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The sun is setting over Minoru Sho’s palace, bathing the assembled buildings in soft orange-pink light. All of the warlords -- with the exception of the owner of the palace, of course, and Nobuhide -- have left, gone to their own territories. What remains is serene peace descending upon the gardens, once bustling with chatter now heavy with stillness.

But while the outside is calm and quiet, inside the palace is a hodge-podge of activity: servants rushing around, carrying trays of tea to the assembled Aetherian citizens, and muffled sounds coming behind closed doors where Alaric, Nobuhide, and Hoori are listening to a party attendee’s votes, the last one they need before they can start the discussion of who to work with. Supervising everything in the room is an intimidating-looking Accelgor, arms crossed over his chest as he gazes steadily around him, occasionally barking out an order to the rest of the servants around him.

Standing in a corner are Prince Nicholas, Gawain, and Bon, lost in their own thoughts. The Charizard abruptly sighs, picking at a corner of his claw idly before looking around.

Gawain Confused: Hey, has anyone seen that pony guy? I haven’t heard his blathering since the party.

Bon Annoyed: How should I know? I’m not his babysitter…

Sara Happy: Oh, I know the answer, mister captain-guard sir!

The Galvantula scurries over, ducking shyly from the Accelgor’s sharp stare before stopping in front of Gawain.

Sara Icon: Reilly went to Yagami’s. He had some sort of guild business to do involving a message delivery to a friend outside of Sazanami.

Gawain Disappointed: Fine by me. At least I get to hear my own thoughts again.

Suddenly, the doors slide open, and a Machop with a crossbow slung over his back comes out of the room, followed by Alaric.

Alaric Icon: Thank you for your considerations, Skjern the Unseen. I will be sure to take them and all the others I’ve heard tonight into account.

Skjern Icon: It pleases me to have served you, your highness.

Alaric Talking: Just be patient a bit longer, everyone. I need a moment to talk this over with Nobuhide before announcing the results.

The snake backs into the room, allowing the doors to slide shut in front of him… and Prince Nicholas frowns to himself, wondering once again why he wasn’t allowed to take part in the discussion…

Meanwhile, a Cinccino approaches Sara, wearing an amber kimono with a green obi, brown lace, and patterned with white sakura blossoms, matching the hairpiece pinned up by her ear.

Chelsea Talking: T-Thank you for the c-compliments on my k-kimono, Sara!

Sara Happy: You’re welcome, it’s just lovely~ Why, I couldn’t have done better myself! Don’t you agree, sire?

Nicholas Confused: Huh? Oh, yes, it’s great.

Sara Worried.png|baseline|150px]]: Ahh, I am sorry, I have over-stepped, I think --

Nicholas Embarrassed: No, no, it’s okay, really.

Nicholas Disappointed: I just -- *sigh* -- have a lot on my mind.

Sara Icon: You are too young to be having so much on your mind… you remind me of him…

Nicholas Talking: Pardon?

Sara Worried: N-Nothing! Just thinking out loud. I m-must be going now.

The tailor hurries away, before the prince can say anything. He stares after her curiously, wondering who she was referring to -- but before he can think any further, the doors slide open once more, this time Hoori walking out.

Hoori Talking: Alright, thank you all for being so patient while your king and my master discussed the results of the party. They have taken your advice into account, and King Alaric has decided upon which warlords you will work alongside. Kamen-san, would you like to do the honors?

The Wartortle glances at the Accelgor who hasn’t moved an inch. Smiling sheepishly, Hoori adds:

Hoori Icon: Ah, right. This is Kamen-san. He’s Sho-sama’s head assistant. You didn’t see him during the party because he was off running errands for Sho-sama; pretty much does that all the time actually… Anyway, Kamen-san, you want to lead the way?

The Accelgor grunts -- and moves towards the doors, disappearing inside the room without a word. Hoori and the rest of the assembled Pokémon follow, entering what is obviously a guest area, with large cushions scattered throughout. Alaric and Nobuhide are in two of the cushions, and the Serperior sits up straight before speaking.

Alaric Icon: Listen well, my citizens. I have gone over all of your suggestions with Nobuhide, and though it has been a long night, I am confident that with your advice, we have chosen the correct warlords to align ourselves with. So, I am proud to say that the three warlords are Hashira Eboshi, Umezawa Kaoru, and Onoue Takeshi.

Alaric Talking: All three of these warlords will bring a different but equally valued asset to us during these trying times. Eboshi has her mines of metal, Kaoru has her healing prowess, and Takeshi has his messengers. I trust all of your judgment with this matter, and hope that the cooperation between us will be successful for all parties involved.

Nobuhide Icon: Wise decisions, thanks to all of your hard work! Hoori, can you and Kamen-san arrange for messages to be delivered to the chosen warlords? Inform them to come to Sho-san’s palace to talk with the Aetherians to give them jobs to do in their kingdoms -- so that they may get to know them better.

Hoori Talking: Of course, Nobuhide-sama, right away. Kamen-san, is there a room available where we can write these messages?

In lieu of responding, the Accelgor slinks out of the room, and Hoori hustles to follow. Nobuhide struggles to hide a snicker behind his moustache, then turns towards Alaric.

Nobuhide Talking: Well, while they send those messages, perhaps you and I can begin discussing plans on how to better Sazanami’s defenses against that invasion you say will happen in the near future.

Alaric Confused: But Nobuhide, aren’t we assembling the warlords because of that threat -- in order to eliminate it entirely?

Nobuhide Serious: Of course… though on the off-chance that the three warlords, plus myself, are not enough to halt an invasion… in case we are too late… It would be prudent to be prepared, yes?

Alaric Serious: Hmm, yes, you’re right… Excuse us, everyone. Sho said that he would arrange for sleeping spaces for all of you within the palace, so wait here for him to send a servant to take you to where you’ll be staying.

With that, Alaric slithers out of the room with Nobuhide on his tail. The Aetherian citizens begin to mingle, some resting on the cushions scattered in the room -- and Gawain wastes no time in dropping onto a cushion, almost popping it under his girth.

Gawain Serious: While the higher-ups talk, what are we supposed to do? I haven’t been this bored since I was bedridden after that stupid mega-rock fiasco!

Nicholas Happy: Aww, that wasn’t so bad, was it? You were waited on, hand and foot, given any food or drink you could desire --

Gawain Annoyed: Yeah, everything except booze. I have never been more sober in my entire life… till right now.

Bon Icon: If you wanna sit here and sulk, be my guest. I’m heading home.

Nicholas Confused: Home?

Bon Icon: Yeah, to the rice fields where we landed.

Gawain Angry: Nuh-uh, if you think for one second, I’m gonna let you outta my sight again, I swear --

Bon Annoyed: Oh relax, flame tail, I’m not leaving the island. Those rice fields are in Sho’s lands, remember? I’m still under your “jurisdiction,” or whatever, so you can re-capture me any time you want.

Gawain opens his mouth to retort, then shuts it, propping his chin up on his palm with a haughty sniff. The Toxicroak rolls his eyes… and notices Nicholas staring at him. He raises a brow -- what was the kid staring at? -- and is about to make a smart remark… but something stops him. One can almost see the light going off in the frog’s head as he yawns dramatically, stretching an arm across his chest.

Bon Talking: Anyway, I better get going while the going’s good. (He pauses, giving Nicholas a disinterested glance) ‘Course, you could come with me, kid.

Nicholas Shocked: What?

Gawain Annoyed: What.

Bon Icon: Only if you wanna. I mean, who knows, your dad the limbless king could still give you something to do here, but oh no, wait, he’s got Nobuhide and Hoori to do that for him, and he’s gotten along pretty well without you so far. And besides, Aoi and Kyo really took a shine to you while we were sneaking into the kingdom, and I’m sure they’d love your help around the farm… but ya know, it’s still up to you.

The Umbreon eyes Bon suspiciously, not quite sure if the frog is teasing him or not… Doesn’t matter, really, as he is probably right anyway. Nicholas hesitates, tapping his chin in thought; it’s obvious that he believes there’s more to this frog than meets the eye. But judging by the way he keeps looking at the doors Alaric went through not long ago, Nicholas is still interested in trying to mend his relationship with his father.

Bon, noticing Nicholas’ reluctance, starts to turn away, holding his hands up helplessly:

Bon Icon: Eh, well, I’m not getting any younger -- I’m going to --

Nicholas Shocked: Wait! I’ll come with you!

Bon hides a rare smile before facing the prince.

Bon Talking: Fine by me.

Gawain Worried: Uh, sire? May I have a word with you?

The Charizard grabs Nicholas’ arm, pulling him towards his eye level.

Gawain Serious: You’re not seriously going with this guy, right? That frog is not to be trusted -- he escaped our dungeons, for Avalon’s sake!

Nicholas Confused: Something tells me he was released, not escaped…

Gawain Annoyed: My point stands. He is trouble.

Gawain Worried: And what of your father? I’m sure Alaric would be right ticked if you wandered off without his approval again.

Nicholas Serious: …

Gawain Icon: Sire?

Nicholas Serious: I’m going, Gawain. I’ve made up my mind.

Gawain Worried: I really don’t think it’s a good idea --

Nicholas Determined: I’ll be fine, promise. Father has loads here that he needs to do, without me hanging around, he can focus better on the task at hand. (whispers) Besides, I can keep an eye on Bon too. Maybe he’ll show his true colors in familiar territory.

Gawain Confused: Well… hmm, I guess that’s not a bad idea.

Bon Serious: Great, now that THAT’S settled, let’s go, kid.

Nicholas Talking: Right behind you.

Both Bon and Nicholas exit the room, leaving Gawain alone with the other Aetherian citizens. He sits back in the cushion, an overwhelming sense of dread settling across his face -- which only gets worse as Alaric slithers into the room.

Alaric Talking: Gawain, good, you’re still here, can you and Nicholas come and --

Alaric Confused: Uh, Gawain? Where’s Nicholas? And why do you look like you’re going to be sick?

Gawain Embarrassed: Heheh, well, funny story, actually, you won’t believe it, in fact, I’ll bet you’ll laugh your --

Alaric Serious: Gawain.

Gawain Disappointed: … Fine. Nic’s gone. Left with that Toxicroak fellow for the rice fields in Sho’s lands.

Alaric Angry: WHAT?! He left!?! AGAIN?! I swear, I should nail that boy’s tail to the ground!

Gawain Talking: I could follow ‘em. They only just left, I can still catch up to --

Alaric Serious: No. I’m done chasing after him. If my son wants to gallivanting around without me to help, then fine, that’s his choice. Perhaps it will be good for him to be on his own, take care of himself. How much trouble could he get into in a rice field?

Alaric Worried: … Still, wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Sho send someone to watch over him. Quietly, covertly.

Gawain Serious: Consider it done, my lord.

The Charizard stands, starting out of the room… only to be stopped by Alaric wrapping his tail around his arm.

Alaric Icon: Hold on a moment. There is something else you can do for me first, old friend. Dictate a letter from me… to Aether.

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