Pokémon: Atonement

Pokémon: Atonement


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

1,662 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:



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


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.

Private Roleplay between Nemeseia and Aethyia

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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

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#, as written by Aethyia

September 9th
Marna's - Evening - Rainy
Anastasia Asher

Ana pulled down her umbrella, stepping quietly into the unfamiliar bar and setting it into a wire basket seemingly designed to hold them. It seemed the others were all already present, but hadn't yet noticed her come in over the sound of the rain. Probably for the best; she used a moment to collect herself, smoothing down the dress that had been the result of an improptu shopping trip with Cyrilla, Mel, and Kasimir yesterday. It was certainly in her style, but a lot... well a lot fancier than she was used to wearing, even if it wasn't formal or anything. he ribbons and ruffles were nice, though—she kind of liked girly things like this sometimes.

And, as Mel had put it, if she couldn't dress up for her birthday party, when could she?

Checking to make sure her twin plaits were still smooth and laying neatly over her shoulders, she stepped a little further inside, casting her eyes around the warmly-lit bar. The elderly woman behind the counter, clearly a Cinnabar native, smiled kindly at her, but it seemed she was noticed a moment later.

"There she is!" Kasimir declared, setting his beer down to approach her and lean down to offer a hug. She gratefully accepted, noting that he smelled nice today—like tangerines and spice.

The hug took an unexpected turn, quite literally, when he lifted her up and set her down closer to the group, slinging an arm over her shoulders. "We've got food, drinks, music, games—the whole shebang. I was just taking bets for who was going to be drunk first tonight, what do you think?" He straightened the vest he was wearing, charcoal grey over a deep emerald shirt. Apparently she wasn't the only one who'd dressed up a little—the others seemed to have done so as well.

It struck her that they might have done it to make sure she didn't feel out of place, and the thought warmed her.

Eryk was dressed in a dark red shirt with a black vest over it, similar to Kas's. The sleeves were rolled up a little past his elbows, though, and he nodded in Ana's direction. His pants were also black, and had a few buckles around his legs. There were even a few chains hanging from his waist, but they didn't seem to be imposing in anyway.

“We've all kind of unanimously bet that Nev would be the first one drunk tonight all things considered," Cyrilla stated, making her way with a soda in her hand and handing it towards Ana. She was dressed in a black halter top, handkerchief dress that looked like it had a belt tied under her diaphragm, and one around her waist. It exposed a lot of her shoulders and upper back.

“Hm, you say that because I don't often drink as much as the rest of you," Nev stated as she made her way towards Anastasia. She was dressed in a black dress as well, though it was a cami cold shoulder style, it seemed. There were laces on the arms that went from her shoulder, down to her elbows.

“Oh, by the way, happy birthday, Ana!" Cyrilla stated, opening her arms and wrapping them around Ana. She'd been mindful of the drinks, it seemed, before she pulled back with a large grin on her face.

“Happy birthday, Anastasia," Eryk stated softly, but loud enough to still be heard.

Ana returned Cyrilla's hug, smiling brightly at the assembled. "Thank you, everyone," she said, feeling herself turning a little pink with all the attention. Unlike usual, though, it didn't seem bad exactly, just strange.

The others said their hellos, too—Aidan looked completely natural somehow in a sleeveless black shirt and ripped black jeans, the stark red of his unused suspenders matching well with his hair, and all the silver. He had a bracelet on that seemed to be made out of actual chainmail—she might have to ask him where he'd found it. Mel had worn a slinky black dress that fell just above her knees, with lace panels fitted in at the shoulders and the slits in the skirt. Drake had arrived a little late, but he was dressed mostly in the same fashion as the others. His shirt was a dark, smoky grey with a deep, midnight blue vest. His slacks were a little more formal, though, being the same midnight blue as his vest. He'd said something about not being too sure what to wear, and these were the closest he could get to being in theme.

The music playing in the background was something smooth and smoky at the moment, synth and vaguely-electronic tones not so loud as to interrupt conversation, but audible enough to give a sense of life to the whole space. She picked at a few of the foods, and accepted a drink from Marna, the bartender, watching Aidan and Mel play a round of darts, which he won, probably because she was the slightest bit unsteady from having had a few in quick succession.

Cyrilla was sitting on a stool near Ana, occasionally laughing at Eryk who was playing darts with Kasimir after Aidan and Mel. Eryk's darts were mostly centered, his aim near perfect, however; Cyrilla stated something to him which caused him to miss, hitting outside of the board. Nevena was sitting next to Anastasia, though, and smiling at the others before turning towards Ana.

“So, Ana," she began, taking a sip of her drink, “is there anything in particular that you're wishing for this year? Er, well, a wish? Oh, also, I kind of forgot we weren't really going to do presents because... well, we weren't entirely sure if you'd like them, but I did get you something," she continued, reaching for her bag on the floor.

“It's not much, I promise, but I thought it'd be nice to get you something for Nova and Luna. They're luxury balls, and I've included four more if... well, if you ever decided to add more to your team," she explained, holding out a small box towards Ana.

Ana, who had been watching the darts match, was a little surprised, and accepted the box tentatively. "Oh," she murmured softly, opening the lid to see the six mostly-black pokéballs nestled inside. Darting her glance back up to Nev, she smiled shyly. "Thank you, Nev; they're a wonderful gift. I'm sure Luna and Nova will love them."

Carefully, she set the box aside, folding her hands in her lap as she tried to consider the question. Was there anything she was wishing for this year? Truthfully, there was—an echo of a wish she'd made every year for a very long time. This time, though, it was a little different. Twisting her fingers together in her lap, she cleared her throat a little awkwardly, dropping her eyes to her lap and then raising them again. "Ever since I was a child, my auntie and uncle made a wish with me on my birthday—for one more year together." She was sure that might have sounded strange—it certainly wasn't a normal thing to think about.

"So I guess... I wish for one more year, with everyone." Somehow it was embarrassing to say in front of her friends in particular, and she was sure her face was scarlet, but she couldn't really think of anything she wanted more than that.

“It's a good wish to have," Cyrilla spoke, glancing in Ana's direction with a soft smile. “One more year with everyone sounds nice, especially considering you never know what might happen. With our jobs, especially, we might end up having to move, but... well, one more year sounds nice," she continued. Nev nodded in agreement, it seemed.

“Hm, exactly. I've always moved around; my job is such that I'm required to be able to move and go to different places on a whim. It is rather nice here, though. If I ever retired, I think I'd want to retire here," Nev stated, holding her glass up as if to toast. “So, to one more year among friends!" Cyrilla huffed lightly, but clinked her glass with Nev's, holding it there as they both turned towards Ana.

Ana raised hers, too, and pretty soon it seemed like everyone was in on it, Kasimir making a point to enthusiastically clink his glass with everyone's in turn. She laughed softly at him and he grinned.

"Enough of this nonsense," he declared a moment later, taking up Ana's hand with one of his and Cyrilla's in the other. "Let's dance!"

It must have been Marna's cue, because while she rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically, the music did change, to something a little more upbeat and, in fact, dance-oriented. Still holding both their hands, Kasimir dragged them—albeit gently—onto the large swath of the bar's floor that had been cleared, apparently for this purpose.

Relaxing into the sound of the music, Kas playfully spun them both out and away from himself and in fact started to dance. He had an easy natural rhythm that Ana immediately recognized, but when he stepped back in, she laughed and shoved him away, causing him to mock a wounded expression with his hand over his heart.

Mel grinned and joined the fray, too, bumping Ana with her hip. "You hiding moves from us, Ana?" she asked, only slurring a little as she stepped into the rhythm too.

"I don't know if that's how I'd put it," she replied with a wry smile. "I just might need to be a bit drunker than this to dance in front of people."

“Oh, that's not a problem," Cyrilla stated as she paused in her dancing. “Drake! Bring me a few drinks!" she stated across the floor, causing Drake to blink in her direction before shrugging his shoulders. He made his way towards the counter, asked for a few drinks, before bringing them back to Cyrilla. “Thanks, love," she stated, winking in his direction. He huffed a soft laugh, but even in the light, Ana could see a light pink dusting his face.

He was a friendly enough person, but he was still easily flustered when people flirted with him. “Alright, this one is for you, this one is mine, and this one is Mel's," she stated, handing a glass to each person she'd listed.

“Don't force her if she doesn't want to, Cy," Eryk called out. He and Nev seemed to have taken a seat on the bar stools, opting not to dance. Maybe they were shy? Aidan, who definitely wasn't shy, stood against the bar next to Nev, saluting the dancers ironically with his glass.

“Yeah, only drink if you want to Ana. Don't let Cy bully you into drinking," Drake added, smirking a little in Cyrilla's direction who merely rolled her eyes.

“Oh my Arceus, guys. You make it sound like I'm a horrible person forcing Ana to get drunk so she'll dance," she whined in a playful manner.

"You mean that's not your nefarious plan after all?" Kasimir asked, apparently rather amused.

Ana shook her head and accepted the drink. "In any case it's going to take a while to work. You guys have fun." She waved a hand in a vague gesture, leaving them to their fun. They really were good dancers; she could dance, too, but there was something much too embarrassing about doing it in front of all the friends she had. Plus that style wasn't exactly ballroom, which meant while she could do it it was a little...

She tried not to blush as she headed back over to the bar, climbing up onto a stool next to where Aidan stood. He patted her amiably on the head, something that strangely made her smile. She giggled as Mel approached Drake—she couldn't hear what they were saying, but she was pretty sure the other girl was trying to convince him to dance.

Drake rubbed the back of his neck nervously, seemingly contemplating Mel's invitation before tossing back the drink he had. He finally nodded, glanced at the others with a nervous smile before he let Mel lead him out towards the floor. It wasn't a secret to Ana that Drake wasn't a good dancer. He'd admitted as much to her a few months back, and was the reason, perhaps, why he'd seemed hesitant.

Eryk turned his attention towards Ana, though, and furrowed his brows lightly. “I saw Solomon give you a present," he stated. “We weren't entirely sure if you wanted things like that, but," he paused, reaching into his vest pocket to retrieve something, it seemed. He pulled out two small charms, both looked to be shaped in the heads of an umbreon and an espeon as he held them out to her.

“I saw these on the way here and thought you'd like them," he explained as he handed them to her.

If Ana had been surprised by her last gift, this one outright floored her. It probably shouldn't have—it was her birthday, after all, and even if she wasn't usually the type to ask for things, these people were her friends. She knew they were all unusually generous, too, and so expecting nothing would have been outright silly of her. But still...

She extended her hand forward, letting him drop the charms into her open palm before she drew it back towards herself. The charms were pretty, made of silver, with tiny little chips of red for umbreon's eyes and blue for espeon's. She brushed her thumb over the espeon's large ear before tucking both away carefully in the pocket of her dress.

"Thank you, Eryk," she said, unable to make her voice sound as breezy and confident as she wanted it to. Instead she sounded a little uncertain, shy—like she really was most of the time, in other words. But the thanks was genuine, and she hoped he knew that.

“You're... welcome, Anastasia," he stated, almost as if he was unsure she should be thanking him for anything. He shook his head lightly, though, and took a drink of his glass. “Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked, turning his attention back out towards the dance floor. It seemed Cyrilla had stopped dancing and was mostly laughing at poor Drake's attempts to dance. It looked more like he was doing an up-right wurmple than actual dancing.

Nev looked amused by it as well, since she huffed lightly into her drink.

Even Aidan snorted into the rim of his glass. "Arceus, kid, you're the reason people think white boys are all terrible dancers." With a slight shake of his head, he downed the rest of the whiskey and set the glass back down on the bar, where Marna almost immediately refilled it with the same.

"I'm having a lot of fun, actually," Ana replied, taking another sip of whatever had been given to her. It tasted really fruity, but there was a strong kick underneath it, too. She wasn't sure if the warmth she was feeling was was because of the drink or the company, but either way it was welcome. "Thank you all so much for doing this for me. I've never had a party like this before."

“Hey old man, I'd like to see you do better!" Drake retorted, pursing his lips in Aidan's direction, causing Nev and Cyrilla to snort.

“I'd like to see that, actually," Nev stated, turning her attention towards Aidan.

"After you, Doc." he said flatly.

Eryk huffed lightly, a small, very subtle smile on his face. “You're welcome, but you don't have to thank us for it. We were... happy to do it for you," he stated, his expression softening for a second before he downed the rest of his drink. He shook his head when Marna went to refill it, and was given a glass of water, instead.

“Oh, that actually sounds like a good idea! Let's have a dance off! All of us have to participate no matter how silly or stupid we look!" Cyrilla suggested, arching a challenging brow at Eryk.

“I don't want to," Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes.

“But it might be fun?" Nev stated a little hesitantly.

"I'm too old for this shit," Aidan protested, but Mel shook her head at him.

"Bullshit," Mel said. "You don't get to say that unless you're double the age of the youngest person here. And that's... probably Ana, right? How old are you now?"

"Nineteen," she replied, not sure why this of all things should feel strange to admit. Maybe because she'd never really planned on being able to say it?

"Oh, hey, me too!" Mel said, bright as ever. "But yeah, unless you're suddenly thirty-eight, no getting out of it."

"What if I'm ninety in spirit?"

Ana laughed.

Eryk's brow arched slightly when Ana mentioned her age, but Cyrilla's laugh caused him to look back out and he furrowed his brows slightly.

“Yeah well spirit doesn't count to your actual age. We're all doing this," Cyrilla stated, glancing in Kas's direction for a moment. “How about we all make it interesting since we all know Drake can't dance," she began, snickering softly when Drake pouted in her direction. “Whoever dances the best, loses. Marna can even be the judge of it."

“I still don't want to do it," Eryk muttered, pursing his lips together.

“It's only fair if everyone does it, Ryk. I'm in!" Nev stated, placing her cup down and hopping off of her stool. She stumbled a bit before she regained her footing and chuckled.

"Cy, that's never going to work. Some people will do badly just to not lose. I think we probably should all just do what we want, and decide that the winner is whoever does best. No singled-out loser, even if we all know who it would be." He grinned at Drake, but the teasing was light, as far as it went.

"Okay," Ana said, "but it's my birthday, and my rule is if you really don't want to participate you don't have to, but you forfeit the right to make fun of people." That seemed fair to her, and it would help everyone be as comfortable as possible. She knew Drake didn't mind a little joking around, but she didn't want everyone to just pile on him, either, not when he was brave enough to do something for fun that he wasn't good at.

Extending a hand towards Nev, she tilted her head at the floor. "Shall we?"

“Fine, fine," Cyrilla replied. Eryk rolled his eyes a bit, and glanced at Ana.

“I wasn't the one making fun of him," he murmured softly. “But I still don't want to participate so I'll forfeit that right." He added, taking a drink from his glass of water.

"I know," Ana said gently. She'd mostly made the rule so people would quit pestering him and Aidan to dance if they didn't want to, after all.

Nev smiled brightly, though, and took Ana's hand. “Let's go show these losers how it's done!" she stated excitedly.

“Yeah, well I might be bad, but at least I still try!" Drake stated as he grinned at Mel. “Can't let them show us up, can we?" he stated offering an arm in her direction. Cyrilla seemed highly amused by this, though, and glanced at Kas.

“Since when did this become a pair thing?" she stated, glancing a little mischievously at Eryk. “I guess it's me and you, Kas, against the others," she stated with a light shrug of her shoulders.

"So what you're saying is this isn't even fair to them," Kas replied with a grin. He didn't seem to mind this, though.

The song changed, and that seemed as good a cue as any to get started. "Do you know how to do this kind of dancing, Nev?" Ana asked. It tended to involve a lot of closeness and touching, but if Nev was more comfortable without that, they could stick to more upbeat, dance-routine type moves. Ana knew a bunch of those, and could teach them if necessary.

“Mhm," Nev stated while nodding her head at the same time. “I know how to dance; I'm just not very good at it," she stated, smiling broadly. “I learned a couple of things when I was younger, but I never really kept up with the practice," she continued, as if to explain herself. “I'm very interested in learning again, but this seems like fun! And I don't mind what that requires!" she stated, laughing softly to herself.

“Uh, oh, be careful she doesn't step on your toes, Ana. Nev might be a little drunk," Cyrilla stated, causing Nev to nod her head.

“Just a little!"

Ana laughed, already quite forgetting there was anything like a competition at all. "It's fine even if you do," she promised, stepping in to be a better distance from Nev and letting herself fall into the beat of the song. There was just something nice about this—about being able to move freely, to have fun and let the hard things in life fade into the background for a while. The drinks she'd had were making everything pleasantly fuzzy, but not enough that she felt too dizzy or stumbled around, even if Nev's balance was a little off. Ana just adjusted by occasionally gripping her friend's arms and helping tilt her back the right way.

Mel seemed to be having loads of fun, a broad grin not disappearing from her face even as she danced around Drake, who seemed to be mostly holding center in a way that almost passed for having rhythm. Kasimir and Cyrilla were—well they were very good at dancing and clearly not afraid of the inherent... sensuality of the style. His hands were placed respectfully as far as it went, but there was definitely a lot of touching going on over there, and Ana suppressed a snort.

Nev seemed to be having fun, though, as they danced. She occasionally went through the various stages of a laugh. She giggled, chuckled, and even snorted a few times as she tried to keep her concentration, it seemed. Drake seemed to be having a good time, too, smiling just as broadly as Mel was. He tripped a couple of times, but other than that, he mostly stayed to his earlier rhythm.

“This was so much fun!" Nev stated once the song was over. “You should be my dance instructor!" she added, turning towards Ana with a bright smile. “I'd be ready for just about anything if that were the case!" she continued, making her way back towards the bar stool she'd previously occupied. She grabbed a glass, but let it go when Ryk took it away from her and replaced it with a glass of water, instead.

“You both did pretty well," Eryk stated as he glanced towards Ana.

Ana snorted and shook her head. "We were just having fun," she said with a little smile. "But that's the important part anyway, I think." She beamed up at him, definitely a little drunk, and accepted a glass of water from Marna. It was important to stay hydrated if she didn't want a hangover the next morning, after all.

The others joined the group at the bar a bit later, and before long the night was winding down. Kasimir and Cyrilla had been declared the official winners of the dance contest, not before Marna made a joke about getting a room, which got a laugh from most everyone. The group helped the bar's owner clean up, and then split up to venture home. Aidan offered to take Drake back to his place, probably since there was still his ex to be worried about, and the group headed back to the Cloyster was plenty big already.

Ana and Eryk had a different way to go, of course, and so said their goodbyes at the front door of Marna's. It had been a wonderful night, one of the best she'd ever had, and Ana knew she'd cherish the memory as long as she could.

As they made their way home, she wished again for one more year, this time silently, to no one but the stars overhead.

Just one more, with them.


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

September 12th
The Cloyster - Late Afternoon - Overcast
Nevena Solomon

Nevena Solomon was nervous. She'd actually matched with someone on Fletchinder, and didn't have the slightest clue as to what to do. She'd never been on a date before, and was as excited as she was nervous about it. She'd invited Cyrilla, Mel, and Ana over to her apartment today, mostly to get ideas from them. She knew Cyrilla went out on casual dates, but Mel and Ana seemed like they had some knowledge on it, too.

And she wanted to pick their brains.

Making sure everything was in order, she glanced towards Basil who was giving her a flat look. It almost looked as if she was disapproving of something, but Nev couldn't be too sure what it was. The date? The other girls coming over? It had to be the former, because Nev knew Basil was quite fond of everyone, especially Aidan. She huffed lightly as Basil turned towards the door as soon as there was a knock at it.

“Coming!" she shouted, making her way towards the door. As usual, though, Basil beat her to it, and opened the door to allow the others inside. “Hi!" Nev greeted.

“Afternoon, Nev," Cyrilla stated, giving Basil's head a once over with her hand before stepping inside the apartment.

Mel rubbed at the base of her leaf, too, stepping in and toeing out of her shoes at the entrance. Ana followed suit, and the group naturally moved in towards the living room. They were all familiar with the layout by now, from the watch party if nothing else.

"So um..." Ana looked a bit unsure, taking a seat in one of the chairs and pulling her legs up underneath her. "Cyrilla said something about... Fletchinder?" She seemed only vaguely familiar with what it was in the first place.

Nev nodded her head. “She and Kasimir set up a Fletchinder profile for me," she stated, taking a seat in one of the other available spots. “I matched with someone a couple of days ago and he wants to go on a date," she continued, furrowing her brows. “The only problem is I've never been on a date, before, and I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do, or what a date even consists of. That's why... I asked all of you here, today."

From what she'd been able to see of other people's dates, it usually consisted of a movie, dinner, or some other form of activity together. It wasn't like when they went to the Camellia Festival; they were there as a group, even if they'd ended up splitting at the end.

“Well, first off, you're not expected to do anything, Nev," Cyrilla started, pouring herself a glass of lemonade that Nev had set out. There was water and soda, as well, if Mel and Ana were thirsty, too. “You're also getting a little ahead of yourself. You just matched with him, right?" Nev nodded her head as Cyrilla took a drink.

“Well that just means this date of yours is supposed to be more of a let's get together and learn about each other kind of thing."

Mel nodded, looking somewhat sage despite being technically a teenager. "Who's the guy though? If you matched that means you thought he was at least kind of interesting, right? Dating apps have different features so I might be wrong about that." She shrugged.

“His name is Béliam Arnaud," Nev replied. “According to his profile and from what he's said, he's from the Kalos region. He's an aspiring pokémon gym leader who plans on taking over his mother's gym in Laverre City," she explained, causing Cyrilla to arch a brow.

“You matched with Valerie's kid?" she asked, causing Nev to nod her head. She pursed her lips together before she grinned lightly.

"You would end up with someone who's practically a celebrity," Mel said with a snort. "Most people's first match on a dating app is like Joe from down the street who works in sales or something and wants to get people in on his pyramid scheme." She rolled her eyes, but it seemed to be a fond expression. "But not you, obviously. I swear, Mirmir was right. You guys really do inhabit this whole other world for classy rich people, right Ana?"

"Um." Ana clearly didn't know what the correct answer to that question was.

Mel laughed a little, and shook her head. "He's probably super good looking too, right? Or at least sharply dressed?"

“Oh, a little of both, I suppose. He has his mother's beautiful lavender colored eyes, though," she stated, feeling herself smile a little. He did have Valerie's eyes, and her hair, which was a deep black color. “I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you how he dresses. The only image he has, he's wearing a casual white shirt. I suppose he didn't want people to know right away that he was that Arnaud?"

“Still, the fact of the matter is you matched," Cyrilla stated, huffing a short laugh as she tilted her head in Nev's direction. “Good looking or not, you're not in it for that, right?" she asked, smirking just a bit as Nev flushed a bit.

“Of course not! I mean, I've always heard that first impressions are always the most crucial when it comes to meeting someone," she replied as Cyrilla's smirk faded a bit.

“It's not first impressions you should be looking out for, Nev. It's the first instinct you get when you meet someone. You should always follow your first gut instinct when it comes to meeting people, especially if it's meeting someone you intend on dating. First impressions can always be feigned to be good."

"Aren't those two things basically the same?" Ana asked, puzzled. "An impression is the reaction something gives you, right?"

Mel shrugged. "Whatever it's called, go with it," she said simply. "But also watch out for later red flags. Some people can fool your instincts. But anyway let's not talk about bad stuff; this is a good thing!" She flopped back onto the couch she was on, scrutinizing Nev through narrowed eyes. "I swear you've lucked out though. Assuming his personality's good, anyway. I was serious about the Joe from down the street thing. That's who I'd get if I signed up for this stuff. More importantly: have you guys talked and set up an actual date, or are we at the pre-setup phase? Cause how we help is gonna be way different depending on that, obviously."

“We have, actually," Nev answered. “It's for the sixteenth, which is a few days away." She hadn't told Aidan about it, though, but he'd said that it really didn't concern him. She wasn't going to bother him about it, either way. “We're supposed to meet at one of the more upscale restaurants. It's called the Delphox, and specializes in Kalosian foods," she added. It wasn't exactly a five-star restaurant, but it was pretty formal as far as the places she'd been to.

“The Delphox? You're going there for a first date? Nev, are you insane? I know you're reasonably well-off, but that place is far above a gym leader's pay grade. Are you sure that's where you're going?" Cyrilla asked, pursing her lips together. Nev nodded her head, though.

“It is."

"Okay," Mel said, sitting up abruptly. "I'm sorry, and I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade or anything, but is anyone else just a tiny bit suspicious of this? Like... if this dude is mega rich and famous, what the hell is he doing on Fletchinder?" Her brows were furrowed; there was an expression of genuine concern on her face.

"M-maybe he's just uncomfortable with people?" Ana asked.

Mel grimaced. "Ana, you're uncomfortable with people. If you decided you wanted to date, would you use an app to do it?"

She seemed to deliberate this for a moment. "Um... probably not, but there are different reasons for that."

"I just—never mind. I'm just paranoid." She shook her head vigorously and cleared her throat. "Anyway, if you're going somewhere like that, you probably need new clothes for it, unless you have a nice dress somewhere in your wardrobe already. Which you might I guess." She shrugged a little.

Cyrilla didn't seem especially happy about what was being said, but she shook her head at Mel's statement. “Are you kidding? The only dress Nev has is the one she wore to Ana's birthday party. She's going to need a new outfit for this date, something nice if you're going to that restaurant," Cyrilla stated, her brows furrowing lightly.

“Does it have to be a nice dress? Can't it be a nice pair of pants and a blouse?" Nev asked. She didn't really feel too comfortable in dresses. The one she'd worn for Ana's birthday party had been the first dress she'd worn in a long time, and that was because it was for Ana's party. Cyrilla, however, gave Nev a flat look.

“No. You can't wear a pair of nice pants and a blouse. The Delphox isn't a casual place to dine. You have to understand something, Nev, when it comes to top notch places like that. It's made for people with money and they expect a certain kind of look from those people. They expect a sort of elegance and refinement. That means you have to dress pretty formal to even walk through the door. If the four of us showed up there, now, dressed as we are, we'd be turned away."

Mel nodded. "It's super classist bullshit but it's true. I'm literally not traveling with anything nice enough to get me into a place like that. But dress codes are one way places make sure they keep up their image and get the clientele they want. After that, stuff tends to be divided by level of like... privacy. Private rooms are way more expensive than seats on the restaurant floor, for instance. At a certain point, what you're paying for is the staff's discretion—meaning regardless of what they see or hear, they won't talk. That's why people use private rooms for business meetings and such. If that trust were ever broken, the bigwig clientele could spread the word and suddenly no one would be going there anymore."

She shrugged. "That's usually what it's like, when there's a super fancy restaurant but it's not renowned for the food itself. I mean I'm sure it'll be good, but not good enough to justify the prices by itself." She rolled her eyes. "It could be that he's just really trying to impress you without knowing how."

Ana, brows furrowed, glanced between the others. "Does this mean we should head to the shops? It'll be a few hours before things close, at least. We could find you something to wear?"

“That's not a bad idea, actually. You will need something to wear if you're going to be at that restaurant," Cyrilla stated, seemingly agreeing with Ana's statement. “Besides, there's this really nice shop that just opened up next to the Vermilion place. I've been meaning to check it out to see if I could find a tie and shirt for Eryk. He needs to look his best for the qualifying tournament, after all," she added in a nonchalant fashion.

“Oh, well, should we go, now?" Nev asked. If they had a few hours left before everything closed, it would at least give her ideas of what to get or look for. She could always go buy something tomorrow, after all. They still had at least four days before her date was scheduled.

"Sure!" Mel said, offering her first really genuine grin of the evening. "I don't get to dress blondes very often; this'll be fun!"

Ana shook her head good-naturedly. "I don't think I'll be all that much help with this part, but I'm happy to go along."

Nev smiled brightly. “Thank you all for helping me with this, regardless. It really means a lot to me," she stated, feeling the nervousness seep out of her.

“Not a problem, Nev. It's what friends are for."

Nev couldn't help the way the statement warmed her heart a little. Friends. They really were nice to have.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

September 16th
Aidan's Apartment - Evening - Clear
Aidan Klein

Expelling a heavy sigh, Aidan collapsed into his sectional, propping his feet up onto the coffee table and cracking open the beer in his hand with the bottle opener on his keychain. Taking a swig, he settled it on a coaster on the end table and picked up the remote, running his other hand through his wet hair and yawning wide enough to crack his jaw a little. Nero and Rheinallt were really coming along in the tournament preparations—he was confident the both of them would do well enough to attract some attention.

He didn't remember the last time he'd had to work so hard for a mission, though. That plus the hours he'd been racking up on his own in the gym at the mansion tended to leave him tired enough to sleep pretty well at night, which was a nice change. He could almost manage to pretend he was a morning person, at this rate, even if some part of him would always be hopelessly nocturnal.

Flipping on the television, he figured a little research couldn't hurt. PSPN was showing a recap of all the biggest tournaments from the last year in a marathon this weekend. Knowing stats was one thing; being able to see people battle, watch them make decisions under pressure and learn their styles—that was the way he'd always done it. He hadn't gotten to the spot he'd occupied with some super-crazy secret training regimen. He just worked hard, and made sure he knew his shit.

Of course, that part of his life was over now, but maybe it'd help the guys out.

Reclining a little back into the sofa, he didn't protest when Frost hopped up to lay half-over his lap, instead running his fingers through her soft, slightly cool fringe of fur. Now... who here was likely to show up early season in Kanto...?

Before he could get comfortable, though, there was a hurried knock on his door. “Aidan, are you in there?" the voice obviously belonged to Niav, but she sounded a little troubled by something. “If you are, we could really use your help," she seemed to add.

Brows knitting, Aidan stood, Frost jumping off before he could dislodge her, looking slightly offended that he'd gotten up so soon after sitting down. He doubted Niav would be here for anything that wasn't important, though—unless the other member of 'we' was Rheinallt, then all bets were off.

When he tugged open the door, though, it was to find that she was actually with Rheinallt the younger, and he blinked at them, noting the concern on their faces. "Help with what?" he asked simply.

“Nev," Niav spoke without missing a beat. “You remember how Kas and I set up a Fletchinder account for her? Well, she matched with someone and she's going to meet him for a date. The only thing is," she paused to glance at Mel before turning back to him, “it wouldn't be so much of a concern if they were going anywhere else. If it hadn't been anyone else, really."

“You're aware of Béliam Arnaud, right? Valerie's son from Kalos? Nev... well, she matched with him and they're meeting at the Delphox. Normally I wouldn't consider this any of my business; she has a right to go out on dates with whomever she wants, but..." she trailed off as if she were unsure how to phrase what it was she found a problem with.

“It's a little concerning."

Even Aidan had to take a second to process all that. For a moment he was kind of... uncomfortable. He'd known she was interested in doing this kind of thing, of course, but—he'd sort of thought she'd tell him if she ended up making those kinds of plans. Not because she was obligated, because she wasn't, but just because they were—

That wasn't important right now. "Can I ask what about this is coming across as suspicious to you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes slightly. He knew of someone by that name, but the guy was Kalosian and stuck to a pretty local battle circuit from what Aidan knew, so when it came to details, there was nothing in his memory at all.

"It seems like kind of a lot for a first date, doesn't it?" Mel asked, frowning.

"What, because the place is fancy? Wouldn't a flashy rich kid from Kalos want to do that normally?"

Niav furrowed her brows. “Yes and no," she stated. “First off, if you're a flashy rich kid, you're not going to use Fletchinder for dates. Money and status alone would be more than enough to get attention, or in this case, dates. If that didn't work, money would definitely buy you dates if you knew where to look. They have escort services for shit like that."

“I'm just... I'm worried that she might be getting herself into something that she won't know how to get out of. We've tried to prepare her for worst case scenarios; she has all of our numbers, but you know how Nev can be. As brilliant as she is... she's also airheaded. She's not..." Niav didn't seem to know how to finish that sentence, but it was obvious enough that she was concerned about Doc.

Ah, that was the missing piece. Aidan hadn't ever really bothered to examine who did and didn't use services like that, thinking of them as matchmakers that used algorithms instead of human intuition. But apparently there was a class gap there, and if so, he could immediately understand what the worry was. "You said Delphox, right?" he asked, almost rhetorically. Looking down at his t-shirt and sweatpants, he sighed.

"If we're gonna check in on her, I'm gonna need a few minutes to find my suit. Niav, you've got something that'll work, right? We'll be way less suspicious as a pair than going alone." Most people would just assume they were there on a date.

"I can get you guys a reservation," Mel said, immediately withdrawing her pokégear and punching in the number for the restaurant.

"This late?" Aidan's brows rose. He'd figured he'd have to pay a lot more just to get them in ahead of someone else on the list.

Mel grinned. "I've got connections. You guys get dressed; since I can't go with you I at least want to take care of this part."

Niav nodded her head. “I'll meet you in the foyer of the complex," she stated, taking her leave.

'Find his suit' was a bit of an exaggeration; Aidan knew exactly where it was. It was by far the most expensive item of clothing he'd ever owned, and while he was hardly in any kind of financial straits it was still hard to conceptualize owning clothes worth thousands of dollars. But as the right hand of Neo Team Rocket's boss, certain appearances were sometimes necessary, and at the moment he was kind of glad he had it.

It was sharp, at least, black with very thin white pinstripes, and he wore a crisp black shirt underneath with a white tie tucked into the black vest. He elected to pull off the silver rings usually on his fingers, replacing them with a watch, its leather band supporting an inlaid dark blue face with pearl-white hands. He ran a comb through his hair, and elected to waste no more time than that, only taking the pokéball containing Rex with him, which he minimized and tucked in the breast pocket of his jacket.

Once he'd reached the meeting place, Niav was there, dressed in a dark red sleeveless pleated chiffon dress. Her hair was pulled into a tail with light waves, and a few strands left to frame her face. She furrowed her brows in his direction, though, and pulled the matching sheer shawl over her shoulders.

“Mel says our reservations are near Nev's table, but far enough that she won't see us," she stated, pursing her lips together. “She also called in the Gogoat service that specializes in the foreign cars. Gotta show up with a car that looks the part, too, I suppose." She pushed a heavy sigh through her nose.

“I hope she's doing alright, so far. She was supposed to meet her date around eight thirty."

He didn't need to check his watch—it was already nine. Nodding shortly, he headed out through the lobby, holding the door for Niav and stepping into the waiting purring red sports car that had just pulled up to the curb.

"Delphox, please," he told the driver, leaning back and cracking the window before pulling a cigarette from one pocket and a lighter from another. "Mind if I smoke?" he asked. He felt torn—it'd be his first one in a couple days, but he was really jonesing for it at the moment. He had to suppress the urge to scoff at himself.

It figured, really.

“Not at all," Niav replied, keeping her eyes outside as they made their way towards the restaurant. “Mel put the reservation under my name, by the way. Figured there'd be less attention drawn your way if it was your name on the list," she stated, turning so that she was glancing in his direction.

“Upscale or not, you do have a rather large fanbase behind your name. A lot of those in the higher echeleons all had some sort of bet riding on you in your battling days," she added. “Appearance wise, you clean up well-enough that they might not recognize you at first."

He snorted, smiling a little almost despite himself as he lit the cigarette. "I'll take that as a compliment, coming from you," he said, exhaling some smoke out the window. She was, after all, the infiltration specialist of her set. It meant she knew what to do to blend in different places, and while he was a fair hand with that himself, it wasn't exactly his specialty. "So thanks, I guess."

It wasn't much longer before they'd reached the Delphox, though, and a valet approached the car to open the door for Aidan and Niav. She stepped out and forced a smile on her face, glancing up at Aidan. “Here's hoping for the best," she muttered softly.

He hummed quietly, offering her his arm politely. They were greeted at the entrance to the restaurant by several members of staff. It didn't really matter who had the reservation in a certain sense: they had the money and looked the part, so they were going to get treated a certain way. A young woman took Niav's shawl to coat check, but other than that they didn't really have any extraneous clothing, so they were brought almost immediately to their seats.

A waitress came by a moment later to take their order for drinks. Once they had been placed, Niav glanced around subtly. “There she is," she spoke, tilting her head towards the right side of them. From anyone else's perspective, it would look like she was interested in what Aidan had to say instead of pointing someone out. Her brows were furrowed, though.

“I don't see Arnaud with her, though," she added. Glancing in Doc's direction did seem to prove that it was just her, however; the expression on her face was almost despondent. “He might be in the restroom, but... that face she's making, it doesn't look good."

Aidan shifted his attention to the seat across from her. The cutlery was completely undisturbed, the seat tucked in in a way that suggested it had never been moved out. "He's not in the bathroom," Aidan said, feeling an unexpected flicker of anger. "He was never fucking here to begin with."

As far as results went for the suspicions the others had had, this wasn't the worst thing. But he was willing to bet Doc wasn't feeling any sense of that right now. Her first arceusdamn date in the world, and the fucker had stood her up.

"Hey Niav," he said, returning his attention to the woman across from him. "I hate to be a jackass and skip out on our surveillance op here, but..." he gestured towards the table Doc sat at, figuring she'd infer what he was asking.

“Go," she spoke, nodding her head in understanding. Her expression was easy to read as one of anger, but her face smoothed out as she stood from the table. “I'll make sure things are covered on our end, here. Just... take care of her," she stated, offering a small smile before taking her cellphone out and leaving. She said something to the waitress who had gone to get their drink, perhaps to let her know they were no longer in need of them. She tipped the woman before leaving towards the front of the restaurant.

Doc seemed to be staring at her glass, though, still filled with what looked to be champagne of sorts. She probably ordered it and hadn't touched it.

Sighing quietly, Aidan put one hand in the pocket of his slacks and approached, drawing to a stop just behind the free chair in front of Doc and resting his free hand on the back of it. "This one taken?" he asked. He didn't think he'd heard his voice come out that gentle in a long time. It wasn't really a trait he usually associated with himself, but if he could make it fit here, he had to.

Doc's head snapped up in surprise, jostling a few of her bangs from her eyes as she glanced in his direction. “Aidan, what are you doing here?" she asked, confusion written on her face. She blinked a few times, as if she were trying to clear her vision of something before her eyes went back towards the glass in her hand.

“I... wasn't expecting to see you here, is all," she spoke, a small smile appearing on her face. It seemed forced, though, as if she were trying not to show how upset she truly felt about her situation. She'd been wearing a relatively nice dress, black in color and it exposed the left side of her shoulder. It had a neck tie of sorts that was attached the left side that had a strip of what was supposed to be the sleeve portion of her dress. Her hair had been pulled up into a loose bun, probably from Niav's and Mel's help, with her bangs left loosely where they fell.

"Wasn't expecting to be here," he said honestly. He expelled a quiet breath, remaining standing since she hadn't indicated otherwise. "And I'm obviously not who you were hoping for." He wasn't an idiot, after all—he knew damn well what it meant that she hadn't even told him this was happening. But still, she'd gone to all the trouble of dressing up and preparing for a nice evening out, and he knew she had to think something of him, to willingly spend nights in with him, even if she might have preferred nights out with someone else.

"But you know... I am here. I can get you home, if you want, or if you're hungry we can eat. I'm not some big-shot from Kalos, and I'll probably pronounce all the food wrong, but if you don't mind that I don't think I'm the worst company ever."

“Oh, but were you here with someone, then? I don't... I don't want to pull you away from someone if you were. I'll be fine; I'll just finish this and..." she paused, swallowing audibly before glancing back at her glass. “I'm sure you'd rather be elsewhere, though, and not here stuck with me," she stated, offering him a rueful smile.

“And that's just nonsense. You're very good company to have. I wouldn't mind at all..." she trailed off again.

He shook his head faintly. "I was here with Niav. She and Mel were worried about you and wanted to make sure you were all right." Clearly she wasn't; hopefully she would take the admission for the sign of concern it was, and not an insult.

Aidan sort of figured what she'd just said was as close to an invitation to sit as he was going to get, so he did so, resisting the urge to reach across the table and ruffle her hair or something. She'd clearly gone to some effort with it, and he didn't want to muss it or anything. The waiter promptly appeared to take his drink order; he gave it quickly and returned his attention to Doc.

"I won't ask if you're okay," he said simply. "But is there anything I can do?"

Doc shook her head softly. “No, there's not. If you were here with Cyrilla, then you know I was here on a date," she stated almost in a whisper. “I didn't... well, I didn't want to tell you about it because I didn't want to bother you with something so silly. Plus... I," she paused to take a sudden breath of air before closing her eyes. “I should have known this would happen."

“I thought that if you didn't know, and this happened, then it was like it never did happen. And... you wouldn't have to see me like this," she continued, quickly rubbing the back of her eyes with her hand. She sniffed softly, but it looked like she was doing her best to keep herself from crying.

Bother him? Was that really how she thought of it?

He had to admit it tracked with certain other facts about her, but if she thought it after all this he'd been a shittier friend than he thought.

Aidan had never been one for fancy places to begin with, but at this moment the setting seemed like it was just getting in the way of everything. Withdrawing his wallet from his pocket, he laid out enough cash to pay for both their drinks, the time she'd spent sitting, and a generous tip before he stood up again and held a hand out towards her. "Let's get out of here, okay? I'm not trying to cut you off, or stop you from talking, but we can't really do that right here anyway."

She blinked in surprise at him. “Okay," she spoke softly, taking his hand and standing from her spot. She followed behind him as they reached the front of the restaurant. One of the waiters retrieved her coat for her, and she slipped it over her shoulders, pulling it closer to her as if to hide herself somehow. It was cool outside, not quite enough so for a jacket, but it might have been more for psychological comfort than physical.

“I'm... sorry if this interrupted your evening. I know you like to watch PSPN sometimes and... occasionally play the game," she spoke softly, still. She hadn't glanced in his direction, though, even as they stepped outside.

The street outside was lit pretty nicely; they weren't far from the docks, here, and Aidan pointed them in that direction more to have somewhere to walk than anything else. "You didn't," he said simply. "You didn't interrupt me, and you don't bother me. I'd say you know that already but... I don't think you do." He pushed a soft breath through his nose. He wasn't oblivious to her struggle with her sense of self-esteem, of course, but he hadn't quite realized how bad it was. Maybe some of this was just a really bad night talking.

"You know this isn't on you, right? Standing someone up is the kind of thing only an asshole does, now matter how fancy the place is he picks to do it."

She pulled in a soft breath, and shook her head. “But it is... on me, I mean," she stated, reaching up to pull the band that held her hair up, off. It caused her hair to fall over her shoulders, and she ran a hand through the strands to set them straight, it seemed. “I've never been an interesting person, or exceptionally beautiful. If anything, I'm plain and possibly quite the most boring person around," she stated, huffing lightly at herself.

“Even when I was a young child, people just weren't... well they weren't interested in me at all. Not even to be my friend. I just... I stayed by myself, read the books the school library had, and went home. I... remember there being someone, at one point in my life, who'd been my best friend, but he's gone now. He..." she furrowed her brows slightly as she paused, “he died when I was twelve."

She fell silent for a moment after that, eyes downcast and not at all paying much attention to where she was going. It seemed that she was just following idly beside Aidan.

He lost the war with his instinct to reach over, only to his own surprise it wasn't to pat her head like he'd thought. Instead, he shifted a strand of her loose bangs in his fingers, moving it so that it was tucked behind her ear. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said sincerely. He knew what that felt like—to lose someone you thought really understood you, was really close to you in a way no one else had been. Even if his hadn't been human.

"But you know... I don't think you're boring at all. You're brilliant, for starters. And the way you look at things—I don't know anyone else like you, and that's interesting. I've met all kinds of people, but I'd never compare you to any of them. You're too much yourself." He tucked his hand back in his pocket, turning his eyes ahead.

"As for the plain bit... I think you should get your eyes checked, Doc. There's nothing plain about you." He shrugged, trying to walk a line between being sincere and saying too much. Aidan didn't have to be half as good at reading people as he was to know she was in a fragile state right now—he wanted to make it better, not more awkward or uncomfortable. As much as he could, anyway.

She smiled a little, then, though at what in particular, it was hard to say. “Miles used to say the same thing," she spoke softly. “Even if he didn't necessarily speak the same way as you or I can. Mr. Mime are still notoriously intelligent and aren't psychic for a reason," she stated, finally shifting her gaze towards Aidan. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears, but she was still smiling a little softly at him.

“But you don't have to say things like that to me, to cheer me up, Aidan," she stated, the smile faltering for a moment. “You're the first real friend I've had in a long time, even if you also happen to be my superior. I... well, I'm grateful for your friendship."

Mr. Mime? So the person she was close to had also been—

He exhaled heavily. "I'm not saying it just to cheer you up," he said flatly. "I'm saying it because it's true. I also hope it helps, but... I wouldn't make stuff up for that. I don't like lying to people, and I'll never lie to you if I can help it." He wished he could promise more than that, but with what he did for a living, what Gregorovich might ask him to do in the future... there just weren't any guarantees, and pretending like there were would be a lie of its own.

They'd finally reached the edge of the dock, and Aidan paused, thoughtful. The water glittered under the lights, but he felt like he hardly saw it.

"Why—" he paused, reconsidering the wisdom of his question and then going ahead with it anyway. "Why wouldn't you want me to see you? You're allowed to be in pain, you know. In front of me or not."

“Because I don't want to bother you with trivial things like that," she replied. “I don't want to be a bother to you at all, but... sometimes I feel like I am, even if you say otherwise." She took a deep breath, and glanced out towards the water. “It's been five months since I arrived here, and in those five months I've made more friends than I've ever had before, and... well, I'm not entirely sure how to be a friend. Part of it is me learning as I go, but I also worry that I might not be..." she paused in that thought and shook her head.

“My pain and sadness shouldn't fall on my friends, is all. Or anyone else, for that matter. It's... it's mine and I should be the one to deal with it."

Aidan frowned. Really, he'd just told her he was making a point of not using platitudes and she still thought he was just trying to make her feel better. This woman.

Still, if ever he'd had a virtue to his name, it was the patience he'd developed after his wild adolescence. He figured he needed it here, and maybe she did too. "That's... kind of the opposite of how it works, Doc," he said, turning his eyes from the water to look over at her. "Friends aren't just there for the shiny happy shit, and if they are, they're not really your friends. You think—" he paused, trying to find a way to explain it so she'd understand. "You think the rest of us don't feel like that sometimes?" He tilted his head, asking the question softly.

"What would you do, if our situations had been reversed tonight? If somebody had stood me up and I was upset about it? Would you think that was a burden on you, that I should keep it to myself because it was my problem?"

Her eyes narrowed as her brows furrowed deeply. “I... well, no. I'd hope you'd talk to me, or someone else, about it. I wouldn't want you to be upset about it, I just..." her expression smoothed out as she seemed to at least understand what he was trying to tell her. “I guess I just didn't ever feel like there would be people who'd be willing to be there for me. I've... never had that before."

She took a deep, shuddering breath before she glanced back at him. “I suppose I'm still getting used to that there are people like that. And... well, that I'm lucky you're one of them," she stated, the tears in her eyes finally falling freely. “Thank you, Aidan."

He felt some of the tension he'd been carrying leave him at last, expelling a breath along with it before he stepped a little closer towards her. "C'mere," he said quietly, opening his arms in invitation. "Pretty sure friends get to do this too, if you don't object."

Not that he was overly familiar either, but—it felt like the right thing to offer. He sure as hell wasn't just going to stand there uselessly while she cried, after all.

She didn't seem to object, and closed the distance, wrapping her arms around him and burying her head in his shoulder. She sobbed quietly for a few minutes before it seemed to die down. She pulled away from him, wiping her eyes with her hands as she took a breath to steady her breathing.

“Do... would you mind if I came over to your place for a few? Maybe... maybe we can even finally get Balthazar and Maribelle past the water labyrinth?" she asked, glancing up at him with puffy eyes.

A quiet huff left him, and he nodded slightly. "Of course you can, Doc. I think I've come up with a new strategy for the boss, even."

If she was asking about that, he figured she was going to be all right.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

September 18th
Field Office 9 Laboratory - Late Morning - Warm
Nevena Solomon

Nev pursed her lips together, shifting the glasses further up her nose as they began to slide down. They had finally been able to build the machine, but it was more of a prototype than anything. The first of its kind, and today they were going to be doing a test run on it. Someone had volunteered their alakazam for the first test, but Nev wasn't entirely sure it was quite that ready. If something went wrong, it could potentially be harmful to the alakazam. There was no telling what would happen, and it might even be fatal. Nev didn't want that to happen.

It was the reason why, even now, she was checking the machine over, ensuring the hoses and hooks and lines were all in place and secured properly. She pursed her lips together, still not satisfied, before she turned towards the others in her group. Aidan was there, along with Greene and Parker. The latter was with Nev, helping her check the equipment to ensure it was up to par.

“I know it needs psychic energy to power, but... can't I just make sure it's safe enough for him?" she stated, glancing in Aidan's direction. She was referring to the alakazam, of course. If it was safe enough for her to test it out, first, then it would likely be safe enough for alakazam.

Aidan blinked at her, frowning slightly. "You want to personally test it out before you put a pokémon in it?" he asked, though he didn't seem to find this strange. It was more like he was asking to make sure he'd understood properly. "Will that even provide any basis for knowing, though? If it's powered by psychic energy like you said, you're not going to be feeding any into the machine."

“It's not going to kill anyone," Greene said, his brows drawing down with dissatisfaction. “I'm the one who engineered it; I know how it works better than anybody." He technically was the project engineer, and did tend to get snappy sometimes when he felt his work was being slighted.

Aidan met her eyes over Greene's shoulder and rolled his. "You know the project better than anyone, Doc," he said, rather flatly. Greene bristled; Miss Parker hid a smile behind her hand. "If you think it needs to be tested that way, test it that way. But be careful, please. Like it or not, your brain's pretty irreplaceable." He half smiled at her. "And you need it still. The haunted castle's even harder than the water labyrinth."

Nev chuckled lightly at Aidan's statement about the haunted castle. They had just barely cleared the water labyrinth last night. Nev had managed to accidentally get Balthazar killed, however; it seemed that she'd also managed to land the final hit on the boss. She'd thought it was a glitch, but the boss kill registered, and Balthazar had respawned as if he'd never died to begin with. She'd laughed about it the entire night. She shook her head, though.

She didn't want to make it seem like she was undermining Greene's abilities or anything. The machine had been immaculate, but that didn't stop her from worrying. Nothing was ever perfect. There was always going to be adjustments that needed to be made, calibrations and settings reconfigured. The alakazam that was going to be used, however, made a soft grunting noise, and placed a hand on Nev's shoulder. He didn't seem too concerned, and it was enough to make Nev capitulate.

“Alright, fine, but you let me know the minute something is uncomfortable, alright?" she stated, furrowing her brows at the alakazam. He smiled at her and walked towards the machine. “Ms. Parker, can you help me get him strapped in?" she asked, glancing towards the young woman. Once everything had been set, she stepped back a bit, and glanced in Greene's direction.

“Alright Dr. Greene, we're ready whenever you are."

They were recording today's trial for the data, since hopefully even a failure would have something useful for them to study. Everyone was narrating their actions to the record accordingly, and the readouts from the machine were being taken down as well, by some system Kasimir had set up for them earlier that morning. “This is Project Nebula Prototype 1, trial run 1, September 18th. This is Dr. Edison Greene, joined by project head Dr. Nevena Solomon, project assistant Sydney Parker, and NTR Administrator Aidan Klein. The time is 11:23, and we're beginning the prototype's startup sequence. The subject in the machine is Miss Parker's alakazam, who has a psychic index rating of 324."

He was, if nothing else, a profssional when it came to his work, and so he slowly brought the machine to life, pausing often so she could check in with the alakazam. “All right," he said after the startup sequence was complete. “Machine running at working levels. Standing by for initiation of psychic synchronization."

This was the part that was going to be difficult. Alakazam needed to make sure the use of his psychic abilities was nothing less than perfect in order for this to work. If it wasn't, Nev wasn't entirely sure what would happen. She shoved the thoughts out of her mind, though, and nodded towards alakazam.

“Alright, you can do this. Just like you practiced, alright?" Nev spoke softly, trying her best to reassure alakazam that it would be fine. Alakazam nodded his head, and closed his eyes. Nev could see his aura surrounding him as he tried to feed his energy into the machine. The machine began to make a whirring sound, almost as if it were humming softly.

It seemed stable enough.

“Everything is running smoothly so far. Alakazam's vitals are normal, and the synchronization is complete," she stated, turning towards Miss Parker and Dr. Greene. “Initiate the second step," she stated. It involved funneling the psychic energy into another compartment that would use it as the calling point. If this was successful, then that meant they could safely deem it workable, and a success.

“Affirmative," Dr. Greene replied. Miss Parker had moved to sit next to her pokémon. It was better that she didn't touch him, just in case, but she clearly wanted to stay close, just in case something happened.

“Transferring fifty percent power to connection node." The machine started to whir, but the sound was expected. Against the far wall, Aidan watched the readouts with hawklike eyes, expression set into something firmly neutral. She'd seen him reading a lot of the textbooks in the office over the past few months—it was possible he knew what the readings actually meant at this point.

"Hey Doc." Aidan's voice cut effortlessly across Dr. Greene's. "I think something's not right with these readouts."

Nev made her way towards Aidan, and glanced at the readouts. He was right; something wasn't right. Before she could say anything, though, there was a soft grunt coming from the machine. It didn't belong to the machine, itself, but it did sound rather painful, and coming from Alakazam. Nev's eyes widened as she hurried back to alakazam.

“Greene, shut it off, now!" she stated in a firm voice, glancing back towards alakazam. He made another grunting sound as Nev hurried to take the straps and buckles away from alakazam. There was a slight sparking sound, though, and Nev felt something brush her face. It stung, but she ignored it as the machine finally powered down, and alakazam fell limp out of the machine into Nev's arms.

“Sydney, get him to the infirmary, stat!" Nev stated. They had a doctor on standby just in case something had happened, and Nev was slightly glad they had actually thought of that, a head of time. “What the hell happened, Greene?" she stated, turning her attention towards the man when Sydney retrieved her pokemon.

Sydney didn't need to be told twice, and rushed out of the room, murmuring softly to her pokémon.

She could feel something warm and wet on her cheek, and reached up to rub it away. It wasn't until she brought her hand back down did she realize she was bleeding. Nothing too heavy, but it might have been an accident on alakazam's part. His energy must have lashed out when she was trying to unhook him.

Grimacing, Aidan pulled the first-aid kit down from one of the shelves, gripping her firmly by the shoulder and pressing down until she was in one of the rolling office chairs in the lab. He set the kit down on the table next to her and flipped it open, rummaging around inside before coming up with a sterile cloth, disinfectant, and a bandage.

Greene frowned. “We failed at the point of energy conversion," he said, pulling up the charts on his computer screen and scanning them over. “The machine was doing what it was supposed to do, but the power core failed partway through. There was backlash, and the excess psychic energy was pushed back into alakazam's systems."

Pushing some of her hair back away from her forehead, Aidan dabbed carefully at whatever wound she had there.

Nev sighed, pushing a heavy breath through her nose. “That's not good. If we can't get a sufficient power core, then what happened to alakazam will happen to anyone or anything else that tries to use it," she stated, keeping her head still as Aidan cleaned the wound she had. She murmured a soft thanks when he was done, and furrowed her brows.

“We can't afford to have any failures like that. It might be worse the next time we try, and I'm not going to risk any more pokémon, or anyone for that matter, until it's stable," she stated. The machine was done; that was their first success. The second step was going to have to wait, though. Power cores that could handle that type of stress weren't readily available to people like them. Even if NTR could pull some strings, Nev knew that there were only two such power cores that could, theoretically do the job.

And those weren't even on the market yet.

"That's fine," Aidan replied simply. "Just write up your reports of today for the boss, indicate what you need to avoid the same error and why. If he thinks it's promising enough to continue with, he'll find a way to get you what you need." Aidan flipped the first-aid kit shut again after applying the disinfectant and square bandage to her head.

"Worst case scenario, we might have to see if Rheinallt can build us one from scratch, but I don't think it'll come to that." He shrugged, putting the kit away. "But the boss isn't going to make you do more runs if all it's going to do is hurt whoever's inside. He's not like that."

Nev was relieved at that. “Good, because I wasn't going to put anyone else inside," she replied, eyes narrowing slightly. If it had been the case, if Gregorovich wanted to use the machine regardless, Nev wasn't entirely sure what she would have done. Quit was the logical answer, but they would likely replace her with someone who would keep putting people or pokémon inside the machine.

“I'll make sure to have the reports written and sent so that we can get the necessary equipment for this. I'm under the impression that it will take a while before any of that is retrieved, so for now, we'll have to make due with the data we were able to collect. Some of the readouts aren't completely useless."

It was still something, she supposed, that they'd managed even this much.

Aidan nodded slightly. "I know it didn't end well, but having one particular failure at a time like this seems like good progress," he said. "Especially since it wasn't really your team's fault. You're doing a good job here, Doc."

She huffed a little. “You're right, it is good progress. And of course it wasn't anyone's fault. Machines just can't be trusted to be reliable, sort of like those barrels that look harmless, but turn out to be enemies of some sort," she stated, making a reference to their game. She hated those enemies, if she were being honest. They'd scared her for some reason the first time they'd been encountered.

“Well, I suppose good job, everyone. Hopefully we'll get this right in no time," because it was still progress.


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

September 21st
Cinnabar Gym - Late Afternoon - Hot
Drake Bellamy

Days like these were becoming an all too common occurrence for Drake. Hiding out at his gym, leaving only briefly to buy groceries and necessities. Sometimes he'd just use the Delibird to have them delivered to him. Hell, he hadn't been to his own apartment in almost a week. His friends came by the gym often enough to keep him from feeling isolated, but this was getting ridiculous. Kevin was becoming a little obsessed.

Drake had found a note on his door, first, saying that he was missed and that Kevin would do anything to get him back. This kind of behavior would have been overlooked if Drake hadn't noticed more letters in places that Kevin shouldn't have been able to get into. Like his apartment. He'd had the locks changed when Drake called it quits, but he knew it was Kevin who'd gone into his place to leave the notes. Occasionally he'd find flowers, or dinner already made, and it was getting to the point that Drake was actually afraid and creeped out.

He'd tried going to the police department to file a restraining order, however; he'd been turned away because he didn't have sufficient proof, and couldn't prove it was Kevin. As if the notes weren't sufficient proof that he was being stalked, though. Pushing a heavy sigh through his nose, he ran a hand through his hair. He couldn't stay locked up inside forever, though. He needed to get out and get some sun, otherwise he was going to wilt. With that in mind, he pulled Axe's, Brick Jr.'s and Typhoon's pokéballs from his belt, and gave them a toss. The gabite looked displeased to be out, however; the salamance glanced in Drake's direction, giving a subtle nod before making his way towards the door with Drake.

He'd leave the both of them here, just in case. Axe, though, would be walking with him. He was well-behaved and docile enough that Drake didn't need to keep in the pokéball. Plus, Kevin never liked the fraxure much, and Axe never liked Kevin. He should have trusted Axe's judgement on that, but... well, he'd been stupid. Pushing the thought out of his mind, he exited the gym, making sure to lock it behind him, before he struck out. He didn't know where he was going, so he let his legs do most of the navigating.

Eventually his feet took him towards Ana's neighborhood. It didn't seem that Kevin had tried anything around there yet, probably because Drake hadn't been going by her place very often. He could, he knew—Ana wasn't the type of person to ever turn a friend away, but—

Before he could consider whether or not he wanted to go there, the issue was taken rather out of his hands when he spotted her walking down the street towards him, next to Aidan of all people. The other man was wearing his customary sunglasses, and they looked a little funny walking next to each other, as their color palettes were very similar, with all the black clothing and such. Not to mention there was something a little odd about someone as tall and muscular as Aidan walking directly next to the very short, very thin Ana, but they looked to be having a perfectly nice conversation, though he couldn't hear what it was about.

He wasn't sure if he should disturb them, though. They seemed to be having a good time, and like it or not, Kevin was still around somewhere. He didn't have much choice, though, when they got closer, and he waved at them.

“Hey, guys," he greeted, offering them a small smile. “You guys headed somewhere?" he asked, glancing between the two. Usually one of the others were with Ana, mostly Eryk since he lived at Ana's place. Drake had, at first, thought that a little odd, but he'd warmed up to the man. He was mostly quiet, and seemed to be able to help Ana out more often. It was why he wasn't so worried about not having visited her in awhile. She had someone to help her out, but seeing Aidan with her was a little unusual. He pushed the thoughts away, though.

"Drake!"Ana greeted, smiling warmly. "I haven't seen you out this way in a while." She managed to say it in the sort of distinctively Ana-ish way that was only a few words, but also managed to convey both that she'd missed him and that he shouldn't feel guilty for it. "We were taking a bit of a break—I told Aidan I'd show him the arcade. Would you like to come along?"

"What she said," the man confirmed wryly. His look was a bit... keener though, as it tended to be. It was hard to say how much he guessed just registering Drake's appearance and Axe's presence, but it was probably more than most people would have.

“Sure! It's been a while since I was last at the arcade," he admitted, offering a nervous smile. Axe made a soft grunt, nudging Drake's back a bit. “You can come too, Axe. It's not like you're banned from the place," he spoke as he placed a hand on Axe's head. He moved so that he was on the opposite side of Ana, which meant she was in between him and Aidan.

“How are things going at the shelter? I'm sorry I haven't been by in awhile," he decided to ask. He would need to at least make an effort to visit her more often. He couldn't let Kevin turn him into a hermit. That wasn't the kind of life Drake would be able to manage.

"We're doing really well," Ana replied warmly. "We're down to a pretty low number of residents at the moment, due to several adoptions at the registration fair last month. It's really helped ease the workload—maybe too much so. I almost don't know what to do with all the help I'm being offered." She shook her head faintly, but seemed to be pretty happy about it, all things considered.

"What about you, though?" she asked, a little more softly. "I don't put stock in this kind of things, but... there are rumors that the Gym closes suddenly at odd times and things, and I was a little worried after the other day. Is everything okay?"

“It's not that the Gym closes at odd times, it just hasn't been open as often as usual. I... well, no everything isn't alright," he stated, running a hand down his face. Axe snorted as if agreeing with Drake, but kept his focus on their surroundings. “Kevin's been getting a little... obsessive lately. I know it's him breaking into my apartment and leaving letters and flowers and whathaveyou, but... nothing's being done about it."

Ana was his friend, and he trusted Aidan enough that he could say this to them. Plus, Aidan, Ana, and Cyrilla had all witnessed Kevin's insistence, first hand. “I've gone to the CIPD about it, but they say there's nothing they can do about it. I don't have sufficient evidence that Kevin's breaking into my place, nor do I have the proof that it is Kevin. I've tried having a security system installed in my place, but he always seems to bypass it."

It was really getting out of hand.

"He's breaking into your house?" Ana's eyes went wide; she stopped cold on the pavement and gently took Drake by the arm. "Drake, if you don't feel safe you can stay with me, you know that, right? I just got this ridiculous security system upgrade from Kasimir, and Eryk and all the pokémon live there, too."

It was just like Ana to offer him a place to stay. He shook his head, though. “It's a really nice offer, Ana, but I don't want to take that chance. He doesn't know I've been coming around here, and if I do, that would just put you on his radar. I'm sure Kasimir's system would be more than enough to keep Kevin out, but I wouldn't want to impose like that, either."

As nice as it might have been, staying at Ana's for a bit, he didn't want to bring that kind of drama to her. She didn't deserve that, and he wasn't entirely sure how Eryk would take it, either. Not Drake living there, but Kevin trying to break into Ana's place. Eryk was an intimidating-looking man, and he was certain that he could scare off Kevin, but... what if Kevin did something stupid? He just didn't want to risk it.

“I'm going to see what I can do to convince CIPD to get a restraining order. If it gets any worse, though... I'll take you up on your offer for a while until it gets resolved?"

"Please do," she said softly. "I don't want to see you get hurt, Drake. And if CIPD is still giving you the runaround next time you go in, let me know and I'll talk to Carter for you." She must've meant Captain Hayes; apparently his family was friends with hers or something.

"Just like the cops to be useless about something like this," Aidan muttered, before glancing at Drake from the corner of his eye. "I'm sure your own pokémon are plenty of help already, but you need something to scare the pants off this guy, let me know."

Drake huffed lightly at Ana and Aidan. “Sure thing, guys. Thanks," he stated, feeling a little more relieved. He pursed his lips together, though, and furrowed his brows. “I think it might take a little more than that to scare off the guy. He's... oddly persistent. He's like a joltik that won't quite let go of you once it's latched on."

If it came down to it, Drake would have to leave the island, and sign the gym over to someone else. It wasn't something he wanted to do, but if Kevin's behaviour became worse, Drake wouldn't have much of a choice. Even if Ana could talk to Captain Hayes, Drake doubted anything would really come of it. The CIPD seemed busy with other affairs, it seemed, but this...

“Maybe I ought to just record his behaviour when he's around. Then I'd have the proof I need."

"Sounds like a pretty good idea. You know, if you were willing to talk to Rheinallt about it, the guy's kind of a legal index. Apparently his mom or stepmom's a lawyer or... something. In any event, he probably knows how you can make a good case and get the guy off your back."

"Oh, but if you're not comfortable asking him directly, I can do it for you, without mentioning your name. Then take notes on what he says." Ana nodded, as if she found this idea quite solid, but didn't seem inclined to force it, merely looking at him inquiringly.

“Huh, that's not a bad idea, actually. I can ask him the next time I see him," Drake stated. If Kas knew something that could help, Drake was definitely willing to ask him about it. Anything that could be of help, Drake was willing to seek it out. “Thanks guys, for the helpful advice. I appreciate it," he stated, quite happy how it turned out. He wasn't exactly expecting to get advice on his predicament, but he was glad that he did.

“Now that that's mostly taken care of, you think you're any good at the arcade, old man?" Drake stated, grinning just broadly enough to make it known that he was challenging Aidan to a match at one of the games.

Aidan narrowed his eyes, the first hint of a sly smile appearing at one corner of his mouth. "Name your game, kid."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

September 22nd
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Rain
Kasimir Rheinallt

Kas wasn't exactly sure when part of his job had become doing wardrobe shopping for his coworker, but he wasn't going to complain. This counted as work, which meant he was doing it on company time and getting paid. To walk around the strip mall with Cy and search for something suitable for their not-really-boss to wear to a qualifying tournament.

All in all, he'd take it.

"Well, that was a bust," he noted, exiting the Abercombee with a shrug. Cy didn't really seem to know exactly what she wanted to get for Ryk, so they'd mostly been browsing so far. And making fun of the more ridiculous developments in fashion lately, because some of them were pretty well beyond stupid. "Where to next?"

She furrowed her brows lightly as she glanced around. “It would help if I actually knew what to get him. Ryk's usually easy to shop for, but... I want to make sure he looks his best while also being in something he'll be comfortable in. And that is no easy feat, my friend," she stated pursing her lips into a light pout.

“It's easier for someone like you, or myself, to find something to wear because we're comfortable in just about anything. Like this," she stated, pointing to her current outfit. She'd worn a pair of black shorts, and a loose fit white sports tank top with a black sports bra underneath it. “Could you imagine if Ryk wore something like this? How uncomfortable he'd be?" she stated, snickering softly as if she were actually imagining it.

“I need to find something that says I'm a fucking badass but is also subtle enough that it would be something he'd wear."

"Longcoat," Kas said immediately. "Nothing treads the line of stylish and badass like a longcoat. Dark colored, trench or duster probably. You can dress it up with a shirt and vest or down with jeans. Bonus points because the coat itself can become a trademark if it's cool enough." He shrugged. Ryk could easily wear one, too. They looked best on taller, well-built guys like him. Plus it would kinda compliment the scars without it seeming like he was trying too hard or playing them up on purpose or something.

He shrugged, though, and looked at Cyrilla. "Plus they're not impractical or anything, or too flashy or immodest or whatever, so he should be pretty comfortable in one, right?"

“Oh, I like the way you think," she replied, a bright smile crossing her features. “Definitely a trench coat, though, and defintely black. He can wear a dark red shirt underneath it and those can be his signature colors. I'm sure Aidan wouldn't necessarily mind if Ryk's kind of going for that whole red and black image," she stated, chuckling lightly.

“The best place on the island to find trench coats, though, is going to be..." she paused, scanning the area they were in before she seemed to find the place, “Aether Paradise. They have the best coats and they're tailored mostly for the island life. Which means that most of those trench coats are going to be sleeveless. I think it would really work for Ryk's image if the trench coat was sleeveless with long sleeve fitted shirt underneath. What do you think?" She blinked up at him, tilting her head in an inquisitive manner.

"This is why you're the best co-conspirator, Cy," Kas said, patting her shoulder amiably. "We're on a wavelength, and I like where it's going." Aware of where in the mall the store in question was, he started steering them in that direction, sliding his hands into the pockets of his shorts.

"Speaking of wavelengths, it's not just me right? He's actually been way more expressive lately? He smiles sometimes, Cy. Like actual smiles." It wasn't often, but it had happened a couple of times on guys' nights, and he was willing to bet it happened more often when he was at home, but he was interested to get Cy's observations too, and see if they matched his own.

“I've noticed," she spoke quietly, her expression softening a bit. “I haven't seen him that expressive since..." she trailed off as her brows furrowed. “It's been a long time since I've seen him express himself like that. I've missed it," she stated, sighing softly.

“I think it's because he's finally allowed himself to let others in. He has people to care about, now, even if he doesn't realize it, yet. Eryk is an emotional person if you haven't noticed. He's just... well, it's not my place to say. If he wanted you to know, he'll tell you on his own time, but I think a lot of his changes are due to Ana. He seems more at ease around her, and he almost... it almost looks like he's at home at her place. I've never really seen anything like it."

Kas nodded easily; he wasn't trying to push for information or history he didn't have. He could be a bit annoying, he knew, but he was usually pretty good at feeling out where people's actual boundaries were and respecting them. "While we're gossiping about coworkers, has Sis updated you on how that whole Fletchinder thing is going? I haven't heard anything since we made the profile." Of course that was mostly because he hadn't asked—Nev had been busy with a prototype and all their time together for the past ten days or so had been when he was setting up the monitoring system. A bit too important to chat during.

“You mean you don't know?" she asked almost incredulously. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she furrowed her brows deeply. “Nev matched with someone last week, Béliam Arnaud. She was supposed to go on a date with him, but..." she paused, a flicker of anger crossing her features, “that asshole stood her up. It was the first date she'd ever been on, and she was so excited about it, Kas. She asked me, Mel, and Ana for advice, and we even went shopping for her outfit. You should have seen the smile on her face when we did. But that asshole ruined everything."

“It was a good thing Aidan and I went to go check on her at the Delphox. I think he mostly fixed it, but she still looks a little upset about it. I've been trying to find him ever since. He needs to learn a lesson about hurting people like that; hurting good people like Nev is unacceptable." It was apparent enough that Cy was still angry about it given the tone of her voice.

That explained the frantic late-night ice cream excursion Mel had babbled about on her way out the door that evening. Kas made a disgusted noise. "Just don't do anything too drastic, Cy. The guy might be a class A asshole, but we really don't need to give the cops another reason to be breathing down our necks."

He knew a thing or two about that. A friendly local Jenny was the only reason he didn't have an arrest record, which was actually indirectly why he was able to be here at all. Still, that fucker had deserved everything he got. And then some. He definitely wasn't about to get into that right now, though.

"I'm guessing she's probably decided to take a break from it, then? What a shitty first experience to have."

Cy huffed lightly. “I can't afford to do anything too drastic. It's not just the cops I'd have to worry about," she murmured softly before shaking her head. “And it really is a shitty first experience. It... could have been so much worse, though, but she has decided to take a break from it; I even deactivated her account for her. She's a very sweet woman, I just don't understand why someone would do that to her. If you're not interested in someone, why even bother?" she stated, huffing a little.

“I think Arnaud thought it would be easy enough to get into her pants or something." Cy shrugged her shoulders, then, before turning towards Kas. “I remember my first shitty experience. I was..." she trailed off, glancing upward as if she were trying to recall how old she was, “about fifteen years old. Some guy couldn't take the hint, and couldn't take no for an answer. He's lucky Ryk showed up when he did, otherwise he'd have more than just a broken arm and nose."

"Arceus," Kas muttered. He knew well that Cy was fortunate, too—sometimes skills in martial arts or whatever else weren't enough to cut it in one's own defense. "If I had the ability to apologize on behalf of my gender, I would. Unfortunately that's not how these things work."

They'd arrived at the store she'd picked out, so Kas held the door open and entered before her. It was indeed a bit more local than a lot of the boutiques and department stores, but had a bit of a grunge feel to it too. Somehow he had a feeling Ana shopped here, at least for what she didn't make herself or have to special order.

"People can be such assholes," he murmured, shaking his head faintly.

“Unfortunately so," Cy replied, shaking her head a bit. “And it's not so bad, really. I've mostly given up trying to find the good in people," she stated, but something sounded a bit off from the way she'd said it. It was almost as if she were lying to herself about it.

“Well, except for you. You're not an asshole, and you don't really count as a person. You're my snorlax, remember?" she stated, grinning slightly as she turned her attention towards the clothing on display. She seemed to be looking for the coat section, and her eyes widened slightly when she seemed to find it.

"Not a person? Ouch." He shot her a grin to make clear that he wasn't actually offended, and went back to browsing.

“Oh, what about this one? He'd match Ana!" Cy stated as she snickered softly, pulling out a sleeveless trench coat. It had a lot of buckles on the front of it, and the collar had a few holes going around it as if there was something to be threaded through it.

Kas snorted. "I think we're veering away from classy and into ridiculous there," he noted. "Ana's more... elegant, even in her gothiness."

She laughed softly before placing the coat back. “I know, I know," she said as she pursed her lips together. She must have found something, though, as her eyes widened. “Okay, I know we said dark colors, but hear me out," she began, pulling a coat from the rack. “It's a light grey color, but could you see him in this with a white or black shirt underneath and a dark red tie? It's still casual enough, and I think it would look really good on him. Not to mention he'd definitely wear something like this," she continued, holding out the coat towards Kas. It was, indeed, a light grey color, bordering silver, with black buttons.

“It'd really bring out the color of his eyes, and compliment him, I think."

Kas tilted his head to the side. It wasn't as long as he'd been thinking, but it wouldn't look bad at all. "If you think it's to his taste, that's the most important thing," he noted with a nod. "And he does seem to go in for greys and stuff, so I think it could work. You want to try and find the stuff for under it, too?"

Come to think of it, he should probably consider what kind of image he wanted to go with, too. He'd collected eight badges back in the day, but had never taken that extra step onto the pro-battling scene, so he was just as much of a novitiate to it all as Eryk. A blank slate, in other words, in a situation where they really needed to make an impression. He'd probably want to avoid anything even remotely similar to Ryk, though, to maximize their chances overall.

“On it!" she stated, nodding enthusiastically as she left Kas for a moment, perhaps, to find the shirt to go underneath with the tie. It would give him time to find his own image while she was getting the rest of Ryk's outfit together.

Kas searched around a little, but nothing seemed to quite be hitting him the right way. He could probably assemble something from his wardrobe at home anyhow. He didn't want to be too casual, but if Ryk was going to be the badass, he should probably choose something a little... lighter.

It had been about twenty minutes before she returned. She had a pair of black slacks, a black dress shirt, and a crimson tie. There was also something else dangling from her fingers as she grinned at him. “Found his outfit! I got a few extras just so it wouldn't be the same shirt or pants every day. It's the same outfit, but not the same articles of clothing. I also found these adorable shits," she stated, pulling her hand from underneath the clothes and dangling what appeared to be charms in front of Kas.

“They had all three beasts: suicune, entei, and raikou. They even had a moltres for Aidan. I got Nev this one since she kind of reminds me of one," she stated, showing him a charm of latias.

"Ah, you're not wrong. There's a certain derpiness there that they have in common," he replied with a snicker. "You ready to get this all paid for?"

She huffed a laugh as she nodded her head, smiling rather easily as she adjusted the clothes in her arms. “Yep. Let's go get these paid for, and go to the arts and crafts store, next. I want to get some material so I can make keychains for these before I give them to everyone. Oh, wait, do you want a keychain for yours? Or do you want something else?" she asked as they walked towards the register.

"Make what you want with it, Cy—I'm sure it'll look good regardless." If she made him a keychain he could easily put it with his few others on the D-clip he used to keep his shit together. But he wasn't going to stop her if she settled on something else. "And thanks in advance. I'll have to make you something nice one of these days too. I'm not bad with my hands, you know." For once, he didn't even really intend the double-entendre, though he didn't trip over himself trying to correct it, either. It was true, after all.

So instead he flashed a grin. "Want me to carry the stuff so you can browse freely at the craft store?" He extended a hand for the bags she was carrying, not minding in the slightest.

She snorted softly, but for some reason, there was a light pink dusting her cheeks. “You don't have to make me anything, Kas. And that's why I asked if you wanted a keychain or something else. I want to make something you want, after all," she rolled her eyes a bit, almost as if she were rolling them at herself before she glanced at the bags in her hands.

“Here, you carry the one with the charms in it," she stated, handing him the smaller of the bags. “Thanks, Kas," she stated, grinning up at him.

He rolled his eyes right back at her, then grinned too. "You're incorrigible, you know that?" Though it could have been an insult, his tone of voice indicated that he very much meant it as a compliment.

"C'mon, then, let's get you hooked up with some craft supplies."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

September 23rd
Cinnabar Island - Late Afternoon - Warm
Nevena Solomon

Nev adjusted the large sun hat on her head, smiling when Basil reached up with a vine to help her. She and Aidan were on their way to Jo's for a late lunch. They had invited the others to join them, but apparently they had other work that needed to be done. They'd taken a raincheck, though, which she was going to hold them to. The last few days had been a little better, if she were being honest with herself. The night after her supposed date fell through, Nev had been a little... well, depressed.

She thought that there might have been something; anything, really, but it wasn't so. That, or she was just rushing a thought that wasn't true. She had been glad, though, when Aidan had showed up. He'd made it seem not so terrible, somehow, and she had appreciated it. There was just something about him, something so genuinely nice that Nev almost couldn't believe he was her friend. Never mind that he was her supervisor.

She wasn't even sure she saw him as her superior. For work, of course, but even then, talking to him seemed so flawless, and natural. Even when they were discussing small things about the project. He'd surprised her, really. Glancing at him from the corners of her eyes, she studied him for a moment. He was undoubtedly handsome, but she wasn't sure she could ever see him more as a friend. Didn't want to, actually. Their friendship was important to her because it had been her first real one. Shoving the thought away, she didn't like where it was going, she turned her attention back towards the scenery.

“So, do you think we'll be able to make it to the boss in the haunted castle next time?" she asked, grinning lightly. They were half-way through the level, but they were currently stuck at a certain spot. Nev might have loved playing video games, but she was inherently bad with them. They were stuck because she kept getting Balthazar killed in the strangest ways. There was a point where they had to make a jump, and she just couldn't seem to make it.

Aidan smirked slightly, lifting one eyebrow and glancing at her from the corner of his eye as he walked. "I dunno, Doc, can we?" Reaching down to his cuff, he started to roll up his sleeve; the weather was definitely warm enough to justify it. His shirts were usually lightweight, but he still wore a lot of black, and they were walking from the office this time around. "I think it kind of depends on how many more ways you can figure out to kill yourself on the environment, because at this point we're pretty overleveled for the enemies."

Neatening the lay of the sleeve at his elbow, he moved to the other, the silver rings on his first and fourth fingers catching the light a little. "Rheinallt hasn't shut up all week about how he and Mel kick ass at Pikart, either. You want to have them over to kick their asses at it sometime?"

“Pft, you underestimate my ability to find ways to get myself killed," she stated, chuckling softly. “And of course I do! We need to show those losers how it's done properly," she stated, feeling the smile on her face, broaden. Basil trilled softly, rolling her eyes at them. Nev laughed softly. “I think that's her way of saying we play too many games. Is that what you think, Bas?" she stated, rubbing Basil's head gently.

The bayleef glanced in Aidan's direction with a flat look, before shaking her head. “I'll take that as a yes."

"We're out of the apartment tonight, aren't we?" He said, letting his tone take on that hint of weariness that meant he thought he was being nagged. She could tell it was a joke, though—it was the way his eyes narrowed just a little with amusement. "I swear Basil's basically a mom. 'You kids play too many games. Go outside and get some sunshine.'" He waved one hand in a shooing motion, pitching his tone up a little to do the imitation.

Still, the impression was kind of ruined by the way he reached over to rub Basil's leaf.

Basil narrowed her eyes at Aidan, though, and trilled. Nev laughed at the statement; he wasn't entirely wrong. Basil had always been like that, even as a chikorita. “You should have seen her about seven years ago," Nev stated once she'd managed to get her laughing under control. “She wouldn't even let me eat without some sort of bib," she said as Basil gave her a flat look.

“Oh come on, Bas, you know it's true. And then there's the time when..." she trailed off when something caught her attention. Narrowing her eyes, Nev frowned.

“Nevena!" It was Béliam. What did he want? He approached with a broad smile as Nev glanced in Aidan's direction. “I've been trying to reach you," he stated once he was close enough. He glanced at Aidan for a moment, almost as if he were assessing him before turning back towards Nev. “I wanted to apologize for last week."

Nev furrowed her brows, as she regarded him. Apologize? “You never showed up," she started, pursing her lips together. She hadn't received any calls or texts from him, so she wasn't entirely sure how he had tried to reach her. “There's nothing to apologize for; it was a week ago."

“I know, and I feel terrible about that. I had an emergency in Johto and had to leave. Mom was there and she ended up in the hospital," he stated, furrowing his brows slightly. Nev immediately felt bad for the way she'd just talked to him. If that was true, she could understand why he never showed up, but still...

“You could have called me or texted me the next day to tell me." He could have done something.

“I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I'd like to make it up to you, though. If you're not busy, now, I'd like to take you to lunch," he stated before his eyes slid towards Aidan. “Unless you and him..." he trailed off as if he were expecting Nev to put it together.

She didn't know what he was talking about.

"You've got a lot of nerve," Aidan said, voice low and quiet. His body language remained much the same, and it was sort of hard to tell whether the comment was an insult or a mere observation. "Not sure exactly how they do things in Kalos, but here it's not exactly polite to butt in on someone else's afternoon like that, whether she and I are or not."

He arched an eyebrow, still petting Basil almost absently. "Kind of interesting, though, that a pretty famous Gym Leader could be hospitalized outside her region and not a peep of it make the news."

Aidan had a point. If Valerie had been hospitalized, it would have been mentioned in the news or some other form of media. Béliam, however, glanced in Aidan's direction through narrowed eyes. “She didn't want to make a scene about it. Mom doesn't like news about her getting out like that," he stated, his posture becoming tense.

“And that's why I asked her if she was busy or not. She could have said no, but she hasn't said anything, yet. Do you not let your woman talk for herself? Is she even your woman? She's way out of your league, man. She's more in mine," he stated, causing Nev to narrow her eyes.

“How dare you," she stated, feeling an odd amount of anger seeping into her voice. “How dare you speak to him like that. And I don't belong to anyone," that just sounded like a strange way to phrase something. “So no. I'm not free. Not now, not ever. I'll spend my time with someone who actually wants it, and right now, that's Aidan. So yes, I'm with him."

Basil made a trilling sound as she glared at Béliam as Nev made to walk past him with Aidan. How was he so rude? And what made him think that she would go anywhere with him? Whether or not it was true that Valerie was hospitalized, she didn't like this encounter with him at all. Béliam, however, didn't seem to like her statement, nor the fact that she was trying to leave. She felt a hand on her upper arm, forcing her to stop, and she glanced back at him.

“Let go," she stated firmly.

“Look, I just want a chance to explain myself," he began, but his grip tightened on her arm, and Nev wince a bit.

“I. Said. Let. Go." His grip tightened again before his hand was abruptly yanked off by one of Basil's vines. She was glaring at him as he turned his attention towards Basil.

“What the hell, you little shit," he stated. He made a motion as if he were going to strike Basil, however; she lunged forward and headbutted him in the stomach, causing him to lurch forward, grabbing at his stomach.

“Serves you right, you asshole," Nev stated, turning on her heel and glancing at Aidan. “Let's get out of here," she stated, brows furrowing softly.

"Yeah," he said quietly, exerting some effort to loosen his jaw. It had clenched, as had his hands, but he eased his posture now and moved to resume walking beside her without so much as looking in Béliam's direction. "Suits me fine." He ruffled her hair in a way that was becoming familiar, then smiled slightly and glanced down at Basil, giving her a gentle scratch behind the jaw. "Mom's protective streak is out in full force today, huh?"

Basil trilled happily, nodding as if she was making the point that she was being protective. Nev chuckled slightly, rubbing at her arm where Béliam had grabbed her. It was bruise, and she knew it was because she was always a bit more sensitive than most people.

“She is very protective today, aren't you, Mama Basil," Nev stated as Basil made a soft snorting sound. “I'm, uh, sorry about that, by the way," she said, not quite sure why she was apologizing. “I forget that people can be so rude, sometimes," she continued. It would have been one thing if Béliam was being rude to her; it was another thing that he was being rude to Aidan, though. And Nev didn't like that.

Aidan was her friend, he didn't deserve that.

"You don't have to apologize for anything, Doc," he said simply, shifting his hands into his pockets. "None of that's on you—besides, I'm not the one who got talked about like a piece of property." He shook his head, the look on his face for once vivid: unmistakably disgusted.

"I wasn't sure if I should say anything, but he was lying and you didn't seem to realize, so..." He shrugged. "If there's a different way you want me to handle that in the future, like letting you do all the talking at the time and telling you later or something, let me know, okay?" He regarded her seriously; it was obvious he meant what he said about letting her choose how to handle that kind of situation.

Nev smiled and nodded her head. “I'd appreciate it, actually, if you'd let me know right there and then. If anything ever seems out of place, and I don't seem to realize it, please tell me. And if you feel like you should say something, please... please do. I'm not exactly sociably graceful, as you can tell," she stated, grinning a little sheepishly.

“Mama Basil might not always be around to help me with those kinds of things, so I'd appreciate it," which was true. Most of the time, Basil was left at the apartment with the others. Today had been an exception because there wasn't much more they could do in regards to the machine or tests. Basil was just there to keep her company in her small office and help her keep things organized.

"You got it," Aidan replied, half-smiling down at her. They'd reached Jo's at last, and he opened the door, letting her step through before filing in behind her. They were seated outside, since the weather was nice enough for it.

Once the waitress had taken their orders and disappeared, he folded his hands together on the table, leaning forward slightly on his forearms so their eyes were on a level. "You all right? Doesn't seem to have rattled you too badly, but let me know if there's anything I can do."

“Hm, I'm fine," she stated, giving him a reassuring smile. “I mean, I'll get a bruise, but there's not much you can do about that. I bruise very easily, after all," she continued, pushing a soft sigh through her nose. Some people were lucky that something so little wouldn't have bruised them, however; Nev never considered herself lucky when it came to things like that.

“And I'd rather not let something like that ruin my day, today. It's a really nice day, and I was having a good time with my friend," she stated, feeling the smile on her face broaden a little. “And nothing beats enjoying lunch with a good friend," she added, nodding her head in the process.

"Well then don't let me stop you," he replied with a trace of humor, as though this had nothing to do with him at all. "What else should we get the idiots to play, besides Pikart?"

“Oh, maybe we can get Poké Party? That might be something else we can kick their ass with! And each other's," she stated, feeling a smirk pull at her lips.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

September 25th
Ana's Shelter - Afternoon - Rainy
Anastasia Asher

Ana ran her hands through Rufus's fur with a little hum, smiling to herself at his whuffing noises as she pressed the warmed stethoscope to his chest. He was getting on in years, of course, but his condition was, in general, quite stable. Theoretically, he could probably even be adopted out to someone with the proper skills to take care of him, but such people were few, and besides that he did really well with helping new arrivals settle in to life at the shelter, and seemed to enjoy making inspection of the visitors.

He didn't take a shine to many, but he did seem especially fond of Eryk and Aidan for some reason. Maybe because they had quiet dispositions? Ana wasn't really sure, but in the end it didn't make much difference. Moving the stethoscope, she tilted her head and listened carefully at several more places before humming her satisfaction. His lung function would never be good, exactly, but it was good enough, at least.

"Could you uncap that needle and hand it to me, please?" she asked softly, making brief eye contact with Eryk as she used a fine-toothed comb to part Rufus's fur. He huffed, knowing well what was coming and not being particularly happy about it, and she made a conciliatory noise in the back of her throat.

"I know," she murmured, impressing comfort and affection over the subtle psychic link she'd formed between their minds. "It's never any fun. But it'll be over soon—I just need to do your blood tests so I know how the new medicine is doing."

Eryk nodded his head as he reached for the needle she'd asked for. Taking a brief moment, he uncapped it and handed it to her. He glanced in Rufus' direction, expression softening for a moment, before he glanced back at Ana.

“How is he doing?" he asked, tilting his head in an inquisitive manner. The way he spoke, though, sounded as if he already knew how Rufus was, but was asking for her input on the matter.

Accepting the needle, Ana carefully eased it under the pokémon's skin, drawing blood into a small collection tube. Rufus huffed, but remained still, and it didn't take long at all before she removed the needle and dabbed a touch of adhesive bandage onto the spot to seal the tiny wound against infection. It wasn't a major concern, but she didn't like being cavalier, especially when new patients with new diseases could come in any time.

"He's well, all things considered," she said, stepping away so Eryk could lift Rufus from the exam table and put him down so he could shuffle back outside. "Everything's stable for the time being. I'll know more when the blood tests come back, but I'm expecting good things."

She filled a few things out on her paperwork, then closed the folder and grabbed the next one on the pile. "Looks like stunky's up next, if you'd go get her for me?" He'd been an attentive learner to all the aspects of shelter care she could teach, and she was honestly grateful for the assistance in things like lifting the pokémon and retrieving supplies as she needed them. It felt odd to have help after so long doing everything alone, but this was much better than trying to supplement with her telekinesis. Not every pokémon was equally comfortable being handled that way, after all.

Changing out her gloves, Ana made sure her apron was still on properly and stored Rufus's samples before scrubbing down fresh and snapping on a new pair of gloves. She had to stand on a little step—they didn't manufacture exam tables especially suited to her height, but she was used to that.

When Eryk returned, he was holding stunky in his arms, cradling her so that she was wagging her tail pretty enthusiastically against him. He huffed a soft sound as if he'd found something funny, shaking his head before setting her down on the exam table. He rubbed her head in a gentle manner and scratched behind her ear, a soft, subtle smile appearing on his lips.

“She seems to be doing well as of late," he stated before his lips pursed together. “She won't be able to be adopted out, will she," he murmured, but from the way he stated it, it sounded more of a statement than a question. As if he knew that she wouldn't be able to leave the shelter. He knew, of course, since Ana had spoken to him about it, but it seemed like he had something on his mind.

Ana shook her head slowly. "I'm afraid not," she confirmed. "She has congenital heart and lung conditions, which we can manage here for as long as she wants, but I'm afraid she'll never be healthy enough to be certified for adoption." She expelled a breath through her nose, fluffing the pokémon's tail for a moment before replacing her stethoscope in her ears.

"She really ought to have a proper surgery to remove the fluid buildup in her lungs at least once; it's possible she might need them regularly for the rest of her life." Ana herself wasn't yet qualified to do such surgeries, especially not without a properly-certified assistant. As a member of NTR, Eryk was qualified to help in the manner he was now, but something that serious would be something one of her relatives had to do. Not even Aunt Lydia could—they'd have to call in a proper pokémon doctor from elsewhere. And that would be more than prohibitively expensive, so until she'd received her PMD, all she could do was give stunky medicine to help her break down the blockages so she could cough easier and clear her airways in that manner.

Stunky glanced up at Eryk as Ana spoke, tilting her head as he kept eye contact with her. Her tail thumped against the table before Eryk furrowed his brows. His head tilted a bit to the side as if he was trying to understand something before he huffed something in an amused manner. He glanced in Ana's direction and regarded her with an even stare.

“I can pay for her surgeries," he stated suddenly. “If she wants to stay here, I'll pay for the surgeries she'll need. I have a full team already, but..." he trailed off, glancing back towards the stunky as she made a soft trilling noise. He smiled subtly as if he understood what she'd said, turning his attention back to Ana. “I'd like to informally adopt her. That way, she can live out the remainder of her years, peacefully, and I can provide for her in any way she may need it."

Ana tilted her head curiously at the pair. It was almost as if—but no, surely not. On the other hand, such things were much easier for her to believe than the average person, considering that oftentimes she too had conversations with pokémon that were entirely nonverbal. Still... even if it was what it looked like, it wasn't her place to ask about it, or say anything.

"Thank you," she said softly, shifting the stethoscope where she held it. "That's typically called sponsoring, and there's separate paperwork for it. When we're done here I'll prepare it for you. It'll be a while before we can get her properly airlifted to a surgeon, but in the meantime she'll be fine with the medicine."

He nodded in Ana's direction as he glanced back towards stunky, running a hand down her back as she seemed to stomp her feet, happily. She made a soft snorting sound and glanced up towards Ana, blinking big eyes at her as if to say thank you. Eryk huffed lightly before he shook his head.

“She is a little more lively, it seems," he murmured as stunky nodded her head. She turned her attention back towards Eryk as he shook his head. “You should stay still so Anastasia can finish the check-up. Once we're done here, I'll let you outside with the others, alright?" he stated, his voice oddly soft and calm.

Ana huffed a little, but took the cue, making her way through the rest of stunky's exam efficiently and nodding at Eryk to signal that she was done. "I put the awning up earlier since it's raining; when you set her down, can you check to make sure it's still in place?" She didn't like to deprive the pokémon of fresh air even on rainy days, but it was important that they had shelter, too.

"I'll make tea when I'm done and we can take it underneath, if you want?"

Eryk stooped to place stunky on the floor, however; she made a vague protesting sound, causing Eryk to roll his eyes softly. He stood back up, stunky cradled in his arms, as he glanced in Ana's direction. “That's fine. I want to make sure she doesn't run into the rain like she did last time," he stated, earning a disapproving grunt from stunky. He huffed softly and shook his head.

“You did do that last time, remember?" he stated out loud, but it was obvious he was talking to stunky. He fixed Ana with a soft gaze before turning towards the door. “I'll meet you outside, then," he spoke before taking his leave.

She didn't trust herself to do more than nod, and it was only when he'd left that she released the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding on a soft groan, removing one of her gloves to pinch the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, staring up at the recessed ceiling light.

Ana wasn't sure how much more of this her battered heart could handle. She felt herself flush and harrumphed softly. Somehow she'd wound up in a space-sharing arrangement with the single sweetest human being she'd ever met and it was messing with her head something awful. To say nothing of the rest of her.

Fighting down the flush that threatened, she set about tidying up after her exams today. "Don't get stupid, Ana," she chastised herself. "He doesn't think of you that way, and it would be worse if he did. Just... get over yourself."

Expelling a sigh, she swept the rest of her waste into the right containers, disposing of the needles in the sharps bucket, and removed her apron to launder later. It was indeed still raining outside, but she welcomed the slight sting of it on her face as she hurried inside to make the tea, trying to exorcise her thoughts in the process. Unsuccessfully, of course, and it was almost automatically that she prepared their drinks, adding some oatmeal cookies to the tray, because there were always some on hand now.

Oh, arceus, was she too obvious? She barely understood her own feelings; the thought that someone else might catch onto them was terrifying. Swallowing her unease, she headed back out, ducking under the awning and setting the tray down on the table there, noting that Luna, Nova, and Rufus were already present along with Eryk and stunky. She took her seat quietly, suddenly quite unsure what, if anything, she should say.

He didn't seem to find a need to fill the silence, though. It was always like that between the two of them. They could always sit in comfortable silence, neither one seeing the need to fill it with small talk. Stunky had jumped up into Eryk's lap, though, curling into a small ball as he absentmindedly ran his fingers through her fur. He'd occasionally reach over towards Rufus to scratch behind his ear, and glance at Nova. He tilted his head somewhat in Nova's direction before glancing at the tray Ana had brought. It seemed to snap him out of whatever stupor he'd been in, and he reached for the drink she'd prepared him.

“Thank you," he finally spoke, taking a drink before setting the cup back down. “Do you think we'll be getting any new shelter pokémon?" he asked, glancing back towards the yard. “Some of the ones were adopted out at the registration fair, right?"

"Mhm," Ana murmured, watching with some amusement as Nova interpreted the gesture as a cue to hop up onto Eryk's shoulders and settle himself there. Luna climbed with a bit more reserve into Ana's lap, and she stroked the espeon's ears as she sipped from her cup. "We're definitely not at capacity, but arrivals tend to be unsteady. Sometimes we get surrenders, or pokémon brought here when their humans die, but more often they come in groups, from things like NTR raids."

She nodded slightly to him, then turned her eyes back out on the yard. "There's a database, which you might know. Of places like mine, what their legal capacity is and how many residents they currently have. So we might get pokémon brought to us directly, or be asked to take overflow from another shelter somewhere else. We're small, though—not like these places might be in Saffron or wherever else."

He hummed softly, using one hand to run a hand through stunky's fur, and the other to scratch behind Nova's ear. He seemed rather content to be the subject of their attention, a small subtle smile on his face. As of late, it seemed he smiled more often, especially when he was in the company of the shelter's pokémon.

“We haven't been on any raids lately, so I don't think you'll be getting any from us any time soon," he spoke softly, shifting his attention towards Ana. “Have you found a someone to adopt ekans, yet?" he asked curiously, probably referring to the one that had scale rot. “If not, I can sponsor him as well until he is."

Ana shook her head slightly. "You're doing plenty already," she said softly. She felt like she was just taking advantage of his generosity at this point, considering how much he was already paying her in rent and free labor. "Besides, ekans's medicine isn't that expensive—it's well within the shelter's existing budget to keep on-hand."

Eryk arched a brow at Ana, glancing at Nova for a second. He shrugged lightly enough so as to not disturb Nova before turning his attention back towards Ana. “It'd be something I'd like to do regardless, if there ever comes a need," he spoke, blinking slowly before tilting his head. “I'd also like to cover some of the adoption fees for the pokémon that are still available to be adopted. That way, the next registration fair we have, more people will be inclined to adopt from you, and won't have to worry about the fees if they cannot cover them. There was one person who didn't quite have enough to cover their registration fees, and adopt their first pokémon. It... it would make me feel like I've been helpful somehow if I could."

She supposed the could understand that. Wanting to help. It was what she'd chosen to do with the rest of her life, after all. And sponsoring adoption fees wasn't going to be a constant drain on his resources, more of an occasional, albeit large, donation. It was still strange to her that anyone cared that much about her little shelter, but...

"All right," she agreed with a soft nod and a smile that was much the same. "Thank you, Eryk. I'm sure that will help a lot."

“You're welcome, Anastasia," he stated, turning his attention back out towards the yard with a content smile on his face. He seemed really happy about it, even if the smile was subtle.

She tried not to think too much on it, turning her eyes away as well, but she couldn't stop the smile she hid behind her teacup, either.


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

September 27th
Cinnabar Bowling Alley - Afternoon - Overcast
Cyrilla Niav

Cyrilla entered Nev's name last into the machine, grinning once everyone was set up. Nev hadn't ever been bowling before, and Cyrilla thought it was a good idea to take her. Of course, that meant she invited Ana and Mel along because it wasn't quite as fun as it would be if there were only two people bowling. And she thought they could all give Nev a little bit of advice on their own bowling techniques. She snickered softly, though, as one of the employees raised the bars on the side of the bowling strip. It meant that they wouldn't get any gutter balls, but it was meant to help Nev at the same time.

“Alright, Nev, you're going to watch the three of us bowl, first. When it's your turn, we'll help you out as best as we can," she stated, turning her attention towards Nev. The other woman nodded her head quite happily, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes softly. “First... you need to go pick out a bowling ball that's going to be easy for you to handle. They all come in different weights and finger sizes, so find one that sits comfortably in your hand, and one that you can easily lift. I believe the lightest ball they have is a six pound one."

When Nev left to go find a ball, Cyrilla turned her attention towards Mel and Ana. “Okay guys, we just need to make sure she doesn't accidentally hurl the ball at one of the screens, or let it loose too early that it flies back at us, alright?" She really didn't want to have to pay for any damages. Plus, she wanted Nev to enjoy herself, along with the others.

"Are those things we actually have to worry about?" Ana asked, eyes widening slightly in what seemed to be alarm.

Mel grinned. "If what Aidan says about her coordination in a videogame is true... then yes." She picked out a bowling ball for herself, effortlessly hefting one of the heavier ones. She did seem to be pretty well-built for a woman, less thin and more lean, with actual muscle definition.

Ana went right for one of the light ones, choosing one with black and purple swirls on it. She appeared to have her own bowling shoes, but this might be because her feet were tiny rather than because she bowled a great deal.

“Maybe we can start her off with the grandma-style of bowling. You know, rolling it between her legs before she actually starts bowling," Cyrilla stated, quite seriously. She picked up one of the balls that was around nine pounds, being black in color with neon green swirls. It would do the job she wanted without being too heavy. Not that she couldn't handle it, but Cyrilla had always been the type to go for speed and precision rather than something heavy and hard-hitting. It was just her personal preference.

Nev returned with a ball that looked to have swaths of white, purple, light pink, and amaranthe swirls in it. It seemed pretty light considering she was holding it with ease, and looked pretty happy with her selection. “I've got my bowling ball!" she stated happily as Cyrilla motioned for her to place it on the rack with the others.

“Alright, Mel, you're up first!" Cyrilla spoke as she turned towards Mel. Their names had been entered so that Mel went first, Cyrilla would go second, Ana would go third, and Nev would be last. “Watch how we bowl and then try to mimic our moves, alright?"

“Will do!" Nev stated, causing Cyrilla to snicker softly.

"Oh, pressure's on!" Mel said with a little grin. "It's been forever since I've done this; let's see what I've got." Adjusting her grip on the teal-and-purple ball she'd chosen, she started several paces back from the main line and swung in a neat, clean arc, sending the ball straight down the middle of the row at impressive speed and force. She cleanly knocked down eight of the pins, but the two left were at far corners, and she scrunched her nose. "Dangit."

Her second attempt knocked over one of the remaining pins, but though it skidded close to the other, it didn't connect, and she missed the spare by just a bit. Returning to her spot with a little grin, she shrugged. "Guess I'm not a pro bowler in the making," she joked lightly.

“Oof, splits are always the worst," Cyrilla stated as she gave Mel a sympathetic grin.

“What's a split?" Nev asked curiously.

“You saw how those two pins were on the opposite sides of each other? That's called a split. They happen fairly often, believe it or not," Cyrilla explained as Nev nodded her head. It was Cyrilla's turn, though, and she stood from her spot. She grabbed her bowling ball and held it in front of her, waiting for the pins to be reset. Once they were, she made her way towards the main line, and swung her ball, wincing slightly when she'd accidentally released too soon, and the ball went straight into the gutter, even with the bars up in place. She could hear Nev chuckling as she rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, it's been awhile," she stated, waiting for the ball to return. Once it did, she tried again, managing to knock down nine of the pins. Cyrilla pursed her lips together as she made her way back towards the seats. She had a feeling that was going to happen a lot. “Alright Ana, you're up!"

Ana bent down to check the laces of her bowling shoes, which were of course black but also had purple flowers on them, before picking up her ball and hugging it to her as she headed up onto the wooden part of the bowling alley. At first it didn't look like she was having an easy time with the ball; she sort of shuffled along with it and when she released it half looked like she'd be pulled along with it—she wound up on one leg and leaning precariously forward. Despite this, the ball had an interesting curvature to the trajectory, and though it sort of rolled leisurely towards the pins, it did knock down seven of them.

Her follow-up was a little less precarious, and somehow, Ana managed to pick up all three of the remaining pins, which had been clustered together in the corner. She smiled brightly and resumed her seat. "I got a spare!" she said, sounding rather proud of herself.

“Good job, Ana!" Nev stated happily as she clapped. Cyrilla huffed a light laugh and shook her head. “Oh, so it's my turn now!" Nev stood from her seat and grabbed her ball, holding it with both hands before she made towards the strip.

“Wait, Nev, come back!" Cyrilla stated as she noticed that Nev was about to toss the ball. The woman turned around and gave Cyrilla a curious glance. “You have to put your forefinger, thumb, and middle finger into the holes. Otherwise you're not going to have a grip when you release," she stated, watching as Nev mouthed an 'oh' before chuckling nervously.

“Like this?" Nev asked, showing Cyrilla who nodded. Satisfied, Nev returned to her spot, and swung the ball. To Cyrilla's surprise, it spun as it went flying down the lane, knocking over most of the pins save that pesky one in the corner. Nev looked rather pleased with herself as Cy rolled her eyes.

“Beginner's luck," she stated, smiling in Nev's direction as she went to take a seat. “Uh, Nev, you get two tries, not one," Cyrilla explained as Nev's eyes widened.

“Oh! Okay, duh, I just watched the three of you bowl twice," she stated, smacking her forehead with an open palm. She, of course, missed the pin.

Mel was up again after that, and managed to pull off a lucky strike, which resulted in a pretty silly celebratory dance at the end of the lane. Returning to her seat, she plonked down into it, then glanced between the other three.

"...you guys want snacks?"

“Yes, please," Cyrilla stated, reaching for her wallet in her back pocket. “Can you order me a large soda, for now, and a... thing of chili fries. I think they have those. That way we can share them, too," she stated, pulling out her card. “You guys can order whatever you want, too. It's on me today!" she continued, handing the card over to Mel. It was her turn to bowl, after all.

“Are you sure, Cyrilla? I'd be more than happy to pay for my own things," Nev stated as Cy shook her head.

“Nope, on me, today," she replied and made her way to the main line.

Ana looked a little hesitant, but then shrugged. "I'll have a cream soda, I guess."

Mel took everyone's orders, then headed up to the line while Cyrilla bowled.

She managed to knock down half of the pins, and cleaned them up with the second swing.

It was Ana's turn next; she took out seven pins on her first attempt, but only one the second time down, and sighed a little, shaking her head an returning to her seat. Mel did the same a moment later, putting the chili fries down in the middle of the little shared table with the score screen and handing out the drinks before taking a long sip from hers. It seemed to be iced tea.

"So like, stop me if this is weird. But uh... is Drake single?"

Ana choked on her soda at the bluntness of the question, coughing several times. Mel snorted a laugh and patted her back while she recovered. "Sorry, sorry. I forget you three have the combined emotional intelligence of a rock." She grinned, unapologetic.

Cyrilla was fortunate enough to be in the process of starting her drink before she laughed. Which meant she didn't choke on it. She did laugh, though, at how forward the question was. “I'm offended," she joked, having been grouped with Ana and Nev about the emotional intelligence. Mel wasn't entirely wrong about that; Cy just wasn't going to allow herself that kind of connection with someone.

“But as far as I know, he is. Why? Are you interested?" Cyrilla stated as Nev snorted softly. It was her turn to bowl, and she managed to get a spare on her second turn. She joined the others afterwards, taking a drink of her own fruit punch, it looked like. She seemed as interested in Mel's answer as Cyrilla was.

Mel shrugged. "Yeah. I mean, I've still got the journey thing to do, so probably nothing would come of it even if he was interested, too, but... I dunno." She smiled a little wryly. "You don't meet a guy that sweet every day. I haven't felt this comfortable around one since—well, for a long time, anyhow."

Sighing, she ran a hand through her hair, dark strands pulled high into a neat ponytail. "It figures the timing would be so bad, but them's the breaks, I guess."

"He is really nice," Ana agreed, throwing a vaguely-suspicious glance in Mel's direction before slowly sipping her drink again. "When I first moved to the island, I didn't know anyone except my aunt and cousin, and we're not very close. But when Drake heard about the shelter opening, he came by to welcome me here. It was probably the nicest thing anyone had done for me in a long time. And he still helps, even though he's really busy with the gym and everything."

Cyrilla felt a bittersweet smile cross her face. She couldn't say she understood how that felt, nor could she really add anything to that. She wasn't close to Drake like Ana was, or the way Nev seemed to interact with him whenever she was on one of her walks with Aidan. But just because Cyrilla couldn't enjoy things like that, didn't mean she wasn't going to help those who could.

“Then ask him," she stated with a light shrug of her shoulders. “Even if you're on your journey, and the two of you hit it off, who's to say that you can't keep in touch? That's why you have phones, right? Long distance relationships are difficult to maintain, but it's not like you'll be on your journey forever. You're going to win all of your badges, kick the elite four's asses, and take the title of Champion of Kanto. Once that's all said and done, and the two of you are still talking, well..." she trailed off.

“And who knows," she began, smiling a bit, “Drake might even take some much needed vacation time and travel with you. You know, so you two can get to know each other. He seems like the type to do that." And it might help him get away from Kevin. From Cyrilla's understanding, the man seemed to be persistent in pursuing Drake. She was half tempted to see if she could do something about it, but she didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention to herself.

Her family would be furious with her if she did. Who knew what they would do? Cyrilla had a few guesses, and none of them were worth incurring.

“Drake is a sweetheart so it's worth asking him, I would think. And you'd both make such an adorable couple," Nev stated, grinning broadly. Cyrilla snickered softly; the woman almost sounded like a mother cooing at the prospect of having a handsome son-in-law.

Mel huffed softly. "Yeah, yeah. We'll see. I have to figure out if he even likes me, first. Two outings does not a solid picture make, especially when neither of them was actually even a date." She waved a hand almost dismissively. "Also, Nev, it's been your turn to bowl for like... five minutes."

“Oh! Sorry!" Nev exclaimed, standing abruptly and making her way towards the lane. Cyrilla huffed a soft laugh as Nev seemed to be concentrating.

“You know, if you want to..." Cyrilla began, trailing off somewhat as she contemplated her next words, “you should ask him out on a double date with you, me... and whoever I can find to fill in. That way, you can be in a somewhat friendly setting, and it'll give you the chance to feel him out. You know, find out whether or not he's at least interested in you."

Nev threw her ball for the second time, only knocking down a total of five pins, before she took a seat.

Mel looked to consider this for a moment, then shrugged. "Why not just ask Mirmir? Then it just looks friendly, and you don't have to worry that you might end up lugging dead weight around while we're trying to have a good time. Actually, you know what? That's my condition." She grinned. "Get my dumb brother to agree to do something fun with us, and I'll ask Drake out." She winked, then stood up, grabbing her bowling ball and rolling it down the lane with confidence.

Duly so: she wound up with her second strike of the game.

Cyrilla pursed her lips together as she stood for her turn. Wouldn't that have been awkward, though? Even if it was just for fun, wouldn't having her brother around for a date be awkward? Perhaps it wouldn't? She swung her ball down the middle of the lane, watching as it curved a bit and she managed to get her first strike of the night.

“Alright, fine," she stated once she returned to her seat, grinning lightly in Mel's direction as she reached for her soda. “I'll ask Kas to see if he'll agree to it."

“Oh, the two of you would look really nice, too!" Nev stated quite happily, causing Cyrilla to choke a bit on her soda.

“Oh my Arceus, Nev, you can't just say things like that," she stated, patting her chest a bit to get the soda down. Cyrilla pursed her lips at Nev, feeling a strange heat on her cheeks as she pushed a breath through her nose. “And it's not like that. This is a friendly date between friends to help out a friend."

"She's right, though," Ana said as she got up to take her turn, shrugging a little. "You're like... physical opposites, but in a complimentary way. You look nice standing together." With that, she all but flounced to the lane, picking up another spare while Mel grinned.

"Thanks, Cyrilla," she said. "It might seem weird to you for me to make the request, but I feel safer with my brother around than some random stranger. Not that I think you'd pick a jerk, but..." she shrugged. "You never know what can happen. I might be biased, but personally I'm pretty sure Mirmir is the chillest, least-pressuring guy there ever was, so—" Her shoulders lifted again, as if she weren't quite sure how to finish the sentence.

Cyrilla rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. “Fine, you guys win. And I understand, Mel," she answered. She could understand the feeling safe part. It was how she felt when she was with Eryk; there was nothing their family could do as long as she had him, but...

“It's kind of amusing, though, that you and Ryk are kind of the same way, too," she stated, grinning lightly in Ana's direction. “Especially since the two of you always seem so synced to each other."

“Oh, you think so, too? Eryk even looks happier around Ana, wouldn't you say so?" Nev stated, smiling brightly in Ana's direction. Cyrilla snickered softly.

“Nev, you're allowed to not agree with everything we say, you know."

"A-are we?" Ana asked, her voice pitched slightly higher than usual. "I don't know that that's true..."

Mel snickered. "Arceus, all of you are idiots. I love you, but you're idiots."

Cyrilla laughed, the feeling more genuine than it had ever been. “Hm, yes well, you're part of the club," Cyrilla stated, grinning in Mel's direction as she crossed one leg over the other, and set her elbow over her thigh. She leaned her chin on her hand as her eyes narrowed in Mel's direction.

“We'll call ourselves club idiot, population four. Because the same can be said about that one," she pointed towards Nev, “and boss man."

“Boss man? You mean Aidan? Oh, no, it's nothing like that!" Nev stated, waving her hands frantically in front of her.

“She says that as if she doesn't spend most of her nights at his place," Cyrilla stated, feeling the grin on her face widen just a bit as Nev's face turned a bright pink. This felt nice, having a day with the girls. It was relaxing, and for the first time in years, Cyrilla felt at ease. Was having friends like these always this nice?


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

September 29th
Marna's - Evening - Thunderstorm
Aidan Klein

"All right, gents! The name of the game tonight is: how drunk does Eryk have to be before he starts missing the dartboard?" Rheinallt grinned as Marna brought their first round of drinks—shots of rum—over to the table, and each of the four men present got one.

The thunderstorm raging outside kept them off the patio, but the nice thing about the weather was that literally no one but the four of them, plus Marna, were even at the bar, so they had the place to themselves. Aidan was pleased to see that the patch job on the roof was holding for now, even as sideways rain lashed the windowpanes, occasionally lighting up before a booming roll of thunder.

Of course, the real name of the game, as it were, was 'distract Drake from his stalker ex-boyfriend problems,' but it was one of those goals you were more likely to achieve if you didn't let on exactly what you were after.

Nero narrowed his eyes in Rheinallt's direction, accepting the drink from Marna before furrowing his brows. “You say it as if I'm going to miss even if I'm drunk. I don't miss, ass," he stated, downing the drink fairly quickly. Drake arched a brow at Nero as if he didn't quite understand what he'd meant by that.

“But... isn't that why Kas said how drunk?" Drake stated as Nero narrowed his eyes at him.

“You misunderstood me. Kas doesn't think I can hold my liquor from the way he's trying to challenge me," Nero replied.

“It didn't sound like a challenge."

"Ryk likes to interpret everything that way," Rheinallt teased, grinning a little to himself as he downed his shot.

"That's because you're exactly the kind of sly bastard who'd issue a challenge sidewards," Aidan replied, doing the same. The rum was at once acrid and slightly sweet on the tongue, though not overly so. He passed his tongue over his lip to catch the remaining drop, and shook his head.

Rheinallt wore an expression of mock offense. "Now that's not fair. I can be straightforward," he complained, almost in a whine, as Marna brought over the next few rounds at once. The three of them alone could go through quite a volume in a night, and even if Drake was a lightweight, he'd only add to the total.

“Sometimes too straightforward," Nero replied, rolling his eyes as he downed his second shot. Drake was still working on his first, though, making a face as if he'd found something sour before making a soft disgusted noise.

“How can you guys drink this stuff? Bleh," Drake spoke as Nero arched a brow in his direction.

“Because? How can you not?" Nero asked. Drake pursed his lips together as he regarded the other man through narrowed eyes.

“I don't drink as often as the three of you," was his reply.

"It's rum, Drake. This is about as easy as liquor gets, tastewise. The first time we ever came here, Ryk practically drank vodka from the bottle." Rheinallt grinned, snickering softly.

Aidan felt as though this was pretty obviously an exaggeration, but let it slide, taking his third drink but electing not to toss it back right away as he had with the first two. "Can always swap to beer or something," he noted. "They'll only pretend to judge you."

“Pretend? Who said anything about pretending?" Nero asked, arching a brow in Aidan's direction. Drake pursed his lips in Nero's direction as he merely shrugged. “I am not one to judge, Drake, if that is what you're worried about," Nero cleared as he downed another shot.

“Oh, good. Then I'll make the switch," Drake replied as he stood from his spot, perhaps, to go notify Marna. He returned with a beer in hand, and took a drink from it, seemingly more pleased with it. “Alright, so Kas said darts. Since there's four of us, should we do it in teams?"

"I'm telling you, it's really not fair while Ryk's sober. He's literally a ninja."

Aidan snorted. "Alright. On a scale of one to ten, how well do each of you rate your darts skills? We'll put the best with the worst so the challenge is more even. I'm probably a seven, but it doesn't change much even if I'm drinking."

"Eight, but closer to six if I've had too many," Rheinallt replied. "And if Ryk gives any number lower than nine and a half he's lying."

“I've never really had time to play darts, properly, so I'd say more of a three?" Drake stated, as if he weren't entirely sure how to rate himself. Nero narrowed his eyes before sighing heavily. “Wait, so Kas was right?" Drake asked as Nero nodded his head.

“Throwing darts isn't so different from throwing knives," Nero explained. “So I guess that means I have to play darts with Drake," he added, sounding a little upset about it, however; there was a small subtle smirk on his face that suggested otherwise. “Should still be able to kick the both of your asses."

"You're on, buddy," Rheinallt replied with a grin. "But everyone's gotta take another drink first."

"You realize that by your own admission that is handicapping you more than him, right?" Aidan drawled, following the suggestion anyway.

"Yeah but I'm betting it's even worse for Drake," he said with a huff of laughter. "Should we flip a coin for who throws first?"

“I don't know about that. If Ryk says he's as good as he is, then it really isn't going to be much of a problem," Drake stated with a shrug. Nero rolled his eyes, though, and shook his head.

“I'm not sure that's what they meant, but whatever," Nero stated as he downed his fourth drink. “I'm not even drunk yet, so it's still going to be unfair to the both of you," he said as he stood from his spot. Drake snorted softly as he pulled a coin from his back pocket.

“Alright, heads or tails," Drake stated as he placed the coin on his thumb and forefinger. Nero shrugged his shoulders, causing Drake to purse his lips together. “Fine, we'll call tails." He flipped the coin, watching as it landed on the table. It twirled for a few seconds before falling flat on its back.

“Well, guess you guys are first," Drake said as he glanced towards Aidan and Rheinallt.

"All right. I'll throw, then Ryk, bossman, and Drake, how's that?" Rheinallt offered.

Aidan shrugged, having no objections. While it was true that Nero would outscore either of them, they weren't at all bad, and he suspected the totals would be closer than Nero was saying. It was quite possible he was learning to trash talk, which was... kind of hilarious, come to think of it. He wore a slight smile as Rheinallt approached, throwing his trio of darts for a total of twenty four points. Since three bullseyes would have been thirty, that wasn't bad at all.

Returning to the table, he handed the darts over to Nero. "Have at it, ninja."

Nero huffed lightly as he took the darts from Rheinallt. “Don't call me that," he stated as he stood at the line. He glanced in Rheinallt's direction, narrowed his eyes, and threw his darts. All three hit the bullseye, giving Nero a total of thirty points. He turned his attention back to the dart board, retreived the darts, and handed them off to Aidan.

“Arceus, Ryk, you didn't even look," Drake stated, clearly awed by it. “I think you're just showing off, now," he added as Nero shrugged his shoulders.

“Told you, it's not so different. I could do it with my eyes closed."

"Jeez, Ryk, save it for when there are pretty girls around to impress or something, why don't you?" Rheinallt added, laughing a little into his shot glass. "Unless you're secretly into Drake, in which case, by all means continue."

Aidan rolled his eyes and took up his spot at the point they all threw from. Being on average very good at this, they stood about half again as far away as standard rules required, and honestly the target itself was a tad blurry to him. But it didn't really matter that much—he knew where the center was and after the first toss it was just about adjusting for feel.

The first went too low but was horizontally centered. The second two hit the bullseye and just to the left of it, respectively. Twenty six points; not bad.

Pulling the deeply-sunken darts from the board, he shot Marna an apologetic look when she tutted at him for it, but from the small smile she wore, she didn't really much care. Handing them off to Drake, he half-smiled.

"Let's see what you've got, kid."

“Sure thing old man," Drake replied as he took the darts. He threw his first dart, missing the board entirely which earned a slight huff from Nero. The second manage to land outside of the board, but wasn't sitting on any of the actual numbers. The third one, however, managed to land in the inside of the five area.

“Not bad if I say so myself," he stated with a proud grin on his face.

“That was bad. You missed the board entirely the first time, and didn't score anything until your third try. How did you manage to catch any pokémon with a throw like that?" Nero asked as he arched a brow at Drake.

“Lucky tosses?"

"Says the guy who had to throw pokéballs at maybe half his team," Rheinallt shot back with a smile. His second round was slightly better than his first, but already the game itself was hardly the focus of his attention. Which was fair enough, Aidan supposed. In a group like this the conversation tended to be... interesting.

"Okay, Rheinallt, what's your best catch story, then?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow curiously. His rings clinked softly against the next shotglass as he picked it up to throw the drink back.

"Sigrún challenged me," he said immediately, shrugging a little as he lifted his own drink.

"What, like, walked right into your camp and had a battle?"

He shook his head. "No, I mean like I was her opponent. Physically. She hit like a truck even as a riolu." He rolled his shoulders, as if in memory of some particular blow. "I did catch her, though."

“Wait... are you saying you actually fought with a riolu? Whoa. Those are dangerous even when they're that young. I'm surprised you didn't end up in the hospital," Drake stated, downing the rest of his beer before grabbing another one.

“What about you, Aidan? What's yours?" Drake asked, turning his attention towards Aidan as he took a drink of his beer. Nero arched a brow in Aidan's direction as if he were curious to know as well.

Aidan lifted his shoulders in a little shrug. "I don't know that any of my catch stories are all that entertaining. Frost did sit down on her ass and refuse to keep fighting halfway through my battle with her, though. I wasn't really sure why at the time, but I think she'd just decided going any further was undignified and knew I wasn't the type to continue a match with a pokémon that wasn't interested. I almost didn't throw the ball—I was looking for ones that wanted to battle, after all, and she just forfeited."

He knew some people planned their teams—what kind of pokémon they wanted to raise, where they'd find them, that kind of thing. Especially pros building competitive teams with knowledge gained from earlier years. But he'd never done that. All he'd wanted was pokémon that had the drive to compete. Type, species... beyond that he hadn't given a damn.

"Huh. I always figured she was your first, somehow."

The familiar little twinge in his chest almost made him grimace, but it was an old thing, now. "No. Just the first catch. How about you two?" He steered the conversation away from that topic and towards Drake and Nero.

“Oh that's easy," Drake started, chugging his beer a little quicker. “Deino tried to eat one of my pokéballs, and ended up catching himself," he said simply. “He's about as smart as Brick, in that sense, I suppose," he added with a light shrug. Nero snorted softly as if he'd found something amusing about Drake's story.

“Imp jumped in front of one of mine. I was trying to catch an ekans at the time, and the little shit was trying to be funny. He'd been following me for a few days trying to hypnotize me. He still does it to this day, the little shit," Nero muttered as he downed his sixth shot.

Aidan found himself chuckling at the recountings, shaking his head faintly. Pokémon could be undeniably strange sometimes. It was somehow completely unsurprising that Deino had done that—the knucklehead would be lucky to have two brain cells to rub together. The comparison to Brick wasn't inapt.

"And now he gets to prank you whenever he's out," he said, in response to Nero. "Devious."

“You have no idea," Nero responded, eyes narrowing slightly. Drake snorted softly as he polished off the rest of his beer. “You can borrow him sometime if you want to find out... might give me some peace-of-mind," Nero added, huffling lightly before rolling his eyes.

“I'm not sure that's how it works, Ryk. Plus, wouldn't he just make his way back to you?" Drake asked curiously. Nero sighed heavily.

“Yeah because he's an ass, just like Kas," Nero responded, causing Drake to snicker softly.

“That... rhymes," he laughed. It was evident that Drake was teetering on the line of drunk and tipsy.

Rheinallt laughed softly, rolling his eyes. "If you squint, I guess," he said wryly.

"How many times did you get that in the schoolyard?" Aidan asked, imagining that elementary school would have been hell if any of the kids had struck on 'Assimir,' which they surely had.

"Plenty, but they had other things to call me, too," he replied. "I wasn't exactly one of the cool kids, back in the day."

“I'd have taken that over being homeschooled," Nero stated, his lips pursing into a fine line. Drake arched a brow in his direction.

“You were homeschooled?" he asked. Nero nodded in reply, taking another shot before pouring hismelf another one, and downing it, too.

“Wasn't as great as you might have thought," Nero simply stated.

“Well that was a long time ago, anyway. Kids can be pretty stupid and mean," Drake stated with a light shrug of his shoulders. “People in general, really, but I guess it's nice that we have friends, now, right?" Drake stated, smiling a little lopsided.

“If you squint really hard, I suppose."

"Or if you're wearing beer goggles," Rheinallt snarked.

Aidan rolled his eyes. It was pretty obvious that both of them valued the company more than their remarks indicated, though, so he let it slide without comment.

"Yeah, yeah. Next person should throw or I'll demonstrate what I learned on the schoolyard."


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

September 30th
Cinnabar Stadium - Afternoon - Clear
Eryk Nero

“Alright, Ryk, stop moving," Cyrilla stated as she adjusted the tie on Eryk's neck. He furrowed his brows at her as she tied it. “There, now you look handsome," she stated, smiling up at him. He rolled his eyes at her, though, and shook his head. He wasn't entirely sure why he had to dress up for this. It wasn't like he was trying to impress someone. “Yes you are, Ryk. You're trying to make it into the tournament and trying to attract the attention of a sponser. You have to look your best."

“Is this really necessary, though?" he asked, pursing his lips together. She'd given him his outfit to wear, a silver coat with a black dress shirt. The slacks were also a black color, but strangely enough, it wasn't uncomfortable. Maybe because the weather had cooled down a bit. The tie, though, was a crimson color which stood out even against the silver and black, however; Cyrilla arched a brow at him.

“Yes, Ryk, for the umpteenth time, it is necessary. Now come on, the others are waiting for you," she stated, placing a hand on her hip. She was dressed about as nicely as he was. A navy blue sweater dress that fell to just above her knees, with high black boots. Her hair had been pulled into a rather formal bun, with a few of the longer strands left to frame her face. “You look handsome, Ryk, really. Now let's go meet the others. They're waiting for you at the entrance."

Ryk rolled his eyes but allowed her to lead the way. Strangely, he felt excited about this. It was the first tournament he'd ever entered. To say he wasn't nervous, though, was a bit of an understatement. Tournaments, even if it was a qualifying one, meant there was going to be a large crowd of people. He wasn't entirely sure if he could pull this off.

Fortunately, no one had to face the crowds right away. There was a sort of waiting area for the tournament, which was being held in Cinnabar's relatively modest stadium, where the trainers and a maximum of one guest each could rest before the matches began. Since even coaches counted as guests, he and Kas had given their passes to Aidan and Cyrilla already.

The other two were already present in the lounge, standing next to some kind of miniature tropical plant. Kas had dressed very differently from Eryk—he was wearing an argyle sweater vest in several shades of green on black over a white shirt and yellow tie, with his glasses on and his hair for once relatively neat in is short tail, with dark blue jeans and a pair of green high-top sneakers. Aidan, unsurprisingly, just had a long-sleeved black shirt and torn black jeans on with his boots. He, after all, wasn't competing—though come to think of it he might have dressed that way even if he had been.

"Hey," he said simply, noticing Eryk and Cyrilla first.

Kas, on the other hand, grinned. "I knew a longcoat was the way to go. You clean up nice, Ryk."

Eryk shrugged his shoulders at the statement. “Thanks," he simply said before pursing his lips together. “You do as well, I suppose." He wasn't entirely sure if that was the case. Ryk never paid much attention to what people wore and what complimented them. He just wore whatever he was given, or had in his closet.

Kas grinned at the compliment of sorts, though he didn't make a big deal about it, only inclining his head by way of thanks.

“Who are we waiting on?" he asked, glancing around to see who was missing.

“Mel. She should be here soon, I think," Cyrilla answered, glancing in Aidan and Kas's direction. Ryk nodded slowly before he turned his attention back towards the others.

"I love the sound of my name in the morning," a new voice called out, a smile in the tone of it.

"Um, it's the afternoon, though?"

There was a sigh. "Ana, you weren't supposed to say anything yet. You've ruined the 'surprise' part of your surprise appearance now."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

Turning, the group could indeed catch sight of Mel and Ana approaching. Mel had dressed for the tournament in compression pants under athletic shorts, a white mock turleneck, and a light teal puffer vest. Next to her, Anastasia carried a small box of some sort hugged to her chest, offering everyone a tentative smile.

"I gave her my guest pass since she wanted to see you guys before your matches," Mel explained. "But then she went and spoiled the surprise." She nudged Anastasia gently with her elbow, but grinned, as if to say there was no actual problem.

Eryk blinked mildly at Anastasia before turning his attention towards Cyrilla. She arched a brow at him and shook her head, as if to say she had nothing to do with Anastasia being there. His eyes narrowed slightly before turning his attention back towards Mel and Ana.

“If you wanted to come, you should have told me," he stated. “I would have come with you," he continued, pushing a light sigh through his nose. Cyrilla rolled her eyes lightly, though, as she made her way to stand next to Kas and Aidan.

"Oh, it's not... you needed Aidan and Cyrilla here though, right? Because you're trying to get sponsored?" Given how much practice they'd been doing and the fact that they'd probably be entering quite a number of events, a version of the story had been given to Anastasia, albeit one where they were doing this just because they wanted to.

"I just wanted to come and wish you all luck, and to leave you these." She extended the box towards Kas, who accepted it with a slow blink. "It's sweets, so you can keep your energy up between matches. There's stuff in there that doesn't taste very sweet, though. Oatmeal cookies and a couple of carrot cupcakes and whatnot."

"Thanks, Ana. That's really nice of you." Kas ruffled her hair, careful of the braided bun on her crown, and moved off a bit to set the box down on a corner end table. The others seemed to gravitate towards it, probably for the sake of a snack.

Anastasia fidgeted a little, then reached into one of the pockets of her black overalls. "Also. It's kind of stupid, but I made you this." She extended her open palm, in which rested a small red silk pouch, embroidered delicately with an absol pattern with characters for 'success' stitched neatly down the middle. "I was actually raised kind of traditionally," she explained, sounding a little embarrassed about it. "My uncle would always take me to the shrine in Lavender, and he taught me how to make these. It's a luck talisman. N-not that I think you need luck or anything, but... it wouldn't hurt, right?"

“I..." Eryk began, but he didn't know what to say. Instead, he took the talisman from her, and held it in his hand. It was a thoughtful gesture, and Eryk wasn't entirely sure what to do. He wasn't used to receiving things like this. It was kind. “Thank you, Anastasia," he stated, folding his hand over the talisman.

“I don't think it'll hurt to have something like this," he added, feeling his lips pull up in a small smile. Those were becoming a little more common on his face, he'd found. It was still strange to do, but they weren't as strained as they used to be. “Will you be watching the tournament?" he asked. It was possible that she would return home after this. She didn't like crowds, either, but...

“If you'd like to stay, I'm sure they'd allow you to remain here and watch from inside so you don't have to be out there."

She shook her head a little. "It's okay. Nev and Drake are watching, too, and when I'm sitting between people I know, it's not so bad. Besides, I—" she cleared her throat a little, lifting a foot to tap her toe against the short carpet of the lounge. "I want to see. I want to see the first step you take to your goal." She smiled back at him, almost a little sheepish.

"Anyway, I should stop taking so much time. I'm sure you guys have plenty of last-minute preparations to do, so..." She took one step back, and then another, still facing him, and clasped her arms behind her back.

"By the way uh... you look really nice today." With the third step, she almost knocked into the same potted plant the others had been standing by earlier, and her eyes widened with surprise. "Oh I'm an idiot. Uh, anyway... see you later!" Anastasia waved once, and then she was gone, spinning around to dodge the plant and all but fleeing the lounge.

She was gone before Ryk even had the chance to ask if she was okay, and the sounds of snickering and laughter caught his attention.

“My Arceus, Ryk, you didn't have to scare the poor girl with your smile," Cyrilla stated through short bursts of laughter. Eryk rolled his eyes rather harshly before shaking his head. “I'm teasing you, Ryk, but you and the others really should do your last minute preps. I, on the other hand, am going to go make myself useful," she stated, grinning at Ryk before nodding her head in the others' direction.

“Just be careful, Cy," was the only thing Eryk said before turning his attention towards Kas, Mel, and Aidan. “What round are we?" he asked. All of the participants were grouped into rounds, from Eryk's understanding. All he knew was that his wasn't the first battle. He thought it was the second, but he might be third.

Aidan, who hadn't laughed at him but was even now smiling a little to himself, pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "Right. This qualifier's a little weird. It's basically four miniature tournament brackets, and the winner of each gets a spot in a regular-season tournament of their choice. Nero, you're in group two. Rheinallt's in group three."

"I, on the other hand, am stuck in group one, so while you guys plot, I'll be off to battle. Break a leg out there." Mel gave all three of them a lackadaisical salute, joining the small crowd of participants filing out towards the tournament ring.

"It'll actually help to watch this," Aidan said, leading them over to the large window in the lounge that overlooked the stadium. "See how it's all split like a honeycomb right now? This is a new system they have when they need to get through pools quickly. It's called Dynamic Terrain. The system here's pretty basic—it's just going to collapse walls to put new battlers together, so that by the time it's the final two in a bracket, they'll have the whole arena. The space constraints are supposed to be an extra element of strategic challenge, but doing it all at once like this also means you don't get to rest pokémon between matches."

As they observed, the trainers from the first group were assigned to numbered areas in pairs—the first matches. A screen above the stadium showed names and matchups, as well as what cell each was in and which cell it would be joining with next. Mel was in cell number four, against one of NTR's front office employees, actually—Jason Granger. Her cell would merge with the one directly in front of it afterwards, creating a long, narrow corridor of space, whereas now it was a small, roughly circular room.

Eryk pursed his lips together. If there was no rest in between battles, he wasn't entirely sure how his chances were going to be. Moira was a non-battling pokémon, which meant the other five would have to make up for it. And three of those five were still relatively young. Still, he supposed he could manage with just the five. He kept his eyes on the field, watching as the first group began.

“How well do you think she'll do?" Ryk asked. She had a fully evolved team, and was on her seventh gym challenge. He didn't doubt her skill as a trainer, but he was slightly curious.

"Dunno much about her team," Aidan said, "But she's got a helluva head on her shoulders. I think she'll be fine. I honestly expect all of you to win your brackets with a bit of breathing room. If you do, I'll consider us on-track."

"She'll win." Kas said it with no doubt whatsoever, crossing his arms over his chest. Below, the last few trainers were sorted into their cells, and the signal was given to begin. Mel immediately threw out a pokéball, from which her liepard emerged, ready to go against Jason's gloom. Gloom threw out some form of powder attack—it was impossible to say which from this distance, and the battle was on.

"She's got more to prove than anyone I know." Even from here, it was easy to tell that gloom was hopelessly outmatched, but not even once did Mel's body language relax or her expression ease. She was focused on nothing but the battle

The liepard carved through Jason's entire team, and as he vacated the ring and the wall in front of her came down, she withdrew it, throwing another pokéball instead.

"Smart," Aidan noted. "Even a little while to catch a breather in a ball's gonna help in a situation like this."

Eryk wasn't so sure he'd be able to do that, though. Not with his team. He'd likely have to keep the same one out until they couldn't battle any longer. It wasn't ideal, but he'd think of something, eventually. For now, he supposed it was beneficial to watch Mel's battle. He could see how it worked, exactly, and what he would have to plan for. Granted, he didn't know what pokemon his opponents would have, but he could at least see how it was going to work.

“I suppose you're right on that one," Eryk stated as Mel continued onwards. “Whether she has something to prove, she's still doing rather well for herself," he said lightly before pursing his lips together. He supposed he could understand that, proving oneself. At one time, Eryk thought he had something to prove. Maybe he still did?

He wasn't entirely sure.

It did move pretty quickly, honestly, and because the battles ended at different paces it seemed like part of the field was always rearranging itself. Mel ended up battling in a few oddly-shaped chambrs, including a t-junction—there was a lot more moving around for the trainers to do than the usual setup where they stood in one spot. It suddenly made sense why Aidan had forced the two of them to run along the beach with their pokémon every morning and so on as part of training.

But in the end, she had the whole field, in a face-off against an older woman who seemed to be down to one remaining pokémon. Mel had her entire team, but all of them had been deployed at least once already, and for a sustained period. Still, the advantage was obvious: six pokémon, even six tired pokémon, was a lot for one other to deal with, and though her liepard ended up collapsing, her aerodactyl easily finished the job, dropping the other woman's sandslash to the ground.

The announcer called her victory, and the first group returned to the lounge. Mel was beaming; Kas quickly ran over and scooped her up. "Congratulations, Melly," he said, spinning her around and setting her back down. Their laughter blurred together with the motion, and she exhaled a heavy sigh, leaving one arm around her brother's waist and turning to Eryk.

"Just so you know," she said, tilting her head a little, "after the first one I found it pretty impossible to use the board to track things, so you might not have time either to know which wall's coming down next. I don't know if that helps, or maybe you'll be better at it than me, but... I figured I should warn you."

“Thanks," Ryk stated with a light huff. “And congratulations, Mel," he stated, offering her a light smirk. It was the closest thing he'd achieved as far as grins went, but he supposed it would do. “I guess this makes it my turn," he stated as he glanced towards the others. He placed a hand in his pocket where Anastasia's talisman had been placed before making his way out towards the field. He was in cell number two which meant his first opponent was a woman named Summer Matthews.

She seemed to be grinning and waving towards the crowd, flipping her dark purple hair over her shoulders as she regarded Ryk. He responded in kind with a flat look. “Hm, now if only all my opponents could be this handsome, I'd be happy," she stated, pulling a pokeball from the necklace she was wearing. The pokéballs were smaller than normal, until she expanded it and gave it a lazy toss. “Come on, Sunshine, let's show 'em how it's done!" she continued as a sunflora appeared. It trilled in Ryk's direction as he pulled Orion's ball from his belt.

It gave him the type advantage, but that didn't really mean much in competitive battling. Even Eryk knew that much. “Sludge bomb!" Summers started the battle first, and the sunflora responded by gathering the necessary energy to hurl in Orion's direction. The pidgeot chirped quite happily as he spun out of the way.

Don't play with it, Orion. You know the drill. Orion made a huffing sound before he charged the sunflora. “Air Slash," he spoke out loud, watching as Orion flapped his wings rather harshly, creating blades of air that hurled towards Sunshine.

He managed to take out Summer's entire team with just Orion, however; her blastoise, Puddles, was a tougher opponent. He wasn't entirely surprised that a majority of her team were fully evolved, but she only had four to begin with. The wall to his left went down, and Eryk mimicked Mel's earlier actions; he recalled Orion and sent out Imp.

By the time he made it to his final opponent, Ryk had used all of his pokemon except one: mankey. His last opponent still had a five pokemon to use, all still itching to battle, it seemed. The woman, Jordan, grinned maliciously in Eryk's direction. “Oh, sweetheart, you should just give up. Your mankey isn't going to last against my team," she stated, having already sent out her cacturne. Mankey made a short trilling sound, as if he were angry with the woman's statement, and Eryk didn't blame him.

She was basically undermining him because he wasn't fully evolved. Nor was he particularly strong. But where he lacked in strength, mankey made up in endurance. Don't act rashly, mankey. Use karate chop. Mankey lunged forward, first, catching both Jordan and her cacturne off guard. She recovered quickly enough, though, and had her cacturne use spikey shield. Mankey didn't have much of a chance at dodging it, and ended up shrilling in slight pain before rolling away.

“I see you've some tricks up your sleeve, Nero. I have some, too," Jordan stated as she grinned in Eryk's direction.

Mankey, however, managed to take out the first two of Jordan's pokémon before he was defeated by her pangoro. When she was down to her last pokémon, Jordan had a set frown on her face as she sent out her last one. “Alright, no more playing around," she stated as her steelix emerged, roaring in a way that shook the walls. It was showing off, Eryk could tell that much, however; he pulled one of the pokéballs from his belt, holding it for a moment.

“Be nice, Icarus," he simply stated as he released the espurr. Jordan laughed, though, as Icarus tilted his head in her direction.

“You think you're going to win with an espurr?" she stated, sounding incredulous.

“Kick her ass, Eryk!"

He knew that was Solomon's voice over the crowd, causing him to shake his head slightly. “Whatever, let's get this over with, Steel, use Earthquake!" she commanded. Steel lifted his tail into the air and brought it down heavily to the ground, causing the floor to shake. Icarus held himself in place with the use of his psychic power, but merely regarded the steelix as if he'd found something interesting. Ryk rolled his eyes.

When the battle ended, and Icarus mewled in Jordan's direction, she looked rather deflated. She'd lost to an espurr, of all things, but Eryk stooped to pick up Icarus as he held his arms up. “Good job," Eryk spoke softly as he glanced up at Jordan. She huffed in his direction, folding her arms across her chest as the announcer called his victory. He shrugged his shoulders before making his way back to the lounge, blinking mildly in the others' direction.

Kas still seemed to be chuckling about something as he took his leave, gripping Eryk's shoulder once in passing.

Aidan had a tiny smile at the corner of his mouth, too, still watching out the window with his arms folded. "Always more entertaining to win with the little ones," he noted. "You handled yourself pretty well out there; nice work."

The first of Kas's matches started; he led off with Sigrún, his lucario. It was easy to tell from body language alone that his opponent didn't think much of him, perhaps because of the way in which he was dressed.

"Why do I have this feeling he's going to show off now?" Aidan muttered even as a visible grin spread across Kas's face. Sigrún leaped forward towards the other man's hitmonlee like she was born for it, a vague purple outline shimmering around her body; the other pokémon was thrown right back into the wall, down in one.

Icarus trilled happily in Aidan's direction as Eryk rolled his eyes. “Because it's what he does," Ryk replied, a small smile pulling at his lips as Icarus hopped out of his arms. He made his way towards Aidan and trilled, holding his arms up in the same manner he'd done earlier, to Ryk.

“You were there for practice, you know it's one of his specialties. I think he called them, Kas's special of the day, or something like that," he added as Icarus trilled again. Eryk turned his attention back out the window, though, and focused on Kas's battle.

Aidan bent without needing to think about it, arranging Icarus in his arms so the pokémon could see what was happening below also, absently stroking his head. Kas had already moved into his second battle and Sigrún didn't look like she was stopping anytime soon.

"Smarmy fucker," Aidan muttered, but he looked amused. "I think he's trying to run it all with one pokémon. It'd make a statement—he must've studied his bracket." He did indeed seem to run into situations where the lucario, with her mix of steel, fighting, and off-type moves, often had the type advantage, and almost never had a disadvantage. He seemed to be tracking the whole field, too, occasionally glancing up at the board over his head and adjusting the pace of his commands to Sigrún so that she never came to a complete halt, like he was trying to keep her momentum going or something.

By the time he'd reached the last match, she was breathing heavily, but she didn't stop, even when the final opponent appeared, only two pokémon left on his roster. The golem he started with went down in one heavy hit; but then he released a fresh-looking chandelure, and Sigrún barely dodged the flamethrower.

For the first time in the match, Kas looked uncertain, but Sigrún didn't, charging forward quite on her own, eyes aglow with an aura sphere, ready to be released. Another flamethrower caught her in the side, spinning her off-balance, but Kas shouted something to her and she charged again, leaping at the last moment and hooking her forepaws onto the chandelure. That close, her aura sphere was powerful, and both pokémon staggered away from each other, falling at the same time to the ground.

And just like that, the match was over. Kas hurried onto the field, picking Sigrún up instead of recalling her to her ball and resting her head on his shoulder. She stirred a little as he headed back inside, appearing back in the lounge with a weary smile on his face.

"She doesn't know how to quit, this one."

“Still... she won," Ryk stated, glancing at the lucario before turning his attention back towards Kas. “It looks like the three of us all won our brackets," he said, feeling a small tugging sensation on his lips. “Guess that means we'll be able to get a spot in a tournament," he added as he glanced around. Hopefully Cyrilla was able to do her part in securing at least a promoter. There was still one more group that needed to battle, but that wasn't too important.

“Oh, and congratulations on your win, ass."

"Back at ya, jerk."


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


October 3rd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Overcast
Aidan Klein

The rainy season was in full swing on Cinnabar Island, and even as he rode his bike in that morning, Aidan could smell on the overcast air that it would probably storm by the afternoon. Hopping off as it drew to a stop, he knocked the kickstand down and sighed. He'd probably be leaving it in this garage again overnight. Oh well—there were company cars he could use if he really decided he didn't want to walk home.

Normally he came in with Doc and so didn't really get to ride, but this morning he had to be extra-early for a meeting and then Nero and Rheinallt's training, which was about to get a lot more intense. He supposed it might be a bit of a pain, but it wasn't like the skills weren't transferable after this particular mission. Being an effective pokémon battler was a pretty universal necessity in NTR's line of work.

Stopping by his office, he grabbed the slim file waiting on his desk, unsealing it and reading through to make sure he had everything, then made his way to the conference room. Fortunately, they were all waiting already, though he hadn't even given Rheinallt anything extra to do for this one. He'd sort of expected the guy would drag his feet in that case. He was probably a little more excited than he wanted to let on. It was even easier to read off Nero. Once Aidan had learned the subtleties of his expressions, the Koga heir was actually quite sincere in his expressiveness, just usually subtle.

"Mornin', peons," he said with a touch of humor. "And good work, all of you."

“Oh, we're peons, now," Niav responded with some amusement. She glanced towards Nero who merely shrugged his shoulders and glanced back towards Aidan. “And thanks. All of your hardwork paid off, really. Those two mostly sold themselves," she stated as Nero arched a brow. “It's a compliment, Ryk. Take it."

“I can never tell with you," Nero said with narrowed eyes. He didn't seem offended or anything, though. “Also, good morning," he added, turning his attention back towards Aidan.

“Time for our monthlys?" Niav asked, smiling a bit in Aidan's direction.

"You got it," Aidan replied. "And I do mean good job. The boss is impressed, and Geiger sent these over yesterday." He reached into the folder and removed two promotion contracts, sliding them across the table to Nero and Rheinallt. "Legal's been through them; they check out. Pretty standard shit: you agree to be his clients for a period of three months or two tournaments, whichever is longer, and during that time he has exclusive right to try and make deals with sponsors for you. You can drop him after the trial period if he's not doing anything for you, which is obviously what we'll do, but I think he'll be successful before then."

"So we just sign on the dotted line, then?" Rheinallt asked, removing a pen from his pocket and clicking it.

"Pretty much, yeah."

Nero glanced at the contract, tilting his head to the side before Niav handed him a pen. He signed the paper and slid it back towards Aidan. “So what are we supposed to be doing in the mean time?" Nero asked as he arched a brow.

“Besides more training so you ensure you get a sponsor?" Niav stated, shaking her head a bit. “The tournament you'll be likely participating in is in, what, January?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction.

Aidan nodded a little. "Pretty much normal mission stuff. Geiger will want to meet you in person; he'll be back in Cinnabar at the end of the month to do that. It shouldn't be too trying, but you will need to keep up the pretense of this having nothing to do with your NTR employment. Don't outright lie and say you don't work for us, but at the very least act like this and that have nothing to do with one another, and downplay your ranks."

He shrugged. "It's a cover of sorts, but it's mostly woven from the truth, and you'll be using your real identities otherwise, so don't be afraid to be candid with him. He's only going to ask you for things that can help him match you with a sponsor."

"Easier to deceive with mostly truth?" Rheinallt huffed softly, a touch of irony in it, before he put is pen to paper and signed as well. "Kind of weird that he didn't want to meet us before we signed these, isn't it?"

"Not especially, actually," Aidan said, shaking his head. "Maybe if you had no backing, but Niav talked you guys up and I made a couple phone calls over the weekend. He's pretty sure he's onto something good here."

For some reason, Niav's smile broadened a bit, and her eyes narrowed with the force of her expression. “See, I'm good at what I do," she stated before the smile faded. Nero rolled his eyes a bit, but his lips were pursed together. “It'll be fine, Ryk," Niav stated as if reading his expression. “They know it's for a NTR mission; they won't do anything to interfere with it, you know that," she continued. Nero kept his expression mostly sour, but nodded his head.

“I suppose this means we'll be doing more trainings in the morning," Nero finally spoke, narrowing his eyes towards Aidan. He didn't seem especially put off by it. If anything, there might have been a flicker of anticipation, or something similar.

“You make it sound like you enjoy being tortured so early, Ryk," Niav stated in a jocular tone. Nero merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Then torture him in my place too," Rheinallt whined, helping shift the conversation from a clear reference to the Koga back to something more comfortable.

"Not a chance," Aidan replied. "You both need to put in the work—we have no idea what's going to get you noticed the right way for what we're after, but no matter what it is you both have to be good enough to hold your own with the professionals."

He smiled a bit, letting it take on an edge. "Besides, no one who gets to say they were trained by me is going to slack off."

Niav chuckled a bit as Nero rolled his eyes. “Well, if what we're going in for is for illegal uses of steroids and other shit, then it might just be that Ryk gets noticed for his younger pokémon like Icarus and Runt. Not to mention mankey," she stated as she leaned back in her chair a bit.

“It's not just young pokémon, though, Cy," Nero added, shrugging his shoulders a bit. “And to be fair, we didn't want to be trained by you. It just so happened you were the only one qualified to do so."

“Did you just... Ryk, that wasn't nice," Niav snickered a bit.

"I didn't say shit about what you wanted, Nero," Aidan replied, but there wasn't any bite to it. "Whether you want it or not, it's still a thing you can say." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "If either of you really wants out of training that badly, feel free to say so. I don't like forcing shit on people."

Reinallt shook his head. "Just complaining to complain," he confirmed with a bit of a grin.

“I wasn't complaining... just making a statement," Nero replied, a small subtle smile on his face. “Unlike the ass over there, I look forward to it."

"Look just because being up before the sun to get the shit beat out of me reminds me of my childhood..." Reinallt trailed off, but he was still half-smiling. "Anyway, no worries. We talk to this guy at the end of the month and prepare for the tournament in January, right? Can do, boss."

"Don't call me boss."


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

October 5th
The Cloyster - Early Afternoon - Rain
Eryk Nero

Eryk pushed a deep sigh through his nose. He did not like being here, but there was a complication: Katia. She was coming to Cinnabar Island in a week or so, he wasn't too sure. He hadn't been given an exact date, but it was to be expected. They never really told him much to begin with, especially when it came to visits. But he was at the Cloyster for another reason. Pulling the spare key from his pocket, he opened the door only to be greeted by something colliding with the lower half of his body. Blinking down, he spotted Diva, and pursed his lips together.

“Diva, move," he stated as the lycanroc glanced up at him. She huffed softly before releasing him, and making her way back towards the living room, where Cyrilla was sitting on the floor in front of the small table. She had an array of things strewn across it, from thread to beads to rings of sorts. She had a few charms laying on the table as well, and from the looks of it, she was making things. She glanced up, a frown on her face before it turned into a light smile.

“Ryk! I thought you were Mel and Kas," she stated, standing up from her spot.

“We need to talk," he stated, getting straight to the point. He didn't want to have to drag this out longer than necessary, and took a seat on the small couch. Cyrilla had pursed her lips together, and took a seat on the opposite side of him, folding her hands in her lap as she regarded him. “Katia will be here soon; Marah has sent her here for reasons I don't know, but if she catches wind of you sleeping around with people that have nothing to do with our mission, or for the family..." he didn't have to finish that sentence. He could see it in the subtle way her eyes widened and the way her breath seemed to hitch in her throat that she understood.

“Alright..." she spoke softly, glancing down to her hands.

“It can't just be until Katia leaves, Cy. Marah knows. She's keeping an eye on you and trying to find every reason she can to get our engagement annulled. It has to be until..." he pulled in a breath, pinching the bridge of his nose. He couldn't bring himself to finish that sentence, but she seemed to understand from the way her shoulders dropped.

“I... okay, Ryk. I promise." She offered him a small smile, then, but didn't look up. Eryk shook his head before pursing his lips together.

“Where's Kas and Mel?" he decided to ask. “We need to figure out a new housing arrangement while Katia is here. She can't know I've moved out."

“They should be back, soon. They went out for a run."

It didn't take them too much longer to reappear; Eryk could hear them coming before they'd arrived. He knew Kas could move quietly when the situation really called for it, but by default he walked with confidence and openness, making no attempt to disguise himself or his presence at all. It was something completely different from what the Koga learned to do. His laughter rang down the hall, easy and clear, and he said something it was hard to catch before his sister's more feminine voice replied in a similar light tone.

They entered the apartment together, both dressed for physical activity and with flyaway hairs and small drops of sweat gathered a their temples. Diva immediately ran up to Kas and punched him; though he caught it in his own hand as if by unnatural reflex, he made a show of doubling over with an 'oof,' which seemed to please the pokémon even as she turned her attention to Mel, who hugged her and rubbed at her head.

"Hey girly," she cooed, before turning her attention to Eryk and Cyrilla. "Hey, Ryk. Unusual of you to visit us here." She'd never seemed to much be bothered by the aspects of his appearance or personality that other people were; like her brother she'd settled easily and naturally into referring to him by a nickname, even.

“It is," he replied simply enough. He didn't make a habit of visiting, after all. The only time he'd make an appearance at the Cloyster was when Solomon and Aidan invited them over for video games, or if Cy and Kas needed help with something. “I have something to ask of you all, especially you, Mel," he stated. It was putting her out, so to speak, and he thought she at least had a right to know.

“A member of the family is coming in a matter of days. For... reasons, I need to be here at the Cloyster. I know Cy and Kas gave you the room I originally occupied but..." he paused, pursing his lips together as he regarded Mel.

“I don't want you to feel like this is something you have to do." He could always share Cyrilla's room, but that would draw questions he was certain neither of them wanted to answer. Ana and Mel weren't aware of his and Cy's predicament, and he wanted to keep it that way. If he had to, though, he'd do so. He spared a glance in Cyrilla's direction, but she merely shook her head.

Mel's eyes widened; she accepted the water bottle Kas brought her from the kitchen. "Oh, hey, no problem. Honestly." Pinching the top open, she took a few slow, deliberate swallows and wiped at her neck with the small towel looped over her shoulders. "You need me out of here like... yesterday, or...?"

Eryk shook his head. “Give me a couple of days to see if Anastasia will let you use the space I'm in while I deal with this problem. It should only be for a few weeks, but... I don't know when you plan on challenging Drake, either." If she was planning on staying for another month, he didn't want to put her out of the room because of his family. Whatever reasons Katia was visiting for, it would only be for a few weeks, he hoped.

“You're free to stay until then."

"I'm gonna try and challenge within the month," Mel replied with a little smile. "I think I've been in everyone's hair long enough, even if you all volunteered." Reaching up, she scrubbed Kas's head on the word hair, mussing his ponytail even further.

He made a face at her. "Brat," he accused, half-lunging for her. She shrieked and ducked away from his reach, prompting him to chase her halfway across the living room and lunge again, grabbing her up by the waist and throwing her casually over his shoulder.

"We are not turning this living room into Rheinallt vs. Rheinallt the rematch," she informed him, delivering a solid smack to his back with her open hand. "No one wants to see us beat the crap out of each other, you heathen."

"I dunno; something tells me Drake wouldn't mind it if you were—ow!" She'd kneed him in the chest before he could finish the sentence, and he set her down with a feigned scowl, rubbing at his clavicle through his shirt. "And you call me a heathen."

"Sorry you have to live with this idiot again, Ryk," Mel replied, tossing her hair back over her shoulder as though none of that had just happened. "I'm definitely getting the better end of this swap; no offense to Cy or Diva."

Cyrilla was chuckling lightly, stroking the tuff of fur at Diva's head. The lycanroc had climbed onto the couch and was resting on Cyrilla's lap, however; she huffed at Mel and Kas. Even Ryk found a small smile on his face, before he rolled his eyes.

“I'm not so sure about that. It'll only be for a while longer, but these two idiots will have to live with each other again, by themselves when I'm back at Anastasia's," he stated, jabbing a finger in Cyrilla and Kas's direction.

“We managed just fine without you, Ryk."

“I'm sure." It was an interesting discovery, though, when a light pink dusted Cyrilla's face. He wondered what that was about.

"I dunno why everyone thinks I'm such a terrible roommate," Kas muttered in a sulky voice. "I'm clean, I do chores, and I don't throw wild parties or anything!"

Mel rolled her eyes. "It's fine, Mirmir. You're an acquired taste, is all."

"Not comforting, Melly."

"Wasn't supposed to be. Anyway, I'm gonna go grab a shower. You guys try not to burn the place down while I'm in there." Giving all of them a little wave, she headed into the bathroom she presently shared with Kasimir and closed the door behind her.

Kas's face grew more serious once the water started to run. Pulling his own towel from his shoulders, he took a seat on the couch. "Family visit, huh?" he inquired, eyes shifting between Eryk and Cyrilla. "Mind filling me in a little?"

“You remember when I said Katia was coming?" Eryk began, pinching the bridge of his nose, once more. “She's coming into to town to do something for the family. What that means is that Marah sent her here to see if she could find anything to get rid of Cyrilla," he stated, pushing a heavy sigh through his nose.

“Katia's notorious for finding the smallest things and using it against people. She's already heard the rumors about me," Cyrilla added, glancing down as Diva lifted her head to regard her. “We can't give her a reason to suspect that something isn't right, and with Ryk living with Ana... that'd be perfect ammunition to use against him. They'd try to say that he was no longer interested, and that's all they would need to get our engagement called off. So..." she trailed off, scratching behind Diva's ear.

“I have to make it look like nothing has changed, and that means I have to be living here again. It shouldn't mean a damn thing where I live, but the fact that it's Ana, another woman, they would think something has changed. It might also give them the wrong impression, that I'm pursuing Ana instead of," Eryk paused, swallowing thickly and wincing a bit, “Cyrilla."

"Yikes," Kas said, his tone genuinely sympathetic. "I'll be sure to uh, tone down my me-ness a bit, too, in case that looks bad for you guys. Supposing she tries to casually ask me about how you get along, is there some kind of story you want to go with? I'm assuming you're not going to pretend to be super demonstrative, so I won't say you are, but..." He lifted his shoulders, but his eyes were earnest—he really did want to know how to help, it seemed.

Eryk pushed another heavy sigh through his nose. “No... you don't have to say anything in particular, Kas. They know we're not exactly affectionate with one another, but they do know we are close," Cyrilla answered, her eyes glancing up towards Eryk. He nodded his head in agreement. The entire clan was aware that their engagement was mostly for convenience; not some bullshit romantic notion. He'd never be able to see Cyrilla that way. She was, undoubtedly, beautiful, but he saw her more in a platonic light than anything. More sister. More friend.

“Just don't feed into her. If she asks about the rumors... you don't have to say anything about it. Either say you don't know, or try to play it down. If there's one thing rumors are good for, it's for twisting them around and using them to the advantage. And she will try to use them that way." Katia was a bitch like that.

“You know," he paused, regarding Kas with an even stare. “You're not obligated to help us, Kas. This... it's a family thing. If it's uncomfortable for you or anything like that, you're free to just... do what you will."

“Hm, what Eryk said. You don't have to do anything for our sake, Kas. We're... this is a family thing to get through. We don't want to get you mixed up in our troubles."

Kas barked a laugh. It wasn't a particularly mirthful thing, more harsh than humorous, but the eyes with which he regarded them were soft. "Are you idiots listening to yourselves right now? You've just told me that this witch is trying to ruin the little piece of contentment you've been able to find for yourselves in the best way you can, and you honestly expect me to sit it out and not get involved?" He tilted his head to the side, furrowing his brows. A troubled smile graced his face.

"Just who do you think you're talking to, anyway? Don't tell me I've actually managed to fool you into thinking I'm a shallow moron."

Eryk felt his brows furrow slightly. “I don't expect anything out of you. That's the point," Eryk stated. He wasn't going to expect Kas to get involved in their affairs. This... whatever contentment they had wouldn't last very long. It would be over, eventually, and they'd go back to being miserable inside of an arrangement that neither of them could ever escape. It was what he and Cyrilla consigned themselves to.

“It's not that you've fooled us into thinking your a shallow moron, Kas," Cyrilla spoke softly, turning her attention from Diva to Kas. “We just don't want you to get yourself into something that isn't your problem or your family's problem. Believe it or not... you're our friend. The first one, and..." Cyrilla paused, something catching in her throat before she shook her head.

“It's not going to be easy, is what she's trying to say," Eryk filled in, watching as Cy nodded and resumed running a hand through Diva's fur. She did have a point, though. Kas, as much as Eryk was disinclined to admit, was their friend. The first one they'd ever made outside of their family, and the first one that wasn't her or him. Kas was different, and so was Aidan and Solomon.

And Anastasia.

"Yeah, and?" Kas shook his head faintly, expelling a heavy sigh. "Man, I forget you guys don't know how friends work sometimes. The fact that I'm your friend is exactly what makes this my problem. Your problems are mine, now, and mine are yours. Sorry to say, that's how it works. Any of the others would tell you the same." Though there was a little sting of exasperation in his tone, it was softened by his smile. Not a grin, or a smirk or something silly, but a sincere smile.

"I get it. Two people against your family is just impossible. But that's exactly why you should drag me into this. Why I want you to. Rely on me a little, okay? I might not look like it, but I like to think I'm kind of a reliable guy."

Was this how friends worked? Eryk couldn't be too sure. He'd never had friends like Kas or the others. This was all new to him, but he didn't seem to mind. He rolled his eyes a bit, and subtle smile crossed his face. “Alright, Kas. I'll do my best," he stated, glancing towards Cyrilla. She seemed a little hesitant, glancing in Kas's direction through narrowed eyes. It was almost as if she were studying him for something, and Eryk knew she was a little hesitant to say the same thing.

It was a little different for her than it was for him, he supposed, but she finally nodded her head. “Okay, Kas," she said softly. Diva huffed in their direction, rolling her eyes at them as if she were saying something along the lines of finally.

“Guess that means you're part of the... family?" Eryk wasn't entirely sure that was the right word to use, there.

This time, Kas's laughter was only a soft chuckle. "Yeah, that's one way to put it, I guess. There's the family you're born with, and the family you find. The one you choose." He shrugged, as if to dismiss it, and stood abruptly. "Anyway, before I go saying something else ridiculously sentimental, how about I make lunch?"

“Sure thing, ass." Still... it was nice knowing that there was someone else who could help. Maybe Katia's visit wouldn't be as draining as it usually was?


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

October 9th
Ana's House - Evening - Rain
Anastasia Asher

Ana sniffled quietly, taking a sip from her soup and feeling the heat of it move down her throat and into her stomach. Outside, the rain battered against the walls and roof of the house. She shivered, though it wasn't cold, and moved her spoon through her chowder without much inclination to actually eat it.

You need to eat, Ana. If this turns into something worse you're going to need your strength. Nova spoke in the matter-of-fact way only someone intimately familiar with the circumstances of her condition ever did. It wasn't that he didn't care—that was the furthest thing from the truth. There had been days when that, of all the people in the world, she thought only her pokémon cared. Those were few lately, but still this part of things was a burden she bore alone save for them.

"I know," she whispered, forcing another bite down.

Eryk was out at the moment, so she'd left his dinner to stay warm on the stove, and for the moment she was alone in the house but for Luna and Nova. She'd managed to get everyone else to their rest for the night before her muscles gave out or anything, but she was exhausted now, in a way she hadn't been in a long time. Company had spoiled her, she knew. She was getting used to not doing things alone. Somehow, that terrified her.

Is it really so bad? Luna asked, hopping up onto the coffee table and regarding her with bright blue eyes.

Ana sank a little further into the armchair she occupied and tried not to wince. "What good will it do?" she asked. "No one ever stays. And even if he—they would, I can't."

The conversation halted, and she tried gamely to finish a little more of her dinner, even though she couldn't really taste it and didn't feel hungry.

The door opened to her home a moment later, the quiet pattering of Eryk's feet going across. It was Eryk, too, given how quiet he often moved. He glanced in Ana's direction when he entered the kitchen, and furrowed his brows lightly. It was as if he was currently studying her before he moved towards the cabinet and pulled out a bowl. He poured his dinner into it before taking a seat across from Ana. He didn't immediately eat his food, though, and merely regarded her with an even stare. His brows furrowed a little before he finally spoke.

“Are you alright? You... seem a little pale," he sounded genuinely concerned, and didn't seem inclined to eat his food quite yet. It was as if he was waiting on her to answer before he did.

Ana laughed softly, almost in spite of herself. "I'm always pretty pale, Eryk," she replied, trying to play it down with a smile. Maybe that was a little less true for someone who spent that much time with Cyrilla, but Ana didn't have much more color than she did even on the average day. A few freckles on the bridge of her nose, cheeks, and shoulders, and that was more or less it. "I'm coming down with a bit of a cold, is all. It'll be fine with some rest and vitamin c." She shrugged and stirred her soup around a little, trying to at least not let a film form on the surface as it cooled.

"Would you mind handing me that blanket behind you?"

He gave her a flat look at her earlier statement before turning around and grabbing the blanket she'd asked for. He handed it to her, brows still furrowed before he finally took a bite of his food. “There... is a recipe we have that will help with your cold. It's... an old family recipe but Cyrilla knows it. I can see if she'll make it for you so that it'll help," he spoke once he'd swallowed. His gaze was intense when he stared at her, but it could have been that he wasn't aware of it.

“Colds shouldn't be taken too lightly. Even with rest and vitamin c, you'll need more than just that. If... you don't mind, that is," he stated, finally dropping his gaze.

Too lightly? She supposed after all this time, maybe she did take things like this lightly. If she gave them the concern they really warranted, after all, she'd be in a near-constant fear for her life.

Setting her bowl down, Ana unfolded the blanket, wrapping it around her shoulders and bringing her legs up from underneath her so she could cocoon herself. Luna and Nova wasted no time in hopping up onto her lap. "You're sweet," she said, a little more honestly than she'd intended, but something about that intentness in his eyes made her shiver. Hopefully he'd just think she was cold—she had asked for a blanket, after all.

"It's... it's really not a big deal though. I get sick kind of a lot. The last few months have been pretty rare for me, as far as health goes."

“All the more reason you should rest and eat," he spoke softly, there was something almost bashful in the way he didn't glance up to her when she'd called him sweet. Instead, he took another bite of his food before he glanced up and stared at her. “Don't worry about tomorrow's work load. I can do the morning things, and I'll ask Kas and Cyrilla to come help with the other things. They can handle it, and Cyrilla can make the soup for you, tomorrow, as well. I would rather you rest than have to worry about the shelter when the three of us can do it. I'll see if Aidan can come as well. The only thing you'll have to worry about is if anyone needs their shots or medicine that they'll only take from you."

“But you should rest tomorrow, and not work." He seemed quite serious about it, too, if the way his brows furrowed was anything to go by.

Ana supposed she should probably be offended. She'd spent so much time trying to become independent, to be able to get along by herself with the things she chose to do. It hadn't been easy, either—it had taken lots of hard work and physical therapy and studying, and a lot of arguing with her aunt to convince her that she was able to handle being on her own for a while. She wasn't exactly the kind of person content to be told to sit around and do nothing.

But... Eryk didn't know about all of that. He didn't know she was—she was like she was. He just wanted to help because she had a cold. And somehow that made it better somehow. Like it was something he'd do for anyone, and not because he thought that she was too fragile to handle the life she'd chosen for herself.

"Don't—don't you have a lot to do tomorrow, though? Mel called today... she mentioned you would be moving out?" The other girl had wanted to know if she could rent the third bedroom just for a few weeks. Ana had told her not to worry about paying for it, but she'd been shocked to hear the reason it was necessary. Eryk hadn't mentioned anything about wanting to move out.

Eryk's eyes narrowed slightly, his lips pulling into a deep frown. “I have a relative coming to town in a few days. I was going to stay with Kas and Cy for a little while for as long as she was in town, however; she can manage without me. This..." he paused, glancing at Ana as his head tilted slightly. “This is more important. You need help more than she does, and she's familiar enough with Cinnabar Island that she will not require my assistance. I'm not moving out." It sounded as if he'd made up his mind, though whether it was because she was sick, or if it was something else that was causing him to stay, it was unclear.

“So no... I do not have anything to do tomorrow besides work."

More important?

Ana swallowed thickly; she felt her face heating up and slouched in her chair, hiding her face a little bit in the folds of the blanket. She knew he didn't really mean anything much by it—running the shelter and looking after the pokémon was important, after all. But her silly heart, with so few defenses against kindness, could not take it for the small matter it was.

Because she'd never been more important before. Not to anyone.

"Okay," she said in a small voice. "B-but if you need to take a day off or leave to help with something or whatever that's okay. I'm used to looking after things when I'm sick, so... something like that would be fine." She knew he wasn't close with most of his family, and had the sense that being in trouble with them would be bad. She didn't want to be the reason that happened.

Eryk's expression softened a bit as he took another bite of his food. “That shouldn't be a problem, but I won't need to until you're better," he spoke, blinking slowly as he glanced at Nova and Luna. He inclined his head somewhat before it tilted again. “And they'll look after you in the mean time as well," he added, nodding his head in their direction.

“If... you'd like, Moira can help as well. She's not much of a battle-type, and Aidan will be training us for the tournament in January. It would... make her happy if she can at least assist you with small things along with Nova and Luna."

Sometimes she suspected both of her pokémon spoke to Eryk mind-to-mind the way they did to her, without letting her in on the conversations. It wasn't that she was surprised they could—both espeons and umbreons were capable of telepathy, and hers were much stronger than most in this respect, something Nova attributed to spending so much time with her. But what was surprising was that when she asked them about it, they tended to be evasive in their answers.

"I'd love her help," Ana said, before something occurred to her and she shifted the topic slightly. "Actually, um... It would help if you had six pokémon to battle with, right? Since Moira's going to be helping me, why don't you train with Nova? He really likes to battle, but I don't really get the chance very often. He offered the other day but I haven't had the chance to ask you about it."

She wasn't, honestly, sure how that would go over. Ana knew Nova was very good, and she was proud of him, and knew he only wanted to help Eryk with his goal, but... some trainers could be sensitive about these things, and she didn't want it to seem like she didn't think his team was good enough as they were or anything.

Eryk's eyes shifted towards Nova in what appeared to be curiosity. He held Nova's gaze for a few moments before he turned back towards Ana. “That... if it's alright by you. It would be easier to have a full team, but it's not entirely necessary, however; he has the will and spirit to train. If that is alright by you, and it is what he wants, I would be... happy to accommodate?" he stated, his lips pursing slightly. It didn't seem like that was what he was trying to say, but it seemed close enough for him.

Despite the discomfort of her oncoming illness, Ana smiled easily. "Well please don't just accommodate," she chided gently, fairly sure that wasn't quite what he'd meant anyway. "But if it would be helpful to you, he's definitely willing to put in the work. I'm not much of a trainer, but he and Luna were always my only pokémon so they've both worked hard before." She'd been on a journey of sorts, after all, and with only two to split the work of helping her out, they'd grown strong in the process.

It almost looked like he pouted at her for a moment before he shook his head. “It will be hard work. Aidan is no pushover when it comes to training. I hope he's ready for it," he stated, glancing towards Nova with a small smile on his face. If anything, it looked like he was trying to grin, but the smile was what he'd settled for.

It always felt like an accomplishment, to be able to say or do something to put a smile on his face, because they were such rare occasions. This one kept hers right where it was, even as Nova huffed a little, glancing back and forth between them.

I assure you I am quite capable, he said, and this time she was almost sure both of them could hear it.

"Well there you have it, I suppose," Ana murmured. "And um... thank you. For—well, for all of this really." She felt like she was always thanking him, but it was all but impossible to do anything but say the words. What else did someone like her have to offer him?

“You don't have to thank me for anything, Anastasia," he stated as his expression softened. “I... should be the one thanking you, for everything you've done," he continued, pushing a soft sigh through his nose. He shook his head from some thought, though, and turned towards Nova.

“Training will begin in a few days, just so you know. I hope you're ready for it. I will tell the others, though, for tomorrow so that they can help. In the meantime, you should get some rest, Ana."

She blinked in surprise when he used the shortened version of her name; fighting back another blush, she nodded a little. She still wasn't sure exactly what she'd done that was worth thanking her for, but... she didn't really want to argue the point. She liked this, the quiet and soft warmth of sharing her home with someone, even if she was just his landlady. Probably she liked it too much, but...

"I'm glad you're not moving," she said, before she could really stop herself. Wincing, she figured that if she was that far in, she might as well complete the thought. "It's, um. Nice. Having you here." Idiot. She should have said 'having someone else here.' It wouldn't have been as true, but it also wouldn't have been as horribly transparent. She was such a child.

"Anyway. I'm going to go to bed now." She stood up abruptly, her pokémon landing much more gracefully than she felt, and wrapped the blanket closer around herself, pausing at the doorway to chance a shy look back at his face. "So... goodnight."

“Good night, Ana. I hope you feel better." He'd smiled at her when he said that.

She nodded awkwardly, beating a hasty retreat up the stairs and closing her bedroom door behind her, only to fall facefirst onto the bed and let out a muffled, miserable groan. Why couldn't her stupid feelings just go away?

The image of his smile popped unbidden into her head, and she pulled the blanket up over her head, enfolding herself in darkness to hide her shame and her darkening blush both. She was a terrible, terrible friend.


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

October 10th
The Magikarp - Early Evening - Clear
Cyrilla Niav

To say that Cyrilla had been surprised by Eryk's message would have been an understatement. It had nearly floored her. He had decided to stay at Ana's because she was sick. “Leave it to Ryk to do something so sweet," she stated to herself. She couldn't help the smile that appeared on her face, though. It was nice seeing him be more of his old self, and Cyrilla was going to do everything she could to preserve that. He deserved to be happy, and she wasn't going to let Katia ruin that. Pushing the thought out of her mind, she squeezed the remaining water out of her hair.

She had convinced Kas, somehow, to go on this double date with her, Drake, and Mel. Of course it was under the pretense of a friends' outing, but that didn't mean it wasn't weird for her. And it had nothing to do with the fact that Kas was Mel's brother. It had more to do with the fact that it was Kas. She liked him a great deal more than she should have, but she couldn't help herself. She even thought that, somewhere in her black little heart, she was developing a small crush on him.

She'd killed it, of course, or at least she thought she had. She would just have to make sure it didn't turn into something it couldn't. It was partially the reason why she'd told him that she would meet him and the others at the Magikarp ahead of time. A friendly outing, and nothing more. She had worn a black camisole with a smoky grey sleeveless cardigan, over it. The dark grey leggings she had on were tucked into her knee high boots. It was a casual enough outfit, she supposed.

When she'd reached the place, she waited patiently for Mel and Drake to appear, along with Kas. He had a couple of other things to take care of at Ana's before he'd meet them, but he wouldn't be too late, from her understanding. She focused on Mel and Drake, though. This was for them.

She had to keep telling herself that.

He was first to arrive, though, ambling through the front door of the restaurant and approaching the hostess' stand with a bright smile. He'd dressed pretty casually himself, though fittingly for the season, with slim-fit khakis and a green laid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. His sunglasses were tucked into the vee formed by the unbuttoned top third of the shirt, though there was a white layer underneath. His hightops were green and white, and looked to be a bit on the worn side.

After a brief exchange with the hostess, he made his way over to the table, sliding into the booth next to her instead of across. Considering what they were here for, it only made sense. He smelled like tangerines and some kind of spice, which was about the usual with him. "Hey Cy," he greeted, shifting to lean his forearms on the table. The right one had both a pokégear and the bracelet she'd made him with the raikou charm on it; the two clinked softly together as he shifted. "Still waiting on the guests of honor?"

She couldn't help the bright smile that crossed her face as she glanced up at him. He really was tall, even now as he sat next to her. “Yep," she replied easily enough, cursing the way something felt fluttery in her guts. She mentally rolled her eyes at herself before blinking slowly. “I honestly thought they'd get here before you," she added, the smile shifting into a regular grin.

“You know, since you were being worked to the bone at Ana's, I figured you'd have gone back to the apartment to shower. I guess I was right, a bit. You weren't wearing that, earlier," she stated, huffing lightly.

He grinned back, the corners of his eyes narrowing with the force of it. "Well, Ana took pity on my poor soul when I told her what I was up to tonight. I didn't want to be late to our very important occasion, after all. Or show up smelling bad, for that matter." He wrinkled his nose slightly.

Just then, a chime from his phone prompted him to pull it from his pocket. "Ah. Mel says she and Drake hit traffic. She's asked us to put in their orders. You know what you want already or should we search the menu? This is basically a burger joint, right?"

“It is, yeah. Drake said they have the best burgers here, so I figured it was worth a shot," she replied, answering his second question before nodding her head. “And yeah, I know what I want. They have this burger that has brie and sliced green apples on it that I want to try," she stated, folding her hands out in front of her. It sounded good, she supposed.

“Oh, and onion rings because a good burger is always accompanied by those," she added, grinning a little to herself. “What about you, is there anything that piques your interest?" she asked, arching her brow in his direction.

He half-smiled, something a little strange about it. "I wonder..." he replied vaguely, though he had yet to touch the menu. He was, in fact, just looking at her, his chin resting in his left hand.

Breaking eye contact, he hummed and picked up the menu in his other, flipping through casually. "Ah, a bacon avocado burger. That'll do nicely." He nodded as if to himself, relaying that along with the other two's, but pausing so Cyrilla could order her own. "I think Niko mentioned the malts here being good," he added, "so I'll have one of the chocolate ones. Large, bring an extra spoon?"

The waiter nodded, making sure that was all before disappearing again. With a sigh, Kas stretched his legs out under the table. "Counting down the days until Katiapocalypse, huh?"

“You have no idea," she replied, leaning her head down on the table and resting it there. It was a little cold, but she welcomed it to cool down the way her face had heated up for a moment when he'd stared at her. She really needed to find a way to kill this crush of hers. It wasn't going to help her in the long run. Instead, she took a deep breath, and lifted her head back up and pursed her lips back at him.

“It wouldn't be so bad if she was here for NTR, but she's here for the family. And that's always worse. I'm a little worried that she might try to use Ryk's living situation against him, somehow, but... if he plays his cards right, and says it's for the mission, then there's not much she can do about it. The family has to do what's in the best interests of NTR and not for its own personal gains. That's just how it is," she spoke softly. Of course, there was a lot more to it, but she wasn't going to tell him everything.

Friend or not, he didn't deserve to get dragged into their mess regardless of what he'd told them. This... it was easier this way, she supposed.

He hummed softly, and after a moment, a large hand came down to gently rest on the crown of her head. He didn't muss it like usual though; it was more of a gentle patting gesture, as though he were trying to offer some kind of comfort. "I have a feeling there's more you're not telling me," he mused, repeating the stroke and letting his fingers trail lightly down her back this time.

"As your friend I admit it's a little frustrating, but I guess that just means I should work harder." He huffed a bit, still resting his chin on his hand. "So the story is he's living there 'cause it makes the mission easier, huh? It's a little funny how what used to be part of the truth is the cover-up lie now, isn't it?" He shook his head faintly.

"And what used to be the lie is getting closer to the truth, too."

She smiled dryly at him. “That's one way of putting it," she stated, pushing a heavy sigh through her nose. It was ironic, to be sure. Ryk living with Ana shouldn't have been more than him getting close to her so that they could get the information they wanted, however; she couldn't deny the fact that it was good for him. He was happier, and as Kas had pointed out not too long ago, Eryk was smiling. Faintly, but nonetheless, he was smiling again.

If the family found out that those smiles weren't feigned, that they were more genuine than they'd ever been... Cyrilla wasn't going to let that happen. She'd fight tooth and nail if she had to; she'd go back to her family, endure their wrath and everything else if it meant that Eryk could stay happy. Damn her own, because he deserved it. Her, though? No, she was far too gone. Far too despicable.

But this wasn't about her, or her happiness. This was about Eryk, and his happiness. And this was about Mel and Drake, and them finding something similar. Drake so that Kevin could stop stalking him, and Mel because she seemed like such a nice girl. Cyrilla hadn't lied when she said she liked Mel, more than she should have. It was nice, especially with Mel living with her and Kas. It felt like what a family should have been like, and not...

“I won't let her ruin it. Ryk's cover story is that he's doing it for the mission. And that's not a lie. I don't..." she swallowed thickly, furrowing her brows at herself. Get it together, Cy. Don't get too vested. “I won't let her take his smile away, again." Of this, Cyrilla was certain.

"Smile, huh?" he said, pausing for a moment in thought. His fingers continued to idle along her spine; it didn't feel like there was any intention in the touch—he wasn't trying to provoke her or anything. He just... seemed to want to do it, or maybe hardly noticed he even was.

He lifted his hand away, though, when the waiter approached with his malt, and he accepted the large glass with its thick stem. The chocolate drink was decorated with a bit of whipped cream on top and a cherry. Kas set the extra spoon next to her on the table like it had been his intention the whole time, then dug his own into the malt, which was definitely thick enough for spoons. He made a small hum of satisfaction, nudging the whole thing towards her in obvious invitation.

"So if you're protecting his," he asked with a strange lightness, still to all appearances intent on his food, "who protects yours?"

“No one," she replied easily enough, smiling a bit wryly. She wasn't sure if protecting was the word she would have used, but she was going to try. Her smile, though? No one protected her smile, because they couldn't. The smiles she had now would be taken away, again. There would be something, like there always was, and it would be gone.

“It's alright, though," she stated, taking the spoon and slowly dipping it into the malt. “Mine's not worth it," she stated calmly, taking a bite out of the malt. She blinked in mild surprise at the taste. “I guess Niko wasn't wrong; these are good," she hummed a satisfied note in the back of her throat as she glanced towards the front door.

“I guess traffic must be pretty bad if they're still not here."

"Maybe so," Kas replied, lifting his shoulders a bit as he took another bite out of the malt.

"Why don't you think your happiness is worth protecting?" He still wasn't looking directly at her, carrying on the conversation as nonchalantly as she was, in spite of the subject matter, which she knew he had to think was pretty serious.

The question caught her off-guard, honestly, and she blinked a little stupidly at him. It was a personal question, even if it didn't quite seem like it to him. She felt her brows furrow slightly before she set the spoon down. She didn't know how to explain that part to him in a way that would explain the way her family was. The way it just was.

“Because it never has been," she finally answered, speaking softly. “Because it's never really mattered to begin with, Kas. We're not supposed to be happy. We're not supposed to experience joy, nor be kind or warm, or... anything that is bright. If... if any of us shows even the slightest inclination to those things, they..." she swallowed thickly, turning her gaze from him. She rubbed absentmindly at her chest near her left clavicle.

It had been broken, once, because of her family. “They beat it out of us. That's what they did to Ryk, to..." herself and everyone else who had been so weak. “If anyone deserves it... it's Ryk. As long as he gets to be happy, I'll consider it enough. I'll consider everything having been worth it because he's finally happy." She hadn't realized how low and soft she'd been speaking. Maybe because she was trying to convince herself of something, but she couldn't be sure of what. She breathed out slowly, and shook her head.

"None of that answers the question, you know," he pointed out, his tone softer now. He set his spoon down, too, and caught his jaw in his hand again so he could turn his head to regard her steadily. "I asked why your happiness isn't worth protecting, and what you told me was your family tries to snuff it out, and Ryk deserves to be happy. I'm sure both of those things are very true, Cyrilla, but neither of them is a reason you shouldn't be happy, too. There's no rule that says 'there may be only one happy Koga, now choose.'"

His eyes bored into hers, the expression on his face much more serious than the ones Kas usually wore. "I'm sure you think it's selfless, or at least the better option, to be willing to give up your own joy in the name of his. And there's something admirable about it, certainly. But it doesn't have to be one or the other—and he's not going to be happy if you're miserable, you know. He cares about you more than that."

She huffed lightly at him. She wasn't laughing at what he said, but because he didn't understand how her family was. “I'm actually being selfish for that. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, and that's where you're wrong, Kas. I know he cares about me, and I love him, too, but..." she wasn't entirely sure what to say, honestly.

“To be honest... I don't know. I think... my happiness isn't worth protecting because no one else can protect it. If I'm protecting Ryk's... who else could do it besides him?" Who else could protect her happiness if not Ryk? He was her best friend, the one she'd leaned and relied on for so long. He was the only one who could stand against the family, and she didn't want him to be the one to protect her happiness. She didn't want him to get hurt because of her, because that is what would happen, in the end.

She smiled a little ruefully, though. “Maybe one day... it won't be like this. Maybe one day I won't have to be here, in a place I don't want to be, and doing things that make me sick. But I suppose it's just wishful thinking." It certainly felt like it.

He sighed quietly. "You really don't get it, do you?" he murmured, more to himself than to her, it seemed.

Before he could elaborate, though, the waiter showed back up with their food, including for the two who still weren't yet present, and Kas rolled his eyes, removing his phone from his pocket and firing off a text. "Honestly, Mel. Traffic doesn't get that bad on the island."

As if on cue, Mel and Drake appeared a few moments later, settling into the booth on the other side. "Hey guys," she said, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth. "Sorry we're late."

Maybe she didn't get it, but she supposed she was grateful for Drake and Mel's appearance. She offered them a bright smile, and arched a brow at the two of them. “Yeah, sorry we're late. We were taking a Farfetch'd when it broke down, so we hoofed it the rest of the way," Drake added, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh, and thanks for ordering our stuff for us!" he added, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

“Hm, well you're lucky they just brought it out so it's still warm," Cyrilla stated as she glanced at her burger. “Hm, now let's see if these are as good as you've hyped them up to be, Drake," she added, grinning at him.

“Of course they're good! This place has the best burgers, ever. I'll have you know that yours truly is a certified burger master," Drake stated, looking rather smug about the declaration. Cyrilla rolled her eyes lightly.

Mel let out a soft snort. "'Certified Burger Master'?" she repeated, a broad grin blooming over her face. "There's no way that's a real thing, you dork." She nudged him in the side with her elbow, clearly enjoying herself; perhaps the walk over had broken any ice there might have been.

"I think it's a self-appointed position," Kas added dryly, taking a bite out of his food and reaching for the malt. He used the straw this time, though.

"Is there a cherry in that?" Mel asked, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.

Kas sighed, using a clean spoon to fish it out. "Fun fact, everyone: my sister is crazy about cherries. I don't know why, but she is."

"Strawberries too," she corrected, accepting the cherry and eating it right off the end of the stem. "Especially with chocolate. Mirmir likes citrus fruits and cream, though."

“I like pineapples, to be honest. There's something a little sweet and tart about them that makes them taste really good. Never been too big on strawberries, though. They're too sweet sometimes," Drake stated, rolling his own eyes and feigning a slight hurtful look when Mel had elbowed him. “What about you, Cyrilla? Since everyone's talking about favorite fruits and otherwise," he added, titling his head in her direction.

“Mangoes with tajin seasoning. It's really good because the seasoning itself is made with salt, chile powder, and dehydrated lime. You might actually like it on your pineapple; it pairs really nicely with it," she answered easily enough. Besides, tajin seasoning wasn't as spicy to her as it was for most people. It just added a sort of boldness to the fruit. Maybe it was because she just liked spicy things?

“Ugh, how do you all do spicy things! I've tried... really, I have, but I can't," Drake almost sounded like he was whining.

“Because we're not lightweights like you, of course."


"Honestly I think it has more to do with being raised on it," Mel noted with a little grin. "For example, Orange Islands cuisine is usually pretty spicy, so we're used to it. Kas is crazy, though—he can do things like just munch his way through a jar of picked gengar peppers like it's nothing. Not even I'm that insane."

He shrugged. "Dad kept them in the fridge, is all. I got hungry."

Cyrilla was certain her eyes were wide with awe as she blinked in Kas's direction. “Gengar peppers, seriously?" she stated, trying to comprehend the fact that he ate them at all. She enjoyed spicy things, but even she had her limits. Gengar peppers were too much for her. “Wow. I did not think anyone could eat those regularly," she added. Drake looked about as shocked as Cy felt, so at least she wasn't alone in that respect.

“Yeah, well if you two grew up on it, what's your excuse, Cy? You're not from the Islands, are you?" he asked, causing Cyrilla to snort softly.

“If I was, I'd have a beautifully tanned complexion like Mel and Kas, here, but no. I'm not from the Islands. I'm from Fuchsia, and my love of all things spicy came from just being subjected to eating all kinds of foods for various reasons," she replied, shrugging lightly. It wasn't a lie; she had to be comfortable eating all kinds of things in order to complete missions and such ilk.

"Same," Kas said, "except my family thought they were doing me a favor. Don't tell Crystal I said this, but when she was learning to cook, she was terrible, and I was the taste tester."

Mel laughed. "You'd never guess it now—she's literally a chef with actual stars, just like Sheena, and everything she touches becomes delicious, but he's not wrong."

"And that's the story of how I became a human trash compactor, willing and able to eat massive quantities of pretty much anything that can be eaten."

"Oh, remember that time she experimented with insect-based dishes for like a month?"

"Yes, Melly," he replied, widening his eyes and giving them a faraway look seemingly on purpose. "Yes I do. So. Many. Ants."

She tried. She really tried not to laugh, even going so far as to place a hand over her mouth, however; Cyrilla failed. She started laughing, and also snorted at the same time which caused her face to turn a light pink. “Well that explains a lot. I guess compared to their cooking, mine's probably more mediocre," she stated lightly, feeling the laugh settle down into something of a small smile.

"There it is," Kas murmured, low enough that only she could catch it. He gave her a sly wink, then continued at a better volume. "And don't put yourself down. Your food's delicious."

“Oh, Kas, I'm sorry, man. That sounds like it was disgusting, all those bugs," Drake looked like he'd seen a ghost, his complexion paling just a bit. Cyrilla arched a brow and leaned on her arm.

"At least he got a lot of protein," Mel joked. "Those muscles didn't come cheap."

Kas groaned. "Don't remind me. Dad's the worst. More importantly, Drake, I've always wanted to know: did the old man ever like... make you do riddles and stuff at home? Or did he actually just confine that shit to the Gym?"

“Oh. My. Arceus." Drake began, causing Cyrilla to tilt her head. She was a little curious as to what he had to say on that. From what she remembered, Blaine had implemented riddles and the like as a function of his gym challenges. No one was allowed to battle him until they could solve a few riddles. They weren't easy, from what she'd read. Drake turned his attention towards Mel, first, looking rather serious about what he was going to say.

“First off, I will never put you through that horror. You or any other gym challengers. Ever. Secondly, he made me memorize them when I was seven. SEVEN! Do you know what that does to a kid? And then he tried to make me agree to keep the stupid riddles as part of the gym challenge when I took over. He even wanted me to keep the gym on the volcano. That was a dangerous place to have it in the first place!" He was a little red in the face by the time he'd finished. Cyrilla chuckled softly as Drake took a long drink from his cup.

“Oh, and no, he didn't confine them to the gym. He still tries to make me implement riddles back into the gym."

Mel was laughing so hard she was at serious risk of losing some of her lemonade out her nose. She managed to save herself, but coughed into her elbow a few times, still unable to quite suppress her amusement. Sniffing, she wiped a few stray tears from her eyes. "Your face," she managed, voice pitched high and soft with the effort it took to speak.

Kas snickered. "Don't hold back; tell us how you really feel," he said with a grin.

Even Cyrilla found herself snickering softly.

“Guys... guys you don't understand. Those riddles. They gave me nightmares. Sometimes I'd wake up and gramps would be standing in my doorway, grinning like a madman and holding up a book of all of his old riddles. I swear he could smell the fear and just come running."

“Oh, poor Drake," Cyrilla stated as she tried to contain her own amusement. “Sounds like it wasn't easy living with Blaine."

“Seriously. You have no idea."

"Well at least you're not in a volcano anymore," Mel said, popping an onion ring into her mouth and chewing it over. "Mom says thanks for that, by the way."

“Mom?" Drake looked vaguely confused before his eyes widened slightly. “You mean your mom's Michelle Kane?" he asked a little incredulously. “Huh, I can sort of see the resemblance. And, well, I guess she's welcome? I know gramps had a lot of damages to the gym whenever he was the gym leader, not to mention the amount of trainers that were injured as well just trying to get up there. If there's anything else I can do to help her out, just let me know. I don't want gramps' problems following her everywhere now that I'm the gym owner or leader, or whatever you want to consider me."

Cyrilla arched an amused brow at his choice of words.

“Is that right?" she stated, feeling something sly cross her features. “What do you think, Mel? What do you want to consider him?"

Next to her, Kas snorted softly, but didn't interrupt, observing the byplay with some interest.

Mel, on the other hand, shrugged, failing to totally suppress a grin but managing a sort of coy nonchalance nevertheless. "Well I dunno, Cy. That's a good question, but I think it should be a mutual decision. So maybe I should be asking Drake what he'd like me to be to him. I did already ask him out tonight, after all. Ball's in his court." She arched an eyebrow, but didn't seem to be demanding an answer immediately or anything.

Cyrilla did her best not to outright grin at the expression on Drake's face. He looked absolutely mortified for some reason, but she had a guess.

“You asked me out!? Is that what this is? Is this supposed to be a date?! Oh... my arceus, if I'd known that I wouldn't have chosen the Magikarp!" he stated, burying his face in both of his hands. Cyrilla could see the tips of his ears were turning pink, though, and snickered softly.

“He's so adorable. Mel, I think you might have just embarrassed him into adorable mode," she stated, trying not to laugh at him. He blinked slowly, though, and glanced at Kas and Cyrilla.

“So... was this supposed to be a double date? Is that why the two of you are here!? Ugh, I would have chosen something a little different for all of us..." he trailed off, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes.

“It's not the place that matters, Drake. It's mostly the company, and besides, Kas and I are just here as spectators. Wouldn't really want to miss this," she stated, tilting her head slightly in the direction of Kas, and blinking about as innocently as she could. Drake pursed his lips together, though, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

"I wasn't trying to deceive you about what this was," Mel added, smiling a little more gently and patting Drake on the back. "But I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I was hoping you'd pick someplace fun and comfortable, and you did. It's not like I'm carrying a bunch of fancy stuff around in my trainer's bag anyway, so casual is exactly right."

"See? No harm done." Kas's eyes were narrowed with mirth, but it wasn't even remotely mocking at the moment. He was watching Mel, Cy noticed, and smiling at the way she was looking at Drake, whose head was in his hands. There was a tenderness to his expression that was rare; he shook his head a moment later and it was gone.

Cyrilla felt something tight in her chest, something that seemed to squeeze her heart, but she ignored it. Had to ignore it. Drake was still pouting, though, as he regarded Mel with an even stare.

“I would have at least suggested Jo's. They have more options as far as food goes. It's just burgers here," he muttered softly, taking a drink from his cup. Cyrilla rolled her eyes faintly, but was still smiling nonetheless.

“Well you did say this place had the best burgers. I don't think you could have chosen any better, really. And besides, you still haven't answered the lady's question. What would you like to consider her, and vice versa?" Cyrilla asked, watching as Drake's face turned a bit pink.

“Oh, uh, well... I, um..." he began, stuttering a bit. Cyrilla supposed it might have been something to do with Kas being present, but Drake rubbed absently at his neck before shrugging. “Well, I'd like to say that we're at least acquaintances," he stated, glancing in Mel's direction. It looked like that was all he was going to say, however; he smiled a bit.

“But if she's willing to be my friend, maybe we can go from there? Just because this is a date doesn't mean you just jump into something... I mean, you're a nice girl and all, Mel, but if we're not really compatible, why bother with anything further, right? If it turns out we make awesome friends, that's great! If... well, if it turns out we are compatible... maybe we just take it from there?"

Mel pretended to consider this, releasing an exaggerated hmm and stirring the ice in her cup with her straw. "I think I can get behind that," she agreed with a little nod. "But only if you do me two favors: firstly, let me have your number, and secondly, call me sometime. I've got all the free time in the world on the road, but you're busier than that so I'll let you decide when. Deal?"

“Deal. Oh, uh... just be prepared that when I do, I get nervous sometimes so it might take me a few tries..." Drake replied, grinning slightly as if to himself. Cyrilla rolled her eyes, but they were adorable. The both of them together like that... it almost made her think of something before she shook the thought from her mind. Drake reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet and retrieved a card from it. “It has my number and a line to the gym just in case you can't reach me on my phone."

“Aren't you two so adorable," Cyrilla couldn't help herself.

"Yep," Mel replied shamelessly, lightly plucking the card from Drake's fingers and programming both into her phone. "We're the cutest." Her fingers flew quickly across the screen and then she looked up with a grin. "Sent you a text, so now you have mine, too."

“Ah, thanks," Drake stated, his face turning a light shade of pink as he glanced at his phone. He seemed to program Mel's name into it before turning towards Cyrilla and Kas, coughing lightly into his hand. Cyrilla thought it really was adorable, and couldn't keep her laughter contained. It wasn't loud, thankfully, but she shook her head in their direction.

“Well, since that's all been figured out, how about we go to the Alcremie factory after this? I hear they make the best cheesecake, and it'll be on me!"

"Oh no," Kas deadpanned. "You've discovered the Rheinallt family weakness: free delicious food."

Mel laughed. "I think that's just a normal human weakness, honestly. But it sounds great." She beamed at Drake, and then the rest of them, so genuinely happy it was plain to see.

“Mel's right, it is just a normal human weakness. I'm not gonna say no to free food, especially free cheesecake," Drake stated, nodding his head as if to agree. Cyrilla faintly shook her head, but she was still smiling from all the laughter.

“Well as Kas and Mel both already know," she began, arching a brow at the both of them, “I like feeding people. It... makes me happy when I can, especially if it's something I made. Feeding people by buying them food makes me happy, too, so... I guess you're kinda stuck with me always buying or making you shit whenever you lot are hungry."

It did make her happy whenever she did small things like that. She wasn't entirely sure why, though.

"Man, I'm gonna miss this island when I leave," Mel said, taking her check from the waiter who'd just reappeared.

"All the more reason to come back and visit once in a while."

“You should come visit whenever you can. Drake here would love a visit, too," Cyrilla stated, accepting her own check as Drake took his. He sputtered a bit, but nodded his head in agreement. This... it was nice. Cyrilla couldn't help but feel she'd miss this, too.

She quietly cried herself to sleep that night.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Rocket Files

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

October 12th
Seedot Condominiums - Afternoon - Clear
Kasimir Rheinallt

Kas opened up the back of the loaner van, wondering if the shiny black with its characteristic red stripe was a bit... much for a quiet neighborhood like this. Almost certainly so, but he didn't have his own, so company vehicles it had to be. Removing the two plain silver briefcases from the back, he closed the van doors over with his foot, then made his way into the lobby.

In pretty much every way that The Cloyster was modern and shiny and chrome, these condos felt more blended with the natural island landscape. Stucco walls, clay roof tiles, an abundance of not-especially-well-tended local flora, and a distinct atmosphere of being lived in. He figured there were probably a lot more families and old folks in this block than his own, which seemed to mostly house singles, young couples, or people who needed a home in Cinnabar, but who lived most of their time elsewhere.

Of course, it would seem none of the friendly homeyness made it particularly safe as a haven from a stalking ex, so there was that. But then, that was the problem that he in particular was here to fix.

Unsurprisingly, security didn't do more than nod at him as he passed, suspicious van or otherwise. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that he'd gone full nerd-chic today, and looked about as threatening as the average pencil-pusher, which was to say not at all. But some of it was probably the fact that it was broad daylight and he looked like he knew exactly where he was going.

When he reached Drake's unit, he shifted his burden so that both briefcases were in one hand, then knocked with the other. "Hey Drake, it's Kas," he called out, figuring the extra assurance that he wasn't Kevin would be welcome enough.

It took a minute or so before the door opened, but it wasn't Drake who greeted him. It was Axe and Brick Jr. They both regarded Kas for a moment before stepping to the side, allowing Kas inside the apartment. Axe stuck his head out of the door, glanced both ways and closed the door behind them.

“Hey, Kas! In here," Drake's voice called out as he popped his head out of what might have been his bedroom. “Sorry, I would have answered the door, but... well, Axe and Jr. like doing that now," he chuckled nervously. He cleared his throat before he went back into his room, only to come out a second later with a towel in his hand.

“The, uh, faucet was leaking in the bathroom again. Had to fix that before it flooded the apartment," he stated as if to explain the towel in his hands. “Can I get you something to drink, or eat, or..." he trailed off.

Kas shook his head. "No need for that. But we should probably sit down and discuss what you're after in a security system. I can do a lot of stuff, but depending on what your goals are with it, what equipment I'll set you up with is going to change."

It wasn't like he wanted to make the guy talk about the exact nature of what stalking was going on. Even so, that information would be useful if he was comfortable sharing it. Kas set down his briefcases next to an armchair and took a seat, bringing his legs up to cross underneath him. "It's on the house, so we don't have to worry about cost considerations, but... lemme put it this way: I did the security setup for the main vault at Saffron HQ. There's an entire monitoring room just for the controls and shit. So the more we can narrow down your goals here the uh... less like that it'll have to be."

For a moment, it looked like Drake was going to protest the part of this being on the house. He shook his head, though, as he took a seat across from Kas, and pursed his lips together. “I guess what I'm looking for is something that will at least alert CIPD a little faster that someone is breaking into my house. I don't know how many times I've come here and found," he paused, reaching around the couch he was sitting on, and pulling a few letters from inside the cushions, “these. I've kept them to see if they'd be any use to CIPD in buidling a case against Kevin, but so far they haven't said anything."

“I think what I need is something that will also record him in the act in clear picture so I have evidence that it is him, and not some random fan." He visibly shuddered at the word. “I don't need anything too high-tech, but something that'll just... give me the proof I need."

Kas nodded. "Okay, so it sounds like you want a good alarm system with a direct line to the PD and the best cameras I've got. That's doable. Which rooms do you want to cover? Just this front one here, or..." He could understand if the answer was yes. Loads of people were not comfortable being filmed going about their business, and that made complete sense. But there were ways around it. "I can set the film to erase every twenty-four hours if the alarm's not tripped, if that's a concern."

“It's a pretty small apartment," Drake began, motioning around his apartment. “I mean, I hardly spend time here to begin with, so I wouldn't mind having a camera just about everywhere, really. Oh, but maybe not the bathroom? That... that would be a little too much, I think. I rotate my time between staying at the gym, and staying here, so a camera in just about every room would be sufficient."

“Oh, and that would be good. The film being erased every twenty-four hours, though I'd make it thiry-six hours just in case. Because even if he doesn't trip it, it might actually still catch him hanging out or something like that."

Kas snorted a little at the mention of the bathroom, but let the opportunity for a joke pass by. The rest made sense, of course. "Sounds fine to me. Anything additional you want? I can set up your phone to record anytime his number dials you, that kind of thing." It seemed like Drake was mostly interested in collecting evidence, which from a legal standpoint would probably help him a fair bit. And he could certainly help with that.

"I can also do a setup on the Gym if you want, though that'll probably take more gear than I have with me right now. Would have to order the parts in, and all that."

“Oh, you know what, that sounds like a good idea. If you could do that for my phone, I'd greatly appreciate it. As for the gym setup... that would be amazing if you could, but I'd like to pay you for that. Er... well if you do installment payments. Despite being a rather well-known gym leader, I don't make that much as one." Drake seemed rather pleased with the outcome of Kas's help, and nodded his head in a sagely manner for some reason.

“But if not, that's fine. I can get gramps to pay for it since he kind of owes me, anyway, the old bastard," he muttered the last part lowly. Axe made a soft snorting sound as if he'd found it funny.

Part of Kas wanted to insist. This kind of cause was... close to his heart was putting it lightly. But he could understand that some people weren't comfortable accepting things for free, so he nodded, already mentally calculating the costs of the equipment and cutting them in half for what he'd charge for the Gym. "Sure. I'll send you an invoice. No rush on the installments; whenever you can make one is fine. Or just buy my drinks for a couple years; either-or."

He grinned, pulling on of the briefcases up onto the coffee table and opening it. There were several small, concealable cameras inside, along with the wiring necessary to record the feeds. "Do you have a laptop or something? I can set it up so you can access the feed whenever you like, and save anything from the archived footage that seems important before it gets erased. There are also services you can hire to do that for you, but since you seem to be collecting your own evidence anyway I can tell you they're probably not worth it if you have the time yourself."

“Depending on how much it'll cost me, I just might be buying your drinks for several years. You don't look like the type who drinks a lot in one sitting, though given how much you, Ryk, and Aidan all drank that night... you might be right," Drake replied slightly amused. He reached under his couch, though, and pulled out a laptop that had a bit of dust on it. He smiled sheepishly at Kas as he handed it over.

“I've been meaning to get a new one, but I don't really use it much... so... this is what I have as far as laptops go."

"Ughh... this is ancient!" Kas made an exaggerated face of disapproval and took the laptop as though it were somehow infectious. "Arceus, does this even have enough processing power?" He recognized it on sight, of course, and it did, but it was good that Drake didn't appear to use it for anything else, because it wasn't going to be able to do much other than handle the surveillance software once he rigged it up properly.

"You're not making it easy on me, Bellamy," he joked. "Anyway, if I can borrow your phone for about half an hour I'll set that up first. The rest of this should take me the afternoon or so, but if you've got somewhere to be and you can trust me in your house, you don't have to stick around." He smiled a bit. "I won't blame you if you don't want someone wandering around in here without supervision, though."

“Yeah, well, the one at the gym is newer, at least," Drake stated, waving a nonchalant hand in front of his face. He pursed his lips together, though, before sinking into his chair. “I do have to go to the gym to take on some challengers. I'm getting a bad rep as being rather lazy and not really hosting any challenges. The people upstairs are getting kind of annoyed with me about that, and say that if I want to keep the gym, I have to at least have ten to twenty challenges done by the end of the month."

“But no worries; I trust you to do what you have to do. I mean, even if you do go snooping around, you won't find much except a bunch of old comics and maybe a soda can or two underneath the bed. Goopy likes playing with them and pushing them around underneath there. Drives me insane when I'm trying to sleep," he muttered, huffing lightly in Kas's direction.

"Ha—fair enough." Kas felt a twinge of sympathy; gym leading was a lot more work than the average person thought it was, and the league supervision was pretty much constant. If he didn't get his duckletts in a row, there could be a serious inquiry into that stuff. "I happen to know you'll be giving out at least one badge this month, so maybe that'll help you get them off your case." He grinned, already removing various camera components from his briefcase.

Drake barked out a short laugh. “Yeah, you might be right, though honestly, at the pace I've been going, it might be about three," he stated as he stood from his chair. He dusted off his shorts, for some reason, before arching a brow at Axe and Brick Jr. “Alright, guys, let's head out and leave Kas to do his spy stuff. Oh, and if you do happen to get thirsty or whatever," he paused, turing his attention towards Kas, “there's a couple of sodas in the fridge and maybe a beer or two. I forget they're in there so they might not be as good as the soda."

Kas considered this for a moment, then nodded. "At least it takes a while for booze to go bad."


Characters Present

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

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October 16th
Marna's - Afternoon - Windy
Eryk Nero

Eryk threw back the drink in his hand a lot quicker than he wanted. It burned on the way down; vodka always had a tendency to do that, but he didn't mind right now. He'd received word about an hour ago that Katia would be arriving on Cinnabar Island within the next hour or so, and he wanted to be as drunk as he possibly could. It probably wasn't the best plan to go with, but he really didn't want to deal with her right now. Anastasia still had a light cold, though she looked like she was recovering nicely. Pushing the thought away, he sighed heavily and glanced at the other two.

He'd invited them along mostly because he didn't want to be alone when Katia showed up. Aidan had previous experience in dealing with her, but Kas was new to the whole thing. He felt a little bad for bringing Kas into it, but he'd wanted to be, apparently. Pushing a sigh through his nose, he shook his head faintly.

“Are you ready?" he asked, though he wasn't sure why. He sort of already knew the answer to it.

"No," Aidan replied in a grumble. He was drinking much more slowly than Eryk, but had also already made his way through two cigarettes and was starting in on a third. "No one's ever ready to deal with Katia. And if you think you are, that just means you're even more not then those of us who know better."

"Yikes," Kas replied, sipping from his beer. He was pretty relaxed, to all appearances, but then he was the one who had no idea what they were in for. "Also, not to like... make it worse or anything, but do we have a plan for what to do if she wants to like... visit the shelter or something? I can't imagine letting her talk to Ana is anyone's idea of a good time."

“First off," Eryk began, narrowing his eyes a bit in Kas's direction, “she has no business at Ana's shelter. This is our mission; she's not allowed to interfere with it unless she gets permission from Gregorovich." Eryk doubted Gregorovich would consent because this was time-sensitive, and Katia was not exactly the type of person you sent in for missions that required something of a delicate approach.

“Secondly, you're not wrong," he added, turning in Aidan's direction. “No one is ever ready to deal with her shit. She'll be here in the next hour or so; I suggest we figure out the best course of action to take so that she doesn't fuck anything up." All of his hard work would be for naught if she somehow let something slip. And if it messed with either him or Cyrilla, Eryk knew she would do it on purpose.

"Rheinallt has a fair point, though," Aidan murmured around the cigarette. "She could easily just introduce herself as your relative. And if you told Ana she was visiting, it might be stranger for her not to stop by the place you're living. Or at least I could see her using that as an excuse. If we want to head her off before she gets the chance to do anything like that..." he hummed.

"Why not, uh... volunteer the info?" Kas shrugged when Aidan looked at him curiously. "You, as her former teammate, do her a 'solid' and brief her on Ryk's current missions and stuff. Make it clear that he's doing important shit for Gregorovich that she can't mess with in the process. She gets the impression you're at least kinda willing to play ball with her plans, she learns not to go for that angle, awkward collision avoided."

Eryk arched a brow at the suggestion. It might help in that sense if Katia knew what he was doing. It would give her a reason to back off for now, and wouldn't necessarily jeopardize whatever they had going on. If Aidan fed Katia the information, it would get her off of his and Ana's back. That was the most important thing, right now. He blinked a bit when he realized which direction his thoughts had taken. Ana and this mission were the most important things right now. It was the mission that was important.

“You said you would take one for the team, might as well make it this. And..." Eryk paused as he narrowed his eyes somewhat, “she might just tell you things that will help us in the long run, too. She's more willing to listen to you than to anyone else who isn't Gregorovich or part of the family." Katia never shut up about things like that, and part of Ryk wondered if Katia had something for the man. He huffed lightly at the thought.

“Just be careful or she'll decide you're her next target."

"Not funny, Nero," Aidan replied, though the irregularity in the smoke cloud he exhaled somehow suggested inaudible laughter. "But sure. I'll make sure she knows, I guess." He picked up his low tumbler of whiskey and took a sip, setting it back down on the table with a soft thud.

"She coming in by boat, or taking a charter plane in?" he asked suddenly, but a moment later, the reason became clear. A small aircraft droned in the distance, audible even over the wind. They weren't especially common on the island—boat transport was the standard, though there was a small local airport on the backisland where planes could be chartered in and out.

Eryk groaned lightly, and downed his sixth or eighth shot of vodka. He couldn't really remember what number he was on. “She's coming by plane; something about it taking too long on a boat," he answered. “She's a little early if that's her plane, but it wouldn't be the first time she's lied about the time she'd be somewhere."

Really, Eryk should have known better. Katia was always early to the places she'd say she was going to. If she said an hour, it'd likely be anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes. She just liked to make people panic for no reason other than because she could. Taking a deep breath, and downing his last drink, he glanced towards the other two.

“Who's coming and who's hiding out?"

"I should probably show, I guess. I'm nominally in charge of the office and all."

"Why don't you guys do that, and I'll take care of the bill? Curious as I am, it'd probably be weird if I was there right off the bat, especially if we don't want to let on that you actually have normal shit like friends." Kas grimaced, reaching out and patting twice on the back. "Good luck out there."

Eryk actually forgot about that. He had friends and, as Kas put it, normal shit. He huffed lightly, though, and shook his head. “Thanks, and you'll meet her soon enough, I'm sure," Eryk replied as he stood from his spot. He bid Marna and Kas farewell before he left with Aidan. The walk to the docks was slow, but deliberately so. He wasn't in a rush to see her, nor hear her. The air strip wasn't too far from the docks, and when they arrived, he could already see the top of her annoying purple hair. Her expression was dark, and she seemed to be glaring at everyone who passed her by, however; when their eyes met, her expression changed into something more that looked like disgust.

That was fine by Eryk; she disgusted him, too.

He briefly glanced in Aidan's direction before turning his attention back towards Katia. He didn't say anything to her. He had nothing to say, after all.

“Klein, what are you doing here?" she asked, slightly confused. “It's supposed to be just him; Gregorovich hasn't given us anything specific," she added, tossing her head in Eryk's direction. It jostled her ponytail, but other than that, she looked like she always did. Dressed in a white tank top with a purple one over it, she placed a hand on her hip as she shifted the bag at her back. She handed it towards Eryk, though, and he gave her a flat stare.

“I'm not your fucking bell boy. Don't hand me your shit," he said as he narrowed his eyes. She narrowed her own at him.

Aidan shrugged, acting entirely like his usual self. "I'm technically in charge of the field office. Apparently that means doing shit like this; it's happened before." He didn't give any particular indication how he felt about it. He did, however, extend a hand as if to offer to carry the same suitcase Eryk had refused.

"You got a place you're set up or what?"

“I did," she replied dryly, glancing in Aidan's direction with narrowed eyes. It took her a moment longer before she handed the bag to Aidan, and huffed lightly. “But the place I was set up at decided they didn't have any open rooms so I'll be staying wherever Nero is staying," she stated in a nonchalant fashion. There was something in her eyes, a dangerous glint that was covered by a smile, however; Eryk knew it for what it wasn't.

“No. You're not staying with me. Go see if the Delaney has any open rooms for you to rent from," he shot back, earning an arched brow from her.

“Oh? Is there a reason you don't want me staying, Ryk? Niav not being a good girl and putting out like she's supposed to?" she asked. Eryk bit his tongue. He wanted to tell her to fuck off, but that wouldn't work for her. She'd merely roll with it and turn it into something else.

“I'm on a mission for Gregorovich. You'll be informed about it, later, not in a public place like this," he merely stated. It seemed to satisfy her for the moment, however; she made a soft tsking sound.

“What about you, Aidan? You've any room to spare?" she sounded almost hopeful that he would. Eryk inwardly winced. She was going to be a pain for the next few weeks, wasn't she?

Aidan sighed, flicking ash from the end of his cigarette. "Yeah, fine. You can stay at mine. I wasn't planning on this though, so you'll have to give me a few hours to change out the sheets and whatever." He shot a brief glance at Eryk. There was little change in his expression, but nevertheless it was pretty obvious why he was agreeing to this—it would stop Katia from insisting on anything less convenient, including staying with Cyrilla and Kas or anything like that.

"We gonna get moving? There's a car waiting in the lot. We can talk shop there."

I owe you one, Eryk spoke directly to Aidan with the use of his telepathy. He didn't want Katia to hear him, after all, and he would owe Aidan. It was still strange to Eryk, connecting to someone's mind like that, even if for a brief moment. He'd have to practice it at a later time with someone just so it wouldn't feel like he'd run straight into a wall, head first. It was different with pokemon, though.

Katia, however, beamed happily at Aidan when he'd agreed to let her stay. “See, why can't you be more accommodating like Klein?" she asked, furrowing her brows at Eryk as they made their way towards the car.

“Because I'm not Klein."

Clearly," she responded, rolling her eyes. When they approached the car, they shuffled in with Katia in the middle. “So... let's talk shop. What's Gregorovich having them do?" she asked once she made herself comfortable.

Stubbing his cigarette out on the ashtray in the car, Aidan expelled the last of the smoke out the window and leaned back, crossing his arms. "Infiltration, of sorts," he said. "Two at once. The long term one's for Project Nebula, so I don't have to tell you how much boss has riding on it. That's the one he's changed locations for—he's living with a mark. The other's a foray into pro-battling. Dunno what details you're cleared for, so I'll have to stop explaining there, but... you get the idea, I'm sure."

Katia looked like she wanted to sneer at what Aidan had said, but she seemed to settle on pursed lips. “Fine. I get the idea," she replied as she rolled her eyes. “Just so you know, I'll be checking in with Niav, too. There have been some unsettling things being said and her parents want me to check in with her while I'm here," she stated, grinning slightly.

“This is a mission that all three of us are doing. Don't do anything stupid, Katia, or it's not Gregorovich you'll be worried about," he let the threat hang in the air as she furrowed her brows at him.

“I'm not a complete monster, Ryk. I'm merely going to get her side of the story, is all. Jeez, I swear you jump to conclusions too quickly."

“How long are you going to be here?" he asked, watching as she smiled slyly at him.

“Why? Miss me already?"

“No. I want to celebrate when you go." Katia made a face at him but rolled her eyes.

“The first week of November, asshole."

Aidan looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, but only for a moment before his features smoothed out again. His chest rose and fell with a deep sigh, but it was entirely silent. He fixed his eyes out the window and pretended to ignore the insults being traded back and forth, at least until they reached the Cloyster.

"All right, this is our stop. You headed back to hers, Nero, or getting out?"

Eryk really didn't want to leave Aidan alone with Katia, however; he had promised Anastasia that he would help her with some of the duties before the day was out. Sighing deeply, he shook his head.

“I'm headed back. There are a few things I need to take care of," he answered, pursing his lips in Aidan's direction. Katia didn't seem too inclined to say anything about his response, thankfully. She merely rolled her eyes and leaned a little towards Aidan's direction.

“Guess that means you'll be showing me around the apartment," she said simply, though Eryk felt a little sick to his stomach at the way she said it. There were certain implications there that he was almost certain she meant. He really did owe Aidan. Badly for this.

But Aidan's expression didn't change. He only nodded, as disaffected and detached as he'd ever been, and pulled Katia's bag from the trunk. "Sure. We're this way."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

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#, as written by Aethyia

October 23rd
Cinnabar Island Gym - Afternoon - Light Rain
Melody Rheinallt

It was hardly the most spectacular day for a gym challenge, really, what with the overcast sky and intermittent drizzle. But that was all right—it was still the day she'd picked, the day she felt ready, and that was enough.

Brushing down her loose tank, Mel waited patiently outside of the gym. Apparently Drake was making up for some time off lately, so there'd actually been a small queue out the door this afternoon. She didn't really mind. She had an umbrella for when it started to rain, and the company of her little audience to make the wait go by faster. Eryk and Ana had shelter work to do today, unsurprisingly, but she'd been invited to Ana's house for dinner afterwards. For celebration, she'd said, though Mel didn't want to count her torchics before they hatched.

Kas was there, though, and Aidan had come along too, claiming he had nothing to do in the office right now anyway. Mel sort of suspected that he was using her as an excuse to get away from that woman named Katia that everyone had been talking about, but that was fine by her. She sounded like a really unpleasant sort of person.

Cyrilla was there as well, for the same reason as Aidan, perhaps, and Nev had tagged along, too. The latter of them said it was so that she could cheer on Mel, and the both of them were huddled under a feebas umbrella that Cyrilla had brought with her. Nev had, apparently, forgotten her own, but the both of them seemed to fit comfortably underneath.

“Are you excited for your match, Mel?" Nev asked curiously, glancing in her direction. “It looks like everyone who has challenged him so far has lost," she stated as a challenger exited the door, a seemingly disappointed look on their face. There were ten minute intervals between each match, perhaps so that Drake could rest his team before the next battle.

Mel grinned. "Sure am. I was kind of hoping to be first challenger this morning so I'd know his pokémon were completely fresh, but someone insisted he needed his beauty sleep." She jabbed her elbow into Kas's ribcage; he pretended it hurt, doubling over a little with a grimace on his face.

Aidan lifted an eyebrow. Unlike the others, he'd just worn a coat that seemed to be water-resistant. His hair was a little damp, though, and wasn't styled up the way it usually was, falling more naturally around his face and neck instead. Mel wasn't really into older guys, but she could acknowledge that he looked handsome like that regardless.

"I'd hate to see what he looks like without if this is with," he said sardonically.

"Hey," Mirmir protested, offering himself up to be butt of the joke as he often did. "I have it on good authority that I'm a very nice-looking fellow."

Well aware of the opportunity she was being presented here, Mel took him up on it. "Yeah. If by 'good authority' you mean your mother tells you so."

Aidan laughed softly. "Ah, so this is what it means when people say 'a face only a mother could love.'"

Cyrilla chuckled at their banter while Nev pursed her lips together. “That's not nice; Kas is a very nice-looking person," she stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes a bit.

“They're poking fun of him, Nev. Of course Kas is a very nice-looking fellow," Cyrilla seemed to explain, making air quotes with her free hand. Nev made a silent 'oh', and huffed nervously. “Besides, it's not like Kas really needs his beauty sleep; can't say the same for poor Drake, there," she added, nodding her head in the direction of the door as Drake called the next challenger. He yawned slightly, mouth covered with his left hand as he glanced in their direction.

With a large smile on his face, he waved at them before turning back inside the gym with the next person. “If he's half as sleepy as he looks, and is still winning, you might be in for a good match, Mel," Nev stated, seemingly excited for it.

Mel grinned. That challenger going inside meant she was the next, and she could feel the excitement building. "Oh I knew that to begin with," she said with a little smile. "Both the upside and the downside of being personally acquainted with the guy, I guess."

"Hmm," Kas added, drawing out the humming sound as though newly-contemplative. "Personally acquainted, is it? Didn't know that's what the kids were calling it these days."

Mel didn't bother resisting the urge to roll her eyes. Like he didn't know what was going on. "That's what it's called when you've only just met and are trying to see what'll happen, yeah," she drawled. "You've at least heard of taking it slow, right Mirmir?"

He scratched his head, putting in an exaggerated expression of deep thought. "It might be ringing a bell, sure."

Cyrilla huffed lightly at the exchange, shaking her head a bit as Nev looked slightly confused. She merely shrugged it off, though, and smiled in Mel's direction. “Well I think it's pretty admirable that you're both taking it slow," she stated.

“Hm, I have to agree with her on this one. Most people just jump straight into something and end up falling out after a couple of weeks. If it doesn't work out between you and Drake, at least you'll have made a friend, if nothing else," Cyrilla stated with a small smile on her face. “But I think you and Drake might have what it takes. You're both very comfortable, already, and that's a good sign, I think," she added shrugging her shoulders.

“Just make sure you kick his ass, first," she grinned, then, referring to Mel's upcoming match. Nev chuckled lightly and shook her head.

“She's already going to kick his ass, Cyrilla," Nev said as she grinned. “Oh, you should see if he wants to come over for your celebratory dinner, Mel! If he's finished with challenges, that is."

Mel had to laugh a little. "There's something a little ironic about inviting him to a celebration of victory against him, but I'll see if I can swing it." She knew she was definitely audacious enough to do something like that, and didn't think it would offend him. Even if she won, it wouldn't be like she was defeating him full-stop or anything—it was a Gym Leader's job to provide a very specific level of challenge, not to go all-out with their best pokémon or whatever. So it shouldn't be an insult or anything she didn't think.

Besides, teasing aside, she really did like him, as a person. He was goofy in a disarming way, and warm and sweet. In other words, pretty much the antithesis of every bad dating experience she'd ever had, and some of them were—

Well, better not to think about that now. She'd gotten used to the thoughts intruding sometimes. It was what they did. But the comfort of this moment was a strong defense against them, and she let herself relax into it a little. Whether it turned into anything more or not, she'd made a friend that could do that for her even when he wasn't around, and that was itself something rare and worth cherishing.

“Well... you don't have to tell him it's a celebratory dinner if that's the case. You can just say it's a dinner with friends," Nev stated, still grinning. Cyrilla shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“It's a celebratory dinner, Nev. No way around that one... and besides, it's not like he'll say no if Mel asks nicely. Oh, look, there's your chance, Mel," Cyrilla stated as she nodded her head in the direction of the door where Drake appeared. He grinned in their direction and motioned them towards the gym doors.

“Hey guys!" he greeted, smiling brightly at all of them. “I'm a little jealous. I don't have a cheering squad for me," he stated, his lips forming into a mock pout.

“Yeah, well, you're not as cute as Mel, so... you'll just have to suck it up," Cyrilla stated as she grinned at him, earning a light chuckle from Drake.

“I guess you're right on that one," he said lightly before leading them inside the gym.

"You hear that guys? He thinks I'm cute." Mel grinned, something that turned into a chuckle when Aidan rolled his eyes in an exaggerated fashion. She happily followed Drake inside, the others trailing after. She waited until they'd broken away to head for the spectator seats before she broached the topic further, though.

"Hey, Drake? Before we get started—are you free around dinner time? Everyone's getting together at Ana and Ryk's place for dinner. I thought maybe you'd want to come?"

Intellectually, she knew the nervous flutter in her stomach was needless; it wasn't as though she were actually asking him out. Hell, she'd done that, kind of, already, though apparently he'd not noticed that was her intention. But still she found herself unsure of his answer, and hoping it would be the affirmative one, so emotionally there wasn't much of a difference.

“Hm," he seemed to be contemplating her offer, pursing his lips together and regarded her with a serious gaze. A goofy grin spread over his face, though, as he nodded his head. “Of course I'd like to go! After you, there's at least three more challengers so by the time I'm done with them, it'll be dinner time, right?" he stated, tilting his head to the side a bit.

“I'll be there, for sure," he added as he smiled at her. He cleared his throat, though, and took a step back. “Alright, just to reiterate old rules and what not," be began in a nonchalant fashion, making his way towards the center of the gym. “We're using only five pokemon in total. Your objective is to defeat me in anyway you can, and you are allowed to switch out during the match, however," he paused to clear his throat, “you are only allowed to use the same five. In other words, if you send out a new pokemon that wasn't part of the original five, then you'll be disqualified, alright?"

“Any questions or concerns before we begin?"

She grinned, then shook her head. "None whatsoever. Come at me, leaderman." Mel reached for her belt, pinching off the first of her five chosen battle partners for the day, but held off, curious to see who Drake would send out first and willing to change her strategy if the choice was different than she expected.

Drake chuckled lightly at the name before he tossed his first pokemon out. “Alright, Axe, time to play again," he stated as his fraxure appeared. He growled lightly before tilting his head in Mel's direction. Axe let out a bellowing roar as he seemed to prepare himself for the battle.

Mel decided that her instinct was as good as any, and gave the pokéball a toss. Shaolin, her meinshao, emerged, looking ready as ever for a spar and dropping into a fighting stance immediately.

As soon as he match was signalled to begin, Mel called for Shaolin to use calm mind, then force palm immediately after. The pokémon bounded towards Axe, whipping forward the lashes of fur at the end of one arm to strike.

“Use Crunch!" Drake commanded. Axe roared before charging Shaolin, the area around his mouth glowing in the process.

The two moves collided; Axe's jaws clamped down around Shaolin's fur, but the move wasn't effective, and she just used it to yank him in to hit with her other arm regardless. They broke apart, then charged back in. Both pokémon were high-attack close-quarters battlers, but Shaolin had an edge, and in the end, she pulled out the victory.

Mel withdrew her as soon as the battle was over, sending Una out instead. She had a tough fight against Brick Jr., but the Gabite emerged the victor, only to be felled by Gemma's powerful Ice Beam. It was a battle of water types after that; an odd thing in a dragon-type gym, but gyarados was close enough, she supposed. Gemma scraped by with a psybeam, but was in no shape to continue, so Mel withdrew her as well.

Ptrouble defeated Deino, but ran into a bigger issue against Drake's salamence, very clearly his anchor pokémon. Fortunately, Mel had an ace in the hole for this particular gym, and withdrew her aerodactyl in favor of sending out Argent. Grinning, she folded her arms across her chest. "Attract."

“Aw, c'mon!" Drake stated as he threw an arm out in a vague gesture. “I forgot that move existed," he muttered before shaking his head. “Typhoon, use Dragon Tail," he said as the Salamence merely regarded Argent. He didn't move, and instead, seemed to lay down, and stretched out his neck. He made a soft grumbling noise in Argent's direction, causing Drake to shake his head.

“You're a big baby, you know that?" he stated in the Salamence's direction. Sighing deeply, he shook his head and made his way out towards the floor, resting a hand on Typhoon's wing. “You lost, ya big dope," he spoke gently, but seemed amused more than anything. “Guess that means you're my first challenger today to win the Volcano Badge," he stated, fishing around in his breast pocket and pulling a tin can from it. He popped it open and pulled what looked to be the said badge from it, and motioned for Mel to meet him halfway to the center.

“Congrats, Mel. A battle well won... or something like that." He chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck.

Mel laughed softly as she hopped down, more than happy to meet him in the middle and accept her badge. Argent, always both good sport and incorrigible tease, nuzzled her little nose against the very end of Typhoon's in an almost conciliatory gesture. Typhoon seemed mostly pleased by this, and released a short huff of air.

"'Something like that'?" Mel replied, perhaps not so dissimilar from her pokémon in this respect. "It's a perfectly legitimate move, I'll have you know." She winked as she retrieved her badge case, not so different from the one he had—her aluminum shell was decorated with a tropical flower pattern in teal and green. She set the Volcano Badge in the seventh spot; there was only one missing from the set now.

Drake snorted softly before he chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, I know it is. Just didn't think it'd ever be used in a gym battle, is all," he stated, rolling his eyes seemingly at himself. “Ah, but still, that was a good battle. Best one I've had all day, really," he continued, before rubbing at Typhoon's wing. The Salamence shook it, though, as if to shake Drake's hand off, before nudging closer to Argent.

“I don't think it's going to wear off anytime soon, either." Drake shook his head and glanced towards the others on the spectator seats who seemed to be laughing at him. Nev and Cyrilla were, at least. Mirmir was grinning, and Aidan shook his head a little.

“So... what time should I be there for dinner? Seven, eight?"

"Seven thirty if you can swing it. You've got my number if you can't." She dropped the little reminder with half a grin before recalling Argent. "Anyway, we should get going; you'll need to rest before the next challenge and all. Good luck, leaderman."

Typhoon seemed almost saddened by the sylveon's disappearance, but Drake recalled him before he could make a spectacle of himself. “Alright, seven thirty. I'll be there, you can count on it," he replied with a large grin of his own.

“Yeah, well, you better since you're making a promise, Drake," Cyrilla stated as she stood a little to Mel's left, arm linked with Nev's. “You don't want me coming after you, if you break it," she added, the grin on her face belying the fact that she was being serious, it seemed.

“I'll be there, I promise," Drake stated, lips pursed into a fine line, but he didn't seem upset or anything.

“Good. Come on, Mel, let's go tell the other two about your victory! And see if they need any help with dinner," Nev stated, offering her free arm towards her.

She took it, shooting Drake a parting smile over her shoulder and waving with her other hand as the group exited the gym.

All in all, she'd had a pretty fantastic day.


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

October 30th
Cinnabar Mansion - Evening - Drizzle
Nevena Solomon

Nev was excited.

They'd spent a majority of the afternoon decorating the mansion for tonight's festivities. It was her birthday tomorrow, but it was also the day that the others would be doing something else. Not to mention it was also Halloween, tomorrow. After Mel's victory, they'd all agreed to celebrate Nev's birthday the day before. It was endearing to Nevena because she'd never had anyone to spend her birthdays with. She always spent them alone, at home, with her pokemon, or occasionally at the movie theatre if something interesting was out.

This one, though... she was going to cherish it.

Nevena was currently in the mansion's locker room with Ana, Mel, and Cy. Cyrilla had found a costume for Nev to wear for the party tonight, but she felt a little exposed. The black dress was cut into a very deep v-neck, and fell just slightly below her shoulder blades. The dress itself was a little smooth and formfitting, with the bottom portion of the dress cut into a sheer black material. It barely fell past her knees. She'd never worn something this revealing before, and she felt slightly uncomfortable in it.

But as Cyrilla had said, she'd only be wearing it once, and it was nice. The sheer gloves that accompanied it felt like silk, and went to her elbows. The black ribbon stilettos she'd worn to complete the outfit were still a little strange to her. She was used to wearing heels, but the heels were just a little bit different than what she was used to.

“Oh, how does it look?" she asked the others once she'd stepped out. She fiddled with the belt around her waist as she glanced towards the other three women.

"Get it girl," Mel said, feigning an exaggerated once-over with a little grin. "That's sexy as hell." She said it with just enough lightness in her voice that it was clearly meant to be a genuine compliment, rather than to make Nev feel awkward or anything. Mel herself was dressed in an ancient style, with gold colored costume jewelry, exaggerated eyeliner, and enough bandage on the visible parts of her body to make the mummy part obvious. She was actually quite strategic about it—the bandage was shredded and dangled from around her wrists, elbows, and neck, while the diaphanous gown was neither revealing nor excessively modest.

"You look really nice," Ana agreed, tying her obi. She'd used temporary dye to darken her pink hair to black, painting her lips a blueish grey shade that made her look frostbitten, which along with the white kimono and obi, gave her away for a yuki-onna. With the natural delicacy of her features and small size of her frame, there really was something ghostly about her.

“Oh, but the two of you look really gorgeous!" Nev couldn't help herself, and felt her cheeks heat slightly. Mel and Ana looked really good in their outfits of choice, and she couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. She blinked, though, when Cyrilla rounded the corner, and whistled in Nev's direction.

“And here I thought the dress was a little too small. It fits you really well, Nev. You look drop-dead gorgeous," Cyrilla stated as she grinned in Nev's direction. She'd dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein, it looked like. The dress itself was sleeveless and more modest than most things Cyrilla had worn, before. She had cloth that looked like ribbons, tied to her wrist and traveled up her bicep. There was a thin white belt that was tied around her waist, and like Ana, seemed to have temporarily dyed parts of her hair black. It seemed more like highlights since it was pulled back into a loose tail.

Her lips were painted black with a small amount of black eyeliner, nothing too exaggerated like Mel's.

“Thank you, Cyrilla. You all look really lovely. It's almost hard to believe you're actual people," she stated, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

“Hm, well, yes, now let's go see how the boys did," she stated as she winked in Nev's direction before sharing a grin with Mel.

Mel waggled her eyebrows in a way rather like her brother, and the group of them exited the locker room.

The ground floor of the mansion, with its enormous ballroom, had been transformed into the main party space, with long tables of food and several hired caterers set up at a bar to serve drinks of all kinds. A lot of the office's employees and their guests were present, man dressed in costume according to the theme, which was 'classic horror.' Sydney, dressed as a possessed nun, was in the middle of conversation with Luke, whose dark skin and black clothes were painted white with a rather accurate skeletal depiction, and Niko, who was dressed as... a nurse?

There were a lot of sheet ghosts, and a few people not really dressed up, but for the most part everyone was participating.

"Hey guys!" Kas was the first to approach them, speaking a little more loudly than usual over the music. He already had a plate of snacks, and was dressed as Frankenstein's monster, with some rather good stitching effects on his face, neck, and arms, as well as tattered pants, a shirt with the sleeves rolled, and suspenders. "Looks like you went all-out, huh?"

“Only the best for Nevena," Cyrilla responded as Nev smiled.

“You look really nice, Kas," Nev stated as she glanced around the area. She could see Lorraine talking with Hayley, the former dressed in a practical labcoat, however; it looked more like a tattered labcoat dress. Was she supposed to be a mad scientist? Hayley, however, looked to be dressed in what appeared to be a pink fairy costume, or maybe something similar to what a sylveon outfit would look like.

"Nice is a weird word for this," Kas replied with some amusement. It was indeed a rather monstrous look, all things considered, as though his body were pieced together with large, crude stitches.

“Hey, it's the birthday girl and her entourage," another voice chimed in, belonging to Drake. He made his way towards them, holding out a drink in Mel's direction. It looked benign, fruit punch, maybe. He was dressed in a red flannel that was torn near the elbows and wrist areas. There looked to be fur sprouting out of the torn areas, especially near the torn parts of his blue jeans. He even had some fur taped to his jaws, and his nose was painted black.

There was a tail sticking out behind him, almost in the shape of what a midnight lycanroc's tail looked like. Maybe he was supposed to be the lycanroc-man?

"Ohhh, thank you," Mel said, accepting the drink and easily making room for him in the circle. She laughed softly at the extra 'fur' on his jaw. "Should I scratch you under the chin for being a good boy?" she drawled, struggling to maintain a straight face.

Kas snorted. "Get a room."

“Hm, you'd like that wouldn't you," Cyrilla stated, rolling her eyes a bit. Drake seemed to almost sputter in his drink, though, his face coloring slightly.

“Uh, no, you don't have to do that, Mel," he responded with a light shake of his head. Nev thought it was adorable, though, the way he seemed nervous about it. “Oh, I also didn't know what to get you for your birthday, Nev, but I've left it on the table over there," Drake stated as he pointed to a small table. Nev blinked in relative surprise.

“Oh, that's very sweet of you, but you didn't have to get me anything," she replied as she glanced at the table. There were at least three other gifts there, probably from some of the others. It wasn't required, though. Nev didn't invite people with the intention of receiving gifts from them. She wanted them to have a good time; that was all she wanted for them.

“Well, too late. We all kind of got you something... I think. Ryk and I got you something so ours is a combined gift," Cyrilla stated with a grin, before shaking her head. “Speaking of the doofus, is he still having trouble putting his outfit together?" she asked in Kas's direction. “Last I heard he was with you and Aidan."

"Yeah they're both still in the locker room. I did Ryk's special effects, but he and boss have kind of complicated costumes." He shrugged, glancing at the table as Ana added her gift to the bunch. There was already one there that seemed to be from both himself and Mel. "Shouldn't take them too much longer, though."

Cyrilla huffed lightly and shook her head. “I didn't think it'd be that complicated. He's mostly got the right structure already for it," she stated, shrugging her shoulders. “I'm going to go see if Noct and the others have everything set up for tonight's haunted house events, so don't party too much without me," she stated, waving her hand in front of her in a nonchalant fashion.

“Oh, do you want me to come with?" Nev asked as Cyrilla shook her head.

“You stay here and wait for the others. It won't take me too long, I promise," she replied as Nevena pursed her lips together.

“Alright, if you say so." It wasn't much longer when Eryk appeared, and Nev could see why Kas had said what he did about the costume being complicated. The areas where his facial scars usually were, were covered by what looked like open sores and wounds. He was wearing yellow contacts, too, to give the much added affect for a zombie-like appearance. The black shirt he'd worn, long-sleeved, was torn in random places, and the black pants he had on were torn as well. There were red bandages around his arm as well, and what looked like a bite mark on his neck.

“Oh, that looks amazing, Eryk." Nev stated, eyes wide in awe. Everyone so far had really good costumes. Eryk blinked slowly in her direction, though, and tilted his head.

“As do the rest of you," he spoke, his eyes lingering a bit in Ana's direction.

"Okay so we've got a bunch of undead, a witch, a couple of mad creations, a wolfman... now I want to know what Aidan is," Mel said, casting her eyes around as if to spot him.

"Already regretting this," answered the man himself, appearing behind Nev. He was smoking, but from a pipe this time, which went with the long, heavy trenchcoat, vest, and wide-brimmed hat of his costume. There was a prop crossbow slung over his back, even—or was that real? It was hard to tell.

"Van Helsing!" Ana declared, seemingly impressed.

Aidan nodded slightly, doffing the hat in a wry manner. "For all your vampire-slaying needs." He tilted his jaw, subtly gesturing across the room.

For a second, Nev didn't follow his gesture. She stared at him, instead, and blinked slowly. “Oh, wow," she stated before she could filter her thoughts properly. “You look really good in that, Aidan," she continued, earning a light snicker from Drake. She blinked a few more times before her eyes widened. “Oh, I didn't mean to say that out loud!" she coughed lightly and finally glanced in the direction he'd gestured.

She could see the young woman named Katia in the distance. Indeed, she seemed to be dressed as one of the old brides of Dracula. The dress was as deeply v-cut as Nev's was, however; it was longer and trailed down the floor. The color was almost a gradient white to pink, and the underbust she wore with it emphasized certain parts of her body. She really could have passed for a bride of Dracula if they'd actually existed.

Eryk, however, seemed to be furrowing his brows in Katia's direction, and seemed rather tense. From what she'd been able to tell, he didn't particularly get along with Katia. Nev couldn't blame him, really. The woman even gave Nev bad vibes... and Nev usually liked every person she met. There were nights when even Aidan stayed at Nevena's place on the couch since Katia took up his living space. She didn't mind it, honestly. She was glad to help him out when he needed a place to escape.

“There just seems to be one vampire you can't slay, Van Helsing," Eryk stated in what appeared to be dry humor. Drake huffed lightly, though.

"Don't count me out yet," he murmured. He seemed to be only half-invested in the conversation, though, and his eyes dropped to the floor near Nev for a moment before he seemingly inhaled wrong and coughed, withdrawing the pipe even as Ana shifted around to rub his back.

"Are you all right?"

He cleared his throat once more, then nodded. There was a faint redness to his face, likely from the coughing. "Yeah," he said, flicking a glance a Nev before looking back at Ana again. "Fine, thanks."

Kas's eyes narrowed like he was trying to figure something out, but in the end he just went back to snacking. "Does the haunted entertainment part of this start soon? I'm kind of surprised Katia's not the boss monster for that."

Mel laughed, but the words seemed to remind Ana of something, and she withdrew her pokéballs from her obi and released both Luna and Nova. "They're helping Cyrilla," she explained, seeing both of them off with a wave.

"So's Rex," Aidan noted, replacing the hat on his head. "I'm sure he's having the time of his life."

“If he's anything like Imp, then I concur. He's helping out as well," Eryk muttered, as Nev chuckled lightly. “I think she'd send someone back once all the preparations are done... and don't count Katia out, yet, Kas. She just might make an appearance as one at the end of the entertaiment. She likes to ruin everyone's fun."

“It's so strange that the two of you are from the same family. You and her share no similarities at all," Nev stated as she blinked in Eryk's direction. He gave her a flat look, though, and shrugged.

“We're of the same family, but we're not related," he seemed to explain. Nev made a slight 'oh' before she glanced towards the others, making an effort not to look at Aidan for longer than necessary. She didn't really need to embarrass herself any further, after all.

“Hey, isn't that Cy's lycanroc, Diva?" Drake stated as the said lycanroc made her way through the crowd. She growled lightly at Drake for some reason before going up to Nev, and grabbing at her hand. Nev chuckled lightly as she let the lycanroc take her hand, however; Eryk rolled his eyes.

“I think the preparations are done," he stated as if to explain Diva's appearance. The lycanroc huffed as if she were agreeing with him, though.

“Oh, let's go, then! I'm excited to see what they've done!" Nev stated as she allowed Diva to lead the way.

The others followed behind, eventually exiting the relatively tame ballroom into the foyer, which at the moment looked old, decrepit, and dark, the sole source of light a dim lantern hung near the stairs. Probably a few of the pokémon who could cast illusions were responsible for that. It had a lonely, desolate sort of air to it; Luke was presently standing at the bottom of the staircase.

“Sorry, guys," he said, grinning slightly. “I've been instructed to allow only one or two people in at a time. Big groups kind of ruin the ambiance and the scares. So who's first?"

"Nev should go since it's her birthday," Ana said, smiling. In the dim light, the bright white of her kimono almost made her glow.

Nev pursed her lips together as she frowned. “Oh, but maybe someone should go first?" she stated as she turned towards the group. Eryk arched a brow in her direction, though, in a curious fashion.

“Do haunted houses frighten you?" he asked, causing Nev's frown to deepen.

“Oh, if that's the case, I'll go with you!" Drake stated taking a step forward before Cyrilla appeared at the top of the staircase, and making a slight tsking sound.

“Sorry, love, but you're accompanying Mel through," she stated as she descended the stairs. Once she was out, she placed a hand on her hip and arched a brow at the group. “Since we have an even number of people here, you are all going in with pairs."

“And how are you deciding these pairs, Cy?" Eryk asked as he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. She grinned at him.

“Easy. Everyone whose costumes are the closest to each other are getting paired. Unfortunately that means I'm going with Frankenstein, here," she stated, jabbing a finger in Kas's direction, though she didn't seem upset or anything. “You and Ana are going together, Ryk, which leaves Van Helsing and the Witch," she finished with a small grin on her face.

“Oh, but that seems a little unfair, doesn't it? Maybe we should just draw sticks?" Nev tried to suggest. It wasn't that she didn't want to go with Aidan. She'd be more than happy to, but... well, she wasn't entirely sure why she was trying to talk herself out of it.

"If it bothers you that much, I'll switch with someone," Aidan said, his brows knit. It was hard to read the expression on his face, but he didn't look happy, to be sure. He shifted his eyes away from her, though, studying a fixed point on the wall like it no longer concerned him.

For some reason, Nev felt her face heat up, even the tips of her ears. Her eyes widened slightly as she shook her head. “No, oh, that's not what I meant," she stated a little panicked. Had she said something that bothered him? She swallowed thickly and pursed her lips together. “I just thought that... well..." she wasn't sure how to explain what she'd thought would be a little more fair to the others.

“I honestly don't mind if I go with you, Aidan," she murmured softly, dropping her gaze to the floor for a moment.

“How about this; since it's obvious that Mel and Drake should go together, how about they go first? Then, once they go, we can decide who goes with who the second round?" Cyrilla seemed to suggest, but Nev shook her head.

“No, it's fine, Cyrilla. I want to go with Aidan. I think... well, I think it'd be nice to see if it's anything like the Haunted House level in the game we're playing," she stated, as Cyrilla made a slight 'aw'. Eryk rolled his eyes, though.

Aidan huffed softly, his expression much more like its usual neutrality than the slight edge of displeasure it had taken on before. "I'll take notes while you're jumping, shall I?" he drawled, but he did extend an elbow in such a way as to clearly be offering his arm to loop hers through, if she so desired.

Cyrilla snickered softly as she shook her head. Nev, however, pursed her lips at Aidan, and looped her arm with his. “I'm not that easily startled, I'll have you know," she stated as they walked up the stairs. She knew that she was, though, and gripped his arm just a bit tighter. She could play the game easily enough, but being in an actual haunted house was a lot different than playing through one on a game.

“Have fun you two!" Cyrilla called out as they entered through the door. It wasn't much, at first. There was eerie music playing but nothing too unexpected. The hall they were in was decorated with what looked to be galvantual and ariados webs. There was electricity flowing through some of the webs, after all. Nev subconsciously shivered. She had nothing against the pokémon, but webs were another thing altogether.

“So far, nothing like the game," she muttered softly, turning her attention towards Aidan.

"Yeah it's missing some—" he was cut off as a ghastly shriek sliced across all sound, even as a ghost seemed to appear from the wall to the left, wailing miserably and disappearing again through the wall to the right, as if it hadn't quite noticed them. Aidan blinked, but the expression on his face didn't change much.

From beyond, they could make out a soft sobbing sound, further down the hallway.

“I take it back!" she stated as she clutched a little tighter to Aidan's arm. She hadn't meant to step closer to him, but when the ghost had appeared from the wall, it was all she could do from nearly jumping out of her skin. Why did she agree to do this? She felt something slide down her back, the touch gentle enough that it sent a shiver down her back.

“Make it stop, make it stop," she repeated as she tensed. The touch faded, though, not long after, but Nev was still tense. “Oh, why did I agree to this?" she voiced out loud as she clung to Aidan's arm.

Aidan managed not to laugh at her, though there was a little amusement flickering in his eyes nonetheless. Still, he squeezed her arm in a reassuring manner and waited patiently until her immediate panic had subsided before doing anything else. "We don't have to do this, you know," he said simply. "There's an exit over this way; we can skip the whole thing and go back to the ballroom if you prefer. I'm not going to be disappointed or anything."

She wanted to say yes, to leave this haunted house behind, but her pride demanded she stay. So, she pursed her lips together and shook her head. “Not after everyone's hard work was put into this. I can't just leave halfway through; it wouldn't be... right." She took a deep breath to try and relax her nerves, however; something like cold breath ghosted over her neck.

“Okay, pride be damned. Let's go."

Aidan actually smiled a little. "Right this way, then." He selected one of the hallway's doors. Normally it led out into the back stairwell—and apparently it still did. The dim emergency track lights that were always on for safety were still there, and apparently this part of the building had been left alone. Aidan took them out the rear exit, then doubled back slightly so they could re-enter the ballroom. The others, of course, were still going through the haunted house.

Grabbing a drink off the bar table, Aidan steered them back to where their things had all been piled, setting the drink down in front of her and removing his crossbow to prop against one of the other chairs. "Have a seat, Doc. When you're all settled, I have something for you."

Nev blinked in his direction and tilted her head a bit. “You have something for me?" she stated. “Oh, but... you didn't have to, really," she continued as she glanced down towards the drink, and grabbed it with both of her hands. She didn't immediately take a drink of it, though, and tried to fight down the blush that was threatening to form on her face. She had really sweet and thoughtful friends. They didn't need to get her anything, and yet they still did. She smiled softly at the thought.

“But, um, thank you. For the drink and... whatever it is you have for me."

He snored softly, taking a smallish box out from beneath his chair and pushing it across the table towards her. "Don't thank me yet. It's nothing all that important. Just a little project."

The box was about shoe-sized, wrapped in neat, rainbow pastel paper and tied with a silver ribbon. 'To Doc' was written in Aidan's surprisingly-neat penmanship just under the bow.

Nev smiled as she pulled the box towards her, feeling a strange warmth in her chest as she glanced at it. Some part of her wondered if he'd ever use her name, or shortened version of it, but she was fine if he called her Doc. For now. She was a little startled at the thought before she shook it from her mind. Instead, she focused on the box and untied the ribbon, removing it before opening the present. She blinked a little stupidly at what was inside, and delicately, she retrieved the controller from the box.

“Oh... you," she began as she glanced back towards Aidan. She smiled brightly at him before turning her attention back towards the controller. It was pink in color, but that wasn't what caught her attention the most. Despite it being her favorite color, the controller itself was designed in a theme she recognized. On the left side was a small, chibi image of Balthazar, and on the right side, was an image of Maribelle.

“It's the... thank you, Aidan. This is... it's," she didn't know what to say, exactly. “I didn't know they made custom controllers for it," she stated, turning her attention back towards him.

"Uh." Aidan looked oddly unsure of himself for a moment, then grimaced. "They don't, exactly. Well, they do, but most of them aren't that good. I couldn't find one I thought you'd like, so I did the finish and the grip stuff myself. It's a little amateur, but if you didn't notice the mistakes, I'll take it." He gave her a wry half-smile at that.

Nev blinked incredulously at Aidan. “You... did this?" she stated in slight disbelief. Amateur or not, it was done really well. “It's really good, Aidan. I would have thought this was done professionally, if you hadn't told me that. You're very talented," she said truthfully. She was going to have to find out when his birthday was so she could get him something just as nice. Just as thoughtful.

“I really love it, thank you." She would have to put it to good use. “I'm almost tempted to just go try it out, now, but..." they couldn't exactly leave her birthday party. It would be rude, she thought.

He sat back in his chair, adjusting the hat so it would not impede his vision. "It's also the office Halloween party," he pointed out, almost as if reading her thoughts. "It'd go on without us just fine if you wanted to go." The smile tugging at his mouth was more genuine this time. "Entirely up to you though."

He did have a point.

“Alright. Plus, it'd be nice to finally get out of this dress," she stated as she grinned at Aidan. Her apartment was next to his and she could easily change beforehand. “Thanks again, Aidan." This had to be one of the best birthday's she'd had in a long time.


Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

October 31st
Lapras Hotel Conference Room - Morning - Rain
Kasimir Rheinallt

Kas pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose; since they were on pro-battling business today, the three of them were dressed accordingly, which meant he was in full nerd-chic. Fortunately he had plenty of wardrobe items that would do fine for the purpose. Today he wore a thin dark green sweater over a shirt and tie, with a blazer over that, on the rationale that he really should look nice for this kind of meeting. They did actually have to make a good impression on the promoter, after all, even if they'd already signed he contracts.

He was sure the other two were right behind him, but even so he paused at the door to make sure they caught up before he knocked or anything.

Ryk was the first to catch up, his strides just a bit longer than Cyrilla's. She was the shortest member of the group, after all. He was wearing something similar to what he'd worn during the tournament sans the longcoat, though. The dress shirt was still black in color, and long-sleeved, however; his slacks were an ash grey color, and the tie that he'd worn was a bright orange. It complimented his coloration, but the orange was slightly loud, even for Ryk. His hair had been left loose, however; there was what appeared to be braviary feathers tied in, somehow.

Cyrilla wasn't too far behind, coming up behind Ryk dressed in a pale lilac blouse with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. The skirt she was wearing was a high waisted sheath pencil skirt and black in color. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, with a single hair pin stuck into it.

“If only I were a few inches taller, I wouldn't fall behind the both of you so often," she grumbled as she smoothed out her skirt. Ryk rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“You're not that much shorter, Cy. Let's get this over with, though," Ryk said with a heavy sigh.

With a little shrug, Kas knocked on the door, then opened it, stepping inside and holding it for the others to follow.

Inside the room was a conference style table, not quite as fancy as the one at the office but plenty fancy nonetheless. Sitting at it was a heavyset middle aged man in an impeccable suit, with a neatly-trimmed goatee and a watch that was clearly expensive but stopped short of ostentatious. The man knew how to present himself, at least. But then Kas hadn't thought that Aidan would steer them towards a slimeball, and if anyone could spot one from distance, it was probably the so-called human lie detector.

The man stood politely as they entered, accepting some documents from the also middle aged woman standing slightly behind him—probably his secretary or assistant, just from positioning. He set these on the table, then stepped out from his seat.

“Mr. Nero, Mr. Reinallt, please come in. Good to see you again as well, Ms. Niav." He offered each of them a firm handshake, then gestured to the seats in invitation. “I'm Antonio Geiger; this is my assistant, Natalie Dupont. You were both quite something at that tournament the other week, if I may venture to say so."

Eryk remained quiet for a moment before he inclined his head in Geiger's direction. “Thank you," he stated, brows furrowing lightly as he tilted his head a bit. “It's been awhile since I've been able to do something like that." His expression smoothed out a bit after that. His attention was still fixed on Geiger, though it wasn't harsh.

The group took their seats, and Geiger resumed his own as well, scooting his chair in a little closer to the table. “It's easy enough to tell that you fellows enjoyed yourselves out there, and I think you've got what it takes to do well in the regular season." He nodded, almost as if to himself, then expelled a breath. "Of course, setting up a sponsorship involves a lot more than just that, unfortunately. The sponsors are invariably corporations, and there are all kinds of complications that go with that. Most of the time, they want trainers who are going to succeed, but also ones who fit their image."

Kas supposed that made sense. If you were throwing money at someone, you wanted them to reflect you well and all that. "And you're the matchmaker, right?"

Geiger snorted at the phrase, smiling a little wryly. “That's definitely one way to put it. I suppose the questions I ask aren't too different, either. Which brings me to the point of this meeting: I'm happy to represent you both, but I need to know more about you to do it effectively. Having an understanding of who you are will allow me to better arrange a sponsorship for you. So if you don't mind sharing, I'd like to start with the basics. Just tell me a little bit about yourselves: where you're from, what you do when you're not training or competing, what your lifestyle's like... that kind of thing."

Eryk pursed his lips together, and glanced in Cyrilla's direction. She merely smiled at him and nodded her head slightly. “I'm originally from Fuchsia City," Eryk began, taking in a deep breath. “Or my family originates from there," he seemed to correct himself. It was true either way he'd said it, though. “Most of my time is spent at the local hospice shelter where I volunteer. It's what I do most days when I'm not training."

“I work at the NTR office located here when I'm not doing either of those things," he leaned back a bit in his chair after he'd spoken.

Geiger raised his eyebrows a bit; it was sort of hard to tell whether this was because of the sparseness of the answer or because it contained a reference to NTR. He glanced to Kas next though, so in either case he'd clearly elected not to comment.

"I'm from Tangelo Island on the Orange Archipelago," he sad with half a smile. "My mom's a chef and my dad's a dojo master. I did the traditional journey thing for a while, but ultimately was too lazy to make a real shot at the league, which I kind of regret sometimes." Lifting his shoulders in a little shrug, he continued. "I've got two sisters, and my family's always been pretty supportive. I never went to college—didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I'm in IT now though. Self-taught programmer and general problem-fixer."

Nodding along with the explanation, Geiger glanced once at Natalie, who was diligently taking notes on a tablet. “Are you good at it? Programming, I mean."

Kas let himself grin. "My employer seems to think so."

“Do you use any of the skills the rest of your life has given you in battling?"

Kas thought about it for a bit. "Well I spar with my pokémon sometimes. I have to admit I'm a pretty rational rather than emotional thinker, so I guess that shows up in both my work and battling, but it's not like I think it's numbers alone or anything. The extra element to it is why battling's more challenging than anything I could do on a screen. It takes..." He paused, then shrugged. color=#0D7321]"Heart, I guess. And that's something that's not just off-the-cuff easy for me in the same way some other things can be."[/color]

Geiger kept nodding, clearly approving of what he was hearing. “Good, good. There's angles we can work with in there. Just need a couple quick talking points—you know your IQ?"

Kas shrugged. "I think it's around 180. Haven't taken a test in a while."

The promoter's eyes widened. “Almost doesn't matter, at that point," he murmured, then nodded again. “Okay, your angles are obvious. Now let's see..." He returned his attention to Ryk, a thoughtful frown on his face. “No offense, Mr. Nero, but you don't look like the caretaking type. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for present purposes. How'd you end up with a job like that?"

Ryk huffed slightly at Geiger's comment. “I get that a lot," he muttered before his shoulders slumped a bit. He fixed Geiger with a gaze, though, before he answered: “I'm not exactly a sociable person, but helping others has always been... second nature. It's easier when it's helping pokemon, though."

“A bit of a dark caretaker, if you will," Cyrilla added with a light smile on her face. Eryk looked like he wanted to roll his eyes but refrained.

“I ended up with the job when I ran into the owner of the shelter. I helped her carry a bag of feed and bedding to her place where I learned of the shelter. I've volunteered there ever since," Eryk stated as he folded his arms.

“I'm also renting a room there to make it easier to help out."

“NTR by day, lowkey good samaritan by night. That's something else." Geiger shook his head and smiled a little, apparently genuinely chuffed by the information. “What's the work like? Difficult? Rewarding? Both?"

He had something of a knack for interviewing, Kas would admit. It wasn't anyone who could draw much out of Ryk, especially as a stranger. He was kind of interested in the answers himself.

Eryk seemed to contemplate the question. His brows furrowed lightly as he pursed his lips together. “It's more rewarding than it is difficult," he finally answered. Taking in a deep breath, he exhaled slowly as if he were trying to find a way to properly explain what he meant.

“Some of the occupants there will never be able to be adopted out, nor will they live very long lives. Being there to help them along in any capacity makes it feel as if I've accomplished something," he shrugged lightly, “and if I accomplish anything, it's... a relief that it can be something like that." Eryk fell silent for a moment after that.

“This opportunity, however, is giving me a chance at something I've wanted to do when I was younger. Unlike Kasimir, I wasn't able to partake in a traditional journey, but it was something I had entertained the idea of. If there is a chance to enter the pro-battling world... I think it would be close enough." Eryk seemed entirely genuine in his statements.

By the end of his remarks, Geiger was grinning, and even Natalie wore a subtle smile as she made notes. The promoter inclined his head, adjusting the lay of the watch on his wrist and humming almost to himself. “Well... after all that I think it's only fair to tell you that sponsorships are a crapshoot—sometimes a company is only looking for one specific thing and can't be budged." He rolled his eyes, as if this were a problem he'd been frustrated by too often. “But... somehow I think I'll be able to set something up for both of you. I've learned enough to know who to approach first, at least. You don't mind me sharing these details with potential sponsors?"

Kas shook his head; he sort of figured some of that would be necessary. Hell, the famous pro battlers were followed around by actual journalists, who would be much less scrupulous about digging into the past than Geiger was—he at least did the courtesy of asking directly.

Eryk shook his head as well. “If it helps us find a sponsor, then by all means use the information to the best of your abilities. We are..." Eryk paused in his statement as he glanced towards Kas and Cy. “We are counting on you for this. If there is anything else you need... or any further questions answered, I will do so."

“I'll do my best," the older man promised, reaching into his breast pocket and removing a small tin case. From it, he drew out three business cards, sliding them across the table to Kas, Ryk, and Cy. “I'm sure we'll be in touch over the due course of things, and I have all your contact information already, but if there's anything you want to ask me, or something I can help with, feel free to give me a call." He smiled affably at them.

“It can be a lot at once, trying to break into this world. I hear you've got a pretty expert mentor, but if for some reason you find yourself with a question he can't answer... I've been in the business a while. Might be able to help."

Huh. That seemed pretty above and beyond, really. "Thanks, Mr. Geiger," Kas said, sliding the card into his wallet.

“Please," he replied. “Call me Antonio."


Characters Present

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

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November 2nd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Light Rain
Cyrilla Niav


She jumped at the sound of his voice, knocking over the cup that held her pencils. Cyrilla glanced up at Eryk, pursed her lips together, and tried to keep the emotion off of her face. She'd just read an email... and she didn't want to share the contents of it with Eryk. Not yet, at least. She knew what he would say, what he would try to do. But she had to do this. Alone. She couldn't defy her parents. If they wanted her back home for a week, or two, then she had to go. Eryk, however, narrowed his eyes at her.

“The meeting will be starting without you if you don't hurry up," he stated as he moved from her doorframe. Sighing softly to herself, Cyrilla grabbed her executive coat from its place on her chair, and pulled it on. She walked behind him slowly, chewing on her bottom lip as she contemplated her options. “When do they want you back?" Eryk's question caught her off guard, as she glanced up at him. “And don't say you don't know what I'm talking about, Cy. I know they sent you a message."

“I leave tomorrow evening," she stated softly. She knew it was pointless trying to hide something from him. He always knew. “I have to let Aidan know, too, so that he can find a temporary replacement for me. I won't... be much help until I return," she added. She felt a slight shiver go down her spine. She didn't know what the reason was, only that the email hadn't sounded pleasant. They were angry about something. Sighing softly through her nose, she pushed the thought from her mind as she and Ryk approached the conference room.

“We'll talk more after this," Eryk stated as he pushed open the door. Cyrilla didn't really know if there was anything to talk about. It was simple. She forced a smile on her face, though, when she spotted Aidan and Kasimir, taking a seat in her usual spot. Eryk did the same, furrowing his brows in Aidan's direction.

Aidan glanced between them and frowned, obviously catching on to the fact that something was amiss. It was much harder to tell if Kas noticed; he looked up from his screen once, then went back to typing after a quick "hey guys." It wasn't clear what exactly he was working on, but he kept at it for a bit, lifting one hand as the other kept going to rub his thumb along the inner arch of his eyebrow, like he was easing a tension there.

Their collective boss didn't try to stop him, instead just beginning the meeting in the usual unceremonious manner. "Well," he said blandly, "the meeting with Geiger apparently went well, so nice work on that, everyone. He says he's starting to reach out to the first round of potential sponsors, so for now all we can really do on that is sit back and let the guy do his job." He lifted his shoulders in his usual lackadaisical shrug.

"It hardly seems useful to sit here and ask for full reports on Ana, since, well." He waved a hand vaguely. It was easy to understand what he meant by it—they all spent quite a bit of time with her, no one moreso than Eryk, obviously. "So I guess I'll just ask if anyone has anything new to say that we should all be aware of or not."

"I've tapped the rest of her electronics," Kas said dryly. "Is it relevant that she's really into classical music and recipes for semisweet desserts?" The mocking tone with which he said it indicated that he knew the answer.

Aidan sighed. "I doubt it sits well," he said quietly. "But this is part of the job, too. Anyone else?"

Cyrilla frowned slightly as she contemplated her options, which weren't many. She only had the one, and that was to let Aidan known she'd be gone for a couple of weeks. She just wasn't sure how much information she should tell him. She didn't have to tell him much, honestly. She could just say she'd be out of town for a couple of weeks, and be done with it.

“I'm requesting immediate leave for two weeks," she finally stated, glancing up to meet Aidan's gaze. “In the mean time, I need someone to replace me for those two weeks to cover any work that I might miss because of it." She didn't like the idea of missing work, but...

“I can cover some of the work load for you, Cyrilla," Eryk stated without glancing in her direction. “It won't inconvenience me if that's what you're worried about."

“I'm worried about you taking on too much work, Ryk. You have your own work to deal with, and that doesn't even include the time you spend helping Ana. I might not do much, but the little that you would take on would eat into that time you spend at Ana's. I'd rather Aidan have someone else fill in for me while you focus on your work." She didn't want him to overwork himself, after all. And she didn't want him to do that for her when someone else could do it easily enough.

"Well it's not like I can conjure an executive out of the ether, Niav," Aidan pointed out evenly. "A grunt's not gonna cut it. So for the time being, the three of us are just going to have to split the necessary stuff, and the not-immediately necessary stuff will just accumulate while you're out, if you can't do it remotely." He paused, then sighed.

"Also it probably doesn't make a difference, but I should theoretically remind you that NTR policy says you have to ask for shit like leave two weeks in advance. Don't worry about it this time, but whatever's so urgent's going to have to learn how to wait if this is going to happen again."

Kas glanced up again at that, clearly perplexed. It wasn't hard to figure out why—as her boss, Aidan was entitled to more information than that, if he wanted to ask for it. But he was very obviously not doing so. "I can take more of the extra than Ryk, since he's doing the heavy lifting on the Ana thing," he said simply.

Aidan nodded.

If it really came down to it, they could have Katia do some of the work, too. Not that she would, but it was still an option. Katia wouldn't be leaving until a few days after Cyrilla was, after all, but Cyrilla wasn't going to ask her. And it wasn't like she wanted to leave unexpectedly.

“Unless it's been amended, anything dealing with the family is considered excused. From my understanding, that is still in place even if we're Neo Team Rocket," Eryk stated, though. Cyrilla knew what he meant by that, and Aidan likely would, too. Even if he didn't know much about their family, there were certain rules put into place for the Koga clan's convenience.

“Even if it weren't urgent, if it dealt with the family, we'd have to answer it regardless of notificiation," he continued. Cyrilla sighed softly, though, and tapped Eryk's shoulder.

“It's fine, Ryk. I'll pull in overtime for the work I'll be missing, even if it's not on company time," she tried to jest with him, but he merely furrowed his brows. “I'm sorry for the position this will put everyone in, but I'll do my best to make it up to everyone somehow," she stated as she glanced towards Kas and Aidan. Truth be told, it was inconvenient to the three of them. She'd be placing unecessary work on them, but if she didn't have to go, it wouldn't have been a problem.

But life wasn't fair to her or Eryk, and she had accepted that fact a long time ago.

Aidan's frown deepened, but he inclined his head slightly. "Got it. I'll... well, never mind. This might sound stupid, considering you'll be in Fuchsia, but call us if you need anything."

It was small, but the smile on her face was more genuine than the smile that she'd entered with. She nodded her head in Aidan's direction, feeling her heart warm a bit at the statement. “I appreciate it, though. I will if something comes up," she replied softly. She wouldn't be able to, though, but it was nice that the offer was there.

“I don't think there's anything else as far as other updates go," Eryk stated, glancing back in Aidan's direction. Progress was moving as fast as it could with Anastasia, which meant it was moving like a squirtle, but that was fine for Cyrilla. She furrowed her brows softly and glanced up at Eryk.

“Will you let Ana know that I won't be visiting for those two weeks?" she asked. She wanted to go see the young woman after they were done with work today, but now she had to spend the rest of her evening packing the necessary things, and finding someone to take care of her pokémon for her. She couldn't bring them with her. Eryk could watch a majority of them, but Siri and Diva were another story. The noibat was too sociable and needed a certain kind of attention that Eryk wouldn't exactly be able to give. Diva was stubborn and would try and insist that she go along so Cyrilla needed someone who'd be able to handle that. Maybe since Diva was comfortable with Kas, she could ask him?

“Sure. I'll tell her when I go there," Eryk replied, placing a hand on her upper back before dropping it.

The other two seemed to be in agreement that the meeting was over, and it adjourned there, allowing all of them to return to their offices.

Or at least, it would in theory. Before Cyrilla could leave after Aidan and Eryk, Kas spoke. "Hey, Cy." He paused, looking uncharacteristically uncertain of himself for a moment before he pressed forward. "Is this—are you okay?" While he had no way of knowing the specifics since no one had told him, she had shared a bit of her general difficulty with her family. No doubt he was concerned; he didn't even seem to be trying to hide it, really.

It was sweet of him to be worried. She was still getting used to him being a friend, and she contemplated whether or not she should tell him the truth. It meant opening up a bit, and telling him that she wasn't okay. She was terrified because she didn't know what her parents wanted. She knew it had to be Katia's doing, though. The woman must have found something, or said something to Cyrilla's parents. Or maybe she told Eryk's mother, Marah, and she was the one who said something? All Cyrilla knew was that she was in trouble, and it wasn't a coincidence that Katia happened to be around when it did. It was a feeling she had because Cyrilla knew that she had been careful about a lot of things. Things that she didn't want her parents to know.

Taking a deep breath, she shook her head. “Not really," she answered. To hell with it; she could let him know how she was feeling. It wasn't like he'd be able to do much about it, and chances were this was going to be the last time she could be open with someone other than Ryk. “To be honest, I'm terrified. It's not exactly pleasant to be summoned back to the clan, especially so urgently." She rubbed at her left arm before letting her shoulders slump a bit.

“I don't know what it is that made the request so urgent, either. I have a feeling it has to do with Katia, and Ryk, but... it's speculation at best. I won't know for sure until I return," she said lightly. She sighed before she lifted her gaze back to him. “I have a favor to ask, actually," she stated, lifting her gaze so she could hold his. “I can't take my pokémon with me, so I plan on leaving most of them with Ryk. Diva and Siri, though... I need someone to watch them. Diva's notorious for escaping Ryk, but she's very comfortable with you. I don't think she'll try it like she would with Ryk. And Siri seems to be especially fond of Princess, and she likes to be sociable. Can... I ask you to watch the both of them? I'll compensate you and make sure they have enough food."

“It's a lot to ask, but you're the only one I trust with them. I'll ask Aidan or Nev to do it if you can't, though. I don't want to inconvenience you with them."

The more she talked, the deeper he frowned, a furrow appearing between his eyebrows and staying there. He let her speak, though, not saying anything until she'd been quiet for a moment or two. "I'll do it, but I don't want you to compensate me," he said after a moment. "You said it's a favor, so that's what it'll be." He made some effort to ease his expression into something lighter, but it didn't quite become a smile.

"But Cy... do you need someone to go with you? It sounds like your family's not exactly safe. If that's true, I'd like to come with."

Cyrilla was certain that the surprise she felt was also visible on her face. He wanted to go with her because her family didn't sound safe? She felt a small smile tug at her lips, but she shook her head. “Even if I did need someone to go with me, you couldn't. Anyone who isn't part of the family isn't allowed in." It was a stupid law. The clan hardly let anyone inside the compound if they weren't already part of it.

“Thanks, Kas. It..." she wasn't sure how to finish that sentence, and she furrowed her brows. “It means a lot to me that you'd offer to go with me, but it means a lot more to me that you'll take care of Siri and Diva. I'll be back," perhaps not in one piece, but she'd be back. Cyrilla just wanted to get this over and done with. “And when I'm back, we'll go do something stupid to unwind. Maybe go get drunk on the backisland, again, or poke fun of Eryk," she stated, offering a small smile as she tried to lighten the mood.

He exhaled gently, more sigh than amused huff, but it was something, and the minuscule turn at the corner of his mouth was almost a smile. "Whichever you prefer." He looked like he had more to say about the family issue, but if he did he kept it back, choosing to defer to her judgement.

"When's the boat out? I can at least see you off at the pier so Diva and Siri can, too."

“The boat leaves at six, give or take," she replied. She was going to take the late boat mostly because she wanted to postpone her arrival to the compound as much as possible. And it gave her enough time to do what she needed to. She would have to go shopping first thing in the morning for Diva and Siri's food and make sure they would have everything they would need for the two weeks she would be gone.

“Thanks again, Kas. I feel like I'm going to be saying that a lot," she huffed lightly. “You... don't have to see me off, but..." she paused, chewing the bottom of her lip. She glanced down at her feet, feeling strangely shy about her next statement. Maybe because it did mean a lot to her that he was going out of his way to help her. Maybe it was because of her stupid little crush on him, but whatever it was, she forced it down, and grinned back up at him.

“I'm glad you are."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

November 3rd
Cinnabar Pier - Evening - Overcast
Kasimir Rheinallt

Unsurprisingly, the weather had not seen fit to be too nice on the day Cy departed—it had been cloudy all day and spitting rain for most of the afternoon. That much had stopped, for now, but the wind was still buffeting things about in the kind of way that promised a storm wasn't too far out. No doubt the boat's captain would be wanting to leave exactly on time to beat the storm. The water was already a bit choppy, and the shrill cries of the wingulls further out punctuated the rushing sound of the wind and the ocean.

Cy didn't have much baggage with her, which was not surprising, but it left him feeling like there wasn't a lot to do with himself on the walk over, so he slid his hands into the pockets of his light zip-up sweatshirt and tried not to think about exactly what she was leaving to go do.

It wasn't as though anyone had outright told him that her family was abusive, but you could only say things like 'they'll be upset' in a dark tone so many times before someone like him got the picture. He'd all but stated his suspicion to her yesterday, and while she hadn't confirmed it as such, her answer had been telling enough. He knew he was right, and he had a new most likely guess about where those scars on Ryk's face had come from.

It felt shitty, knowing there was nothing he could effectively do. Calling the cops was out, going with her himself was apparently out, and the nuclear option—arresting them himself—wasn't going to do anything except blow his cover without way more evidence than he had. He'd considered cracking their computers, only to find that while this was possible—okay, so he'd done more than just consider it—the Kogas effectively lived in the dark ages. They had computers, but a cursory poke around hadn't discovered much of interest. They probably kept analogue records more than digital ones.

Kas was used to a lot of things that most people should not be used to. Feeling powerless to help someone was one of them. That didn't mean he liked it. And it didn't mean this was even really about him.

"We're a little early," he said, furrowing his brow at the blocked gangplank leading to the passenger boat. Not letting people board yet, then. "You want to find somewhere to sit while we wait?"

“Sure, we can go sit over there under the awning," she stated, shifting the bag over her shoulder a bit. Siri was clinging to Cyrilla's head, resting slightly on her free shoulder. The noibat seemed to be pleased with the weather, though, unlike most of the people. “We probably have enough time to grab a quick drink, too. They're not as good as Jo's, but they have decent chocolate malts, here," Cy seemed to suggest as she glanced up at Kas.

"You want a malt when it's this chilly out?" he asked, inflecting his tone with a teasing lilt and shaking his head with mock befuddlement. "I think I can make that happen. Chocolate or some other flavor?" He figured the least he could do was pay for the damn thing; for once he planned on insisting if she tried to demur.

“Chocolate, of course," she replied, managing a grin in his direction. It didn't quite reach her eyes, though. She didn't seem to be in a good mood, despite the smile she'd been wearing. Perhaps because she was leaving to a place she didn't want to go to. “And malts are good in any kind of weather, I'll have you know. Chilly or hot, malts are just... good to have," she added, glancing back out towards the pier. She seemed to be contemplating something before turning her gaze back towards Kas.

“I'll take a small one if they do smaller sizes. Don't want to get stuck with it if I don't finish it. I could take it on the boat, but..." she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders. Siri chirped in disapointment as the gesture caused her to be jostled a bit. Instead, she climbed down Cyrilla's shoulder, and stood on the ground, clinging to Cy's leg. Cy merely rolled her eyes at the noibat but smiled nonetheless.

Kas nodded, making his way over to the little restaurant and placing a to-go order at the counter, for a small chocolate malt and a large one. The guy behind the counter looked a little surprised, but the machine must have been in working order, because he came back with them in about a minute. Paying for both, Kas picked up a couple of spoons in addition to the straws and carried everything outside, where he rejoined Cy.

"One chocolate malt, small in deference to the lady's wishes," he said, keeping his tone light. He nodded down at the pier, then dropped easily into a seated position right there on the dock. His legs were long enough that if he let them hang off the edge, he'd soak them halfway to his knees.

Popping the lid off his own styrofoam cup, he set it down carefully, partway under his shoe so the wind wouldn't carry it out into the ocean, and dug in with his spoon. "Two weeks, huh?" He said it more than asked, as he well knew she'd be gone at least that long. "Apartment'll be lonely without you."

It was true. Perhaps too true, if he were being totally honest with himself. Of all the parts of his job, not getting emotionally invested had always been one of the harder things. He'd managed okay for a long time, but now... he wasn't so sure. Intellectually, he knew he shouldn't be sticking his nose into any of this. But he'd stopped doing this job by the book before he'd ever really started. It was just all the more obvious lately.

She huffed lightly, taking a seat on his other side, and folding her lengs underneath her. It allowed Siri to climb into her lap, as Cyrilla spooned a mouthful of her malt. “Well, you'll have Diva and Siri to keep you company. And if you get really lonely," she paused to grin softly at him, “you could always just sleep in my bed." She chuckled lightly at her own joke, it seemed before shaking her head.

Kas sorted. "I'll be lonely, not a total creep," he replied with mock offense.

“Honestly, it probably won't even be two weeks. It'll probably be a week at most, depending on what it is they want. I can't say for sure," she shrugged her shoulders lightly, feeding the noibat a bite of the malt. She replaced the spoon with a straw, perhaps so she wouldn't use the spoon she'd just used for Siri.

“But if that's your way of saying you'll miss me, ditto. I'm going to miss you, too, Kas. Two weeks might not seem like a long time, but time has a funny way of dragging itself out when you're in Fuchsia. It's not going to be the same as having you or Eryk around. Or even Aidan and Nev, and I can't forget about Ana. You guys... it's the first time I've felt like I've had friends. I might be a shitty one, but... well, I appreciate you all for being patient with me."

“Navigating something new like that is... it's still a little strange," she stated, giving him a half smile before rubbing between Siri's ears.

He shook his head, a little emphatic about it. "Everyone's got a learning curve, Cy," he replied simply. And honestly from what he'd inferred of how she grew up, the more surprising fact was that she'd managed to get this far at all. He felt a little twinge in his chest, and tried not to let the emotion that went with it show on his face, taking a spoonful of his malt so as to occupy his face with something else.

"You're not a shitty friend," he said once he'd swallowed. "Just a new one, and for all that you're doing pretty well." He could point out specific incidents if he wanted: drinks on the backisland, making soup for Ana when she was sick, setting up an elaborate haunted house for Nev's birthday and the office party, helping Ryk prep for his pro battling debut, all of it. But it wasn't even anything specific that made him so strongly sure of what he said. It was the little things, the boring everyday stuff. Little ways she had of demonstrating that she did care.

Switching off to make food with him, sharing her streaming passwords, lending him her stapler when the one by the printer mysteriously disappeared again. Normal shit.

“Well, that's nice of you to say," she replied softly. “But I suppose you're right about that. Learning how to be a friend is just..." she paused as if she didn't want to say what she'd meant to, and shook her head. “When I come back... if things seem a little off, I want you to know something," she began, turning her attention towards him. Her brows were furrowed, and her lips were pursed together. What she had to say next seemed important to her.

“I want you to know that I'm glad you were my friend, and that I got to be yours. I want you to know that... this meant something to me, even it might seem silly to most people. I value our friendship, perhaps a lot more than I should, but that doesn't change the fact that I do. I'm glad you were my friend, Kas."

Contrary to the effect she probably intended the words to have, they filled him more than anything with a profound sense of alarm. "The fuck are you talking about, Cy?" his tone was low, his eyes uncharacteristically dark as he ducked his head to meet hers. "This doesn't get put in the past tense unless we want to put it there." If that was what she wanted, he'd accept it, but dammit, she didn't. He knew she didn't. So what the fuck gave?

She sighed heavily, keeping her attention on Siri. “I've told you before, Kas. I don't get a choice. I don't know what Katia has told my family, but... I have to expect the worst. If that's the case, chances are I... won't be able to continue this friendship with you, or anyone else. I'll have to take the mission at face value," she spoke softly, almost as if she didn't want to say anything at all.

“I'll have to keep everyone at arms length, be more professional. Colder. I'll have to treat every one as if they mean nothing to me, and... as much as I don't want that, it's what I'll have to do. I don't want to risk anything else with my family, and I don't want them to do something to Ryk because of my inadequacies. Ryk has done enough for me, endured enough for me," she continued, taking in a deep, slow breath.

“That's why I'm telling you this, now." She lifted her gaze back to his, offering him a small smile. “That's why I'm thanking you, now, because I don't think I'll be able to when I come back. What this is... the last few months we've had, I'll always cherish that. You're a very sweet and kind person, and I'm sorry you wasted that on me. But I'm glad you did because for the first time in my life... it felt like I mattered and that I could have friends, and enjoy them."

It was his turn to sigh, and shake his head. He thought he understood the root of the misunderstanding now. "Cy," he said, his tone gentling. He set his malt down, reaching out, one finger extended until the tip rested over her shirt, on her sternum. "Friendship happens here," he said. "Well actually it happens in your head, because the brain is in charge of emotions and not actually the heart, but allow me the metaphor for a moment." The faintest half-smile tugged at a corner of his mouth.

"I understand if you have to act different. I do. Believe me, I—" he swallowed, knowing he was skirting dangerously close to the one thing he could not, under any circumstances, tell anyone. "You've got things to protect, including yourself, and I get that. But this? In here?" He pressed a little harder, for emphasis. "This is yours. No matter how secret you have to keep it. And I promise you, no matter how you have to act to me, I'm going to keep believing there's a tiny, tiny part of it I'm still in. So... this isn't the end of our friendship. No matter what they make you do, okay? You do matter, because you matter to me. And I'm gonna keep hoping that I matter to you."

“See, now that's not fair," she stated, frowning slightly as she kept his gaze. “You being this... nice," she seemed to clarify, but a small smile appeared on her face nonetheless. “And this is why you're probably one of my best friends. You always say things to help me understand a little bit better how these friendships work. And you'll always matter, Kas. To me. Just like Ryk does, and Ana, and the others. You moreso because, well..." she trailed off, glancing down a little sheepish.

“Well, like I said, you're like my best friend. I won't... I won't let whatever they do, break me. I'll come back, and nothing will have changed. I won't have to act any different than I do now, and I won't have to distance myself from anyone. And if I do," she paused to rehold his gaze, “I ask that you don't let me. If I try to distance myself from everyone, don't... remind me why I don't want to. Can I ask that of you?" She seemed serious about it, if anything.

And because she was serious, he couldn't be anything else. Wouldn't want to be anything else. "I promise, Cy. Don't worry about that—you just do whatever you have to do to get through the next couple weeks. We'll get the rest figured out when you get back." Above all, that was what he wanted. And while Kas wasn't enough of an asshole to think that what he wanted was the important part here, he hoped nevertheless that she'd abide by the wish. Because it meant that things might just work out okay, in the end.

The smile that crossed her face was one of her more genuine ones that she wore when she smiled at brightly at him. “Alright. We'll get the rest figured out when I get back," she seemed to repeat, patting Siri's head before reaching towards her belt. She pulled the last pokeball, Diva's, and gave it a light toss, summoning the lycanroc. Immediately Diva shook her large mane, and glanced between Kas and Cy. She huffed lightly, but took a seat on Cy's other side, tilting her head a bit as Cy glanced at her.

“Alright, Diva, you be good for Kas, here. If you promise, I'll give you the rest of this malt. If Kas says you were anything but good, I'm going to have Aidan use Brick to give you a good workout, alright?" she stated, causing Diva to give Cy a rather flat look before shaking her head. Cy laughed softly as she used the spoon from earlier to give Siri another bite of the malt before handing it over to Diva. Once Siri was finished with her bite, Cy picked her up to set her on Kas's shoulder.

“You can leave the door to my room open so that Diva and Siri can sleep in there. I don't mind, really. They can take care of themselves if you leave their food in my room as well. The only thing you'll really need to do is socialize Siri a bit. She likes talking to people as I'm sure you've noticed," Cy stated as she glanced behind her. It looked like the boat was getting ready to start loading its passengers, and she sighed a bit heavily.

“If something comes up with Diva or Siri, you can take them to Ryk. I won't be reachable until I get back, but he'll be able to handle the two of them. Thanks again, Kas," she stated as she stood up. “I'd like one more thing from you, though, if you don't mind," she continued as she huffed almost to herself it seemed.

“I'd like a hug, if you don't mind. You give the best ones and I feel like I'll be able to take on the world if you did." She was grinning at him, now.

He laughed a little at that, but stood willingly, opening his arms and letting her step inside his considerable wingspan before wrapping them around her and pulling her comfortably to his chest. "Deal," he said, giving her a soft squeeze and resisting the urge to lift her off her feet. She was kind of short, after all, compared to him, and it would have been slightly more comfortable for both of them that way.

Still though, he put his back into it, and his heart, too. That was the key to a good hug—you had to mean it, and not worry so much about the rest. "Take care of yourself," he murmured against her hair. "It's my best friend I'm trusting you with here, so you better."

She laughed softly at his statement and nodded her head where it was buried. “I'll make sure I do my best," she replied softly, turning her head to place a chaste kiss on his cheek as she pulled away from the hug. “And you take care not to get too lonely without me, alright?" she stated, reaching down to grab her bag and pull it over her shoulder. Diva made a soft whimpering noise as Cyrilla ran a hand through the lycanroc's mane. Siri chirped from her spot on Kas's head, but didn't seem to understand what was going on.

“You be a good girl for Kas, alright? I'll be back in a week, so help him take care of Siri until then. I'll be fine," she whispered the last part as she leaned down to hug Diva. The lycanroc didn't seem too convinced, but returned the hug. “See ya later, Kas," she stated, giving Kas a two finger mock salute before leaving towards the boat. Diva glanced up at Kas and sat on her hindquarters, before watching her trainer leave.

Impossible, he wanted to say, but it didn't seem like the right moment, not for a light joke.

And then, when he watched her board, hand resting on Diva's head, he realized he wasn't even sure it was a joke.

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View All » Add Character » 7 Characters to follow in this universe

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


Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
Nevena Solomon

"It's not my place to say..."

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
Aidan Klein

"I guess I'm part of the ugly truth now."

Character Portrait: Rocket Files
Rocket Files

[ Codex of Information ]

Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
Anastasia Asher

"Every day is a gift. Or that's what I tell myself, anyway."

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav
Cyrilla Niav

"More than anything... I want to save him."

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt
Kasimir Rheinallt

"Why yes, I *am* the brains of the operation. Thank you for noticing."

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero
Eryk Nero

"I find myself looking for something I cannot have, and yet..."


Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt
Kasimir Rheinallt

"Why yes, I *am* the brains of the operation. Thank you for noticing."

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
Aidan Klein

"I guess I'm part of the ugly truth now."

Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
Anastasia Asher

"Every day is a gift. Or that's what I tell myself, anyway."

Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
Nevena Solomon

"It's not my place to say..."

Character Portrait: Rocket Files
Rocket Files

[ Codex of Information ]

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero
Eryk Nero

"I find myself looking for something I cannot have, and yet..."

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav
Cyrilla Niav

"More than anything... I want to save him."

Most Followed

Character Portrait: Rocket Files
Rocket Files

[ Codex of Information ]

Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
Anastasia Asher

"Every day is a gift. Or that's what I tell myself, anyway."

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero
Eryk Nero

"I find myself looking for something I cannot have, and yet..."

Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
Nevena Solomon

"It's not my place to say..."

Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
Aidan Klein

"I guess I'm part of the ugly truth now."

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav
Cyrilla Niav

"More than anything... I want to save him."

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt
Kasimir Rheinallt

"Why yes, I *am* the brains of the operation. Thank you for noticing."

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