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Cactus Fields Tasks: Diamond Dust

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  Ronnie stared up at her partner with large, pleading eyes.  "Pleeeeeease, Edith?  I really, really, really want to help collect cactus samples!"

  The Aurorus sighed, sails flaring red-violet with increasing impatience.  "Veronica, for the last time, your punishment will last until we arrive in Geoda at the very least.  Besides, walking around on scorching sands certainly won't make your feet heal faster."

  "Oh, come on!  They don't even hurt that much any more!"  This was a lie, to some extent; while not as bad as they had been the day before, the Sneasel's injuries were still markedly sore, but as long as the older Ice-Type could use that against her, she would refuse to admit it.  "And even if my feet did hurt- which they definitely don't- there are still a whole bunch of positives!  We help the guild, we get a reward, and I could get a chance to make some new friends!  What possible downsides are there?"

  "Ice-Types like us don’t fare well in deserts, the native Pokémon are potentially hostile, and you don't learn your lesson," Edith replied smoothly.

  "But I already have!" the Shiny protested, tail feathers flaring under her mildly singed lab coat.  "Running blindly into dungeons is reckless and dumb, don't aggravate 'mons who are just doing their job, et cetera, et cetera.  I'm not going to do stupid stuff like that again, I promise!  Now, can we please do that task?"

  "I might've been more convinced by your statement if you actually took my advice seriously," the Aurorus retorted, the colors in her frills almost glowing with intensity.

  "I do!"

  "It certainly doesn't sound like it."

  Ronnie scowled, thinking.  Clearly, the current subject was not going to tip the argument in her favor.  She needed a different approach.  "Well, collecting samples isn't the only job the guilds have set up.  There's other stuff, like patrolling or helping at the barbecue.  That's stuff you'd be interested in, right?"

  Edith raised a suspicious eyebrow.  "Perhaps…"

  "What if I help you out with those things?  And in return, you can help me with the samples!  You can keep an eye on me and have some fun while doing it, and I get to participate in a scientific study!  We both get what we want!"

  "What I want is for you to understand that there are consequences to your actions-"

  "I do!  And my behavior while we do those tasks will prove it!  What do you say?"

  The Aurorus sighed.  "You're just not going to give this up, are you?"

  Ronnie considered responding, but thought better of it and instead chose to once again fix her partner with an imploring gaze.  There was a long, considerate pause.

  "Fine, we can go.  But-" the elder Ice-Type began, cutting off the Shiny's squeal of excitement, "-you are to do exactly as I say at all times.  I will hear no snide remarks or unnecessary complaints from you.  You will assist me in any other activities I wish to participate in.  Finally, you are not to leave my sight until we return to Andalusst.  Understood?"

  "Understood!" the Sneasel chirped, bouncing eagerly on her toes.   Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!  I'm going to make the very most of this!  I'll have the best samples, make the most friends, and be the greatest helper there ever was!  This is gonna be awesome!

                                                                  ~~~

 In the way of many young children who approach choices myopically, Ronnie was beginning to regret her decision.  Though it wasn't even midday, the air was already stiflingly hot, especially to an Ice-Type walking around with an oversized lab coat and burdensome guild equipment.  The sand was equally scorching and also difficult to walk on, not to mention that the Sneasel's feet were already aching with protest.  To top it all off, she couldn't risk saying anything about her discomfort, lest Edith call off the task.  It was more likely to be out of concern than anger, but it would mean an end to their excursion either way.

  Nevertheless, the Shiny was determined to make the best of the somewhat disappointing opportunity.  She stopped in front of a small agave cactus and examined it.  "Let's start with this one," she decided, fishing through the bulky bag of lab supplies.  She pulled out a sterilized swab intended for pollen samples, only to realize that she had no clue where the pollen actually was.  Though the Ice-Type peered intently at the plant from multiple angles, she could find nothing but spiky green leaves.  Confused, she turned to Edith.  "I… don’t know that much about agave cacti.  Do you have any idea where the pollen or fruit is?"

  The Aurorus shook her head.  "If you know little about these plants, then I know even less so.  All the same, it's not too big a deal; taking a few leaves will suffice, I'm sure."

  "But we're--" Ronnie bit her tongue, trying to keep her annoyance in check.  "Uh, I mean…  The Guild said that flowers and pollen are the most important things to collect, not leaves."

  "There are plenty of other teams who understand desert flora better than we do," Edith replied.  "One of them will certainly know how to get those sorts of samples.  Besides, the other species have more obvious samples of that kind.  Getting those will make up for it, yes?"

  "…I guess," the Sneasel muttered, begrudgingly exchanging the swab for a jar and garden shears.  As she began snipping off the ends of the cactus leaves, she added, "It won’t be as likely to impress the Guild Leaders, though."

  "We're aiming to assist, not amaze," the elder Ice-Type responded patiently.

  Says you, Ronnie thought, unable to truly match her partner's calm but still managing to fake it.  She dropped the leaves into the jar and sealed it tight, then placed it gingerly in the bag, along with the garden shears.  "Which cacti should we try next?"

  The Aurorus pondered the question, her gaze scanning the sandy expanse.  While several cacti and shrubbery dotted the landscape, most of them were currently being attended by other Researchers.  After a moment, Edith gestured with her tail to a small cluster of Petaya and Spelon cacti, huddled incredibly close together in the shade of a large house.  "How about those?  No one else seems to be sampling them, and with such a haphazard arrangement, they almost certainly weren't planted by anyone."

  The plants in question were a ways away, but the younger Ice-Type bit back her complaints about walking so far and began to trudge through the frustratingly silky sand.  Slowed somewhat by heat and equipment, the duo took several minutes to reach their destination, and the Sneasel's feet were burning all the while.

  They can hurt all they want; I'm going to advance scientifically regardless! she declared mentally as she stopped in front of the cacti.  Admittedly, this was more to distract herself from her pain than actual enthusiasm, but as long as it worked, she'd keep thinking it.  In between repeating the thought in her head, she studied the group of prickly plants before her.  Now, it'd be best to take entire flowers and fruits from each cactus species, since that supplies more data and it makes the sampling process faster.  The question is, which specie do I start with?  And which samples should I choose?

  "Wh-what are you doing?"

  Ronnie and her partner abruptly jerked their heads to the left in surprise.  A Shedinja hovered a few feet away, staring at them.  The Shiny's eyes grew wide, her head filling with exited questions that she could ask this unfamiliar species of Pokémon.  However, the Bug-Type hurriedly continued talking before she got the chance.

  "I-I mean…  I don’t want to s-s-sound rude or anything, b-but…  These are my cacti.  I pl-planted them here, a-and I look after them, and, uh, w-well, I don't like seeing strangers with we-weird tools and stuff messing ar-r-round with them."

  The two Ice-Types gave each other a glance of surprise.  As Edith had earlier stated, the plants weren't very expertly placed or trimmed; if not for the two different species, they would've been completely indistinguishable from wild cacti.  Thankfully, they both knew better than to comment on this.  Instead, Ronnie chose to take advantage of the situation.  "Oh, don’t worry!  We're not causing any harm.  See, the two of us are from the Researchers' Guild in Andalusst.  Our main goal is to get to Geoda, but we have to wait here until  the weather improves, and our Guild Leaders decided to make use of it!  They've sent a bunch of teams out around Cactus Fields to collect botany samples for studying!  That way, we can learn all about the plant life here in the desert and even perform new experiments!  The native Researchers' branch hasn't done much data collection in this field, so there could be loads of unknown uses for these plants!  Medicinal properties, chemical catalysts, energy sources-"

  "All I w-want to know is if you're g-g-going to hurt my cacti," the Shedinja interrupted impatiently.

  The Sneasel scowled at the Bug-Type's disinterest and might have stared firing insults had her partner not stepped in.  "We simply need to gather some fruits and flowers, nothing more.  We'll just take one or two of each and leave you be, if that's alright?"

  "I… I don't kn-know…"

  "Aw, please?" Ronnie added.  "We promise we won't hurt your plants!"

  The Bug-Type paused.  Then, rather reluctantly, "Okay, I guess.  B-but be quick ab-bout it!"

  "You got it!" The younger Ice-Type began carefully plucking flowers from the biggest Petaya cactus and placing them in an empty sample jar.  She did the same with the Spelon berries, and then proceeded to pack up the samples, all in fairly good time.  "Thank you, by the way!"

  "Oh, um, you're we-elcome," the Shedinja replied.  "You're going t-t-to go now, right?  And leave my c-cacti alone?"

 "Ye-- oh, wait!  One last thing!" the Shiny exclaimed with an almost subconscious snap of her clawed fingers.  "To thank the Cactus Fields residents for letting us stay here for a bit, the Andalusst guilds are gonna throw a huge barbecue tomorrow evening!  Everyone's pitching in, so it should be a bunch of fun!  Do you think you'd want to come?"

  The Bug-Type thought for a moment.  "I-I'm not much for parties…  Will there b-b-be any, uh, Explorers there?"

  Ronnie frowned.  "I said everyone's going to help…  Why do you say that like it's a bad thing?"

  The Shedinja twitched her 'wings' uncomfortably, as though realizing she might have said something she shouldn’t have.  "Well, um, it's j-just that one of their members was really m-mean to one of my f-fr-friends.  He apologized later, but he st-still seemed kind of off…  I don't want to h-hang out with 'mons like th-that."

  "I can assure you that most Explorers are not nearly so harsh," Edith interjected.  "They are a guild founded on honesty and philanthropy, not narrow mindedness.  It's very likely that whoever upset your friend has already received punishment for their actions by now.  You have nothing to fear from them, I'm certain."

  The Bug-Type frowned, but gave no response.  A short yet tense silence ensued.

  "Well, we'll be on our way now!" the younger Ice-Type announced with excess cheer to hide her confused awkwardness.  Exactly why she felt confused and awkward, she couldn’t say, but she was determined to end the discomforting feelings as soon as possible.  "It was nice to meet you!"

  The Shedinja once again failed to answer, now too lost in her thoughts to notice the duo walking away.


  "Now all we need is some Gigant pollen," the Sneasel declared.  "Finding a specimen shouldn't be difficult, but actually reaching the samples is another story…"

  "Indeed."  The Aurorus glanced at her younger partner, her concern reflected in her orange frills and worried expression.  "Perhaps the samples we have are good enough?  I'm not sure you should spend any more time out here-"

  "What!?  But I'm fine!"  In all honesty, the idea of a break from the heat and foot pain was tempting, but not quite tempting enough.  The small Ice-Type looked around, then pointed.  "And look!  There's a cactus over there that isn't even that big!  We can get the sample in no time!  Let's go!"

  Not without difficulty, Ronnie bolted towards the Gigant before Edith could protest.  With a troubled sigh, the elder Pokémon trailed behind.  In the Shiny's defense, it was a rather puny cactus for its species, being only slightly taller than Edith.  Nevertheless, the Aurorus did not find the idea of probing a plant with giant spikes to be very appealing.  "Veronica, I really think-"

  "Oh, come on, it'll be easy!" the Sneasel pleaded.  She gestured to the top of the cactus.  "You just lift me up there with your neck, and-"

  "Stay away from my cactus!" cried a shrill voice from above the two Ice-Types.

  What now? the younger Ice-Type fumed.

  A Fletchling, just as vertically challenged as the Gigant in front of them, swooped down to perch on said cactus and glare down at the duo.  "My brother and I have called claims on this cactus, so no one can come anywhere near it!  Especially not strangers like you!"

  Ronnie mumbled a string of euphemisms for curses she didn't know, returning the Fire-Type's glare.  Edith's response was more eloquent.  "Forgive us; we did not mean to intrude.  We were simply trying to collect samples on behalf of the Researchers' Gui-"

  "Wait, you guys are from the Researchers' Guild?"  The Fletchling's eyes went wide.  "But I haven't seen you around here before…  Oh!  Are you part of the Andalusst group passing through here, too?"

  The Aurorus raised her eyebrows.  "Yes.  You know about that?"

  The Fire-Type let out a high-pitched, exited chirp and zipped to the ground.  "Of course I know about that!  I'm a huge fan of your Guild!  I really love science and investigation and stuff and my brother and I want to join when we're older and hearing about foreign Guild members coming heremadeussuperduperexitedandwe'vewantedtomeetallofyoubutwe'renotreallysurehowandmybrother'skindofshybutnowI'mactuallytalkingtorealliveResearchersfromAndalusstohmygoodnessthisissoawesomeand-- and--" the small Pokémon's exhilarated jumble of words became lost in another hyperactive squeal.  Ronnie wondered how someone so tiny could say so much in one breath.  Edith was less impressed, having not followed the Fire-Type's rambling in the slightest.

  "Hey, if you want to meet more Researchers, then you should definitely come to the barbecue tomorrow!"  Ronnie suggested eagerly.  "A whole bunch of 'mons are gonna be there!  It'll be awesome!"

  "Really?  That's so cool!  My brother and I will definitely be there, without a doubt!"  The Fletchling flapped her wings ecstatically, hopping from foot to foot.  "I'm going to hang out with professional Researchers!  I am hanging out with professional Researchers!  This is so exiting!"

  Ronnie beamed.  I'm a professional!

  "I don't wish to spoil the moment, but we do currently have a task on our hands," Edith commented.  "Veronica and I were hoping to use this Gigant for sample collection, if you would be so kind?"

  "Oh, of course!  Sorry I yelled at you earlier; I just didn't realize who you were.  I'm happy to help you now!"  the Fire-Type started suddenly, realizing something.  "Uh, do you think maybe I could, um… get the samples for you?"

  "Sure!"  Ronnie dug through her bag and pulled out a pair of sterilized swabs.  "We need pollen the most; using these should do the trick!"

  The Fletchling squealed again, snatched up the swabs, and dashed up to the top of the cactus.  Not even half a minute later, she was back, both the swabs and herself almost completely engulfed in pollen spores.  "Is this good?"

  "It's great!" the Sneasel replied, taking the swabs and wrapping them in a protective covering.  She tucked the sample in her bag and began dusting the pollen off of her hands.  "Now we have all the samples we need!"

  "That said, we should probably head back inside," Edith remarked.  "As you probably know, we Ice-Types don't fare well in this sort of heat."

  "Oh, okay!"  While still mostly chipper, there was a hint of disappointment in the Fire-Type's voice.  "Well, I'll see you at the barbecue tomorrow, then!"

  "See ya!" Ronnie replied.  Lowering her voice, she added to Edith, "We… are going to the barbecue, right?"

  "As long as you're willing to wait tables," she replied.  "I plan to be productive during the festivities and expect you to do the same."

  "Alright!"  The Sneasel grinned.  Sore feet or not, this day turned out pretty great!  I got samples and a new friend, just like I set out to do!  Even better, it's someone my age who loves science, too!  And I'm gonna spend the afternoon talking with her and her brother!  This is so exiting!

  It wasn't until several hours later that she realized that she hadn’t gotten the Fletchling's name.
Edith, you're lucky that Ronnie is inclined to listen to you; otherwise, this whole 'being a bit of a pushover' thing would not work out very well for you.
Unlike the previous 'new' characters, this new character is actually a new character!  I kind of want to make another Researchers team with her and her brother, but with their current living area, it's hard to say how that will work.  Also, quick note: the Fletchling's name is Ziri and she's not actually related to her brother.  Their parents are all really good friends, though, so the two refer to each other as siblings anyway.  I considered having Ziri call him her 'kid-brother', but to be honest, it doesn't really fit.  So... now you know!
Results: Gained Pollen Sample and +1 Merit
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hotpotato26's avatar
epic keep witin stories