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Pokémon: Ambitions

Pokémon World

a part of Pokémon: Ambitions, by Nemeseia.

A place of wonder and beauty.

Nemeseia holds sovereignty over Pokémon World, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
349 readers have been here.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

http://www.pokemon.com/us/

Pokémon World is a part of Pokémon: Ambitions.

There are no Places in Pokémon World.

Some of the 4 Characters Present

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Default Location for Pokémon: Ambitions

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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It was beautiful.

The open sea, the gentle cries of the wingull above, the occasional splash of a remoraid, and the soft purring of the litten currently hanging off of Nasir's shoulders, was almost reminiscent to his home on Cinnabar. He huffed softly, shifting with a careful hand on the litten so as to not disturb her, and leaned against the ship's side rail. The weather was pleasant as well, with a relatively cool breeze rustling through his clothes. He'd, thankfully, elected to wear cooler clothing—a white, sleeveless, shirt with a pair of beige cargo shorts. Traveling from Cinnabar to Slateport wasn't a difficult journey, but the weather had stayed the same warmth for the first few days.

Pushing himself from the rail, he was met with a soft mewl of disapproval. He chuckled softly, placing a hand on Little Cinders's head. "Sorry 'bout that, Cinders," he stated, causing the litten to crack an eye open. She stared at him for a second longer before resuming her position, and slid further off his shoulder. "Yeah?" Nas spoke, smiling as he pulled her back. He rearranged her back onto his shoulder so it was a little more comfortable for him before glancing back out. They were still about an hour away from land, but he could already see the outline of Slateport City.

Hoenn had been about two weeks worth of travel from Kanto, especially from Cinnabar. It was probably longer than that, but Nas had been too excited to keep track of time. He was traveling to a different region, well away from most of his family to begin a pokémon journey. The homesickness, if he received any, wouldn't kick in until later, he hoped. He glanced over his shoulder and spotted his companion. Traveling with Dominik would, in some ways, be interesting. At least, that's what Nas was hoping for. Smoothing out his shirt, he made his way towards Dom. Once Nas reached him, he allowed a large grin to cover his face, and leaned with his back against the rail.

"Enjoying the ship life?" he joked, folding his arms across his chest. Little Cinders made a sound that sounded almost like she found his joke to be in bad taste. She probably did.

Dom sighed, perhaps a bit too heavily for the situation. He looked extremely out-of-place on a boat, what with the really dark clothes that more or less covered him from neck to feet. He'd never done the best under the sun, which was pretty unfortunate growing up on Cinnabar. Already the bridge of his nose and cheeks were pinkening faintly, evidence that his sunscreen was being overcome by the UV rays. That would probably happen to him a lot as they went.

"Honestly? I'll be glad to see land again." Nas's cousin had a very quiet manner of speaking even at his most excitable, and this was no exception; his voice was almost lost in the brisk sea breeze that stirred their hair. Beside him, Saber—his ralts—shifted, tilting his head up slightly and touching one hand to the side of his leg. Dom glanced down, blinking slowly, then hummed some kind of agreement.

He returned his attention to Nasir. "I think we'll probably want to make a supply stop in Slateport," he said. It wasn't a bad idea—they'd only brought the basics with them for the first leg of the trip, and part of traveling light was only carrying what was really needed. As pokémon trainers, they'd have to get used to that. Even if they already knew more about that kind of thing than the average hopeful.

“That's a good idea," Nas replied, nodding his head in agreement. “We'll get some supplies, and visit one of the tourist centers, or something. They should have those, right?" he stated more to himself. “A map should be the top priority, though." he continued, frowning slightly. He had tried getting a map in the small gift shop on the ship, however; the stand had been completely wiped out. Maybe he should have grabbed one before they had left Kanto behind.

“Too late now," he muttered to himself. It wasn't much longer before the ship docked, and Nasir took in a deep breath. “Ah, nothing like the fresh air of city life," he spoke out loud, grinning as he stretched his arms out. He pulled his bag over one shoulder, careful not to jostle Little Cinders, and glanced towards Dom.

“Alright, should we head to the nearest shop first, or walk around for a moment?" he asked. It wouldn't hurt to see the city first and stretch their legs. “Then again, we could just do both," he added while scratching the side of his face. If they walked around while looking for a shop, they could learn a bit about Slateport.

It took a second for him to recognise the fact, but Dom was giving him a strange look. "I don't—you didn't get us a map?" He paused, mouth pressing into a thin line. "Of course you didn't." With a shake of his shaggy black hair, he crossed his arms over his chest. "I guess we wander around until we find a shop we can use." A soft breath escaped him as he turned his eyes towards the approaching cityscape. They were drawing into the harbor, many of the other passengers readying themselves to disembark.

Dom picked up his bag, shifting the straps over his shoulder. They both had heavy-duty travel gear; their parents wouldn't have let them leave with anything flimsy or prone to tearing. Once it was settled, he started towards where the line was beginning to form.

“It's not like I forgot it on purpose," Nasir muttered beneath his breath. He'd been too excited to really think about it. He smiled, nonetheless, and followed after Dom. Once the ship had docked, people began unloading the ship. He could feel his muscles tightening in his back, and a certain kind of thrill crawling up his spine. Adrenaline, maybe. A soft purring caused Nas to blink slowly.

“Cinders, maybe you should get back in your ball," he stated, pulling her pokéball from his belt. She cracked an eye open, and furrowed them in his direction. “It's better this way," he spoke. Plus, he wouldn't have to worry about losing her in the crowd. A sudden thought hit him, though.

“Hey, when we get off the ship, we should probably go register, too. Once we get our supplies, we'll need to register with Hoenn to get our licenses for the region," he stated. Each region was different, and from what he could remember, there was one thing the new laws kept from the old ones. Trainers would need a license if they were going to catch and train pokémon. Of course, each region's capture policy was different.

He knew Hoenn would require them to be registered, though, if they didn't have any immediate family living here. Plus, he wanted to see what the new pokédexes looked like. He had heard they'd changed to accommodate the vast number of pokémon as they were being discovered.

"Welcome to Slateport City," a voice called out, snapping Nasir out of his thoughts. Nas grinned at the stewardess and smiled. She returned it, and returned her attention towards the other people. He stepped around, watching as other people walked past him. This was it, the beginning of a new journey and new life.

“I think, if we follow the flow, we should end up at a shop, sooner or later. Are you ready, Dom?" because he sure was.

Dom wasn't one to get excited about much of anything—at least not in any obvious way. But nevertheless, Nasir could see traces of it now, even as he recalled Saber to his pokéball and tucked it into his belt. There was a faint smile lingering at the corner of his mouth, a certain glimmer to his bright carmine eyes. When he spoke, his tone was a little lighter, the heavy deadpan temporarily lifted, allowing a bit of enthusiasm to seep through. "Yeah—ready. Let's go."

They melded into the crowd descending the gangplank to the docks below. The city loomed ahead, buildings massive in silhouette and casting shade over the late-morning harbor. It smelled like salt and fish, and maybe a little bit like opportunity, too.

Whatever the smell, it kept the grin on Nasir's face from disappearing. They walked for a decent amount of time, perhaps an hour or so. Slateport City wasn't as large as Saffron City, but it could, perhaps, be on par one day. Something caught the corner of his eye, causing Nasir to stop in his tracks to turn towards it. The smile on his face turned to a confident grin, and he placed a hand on his waist.

“Well, at least we found the shop," he spoke, pointing to a sign that read MARKET. He pursed his lips together, though. “Oh, wait," he sighed and shook his head. “It's just the food market," he added. It took another ten minutes before they actually found the shop they needed, and Nasir sighed in relief.

“Finally," he stated. He wasn't tired, by any means, but the shop had been nestled in a strange corner of the city. He had to ask at least five different people in order to find it. “Alright, we should probably split up for this and gather whatever we need. I'll leave finding the map to you," because he'd likely forget it again. Dom knew how to keep his priorities in check; Nas had a little less restraint. Besides, the shop was a little larger than Nas had expected it to be. Not quite a department store, but close enough. They'd be able to cover a little more ground if they split up.

“I'll take the downstairs while you take upstairs. Deal?"

Dom rolled his eyes, but it was good-natured rather than truly irritated. "Sure thing, Nas."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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The upper level of the Pokémart was stocked with the sorts of miscellany that the pharmacy on the first floor couldn't fit; everything from repels to escape ropes and grappling hooks for climbing assistance. Dominik didn't need much of any of it, considering how efficiently his parents and relatives had insisted on preparing him for all of this. The main staples, he and Nas already had; it was only the perishables that they really needed to worry about... and the map.

Shaking his head, he scanned the signboards hanging above each of the aisles as he walked. Treats, berries, poffin ingredients, a few basic contest accessories—each one had a distinct and obvious purpose, colorful rows of boxes labeled in neat print he had to crane his neck to see. Nothing that indicated maps yet, though. He couldn't imagine them being near the food, but he hadn't seen them anywhere else, either. Maybe there was an aisle for reference materials in the back? He couldn't imagine they'd be popular items. From the way everyone told it, most new trainers were more interested in getting out and battling than learning the actual tactics that would make them most effective at it.

Before he could take another step, there was a faint tugging sensation on his pant leg. Glancing down revealed a red-colored cyndaquil. It was probably a shiny variation considering they were usually blue in color. "ʻAi, Mikil,ʻaʻole! Don't chew on his pants!" a voice called out. No sooner had the voice been heard, the owner appeared. She was an inch or two shorter than Dom, which was easy to tell once she stood back up. She'd kneeled down to pick up the pokémon, and was currently cradling it in her arms. She was wearing a pair of black shorts and a light blue halter top which contrasted with her complexion. It was similar to Nas's, tanned and bordering swarthy. Her eyes, however, were a shade of amaranth pink.

"I am so sorry, he likes to do that sometimes," she spoke, smiling in an apologetic manner. She held the cyndaquil in front of her for a moment before speaking, "Uaʻikeʻoeʻaʻole ponoʻoe e hana pēlā. Ano, e kala aku." The cyndaquil replied by holding its arms up and giving a soft cry. "Mikil wants to apologize," she stated, turning Mikil towards Dom. He merely smiled at Dom, and trilled.

He was quite sure that Mikil had absolutely no idea what his trainer had just said. Apparently he didn't understand Alolan, which was what Dom was pretty sure she'd been speaking. He kind of understood the gist; it was a similar language to the one Uncle Kas's family used sometimes on the Orange Islands, and he'd been around them enough growing up to at least be able to understand it, though he couldn't really respond in the same without a lot of halting in his speech.

"Again, I am so sorry he did that. Is there... anything I can do to make up for that? He really didn't mean anything by it," she apologized, placing Mikil on her shoulder. He seemed content there, tangling himself in the deep blue strands of her hair, and stared at Dom.

He glanced down at the leg of his pants, which was completely fine, and then back up at the woman, sucking a breath softly inwards when he actually met her eyes. Against his will, Dominik felt his face heating considerably. No doubt he was at least pink by this point; hopefully it would read as exertion or just a bit of warmth from the proximity of the fire pokémon.

Oh, hell.

She was ridiculously pretty.

Dom didn't do well around pretty. Swallowing thickly, he willed the blush to recede, aware that he'd delayed his response too long staring at her like a creep and was probably coming across as slow in addition to skeevy. He took a half-step back, as if to reassure her that he had no ill intentions. "Uh, I—" He cleared his throat. This was already going spectacularly.

"I-it's fine. He didn't hurt anything. I've had pokémon do way worse damage than that." He tried for a smile, but it was thin and awkward as hell. It was true, though—the pokémon at his folks' place weren't always in great shape, and sometimes had bad habits or trust issues that manifested as destructive tendencies. A friendly cyndaquil chewing on his pant leg wasn't even a problem.

She sighed in relief, it seemed, and relaxed her shoulders a bit. If she'd noticed how awkward he was, she didn't say anything. Instead, she smiled and nodded her head. "That's good. I've tried getting him to stop, but he likes to chew on things," she replied, laying a hand on Mikil's head and glancing at him. She gave it a few rubs before she turned back to look at Dom. "Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself," she spoke suddenly, a look of realization crossing her face at the same time.

"My name is Elaria," she spoke, holding out her hand. "It's nice to meet you..." she trailed off, apparently waiting for his introduction.

Cautiously, he reached out, closing his hand over hers and giving a careful shake. He was certainly imagining the slightly tingling in his arm—or rather, it wasn't anything important. He rarely touched people, in part because of his lack of friends and in part because of a natural reservation in his personality. Most people outside of his family tended to think better of it; the openness of her greeting was actually surprising to him. Maybe things were different, when he was obviously a trainer on a journey? He wasn't sure, and it probably didn't matter anyway.

Her hand was a lot smaller than his, but he was used to that. He might have been handling it with a bit too much delicacy, but he found it difficult to say. "Dominik," he replied softly. "You're, um—you're a trainer, then?" His eyes fell to Mikil. This was the right time of year for all the newbie trainers to begin their journeys, after all, and Slateport was a major intake point for those who wanted to do it in Hoenn.

She nodded her head, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. The smile on her face seemed to broaden, as if it were the most natural response for her. "ʻAe, I am. Mikil and I started a few months ago," she replied as Mikil trilled in agreement. "I started from home, in Lavaridge. Mama told me to head to Slateport, first, and start from there. So, here I am," she continued, frowning for just a second.

"Oh, but what about you?" she asked, glancing down towards his waist. "Are you a trainer, too? Oh, what kind of pokémon do you have!" she stated. It was apparent she was excited if the expression on her face was anything to go by.

"Oh, uh—I just started, actually," he admitted. "So only the one. Saber. He's, um, he's a ralts. My cousin and I just got here from Cinnabar Island; we needed a few supplies, and then we've got to pick up our registration stuff from... somewhere around here." He hadn't seen the registration offices on his way in, but they were probably somewhere near the pokémon center, which in theory shouldn't be that difficult to find.

"You're from Kanto? Oh," she stated, drawing out the 'oh'. She pursed her lips for a moment. "Registering will be a little different for you since you're not a Hoenn native. It's nothing too different, but it'll mostly consist of where you'll send your extra pokémon if you exceed league limits. And also if you register as a trainer," she explained.

"By that, I mean if you plan on challenging the Elite Four and the Gym Leaders. I'm sure you're familiar, but most trainers are limited to carrying only six pokémon at a time by league standards. If, for example, you choose to register as a breeder or something else, you're allowed to have more, but you won't be able to properly challenge a Gym or the League," she continued, before pausing. Something seemed to dawn on her as her eyes widened a bit.

"I can show you where it's at, actually. That is if, um, you'd like," she stated, shifting in her spot. It almost looked like she was nervous now. "I'm already registered, but I can still show you where the building is," she continued.

Dom blinked. He'd known most of that information, but he certainly hadn't expected the offer. "That's—that'd be really good of you," he said, unable to banish the stutter completely from his voice. The fact that he was picking up on her unease was also making him uneasy, and he expected the feedback loop probably didn't help her any, either.

It occurred to him why he'd come up to this floor in the first place though, and he cleared his throat slightly. "But, uh, first I have to find a map. Nasir forgot to get us one before we left. Don't suppose you know where they are?"

Her mood seemed to brighten up when he'd agreed, though she frowned when he asked about the map. "It's that time of year where a lot of new trainers are here. They just sold out of them, but," she started. She pulled the bag from the other side of her shoulder, the one Mikil wasn't on, and rummaged through it. "Here we go," she stated, pulling out something that was rolled up. It wasn't too big, more like a compact size.

"Mama packed two of them for me," she explained, holding out the roll. "I think she was a little more excited than I was. I don't need a second, and since they ran out, you're more than welcome to take mine," she continued. "It's the least I can do to make up for Mikil."

Dom closed his hand over the map, but shook his head. "There's nothing to make up for. At least let me, uh, compensate you somehow?" The statement ended more like a question than anything. "I can pay for it or something." It seemed wrong to just take something Elaria's mother had bought for her, even if it was a spare.

He realized belatedly when an annoyed thought filtered into his head that he was blocking the progress of another trainer through the store, and startled, shuffling to the side, next to one of the aisle endcaps. "Sorry," he muttered, keeping his eyes down as the other person passed him by. Clearing his throat, he glanced back up at Elaria, holding eye contact for only a second before settling his gaze over her shoulder slightly.

"Hm," she started. She seemed like she was actually contemplating his offer. She shook her head, though. "Honestly, I really don't need two and there's no need for payment," she spoke in a genuine way. "It makes me happy that I can be of help someway to someone, even if it's someone I just met," she continued.

"Besides, we're both trainers, right? We have to help each other out when and where we can, right?" she added. "So, Dominik, you take this as a... a welcoming gift to Hoenn and from one trainer to another." She didn't look like she was going to back down from her decision.

Well, if that was the case, he sure wasn't going to argue with her. His mother had always told him that he should accept kindness with graciousness, not refuse it unless it made him actually uncomfortable. And while this was... unexpected, it wasn't the source of any of this discomfort he was feeling at the moment, so...

"Okay. Uh, well, in that case... thank you." He nodded slightly, managing a half-smile that was a little easier than the one he'd attempted before. "I guess we'll head back down and find Nas, then. Unless you needed to get something else, I mean?"

"I just finished up, actually. We can go find your cousin, Nas, and then go get the two of you registered. We can figure out where to go from there afterwards," she spoke. "You'll love Hoenn, it's really beautiful this time of year," she added, grinning as she shifted the bag back over her shoulder.

Dom ducked his head, clearing his throat again. "If you say so."

He didn't have too much trouble believing it, honestly.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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There was a lot of stuff in this store. Honestly, Nas didn't even know where to start. They needed a map, but he'd left Dom with that task. They would need food, sure, but it wasn't like he could take just anything with him. Meat would spoil within the day, any cold beverages would become warm, and vegetables would start rotting if they weren't kept properly. He inwardly groaned.

"Man, I thought this would be a little easier with Dom getting the map," he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. "I guess I drew the short stick without intentionally doing so," he muttered. Oh, well. He continued moving down the aisle's, glancing at the different products before moving on. He spotted a few jars of preservatives and jams. He could bring that with him and make jam and toast for breakfast, at least.

He supposed he could also take a few spices and dry Moomoo milk pouches. That way, he could make soup or something for dinner.

About halfway down the relevant aisle, he could hear someone approaching—two someones, from the treads. He knew that because his dad was crazy and had made a point of teaching it to him. One of many such useless pieces of information he'd picked up.

Nasir didn't have to spend long wondering who the people were, though."Hey Nas. I, um... found a map. Sort of." Dom didn't sound exactly certain of his word choice, which was kind of weird because it shouldn't be unclear. "Also, uh... someone who can get us to the place we pick up our IDs."

That someone, however, was a young woman who looked to be Nasir's age. He glanced towards Dom, back towards the woman, and back to Dom. Dom, if you can hear me right now, I didn't know you had it in you, he didn't dare say that out loud, though. Dominik, like his mother, was a telepath. Nasir knew this, and he was going to take advantage of it in any way he could. Plus, the woman was pretty. And everyone knew Dom was awkward around a particular kind of pretty.

Shut the hell up, Nas. Dom scowled at him from where he stood, slightly behind the young woman, and shoved his hands into his pockets.

Inwardly snickering, Nas returned his attention to the woman, and smiled. "I hope you didn't find him in the lost and found section," he teased. She didn't seem to know he was teasing since she shook her head.

"Oh, no, I didn't! I mean, he wasn't lost or anything," she spoke, as if she were trying to reassure Nas that Dom wasn't, indeed, lost. "It's nice to meet you, though, Nas. My name is Elaria," she spoke, the smile reappearing on her face. She took a step forward until she was close enough to wrap her arms around Nas. He blinked mildly in surprise. She was hugging him.

That was strange.

"Sorry, it's just how I normally greet someone," she muttered. There was a very faint hue of pink on her face that he could see. Standing as close as he was, it wasn't too hard. He just chuckled and shook his head.

"Don't worry about it," he replied. "So, Dom says you can get us to the place we need?" he decided to ask. She nodded her head.

"Ae, I can. If you're finished we can head there, now. Only if you both have everything you need, of course," she spoke, taking a step back to put some distance between them.

"What do you say, Dom? Are we finished?" he asked, turning to his cousin. He could feel a large grin spreading across his face as he did so. I wonder if you passed out when she hugged you, too? he purposefully thought that, hoping Dom would catch it. If that was how she greeted him, he wondered if she'd greeted Dom the same way. I would have paid to have seen that reaction.

There was a brief pause before his cousin's thoughts filtered back over the connection, the same sort of dulled, deadpan feel to them as the tone they often had when he spoke. She didn't. His eyes moved once to Elaria's back, but then fell once again to the floor just in front of his feet.

"I already paid for everything I bought, so as soon as you do the same, we can go."

"Alright, let me just go pay for these, and we can go," he spoke, still grinning at Dom. They followed him to the register where he was able to buy the things he needed: jams, packets of dry Moomoo milk, and a few spices. He could pick up more things along the way. Once he had everything he needed, he placed it in his bag, and shifted it over his shoulder. "Feel free to lead the way, now, Elaria," he spoke, watching as she nodded her head.

"Oh, you guys can just call me Lia. It's... it'll probably be easier than Elaria," she spoke, tucking a strand of her hair back. A nose popped out from the tresses, causing Nas to blink. It was red-colored, and didn't make sense to Nas until the pokemon fully emerged. It was a Cyndaquil. It trilled at Nas, twitched its nose, and hid back in Elaria's hair. That was odd. "And the building is actually pretty close. It's only a five minute walk from here. They built it closer to the market, figuring it would be easier for new trainers to register, and stock up," she explained. She took the lead, and walked in front of Nas and Dom.

True to her word, five minutes later, and they were standing in front of a building. It looked like a traditional pokémon center, however; it no longer sported its signature pokéball board, on top. "Here, you'll fill out all the paperwork, take your identification picture, and register to catch pokémon in the Hoenn region," Lia broke him from his thoughts, and he hummed to let her know he was listening.

"I can answer any questions you might have ahead of time, if you'd like. If you don't have anything to ask, we can get right to it," she stated, glancing at Dom first, and then back towards Nas.

"Seems pretty straightforward to me." Dom, hands still in his pockets, shrugged slightly, opening the door with his shoulder and stepping inside first, though he held it open with his elbow for the both of them to file in after. The line was about halfway to filling the cordoned area set aside for it, and they took a spot at the end. It was mostly people around their own age, no doubt other trainers registering in the region.

They handled the line with varying degrees of patience. A girl near the front with shoulder-length brown hair was fidgeting almost aggressively, containing her impatience poorly, to say the least. The piplup with her seemed a bit more sedate, sitting patiently on one of her feet for some reason. Further back in the line a cluster of who looked to be identical triplets spoke in low, excited voices amongst themselves. The entire place had an air of frustration and anticipation in equal measure.

This fact didn't seem to faze Dom much; he just wore the same blank expression as usual. He wasn't especially fond of being told as much, but he really looked like his dad when he did that.

Nas supposed it wouldn't be much different had they decided to make their journey in Kanto. Sure, Hoenn was a completely different region, but it couldn't have been that different from Kanto. He merely crossed his arms against his chest, and allowed the expression on his face to relax a bit. "So, Lia," he decided he was going to take advantage of her hospitality while he could.

"How long have you been traveling?" he asked, watching as she blinked slowly. She seemed to contemplate his question before letting a sigh escape her.

"A few months, now. It's been Mikil, Ilima, and myself," she replied. Nas glanced to the other side of her shoulder. Did he miss another pokémon? She seemed to catch on to his confusion because she pulled a pokéball from her bag. "Ilima is my eevee; we caught her not too long ago. But most places don't allow more than one pokémon outside of their ball, inside of a building," she explained. He simply mouthed an 'oh'.

"And what about you? What will you be registering for?" she asked, mild curiosity behind her eyes.

"Ranger," he immediately answered. He knew what he wanted to do. "It's something I've wanted to do for a while, now," he continued casually. She nodded her head, and turned her attention towards Dom.

"What about you, Dominik?" she asked. Nas couldn't help the slight quirk of his lips. He could see she was genuinely interested in what they had to say. It was apparent by the way she kept eye contact with him, and then with Dom.

No doubt Dom found it a bit unnerving; he didn't do especially well as the subject of anyone's direct attention. That said, he also wasn't the sort of person to make a fuss as long as it could be avoided. He cleared his throat softly. "Just battling," he replied. "It's nothing of particular interest."

"So, trainer then," she spoke, though it was more to herself. Nas quirked an inquisitive eye in her direction.

"And what about you? Doing something special?" he asked. He might as well try and keep the conversation going to keep the thick atmosphere from bothering him too much.

"Well...," she began, shifting in her spot. "I want to be a breeder," she spoke a little timidly. She seemed almost embarrassed at the declaration. Why would she be, though? He mentally shrugged off the thought, and nodded.

"Seems like we all have different aspirations, then," he added, grinning slightly. Before he could say anything further, the line shifted to where he was second to next. "And you plan on traveling around Hoenn to do that... by yourself?" he asked. It wasn't unusual for people to travel by themselves, but he knew a majority of people who began their journey always did so with another person. It was always a two-person thing, or at least that's what he thought.

She merely smiled, though. "Ae, that's right. It's just been the three of us, but... it's not as bad as it seems. I've been doing this for a few months, now," she replied. Nas pursed his lips together. "Oh," she spoke suddenly. She seemed to contemplate something, and from the way her lips were pursed, it was important.

"I know it might be sudden... and probably... you'll probably say no, but," she began, a little too nervous. Nas quirked a brow, and waited for her to finish. If he didn't know any better, he'd say she was as shy as Dom could be. "Would it be alright if... if I traveled with the both of you? At least, just for a while?" she asked.

"You want to travel... with us?" he asked, a little skeptical of the question. She nodded her head. "But you don't know us? Why?" he continued. He was curious. They just met. Why would she want to travel with them, complete strangers?

"You don't have to let me," she spoke softly, her gaze dropping to the floor. "I just... I thought it would be nice to travel with the both of you since you are both new to the region and seem like nice people to travel with," she muttered. She still seemed kind of excited about the possibility of traveling with them, though.

"I don't know," he spoke, rubbing his chin in a thoughtful manner. "What do you think, Dom? Should we let Lia join us?" He didn't have any reserves about letting Lia join them. Actually, it would probably make sense to have a guide as well as a map to navigate Hoenn. But he also couldn't pass up the opportunity to tease Dom.

"Uh." Dom didn't exactly look pleased to be the one making the decision, which was essentially the position Nas had placed him in. They both knew it. He sighed. "I mean... I don't have an objection." Or at least not one he felt comfortable voicing. "It's just, uh, are you really comfortable with the idea? Camping can get kind of—" He grimaced, unsure how to complete his thought, clearly.

"It... might be something you'd prefer to do with another woman, instead of a couple of guys?" He looked vaguely like he'd tasted something bitter, but he did have a point. It might not be the smartest thing for a girl traveling alone to put her trust in complete strangers, particularly not if those strangers were men. "N-not that either of us would—but I mean, you have nothing but our word on that, so... I'd understand if it weren't enough of a guarantee."

"Not really, though you do make a good point. It's not that I'd be uncomfortable or anything. I grew up with three older brothers, and mama didn't exactly let me leave without a few things under my belt," she replied. Nasir quirked an eyebrow. Dom and himself could relate to that, he supposed, but she didn't have the air about her of someone who knew as much. "How about I travel with you until Oldale Town, and go from there? If you're going to be a trainer, and make challenges, Rustboro is the first city you want to visit."

Nasir supposed that could work. "You have to pass through Oldale and Petalburg in order to get to Rustboro. If things don't work out, I can continue on my own after Petalburg. I have to make my way there, anyway to visit someone. I'm supposed to drop something off," she continued. Nas contemplated it.

"Alright," he spoke, clearing his throat. "Here's the deal," he began. If she really didn't have any qualms about traveling with the both of them, he supposed they could let her tag along. It's not like they would do anything to her, anyway. They were not that type of men, and his father, to say nothing of his mother, would kick his ass if he so much as tried anything. A shiver went down his back at the mere thought.

"You can travel with us to Petalburg. If either you, Dom, or myself feel, at any point, that it's not a good idea to travel together, then we will split. How does that sound?" he stated.

"Deal. If it becomes too uncomfortable, we'll depart in Petalburg," she replied. Nas turned towards Dom. As much as he liked teasing his cousin, Nas knew not to push anything too far. He wanted this journey to be fun, not unpleasant.

He still seemed vaguely uneasy, but it wasn't something that showed up on his face. Nas just knew him well enough to read it from the slight tension in his body language. Still, he obviously knew they weren't actually untrustworthy, and perhaps it was for that reason that he finally nodded. "That sounds fine," he began, but he was precluded from saying anything further when the line moved again. It looked like Nasir was up.

"Now that, that is decided, you two play nice. I have a picture to take, and some registration forms to sign," he grinned. He supposed they would just have to see how things went. It could either be a good thing... or maybe not.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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When Nasir headed up to the registration counter, it left Dominik in the somewhat-uncomfortable position of being once again alone with Lia. Honestly, he often regretted his utter lack of charisma, but it had been a while since he had quite this much trouble with it. She probably thought he was some kind of creep now, given his inability to put his thoughts in any kind of proper wording.

As they often did in such situations, his eyes found the floor. Perhaps unwisely given the volume of pokémon traffic the building saw, it was carpeted, an exceedingly-plain beige that did nothing to redirect his attention. There were so many people around; Dom could feel their minds as little pinpricks of sensation against his mind. He was often glad he wasn't as strong a telepath as his mother, because his control of it was bad enough that being any better at it might have driven him crazy. He tried to push the sensations down, burying his hands a little deeper into his pockets and pulling a deep breath in through his nose.

"Sorry," he said softly. Hopefully only Lia would be able to hear him. "I didn't mean to... come off as a creep or anything." He'd try to explain himself, but at this point that was only going to make things weirder, or get too personal, so he decided to stick with the apology on its own.

She blinked at him in a confused manner before shaking her head, and folding her hands behind her back. "You don't have to apologize," she spoke, a hint of some amusement and genuineness in her voice. "You didn't come off that way at all. I understand where you're coming from, honestly. I would be a little skeptical, too, if some stranger just came into my life and asked if they could join me on my adventure. Not to mention if it was a guy, or two," she continued in a carefree manner. She didn't seem reserved about sharing that information.

"It's just... the prospect of doing something like this with new people is a little exciting. I know I shouldn't trust you, or your cousin, but," she paused and pursed her lips together. "But I suppose that's all part of growing. You have to take chances somewhere along the way, right? Even if they don't turn out favorably," she continued.

"Besides, Mikil really seems to like you, and he's usually really shy around people," she added as if to justify her reason. As soon as she'd said his name, Mikil poked his nose from his hiding spot and trilled. He seemed to be agreeing with her. She rolled her eyes in goodnature and poked Mikil's nose.

"If it helps, we can... uh, we can say a little something about ourselves. Just so we can get to know each... other... better?" she seemed unsure of her wording.

It hadn't been exactly where he was planning on going with the conversation, but truthfully he was relieved that she didn't actually seem especially put off by him. Dom felt himself relax slightly, expelling a breath through his nose and lowering his shoulders from where they'd become uncomfortably tight. "Uh, sure. My full name's Dominik Nero. Nas and I are from Cinnabar Island in Kanto; my parents run a shelter and hospice there for pokémon." Of course, abused and dying pokémon were hardly the world's most comfortable topic either, but Dom had always thought that the work his folks did was extremely important.

He shifted his eyes towards Mikil, before moving them back towards Lia's face. He actually succeeded in making eye contact that time, if only briefly. "Would you... would you mind if I pet him? I'll ask him, too, of course, but since you're his trainer and everything—" he finished with a gesture, figuring the important part of the sentence was already over anyhow.

"What do you say, Mikil?" she stated, glancing towards the cyndaquil. He remained quiet for a brief second before trilling happily. "I think he'd like that," she replied, her gaze never leaving Mikil as he moved out of the confines of her hair. He didn't move from her shoulder, though, causing Lia to shake her head. "That sounds like it's a lot of work, running a hospice and shelter," she spoke, though there was a soft, knowing smile on her face. "But I'm sure it's something they enjoy doing. I want to be able to open up my own day care center, one day," she stated. She pulled Mikil from her shoulder as she'd spoken, and was holding him in her arms.

"My full name... it's," she seemed a little hesitant at first. She was chewing the bottom of her lip as if she were contemplating whether or not to say what her full name was. "It's Elaria Stone, eh... Elaria Jenny Stone. My mama is retired from the police force, and my dad still makes appearances at the Devon Corporation from time to time. He helps my uncle out on occasion since he was the CFO, but he's mostly retired, too. I'm originally from Lavaridge," she sounded like it was a confession, and she seemed to tense a bit. As if she were waiting for something she knew was coming.

He wouldn't have thought much of the name if she hadn't specified that she meant the Devon Corporation Stones. He blinked, but then refocused his attention on Mikil. It was always easier for him to talk when he was focused on a pokémon or something. Carefully, he reached out with a little bit of his power and made a tentative, shallow connection with Mikil, just enough for communication. A cyndaquil wouldn't be able to reply using human language, but he could at least send basic things like feelings and sensations along the connection.

Hey Mikil, Dom sent, keeping his mental 'voice' soft and accompanying it with peaceful intentions. I'm just going to give you a bit of a scratch here; there's nothing to be afraid of, okay? When he felt assent, Dom reached forward, resting his fingertips atop the pokémon's head before running his palm back, too, feeling the fur grow warmer as he approached Mikil's back. He didn't go too much further before returning to the top, though, aware of the fact that he was still in Elaria's arms.

"My mom's actually a Joy, technically," he replied, tone slightly distant due to his focus on keeping up the link with Mikil. "I... get complicated families." He grimaced slightly, chancing another glance upwards. He wasn't going to unload about the whole Koga thing, especially not in a public place like this, but he didn't want to make her feel weird for having a famous family or anything. He kind of understood; high school had been weird enough even without anyone knowing about the clan. "I won't bug you about it unless it's relevant, and I guess I don't really see it as being relevant to you camping with us or whatever we end up doing."

"That... I wouldn't have thought you were related to the Joys," she spoke, a slight hint of fascination behind her voice. "And... I'm actually kind of glad. Everyone I've met who knows my family can be... you know," she spoke with something akin to understanding. She shook her head, though, and placed Mikil on the ground. The cyndaquil merely waddled towards Dom, and sat near his feet. He glanced up at Dom, and trilled.

"I'm actually hoping it will work out. I think it'd be nice to travel with other people, and not just journey on your own. The whole thing about journeys is that you get to make new experiences. As much as I want to do that, I also want to do that with other people and... hopefully make a few friends along the way. It's nice sharing dreams that way, I think," she stated, glancing towards the floor.

"You said you had a ralts, right?" she stated suddenly, glancing back towards Dom. "If you don't mind me asking, where did you get him?" she asked, apparently curious about Saber.

Dom stooped to pick up Mikil, pausing before he did to make sure the pokémon wouldn't startle or protest when he did. True to form, the cyndaquil was extremely warm, which wasn't all that bad inside the slightly too air-conditioned building, actually. He held him with care, the way his mother had taught him to handle pokémon of this morphology and these dimensions. "Saber?" he confirmed, mostly rhetorically. Really, he was trying to find the best way to explain it.

"I kind of just... found him. One of the outlying islands. Mom figures his egg might have been stolen, or dropped from a boat on accident, or something like that." All Dom knew was he'd woken up one morning feeling like someone was crying inside his head. Desperate and lost. It had been basically a compulsion to seek out the source, and his parents had come along with him on their small boat until he pinpointed it.

He might have said more, but at that point, the line ticked over, Nas apparently finished filling out his forms, and Dom was called to approach. Handing Mikil back to Elaria—and taking care not to touch her in the process—he did.

“Name?" The man at the desk looked exhausted. He probably was, if he'd been working as much overtime as he probably had to in order to deal with the seasonal influx of trainers.

"Er... Dominik Nero," Dom replied, pulling his billfold from his jacket pocket. He had licenses for cars, motorcycles, and boats, so even if his old school ID wouldn't pass muster anymore, one of them would surely do. The car one seemed to be sufficient. With a weary sigh, the man handed him a small sheaf of paperwork and a pen.

“These are the waiver forms. They indicate that you won't sue the Hoenn government if you are injured or otherwise harmed during your journey, and that you understand the risks involved in undertaking one. The one underneath certifies that you agree to be subject to regional law and the authority of regional law enforcement, as well as league rules and regulations, as they apply to you. Under that is the registration form for the box storage system. New regulations allow for only six pokémon at any time, regardless of trainer specialization."

Dom furrowed his brow. "Why's that?" Battle-oriented trainers were one thing, of course, but he'd have thought breeders or coordinators didn't need those regulations.

“Too many people registering as one thing and then trying to battle anyway. This way, anyone can challenge anyone else to any kind of match, and it's all fair and legal. So we don't make you declare your specialization on the forms anymore."

He supposed that made sense enough. Working his way through the stack of forms, Dom read each one carefully before signing, but they were pretty straightforward. Obey the law unless he wanted to get arrested, only carry six pokémon, observe league rules for challenges, respect an opponent's right to decline, and don't be an idiot, more or less. He could handle that much. Hopefully.

Handing the papers back to the man, he was waved over to a screened-off area, where Nas was just sitting down in front of a white backdrop. Apparently this was where they were taking ID photos or something.

Nas seemed to notice him, and glanced in Dom's direction. At the same time he moved, the flash went off, taking Nas's picture. He blinked in a confused manner, glanced at the woman who took it, and furrowed his brows. He stood up, grumbled something beneath his breath, and moved to receive his ID card. Dominik stepped over to take his spot, settling himself onto the stool and staring impassively into the camera.

"Eh, what's this? Do I really look like that?" he stated out loud. By this point, he was standing next to Lia, and showing her his ID card. "Hey Dom, look," he spoke, trying to get Dominik's attention.

Against his better judgement, Dom moved his eyes to Nas—just in time for the flash to go off. With a sigh, he stood, returning to his cousin and glancing around his arm at the photo. He snorted. "Yeah, Nas, you really look like that,"he said flatly. He was clearly distracted in the image, head tilted slightly away from center, a vaguely-startled look on his face, pale hair hanging in front of his nose as usual.

At that point, the photographer handed Dom his own card, freshly printed, and he sighed again. Well, at least they matched. Kind of. Dom's motion was more subtle, and the rest of his expression hadn't changed. It was just clear that he was looking at something somewhat to the left of the frame. Oh well. No one looked good in ID photos.

"I think that's everything, right? Let's get out of here; if we hit the road now, we can probably camp somewhere decent tonight."

"That should be mostly it. You've registered and filled out the forms. From here, the first city we'll pass through will be Oldale town. If you both have whatever you need, we can go now. It'll be a few days, possibly about a week to reach Petalburg, and about two weeks to get to Rustboro," she spoke, placing Mikil back on her shoulder. Nasir shuffled his bag over his own shoulder, and grinned towards Dom.

"I'm ready when you are," he stated, the grin spreading across his face. It might as well have split at the rate it was going.

Dom returned it with a half-smile, a subdued excitement sparking back to life. "Yeah. Let's do it."

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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Lia sighed softly.

She wasn't entirely sure what to make of her current situation. Some strange part of her was slightly happy to have two traveling companions; the other part of her was extremely cautious. She didn't know who Dominik or Nasir were; at all, in fact. From what Dominik had told her, he and his cousin were from the Kanto region. Dominik had a ralts named Saber, and Nasir had a litten named Little Cinders. That was all she knew. She only had Dominik's word that he and Nasir were not the type of people to take advantage of her.

Lia was a guillible person. She knew this about herself, and believed them. But that didn't mean she should have been willing to travel with them so... freely. Mikil trilled softly, nudging her face as if distracting her from her own thoughts. She poked his nose in return, causing him to tilt his head back and forth. Ilima, her eevee, was on the other side of her shoulder, sleeping peacefully. She could tell by the slow rise and fall of the small floral crown on her head. She huffed lightly, and pushed the thought out of her head. She had made her decision: she was traveling with Dom and Nas.

If it turned out to be a bad situation, she would leave. They agreed on that. Shaking the thoughts from her head, she turned to look at one of her companions, and furrowed her brows just slightly. "I've never seen anyone so young with hair as white as yours, Nasir. Is it dyed?" she decided to break the silence. It wasn't uncomfortable, but since they were traveling together, she wanted to know a little more about her companions. She'd do the same if they asked.

Nasir, however, blinked at her and shook his head. “Nope. It's all natural. My sisters and myself all inherited my mom's hair color. It seems like that gene beat out my dad's," he replied, grinning to himself as if he had found something funny. So his hair was hereditary, and not dyed. Lia felt her brows furrow just slightly deeper. His hair color was really pretty, and it contrasted well enough with his skin that Lia could feel an ugly little feeling crawling into her chest. She quashed it viciously.

There was no need for that.

"You have nice hair," she muttered softly. Nasir quirked a brow before his face morphed into something a little sly. She didn't know what that was about.

"Thanks," he replied, glancing towards Dom. “Dom's got nice hair, too. You don't see that particular shade of black on just anyone," he stated, causing Lia to blink.

"That is true," she spoke without really thinking. Dominik's hair was a particular shade of black with a deep purple sheen to it. It even looked like the tips of his hair were a little auburn in color, but it blended so well together. "You both have really nice hair," she continued, feeling a little embarrassed about the topic. She didn't mean to leave out Dominik, either, but white hair was a rare sight unless it was white from old age. Shaking her head, she smiled a little wider.

"So, why did you choose Hoenn as the region you wanted to journey in?" it was a simple, innocent question, right? "I'm still learning about the two of you, and I'd... answer any questions you might have for me, too," she clarified. They were just out of Slateport City, but it would still be a few hours before they reached Route 110. They could find somewhere to camp as soon as they reached the route.

Dominik shifted the bag he was carrying over his shoulders, making an adjustment to the straps. Both he and Nasir were clearly equipped for the sort of camping that could last days or weeks at a time; it looked like they even had a large tent split between the two of them, from the poles attached to the sides of their bags. Probably a lot easier than carrying two small ones.

"Kanto wasn't far enough from our families," he said bluntly, glancing slightly askance at her. He hadn't seemed quite sure what to make of the discussion about hair; this one seemed to be a bit easier. "And Hoenn... wasn't too far, I guess. Nas's sisters are both around, and our other cousin Rasul is the Lavaridge Gym Leader." He paused, seemingly remembering something. "You said you were from there, right?"

Lia blinked in mild surprise. Their cousin was Rasul? She glanced towards Nasir, and then towards Dominik. "I am, yes," she finally spoke. Nasir nodded his head, agreeing with Dom. "You said sisters? Are they younger than you, or older?" she asked. She knew a thing or two about siblings.

"Both of them are older than me, and they're both a pain in the... they're just a pain, is all," he muttered, though Lia knew where he was going with that. She chuckled softly in understanding. "And you? You have any siblings?" he asked. She nodded her head.

“I have three older brothers," she replied, smiling softly in the process. “Jabari, Lucian, and Sebastian," she continued, shifting her bag a bit over her shoulder. “Sebastian is a bit much, but he's also currently one of the Top Coordinators," which was an accomplishment in itself. Sebastian had earned that title about a year ago.

"Huh, Ami's doing something in that vein. She's trying to be a coordinator, too," Nasir spoke, rubbing the back of his neck as he did. "Izzy's one of the elite four members. I think she might be the poison specialist, I can't remember," he continued, shrugging his shoulders in a way. Lia, however, felt her eyes widen slightly.

“Izzy, as in Isra Rheinallt?" she asked. She knew Isra, if only slightly. Nasir nodded his head. “Oh wow," she continued, feeling slightly better. “Jabari used to date her," she spoke, only reeling in after she realized what she said. Nasir, however, laughed.

“Ah, what about you, Dom, do you have any siblings?" she decided to direct the attention away from herself, for the moment.

He shook his head. "Only child, but since all of us live within approximately three blocks of each other on the island, I may as well have had seven siblings," he pointed out with a slight shrug. He had a slightly-stilted manner of speech, almost a little old-fashioned, with words like 'approximately' instead of 'like' or 'about' and 'may' instad of 'might.' Next to him, Saber kept up a dutiful march. He didn't seem to fancy being carried, in particular, preferring to walk himself, propelling himself along with psychic power whenever his stubby legs weren't quite up to the task. He was, Elaria had noted, slightly off-color for a ralts, being a bit more blue than green—like Mikil, a so-called shiny.

"I'm also the youngest, so I kind of know how you feel." Apparently, the news that other members of her family were well-known on their own terms didn't do any more to shake him than her family name had. Probably understandable, if Isra and Rasul were both his cousins.

"Yeah, being the youngest in a large family can be a little... intimidating," she replied, glancing towards the floor. Not to mention being the youngest in a large successful family. Sebastian was a Top Cordinator, Lucian was Petalburg's Gym Leader, and Jabari was Hoenn's Champion. Of course, she left out Lucian and Jabari's positions intentionally, but Dominik and Nasir would have probably picked it up by now.

"I'm the youngest and the favorite, so there's not much of a connection there," Nas interjected. Lia chuckled softly and shook her head, being careful not to jostle Mikil or Ilima. "Well, is there anything else you'd like to know about us, Lia? You've asked a lot of questions so far. Kind of feels like I'm being interrogated," he stated, glancing down at her with a sort of sly smile she was used to seeing on Sebastian. She could feel her cheeks warm slightly, though, and shook her head.

"Oh, I hope it doesn't seem that way. I didn't mean for it to sound that way. Um, if there's anything you'd like to ask me...," she trailed off hoping they would understand where she was going. Nasir laughed lightly.

"I'm just joking, but I do have one question for you," he stated. He'd turned back to face out in front of him, like he was just scanning the surrounding area. "You said your middle name was Jenny, right? Why choose to do breeding instead of police work?" he asked in a nonchalant fashion. She supposed he had a good point. Every known Jenny had joined the police force after some point in their life. It was like a calling, as her mother had put it once.

"I suppose it didn't interest me," she finally answered. "Mama encouraged me to do something I would enjoy, not something someone expected of me. Raising pokémon and figuring out what brought out their potential always interested me. I've learned a little bit so far, like...," she paused, pulling Mikil off of her shoulder.

"Mikil here has a bashful nature," she started. Mikil, true to his nature, trilled somewhat and turned to burry his face away from Nasir. "He also has a peculiar ability. As a trainer, I am sure you are aware of each pokémon's ability such as a Ralt's Trace, or Synchronize. Sometimes, they'll have a different ability all together such as Ralts having an ability known as Telepathy. It's very rare, but some pokémon can inherit the ability from their mother. Mikil, here, has an ability known as Flash Fire. It's pretty useful against fire-type pokémon," she continued.

"It's always sort of perplexed me," Dominik confessed. "The way a pokémon's nature gets reduced to one trait, like that's all there is to know about them. I mean, I know only certain personality traits affect how they grow and what they're proficient at, but still. I feel like it must be more complicated than that." He shrugged, eyes still fixed on the road ahead. He walked slightly in front now, keeping them on the path while Nasir had dropped back to talk to her.

"Saber, for example—I suppose I'd say he's 'quiet' on the existing classifications, but... look at the way he works that hard. I feel like there's something about that that's... more important, somehow." He frowned, clearly unsure how to put his thoughts into words, then shrugged again. "But I suppose I'm no expert."

"No, but you're close. And to be honest, it's because a pokémon has two defining traits when they are born. Your ralts, for example, does have a quiet nature, but because he's so hard working, I'm willing to bet he has a strong willed characteristic. There are so many things that determine how they grow. It is a little more complicated than that, I suppose, but that's why I want to be a breeder. I want to find out what those little things are, and it's not quite the same as being a professor or a researcher," she took a deep breath. Talking about things she loved was easy, and she forgot she could get carried away sometimes. Clearing her throat softly, she glanced down at Mikil.

Nasir was staring at her with a slight interested look. "You lost me. The only thing I know about Little Cinders is that she thinks she's a charizard," Nas spoke, rubbing his chin in a thoughtful manner. "I guess that's what dad meant when he said she has a bold nature," Nas just shrugged his shoulders.

"It could be. But that's why I want to find out," and she would, eventually. It was just going to take her some time.

Dom snorted at the mention of the charizard. "You should see the one she's named for. Uncle Kas has this charizard, right? A black one, and don't tell her I said this, but she's kind of huge for one of the type. I have no idea what he feeds her. She's just spectacular at battling, and she knows it. I swear her fire is blue. And he calls her Princess Cinders, like she's a charmander in a tutu or something."

"Princess... Cinders?" Lia blinked in a confused manner before she started laughing. It was enough that Ilima mewled in protest, and rolled off of her shoulder. She landed with a soft thud, shook out her coat, and stared up at Lia with an unamused look. "I'm sorry, Ili, I didn't mean to knock you off," she apologized, scooping up the eevee. She held both of them in her arms, and glanced back at Nas and Dom.

"She's a scary lady, though. You have to admit it," Nas spoke, stretching his arms. "You'd be terrified to battle her, too," he continued, shuddering just lightly.

"Sounds amazing, though. I'd have liked to have seen her," because if she was as spectacular as they said she was, Lia could learn something about the charizard. It might even provide some clues as to how to raise her cyndaquil. If she recalled, there was something in the books saying that charmander and cyndaquil were equal in terms of power, even their evolution lines.

"She's, uh... pretty special," Dom agreed. "I'm sure there's old tournament footage of her—Uncle Kas was a pro for a while. Still enters things sometimes, but not nearly as often." They crested a hill, and there Dominik paused, studying the landscape laid out in front of them. There was a lake blocking their direct passage westward, calm blue waters stretching out almost as far as their vision would permit.

Dominik grimaced, turning to Elaria. "Is there some way around? I think the map showed a cave system, but it's not totally clear."

"Actually, they built a cave system not too long ago. It took them a few years, but they completed it. We can take them and it'll spit us out around Route 103. From there, we'll make it to Oldale," she replied. She set both of her pokémon down, and reached for her bag. She rummaged around through it for a second before pulling out the map. She opened it and dragged her finger to the area they were at.

"It looks like the entrance should be somewhere nearby," Nas spoke over her shoulder. She tapped the map, and hummed in agreement.

"It won't be much further, now," she spoke, a small grin forming on her lips.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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Dominik woke quietly, sitting up in his sleeping bag and running a hand through his disheveled hair, stretching the other up towards the ceiling. Based on the light trying to come through the canvas panel of the tent directly in front of him, it was probably almost time to start on breakfast anyway.

Blinking slowly a few times, he exhaled a heavy breath, glancing to his left, grimacing. The divider in the tent was originally going to represent his half and Nasir's half, but since apparently Lia hadn't considered the possible problem of what to do if it rained while she was camping, so the second half went to her. He wasn't going to subject anyone else to Nas's sleepy attempts to find anyone or anything to choke the life out of. Sleeping far enough away was feasible, but it did mean that he risked getting inadvertently kicked or punched instead. Oh well.

Grabbing the rolled-up bundle of clothes he'd unpacked the night before, Dom left his cousin and Elaria to another half-hour or so of sleep, heading down to where they'd located a small pond the night before and using the privacy to change, brush his teeth, and do what he could about hygiene. Actual bathing was better saved for places with indoor plumbing; the next pokémon center would have amenities for free use with a trainer ID. Folding his sleep clothes neatly, Dom let Saber out of his ball and returned to the campsite, checking to make sure Lia was still not awake before using his powers to re-light the fire.

He made oatmeal for breakfast, slicing up a few berries to add into it for a touch more flavor. He wasn't the kind of cook Nas was, or that his own mother and several other relatives were, but he could do the basics, and do them well, and that was good enough as far as he was concerned. Saber busied himself helping with the packing, using his telekinesis to re-fold Dom's sleeping bag and clean the utensils and supplies he was done with with water he'd brought back from the pond.

When as much had been done as could be for now, Dominik set out the pokémon food as well, and sat beside where Saber had started to munch on the first bit, a tin bowl of oatmeal in his own hands. The sun was starting to come up, turning the sky overhead a faint blush-pink first. Though it was well into spring, this particular morning was cool, the copse they'd camped in overnight still coated in dew.

Behind him, he could hear the sounds of movement—someone was waking up, it seemed.

The tent flap opened to reveal Elaria, rubbing her eyes in an attempt to remove the debris from them, it seemed. She blinked a few times in his direction, her eyes narrowing as if to refocus them, before a sleepy smile appeared on her face. "Good morning, Dominik," she spoke, moving in his direction. She held a bundle of clothes in her hands, apparently intent on doing what Dom had done earlier. Behind her, Mikil trailed, trilling as he did so. He was hungry. She blinked down at him, and sighed.

"Alright, I'll feed you and Ilima first. After that, I want you to wash your face. Last time you ate, you had crumbs everywhere," she spoke to the Cyndaquil, as if it were the most natural thing to do. She moved towards her bag, and pulled out a container filled with what seemed to be pokémon food. It looked a little different, though, not like the store bought food. Mikil trilled happily as she poured him a small bowl before setting it down. She poured another one, apparently for Ilima, and set it off to the side.

"I'm going to go change out of these," she started, though she wasn't talking to Dom. She was still looking at Mikil. "I won't be long. You be good for Dominik and Saber, alright?" she continued. Mikil trilled in agreement before she glanced in Dom's direction.

"I'll be right back. He's usually pretty good at staying in one spot," she explained before walking off in the direction of the pond. Mikil merely stared at his bowl, though, and then glanced towards Saber. He grabbed a few pieces of his food, and walked over to Saber, holding out the pieces to him. He looked to be offering Saber some.

Saber tilted his head, then reached down into his own dish, picking up several bits of food and proffering them, clearly as some form of trade. Dom smiled and shook his head, returning his attention to his own breakfast.

"Dom? What time is it?" Nas spoke, poking his head out of the tent. His hair was pressed against his face, and he still looked like he was having trouble waking up. He had never been a morning person despite the early morning trainings they did as children.

Dom turned his wrist, swallowing his current bite of food as he did. "Uh... looks like about seven," he said, reading the time off his watch. It was actually slightly later than that, but it wasn't like they were on a tight schedule here or anything, so he didn't make a big deal out of it. He'd be perfectly content if they were on the road by eight-thirty or so anyway.

"You, uh..." he gestured to his head. "Probably ought to take care of that nest on your head if you want anyone to think you have nice hair." He referred, of course, to Elaria's comment a couple of days ago about it, a very slight lilt to the words that suggested a joke. Nas wasn't vain by any means, but he did generally get a considerable amount of female attention, something Dom occasionally teased him about. There wasn't a lot of other ammunition except his resemblance to his dad, and... that happened to be a point of commonality between them, actually.

Nas groaned slightly, running his hand down his face. "Yeah, yeah, I'll fix it," he muttered, ducking back into the tent. There was some rummaging around before he reappeared. Unlike Dom, or Elaria, Nas had opted to change inside of the tent. Either he knew Elaria was out, or he'd forgotten they were traveling with her. It could also be that he grew up with two older sisters, and it didn't bother him.

"Nice, you made breakfast," he spoke, pulling his hair back into a short tail. Little Cinders followed behind Nas, mewling in Dom's direction, before setting herself down near Mikil's food. She glanced at Dom, then towards Nas. Mikil was still near Saber, and not aware of the litten near his food. Little Cinders, though, decided that the food was hers, and began eating it.

"After we pack up, where to next?" Nas asked, clearly not fully awake. His eyes were still half-lidded, and he kept dropping his spoon.

"We'll probably reach Oldale by noon," Dominik replied. He'd checked the map again last night, just to make sure they were still on the right trajectory. The cave system had been an interesting venture; Saber had benefited a great deal from fending off the wild zubat inside, his type advantage making the training a bit safer. By the time they'd left, his confusion ability had been markedly stronger.

He paused to scrape the last of the oatmeal from his bowl and eat it. "I think once we get there we should hit the center for a shower and lunch, but Petalburg's close enough that we can probably camp again tonight and reach it by evening Thursday if we do."

Nasir hummed, finally managing to get his food into his mouth. "Sounds like a good idea. Being in that cave left a few undesirables on the bottom of my shoes. I think I got most of it off, but I'd like to get the smell off of me," he spoke, shuddering just lighlty.

"You don't smell that bad, Nasir," Lia spoke, reappearing from the brush. She ducked inside the tent to put away her clothes, apparently, before she reappeared. Her eevee was still asleep, slack in her arms, and she laid Ilima near her food bowl. It was enough to stir the pokémon from her slumber.

"That bad, that's the keyword right there," Nas replied, though he said it in goodnature. "Isn't there a gym, in Petalburg?" Nas asked, glancing at Dom. Lia, however, nodded her head, though she was eating and elected not to say anything. "You think we should get a little training in with the pokémon before we get there? I know going through the cave was some, but...," he trailed off, taking the last bite of his food.

Dom shrugged. "I'm sure we will. The route there is kinda long, so I'm sure there will be plenty of pokémon around," Some of them would probably be hostile enough to outright attack the group, but others would just be satisfying their instinct to challenge, and there might be encounters more accident than intentional. That happened too, sometimes.

"Alright," he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. "Well, I'm going to go wash up. By then, we'll be mostly ready to pack up, right? Right," he spoke, setting his bowl down and standing up.

"I don't think you'll be able to challenge the gym quite yet, though," Lia finally spoke. It appeared she was done eating, and cleaning out her bowl with a towel. "You have to have four gym badges in order to do that, but," she spoke, setting the bowl down. "If it helps, the gym leader specializes in steel-types," she continued, speaking as if she had previous experience with the gym leader, or knew something about it. Then again, gym types weren't exactly not common knowledge. Anyone could look them up.

Dom had, in fact, already known the same. He'd made an effort to learn the gyms, their requirements and types, and the names of the leaders. Or their aliases, anyway. Most of them preferred not to use their real ones; it was pretty traditional for them to take on a moniker associated with the type of gym they ran. "Yeah," he said, picking up one of their canteens to wash out his bowl and clean the spoon as well. "Some guy named Sterling, right?" He supposed it fit, thematically.

Saber, finished with his food, began the process of moving everyone's things out of the tent and collapsing it. The technology of it was actually pretty great; the canvas folded neatly into the smallest space possible, and the poles were all collapsible but strong enough to be sturdy. Made it a lot easier to carry, certainly.

Lia snorted softly when he mentioned the name. "Yeah, Sterling. He's, uh, it's not his actual name, though, but it works for him," she spoke, standing from her spot. She cleaned up the bowls she used for her pokemon, and collapsed them. After she packed everything away, she shifted her bag over her shoulder, and scooped up her pokémon. She didn't recall them into their pokéballs, and instead, let them hang on her shoulders.

Nasir had reappeared around this time, looking a little more put together, and had a grin on his face. "So now that we have that covered, are we ready to go?" he spoke. Little Cinders glanced up at him, mewled, and started climbing up his leg. "Ow, ow, Cinders! That hurts," he scowled in the direction of the litten, and pulled her off of his leg. "If you wanted to hitch a ride, you could have just said so. Don't climb on me," he stated before setting Little Cinders in her favorite spot: on top of his head.

"I think that's her way of asking you," Lia spoke, chuckling in Nas's direction. She shook her head, before nodding. "I think we're mostly ready to go, though. I've everything I need, and everything's mostly packed away," she spoke, listing off the things they had just done.

Dom hummed, not feeling a need to state or agree with the obvious. The rest of it was just getting everything packed in their bags, which they took care of in short order, and then they were back out on the road. The path was grassy here, wild and alternating between groves of trees and stretches of prairie-like plains. Spring was in full effect, and it only grew more pronounced when the sun rose fully, highlighting the shoots of green grasses and the wildflowers freely interspersed with them.

With the thought that a little more training wouldn't be bad for any of them—and admittedly the desire to see if there might be any pokémon of interest to catch—the trio agreed to check out particularly likely-looking areas as they went, slowing their progress to make inspections of tracks, nests, and so on. Mostly, it involved finding a lot of rattata and pidgey, but even seeing those in the wild was a pretty new experience for Dominik, though he'd been assured it would get old eventually.

At one point, he thought he caught a glimpse of something red, starkly contrasted with the rest of the environment, but then it was gone. Unsure if it had just been a flower in his peripheral vision, Dom hummed and checked again anyway.

A burst of aggression against his mind was the only warning he had. Quickly, he jumped back, startled when an ember landed right where his left foot had been a moment before. There was a pokémon here, all right. Saber was at this side almost immediately. Flatten the grass, he commanded mentally. I want to see what we're dealing with here.

Saber acquiesced, and the wild grasses parted, stalks bending away but not breaking until they were laying nearly flat on the ground. This startled the pokémon who'd been hiding in them; immediately the orangey fur on its hackles rose, fluffing until it was much larger than usual. It was, from the looks of it, a fennekin—he didn't think they were usually native to this region, but he couldn't see any trainer around, so...

Launching itself forward, the fennekin folded its huge ears down against its head, going in for a scratch against Saber.

Confusion, Dom said quickly.

Saber trilled softly, bluish-green light limning his small body before he launched it towards the fennekin. The move caught the other pokemon in midair, knocking it off its trajectory and sending it into a heap in the grass. With surprising calm, it righted itself stoically, this time spitting another ember, aiming for Saber rather than Dom.

It was a surprisingly large version of the attack, though, and both of them had to get out of the way. Dom went left, and Saber right, splitting his image with a double team at Dominik's next mental command.

The fennekin still kept its cool, eyes flashing between all the copies of Saber. It went for the leftmost one with another scratch, but its sharp little claws passed through harmlessly.

Confusion again, Dom urged, and Saber complied.

The attack struck the fennekin from behind. This time when it fell, it struggled to stand. That was his cue. Dominik grabbed one of the empty pokéballs from his belt and gave it a deft toss. It struck the pokémon center mass, absorbing it in a flash of red light. Falling to the grass, it rolled slowly a few times, the fennekin putting up a fight for several agonizingly-slow seconds before the ball fell still.

Dom exhaled heavily. "Nice job, buddy," he told Saber. His ralts hummed, pleased with the praise, then shuffled over to the pokéball. Dom strode over, too, picking it up from the ground and tucking it back into his belt. Now... where had Nas and Elaria gone?

Nas appeared first, his hair a little ruffled and out of place. Cinders was at his side, snickering softly at him. "Now I know why Izzy doesn't like bird pokémon," he muttered, trying to straighten out his hair. He'd mostly succeeded. "How did it go on your end, Dom? I missed my chance at catching a pidgey," though he didn't sound too upset about it.

"It's not that you missed, it's that you were distracted by a wurmple," Elaria chimed in, appearing from the brush behind Nas. "I didn't know you didn't like bug types," she continued, sounding a little amused by that fact. Her attention went to Dom, after that.

"As I was saying, did you find anything?" Nas asked, apparently choosing to ignore Elaria's statement. He sounded a little grumpy, and he probably was.

Though he wasn't usually given to overt displays of enthusiasm, Dom couldn't help his grin, both at Nas's petulance and also his own good fortune. "Actually... yeah. Just made my first catch." There was an undeniable excitement to the words, echoing something humming under his skin. Saber hopped up and down as well, clearly excited on his behalf. No doubt he was also glad to have a teammate as well—he'd always liked the company of other pokémon. Probably because he'd been raised around the shelter crowd. "I'm gonna let it rest for a while, but then we'll see about a name." He also honestly had no idea if his new catch was a male or female pokémon, but that didn't matter to him even slightly, so he'd figure it out when he asked it for its name.

Nas looked vaguely surprised. "You caught one? Nice!" Nasir's enthusiasm seemed to exude in just that last word. He looked extremely happy for Dom. "Way to go, Dom," he congratulated.

"Congratulations, Dominik," Elaria smiled brightly at him. "I'm sure you'll pick a good name," she continued.

Some pokémon had their own ideas about what their names were—and he intended to honor those thoughts if they did. But otherwise, he supposed he'd have to pick the right one by observing its habits and tendencies and so on. He nodded slightly, exhaling a breath that was half-relief, half-fatigue. "Thanks, guys. Anyway, we should probably get back on the road for a bit, or we'll never make it to town." It was slightly more urgent now—though his mom had taught him a lot about pokémon medicine, he needed to make sure an actual doctor or nurse took a look at his new companion.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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Nasir sighed blissfully, wringing out the excess water from his hair. It had only taken them a few hours to reach Oldale, and they had made an immediate stop at the PokéCenter. Nasir had made it his top priority to head straight for the showers. If there was one thing he disliked, it was being too sweaty. And unclean. He'd always hated waking up early to go train with his dad, and immediate family. It wasn't the training that bothered him, it was the sweating. And the training.

Dom had taken his newly captured pokémon to Nurse Joy to have her look over it. Elaria had taken a shower as well, on the women's side, and was currently outside. Apparently her phone had started ringing, again, and she'd finally capitulated and answered. She'd been, oddly, insistent that the phone calls were not important. Perhaps they were calls from someone she didn't want to talk to? He could understand that, he supposed.

He found the lobby, glanced around, and grinned when he spotted Dom. "Hey, Dom? What's the news?" he asked, obviously inquiring about his pokémon. He hadn't told anyone what he'd caught, yet, and he hadn't named it yet, either. Nas wasn't going to push it, though. He knew Dom would find out sooner or later.

Dom's hair was wet, too; he'd changed clothes, and had a receipt sicking out of his jacket pocket—probbaly for the laundromat next door. "News is good," he said with a nod. It looked like he was having trouble containing a smile. "She's in great shape. Was really well-behaved for Ellen, too." One of his cousin's quirks was calling all the Nurses Joy by their actual first names, since he'd apparently met most of them at one point or another through his mom. It would probably prove useful at some point in their journey—having the family connection like that.

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. "I can't tell if it's just her personality or if she had a trainer at some point before. Doesn't seem like the best thing to ask her about straight out of the gate." Dominik would know about that better than most, given how often they'd both been in contact with pokémon with histories of abuse. Not to mention his own ability to communicate with them.

"Yeah, because I'm sure that's something anyone wants to hear after they've been captured," he responded, though he didn't really mean anything by it. It was stated in good fun, perhaps a little too sarcastically. "So, what do you think? We're in Oldale town, and from the looks of it, we'll be reaching Petalburg in about two days after we pass Route 102. Think this will all pan out?" he asked. Of course, he was referring to Elaria. It was, admittedly, a little weird at first, but Nasir didn't mind so much.

From what she'd told them, her oldest brother was that Jabari, the one Isra had spoken about a few years ago. That, he supposed, made her somewhat part of the family. Even if Isra called it quits to chase a woman named Eliza, they had known Jabari in some sense. Nasir shook his head, realizing that his thoughts were a little jumbled. Perhaps the heat of the water made him a little dizzy?

Dom reached up and scratched his head, grimacing a little, though it didn't seem to be because he was upset about anything. "I dunno," he said, shrugging slightly. "I mean, I don't have any problems with her, but it seems like it's mostly her choice, so you'd have to ask her." Dominik was, in general, fairly easygoing, in the sense that he didn't make many demands on other people. It was fairly clear that he was still more than a little awkward around Elaria, but not enough to want her to leave, it seemed. It took him time to get used to anyone new, honestly. He wasn't the best at making friends.

Nas supposed Dom had a point. Sighing softly, he took a seat next to Dom, and leaned back. Once Ellen looked over Dom's pokémon, and after they had a good meal, he supposed it would be back on the road for them. "I wonder what they have to eat around here, and I don't mean what they have here," he spoke, gesturing around him. He didn't have anything against PokéCenter food; he just preferred to eat something good when he had the chance.

"So, before we decide on food, are you going to tell me what you caught?" he asked. Dom hadn't mentioned what kind of pokémon he'd caught, yet, and Nas was curious. He wasn't going to bother hiding that fact. His cousin knew him well enough.

"Fennekin," Dom replied. He looked surprised, as though he hadn't realized he'd failed to mention that part. "As for food, just let me pick my clothes up from the dryer first; Ellen's already given both of mine the all-clear. You need her to look over yours?" He paused, as though he'd been making for the door but then thought better of it.

"Maybe we should find Elaria, too. See if she wants to eat?"

Nas blinked slowly. "She's outside on a phone call," he replied, following after Dom. He shook his head, though, at Dom's suggestion. "Little Cinders is fine. She'll let me know when she wants to be looked over," he replied, sighing a bit heavily. She was a stubborn thing, but he knew she would let him know something. He shifted his bag over his shoulder and made his way towards the door with Dom. As soon as the door slid open, he gave a slight startled sound at the same time Elaria did.

"Sorry about that, Nasir," she spoke, looking vaguely horrified that she'd almost run into him. He merely chuckled it off. It's not like she'd topple him over, or anything. He'd likely do that to her, all things considered. He also found it somewhat amusing how she never called him, or Dom, by their shortened names. She called them by their full names.

"No harm done," he replied. "We were just on our way to grab something to eat, but we need to pick up Dom's dry cleaning, first," he stated, shooting his cousin a glance. "And mine," he added. They had all had their clothes cleaned, which was, perhaps, for the best. Traveling around with slightly musty clothing was not ideal. She nodded in what looked like agreement.

"Oh, if you both are interested, there is a small sandwich shop nearby. It's pretty popular here because of all of the scientists that pass by. The Oldale Ruins aren't too far from here, and most of the researchers don't cook. They might have some other things besides the sandwiches, but they are a town specialty," she stated. Nas hummed more to himself than to those around him.

"Sandwiches do beat PokéCenter food, after all," he spoke. Might as well try the sandwiches this place is known for.

"Works for me." Among the many things that Dom was not finicky about was food. He stepped carefully around Elaria, giving her a good two feet of space, which was about as much as the doorway would allow, then led them all to the laundromat.

Given how few clothes they were all carrying, it didn't take long to get everything folded and stowed, and after a final quick check, everyone was ready to go, and they started towards the sandwich shop. "What do they research out here, anyway?" Dom asked, sliding his hands into his pockets as they passed what looked to be a small cluster of scientists on a break. "I mean, I know you said the ruins, but what's the deal supposed to be with them? Are they like the Ruins of Alph?"

"Sort of," Elaria replied. She seemed to contemplate what she was going to say because she remained quiet for a minute. "I'm sure you've heard of the legendary Titans, right?" she asked, glancing at both of them. Nas titled his head, searching his memory for any mention of Titans. Was she referring to the Regi's?

"Like Registeel?" he decided to ask. Lia nodded her head. "I'm vaguely aware of them," he stated, frowning in the process. Unlike his cousin, Nas didn't really read up on the legends and things like that. Sure, his parents told him of the Legendary Beasts of Kanto and Johto, but he stopped paying attention after that.

"According to the scientists, they think they can solve a puzzle that will lead them to the Titans. There is a saying that there is a chamber in the ruins that "the chamber leads to a bridge or portal between our world and the ancient Pokémon world." No one has been able to prove it, though, and other scientists think that the ruins might be a sort of missing shinx. It's really dangerous, though, since trying to enter the ruins causes pieces of it to collapse," she explained. Nas quirked a brow. He doubted there was something like that, but in the offchance there was, he supposed it was interesting enough to research them.

Dom didn't say much, but Nas could tell just from looking at him that he was listening with interest. He'd always been a pretty bookish kid, into adventure stories and historical mysteries, doubly so if they had anything to do with pokémon. Maybe it was the fact that he could see ghosts or something—it must have made it all seem that much more real and possible.

"Maybe they're right," he said at last, offering a small shrug. "The Beasts and Swords of Justice are real, after all. The titans might be, too."

"Yeah, you have a point," Nas replied, nodding in agreement with his cousin. Elaria nodded her head as well.

"There are at least two, or three, other ruins that are being explored. We'll pass by them, eventually. I hear they are a little more accessible than the Oldale ruins, too," she added. Nasir was, surprisingly, looking forward to that. He'd be able to explore ruins and possibly find something that will help him out in his own journey. Ranger or not, knowing a few things about ruins and things like that would, in the long run, help him. At least he hoped it would.

"Let us know when we're close by, then," he said, grinning just slightly. Elaria nodded her head, and returned the grin with a small smile. "So, this sandwich place, what is it known for?" he asked, curious as to why a sandwich place, of all things, was so popular in such a small town.

"It's popular because of their flexible menus. A lot of the scientists that visit come from different regions, and some of them can find a little piece of home, here," she explained, pointing to a small shop. "It's called Home Sweet Home, because of it," she spoke, laughing softly as if she found the name amusing.

"It's not very original, is it?"

"With a name like that, I'd kind of expect them to sell candy or something," Dom admitted, opening the door for the other two and letting them pass in before he followed.

The place wasn't too busy; it was a bit late for most people to be having lunch, probably. A couple was tucked away in one corner; a few people who looked like young scientists or interns worked at some others, pecking away at laptop keyboards, cups of coffee not far off. They ordered and sat, Dom taking the little number-on-a-stick that would let the wait staff know where to find them when their food was ready. In the meantime, they filled their drinks from the fountain and settled into a booth near the front windows, Dom taking the left side first, scooting over as though he expected Nas to take the spot next to him.

Nas grinned, perhaps a little too widely. He could feel it on his own face. Instead of taking the seat next to Dom, Nas walked to the other side of the table, and sat in the middle of the seat. Being as tall as he was, he took up most of the seating. He glanced at Lia, then towards Dom. He almost expected Lia to bring up a chair, however; she immediately took the seat next to Dom. She didn't seem at all fazed by the fact.

"I think we're making good time," she spoke, glancing around, possibly at the clock. "This time tomorrow, we'll be on Route 102, and from there, it'll only be another day before we hit Petalburg," she spoke, still looking unfazed. Either she had a really good pokerface, or she wasn't as easily embarrassed as Dom was. Nas frowned just slightly. That wouldn't benefit him in anyway. As much as he hated being compared to the man, Nas was his father's son, and he enjoyed embarrassing people.

It was his entertainment.

At least Dom seemed to have reacted as expected, subtly shifting away from Elaria until he couldn't really go any further, leaving a comfortable margin of about a foot between them. Well... perfectly comfortable for anyone else, at least. Dominik had always been especially awkward in that respect, and tended to give people a positively old-fashioned about of personal space unless he knew them extremely well and was at ease with them. It was hard to see because of his hair, but the tips of his ears had turned pink.

He took a moment to crunch at some of the ice in his cup before he responded to what she'd said, his eyes slightly narrowed in Nasir's direction. No doubt he knew exactly what he was up to. "Yeah," he said quietly. "Assuming we don't run into any trouble on the road, anyway. I'm guessing we'll find more trainers on that route."

They hadn't really run into any yet, which had stopped them from being stymied by challenges or the need to backtrack to a PokéCenter.

It was taking everything in Nas's willpower not to laugh at his cousin. No doubt Dom could hear him laughing on the inside, at least. "We could use a challenge, though. I feel like Little Cinders hasn't really had a good battle, yet. Training with the family counts in some respect, but I think being pitted against another trainer she's not familiar with will help her out," he spoke, still trying his best not to laugh between words. He was doing a good job so far.

"If you'd like, Mikil, or Ilima, could battle with you, Nasir. We've had a few battles ourselves, already," Elaria chimed in, glancing at Nas. "Traveling from home to Slateport wasn't exactly easy, but I agree. Getting in a few battles would help out a little. I could do the same with you, Dominik," she continued, taking a sip of her drink before turning her attention to Dom.

"Well, maybe I'll take you up on that offer another time," because right now he was having too much fun teasing his cousin.

Dom sighed through his nose, a single irritation-laden word appearing in Nas's mind: Ass.

Sadly, their food arrived before there was much chance to say anything further, and Dom proceeded to ignore him while they ate.

Nas couldn't help but laugh. He almost choked while eating.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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The half-day of walking after their stop in Oldale had been comparatively easy going. A couple battles with trainers, a couple wild pokémon encounters, but overall nothing that the three of them couldn't handle between themselves. It had given Dominik an appreciation for the fact that he wasn't actually doing this by himself. Wild pokémon could be dangerous, and league rules made it hard to turn down trainer challenges—if he'd been by himself, he would have been worried for Saber's health, not to mention the well-being of his new fennekin.

But they'd made it through between them, and were now camped next to the small pond that marked the route's one-third point. A couple other tents were within a half-mile or so, but dusk seemed to represent an informal truce between trainers; a chance for everyone and their pokémon a rest. Dom had stacked wood in their new fire pit, and Mikil had been nice enough to get it going so he didn't have to, so they were finishing up dinner now, the sky overhead fading to deep purples and blues.

With a soft sigh, Dom stretched his legs out in front of him, setting his bowl to the side for a moment. He'd wash it down at the pond later. "Well... guess this is day three done," he mused, turning his had slightly to glance at Nas. "I'd say we're making pretty good progress, yeah?" Of their parents, only Uncle Kas had ever gone on an actual journey, and he was... kind of a weird case for a lot of reasons, so Dom didn't really have any gauge of what counted as fast or slow. He supposed it didn't even really matter.

"I'd say so," Nas agreed, running a hand through his hair to smooth it back. He'd taken it out of its short tail, earlier. "Lia said it'd take about a few days to get to Petalburg, and we're almost there," he continued, flinching slightly as Little Cinders tried to claw at his leg. He pulled her up, and set her on his head, where she sprawled out and mewled happily.

"We'll be there sometime in the afternoon on the day after tomorrow, probably. But considering that we had a few battles, we're making really good progress. Usually battles take up a decent amount of time, even for new trainers," Lia chimed in, poking Ilima in the nose in the process. The eevee made a sound that resembled laughter, and twirled in her spot. Lia smiled and rolled her eyes in good nature.

"Speaking of which," she started, grabbing her pack and rummaging through it. "They're not exactly the rage candy bars you find in Johto, but they're a specialty of mine. I make them myself, and they help give your pokémon energy," she spoke, handing a small bag to Nasir, before handing another one towards Dom.

"So, basically like your own pokémon food," Nas spoke. Lia nodded her head.

Dom wasn't sure he was completely fine with just taking more free stuff from Elaria, but he also felt that putting up an argument about it would be... rude, somehow. So he accepted his bag with a quiet word of thanks, setting it down next to his leg.

Camp was quiet, and now that he was more sure they weren't going to be disturbed here, he reached towards his belt, pinching off the second pokéball back and giving it a short toss. With a flash of red light, his fennekin resolved, large ears flicking back and forth. She blinked big eyes at the group, then sat back on her haunches, clearly not entirely sure what to make of them.

That was, perhaps, understandable. You're all right, he said quietly, into her mind rather than aloud. No one here will hurt you. This part of it was something he already knew how to do, but of course every pokémon responded differently, needed something different from their caretakers, and so he couldn't afford to just assume that he'd be believed.

Leaning forward a bit so he could drape his arms over his knees and make himself a bit smaller, Dom tilted his head at her. What's your name, little girl? He was glad he could speak to her without saying the words out loud; some of it probably would have been embarrassing if anyone else had heard. No doubt it looked a lot like he was just staring her down at the moment, completely silently.

She blinked, though, taking a few tentative steps towards him. Whatever else was true, she didn't seem particularly afraid, just a little on the shy side. Dom held one of his hands out, slowly so he didn't startle her. She stopped a cautious distance away from him, stretching her head forward to sniff at the tips of his fingers. There you go, he said quietly. Nothing to be afraid of here.

He felt a quiet acceptance from her, and she took another step forward, allowing him to pet her large, very warm ears. With another acquiescence, he picked her up and leaned back, settling her in his lap and reaching for the sack Elaria had just given him. Breaking one of the bars into smaller pieces, he cupped a few in his palm and lowered them to her level so she could eat—something she did with a fair amount of enthusiasm.

"Ora," he said out loud. "That's her name." She didn't remember having one of her own, so that would do. Once upon a time, fennekin and its evolutions had been used to read portents and try to tell the future—literal pokémon oracles. So it seemed to fit, to him.

"She's cute," Lia spoke, leaning forward on her knees. Ilima mewled in response, apparently agreeing with her. The eevee made her way towards Dom's legs, where he was holding Ora, and sniffed. She trilled happily, and hopped in a circle in front of him. "Ili, let them be for now. Go bother Mikil," Lia spoke, though she didn't sound mad. More amused than anything, but Ilima complied, and made her way towards Mikil.

"I think it's a fitting name," Nas spoke lazily, leaning back so that he was resting on his hands. "And I agree, she's pretty cute," he continued, earning a disapproving mewl from Little Cinders. She kneaded his head, causing him to hiss. "I didn't say she was as cute as you, though," he stated, pulling the litten from his head so he could rub it.

"Here, eat this," he spoke, pulling out a bar from the bag he'd received earlier, and gave it to Little Cinders. He gave the bag a careless toss to the side, and continued rubbing his head. "So we have Saber, Ora, Little Cinders, Mikil, and Ilima. I think we have ourselves a pretty good setup," Nas stated, nodding his head as if he were being sagely. Lia just smiled and nodded her head, too.

Nas's attention seemed to be taken, though, when Ilima trilled softly. She wasn't near Mikil, but near Nas's bag. There was something pink near the bag as well. "Hey! Put that down!" Nas shouted, falling backwards in his seat. It was an oddly colored sneasel, it looked like. It was holding Nas's bag, the one Elaria had just given him. It looked vaguely alarmed at the sudden noise before grinning in Nas's direction.

"Give it back you little thief!" he continued, standing to give chase. The sneasel, however, merely smirked, and took off. "C'mon Cinders, we need to get that bag back!" he stated, scooping Little Cinders up, and running after the sneasel. Lia blinked slowly before turning her attention towards Dom.

"Well, that was interesting," she stated. "I don't think I've ever seen a sneasel this far out. There must be a cave nearby," she seemed slightly interested in it from the tone of her voice. "I hope he can get his bag back," she continued, apparently a little more amused by the fact that Nas had his bag stolen.

Ora brushed against his mind with a feeling of mild concern—for Nasir, apparently. He shook his head and ran his hand back along her crown to her spine. "Nas is surprisingly resourceful." Dom thought that over for a minute, then snorted softly. "Though he's also surprisingly a big idiot, so I guess the odds are about fifty-fifty. Maybe a little better since Cinders is with him."

Lia snorted before laughing softly. "If you say so," she replied, clearly still amused. "Even if he doesn't get it back, they are not that hard to make. I can make more when we get to Petalburg. I can use my brother's kitchen," she spoke in a nonchalant fashion. Mikil had, by that time, trudged up to her and trilled. She blinked down at the cyndaquil, and tilted her head.

"Really, you're still hungry?" she asked. Mikil trilled again, a little happier this time, before she sighed softly. "At this rate, you'll turn into a little swinub," she spoke, poking his nose in the process. Mikil trilled happily still, as she reached into her bag. She pulled out a smaller, clear bag of what looked like some sort of heart-shaped beans inside. She gave a few to Mikil, watching as he poked her with his nose, and waddled towards Dom.

"I think he wants to share them with Ora," Lia spoke, shaking her head softly and huffing. "They're a specialty of Alola," she continued, as if explaining what the beans were. Before she could say anything else, Nas reappeared, looking a little defeated.

"Man, that sneasel got away," Nas stated, pursing his lips together. "Cinders was no help," he spoke, glancing down at the litten who was currently grooming herself. She looked like she was proud of herself, though, for not helping.

"Next time I'm taking Saber with me. At least he'd help," he muttered, moving towards his bag. He put a few things inside before retaking his seat next to Dom. He still looked upset.

Saber hummed softly from his spot next to Dom, as if in agreement. Of course he'd help, though—he was always looking for a challenge. "Dunno that he'd be much use against a sneasel, though," he pointed out. "He hasn't learned any attack moves except confusion, and double-team would only do so much."

In his lap, Ora reached down to accept Mikil's beans, nudging him in the forehead with her nose by way of thanks, it seemed. She'd taken to all the liveliness of their group with what seemed to be quite a lot of calm and serenity. Probably not a bad way to handle it.

That settled for now, at least, Dom returned his attention to what Elaria had said. "Your brother lives in Petalburg?"

She hummed softly. "He does," she stated, stroking Ilima's fur. Nas still looked upset, but Dom knew his cousin well enough to let him be. Nas would recover, eventually. "He's also the main reason why I was heading to Petalburg in the first place. I have something to drop off to him," she continued, directing her attention towards Dom. Nas, however, seemed a little interested in what she was saying despite that he was still frowning.

"Couldn't you have mailed it to him?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow. "Or is it something that had to be delivered by person?" he continued.

"I could have mailed it, yes, but I figured it'd be easier to deliver in person. Lulu apparently forgot it at home the last time he visited," she explained. Nas hummed softly, though his face was easy to read. He wanted to know what it was. Lia seemed to catch on, though. "It's just a book on Unova. He wants to visit it sometime next year, and wants to know all the best spots. It's nothing interesting," she stated. Nas seemed satisfied with her answer, and went back to sulking.

"Well," Dom said, glancing back down at his lap, where Ora was now dozing lightly. "We should probably get our food in the tree and head to sleep. Maybe tomorrow we'll find the bag thief." He arched an eyebrow in Nasir's direction.

It was a pink sneasel, for goodness' sake. It shouldn't be that difficult to spot, if it put in another appearance.

"Yeah, maybe," Nas muttered, still upset about it. "Stupid pink sneasel," he continued to grumble. It looked like he'd be upset for a while.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero
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Elaria stretched her arms above her head, smiling as she did so. There was a soft 'pop' and she let a relieved sigh escape her. They'd finally reached Petalburg City, and as much as she wanted to rest, she had a book to deliver. A slight shiver went down her back. She'd been avoiding Lucian's calls for the last few days, and she wasn't exactly ready to talk to him. Unlike her other brothers, Lucian always wanted to know everything. He was a nosy person, but he had good intentions.

"If you guys want to rest for a bit, we can head to the Center," she suggested. At least then, it would buy her a couple of hours before she had to meet Lucian. Plus, she really didn't want to introduce him as Petalburg's Gym Leader. There was a reason she left that out.

"That sounds like a good idea. I think I'm getting a blister on my foot," Nasir spoke first, still frowning. Apparently he hadn't stopped sulking about his bag being stolen by the mysterious pink sneasel. "And I could use a quick rinse off," he stated, pulling the front of his shirt and giving it a sniff. Lia snorted softly.

Dominik shrugged. "I won't say no to being clean," he agreed. Not that they were particularly unsanitary—for teenage guys, both of them stayed quite far away from the stereotypes about bad hygiene, but there was only so much anyone could do on the road, after all.

He double-checked the map she'd given him to be sure they were headed in broadly the right direction; Petalburg was a big enough city to have multiple PokéCenters, and also big enough that a lot of the more important directions for trainers were labeled, so it wasn't too hard to find the nearest one. Well, that and Elaria had been here plenty of times before.

They were just about there when a decent-sized crowd appeared ahead, apparently gathered around some sort of display or advertisement or something like that. Dominik, now in the lead, went to give it a wide berth.

Lia pursed her lips as she tried to get a clearer view. Being as tall as she was, it wasn't too difficult, but there were a few people who were taller than her. Nasir didn't seem to have any trouble, though, and he had a quirked brow. "Looks like they're advertising something. Let's go see what it is," he spoke, walking a bit into the crowd. He didn't seem to have any trouble navigating it. It almost seemed like people parted just for him.

"I know them," Lia spoke suddenly. She knew the logo that was being displayed behind the table the people were at. It looked like a pokéball, however; where the red was supposed to be, it was a gunmetal grey hue. There was a large E printed in the middle of it as well in a burnt orange color. "They're a rival company to Devon, and it looks like they're promoting some new gear," she continued. That much was pretty obvious to anyone who could see.

"Welcome ladies and gentlemen," the man spoke first, grinning broadly as he stared out into the crowd. The woman to his left was smiling just as wide, and Lia frowned. "My name is Edward, and this is my lovely assistant, Dinah. We have special treat for you all today," he continued, turning towards the woman. Lia frowned slightly, but she would not deny she wasn't curious. They were rivals to her family's company for a good reason, after all.

Next to her, Dominik looked slightly uncomfortable; one of the people on his other side shifted closer in an attempt to see around what was in front of them, and he shied away, twisting slightly so he wouldn't be touching either the unaware woman in the crowd or Elaria herself. He grimaced.

Dinah took up Edward's conversational threat, beaming out at the crowd and speaking into her microphone. "As part of the launch event for our new Pokégear Series Five, we'll be having a raffle and giving away a ten sets of three brand new S5 Premieres, the top-of-the-line models of our brand-new, not-yet-released Pokégears!"

This close, it was easier to see now that they did indeed have a table on the temporary stage where they'd set up, with still-boxed Pokégears included. If Elaria squinted, she could see that they were the kind designed to look like wristwatches, but a lot sleeker than the normal ones, which had always suffered from being a bit bulky. There were also a few security people around the stage, wearing dark suits and sunglasses, but considering the value of the merchandise, that wasn't too surprising.

"These new models are element-proof, and include loads of features, both familiar and brand-new, including radio reception, video and voice call capability, weather forecasting applications, and a whole lot of other fantastic functionality for the trainer on the go," Edward added.

Dominik snorted. "Selling it a bit hard, aren't they?" he muttered.

"They have to," Elaria replied. "They're competitors of my family's company," she continued, frowning just slightly. "Enigma Corp has been trailing behind Devon for a while, now. Their technology is rivaling Devon's," she knew that much, after all. Nasir quirked a brow in her direction, though.

"How is that? I thought Devon was at the top when it came to technology," Nasir spoke, clearly interested. Elaria pushed a sigh through her nose, and shook her head.

"We were, but Enigma has managed to get a foothold. Their new PokéGear rivals our PokéNavs. Of course, Devon just released an updated version of the Nav, but it's not what Enigma's offering. People are moving more towards Enigma, now," she spoke. Before she could explain any further, Edward spoke.

"The first ninety people will be able to participate in our raffle!" He sounded a little too enthused by the prospect of giving out S5's, however; Elaria didn't have much of a choice on whether or not she wanted to participate. The crowd had shifted suddenly, and she was pushed a bit aways from Nasir and Dominik. She sighed heavily.

"I'd like a chance at getting one. Dad was a big fan of Devon Corp and Steven Stone for a long time. I want to see what all the hype is about with this Enigma place," Nasir spoke, startling Lia for a second. She wasn't expecting him to be behind her. Maybe he'd been able to move ahead in the line because of his height? He did have a bit of an intimidating stature about him, too.

"Once you have your tickets, please move to our holding area. We will announce winners shortly!" Edward spoke, the large grin on his face never moving. It was almost inhuman, how widely he was smiling. Lia had to agree with Dominik's earlier statement: they were trying to sell it... hard. Ninety people was a lot, but the crowd didn't look that large. Perhaps he was trying to draw more people in? It seemed to work as the line grew a little longer.

She reached Dinah, and was handed a ticket. She moved out of Nasir's way, afterward, so that he could get his. "So, my number's 240025, huh," Nas spoke, reading his number out loud. Lia blinked and glanced at the ticket she received.

"I have 240024," she replied, glancing around. "The chances of us getting one are probably not that high, though," she continued. Considering there were ten S5 bundles, and about ninety participants, she highly doubted she would be lucky enough to get one. But since they were in sets, and it looked like the numbers were set up that way as well, perhaps they would be lucky enough to get a set. She wouldn't lie and say she wasn't interested in seeing the technology that rivaled Devon.

Dominik seemed to have disappeared entirely; it wasn't until they'd been given their tickets and moved their way out of the crowd that she managed to spot him again, hands in his pockets and standing well away from the press of people. He nodded slightly as they both approached, apparently having elected not to enter the raffle himself.

"You think they're going to do the drawing immediately?" he inquired, his tone slightly stilted compared to how it had been even earlier this morning. He was oddly formal in his mannerisms sometimes, but not always; as of yet the reason for that wasn't totally clear.

"I would guess so," Nasir spoke, nodding his head in the direction of the line. There were only a few people left. "And of course you didn't get a ticket," he added, glancing at Dominik's hands. Nasir only shook his head, though it looked to be in good nature. "I suppose we'll see if Lia and I were lucky enough to get the winning number," he spoke, placing a hand on her shoulder and tapping it lightly.

"If you, um, say so," she stuttered. She pursed her lips together at the realization, but she was able to shake the embarrassment from her face. Or at least she hoped she did. "I've never really had much luck at drawings," she decided to say, smiling as she shook her head. It was true. Every drawing her school used to do, she'd never have the winning numbers, or something of that nature.

"Alright, ladies and gentlemen. We will begin the drawings here, shortly. Good luck!" Dinah announced it this time, causing Elaria to turn her attention away from Nasir and Dominik. I really hope I get one, she thought. It would be an experience. The first three winning numbers were announced, but none of them matched the ones she or Nasir had. The next three followed in the same sequence, and Elaria could feel her heart drop just a little bit. She should have known better than to have been excited about something like this.

"The final drawing shall commence. Please listen carefully as I list off the numbers," Dinah stated out loud, snapping Lia from her thoughts. "The first three numbers are 2, 4, and 0," she began, causing Lia to look at her own ticket. Those were the same three numbers she had, and shared with Nasir. She could hear a few people sigh in defeat, and spotted a few throwing their tickets away. Her breath hitched in her throat as they read the next two numbers, "0, 2, and the final number is..." Dinah was drawing it out on purpose; Lia could tell by the smile on her face.

"Number five! Will the contestant with the ticket number 240025 please come up," Lia felt her heart sink, but she was also excited. That was Nasir's number. He was already grinning from ear to ear, and it looked like it was going to split his face.

"Oh, yeah, that's right," he stated, running, quite literally, up to Dinah and Edward. They seemed to congratulate him as they handed him the gear, and he made his way back to Elaria and Dominik.

"Congratulations, Nasir," she stated, congratulating him on his win. Nasir just continued to beam at the two of them.

Dominik rolled his eyes slightly, but he was smiling a bit, too. "This guy has all the luck," he informed Elaria. "He always has. Pretty much any time he enters a drawing or some kind of blind contest... probably better if he's kept away from casinos for the rest of his life."

"Hey, that's just mean," Nasir spoke, though he said it with a large grin. "But you're not lying. I do have good luck. I blame my dad," he muttered the last part. Elaria just shook her head.

"Regardless, you won, luck or not," she spoke, watching as Nasir cradled the bundles in his hands. He was fumbling with them, moving them all to one hand. Once his left hand was free, he tapped his chin with it.

"Well there are three of them," he started, a sort of sly grin crossing his face. "I wonder who I should give the other two, to," he continued, the grin growing just slightly. Lia blinked slowly, realizing just as slow, his implication.

"Oh, um. They're yours to do whatever you want with, Nasir. Whom you decide to give them to, should be up to you," she was stating the obvious. It's not like she was going to try and wager something for one of them. They belonged to Nasir, and if he wanted to give them one of his prizes, she wasn't going to tell him to whom he should.

"You sound like my mom," he snorted, giving one a soft toss in Dominik's direction. "But you're right, I can give them to whomever I want, and right now, I'm giving one to Dom and you. Gotta share the luck, after all," he stated, flashing a toothy grin. Lia merely blinked in mild surpise at his proffered hand.

"Oh, but I can't really take this from you, Nasir. It's yours. What if you find someone else you want to give it to?" she really shouldn't accept it.

"Well, then I'll just enter another lottery if they have one," he spoke. That didn't sound like good logic, but Lia sighed in defeat. He didn't look like he was going to back down from it, and she wasn't going to challenge him about it.

"If you insist," she stated, a strange feeling passing through her chest. Was it excitement? Probably. "Mahalo, Nasir," she thanked him, and took the offered S5.

"You're welcome, too, Dom."

"Hey, I was going to say thank you," Dominik replied, entirely without actual reproach. He accepted one of the packages as well; it looked like he'd chosen the red-and-black one. Each of them had a slightly different color scheme, probably on purpose. At least they wouldn't get confused with each others' this way. "Huh. Looks like they have the numbers, too. We should probably all enter ours, right?" With care, he extracted the device from its packaging; it looked like they came with batteries already in, since the screen lit up briefly when he turned his on.

"That's a good idea," Nasir spoke, doing the same. Unlike Dominik's, Nasir's device was green and silver. Lia glanced down at the one she had, and smiled. Hers was a pink-and-purple one. "Oh, it looks like it can sync up with a nearby device," Nasir spoke, holding out his device. Lia glanced over, and noticed that he was right. It was blinking with at least three other devices in range.

"I guess it's supposed to make registering numbers, easier," it was the only thing she could think of. Not that it was a chore typing in numbers, but if the gear was able to just sync up with another one, it'd be easier to register numbers. "It looks like," she paused, glancing at her own device. She found the number she wanted, and pointed it out on Nasir's device. "This one is mine," she continued. He hummed before clicking on the number. The device made a ping sound, and Nasir's face lit up.

"That was easier than I thought it was going to be. Your turn, Dom," he stated, turning towards Dominik. Lia had registered Nasir's number at the same time. Once all three of them exchanged numbers, Lia smiled.

"Mahalo, again, Nasir. I think we should go find that center, now," because she wanted to play with her device a bit longer. She felt just a little bad for having an Enigma item, but she just had to remind herself it was for research.

"Looks like we have charge cables, too," Dominik added, holding up what looked to be his own. "Even if they last a long time, we'll want to make sure they're fully charged before we leave, so we can probably use the Center's outlets for that." They'd been close to begin with; he nodded in the direction they'd been headed. The obvious red roof was just barely visible from where they were standing, and it didn't take more than another couple of minutes before they were heading in through the sliding glass doors.

As soon as they walked through the doors, Lia felt a shiver go down her spine.

Oh, no.

"Lia?" a voice called out to her. An all too familiar voice that she was trying to avoid. "Lia! You said you weren't going to be in town for another day!" Lia grimaced slightly, but did her best not to let it show on her face. "And why haven't you answered any of my calls?" he asked, sounding just the slightest bit upset. Lia didn't even bat an eyelash at that.

"Nasir, Dominik, this is Lucian, my oldest brother," she was going to ignore his earlier statements. It didn't seem to faze Lucian, though, since he made his way to where they were standing. He didn't even hesitate to wrap her in a hug that could have rivaled a Bewear's. She coughed slightly, before manuevering herself out of his hug.

"I've seen your face somewhere," Nasir spoke, glancing at Lucian with a hint of familiarity. He probably recognized Lucian from the Gym Leader's magazine, though he probably knew him as Sterling.

"Somehow I'm not surprised that your brother and the Gym Leader are the same person." Dominik had probably paid more attention to that kind of thing, given the deadpan certainty with which he said it. "You could have mentioned that, you know." He didn't sound accusatory or anything; his tone was rather flat, which wasn't uncommon with him. If anything, there was a bit of sympathy to his expression, or pity, maybe, for the force of the hug she was enduring.

He had a point. Lia shook her head, though. "It's complicated," was the only thing she could say. "Lulu is Sterling, Petalburg's Gym Leader. Now you know," she continued. Nasir mouthed an 'oh', and shrugged.

"I'm Nasir Rheinallt. I guess it's nice to meet you, Lucian," he stated, though he didn't make any effort to shake hands or anything like that. He just had a slack way of standing, as if he weren't too interested in what was going on.

"It's always nice to meet Elaria's friends. I'm Lucian Stone, also known as—"

"They already know who you are, Lulu. I just told them," she stated, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "What are you doing here, anyway? Shouldn't you be at home, or at the gym?" she asked, directing the attention away from Nasir and Dominik. She knew Lucian would, sooner or later, get into his questioning mode. She wanted to save Nasir and Dominik from that.

"Oh, the Gym's currently closed. It's being remodeled, and I'm here because Mumu needed her check up," he stated, pointing to his head. Lia followed his hands and spotted the pyukumuku. She just gave Lucian a flat look.

"Why are you remodeling it?" it wasn't due for an upgrade, after all. Lucian just grinned.

"Enigma offered, at a discount, to install a new security system and battle-recording system. It's top-notch." Now she knew why her dad wasn't on good terms with Lucian.

"You're an idiot," she spoke before realizing she wasn't alone. It was true, though. Nasir snorted, but he didn't say anything.

Dominik blinked. "I'd have thought you had it top-of-the-line already with Devon tech," he observed, blinking with what seemed to be surprise. Oddly enough, the pokémon on her brother's head seemed to register as completely normal to him by comparison. "When do you think it'll be back up and running?"

Lucian pursed his lips together, and Lia could tell he was a little unnerved by the first statement. "Dad didn't tell you?" he directed the question to Lia. She just continued to give him a flat look. "Lia's probably told you this, but Enigma and Devon have been rivals for a few years, now. Enigma has actually caught up to Devon, and with this new technology, they are on the verge of passing them. It's only a matter of time," he explained, causing Lia to purse her lips into a fine line.

"But that still doesn't mean anything, Lucian. Dad's really upset with you, right now," she stated. Lucian heaved a heavy sigh, and ran his hand through his hair. He was careful enough not to hit Mumu, though.

"I know, kika, but just because we're Stones doesn't mean we have to be Stones. Look at Sebastian," he stated, shaking his head. Lia just sighed heavily. "And to answer your question, the Gym will be ready in about a month or two," he stated, turning his attention towards Dominik. "Are you both trainers?" he asked. Nasir shook his head.

"I'm training to be a ranger," he answered, giving the same lop-sided grin he'd given them earlier.

"I'm a trainer, though," Dom said, tilting his head slightly to the side. He looked momentarily uncertain of something, then extended a hand towards Lucian. "Dominik Nero. It's an honor to meet you." His expression didn't change much, but there was something sincere about it—he wasn't just being polite, anyway.

"Nice to meet you, too, Dominik," Lucian replied, stretching out his hand as well. Lia could tell the shake was a little awkward, but Lucian didn't seem to mind either way. "I'll be looking forward to your challenge when you get enough badges," he continued, giving Dominik a knowing smile. Lia didn't bother hiding the fact that she rolled her eyes. Lucian was a bit much, sometimes.

"If you all are planning to stay the night, you all are welcome to use my house. I have a spare room at the gym that's not in the way of the remodel," he stated.

"You'd let us use your house? What kind of family are you?" Nasir spoke, causing Lia to blink in slight confusion. "First, she wants to travel with us. Us, and now you are offering your house as a place to stay. Us. You don't even know who we are, so why would you do that?" he stated, and for once, Lia knew what his logic was. Nasir had a point.

"Well, you and Dominik are Lia's friends, right? I don't see the harm in it, and my house is only a block away from the gym. It's not like you are putting me out of a home, or anything," he replied.

"I don't know," Nasir spoke, turning to Dominik as if he were seeking advice.

"Uh..." Dominik looked rather like he wished Nasir wasn't asking for his advice on the topic, but in the end, he shrugged. "I mean... bathroom's probably nicer than the one here, right?" He cleared his throat, glancing back at Lucian. "Er... not that we're ungrateful for the hospitality and so on. If you're really all right with it, we'd appreciate the chance to rest a little better."

Nasir shook his head, but his shoulders seemed to slump. "You've a point, I guess. And it would be nice to sleep on an actual bed, and not these cots they offer," he spoke, causing Lucian to smile.

"With that settled, Lia, here are the keys," he stated, searching his pockets, it seemed, for the said item.

"There's no need for that, Lulu. You still keep the spare in that fake rock by your Mime Jr. statue. Those are going to get stolen, one of these days, just so you know," she replied, placing a hand on his arm so that he would stop digging for his keys. "Mahalo, Lucian. You really should call dad, though," she stated, leaning on her toes to give him a quick kiss on his cheek.

"Eventually. Oh, also, don't let Mikil near Igloo's room," he stated, causing Lia to snort softly.

"Yeah, I'll make sure Mikil doesn't try to burn it down, again," she stated, shaking her head.

"It was nice meeting the both of you. Say goodbye before you all leave, alright? And Lia, make sure you answer your phone when I call," he stated, pulling her into a slightly easier hug, and placing a kiss on the top of her head. She rolled her eyes, but gave him a quick hug in return. Once Lucian was out of sight, Lia gave Nasir and Dominik an apologetic glance.

"And I thought my older siblings were weird."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero Character Portrait: Ainsley Hughes
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Ugh.

This was why she spent most of her time behind huge aviator sunglasses and dressed in loose cardigans and leggings.

But she'd thought she'd be perfectly fine for a short jog before they hit the road again this morning without—so she'd donned workout clothes that hugged a little more and left off the sunglasses, pulling her buttery-blonde hair into a ponytail that hid nothing of her face.

Big mistake.

“Are you sure? I mean, you look just like her, really."

No, you nosy asshole, I'm not totally sure who I am and just randomly guessed at the answer to your question. Good of you to point that out. Never mind that she was lying to him—she'd clearly stated that she was not the celebrity he was looking for, and he just wasn't taking no for an answer. Inwardly, Ainsley sighed. She didn't want to make a scene here—that would only invite even more questions, and might stop a couple of the pedestrians starting to filter out onto the street for whatever business got them up in the morning.

Whelp, time to bust out the ol' acting chops. Pasting a slightly-oblivious smile on her face, she beamed at the creep. He had to be like twice her age—the middling suit and discount haircut said wage-worker; that was actually less bad. He'd probably have felt more entitled if he were also rich. At least so far all he'd done was act like he didn't believe her claims not to be, well... herself.

So she beamed a sunny smile at him and shrugged, letting herself look almost sheepish. "It's really flattering that you think I look like an actress," she said, rubbing at the back of her shin with the top of her other running shoe. "But really, I'm not. And I've gotta get going; I'm supposed to be meeting my boyfriend for brunch, so..." Hopefully the mention of a boyfriend would send him packing. It was fucking stupid that that was what it took with some people, but Ainsley was practical about her own safety before anything else, and she'd say she had six boyfriends if that was what it took to get this guy off her case without a fuss.

Unfortunately, the move seemed to have backfired. “Boyfriend, huh? Yeah, I guess a girl like you probably gets chased by a lot of guys, right? What's he do?"

She resisted the urge to cringe. I'm sixteen, assface. If I'm dating in my own age bracket he probably doesn't 'do' anything yet. That kind of answer wasn't going to get rid of him though, so Ainsley picked something vaguely intimidating.

"Professional fighter. Martial arts, you know. Boxing, that kind of thing. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm really going to be late—" She smiled, nodded, and made to resume her jog.

His hand closed around her upper arm. Ainsley pushed a breath out through her teeth. Oh, buddy, you are so lucky I'm trying not to make a scene here. I it had been any other situation, she'd either have laid him out herself, gone for the pokéball on her belt, or else started screaming for help. But she really didn't want to spend the rest of the day at a police station—she just wanted to leave town and keep on to Rustboro.

“C'mon, babe, don't be like that." He raised an eyebrow at her. “This guy of yours doesn't sound quite like a real person, you know? I think you're just trying to get away here."

If anything, Ainsley smiled wider. "If you think I want to leave, why are you trying to stop me?" The words dripped with false sweetness.

Before he could form his answer, a sound slightly ahead caught their attention.

There was a tall guy, probably a couple of years older than Ainsley herself, standing at least a yard or two away. It looked like he'd just tripped over something, however; he seemed to catch himself pretty well. He dusted off his shirt, which was just a plain white muscle shirt, and grinned at the people behind him. There was another guy and a girl who fit the same age bracket as the first one.

"I guess all that morning training had its perks," he spoke. They were close enough that Ainsley could hear their conversation. "Still didn't like waking up in the mornings for it, though," he continued, pursing his lips just slightly.

"I'm sure it'll pay off in other ways, too, Nasir. We will be hitting parts of Hoenn with rougher terrain, after all," the girl spoke, giving way to the white-haired boy's name. He merely shrugged his shoulders.

Ainsley had learned pretty early in her career that there was no secret to success. You just had to work hard, not overestimate yourself, and seize opportunity when it arose. Preferably before you missed it.

She'd learned also how to get a read on people, and something about the group was giving her good vibes. Maybe it was mostly that they weren't this guy. But now she needed to decide—quickly—which one of them would be most likely to help.

Sadly, the woman was out, since she'd said 'boyfriend.' Either of the other two looked imposing enough to be a professional fighter, luckily enough, but something about the dark-haired one screamed 'socially awkward.' It was in the way he held himself, shoulders slightly rounded forward, eyes fixed somewhere between the ground and the actual height of him. That left the last guy—the really tall one with the snowy hair.

Hello, tall dark and handsome opportunity.

Here was hoping this worked. The fact that she'd overheard his name was certainly helpful. "Nasir! There you are, love; I'm sorry I'm late!" Either surprise or something else loosened the interloper's grip on her temporarily, but before she could slide out from under it, it tightened again, and she suppressed the urge to sigh. If they played along, she might be able to get out of this without further incident.

The dark-haired guy's eyes snapped up, locking onto her with something almost like alarm. Maybe he'd figured out something was wrong? He immediately glanced towards the other one. "Looks like we found her, Nas."

She could have kissed him for that. Now to hope his friend got the hint.

Nasir blinked slowly, before a large grin spread over his face. "Hey, no worries. We weren't going to leave without you, you know," he replied, making his way closer to her. His eyes went to the interloper's hand, and seemed to harden a bit. The smile never left his face, though. "Is there something you need her for, or do you plan on releasing my girlfriend, here? Personally, I'd prefer it if you did release her, but I'm sure you just wanted to ask her something, right?" Nasir continued, though there was something vaguely similar to a threat behind his tone of voice.

"Otherwise you wouldn't be touching her like that, right?" he continued in the same vein.

For a second, Ainsley feared that the asshole would press his luck, but Nasir's height—and damn, was he tall—and build seemed to make him think twice about it, obvious age gap notwithstanding. “Sorry, man," he said, releasing Ainsley's arm and taking a step back. “Must'a confused her for someone else."

Ainsley had a lot to say about the fact that he was apologizing to her supposed boyfriend and not her, but she kept all of it locked firmly behind her teeth. The important part was that he was leaving now, and as soon as he'd vanished from sight, she let out a long sigh of relief. "Thanks," she said, tilting her head back the distance it took to meet his eyes. "Didn't mean to put you on the spot like that, but some people really can't take a hint, am I right?" She beamed a smile at him, turning it on his companions as well.

"Super-grateful for the save, you guys, I mean it."

"Eh, guys like him put a sour taste in my mouth," Nasir spoke, rubbing his chin in an absent-minded manner. "But you're welcome, I suppose. I'm Nasir, by the way, and this is my cousin, Dominik," he introduced himself, and then pointed to the dark-haired boy, who nodded. Definitely shy, like she'd figured.

"I'm Elaria," the girl spoke, introducing herself as well. "Are you sure you're alright, though? It looked like he had a tight grip on your arm," she sounded a little concerned for Ainsley.

She nodded. "It's fine. worst case scenario it bruises a little, but he was trying to hit on me, not hurt me." She shrugged and tilted her head. "I'm Ai, by the way." She offered her hand forward, first to Dominik who shook with such delicacy she almost laughed at him, and then to Elaria, and finally to Nasir.

"Thanks for being my fake boyfriend." A pause, and then an idea struck her. "So I know our meeting was a lie and all, but can I actually take you guys for brunch or something? To say thanks."

"Uh," Nasir seemed a little lost for words for a second. He glanced towards his companions, and then back to Ainsley. "I don't see why not?" he stated it as a question rather than a definitive answer. He looked almost unsure of how to answer her question. "We were heading to Rustboro, but I guess we can stay a little longer for some brunch," he continued, seemingly setting on his answer.

"Considering you ate a large breakfast, I guess I'm not all too surprised you'd be hungry at this time," Elaria spoke to Nasir, first, before she turned towards Ainsley. "And considering we'll be on the road for a while, one last good meal wouldn't hurt," she stated. Nasir looked to feign a hurt look.

"Be still my aching heart. And here I thought you liked my cooking," he spoke, but it was obvious he was joking.

Ainsley found herself smiling. "Excellent. Follow me." She turned smartly on her heel, deciding to abandon her run for now and get brunch instead. The place she took them to wasn't far, and the atmosphere was casual enough that no one spared her clothes a second glance. They weren't so different from everyday trainer gear, after all.

She handed over her check card to the waiter and told him to keep a running tab, not wanting anyone to feel like they couldn't order more if they wanted it. It wasn't until the first round of food was in front of them—Ainsley had ordered crepes suzette—that she resumed the conversation fully. "So, I guess you're all on journeys, too, then?" she asked, neatly slicing into the first of her rolled columns of deliciousness. Her ponytail fell over her shoulder when she leaned down to take a bite.

"Yeah," Dominik spoke first, since he hadn't tried to eat yet, taking a sip from his orange juice instead. "At this point the divide is sort of academic since we're all really new, but I'm going to be a trainer, Nasir's a ranger in training, and Elaria wants to be a breeder."

She grinned. "That's cool—you've got a variety. And you all know what you want to do. I'm still trying to figure it out, myself. I was heading to Rustboro, since there's a Contest Hall there. I thought I'd see what it was all about."

"My older sister is in the works to becoming a coordinator," Nasir spoke, poking at his food. "I know she's in Hoenn, but I don't know if she'll be in Rustboro when we get there," he continued before taking a bite of his food.

"My older brother is actually the Top Coordinator. He says its fun if that's something you're interested in, but it's a lot of hard work," Elaria chimed in. She hadn't ordered anything to eat, yet, besides the lemonade she was drinking.

"Yeah, but that's with anything you're trying to do. Unless you're like Ami and just have that natural talent," he muttered, sounding slightly bitter. "You said you're heading to Rustboro, right?" Nasir spoke, quirking his eyebrow just slightly.

"We're headed that way too," he stated, taking a bite out of his chocolate cake. "If you want, you can come with us," he continued in a nonchalant fashion. He choked a bit and hit his chest a few times. "At least until we're out of Petalburg so that creep doesn't come back around," he seemed to clarify at what he originally meant.

Ainsley considered that for a moment. Probably if she was in a group like this, she'd be less likely to attract the wrong kind of attention, at least. Of course, that was assuming they were trustworthy, which wasn't a guarantee by any means. But... they did seem nice, and like interesting people to boot, which wasn't exactly a common combination in her life at least. Chewing over her crepe, she allowed herself to consider it.

"Well... I mean if we're all walking in the same direction anyway, I feel like it'd be silly not to walk together. Company makes the trip go faster, right? I know I don't look like much, but I can pull my weight at a campsite, too; I have my own tent and supplies and everything, so if you don't mind I'd like to go with you as far as Rustboro?" She glanced between them. "Unless I'm imposing, in which case feel free to tell me so."

It was clear to Ainsley that Dominik and Nasir were close—they'd been introduced as cousins, but they also seemed like friends, or maybe brothers, even. Elaria, she was less certain about, but she didn't think she'd be interrupting anything especially tight-knit overall. Maybe she'd be the balancing fourth wheel in the dynamic, even, instead of an odd hanger-on. And if not, well... Rustboro wasn't that far away.

"I don't think you'd be imposing at all, though it would be nice to balance out the group a bit," Elaria spoke, smiling a bit awkwardly. It was apparent she seemed a little nervous around Ainsley, but it was unclear as to why. Nasir just shrugged his shoulders.

"She's only been traveling with us since Slateport. She's kind of in the same boat," Nasir stated, nodding his head in Elaria's direction. She nodded as well as if to confirm what Nasir had said. "And it would make dark and gloomy over there, feel a little better if there was another girl around," Nasir stated, grinning in Dominik's direction. He snickered softly, as if he'd found his own statement amusing.

"Another anyone but you, actually," Dominik replied smoothly, though his ears were turning adorably pink.

Ainsley giggled. It seemed her estimation of these people as interesting wasn't far off the mark at all. "Well then," she said, raising her glass to chin height and pinching the straw between her first two fingers. "Count me in."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero Character Portrait: Ainsley Hughes
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Nasir covered his mouth, trying to surpress a yawn. He failed, but at least it was covered. Spring was almost in full session; it was easy to tell by all the foilage around. The leaves were in between a deep and forest green, and the sky was almost free of clouds. Nas sighed as he rubbed Little Cinders's head, earning a distressed mewl. He chuckled, and glanced behind him at the group. Ai had joined them on their way to Rustboro, and Nas felt like their little group was, oddly, complete. Not that she, or Elaria for that matter, would be with them past Rustboro.

He had to take the little victories in life where he could get them, especially if it meant teasing Dom. That was always fun. Getting to Route 104 had been relatively easy after Petalburg, though it would be at least four or five days before they got to Rustboro. It was long, considering that there was a wooded area in the middle. At least that's what it said on the map. The day was still young, though, and they could probably cross a large distance as long as no one was tired.

"So, how big is Petalburg Woods?" he decided to direct the question to Elaria since she knew a little more than he did. She hummed a thoughtful tune before she glanced at him.

"It's not that big, but if you're not careful, you can get lost for days in there. I heard they put up trail markers, but since there are so many wild pokémon, they get lost or torn off. There are a lot of trainers, though, who like to train in the area," she replied. She was holding onto Mikil who seemed quite content to be dangling from her arms. He was a strange pokémon, but then again, Nas supposed he was used to it.

"It's not like we can't use the challenges," he muttered. Even if he wasn't going to be a trainer in the same sense as Dom, he still needed to get battle experience. Battling Dom wasn't quite the same thing, after all.

Ai, by far the shortest in the group, had to take about two strides for every one of Nasir's, and looked to be carrying more gear than Elaria, including the promised second tent, but she didn't seem to have any difficulty keeping up. They'd stopped by the PokéCenter again so she could grab her things and change, and she was now in a loose plaid flannel shirt in light blue over a sleeveless black one and a decently-sturdy looking pair of denim shorts. Her boots were practical for hiking; it seemed she wasn't totally at a loss for what to do on long stretches of travel like this.

She adjusted her overlarge sunglasses at the mention of battles. "That's true for me, too," she said, glancing down at the zorua who cavorted around as they walked. Her pokémon, apparently. She'd told them his name was Jet. "I haven't done much battling yet, so I'm still getting used to some parts of it."

"Can't say the same for myself," Elaria spoke. Nas laughed lightly. Out of the four of them, she probably had the most experience at battling, considering she came down from Lavaridge. That didn't mean she was good at it, though. Maybe she was, but Nas couldn't say for certain. He hadn't seen her battle, after all. Even when they were on their way to Petalburg, Nas and Dom had done most of the battling. She had been taking notes, it seemed. "Mikil and Ilima were a big help getting to Slateport," she continued, glancing towards the eevee who was, apparently, mimicking Jet.

"Yeah, but you don't count, Lia. And you said there were trainers in Petalburg Woods, right? We'll be getting some training in, I bet," he stated, stretching his arm over his head. He was trying to pop it, but it didn't work, so he let it fall to his side. "And unlike you and Dom, I only have one pokémon. Same as Ai, there," he stated, jabbing his thumb in her direction.

"You might find some in Petalburg Woods. Like I said, it's full of wild pokémon, so you might get lucky at catching something," Lia stated, looking somewhat amused. Nas merely frowned.

"What I want to catch, is that little thief," he muttered. That pink sneasel had taken off with his bag, and even though Elaria made him another one, he was still a little peeved about it.

Jet, apparently taking notice of the eevee copying his motions, gave a little zorua grin. "Not again," Ai muttered, and it was soon clear exactly why. With a shimmer, the little black fox pokemon disappeared, a second eevee now standing where he once was. "A little actor, this one. Likes to pretend to be anything that catches his fancy." She shook her head, stirring her thick twin tails, then rolled her eyes. Ilima seemed ecstatic about it, though, and trilled just as happily.

"But you were saying something about a thief?"

Dom snorted. "Yeah. The least subtle thief ever. A sneasel. Nas went chasing after it and somehow managed to lose it."

Ai blinked, her eyes focusing slightly to her left for some reason. "This sneasel," she said, tilting her head. "Any chance it was bright pink?" Lifting one arm, she pointed slightly off the path, near the treeline.

Nasir, following Ai's arm, felt his brows furrow. "You little shit head! Give me back my bag!" he shouted. He knew he shouldn't have done that, since the sneasel glanced in his direction. For a moment, the sneasel blinked, and Nas swore he could see a smirk on its face. Before he could even register what was happening, he'd taken off after it. Sneasel, not at all startled, jumped into the trees, and began tree hopping.

"You're not getting away, this time!" he shouted, running as fast as he could. Nas wouldn't call himself an olympic sprinter, but he knew he could run pretty damn fast. Sneasel, however, seemed to be slightly faster, and was at least a few yards ahead of him. It wasn't long before Nas lost the sneasel, and he cursed beneath his breath.

"I'm going to get you, you little shit," he muttered, straightening out his posture. He'd bent over to catch his breath. It wasn't much longer that everyone caught up to him, and Nas turned to frown at them.

"It got away, didn't it," Lia spoke first, but she didn't seem to be questioning him. It was a statement more than anything.

"Yeah, that sneasel was pink. To be fair, he stole my bag of food for Cinders, here," although Nas wasn't certain she really cared about it. It was as if she knew she was going to get another bag, eventually.

"Maybe don't alert it to your presence next time, Mr. Future Ranger. Aren't you supposed to be all in tune with the wilderness and stuff?" If anything, Dom seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to tease Nasir for his persistent lack of success with respect to this endeavor.

"Shut up, Dom."

Ai grinned, flashing bright teeth. "I dunno. It's kind of honorable, calling out your opponent before the chase. Very chivalrous of you, Snowy." She winked, one of her bright blue eyes disappearing for just a second.

Lia laughed softly as Nas pursed his lips. "Can't say the same thing about that damn sneasel. If it was as honorable, it'd FIGHT ME LIKE A POKÉMON!" he shouted the last words hoping the sneasel would hear him. He doubted it'd be able to, considering that he lost it. Lia and Ai were laughing a little louder, probably because of his antics. Before he could say anything further, Nasir felt a thump at the back of his head. It didn't hurt, and if he didn't know any better, he'd have thought it was a gust of air.

"What the...," he trailed off, glancing down. There, at his feet, was the bag that had been stolen from him. It was, obviously, empty, but it was there nonetheless. Nasir blinked in confusion.

"Maybe you should start calling it out more often," Lia spoke.

"That's not how it's supposed to work." He was quite sure pokémon didn't just return things on their own.

"I'm pretty sure it's taunting you," Dom put in, a rare small smile playing at the corner of his mouth. "Throwing down the gauntlet, if you will. I'm guessing your challenge is accepted... in a way."

Nasir blinked. He supposed that made more sense. "Challenge accepted! Just know I'm going to win!" he stated loudly. It wasn't quite a shout, but it'd have to do for now. "Now that that's settled, I guess we should keep going," because he was going to start searching for that sneasel, now.

"We still have plenty of sunlight," Lia spoke, seemingly calmed down from her fit of laughter. "At the pace we're going now, we might be able to reach the woods in a few more hours. The first half of Route 104 is really short. The woods and upper half are what take the longest," she continued. Nasir nodded his head.

"Maybe we'll get challenged along the way," because that seemed like an exciting prospect, now.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero Character Portrait: Ainsley Hughes
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Another day, another trek through the wilderness.

Dom supposed he could see how some people might grow tired of it after a while; definitely he was missing having daily access to a shower and soap, among other things. But there was part of him that felt like it could do this forever—and that was admittedly the bigger part.

This morning had dawned a little chillier than the others, and the group had dressed accordingly. His gloved hands were stuffed into the front pockets of his jacket, itself layered over a slate-colored hooded sweatshirt. He preferred this kind of weather, honestly. He wasn't sure how they'd do come winter, but that was a long way off yet. They had an entire summer to get through first, and the better part of spring.

Cresting a hill, he paused a moment to survey the landscape in front of him. They'd be entering Petalburg Woods proper now—everything before them was trees, as far as he could see. No doubt there would be a lot of different pokémon to see inside, and that was exciting too: the opportunity to make new friends, build a team, start putting into action all the ideas he had about how to raise and train them. Ideas gleaned from watching his parents and other relatives, from talking with some pokémon themselves, from reading and thinking carefully about potential strategies, and all of it. He was afraid of what would happen if he screwed it up, too, but he'd done all he could to make sure that wouldn't happen, and the most important thing now would be keeping an open mind and gauging the moods and reactions of his team as well as he could. Ora had settled in admirably so far, and she and Saber both walked with him at the moment, occasionally ranging ahead to explore a bit. He wasn't too worried, considering the telepathic links that remained even when they were out of sight.

One thing he hadn't expected to deal with on the way was the presence of other people except Nas. Dominik was sort of a loner by nature—or, well, maybe it was better to say he was awkward, since he honestly didn't mind people so much as they made him profoundly uncomfortable. Especially girls, for... various reasons he was sure were mostly his fault.

He wasn't sure that was exactly different with these two, though he couldn't say it had been especially bad thus far. Both Elaria and Ai were very polite, he'd noticed, and accepted their fair share of camp chores without needing to be asked, and didn't in general do anything that made him especially uncomfortable. Maybe it really was just a matter of getting away from the island and all the troubles he'd had there. He couldn't say. Elaria was... well, he was just going to have to deal with the fact that he couldn't seem to relax around her, because it wasn't her fault. Ai was so pretty it was almost difficult to believe she was an actual person, but more than that she reminded him of... something. Someone. He didn't know why, but there was something the slightest bit familiar about her, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

She walked next to him now, a puffy down vest in soft pink layered on over a black and white thermal turtleneck. Her zorua stuck close to her, except when he wandered off to try and play with one of the others, something which mostly seemed to involve disguising himself as one of them. Turning, she caught him studying her; he tried not to blush, but he could feel the heat at the tips of his ears. He hadn't meant anything by it.

Oddly, she seemed either not to have noticed or to have dismissed his awkward scrutiny completely, because she smiled, unfazed. "Confession time," she said, tucking her hands into her vest pockets. She'd painted her nails light blue. "I've never actually been in a forest by myself before. So I'm pretty glad you guys are here, honestly."

Nas was either not too bothered by the cold, or he'd just elected not to wear something warm. He was dressed in a pair of khaki cargo pants, and a plain black shirt. He did, however, have on a knitted wool cap. It was a pale green color that didn't really match what he was wearing. He glanced down at Ai, and seemed to be contemplating her statement.

"Well, I got lost in Viridian Forest when I was a kid. Mom said it was because I wandered away from the camp to chase a caterpie. Lithe found me a day later, though I think they let me get lost on purpose. A training exercise is what they called it," he stated, without batting an eyelash. He rolled his shoulders out as if to loosen them up, jostling Little Cinders as he did. Perhaps she was the reason why he wasn't as cold?

"And somehow he still ended up wanting to be a ranger," Dom added, feeling himself almost smile. He probably shouldn't find actually making the expression as difficult as he did, but that was the way things were. He suspected it was an inherited problem.

Elaria, who was holding Mikil, was paying attention to what was being said. She was dressed a little warmer as well, with only a light blue turtleneck that seemed a little snug. She looked like she was thinking of how to answer Ai's question, if the chewing on her bottom lip was anything to go by. "I've never really been inside of a forest," she finally answered. "Mama used to take us camping, but never really in forests or woods. It was mostly mountain sides, though I suppose there isn't much of a difference," she continued.

"Well, guess it'll be a new experience for both of us then. Let's get going, shall we?" Ai stepped down from the top of the hill first, Jet right on her heels for the moment. Dom could sense a bit of anxiety wafting off her, like a darkened cloud, but she was doing such a good job of hiding it that he almost wondered if he'd mistaken the source somehow.

In any case, he didn't want to get left behind, so he followed, entering the treeline just behind her as the path grew thinner under their feet. The route was less certain here, more a glorified stantler trail than anything. Footprints off to the side of it spoke to the passage of more than a few trainers and pokémon recently, which wasn't a surprise, considering that the spring was the traditional time of year to start a journey. No doubt that evidence would become less and less frequent as time wore on and more people called it quits. Journeys varied wildly in length depending on the person. Some went back home after as little as a few weeks or a month; others could be at it for years, including the majority of the world's competitive battlers. One year was the average.

Over their heads, the canopy gradually grew thicker, until the light from the sun overhead had dimmed to a permanent twilight, made all the more mysterious by the quiet. There were birds in the trees, to be sure, and the rustle of the leaves with every slight breeze, but it was so much quieter than the city, or even the normal roads. Probably something to do with the acoustics, he decided: the vegetation would stop most sounds from getting too far. Here and there, shafts of brighter sunlight made it to the forest floor, filtering in through breaks in the leaf cover overhead. The ground cover was lush, a mix of new grasses and old needles and leaves, mostly. It was almost cushiony under his feet, though he wouldn't necessarily want to take a fall under it, even so.

"Pretty," Ai murmured, reaching out to touch the bark of a pale birch tree as they passed it. "Sometimes I forget that things like this even exist in the world. Lived too long in cities, I guess."

"You haven't mentioned where you're from," Dominik observed, though he didn't go so far as to ask. If she didn't want to say, as far as he was concerned she didn't have to. They were missing a lot of information about her actually: her last name, birthplace, any personal details at all. Then again, it hadn't been that long, and no one here was really the prying type.

Well, except Nas. But Dom was likely to be the only victim of that unless and until they got to know the other two quite a bit better than they did.

"Kalos," she replied, with a nonchalant shrug, though he felt her anxiety spike for a moment. Strange.

“Kalos? Oh, I heard it's like a really beautiful megalopolis over there," Elaria spoke, her eyes widening just slightly in interest. “It's supposed to be really gorgeous this time of year, too," she countinued as if stating it as an afterthought.

“Guess you're the only Hoenn native in this group, Lia," Nas stated, still grinning from ear to ear. He was really happy about something, though perhaps he was just in a good mood. She nodded in agreement. “Dom and I are from Kanto, so it looks like we'll be relying on you and the map," he continued, rubbing Little Cinders's head in the process. She just mewled and nipped at his hand.

“If you did that, you'd miss out on the experience of the journey. And you give me too much credit, Nasir. I may be a native, but that doesn't mean I've been everywhere. I could easily get lost, too, even if I read the map properly," Elaria stated, earning a light chuckle from Nas.

"It's not as though we could guide everyone perfectly well around the whole of Kanto, Nas," Dom put in. "Maybe the island, but not the entire region." He shrugged, then glanced at Elaria. She's mentioned being from Lavaridge; they probably wouldn't be headed in that direction for weeks at least—more like months, most likely. She might not even still be with the group by then.

“Exactly," she replied, huffing just slightly with a smile. “If it were home, of course I'd be able to guide you around, but Hoenn is rather large, and I've only been to a few cities. I haven't been to all of them," she continued. Nas just grinned, rolled his eyes, and chuckled.

“I'm sure there are other ways you can guide someone," Nas spoke. The implication of his words didn't seem to get across to Lia since she just tilted her head with a quizzical look. She didn't say anything about it, though, and shook her head.

“You say the weirdest things, Nasir," she stated, but she was smiling so it probably wasn't meant as an insult. Nas didn't seem to take it as one, and shrugged.

“I get it from my mom," was the only thing he said, still grinning that cheshire grin of his.

Ai must have understood the implication, though, because she snorted softly under her breath. "Didn't take you for a creep, Snowy," she said, lifting an eyebrow in his direction. Dominik almost sprang to his cousin's defense—while he occasionally said stupid things, he never meant them poorly—but the little half-smile she wore suggested that she'd reached the same conclusion. "Besides, if anyone's playing wilderness guide here, shouldn't it be the ranger-in-training?"

Dom's eyebrows shot up; he'd never actually encountered a situation where someone teased Nas back. At least not in a manner that could potentially be construed as flirtatious. He glanced at Nas to gauge his reaction.

Nas snorted before he started laughing. “And here I thought I was going to be surrounded by sticks in the mud," he stated, wiping the corner of his eye as if to remove something. “You're not wrong, though. I probably should be the wilderness guide, but I don't know this area too well. Unlike bookworm over here," he stated, jabbing a finger in Dom's direction.

“I didn't read up on the region too well. I only skimmed it. I'm basically going off of experiences right now. Each new experience brings a new perspective, right?" he stated, arching a brow. Elaria furrowed her brows a bit, as if she were having trouble processing what he said. She must have figured it out since her face lit up a bit.

‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.'" she spoke in Alolan before shaking her head. “It means All knowledge is not learned in just one school," she explained. “I suppose, in a way, that could be applied, here."

Dom resisted the urge to sigh. Somehow, he had a feeling the rest of this trip was going to be... interesting.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero Character Portrait: Ainsley Hughes
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“Use Scratch!"

“Counter it with Sand Attack!"

Well, that was a little unexpected. Nasir gritted his teeth as Little Cinders mewled in distress. She was trying to rub the sand out of her eyes since she wasn't able to dodge in time. He needed to train a little more with Little Cinders, and Lia had volunteered to help. She was nice enough to give him a fair chance by using Ilima instead of Mikil. The cyndaquil had been upset about it, but had stayed happily behind to share his food with Saber. He was fond of the ralts, and seemed to enjoy sharing his food with him. Mikil didn't do it with the others, though he did occasionally share with Ora.

“C'mon Cinders, Ember!" he commanded, watching as Cinders started spewing balls of flames in different directions. She was still, partially, blinded from the Sand Attack. Nas had to jump out of the way of a random flame ball, and it looked like Ilima was merely dancing with the flames. All that dancing with Jet seemed to be paying off for her, at least.

“Shadow Ball," Lia commanded, to which the eevee responded. A black sphere formed in front of Ilima, before she released it towards Cinders.

“Dodge it and use Ember!" he spoke. Little Cinders mewled in frustration, the attack barely grazing her back as she ran up close to Ilima. Ilima just trilled happily as she twirled out of Cinders's way. It almost looked like Ilima was taunting Little Cinders, and that seemed to be riling her up. If he didn't know any better, Little Cinders looked like she was growing increasingly frustrated. He didn't blame her.

“Cinders, focus. If you don't, Ilima's going to win," he stated, watching as Cinders hissed at him. He would have laughed at her for how cute she looked doing that, but he knew she would take it out on him somehow. Lia, however, didn't seem to have the same reserves. She was failing to contain her laughter at him. Nas pursed his lips together.

“This is our chance, use Scratch!" he might as well take advantage of the distraction. Cinders managed to land the hit, causing Ilima to roll backwards. She took a few tumbles before landing on her feet, glancing at Little Cinders with a strange fire in her eyes. Lia groaned slightly.

“This is why Ilima doesn't battle often," she stated as Ilima charged Cinders, throwing what looked to be a swift attack at her. It hit, causing the litten to mewl in anger, however; both Nas and Cinders lost sight of Ilima behind another Sand Attack. “She gets really competitive, and into the battles. Shadow Ball, Ilima!" she explained before the command was executed. Ilima popped up behind Cinders and attacked Little Cinders with a Shadow Ball.

“Cinders!" Nas shouted, watching as Cinders fell onto her back. She didn't get back up. Nas smiled softly and scooped up Little Cinders, who looked unhappy, tapping the pokéball to her forehead. “And this is why I need more practice," he simply stated, shaking his head as Cinders was recalled. “Thanks for the battle, Lia. I suppose since I lost," he spoke, reaching behind to his back pocket. It was customary to pay the winner of a battle, after all.

“Oh, Nasir, no, don't worry about it!" she stated, waving her hands in front of her. There was a light pink dusting her face, and had he not been trained to notice such things on dark skin, Nas would have missed it. He chuckled. “We will call it even, since you and Dominik are always cooking," she stated, scooping up Ilima who looked quite pleased with herself. Nas shrugged his shoulders.

“If you say it's alright, I'm not going to argue it. We should head back to camp, though. I wonder what Dom made for lunch," considering it was his turn to cook. It wasn't that cooking bothered Nas. On the contrary, Nasir loved cooking. He enjoyed it immensely, and did so every chance he got. Elaria shook her head, though.

“I'm going to stay out here for a little longer. There are some herbs around here that I can use for medicine and some pokémon food. I'm going to gather what I can with Ilima. You should take this for Cinders, though. It'll help her recover some of her energy," she replied, handing Nas a bag of what looked to be more pokémon food. It was probably more of her special bars. Great, Little Cinders actually loved them. Nas shrugged his shoulders, again, and waved Lia off.

“See ya back at the camp, then," he stated, shoving his hands in his pockets along with the bag, and making his way back to camp. Once he reached the site, he spotted Dom and waved, grinning at the same time. “Yo," he greeted. He took a seat on the floor, grabbing the ball that held Little Cinders, and gave it a toss. She appeared, though she didn't look too happy at the moment. It's not like he could blame her, though. He'd be a little upset if he'd just lost a battle. He'd just put it off to the fact that they'd been in Petalburg Woods for at least two days already.

“What's for lunch?" he asked, pulling out the bag Lia gave him. He retrieved a bar from it, and fed it to Little Cinders. She took it, stared at Nas, and chewed on it at the same time. It's like she was trying to tell him something, but Nas couldn't understand. He wasn't Dom. It probably wasn't anything nice, either. She was probably insulting him for losing the battle and pretending the bar was his head or something.

He snorted at the thought.

Whatever it was, she seemed to be broadcasting it clearly enough to his telepathic cousin, who cleared his throat suspiciously, but refrained from laughing. Dom wasn't particularly expressive as a rule—his amusement tended to manifest itself in smaller ways. "Red beans and rice," he replied, pointing to where several pocket shaped pitas were already out. "And we need to use the rest of the hummus, too, or it'll go bad." At this stage, they had to make due mostly with nonperishables; they'd been out too long without access to a grocery store or any method of refrigeration, so they couldn't exactly eat a variety.

"Elaria stay out in the woods, or what?" Dom asked, stuffing a pita with the bean-and rice mixture himself. Nearby, Ora was breathing embers on some uncooked beans and eating them hot, for whatever reason.

“Yep," he replied, reaching over to grab a pita. He pushed the edges together before copying Dom's motions, stuffing the pita with the mixture. “She's collecting some herbs, she said, that she could use for stuff," he added. Though she'd specified what stuff she was getting, it wasn't too big of a deal if he omitted things.

“What about Ai? Is she around, too, or is she sightseeing the woods?" he questioned. She wasn't around, but he supposed she was close by doing... whatever it was she was doing. He set his plate down next to him, though. He'd eat in a minute or two. Right now, he was going to spend some quality time with Dom. Talk first, eat later. That was the general rule. For himself, at least.

"I think she went to freshen up or some such thing," Dom replied with a small shrug. He looked thoughtful for a moment, taking a large bite out of his pita and chewing it over before he continued. "She's, uh... interesting. I feel like I know her from somewhere. Is that just me?"

“Nope, not at all just you," Nas replied, shaking his head. He had the same inclination, too, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. She looked familiar, but perhaps, like that creep had, it was a case of mistaken identity. “She does seem familiar, but that could be anything," he continued. She looked familiar, like he'd seen her before somewhere, but he wasn't going to let it eat at him. If they figured out why she was so familiar, then that would be kind of neat. Otherwise, he didn't think it was too important.

“She certainly brightens up the mood a bit," he spoke, grinning just slightly in Dom's direction. He loved teasing his cousin. “I'd say your blushing hasn't quite gone down, though. Must be something else," he continued, leaning forward so that his elbow was resting on his knee.

Dom sighed, electing to take another bite. When he'd swallowed, he shook his head. "Whatever you say, Nas." Already he seemed a touch uncomfortable with the topic, unconsciously tucking his elbows in closer to his body as if to avoid contact with anything. Not that there was anyone around save Nasir and a few of the pokémon, but Dom often shrank in on himself when uncomfortable. Teasing him about social matters tended to do the trick.

"Eat your lunch."

Nas laughed at his cousin, and reached over to his plate. He was expecting to feel a pita there, not something that felt like bone. Slowly, he turned his head, his hand still in place. Blinking just as slowly back at him, were a pair of beady yellow eyes. It wasn't until the grin on its face, and the flash of pink, appeared that Nas realized what he was staring at. The damn sneasel was trying to steal his pita!

“Oh no you don't, not this time!" he shouted, reaching over with his other arm so that he could take hold of the sneasel. It seemed to be prepared, though, and twisted out of Nasir's grip. It raised an arm up, as if taunting Nas. “You little...," he trailed off, causing the sneasel to snicker before bolting. Within a second, Nas was on its trail, Little Cinders in his arms. It wasn't going to get away, not this time.

“Go, Cinders, use ember!" he commanded. She mewled in response before spewing a ball of flames towards the sneasel. It dodged to the side, barely able to escape being hit. It turned towards Nas and Cinders with glowing red eyes. Cinders mewled in an uncomfortable way, as if she were being glared at. It was Leer, it had to be.

“C'mon Cinders, don't let it work on you like that," he stated. She mewled in response, and shook her coat out. “Use scratch!" he stated, watching as Little Cinders's claws glowed. The sneasel cried out, its own claws glowing in response. It was going to use Scratch, too. Nasir grinned. “Do it just like we practiced!" he commanded. Cinders responded by lunging at the sneasel, their claws clashing in mid-air.

The sneasel cried in Cinders's direction, releasing a snow-like attack. Nasir gritted his teeth as the attack hit. Cinders didn't seem too fazed by it. An ice-type attack, it had to be. “Use Ember," he stated. It had to be somewhat effective. It grazed Sneasel's back, causing Sneasel to hiss out. “Again, Cinders!" he shouted.

The battle seemed almost endless. Cinders was panting heavily as well as the sneasel, but it was apparent neither one of them were going to back down. If he could just weaken it a bit more...

“Scratch!" Cinders barely looked like she was able to move, however; she managed to muster up the strength, because the attack landed. Sneasel went down, and didn't look to be getting up. “You did it!" he shouted, happily dancing a little victory dance. Cinders merely mewled in an exhausted way, causing Nas to recall her into her pokéball. He tucked her away, glanced at the sneasel, and turned his back towards it. He was mid-step before he glanced over his shoulder.

It had put up a decent fight, after all. Might as well. He pulled a pokéball from his belt, and tossed it towards the sneasel. Nas didn't even have to hold his breath. With three shakes, the ball sealed, signaling his capture. He felt something swell in his chest, something like pride, or maybe excitement. He wasn't so sure. All he knew was that he was grinning from ear to ear when he made his way back to the camp, and that there was a light skip to his gait every time he took a step.

“Guess what I just did," he spoke to Dom, unashamed of the sing-song tone he used when he made the statement.

His cousin gave him a flat look. "I don't have to guess; you're thinking much too loud." The look lasted only a moment, though, before he smiled. A rare thing, on his face. "Congratulations, Nas."

"What are we congratulating Snowy for?" a new voice chimed in. Ai was just walking back into the camp, it seemed, her cornsilk hair darkened by water. She was using both hands to squeeze more of it out of the ends. She glanced between them. "Seems like I missed something good."

“I caught my little thief," he replied, holding up the pokéball and giving it a little shake. “Thought it could pull a fast one on me and steal my pita, but Cinders and I managed to catch him," he stated, grinning extremely broadly. He could feel his face about to split, but he didn't care. He was, perhaps, a little more excited than he should be. But then again, it was his first catch.

“Oh? Congratulations, Nasir," Elaria's voice chimed in. She'd just appeared as well, though she was holding Ilima in her arms who, in turn, was holding on to a small basket. It looked eevee sized. “You've made your first catch. It's pretty exciting, isn't it," she stated. Nas just continued to grin.

“I think it's a little more than just that." It felt fantastic. There were no other words he could use, or words that he could think of at the moment.

"Oh, awesome," Ai agreed, nodding almost thoughtfully. "S'pose that makes me the only one without a catch to my name now. I guess I'd better try and keep up, huh?" It was said with a hint of humor, indicating that she didn't really think herself beholden to such a standard.

Approaching the fire, she reached out and patted Nasir on the shoulder once as she passed. "Nice work, Snowy."

“Hey, you'll get your chance," he replied, grinning in Ai's direction. He really did feel fantastic. Who knew something as simple as a first capture could make someone feel this way? Of course, he'd have to figure out what it was, and what to name it. For now, he was going to let sneasel rest in its ball for a little while. He'd have Dom give sneasel a once over since Dom was the closest thing they had to a pokémon nurse at the moment. He'd have a Nurse Joy look over it once they reached Rustboro, but he had some medicinal supplies to work with.

“For now, it's lunch time! We should eat before something else decides it wants in," because all that fighting made him hungry despite the fact that he didn't really do any of the fighting. Mostly just the chasing.

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Character Portrait: Nasir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Elaria Stone Character Portrait: Dominik Nero Character Portrait: Ainsley Hughes
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Finally.

The group had cleared the edge of the forest a few hours ago, and Rustboro City was just now appearing on the horizon ahead. It shouldn't take more than another hour to reach it, and Dom couldn't help but think of a hot shower and real food—things he hadn't ever really appreciated enough, he was fairly sure. It was one thing when they were available on a daily basis, whenever he decided he wanted or needed them. It was another thing all together when you went several days scrubbing without soap in local ponds if you were lucky, and eating nonperishable foods cooked over open flame exclusively. He had no idea how Ai still smelled like fresh flowers; the rest of them sure as hell didn't.

What he wouldn't have given for some of his mom's cooking right now.

The thought was nostalgic, and with it, he realized he hadn't actually called his mother for the better part of a week. Probably not that long in the grand scheme of things, but he should probably make a point of doing that as soon as they reached the newest Center and he felt human again.

"On your left!" The voice came from somewhere slightly behind the group, sounding a bit breathless and shaky.

Dominik turned just in time to see a bicycle streaking towards them, propelled by the momentum of descending the hill they'd passed just a minute ago. He couldn't discern much about the person on it, except that she was female, and dressed in very bright colors.

The group moved to the side of the road to give her room to pass, Dominik automatically moving to stand on the outside of Elaria and Ai, just in case. It proved to be the right instinct, though perhaps not to desirable results. The bicycle struck a loose stone in the road, turning the front wheel and throwing the rider over the front handlebars.

The same instinct put Dom in her way, and they collided with a heavy thud. He hit the ground back-first, knocking the wind out of him. He'd almost managed half a breath when she came down on top of him, forcing the air back out again. Her forehead cracked against his temple, which was fine for her since she'd worn a helmet, apparently, but less great for him.

He wheezed, the blooming pain in his head blacking out his vision for a second, before it resolved again.

The cyclist was indeed female, currently looking down at him with wide dark eyes, as though surprised to see him there. Well, fair enough, really. "Shit!" she said emphatically, rather too loudly considering their proximity. "I'm really sorry, dude. I didn't see that rock. Are you okay?"

Her concern seemed entirely genuine, but Dom had trouble replying. For one thing, she was sitting right on his diaphragm, and while she wasn't exactly heavy, he couldn't say it was comfortable either. Also... there was a girl sitting on his diaphragm. Dominik was uncomfortable within five feet of strangers, and this was... a whole lot closer than that.

"I... think he's okay," Ai said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "But maybe you should stand if you can so he can breathe enough to tell us that himself."

The girl only just then seemed to quite realize why that might be an issue. "Oh, hell," she said, scrambling off about as quickly as he figured she could. "Sorry—again. Didn't mean to squish you!"

Between the noise, Nas was in the back laughing. It sounded like he was trying to ask if Dom was alright, but it was hard to tell between the laughing. With a deep breath, Nas seemed to finally calm down, placing a hand on his hip as he did. “Man, Dom. Are you alright? That looked like it hurt," he was stating the obvious at that point.

Elaria, on the other hand, looked extremely worried for both Dom and the girl who crashed into him. “She did run into him pretty hard, Nasir," she spoke, frowning just slightly at Nas who just kept grinning at Dom.

“Yeah, but where we're from, that probably didn't sting too badly," he replied, perhaps referring to the occasional events that happened at the Shelter. “Besides, Dom...," he paused, seemingly to realize what he was about to say, and shifted the subject. “Dom could be tackled by a tauros and still be fine. He's really sturdy that way."

Now that he could breathe again, Nasir was more or less right, honestly. That didn't stop Dom from rolling his eyes as he sat up—slowly in case he'd accidentally broken anything. The girl seemed to be fine, which had been the whole point of him putting himself between her and the road in the first place. It looked like her bright green tights had torn at the knee, but the rest of her clothes were fine, and he couldn't see any blood or anything.

Nasir's last-minute correction almost made him sigh with relief, but he kept that to himself, standing instead and brushing dirt from his arms and jeans as well as he could. "Are you all right, miss...?" He shifted his eyes to the girl, blinking now that he had a better sense of what she looked like.

She had to be around his age; he'd have said a little younger, even, but she was clearly traveling on her own, and clearly a trainer, from the way she was attired. Now that he had a better look, he dimly recognized her from the ID line back in Slateport. Her hair was a dark brown, threaded through with a few auburn strands, falling messily to her shoulders under the helmet. Basically all her clothes were in neons, bright enough to be loud, but not quite enough to sting his eyes, at least.

"Erin Baumann," she declared, grinning broadly now that it was clear he hadn't suffered any major damage. "Future pokémon champion, at your service." She bowed ironically, then stuck out a hand for him to shake. Dom swallowed his discomfort and took it.

"Dominik Nero," he replied. "This is my cousin, Nasir, and our, uh... friends. Elaria and Ai."

“Oh? A future champion, you say?" Nas clearly stated it as a statement, but he was directing it towards Dom with a sly smile. “I take it that you're going to be taking on the gyms, then. Well, good luck with that. This guy here, though," he began, pointing to himself, “is going to be a future ranger, so you won't have any competition from me." Nas seemed really proud, or perhaps sure, of himself.

“It's a pleasure to meet you, Erin," Elaria greeted, smiling in Erin's direction. “Oh, does that mean you're on your way to Rustboro to challenge Lee?" she asked. Lee was the pseudonym of Rustboro's Gym Leader, since most gym leaders had one.

“Doesn't she use fighting-types?"

"Yup," Erin confirmed, popping the 'p' at the end of the word. "But I'm pretty confident that I can do this. Me and my pokémon have been training nonstop in the forest, so we're gonna show her what we're made of."

Saying this seemed to remind her that she'd been on her way into the city; she glanced behind her and grimaced. Heading over to her bike, she picked it up, keeping her hands on the handles and walking it beside her. "But first... I'm probably gonna have to do some maintenance on this old guy. My brakes weren't exactly working on the way down that hill."

"That sounds... dangerous."

Erin shrugged. "Yeah, well... didn't really have the money for professional repairs. I think I will if I win the gym battle though, so that's cool. Anyway... you guys mind if I walk with you as far as the Center? That's where you're headed, right?"

Elaria pursed her lips together, and looked like she was going to say something about the bike, but semed to change her mind. “We are. And I don't see why it would be a problem. We're all headed in the same direction, to begin with," she spoke. Nas just nodded in agreement, placing his hands behind his neck before rolling it out.

“Yeah, the center would be the first stop we make, anyway. We're in need of a good bath. I don't know about the three of you, but I smell," he spoke, pursing his lips slightly. He never seemed reserved about stating things like that. He just said what he wanted to, though Dom knew Nas didn't always do so. “Besides, I can take a look at your bike, if you'd like. They might have some tools at the center. I'm no bike expert, but I like to tinker with things," he added. That much was true. Nas always liked working with anything he could get his hands on.

“Shouldn't someone who knows what they're doing actually take a look at it, though?" Elaria spoke, though she didn't seem to say it with any malice. It sounded more like curiosity.

“Probably, but if there's something I can actually do..." he trailed off, probably thinking she would get the point.

Erin shrugged. "I wouldn't mind if you want to, but like I said: it won't be a problem after I beat the gym." She smiled broadly, apparently quite confident that she would do just that. Dom almost had to envy that—he wasn't nearly so sure how his own challenge would go, but he supposed all he had to do was go find out.

"Well... guess that settles that, then." The group of five moved back out onto the road, settling into a comfortable rhythm of travel. Rustboro was just ahead, and then... and then it would finally begin in earnest.

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Elaria smiled to herself, breathing a sigh of relief. They'd reached Rustboro a little over an hour ago, and a warm bath had been the first thing she'd sought out. Erin, Ai and herself had occupied the women's side of the center while Dominik and Nasir had taken the men's side. They were probably healing up their pokémon as well, considering Nasir had just caught a sneasel not too long ago. He'd named it Joker, which Elaria thought was fitting. He was an interesting character to the group, though. Unlike Ora, who'd been rather calm and mild, Joker seemed a little more restless and energetic.

Wringing out the rest of the water from her hair, Elaria tied it back to keep it out of her face. Once she was properly clothed, she stepped out into the lobby, and frowned just slightly. There was a group of people, composed of mostly women, in a circle around someone. She could hear a few giggles and whispers, causing her to tilt her head. Was there someone famous around?

“What's going on?" she decided to ask one of the bystanders. He looked a little upset, but that was probably because the girl he was with, had joined the group of other girls.

He's here," was the only reply she received. It wasn't the answer she was looking for, but she wasn't going to pry this man for any more information. He was clearly irritated, and she didn't want to be on the wrong end of that misplaced animosity.

“Ladies—ladies, please. I'm only here as a spectator."

Oh.

Oh, she knew that voice.

Slowly, she backed away, trying her best to not be noticed. She'd entered the lobby without drawing attention; she could certainly leave without doing so.

“Ela!" She mentally, and physically, cringed at the nickname. Slowly, she turned to face him. She wasn't exactly expecting to be pulled into a tight hug at the exact time she turned around, and was facing a head full of cyan colored strands.

"Elaria?" the new voice belonged to Ai, who must have left the bathroom just now as well. "Elaria, is this guy bothering you? Do you need me to call someone?" The way she said call someone made it sound more like punch someone, and it was obvious that she meant the man.

It made a certain amount of sense: from Ai's perspective, Elaria had just been trying to leave, then was called by a familiar name which made her wince, and pulled into a hug that probably looked very unwanted considering all of that.

As much as she was mentally cursing her situation, Elaria managed to free herself from his embrace. She shook her head at Ai, though. It would have been justified if Elaria had actually agreed, but considering who he was, it wouldn't have made much of a difference.

“Call someone? Is there someone I need to speak with!?" he sounded a little alarmed, glancing around while taking an overprotective stance in front of her. Elaria didn't bother hiding the groan that escaped her.

“'Olohe, no there isn't anyone you need to speak with, and Ai, this is Sebastian, my older brother," she stated, trying to clarify the situation. Sebastian, however, seemed pleased with the nickname she'd given him, and smiled affectionately. He really was an idiot.

“Are you a friend of Ela's?" he asked, smiling a little too brightly. Elaria just gave him a flat look. She hated that name, and he knew it.

Ai seemed to relax, tilting her head at Sebastian and then glancing between them. For siblings, they looked almost nothing alike, but she must have been able to see some resemblance, or else just took Elaria's word for it. Humming, she went back to plaiting her still-wet blond hair. "Yeah," she replied easily, smiling in that sunny way she had. "Name's Ai. You must be the coordinator brother."

“She mentioned me?" he stated, looking slightly surprised. For good reason, she supposed. “I knew you loved me, sis," he spoke, going in for another hug. Elaria merely stepped out of the way, and stood next to Ai. “Ahem, but yes. Sebastian Stone, at your service," he stated, giving his signature bow. It was very formal, but she supposed in his line of business, he had to be charming.

“What are you doing here?" she decided to ask. He merely folded his arms against his chest, and leaned back on one leg.

“I'm here spectating contests. As the Top-Coordinator, it's my job to make appearances where new talent might appear," which was his way of saying he was bored, and he wanted to scope out the competition. Elaria just sighed and shook her head.

“Good luck with that," she stated in a flat tone. “If you don't mind, Ai and I have things we need to do, right Ai?" she spoke, though a part of her felt a little bad for putting Ai on the spot like that. She didn't want to be around her brother for longer than she had to. It wasn't that she disliked him. She loved her family a lot, but she was on her own journey, and they had a bad habit of trying to interfere. Intentionally, or not.

Ai seemed to take the hint though, finishing her braid off with an elastic and nodding like it was the most natural thing in the world. "We'd love to chat," she said, smiling apologetically, "but unfortunately we have an appointment to keep, and we've got to go pick up our pokémon if we're going to make it in time. It was nice to meet you, Sebastian." Glancing at Elaria, she nodded, making a gesture as if to invite her to lead the way.

“I'll come with!"

Elaria gave Sebastian a flat look. “Compromise." That was the only word she had to say. Sebastian pursed his lips together, but sighed heavily. “When the contests begin, I'll come see you. The chart at the front of the center said it wouldn't start until Wednesday; that gives us three days. In the mean time, you go and do what you have to do to prepare for it. And when we get ready to leave Rustboro, I'll come say goodbye, alright?" It was a generous deal, or at least to Elaria it was.

“Deal. It was nice meeting you, Ai. Make sure she stays out of trouble!" he accepted, before waving the two of them off. Elaria sighed heavily with relief.

“I'm sorry about that, Ai. Ian is... lively," it was the only word she could use to describe her brother. “I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that," she continued. Ai didn't seem to have taken it too bad, but Lia still wanted to apologize.

"Pff." Ai scoffed, waving a hand in a dismissive gesture. "That was nothing. Don't worry about it." She really did head for the counter, though, retrieving her single pokéball and attaching it to her belt. "It'll be interesting to watch the contests with an expert hanging around, too, actually."

She handed Elaria's pokéballs to her as well, smiling and thanking Nurse Joy for looking after them. "Anyway, now that you've kinda committed us to three days here at least, what do you wanna do in the meantime? I don't know what's around here except the Gym and the contest hall." She paused a moment, then pursed her lips. "Well... assuming you still want to hang out, that is. I guess you guys did get me as far as you said you would, so..."

Lia hooked her pokéballs to her belt before contemplating what Ai had said. “I'd still like to, yes," she stated. “But, oh, don't... if you guys leave before Wednesday, I could... I could always catch up. You all shouldn't have to stay because of what I did," she stated, realizing a little belatedly, what Ai had mentioned. She felt worse, now. She hadn't meant to commit any of them to her compromise. They were free to leave without her. It was nice traveling with them, Elaria would admit that.

But if they wanted to leave without her...

“I don't know what's around here, either. Rustboro is pretty large, and the contest hall and Gym are the only things I know of, too," she replied, glancing down at the floor. She had seen a few flyers on the center's door that had spoken of other contests, but she wasn't entirely sure what those were for. She knew the Coordinators flyer only because of how flashy it was. She almost suspected Ian had a hand in its design.

“Um, perhaps we could go to the Malasada shop next door? I hear they're really good replicas of Alola's," she stated. Besides, her mother made really good ones, and she was currently hungry for something a little sweet.

Ai seemed to contemplate that for a moment. "Huh. I kinda assumed you were with them on a more permanent basis than I was." Shrugging, she hummed and continued. "I mean, I doubt they'll care if you want to stay for that long, but we'll ask them when we see them, I guess. If they don't want to wait, we'll figure things out then. Also: what's a malasada?" Her pronunciation was oddly perfect, like she knew Alolan, but clearly she had no idea what the word meant, so maybe she didn't.

Lia felt her eyes light up. “They're almost like doughnuts, though they're usually made about eight at a time, and they don't have the holes. They're about the size of eggs. Traditionally, they don't have fillings or anything of that sort, but since they've become really popular over time, people have tried experimenting with them," she explained. Food and pokémon she could always talk about. It was easy, and she didn't feel so... awkward? That seemed like the right word.

“And I suppose you're right. We'll see what they say about it. Besides, I think Dominik is challenging Lee, as well. He... I don't know if he plans on doing it right away, or if he plans on training a bit beforehand. I want to see the battle between him and Lee," she admitted softly, feeling a little embarrassed. Pokémon battles were also a good way of researching pokémon and to get a good idea of how they are being raised. As a future breeder... she wanted to learn as much as she could not only from her own pokémon, but how others raised theirs.

Ai looked a little amused by something, a glint entering her robin's egg blue eyes, but she didn't say anything about what caused it, instead nodding a bit. "Well, then we'll do that. But first, malasada. Because those sound delicious and I want one. Or three." With the casual ease born of confidence, Ai looped her arm through Elaria's and smiled up at her. "This is okay, right?" She gestured with their linked elbows.

“Hm," she replied, nodding her head, and smiling just a little more. Whatever unease she currently felt, it was gone. For now, she was going to go get a malasada with a friend. And that... sounded really nice.