For the month of October we have a new character showcase.  Please warmly welcome the infamous trio as they finally make their debut on the forum! :thudstonk  :RedclawTerrified  The character showcase topic for this month can be found here.

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Also keep in mind that the forum fanfiction awards will be opening up after the appreciated member voting has been completed.  If you are interested in participating then please submit the stories of yours you would like to nominate to me by PM.  Details can be found here.

Waves Crashing Upon the Sky


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I got the feeling that this chapter was a watershed moment in many ways. Ducky’s sudden overtures towards Petrie were certainly an important development but it also started something deeper in my view. Not only has this impossible romance started abruptly but at the same time, his siblings’ coldness towards him has likely started to shift Petrie’s view about his place in the world. Finally, Ferris’ character seems to be taking an interesting turn.

The first part of this chapter was a rather sweet one as Ducky’s kiss probably let out many buried feelings within Petrie’s heart. He can finally dare to dream about actual love with Ducky and his inability to process that was very believable. He completely shut down mentally which is something very Petrie-like. It’ll be interesting to see whether Ducky will be able to put the pieces together before the obligatory confession sometime in the future.

This development, coupled with his disappointment at his siblings, very likely starts his mental change. Would he really turn back Ducky’s love only to be together with his siblings? I think the answer is more than clear and that’s why I think this chapter is probably the most important one after the transformation. This could really be the beginning of the end for Petrie the flyer. But I’m sure there’s still many surprises to come in that regard.

As for Ferris, it was great to see him resigning to his fate instead of trying to attack either Ducky or Petrie. It’s now apparent that he’s just a spoiled brat who is used to getting everything he wants simply due to being the herd elder’s son instead of an actually evil guy. That change should bode well for him in the future though there is a chance he might resort to violence as well.

I quite liked this chapter’s developments and how you handled them. The change within Petrie was handled rather subtly and it was very consistent with his personality. Ducky is still oblivious to the reality but I’m sure we’ll get some focus on her perspective soon enough. Interestingly, with the conclusion of the encounter with Ferris, this story is free to take any direction from now on. Which one it will be remains to be seen.


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Here we begin the next phase of the story and we start the chapter with not so surprising outcome of Ducky’s confession in the previous chapter that literally left everyone else agape. Petrie’s reaction to being kissed by his best friend could’ve potentially evoked a number of reactions from Petrie, but instead his reaction was to completely freeze on the spot. This is quite interesting as the two have shared genuine, heartfelt moments with each other since their initial meeting, and this one simple act was enough to reduce the persistent former flyer to a babbling mess.

It was just how Ducky was. Her affectionate traits were pretty much part and parcel of his swimmer friend’s jovial and kind-hearted personality. They were practically synonymous with Ducky, almost as much as her wide smile and her signature affirmation.

Honestly, I have never seen such inclusive viewpoint on the swimmer before, so this was definitely a neat discovery. You have managed to do something stellar in few short sentences and down to the letter as well. The way you describe how the characters feel is extraordinary work. Ducky is not one to make idle gestures, especially towards her friends, so her affection to Paddy seems genuine enough.

The anticipated reaction from Ferris did not disappoint, as the character has been sort of easy to read from the outset. The slow deliver was worth the time, and the end result is a broken swimmer with no hope left to win over the female he desires. From the get-go, Ferris did not really have a chance with the jocular swimmer, hence the shock part being nonexistent. It was interesting for you to show what Petrie would have done in his position and it showed that the lack of ignorance on Petrie’s part likely contributed to his triumph. However, the way you wrote this scene roused some sympathy for the swimmer once his frame of mind seemed to pop.

We have seen Petrie’s side of things in light of these new developments, but we still need Ducky’s version in the next part to get the big picture as to what we can expect to happen next. Judging by her attitude throughout the chapter, her reaction will not be hard to figure out. Character development chapters are always useful to expand the characters themselves and not have them remain insensible and blank. For that, I will give you the thumbs up for not disappointing in delivery. :yes
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 10:09:19 AM by Anagnos »

''Let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen carefully.''  :MomCompassion


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First, I want to congratulate you on giving one of the most accurate depictions of young romance involving an awkward male I have ever seen.  I found myself nodding with a silly grin on my face as, even as Petrie's conscious mind shuts down, his unconscious thoughts are basically writing a dissertation for us. :p Though it is often said that in writing one should "show, not tell" in this case the use of extensive exposition from Petrie's mind was entirely justified.  Not only does it capture his confused thoughts during the moment, but it accurate depicts the simultaneous over-thinking and under-thinking that comes with such situations.

Ducky's move here, and her teasing, also shows growth on her part from the swimmer that we saw in the films.  She is beginning to grow into her own and is not beyond manipulating events to her advantage, which, considering the alternative is Ferris, quite frankly I don't blame her.  But after the initial reactions, it was this line that hit hard:

" While Petrie tended to break down into a panic whenever things went wrong for him—which was very often—Ferris on the other hand apparently had the belief that events would always accommodate him and thus seemed to take it a lot harder than Petrie."

This is a good summary of the saying that pessimists are often, ironically, less depressed that optimists.  If you plan for the worst and hope for the best then you will not be caught with surprise when things go poorly, and you will be pleasantly surprised when things go well.  For the boastful optimist, however, life is often an assault on one's expectations as life can be cruel.  This might very well be the first time that Petrie has encountered his mindset actually being an advantage in his perspective.

And then things get even more awkward when people begin to mention his flyer self while "Paddy" is still present.  I do think this is a major moment where Petrie has had the reality of his situation fully brought to his attention.  Could he stay as Paddy and try to pursue something with Ducky... or would he try to get back to being a flyer and the life that entailed? 

I quite like the developments in this chapter and your continued excellent depiction of Petrie and Ducky's personalities.  It will be quite interesting to see what develops from here - with a former flyer who now has even more on his mind, a humbled swimmer, and events behind the scenes that I am sure Petrie cannot really begin to comprehend.

Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Menders Tale.


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Fast water? More like slow water. :smucky

FFN Link:

Chapter 11: Who's in Charge?

"What's the matter? Sharptooth got your tongue, Ferry?"

The moment Valent unleashed his insult against his target, time itself appeared to stand still, with all participants in the area freezing in place. Everyone in the vicinity, be it swimmer or flyer, was either in awe or in shock at the swimmer's daring audacity in mocking Ferris so casually.

On his end, Ferris looked like he'd been physically slapped by those words. The moniker seemed to catch him momentarily off guard, before rationality took over and his morbid embarrassment quickly gave way to understandable rage.

"Now you're just ticking me off, Valent!" Ferris snapped, his tone turning reproachful. "Will you stop calling me Ferry already? You're doing this on purpose, you know perfectly well that it's Ferris!"

Valent folded his arms, teal eyes brimming with complacency. "And what if I am, Ferry?" he sneered at a fuming Ferris. "I'm entitled to refer to you in whatever manner I so choose, dear leader-to-be."

"You're being unreasonably spiteful today, aren't you? Why do you choose to confer a nickname on me, and only me?" Ferris grumbled. "That's rather discriminatory in my opinion, wouldn't you say? I mean, there are so many flyers and swimmers over here, and yet you still opt to come after me. For starters, why not give a nickname to that swimmer over there?" he questioned, gesturing at Petrie out of frustration.

Petrie blanched as he once again found himself as the center of attention. Oh, not again.

Although this predicament was nowhere near as severe as his inner reaction of pure dread when Ferris first confronted him on his lie about being a herd member or when his siblings had suddenly butted in from out of nowhere, he still felt like shrinking away.

He had a bad feeling about this, and his bad feelings were usually spot on in the past. His many, many misadventures could attest to that.

Sure enough, it didn't take very long at all for his sense of dread to be proven right.

"Where's the fun in following your orders, dear leader?" Valent challenged rebelliously, flashing an obnoxious smirk which quickly incited a furious—if suppressed—howl from Ferris. "If you really want a nickname for that other swimmer so badly, I'd recommend that you give him one yourself, because I'm not going to do it for you!"

A n-nickname!? Petrie's beak went agape at the idea that had been catapulted his way. Just what was going on? How had things devolved to such a ridiculous state?

Petrie knew from Jovi that the two swimmers had some grievances between them, but he didn't expect to see just how ridiculously petty their squabbles were firsthand. The two swimmers were purposefully riling each other up to a ridiculous extent. Hearing their back-and-forth dialogue caused his mind to flash back to Ichy and Dil, the sharpbeak and bellydragger duo that scavenged the Land of Mists who Petrie recalled having just as terse and snappy a relationship.

In that scenario their uneasy alliance had benefited Petrie and his friends, with the pair fighting amidst themselves so often that it constantly messed with their hunt, allowing him and his friends the opportunity to take advantage of their shaky partnership as Ichy and Dil wound up making blunder after blunder due to their constant infighting.

But with this, however…

"You think I'm going to do as you ask me to, Ferris? I'm not like some mindless follower like the rest of the herd!"

…in this case, the antagonistic interaction between the pair was actively hindering Petrie.

The constant instigation by Valent was making it so much harder for him to escape the conversation. And to think that he had almost been in the clear too!

Perhaps the biggest irony of it all was that he had unintentionally brought this on himself. Mistaking the observer hiding in the bushes for Vekal or his unknown flyer accomplice was his blunder. If he hadn't brought attention to Valent spying on them in the background, the two swimmers wouldn't be duking it out right now and delaying everyone's departure after Ducky had somewhat pacified the situation with Ferris.

"I have my ways of knowing. Spill the sweet bubbles and I will ensure that you stay this way forever…"

It would appear that once again, losing his nerve had backfired on him. Petrie should have known that very much like the whole shiny stone deal which Vekal had offered him last night, the veiled threats behind Vekal's challenge were empty and purely meant to coerce his target into agreement.

Just like how the shiny stone he had accepted in the heat of the moment had no relation to saving his relationship with Ducky since Ferris never held his friend's heart to begin with, the flyer who he had witnessed hovering near the Great Wall in the distance earlier was probably unrelated to Vekal. It was purely confirmation bias brought on by his unease regarding Vekal that had set Petrie up into seeing correlations between things which didn't exist to begin with.

Petrie desperately wanted to believe that he had rationalized his choice to play the part of a swimmer wisely, that there was a reason he had to deal with Ferris' initial race and suspicions, that the cruel flyer was somehow watching him as he'd so claimed. He had to, otherwise the knowledge that he'd been manipulated to act under the guise of a swimmer for no reason instead of soliciting help for his predicament would overwhelm him.

It did occur to Petrie that perhaps Vekal had tricked him yet again. By playing on his fears, the flyer didn't even have to be anywhere near the Great Valley so long as he was certain that Petrie would do exactly as he demanded. Heck, he was probably comfortably laying low with the knowledge that his prey was squirming in his clutches without him even having to lift a talon.

Petrie felt like slamming his head against a tree. Oh, if only he had been more firm and decisive! If he hadn't second-guessed himself by coming up with all sorts of negative scenarios in his head, he might have been able to avoid all of this!

Then again, who was he kidding? Even now, when Vekal's current whereabouts were so completely unknown that it might as well be an urban legend along the likes of the Lone Dinosaur or the hidden runners, Vekal still had the upper hand over him. After all, the wicked flyer was Petrie's only ticket back to his normal body. So long as there was a chance of truthfulness behind those vague threats, Petrie knew that he wouldn't be able to muster the courage to call Vekal's bluff.


Petrie let out a yelp when he felt a burst of pain pricking the back of his neck. Pulling his hand back to his front, he found himself stunned when he realized that there was a small amount of blood coated on his fingertips.

With some irritation, he realized that he had accidentally drawn blood by unconsciously scratching the back of his neck with his fingers. The area had gotten chafed due to his habit of scratching the region whenever he was nervous, the rashes further exacerbated by the sense of unease he was feeling regarding the situation. When he had been a flyer, the fluffy frill around his neck helped to mitigate the aftereffects of his bad habit, but as a swimmer it occurred to him that his neck was now bare and uncushioned.

It was yet another reminder of his old life, another thing which he'd taken for granted as a flyer that he lost in his new swimmer body. And unfortunately for Petrie—because he just couldn't catch a break today—the squawk he'd made drew the attention of the two arguing swimmers.

"What's the matter?" Ferris asked, looking at Petrie quizzically. "Got something to add?"

"No," Petrie hurriedly replied, hoping to end this conversation as quickly as possible. "Me got nothing!"

Petrie could see a grin forming on Valent's face as the swimmer heard his hastily constructed response, an expression which prompted him to subconsciously feel a sense of uneasiness. The guy had given him mixed feelings ever since he first revealed himself. While it was somewhat positive that he wasn't in cahoots with Vekal, Valent's confrontational demeanor wasn't to his liking. If a prideful swimmer like Ferris could end up tongue-tied by Valent's relentless barrage of disparaging comments, Petrie would hate to be on the receiving end of his scathing remarks.

Come to think of it, hadn't Jovi been the recipient of a reprimand from Valent when he first saw him yesterday? It was even for a similar reason — criticizing others for not being up to task. Petrie clicked his beak in annoyance at the realization, realizing that what Valent was doing first to Jovi and now to Ferris was a chilly reminder of his own siblings' constant reprimands about him being subpar in comparison to them in certain aspects.

Perhaps that conversation was a more fitting first impression of the shrewd swimmer than he had first realized.

Just when he'd thought that Ferris and his smug 'I'm in charge around these parts' personality was very similar to the way Cera acted at times, Valent was an even more apt comparison to the threehorn. That air of constant nitpicks combined with a haughty competitive nature was such a Cera combination that it set Petrie back on edge.

This was not what he needed right now…

"If he has nothing to add, then I'll do it for you, Ferry. Heh, I can't just let you walk away from this unchallenged, can I?"

As if to further highlight the similarities with Cera, Valent proceeded to poke fun at his victim, another trademark Cera move.

He stalked up to Ferris, raising a finger to his leader's beak and shifting it, to the other swimmer's annoyance. As Valent moved his finger to maneuver Ferris' lips up and down as if his victim was a puppet he could control at will, he then proceeded to pantomime Ferris by using what was blatantly a mocking parody of his leader's voice.

"My name is Ferris," Valent mocked, poking fun of the swimmer in question by making it seem like Ferris was the one who was sprouting the self-deprecating words.

Heh, that was something. It was quite childish of Valent, but to be fair he and his friends weren't that far off at times when it came to having some fun. Realistically though, Ferris was probably too dumbfounded at what was happening to react. Petrie couldn't even blame the swimmer… he himself was stupefied and he wasn't even in Ferris' place. He wasn't the only one too, just by taking a look around he could see that his siblings were giving the two swimmers a befuddled expression they typically reserved for their youngest brother, while Ducky had her arms to her mouth, trying not to giggle.

Petrie noted that he was actually taking the insults and jabs a lot better than he himself would have, even if Ferris' patience was wearing thin as time went on. If Ferris was depressed at being kicked down, he didn't show it.

"Today, I screwed up in a race," Valent continued, going even further and moving Ferris around like a mannequin. "I am a lousy leader, and-hey!"

Valent let out a yelp, his voice returning back to normal as Ferris slapped away his instigator's arm.

"Cut that out! Don't put words in my mouth, Valent!"

…never mind then. He took back his prior observation.

Ferris scowled and wiped his beak in disgust before moving his jaw on his own accord again. "And I mean in the literal sense, too!" he added. "You've got some nerve to mimic me by messing around with my beak! And if I were to be really nitpicky, that wasn't even a good impression of my voice at all… you sound nothing like me!"

Valent rubbed his sore arm in the spot where Ferris had hit him. "Give me some credit, won't you? Well, at least I tried, unlike you with your nonexistent leadership skills." Clearly the swimmer couldn't resist taking another jab at Ferris.

"You tried!?" Ferris shot back, suitably irritated by this point. "Don't be ridiculous! You sounded like a dying swimmer!"

Valent cackled at the ammunition which he had unintentionally been given by his rival. "Well, maybe that was the point," he pointed out, leaning forward with a wink.

"You're impossible, you know that?" Ferris snapped, stepping back on instinct. "Don't try to be facetious at a time like this, Valent! Geez, I can't believe the elders let someone like you have free reign to run amok with all your slanderous statements."

Valent's eyes glinted as he casually strode forward. "Well, that's because they know I'm right. Someone's gotta state the hard truths as a reminder to keep you in your place."

Ferris forcefully kicked at the ground, leaving a small divot behind in the grass. He took in a deep breath, struggling to calm down, and when he next spoke he was more in control of himself, seeming almost like the suave swimmer who Petrie first saw approach the gang yesterday. "Well, when Pops finally lets me take charge I'll make sure that you finally know your place for constantly putting me down!" he warned.

"When you take over?" Valent looked like he was physically holding back his laughter. "Oh, please! You must have your head in the sky puffies if you honestly believe that things will go well after you take the mantle of herd leader. But here on the ground we swimmers all know what a deplorable and useless excuse of a leader you'll be when that happens! Just man up and admit it!"

"How about you admit that you're being unreasonably hard on me?" Ferris fumed, pointing an accusatory finger at Valent, "I am a capable leader, and I'll be sure to prove you wrong by doing my job right!"

"Oh, you're so capable alright. So capable that you almost let an innocent swimmer drown on your watch," Valent countered his claim, teal eyes reproachfully shifting their way towards Petrie. "What a role model for the herd to have. Top class. Top class indeed."

Ferris briefly glared at Petrie, before shaking his fist at the smug Valent. "Hey now! It's not entirely my fault!" he argued, not fond about the sarcastic way that the other swimmer used to mock him. "You can't just pin the blame on me! Paddy here kept mum about his uneasiness when I challenged him to a race!"

"Ah, but you see Ferry, do you really expect that a conventional race initiation would work on everyone? Just look at him… he's shuddering the exact same way Jovi does when he's flustered." Strolling over to Jovi and giving the silent swimmer a consolatory part on the back, Valent snorted as the shocked Jovi predictably flinched back at the gesture. "You remember how this apprehensive swimmer acted during his own Test of Joining, right? Well, consider this then. Just like Jovi, the other guy was probably too frightened to speak up for himself! And you really thought he wasn't going to fumble when you put him on the spot? Man, you're a naïve moron!"

The worst part of it all was that the smug Valent had a point. That was exactly what had happened.

"Hahahaha!" Amaryl began to cackle vicariously as Ferris started sputtering. "You sure got my brother good, Val!"

Ferris shot his sister a betrayed look. "Whose side are you on, Amaryl?" He began pacing about in frustration, a pained expression quickly defining his features. "Ugh! Every step I set out to take in becoming a respected leader always gets snubbed by my opponents…" His face snapped towards Valent, a small growl escaping his beak. "…and you're always the one helming those dissenters, rallying up a call to action just for the sake of putting me down! A constant thorn in my side!"

"Have to keep a cocky one like you on your toes. Really, with you next in line, it's a blessing that we still have Geoffrey as leader." Valent's face then turned wry, causing Ferris to freeze. "Of course, everything would end up better if someone else had wound up taking charge of the herd instead of you…"

Ferris seethed, his head shooting up towards the sky in rage. "You did not just go there, Valent."

"Oh I did, and you know exactly what I'm alluding to," Valent said with a blasé shrug, deftly handling the situation with aplomb. The swimmer wasn't even trying to feign ignorance, and Petrie actually flinched back when he saw the fury that was imbued in Ferris' eyes upon hearing Valent's reply.

Hoo boy, did he take it as a personal affront. After being on the defensive from Valent for most of the conversation, this was the catalyst which prompted Ferris to finally be emboldened to react aggressively.

"You better watch your mouth, Valent." Ferris snarled, storming towards the other swimmer and jabbing a finger at his chest. "Don't you forget your place, or you'll be sorry for that dismissive attitude of yours when Pops eventually hands the reins of the herd over to me. I'm number one around here, you got that!? I won't tolerate such blatant disrespect, especially coming from you of all swimmers!"

Although Petrie could tell that he was trying to hide it, Ferris was definitely being worn down, the swimmer visibly getting increasingly disheartened the longer things dragged on. In fact, the vitriol in his voice as he spat his ultimatum to Valent was so potent that the previously silent onlookers began to murmur amidst themselves.

"Should we, like, maybe leave those two be? That swimmer's really heated," Yaw whispered, only for his younger sister to slap his wing away from her shoulder.

Roll had a malicious grin on her face, swiftly pulling Yaw into a headlock so that he wouldn't escape. "Did Petrie's wimpiness get to you or something? We ain't leaving!" she reprimanded as her brother squeaked.

"Get off me!" Yaw choked, desperately struggling to free himself from his sister's stronghold. "Are you crazy, Roll?"

"Not a chance! We're sticking around! I told you that things were getting good!"

Pitch looked towards her squabbling younger siblings with an exasperated expression. "Come on, you guys! Now is not the time to act like a bunch of overgrown hatchlings…" she chided, futilely gesturing at the duo to quieten down with her wings, alas to no avail.

A worried Petrie tried to shut out the voice of his siblings. Even he could see that things were slowly but surely propagating and getting out of control. Literally everyone was up in arms in one way or another.

As the trio of flyers were not-so-subtly observing the situation, Amaryl tried to quell her fuming brother. "Oi, oi! Don't be a dummy, Ferris! At this rate you're going to dig yourself into a trench so deep that not even I will be able to get you out of it!"

Her warning came a little too late, however.

Ducky glanced towards Ferris with a pensive expression, though it wasn't long before it gave way to a stern one. "You may be thinking that you are being responsible," she started, shaking her head in disappointment. "But to me, you are nothing more than a selfish and mean swimmer. You are, you are."

Those cold and blunt words caught Ferris off guard, the swimmer's face losing his vitriolic anger as he whirled towards Ducky, his facial muscles shifted uncomfortably at the accusation. "D-Ducky! B-b-but… I'm not…" he stuttered before giving up with a sigh when he realized justifying his outburst to Ducky would be futile.

Perhaps it was the finality of the fact that he was outmatched by his rival and yet Ducky still refused to take his side, but Petrie finally noticed a marked change in Ferris' demeanor. His fighting spirit was once again extinguished, like it had been before he had unintentionally revealed Valent's hiding spot and rekindled the young swimmer's defiant attitude.

Now unable to look Ducky in the eye, Ferris darted his eyes between Petrie and the squabbling flyers before eventually turning back to Valent, weakly hitting his rival in the chest again with a light jab. "It looks like you win this time, Valent…"

Valent could only laugh at the despondent Ferris. "Seems like you won't be getting the girl today with that suave and sleazy demeanor, O' Responsible one?" he gloated, winking at an irritated Ducky, who seemed quite uncomfortable that the two male swimmers were discussing her as a subject with such reverence.

"You always get in the way…" Ferris argued, his eyes half-closed in resignation. Heaving a long sigh, he then glowered at Valent. "But one day, I'll prove you wrong. I will earn your respect legitimately one day, you hear me?!"

"We'll see about that, number two." Valent tapped his beak, scoffing at the very idea. "I refuse to let an incompetent swimmer like you lead us all to disaster. So long as I'm around, you better be prepared for me to keep you in line, Ferris!"

Teal eyes twinkled in victory as the swimmer strutted away from the scene with a triumphant whistle. Lifting a hand as acknowledgement for taking his leave, Valent tilted his head back to give a passing glance to Petrie.

"Next time you happen to spot me trying to give Ferry his just desserts, don't blow my cover, m'kay? It just makes things so much more complicated than it has to be."

Before a startled Petrie could even give a response, Valent strode into the thick bushes that he'd previously emerged from, disappearing back into the vegetation.

Just as quickly as it had escalated, the overarching tension between the two swimmers was extinguished. The sudden mood whiplash in the atmosphere was lifted almost as quickly as Ruby's sprinting speed.

Petrie couldn't help but let out a relieved breath when Valent had made his rapid exit from the scene. The situation had been cascading into chaos at an exponential rate. Only now had the inflection point been reached and were things finally calming down. Despite how the swimmer managed to fluster Ferris and put the arrogant prospective mate-to-be in his place, someone who couldn't back off like Cera when she inevitably ended up ticked off—which was quite often, for the record—was certainly not going to help the suspicious circumstances that had been surrounding his botched race, and thus Petrie was very glad that now he could maybe put the matter to rest at last.

"Man, is that it? That's actually lame. I was totally hoping for an all-out brawl so I could laugh my wings off."

…his sister Roll's complaint right when events appear to be cooling off told Petrie that things were still not quite over, however.

"Roll…" Pitch started with a warning tone, but ended up being interrupted by a reproachful rebuttal before the flyer could admonish her sister herself.

"You were hoping for what now?"

Unfortunately, without Valent around to distract Ferris, the swimmer could now actually focus on the flyers who had been watching the spectacle from the sidelines.

"You heard me, swimmer! I wanted far more drama," Roll retorted, carefully flying up to a branch before the furious Ferris could get to her. "Is it wrong to want some more spice around these parts? You swimmers coming to the valley was the most interesting thing to happen here in a while."

Ferris looked like he wanted to rebuke her, but with there being nothing he could do to coax the flyer down from the tree, he simply resorted to grumbling. "Why must I always be tormented by females?" Ferris glared at the impassive Roll. "First my sister, now you? What do you girls have against me?"

"Don't forget Ducky," Amaryl helpfully supplied, grinning as her brother predictably grimaced. "She had quite a few things against you too, if I recall. Oh man, you got punked so hard!"

Ferris pouted, gesticulating an arm about as he rolled his eyes. "There's no need to rub it in, sis. I already know that much, okay?"

"Hah!" Amaryl laughed, eliciting a groan from Ferris when he saw her pointing a shaking finger in his direction as she struggled to contain her rambunctious laughter. "I told you! I told you right from the start, and yet you stubbornly refused to accept it! You actually thought you had a chance? Oh, this is rich. I can't believe you're so incompetent in everything you do!"

Petrie suppressed a chuckle, and as far as he could see he wasn't the only one. He actually did kinda like Amaryl. From the moment he first eavesdropped on her, she had been annoying the heck out of her arrogant brother. That hasn't changed, and it was always entertaining to watch.

Anything to put the arrogant Ferris in his place was a-ok in his eyes.

"No matter how badly you try, you'll never be a good leader. Not to me, not to Valent, not to the herd!" She skipped over to her brother, smacking him in the back. "Just give up and accept it, Ferris. You'll never live up to the expectations that have been left behind for the next-in-line herd leader, not when you are but an inept fool who just got lucky and had the position handled to you on a lavish treestar despite being grossly unprepared for it! You're nothing more than a washed-out blowhard!"

Ferris glared at his smug sister before walking to the riverbank, the swimmer flicking a pebble into the torrential fast water with his tail. "We'll see about that, Amaryl," he snarled, his eyes staring vacantly up into the sky.

"You're in dennniaaallllll," Amaryl emphasized, before folding her arms in a rare bout of seriousness. "And you know it. I know you do."

Ferris flinched with a grimace, hanging his head in defeat. With what must have been an arduous internal effort, the proud swimmer meekly looked towards Ducky.

"D-Did I really come across as sleazy? I-I… didn't mean for it to come off like that. This confident image I project… it's the only way that I know how to act when around others."

Although Petrie would deny it to the bitter end, a part of him felt sorry for Ferris in that moment. It was an unusual show of weakness for sure. From how genuinely pathetic the swimmer sounded, he was inclined to believe that Ferris was being truthful there. After all, Cera was formerly—and still pretty much is—a shining example of emulating her behavior from her peers, even if Littlefoot and Tria were trying to reverse those stubborn traits.

The other part of him reminded Petrie that the swimmer had tried to mess with the dynamic between him and his friends and indirectly take Ducky away from him, and pretty much all the sympathy that he'd accumulated for Ferris evaporated in an instant.

Petrie was willing to bet that his entitled behavior likely stemmed from the spoiled swimmer constantly getting his way. While Ferris maintained some degree of cordialness since he likely still hoped to patch things up between them, it still seemed that on a bigger picture, Ferris had no such qualms regarding restraint when it came to others, especially after witnessing his showdown with Valent earlier.

Still, maybe it was the softer tone Ferris took compared to earlier, but Ducky found herself spurned to give one of her more genuine Ducky-esque replies this time. "You were, oh you were," she gently prompted the vulnerable swimmer.

"I was, huh…" he numbly repeated, hobbling away from his sister and Ducky. To Petrie's consternation, he slowly realized that Ferris was headed his way.

Before Petrie could prevent the swimmer from getting any closer, Ferris spoke up from a distance. "You're not getting out of this blameless. As for you, Paddy, I can finally tell you objectively what I think without any interruptions." He had a grim face as he addressed Petrie. "I still stand by what I said. We could have avoided all of this if you just had been more forthcoming in telling me that you were not adapt in fast water swimming. Not speaking out for your own safety in spite of your worries… that's worrying."

Ferris shuffled his feet. "My point is, I know you wanted to join us, but if you're a wimp who can't stand up for yourself, then I regret to inform you that whether you're a pretender or not, you will never be a part of this herd."

Those blunt words hit right to Petrie's core. After all, it wasn't the first time he'd been ostracized and singled out for his timidness.

He glanced over to his siblings. Not the first time at all.

Before he could further deliberate, Ferris angled his head up in an almost imperceptible way. The slight movement had caught Petrie's attention, however, which allowed him to notice that the swimmer's beak was actually moving. Straining himself to decipher Ferris' almost inaudible words, Petrie managed to catch a faint whisper carried by the winds.

"Given your personality, that's probably for the best. You'd likely be grilled alive…"

Wait, what…?

Taking a swift glance around, Petrie noticed that no one else had caught those murmured words. He himself had only heard them as he was situated close enough to Ferris and was completely fixated on him.

Did Ferris just express concern when mentioning that it was good that he wasn't joining the herd?

At first, Petrie was inclined to believe that it was a spiteful remark, an unintentional slip of the tongue. However, his somber tone of voice wouldn't have made sense if that was the case. Considering how vehemently Ferris had spoken about his herd and even defended its honor earlier against Ducky, such a reaction seemed paradoxical considering that if he was truly that eager to get rid of Paddy, Ferris should have sounded gleeful by the fact that he'd failed the Test of Joining. Considering that Petrie was technically his competition for Ducky—a thought which still made his head spin—this made sense. He certainly portrayed himself that way when he had first thrown down the gauntlet.

But by contrast, he was now solemn, almost concerned. He appeared sorry that Paddy wasn't a good fit to join, even worried if he did join. The concern implied that Paddy possibly being grilled if he had indeed joined bothered Ferris.

…because it sounded just like what Valent had done to him earlier.

Petrie's eyes shot towards his cackling sister, remembering full well what Roll had said about him earlier.

"Remember what Gyro drilled into us back at the nest? That we should half-heartedly fly over the valley until the day is done so that we can hand the search over to the grownups when we turn up nothing?"

How could it be that Ferris cared more about his well-being than certain members of his very own family?

Nevertheless, it was the first time that Ferris conceded that there was a weakness in the herd he commanded, which was surprising considering that he had defended his right to rule and his leadership against both Amaryl and Valent earlier.

Perhaps the dissenters that he'd previously shrugged off had more of an impact on the prideful leader than he let on…

Before Petrie could ponder any further, the formerly despondent Ferris once again had a pleasant façade on his visage, the pain he'd briefly shown vanishing as his expression melded into an affable expression.

"There's no need to fret, Paddy. Even though you failed the Test of Joining and won't join us, I'm sure the swimmers of the valley would take good care of you." Seeing Ducky hovering by Petrie's side, he couldn't help but to spit bitterly. "It would seem like Ducky already has."

Oh, wait. It appeared as though Ferris was now back to his usual self. That, Petrie did not miss.

As Ferris let his resigned eyes slide away from him and Ducky, Petrie felt a chill running down his spine when he saw Ferris' resolve and gaze hardening as his eyes settled on an unknowing swimmer.

"Jovi. I almost forgot about you…"

A timorous meep escaped Jovi, the stiffened swimmer flinching at the sound of his name. As the panic-prone swimmer finally snapped out of his stupor, all he could do was flounder about helplessly as he realized that all eyes were on him.

"I know I said earlier that things should have never have reached the point where the responsibility of saving Paddy ended up on your shoulders, but when it did… I still can't believe your cowardice! He was going to die if no one had intervened, and you simply just stood there!"

Jovi was pretty much curtailed from defending himself. Even if Ferris gave him the chance to interject, the shaking swimmer didn't take the chance to defend his stance… and didn't look like he wanted to. He simply nodded his head in grim acceptance, taking in all of the admonishment.

"Are you listening to me, Jovi?" Ferris snapped, glaring at the trembling swimmer. "Or are you spacing out and pretending everything is okay for like, what, the tenth time now?"

Jovi nodded meekly at the fuming swimmer, his contradictory affirmation ironically not committing to either of the two questions he had been posed. The most he could manage were broken words, interspersed with distinct pauses. "Um… I—well, yeah…"

"Listen up then, and get this in your head! Such a lapse of judgement is no excuse when the consequences of doing nothing is such a dire one! If I have to be the bad swimmer just to make sure you don't mess up again in future, then so be it! I will personally drill you so that you won't ever freeze up like this again when the situation calls for immediate action!"

The dichotomy between how Ferris had cordially talked to him and Ducky compared to how he was yelling at Jovi was very polarizing. In fact, Jovi was so intimidated by the younger swimmer that he was unable to get a word in edgewise despite having a larger build. Unfortunately, he seemed stubbornly unrepentant when it came to Jovi. It was quite likely that when the young prospective leader's ego was bruised after being forced into a deadlock with Valent, Ferris would want to take his anger out on a target that he knew would not be as defiant towards him.

In other words, a punching bag like Jovi.

Having been in such a situation before due to being the favorite target of some of his siblings, Petrie wouldn't put it past Ferris to act that way. Ferris was prideful enough to stand his ground against Ducky—the swimmer who he liked—when he felt he was in the right, and that happened even before he'd squandered his chances with her. Someone who Ferris had no reason to go soft against would definitely bear the full brunt of his authoritative and egotistical nature.

Ferris truly did share aspects of his personality with Cera. The two of them both had to get the last word in and couldn't handle being bettered by someone else very well. One would think that having dealt with Cera for more than half his life would give Petrie an edge when it came to dealing with such types, but alas it really didn't. He was always caught unprepared when Cera inevitably got ticked off by a careless comment he made.

If there was a single saving grace about today, it was the fact that by some miracle he had not run into the threehorn yet while trapped in his current state. Cera wasn't always haughty or prideful all the time if he were to be honest, but Petrie found that he tended to incur her wrath in some way, shape, or form. He was willing to bet that even as Paddy, he would still wind up on the wrong end of her vengeful horn.

The threehorn would have to get in line, however. Ferris had hounded him for most of the day until Ducky had insisted the conceited swimmer back off.

Cera and Ferris… yeaahhhh, Petrie wasn't keen to spectate that melee. Yesterday's brief skirmish was more than enough for him.

"The only reason the others are under the presumption that you're an asset to the herd is because you beat me in the Test of Joining. That was what gave you your reputation and standing, especially to Pops… hmph." Ferris folded his arms in irritation, sucking in a breath before subjugating his victim to further lashing. "But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it was simply pure chance and desperation that led you to trump me in that race. You may have proved yourself to Pops and the rest back then, but outside of a life-and-death situation you don't have the skills or personality to back it up. You're spoiling the cohesiveness and camaraderie of the herd, Jovi!"

Even though he wasn't the target of the rant, Petrie unconsciously nodded alongside Ferris. His treasonous emotions had planted that exact same idea in his head with regards to his friends and family more than once in the past.

Petrie could relate to how Jovi was feeling. He similarly had a weak constitution and a propensity of being blamed for letting his scaredy-egg instincts get the better of him. Although he had made small strides towards being a braver flyer, certainly becoming more relaxed and laid-back after getting comfortable in the valley due to the safe environment that it had compared to the Mysterious Beyond, completely eradicating that facet of his disposition was an incredibly tough undertaking.

Though ironically enough, that apprehensive aspect of his personality was actually comparatively suppressed while he was in this swimmer form. After all, to mitigate the risk of anyone potentially connecting the dots between Petrie and Paddy, he had to act very much unlike his old personality. Accepting the risk of the fast water race, for starters, was something he wouldn't have done without being coerced by his friends as Petrie. And yet as Paddy, he had taken the plunge on his own accord, even if it was a decision that was made in part to throw suspicion off himself.

He couldn't lie… it felt weird to just jump in without overthinking a situation. That kind of optimistic mindset was more akin to Littlefoot and Ducky… by contrast, he tended to err towards the more skeptical camp alongside Cera and Ruby.

"B-but, sir… if I couldn't join you guys… I don't know what I'd do!" The fright in Jovi's voice was unmistakable. "I need you guys as support… look, I'm not a natural born leader like you are, and if I was I guarantee I would hate such a life!" Jovi finally attempted to defend himself, although it had quite a noticeable effect on his body language, the wronged swimmer unconsciously shifting his tail from side to side. "Just because you aren't affected by this doesn't mean that someone like me would act as cool as you! I was intimidated to the point of freezing up!"

Ferris briefly seemed like he was considering his rebuttal. "Well, it's not just you, Jovi." He shook his head. "Your inaction in the face of danger also becomes my problem as well! You think I have it easy when I have to deal with your hesitant instincts? Well, you're wrong! I don't think you understand just how much pressure is placed on me in my position!"

Considering that Jovi had been silently taking everything in stride up to this point, the comment surprisingly appeared to strike a nerve. Jovi had an oddly introspective look on his face as he shifted towards Ferris. "Responsibility and leadership is a curse and a burden, huh? I couldn't agree more, Ferris…" he muttered bitterly, the wistful expression never quite leaving his face.

"Ferris!" Ducky ran up to the ranting swimmer and literally grabbed his arm. "I already told-ed you that I do not blame Jovi for being scared! No, no, no! Everyone gets scared sometimes, they do, they do."

Currently glowering at Ferris with a repulsed expression, the quaking Jovi visibly calmed down when he saw Ducky taking his side.

"S-sorry, sir! My sincerest apologies…" Jovi's face shifted to one of disappointment as he proceeded to lament, looking down in shame as he proceeded to apologize profusely. "When I realized the full scope of what was actually happening, I completely froze up. I-I just didn't know what to do…" His words trailed off, and the swimmer turned away, unable to look anyone in the eye.

Ferris had not been tactful in the slightest when lambasting his disapproval with regards to Jovi's actions—or more specifically, the lack thereof—and that had clearly hit Jovi hard. One didn't even have to look at him to see that the poor swimmer seemed entirely wracked with guilt. Given his personality, it really wasn't a surprise that Ferris' frank and candid words had a profound effect on Jovi.

"F-Forget it!" Ferris clutched his forehead, the young leader's face so pale that he seemed close to fainting. "I've more than had it with today. The lot of you always ignore how I feel and empathize with everyone but me! Do none of you care how I feel about all this?!" His eyes hovered over Petrie and Ducky before he turned around and began stumbling away from the treacherous stream.

When Ferris next spoke, his voice was almost inaudible. "Do you think I can forgive myself if someone ever died on my watch?" he proceeded to murmur in a haunted voice, one that was a stark contrast to the boisterous tone which had previously typically complimented the swimmer's imperious self-grandiose. "Especially considering how Mom gets whenever…"

Leaving his words dangling in a manner that was completely the opposite of subtle, he whipped his head back at Jovi. "Never mind about that. The past is the past. What matters is that we managed to avert this catastrophe today." His tone turned bitter as he glared at Jovi, who could only quiver under his leader's gaze. "No thanks to you."

"I'm sorry… I truly am…" Jovi whimpered.

Petrie truly didn't know what to say. On one hand, he wanted to intervene with a protest, but on the other… Ferris was also completely right. Just the thought of suffocating underwater after futilely screaming for help while leaving his friends and family in the dark about his fate caused his knees to tremble.

After staring at Jovi blankly for what seemed like forever, Ferris eventually broke eye contact, his own resigned posture signaling that he didn't intend or expect to get anything else out of Jovi.

"Bartley. Time to go."

When the order went unanswered, a befuddled Ferris repeated his order with greater emphasis. "Answer me, Bartley." After he still didn't hear a response from his subordinate, the swimmer swung his head around in frustration. "What the… hey, where'd you go?"

Petrie couldn't help but chuckle when he realized that the other swimmer had silently bailed at some point without his leader noticing. The humorous moment helped take some of the heavy thoughts off his mind.

"He snuck off on me…" Ferris whined in disbelief. "He actually snuck off on me," he repeated, kicking at the ground to vent. "Figures…"

"At least you still have me, brother!"

"Go awayyyy…" Ferris moaned, dragging his feet as he slinked off, his spunky sister falling in line behind him.

"Not a chance, Ferris!"

"Just leave me allloonnnneee, Amaryl!"

As the two swimmers left the scene, Petrie finally allowed himself to relax and let out a hearty laugh at Ferris' expense, the tenseness he had been feeling all day finally petering out for the first time since Vekal had left him this way. He couldn't help but to cheer in victory — against all odds, he'd managed to come out on top against Ferris despite his loss against him in the race.

The raucous laughter actually managed to catch the attention of his arguing siblings. "Ah, dang. They sorted things out." Roll huffed, glancing down from her perch. "That's lame."

"So much for your spectacle," Yaw spat, squinting his eyes as he scanned the skyline. "Anyway, I can see Gryphon hovering in the distance. Better get on with it before he accuses all of us of slacking off from trying to find Petrie—"

"But that's exactly what we're doing!" Roll whined, shaking her blue-colored brother insistently. "Besides, does it look like I care about what Gryphon thinks about us? He can bad-mouth us to Mom all he wants, that hardworking goody-two-shoes got Guido by his side so those two might as well solo the search party by themselves."

"Don't you lump me in together with you," Yaw grumbled. "I was having a perfectly nice day before being assigned to this wild flyer chase and having to deal with a drowning incident."

"But we have an excuse now anyway, don't we? We were busy trying to save a drowning swimmer, isn't that right?" Roll grinned, her head held high as she smirked. "Surely that takes priority over our dumb brother probably being on some adventure again and wasting all our time on a meaningless search?"

Petrie hung back, feeling uneasy at the fact that he was eavesdropping on his siblings talking about him without realizing that their brother was standing there in broad daylight due to his body being that of a swimmer's.

While he had to admit that it stung like a buzzer to hear them say things like this behind his back, if Petrie was being frank he was already more than used to it after having to deal with those same scathing insults being told to him directly in his face.

Truth be told, if there was one advantage to being stuck as a swimmer, it was that he would no longer have to deal with those hurtful words. They were still technically directed at him… as in, they were directed to Petrie. It was at least easy to disassociate the insults when his body was so different from his former flyer self that it was almost like they had been directed to someone completely different.

It made it easier to shrug off. In fact, he was currently taking it better than Pitch, who looked like she was about to suffer a migraine from everything.

"I mean, I can't refute that we were distracted from our search due to having to rescue that swimmer…" Pitch's eyes quickly shot over to Petrie as she gnashed her beak in frustration. "But are you seriously using him as a diversion just to get out of trouble? He almost drowned, for crying out loud!"

"All the more reason why he can vouch for us if Mom doesn't believe us. It's like the Bright Circle itself gave us this convenient escape from our mundanity." Roll chuckled. "Besides, if it wasn't for us, he would have drowned. All the more reason on why we have an excuse to not be on the hunt for Petrie."

Hearing that made him legitimately mad. Petrie made up his mind right then and there that if Paddy were somehow called up to verify the integrity of the story, he would be sure to also mention that they were using the whole thing as an excuse.

"That reminds me… something has been bothering me," Yaw muttered. "Tell me, why did you fly in the opposite way while I was circling the drowning swimmer, Pitch?" He glowered at his older sister. "You and I both saw that Ducky was right there!"

"I made a judgement call in the spur of the moment, Yaw," Pitch stated, her eyes shifting towards the torrential rapids. "I saw Ducky coming your way, so I thought to let you handle it while I get additional reinforcements from upstream. You saw just how horrendous that fast water was, right? There was a reason I didn't let my guard down and tried to look for additional help — if I'd gone to get Ducky and the rest of you all decided to relax in reassurance that everything was going to be fine, who's going to rescue them both if it turns out that Ducky couldn't save that drowning swimmer by her lonesome?"

Petrie looked at Pitch in awe. She was a really rational and responsible flyer, and as such her explanation made perfect sense. As the first of his siblings to hatch, his eldest sister had a protective motherly side to her. Although she hadn't fully come around after the Day of the Flyers and was just as quick to berate him whenever he frustrated her, Pitch was probably the closest sibling to him aside from Gryphon. Although Petrie wasn't fully willing to confide in her over Gryphon or his friends, at least Pitch was not actively hostile and malicious towards him all the time.

"Lame. Here I thought I did something by getting that swimmer to come over. Instead you had everything under control this entire time."

Pitch turned around, eyeing her arrogant younger sister with her wings by her hip. "You're going to use this incident as leverage to give up on looking for Petrie, aren't you?"

The accusation was rhetorical, and Petrie himself knew this. His elder sister had hit the rest of his siblings right in the beak… not that they cared.

"Oh, please," Roll drawled in response, waving her wing around in a circular 'carry-on' motion. "You know how our brother is. If Petrie doesn't want to be seen, that cowardly runt will find a way to make sure that he cannot be spotted. There's no point in maintaining this whole charade when it's all pointless in the end!"

Petrie winced at the observation. That fact was certainly true. He'd seeked out the company of the gang to escape the frustration he felt with some of his siblings numerous times in the past.

"Anyway, I'm off. No fun anymore now that everything's back to normal." Roll bluntly stated, flying away before anyone could stop her.

Yaw snorted. "Good riddance. I thought I'd never be rid of her! I'd rather scour the skies for Petrie than stay with her for one moment more." He turned to Pitch, silently pleading with his elder sister to follow him.

Pitch relented, rolling her eyes at the childish display. "Fine. I'll provide you with an alibi since you're actually going to search in earnest now. Let's get going, we'll comb the skies in that direction."

And with that, the trio of flyers left the vicinity as quickly as they appeared.

Petrie heaved a sigh of relief when his siblings were gone. Their presence had definitely unnerved him.

He glanced over at Ducky counseling a shaken Jovi. All that was left now was the two swimmers.

"I do appreciate the gesture, by the way. Thank you for standing up for me, Ducky," he heard Jovi expressing his appreciation, seeing him giving a small smile towards Ducky, "but in this case, I must concede that Ferris is right. I have to take full responsibility for freezing up in the heat of the moment. If I had been patrolling the river all alone like I was meant to originally, I might have had blood on my hands." Jovi started to quake at the thought. "Ferris is right… it really is my fault…"

"It is not, oh, no, no! I do not blame you!" Ducky tried to reassure him. "I have been chased by sharpteeth before, and I do panic at first too, I do, I do. Petrie always gets like that as well when he—"

Ducky then let out a gasp, realizing that she had gotten majorly sidetracked from what her initial goal was. "That is right! I remember now! I have to find out where Petrie is! I do, I do!"

Whup… it had to happen eventually. For his part, Petrie tried his best not to flinch. Frankly, he was surprised the topic hadn't shifted back to him sooner. Ducky must not have been paying attention to what his siblings were talking about.

Trying his best not to make it seem like he was overtly interested in the conversation, Petrie subtly slid his eyes towards the two swimmers, managing to catch Jovi tapping his beak musingly. "Petrie? He's that flyer who's always protectively hovering around you, is he not? Yes, yes, I distinctly remember having a chat with him yesterday. Is something the matter?"

"Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes!" Ducky answered. "His mama said that he did not come back home yesterday. I do not know what happened to him, I do not." Her eyes glistened as her mood shifted to one of despondence. "Oh, no, no, no. I wonder if Petrie will be mad at me because I was distracted-ed. I do, I do."

Petrie was so tempted to tell Ducky that it was entirely the opposite. Of course, he refrained from doing so on the sole virtue that it would give away his identity.

"I'm sure that wherever Petrie is, he'll understand," Jovi encouraged. "After all, if you weren't here, Paddy here might not be alive," the swimmer said as he gestured towards Petrie out of the blue.

The sudden movement caused Petrie to shyly wave back in response as Ducky's attention was drawn towards him. Just play it cool…

Fortunately, he was spared from further attention as Jovi let out a yawn, stretching his arms up to the sky. "Hm, I better get going," he said. "I might be able to placate Ferris if I were to finish up my report regarding the landmarks of the valley."

Jovi then nodded Petrie's way, smiling as he extended a shy thumbs-up. "Don't worry about me. I'll get over it. All that matters in the end is that you're safe. Next time, don't let Ferris get to you, Paddy. He can be a handful."

Whistling as he strolled away, it was finally just the two of them again.

Although it wasn't quite night, Petrie let out an exhausted yawn. He was completely puckered out after everything that had gone down and all he wanted to do now was to have a nice long nap for the remainder of the day.

Knowing his luck, a sharptooth probably got into the valley, though.

"I am so very sorry! That must have been weird for you. It must, it must."

Would he ever catch a break? Ducky talking to him when he needed some space was a close second on that 'disastrous scenario' list right behind 'random sharptooth attack', but to be fair, he should have seen it coming. Ducky was very talkative, she was, she was.

…could his mind just stop being weird and adding Ducky mannerisms to his thoughts already?! Maybe it was a side effect considering that he was under duress for so long.

"Thank you," he managed to get out. The less that he said, the better. It meant less chances for him to implicate himself.

"Well, I think that you are really brave! You are, you are!" Ducky praised. "You stood up to Ferris without batting an eye, and you did not back down even though you had a feeling that he was better than you. What you did-ed back there is really brave! You are a bold swimmer! Yep, yep, yep!"

Bold? His brows were raised at that moniker. That wasn't anywhere close to the word that he would have used to describe himself. But then again, he did have to put up an act in order to avert suspicions away and defend himself. It seemed quite possible that on a superficial level, he gave off the impression of being bold on the surface.

The flattery was abruptly cut off when Ducky's smile turned into a concerned frown. "But I still think that you should not have raced with Ferris if you were not prepared for it," she chided. "Nope, nope, nope!"

Ouch. That hurt. It was one thing to hear Ferris reprimanding him for making such an ill-thought choice but another when it came from Ducky, especially considering that his swimmer friend was predominantly the carefree one of the gang.

"Yeah. It me-my fault. Like they say, you can drag threehorn to water but you no can make it drink." Petrie let out a despondent sigh, averting his eyes away in shame. "Paddy chose to accept race with Ferris even when I know I no ready. It my fault."

He silently cheered when he realized that he'd successfully managed to get the final sentence out with proper grammatical structure… well, mostly. Considering he'd spoken with broken sentence structure for all his life, making it through that was quite an accomplishment for him.

Ducky didn't immediately respond to his hastily cobbled apology, his friend seemingly deep in thought. Just when Petrie began to walk away, Ducky asked him something which completely caught him off guard.

"You cannot swim, can you?"

Petrie almost tripped and fell face-first at Ducky's question. H-how did she know?

Far too late did he realize that maybe his slackened jaw had inadvertently told Ducky that she was absolutely correct. The strident gasp he had elicited only sealed the deal.

There was a playful edge to Ducky's voice when she next spoke, explaining how she had deftly come to that conclusion. "Ferris sister said that you were walking by the sides using the banks as support. I used to do that too when I was young and not very confident about my swimming abilities. That was how I knew, yep, yep, yep!"

Well, darn. He should have known that he couldn't fool Ducky for long.

The loss of his wings as an easy means of escape by retreating to the safety of the sky only made this debacle doubly painful. Remembering all the times where he could get out of a sticky situation by perching on a tree and not being able to do so now only made him feel that much more vulnerable.

Considering that for over half his life he had never been able to utilize his wings, it hadn't occurred to him to measure in a quantitative way just how much courage and freedom his wings had really given him.

It also made his claim that much more ludicrous now in hindsight. Much as how his inability to fly as a flyer was inconceivable and a detrimental handicap to him in his early life, it must be absurd to imagine a swimmer who could not swim as well.

"F-Fine… I n-no know how swim," he admitted. "I bad swimmer."

Dang, he was blabbering and he knew it. Ducky giggling at him only made it worse.

This was why in spite of all the unexpected advantages—not to mention the sheer novelty—that being Paddy the swimmer granted him, he still remained desperate to return back to being himself… Petrie the flyer.

Despite his best efforts, he just couldn't act comfortable in his new skin. The crushing responsibility of having to fabricate and upkeep a new identity was not worth all the stress. With his mind made up, there was only just one significant problem left for him to solve… and that was Ducky herself.

What did that kiss mean? It was an indecipherable enigma to Petrie.

The magnitude of that moment couldn't be understated for either of them, and yet he still didn't know whether she had just pecked him on the cheek just to get Ferris off her back, or if it meant anything more. Her body language implied the latter… but the problem with that train of thought was that she was Ducky. Ducky was always that compassionate to everyone she met, so such an assumption could easily be a misread.

Regardless of it all, Petrie was stumped as to what to do now. It all seemed so simple before the kiss — just make it to the end of the day and demand Vekal change him back to normal. But now, things were so much more complicated. He just had to hope he was misconstruing any possible feelings… not to mention the fact that he also had to battle his own.

Taking a large stride forward, Ducky suddenly clasped hold of his hand by sandwiching it between her own two palms, an act which elicited an astonished gasp from Petrie.

"Well, maybe I can teach you to swim properly!" she suggested with a wink, "I can, I can!"

"Umm…" Petrie felt his eyes bugging out when his mind fully comprehended what Ducky had proposed. What had he got into now!?

Ducky looked at him sternly when she caught the hesitation in his voice. "Oh, no, no, no! You are a swimmer, so you must know how to swim like one! My mom always told me that being in water is our focal strength as swimmers!" she admonished. "Trust me, it is simple, yep, yep, yep!"

His gaze wavered between the surrounding trees—which represented his freedom—and their interlocking hands, which signified… something else. Whatever that something else was, Petrie couldn't quite describe it as anything except a plunge to uncertainty.

In spite of his rational instincts, Petrie found himself being swayed by Ducky's offer.

What was wrong with him!? With everyone gone, this was his chance to finally disappear from the public eye until the end of Vekal's stipulated time. He had no reason to even learn how to swim considering that he wasn't even going to remain a swimmer for that much longer, provided Vekal kept to his end of the bargain.

So why were his fuzzy emotions causing him to hesitate?

Why wasn't he simply denying the offer? He would have easily fled to the safe option if given the choice in the past. That wasn't even taking into account that the last time he had been coerced into doing something he was initially reluctant about, it ended with a cackling Vekal and him waking up in a completely new body. Plus, he knew Ducky well enough to know that she wouldn't take it to heart if he were to deny her.

And in spite of all that, his curiosity wished to be sated. It was tempting to try out, especially as he would be spending time with someone he knew and trusted. Of course, that wasn't even taking into account that his traitorous heart was still messing with him. It was whispering at him to spend more time with Ducky. While Petrie still couldn't get a handle on what Ducky's intentions were and whether the kiss in the spur of the moment was merely an act, try as he might he couldn't say no to those pleading, mesmerizing eyes.

Biting down on his tongue, Petrie nodded his head in agreement before his nerves could get the better of him and caused him to second-guess himself.

"Yay!" Ducky cheered, practically jumping for joy while still holding on to Petrie's arm. "You will not regret it, oh, no, no, no!" Raising their combined arms to the sky, she gleefully looked at him. "I will teach you how to be the best swimmer you can be, Paddy! I will, I will!"

Man, her smile was contagious. Petrie unconsciously found himself grinning alongside Ducky just by witnessing the sheer joy she was radiating.

He couldn't help it. He might be stuck in the body of a swimmer with no clue as to whether he would ever return to his normal body, but with a supportive Ducky by his side, he wanted to believe that maybe things would be okay after all…

Things were indeed looking up. He had survived being grilled by Ferris while his own family were watching, even when every fiber of his being thought that he would be caught and hung out to dry.

Yes, he would be fine. After nearly drowning and escaping the resulting interrogation, he was confident that the worst of the day was over.

As Petrie looked at Ducky fondly, the flyer-turned-swimmer allowed himself the thought that maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all.

"I must admit that I'm surprised to see you back here. What brings you here to Hanging Rock today?"

The bowing flyer kept his composure as he tilted his head up to make eye contact with his superior. "I have come to report urgent news, sir. It's about Vekal," he began, wincing slightly when the large figure in front of him rolled his eyes with indignant distaste.

"Oh, not again…" An annoyed growl escaped before he realized that he'd said those words aloud. The carrion flyer extended his neck upright and regained a cool composure, giving him an imposing aura as his large and striking beak was put on full display. "Go on, humor me," he challenged, voice taking on a neutral tone. "Please do explain."

Inhaling a deep breath, the half-kneeling flyer started his story. "I was hanging by the Great Valley when I happened to see it with my own two eyes — a swimmer acting completely out of his element! That's certainly suspicious! I bet a stack of tasty treestars that the swimmer I chanced upon has one of your shiny stones with him!"

"Now, now. That's quite a wild accusation. You know perfectly well that I am the one who controls the supply of shiny stones. One of my Shiny Stones of Great Change wouldn't just wind up in anybody's hands."

The kneeling flyer had to bite back a retort, unable to keep his eyes away from the mesmerizing red stone that his superior was wearing. "Of course, Zalus."

"There's no need to be snappy. I can detect the dissent in your voice." Zalus craned his neck, a wry expression forming across his beak. "If you're so eager to prove your point, would you happen to have any evidence to back up your claim?"

He bit back a curse. Unfortunately, that was one thing he sorely lacked. "Well… I must confess that I can't confirm if the swimmer I saw actually was transformed by the stone or not. I made my way over to Hanging Rock without delay the moment I had my suspicions."

"Just a suspicion… hold on just a moment, are you telling me that you didn't actually see anything and merely telling me this as a hypothesis?" Zalus sounded like he was actively controlling his agitation. "What if you just happened to be observing a swimmer with weird tendencies?"

"Well… uh…" he stuttered, trying to talk his way out of the situation. To his chagrin, the topic had somehow turned from Vekal right back to him. "I remember that Vekal told me that he was going to pay a visit to the Great Valley after our last meeting. So if you put two and two together, he definitely has some involvement in this!"

Zalus raised an eyebrow in response. "That's quite a weak correlation. It would seem that your interpretation would be a bit of a stretch, wouldn't it?"


"Considering that it doesn't sound like I have any proof to go on aside from your baseless allegations, let's not be too hasty with this, shall we?" Zalus continued, very unamused. "Presuming that you're actually telling me the truth and this isn't another one of your poorly disguised attempts to attain power, Vekal probably has his reasons behind his actions. He is, after all, an incredibly cunning individual."

Realizing that Zalus was shrugging off his concerns, he jumped to his feet. "B-but… you can't be serious! He's committing blatant treason against our entire group, sir! I had a hunch that you'd entrusted Vekal with possession over the shiny stones, but I swear that he just went and handed out the stone to some random nobody! Is this the kind of behavior and ethics expected out of the second-in-command of the Orpho Clan!?"

"First of all, whether Vekal has one of the shiny stones or not is none of your concern." Zalus frowned, fingering the shiny stone dangled around his neck with a looped vine. "Second of all, you're not challenging the pecking order again, are you?" he threatened, extending his neck forward and imposingly staring down his subordinate, the sharpened beak characteristic of his species aimed directly at him as a show of threat.

The flyer silently lowered his head, knowing when he was beat. Zalus had seen right through his thinly-veiled grab for power, and he knew a verbal warning when he heard one. The unspoken threat was clear — speak out of turn once more, and you won't ever get the stone that you so desire yourself.

…or worse, Zalus might get fed up to the point where he punished him. Zalus was already a very imposing figure due to his large size, but his imposing appearance was amplified by the colossal yet slender beak he had, an appendage that was as large as the flyer's lengthy neck. He didn't doubt that anyone who instigated Zalus could be impaled or horribly wounded with that magnificent sharpened mandible.

Even if Zalus wasn't going to be dissuaded from this line of thinking, he would still attempt to drag Vekal down with him. He adamantly refused to waver from his original accusation no matter what the boss thought… that goody-goody squeaky clean flyer wasn't going to escape this ordeal without him engaging in one final mudslinging effort.

Since all else failed, his last resort was to appeal to fear and emotion through cold logic.

"Look here!" he screeched, wings thrust out in anger at the indifferent attitude displayed by his leader. "Vekal's playing some kind of game, and you're blind to it Zalus! You and I know full well just how valuable and coveted these shiny stones are if the knowledge of their power were to be known! Only those in the loop are supposed to know about them! If the sharpteeth find out that Vekal just handed them out to some Great Valley resident when we are blackmailing them to see things our way for a chance to get ahold of them—"

"—then I will personally handle the fallout on Vekal's behalf." Zalus interjected, cutting him off. "Regardless, I have full trust in whatever he is planning. End of discussion."

Stroking the stone by his chest, Zalus casually strolled away from his subordinate. "You are hereby dismissed. Next time, only bother me when you have news that is actually worth my time."

If he wasn't currently airborne, the flyer would have slammed his wing against a rock in anger. He was positively seething. After going through the trouble of gathering intel on a hunch and flying all the way to the valley followed by taking another lengthy journey to Hanging Rock, it stung that their leader still gave that cocky lucky brat the benefit of the doubt all because the evidence he had against Vekal was merely circumstantial.

All that time, wasted. The fact that Zalus had been running late and inexplicably showed up at Hanging Rock only after what seemed like an eternity served to cause the eventual dismissal of his claim to be even more frustrating. Seriously, in the time he'd been waiting for Zalus, he could have made at least two or three round trips back to the valley. If he'd known that Zalus would be absent, he would have simply lay hidden at the Great Wall to stake out his target and garner more proof.

No one knew where Zalus disappeared to at times, his whereabouts often a mystery. As to why he had patiently waited at Hanging Rock for his boss despite the lack of a coherent schedule, it could be condensed down to two simple reasons.

Reason number one was rudimentary. Zalus had specifically instructed that anyone who wished to seek him out for official correspondence to use Hanging Rock as the rendezvous point due to accessibility reasons, and the large carrion flyer could in fact often be spotted hanging around the general area surrounding the landmark, the Secluded Canyon. As such, if he stayed there long enough, chances were that his superior would make an appearance sooner or later.

The second and more pressing reason was the fact that the flyer had truly believed that he had sufficient evidence to ruin Vekal upon absconding from the valley. Evidently, however, that was far from the case.

Which begged the question — how in the living daylights could Vekal get away with his flagrant misdeeds in spite of the overwhelming number of red flags that he displayed? Zalus was playing favorites, and that damn Vekal sure as well knew it. The scummy flyer was skillfully taking full advantage of their superior's trust, too.

Just what would it take to oust that second-in-command from his comfortable position? Even when Vekal risked getting their group in trouble, Zalus was willing to look the other way! If it had been anyone else, anyone else, the perpetrator would have been hung out to dry and their failure made an example of through a grislier, less cordial way.

He should have known that telling on Vekal wouldn't have worked. Somehow, Vekal had Zalus snugly wrapped around his wing digit. If Vekal pushing his luck to the extent of committing blatant treachery wasn't enough to oust him, it would appear that he'd need some other way to get rid of Vekal and ensure he was next in line to the stone…

Vekal had to be deliberately spiting him. There was no other plausible explanation. Why else would he risk the reputability of their entire group, the Orpho Clan, by striking out on his own? From the very instant Vekal got his grubby wings on the stone, the pest was so full of himself that he even bypassed normal protocol.

Inauguration into the ranks of their group was no easy feat, and the tantalizing reward of attaining one of the fabled Shiny Stone of Great Change through loyalty to their leader was the reason that he himself had followed Zalus' lead a long time ago. But now, that cunning Vekal was trying to recruit others by using the stone as a tempting lure with reckless abandon, in spite of the fact that he wasn't even the one who had control over the stones.

The worst part was that what Vekal was doing was also going to end up being his problem. Normally he wouldn't care less about what Vekal did, but the fact that word about the stone's power was beginning to get out because of Vekal's own agenda was what infuriated him. And the more that others out there knew about the shiny stones, the more competition there would be for them.

He didn't spend an eternity working under Zalus just to have some upstart recruit snatch his rightful reward away from him!

To top it all off, he couldn't understand what Vekal's deal was. If he had been the one in possession of a stone, he wouldn't have just handed it away like what Vekal did for what was most probably a laugh.

Just what was that damn flyer planning?

The flyer was so distracted by the whirlwind of thoughts storming through his head that a hazy blur of brown in front of his eyes was the only thing that abruptly reminded him he was still actually mid-flight. Realizing that he was about to slam right into another flyer, he immediately took evasive maneuvers and dived down to the ground, glaring at the other flyer as they landed in sync.

Especially when he realized who it was that he'd almost plowed into. Of all the flyers…

"If it isn't the talkative wanderlust," he drawled, brushing grains of coarse sand off his wing membrane which had clung on during the rough landing. "Fancy seeing you out here in the middle of nowhere, Cirrus."

Taking a look around his surroundings, the flyer added a sarcastic afterthought. "Quite fitting, considering that it's pretty much your natural habitat."

"Yo!" Cirrus grinned, rushing over to him with a stupidly contagious smile plastered on his beak. "How have you been? Doing good?"

Seeing Cirrus striding forward, he quickly made sure to push the annoying flyer away from his personal space by shooting him a cautionary scowl. "I will be, but only if you refrain from telling me things which I already know and instead go annoy the next herd you see by telling them some pointless rumor mill tale that you got through the grapevine."

"You spoilsport!" Cirrus frowned. "I've told you many times before that my sources are legitimate!" He cheekily stuck out his tongue, gesturing his wing up to the sky. "I fly all over the Mysterious Beyond and listen in on all sorts of herds to get my tidbits!" The flyer clapped his wings together, smiling from ear to ear. "Hey, do you wanna hear my latest scoop? It's something big, I tell ya!"

He folded his wings, trying to dissuade the other flyer. "Not interested. Tell it to someone who cares."

"I promise this story will be worth your time, man!" Cirrus insisted, holding out his wing when he saw that his audience was trying to escape.

Before Cirrus could continue, he found himself shoved away. "Does it sound like I gave you clearance to speak?" the flyer raged at the stumbling Cirrus. "No means no!"

"Well, this is different, I swear!" Brushing himself off, Cirrus barreled on before the other flyer could stop him. "I've come across a legitimate tale of something amazing… something known as the Shiny Stone of Great Change!"

The flyer blanched, his head snapping to attention. "The… what…!?" He stumbled backwards, feeling sick to his stomach. Heaving as he tried to get his bearings, he finally marched over to a placative Cirrus. "How do you know about that!?" he roared.

"Yeesh… please calm down." Cirrus chuckled nervously, pulling back from the tense flyer. "You're scaring me…"

"What. Do. You. Know?" he punctuated each word, barely restraining himself from shaking Cirrus like a stubborn treestar that was stuck to a branch.

"It is a stone that apparently allows whoever wields it to transform into another species." Cirrus shook off his nervousness, taking on a professional tone. "I know it sounds ridiculous, but I all but confirmed it when I ran into a flyer named Pterano earlier. He helped clear up some lingering doubts, though I don't think he was very happy with me."


The flyer cursed inwardly.

Damn that Vekal! Him and his careless beak! He was going to ruin everything!

…or maybe not.

Glowering at the hyperactive Cirrus, the flyer couldn't keep a malicious grin from forming on his beak as he laid his bait.

"Say, you up for a scoop, Cirrus?"

Although the smaller flyer was uneasy at the malevolent leer being shot his way, Cirrus nodded affirmatively. "Oh, you have one?" he grinned, bouncing as eagerly as a small hatchling. "What is it? Do tell!"

Smirking, he reeled in his unknowing victim. "I don't have one with me, but I have heard about it before. Just between you and me, I happen to know where one of those Shiny Stones of Great Change happen to be," he casually mentioned, turning his head towards the general direction of the Great Valley.

"You do!?" Cirrus straightened up, stunned. "Where?!"

Seeing Cirrus' enthusiasm, he decided to feign ignorance by masking his own glee. "You clearly want it, don't you?" he questioned, prodding the young flyer.

"Of course! I want to see it with my own two eyes!" Cirrus exclaimed, his cyan eyes brimming with excitement. "Plus, I'm quite certain it is real, and if it really is, being able to have it will be a dream come true! Can you imagine forging connections with other species by literally living as them?! Even more so than me telling my tales as a wandering flyer, it'll bring us leaf-eaters in the Mysterious Beyond all together!"

He exhaled a snort as he heard Cirrus squeal in palpable delight. What an altruistic moron. Of course an idealist like him would have a stupidly noble goal like that. The sheer virtuousness emanating from Cirrus made him want to gag in disgust.

But it didn't matter. Cirrus was going to be dead last on the waiting list of dinosaurs due to receive the stone. So long as Cirrus was interested enough, perhaps he could use it to his own advantage…

"Let's talk more as we make our way back to the herd, alright? No more flight diversions," he muttered, giving Cirrus a conciliatory pat on the back. "There's something I want you to do for me in return."

Although Cirrus looked at him skeptically, his curiosity won out in the end. "Will do," he concurred, bristling with a sense of nervous anticipation.

Scheming green eyes glinted under the Bright Circle. That was right… two could play at this game. If that guileful flyer was going to gamble with the boss' shiny stones, then he was going to ensure that Vekal would lose, big time.

He was about to craft things so that when it all blew up, Vekal would wind up as the scapegoat for the resulting fallout. Oh yes, he was going to enjoy seeing that smug smile wiped off Vekal's beak when that tattered flyer came to the realization that he had bitten off more than he could chew and was backed into a corner with no way out aside from taking responsibility.

Indeed, it would be a glorious sight to behold. This time, there was no way that Vekal would be getting out of the resulting fiasco with his reputation unscathed. With everything concluded, Vekal would finally lose the command post he held in the clan.

And then he would take charge as the right-hand flyer, rightfully rising above his fallen colleague as he attained Zalus' full support and finally be able to acquire one of the Shiny Stones of Great Change all for himself.

He could hardly wait to execute his counterplan as he soared back to the skies, an ignorant Cirrus following right behind him.

Author's Note:

This whole fast water race arc really took a while to conclude, huh? I actually had to cut out part of the argument because it was starting to drag and I really didn't want this to continue for yet another chapter.

My apologies for the long break between chapters, heavy school workload put me in quite a slump but I managed to get this chapter out before things got even more hectic. But hey, at least the next chapter is pretty much going to be fluff between Ducky and Petrie. :p

Anyway, antagonist time! Just a heads up, I love writing villains. The Orpho Clan was almost named the Sparkle Clan before a few friends told me that it was not a very intimidating name at all after I seeked advice about its suitability. Please don't ask, I suck at names lol.

Sovereign: You've definitely hit a relevant point regarding Petrie having a choice to make about Ducky, and while that was less of a focus in this chapter, the lingering question and its implications have not gone away… in fact, with Petrie going to learn how to be swim from Ducky, what seemed like a definite choice might not be one after all. I should also stress that while Ferris is an obstacle and plausibly an antagonist towards Petrie and Ducky (at least with his pushiness), on a relative scale the swimmer is more an annoyance than an actual villain, something that is emphasized by the chapter's conclusion providing a peek into more traditional antagonists.

Anagnos: Indeed, the ship of Ducky and Petrie hinges on the realization that maybe the two could be more than friends, and I hope I did a good job in explaining how Petrie analyzed his friend after the surprise kiss and came to that conclusion when put on the spot. I should note that you'd successfully guessed on a prior review that Ducky does offer Petrie her help with regards to swimming, although unlike what you and many of the readers expected, the offer comes after the race, not before. :P

Rhombus: I hadn't been in any relationship at the time I wrote the previous chapter, so I tried my best to guess and predict how someone in that situation would react, hence I'm glad that it turned out quite accurate after all. I will agree that I may have—intentionally or not—written Ducky in a way where she comes off as a bit spunkier than she normally is in canon, but I think that such behavior warrants consideration of her current situation with regards to Ferris, and her personality is something that I definitely intend to focus on when the spotlight shifts towards her later.

And with that, an uncertain future awaits Petrie— sorry, Paddy—for the remainder of his day. Will he be able to grapple with the confusing relationship between him and Ducky as she teaches him how to swim? :o :ducky
Would it be possible for swimmers and flyers to get more love around here? Both figuratively… and literally.


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Yeah, this chapter seems like a clear harbinger to a change in this story’s future. Not only is Petrie starting to get a small reprieve from his torture but we are also beginning to get glimpses on the larger picture behind everything that has happened. And I’d say it’s about time for that considering we’re past 100k words and the other main char is still herself. :p There were some pacing issues here, imo, but more about those later.

I must admit, Ferris is a far better loser than I had expected. I had thought he would storm away immediately to plan some kind of revenge or even get violent but he could accept defeat quite well, actually. Valent’s teasing was quite fun to read and he and Jovi were portrayed very well here. As for Petrie, swimming lessons with Ducky might just well be something out of his dreams and it isn’t hard to see which way his mind is going to go regarding his transformation. Yet, all of that is obviously going to fall on its head after Ducky changes too.

About the ending, it isn’t exactly surprising that there is a bigger organization behind the stones. Cirrus seems like a danger to Vekal and obviously as a result to Petrie and eventually Ducky. Their struggle for power will obviously have wide-ranging results but as it is, we still know quite little of this mysterious clan. But you did a good job building up the hype and tension. It seems unlikely that Vekal isn’t prepared for challenges to his position anyways.

As for the pacing comment, the first part of the chapter seemed excessively long even if it obviously was a game-changer for Petrie. I just personally prefer to have relatively balanced chapters regarding action and dialogue but even then, you did a good here. The stage is set for a change to Ducky’s pow and the clan’s increasing internal instability. The next chapter will be an interesting one to see.


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Thanks for releasing this on the same day as my birthday, Owls! It was a pleasant surprise and a welcome gift! :lol:

Curiously, Valent did not take the bait of giving Petrie an equally embarrassing nickname just because Ferris told him to. From Ferris' point of view, this must seem along the lines of defiance against his rule in the herd. People don't often like being told what to do and immediately go on the defensive, which we saw happen here. When Ferris begins to actively threaten the others, his own herd members no less, with vengeance it only reinforces the idea that he is not ready to lead. If this is the kind of behavior and leadership the herd can expect from him in the future, they're in a very precarious position. A good leader will always put the well-being of others before themselves and listen to their people when someone finds a better way forward.

But even in his defeated state, Ferris has enough humility to at least give Petrie few caring parting words... mixed in with distaste. At then I started to feel bad for Ferris for a moment, but once I had a chance to recall all the words he has said or the things he has done, it evaporated in an instant. In his heart, I'm sure he's not a bad guy overall since he does care about his herd members to some extent, but you can't help but notice that the negatives of his personality have been in the spotlight more than the positive. More on the point I made previously, I honestly felt pity for him when he talked about how he'd feel if a member of his herd lost his/her life while he could do nothing. This issue even seems to have hit him on the personal level. But can we talk about how uncaring some of Petrie's siblings were in this chapter? It's like they wouldn't even care if Petrie died. This leads into my next question: would they be sad if that did happen, or would they just brush it off like it was nothing?

As of this moment we virtually know almost nothing about Vekal's plans for the future and what it could mean to his group, the Orpho clan (brilliant name, btw). The leader, Zalus, doesn't seem to be alarmed by the recent events, which leads the reader to believe that he does indeed place a lot of trust in him. But what if that trust is misplaced? This was a very interesting chapter, Owls. I'll be looking forward to how things develop from here. It's sure to get more interesting! :duckyhappy

''Let your heart guide you. It whispers so listen carefully.''  :MomCompassion


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Seeing that this story had a new chapter was quite the pleasant surprise.  I can imagine how difficult it must have been to write the fast-water scenes with a focus on keeping the characters true to themselves, but I think that you have done a masterful job in that regard.  The banter between Ferris and Valent not only provided some amusement for the assembled swimmers and flyers (and one former flyer) but it also shed some insights into the dynamic between the swimmers.  Despite Paddy's continued (and justified) animosity towards Ferris, he has at least been humanized in this chapter with his caring parting words for Petrie, and Ferris's own humbling experience.  Though if their herd is going to have any chance then Ferris needs to do some growing up very fast.

What really caught my attention in this chapter, however, were the differing perspectives from Petrie's siblings.  Though his eldest sister and one of his brothers seem to care for his wellbeing, Pitch seems to not care whether Petrie lives or dies.  The fact that Ferris showed more compassion for the idea of losing one of his herd than Petrie's own brothers show for him is a stark contrast indeed.  Though Petrie's siblings are not universally against him, this does make me feel for his family situation.  With this kind of dynamic in his old life it does make me wonder if the possibility of him remaining "Paddy" might become a bit more enticing to him.  Especially as he is now under the tutelage of a certain swimmer...

I don't have much to say about the Vekal plot point at this time, except to say that it is obvious that there are plots at play that we are not fully aware of.  In any case, I look forward to seeing how those (and Petrie's swimming lessons) go from here.

Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Menders Tale.