Pokémon: Atonement

Pokémon: Atonement

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[Private] People find meaning and redemption in the most unusual human connections.

627 readers have visited Pokémon: Atonement since Nemeseia created it.
Aethyia are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

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

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

Introduction



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Just because someone stumbles and loses their way
....doesn't mean that they are lost forever.

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Beneath every idyll, there is an ugly truth.

For a long time, the world itself seemed to be in a state of harmony. People and pokémon worked together, coexisting peacefully in any number of ways, from simple companionship to sharing natural resources, to forming close partnerships for things like competitive battling or the cooperative artistry of pokémon contests. Children were often sent out into the world with their first pokémon around age eleven, for a journey of friendship and self-discovery, with pokémon centers set up in every town to serve as free lodging and medical care along the way. Occasionally, there were those who sought to disturb the peace, to rupture the careful balance of the system, but in the end, none of them lasted. The original Team Rocket, Team Magma, Team Galactic, and so on were all eventually defeated, and the threat they represented to harmony quelled accordingly.

But for Stefan Gregorovich, once a lowly Team Rocket grunt, there were cracks in the idyll's foundation. Working for the criminal organization in his youth had exposed him to the ugly truth beneath it. It pervaded every corner of the relationship between people and the natural world around them, including the pokémon. Young children were sent out into the world with little monitoring, and many of them fell prey to danger along the way. More still, many of them had never been taught how to properly care for another creature, and as a result, the idyll of friendship and cooperation was often a gloss over cases of abuse, abandonment, and neglect. Competitive battling was like any other sport with enough economic heft and little oversight: one that exploited its largely-voiceless athletes, and often their trainers as well, for the benefit of for-profit organizations that held massive tournaments and other televised events. The contest world was little better.

The demand for more and 'better' pokémon led to a broken breeding system, where pokémon were forced into mill-like conditions, the 'inferior' specimens often disposed of and the others sold for sky-high prices, such that many areas of human-pokémon interaction came to be dominated by the rich, whether or not they were aware of what was being done to make that possible. These deregulated conditions were perfect for those making a killing on such business, and all of it meshed together in the form of a system that was as impossible to fight against as it was to break into from the bottom.

Seizing the name and legacy of one of the oldest anti-system organizations, Gregorovich rebranded Team Rocket as the revolution: an organization dedicated to doing what the justice system would not and could not: breaking apart the net of control imposed upon both people and pokémon by the corruption inherent in the idyll.

It wasn't easy, but it was fast. Somehow, within a decade of its inception, Neo Team Rocket was the most powerful international organization in the world, with connections to every major regional government, nowhere moreso than in Kanto, where they base most of their operations. Under their influence, the legal age for the start of a pokémon journey was recently raised to seventeen, the legal age of majority. So, too, are people required to apply for licenses for any activity that involves pokémon, with varying levels of strict vetting and continued oversight.

The circumstances of this mysterious rise to power were veiled from public view, and there are those who are deeply suspicious that Neo Team Rocket has not shed its criminal origins as completely as they present themselves. These people are, of course, completely right. Gregorovich never intended it any other way. What is in place now is a new idyll, with a new ugly truth. And yet, the average person, even the average team member, has no idea what that ugly truth is.

And he will do everything in his considerable power to protect it indefinitely.

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Private Roleplay between Nemeseia and Aethyia


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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 7th
Ana's Shelter - Afternoon - Warm
Cyrilla Niav


Cyrilla sighed softly, spearing a hand through her hair as she tried to work out some of the tangles. She forgot to brush her hair when she left the apartment, mostly because she hadn't quite woken up, yet. She'd slept in today since it was one of their days off, and she'd been out the night before. Of course she'd left empty-handed, it happened sometimes, but it wasn't exactly a problem. The problem was that she'd left the house in a mess, and was trying to correct it. Mostly satisfied that the tangles were taken care of, she pulled her hair into a tail, and set off to Ana's place.

She was mostly visiting. Anastasia was an interesting person to be around, and Cyrilla would be lying if she said she didn't enjoy spending time with her. It was almost like being in a different place, a different world. Carefree and without worry. It was... freeing in a sense. Cyrilla wasn't entirely sure when the last time she'd actually felt like that was. She didn't think there really was a time, though. Not with her and Ryk's family. Pushing a sigh through her nose, she glanced down at Noctis who was trailing beside her. He glanced up at her, though, and tilted his head, almost as if he were asking a silent question. She huffed lightly and scratched behind one of his ears.

He shook his head and made a face at her, causing her to chuckle lightly. “Oh, come on, Noct, you love ear scratches. It's because you wanted one of those cookies and I wouldn't let you have it, right?" she asked, watching as he made another face and turned it away from her. She was right, she knew she was. She huffed lightly and shook her head. “Fine, I'll give you one when we get back, but you have to be good while we're at Ana's, alright?" she stated, watching as a small fox-like grin appeared on his face.

It wasn't much longer before she'd reached Ana's shelter; she didn't live too far from the Cloyster, but it was still a bit of a walk. She approached the gate, stopping only to ensure that Rufus wasn't around or any of the other pokemon before she let herself in. Cyrilla had texted Ana earlier to let her know that she was on her way over. She didn't want to spring a surprise visit on the young woman, after all.

“Hey Ana, are you outside?" she called out. Ana had said she would be, but not where, exactly.

"Around the back, Cyrilla," Anastasia's voice seemed disembodied, because she still couldn't see her, but rounding the corner to the back of the house revealed that the other woman was apparently setting out a tea service with snacks, at a small wicker table on the broad brick terrace that abutted her garden. There were explosions of riotous color in bloom this time of year, tropical flowers and berries of all kinds cultivated in artful-looking displays that must've taken a lot of work to maintain.

Once she'd come into sight, Anastasia lifted her head from where she was meticulously arranging stirring spoons. Luna was draped on a short retaining wall nearby the table; she flicked her forked tail languidly at Cyrilla's approach, but made no move to leave her spot. Nova, on the other hand, was draped over Anastasia's shoulders as she worked, large red eyes flicking momentarily between Cyrilla and Noctis before they fell away. Sometimes it seemed as though Anastasia's pokémon were more suspicious of things than the woman herself, and they hadn't quite warmed to anyone in the group, yet.

"Good afternoon," Anastasia said, smiling slightly. "I hope you don't mind tea. I've cookies and pokémon snacks here. I tried a new recipe for chocolate orange, and another for coconut macadamia. Er—cookies, not pokémon snacks, sorry." She flushed a little, patting down the apron over her overalls awkwardly.

It was enough to make Cyrilla grin lightly. Anastasia was adorable when she was awkard. Something about the blush on her face complimented the color of her eyes. Red did seem to be a good color on her, and there were other things that were red. A certain person's eyes. She pushed the thought away for the moment, and inclined her head in greeting towards Nova and Luna. Even if they hadn't quite warmed up to her, Cyrilla wasn't going to be rude to them. The eevee line was known to be rather intelligent, especially the espeon, umbreon, and sylveon of that line.

“It's fine, Ana," Cyrilla replied, waving a dismissive hand in front of her face. “And I'm sure your pokémon snacks are just as delicious as your cookies. Almost tempted to try one myself," she stated, allowing the grin on her face to smooth out a bit. Noctis glanced towards Ana, though, tilted his head, and made his way towards the table, sniffing at the pokémon snacks. He made no move to eat them, though, and turned his attention back towards Ana and Cyrilla. She huffed lightly.

“I think he wants to know if it's okay for him to have one, now. I denied him one earlier," she stated, shaking her head lightly. She hadn't done it on purpose, really. He had to eat his breakfast first, but he had wanted the cookie first. They ended up leaving the apartment before she could give him one, though.

"Of course he can," Anastasia said warmly, before turning to the zoroark himself. "Feel free, Noctis. There's plenty more back in the kitchen."

“How are things going with stunky and mankey?" she asked, making her way to sit in one of the chairs at the table. Eryk had seemed really attached to both of them, and Cyrilla wondered if he was going to adopt one of them. Or both, knowing how he was. It didn't matter what kind it was, Eryk had a tendency to adopt stray pokémon. The last two members of his pokémon team had been strays at one point, if Cyrilla remembered correctly.

Anastasia removed her apron carefully, folding it into a neat square and placing it on the chair perpendicular to Cyrilla before taking the one directly across. Carefully, she poured tea for them from a rather delicate teapot, probably Galarian from the design, and handed Cyrilla's cup and saucer across to her with both hands before doing her own. She added a bit each of milk and honey, then proceeded to answer the question while she stirred.

"I'm afraid stunky's lung problems are congenital," she said quietly, looking down into her tea before glancing back up at Cyrilla. "Er—genetic, that is. Resulting from a defect introduced by... well, it's hard to say for sure, but in a facility like the one they came from, inbreeding is most likely. She'll have trouble breathing all her life, but it should be manageable with medication. Technically, this classifies her for hospice care, as the condition will most likely end her life early, but with proper treatment she may have up to a decade ahead of her still." Her lips pursed, brows furrowing as if the words were somehow painful to say, but she made no great production about delivering them.

"Mankey, I'm more hopeful about. He's very young, and needs proper rearing and socialization, both of which he's very behind on, and he's a little malnourished, but I think with a little work he should be perfectly fine, and adoptable. The screens I did of his genetics came back without any defects, so for the moment all he has to do is recover from his injuries and he should be mostly fine." She pursed her lips, shaking her head faintly. "I think maybe some of the trauma will always be with him, but I think he has a tremendous will to live, and so he should recover from it as well as anyone can."

Things like that always broke Cyrilla's heart a bit more, or at least what was left of it, she felt. Stunky's case was just... it was sad. She should have had a full life behind her, and even with a decade it was still so short. Cyrilla was half tempted to adopt stunky, herself, but knew she shouldn't. She wouldn't be able to care for stunky in the way she would need it, and Cyrilla didn't want that for any pokémon, really. Instead, she sighed softly and shook her head.

“Mankey sounds a lot like someone I know," she huffed lightly. In more than one way, actually. Something about mankey's condition mirrored Eryk's, but that was a thought she didn't want to dwell on. “It's good, though, that he'll be mostly fine and adoptable in time," she stated, taking a drink of her tea and letting out a satisfied sigh. “And your tea is always so good," she muttered, setting the cup back down.

“So, Ana, tell me about why you have such a large space, but you're the only one who lives here. It looks like you could have a couple of live-in volunteers, or maybe even a helper," she stated, gesturing to the shelter in a vague way. It was large enough, from the looks of it, to house at least two or even three people.

Anastasia, who'd smiled when Cyrilla complimented the tea and hid her face partly behind her own cup, hummed vaguely into the rim of it at the question. Finishing her sip, she set the cup back down on the saucer with a soft clink. "Well, I can't really afford to pay anyone to help me," she admitted quietly, "but I have considered renting out a room. There are three bedrooms in the house, but only two bathrooms, and one of them's connected to mine. I wouldn't want to make anyone share or anything."

She cast her eyes down a moment later, and shook her head a bit. "All my volunteers have, well, lives. Outside of this. And honestly I don't know that anyone would really want to live with me either. I'm not really very interesting or exciting, and there are plenty of nicer places for rent on the island. That and Carter's really not too fond of the idea—he says letting a stranger into my home would be unwise, and I suppose I don't think he's entirely mistaken." She frowned a little, though.

“Carter, Carter," Cyrilla repeated the name, trying to remember where she'd heard it from. “Oh, you mean Carter, the police officer," she stated when it finally clicked. She wanted to roll her eyes, but he did have a bit of a point. Letting a stranger into a home wasn't quite the same as letting a friend or a family member into the same place. It was all levels of uncomfortable, however; it was also Ana's decision what she wanted to do.

“What is he, your boyfriend?" Cyrilla stated in a nonchalant fashion. Carter was a good-looking guy, but even Cyrilla knew that he was all kinds of knots that couldn't be worked out. “I can see where he's coming from, though. Letting a stranger into your home is kind of ill-advised, but what about a friend? It sounds to me like you'd be the perfect roommate for someone, Ana. You're not very interesting or exciting, you say, but I beg to differ. I find you to be a very interesting person, myself, and I'm sure the others do, too. You've already accomplished a lot of things for someone your age. You have your own shelter, your own place. Not many people can say the same."

Cyrilla certainly couldn't. She was always on the go. She couldn't afford to settle down, or even think about buying a place. It just wasn't something she could do, nor Eryk.

It was hard to tell what part of that caused Anastasia to make a small, embarrassed noise and slide down in her chair, pouting a little without seeming to be conscious that this was the expression on her face. Perhaps it was all the parts of it.

"I don't really have any," she said looking down at her hands in her lap. "Friends, that is. Well, I suppose Drake might be my friend, but he doesn't need my spare rooms. And Carter is..." She made a face, a little bit of a grimace and a little bit confusion. "Well, he checks up on me a lot. Auntie Lydia asked him to, since she's friends with his mother. He's... n-not my boyfriend. He's just nice to me because he was asked to look after me."

“Someone who checks up on you that often, and tries to look out for you like that isn't just nice, Ana. Trust me," Cyrilla stated, chuckling a bit at Ana's reaction. The young woman was adorable, even if she didn't quite know it. “Someone who checks up on you every once in a while is nice. Someone who does it more than three times a week is doing it because they want something from you, or they want you," she stated, arching a brow in Ana's direction. She was so innocent, and Cyrilla had to quash the ugly feeling that crawled into her chest at the thought that threatened to cross.

“So, if, hypothetically, I needed a room, or even Kas or Ryk, would you rent us one?" she asked, tilting her head to the side as she regarded Ana.

Ana looked momentarily confounded by something, and then almost a little suspicious, but it faded as soon as Cyrilla posed her the hypothetical. "But aren't you all living in those new apartments downtown...? Oh. Um. Hypothetical, right." She seemed to genuinely think about it, or maybe just take a moment to recover from the teasing, as the color on her face slowly faded out. Picking up a cookie, she broke it in half and took a bite, using her other hand to pick up one of the pokémon snacks and feed it to Nova, still lounging across her shoulders. The pokémon was a very polite eater, taking measured bites and chewing with his mouth closed—rather dignified and gentlemanly, as pokémon went. It somehow matched Anastasia's bearing and aesthetic; it wasn't hard to imagine a younger version of her having tea parties with a couple of very well-mannered eevee.

"Of course I would," she said after a moment. "It can be... difficult, to trust people sometimes, as I'm sure you know." Something about the way she met Cyrilla's eyes when she said it conveyed that she knew she did. "But... if anyone's earned the benefit of the doubt it's you three. Er—I'm sorry, that made it sound like I'm deigning or suspect you of something. That's not what I meant. I just—people. Getting along with people is... challenging. For me."

Something about the way she said it made Cyrilla smile. It was a small one, but it was genuine. And she knew it was, because it felt so out of place on her face. “Understandable, I suppose. We live in a world where people want something from you, and in order to get it, they feign friendships or something similar. I don't blame you for being suspicious of us, Ana. It's perfectly normal, even if getting along with people is challenging for you. I guess... it's just part of our natures to be suspicious, especially when those people work for NTR."

Cyrilla knew Ana was aware that they were affiliated with NTR. Eryk had mentioned it, so it wasn't like she had to hide that. She also knew that a certain someone would, actually, prefer something small like Ana's place. Eryk didn't bother hiding his displeasure when it came to living in their apartment. He never liked things that were quite noticeable. He liked things that were more secluded, more hidden. It was part of his nature, she supposed, to want to hide from people or not be seen. Cyrilla knew it had a lot to do with the scars on his face.

Noctis trudged over towards Cyrilla, though, and laid his head on her lap, causing her to shake her head lightly as she stroked his fur. He always seemed to know when she was feeling a certain way, but she pushed the thoughts away for now. “If you'd like," she began, turning so that she could face Ana, fully.

“I can help you with that. Not that it'll be easy; you can't just teach someone to get along with people," she stated, huffing lightly. “But I can try to help you be a little more confident in yourself. I might not look like it, given my savvy appearance," she pointed an index finger at herself, “but I still struggle with a bit of shyness, myself. From one shy person to another, I can try to help."

"Would you?" Ana asked, clearly surprised by the offer. "I just—" She shook her head, all but rolling her eyes at herself as she finished off the cookie. "I know the kind of person I want to be, you know? But no matter how much I try to act like that I always manage to mess up." She pursed her lips and sighed, but then smiled a little.

"And I don't know if this makes it better or worse, but... you being from Neo Team Rocket doesn't have anything to do with it. I'm sure you have your reasons, and besides that... having this job, having seen what I have..." The smile, small as it was, wavered but remained in place. "Well, to me, all of you are the reason mankey and stunky are safe now. Safer than they've ever been. And it's because you're part of NTR, so—so I can't see you as bad people, no matter what anyone else says."

She cleared her throat a little awkwardly, retreating behind her teacup for another sip. "Sorry. I must seem terribly childish to you."

... see you as bad people, no matter what anyone else says..

Cyrilla kept the smile on her face, but she felt her heart wrench painfully in her chest. If Ana only knew that they were. Small things like saving mankey and stunky made what they did a little more tolerable, but it didn't erase the fact that they were bad people. They always would be for doing something like this to this young woman, so innocent, so pure. And more than anything in the world, Cyrilla didn't want to be part of destroying that. For destroying the trust that they might build between them.

“Not at all, Ana. I don't think it's childish; I think it's very admirable that you would say something like that. And what kind of person do you want to be, hm?" she stated, deciding to ask that question first. Ana was already doing it wrong; you couldn't try to be the person you wanted to be. You had to go about it slowly, find things that felt natural and easy to do. Ana would have to ease into it. But of course, Cyrilla had no idea what it was Ana was trying to do, hence why she asked the question.

Ana considered it. "I guess... I'm trying to be a little more... worldly?" She furrowed her brows over the word, a little unsure it was the one she wanted, apparently. "A little more resilient and confident and clever, I think." She snorted softly. "I know it's kind of useless for someone like me, but I've always wanted to be the sort of witty, interesting person who doesn't get shy and babble or clamp up around others. It's always one of the two with me, and I'm just so... I don't know. Plain. Ordinary. Boring, I guess. I tried to start with my wardrobe because I've always liked pretty things but even then half the time I'm wearing coveralls and work boots."

She shot Cyrilla a rueful smile. "It's funny, because part of me wants to... stand out, I guess. To be intriguing. But most of me's just terrified of anything like that, and wants to hide where no one will ever see me again."

“So... what we want to do is take a feebas and make it a milotic," she stated, smiling just a bit at Ana. Truthfully, Cyrilla didn't know what she was getting herself into. These were things that, even for Cyrilla, would be difficult to do for a shy person. The only reason Cyrilla was able to be as witty and stand out as much as she did was because she'd learned to kill her heart, and all the things that made her feel. It was just how the family trained her.

But that wouldn't work for someone like Ana. She needed a different approach, something more soft and gentle.

“Hm... I know what you're going to say, but hear me out: what are your measurements? I want to see if I can find something for you that'll look nice while also being sturdy enough for the work you do. Feeling good on the outside is the first step to feeling good on the inside. It helps boost your confidence when you feel good about yourself. Once you start with that, everything else will come to you. I'm not going to sugar coat this for you; it won't be easy. It's going to take a bit of time, but I think we can do it."

She believed, honestly, that Ana could be the person she wanted to be. “You just have to start small, take baby steps before you can take the bigger ones until you're finally ready to run. Oh, and don't worry about the costs of the clothes. Think of it as my way of saying thank you for taking care of the pokémon for us. You didn't have to, but I am thankful that they ended up with someone like you."

"Uhm. I'm not sure clothes are really the problem, though," Ana replied, frowning. "Like I said, I've found lots of things I like and that work for my job, but the reason I end up back in the scrubs and coveralls all the time is that... well, I'm not comfortable wearing them most of the time. So having more... wouldn't really help. At least not yet." She seemed to be dressed a little differently today, anyhow—the overalls were black and clearly from a consignment shop with homemade details, but they were kind of cute where she'd added a lace ruffle to the straps and some red to line the pockets and hems, and they were shorts, which she'd worn with her heavy, almost military-style workboots and a black-and-white striped t-shirt.

She gave Cyrilla a wry look. "It's okay if there's not much to be done. I know it's a contradiction in terms, really. It's probably better if I'm boring anyhow. Permanently a feebas, if you will."

“Nonsense!" Cyrilla stated, furrowing her brows and pursing her lips together. “It is exactly a clothes problem. If you don't feel comfortable wearing them, it's because they're not the right ones for you. How about this, I'll buy you one set of new work clothes that'll look nice, make you feel comfortable, and still be sturdy enough for you to do your job. This is a challenge that I, Cyrilla Niav, promise to undertake with all the seriousness I can provide!"

“And hey, feebas are beautiful creatures in their own right. They wouldn't be my favorite pokémon if they weren't," she stated, grinning lightly in Ana's direction. They really were her favorite pokémon. There was just something about them; how they could live in just about any environment and thrive. Sure, they might not be much to look at, but... well, they reminded Cyrilla of herself. The only difference was she wasn't physically ugly. It was the inside of her that was all banged up and mangled. Permanently, so.

Ana still looked skeptical, but she didn't protest to the plan, instead simply shrugging her shoulders. "Okay, but... only one, please. I'm definitely not comfortable having other people spend their money on me, especially not when all I've done is my job, so..." she trailed off a bit awkwardly, obviously every bit as uncomfortable with the notion as she'd said.

But she changed the subject right after, probably hoping to avoid an argument about it. "We've had a couple feebas here in the past. Our only one right now has a couple prosthetics, so he can't really be trained, but he's in the pool if you'd like to meet him."

Cyrilla was just glad that she agreed to it. She'd, of course, honor her word and only get Ana one set of work clothes. It would probably be a week or two before she actually found something, but Cyrilla was determined, if nothing else. So, she grinned at the mention of a feebas, instead.

“Oh, I'd definitely love to meet him! He sounds adorable."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


July 9th
The Cloyster - Evening - Humid
Kasimir Rheinallt


“Thank you; have a nice day sir!" The cashier beamed at him; Kas shot her a wink more by reflex than anything, grinning right back.

"Thanks, Gabby; you too." He wasn't the kind to make a pass at someone on the clock; they were paid to be friendly and even if she was into him she couldn't escape the situation if she changed her mind and he didn't want to harass anyone even if purely by accident. He was conscious of stuff like that, and frankly thought everyone should be. It was basic courtesy, but pretty rare as far as he could tell.

Shifting his purchases to one hand, he pulled his phone out of his pocket with the other, hitting the seventh number on his speed dial and bringing the device to his ear. When the other end was picked up, he grinned, even though the person on the other end wouldn't be able to see. "Hey Cy, sorry for the call, I'd have texted, but it'd have taken too long. You have plans tonight?"

He supposed this could sound like he was asking her out. But he was pretty sure she wouldn't take it that way. Cy didn't ever seem to mind flirting and goofing around, but he had the feeling he wasn't really her type—just sort of a vibe she'd given off. Honestly he doubted she'd even call him a friend, despite having lived and worked together for months now. He had to admit that one stung just a tad: he could handle not being her cup of tea no problem, but he'd figured he was at least fun enough to rate friend status. Yet he always sensed a distance with her, under the playful exterior. In any case, he was pretty confident she'd interpret it as it was meant: a casual invitation from one coworker to another.

“Ah, hey Kas," she replied easily. She seemed to shuffle around from the background noise before she spoke again. “And actually, I don't have any plans tonight. Do you?" she asked, a bit of curiousity in her voice, leaking through. He could hear her on the other side of the phone, though, speaking to someone. Or something when she mentioned Diva. Apparently the lycanroc had something she shouldn't have.

“Sorry, Diva's trying to eat my shoe."

He laughed softly; that sounded about right for the pokémon, honestly.

"Well, I dunno if I'd go so far as to call them actual plans, but I did just stop by the store and get some stuff. Including some rum and punch," He knew it to be her preferred mixed drink, so he'd picked up the ingredients—easy enough to mix on the fly. "I figure you probably hadn't done the whole 'get drunk on the beach at night' bit yet, but everyone who lives on an island has to do it eventually, so I thought if you were up for it you might be so kind as to bring a couple things to drink out of at meet me at the backisland beach?"

He paused, and then: "oh and feel free to bring your pokémon. The rules about which ones can get let out are kinda relaxed at night and I doubt there'll be much of anyone around."

He could hear her huff lightly, but it was easy to tell she was laughing, too. “Sure, Kas. Sounds like it'll be fun," she replied. More movement in the background could be heard as it seemed that she was rummaging through the cabinets. Probably to look for glasses or cups of some sort. “Alright, got what we need; I'll meet you there in a few minutes, thirty tops," she stated, the other end of the line clicking to signal the end of the call.

It took him about ten minutes ambling at his slowest to reach the spot; he took of his sandals immediately. Shoes on the beach were a crime against humanity. He'd come from a run, so he was still wearing loose athletic shorts and a brightly-colored rashguard, breatheable and patterned in blue, green, yellow, and even a bit of orange. The sleeves were fitted, but only to his elbows, exposing some of his ink, especially the tribal-style black and green on his left arm. He wasn't concerned about it though—NTR wasn't really fussy about stuff like that, even in the office.

The beach was nice, even compared to walking around in town, fresh air in off the ocean helping to alleviate the thick heat of the fading summer day. It was almost like being home again.

Someday, maybe.

True to her word, it had only taken about twenty minutes for Cyrilla to arrive. She'd been perched on Zero's back, probably using him for transport. She slid off his back, and placed a hand inside of the arcanine's mane, pulling out what seemed to be a bag of sorts. It probably had the cups inside of it. She turned towards Kas's direction and waved. She was dressed for the humid weather, it seemed. A dark, hunter green short-sleeved cardigan over a white tank top and a pair of black capris that had some tears near her thighs and one in her right knee. She was wearing slip-on canvas shoes, too, that were white.

“Hey, Kas," she greeted, Zero trotting behind her before he took a seat when she stopped. His tail was wagging in an almost excited manner, and his tongue lolled out of his mouth. Cyrilla rolled her eyes at him, though, before turning back towards Kas. “Brought the cups."

"Excellent. I brought the booze." He grinned, holding up the bags in his hand. He'd been conned into the reusable ones because he was a sucker at heart. Normally he'd have just done paper, but they'd been out and plastic was an affront to someone who'd occasionally cut them loose from around the necks of ocean pokémon when he was a kid.

With his free hand, he pulled the pokéballs from his belt and let his team out, unsurprised when Lani headed immediately for the water and Widget took to the sky. Princess took her time looking around, satisfying herself that there were no challenges to be had, though she did eye Cy and Zero dubiously for a few long seconds before huffing and turning away from them. The massive charizard was taller than he was, and pitch-black by way of coloration, the flame burning on her tail casting her in deepening hues as the sun lost its last bit of grim on the horizon.

Sigrún and Meep stuck a little closer, as they were inclined to do, and he paid little mind as he dug out the rum and juice to hand over to Cy, trading her for one of the cups, into which he poured some of the extra things he'd brought for mai tais, which were not usually his favorite but suited this setting very well.

The cheap version of this activity was done with cans of beer, but he'd figured Cy had a bit more class than him, so he'd sprung for the best stuff the little local grocery had. Parking himself on the sand, Kas mixed his drink by swirling it around inside the glass and took a swallow, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Now this—this is the life." He grinned sideways at Cy, as if inviting her to agree, though he didn't seriously expect her to think so. They were sitting on the sand with no chairs or blankets, drinking supermarket alcohol on a sweaty night. But for Kasimir, it was nostalgic, in a way.

“Is it, now?" she asked, arching a brow in his direction as she pulled the pokéballs from her own belt, and gave them a toss. Noctis immediately made his way towards the water, jumping straight into it, perhaps, to enjoy the cool waters. Zephyr, however, climbed into Cyrilla's lap when she'd taken a seat next to Kas, crossing her legs so that the meowth could be more comfortable, it seemed. Siri made her way towards Princess, though, and stared up at her. There was something like wonder that crossed the noibat's expression before she made a small chirping noise. Cyrilla huffed lightly.

“Seems Siri's fond of Cinders," Cyrilla stated softly, a small grin on her face. Diva huffed lightly as the lycanroc sat on Cyrilla's other side, occasionally glancing in Kas's direction, though the reason wasn't clear. She seemed to be narrowing her eyes, if anything. Zero curled up behind Cyrilla, though, and she leaned back into his side, using him to prop herself up.

“I'll give you that it is nice, especially the way the colors reflect on the water," she stated, taking a drink from her cup.

They were mostly gone now, as it happened, the evening passing past sunset and into full dusk, but there were still some purples and indigos remaining, and they were pretty on the water, it was true. Kas flopped partly backwards, propping himself up with one forearm and elbow, keeping hold of his glass with the other. He huffed a little when Princess blinked back at the noibat, as if trying to decide what to make of this smaller creature that chirped at her, but in the end she made sort of a grumbling snort that Kas recognized as allowing the other pokémon's presence. He hadn't named her that for nothing.

"Ocean's my favorite thing in the world," he replied simply. "Always has been." He didn't feel any particular need to push his instinctive love of the sea on anyone else; he figured it was probably partly in his blood and partly in his upbringing, and that was fine. But he was going to enjoy being assigned to an island for as long as he possibly could.

Taking another swallow of his drink, he changed the subject. "Dodgeball went pretty well, I think. As nefarious schemes go."

Cyrilla snorted slightly, shaking her head. “Hm, well I think it did the job," she replied, taking another drink from her cup. She sighed, though, and pursed her lips together as if she were thinking of something. She didn't speak for a few minutes, and instead, seemed to be either enjoying the silence, or lost in thought.

“Speaking of nefarious schemes, though," she finally spoke, turning her attention towards Kas. “I may have another one that might... well," she paused, her brows furrowing lightly. She was either a bit uncomfortable with the idea, or she didn't know how to put it into words. She pushed a sigh through her nose before she glanced back towards the water.

“I may have found a way to speed things up like the boss wants," she finally answered, keeping her gaze out at the ocean, and throwing back the rest of her drink.

Kas lifted an eyebrow, unsure whether he was more intrigued by the idea itself or the fact that he was sensing some reluctance about it. "Care to let me in on your brilliance?"

Her brows furrowed as she swirled her empty cup in her hand. “Well, you know how Ana has that large facility, right?" she began, finally glancing back towards Kas. “I was talking with her the other day when I went to visit, and... well, she's thinking about renting out one of the rooms she has. She needs the income; we all know that, and as much as I'd like to help with that, she won't accept it without being rightly suspicious. And I don't want to foist anything upon her that she won't accept or will make her uncomfortable."

“We also both know how uncomfortable Ryk is at the apartment. It has nothing to do with the both of us, but..." she hesitated, there, her eyes narrowing at Kas as if she were trying to read something off of him. If she found it, she didn't say, but she did continue, “I know he doesn't like being in places like the Cloyster. They make him uncomfortable and it stresses him out more than he lets on."

“I was thinking that, we convince him to see if Ana will rent out a room to him. I think he might be comfortable there. You've seen how relaxed he is when he's helping out there, how he doesn't seem so stressed, right?" she questioned, arching a brow in his direction. It was obvious these were things that she wouldn't necessarily be saying about Eryk unless she was at least comfortable enough. And she seemed to be enough so with Kas at the moment. That or she was a light drinker despite all of her bravado, and she was already being influenced by it, a bit.

Kas considered this. It was definitely true that Ryk didn't seem totally comfortable in a swich, modern place like their apartment, and even though neither of them had really brought their lifestyles home, so to speak, they had a certain... busy way of being that he recognized probably wasn't ideal for a total introvert like Eryk was. Kas didn't think that was a flaw with any of them, just a personality difference. He'd sort of figured they'd all muddle through it doing the best they could not to complain or make things worth complaining about, since that was what they'd been told to do.

But... if Ana was really looking to rent out space in her place, that might actually work out. From a mission perspective, which Cy seemed to barely be paying lip service to at the moment, it'd be a hell of a gamble if they made it happen. There was a chance the simple closeness afforded by domesticity would give them the answers they were after much faster—hell, he knew way more about Cy and Ryk both than he would have if he hadn't been sharing housing with them. Even just incidental shit could be useful, but some important things he'd learned that way, too.

In a way, it would make his mission harder, since he still wasn't sure what his in was going to be with all this Project Nebula stuff and as his technical superior, Ryk was a good angle to have cultivated, but... it probably wouldn't hurt if the guy loosened up a little, either.

Humming, Kas drained the rest of his drink and picked up the rum bottle stuck in the sand between them, amused when Diva tracked the motion, as though she were waiting for him to try pouncing on Cy or something. Some pokémon were like that, though; he could hardly be offended. He didn't bother to mix his drink this time, just drinking the rum straight instead.

"That would either work really well or completely blow up in our faces," he noted with a trace of amusement. "It does make you sound a bit like a matchmaker, though." He knew, of course, that this wasn't Cy's primary intention, but he did wonder, sometimes, if she might not have the seed of a thought in the back of her mind shaped that way.

She barked a short laugh, then, surprising Diva a bit as the lycanroc stood almost ready to fight. She tapped the lycanroc's nose lightly, causing Diva to twitch her nose. “Behave, Diva. He's not going to do anything. It's Kas," she spoke, as if to reassure Diva that he wasn't going to do anything. Diva rolled her eyes, but obliged, and curled up on the other side of Zero, perhaps to be out of sight.

“If it blows up in our faces, I'll take the blame for it and say it was my idea. It technically is, after all," she muttered softly, her brows furrowing as her lips pursed. She seemed to shake some thought from her mind, though, and a light smile at least planted itself on her lips. “But I think it might be worth it. They're both so awkward that they just might mesh well together. And I don't mean from a matchmaker's perspective. She said she's never really had friends before, and neither has Ryk. I'm... basically the only one he has," she muttered the last part softly that Kas almost missed it.

“I think it'll work really well in that sense. They compliment each other and I think they can both appreciate that about each other. They might even become..." she paused there, her eyes widening for a fraction before she shook her head. “It might achieve the effect the boss wants."

"Would it be so bad?" he asked quietly, quite confident he knew what she'd been about to say there. "Don't get me wrong; Ryk's mentioned some stuff about your family and I think I've guessed some other things, so I don't say this lightly." He wasn't an idiot—he knew the signs of an abusive childhood when he saw one, and he was willing to bet theirs had been particularly hellish. Was probably still ongoing, in some ways. But he hadn't made it through a bunch of law enforcement and analysis training not to pick up on what it meant, when they trailed off at certain times, maintained a certain level of distance with people who weren't each other. They were trying to protect everyone involved, likely because they really believed their family would interfere if anyone got close.

Hell, for all he knew, it would happen that way. And in any case he had no intention to push. Only to try and understand as well as he could. "But to just... have a friend or two, you know? It doesn't have to be a big production—you could pass it off to the family as coworkers, or a mission, or whatever. But I really don't think human beings can live as alone as you two seem to be trying. Not anything worth calling a life, anyway."

Kas was aware that might sound harsh, so he used a soft tone to say it. He wasn't trying to crticize or offend, after all, and the last thing he wanted was to make her feel bad.

There was a wry smile on her face, then. “A life?" she stated, huffing almost as if she were in slight disbelief. “I don't think we've ever really had one, Kas. Don't think we've ever had a choice," she murmured softly, taking a deep breath as she did. “But... I think you're right. It wouldn't be so bad for him. He's... Eryk's the kind of person who thrives when he's allowed to actually care about people. It's part of who he is, but..." she trailed off, her lips pursing into a fine line.

“He doesn't have very many people to care about except for me. And even that hasn't been good for him, all things considered. I think I've just made things worse for him by being his fiancée," she stated, turning her attention to Kas for a moment. She was regarding him with a strange look, something almost melancholy and hopeful before it disappeared. She seemed to drop the subject, though, when she next spoke.

“So, if the plan succeeds, and Eryk manages to rent one of Ana's rooms, what should we do with his?"

Kas accepted the change in topic, even as he noted that she hadn't included herself in all the talk of friends being good for a person. He'd decided he wouldn't be pushy, and he meant to stick to it. None of this was really the kind of thing he should be getting involved with anyway.

"Jungle gym," he declared jokingly. "Oh, or we can get one of those inflatable bounce houses in there."

She arched an eyebrow at him in what seemed to be disbelief, but there was also some humor behind it if the smile on her face was anything to go by. “You do realize that if we did get an inflatable bounce house in there, you wouldn't fit, right? You're too big," she stated, chuckling lightly.

“And I don't want to be the one to explain to the firefighters why my friend is stuck inside of the bouncy house. Or why we even have one," she stated, clearly joking with him.

Kasimir harrumphed with false offense, entirely ruined by his grin. "I might be part palm tree, but I'm flexible, you know. I could fit into a room-sized bounce castle. I'd be more concerned that Diva here would chew on it while I was inside, deflating it on purpose and leaving me to suffocate." He waggled his eyebrows at both trainer and pokémon.

"And that'd be tragic. I'm too pretty to die so young, you know." Tsking, he shook his head mournfully, as if imagining the prospect.

Cyrilla's cheeks puffed lightly as if she were trying to hold back a laugh, but ended up failing. She was laughing, perhaps a bit too hard, that she snorted a few times, bringing a hand to her face as it turned a bit pink in embarrassment. Diva merely nodded her head as if agreeing with Kas about the deflating it on purpose part.

“I can almost see the headlines now, Genius pretty boy dies by suffocation in a bouncy house. It is pretty tragic when you think about it," she stated, grinning lightly in his direction.

Kas nodded, trying for solemnity but failing. Rolling over onto his stomach, he refilled his glass again, this time offering the bottle over to Cy as well. Taking a sip, he added: "Kasimir Rheinallt, 25, noted local philanderer, died Tuesday when an overenthusiastic pokémon owned by his roommate and coworker, the sly and charming Cyrilla Niav, 23, chewed through the side of the bounce castle they'd recently had installed at their apartment. Local authorities believe the death to be accidental, saying Mr. Rheinallt, who was a spectacular idiot, though also spectacularly handsome, suffocated after attempting to exit the castle through an opening he really had no business crawling through in the first place. When asked to offer comment, the stunning-yet-merciless Ms. Niav only said: 'I told him he was too big for bouncy houses.' More at 10."

He winked, adding to the ridiculousness of his fake news report, and knocked back another swallow of rum. "Must've missed my calling in journalism, you think?"

Cyrilla was laughing through most of his fake news report. She took a deep breath once she was able to, and shook her head. “I don't know about that; I think you still have a chance," she stated, taking the bottle of rum and pouring herself another drink. Diva made a light huffing noise, though, looking slightly displeased, but was interrupted when Zero dragged his tongue across her face. She growled at him, causing Cyrilla to shake her head softly at the two.

“But I did tell you, you were too big for bouncy houses. We should definitely get one." She offered up her cup, though, as if toasting him. “To us, always scheming with or against each other."

He clinked his against it with a soft ha. "For my sake, I'm hoping it's mostly with."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 13th
Ana's Shelter - Late Afternoon - Hot
Eryk Nero


Arceus, how had he managed to let those two convince him to do this?

Eryk shoved his hands into his pocket, as he kept his attention on the ground. They had made a point; if Gregorovich wanted the three of them to get closer to Anastasia, faster, he supposed this was as good of a way as any. He just wasn't so sure she'd actually buy it. Why would she give him a room to stay when he had a perfectly good one at the Cloyster? It was uncomfortable to be there, he wouldn't deny, but he wasn't so sure being at Anastasia's would help, either. He'd be in closer contact with the target—and she was the target, he had to remind himself—and it would provide him some insight to her, he supposed. Gregorovich also thought that Eryk's own telepathic talent might be helpful, but Eryk wasn't so sure.

His father, who'd been the psychic, had always been paranoid about that kind of thing. Eryk supposed it bled into parts of himself, but he wasn't going to try something that might end up backfiring. He felt a brush on his mind as he glanced down to his side. Icarus was staring up at him, big purple eyes staring with what seemed to be intrigue. Eryk rolled his eyes but picked the espurr up, and set him on his shoulders. Icarus seemed content there as Eryk continued his walk towards Anastasia's shelter. Once he arrived at the gate, Rufus was there to greet him. He arched a brow at the stoutland; it always surprised him that Rufus always seemed to know when he was arriving.

He let himself through the gate, reached down to scratch behind Rufus' ear, and stood back up. Blinking slowly, he glanced around the shelter before pursing his lips. Cyrilla said she'd texted Anastasia for him to let her know he was on his way. Maybe she was inside?

Most of the pokémon seemed to be out and about; he knew that Anastasia let them out whenever possible. The dome habitats were spacious and calibrated to specific pokémon types, but she didn't feel that it was the same as being out in real sunshine and fresh air, it seemed. Ekans basked on the large rock that seemed designed for the purpose, clearly asleep; several pidgey roosted in the large tree. A few others were around as well, including stunky, who was trotting about the yard, seemingly exploring everything.

A door opened somewhere; it took him only a moment to locate which. Anastasia emerged from the main shelter building, in black coveralls halfway undone, the sleeves tied at her waist, and a t-shirt. She was carrying mankey in both arms, holding him against her front, giggling softly when one of her low twintails drew the pokémon's attention. She carefully brushed it behind her before resettling her grip and glancing up.

She looked a touch surprised to see him, blinking with wide eyes. "Eryk? H-hello. I wasn't expecting you by today; there's probably a message on my phone, huh?" She furrowed her brows, a vague turn to the corner of her mouth. "Sorry. I should be better about checking that when I'm working."

Eryk resisted the urge to roll his eyes slightly. It was also possible that Cyrilla didn't text Anastasia like he'd asked her to. He'll have to figure out how to work that, one day, so things like this didn't happen. He shook his head lightly, though, eyes lingering a bit on mankey before he turned them back towards Anastasia.

“It's fine, Anastasia," he spoke softly, his brows still slightly furrowed. He nodded his head in mankey's direction, though, and felt something on his face smooth out. “It seems he's doing a lot better," he observed. It was still obvious that mankey had a long way to go, but Eryk was... glad? He wasn't entirely sure what the proper word was that he felt, and pursed his lips together.

“It's good."

"He is!" Anastasia replied, clearly pleased by the fact. She moved a little further out into the yard, but then turned around so she was facing him again, a thoughtful look on her face. "Would you... like to hold him?" she offered. "He's still recovering from the sprains and break, but if you're careful it'd be fine." She didn't approach or try to hand mankey off, though—it seemed like she was giving him the option to refuse if he wasn't comfortable with it.

Eryk felt light inside, and he wasn't entirely sure why. He nodded his head, though. He wasn't going to pass up the chance to hold mankey, again. Something about the mankey called to Eryk in a way he wasn't sure of. Perhaps it was mankey's spirit, or something else. He held his arms out, though, and waited for mankey to go to him. Mankey turned from Anastasia, sniffed at Eryk's hand before making a snorting sound. It almost sounded like he was disapproving of Eryk for the moment before mankey tapped Anastasia's shoulder lightly, and crawled down.

Icarus, who had been resting on Eryk's shoulder, slid down his back, and walked over towards mankey. They stared at each other for a moment, Icarus occasionally doing a slow blink before looking back up at Eryk. Eryk didn't bother rolling his eyes this time, though, and stooped to pick mankey up, gently. He knew Icarus was approving of mankey before the espurr walked up towards Anastasia and held his arms up.

“He doesn't like sharing," Eryk stated, cradling mankey a little more comfortably.

Anastasia laughed softly, crouching to pick up Icarus with a soft, affectionate sound in the back of her throat. "Hello, handsome," she said, supporting Icarus with one arm beneath him while the other scratched softly behind his ears. "You can hang out with me for a bit while the other two have a visit, if that okay by you."

She glanced over to Eryk and huffed. "You don't have to be quite that delicate, you know. Here." She approached, in the same mild, slow way she did with unfamiliar pokémon, as though giving him ample opportunity to stop her. Still holding Icarus, she reached over with her free hand and adjusted Eryk's arms a bit, with light, nudging touches, until it seemed mankey was settled a little more securely.

"Sometimes with the really young ones it's more comfortable for them this way," she explained, glancing up at his face with a slight smile. "I... might be guessing wrong, but I don't think you've been around a whole lot of baby pokémon? Though this guy's pretty young, too, isn't he?" She seemed to be referring to Icarus.

Eryk furrowed his brows lightly as he nodded his head. “I have not. Icarus and Runt are the youngest pokémon I have owned," he stated, nodding his head in the espurr's direction. Icarus nodded his head as well, as if to agree with Eryk, and trilled. “Moira was already a year old when I first obtained her," he spoke, referring to his absol. It was something of a custom in his family that their first pokémon was either a poison type, or a dark type.

He'd chosen Moira because she was like he was, in a sense. She was originally supposed to go to Katia, but Moira was too gentle. Her lonely nature would have only complicated things for someone like Katia who preferred pokémon that were more battle-eager. Moira was decidedly not. A thought came to him, though he wasn't entirely sure why.

“Would you like to meet her?"

Anastasia's expression lit up, the smile on her face spreading until it was almost a grin. "Of course I would! Was she your first?"

“She is my first," he spoke, shifting so that he was still holding mankey comfortably in one hand, and pulled the first pokéball from his belt. Pushing the button to expand it, he released Moira who seemed a little unsure of herself. Moira, this is Anastasia. She's not going to hurt you. She only wants to meet you, he connected with Absol to ensure that she wouldn't be too skittish. She was like that when meeting new people, but he wanted to reassure her that she would be fine. Of all his pokémon, she was the only one that didn't battle. It was her choice, after all, and he respected it.

“This is Moira, my first," he spoke to Anastasia. Moira hesitantly made her way towards Anastasia, head lowered lightly before she sat and glanced up. She made a soft trilling noise as she regarded Anastasia with an even gaze, perhaps studying her.

Gently setting Icarus down, Anastasia approached Moira carefully, either picking up on the absol's shy nature or else just cautious by reflex. Either way, she stopped a respectful few feet away and crouched, hugging her knees so she was about the same height as the seated absol. "Hello, Moira," she said softly. "My name's Ana. It's very nice to meet you." She smiled, her body language open and relaxed, but made no move to touch the pokémon, only tilting her head to the side in a way that suggested query, as if awaiting the verdict of Moira's observations.

Moira turned to look at Eryk, trilled, and nudged Anastasia's hand with her nose. “It seems Moira has taken to you," Eryk spoke, huffing lightly. Moira didn't trust people so easily, but that she seemed to be okay in Anastasia's presence... maybe it was because Anastasia was used to dealing with all kinds of pokémon cases and she knew how to approach Moira? Whatever it was, Eryk shook his head a little, before remembering why he'd come here in the first place.

“Anastasia," he spoke cautiously, tilting his head in her direction. “Cyrilla told me that you have rooms that you are looking to rent out, is that true?" he asked. He figured the best approach to this would be to tell Anastasia the truth. He was looking for another place to live for however long they were going to be on this mission. While The Cloyster was a nice place to live, it was much too loud for him. He just wasn't comfortable there.

Anastasia paused briefly in the act of stroking Moira's soft white coat for just a moment before she continued, tipping her head so as to look up at him from the corner of an eye. "Well, I was considering it," she said, rising slowly into a standing position. "I hadn't really decided anything for sure. I'm kind of in the middle of nowhere compared to where most people want to live on the island, and I don't really know if I'm comfortable with a complete stranger wandering around my house. But... in theory the rooms are there, sure."

She brushed down her pant legs before regarding him with a slightly-confused expression. "Why do you ask? Have another friend moving to town or something?"

If he knew how to laugh, he would have. Eryk didn't have friends. He had one, maybe, but he wasn't sure if he'd really consider Cyrilla his friend. They were more family than that, he supposed. He shook his head, though, and kept Anastasia's gaze.

“It's understandable if you don't, but," he paused, his head moving slightly to the left from where mankey was pushing it lightly. “Would you be willing to rent one out to me?" he asked. He should probably offer an explanation as to why he was looking for a place, and pushed a soft sigh through his nose.

“I know I have a room already at the Cloyster but..." he pursed his lips together, sighing softly and shaking his head. “A place like yours is more ideal for me than a place like the Cloyster," he continued. It probably wouldn't convince her, and he wouldn't blame her if she said no or had any other questions.

"More... ideal?" Anastasia seemed a little confused, but she didn't reject the idea outright, which was probably a good sign. "Could you explain what you mean by that? I just don't want you to have the wrong impression of it or anything, you know?"

He could understand if she was hesitant. “As you said, it's in the middle of nowhere. I've never been too comfortable in places that attract a lot of attention," he started, his eyes narrowing slightly. “It's too... much. Something like this, it's smaller, and doesn't require a lot. I'd be more comfortable here than I would be if I stayed at the Cloyster. You don't have to rent one out to me, if there's a problem. I can look at other places, but..." he paused, unsure of how he wanted to say this next part.

“I'd be able to help out as well with whatever you'd need, and not just with them," he stated, motioning towards the pokémon in the yard. “It... makes me feel at ease." He'd spoken only the truth so far.

Anastasia contemplated this for a moment, but then her eyes softened, and she nodded slowly. "I can understand that," she murmured. "All the activity, and the people... I don't think I'd ever be able to relax, even if I was just nearby." Furrowing her brows a bit, though, she sighed and smiled a bit wryly. "That said, I still think you should at least see the room and things before you go promising to help with maintenance. Mankey's fine to stay with the others for now—Nova and Luna will keep an eye on him for us. Would you like to come inside?"

He might as well.

He set mankey down carefully, glancing in Moira and Icarus's direction before inclining his head towards them. Icarus merely went towards mankey and immediately trilled at him. Moira, however, seemed to curl underneath a shaded tree, seemingly content for the time being.

“Sure," he finally stated, waiting for Anastasia to lead the way.

She hummed a note of agreement and took them around the front first, pausing to remove her heavy boots. The foyer, he'd already seen. It was only a small one, with a staircase off to one side and an open archway to the living room on the other. "You know most of this, I suppose," Anastasia said. "The kitchen's through the end of the hall here and the dining room's next to it, and of course the back door's there too. You'd be free to use anything you want in all these rooms, of course, and the downstairs bathroom's that door just before the kitchen to the left, near the basement stairs. It's only a half-bath, though—yours would be upstairs this way."

So saying, she led him up the stairs, into a comfortably sized hallway with a deep blue carpet runner along it. There were four doors here, all of them closed. The one at the end was probably Ana's, but she opened the one on the left closest to it. "This is the larger of the extra bedrooms," she said, stepping in as she opened the door and holding it for him as well.

The room was mostly empty at the moment, only an island-style woven red and white rug thrown over the natural hardwood floors. "The air conditioning is central, but if you want we can get a window unit, too." The room had a several windows, actually, with bamboo blinds and soft, cream colored curtains. "I, um... haven't furnished it, obviously. I could if you prefer but if you already have all the furniture you want I guess this just means there's room for it?" She cleared her throat. "Sorry. I haven't really done this whole thing before. I'm not sure what matters."

Most of the furniture he owned would have to stay at the Cloyster. Not that he minded; a lot of it was unnecessary. He'd just furnish this room to his own standards and liking. “You won't have to worry about furnishing the room. I can take care of that," he stated. “What were looking for as far as payments go? When would you like them, and... if you'd be willing to rent me the room, would you be looking for a deposit?"

He might as well ask all the questions and get them out of the way, first, before she decided on anything.

"Oh, um... I hadn't really put that much thought into it," she admitted, pursing her lips and considering the room. "I mean it's really just a bedroom and a bathroom, and it's not like sharing the living room and so on is any inconvenience." She considered it a bit and shrugged. "Maybe... I don't know. Two hundred a month or something?" She looked vaguely uncomfortable even asking for such a low amount, and grimaced faintly.

Eryk furrowed his brows deeply. Even if it was just a room, two hundered a month wasn't enough to cover much. The Cloyster alone was almost twenty five hundred a month, but the expenses were mostly covered by the organization. They still had to pay an amount themselves, but Eryk was confident enough to be able to still pay his half and what he was going to offer Anastasia.

“Eight," he started, sighing softly. “I'll pay you eight hundred a month. It should be more than enough to cover shared living expenses, regardless. In addition, I will help out around here at the shelter as well." He already volunteered, but if he lived here as well, he'd be able to do a lot more than just two hours or so worth of work. He also knew that the extra income would help her out with whatever else she would need for the shelter and its inhabitants.

"Oh, but that's far too much," Anastasia protested softly. "It's not worth that much, especially on top of all the help you already give me. If you really feel like two hundred's a bad idea, then..." She paused, eyes drifting up towards the ceiling in thought. "So I pay about three hundred a month in utilities, including for the shelter. If you paid half of that, which is still very generous, on top of helping out like you just said, then add that to the two hundred I wanted for the rooms... how's that? Three-fifty and a bit of extra help?"

She smiled, a little awkwardly, but didn't seem to be upset. "Please. I really wouldn't feel comfortable asking any more than that, and I'm sure there is still going to be more to pay at the old place until you can get out of your lease."

Eryk pursed his lips together, furrowing his brows lightly. “Five, then," he stated. “I'll pay five hundred a month, plus helping out. It wouldn't... I like doing it," he admitted softly. He did, in fact, enjoy helping her out. Spending time with the pokémon doing something useful... he enjoyed it. He had to remind himself on multiple occasions so far that this was for the mission's sake. He was doing it for that, however; some small, selfish part of him thought it was for him.

Anastasia made a small noise, tugging slightly on one of her twintails, but when he mentioned liking the work, her expression softened. "I... okay. If that's really what you want to do. It at least means I don't have to consider renting the third room, so... I guess it'll just be us, if that's okay with you."

“That should be fine. If it makes you uncomfortable to have a man around, though, feel free to rent it out to someone else." He didn't want her to be uncomfortable, after all. It would make things harder, for the mission.

With a small scoff, she shook her head. "It doesn't," she said simply. "Oh, and... you have to let me do things like make you food, okay? I'm probably not as good as Cyrilla is, but it wouldn't feel right just making my own with someone else living here."

He pursed his lips softly, but nodded his head. He had a feeling she wouldn't take no for an answer. “Seems like a fair trade," he spoke, his expression smoothing out just a bit. It felt like the corners of his lips were tilting slightly upward, but that was an absurd thought. Eryk didn't smile. He couldn't.

She blinked at him for some reason, slowly, and she did smile, though she gave no particular indication as to why, only shaking herself a bit as if to clear a thought away. There was a faint hint of color to her face, but that seemed to happen to her a lot.

“Once I have everything settled with Cyrilla and Kasimir, I will let you know when I'll be able to move in. Is there a preference for a date?" he asked, arching his brow slightly. “I do not want it to be on an inconvenient date for you."

Anastasia hummed. "I'm usually busy on Tuesday afternoons, but I don't have many plans otherwise," she replied easily. "My schedule's wide open, really, so... just let me know when you want to and I'll make sure everyone spends some time inside so they don't bother the movers or anything."

He nodded his head, then awkwardly stuck out his hand. “I suppose this means we'll be... roommates," he stated.

Her eyes widened, but then she laughed softly and took his hand. Her own was tiny, with slender fingers, which she closed around his hand gently. "In that case... welcome home."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

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#, as written by Aethyia


July 17th
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Sunny
Aidan Klein


It wasn't entirely unlike watching a train wreck in slow motion. Or maybe bacteria bumping against each other under a microscope or something.

Apparently at some point, Nero had decided he needed help with his social skills. Not an entirely unreasonable thing to want help with, sure, though typically Aidan would have recommended... well, not this. Maybe therapy or something—shit knew the kid could probably use it for other reasons, too. But somehow Rheinallt had been appointed to help him out. On its own this wasn't that weird either—the guy was charming in a way Aidan could recognize but not emulate, and his facility with people probably came from understanding them, rather than pure unexplainable instinct or something, like some people had. It meant he'd be able to teach.

But then Doc had wanted to be involved, too, and since it was work hours that meant he was along for the ride, and here they were downtown and he wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen. Kasimir had suggested lunch first, which seemed reasonable, so they were all arrayed around an outdoor café table now, working their way through food and drinks.

"Okay so I know I agreed to help with this and all," Rheinallt said, gesturing vaguely with a cheese-covered french fry, "but if I taught you everything I know about getting along with people we'd be here... longer than any of our patience would tolerate. So maybe you could both explain to me exactly what you're hoping to work on here?" He took a large bite from the fry and glanced back and forth between Doc and Nero.

Nero was regarding Rheinallt with a flat look, one that probably meant he was thinking. Doc, however, seemed to furrow her brows as she chewed thoughtfully on one of the fries. “I guess I'd like to know how to not make a fool of myself," she spoke softly, pursing her lips in Rheinallt's direction. “For instance, I mistook Aidan for a Farfetch'd driver when we first met," she murmured, dropping her gaze somewhat as she shifted in her spot.

“I think that's a good start, right?" she stated, looking somewhat hopeful. Nero, however, shook his head.

“Not to be so blunt," Nero finally responded, taking a bite out of his nachos.

Aidan took a bite of his sandwich, flicking his eyes back to Rheinallt, who sighed. He could understand why—those were one very vague and one very specific—but hard to act upon—direction. Not to mention Doc and Nero were wildly different cases. Not opposite, exactly, but definitely not the same.

"Good grief," he muttered under his breath. "Okay, uh..." He pinched the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and thumb. "Both of those problems fundamentally start with observation. You need to be able to figure out what people are like basically, and you need to be able to pick up on nonverbal cues in the moment that will tell you how they're reacting to what you're doing. So you have that much in common at least. Sort of. I guess we can start there."

That made sense. Bluntness was relative—knowing when he was being too blunt with someone would probably help Nero. Should also help Doc remember to stop rambling, if she recognized the signs that the other person wanted to say something. Though really he thought both of them didn't have 'problems' with people so much as their personalities were just a little different. Neither of them bothered him any, for instance.

"Okay so... Sis. What, exactly, made you think Aidan was a Farfetch'd driver? I have to admit I'm... not really seeing it." Rheinallt grinned to take any edge out of the comment, but it seemed to be a genuine inquiry.

“Oh, well," she sputtered a little as she glanced down at her hands. “I've used the service before and most people who've picked me up always sort of looked like Aidan," she spoke all in one breath. Her face tinged a bit with a pink hue, but she took a drink of her water and laughed a little nervously.

“I think it was mostly just the shades and cigarette, really. I didn't expect him to be... well, him," she continued.

Aidan snorted softly, swallowing his bite of sandwich before he inadvertently choked on it or something. That was her whole basis for thinking so? It was kind of funny to him, actually, somehow perfectly characteristic of who Doc was—she was an absolutely brilliant researcher, he had no shred of doubt at that, but she seemed to have trouble turning that native sharpness to other enterprises.

"On a surface level that's not terrible," he admitted. "I don't dress like what people typically think of when they picture an NTR administrator, but I don't look like most grunts, either, and that was what you were expecting." He tilted his head. "But that there's half your problem. You were expecting something in particular, and so you got into a mode of thinking where you were making comparisons between what you were actually seeing and different sets of archetypes in your head. Everyone does it, but the trick to being good at observation is to only ever do that on purpose, and to try and look at important things with fresh eyes all the time."

He glanced at Rheinallt, lifting an eyebrow. "You mind?"

"Not at all," the other man said with a grin. "Even I'm interested to hear what the human lie detector has to say about observing."

Aidan rolled his eyes. "That's a dumb name," he said simply. People did call him that, though. He chose not to dwell on it. "Anyway." Fishing his packet of cigarettes out from his pocket, he took the sunglasses from off his head and laid both on the table. "Looking a little closer at the same things... what do you see?"

Rheinallt smirked, seeming to know the answer, but left it a moment to see if either of the others would say anything.

Doc stared at the sunglasses a little, head tilting to the side as if she were inspecting them. Nero merely looked like he was glaring at them. “Your cigarettes aren't from around here. You can't get those here. I've seen them mostly in Saffron and Celadon City, though," he spoke, finally. He didn't seem to know much about the glasses, though, as his eyes stayed glued to them.

Doc looked vaguely surprised, as if she hadn't known that. Given that she didn't smoke, or drink, she probably didn't. “The glasses, they're Flygons, right?" she stated, arching a brow in Aidan's direction. “A lot of professional battlers and gym leaders wear this type. Especially the ones who are specific to fighting-types and water-types," she stated, listing off the things she knew about the glasses.

Aidan was surprised she knew of the pro-battling connection; he filed the information away into his own set of observations about Doc herself before nodding. "You're both exactly right. So now you have to put it back in context. You've just been approached on the dock by someone who seems to know who you are, on your way to a new job with NTR. He's not dressed any particular way, but he imports his cigarettes from elsewhere and wears the kind of sunglasses professional battlers tend to like. What's he most likely to be?" He shrugged, picking both items up off the table and replacing them where they went.

It was not, of course, impossible that someone like that could drive for Farfetch'd, of course, but there was a subtle implication in both observations taken together: the person in question was financially comfortable in a way the average Farfetch'd driver wasn't. That might not be fair, but it was fact. And observations inherently dealt in statistics like that.

Rheinallt nodded. "And as it happens, noticing stuff like that can sometimes provide good topics of conversation, too. You seemed to know a lot about the sunglasses, Sis. That's the kind of thing you can chat with a stranger about in a casual setting like a bar or party or whatever. One of the tricks to stuff like this—and Ryk, you can use this too—is to ask questions instead of making statements. So even if I had a pretty good guess that Aidan here was the Aidan Klein, undefeated former pokémon champion of Kanto, I wouldn't just go up to him and say as much. I could get at it less bluntly. Something like..."

He turned to Aidan, body language clearly asking him to play along. "Hey man, are those the Flygon F9s?"

Deciding to humor him, Aidan nodded slightly. "Good eye; yeah, they are."

"They work as well as everyone says they do? I've been looking to get a new pair. Island's damn bright, but I don't want to lose them in the water on day one."

"Haven't had any issues," Aidan replied. "Water, though—you surf or something?"

Rheinallt grinned, then turned back to the others. "See, Aidan just did one of the things everyone should know how to do. He turned the conversation back around on me. Supposing he's not too enthusiastic about getting fawned over, it's exactly the right way to redirect before I manage to ask him about battling. Plus, it's flattering. Generally, people like it when you show interest in them, and let them talk about things they care about. Only if you can make it seem genuine, of course, but that's pretty true of anything."

“Oh, but that was brilliant, though. I couldn't do something like that even if I tried," Doc spoke, but she was smiling a bit. Nero, however, rolled his eyes lightly, and took a bite of his nachos. “I don't think I'll ever get to be that savvy, but I suppose I don't have to be," she continued, her smile brightening a bit.

“Hm," it was more of a grunt than anything coming from Nero, but it sounded as if he was agreeing with Doc.

“I think I just need to be more comfortable, and... learn how to not ramble so much."

Nero shrugged. “There are worse things than rambling, Solomon," he spoke, arching a brow in her direction. She huffed lightly, and nodded her head.

“I suppose you're right about that, but it would be helpful. Sometimes I just keep going and say things I shouldn't," she murmured, taking a drink of her water. “Like when I told Aidan he wasn't necessarily a sweetheart like you were but... and I'm doing it again," she stated, turning pink in the cheeks as Nero arched a confused brow in her direction.

Aidan rolled his eyes; Rheinallt burst out laughing.

"I guess recognizing it is the first step," he said, wiping an imaginary tear from the corner of one eye. "Look, Sis, it's like... conversations have a flow, right? That's what makes them conversations, as opposed to lectures: both people participate. Remembering to ask more questions will help if you also remember to wait for the answers."

Shrugging, Aidan added nonchalantly: "One of the things I used to do was pause for a sec every time I was about to start talking. Helped me catch myself from saying stupid shit a few times. Sometimes you just need to give your brain time to catch up with your mouth." He took another bite of his sandwich.

"That's a good one for you, too, Ryk. But even more importantly, you've got to learn the difference between a true thing and a thing you should say. They're not completely the same."

Doc chuckled lightly as she grinned at Rheinallt. “Then I suppose I have a bit of work ahead of me," she stated, causing Nero to roll his eyes.

“Not as much as I do," he muttered, taking the last bite of his nachos and washing it down. Doc chuckled again and nodded her head.

“I think we have a good chance, though, Eryk. Between the both of us, we'll get it right," she stated, sounding a bit optimistic. Nero arched a brow at her but shrugged his shoulders. His way of agreeing, perhaps. He shrugged a lot when he did.

"I've got more work to do here than the both of you put together," Rheinallt grumbled, but he didn't try to conceal his good humor about it. Aidan got the impression a lot of his demeanor was kind of a facade, but at the same time there was something at least basically genuine about it, and here he thought they intersected a bit.

Personally, Aidan wouldn't be surprised if he'd had to learn a lot of this the way they were. Social grace wasn't something everyone could perfect by any means—he'd learned enough to get by and been uninterested in anything further. Not that he didn't see the advantages. He just didn't think they were worth the sacrifices.

"It's not that bad," he replied, washing down his sandwich with a swig from the glass of soda sitting next to it. "You don't have to make them as good at this as you are. Shit, I don't think most people could be."

Rheinallt shrugged. "Was that a roundabout way of saying I'm charming?"

"No, but I don't reject the implication, I suppose."

He barked a laugh. "And that was what we in the business call 'damning with faint praise.' Way to shoot me down, Boss. Breakin' my heart over here."

"You'll live. And I told you not to call me boss."

“But you are charming, Kasimir," Doc replied after she'd manage to recover from the small bout of laughter. “Very much, so," she added, causing Nero to roll his eyes and take another drink of his water.

“You shouldn't tell him things like that. It'll go straight to his head and you'll never hear the end of it," Nero murmured against his glass. Doc seemed confused by his statement before it dawned on her that he wasn't being serious.

“Oh, well, still. I think Kasimir is very charming albeit a little silly sometimes. But again, it's part of his charm and it works very well for him," she continued, smiling as if she were proud of the things she'd just stated.

"Aaaaaaand there it is again. Y'know Sis, most people are satisfied by saying a thing once, instead of twice and with extra," Rheinallt was looking at her with amusement.

It was, in fact, a thing that Doc did. In fairness to her the reassertion wasn't always needless, but for the most part it was fairly extraneous by most standards. Then again, most conversations were full of extraneous things. Filler words, pauses, repetition. It wasn't a terrible thing.

"Why are the both of you doing this, anyway?" he asked them, fairly sure he knew but wanting to hear it in their own terms. Maybe that was why Doc's redundancy didn't bother him much: for him, most conversations were redundant to things he'd already picked up from observation, but that didn't mean that people actually saying what was on their mind was bad.

“Well, mostly so I'll stop doing things like that," she murmured softly, eyes falling to the table for a moment before they shifted to her cup. She picked it up and held it in her hands for a moment before taking a drink from it. “And I thought it might be useful to know how to get along with people. I know Kasimir said that no one pleases everyone, and I'm not trying to. I just thought that if I knew how to approach people better, I wouldn't necessarily make a fool of myself. I'm notorious for doing that," she stated, twirling the cup in her hand.

Nero shrugged, though. “Mostly so that I don't unintentionally screw things up by saying something that'll offend someone. Certain people, at least," was his simple reply.

Nero's reasons, he could understand, with a sensitive mission like his still ongoing. His file had... overstated his people skills considerably. Aidan wasn't sure why, because it certainly wasn't something he'd misrepresent himself. That guy was a lot of things, but generally speaking dishonest and overambitious weren't among them.

Something better thought about later, though. It probably came back to what it always did: the Kogas pulling strings.

He could only scratch his head a bit, though, when he considered Doc's answer. "I dunno where you're getting this idea that you 'make a fool of yourself,' Doc. Everyone one makes the occasional observational error, and there's really nothing wrong with the way you talk or anything." He shrugged. "If you're in it for yourself, go for it, but if you're worried about offending people or some shit, I think that's all or mostly in your head."

"He's not wrong," Rheinallt replied. "Some people even find mannerisms like yours to be cute for their own reasons, and prefer someone earnest and excitable like that."

Doc's face turned a deep shade of red, and she turned her attention towards the cup in her hands. She seemed more interested in staring at it than anyone else. “I'm not so sure about that," she murmured softly, but shook her head. Nero glanced in Doc's direction but shook his head. “But this was interesting and a little fun," she stated, smiling a bit. She still didn't look up from her cup, though.

“Interesting, I'll give you that. Fun... perhaps for Kas," Nero spoke, turning his attention towards Rheinallt and regarding him with a flat stare.

Rheinallt only smiled, in a way he supposed was meant to be vague and mysterious. Aidan saw right through it—he was more than a little amused, to be sure.

"Who knows?" he said, lifting his shoulders in a nonchalant shrug. "Finish your lunches, and we'll move onto actually talking to people."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 19th
Ana's Home - Late Afternoon - Warm
Nevena Solomon


Nev was all too happy to lend a hand with Eryk's move. Apparently he had decided to leave the Cloyster and found a room at Ana's place. She thought it was rather adorable that she'd offered Eryk a room. Nev might not have been observant, but she didn't have to be when Eryk expressed his discontent whenever he entered and left the Cloyster. He looked happier when he wasn't there, even at the office he seemed to prefer it.

They were lucky that today wasn't so hot and humid. It might have been warm, but it was tolerable. Nev had dressed for the occasion; a pair of khaki cargo capris and a plain white t-shirt. She'd worn a pair of slip-on shoes so that the laces wouldn't get caught on anything. Eryk, however, seemed to be dressed in a simple linen shirt that had sleeves down to his elbows. He never seemed to like exposing much skin, it seemed. From the scars on his face, Nev could only assume that he had more that he didn't like people seeing, or just wasn't comfortable with exposing skin in general.

His pants were a dark grey, though, almost smoky in color and a pair of work boots. He was currently lifting the mattress to his bed along with Cyrilla. She didn't seem to have the same reservations as Eryk did. She was wearing a grey racerback tank top and a pair of black capri leggings. Like Nev, she'd opted for slip-on's rather than laced shoes.

Kas left the truck carrying the small dresser by himself; Aidan had wanted to come, but he had to work today, and he seemed a little hesitant about meeting Ana, too, for whatever reason. "Up we go, I guess," he said, shifting his grip a bit. It seemed to be more awkward than heavy, though. He'd opted for a sleeveless shirt with wide armholes and athletic shorts, hinting at a large number of tattoos. His whole arm was covered by what seemed to be a tribal-style Rayquaza, snaking up the length of his limb. Its head disappeared beneath fabric, though, so she couldn't see the full design.

Ana, not really suited for carrying heavy things at all, was still doing her best to help, holding a few small loose items. She wore a slightly-oversized t-shirt dress with a cubone graphic on it, and artful rips on one side near the hem. Her boots seemed to be new, a lot like her others, but with a slight heel to them, and her hair had been pulled forward into braided twintails with black ribbons tied into delicate bows.

"There's a couple bags left in the truck," she said, nodding to it, "but I think this can be the last trip."

Huffing lightly to herself, Nev moved towards the moving truck to peer inside. Eryk didn't have a lot of things, surprisingly enough. Most of his furniture was new; he'd had it moved in the day before, but he still needed to set it up. And put the mattress on the bedframe since it was the only piece of furniture he'd brought with him. He didn't seem to have very many clothes, either, which were piled into three duffle bags, it seemed.

Those, Nev could carry. She wasn't physically strong like the others seemed to be, but that didn't stop her from wanting to help.

Once they were done moving all of Eryk's things in, Nev smiled a little to herself, wiping off the beads of sweat from her brow. “I think that's everything," she stated, peering back into the moving truck to ensure they had taken everything down. Eryk nodded his head as he glanced towards Kasimir and Cyrilla.

“Thank you for helping," he stated, glancing back towards Nev as well.

“Not a problem, Ryk. It was worth it since we get to have some of Ana's cookies and tea," she stated, grinning up at Eryk. He rolled his eyes and shook his head, causing Nev to chuckle softly. Sometimes they reminded her more of siblings than anything, but she wasn't going to say anything. People fell in love with the strangest people sometimes. Not that Nev could even say that she's loved someone before. She'd crushed on people, but nothing really came of it.

She blinked, though, and pushed the thought away. Now was not the time for her mind to wander. “It was no trouble at all, Eryk. I'm glad these weak muscles could help out somehow," she stated, earning a light snicker from Cyrilla. Eryk merely pursed his lips together in confusion before shaking his head.

"I think you've still got me beat," Ana said with a little smile. "Come on then; cookies are almost done." She looked a touch winded, cheeks pink from exertion, but she led the way down the stairs with a light tread, and ushered them all into the kitchen, where the smell of baking cookies permeated even more heavily than through the rest of the house.

There were enough stools at the island for everyone, and Ana flitted about her kitchen, bringing down a full set of cups and saucers to match the teapot sitting on a small towel on the island. Steam curled from the spout; it seemed to have a softer, richer scent, not overly sweet.

Their hostess was stymied, though, when she opened one of her cupboards to bring down a serving tray for the cookies. "Oh, um... I don't suppose one of you tall people would mind helping me get that down?" It was ludicrously higher-up than she'd be able to reach—maybe she normally used a step-ladder or something.

"I was born for this moment," Kas declared dramatically, hopping off his stool to retrieve the item, carefully stepping around Ana to do it before handing the thing over with a wink. "And hey, you have your very own live-in tall person now, too. Think of the convenience."

Ana gave him a gentle whack with the serving tray. "Now you're being silly," she accused, glancing at Eryk and smiling with a touch of the awkwardness that never seemed to leave her. "I promise I won't make you do that kind of thing all the time."

Nev chuckled at the antics about the same time Cyrilla did. It was cute, in a way. Eryk didn't seem to mind, though, and shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn't mind," he responded casually, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“Ryk lives to help, Ana. It's fine," Cyrilla stated shaking her head lightly. Nev smiled, though, and regarded the four others. They were much younger than her; it was kind of hard not to think about it, but it was also obvious in so many ways. The way the seemed to joke with each other so easily was interesting. It was nice. Eryk rolled his eyes, but he didn't seem to deny it, either.

“It's nice, though," Nev stated as she glanced in Eryk's direction. It was sweet of him to offer her the help when she needed. Some part of Nev wondered if he was like that with everyone, or if it was just Ana in particular. It was probably a little of both.

Ana had turned away to retrieve her cookies from the oven; it looked like she'd made several different kinds, including chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and something a little more exotic that smelled a little... spicy?

"Oh, what are those?" Kas asked, clearly picking up on the same thing as he made his way back to his stool, between Cyrilla and Nev.

"Brown butter bourbon spice!" Ana replied, smiling brightly. "I thought I'd try something new since I know some of you like spicy more... adventurous flavors, I guess. But I also made these other ones in case they weren't very good," she admitted. She transferred the cookies to a cooling rack first, then poured everyone's tea, setting out sugar, milk, honey, and so on for those that wanted to doctor their cups.

"By the way, does anyone here actually prefer coffee? I can keep that in mind for next time, or even just make some now; it's not an inconvenience or anything."

"Either's good with me," Kas replied with a shrug. "But if we're having cookies with whiskey in them, I wouldn't mind some coffee with."

Eryk shook his head, seemingly fine with the tea. “I wouldn't mind some, either. Please and thank you!" Cyrilla stated, smiling brightly at Ana.

“None for me, thank you. As delicious as they smell, I'm afraid I can't eat anything spicy. I'm not... well, I can't handle spicy very well," Nev replied, smiling a little nervously. The last time she'd tried eating something spicy, it felt like her mouth had lost all feeling to it and it felt like she was going to pass out. She wasn't so accustomed to pain that way, even if it wasn't particularly painful. Just unpleasant, really.

“Oh, but Nev, you're missing out! Spicy things are the best," Cyrilla stated, her brows raised in what looked like surprise. “But I don't think they're that kind of spicy. You should give them a try," she stated, glancing in Ana's direction. “Right, Ana?"

"Well it's supposed to me more of a warm sort of spice, like gingerbread kind of," Ana said, pulling down a small bag of coffee beans and grinding them with what seemed to be a hand-grinder into a different container. "But there's plenty of other things to eat if you'd prefer not to risk it. I'd understand completely," she added, offering Nev a sympathetic smile.

"I can handle some spicy flavor, but past a certain point it starts to feel a little like dying and I'd—" Abruptly, her eyes widened, and she coughed a little into the crook of her arm. "Ah, sorry."

Kas, brows furrowed, tilted his head a bit. "You okay, Ana?"

She nodded, turning back around to fit the ground beans into the coffee machine. "Yeah, just kind of choked on air. I'm uh... kind of an idiot, but I promise you don't have to worry." Turned away, it was impossible to see her face, but her voice sounded a little wry, playful self-deprecation if anything.

Nev pursed her lips together, though. She was a little concerned, but if Ana said there was no need to worry, then Nev wouldn't push. She didn't want to come off too strong or anything. She was taking the lessons Kas was giving her and Eryk fairly seriously. And she remembered that one thing, at least. She smiled, instead.

“Well, if it's more like gingerbread, then I should try it. I can't handle the hot kind of spicy. The spice spicy, though, I can," she stated. It was strange, though. They were in the middle of July. Gingerbread she would usually attribute to winter time. They were still in the beginning of summer. Cinnabar had a way of feeling like it was always summer, though. Something crossed her mind, then.

“Oh!" she stated suddenly, “I just remembered something! I've seen these flyers around town about a summer festival called the Camellia Festival. Have any of you ever been? It sounds like it might be nice."

“I saw those, too, actually. Never been to this one, but I'm sure it can't be that much different than the ones in Fuschia or even Celadon or Saffron," Cyrilla spoke, shrugging her shoulders lightly.

"It might be similar," Kas said in a teasing tone, "but this one's going to have the beach. Summer festivals are a million times better with beaches. Real ones, not that little strip of imported sand that passes in Fuchsia." he grinned.

The coffee finished, so Ana poured cups for Cyrilla and he both before setting the cookies on the tray and pushing it towards all of them over the top of the island. She took up a stool herself next to where she'd stood, reaching forward only once everyone else had taken something and breaking one of the spice cookies in half, offering one to Nev.

"This way it's not a big deal if you can't eat it," she explained with a small smile. "As for the Camellia Festival, I know they put on a pretty big one here compared to others I've seen. I hear the fireworks are really top-notch. There's a lady who makes them here locally, she and her daughter. I've never been, though."

“Oh, but it sounds like it could be lovely," she stated, taking the offered cookie. “Thank you," she stated before taking a bite out of it. “This is really good," she spoke once she'd chewed her piece and swallowed. Cyrilla huffed lightly as she took a bite as well. “And I love fireworks. They always have the most interesting shapes. They're mostly different shapes of pokemon, but they're still interesting to watch."

“Why don't we all go, then?" Cyrilla stated, arching a brow in Eryk's direction. He furrowed his brows at her, though. “Ana's never been to one, Nev probably hasn't either," Nev nodded her head at that statement. She'd never been to a festival before, but she had seen fireworks and the like. “And Kas says that the better ones are ones with a real beach. I don't see why we couldn't all go and enjoy it together."

“It sounds like it'd be really nice. What do you three say?" Nev spoke, turning towards Kasimir, Ana, and Eryk. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders.

"You're seriously asking me like I might refuse?" Kas asked, lifting an eyebrow and hiding his smile behind his cup as he took another sip of his coffee. "Of course I'm in. What about you, Ana?"

"Oh." Vague surprise registered on Ana's face. "You're asking me too? Uh..." She fidgeted a bit where she sat, looking down at her lap and then back up at the others. "I wouldn't mind trying, but... I'm not very good around crowds. I might have to leave early or something, if I get too... is that okay?"

“I don't think it's a problem, really. Eryk's like that, too. He can't stand crowds so if you need to leave early, I'm sure he wouldn't mind leaving with you and walking you home," Cyrilla stated, but it didn't sound like she was teasing Eryk. She had turned in his direction, arching a brow at him as daring him to deny what she'd just said. He rolled his eyes but nodded his head.

“It's true," were the only words he spoke before taking a bite out of one of the cookies.

“This is going to be fun! A summer festival with friends. It sounds really nice," Nev spoke, smiling a little as she took another bite of the cookie. Cyrilla huffed lightly as Eryk narrowed his eyes.

“We'll just have to see, now won't we?" Cyrilla stated, briefly making eye contact with Kasimir before turning her attention towards Ana. “And you'll need to get me a copy of your recipe for these cookies, Ana. They really are good and I'd like to try my hand at them!"

"I can do that," Ana replied. "And I'm glad you all like them. They were sort of an experiment." She seemed to relax considerably once it had been made clear that her discomfort wouldn't be getting in the way of anything.

Retrieving a notepad and pen from a drawer in the kitchen, she started writing down the recipe in elegant, almost calligraphic penmanship, though it was fairly quick, too. "Oh," she said after a moment. "This might be silly of me, but a lot of people wear yukata for this kind of festival. If Cyrilla and Nev would like, I have a bunch of them from various members of the family in a trunk in the basement. I'm sure there'd be plenty of options for either of you, if you wanted to try them out. Er. If you don't already have your own. I guess you probably would, huh?" She winced.

“I don't, actually," Nev laughed nervously. “I've never really had an occasion to wear one or even purchase one. I suppose I should have, though," she stated, smiling at Ana, though. “I would love to see what you have as far as they go. Oh, and... well, I don't exactly know how to wear one, either," she murmured softly. She didn't know how to wear one mostly because she'd never owned one.

Cyrilla, however, looked quite amused by the whole thing. “I would love to see what you have, Ana. I only have one yukata and it's currently stored away somewhere. I can't remember where, exactly," she stated, waving a dismissive hand in front of her face. “The festival isn't for another few days, though, so that will give us plenty of time to get everything sorted out."

Ana, clearly enthused by the prospect of helping, smiled broadly. "Then we'll do that! We can teach you how to put one on, Nev, don't worry. It's nowhere near as complicated as a kimono or anything."

Kas sighed dramatically. "Man... now I'm sure I'm just dreaming. Shame, because this has been such a good day, too."

At Ana's quizzical look, he chuckled. "Hey, don't blame me. I'm just a man, you know? Hearing I'm going to be going to a festival with three beautiful women in yukatas is kind of..." he gestured vaguely, a wolfish grin filling in the rest of the sentence.

Ana turned crimson, sputtering into her teacup with a soft squeak.

Nev coughed lightly into her hand, feeling her own face heat up at Kasimir's statement. Cyrilla, however, seemed to have found it amusing since she was laughing. Eryk merely furrowed his brows, though, and shook his head.

“Don't worry, Ana. He's harmless, really," Cyrilla stated once she seemed to calm her laughter. “And you and Eryk will be in yukatas, too, Kas. Not just us," she stated, shaking her head lightly. “We'll all be stunning, I'm sure, but for now," she continued, reaching over to grab another cookie, “we should be enjoying Ana's homemade cookies!"

Nev smiled and nodded her head, taking another cookie for herself, this time. Maybe she should tell Aidan about it, too? He might want to go.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


July 25th
Ana's House - Early Evening - Clear
Anastasia Asher


"Okay, so... this is what we have," Ana said, flipping open the lid of the trunk. They were in her bedroom, which was spacious but largely unremarkable. Her fashion sense didn't really extend to decorating, minus a few touches, and her bed linens and things were all in shades of cream. She liked the clean feeling, but there was a world of difference between cream and white, and it mattered to her.

Inside the chest were over a dozen yukata, all of them well-maintained and new-looking. She suspected most of them had only been worn once or twice before; they'd come from an assortment of relatives over time, but mostly arrived in her belongings by means of her aunts Miranda or Lydia. Pulling out one of the stacks, she started laying the folded garments out on her neatly-made bed so that the pattern of each would be visible. "Really it just comes down to picking whatever you like, in terms of pattern and color. Most of them are around the same material. Sizing will vary a little bit, but most of these should fit either of you with no problem. They're a little more forgiving than kimono in terms of the tailoring not needing to be perfect or anything."

Honestly even kimono weren't that bad, until one considered the really expensive kind. Even then, they could be pretty reliably passed in families and things. Her family had some things like that, but she wasn't anywhere near important or central enough to the main line of it to have any chance of inheriting something so important herself. She supposed it was kind of... clan-like, in that way still.

“Oh, wow, they're so pretty," Nev stated lightly as she leaned over the options. Cyrilla huffed lightly, shooting off a text, apparently, before turning her attention towards the yukata Ana had placed out. “Are you sure it's okay if we wear one, Ana?" she asked almost hesitantly.

“I don't think Ana would have offered if she wasn't sure, Nev," Cyrilla spoke with some amusement in her voice. “Nev is right, though. They are very beautiful," she added, running her hand across one of the darker colored ones before turning her attention towards Ana. “What is your favorite color, Nev?" she asked. Nev turned towards Cyrilla and hummed a thoughtful note in the back of her throat.

“Purple, but the really light shades of the color. Like lavender," she answered, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“Do you have any in that color, Ana?"

"I think so, yes. Let me see here..." Rummaging around in the chest, she came back up with two garments and made a satisfied little sound. One of the yukata was a soft, slightly reddish lilac with a white pattern on it. The other, however, was actually a slightly deeper purple, more on the blue-periwinkle end of things. "This one has a lavender obi, so I figured it was also an option," she explained, unfolding them one by one and laying them out spread on the bed so Nev could see the whole pattern of each. The lilac one had a pretty traditional arrangement of flower branches on it, but the periwinkle had clouds and flying birds.

"Of course if you don't like those you can always wear another color, but that's what we've got for light purples. What are you thinking, Cyrilla?"

“I really like this one, though," Nev stated as she reached for the perwinkle one. Cyrilla hummed slightly as if she were thinking about Ana's question.

“Well, I've always done the richer, darker tones. White hair doesn't always compliment a lot of the brighter colors, so I've usually stuck with like dark greens, reds, and even black. Rich purples, too," she stated, listing off a few colors, at least. “What do you have as far as rich purples and reds?" she asked, tilting her head in Ana's direction.

Ana could sympathize; at least white was a neutral color. Pink looked awful with certain tones and shades. To a certain extent, the range of options was skewed with this in mind, since most of her female relatives shared the hair color that had been their trademark for ages. "Well, there's a couple already laid out here, and..." Returning to the trunk, she pulled a few more, along with a couple darker blues and greens, just in case. They had a range of possible accent colors and patterns, but as a rule this kind of yukata weren't usually made that dark. Not womens' ones anyway. They were designed to be bright and festive, but at least some of these colors were a little richer.

"Feel free to lay out or try on anything you like," she offered, with a little smile, heading back to the chest to retrieve the lavender obi that went with Nev's choice. She'd still need to try it on for fit, but if Ana recalled properly, that was one of Aunt Lydia's, and they were about the same size, so it should be fine.

“Thanks, Ana," she stated as she glanced at the choices. She seemed to be narrowing down the choices, coming to a dark red one that had white cherry blossoms on it, and a dark green one with white lilies on it. She pursed her lips together as she regarded both choices. “Alright, I need input. Nev, Ana, which one?" she stated, glancing in both of their direction. Nev blinked slightly and pursed her lips together.

“They both look really pretty, Cyrilla. Either one would look lovely on you, but... well I like the green one just a little more," Nev spoke first, causing Cyrilla to grin lightly.

“What about you, Ana? Which one do you think would be better?"

"Um... I think the green, too? It'll make your eyes stand out a lot more," Cyrilla's eyes were an interesting shade—not the brilliant red of Eryk's, but a softer, almost floral pink. They might get a little lost with a strong red shade of clothing, but the green would accent them nicely, Ana thought. "The obi for that one's gold, too; I think it's an elegant combination with your coloration." She shrugged, though, hardly an expert in the matter.

“I guess I'm wearing the green one, then," Cyrilla stated, picking it up from the pile and holding it out in front of her. Nev smiled as she held her own yukata before turning towards Ana.

“How do I put it on?" she asked, looking a little confused. “It looks like I just drape it over and then... tuck it somehow?" she continued, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly. She made her way over towards Nev and held out the green kimono she had chosen.

“Watch me," she stated, folding out the yukata a bit. “It's really not that difficult. Think of it as putting on a robe. You're going to slide your arms through the sleeves, first," she continued, demonstrating what to do first. Nev watched as Cyrilla continued demonstrating before she was finally done, and she'd managed to pull on her yukata.

“Of course, I have to change so I have to do this again because I'm not wearing my blouse and shorts underneath. You could, of course, but it might be a little uncomfortable for you since you're wearing jeans, Nev. I brought a spare tank top and leggings to go underneath, but I bet you didn't bring anything at all, did you, Nev?" she stated, glancing in Ana's direction for a moment. “Do you think you have something she can wear under it?" Cyrilla asked.

“Oh, it's fine. I can run to my apartment and grab something. I don't want to impose on Ana more than I already have with the yukata and learning how to put it on," Nev replied, smiling softly at Ana. “It's only a few minutes away."

“A few minutes away if you use Farfetch'd or Gogoat, but it's about a twenty minute walk from here, Nev. It would be about the same amount of time if you used either car service."

"It's really fine," Ana agreed easily. "These days most people wear things like camisoles and shorts or t-shirts and leggings under, but there's a really light juban in here that won't show that should fit fine." She dug it out, snapping it a few times to help any wrinkles out, then handed it to Nev. "This goes on over your underwear, just like an actual bathrobe. The tie is very basic, so there's no need to do it any special way. You can duck into my bathroom if you'd prefer and come back when you have it on so we can do the rest."

“Thank you, Ana," Nev replied as she ducked out of the room. Cyrilla shook her head lightly, though, already out of her yukata as she went to grab the small bag she'd brought with her. She pulled the tank top and leggings from it, grabbed her yukata, and turned towards Ana.

“Guess I'll just change real quick, too," she stated, making her way out of Ana's room as well. She was probably going to use Eryk's room since he was currently out getting his own yukata with Kasimir. It was Nev who returned, first, though, looking a little disorganized. Her hair looked slightly out of place as if she'd had trouble putting even the juban on.

“I, uh, couldn't get the tie on just right," she stated, laughing nervously. “So... I just slip this on over it, right?" she stated, grabbing the yukata she'd chosen. She slipped it on, first, before pursing her lips together. “I don't recall the next step. I have to pinch something to fold something somewhere..." she trailed off before glancing towards Ana.

“I hate to ask, but... help?"

Ana found herself laughing softly, but stepped forward obligingly. "Okay so... we go left over right here..." She folded the sides of Nev's yukata in towards her body, tuckng neatly but not tightly. It was important to leave enough room to move after all. She'd probably do well with an obi board to keep that part straight, but... that did take away some flexibility and probably wasn't the best thing for a first time wearer.

She went slowly, describing each of the steps as she undertook it before reversing it and having Nev copy her, so that in the end the whole thing would be her doing. Yukata usually used half-width obi, and this particular one was no different in that respect. Tying that was the most complicated part, so Ana guided her through each individual step, finishing with an obijime cord to dress it up a little bit.

"Oh, and I've got a few types of netsuke, too—if you want one and maybe a small purse for money or something? If you'd rather carry an actual bag around that's fine too, of course." Crossing to her dresser, she removed one of the tiny drawers from a small wooden box on top of it, bringing over the drawer with its little collection of netsuke. A few of them were flower-shaped, one was a buneary, and there was also an eevee one and one for each traditional starter pokémon for the Kanto region.

“What about kanzashi or pins? Do you have any of those?" Cyrilla spoke as she entered Ana's room. It looked like she didn't have any trouble with her own yukata, and arched a questioning brow towards Ana.

“Oh, I'll take a flower one if that's alright," Nev spoke as she took one of the flower-shaped netsuke. “And what would you need kanzashi and pins for, Cyrilla?" she asked, turning towards Cyrilla.

“For your hair, of course. We're not going out until everyone's hair has been pulled up accordingly, especially you. You have a tendency to throw it in a tail, and a festival calls for something more lively," Cyrilla replied, grinning lightly. Nev blinked before her eyes widened slightly.

“You can do that for me?" she asked, causing Cyrilla to snort softly.

“You and Ana if she wants. But you are getting it done one way or another. I'm just leaving it up to your preferences to how."

"I do have a couple kanzashi but..." Ana hesitated, unsure if they'd be receptive to the idea. "If we want something a little more, um, seasonal, there are a bunch of flowers in my garden. We could use those to decorate our hair instead?" Ana offered the small drawer of netsuke towards Cyrilla, retaining the eevee-shaped one for herself. It was her favorite, and a gift from Edgar, so it had a lot of sentimental value to her and she tended to wear it whenever she had occasion for a netsuke, which was... pretty much never, honestly.

"I think I actually have some periwinkle flowers still in bloom, for example, or we could use a slightly deeper color, like purple freesia. And I think rosemallows would look really nice on you, Cyrilla—they're kind of this mellow gold color that would be really nice in your hair?" She cleared her throat, halting a bit awkwardly. It wasn't exactly traditional, and she reminded herself they hadn't agreed to it in the first place, much less asked for her suggestions on flower types.

“You know... that's actually a great idea. We can do that," she stated, taking one of the netsuke at random, it seemed. She snorted softly when she saw which one she'd taken and glanced back at Nev. “What do you think? You're not allergic, are you?" she asked the other woman. Nev shook her head, though.

“I'm not, actually, but I do think it's a good idea," Nev seemed to agree as she smiled.

“Alright, well let's go get some flowers before I do everyone's hair. You're getting periwinkle, though. It'll match your yukata," Cyrilla stated before turning towards Ana. “Let's go see what you have. Don't forget you'll have to pick a flower that'll match the yukata you're wearing. Otherwise it'll just throw the whole thing off, even if it's a flower or color you really like, but won't match."

Ana smiled and rolled her eyes, supposing that this was sort of an obvious thing to be reminded of. She'd suggested the rosemallow for her because it matched the detailing on her yukata, not just because the color was pretty. But she couldn't blame her for being excited, honestly—Ana had never been the kind of person to be enthusiastic about this sort of thing, but she found it was a very different experience with friends as compared to with family. Or with her family, at least.

"All right, this way then!" She led the way down the stairs, down he hall, and through the kitchen to the back door, which put them almost right out in the garden anyway. With a broad gesture, she smiled at both of the others. "Take your pick, really. There's a lot in bloom right now since it's the middle of summer and everything."

Cyrilla immediately went towards the rosemallows, glancing at a few of them before making a selection. Nev, however, seemed a little hesitant on some of the flowers. She was looking at the periwinkle flowers before she finally seemed to make her selection, and both women made their way back to Ana.

“Which ones are you choosing, Ana?" Cyrilla asked as she tilted her head in a questioning manner.

"These," Ana said with a slight smile, clipping a trio of amaryllis flowers from the patch of them in the garden. Her particular yukata was actually black and white, but the obi made up for it by being layered red and purple, which prevented the rich colors from clashing too much with her hair. The red flowers would look nice enough, she thought, without blending in or being too opposed.

"I've got some pins and things we can use to put these together back upstairs, and then I think I can get changed while Cyrilla does your hair, Nev." She'd gotten so into their choices and such that she'd rather forgotten that she actually still needed to get ready herself. It was, honestly, still kind of strange to think that she was going to a festival with friends. It had always seemed like the kind of thing that other people did, and Ana just read or heard about, or vaguely recognized sometimes happened.

“Let's get to it, then," Cyrilla stated as they followed Ana back to her room. Once they'd managed to get the pins, and set about a workable space, Cyrilla turned towards Ana and made a vague shooing motion with her hands. “Go get dressed while I work my hands with Nev's hair, because you'll be next," she stated winking at Ana before turning towards Nev. “Alright, Nev, you ready?" she asked as Nev took a seat in the chair that had been provided.

“As ready as I can be!" was her response, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

Nodding, Ana moved into her bathroom and folded herself into the yukata. It was interesting, she thought, the things that people learned or didn't learn just because of their families. She could tell just from today that Nev's was far less traditional than her own or Cyrilla's, and she wondered what that was like. They all seemed to have come from completely different worlds, really, and yet something about this meant they could all have fun together with something that had never been very fun to Ana before.

Smoothing the line of the garment in the way she'd been taught, Ana tied her obi traditionally, the red-embroidered purple not too bright against the black and white butterfly pattern of the yukata itself. Her netsuke was made from a pale whitewood, and she hooked a small satchel to it for her belongings and tied the thin obijime with automatic hands, before stepping back out into the bedroom.

When Ana returned, Nev looked slightly in awe at her hair. Cyrilla had pulled it into a bun with two braids on the left side of Nev's face tucked into it. She'd used the flowers to pin it in place, though, and one that seemed to be tucked behind Nev's ear. Nev's bangs looked to be too short to pull in, though, and Cyrilla had left them down to frame her face. Seemingly satisfied with her work, Cyrilla turned towards Ana and grinned.

“You look really nice, Ana," Cyrilla stated, causing Nev to turn in Ana's direction as well.

“Oh, that does look lovely! Especially the color scheme. It really works for you!" Nev added as she smiled brightly at Ana.

Ana huffed softly, feeling herself flush just a little. "Thank you," she said, clearing her throat. Returning the compliment was much easier, since it was entirely true. "You both look wonderful as well." She was sure Cyrilla got loads of compliments on her hair all the time, but Nev's was pretty, too, a bright, sunshine-blonde that went really well with the pale purple she'd chosen. Cyrilla was just too pretty to be believed, really, like some kind of fairy from a story or something, and it really didn't have much to do with her hair color, though that certainly didn't hurt her case.

She wondered for a moment how she'd wound up in the company of such people, but shook it off. That was hardly the most important thing, and interesting as they were as people, they were still people.

Ana pulled the ties out of her hair, shaking it out a little and running her fingers through it a few times to make it easier for Cyrilla to manipulate. "Feel free to do whatever you want," she said with a shrug. "It tends to behave, at least."

Cyrilla and Nev both huffed a short laugh before Nev stood from the chair, and offered it to Ana. Cyrilla pat it at the same time and waited until Ana was situated before she ran her fingers through Ana's hair. “It's so soft and fluffy," she spoke, running the brush through it a few times. “It's like cotton candy, almost," she added, earning a light chuckle from Nev.

“Are you just saying that because of the color?" she asked, causing Cyrilla to snort.

“No. It feels soft and fluffy like cotton candy does, only better and without that sticky feeling." Once Cyrilla finished combing it, Ana could feel her pulling and tugging at her hair, occasionally putting some of the strands over Ana's shoulder. It took at least fifteen minutes before Cyrilla hummed a satisfied note, and turned so that she was standing in front of Ana. Nev handed her the mirror, and she held it up in front of Ana.

“So, what do you think?" she asked. Cyrilla had pulled Ana's hair into a waterfall style braid that was half-up and the rest of her hair was allowed to remain loose. She'd tucked two of the amaryllis flowers into the band that held the braid at the back of her head, and had tucked the other one behind Ana's ear.

"Oh." Ana's eyes widened a little; she had a fair bit of hairstyling in her repertoire, so to speak, but she'd never gone to much effort to learn to use it on herself, so she wasn't even aware her hair could look quite this nice. "That's—thank you, Cyrilla!" She handed the mirror back and stood, gesturing to the seat. "If you'd prefer to do your own that's fine, but I could help too if you like?"

“Well, considering that my hands have worked on two hair styles already, a third might be a bit much for me. I'll gladly take the help to give my hands a bit of a rest," Cyrilla replied, taking the chair Ana had been sitting in. Nev chuckled lightly as she stood on the other side of Cyrilla.

“Is there something in particular that you'd like, Cyrilla?" Nev asked as Cyrilla pursed her lips together in a contemplative manner. She shook her head, though, and glanced towards Ana.

“Not really, so... surprise me," she stated.

Ana hummed, running thin fingers through Cyrilla's hair and smiling at the smooth texture of it. "Yours is so silky," she said, almost absently, with clear admiration. Realizing that might be a little weird, she cleared her throat. "Um, anyway. The yukata's got a sort of complex pattern, so I think maybe simple will be best here. Maybe a feebas-tail braid on one side, into a ponytail?" She glanced at Nev, curious what her thoughts were.

Cyrilla chuckled lightly at Ana's earlier statement, but hummed lightly. “I think it would look really nice," Nev answered. “And it's not like it has to be anything too elegant, right? We're going to a summer festival, after all," she continued. Cyrilla nodded her head once in agreement.

“Agreed. It doesn't have to be too fancy or anything of the sort, and I did say surprise me, so..." Cyrilla trailed off with a light smile.

“Oh, this is going to be so exciting," Nev stated, clearly enthused about going to the Camellia Festival.

Ana might not be much to write home about, when it came to strength or agility, but her fingers were nimble and deft, and the hairstyle didn't take long at all to form. She wove the flower into it, just behind the ear, at the place the braids became a ponytail. "There!" she declared, stepping back and patting Cyrilla's shoulders with her hands once before she let them fall away. "What do you think?"

For a moment, the expression on Cyrilla's face was soft. She was smiling, but there seemed to be something like melancholy tinged to it before the smile brightened. Almost as if the melancholy was never there to begin with.

“I think it looks really nice, Ana, thank you!" Cyrilla stated, standing up from her spot. The smile turned into a grin, though, as she glanced between Ana and Nev. “Well, now that we've mostly taught Nev how to wear a yukata, how about we go find the guys and get ourselves to a festival!?"

“Didn't they say they were going to meet us, here? They were out with Eryk helping him find a yukata since he didn't have one, right?" Nev spoke, causing Cyrilla to snort softly.

“Something like that."

Ana was not exactly surprised Eryk didn't have a yukata—more surprising was the fact that he'd consider wearing one for something like this. Kas, she could see—he was kind of flamboyant in a certain way, and wouldn't mind the slight showiness of traditional clothing.

In any case, she lifted her shoulders a little and smiled. "I suppose someone should probably text Kasimir and tell him we'll meet them under the festival arch? It's kind of like the front gate, and pretty easy to see: it's decorated with loads and loads of camellias."

“On it," Cyrilla spoke just as Nev opened her mouth to do the same, it seemed. Cyrilla grabbed her phone and sent the text quickly before turning back towards Ana and Nev. “Done, and done!" Cyrilla seemed just as excited as Nev had a moment ago.

“I wonder if they'll have any deep fried twinkies there," Nev mused out loud, causing Cyrilla to shake her head.

“Won't know until we get there, now let's go!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 25th
Cinnabar Island - Early Evening - Clear
Eryk Nero


Eryk narrowed his eyes slightly. He didn't understand why he couldn't just wear the one yukata he had in his closet. According to the others it wasn't acceptable attire for the festival, and he needed something different. It meant that he had to go buy one, and he was currently with Kasimir and Aidan. He didn't have much of a choice, really. He was told that he needed a new yukata because apparently his had holes in it. And that just wasn't acceptable to most people. He could have had it tailored; there were enough people in town that could have mended them easily enough. Cyrilla said that he needed a new one to match, though.

Match what, he didn't know.

“Couldn't you have just picked something out for me?" he decided to ask. Eryk wasn't picky about what kind of yukata he wore. He'd had to wear different colored ones, styles and what not for other missions he'd had to partake in. Whatever Kas would have picked, would have been fine by Eryk. Even if it might have been a loud color since Kasimir seemed to enjoy things like that.

"Oh come on, Ryk, where's your sense of adventure?" Kas protested, though it wasn't much of one, really, considering the broad smile on his face the entire time. "This is all part of the festival experience, you know?" He opened the door to a shopfront, ushering the other two inside.

Aidan blinked. "And why am I here again?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow at Kas.

"Because Sis thinks it'd be nice if you came along, and I know you don't own one of these."

The other man sighed quietly.

Eryk sighed heavily as he shook his head, walking inside of the shop and pursing his lips together. “I don't have a sense of adventure; I thought that was obvious," he deadpanned before glancing around. There was material strewn about on tables, a few already-made yukata, and a few other things he didn't pay much mind to. Eryk would admit that Aidan was at least free to have said no. It's not like this was his mission; he wasn't the one asked to get close to Anastasia.

“Is there some particular way we have to do this? Can I just choose the first thing?" he asked, though he wasn't entirely sure why he was asking. He could, technically, just grab one of the made yukata and be done with it.

"Aw, c'mon man. If you're stuck doing it, you might as well try to make the most of the experience. Besides, we're probably going to have to check what they have in for tall people. Day of isn't ideal for buying, but if we just need quick adjustments I'm sure they can do them here." He flagged down a shop clerk, explaining that two of them needed new yukata for the festival.

The older man running the counter seemed to measure them with his eyes for a moment, and nodded slightly. “I've got a few ones left that should be in the right size range," he explained, bobbing his head amiably. “Wait right here."

He disappeared into a back room, returning with armfuls of fabric. Traditionally, menswear for this kind of thing was more subdued, in darker, stronger colors, but some of these had patterns to them, too. “Feel free to take a look. There's a few more back there with slightly different colors or patterns, so if something's close but not quite there, just ask!"

Eryk furrowed his brows, but inclined his head when the old man gave them some options to choose from. The darker colors all seemed to be decent enough, but Eryk pursed his lips together when he took a closer look. Briefly, he wondered if he was supposed to match the people he was going with. Turning his attention towards Kas, he decided to ask.

“Are we supposed to match with everyone else for festivals like this? The ones back in Fuschia didn't really have those kinds of things, but not every festival is the same," he stated. That much, he at least knew. Had to know given that some of his missions required it of him. Cinnabar was, perhaps, one of the few places he hadn't known about. He didn't think Kas would, either, but he supposed it didn't hurt to at least ask.

Kas shrugged. "To my knowledge, the only people who match on purpose are dates. Never seen a group do it before, and it's definitely not mandatory for anyone. Hell, there will be plenty of people there in normal street clothes, just not you. Since you're doing this properly." He flashed another broad smile before turning to the third member of their little group. "What about you, boss? See anything that strikes your fancy?"

"Uh..." Aidan was looking at the material in front of him like it was completely foreign to his experience. "Red's probably out. I look stupid in it." He pointed at his hair. "Other than that I've got no clue."

Eryk supposed Aidan had a point, but he couldn't say for certain. He didn't know how things like that worked, after all. He wasn't exactly fashion savvy, and had left most of that to Cyrilla or someone else who was. His entire wardrobe, actually, had been recently updated by Cyrilla when he'd moved into Anastasia's place. Something about needing new clothes or something like that; he couldn't exactly remember. Shrugging his shoulders, he glanced back at the options.

“Why not just do a dark blue or stick with black?" Eryk stated, keeping his eyes on the choices, but directing the question at Aidan. He did, after all, wear mostly black. Eryk supposed it wouldn't be exactly a difficult choice if that was his choice of color or style.

Aidan nodded. "Was sort of thinking I might," he agreed after a moment, Shifting through the options before pausing. "Er... I can touch these, right?"

Kas laughed. "They're just clothes, guys. Different style, for sure, but we're not talking ancient wedding kimono here or something. They're made to be worn; your hands aren't going to do anything bad."

Nodding, Aidan resumed his shifting, Kas checking his phone briefly and then sending a text, it looked like. Casting his eyes over the pile, he hummed and pulled a deep purple one from the stack. "Feeling bold?" he asked with a grin. "It's mostly black, I guess, but this aubergine is nice." It was a subtle striping, of sorts, the purple so dark it nearly matched the black, but would be visible as different in any amount of light.

"You would use the word aubergine," Aidan replied with a snort. He squinted at the garment, though, and shrugged. "But sure, that's fine."

That seemed easy enough, Eryk supposed. Now he just needed to find his own yukata. The problem was, nothing really seemed to be catching his eye, so to speak. He wanted something plain that would do; the one he currently owned was a dark grey color void of any patterns. But there was something about the grey itself that he actually liked.

His eyes scanned the pile trying to see if he could find something similar. Furrowing his brows when he couldn't he sighed somewhat. Grey was not option, it seemed. There was, however, one that looked like a navy blue color. It was dark enough and if Aidan was going with a variation of purple, then Eryk supposed it would be fine if he had a blue. He picked it up and held it out in front of him.

“Will this do?" he asked, turning towards Kas.

Oddly, Kas checked his phone briefly before replying. "Hm. Blue's pretty standard, I suppose. What about a dark red, though?" He pulled another from the pile; this one did have a fair bit of grey to it in addition to the red. "Should bring out your eyes, if you're into that kind of thing." He winked, clearly having much more fun with this than either of the other two.

Eryk narrowed his eyes at Kas. “Ass," he spoke before taking the yukata into consideration. It was much nicer than the blue, but he wasn't entirely sure about it. He considered it for a moment longer before finally shrugging. It wasn't a bad choice, really, and if it was something Kas picked out, then he wouldn't have to worry about finding something himself. And it also meant that Kas couldn't poke fun of him for it since he was the one who chose it.

“Fine, it's nice enough," he stated, taking the yukata from Kas. He held it out in front of him to ensure that it was at least the proper length, frowning slightly when it was a bit too long. “Do they do adjustments here, too?" he asked. Kas might have mentioned it, but Eryk wasn't too sure. He was going to need to get it shorted just a bit so that he wouldn't trip over it if he decided to purchase it.

"Yep. Basic stuff can just be done while we wait." He flagged down the shop owner again, explaining what they needed done, and the old man happily collected the garments and the necessary measurements before shuffling back to the room in the rear of the store.

"So... this the first time you guys have done something like this? Ryk said Fuchsia ones are different, but what about you, boss?"

Aidan sighed. "Don't call me boss," he replied automatically. "And uh... yeah, I mean I've been to a few street festivals. Plainclothes, though. Nothing fancy." With a shrug, he crossed his arms together and leaned back against the wall, seemingly not impatient for the garments to be fixed. "I'm guessing you must've, though, because you didn't get one for yourself."

"Yeah, mine's back at the apartment," Kas said. "couple different shades of green, kinda bamboo-patterned."

"What? No hot pink?"

"No, but I do have a bright orange happi. You wanna borrow it?"

"Pass. Orange looks even worse on me than red does."

Eryk rolled his eyes at the conversation but... it felt oddly nice, he supposed. He wasn't sure how or why it did, but it did. “This is the first time going to a festival with friends, I suppose," he stated, shrugging his shoulders lightly without paying much thought to what he'd just said.

Maybe that's why it felt nice? Because... they were his friends in a way. Not that he'd ever fully acknowledge it; it was too dangerous of an acknowledgment and he was not going to do that to them. He didn't... he wasn't entirely sure, actually.

“And are you saying hot pink would look better on you than orange?" Eryk asked, turning his attention towards Aidan.

Kas barked a laugh, but Aidan rolled his eyes. There was a little smirk playing at the edges of his mouth, though. "You idiots don't understand. You both have dark hair, and that goes with anything. Now me, I can't wear anything in that family. Pink, red, orange... hell, even some shades of green look stupid. Why else would I wear this much black?"

"Honestly? I kind of thought you were emulating Gregorovich," Kas teased.

It was Aidan's turn to laugh here, though it was only a soft chuckle. "I guess that's a fair guess. The guy is the one who taught me to dress. Y'know, to look like a responsible adult instead of a member of a biker gang or something. Used to be a lot more chains involved."

Kas looked him up and down, expression thoughtful, but also clearly attempting to hide a grin. It wasn't working very well. "You know, I could see it. Is that bike in the mansion garage yours?"

Aidan nodded. "Yeah, actually."

Eryk huffed lightly and rolled his eyes. He supposed he could also see it, Aidan belonging to a gang of sorts. The bike, though, was interesting. Eryk mostly walked every where, never really seeing a need to drive. If he needed to get somewhere, he just used Orion in the spaces he could. The pidgeot was certainly big enough to carry Eryk, but it was very rare when he did.

“Suppose you'll be dressing up like it again when halloween rolls around. Might make for a good costume," Eryk chided, though it was in a good natured way, he supposed. “Though you might give Solomon a scare if you did," he added. He wasn't entirely so sure about that, though. She was a bit oblivious to some things, but he didn't think she scared easily. Nor would she find Aidan's chains or biker look intimidating.

"If Doc was busy, I could walk into the lab in drag and she wouldn't notice," Aidan replied dryly.

"Now there's an image."

The stream of banter was interrupted by the owner, who returned their adjusted garments to them, asking them to check for fit again. Everything seemed to be in order, though, so they paid, leaving with paper bags and slightly lighter wallets, metaphorically speaking.

"Hey boss, can we write this off as business expenses? You know, for the mission and all?"

"No."

“You didn't even buy anything, Kas. What are you complaining for?" Eryk stated. It was only Aidan and himself who bought something, and it wasn't like he needed to be reimbursed for it. “If you want to charge a finder's fee, I can pay you for that," he stated with a light shrug of his shoulders.

"Dear arceus, I think Ryk actually just told a joke." Kas looked up at the sky, making a show of squinting as if looking around for something. "I'm expecting flying piloswine next, for the record."

“Ass."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


July 25th
The Camellia Gate - Evening - Clear
Aidan Klein


As it turned out, wearing the yukata wasn't too hard. Aidan had elected for a pair of shorts underneath, but more than that wasn't necessary. The fold naturally sat about as low on the chest as a v-neck t-shirt would, and he'd never been one to really care about that sort of thing. The geta were different, but simple enough to walk in, so it wasn't like he could complain much.

Presently, he and the other two were standing off to one side of the arch that marked entrance into the ground that had been set aside for the festival: several blocks' worth of streets, from the look of it. Tourists were out in force, but so were the locals, and the attire ranged from the traditional, like their own, to t-shirts and khaki shorts to sundresses to business casual, from a few of the office workers who seemed to have just ended their shifts. There were all kinds of people, too: old, young, families, couples, groups of teenage friends, and so on; he supposed the composition might change a little as the night wore on, but at the moment it was quite the interesting mix.

Aidan passively filtered details as people passed; Nero and Rheinallt were talking about something, but he was only listening with half an ear right now. The smell of the flowers next to him was a little heady, but he didn't want to smoke or anything this close to the arch. He really needed to quit, anyway, as he periodically reminded himself.

It was easy to notice that they were drawing attention; he'd even seen a few female tourists snapping pictures that he thought were probably supposed to be discreet. They weren't, but it wasn't worth the effort of stopping them. He was nominally 'famous' and sometimes recognized. He supposed in this case it might be more the other two's fault than his, though, for the obvious reason that they were good-looking young guys in traditional clothing. The kind of thing a certain type of tourist would take a picture of, especially if they could claim the arch was the point.

Hopefully it wouldn't be too much longer until the rest of the group got here. He hadn't been sure about meeting the target, but if he was going to do it, this was about the most organic way to make it happen, so he'd figured he might as well get it over with. If she was ever part of Project Nebula, he'd have to then anyhow.

It wasn't much longer until they arrived. Doc looked to be chatting amicably with Niav who was grinning. They both turned their attention towards the other woman of their group, and waited on her reply for something. Niav rolled her eyes at the answer, but Doc seemed to find it funny. When she glanced in Aidan's direction, though, she waved excitedly as did Niav, though less excitedly.

“Hi, Aidan," she greeted, once they were close enough. “And you too, Eryk and Kasimir. You all look so nice!" she stated as she glanced in Nero and Rheinallt's direction. “Oh, wait, um, Ana, this is Aidan!" she introduced him as Niav chuckled lightly. “He's my supervisor."

Nero rolled his eyes, though, as Doc smiled at them.

She was tiny, Aidan decided.

Of course, this bit of information had been in the dossier. Intellectually, he'd understood that she was five foot one and a hundred pounds soaking wet, if that. But there was an inherent sort of fragility to her appearance, too, one that took something more than just being a small woman to produce. He wasn't sure what it was, but he set the thought aside for a moment when she made hesitant eye contact.

"Nice to meet you, Mr....?" She seemed unsure it was appropriate to address him as Doc had introduced him. Arceus, he was getting old, wasn't he?

Shaking his head faintly, Aidan extended his hand. "Doc's got it right," he said. "I'm just Aidan. Nice to meet you too, Ana."

She smiled, then, a bit of tension loosening in her frame, and she put her hand out in return. He took it very carefully, still quite cognizant of that impression she gave off. He'd heard people use expressions like 'dollfaced' for women before, but didn't think he'd ever met someone for whom it was so appropriate. Poor kid looked like she'd snap in half if you breathed too hard in her general direction, paper and porcelain. But her grip was firm, if far from aggressive, and when they let go, she was still smiling a little, as if she knew he'd been especially careful and was the faintest bit amused by it.

"You all clean up nice," he observed, nodding to Niav and Doc. "Mind the tourists, hey? Couple of them seem to be a bit too enthusiastic with the cameras today." He figured it was fair to warn them—a couple of giggling women snapping shots of them just standing around was one thing. Statistically, men were much more likely to get pushy about it, and while he had no doubt Niav could handle herself, he was less sure the other two would really know what to do.

Doc tilted her head in confusion as if she hadn't quite understood what Aidan had meant. “He means that if some of them get a bit pushy, it's okay to tell them no. And if they can't take no for an answer, well..." Niav started, trailing off at the end before arching a brow at Doc. “You have four capable people here to help you out." Doc's eyes widened as Niav explained before pursing her lips together.

“I don't think that'll be a problem, though," Doc stated, causing Nero to roll his eyes. Niav did the same before shaking her head.

“Well regardless, we all do look nice, and since it's Ana and Nev's first time at a festival, how about we go enjoy ourselves, hm?" Niav stated, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You do look nice, by the way, Anastasia," Nero stated as he moved a bit to the side, as if to allow the women to move in front of them.

Aidan had to suppress a soft snort as the girl's face went pink. "Th-thank you. You too," she replied, stride hitching slightly awkwardly as the group shifted. She clearly wasn't sure where she was supposed to walk, comparatively, but the streets were pretty wide, so eventually the group became a sort of amorphous blob.

Rheinallt took a couple broader steps to wind up next to Niav, leaning down to say something Aidan couldn't hear. That more or less confirmed that the two were in cahoots for some reason. He supposed it probably had to do with Nero; the guy was the target of at least half of their nonsense, with the other half being rather widely spread.

The festival itself had all the staples and then some: food stalls, games, souvenir stands, places to sit or congregate, and a lively atmosphere, backgrounded by a general buzz of noise given vague rhythm by street performers of various sorts. A few small pokémon were about as well, the generally harmless types that weren't required to be leashed at public events like this. Paper lanterns supplemented the dying light of the sun; the smell of frying things was strong on the air.

"Anyone have any preferences for what to do?" he asked, figuring he might as well inquire. Ana shook her head a little; Rheinallt only shrugged.

"You can pretty much see the options," he said. "Food at these is usually pretty good. I recommend the funnel cake if you have a sweet tooth, and the soft pretzels are aces even if you don't. They also do takoyaki, of course, and stuff like candy floss or whatever." He ticked the food off on his fingers; Aidan figured he must be hungry or something. "There's also lots of games, of course. Sometimes they have this weird one where you try to catch a magikarp with your bare hands, but there's more traditional stuff like ring toss too."

“Wait, how would you do that? Magikarp aren't very bright and they tend to just stay in one place. Wouldn't it be pointless? Doc asked when Rheinallt mentioned the game with magikarp. Nero arched a brow at her, though, and tilted his head slightly.

“Catching one with your bare hands isn't as easy as that," Nero seemed to explain. “They're slippery, and sometimes their scales can be a little rougher than normal. They don't have quite the same texture as a sharpedo would; that's more like sandpaper," he continued, furrowing his brows lightly.

“Oh, that sounds like it could be fun!" Doc stated, earning a light chuckle from Niav.

“Well we're here as a collective group, enjoying the festival together, so... maybe we should decide on something to do first. Maybe we can save eating for last and take a look at some of the games?" Niav suggested. Nero shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't care either way.

Considering that no one else had indicated a strong desire in any direction, Aidan was willing to go with it. "Works for me. Looks like over here we've got... darts, ring toss, some kind of speed-eating challenge, apple-bobbing, one of those things were you swing a hammer really hard to hit the bell... coupla guessing games, too, apparently." He shrugged. "Quick, someone pretend we have interests."

Anastasia giggled. "Um... I don't know if I'd be very good at any of those things. What are the guessing games about?"

"Usually the number of gumballs in a jar or something like that," Rheinallt replied. "If you get the closest of anyone on the night, you win the grand prize, which looks like it's... a gigantic stuffed azurill." he pointed, to where there was indeed a stuffed pokémon plush about the size of Ana herself.

Her eyes widened. "Well, I'll put in a guess, I suppose. Does anyone else want to?"

"I will, sure."

“I'll give it a try!" Doc stated. Nero shook his head, though, and didn't seem to want to participate.

“Eryk and I have always managed to get ourselves banned from things like that. We're really good at guessing things, apparently," Niav offered as way of explanation, shrugging lightly. “But by all means, do feel free to take a guess on my behalf," she stated, grinning in Ana and Doc's direction.

“You'd still be taking a guess, Cy, even if they did it on your behalf. Besides," Nero stated as he glanced over towards the stall, “they only get one guess. You'd have to make one yourself if you wanted to win that azurill." Niav rolled her eyes but was smiling as if she didn't really seem bothered by it.

“I'd still like to know what your guesses are, after I make my own, of course," Doc stated as she made her way towards the booth.

The rest of them sort of followed, stopping close enough that Aidan could see the thing they were guessing about: in this case, it seemed to be a large jar of marbles. The jar itself was about five gallons; Aidan did a little mental math that was bound to be less accurate than Rheinallt's, especially considering there were several sizes of marble involved. Still, he managed to ballpark it, and wondered how far off he was. Past a certain point, it was luck, of course; the margin of error was too big to get precision even if you knew the exact dimensions of the marbles involved.

The three that had elected to put in a guess each paid a small fee to do so, then wrote their guesses down on slips of paper, along with their names, and passed them in to the stall attendant. Unsurprisingly, Rheinallt was squinting at the jar, trying to measure diameters and ratios as accurately as possible, no doubt, before shrugging and scrawling a large 5300 on his paper. Ana's handwriting was too small for Aidan to see what she'd guessed, but she didn't seem to be attempting the actual math in the same way, which was fair enough, honestly.

Doc seemed to take a little bit of extra time with her guess. Her lips were pursed and it looked like she was chewing her bottom lip for a moment before her brows furrowed. Taking a breath, she finally seemed to write something down. She'd written 5877 down as her guess before handing the paper to the stall attendant. Smiling to herself, it seemed, she made her way back towards the others and arched a brow at Niav and Nero

“So, what were your guesses," she asked. Niav arched a brow before turning her attention towards Nero. He merely shrugged though, causing her to roll her eyes and gently tapped his forearm.

“Fifty five hundred," he stated, furrowing his brows in Niav's direction as he rubbed his arm. It didn't look like she'd tapped him too hard, though.

“Fifty one hundred and some loose change," Niav replied with a light grin. “What, it was a big jar but there were different sized marbles in there," she spoke when Nero gave her a questioning look.

"I think I went a little too high," Ana said with a rueful smile. "I guessed six thousand and one."

That probably was high, at least as far as Aidan could tell, but not outlandishly so.

"Anyway," Rheinallt said, stretching his arms up over his head. "What's next? Looks like they've got three-legged races going on over there. If we want to do that we should probably make it happen before all the light's gone; I can't imagine they'll stay open after dark." He grinned, waggling his eyebrows at the others. "What do you say, guys? Wanna live a little?"

"That's teams of two," Aidan noted. "We've probably got the best chances if we arrange by height."

"Yeah, but that's boring," Rheinallt replied, shooting a glance at Niav. "Don't optimize the chances of winning. Optimize for the most fun."

“What Kas said," Niav replied, a small grin pulling at her lips. “And if we want to optimize for fun," she continued, pausing only to glance at Aidan and the others, “then we should do it in pairs. That means you and Ana," she pointed to Nero and Ana, “you and Nev, and then Kas and myself. I think it'd be pretty fun that way." Nero furrowed his brows before glancing in Ana's direction and shrugging.

“I'd be okay with it," he stated in a nonchalant fashion.

“I don't know. It seems a bit unfair?" Doc stated. “I've never done a three-legged race before. At least not since elementary. I wouldn't want to..." she trailed off a bit as if she were unsure how to finish that sentence.

“But that's the point, Nev. You're doing it to have fun. You shouldn't worry about whether or not you'll be good at it. It defeats the purpose," Niav spoke, causing Doc to purse her lips together.

“Is that okay, though? I mean, the two of us against the four of them?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction.

Aidan snorted softly. "It's not like they're all a team against us, Doc. I think we'll do fine, if you don't mind having your ankle tied to mine." He arched an eyebrow, perfectly willing to opt out if she was less than comfortable with the idea. "I know you're not especially coordinated, if Balthazar's recent deaths are anything to go by, but something tells me we'll be okay against these losers."

"Hey," Rheinallt protested, then paused, glancing down at Niav. "That's probably kind of true actually." He shrugged.

Ana smiled, on the edge of a grin. "How about the actual losers have to buy the first round of snacks?"

"I like the way you think, kid."

The smile inched a little wider. "I like my funnel cake with cinnamon sugar, so you know what to get. You'll probably be full just from eating our dust, though," she declared.

Aidan couldn't help himself—he laughed outright. Something about the smack talk coming from such a tiny person was just too funny. He shouldn't be surprised, though—if she wasn't scared off by Nero's permanent grumpy face, she probably wasn't too intimidated by the way he looked either.

Niav started laughing too, and there was a strange snort that came from Nero. “Well, Kas, I guess we should be looking at getting some funnel cake with cinnamon sugar on it," Niav stated as if she were expecting the both of them to lose. Doc chuckled lightly at Ana's statement, but giggled a little when Aidan laughed.

“I'd like a deep fried twinkie, if the losers are already taking orders," Doc stated, earning a snort from Niav.

“And apparently deep fried twinkies. What about you, Aidan, what do you eat?" Niav stated, glancing in Aidan's direction and arched an amused brow.

"Well assuming I'm not stuffed with Ana and Nero's dust, I wouldn't mind a pretzel," he said. It wasn't too surprising that those two had accepted their inevitable loss. They were the worst height match by a fair margin, and unlikely to take this anywhere near seriously.

Normally he wouldn't either, but he figured it'd be rude to let Doc down, so making an effort it was.

The group headed over to the event booth, making their entries and receiving the scarves with which they were instructed to tie their ankles together. Perhaps appropriately, the one he was handed was purple. "You got a preference for sides, Doc?"

“Oh, um," she began, glancing down at her feet for a moment. “Well, I suppose since I'm left handed... I should do the left side?" she questioned as if she were unsure of which one to pick. She furrowed her brows, though, and shook her head. “I mean, the left side should be fine, right?" she stated, smiling a little awkwardly. Nero was already tying his and Ana's ankles together, it seemed. Niav seemed to be tying her's and Rheinallt's scarf around their ankles, probably due to her being the shorter of the two, and making it easier on them.

"Works for me," Aidan replied easily, moving to her right side and moving into a crouch. Carefully, he nudged her ankle over towards where his was, shifting a little to make it easier to tie them together, and wrapped the scarf firmly around several times, knotting it securely. It would actually be better if there wasn't too much give in it, after all.

Standing, he caught his balance. "This'll be easier if you put your right arm around me," he observed. "You don't have to, though. Would you mind if I put mine over your shoulders?" Their heights made that the best option, and they wouldn't jostle around as much if they weren't awkwardly bumping arms or whatever.

“Oh, sure, that's fine! Whatever will make it easier," she stated, seemingly having no qualms about either or. She wrapped her arm around him as best as she could before smiling a bit. “Like this?" she asked, adjusting her grip on him before moving a bit so he could, perhaps, do the same.

“Okay, so all I have to do is make sure I'm a little more coordinated than usual. Unlike with Balthazar," she stated, grinning up at him. “Let's make sure we don't have to eat Ana and Eryk's dust."

Despite himself, Aidan was a little surprised by the ease of her acquiescence. Not that it was really that extraordinary—Doc was a pretty agreeable person in general. Still, he blinked a moment before settling an arm around her shoulders, setting his hand on her bicep. "Right, so the trick is just to make sure we step together, at about the same pace and length. I'll shorten to match you, so just jog as normally as you can and I'll take care of the rest."

He felt himself smile a bit, wry as the expression had to be. "Gonna make the kids pay for my food this time." Gently, he nudged her towards the starting line, doing as he'd promised and letting her decide the pace. It was a little awkward at first, but not so bad.

The other four were already lined up at the start, and after making sure everyone was ready, the attendant running the attraction dropped the starting flag, and they were off.

Doc stepped forward first, holding a little tightly on to Aidan as they moved. Nero and Ana seemed to be in the lead so far, but Doc had a strangely determined expression on her face. “Oh, no, you're not getting ahead that easily. Come on, Aidan, let's show those losers what we've got," Doc stated as she seemed to move just a bit faster. She was smiling, though, and it seemed like she was having a bit of fun.

He huffed a chuckle, moving apace with her and encouraging her to go a little faster once they'd found their rhythm. It was a balance, trying to increase their pace enough to catch up but not so quickly that they fell out of synch. "All right, little faster," he said. "We're catching up."

Behind them, the other two hit the ground, Rheinallt laughing in such a way as to suggest he was having more fun losing than he would be winning, which seemed about right for him somehow. Nero and Ana were a little more determined, and they moved surprisingly well together, but there was no getting around the fact that the girl was tiny, and Doc's longer natural stride helped them close the gap, passing the finish line just ahead of the other two before one of them—he honestly wasn't sure which—slowed down too fast and they collectively tripped.

"Ah—" Reflexively, Aidan shifted aside, winding his other arm around Doc so he hit the ground on his back and she landed on him, which was probably... a little softer, at least. Not that the ground was too bad here, really. "You okay?" he asked, loosening his arms and snorting softly. "Glad we managed to save the falling till the end."

Doc seemed to be fine, though, if the laughing was anything to go by. “That was so much fun, I could kiss you!" she stated, her laughter forcing her eyes closed for a moment, unaware of what she'd just said, it seemed. She moved, though, so that they could both sit up, and began untying their scarf, huffing a small laugh every time she tried to undo the knot.

He didn't take her seriously, at any rate. "Don't traumatize the kids, Doc," he said with a half smile. Aidan leaned down to help with the knot, managing to loosen it and unwind the thing from around them, though he had to stifle a few chuckles in the process. He lost hold of one when he spotted something irregular and reached over, plucking a few pieces of grass out of her hair.

"Pretty sure these aren't as intentional as the flowers," he said, showing her one so she'd understand what he was doing. He set one of the flowers back the way it belonged, too, then stood, offering a hand down since she was still laughing.

“At least we didn't lose," Nero muttered softly as he glanced down at Ana. He moved his gaze back towards the field, though, where Niav and Rheinallt were still lying where they'd fallen. They were still laughing, it seemed, though whether it was at Aidan and Nev or at themselves was hard to tell.

"Sorry," Ana said, rolling her eyes in what Aidan figured was a self-deprecating fashion. "I'm too short to be that fast." She didn't seem too troubled, though, crouching to untie them before returning to a stand. "Thanks for running with me anyway. I've never done one of those before—it was fun."

Eventually, Rheinallt and Niav got their asses more or less in gear, accepting their loss and paying their penance in snack foods, as agreed, and the group spent a while just wandering around, trying out anything that looked interesting. Though he'd poked fun at them for not having ideas or opinions before, it seemed to get a little easier, as everyone relaxed into the dynamic that the group had. It was an interesting, one, Aidan thought, and oddly... comfortable. He'd been a little worried wither he or Ana would stick out a bit, but it honestly didn't seem to be a problem. She was a sweet kid, and the longer he spent with them, the more convinced he became that none of them were really acting when they reacted to her in the ways they did.

It probably should have concerned him more than it did, but even he was human, and the festive atmosphere wouldn't allow him to dwell on it for long.

It was shaping up to be the best night he'd had in... he wasn't even sure, and it had only been a few hours.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 25th
The Camellia Festival - Evening - Clear
Nevena Solomon


At some point during the night, the group had split from each other, though Nevena wasn't going to complain. This was, perhaps, the most fun she'd ever had, and that meant a great deal to her. Going to festivals, playing silly games with friends, these were things she never got to experience in her youth. Her parents never had the time to take her to the festivals, and she didn't have any friends she could go with. As she got older, a lot of her time was spent studying in school, and trying to make it into the position she had, now. It had been a lot of work, but part of Nev wondered if it had cost her more than she'd realized.

Pushing the thought out of her mind, she glanced towards Aidan, and smiled at him. “Are you having as much fun as everyone else is?" she decided to ask. She thought he was having some kind of fun since he'd actually laughed, earlier. Well... more like he chuckled, but it was still in the same category, right? And it had been nice, winning that three-legged race even if they'd tripped at the end. She had, of course, belatedly realized what she had said, but was glad that nothing was taken too seriously about it. It was just something she tended to do when she was excited.

She just blurted out the first thing came to her mind, and she forgot to pay attention to it. None of the others seemed bothered by it; they were oddly accepting of it, now that she thought about it. She supposed it was because they all had their own little quirks about them, and they were just generally nicer than the people she was used to being around. Most of the people she was used to were other scientists who weren't as forgiving as the others had been. It was... nice.

Aidan, who'd been gradually working on a small paper bag of takoyaki, smiled a little as he chewed, offering the sack of fried octopus rings towards her when he swallowed. "I'm not sure it's possible for me to have as much fun as some of you are right now, but I'm enjoying myself," he replied, sounding rather sincere about it. Well, at least for him. He seemed to generally be pretty deadpan or a little wry, but he wasn't mean about it.

"Did you three have fun with your clothes and stuff?" He asked, motioning to her yukata. "Somehow I imagine it being a lot more... involved, than what the other two and I did. Which was basically walk into a store and let Rheinallt bully us into what he thought looked best."

She took one of the rings, and nodded her head. “I did, actually. I've never had to wear one before so I didn't know how to put it on. Cyrilla and Ana both showed me how to put one on, so I can say that it was a fun experience. Cyrilla did my hair for me and Ana let us use the flowers from her garden as decorations," she stated before taking a bite out of the ring. She huffed a little at his statement, though. That sounded a little like Kasimir, but she had a feeling it was more that he was giving them suggestions on what to get. He and Cyrilla always looked so nicely put together, so she didn't put it past him to be able to pick things out for Aidan and Eryk.

“But he chose a really good one for you. It looks nice, especially the shade of purple. It really matches your, um... look?" she stated, unsure if that was the right word to use. She smiled a little nervously, and cleared her throat.

"My look?" he repeated, arching an eyebrow. "Would that be the one where I resemble a juvenile delinquent or the one where I remind people of the boss?" The smile playing at the edges of his mouth gave away the lightness of the question, and he bit into another takoyaki ring. "I'd never bothered with these before, either, actually," he noted after he'd swallowed. A small curl of steam wafted from the remainder of the ring, visible even in the spare light, which was mostly confined to lanterns and the night sky overhead now: the normal streetlights had been dimmed, probably for atmosphere or something.

"Glad I pass muster, Doc. Wouldn't want to embarrass you."

Nev huffed a little as she shook her head. “I don't think you could ever embarrass me," she replied, rolling her eyes in a good natured way. “Me, on the other hand... that's a whole other story," she added. “I do it even when I'm not trying to. And I don't think you look like a juvenile delinquent when you're dressed mostly in black. I thought that was more just your style. It suits you, though. It really makes the red in your hair stand out. Almost reminds me of a rapidash or a ponyta's mane."

In certain lighting, it definitely passed as something that looked more like an open flame than anything else. It was... bright, to say the least. She took another bite of her takoyaki ring, chewing on that before she said anything else embarrassing.

He laughed, then, and it wasn't just a chuckle, either. It wasn't especially loud, either, but it was a proper laugh nonetheless, and with his free hand, he reached over to pat her head, careful not to disturb Cyrilla's work but ruffling it just the faintest bit. "If I'm rapidash, you can be a torchic," he said, dropping the hand away.

"You give the weirdest compliments." He did, though, seem to understand that it had been meant as a positive thing.

Nev tilted her head a bit at the statement but shrugged her shoulders. If she was a torchic and he was a rapidash, then that meant they meshed pretty well together. “It's mostly a work-in-progress, my giving compliments to people," she stated, huffing lightly to herself. “I'm not used to doing it as you can tell. I just, hm, how can I put this," she began, pursing her lips together. She wasn't used to giving people compliments. She could praise people; that was something completely different than a compliment. Not so much, but enough that it was difficult for Nev.

“I can praise people, but I can't compliment them very well even if it is, fundamentally, the same thing. Or at least similar enough," she murmured softly, finishing off the takoyaki ring she had. “But hey, it's a start, right?" she added, grinning back at him.

He considered this a moment, offering the bag back to her once her ring was gone. "You mean like... praise as in 'commend someone for their work or something they've done,' as opposed to compliments about... traits they have or things they are?" He seemed to be asking for confirmation of his thought, intent on understanding the distinction.

"If that's it, I get it. I think it might be because praise is earned, and sometimes even expected, if a person's done something to warrant it. But compliments are like... sometimes they say more about you than the other person, where praise is mostly about them. Or at least that's what I've found to be true." He shrugged. "Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes."

“I suppose that's one way of looking at it," she stated, taking another ring and took a bite out of it. She chewed it over carefully as she contemplated his statement, though. Praise was expected whereas a compliment wasn't always expected. “I guess I still need a bit of practice on that. Like I said, it's a work-in-progress, but I think I might be able to manage it with yours and Kas's help," she stated. There were some things she just didn't quite get, and she wondered if it was mostly just the social aspects of her life that were lacking.

“Like I've said, I've never really had friends before, and my social skills aren't quite polished the same way like Kasimir's are, or even yours. This is all kind of new for me, and I'm willing to learn," she added, smiling just a bit as she took another bite of the takoyaki ring.

He nodded a little. "I mostly learned for work," he admitted. "Honestly, I don't have a lot of charisma. I'm just good at seeing things." Aidan tilted his head, though, and regarded her evenly for a moment as they walked. "And it's not a bad thing to want to be smoother or whatever. But you know you don't have to, right? You're fine the way you are, Doc. And that's a compliment, in case it wasn't obvious." He half-smiled, then turned his attention back to the path ahead of them.

She felt her cheeks burn slightly as she turned her attention to her feet. While he might think that, Nev didn't quite believe so. If she were just a little more charming, or a little more smooth, as he'd said, she might have been able to convince more people to fund her research. Gregorovich had been the only one to do so, but Nev wasn't so sure as to why he was interested in her work to begin with. She pushed the thought from her mind, though, and smiled a bit.

“Thank you, then, for the compliment. You're not so bad yourself, you know," she stated, smiling softly. She turned her attention back towards the path as well, and blinked slowly when a sign caught her attention. Her eyes widened as she turned towards Aidan. “They have a petting zoo!" she stated. “Can we go?"

He looked at her incredulously, wadding up the empty paper bag and tossing it into a nearby trash can. "What're you asking permission for? Go ahead." Aidan made a vague shooing motion with one arm, but started in the same direction himself, a clear indicator that he planned to accompany her. Admission seemed to be free, and Aidan scanned the pens automatically, probably checking to see that they conformed with regulations. He raised no objections, though, so they must have.

"Who're we seeing first?"

“Oh, I don't know!" Nev stated as she glanced around. There were a couple of vulpix, a swirlix, a couple of buneary, a growlithe, and several eevee. They all looked to be mostly young pokemon, but they must have been of proper age to be at the petting zoo. Nev knew that if they weren't at least a few months old, they weren't supposed to be in places like this. There was even an altaria, and strangely, a tauros.

“Oh!" she stated, making her way towards a cluster of zigzagoon. “They're so cute!" she continued, kneeling down so that she could see them better. “They even have a shiny one!" she stated, leaning over towards the copper-looking zigzagoon. She felt her eyes narrow with the force of her smile as it walked up to her, sniffing her hand before it allowed her to pick it up.

“Look at this face!" she stated, holding the zigzagoon in her hands, but showing it to Aidan at the same time.

"I see it," Aidan replied in his customary deadpan. "I see the face." He reached forward, though, to give the pokémon a gentle scratch behind the ears before he was all but mobbed by the growlithe and both vulpix, all of whom sniffed curiously at his ankles.

He rolled his eyes, but crouched anyway, draping his elbows over his knees and letting them approach his hands, which seemed to be equally sniff-worthy. "This is what happens when you live with a houndoom and a ninetales, I guess," he said, picking a bit of loose grass off of one of the vulpix's tails with careful fingers and discarding it to the side.

Nev, who'd been mid face rub with the zigzagoon, snickered softly at Aidan. “It could be worse," she stated, setting the zizagoon down. It seemed a bit disappointed, but waddled over to join the two vulpix and growlithe. Nev opened her mouth to say something when she felt something nudging her back. She blinked and turned to see what it was, and was slightly surprised to see the tauros there. She giggled softly and scratched at the place between its horns and forehead.

“I can almost see a theme going, though," she finally stated, letting her hand rest on the tauros's head. “The red hair, the fire pokémon; you should have been a fire-type trainer. You could have been Kanto's Champion with just the one type," she stated, smiling a bit in Aidan's direction. Honestly, he could have chosen just about any type of pokémon and still managed to become the Champion. He was that good of a trainer from what she remembered about his battling days.

He scoffed softly. "I think Frost would have a few things to say about that," he observed. "And believe it or not, the first pokémon I ever trained was an electric-type." He fell silent for a moment, scratching zigzagoon under the chin with a strangely-blank look on his face before he stood, straightening his yukata with a frown.

"How did people ever wear these all the time?" he grumbled.

Nev chuckled a little at his last statement. “Because I think they're used to it at this point. We don't have to wear them all the time, or at all, so we're not quite as comfortable," she stated, smiling in his direction. She wondered what had happened to his first pokémon. He didn't have any electric-type pokémon with him that she had seen. It was possible that the pokémon was being stored in a PC box somewhere where it was comfortable, but she didn't want to pry.

“You could have had Frost, too. She could have been your surprise player," she added. “Drake has a gyarados, which is dragon-like, but still classified as a dual water and flying-type. I believe Aurora even has a magby, and she's the gym leader in Cerulean. Oh, and then there is Briggs who has a girafarig, and he's Pewter City's gym leader."

He arched an eyebrow at her. "I know," he said dryly. "But it's more interesting that you do. Don't tell me you're a pro-battling nut, Doc." Despite the words, he seemed more amused by the thought than anything, joining her to rub at the thick mane of hair around tauros's neck and chest with both hands.

"You can deny it if you want to and I'll keep quiet, but the evidence is there." A smile quirked one corner of his mouth. "Now I'm offended you didn't recognize me when we met."

Nev pursed her lips together and felt her cheeks heat up a bit. “First, I am a fan," she began, turning her attention back towards the tauros, “and secondly, I didn't recognize you at first because I was so excited to be here. And I just..." She wasn't so sure how to reply to that statement. Part of her felt like he was teasing her about it, but she wasn't so sure. No one really teased her like that. She huffed lightly, though, and smiled.

“Well if you knew I was a fan of pro-battling, then you might have thought I was one of your superfans. I'm not, by the way, but I do enjoy it when I can," she was satisfied with that, and turned to grin at Aidan. “So I'm not going to deny that I am." She nodded her head as if it were the wisest thing she'd ever said before. It wasn't, but that was fine.

"Thank arceus you're not one of those," he deadpanned by way of reply, but the slight smile was back a moment later. "I still watch too sometimes, you know. Tournaments and stuff. Maybe we could have the others over to one of our places for a tournament watch sometime. I can make Rheinallt and Nero come and call it research. I'm sure Niav would show up on her own."

“Oh, that sounds like a great idea!" she stated, pausing momentarily from scratching the tauros's nose, “I'll have to make sure I have enough drinks and snacks for everyone, too!" Having everyone over to watch a tournament sounded like it could be really fun. And she'd be enjoying it with friends. She gave the tauros one last scratch, and huffed when it nudged her with its nose.

“We'll have to see when the next tournament is and plan for it."

"Cerulean Rumble's next month," Aidan supplied automatically, giving tauros a final pat on the head before stepping away. "Then it moves to smaller locals for a bit before anything major." He tugged a bit at his hair, then shrugged. "Let me help you plan, though? Don't want to make you do it all yourself."

“Of course!" she replied happily enough. It would be easier if two people planned it. It wasn't that Nev wasn't capable of doing it on her own, but it was a rather large group to plan for. She welcomed the help in any way he could give it. “We have until next month, after all. We can see what everyone likes to snack on, though I think Eryk really loves nachos. I have to make sure I have that, at least," she stated, already listing off one snack item to get.

“Oh, and I'll have to make sure there are plenty of options for drinks, too!" She knew Aidan enjoyed beer and the likes. She was also pretty certain Kasimir and Eryk did as well, but she wasn't too sure about Ana or Cyrilla. Still, she wanted to make sure everyone at least had options.

"All right," Aidan said, crossing his arms over his chest and regarding her through slightly narrowed eyes. "I've got a mission for you then, Doc. Find out what all our guests like to eat and drink so we can have it at the party, but you can't tell them it's for the party. It'll be good practice making casual conversation with people, and observing. You up for it?"

Nev was pretty sure she was pouting. She could feel her lips purse into a fine line, and her brows were furrowed. “You're so mean to me," she murmured, but she was smiling. It would be good practice; she couldn't deny that. “Alright, fine. I'm up for it! It'll be good practice, like you said, and it would be nice to learn about other people," she stated.

“Like I've said before, Nevena Solomon does not give up so easily! I will do my best to not let you down, sir!" she gave him a mock salute.

Aidan rolled his eyes, an amused pfft sound escaping him at the salute. "Good to hear, Doc. For now, though, you want to pet some more pokémon or get back out to the festival?"

Before she could answer, the tauros nudged her once more, causing her to huff lightly. “Well, according to this handsome fellow," she began, patting its nose gently, “I think we should get back to the festival. There are still other things to enjoy, right?" As much as she enjoyed petting the pokémon, there were other things to do. Other things to see. And Nev, for once, was enjoying herself.

"That's true. I, for one, want to see you try the hook toss. That's bound to be entertaining."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


July 25th
The Camellia Festival - Evening - Clear
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kas was still grinning to himself as he and Cyrilla stopped at the food stalls to grab whatever they wanted. It had been a pretty successful group split, if he did say so himself. At first, the plan he and Cy had hatched just involved maximizing the time Ryk and Ana spent alone, but then Aidan and Sis had taken that fall on the three-legged racecourse and there had just been something about it. One look at Cy confirmed that she'd noticed, too, so onto the list of mission parameters it went.

And with a very successful ploy, they'd made it happen. He was pretty proud of himself and his co-conspirator, and planned to spend the rest of the night being smug about it.

Deciding he could always come back, he limited his purchases to a stick of bright green rock candy for the moment, and joined Cy where she was finishing up with her own. "Important question," he said, licking the rock candy before continuing. "Are we brilliant, or are we geniuses?"

“Definitely," she replied, though it was vague as to which one she meant to answer. Maybe it was for both? “I was not expecting that last tumble, though, in the three-legged race. That was just an opportunity presenting itself and, well..." she trailed off, glancing up from her candy floss to regard him with a smug grin.

“Who are we to not take it?" she stated, chuckling before she took a bite from her snack. She hummed a satsified note before glancing back at Kas. “Although I do have to say this is what we get for trying to get everyone else to match," she stated, pointing between both of their yukata.

He had to grin at that; it was true that they'd inadvertently wound up matching as well. Green has always been Kas's favorite color, which he was sure was probably a bit surprising for someone like himself, who intentionally wore brighter shades and presented himself fairly flamboyantly in a certain sense. It wasn't that he actually disliked other colors or anything, but green was by far his favorite. "Must be karma," he said, shrugging to convey his lack of concern. "Looks good on you, though—really makes your eyes stand out."

Breaking off a chunk of his rock candy, Kas popped it into his mouth and moved it to his cheek, where the sugar could slowly melt without interfering too much with his ability to speak. "So since our job is basically to stay away from the others for now, what do you want to do?" It would have been fun to tail them, of course, but there was about a zero percent chance that Ryk or Aidan didn't notice they were being followed, and that would ruin the point of the whole exercise.

In fairness, he supposed Cy might prefer to go off on her own, but if she did, he was sure she'd say so.

“Hm, that's a good question," she state, taking another bite of her candy floss. “Well, being good at a lot of things has taken some of the fun out of it, so no games," she stated, huffing lightly as she glanced around. She must have seen something, though, because her eyes widened and she turned her attention towards Kas.

“Oh, look! They have a feebas plush!" she stated, seemingly excited about it, for some reason. “I have to go win that. C'mon Kas, you're coming with me," she stated, reaching for his hand as if she were going to drag him with her, before she stopped and shook her head. Instead, she made her way towards the booth and glanced at the other available plushes. There was the feebas that she seemed to want, a magikarp, an umbreon, a mankey, a luvdisc, a growlithe, and a couple of other ones.

“Alright, so, I need that feebas; I'm getting that feebas, but we have to get one for the others, too. Which ones should we get them? Umbreon for Ana, of course, but Eryk, Nev, and Aidan all need one, too. And you," she stated, glancing up at Kas.

"Well I'm gonna have a giant azurill by the end of the night," Kas said confidently, folding his arms into his sleeves. "So I guess that leaves everyone else." He scanned the hanging plushes with an eye that looked more discerning than it really was, a slow smile spreading over his face. "Ryk should have the mankey, don't you think? Sis was talking about magikarp catching, so we can get her that one, and the—" he snorted, suppressing a laugh. "The growlithe kind of looks like Aidan, right?"

He looked over at the game in question. It seemed to actually be a team thing—from the looks of the way other people were playing it, the two partners had to run a small, three-part course. The first part involved keeping a large rubber ball between their backs with no hands and getting from one side of a short track to the other. The second part involved passing an egg between spoons held in the mouth, and the third was apparently just a straightfoward sprint, with one person carrying the other. A large signboard displayed the time to beat, with a certain amount of tickets earned per second under.

He calculated quickly. "Looks like if we can manage thirty seconds faster than that time, we can get all the prizes in one shot. Challenging enough, miss good-at-everything?" He winked. "Probably more because you have to put up with me slowing you down."

Cyrilla laughed and rolled her eyes. “I said a lot of things, not everything. There is a difference, you know," she replied, shaking her head before she glanced back towards the course. “And you won't slow me down, trust me. I can work with... this," she stated, making a vague gesture in his direction.

“So, let's go see if we can win all of those prizes in one shot, hm?" she stated, arching a challenging brow in his direction before walking towards the stall. She paid for their entry before he had a chance to, and grinned up at him as she handed him the ball. “Timer starts once we pass the line. Now, in order to do this so the ball isn't on your ass, which I'm sure you wouldn't mind, I'm going to have to place it further up on my back. Again, I can work with... this, but the question is, can you handle it?" She was grinning up at him almost in a micheivous way.

It was hard not to laugh, really, but Kas kept it together. This kind of thing was why Cy was so fun to hang around. It wasn't simply that she was quick-witted, though that certainly didn't help, but she had such an amusing way of talking about things, and that hint of flirtatiousness that never seemed to leave her was pretty hilarious. "I think I can handle it," he replied, lifting an eyebrow. "And I'll make you a deal: I'll even do the first half the egg run, and then literally carry you to victory on the last part of the course, how about that?"

His grin widened. "While I'm sure you could drag me across the line if you had to, I'm not sure how much fun this would be in that context." He repeated the gesture at himself. Kas wasn't a particularly heavy guy for his height, but his height was about eight inches taller than the average guy, so that wasn't saying a lot.

“Ha, sounds like a fair deal," she replied, huffing lightly. “You're not wrong, though. I'm not sure how much fun this would be to drag across the line. It'd be hilarious, but we might lose a few seconds if that were the case," she added, rolling her eyes at herself, it seemed. She moved towards the starting line and motioned for him to meet her.

“Alright, turn around so I can put this in place so it's comfortable for the both of us. Otherwise we'll probably drop it as soon as we moved over the line. I don't think it should be too difficult, though," she stated, grinning slightly. “We ninja have perfected the art of balance."

She moved so that she was behind him, then, and placed the ball on his lower back. She placed her back against it, moved for a second, before seemingly settling on a spot. “Alright, oh lofty one. Ready?"

"You got it, short stuff," Kas replied. They turned so they'd both be moving sideways, the much better bet for keeping the ball between them and when the starting flag was dropped, they started to shuffle over the field. Fortunately there weren't any obstacles or anything on this part of it, so the trick was mostly just leaning back into one another enough to keep the ball in place, which he left mostly to Cy, since he didn't want to knock her over, and matching pace, which he mostly took care of since he was the one who needed to clip his strides.

They wobbled a little near the end, and he couldn't seem to stop laughing—there was just something inherently ridiculous about krabby-walking sideways in a yukata back-to back with Cy while trying to win pokédolls for their entirely grown friends, but he'd take this over just about anything else he could be doing tonight.

Once they cleared that portion, he handed Cy her plastic spoon so she could get to the change point, then stuck his own between his teeth, trying to keep it as level as possible, then rested the egg on it. Choosing speed over caution, he took large strides, trying to keep the upper half of his body still so the egg wouldn't roll right off the spoon. Ducking down to meet Cy's was a bit of a trick, especially when he accidentally caught her eye and started laughing again, huffs of air gusting from his nose at the look of concentration on her face as they tried to maneuver the pass.

It looked like she was trying not to laugh, too, her eyes focused on the egg as she tried to get it. She almost looked to cross-eyed for a moment, and huffed. “Oh my Arceus, Kas, stop laughing," she muttered between teeth as she continued to maneuver her spoon. It didn't help that she was laughing, too, apparently having as much fun as he was. “Ah, got it," she muttered when she did, in fact, manage to get the egg onto her spoon.

She made her way through her portion of the run, taking small strides as she did. She was, after all, quite a bit shorter than he was. She did seem to have a good balance for it, though. The egg barely moved when she made her way across the track and placed it on the panel it needed to go on. Removing the spoon from her mouth, she glanced in Kas's direction.

“Alright, Kas. Don't you dare drop me. Trip if you must, but don't you dare drop me," she stated, grinning at him still.

He was already jogging over, and swept her up on his way with no problem, shifting one of his arms under her knees, and the other around her back. They could have arranged a piggyback, maybe, but this was easier on her yukata, and took less time, which he figured justified it given their aims here.

This part did have a few obstacles, or at least things in the way, but Cy's weight was pretty negligible to him, and he hopped over a few, dodging sideways around the rest and breaking into an outright sprint for the last part, carrying them across the line to, he realized, a scattering of applause from a few gathered onlookers. Amused, he took a bow, still holding Cy, and carried her over to the front again.

"All right, ninja-girl, claim your prizes. Looks like we get an extra—we were thirty-five point two seconds under goal time." The booth attendant indeed looked vaguely stunned by their speed, but considering the people now lining up to try the same, Kas figured she'd recoup the loss in no time.

She was still laughing when he'd spoken, however; she cleared her throat and tapped his shoulder as a way of telling him to put her down, it seemed. She glanced at the booth attendant and listed off the prizes she'd wanted, but paused when it was time to claim the extra one. She grinned lightly and pointed towards one in particular, shifting to grab it, first, and turned towards Kas.

“And this one is yours because you remind me of one," she stated, handing him a snorlax plush that seemed to be a bit smaller than the other ones. It looked like it was supposed to be a charm of sorts since it had a key ring attached to it. “They're adorable," she added before scooping up the mankey, umbreon, and feebas, leaving the growlithe and magikarp for him to grab.

"Sleeps a lot and eats a lot, yep sounds like me." He grinned, hooking the plastic d-clip to his obi and carrying the other two plushies under an arm. "Of course you realize now that we're going to be stuck carrying these around until the end of the night, right?" He didn't really mind, of course, but it was kind of ridiculous nevertheless, the two of them wandering over the festival grounds laden down with pokédolls like bizarre collectors.

“Hey, I'm perfectly fine with that. I have my feebas plush, a mankey for Eryk, and an umbreon for Ana. You have Aidan's growlithe and Nev's magikarp, so it works out well," she stated, burying her face into her feebas plush. “And it's so soft, too," she added with a large smile on her face. She looked genuinely pleased with it, over all.

“And fluffy," she giggled, before shaking her head at herself. “Alright, I chose something, now it's your turn to choose. What are we doing next?" she asked, arching a brow up at him, seemingly curious as to what he was going to say.

He wasn't sure what her particular fascination was with feebas, but it didn't take a particular stretch of his intellect to pick up on it, that was for sure.

It was his turn to pick something to do, though, so he considered his choices, breaking off another piece of rock candy with his unoccupied hand. "Hmm, how about—" the words cut off as he caught sight of someone he didn't really want to see right now.

"Shit—hide!" he hissed, ducking behind the counter of a stall that had been closed for the night and crouching there, shifting his grip on the stuffed pokémon so they wouldn't get dirty.

Cy did as he said, ducking behind the counter on his other side and looked vaguely confused. “Uh, is there a reason why we're hiding?" she asked quietly enough that he was the only one to hear her. She'd adjusted the three plushes she was holding, folding one into her left side, and stacking the other two on top of each other and tucked into her right side.

"Yeah uh, so you know that mission the boss is having me do?" Kas asked, shifting up slightly to peer over the counter. Dammit, she was still there. He should probably figure out which way she was headed so as to minimize the chance of running into her. "It involves... getting close to this journalist. I was originally planning to take her to the festival, but then everyone wanted to go together so I said a work thing had come up. Apparently she showed up anyway."

Motioning with his head, he pointed the woman in question out to Cyrilla. Tall, slender, and blonde, Rosanna Miller still looked like the high-fashion model she'd previously been, though at the moment she was dressed in a pink and red yukata, arms linked with some fellow Kas vaguely recognized as a business associate of hers—maybe her editor, he'd double-check later.

"Obviously I don't want her to know I ditched her to hang out with you guys." He made an exaggerated face at Cy.

Cyrilla snickered softly, her shoulders shaking a bit as she tried to contain a laugh. “Kas... did you forget you're with a ninja-girl? If you wanted to disappear, all you had to do was ask. As much as I'd like to give these to the others, I can just sneak them into their places later on with a note or something," she stated with a light shrug of her shoulders.

“There are places we can go to watch the fireworks at the end if you still wanted to see them, but..." she paused for a moment and arched a brow at him, “that's all dependent on whether you'd like to stay, or if you'd like to leave. We could also just go get drunk on the backisland beach, again. I know one supermarket that's still open right now where we can get some drinks. It might be a bit difficult with the yukata, but hey, there's a first time for everything, right?"

He had to admit, that genuinely surprised him. Not that she could disappear, of course, but that she was offering to do so, with him. Before he'd even thought about how he should react to that, a bright, almost boyish grin had spread across his face, entirely without his permission. "You'd... do that?" he asked, clearing his throat when his tone came out much more sheepish than he'd intended.

Pull it together, Rheinallt, you're not fucking sixteen anymore.

"I mean, if there's other stuff you want to do here, I don't want to stop you from enjoying it," he added, tossing another glance out into the passing crowd. Rosanna and her date had evidently stopped at one of the food stalls across the way.

She snorted softly and shook her head. “Of course I would, Kas. You're my..." she paused as if she were uncertain she should say the next word, “friend. And as your friend it is my duty to take you out of uncomfortable situations. So, all you have to do is say the word." She was smiling softly at him, but it seemed a little melancholy at the same time. It disappeared, though, as it seemed she remembered something.

“And don't worry about that; I'm enjoying it with you tonight, so if you want to be elsewhere, then I'll go too. I'd still be enjoying myself either way you look at it." The grin returned to her face, then, as she offered her arm towards him. “Just say the word, and the world will forget Kasimir Rheinallt and Cyrilla Niav were ever at the festival tonight!"

He snorted. "I don't think they'll quite forget that blazing record we just set," he pointed out. "But in that case, I'd hate to stop you from doing your friendly duties, so let's ditch this joint. The fireworks should be visible from backisland anyway, and supermarket booze sounds great."

Kas knew it wasn't a good idea to do this. He wasn't here to make friends, and the flare of excitement that came of hearing her name him such was a very bad sign. It was good from a mission standpoint if she thought of him with fondness of some sort, but that was only true if he didn't. Somewhere in the back of his head, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Steele's reminded him that he was going to put all these people in prison eventually.

Still, he ignored it, taking her arm and rising to his feet.

Just for tonight.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


July 25th
The Camellia Festival - Evening - Clear
Eryk Nero


Those asses.

Eryk was quite certain that Cyrilla and Kasimir had intentionally broke away from Anastasia and himself for the obvious reason. Obvious in Eryk's case, anyway. It would provide him some time to get to know Anastasia a little better, but he wasn't so sure he could do that. They were in a crowded area at the moment, and he was uncomfortable being surrounded by so many people. He'd always been like that, but even now, when people would stop and stare at him, he couldn't help but feel that they were staring at those things on his face. The scars that were so prominent against his tanned skin and made him withdraw into himself.

Pushing a heavy sigh through his nose, he glanced down towards Anastasia. He wondered if she felt as uncomfortable as he did, but that didn't seem to be the immediate case. Instead, he folded his hands into the sleeves of his yukata, and furrowed his brows. He was certain that the people that parted away from him and Anastasia thought that he was glaring at them. Maybe he was? He couldn't really tell.

“Are you enjoying yourself, so far?" he decided to ask, turning his attention towards Anastasia. It was an innocent question, he supposed, and it was an invite to start conversation if she so desired. If she'd rather not talk, he was fine with that, too. It was detrimental to his mission, but he didn't necessarily care at the moment. The mission could wait just a little longer until she was comfortable enough to tell him things she wouldn't, otherwise, tell a stranger.

She was about to answer when a passing person bumped into her, making her stumble a little bit. She caught herself, though, pursing her lips together and letting a soft breath escape her. "It's been... surprisingly nice, so far," she admitted, tilting her head up so she could make eye contact a bit easier. This did not, however, help her navigation at all, and yet another person brushed by her a little too fast a moment later, and this time she turned her ankle slightly when she steadied herself.

"Um... I don't mean to be a bother, and p-please say no if you're uncomfortable, but—could I walk a little bit, um, closer to you? I don't think people really see me a lot of the time." She had been walking a somewhat-distant two or three feet away from him, enough that the people that parted so easily around him seemed sometimes to catch her in the wake of their movement.

He contemplated her question for a moment before nodding his head. “That shouldn't be a problem," he stated, moving so that he was a little closer to her, and letting her decide how much closer she wanted to be. A thought passed his mind as he glanced back at her. “If it makes it easier, you can hold onto my arm or elbow," he stated. He knew Cyrilla liked to do that sometimes, and he wasn't entirely uncomfortable offering it to Anastasia if she wanted it.

“It... might make things a bit easier for you that way," he continued as his way of explanation. He could see how people wouldn't see her; she was small in stature, and her frame was rather delicate. He had glared at the person who'd bumped into her, and shook his head. Eryk might not have been a particularly nice person, but he still had manners. Enough so that he would have at least said sorry back to the person he'd bumped into, if he had.

Anastasia seemed to consider this, surprise rather evident on her face. "If—if you're sure it's okay," she said, tilting her head back up at him. When he didn't withdraw the offer, though, she moved in next to him and slipped her arm under his, resting her fingers just beneath the crook of his elbow. It was a gentle grip, barely even there, but it did seem to make it a lot easier to walk directly next to him, and got her out of the way of foot traffic.

"The truth is," she said softly, "I'm always a little... I don't know. Does being around so many people make you tired, too? Or uncomfortable, at least? I don't mind, exactly, because it was fun, too, but... I don't think I have the same energy for this kind of thing as Kasimir or Cyrilla do."

“It does," he answered honestly. “It's... draining being around a lot of people all the time, but I've been making an effort to not let it be too much of a hindrance on me," he continued, shrugging his shoulders lightly so as to not disturb where she held onto him. He'd tolerated it mostly because he didn't have much of a choice. He had to be around people almost constantly, even if he didn't want to be.

His family had been rather large by extension; he'd grown up with the other clan members, after all, and it had been tiresome even then. He just didn't... like it. “Kasimir and Cyrilla aren't human, though," he stated with a light huff. “They thrive in environments like this," it was partially true, after all. He knew for a fact that Cyrilla might have enjoyed being here, but her inherent shyness always got the better of her and she withdrew almost as often as Eryk did.

He'd been mostly surprised that it hadn't happened lately, but he supposed it was a good thing. Or not, he couldn't be too sure what was and what wasn't a good thing.

Anastasia smiled at the remark, shaking her head faintly. "I really don't understand how charismatic people do it," she noted. "It's almost like the two of them feed on the energy of these places. Like... energy vampires, or something." She coughed slightly, color rising to the surface of her skin. "Er, well that's kind of a stupid way of saying it, but hopefully you know what I mean, anyway."

She furrowed her brows up at him, though, blinking slowly. "But you know... if it's draining for you and it's draining for me, we don't have to stay. I appreciate that you made the effort, and I'm glad I could, too, but... I don't think there's any reason to force ourselves or anything. Would you like to go home? There's a longer way we can walk that's mostly beach, and we should be able to see the fireworks as we go?"

Eryk found the suggestion agreeable. If they both didn't want to be here, then why should they stay? The others were likely doing things at the festival, and it wasn't like they needed him and Anastasia to be there. They could leave if they wanted to... and that was a strange thought. If they wanted to. Wanted. He blinked before glancing away for a moment.

“Sure," he finally replied, clearing his throat a little awkwardly. “We can go home if you'd like," he clarified. “I wouldn't mind." He really wouldn't. And it wasn't as if he was worried about seeing the fireworks. He didn't much care for them to begin with, however...

“Did you want to see the fireworks?" he asked. She'd said they could see them as they went, but it wasn't quite the same as enjoying them, he didn't think. He knew some people liked to sit and watch them.

She shrugged a little. "Not especially, I guess. They're pretty enough, but I don't really feel the need to stand around and watch them unless you want to." With the gentlest pressure on his arm, she steered him between a couple of festival booths and turned then down an alley that did, in fact, eventually spit them out onto the beach. This stretch of it wasn't really idea for tourist activities; there was a lot more driftwood and scrub, but if they walked close to the water there wouldn't be anything in the way.

"The other nice thing about this way is there won't be any people," Anastasia explained, releasing a soft breath. He could feel her relax a little next to him. Pausing a moment, she slipped off her geta. "It'll be easier to walk without our shoes," she advised, hooking the straps of hers loosely in her free hand. Straightening, she smiled, before abruptly widening her eyes and releasing his arm. "Sorry—I didn't, uh—didn't realize I was still doing that."

Eryk arched a brow at her, but shrugged. “It's fine," he stated, blinking slowly before turning his attention back out towards the area. “You could still hold on if you'd like; I don't mind," he offered. It hadn't bothered him, and if it meant she felt comfortable, then he didn't really see a problem. His brows furrowed at the thought, but he pushed it aside for now. He paused for a moment to do the same, taking his geta off as well, and slipping the straps around his fingers. It meant he had to unfold his arms from his yukata, but this was more comfortable, he supposed.

“Walking along as the fireworks go off should be sufficient, then. If neither of us are particularly inclined to them, then it would be unnecessary to stay for them," he spoke, answering her previous statement. It wasn't that he didn't like fireworks; they were, as she said, pretty enough, but they were also very bright and loud. He wasn't inclined towards things like that, he supposed.

She seemed to be genuinely considering it, and after a moment, something like a very soft sigh escaped her nose. "You're really very kind, you know that?" Slipping her arm back through his, she started forward. "It throws me off sometimes."

The sand was warm still under their feet, and they were walking close enough to shore that the most ambitious waves managed to wash over them, just a little, barely shy of the hem of Anastasia's yukata. She either didn't notice or didn't mind, though, and most of her attention seemed to be turned out over the water, which was at the moment reflecting the silvery light of the moon overhead. It brought out all sorts of sharp visual contrasts: between the nearly-white sand and deep brown pieces of driftwood, or the black and white patches of her clothes, or even crests in the incoming waves from the rest of the dark water.

"Have you ever lived near the ocean before?" Anastasia asked, taking her eyes from it and settling them back on him.

Eryk almost rolled his eyes when she'd mentioned he was kind. Him? Kind? He wasn't even in the slightest if this mission was anything to go by. But she wasn't supposed to know that his kindness was feigned. A little voice, however, was telling him otherwise. That he was kind; it was just burried underneath layers of caution. He did, however, push a breath through his nose and contemplated her question, instead.

“No. I have not," he finally answered. “I grew up in Fuschia and lived most of my life there. I have been on islands, but this is the first time I have lived on one," he continued. His previous missions and jobs carried him to various islands before; but he never stayed longer than a couple of days. This was, by far, the longest time he'd ever spent in one place. It was, he thought, nice.

Cinnabar was warm, and to some uncomfortably so, but he didn't mind it so much. Perhaps because Fuchsia was always a little warmer than most places. It's why so many poisons were able to thrive there, he supposed.

"Oh, so close but not that close," she said with a nod, referencing Fuchsia. "I was born in Celadon, but I grew up in Lavender Town. Definitely no ocean nearby there—it feels like such an old, solemn place compared to here. Sometimes I think I miss it, but..." she hummed a sort note, evidently considering her words.

"In the year I've been here I think I've really come to love the sea. Some things just grow on you, I guess." She scrunched her nose a little, as though she found her own words a bit silly or otherwise unsatisfying, but then fell silent. It didn't seem to be uncomfortable, though, and the expression on her face was placid as she continued to walk beside him.

Overhead, the first firework cracked, the noise dulled by distance. The color—a vibrant red—reflected on the water in a brief flash before dimming, only to be followed by an orange one, then gold.

He supposed that might be true for most people. He never stayed in one place to let things grow on him. He nodded, though, showing that he agreed with her. “We've only been here a few months, but I can see the appeal," he stated, breaking the silence for just a moment. “It has a certain quaintness to it that almost makes it feel like it could be home," he spoke in a nonchalant fashion. It wasn't that it couldn't be a home, it just wouldn't be a place he could call home.

She seemed to brighten at the words, though, and nodded a little bit herself. "The last few months have been the best ones," she said, her tone indicating that she took this to be an agreement with or at least directly related to what he'd just said. "Honestly, uh—I'd sort of figured when I moved here that the only thing I'd be doing was working. but then all of you showed up... I guess I'd sort of forgotten people could be like you. Or maybe I didn't know to begin with, but I learned." She shrugged a little, belying the faint tinge of melancholy and caution in her voice.

Eryk sighed, perhaps a little heavier than he'd intended to. “There's nothing wrong with being cautious of people, Anastasia," he knew that it was the right instinct to have, especially when it came to him and the others. Their intentions were not as pure as she might have believed them to be, and some part of Eryk felt a little... he quashed it. He couldn't afford to think that way. He had no right.

“I'm not sure if they've been the best ones," he decided to change the subject, “but they have been... nice." He wasn't going to deny that part, at least. It had been nice the last few months, and he suspected it had a lot to do with the fact that they'd volunteered at her shelter. He enjoyed himself when he was there.

She squeezed his arm then, as if offering support, but fell silent for the remainder of the walk back to her house. The fireworks gradually faded, though occasionally there was a muffled sound as one went off further away. Anastasia let go of his arm to unlock the front gate, gesturing him through behind her so she could re-lock afterwards, and wiped her sandy feet on the grass.

"Luna says everyone's doing okay even with the fireworks, but do you want to go check on mankey? I think he really likes you."

Eryk felt the strangest feeling in his chest when she'd mentioned mankey. He felt the corners of his lips twitch slightly upwards, and turned his head away for a moment. He nodded his head once he was certain the feeling had passed. “I was hoping to adopt him, actually, when he is well and old enough. If, of course, you'd be willing to adopt him to me," he stated, glancing down to meet her gaze so that she would know he was serious.

Anastasia, by contrast, made no effort to hide her smile when he said it, slipping her shoes back on for the walk across the yard to the shelter building. "You know, I just had this feeling that you might. And I'd be happy to! He's already very energetic—I think he's going to need a lot of exercise, and he seems like he might take well to battling, even, if that's something you'd want to train him for."

Unlocking the shelter building, she flicked on the lights, but only to about halfway up, so that those of the residents who were sleeping would not be disturbed.

Eryk thought it was a good thing that mankey would be able to battle. All of his pokemon would have to be battle-ready because of his job, however; he was... relieved that Anastasia said that she would. He followed behind her as quietly as he'd been trained until they reached the area where mankey was. Eryk felt his mouth twitch again before a thought crossed his mind.

“How is the stunky doing? I haven't seen her in a couple of days," he asked. There were some things he was still getting used to living at Anastasia's place, but he thought he'd at least see stunky and mankey almost every day. “Has she had a flare up in her lungs?" It would, at least, explain why he hadn't seen her.

She dipped her chin, a little sadly. "A little. I think she just caught a cold, but of course with her preexisting condition, everything like that's a lot worse and a major risk to her. I've got her in quarantine, and we're working our way through the strongest antivirals she can handle, but I didn't want to risk exposing her to anything else while she's in such a fragile state."

Anastasia did not, as a rule, sound confident about a lot of things, but he had noticed that she always spoke with more authority when the matter was medical, the expertise of a true professional making itself known, even though she retained an obvious amount of sympathy also. "At the moment she seems to be recovering, though; I expect she'll be back out and about with the others in a couple more days."

Mankey, it turned out, was still awake, and she reached down to scratch him behind his ear before glancing back up at Eryk. "Remember how to pick him up?" she asked, stepping back a little so he could easily do just that.

He huffed a little. As if he'd ever forget how to pick up mankey. To prove as such, he leaned down and held his hand out to mankey, watching as it sniffed his hand. When mankey reached up towards him, Eryk gently picked him up and cradled the mankey in his arms, adjusting so that he was carrying it properly. Mankey let out a soft snort of approval before he began running his fingers through Eryk's hair as if searching for something. He then moved his hands to Eryk's face, pulling and poking at his cheeks for a minute, causing Eryk to furrow his brows.

“I forget he's still young and curious about things," Eryk murmured between the face pulls.

Anastasia laughed, the sound soft but genuine. "Give him a few months and you'll be wishing for this again. By then his primary mode of exploring will be punching and kicking things. Which reminds me: I'm going to need to put in an order for a heavy-duty sandbag."

Eryk huffed lightly, gently pulling one of mankey's hands away from his face. “If he is to be with me, the least I can do is make the order myself. Punching and kicking things shouldn't be too difficult. I can train with him so that way he learns restraint. He may not be a stufful, but mankeys' strength are still something to be concerned about." A stufful could accidentally knock someone out if they weren't too careful, and bewear were known to actually kill people with their strength. Mankey wouldn't have that problem, exactly, but Eryk thought it best if he learn while he was still young.

"If you insist," Anastasia replied with a small smile. "Drake's passed me a few gym equipment catalogues and things, so we can always see what they have for fighting-types. Should be plenty of room for something in the yard." Letting out a soft breath, she rubbed the pokémon's head. "He's medically clear now, so if you want to bring him to the house for tonight I don't see any reason why not."

Eryk didn't bother to keep the strange twitch of his lips, hidden. Glancing at mankey, he ran a hand through his fur and nodded his head. “I don't see why not, either," he replied. “It will get him used to me sooner," he added. He would have to keep an eye on mankey, of course. There was no telling what kind of mischief mankey would try to get into, but for now, this... it was nice.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


Image


August 3rd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed softly, running a hand through his hair to get out what tangles there were as he made his way towards the conference room. Another month meant that there would be another meeting. It was routine, or it should have been, but Eryk didn't feel that way. He was, partly, surprised that Cyrilla hadn't walked with him to the conference room. She usually did, but she hadn't been in her office when he stopped by. He supposed she might already be there, waiting on him and possibly the others.

Would have been fucking nice if she'd told me, but he supposed there was no point on dwelling on that. They weren't attached at the hip, he supposed, so she was free to do whatever she wanted. Well, not entirely so.

He entered the conference room, and he blinked when he spotted Cyrilla and Aidan.

“Still, sorry about that. I meant to leave the growlithe with you and the magikarp with Nev, but I guess I got them mixed up in my drunken stupor," she spoke, turning her attention towards Eryk when he'd taken a seat. “Morning, Eryk. Sleep well?" she asked, grinning slightly at him as he rolled his eyes.

“Not gonna justify that with an answer," he muttered. Kas wasn't there, yet, but Eryk supposed he wouldn't be too far behind. He wasn't the type to be late, after all.

Aidan, meanwhile, snorted. "I wondered about that. Still I wasn't just gonna ask. The note was uh... very heartfelt. I think she likes it, though, so I guess she can have 'em both." He didn't seem to mind that a plush toy had been left on his doorstep with a note attached, apropos of nothing. There had been two outside of Anastasia's house as well, the morning after the festival.

Their conversation was interrupted by Kasimir's entrance, though only minimally. He yawned broadly, only making half an effort to cover his mouth. He was carrying his mareep under one arm as if she were a parcel, and held his laptop computer loosely in the other.

"Mornin'. I see all the cool kids are already here. What's on the docket, boss? More surprise visits with the big cheese?"

Rolling his eyes, Aidan shook his head. "Not this month. I think he's satisfied with the progress from last time. He does want me to talk to you about that other mission, though. The one I gave you a heads-up on the month before. The high-end pro-battling circuit's gonna be going on its season break here pretty soon, which means the next couple months are going to be the best time to get you guys set up as hopefuls for next season. The championships this year are in Cerulean, so the first thing we're gonna do is watch those, so you have a better idea what you're getting into."

"Nice. Does that mean we get your color commentary?"

Aidan arched an eyebrow. "I'll be teaching you, but I'll leave the 'color' commentary to the professionals. It's on the 17th. Doc and I are hosting so behave." He considered something a moment, then shrugged. "And bring Ana, if she's interested. Two pidgeys with one stone, or whatever."

"You know this is sounding more and more like hanging out to watch sports instead of training, right?"

"That's because the real training comes after, Rheinallt."

Cyrilla chuckled lightly at Aidan's last statement as Eryk contemplated his other one. “I can see if she'd like to come," he answered with a shrug of his shoulders. It's not like it would be an inconvenience to either of them. They'd be among people they tolerated more than others, and it might actually be comfortable. He pushed a sigh through his nose, though, and glanced in Kas's direction.

“It won't be that bad," he muttered, earning a soft snicker from Cyrilla.

“Ryk, you do realize that it's Aidan who's going to be training the both of you, right? Former Champion of Kanto, Aidan," she stated, arching a brow in his direction. He shrugged.

“So?" Why did that matter?

"Thank you," Aidan grumbled. "It's not like I'm a monster."

Kas snorted. "No, but if the rumors are to be believed, your training regimen's from hell, so forgive me if I'm not too excited to be dragged through that."

"Can it, Rheinallt. I've seen you lifting. You're not as allergic to hard work as you want everyone to think."

"But my pokémon are!" He lofted Meep in both hands, holding her out over the tabletop as if to hand her to Aidan. "Look at that face! The only thing hardcore about Meep is how much she sleeps, and I like to take my lessons from her."

Aidan sighed.

“At least it's only temporary, Kas," Cyrilla stated, shaking her head softly. “It'll only be for a few months and then you'll be able to go back to lazy mornings sleeping in with Meep," she added, smiling just a bit. Ryk shook his head, though.

“You don't have to train with Meep if you're so worried about her," Eryk stated, giving Kas a flat look. “She can be your... what do they call those people..." he trailed off, furrowing his brows as he tried to think of the word.

“Mascot, Ryk?" Cyrilla stated. He nodded.

“She can be your mascot."

"It's really not polite to call me out on my excuses, guys," Kas replied with an overdramatic sigh, slumping back into his chair.

"It was bullshit anyway," Aidan said with a soft huff. "The pokémon likes to battle, and so do you. You can suck it up and deal." Glancing between Eryk and Kasimir, he pursed his lips a moment. "This is for work, so we'll do it on the clock. You both okay with the first couple hours of the morning?"

Kas made a face, but he did in fact nod.

“I don't see a problem with it," he spoke, before he remembered something. “I'll just have to let Anastasia know that I won't be able to feed the pokémon that are usually up around that time, but it shouldn't be a problem," he stated. He did some things for Anastasia in the morning so she could at least sleep in a little longer, but he supposed it wouldn't interfere too much. If anything, he'd just wake up an hour earlier to ensure the food was ready to go for her so she could do it easier, and perhaps go back to sleep.

Cyrilla smiled, something a little soft and a tad too genuine than he'd known her to make, before she rolled her eyes. “If it'll help, I'll make everyone breakfast so you're not training on empty stomachs," she stated, glancing in Kasimir's and Aidan's direction. “What do you guys like to eat? And don't say not to worry about it. I got this," she added, almost as if she were expecting a protest of sorts.

"I'm not picky," Aidan replied with a shrug. "Also, I've pulled a lot of material for you to read on the inner workings side of the pro-battling industry, especially about sponsorships and the role of an agent. I think you should watch at least most of the practice. You need to be almost as much of an expert on what these guys can do as they are, because your job is going to be selling that potential to people who might be skeptical."

“I can do that during the time you are all training so that way we're all training at the same time," she stated, nodding her head. “Especially if we're doing this on the clock. I can take a look at what the library in Cinnabar has to offer on it, as well," she added, glancing in Eryk's direction.

“If he's not picky, and neither is Kas, you might as well just make a breakfast burrito for everyone, or even a breakfast sandwich of sorts," he stated, shrugging his shoulders. She mimicked him and shrugged her shoulders.

“Alright. I suppose it'll be good since you don't want to eat anything too heavy in the morning. Might make you sick," she stated, furrowing her brows before grinning. “I'll have to go make a library card, then, if that's the case."

As if it reminded him of something, Aidan started to pat himself down, searching his pockets until he pulled a small white plastic card from one of them. "Already done," he said simply. "That one's a duplicate, so you can keep it. Don't go forgetting to return anything on time, or it comes out of your wages. It's a company account." Deftly, he slid the card across the table to Cyrilla, then looked all of them over.

"Anything else?"

"Not from me," Kas replied.

“Thank you," Cyrilla stated as she took the card from Aidan. She shook her head, though, and glanced in Eryk's direction.

“No. I believe we are all aware of what's going to be happening for the next few months," he stated, pushing a sigh through his nose. It was going to be an interesting next few months, he supposed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


August 7th
Cinnabar Passenger Dock - Noon - Sweltering
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kasimir leaned back in the deck chair, sipping from his icewater and keeping his eyes fixed out on the horizon. Mel's boat was due in any minute now, but transit like a lot of things tended to run a bit behind schedule on Cinnabar. Not too different from home, that way. So he'd taken to waiting at one of the nicer dockside places, pretty sure that she'd be hungry enough to want some real food when she disembarked.

He'd invited Cy along, mostly because they were off work today and she'd seemed bored, but he wasn't worried about introducing her to Mel, either. She'd met coworkers of his before—even his own family didn't know that he was a mole in NTR, rather than an actual employee, and though he kept the precise nature of his work vague, they all understood that he did tech stuff for them. Most of them didn't treat it any differently than if he'd worked IT for the government—which was to say they were a little confused as to why he of all people had chosen something so boring and conventional, but didn't really disapprove.

His dad was kind of another story, but he'd come around to it eventually, enough that they at least didn't fight about it or anything.

Mel in particular had pretty good reasons for approving of some of the things NTR had done, like their push for the minimum age requirement on pokémon journeys. She'd started her first before it was properly instituted, but circumstances had forced her to take a pretty long break in the middle. He was proud of her for being back at it, though, and she was eying the League run he'd never quite got around to bothering with himself. Given the things that girl could do when she put her mind to it, he had no doubt she'd succeed.

"You got any siblings, Cy?" he asked, setting the glass down on a cork coaster. He knew of course that family was a sensitive subject for the likes of her and Ryk, but he didn't think a basic question like that should be too bad.

“An only child," she responded, taking a drink of her sweet tea. “My family has a strange, uh, rule about children. It's very rare that anyone within the family has siblings, but it has happened from time to time," she replied easily enough, though. “I know we're technically engaged, but..." she paused, furrowing her brows slightly before shaking her head, “Eryk is almost like a brother to me. Sounds really weird when I say it out loud like that, but it is what it is." She huffed lightly as if to herself before taking another drink of her tea.

“What about you? Is Mel your only sibling?" she asked, glancing back towards him.

He made an exaggerated face of disgust at the brother comment, more to go along with what she said than because he was actually grossed out. He knew it wasn't like they were blood siblings, and they sure as hell didn't act like an engaged couple either. He wondered for a moment how the family would feel if they knew both of them were living with other people—not in that way, but it could easily be mistaken for such, on the surface. He made a note not to let that slip if he ever met a Koga or something.

"She's actually my half-sister," he said with a little shrug, picking up a fry and dipping it in the restaurant's spicy fry sauce. "Not that any of us really care about the difference. Even my mom treats her like a daughter, and is like... best friends with her mom. They're kind of weird. But no—I have another sister too. Older. Her name's Crystal. She lives back on Tangelo with our mom. They run a restaurant." He was pretty sure he'd mentioned having professional chefs in his family. He'd declined to mention the fact that the restaurant had actual stars, and his mom was basically a culinary celebrity, because he hadn't wanted to be conceited.

He could fake that stuff no problem—then it was just jokes and fun. But actually bragging about himself? No thanks. It was why he hated it when people seriously called him a 'genius' and mocked it relentlessly in using it to refer to himself only at stupid or inapplicable times.

There was something strange in the way she smiled. It seemed almost wistful in a way. “It sounds like you all get along pretty well, then, if your mom is best friends with Mel's mom. And that also explains why you can cook fairly well," she stated, stirring the straw into her cup. “Kind of makes me wonder what life..." she paused, eyes widening slightly before she shook her head.

"Fairly well," he muttered, feigning offense. He wasn't too stupid to catch onto the fact that she'd tripped a bit over her words there, probably nearly saying something she didn't want to. So he pretended he hadn't noticed, and helped her cover for it. "Ugh. Talk about damning a guy with faint praise, Cy. One of my only talents, and I'm 'fairly' good at it." He placed a hand on his heart, as if genuinely wounded.

“Tangelo is on the Orange Islands, right?" she stated, changing the subject. “I know you said you're an island kid, but you have Alola which is made up of four islands, and then there's the Sevii Islands."

"I do know a bit of geography, yes," he said, amused that she'd felt the need to list them off. "But Tangelo's my island in particular. Mom's got a few locations, including one in Alola, so I've been around those places, but the Orange Archipelago is home. Or was, I guess." He shrugged, draining the last of his water and stabbing vaguely at the ice with his straw.

"Anyway—ah." He interrupted himself when he caught sight of a small approaching passenger boat. "That'll be the Fuchsia City Ferry, then." It was the most common way to come into Cinnabar, even though the ride from Pallet Town was a lot shorter, mostly because the Gym circuit saw most hopefuls going in that order, possibly with a slight detour to Saffron first. He thought maybe Mel had actually hit Saffron before Fuchsia, though, since that was where her mom lived.

He didn't head right up to the dock—they were close enough to be easily visible to the disembarking passengers, especially given his height. But he did stand and move to the deck rail, leaning out over it.

True to form, Mel was first off the boat, dressed in black leggings under bright pink shorts, with a white, pink, and green t-shirt. The heavy canvas backpack over her shoulders was the dead giveaway, though; she'd been hauling the damn thing around for so long that it barely seemed to register with her. Perhaps to be expected, Argent lay over one shoulder, observing her surroundings with bright, cornflower-blue eyes.

Mel's own hazel ones cast about for him, and Kas raised an arm to wave until she noticed, which only took a couple seconds. Grinning brightly, she jogged over towards him, taking the stairs up onto the deck two at a time and hitting him with the force of a damn truck. "Mirmir!"

She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed, and Kas returned the hug just as fiercely, feeling a not-unfamiliar welling of emotion in his chest that escaped him as a sunny, truly genuine smile. "Hey Melly. You hungry?"

"Arceus, yes," she replied, almost reverently. Stepping back after one last squeeze, she flipped her dark ponytail back over her shoulder where it had come forward. "Where are we?"

“Cinnabar Island," Cyrilla stated, having made her way to stand a little off to the side of Kas. She wasn't close, but she did stand a little closer towards Melly, sticking her hand out for a friendly handshake, it seemed. “I'm Cyrilla, by the way, a coworker of your brother's," she stated, glancing up at Kas for a second.

Mel rolled her eyes at the answer, arching an eyebrow as she took Cy's hand. "Nice to meet you, Cyrilla, even if that was totally an old man joke." She flashed a smile, though, a clear indication that she'd found it amusing nevertheless. "Also, I apologize. We're related, but I have no idea why he's that way either."

Kas groaned. "Mel you have no idea what I'm like at work. What if I was trying to pretend to be normal? You'd have just ruined all my hard work." Nevertheless, he actually answered her question by gesturing back to the table Cy had just vacated, and the three of them returned to it.

"Oh please," Mel replied, sitting down in front of the only untouched food and starting in on it with gusto. "You couldn't pull off 'normal' if your life literally depended on it. I still have no idea why you're in IT of all things. Like I know you're a total Stone fanboy, but couldn't you have, I dunno, worked for a startup or something?" She paused. "On second thought, this is better. Startup bros are the worst bros."

Cyrilla barked out a short laugh. “Oh, I like her," Cy stated as she grinned at Kas, arching a brow in his direction. “And I didn't know you were a fan of Stone. I can see it, though. Aside from the laziness, you've got the talents to do something other than IT for the base," she stated, rolling her eyes in a good natured manner.

“But hey, do what you like, right?" she added, taking a drink of her unfinished tea. “So, Mel, what brings you to Cinnabar besides visiting your brother? I'm sure there are more, interesting reasons, right?" she stated, grinning lightly in a way that meant she was only teasing Kas.

Kas sighed dramatically. He was never going to hear the end of it from either of them as long as they had each other to bounce off of, he was sure of it. Still, it wasn't like he really minded. He was used to being the butt of other people's jokes—he set himself up for it on purpose by acting in such an over-the-top way actually. Ribbing him was fairly easy to do, and he made sure to always react in ways that carried on the fun instead of shutting it down. It was one of the best ways to get people to loosen up around him a little. By appearance alone, he could have been intimidating, but that wasn't what he wanted to be, so he worked to avoid it.

"Mmph," Mel managed, making a vague gesture while she chewed to indicate that she'd need a moment. Swallowing, she winced a little and took several swallows from her orange soda. "Yeah. I'm a trainer. I'm actually here to challenge the Gym Leader. Some dude named Drake? I think I probably need to train a bit beforehand, but Mirmir told me the island was kinda like home, and so I figured it'd be the most comfortable place to do that, plus like... I dunno, I could see his dumb ass every once in a while or something." She kicked him under the table, more goading than anything.

"It's not my fault you're some globetrotting future superstar now Mel. I can't keep up with that shit; I'm old now."

"Oh my arceus you are so dramatic." She rolled her eyes at him, but then returned her attention to Cyrilla. "You said coworker, right? That means you're with NTR too?" She was only curious, taking another large bite of the sandwich with no judgement in either her expression or tone.

Cyrilla chuckled lightly before blinking. “I do, yes," she answered, her grin smoothing out to a small smile. “It's mostly just paperwork nowadays, but it's fine, and pays well-enough," she added. She tilted her head slightly as if trying to think of something, glanced in Kas's direction befor turning back towards Mel.

“Drake is the gym leader here, yeah. A good guy, but... since you're here on Cinnabar, do you have a hotel or some place to stay at?" she asked, shooting another glance in Kas's direction. It was obvious why she was asking. They, technically, had a spare room that wasn't in use, and they'd at least furnished a futon to replace Ryk's bed just in case he came back for a night. He hadn't, of course.

“Because if you don't, Kas and I are also roommates with a spare room. You could use it if you wanted to while you stayed and challenged Drake. I'm sure Kas wouldn't mind, would you?" she stated, arching a brow at him.

He snorted. "Are you kidding? Melly's awful to live with. She picks up after herself and vacuums and cooks things. Heinous." He thought his deadpan was a pretty good imitation of Aidan's, actually, and only grinned when Mel punched him in the arm.

"I'll take that for a no, he doesn't mind. He'd better not." She fake-glowered at him and returned her attention to Cy. "You're really okay with that though? I was planning on staying at the pokémon center or one of those longer-term hostel things. I can still do that if you don't want a random stranger in your space. I won't be offended, I promise."

Cyrilla snorted softly, but shook her head. “You're kidding, right? Kas and I were basically strangers when we started living together, but look at us now," she started, leaning so that her head was just close enough to brush his arm. She wasn't completely touching, him, though. “We're two peas in a pod; friends and such like," she spoke before leaning away from him.

Mel, sharp as ever, narrowed her eyes slightly, but didn't comment, still chewing.

“Honestly I don't mind," she stated, smiling a bit in Mel's direction. “We have a spare room with an attached bathroom, and I think you'd enjoy being in an actual apartment for a few weeks, or however long you plan to stay. Plus, it can get stupidly hot on this island sometimes and some of those hostel places don't have good air-conditioning."

"Seriously, Mel, what kind of brother do you take me for? The only reason I didn't ask if you wanted to stay with me was because I thought it was obvious that was an option for you." He'd have asked Cy, of course, but she'd beaten him to the punch anyway, further evidence that there was no need to worry about it.

Mel swallowed, then shrugged. "Okay, sure. You won't find me looking a gift rapidash in the mouth." She grinned a little. "I'm down."

"Excellent. Glad we got that sorted out."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


August 10th
Cinnabar Island - Late Afternoon- Humid
Drake Bellamy


Drake glanced over the line forming outside of his gym. It wasn't particularly long; there were at most a total of five people. It could have been one challenger with their group of friends, or all five of them were challengers, however; there was one person in particular that stuck out. Drake had no intentions of dealing with that person, so he pulled his glasses from the top of his head and placed them on his face. He'd still be recognizeable with the hair color, but there were at least three other people on this island with blue hair. That was the logic he was going to use for now.

As quietly as he could, he turned away from the gym, and made his way towards the other side of the island. Maybe he could go hide out at Ana's place until the gym officially closed? He'd have to send out a message, though, saying the gym wasn't going to be open today. If he did that, then the person was likely to scour the island for him, or just wait at his house.

“Guess I'm sleeping at the gym, again," he murmured to himself. Sighing softly, he shoved his hands into his pocket and kicked at the pebbles on the ground. This week had to start off shitty, didn't it? He really didn't want to bother Ana with this, though, so maybe he'd just take a walk around the island, instead, and hope he didn't run into that person.

His walk brought him through the park. He could hide out here for the remainder of the day. It had some secluded spots, and there were designated areas for the pokémon to walk around at. The ones that could, anyway. Axe, Goopy, and Deino were, perhaps, the only ones he could let out. Brick Jr., too, he supposed. With that in mind, he set off to find a spot that wouldn't be too crowded. He walked towards the back part of the park, pausing mid-step when a meowth ran out in front of him, climbing up his leg before nestling on his shoulder.

“Oh, well, hello?" he stated, a little confused by the creature's actions. The meowth merely mewled at him, when a woman approached him, pursing her lips together and placing a hand on her hip.

“Zephyr, you little shit, that's not nice to do that to random people," she stated, glancing at Drake and offering an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that, she get's a little excited when she's playing with the others and tends to run off," she spoke as a way of explaining the meowth's actions.

“No problem. At least she doesn't try to head butt people or eat their hands," he spoke, reaching up to his shoulder to rub the meowth behind her ears. She started purring, causing him to roll his eyes as he took the meowth from her perch, and handed her back to the young woman. “I'm Drake, and you are?" he asked. Might as well be friendly. He didn't think he'd seen her on the island before. He'd have remembered someone with hair as white as hers.

“Cyrilla," she stated, taking the meowth from Drake. “So you must be Drake Bellamy, then, Cinnabar's gym leader, right?" she asked, causing Drake to nod his head. “Then you're that Drake, the one who's friends with Ana. She's here with me, right now if you wanted to say hi," she continued, causing Drake to blink. She knew Ana? He supposed this was one of Ana's new volunteers. He'd met Eryk, of course, but he'd never met the other two. Kasimir, he believed was the name of the other guy.

Man, I need to get out more often and stop hiding. I'm missing out on meeting people, was the only thought that crossed his mind before he nodded. “Sure. I meant to see how's she's doing lately since I haven't been by the shelter in a couple of weeks," he stated with a light shrug, following behind Cyrilla as she led the way.

“Hey, Ana, I found a friend of yours," she called out when they approached. He recognized Ana almost immediately, and grinned a little when he spotted Aidan.

“Hey, guys. Long time no see," he greeted.

Ana, dressed her in a variation of her usual array of black and ruffles, smiled brightly approaching him and opening her arms for a brief hug. "Drake! How have you been? It feels like you haven't been by in ages; pidgey misses you." One of the shelter's pidgey had a strange fascination with him—probably the color of his hair in particular, as it always tried to land on his head and sit there for the duration of his visit.

He knew, of course, that Ana wasn't saying that to guilt him or anything—it was sort of her indirect way of inviting him to come see her when he had the time and inclination.

Aidan offered him a friendly nod; apparently he'd decided to let Ed out for the day. The mudsdale was enormous even by the standards of his species, but relatively placid and frank compared to some of the former champion's more eccentric pokémon. Frost and Rex and were out and about as well, the latter apparently playing some kind of two-on-one tag with Luna and Nova, Ana's pokémon.

"Taking the afternoon off?" he asked casually.

“Uh, you could say that, yeah," he replied. He technically was taking the afternoon off, so it wasn't like he was lying. He grinned, though, and tossed the pokéballs that housed his pokémon, watching as Axe, Goopy, Deino, and Brick Jr., appeared. Goopy immediately slid over towards Ana, bouncing a bit as she smiled up at the woman. Deino, however, immediately walked over towards Aidan and opened his mouth. Drake supposed he, for some reason, associated Aidan with Nev and the yoghurt chips. Brick Jr., however, glanced at everyone, and made his way over towards a zoroark that was curled under one of the trees. It appeared to be sleeping, but opened an eye to acknowledge the gabite before closing it again.

“There wasn't a line at the gym so I figured I'd close up early," he continued, snorting softly when a large arcanine came up to Deino, and licked his head. Cyrilla rolled her eyes, though. It probably belonged to her. Deino still seemed fixed on Aidan, though, not bothering to acknowledge the arcanine, even as the large pokémon pawed at Deino's back.

“Zero, leave him alone and go bother Rex," Cyrilla stated as she shooed the arcanine away. Zero made a soft whimper before he took off in the direction of the houndoom and Ana's pokémon.

Surprisingly enough, Aidan actually seemed to be carrying some of the snacks, and tossed one into Deino's waiting maw with a snort. "He might be an idiot, but even a broken clock's right twice a day," he noted, rubbing Deino's head despite his rather blunt assessment.

Ana, of course, bent down to scoop up Goopy, giving the pokémon a gentle squeeze. "I missed you, too, squish," she declared, turning them both to watch the now-intensifying tag match between the four others. To Drake, she added: "I'm glad you got a break. I know summer can be pretty crazy for challenges, huh?" It was a popular time of year for tourism, too, and trainers sometimes came seeking a bit of that island lifestyle along with their badges. Fortunately, Drake was high enough up the Kanto chain of gym leaders that he didn't get near as many challenges as someone like Aurora, but being in such an appealing destination almost made up the numbers, apparently.

“They're not so bad," Drake replied with a smile. “It tends to die a little more during the winter, even if Cinnabar doesn't get much by way of snow. I don't remember the last time it even dropped below sixty degrees," he murmured. The island was hot, but it wasn't like Drake was going to complain. He liked warmer weather; he supposed he just wasn't suited to colder climates. Deino munched happily on the snacks, and opened his mouth again, anticipating more, it seemed as Drake rolled his eyes.

“Right or not, he's still an idiot. Guess his name should have been Brick Jr. They pretty much just follow their stomachs," he stated. Cyrilla snorted softly, but offered no commentary. “So, what brings you all out here? Well, besides letting the others out to play. I see Ed's out, and Rex, but I take it Brick's too dumb to leave unsupervised?" Drake stated, grinning lightly in Aidan's direction.

“We spent most of the morning at Ana's, but it was too pretty of a day to stay cooped inside. I suggested the park so... here we are," Cyrilla stated. She wasn't wrong; even if it was a little humid, the day was still nice as far as nice days went on Cinnabar.

"Brick's resting," Aidan explained. "I had him working out a few of Eryk and Kasimir's pokémon this morning; about the only way I can tire the idiot out." Ed approached, lowering his large head over Aidan's shoulder; as if automatically, the man lifted his arm to scratch at the equine pokémon's neck, beneath his heavy mane. Ed seemed to enjoy this, stomping on the ground with one foot in what seemed to be a pleased kind of way, never mind that it sent small tremors through the earth that the rest of them could feel through their shoes.

"We were thinking of getting a snack in a bit," Ana added. "I was going to take them to Yselda's for the ice cream and floats. Do you want to come along?"

Drake grinned broadly as he nodded his head. “Of course I want to go! Yselda makes the best floats!" he stated, perhaps a little too excitedly. He hadn't been to Yselda's in a few weeks, mostly because he and that person had been on a date there, which meant that the place was often haunted by them. Drake would have declined if he didn't already know where they were at. He was refusing to call his ex by his name, after all. Refusing to acknowledge anything about the guy, actually. Shuddering involuntarily, he reached over to scratch Deino's head.

“Since that's settled," Cyrilla spoke, making a sharp whistle. Zero stopped what he was doing, which involved dropping the houndoom's tail in his mouth, before trotting over towards Cyrilla. The zoroark lazily made its way towards the group as well, nudging Cyrilla's back as she recalled both of them into their respective balls. Meowth seemed to protest a bit, causing the woman to roll her eyes before she furrowed her brows.

“C'mon Siri, time to go. I'm sure Aidan would like his head back, now," she spoke. A noibat peered over Aidan's hair, chirped, and laid back down. Drake supposed he wasn't paying much attention since he'd missed it, but Cyrilla rolled her eyes.

“Guess she likes Aidan for a new roosting spot," Drake stated as he chuckled lightly.

"It's fine," Aidan said, recalling all of his pokémon and giving Siri a gentle scratch behind one of her large, thin ears. "Been a while since I had any pokémon small enough to hitch a ride on my person. Reminds me of the old days." He half smiled, if only briefly, and glanced at Ana.

She kept both Luna and Nova beside her—Drake wasn't even sure she ever used pokéballs, since they were small enough to be allowed anywhere pokémon were and well-trained enough to have passed every behavioral certification required to enter public places. "You guys are going to like it, I think. It's this way." She struck off in the lead, exiting the park from the south.

Drake and Cyrilla huffed at the same time as she fell into line next to Ana. Drake stood on her other side, leaving Aidan to take Ana's other side, which meant Aidan was walking in between Cyrilla and Ana. The walk had, as far as Drake had been concerned, been pleasant. Cyrilla and Ana would occasionally say something, snort as if it were funny, before turning their attention to the scenery. He was certain the topic of pokemon came up. Something about a mankey and a stunky, however; before Drake could ask what they were talking about, a voice called out to him. A feeling of dread washed over him as his eyes widened slightly.

“Drake, there you are!" the all too familiar voice of Kevin pierced through the air. Drake glanced around quickly, trying to make it seem like he hadn't seen the violet-haired man. It didn't work, though, as Kevin approached the group. “You weren't at the gym today, and you had a long line of challengers waiting for you," he stated, reaching towards Drake's arm with a bright smile on his face.

Drake immediately recoiled, though, taking a step back and furrowing his brows as Kevin pursed his lips. His amaranth eyes glanced towards the others, though, settling a little too long on Cyrilla and Anastasia before he acknowledge the group as a whole.

“Hi, I'm Kevin. I don't think we've ever met before," he stated.

“That's because you haven't," Drake deadpanned. “What do you want?"

“Don't be like that, Drake. You should introduce me to your nice friends."

“I don't have to; we're not together any more." Kevin didn't seem to like that, though, and he furrowed his brows at Drake.

“Don't listen to him; we're still together. He just needed a break," Arceus, how did he get stuck with someone like Kevin? Cyrilla arched a brow at Drake, but didn't immediately acknowledge Kevin. It seemed she was assessing him if the way she was glancing at Kevin was anything to go by. She must not have liked it since she pursed her lips together.

“Clearly he said you weren't together. Usually that means a relationship is over if one or both parties terminate it. I don't see how you are still together if Drake clearly doesn't see it that way," she spoke, but she didn't sound rude, merely curious as to how Kevin came to his conclusion. Kevin huffed lightly, though.

“It's obvious, isn't it?"

Ana looked immediately uncomfortable, but she did shift a little so she was more or less directly in the way of Drake's arm, if Kevin should try and grab it again. Her pokémon stood at attention at her feet; Nova even hopped up onto Drake's shoulder, curling around his neck and fixing Kevin with unsettling red eyes. There was nothing especially hostile in it, but Drake could feel the tension in the umbreon's body—he was defensive.

"Yeah that's nice and all, but we've got somewhere to be, so if you'll excuse us." Aidan was regarding the situation with slightly narrowed eyes, but he too didn't take an immediately aggressive stance or anything, though it was obvious he was deducing the details of the situation easily. Rather than being unsure what was happening, he simply seemed to be willing to take Drake's cue on how to act.

Rather than take the hint as Drake hoped he would, Kevin merely smiled brightly. “Oh, well if Drake's going then I'll just tag along!" he stated, inviting himself to something when Drake really didn't want him to. “It's alright, right, Drake?" Kevin continued, giving Drake a hopeful smile.

“I'm afraid we don't have the space for another person," Cyrilla started, feigning a polite smile, it seemed. “And it is kind of rude to just invite yourself to someone else's home if you weren't invited," Cyrilla stated, clearly not letting Kevin know their true destination. In that moment, Drake was glad that he was with them. This would have gone badly if it was just himself. Kevin looked like he was about to protest, however; using the opportunity, it seemed, Cyrilla linked her arm with Drake's.

“It was nice meeting you, though, Kevin. See you around, I'm sure," she stated, pulling gently on Drake's arm as he nodded his head.

“Sorry, but gotta go," Drake stated, turning around. He didn't give Kevin a chance to respond, but he did note that the noibat in Aidan's hair hissed slightly in Kevin's direction before they'd walked off. Once they were a good distance away, and Kevin was no longer in sight, Cyrilla released Drake's arm, and arched a questioning brow at him.

“Sorry about that, guys. Didn't mean to put you in that kind of situation," he stated. “As a way to make it up to you all, let me buy your drinks and snacks."

“It's not a problem, Drake. And you don't have to do that; we were glad to help," Cyrilla stated.

“Still, it would make me feel better." Because no one should have to be caught in a situation with Kevin.

Ana put a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed briefly before letting go. Aidan, on the other hand, muttered something under his breath. "That happen a lot, kid? It looks like it happens a lot." They'd reached Yselda's; he pulled the door open with a soft jangling sound and ushered the others through, taking the spot at the back of the line, which was about to the door anyway. The shop was very popular during the summer, for obvious reasons.

“Not as much as you'd think it does," Drake replied, pushing a soft sigh through his nose. Kevin's actions hadn't quite escalated too far, however; the fact that he'd tried to invite himself along with Drake's company wasn't a good sign. If he was starting to just invite himself, who knew what he'd try next. Still, it wasn't something to worry about, yet. Drake had other things to do, other things to take care of.

“Seems like he's not over you, though. If you ever feel uncomfortable or just need someone," Cyrilla started, reaching into her back pocket and pulling out a wallet. Drake snorted softly at it. It was a feebas zipper pouch, and she rummaged through it before pulling out a piece of paper. “This has my direct line and personal phone number. I'm not hitting on you, I promise," she stated, grinning lightly at him as Drake coughed a bit into his hand, feeling his cheeks heat up a bit.

“I'll be glad to help you out of any tough situations, alright?" she winked at him before turning towards Ana and Aidan.

“Thanks, Cyrilla," he stated. It was a nice offer, he supposed, but he didn't think he'd ever really need it. Still, he tucked the card into his pocket. He'd program her phone number into his phone, eventually, but for now, they had shakes to order. “What would you guys like?"

"Cream soda float," Aidan said simply. It wasn't clear if he'd been here before, but he had barely glanced at the menu, and that was something they served here.

Ana, who he knew from experience was very difficult to talk into letting things be bought for her, hemmed and hawed a bit before settling on a chocolate sundae. She'd almost certainly end up trying to buy him something in return within the next couple of weeks, but for the moment at least, her protestations were minimal. She did insist on buying Luna and Nova vanilla soft serve herself, however, rather than letting anyone else do it, and when they settled at one of the outdoor tables, she set the paper dishes down for the pokémon first.

It was enough to coax Siri from Aidan's head, and she joined the others. Drake took a seat so that he was on Ana's left, Cyrilla on her right, and Aidan in between him and Cyrilla. He took a sip of his strawberry milkshake; they were the best ones in his opinion, as Cyrilla seemed to be happily sipping on her own chocolate shake. This was, strangely, nice. He felt a little comfortable despite his encounter with Kevin, and it felt more relaxed.

He needed to do this more often.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


August 12th
Cinnabar Pokémon Center - Afternoon - Hot
Anastasia Asher


“And you've already taken care of the paperwork. Good." Aunt Lydia smiled slightly, though Ana could see the way it was slightly strained. She couldn't blame her, exactly—her job was a stressful one even on the easier days, but more than that she knew it was her fault.

Ana wasn't really anyone's favorite relative. Well, except maybe Auntie Miranda's, but Auntie Miranda wasn't anyone's favorite relative either, except Ana's. These facts combined meant that they tended to be a bit... apart, from the rest. She knew Lydia wasn't especially pleased that her niece was in her part of the world, but the older woman wasn't outright rude to her or anything, so she just pretended not to notice. That was the easiest way to do things, anyway.

“Hey Ana, is that guy who was with you last time here, too?" Her cousin Brenda didn't much care for her, either, but last time she'd made a trip down to the Center, Eryk had been with her to carry things, and Brenda had rather seemed to like him. Even now her eyes scanned the lobby, almost as if expecting him to walk in at any moment, and there was a faint flush to her face.

"N-no, sorry." She wasn't really sure why she was apologizing, except that it was instinctive.

Brenda sighed theatrically, twirling a strand of her curly reddish-pink hair around her finger. She was about the same age as Ana, but still in training for her certifications. “Lame. How did he get those scars anyway? He's good looking with them, but can you imagine how hot he'd be without them?"

"Excuse me?" Ana said, the sound of her own voice surprising her. The tone of it was sharp, matching the quicksilver snap of anger that had prompted them. "That's an extremely rude question, and frankly none of anyone's business. Besides, he—" She cut herself off, shaking her head, and cleared her throat.

Brenda raised an eyebrow at her and shrugged. “Arceus, you don't have to get so defensive, weirdo. It was just a question." The way she said it practically dripped with condescension; like it was stupid for her to be worked up over the situation.

Ana bit her tongue.

“Brenda," Lydia scolded absently, digging through some paperwork for the documents she wanted. She disappeared into the back room to retrieve the new patient.

Brenda rolled her eyes, then returned them to where Ana still stood on the far side of the counter. “Back to carrying things by yourself, huh?" Her tone implied she very much thought Ana had lost the services of her new volunteers, but she tried not to rise for it.

"No," she said quietly, tone reverted to the meek thing it usually was. "There are just different people helping this time. They'll be here in a moment."

As it happened, Cyrilla arrived with Kasimir in tow. It looked like they were chatting about something, a large grin plastered on Cyrilla's face. She waved when she spotted Ana, though, and all but jogged so that she was standing next to her. She was smiling brightly at Ana, though, and stepped in as if to give Ana a hug, before she paused in her motions.

“It is alright if I hug you, right?" she asked, seemingly unsure. “That's a thing friends do, right?" she continued, huffing lightly at herself, it seemed. “Oh, and good afternoon! Eryk says he's sorry he couldn't make it. Things came up at work, and all, but he'll try to do it next time," she added.

Was that a thing friends did? Ana honestly wasn't sure. She probably wouldn't be too nice to hug right now, anyway, with having just come in from the sweltering heat outside. The middle of August on Cinnabar was melting season, which came just before the rainy season. "Um. I think it's okay," she said, offering a small smile. "I don't know if friends do it, but Anas do, so."

"They do, huh?" Kasimir asked, leaning down to hug her a bit from the side, albeit carefully. "That's excellent. Kases totally hug, too, so this works for me."

She laughed softly, though from the corner of her eye, she caught Brenda giving Kasimir a very obvious once-over. Fortunately, before she had to subject him or Cyrilla to the awkward introduction that would follow, Aunt Lydia had returned with a small pokémon carrier. Ana preferred these to pokéballs for hospice patients, and they were the standard for injured pokémon, so there were plenty around.

“Okay," Lydia said, nodding to Cyrilla and Kasimir but otherwise all business. “Here's cacnea. He's been trimmed but the spines are still an issue, of course." She set a paper bag on the counter. “And there's his medicine. It should numb the rotting areas at least but he's going to need grafting regularly, and a very dry environment."

Ana nodded; this wasn't anything she was unprepared for. "Got it," she said simply. Kasimir took the carrier without even needing to be asked, lofting it carefully but without any indication that he so much as felt the weight of the pokémon inside. Ana was envious for a moment before she pushed it aside, taking up the paper bag of medicine. "Thanks, Aunt Lydia. See you two next time."

Lydia nodded, but Brenda just waved an unconcerned hand. “Whatever."

Considering the chilly reception inside the Center, the blistering heat outside was almost welcome.

“So, cacnea, huh?" Cyrilla stated once they were outside. She peered at the pokemon inside of the carrier and smiled a bit. “He's so cute," she stated, scrunching her nose a bit as she continued to smile. She turned her attention back to Ana, though, and arched a brow in her direction.

“So, Ana, how have you been since the last time I saw you?" she asked. If she'd noticed the way Brenda had seemed unconcerned, or the way her aunt acted, Cyrilla didn't mention it. “Which was yesterday," she added, huffing lightly to herself.

That was nice, actually—Ana didn't really want to have to explain it. It was easy enough to put from her mind as they walked anyhow, huffing slightly at Cyrilla's question. It had, in fact, only been a day. "About the same," she said, feeling a slight twinge in her legs but not letting it change her stride. She'd been doing so well lately—she refused to believe this might be a sign of something else coming on.

"Thanks for coming to help me pick him up, by the way," she added. "I can manage the carriers by myself most of the time, but it's a lot faster with help."

"That's what I'm here for," Kas joked. "Carrying heavy things and reaching high-up things. I'm basically the Kalosian Army knife of people."

"Don't forget fixing electronic things," Ana added, pretending to be very serious.

“And don't forget he can cook a mean meal," Cyrilla added, nodding her head as if she was agreeing with them. She snorted softly, though, and glanced at Ana. “How are things with Ryk, so far? Has he been on his best behavior?" she asked, arching a brow in Ana's direction. From the way she asked, though, it sounded rather genuine, as if she'd expected him to be nothing but cordial at Ana's place.

Kas snorted. "Oh please. The second Ryk's anything other than the perfect gentleman to Ana, I'll eat—" he paused, clearly trying to decide on something appropriately disgusting. "Well in any event he wouldn't be."

Ana narrowed her eyes at him and sighed, but really he hadn't said anything mistaken. Eryk was exceptionally patient and easy to live with. She offered Cyrilla a shrug and a little smile. "He's sweet," she said simply. "And very helpful." Surely, of course, Cyrilla already knew these things, so she saw no particular need to elaborate.

“Good, I didn't want to have to knock some sense into him if he wasn't," Cyrilla responded, clearly joking about it. Shaking her head, though, she seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Hey, Ana," she began, turning her attention towards Ana, “do you have any plans for the seventeenth?" She tilted her head in a curious manner as she regarded Ana for a moment.

“We're going to be watching a tournament at Nevena's place. I doubt Eryk's had a chance to ask you, but it would be great if you could come, too. You don't have to if you don't want to, but... well it would mean a lot to Ryk and us if you did."

"A... tournament?" she asked.

Kasimir nodded. "Pro-battling. Ryk and I are kinda considering getting into the scene, so Aidan's putting us through our paces and making us do research. The final tournament of this season's on the seventeenth, so we're gonna be watching at the Cloyster."

Ana didn't want to say that she had literally nothing on her schedule that wasn't doctor's appointments or looking after the schedule, but it was true. "I'd love to," she said brightly, still vaguely dazzled by the fact that these interesting people kept inviting her of all people to things. Never mind the fact that the most interesting person was actually living in her house.

Honestly, how was this her life?

“Ana!" A new voice called out to her from behind, and she tried not to wince. She knew exactly who that was, and what the urgency in his tone probably meant.

Knowing there really wasn't any escaping the inevitable, she pulled to a stop. "Erm, you two can go ahead if you want," she said, shooting a glance at Cyrilla and Kasimir.

The latter regarded her with searching eyes. "I think I'm fine taking a little break," he said slowly.

There wasn't really any time to respond to that, though, because Carter was well within earshot now, dressed as he usually was for a day of work. He was the precinct's Captain, so he didn't have to wear the ordinary patrol uniform anymore, but the sharp black suit and blue tie served just as well, especially considering he wore his credentials in the blazer pocket—Cinnabar Island Police Department.

"Erm. Hello, Carter," Ana said, doing her best to forestall what was sure to be a rather uncomfortable discussion. "This is—"

“Are you insane?" He was clearly not in the mood to be introduced to new people, which she'd been afraid of. “You let one of themmove in with you? Do you have any idea how much danger you're in?"

Cyrilla looked vaguely confused at Carter's statement, though her eyes did narrow slightly. “She's not in danger of anything," she spoke, her brows furrowing lightly. “Eryk has been living with Ana for nearly a month, now. Nothing's happened to her, and clearly she doesn't mind," she added. It was obvious that Cyrilla was upset at the accusation that Eryk was, somehow, putting Ana in danger.

“If anything, it's probably been safer since he moved in with her."

Carter's eyes snapped to her. “Cyrilla Niav," he said, before his eyes slid to her right. “You're a Koga, and so is Eryk. You really going to stand there and say either of you's safe for anyone to be around? Your family's dirty money, and anyone with two brain cells paying attention knows it. Ana might not realize how unsafe it is to get wrapped up with people like you, but that doesn't mean all her real friends are so innocent."

"Hey say that again, buddy, this time to me." Kasimir narrowed his eyes and took half a step forward.

Carter lifted his chin—he had to, to properly make eye contact with someone so tall, but he didn't look daunted in the least. “And you're Kasimir Rheinallt. I don't know what your deal is yet, but your record's clean as a whistle, and that—that I just can't fucking believe." He swept his eyes up and down coldly, narrowing as they resettled on Kasimir's face.

Wait, was he saying that because—?

Ana had opened her mouth to respond when Carter continued. “Regardless of the rest, you're all fucking Rockets. And what idiot sees a bunch of your kind all getting suddenly interested in the same thing and doesn't wonder what you're up to?"

At this point, she'd had quite enough, not least because some of the words had landed where he'd no doubt really been aiming: her.

"Captain Hayes," she said, pursing her lips when his eyes swung to her, evidently surprised that she hadn't used his first name. "Please leave my friends alone. They haven't done anything wrong, and there's no point in saying that they could. Anyone could, including you or I."

“Ana—" he said, tone softening.

But she shook her head. "If there is something more to say, you can say it to me, and later. But I have no intention of changing my mind. Eryk is my tenant, and all three of them are my—are my friends. You don't have to like that, but you do have to accept it. Besides, I'm sure there's an important reason you're in this part of town, right?"

His face contorted; he clearly wasn't pleased to be told off, even so gently. He released a haggard sigh, glaring at the other two before abruptly turning on his heel and departing. Down the hill, Ana could see several police vehicles; he must have simply spotted them walking by and run to catch up.

When he was gone, she sighed and bit her lip. "I'm sorry for what he said to you," she said softly. "He really hates NTR, and I think it's just... making him paranoid. Not that that's any excuse for being so rude."

Cyrilla's gaze had been downcast during Carter's statements, and there was a slight tremble to her before it disappeared. She glanced up at Ana and forced a small smile, it seemed. “It's alright, Ana. It's... it's really nothing we haven't heard before. You'd think I'd be used to it by now," she huffed lightly, rolling her eyes at herself, it seemed, before she sighed heavily. Taking a deep breath, she glanced towards Kas and then back towards the cacnea.

“Sorry for the trouble, little guy," she spoke, apologizing, it seemed, for the scene that had been caused. “Hope you won't hold it against us," she added before turning her attention towards Ana.

Ana could understand the sentiment, but at the same time, she knew part of it wasn't right. "It's not your job to get used to people being jerks to you," she said softly, stepping forward to wrap Cyrilla in a soft hug. She'd said she hugged, after all, and this seemed like the right kind of occasion for one. She seemed to stiffen for a second before relaxing in Ana's hold.

Over Cyrilla's shoulder, Kasimir half-smiled at her. "Thanks, Ana," he said. "You're a good egg, you know that?"

She snorted, rubbing Cyrilla's back a little before she pulled herself out to arms' length, her hands still resting gently on the other woman's shoulders. "You sure you're okay?"

“I'll be fine, Ana. I promise," she stated, a small smile crossing her lips. “I'll be even better once we get back to your place and treat ourselves to more of your brown butter chocolate chip cookies," she stated, the smile stretching just a little further on her face.

“Oh, and you have to let me cook you dinner. There's this new recipe I've been meaning to try out. You too, Kas. You're going to eat it and enjoy it, I promise," she added.

"Ugh, my life is so hard," he complained. "Gorgeous women make me dinner and cookies all the time and all I have to do is reach the occasional tray or fix a computer or something."

And just like that, any remaining tension seemed to dissipate, and Ana could only laugh.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


August 14th
Marna's - Early Evening - Overcast
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed heavily, running a hand down his face. He was in a foul mood, and the reason was the email he'd received earlier today from Marah. He hadn't understood the context of the message, vaguely making out things that were insulting Cyrilla, or insulting his own intelligence, but he didn't really care. What he cared about was the fact that she had the audacity to say she was going to have his engagement to Cy, annulled.

She could try.

It wouldn't work, and they both knew that. It was one of the requirements he had made. If they wanted him to continue to be an obedient member of the family, then Marah was just going to have to get used to having Cyrilla as a future daughter-in-law. Not that he was rushing their marriage, though. He knew they were both uncomfortable with it, but they also knew it had to happen eventually. Otherwise his mother would keep sending him shit that he didn't want to deal with.

It was the reason he was currently at Marna's, too. It was one of the very few places he could go to think. To clear his mind and not have to worry about what was going on outside. For some strange reason, Eryk had invited Kas and Aidan along. It wasn't like he minded the two of them, really. They were easy company to be in, and Eryk was sure from the look on both of their faces, they could use a drink, too. He'd just arrived before them.

Kas arrived first, giving Eryk a little wave before he approached the bar to put his order in with Marna. As usual, the place was pretty quiet—it didn't seem to do a whole lot of business, honestly, though it was hard to say why that was. The food was good, and the drinks were always cold. The building didn't look like much from the outside, though, and was a bit further back from the beach than most, though they could see the ocean from the side deck.

Heaving a sigh, Kas dropped into the chair directly across from him, folding his arms together on the tabletop and smiling a little wryly at him. "You look like you've had a hell of a day, Ryk," he observed, pouring from the pitcher of icewater on the table while he waited for his order.

“So do you," Eryk replied dryly, furrowing his brows lightly before rolling his eyes. “It was mostly fine up until the end," he stated, taking a drink of his beer. He hadn't asked for the stronger stuff yet, mostly because he didn't think he'd need it. Yet. He was hoping the beer would be sufficient enough to dissipate his current anger, and so far, it was. He pushed the bowl of nachos out in front of him, routine habit by now.

He always ordered a large amount of nachos in order to share with the other two whenever they came to Marah's, or anywhere they went that had nachos, really. He didn't necessarily mind sharing, though. He might have consumed food quite a bit, but this just felt right to him. Plus, he was almost certain the other two didn't mind.

“What about you? Why'd you look like shit, earlier?" he'd leave out Marah's email for now.

"Cy and I had a run in with that cop you mentioned a couple days ago. Hayes. We were with Ana at the time. He'd done his research in the meantime—at least normal background checks on all three of us. He knows the two of you are Koga, and he's uh... really fucking paranoid about how much time we're spending with her. Problem is, aside from the fact that he's a racist and an asshole, he's... kinda right about the rest of it, and she's not dumb." He drained half the glass of water and grimaced.

"So I've spent the last couple of days backdooring my way through the CIPD computer system, to try and figure out what they have on us. It's been... long." Marna appeared with his drink then, sliding it easily across the table with a smile and a nod. Kas caught it with a word of thanks. "Can you get another for both of us, Auntie? It's been that kind of day."

Her expression was sympathetic. “Seems to be goin' around," she noted, heading back to the bar.

Eryk furrowed his brows. That explained why Cyrilla was depressed. Hayes must have said something that made her that way. But Hayes wasn't wrong to be suspicious, though. This was only going to make their job so much harder. It wouldn't be hard at all if they'd just told her what the deal was, but Eryk couldn't be that stupid. Finding out if she was psychic was the priority. Seeing if she'd be willing to volunteer for whatever Project Nebula wouldn't be too hard, he didn't think, if she was.

“He's an ass who's going to make this much harder than it needs to be," Eryk muttered as he took a bite from his nachos. He chewed it and swallowed before turning back to Kas. “What else does he have on us, besides the obvious?" he asked. If there was more that Hayes could use against them, he needed to be prepared. They all did.

"Not sure yet," Kas admitted, taking up a couple of the nachos himself and popping them whole into his mouth. "I know the PD had files on all of us—and I mean everyone. The entire office, down to Mr. Bates." Bates was an elderly man who served as the mansion's night janitor. "So far it's basic stuff; criminal records, birth certificates, the kind of research you could do with a formal background check or a web search. Which is... well, a fair bit if you know what you're doing, but nothing confidential."

He took a large swig of what seemed to be a spied cider, and leaned back in his chair. "Problem is, we seem to be the subject of an active investigation, which means I wouldn't put it past him to be doing shady shit, like trying to flip some of the grunts, or have us put under surveillance, or even just go digging a little further into our personal business. Legally, unless he suspects us of a crime, he can't use police resources for this, but that's the problem. We're all NTR. It's not going to be hard to get a judge to believe we have something to do with a crime, especially, say, that B&E we totally actually did at the breeding facility, which was apparently reported."

"Yeah but those fuckers were doing shady shit. We had probable cause." The new voice was Aidan's; he slid into the seat next to Eryk with a drink already in hand.

"We did," Kas said. "But the problem is the report alleges that someone stole things unrelated to that function of the facility or NTR. Personal belongings of an employee."

"Like fucking what?"

"A wallet, some jewelry. Look, it's totally bullshit. We all know it didn't happen. But the report was filed, the case is still open, and NTR is the obvious place to look for the 'thief.' So Captain Hayes has the perfect excuse to look into us all. It won't get him subpoenas for big stuff, but it's possible he could legally compel us to hand over some employee records, if he plays his cards right."

"Sonuvabitch probably had the employees file that theft report just for that, huh?" Aidan shook his head, looking faintly impressed almost despite himself.

"I'd bet money on it."

Eryk sighed heavily into his drink. Chances were if those items were stolen, it wasn't by any of the grunts. They all knew better than to try and jeopardize a mission like that, and it was why the few grunts that had gone, were ones that knew how to prioritize. Hayes was going to be a big thorn in all of their sides. Eryk could already feel it. He'd been lucky enough to be either at work or some place else when Hayes visited Anastasia. He furrowed his brows.

“I'm going to have to start locking the door to my room before I leave, now," he muttered softly. It wasn't that he didn't trust Anastasia, because he did. It was Hayes he didn't trust, and even if Anastasia told Hayes to stay out of Eryk's room, he knew the man would be stubborn and do something he ought not to. He also didn't bring his work home, so it wasn't as if Hayes would find anything.

The worst thing he'd probably find in Eryk's room was the old grey yukata he had with venomoth holes in it. Maybe he'd see if mankey would stay in his room? He immediately banished that thought. Mankey was still young and destructive. Eryk didn't have much in his room to begin with, but he really didn't want to have to replace a broken bed, or some other piece of furniture. He turned his attention towards Aidan, though.

“How are things on your end?" he asked.

Aidan shrugged. "Not horrific, I guess. Been reestablishing contact with a few of the people I know who are still in the pro-battling business. I shouldn't be your agent or anything—if a name like mine's too close to you, people are going to be too careful. But I can lean on things behind the scenes a little, put in a good word here and there, that kind of thing." He paused as Marna brought their food—they'd both taken to ordering things that could be shared like Eryk's nachos, though they switched more often. This time it looked like Aidan had bought a large quesadilla cut into several wedges, and Kas had ordered some assortment of battered and fried fish and vegetables with a few dipping sauces. They both pushed the dishes to the middle of the table, and Aidan handed out smaller plates as he continued.

"Of course, it's too early for any of that yet, so I'm basically just reminding people that I'm around, indicating a bit of interest in returning to the scene, that kind of shit. I hate the politics of this and I always have, but there's some people who can manage to do it without being obnoxious."

"Gotta be careful with that or there'll be rumors of a comeback in no time," Kas noted, dipping what seemed to be a fried pineapple slice in the sauce.

Aidan rolled his eyes, giving his head a shake. "There's gonna be those no matter what I do. Someone'll mention talking to me, someone else'll hear it, and in the offseason like it'll be soon, they'll start a rumor on a slow news day, just to generate interest. It's how this shit works. I know about as much about the pro-battling scene as you seem to know about cops, Rheinallt." He arched a brow, as if inviting explanation.

"Stepmom's a lawyer," Kas explained.

Nodding, Aidan turned to Eryk. "What's eating you, Nero?" he asked bluntly, taking a bite of quesadilla.

Eryk furrowed his brows for a moment before he realized Aidan hadn't meant that statement literally. He swallowed the bit of nachos he had in his mouth, before answering, “My mother," he stated, brows furrowing deeply. He didn't generally hate people, but he'd decided awhile ago that his mother wasn't a person. He wasn't sure what she was; a mother, though, she was not.

“You were Katia's superior a few years ago, right?" he stated, arching a brow at Aidan. “I'm sure she was bitter about it then as she seems to be now, and talked," he stated, shaking his head softly. Katia never seemed to be able to contain her emotions that way. Kas, of course, didn't know who Katia was, and he turned towards the man to explain.

“Katia's family is the oldest branch not directly related to the Koga main branch. She was originally supposed to marry me before I agreed to Cyrilla's parent's proposal. Marah is still trying to find ways to have our engagement annulled so that Katia can be the next head of the family. If that doesn't work, she's trying to get Cyrilla and I... married sooner," he sneered at the thought. He didn't understand the way Marah's or Katia's mind worked. If Katia had married him, she would only be the Head's wife, not the Head, herself.

He decided to leave out the heir portion of that, though. It was too disturbing a thought to dwell on. He just didn't see Cyrilla that way, and he doubted they'd even be able to do as Marah seemed to want.

Even if he hadn't said it directly, though, Kas and Aidan were the furthest thing from stupid. He saw the moment Kas connected the dots; he made a vaguely-horrified expression and shuddered. It didn't even look exaggerated.

Aidan just regarded Eryk for a moment with something that looked very much like sympathy before expelling a breath through his nose. "Katia talks, yeah," he said simply, leaning back and extracting a cigarette from the box in his pocket. Once he'd lit it, he leaned back a little, making sure the smoke was drifting out over the deck instead of towards either of them. "You know, I used to think some of my exes were a pain in the ass, but lately I've been thinking I got off easy in that department, and it was still enough to push me out of the game completely." He shook his head. "Not that she's an ex of yours, but..." he waved his free hand vaguely as he took a sip of his drink with the one holding the cigarette.

"Fuck that noise," Kas said emphatically, though it wasn't clear exactly what he was agreeing with. It did seem to be an agreement, though. "Rich people are nuts. No offense, Ryk, but fucking arceus, man. Is your mom like... nagging you to have the ceremony soon or whatever?"

“Soon, yes," he answered, taking a long drink of his beer. “I've managed to convince her to wait until the end of the year because this mission is top priority. Even she doesn't have that much influence to try and interfere with it," he stated. His family may have been part of Team Rocket since its inception, but Giovanni no longer controlled it. It was Gregorovich, and if this mission was as important to him as Eryk thought it was, then he knew that his family couldn't do shit without incurring Gregorovich's wrath.

He pursed his lips, though, as he stared at his drink. “I'm still trying to figure out ways to get her out, though," he admitted. He hadn't found any, of course, but he was looking. If he could get Cy out of the family, somehow, then he wouldn't have to subjugate her being tied to him for the rest of their lives. He knew she wouldn't complain if they were married; she might even be happy that it was him, but it was something he knew neither of them wanted.

“Unfortunately families like ours are complicated, and not easy to leave." Born a Koga, always a Koga. That was how their family operated. He threw back the rest of his drink and started on the second one.

"Leave the family, huh?" Aidan sighed quietly. "Sounds rough." He pushed a heavy breath out through his nose as Kas continued to eat evenly from most of the plates, a contemplative expression on his face.

"I guess it's probably not quite as simple as like... her and you both marrying someone else, right? Like they'd try to do something to stop it if you made it clear that's what was happening?"

Eryk wouldn't lie and say he hadn't thought of that option, but it wasn't possible. If they did marry someone else, that person would be subjected to the family, and that was something neither of them wanted to do. He pushed a sigh through his nose.

“It's not that simple, no. If Cy or I married someone, it wouldn't be us leaving; it would be that person becoming part of the Koga family, and not a lot of people could endure that. It would, however, stop them from trying to push another arrangement on us. My family may be one of the oldest, but there are things even they couldn't do," such as marry him or Cyrilla to someone else if they were already married.

"Sounds like you two need to find yourselves a coupla badasses," Kas remarked. It was light, but he didn't seem to be minimizing things, either. "Or do something so terrible they kick you out of the family. What do Kogas like to do? Kick lillipups? Snatch candy from babies? Plot world domination? Honestly they sound kind of like ridiculous cartoon villains. Not that I'm doubting you guys about what they're like," he amended quickly, and apparently quite sincerely.

"Does that mean they'd kick him out if he became real-life Crobatman or something?" Aidan snorted softly.

Kas chuckled. "He's already got the 'eccentric rich guy with badass ninja training' part down." His smile faded a little, though, and he tilted his head at Eryk. "If there's ever any way I can help though, man, just say the word. I ain't afraid of no ninjas. My old man raised me better than that." Though the words sounded a bit like a joke he'd make, he seemed to mean it as a serious offer.

With a small nod, Aidan added, "same here. Plus it'd piss off Katia and she deserves it after all the crap I've put up with from her, so. You'd be helping me, actually."

Eryk felt the corners of his lips tilt up into something he hadn't been able to do for a while: smile. “I don't suppose either of you would mind marrying me for a while," he stated, rolling his eyes a bit and taking a bite out of his nachos.

"I'm telling you, you literally can't be worse than my ex," Aidan replied, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"Yeah, I'd do it," Kas replied with a shrug and a soft laugh. "So, you know, two excellent back-up plans if worse comes to worst or whatever."

Eryk rolled his eyes, but that strange smile still hadn't left his face. “Not sure if they're excellent back-up plans, but it is nice, I suppose, to know they're there."

This had... turned out better than he thought it would.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


August 17th
The Cloyster - Afternoon - Overcast
Aidan Klein


As he'd sort of figured she would be, Doc had been mostly successful in her mission to discover the others' favorite snack foods, so preparation was fairly easy. They made the nachos in her kitchen, as well as a few other things that took a bit more work, including guacamole and the like. They'd set it all out on the coffee table in the living room with Basil's help, the TV mounted on the wall already tuned to PSPN, where commentators were giving a recap of the earlier season to catch people up for Cerulean Rumble.

"Hey Doc, did you remember to take the beer out of the freezer?" They'd put it in there to chill quickly, as they hadn't had quite enough time to just use the fridge. They'd been on a bit of a crunch, in general, mostly because they'd sort of forgotten to do any advance preparations the night before, too busy trying to get Maribelle and Balthazar out of the City of the Dead.

Worth it, as far as he was concerned.

“Basil pulled them out about five minutes ago and set them in the fridge," she replied, making last minute adjustments to the way things were set up, it seemed. “How does everything look? Does it look okay? Do I need to run to the store and grab anything else?" she asked as she glanced in Aidan's direction with pursed lips.

“I just want to make sure everyone has what they need so they can relax and enjoy themselves," she added, smiling somewhat as she glanced over the setup once more.

He snorted softly. "I think we're fine. Honestly I expect at least a couple of them to bring more stuff with them; they're that kind of people."

No sooner had he spoken than there was a knock on the door, and he moved to answer it. It was Doc's house, of course, but they were both hosting, and he doubted she'd mind that he answered her door. On the other side of it stood Nero and Ana, the latter holding what did indeed seem to be a large plate of—huh. That was actually an entire pie. This girl. It smelled like caramel and apples and cinnamon and shit. Like honest-to-arceus homemade pie. He didn't think he'd ever had one, honestly.

"Come on in," he said, opening the door wider so they could move in past him. "You managed to beat Rheinallt and Niav, and they only live a few floors down." He was pretty sure Rheinallt had mentioned something about bringing his sister, but that was fine, too.

Nero huffed lightly at the statement and shook his head. “It would be those two that were late," he spoke, glancing towards Ana for a moment before glancing at Doc. “Solomon," he greeted. Doc smiled brightly at Eryk and motioned for Ana to set the pie down on the table with the other snacks. There was enough room for it between the nachos and guacamole.

“Eryk, Ana! Hi! Glad you could make it," Doc stated happily enough as she waved a little in their direction. Basil snorted softly before walking back towards the kitchen area, grabbing two cups as she did. “Would you guys like anything to drink? I have soda, tea, beer..." she trailed off, listing some of the drinks they had bought.

“I'll take lemonade if you have it, for now," Eryk stated as he glanced at Ana. Basil was already in the fridge, grabbing the pitcher of lemonade as she waited for Ana's response, it seemed.

Ana's eyes shifted between Doc and Basil before settling on the latter. "Soda, please," she said warmly, accepting the can when it was handed over to her with a vine like it was the most normal thing in the world. Then again, her place had a lot of pokémon around, so maybe it was.

She settled on the one of the sofas, patting the spot next to her with a look up at Nero. Aidan noted that she'd left the end free, and that it had a view of the whole room, including the door, so Nero would only be next to one person and able to observe everything that went on if he needed to. He didn't think it was coincidence—she was very clearly doing her best to anticipate what would make him most comfortable.

He felt a little twinge of guilt, but pushed it away, moving back into the kitchen to help Basil with a few finer tasks like making ice.

Nero took the seat next to Ana, seemingly content with the spot, and glanced in the door's direction. “The idiots are here," he spoke in a deadpan voice. No sooner had he said that, there was a knock at the door. Doc seemed happy enough to answer it, and indeed, Rheinallt, Niav, and another young woman were standing at the doorway.

“For your information, we're not idiots, Ryk," Niav stated, as if she'd known Nero had called them such. He rolled his eyes, though, as she thanked Doc. She was carrying a plate of brownies, it looked like, and from the smell alone, there had to be mints inside of it. There was another batch of brownies as well, though they didn't smell as sweet.

“Good, everyone's here!" Doc stated happily as she closed the door behind the last person inside. “Make yourselves comfortable, and feel free to take off your shoes or... er, well that's part of making yourselves comfortable, I suppose," Doc stated sheepishly. Nero huffed lightly as Niav snickered.

“It's alright, Nev. We understood what you were trying to say," Niav stated as she placed both plates down on the table.

The young woman—had to be Rheinallt's sister, from the sheer physical resemblance—meanwhile, made a slightly strangled noise high in her throat when her eyes landed on Aidan.

"Mirmir you fucking shithead," she whispered, too loudly not to be heard, though she seemed to be making an effort, tugging at her brother's arm and dragging him away from where he'd started to walk towards the seating area. "You should have told me."

"Told you what?" Rheinallt clearly knew what, from the shit-eating grin on his face, and from the way the girl's eyes flicked back to him, Aidan had a feeling he did too.

"That one of the people at this super casual tournament watch party is Aidan fucking Klein!" she hissed.

Aidan turned his face away so his amusement wouldn't be quite as obvious. From the way she was dressed, and the fact that she was definitely carrying a spiral notebook, he inferred she was a trainer and serious about it, so he wasn't annoyed the way he might have been if she were some other kind of fan.

"Ohhhh, right," Rheinallt said, smacking himself on the forehead as though he'd simply forgotten. "Hey boss, this is my sister Melly. Melly, this is my boss, but you know him as the guy whose miniatures you used to have in your—"

The poor girl immediately smacked a hand over his mouth, managing to maneuver her other to offer a shake in Aidan's direction. "Hi, sorry. Don't listen to him, he's an idiot. My name's Mel. It's an honor to meet you."

Aidan couldn't quite suppress his smile as he took her hand and gave it a shake. "Nice to meet you, too, Mel. Since your brother can't talk right now, this is Eryk Nero, Anastasia Asher, and Dr. Nevena Solomon."

Finally letting go of her brother and relaxing a bit, Mel shot a grin at the others. "Hey everyone. Thanks for letting me join. Mirmir's talked about all of you; I think we'll get along just fine."

“You collect minatures, too?" Doc stated, eyes widening slightly as she grinned at Mel. “Oh, remind me to show you the ones I still have! I used to have one of Aidan, too, but Fluffy tossed it out a window a few years ago," she stated, not missing a beat as she spoke. She turned towards Aidan with a sheepish smile, though, and cleared her throat.

Niav snickered softly as she took a seat on one of the loveseats. “So, now that everyone is here, what's the game plan?" she asked, folding her legs beneath her. She'd taken off her shoes, though, so they wouldn't be on Doc's couch.

“We're supposed to be watching the tournament," Nero stated, arching a brow in her direction. She sighed and shook her head.

“Does anyone else want drinks? I've got plenty!" Doc decided to say.

“Oh, I'll take a soda for now!" Niav stated, chuckling lightly as Basil walked a soda to Niav. “She's very well-mannered, this one," Niav stated as she rubbed Basil's head. Basil huffed lightly, but didn't seem to be offended. She merely turned her big eyes towards Aidan, tilted her head, before shuffling off to the kitchen to grab everyone else's drinks.

He nodded back at her, quite sure he understood, before making his way over to the seating area. There wasn't quite enough room for everyone with one three seater and one two-seater couch, but both Rheinallts eliminated the need for discussion by easily parking themselves on the floor. Aidan passed a cushion down to Mel, who accepted it with a word of thanks and a small grin, apparently already mostly over the awkwardness. She was like her brother in more than just looks, it seemed.

"Yeah at the moment they're still giving a recap of the season, since this is basically the Grand Championships this year," he noted. "At least for singles battling. They do another, different tournament for doubles, and word is there's going to be a big rule change next year for that, but at the moment that's as far as they divide it."

"Oh that's right," Mel reached for a paper plate, loading it up unselfconsciously with nachos and a slice of pie. "There's going to be single-trainer double battles like now but they're also gonna make team double battles a thing, right? Like with two trainers?"

He nodded. "It's probably mostly going to be a gimmick for a while—they'll pair up big names to draw lots of attention and stuff. But if it goes well it might catch on."

“Considering how popular it's become, especially among the younger couples and Ace Trainers, it could catch on pretty quickly," Doc stated, glancing at the available seats before taking a seat next to Niav. “The only draw back I see it having is whether or not they'll be able to get sponsors for it. Most sponsors only like to back one trainer, so it might be difficult to find one to back two. Of course that isn't to say they couldn't find their own sponsors, but it might... clash with whatever they're also trying to sell," Doc stated as she reached for one of the plates that had brownies on it.

“Those are semi-sweet brownies with pecans, just so you know. Ryk doesn't like sweet things," Niav stated as Doc took one.

“Oh, I take it these are sweet, then?" Doc stated as she took one from the other plate, as well. Niav nodded her head as she took some nachos for herself, and a piece of Ana's pie.

“Is that something we're going to have to learn to do, as well? Double battles in pairs?" Nero stated, furrowing his brows in Aidan's direction.

"No. Like I said it's totally separate, and single battles will always have the most prestige. You could do both if you wanted, but I think for your purposes it's probably better just to focus on one thing at a time." He arched an eyebrow subtly, reminding Nero as well as he could that the cover story was that this was something he wanted to do, so talking about it in terms of what they did or didn't have to do wasn't terribly convincing.

"I still can't believe you're finally getting into pro-battling," Mel said to Rheinallt, nudging him with his elbow. "You finally get your shit together right as I wind up my gym circuit? Are you asking to be my nemesis?"

He laughed, shaking his head. "I'm not that stupid," he said with a grin. "A good opportunity came up, is all. How often do you get the chance for free coaching from a real pro?"

"Ex-pro," Aidan corrected in a deadpan. "I'm retired."

Mel looked very much like she wanted to ask about that, which wasn't uncommon, but she was polite enough not to, for which he was grateful.

"So um... is there a chance that some of the people in this tournament could be opponents for Eryk and Kasimir later?" Ana asked, tilting her head at the screen. They were doing trainer profiles now—presently the screen showed Ernest Waters, who'd been pro since probably before some of the people in this room had been born. One of the greats, to be sure, but mostly in the business for the chance to mentor younger trainers, usually. He was a reliable top ten finisher at most any tournament, but usually didn't crack top five, which was how he liked it. Not to say he didn't give it his all—he did—but he had less fire for winning than he did for good matches, even the ones he lost.

Aidan shrugged. "If they do well enough, sure. This tournament is basically the who's who of pro-battling. You'll notice even a lot of gym leaders and elite four members aren't expected to place that well. That's a sign of how tough the competition is."

“Oh, but I hear that there's a new upstart who's kind of expected to place really well in the tournament. I believe her name was Amaris Castro. She's been knocking back challenges like they're nothing. She's got good statistics behind her, and I think she's currently sponsored by the Devon Corporation. Her blastoise is gigantic, and is basically her mascot," Doc stated, glancing in Mel's direction.

“How good is she?" Nero asked, seemingly curious. Doc seemed all too happy to oblige.

“Well, you know how Aidan just said that the competition is tough?" Doc began, waiting until Nero nodded before continuing, “they think she has a really good chance of placing second place, if not outright winning it. Like I said, she has a very good team behind her, but a lot of it comes down to strategy and how well her pokemon can take super-effective moves. It wouldn't matter much if her blastoise was strong, but was easily felled by a thunderbolt or even a solar beam."

“But if they think she's got a good chance at winning, then she's probably prepared to take type weaknesses into account, right?" Niav asked as Doc nodded.'

“Yep."

"There's all kinds of strategies available for that, of course. Some people tend to stick to one way of dealing; the really good trainers tailor their strategies for that to individual pokemon." One way to do it before battle even happened was to train a team that included a lot of dual-types, of the sort that minimized super-effective types by covering the weaknesses of one type with another. Water-grounds like quagsire were good for that, completely nullifying the electricity problem at the cost of grass becoming even more punishing.

But the two of them had the teams they had; there wasn't really enough time to make adjustments on that level, and besides he wouldn't want to ask them to. Above all, pokémon you trusted and understood were the best ones to take into battle, and so while he could teach them a few things for when they came against poor matchups, the emphasis was just going to be on making the pokémon they had as good as they could possibly be at what they did. Type matchups didn't matter quite as much if someone's pokémon were just leagues stronger. That was mostly how he'd dealt with it, back in the day.

"It sounds like an awful lot to keep track of in the heat of a moment," Ana acknowledged, dipping a chip in the guacamole as the screen shifted to show the first match beginning.

"It takes some getting used to, but it's a skill like any other," Aidan replied with a shrug.

Mel, who'd been scribbling notes as Aidan and Doc spoke, turned her attention to the screen as well, lifting a forkful of pie to her mouth at the same time.

“So what about pokémon that have unconventional moves?" Niav asked, arching a brow at Doc and Aidan. “Take, for example, Noct. Despite being a pure dark-type, he knows flamethrower. If my opponent had a grass, ice, or bug-type, wouldn't that be just as effective?" she continued, taking a bite from the nachos on her plate. Doc shook her head, though.

“Not entirely. While he may know how to use flamethrower, it wouldn't be as effective as if it were, say, Zero or Rex using flamethrower. They're both fire-types, and they have specific flame sacs that produce a stronger variant of the attack. It's like if Floof tried to use thunder wave. It could paralyze a pokémon, however; the paralysis wouldn't last as long as it would if Meep had been the one to use the attack," Doc explained. Niav nodded her head in understanding, it seemed, before turning towards the screen.

“Even if a pokémon's moves aren't conventional, knowing a different type move wouldn't be such a bad thing to have, right?" Nero asked, arching a brow.

“Nope. If a pokémon knows a different move that could, theoretically, be used to its advantage, it wouldn't hurt."

Aidan nodded. "It's one of the ways people get around super-effective opponents. If the move is super-effective in the one situation you really need it for, it's not as big a deal that it's a bit underpowered. The trouble is it's not smart to have more than one move like that on a pokémon or you risk not being able to use them to their full potential. So you've got to pick your one carefully, and while it might be surprising once, in the pro-battling world, you have to expect that everyone you face is going to know exactly what your movesets are." He shrugged. "So it can help, but on a probattling zoroark, I wouldn't recommend flamethrower. It's not solving any problem he has except maybe if he's up against a steel-type, and they tend to be so defensive you're not getting a lot out of the super-effectiveness anyway, plus a ton of them are dual-typed with things that resist fire. I guess it's useful against bugs, but... realistically that's an edge case."

"Of course, it solves the 'I need a campfire' problem pretty effectively," Mel noted, and Aidan smiled slightly.

"It does. Optimal battling movesets are just that: optimal for battling. If your pokémon do something else, mostly, like help you in daily life, or participate in contests, or whatever, you want different ones entirely."

“Yep, but you're also forgetting that, while a lot of steel-types may be dual-types, it all comes down to special attacks and special defenses. Steel-types are defensively strong, but their special defense is what lacks the most. Of course, these kinds of things aren't always obvious at first glance, so it's always a good thing to research some of your known opponents to see what they specialize in, or things of that nature," Doc added, smiling a bit as she took a bite of her brownie.

"I didn't forget shit, Doc," he replied, shaking his head faintly but smiling so she'd know he wasn't actually mad. There'd been a whole sub-lecture in there about special attack and special defense, but he didn't want to talk anyone's ear off.

“You guys really know your stuff. I mean, I wouldn't expect any less from Aidan, all things considered, but you, Nev? I know you're a professor, and all, but still... you seem really excited about this," Niav stated, arching an amused brow in Doc's direction. Doc merely nodded her head, though.

“I am. I love tournaments and the pro-battling world. It's so interesting and I get to see various ways pokémon are raised. It's not just catching them and training them. That plays a small part, but actually seeing a person come up with a strategy, and then playing it out with their pokémon? It's really entertaining."

"Yeah, listen to her," Aidan added. "She's got a good head for this stuff, and her advice is going to be just as good as mine, so might as well make note of it."

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