A riolu walked up to the job board, eyeing a small handful of requests pinned to its dull, wooden surface.
It became a daily routine for Oran the riolu: Everyday after training, he looked for something challenging, something to get his blood flowing. By the time he arrived, however, all of the good requests were already taken; they flew off the board like freshly baked poffins from the local bakery. All that was left were five or six menial tasks asking for help picking carrots, potatoes, or some other kind of insignificant chore.
Oran boiled over with impatience, his ears tilted back as he rapidly tapped his foot on the earthy floor. “Where’s the operator? I swear, I saw these requests yesterday; they shoulda been rotated out by now!”
“What are you doing?” a familiar voice boomed behind him, her bossy tone unmistakable to his ears. Pecha the buneary, his twin sister, stood behind him with forepaws on her hips. Rawst also accompanied her, a zorua who made up the third member of their exploration team: Team PRO. All three wore a wooden badge— a physical representation of their trainee status— pinned on their bright orange bandanas.
“Give it a rest, Oran,” she advised in a tiresome tone, “as long as we’re still in training, we can’t take those jobs.”
“She has a point,” said Rawst the zorua. “We’re not ready for those kinds of missions. We should make do with what we have.”
“But what we have is boring,” Oran argued. “Look at this: ‘Help Wanted: Pulling Carrots and Beets’; ‘Need Strong Pokemon to Help Push Plow’; ‘Too Many Seeds to Plant on My Own, Need Help;. Who would actually take these?”
“Those are pretty important if you think about it,” Rawst replied, but Oran’s childish outrage drowned out his calmer voice. “I would take them to support my mom with a little extra money, but I can’t handle tools like you guys can.”
Pecha snickered a playful grin. “Aww, Wawsty is a wittle mama’s boy. You should let her put a big, pretty bow on you,” she said, combing her paw through the tuft of fur on his head, “you’ll look super cute in a blue one—it’ll match your eyes.” The buneary had a fondness for teasing boys her age; it was all in light fun to watch the plethora of ways they would react. While some were harder sells than others, her favorite targets were shy, quiet ones like Rawst. They each had their own special way of reacting that other more extraverted pokemon failed to emulate, which she found intriguing.
Rawst opened his mouth to speak but choked, so he stood there looking at his feet in awkward silence as a bright red blush painted his cheeks. After a moment he said under his breath, “I-I’d look handsome, not cute.”
“Um, excuse me?” A new voice caught the team’s attention, soft and timid to the ear.
In walked a deerling, her legs trembling and face pale of exhaustion contrasting with the vibrant tones and rattling sound of her June coat. Oran sensed her aura pulsate chaotically with countless waves of blood red energy. Something must have gotten her riled up for it to be this unruly.
The deerling approached the band of young trainees. “P-please, can you help me?”
“With what?” Oran asked, his curiosity earning him a swift jab to his arm by Pecha. He winced, a numb soreness overwhelmed his arm before he knew it. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Be more respectful,” his sister chided him. “That’s not how you’re supposed to address her.”
He didn’t mean her any rudeness or disrespect, but it slipped his mind how the Florges Guild wanted them to engage with their clients. A wide range of civilian Pokemon came to the guild seeking help: From those needing assistance for menial tasks to the emotionally distraught wanting to keep themselves from being eaten by ferals. Just like in any other place of business, their safety and satisfaction was top priority, so they had to be treated respectfully and professionally. A single complaint could spread like a disease by word of mouth alone and spell doom for the unfortunate establishment that caught it.
Pecha sweetened up her voice and gave the deerling her best game-winning smile. “Hello, my name is Pecha, and I’m leader of Team Pecha, Rawst, and Oran—or Team PRO for short. How may we help you, ma’am?” It astonished the boys to see her turn so bubbly and innocent with such little effort. They knew she practiced her greetings and interactions every day, but to see the results of all those hours spent experimenting with and fine tuning her friendly tone, her brilliant smile, and open body language blew them out of the water.
The deerling breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you. It’s been a stressful afternoon. You don’t know the half of what I went through today. Who can I speak to to file a request?”
“The guildmistress is able to authorize it, but she’s currently in a meeting,” Pecha told her. “You’re more than welcome to stay until she’s done—it should be any minute now.”
“I guess it can wait a little longer.” The deerling collapsed onto the grassy floor as if she ran nonstop all day and finally found a moment of rest. “My name is Petaya, by the way,” the poor thing heaved.
“May I ask what you were needing help for, Miss Petaya?” Rawst asked.
The deerling let out a soft groan and tried recollecting her thoughts. “I like juicing maranga berries, so every so often I go out to Verde Forest and pick some. There’s only one place in the forest where they grow, near the pond, but when I approached it I felt a sensation of cold, hungry eyes sizing me up from the distance. I thought it was a predator, so I ran away as fast as I could.”
Oran scratched at his cheek and said to himself, “So that’s why her aura was all over the place.”
“I could just forget about it and try next time,” Petaya admitted under a dreadful groan, “but with that dumb predator running around, I’m not sure if there will even be a next time. I was really looking forward to getting those berries, but this really put a hamper on my plans for the day.”
While listening to the deerling’s story, a sudden yet brilliant sparkle glimmered in Oran’s eye. He signaled Pecha and Rawst to huddle with him, and they began whispering in soft voices. “I think we should help her,” Oran told his team.
“You only want to help her to avoid doing the other jobs,” Pecha replied in a huff. For a brief moment Oran averted his eyes from his sister, knowing deep inside she was right.
“Uh, well, yeah, but-”
“I think we should sit this one out,” Pecha said. “We’re still trainees. Even if she registers it, we aren’t skilled enough to take it. We haven’t even gotten our graduation test yet, so what makes you think we’re ready for this?”
“So, here’s what I’ve been thinking,” Oran whispered softly. “What if we ask Guildmistress Babiri to authorize the mission for us? I mean, she’s nice to us—she’s nice to everybody—so maybe she’ll say yes to us.”
“Or, maybe she’ll say no because she doesn’t want some of her child members to get mauled by an ursaring or something,” Pecha protested. “Just because she’s nice doesn’t mean she’s just gonna let us do whatever we want.”
“Okay, so what if we convince her to authorize it for us then?” Oran asked.
“Convince her how?”
“By proving to her that we’re mature and responsible enough to take the job,” Oran replied with a smile. “We’ve been in training for, what, seven weeks now? We should convince her that the training itself has improved us, but the instructors are preventing us from fully applying what we’ve learned by constantly babysitting us and making lessons too easy for us. If we all pitch in and show we’re ready to get our paws dirty for real, I think she’ll be on board.”
“What if she still says no?” Rawst asked with one eyebrow raised. “At our current level I don’t think she’ll let us take it, even if we do reason with her.”
“Maybe she will say no, but we won’t know until we try,” Oran said. He turned his attention to his sister. “Think about it, Pecha: If we succeed, we’ll prove to her that we don’t need training anymore. She might even give us our bronze badges for doing such a good job. I know you don’t wanna stay in training—neither do I. It’s been getting too slow and tedious for me. I feel like we should have graduated ages ago. Don’t you feel the same?”
Pecha answered with a groan, then fell silent. He’s right, she thought to herself. As much as I don’t wanna hurt myself over some dumb berries, I also don’t wanna stay in training, either. I hate it there, but not for the same reasons he mentioned. Her head started to simmer with frustration, and disgust in her gut. The instructors don’t respect me. I’m trying to do my best, prove my potential, but they keep dragging me down to everyone else’s level. They must think I’m the same as those underachievers. Absolutely disgusting! I’m gonna be a guildmistress one day, so the faster I get out of training and start climbing the ranks in the guild, the better.
“All right,” Pecha said, “You’ve changed my mind. we’ll help her.”
The riolu and buneary both glanced at the zorua to see if he had changed his mind. His eyes fleeted to his left and right in a nervous sweeping motion. He didn’t think Pecha would change her mind at the last moment. He was alone in his opinion, and being stared at by his partners, soon caved in from the pressure. “I-I mean, if you guys want me to come too, I will,” he said. “My vote’s outnumbered anyways.”
With matters concluded, Team PRO broke from their little huddle.
Turning back around, they found the deerling napping in the same spot as before. She must have fallen asleep during their group discussion to rest her achy muscles. They passed guilty glares around, and eventually their eyes laid on Pecha to wake her up. She tapped Petaya lightly on the shoulder, and said, “Ma’am, we’ve decided to help you.”
“R-?” a yawn escaped her mouth, and her eyes misted a little. “Really? Oh, thank you, that’s a relief to hear.”
Some chatter broke out in a nearby hall, starting off faint, but growing louder as whoever participated drew nearer. Two pokemon emerged from the corridor: Charti the scyther, one of the instructors at the guild; and Babiri the florges, the guildmistress herself. She seemed like an average florges, as frail as a flower stem with a feminine physique rivaling any gardevoir. A vibrant bouquet of blue hydrangeas wrapped around her neck like a fashionable collar which drew the attention of most admiring eyes to her beautiful smile. Charti had a lush green exoskeleton, perfect for camouflaging in the vast foliage of the neighboring forest. The blades of his scythe-like appendages were curved and chipped, their sides showing several scratches. He wasn’t much for talking outside of instructing.
Petaya approached them with a humbling trot, but then her weak legs gave in, stumbling on herself in front of them. She was fine aside from a few grass stains on her forelegs, but that didn’t stop the florges and scyther from dropping to her side.
“Oh my goodness!” Babiri cried, “Are you all right? What happened to you? Poor thing, you’re as pale as a castform!” She shouted at the scyther, “Quick, get her some water!” Charti recoiled.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” The deerling tried brushing it off as she stood back up, “I’m just a little tired.” Her legs felt a little wobbly—as if her bones were replaced by ditto—but after a short moment she stabilized herself. “My name’s Petaya, and I was wondering if I could speak to you about something.”
Guildmistress Babiri never dropped her look of concern for the deerling, but she nodded her head, smiling. “Yes, of course. If you wish, we could talk more privately in my office. Are you sure you don’t need assistance walking? You still don’t look well, darling.”
The deerling shook her head, “No, thank you, I’m fine. Could those three also come?” Her snout pointed to Pecha, Rawst, and Oran, who were watching the adults talk from the job board. “They accepted to do my mission.”
Babiri and Charti gave each other an uncertain glance, then the florges told her, “If that’s what you wish, I’ll let them come, too.”
Team PRO pricked their ears when they heard the guildmistress call for them, then they followed the adults down the hallway. It was time to put Oran’s plan to the test.