note and the anklet that Elliana had so dearly treasured. Crest nodded and unfolded the note.
I've left this note for when you return here as I'm leaving Sierra Village to fulfill my task. Remember when I told you that I was brought here to say the world? Well, I've finally gotten myself some answers to my questions! According to my escort, there's this hydreigon who has been throwing the world out of balance and putting it in peril and I need to stop him before it's too late. This entire time, the pokémon who sent me here was trying to contact me via telepathy but couldn't because of my dark-typing. It must've been hard for her, wishing so hard for someone to save the world, only to be unable to contact them when they finally do come. I have to go see her face-to-face so we can discuss how we can try to stop that hydreigon.
Much as I wish to tell you, I have been forbidden from disclosing my location to you in fear that I might be followed/intercepted on the way by any spies, outlaws or even by Hydreigon himself—Quite the cautious type that munna is. I'll do my best to write to you whenever I can, so look out for any letters by any sneasel back at that post office of yours. Who knows, once I'm done saving the world I might pay you a visit!
Anyway, I'm running out of time and letter space, so I'll end it here. Thank you for being there with me while I was waiting for this news. I look forward to seeing you again.
Until next time, Elliana.
Crest read the note over a dozen times, each time lowering him deeper and deeper into the pits of sadness. Elliana was gone. Crest looked back to the innkeeper and in a strained voice asked, "What…what do I do now?"
The innkeeper gave him a tender look. "Hey now, don't feel bad! We all miss her. I can take your mind off her with a few stories if that makes you feel better. I've got a ton of those if you're willing to listen, like how a few days ago, you could see this rising, golden light from the village!"