Frosty Festivities - Part 1

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Unlike most Pokémon, Lapis was not particularly bothered by the record-high temperatures turning the whole of Andalusst into a giant sauna; he was not immune to the heat per se, more like desensitized. The Shiny Noibat felt a bit assured, reckoning that his tolerance was related to the many hours he spent ploughing the fields back when he lived with his parents. He still was unsure of the authenticity of the hazy image flickering in his head, but the bat was more inclined to believe it at present compared to the time when he first set foot in Andalusst.

The same tolerance, unfortunately, did not apply to temperatures on the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite donning three layers of clothing—a plain undershirt, a striped sweater and a thick windbreaker—Lapis still felt as though a million icicles were stabbing into his spine. He was beginning to regret offering to help Grayson sell his pastries at the Avalodge; however, said regret was swiftly stamped out as the Shiny Noibat felt that being adventurous was a pre-requisite to any good Explorer.

“Looking on the bright side doesn’t make this place any less cold though,” Lapis grumbled, blinking in wonderment at the sight of his warm breath becoming a visible wisp of cool air. His eyes trailed upwards as it dispersed into individual particles, evoking a faint smile from the bat. “Well, at least I’m experiencing something new.” He brought his gaze back down, observing his teammate interact with a Zorua who was wearing a Zoroark-inspired scarf.

“Would you like to try an éclair, little miss?” Grayson offered, holding out an oblong-shaped pastry towards his pre-evolved form with a pair of tongs.

Blushing slightly, the Zorua accepted the éclair and bashfully replied, “Hehe, y-you can just call me Grace, mister.” She cleared her throat before the Dark-type peered down at pastry in her forepaws. “Shape’s a bit strange, but it does look tasty,” the young fox pondered as she shoved one end of the pastry into her mouth. As soon as she bit down on the cool treat, the combined flavour of the chocolate icing and custard filling exploded in her mouth, eliciting a delighted, muffled yip from her as she gobbled the rest of it down. “De-delicious! That was so tasty, mister!” Grace looked up at Grayson as if he were an angel.

Grayson tipped his hat to her, a hint of a smile blossoming on his facial features. “I appreciate that,” he said earnestly. All of a sudden, his smile gained a mischievous quality that had grown to be synonymous with his kind. “That would be 10 Stars.”

The angel in front of Grace suddenly made way for a devil. “H-huh?!” she verbally stumbled. “B-but didn’t you offer me that pastry?!” She got a chuckle in response.

“I never did say it was a free sample now, did I?” the Zoroark pointed out, holding out a paw. He casually repeated, “10 Stars please.”

Grace could do nothing but puff out her cheeks into a pout as she reached into her scarf to pay the devious and trolling patissier.

Lapis simply sweatdropped. “Now that’s just mean,” he mumbled, feeling sorry for the kit. Flapping up slightly, he noticed that there was a reasonable amount of customers lined up behind Grace. Opining that the figure was manageable for a single Pokémon, he glided down to ask Grayson for his permission to explore the Avalodge. “Um, Gray—” Before he could utter the syllable to complete his pronunciation of the fox’s name, said fox raised a paw and smiled tenderly at him.

“Go ahead,” Grayson permitted. “Since this is your first time here, you should be having fun. I’ll be fine managing the stall on my own.”

Nodding gratefully at his elder, Lapis fluttered away to enjoy the festival.

Colourful Chargestone lights and blazing torches illuminated the short path that connected the renowned ice-covered Avalodge and the busy streets of Andalusst. Pokémon of all shapes and sizes were huddled around the colourful booths erected on the frost covered lawn. One thing that the Avalodge had going for it was the fact that it was made entirely out of ice that never melted; therefore, it was no wonder that everything around the lodge was completely covered in snow.

Derek really disliked was the cold. The Chimchar pulled the thick, winter coat closer to his body and shivered. Even as a Fire-type, the freezing temperatures still penetrated his body. The warm, late summer temperature had dropped drastically when he and Ardor approached the ice-made building. Whoever constructed the bar was definitely insane, at least in Derek’s opinion.

"You alright?"

The Chimchar glanced to the thickly-robed Quilava beside him. Ardor had his flames flared out to warm his own body. It was evident that his fellow Fire-type was also affected by the Avalodge’s winter climate.

“I-I’m fine,” Derek replied stutteringly, shivering despite the thick layer of fur coat around his body. “You don’t s-seem to be too bothered with the cold.”

Ardor grimaced. “I have been to many colder places than this, but I had forgotten how the cold felt it’s not that cold, really,” he replied as they descended the steps into the main hall of the establishment. The Quilava stared at the number of Avalugg that were obviously used as tables. They were just sitting there idly, letting the guests sit on their bent legs while looking nonchalant. It was...kind of disturbing and funny at the same time to be honest.

“I-I see...” Derek’s teeth chattered as they approached the bar. He blinked in surprise. “Is that...the Iaponese Ambassador?” He pointed to the bar that was located to their left.

“Indeed.” Ardor glanced at the Froslass who was attending the bar with a brilliant smile. “Huh. Perhaps we should pay her a visit?”

“Up to you...” Derek shrugged. “I’m dying for a hot drink right now.”

“Same here,” Ardor huffed, grumbling that he could literally see his breath now. “Screw what I said. This place is colder than I thought.” He promptly pulled his coat closer to his body and stopped flaring his flames: it would not help him much anyway. “By the way, where is your sword? I thought he was following us.”

Derek looked at Ardor oddly. “What do you mean? Cael is right—oh.” He stared at the spot where he thought the Honedge was hovering about.

Ardor pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled an exasperated breath. “He wandered off again. Why did he have to wander off?” he muttered. Unfortunately, Derek heard him.

“It’s not like I can control him or anything,” the Chimchar retorted. His lips were pressed tightly into a flat smile. “Try telling a sentient, half-ghost sword that could sneak in and out unnoticed to stay put.”

“Well, can’t you summon him like what you did before?” Ardor inquired with a frown.

The smaller fire type huffed. “I didn’t ‘summon’ him here,” he affirmed with the inclusion of air quotes. “He ‘summoned’ himself into my arm. Here. Look.” He thrust his arm forward and waited. Nothing happened. “See? I can’t control—”

“You called?”


For the record, Ardor had never seen Derek jump out of surprise, let alone ten feet. Chuckling, the Quilava regarded the green scarfed sword. “Where did you go?”

“Met that young boy over there.” Cael jabbed his hand-like scarf towards a certain Buizel with dishevelled hair and a fur-trimmed vest wrapped around his body. “I believe his name is Logan. We had an interesting conversation on the way here,” he added brightly.

“I see.” Ardor nodded, looking at the Buizel. “Well then. Let’s find a seat.”

Derek sent an annoyed glare at Cael, who was humming to himself, and nodded as well. “Yeah. Let’s get something warm too.”  

As they were making their way to the bar, Ardor allowed his gaze to wander about the establishment. There were several guild members laughing and joking by the corner, a trickle of regular citizens, and a group of what Ardor recognized as Hunters sitting by the Avalugg table near the entrance. He stared as he tried to recall where he had seen the grey-eyed Lucario.

It then hit him.

"Where are you going?" Derek asked as he noticed Ardor distancing himself.

"Catching up with a friend of mine," he replied as he approached the Lucario.  

"Why am I even here?" Noir thought, staring into his glass of water.

“Heh, bobbin’ them apples were a piece o’ cake!” a boisterous Buizel boasted of his miniscule achievement. “Heck, I can even do it blindfolded if they were beggin’ for a handicap!”

A Spinarak scoffed in response. “Hmph, getting all high and mighty ‘cuz you won a water-themed contest?” she snickered. “I sense insecurity~”

“Say that again, Six-Legs!”

”And why do I get stuck with the loud ones?” he inwardly sighed, tuning them out. He never planned on coming to the Avalodge in the first place, but he had underestimated Rikuo's powers of persuasion and ended up going irrespective of his dislike towards festive occasions. Even more unbelievable was that his charge somehow convinced him to don his old Marauder uniform. It felt heavy on him despite its relative weightlessness. Subconsciously, he began to rub his right forepaw digits together.

"Ah, the last time I wore this was..." The memories of that night were still particularly vivid; he remembered it as it had occurred only yesterday. He recalled his paw stabbing through and crushing flesh, his ears discerning the soft screams of an innocent child, the rage he felt at allowing himself to be manipulated. Noir exhaled a raspy breath, forcing himself back to the present. Almost immediately, he felt a familiar presence settle down beside him.

Plastering on his poker face, he tipped some water down his throat and inquired, "You're here as well?"

"Yes,” Ardor responded, slipping into the empty seat beside the Lucario. “I'm surprised to see you here of all places.” Ignoring the inquisitive looks from the Hunters around the Avalugg, he continued, "I never thought you're one for festivities... I'm guessing your charge brought you here?" His eyes wandered up and down Noir's long coat.

Noir clicked his tongue, setting the empty glass down. "He's not here," he corrected Ardor, not wanting to give the impression that he relented to Rikuo's cajolery. "My...partner, word for word, considered this party a good place to unwind. Knowing him, he might get too enthusiastic so I'm just here to do damage control if that happens." It was not really a lie: the sociopathic Quilava was rather unconventional when it came to relieving his stress.

Ardor nodded with a tight smile. From what he had seen and heard, Noir's new partner was...eccentric, to put it mildly.

"How did you meet your partner?" the Quilava queried, humming to himself. "I rarely see the two of you together."

The Lucario had a hunch that Ardor was prodding for him more information. The organization to which the latter belonged was fighting for a benevolent cause, and Ryoma was a very dangerous variable to be left alone. His merciless killing of the looters several months ago might have already garnered the attention of the Brotherhood's higher-ups but given the chaotic surroundings at that point, the report definitely lacked substantial weight behind it.

Noir held back a sigh and concisely answered, "Offered me a deal so I asked that he join my team as stipulation." Though both were part of an official Hunters team, they were a team in name only. He did not care for Ryoma one bit nor will he trust him completely, but the Aura Pokémon preferred dealing with the idiosyncratic Quilava over Brotherhood scouts hounding him day and night. "We keep to ourselves. It's better that way."

Ardor raised his eyebrow at the brief reply he received. He'd expected more, but beggars can't be choosers. Oh well.

"I see." He nodded, his warm breath forming cool fogs that swirled up to the air. Secretly, he was relieved at Ryoma's absence. The other Quilava was too unnerving to bear with. "Well, no use in asking his whereabouts now, so what are you going to do in the festival? Derek and I planned to do some ice sculpting later. Would your charge be interested?" he asked, pulling his coat tighter around his body. "I could use some alcohol right now..."

"He's not here, remember?" Noir reminded Ardor exasperatedly. He truly loathed repeating himself. "None of the activities on offer here would test my strength. I'll probably just leave sooner or later." He did play the tenor saxophone, but that was a personal thing which he was unwilling to share with anyone. "Hmph, sure you want consume alcohol here?" The Lucario poked his frozen meatroot with a frown. "Aren't you worried about potential...opportunists?"

"Ah... forgive me." Ardor scratched his ear in slight embarrassment. "Well, I won't worry about them. My body burns the alcohol quickly before I can get drunk. I just wanna get warm." He wrapped his arms around his body and rubbed his shoulders to get more warmth. "You don't drink, do you?"

I actually do," the Lucario intoned with a drawl. "In fact, the drink's only recently been discovered. You should try it sometime."

Ardor opened his mouth to speak but quickly closed it off. He blinked and frowned. "I see... What can you tell me about this drink?"

In response, Noir filled up his empty glass with water and handed it to Ardor. "It's called water," he trolled with a faint smirk. "Very refreshing."

"Oh, yeah. Water. Very clever," Ardor deadpanned with a roll of his eyes. He huffed softly and leaned closer to the table. "It's not all about strength you know."

"Hmph." Noir gave up waiting for his food to thaw and pushed it away. "With such naivete, I wonder how you're still alive. You should understand more than anyone else that power is all you require to defeat an ideal you oppose." He snatched back his glass from Ardor and gulped down some water. "Power and compassion can't exist hand in hand."

Ardor exhaled, sending another puff of frozen air upwards. "To a certain degree," he responded as his paws slipped into his coat pockets. "Power alone can only push you so far though."

Noir had heard it all before. Wherever he went, there were always those who would try to convince him against journeying down his dark path but he always stayed true to his beliefs; every one of them failed, and Ardor was no different. "Your worry is comforting, very much so," he remarked with sarcasm. "I walk down this path knowing that I might die and if I do, then so be it. Which will end first? The world...or my existence? And that brings us to another question." He peered down at Ardor, his face devoid of emotion. "Will you stand against me, Ra'Ael?"

"I'm not trying to convince you otherwise, if that's what you meant," Ardor returned dryly. "Take it as a...friendly advice. I've seen great Pokemon go insane or worse simply due to power." His paw fingers brushed against the cool surface of the ring that was stuffed inside his pocket. He withdrew his arms and clasped them together. "You have a prime example in front of your eyes already….and as for your question, I will stand against anyone who threatens the balance of the world. I won't hesitate to end you if I must. But for now—" A small smirk played on his face. "—let's just put the hostility behind us and enjoy the festival, eh?"

The Lucario simply stood up from the table, subtly tossing his nose up. "Hmph, I somehow doubt that you can walk the talk," he told Ardor. He then leaned closer to the Quilava, their breaths mingling. "The way I see it, you lack true resolve, only acting as a servant of the world." His lips curved up into a knowing smirk, and Noir strode past Ardor.

"Well, wouldn't you know," Ardor uttered flatly, turning on his seat. He found himself clasping the ring in his paws again. Sighing, he took it out and examined the smooth, silvery surface with a hard stare. "A servant. Quite the talker, he is." Shaking his head, he dropped the ring back into his pocket and walked towards the bar.

"Um, ex-excuse me?" a voice tinged with nervousness called out to Ardor.

"Hm? Yes?" The Quilava blinked. His own thoughts vanished as he turned and looked down to the source of the voice. "Can you?" He gazed inquiringly at the fidgeting Noibat.

Lapis knitted his brows slightly. Talking to strangers were not his forte, and it showed as he struggled to verbalize his thoughts. He wondered if Grayson ever got tongue-tied: the Zoroark made engaging in small talk ridiculously easy.

"I'm...Lapis," he introduced himself, an awkward smile painted on his face. “Lapis Lazuli. Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, Lapis," Ardor replied, smiling slightly.  It was rare that strangers, particularly children, wanted to talk to him. The Noibat seemed friendly, like the majority of the Explorers, albeit a shy one. As an afterthought, he added, " the gem?"

"Ah." He was growing a bit tired of other Pokémon relating him to his jewel namesake, but at least it piqued their interest. "What's...your name?"

"I'm Ardor," the Quilava pronounced, cocking his head to the side. "You're with the Explorers, right?"

Lapis nodded, inwardly patting himself that was he actually making progress. "Do you some of the activities with me?" he asked softly, glancing down at the ground. "Face-painting and sculpturing mostly...but I understand if you don't want to if you're busy."

Ardor hid a quizzical smile when Lapis seemed to look pleased with himself and nodded in return. "Sure,” he agreed. “Why not? I'm not really busy at the moment. My partner will be doing different stuff anyway. So...I take it you're a solo team?"

The duo walked side by side towards the area reserved for the activities Lapis had mentioned, deeply engaged in conversation with each other.

Next >> Part 2

My 2nd collaboration with Quarteon01.


NPC Cameos

- Ambassador Ayami the Froslass © ChillySunDance 

- Cael the Honedge © Quarteon01 


- Grace the Zorua, PMDU - Team TrickyFoxy © GraceFireMage98 

- RJ the Buizel, Team FTW App 2.0 © GabladeRunner

- Belladonna the Spinarak, Vantage Official App © julioblah 

Team Applications

Unchained Hearts

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Scorch Recon

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