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Cyrilla Niav

"They won't be able to stop me... not now. Not ever."

0 · 880 views · located in Kanto Region

a character in “Pokémon: Atonement”, as played by Nemeseia

Description

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xxImageImageImagexxxxxCyrillaKlein
xxxxxxxxx◙◙◙◙* Female xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 24 xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 5'4" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 115 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* TR Exec: Suicune

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AABTL x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAMED x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌


--Image- ESPIONAGE good at collecting data; infiltration, and stealth
CHEMIST can concoct poisons and some bombs
PRODIGY exceptionally skilled with basic and advanced things—fast learner


Image I don't wanna break down / but I'm feeling low
- - - - - - - air in my lungs keeping me afloat / inside I'm still hollow .


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Cyrilla is a strange paradox of a person. At once warm and kind, she is also cold and distant. From a young age, it was always looked down upon in her family to express any sort of warmth or kindness. It was viewed as a weakness, and members of the family were expected to cast aside any they may have felt. To have these traits was to be condemned to a life of ridicule and hardships. And so Cyrilla learned to hide her heart beneath a thick layer of distant and frosty cynicism. She's a little jaded in that sense, and she does her best not to express any of her softer traits to the people around her except for her best friend and fiancé. She can't take the chance of being reported back home that she has, once again, begun to show weakness.

She doesn't want to feel worthless. She was always told that she was a no-good, poor excuse of a Koga--that being born was, perhaps, a curse to her parents. Most of it had to do with her appearance; born with hair as white as snow, how could she possibly be expected to pull off infiltration missions? That burned a whole inside of her, one that she hasn't been able to quite fill. She was--is--a worthless person. This was burned so deeply into her that she still believes it, despite the fact that she's already proven them wrong by becoming one of their best spies and infiltration specialists. It never seems like enough, though, and she keeps pushing herself even further. It isn't a good thing, to be sure. It has made her physically sick on some occasions, but to express that is to express weakness, and Cyrilla cannot do that. Her body bears the scars of all of her failures, but most of all, in her heart.

She hates the person she's had to become, for sure, but she knows she could have been worse. If it weren't for Eryk, Cyrilla is quite certain she would be dead; not quite in the literal sense, but there is also that possibility. Her years in training have allowed her to don a plethora of masks, though, that Cyrilla isn't quite sure which one is real, and which one was her former self. She's not proud of some of the things she's had to do--like sleeping with her potential targets. These were all things that were trained into her, mostly because her family only saw her inherent beauty as the only thing worth using. And while she will sleep with someone she finds attractive, it's mostly meaningless with no attachments other than the physical release it provides. It's just how it is for her, and how it is in her family. What is this profound love that people say is supposed to move mountains and heal damaged goods? Because that is what she is: damaged goods.

But she does try to put her best foot forward. She's just a little bad at showing her emotions, even if some part of her is clawing to let them out; to be rid of this inherent loneliness that has plagued her most of her life. Her outlook on life is rather dark, when it used to be bright. She misses the person she used to be, but... that person is dangerous, who cares too much for a world that doesn't really give a damn about her. Sometimes she wishes she didn't, and other times, well...


Image I try to meditate, cause they told me it'll help
- - - - - - - but the last thing I need is more time alone inside myself.


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Cyrilla's life wasn't easy. Born into the illustrous Koga clan, she was always expected to carry a certain burden on her shoulders. She was the only child to her parents, however; she was born a disappointment to them. How was she supposed to carry on their legacy with hair as white as snow? They shunned her, but Cyrilla took it as best as she could. She trained by herself, worked hard so that she didn't disappoint her parents. She wanted, more than anything, for them to accept and love her. As a child, that was all she ever wanted: their acceptance and love. It wasn't something they never gave to her, though. Even as she grew talented, surpassing even the older members of the clan in espionage and infiltration, it never seemed to be enough for them.

She came to resent her parents, after that. She just wanted them to see her, their daughter that they trained and convinced would always be just damaged, worthless goods. When she was old enough to begin training in other areas, Cyrilla felt disgusted with herself. Learning the art of seduction was not something she wanted to do, nor learn how to properly intice someone. It left her feeling... dirty, but she was still a filial daughter. She learned rather quickly that what she did... it meant nothing. She could deal with that; utilize it to her own advantage until it became nothing more than just a way to release. She lost herself to it, numbed what little part of her still cared, and she was good at it. Good at killing what little kindness and warmth and innocence she had left.

It wasn't until she met him, the Heir of Koga, as they liked to call him, that Cyrilla's heart managed to keep from closing completely. He was kind to her, in ways that made no sense. She was a nobody, so why even show her a modicum of kindness? Even better, was that he was Koga's grandson. How could someone like that, be so kind and warm and gentle with her? It became something that she cherished, something she looked forward to whenever he'd visit and spend what time he had with her. He was her best friend, her brother in so many ways, however; Cyrilla learned long ago that anything good, doesn't always last. Other clan members didn't approve of how close they were. He was the heir, and she was far too worthless to associate with.

Her parents, however, saw opportunity with this. It was, perhaps, the only thing that she would be good for. They angled for an arranged marriage, to have Cyrilla be Eryk's betrothed rather than Katia, and to Cyrilla's surprise, Eryk agreed. He agreed to the arrangement, and he became her intended. It confused Cyrilla, and when she asked him about it, he'd merely said that it was convenient for him, and it also saved her. Her. Someone who wasn't worthy of his kindness, nor warmth. And he wanted to save her. Cyrilla had never been so moved in her entire life that it caused something to stir in her. For however long it took, she wanted to save him, too.

She wanted to save him from this life they both lead, to let him escape and smile again. Because she misses those smiles, the ones he'd give to her that she treasured dearly. Even if it takes her the rest of her life, she is going to save him, and even if it costs her her life, she will save him. For now, she'll be the obedient child; she'll continue to rise through the ranks of Team Rocket, and one day... one day she'll be able to bring it all down.

Then... they can be truly free.


Image I kind hope this isn't how it's supposed to be
- - - - - - - So where do I go? / my screams sink to the bottom .


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ImageImagexx--ImageImageImageImageNOCTIS ZOROARK 
----Image NATURE QUIET

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ImageImageDIVA LYCANROC 
-Image NATURE SASSY

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xx--ImageImageImageImageZERO ARCANINE 
----Image NATURE JOLLY

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ImageImageZEPHYR MEOWTH 
----Image NATURE LAX

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xx--ImageImageImageImageSIRI NOIBAT 
----ImageImage NATURE QRKY

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ImageImageMILA FEEBAS 
----Image NATURE RLXD

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Kasimir
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AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I.. damn.

Cyrilla doesn't regret sleeping with Kas. For the first time, it meant something. It wasn't a shallow one-time fling, and she doesn't know how to feel about that. She's terrified because it meant something to her, because she's never experienced the feelings she has for him. She loves him, yes, as a friend, but... as something more than that? If she admits it... if she genuinely tells him that she does, what will become of them? He's her first.

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Anastasia
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I hope this can last.

Ana really is a sweetheart. Their friendship means the world to Cyrilla, and she's finding it difficult to maintain their mission because friends don't lie to each other. They get mad, sure, fight maybe, but they don't lie. But some part of her is afraid to tell Ana the truth because... if she knew the truth about them, would she be angry with them? Cyrilla finds that, of all people, she doesn't want Ana to be angry with her. She values her friendship.

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Eryk
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AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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This line is here to take space.
He deserves the world... and I can't give it to him.

She sees it every day in him, the changes he's made, the person he's becoming. Cyrilla is proud of the person Eryk is becoming because he is, for the first time in his life, being selfish. He's doing things that he wants to do, not things the family is telling him to do. She admires him and respects him; she always has, but he's becoming something of how he used to be: kind, thoughtful, and caring. His smiles are proof of it.

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Nevena
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This line is here to take space.
Nev is a dork... but she's a good one..

Cyrilla admires Nev's naive view on things, but she also appreciates that Nev isn't letting anything hold her back when it comes to trying new things. Sometimes, it can be a fun experience, learning something new, or doing something new, especially when it's something that seems a little frightening. She also thinks it's hilarious that Nev has a crush on Big Bro, and hasn't really done anything about it. Maybe she doesn't know how?

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Aidan
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AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I guess I have an older brother, now.

Having an actual brother has been a strange experience for Cy, but she doesn't hate it. On the contrary, she actually enjoys being Aidan's little sister. There aren't any real perks to it, but that wasn't the reason why she took his last name, or was adopted into his family. She loves her Big Bro in a way she didn't think would be possible. Is this what it feels like to have a somewhat functional family? He's the best Big Bro anyone could ask for, really.

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*Much of the inspiration and layout of this character sheet is owed to
maccotango's guide to RP design, and their much-better-than-mine coding.
*Sheet coded by Aethyia

So begins...

Cyrilla Niav's Story

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



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April - 25th
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk smoothed out the front of his suit, grimacing slightly at the color. They were required to wear the standard executive uniform which consisted of a white suit jacket, a pair of white formal trousers, and a black shirt underneath it. It was void of the symbolic R that used to cover a breast pocket, but Eryk supposed that had a lot to do with the reimagery of Team Rocket. Now called Neo Team Rocket, but it didn't matter to him. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose as he made his way towards the foyer. He and the other two executives were being summoned for a meeting. He knew one of the two; Cyrilla was his childhood friend, and current fiancée. A ruse he planned to keep up for as long as he possibly could, however; he did not know who the third member of his group, was. All he had was a name: Kasimir Rheinallt. It sounded familiar, but he couldn't really say.

They were all officially meeting for the first time, today. If he remembered the e-mail correctly, they were going to be given instructions of some sort. Eryk didn't really bother paying too much attention to it, though. He would be given the info he needed, and then he could do whatever job they needed him to do. It was the only reason why he was in Cinnabar. He didn't like the heat much, but he supposed there were not a lot of things he did like.

When he made it to the foyer, he glanced around and noted that he was the first to arrive. He'd always been a punctual person, but perhaps he was a bit early. Shoving his hands into his pocket, he waited for someone to arrive. Cyrilla would be around soon, he thought. She was never far from where he was, but perhaps she'd got caught up in something? Perhaps neating her uniform or some other aspect of her appearance? Unlike Eryk, she always made a point to look her best. He supposed it had a lot to do with what she did. He didn't like it, but that's just how things were.

Pulling in a soft breath, he blinked slowly, listening to the clock behind him tick ever so loudly.

Before long, he could hear a jaunty whistling from down the hall, growing closer at a brisk, but not hurried pace. The whistler was clear and tuneful, but the song wasn't anything he recognized. Not much afterwards, the door opened, and someone else stepped into the room. The man was very tall, with a warm brown complexion and deeper umber hair, which was slightly longer than Eryk's own and pulled into a low tail. He wore the same uniform, but not properly—the jacket was open and his shirt appeared to be only half-tucked, the top three buttons all undone.

The man glanced the other way into the room, then towards Eryk, grinning lopsidedly when he spotted him and stepping in, a slim laptop computer carried loosely in one large hand. "Ryk. Long time, no see." Letting the door shut behind him, he nodded at another beyond it. "We're actually in the conference room up this way."

“Kas," he spoke the man's name without realizing it, realizing belatedly why the name sounded so familiar to him. He'd undergone the same introduction to Neo Team Rocket with Eryk. He wouldn't say that they were exactly friends, but Eryk didn't dislike him. At least not yet. Glancing towards the door Kasimir had nodded towards, he blinked again, but moved forward. He wasn't late, by any means, but he supposed being in the proper area would be a good start to something. What? he didn't know. Didn't really care.

When they arrived to the conference room, Cyrilla was already waiting for them. She grinned in Eryk's direction, raising a hand to wave before she set it back down. It seemed she'd opted to wear the executive uniform skirt with the ridiculously short length. He could almost see it riding up her thighs, however; it seemed she was sensible enough to wear a pair of black shorts underneath. Perhaps to help deal with the heat, but what did he know?

“Took you long enough, Ryk," she spoke, offering him a smile before her eyes landed on Kasimir. She arched a brow in his direction, before she turned back to Eryk and grinned. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her statement, and instead, speared a hand through his hair. It wasn't as if he'd bothered to style it. It was loose, shaggy, and just fell in a way that he didn't really have to bother. He could see Cyrilla roll her eyes, though, before she took a seat at the table. Glancing towards Kasimir, he took the seat to her right, facing the wall where the television was situated.

"Ah. You must be Cyrilla. Kas; nice to meet you." He adjusted the rimless glasses on his nose—Eryk didn't remember him having those before, but for all he knew he'd worn contacts during training.

Kasimir moved to the other side of the table, back to the screen and at the far end, but he did extend a hand for Cyrilla to shake, head slightly tilted in an inquisitive manner.

“Pleasure to meet you as well, Kas," she replied, taking his hand into her own in what seemed to be a firm handgrip before pulling away. Eryk rolled his eyes slightly, and shook his head. “Any idea what this meeting is about?" she asked, head tilting slightly as she waited for one of them to answer.

“I don't fucking know," Eryk stated, brows furrowing slightly. He just wanted it to be over with already. Cyrilla arched a brow at him, her face smoothing out as she sighed. “I don't know," Eryk stated once more, perhaps a little softer this time around. If they had known what the meeting was about, Eryk doubted the three of them would be gathered in the conference rooom for a meeting. They could have simply e-mailed it to them, and he'd be back in his office dealing with whatever it was they wanted him to.

"I've got an idea," Kasimir admitted, crouching on the floor to pull several cables from retractable recesses out towards his computer. "Only because I'm running the visuals for the meeting, though. We've got a mission, apparently." Hooking the cables into a few of the ports in the laptop, he pulled out one of the chairs and flopped into it, pulling his legs up under him and crossing them as he opened the lid and woke the machine up.

The screen behind him flickered to life as well, though as of yet it didn't show much of interest. Only the first panel of one of those presentation things, whatever they were called.

Before he could much elaborate, though, the door opened again, and in stepped a different man, this one recognizable rather easily. Aidan Klein was well enough known within Neo Team Rocket that there were few people who didn't know his face, or at least the hair—bright red and unkempt. A cigarette dangled from between his lips; he crossed the room to crack a window first thing, before he faced the group.

"Good. You're here. I'll assume you all know each others' names at least." He removed the cigarette, flicking the end of it into a nearby glass ashtray and stubbing it out. Exhaling a last cloud of smoke, he dropped into a different chair, scrubbing a hand through his hair. For a man titled after a legendary firebird pokémon, he looked rather... indifferent. Perhaps even tired, though that was harder to say.

"And two of you have already read each others' files." He didn't indicate how he knew that or who the two were, only blinked slowly and sighed. "For the one of you that hasn't, let's get caught up. Who are you, and what are your skills? Go." He waved a lackadaisical hand as if to prompt them to speak.

“Infiltration specialist and intelligence gatherer," Cyrilla spoke first, perhaps in a more professional tone than she'd meant to. “And also a decent chemist," she added, though Eryk knew she was more than just decent. Her eyes went to him, next, though, and Eryk furrowed his brows. He didn't know how to answer that, honestly. His skills were vast, but that didn't make him a specialist of any sort. He could do things, well enough that they managed to get whatever job done, and that had been enough.

"I'm just the nerd," Kasimir said with a little shrug. He nodded at his computer. "I do technology stuff: security systems, the NTR firewalls and information databases, occasionally a records request from the local jennys, that kind of thing."

Aidan nodded, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing what seemed to be a set of ID cards, each with a clip at the top, the kind of thing that would attach to a pocket or lanyard or the like. He slid Cyrilla's and Kasimir's across the table to them, and then Eryk's to him. As befit his promotion, he had a new designation: E01, indicating that he was first-ranked among the executives of Neo Team Rocket. Kasimir's would be E02, and Cyrilla's E03. "What about you, Nero?"

Eryk shrugged his shoulders. “I do a little of everything. Mostly the manual labor aspect of... things," he answered. It was about as best a summary as he could give for his particular set of skills. “A jack-of-all-trades, if you will," he clarified. It wasn't like he needed to be particularly good at one thing. If he could do something well-enough, he didn't think it was necessary to be the best at it. It served its purpose, and that was all he needed. He took his ID card and clipped it to the breast pocket of his jacket. He'd have to get a lanyard for it, or some other sort of thing to keep it attached on.

"All right." Aidan was either satisfied with the answers or didn't care, because he nodded at Kasimir, who returned his attention to his laptop.

"So you three are now effectively in charge of this field office. Technically you answer to me, but I've got my own projects, and for the most part I won't have a lot to say about how things run here. That's up to you. You also, however, have a long-term mission to do. Boss wants intel on a local—anything and everything you can get."

He paused expectantly, and Kasimir struck a key on his computer, filling the screen with a photo. It seemed to be of the identification sort: the young woman in it was not smiling, and seemed vaguely distracted by something slightly past the photographer. She had soft pink hair, long enough to fall out of frame, and a face that seemed to be an assemblage of pale, delicate features, from large blue eyes to the sharp point of her chin. She looked about as nonthreatening as anyone Eryk had ever seen.

"This is the target," Kasimir said. "Her name's Anastasia Asher, and as you might expect from that hair, she's a Joy relative. She runs a pokémon shelter and hospice on the island—it's not more than two miles from here. From what I was able to find in public records, she's up to date on all her licenses—unusually for one of her family, she has one for training as well as one for the shelter, but she's not on record as owning any badges or anything. The shelter was established in town about a year ago; at that point all inspections indicated the place was up to code for thirty pokémon." He lifted his shoulders and let them fall.

Aidan elaborated. "Boss says recon. She's of interest as a possible volunteer for a project of his, but we're not sure she has the right qualifications. You'll know them if you see them, and there's a high chance you will. In the meantime, you're supposed to get close. The idea is that if she qualifies, she'll want to volunteer, so make friends. Or whatever works. That's the mission."

Cyrilla's brows furrowed, but she didn't say anything. Eryk felt something vaguely uncomfortable in his stomach as he narrowed his eyes. They wanted the three of them to get close to this young woman because she was a potential volunteer? Eryk wasn't the brightest person, he knew this of himself, however; why would they need to get close to a target to have her volunteer for a project of their boss? Why not just ask her to volunteer her services, whatever they may be? If he remembered correctly, they could very well compensate her for her services, if that is what it took. It wasn't until the last of Aidan's statement finally caught up with him that Eryk understood something.

Get close so that they don't have to compensate her. So that she'd be willing to do it because they were her friends. The thought left a bit of a sour taste in his mouth. Eryk was not the type of person to make friends easily with people. Cyrilla could; she just had that natural charisma about her, he supposed. Kasimir looked like he could without much effort, but Eryk couldn't be too sure.

“Very well," Eryk spoke, nodding his head in Aidan's direction. Cyrilla glanced at Eryk from the corners of her eyes, but nodded her head as well in agreement.

It was nothing more than a job, and they would all do their parts, he supposed.

"Gregorovich expects written reports monthly, to him directly. I'm assuming that won't be a problem." Aidan stood, withdrawing a box of cigarettes and a lighter from his breast pocket and lighting one before replacing the box. "Anyway, if you need anything, I'm around I guess. You've all been secured an apartment at the nearest complex. I recommend checking out the facility when you get a chance. Hayley's the point person with the local grunts; she won't give you any trouble."

Neo Team Rocket could be a competitive place; it wasn't uncommon for petty grudges held between grunts to last years, and Executives were seen just as often as obstacles to surpass than authorities to be obeyed. Aidan was probably referencing this fact. "Good luck and all that. There's a training exercise at the end of the month, so get to know each other a bit so you don't humiliate yourselves. Maybe Nero can even figure out what all his trades are." The corner of his mouth twitched; Kasimir snorted softly.

Without further input, Aidan exited the conference room.

Kasimir blinked. "I've got maps and more information on the mark if anyone's interested?"

Eryk pursed his lips together. He had a feeling he'd been insulted somehow, but he couldn't be too sure. He turned his attention towards Kasimir, though, and smoothed out his expression.

“I think that's a good idea. The more info we have on her, the easier it'll be to approach and assimilate ourselves into her life," Cyrilla spoke, but there was a slight crease in her brows from where they furrowed.

“Agreed. The more we know, the better our chances at a successful mission," Eryk added, though he doubted that it would be the case. “Let's get to it, then."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


April 25th
Field Office 9 - Noon - Warm
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kas idly cracked the knuckles of his left hand as he walked, using his thumb to push down each finger in sequence until he heard the satisfying pop that was the joint releasing air. It wasn't great for them, but of all the bad habits he could have picked up he figured this was one of the least terrible. At least he didn't smoke like a chimney like their new boss. Or so office gossip claimed, anyway.

He felt he'd gotten through that first encounter okay, honestly. Jangling the keys in his hand, he started up the stairs, assuming the others were following, since he'd said he knew the way to their new offices. There was something inherently terrifying about being in the same room as Aidan Klein a.k.a. A01 a.k.a. Moltres a.k.a. the human lie detector. At least if you had something to hide.

As secrets went, Kas's was pretty fucking huge, so naturally he'd been about terrified. Fortunately, he was very good at not making that obvious, and if Klein had picked up on it he'd probably just put it down to, well, new job and new boss nerves. As it happened, Kas didn't really have those as such—he wasn't typically the type to let those kinds of things intimidate him. In nearly a decade embedded in NTR, he'd never found himself unable to keep up with the people around him, and this fact had allowed him to give himself a certain mask of—well it wasn't incompetence exactly. More like laziness, and overspecialization. He was just the nerd, as he'd introduced himself, and no one had questioned that, because no one had any reason to.

All for the better, of course, even if it did get old after a while.

"And here we are," he said, injecting a sort of bumbling, cheerful friendliness into his tone. He fit the key into the door, which bore a plaque that read EXECUTIVE OFFICES. When it swung open, he held it for both Eryk and Cyrilla to enter first, smiling benignly, and stepped in behind them.

The suite consisted of a central lobby area, with a currently unmanned secretary's desk, and three different office doors, which had apparently already been prepared—they read NERO, RHEINALLT, and NIAV in that order. The lobby was tiled in polished black granite, the counter in front of the secretary's desk was the same, while the wood was in a rich teak. The heaviness of the color scheme was saved from being overpowering by cream walls and a few cheery plants; the chairs in the waiting area were upholstered in deep maroon.

"I wonder if we have to pick our own office furniture," he mused, separating the other keys on the ring and tossing Eryk and Cyrilla the ones that matched the numbers on their doors. "All this red and black is..." he tilted a hand back and forth. "Very 'cold corporate intimidation,' no?" He doubted anyone would appreciate his colorful island sensibilities, but there were more than three colors, sheesh.

Cyrilla huffed lightly, like she was trying not to laugh at the statement but rolled her eyes in what seemed to be in good nature. Eryk, however, remained as passive as he'd been when the meeting started. Face pulled into a neutral look, though his was more of a glare than anything. Cyrilla shrugged her shoulders, though, and glanced in Eryk's direction.

“I'm sure they'll let us choose our own if we really wanted to. It's not like office furniture can't be swapped out for something a little more comfortable," she replied as Eryk narrowed his eyes somewhat.

“What's wrong with the way things are, now?" he asked, earning a flat look from Cyrilla. She sighed heavily and shook her head.

“That's not... it's bland, Ryk. And it feels like everything else is drowning. You have to make your office look at least somewhat comfortable. You'll be spending a lot of time in it, after all," she stated as Eryk pursed his lips. He didn't seem too convinced about it, but he didn't offer any other statements.

Kas hadn't really expected anything different. Three months he'd spent with the guy in training, and not once had he ever seen him crack a smile. It wasn't the kind of thing that really bothered him, though. While Eryk had a hell of a glare on him, it was the fact that he'd been on the other end of it a few times that had alerted Kas to the fact that his normal grumpy expression was just in fact a chronic case of resting bitchface, which he found more hilarious than anything.

"It's fine, Cy," he said with a grin, opening up his own individual office. At the very least he should put his computer down. "Can I call you Cy, or should I stick to Cyrilla? I don't think Ryk would know comfortable if it hit him in the head. That's my guess for why he always looks like he's trying to pass a kidney stone, anyway." He winked, then ducked inside the office to set his laptop on the desk.

“You can call me whatever you want," she replied, a grin on her face before it disappeared, and she just looked like she was smiling. Eryk, however, was actually glaring at Kas, perhaps for the statement. Cyrilla glanced towards Ryk, though, and huffed at him. “And you're not wrong. We should probably take the initiative and fill his office with all kinds of comfortable things. That way he can't complain about it, later," she spoke, causing the furrow in Ryk's brow to deepen.

“Stay away from my office. I don't need help from either of you to furnish it," he stated, voice low as if to sound intimidating. Cyrilla rolled her eyes again and shook her head. If I require assistance," he began, his eyes narrowing further, “I will ask the appropriate designers to furnish it. For now, it'll be as it is."

“You haven't even seen it, yet, Ryk. How can it be as it is, if you haven't even gone inside?" Cyrilla deadpanned. Eryk just shrugged his shoulders. He really didn't seem to care about his office being any particular way. “Ugh, you're hopeless."

Kas laughed softly, leaning back against his doorframe and smiling lopsidedly at the two of them. He tilted his head, too, flicking his eyes from one to the other. They were, according to their files, engaged, but unless he was very mistaken, there was an edge of something flirtatious in the way she'd said that—you can call me whatever you want. It hadn't seemed to produce much of any reaction in Ryk, either.

He wasn't sure what that meant, but he took it to at least mean that a little light flirtation wasn't off-limits, which was good. Kas was a fan of light flirtation, even the kind that wouldn't ever really go anywhere. Banter was fun, after all. Could certainly lighten up the atmosphere a bit too. It didn't hurt that both of his new coworkers were extremely attractive. If at least one of them was receptive to that kind of thing, he might not mind this assignment at all.

"I bet between the two of us we could break in and leave things. See how long it takes him to notice a rug, or a vase of flowers on the windowsill." He shifted one hand to square his glasses on his face, and shot Cyrilla a grin he knew looked good on him, one half brightness, one half mischief.

“Oh, I've done it before," she replied in a non-chalant fashion, grinning at Kas before her eyes turned towards Ryk. “Took him nearly a year before he realized there was a pink ring on his keychain," she stated. Ryk glanced down at the keychain in his hands that he was fixing his new office keys too, and it was, in fact, pink. He shrugged.

“It's a keychain and serves its purposes. Why should the color matter?" he asked, arching a brow in her direction.

“Because it's supposed to be embarrassing for you. You just..." she sighed through her nose and shook her head.

Kas snickered. It was such a Ryk way to think. It wasn't even embracing the color, or choosing it on purpose, as Kas might well have done. It was just... giving exactly no shits. It seemed the eight years between training and now really hadn't changed his core personality much at all.

"All right, well, we know where our offices are now." He pulled the door to his shut behind him and locked it—conventional locks alone wouldn't keep out Ryk or someone with Cy's credentials, so he'd have to consider additional security measures later, but for now he was confident it wouldn't be necessary. "Do we want to scope out the rest of the place, or what?"

“It would be best to familiarize ourselves with the facility," Ryk spoke, his expression smoothing back out into something neutral.

“So that you don't get lost, right? We all know your sense of direction is shit, anyway," Cyrilla spoke, a large grin on her face as she tilted her head in Ryk's direction. His eyes narrowed as a result but he didn't say anything. Perhaps because he knew it was true, or perhaps of something else.

“That, and it will be useful to know where everything is, Cyrilla. My sense of direction has nothing to do with this," he finally spoke, shaking his head before turning as if to leave. Cyrilla chuckled lightly and followed after him.

“Oh, well since it's already noonish, we should probably go get lunch," she suggested. “Kitchen sounds like a good place to start," she stated, perhaps as a first destination suggestion.

"About the most important place I can think of," Kas agreed with a smile, following her out the door. "Either of you cook?" Somehow he didn't see it as a Ryk skill at all. Cy he was less sure about.

“Unless you want to be poisoned," Cyrilla started, snickering softly as if to herself, “I suggest you don't let Ryk do any of the cooking. That is up to yours truly." She grinned at Kas for a moment and then towards Ryk. “So if there's anything in particular you want, I can make it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lasagna, curry, whatever you think you want," she stated, listing off a few things that she was, apparently, able to make.

“My cooking isn't that bad," Ryk mumbled softly, as though he were only speaking to himself. Cyrilla snorted softly.

“Ryk, you managed to give almost everyone food poisoning the last time you cooked. And I don't even know how you managed that," she shot back, arching a brow in his direction. She turned towards Kas, after that. “So, what'll it be?"

Kas was easily able to cook for himself, but if someone else—particularly a pretty someone—was offering, he sure as hell wasn't going to say no. "Surprise me," he said, padding down the stairs next to the other two. "My mother refers to me as the industrial compactor of eaters, and I like most everything foodwise, so I'm easy to please as long as there's a lot of it." He certainly hoped she didn't think of this as her obligation as the lowest-ranked team member or the only woman, but something told him Cy would happily stab someone for suggesting as much, so for now he wasn't going to make a big deal of it. If it seemed to be a problem, he'd check in with her at a later date.

The kitchen was on the first floor, a pretty big space, which it likely had to be considering that around twenty or so grunts worked here, plus another ten staff like secretaries and janitors and such, and everyone needed to eat. No doubt many brought things from home, but he was willing to bet both microwaves were well-used. It wasn't a bad kitchen, though, mostly stainless steel in that ruthlessly modern style that the entire interior of the facility seemed to be going for.

Kas parked himself on a stool against the island, curious to see what Cy was going to do.

She laughed at his statement, at least. “That's nothing new; you share that in common with that one," she stated, jabbing a finger in Ryk's direction. She moved around the island, heading straight for the pots and pans and pulled a couple of them down. The ones that it seemed she would need for whatever she was going to cook. “Don't mind me; you two have fun conversing, or whatever it is that you do with new coworkers," she stated, grinning at Kas and Ryk before she went to work, grabbing various vegetables, spices, and a meat of some sort. Looked a bit like chicken.

Eryk, however, didn't seem all inclined to talking, something he didn't do even eight years ago. He merely stared at Kas for a moment before narrowing his eyes and glancing back towards Cyrilla, as if to watch her make whatever dish she was going to make.

Kas shook his head slightly. "You've condemned me, Cy. You might as well have just left me by my lonesome, or told me to talk to the wall. All Ryk has for me are insults and glares." He placed a hand over his heart in a mockery of sincere bereavement. "Woe is me, for I have left such a bad impression already that the cruelty compounds itself in such a way."

Cyrilla snorted softly, but she didn't turn away from what she was doing. “Ryk, play nice and talk to your coworker. At least say hi," she stated, glancing over her shoulder once as if to give him a stare before turning back to the food. “It's going to be about thirty minutes before everything is done," she stated. Ryk sighed heavily, and turned towards Kas, as if he were actually going to obey her.

“You've nothing interesting to say, and we've already introduced ourselves eight years ago," Eryk stated in a deadpan voice. Cyrilla huffed a light laugh as she shook her head.

“Ryk, that's not what I meant. Fine, fine, I'll give you an example," she stated, turning around and placing a hand on her hip. “You already know my name, Cyrilla Niav, but what you don't know is that I'm the best cook you'll ever have and probably the best at anything," she stated, her grin turning a bit mischievous as if she were implicating something else. “Ryk over there seems like a grumpy ursaring but he's more like a mareep: cute and cuddly."

Eryk glared at her for a moment before his eyes went to the pot of food she was making.

"A tall claim," Kas replied, arching a brow in playful retort to Cyrilla. He hadn't really expected Eryk would want to talk much; he'd never been the chatty type, and that was honestly just fine by Kas. "Since my mother and sister are professional chefs and everything. As for anything else..."

A grin stretched across his face; he leaned forward on the counter, resting his chin in his hand and flicking his eyes rather pointedly over Cy. He figured she'd invited it with the comment and he was almost certain he was dealing with the type of woman who wouldn't hesitate to tell him to back off if he crossed a line. "Was that an invitation to find out for myself, or do I just have to take your word for it?"

There was a sense in which her confidence might really have crossed the line into arrogance, but he interpreted it more as playfulness and banter. Besides, it was interesting. And there was a distinct lack of interesting anywhere else at the moment.

Ryk made a vague disgusted noise, causing Cyrilla to laugh at him. She arched a brow at Kas, though, in what seemed to be a very suggestive way. “Well," she started, staring at him for a moment before she seemed to come to some conclusion, “as for anything else, we'll just have to see whether or not it was an invitation."

“Food, please, before I no longer have the appetite for it," Ryk spoke suddenly, his face pulled into a light grimace. Cyrilla chuckled lightly, spooning the contents of the meal she'd made, into a bowl.

“Thai coconut chicken curry, a la Cyrilla style," she stated, placing a bowl in front of Ryk before grabbing one for Kas and then herself. “It has a bit more heat to it so if you can't handle it," she glanced at Ryk, “there's milk in the fridge." She turned her full attention towards Kas, though, and arched a brow. Almost as if she were daring him to say something bad about the food she'd made.

Kas recognized a matter of pride when he saw it, and paused in annoying the shit out of Ryk for a moment to properly taste the food. He was a fan of spice himself, being from a region where heavily-spiced food was the norm. Careful to let the flavors settle on his tongue, he chewed slowly, then swallowed. "I'd adjust the coriander to ginger ratio, personally," he said honestly, "but that kind of thing's a matter of taste. It's really good, Cy, thank you." It wasn't in fact the best dish he'd ever had, but he didn't hold that against it.

Well, not actually, anyway. He would certainly tease her about it. "I don't think I'm convinced though. About the 'best I've ever had' thing." He grinned. "Perhaps next time?"

Without so much as a warning, Ryk stood abruptly, taking his bowl with him, and heading in the direction of his office. Cyrilla nearly fell out of her chair laughing before she shook her head. Kas was laughing, too, all but doubled over with the force of it. Getting to him was to much fun, really.

“He'll get used to it," she stated, turning her attention back towards Kas. “Well it's a good of a start as any, I suppose. I mean, you did say your mom and sister were professionals. While I might not be a professional cook," she continued, grinning lightly as she leaned to catch her chin in her hand, “I would say next time. Then you can decide whether or not it's the best you've ever had."

"You know, Cy," he replied lightly, "I think you and I are going to get along just fine."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



April 25th
Field Office 9 - Late Afternoon - Warm
Cyrilla Niav


When they finally managed to find Ryk, he was holed up in his office, sitting in his desk and staring at his computer screen. It seemed he didn't have too much difficulty navigating it, but Cyrilla knew he was not that good with computers. Or anything technology-related. Despite his claim at being a jack-of-all-trades, he really didn't know much about technology. That didn't bother her, though. She was there to help him in any way he needed it. She'd promised herself that much, at least, to always be there for him in any capacity. She owed him a great debt that she'd never be able to repay. Shoving the thought from her mind, for now, Cyrilla leaned on his door frame, crossing her arms over her chest as she stared at him.

“Ryk, it's time to go meet in the front foyer. They're going to be giving us our keys to our new place," she spoke, glancing behind her towards Kas before turning her attention back on Ryk. “And I'm sure you'd just love to check out how boring that's going to be, right?" she stated, feeling the corners of her lips tug upward when he glanced in her direction. His eyes narrowed somewhat, and to anyone else it might have been seen as him glaring. Cyrilla knew all he was doing was contemplating what she'd just told him, though. She'd learned to read Eryk's facial expressions years ago.

“Alright," was the only response he gave before standing from his spot. He glanced at the empty bowl near his desk as if to contemplate it. Cyrilla rolled her eyes.

“Just take it back to the kitchen, Ryk. It's on the way, anyway," she spoke, watching as he grabbed the bowl and ushered her out of his office. She huffed lightly and glanced towards Kas. “You're not going to be anything like him, are you?" she spoke mostly in a teasing manner. Kas had proven, so far anyway, that he was nothing like Ryk. If the way he'd responded to her flirtatious banter earlier was anything to go by.

Kas huffed half a laugh, tilting his head a little as though feigning to consider it. He'd lost the jacket in the last couple of minutes—probably left it in his office—and rolled up the sleeves of the black shirt to his elbows. One of his forearms seemed to have part of a long, serpentine tattoo of some kind on it. He was certainly better-built than the average nerd, but the way he stood slightly slouched didn't make it too obvious.

"Arceus, no. There's only one Ryk, and that's probably to everyone's benefit, including his." He grinned, bright and naturally a touch lopsided. "I think I could manage 'stoic badass' for about ten seconds before I gave myself away for the goofy smartass I actually am. So no, nothing like him. Sorry to disappoint." He tipped her a subtle wink, as if to suggest that he didn't really think this was all that disappointing. Oddly he didn't really seem to be putting Eryk down at all—even all his teasing earlier hadn't had that feel. If anything, he seemed to like him, and to banter accordingly.

“Good, glad to be disappointed," Cyrilla replied, grinning back at Kas. She almost could hear Ryk roll his eyes, causing her to laugh. She tilted her head a bit and shook it at Ryk. He just glowered at her and began walking in the direction of the kitchen and foyer. When he'd successfully managed to drop his dishes off, they made their way towards the counter where a young woman, probably around the same age as Cyrilla, if not a year older, sat behind a desk. She had a beautiful shade of blonde hair curled past her shoulders and a pair of deep blue eyes. Cyrilla grinned, leaning over the counter as she continued to regard the young woman.

“Oh, you must be Nero, Rheinallt, and Niav. I'm Hayley, nice to meet you!" she stated in a cheerful manner and extended her hand out. Cyrilla took it, noting how soft they were, before she squeezed softly and released it.

“Nice to meet you, Hayley," Cyrilla spoke, grinning with a light wink. Hayley coughed lightly but turned her attention towards Ryk and Kas.

“Here's your keys to your new place. It's at a complex known as The Cloyster. It's a rather nice area, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find." She handed the three of them a set of keys, each, and Cyrilla purposefully let her fingers slide across Hayley's hand before she glanced at the keys in question.

“Much obliged, Hayley," she stated, earning a narrowed expression from Eryk. She only grinned at him as she leaned away from the counter and twirled her keys on her finger. “Let's go check it out, yeah?"

Kas snickered, clearly well aware of what she was up to. When he accepted his own keys, though, he just gave Hayley a little smile and a nod of acknowledgment—he'd clearly introduced himself to her already, from the way she grinned a little as she handed his over.

He returned his attention to Cyrilla and Eryk though, and gestured for them to precede him. "Pretty sure I know where it's at. Been looking at island maps for the last three days." He rolled his eyes a little, then followed them outside.

It was possible his choice to rid himself of the uniform jacket was not purely aesthetic; they were immediately swamped by a wave of heat, at least compared to the inside. Kas's glasses fogged; he simply took them off his nose and settled them into the vee of his shirt. "Turn right up here; we're downtown, but it's still got that new-building stench, if you know what I mean."

Cyrilla didn't really mind. She and Ryk were used to all sorts of living conditions. From the super well-off lavish mansions to the grittiest down-trodden houses that provided no more shelter than a cardboard box would have. She shrugged her shoulders, though, and glanced towards Ryk. He didn't seem to have any particular feelings about the situation, but she supposed that was just the person he was now. Pushing the thought out of her mind, they walked in comfortable silence towards their new place. It wasn't too far from the facility, perhaps a good tweny minute walk. It was good exercise that way, she supposed, however; she glanced at the apartment complex, and whistled lightly.

It was like looking at a four star hotel. The building was tall, perhaps taller than the Old Mansion was, and could easily fit a few hundred people. It branched off, though, with smaller units off to the side that looked like townhomes, but still as luxurious as the tall building.

“This is too much. They could have easily fit us into a motel," Ryk stated, furrowing his brows. Cyrilla snorted softly and shook her head.

“Ryk... that's not the point of being here. We have to look and play the part of regular town people who aren't doing whatever it is we're doing," she stated, earning a flat stare from Ryk. He was never comfortable with things that were nice, but that might have been due to the fact that Ryk never liked attention on himself, to begin with. Cyrilla knew why, but they were as much a part of him as hers were. There was no healing those: physical or otherwise.

He merely continued forward, pulling out his key, perhaps, to see which apartment was his. “I have apartment 613," he spoke glancing towards Cyrilla and Kas. She blinked mildly and glanced at her own set.

. “Me too," she spoke, but it wasn't that surprising to her. They were, after all, on file, engaged. It made sense that they would group the two of them together. She glanced towards Kas, though, and tilted her head slightly. . “Does that mean you'll be our neighbor?" Chances were that they purchased two separate apartment units for the three of them. One for her and Ryk, and the other for Kas.

"Uh..." Kas looked a little perplexed for a moment, but then he pulled his key as if to double-check. When he did, he snorted. "Unless someone screwed up somewhere, I think I'm your roommate." The snort became a cackle as he looked over at Eryk, and he shook his head. "Man, I think someone in HR was making a statement about me being a third wheel or something. Sorry guys—we can always do ground rules if you need your, uh, alone time."

The way he said it sounded almost dubious, as though he wasn't entirely sure that was actually a concern.

Cyrilla blinked before she started laughing as well. Honestly, she didn't care. It's not like she actually planned to do anything with Ryk. The thought alone made her reflexively gag. He was like a brother to her. Their engagement was mostly for appearances sake, but that was something she didn't need to tell Kas. He wasn't part of their family so he wouldn't understand.

“I think it'll be kind of nice to have a third wheel, don't you think?" she stated, grinning in Ryk's direction. He narrowed his eyes at her, and she knew he was glaring at her, however; she merely laughed. “Ryk, you need to lighten up and just let loose one day. You might actually smile," she joked.

“I think not, but our arrangement isn't at all an inconvenience, Kas," he stated, his eyes sliding towards the other man.

“I think what he means to say is it's not necessary for ground rules. And also, he looks forward to you being his roommate. Well, our roommate, but who's really keeping track of those things?"

Kas arched an eyebrow, but shrugged amiably enough. As they entered the building, he bypassed the elevator and headed for the stairwell—or he seemed to be, until it became pretty clear that there wasn't one around. "What the hell?" he asked, shaking his head and backtracking to the elevator and pressing the call button. At least there were several.

"Not ground rules people, huh? That works for me. I promise I'm pretty clean, at least." He eyed them for a moment, then nodded slightly. "I figure we'll be fine."

The elevator arrived on the sixth floor, and Kas led the way to 613, unlocking the door and pushing it open to admit the both of them first.

Cyrilla shrugged at Kas's statement. “I doubt any of us will be using it very often, anyway. Ryk is a work-a-holic, and I'll be spending a lot of time out doing reconnaissance on the island for a few days," maybe a few weeks depending on how things went. It would be good to know the layout of the island just in case something happened. Cinnabar wasn't a particularly big island, but if Cyrilla could find blind spots on it, that might come in handy one day. It was always good to be prepared, be one step ahead of everyone else.

“Plus, I'm sure these guys," she began, pointing to the pokéballs that were hooked to her belt, “don't want to be cooped up in an apartment all day. Or inside their balls all day. They need to be able to stretch their legs." And she would never dream of keeping her pokémon in their pokéballs for longer than they needed to be. Of course, she knew that they were required to be inside their pokéballs when in certain public places, but at home, or walking in the park would be more than fine. Her pokémon were mostly well-behaved to begin with, except for Diva. She'd probably try and go pick a fight with someone.

When she finally took the time to glance around the apartment, she felt her lips curl backwards. It was so... spartan. The walls were mostly white, a light grey rug in the middle of what she assumed was the living area, and a white couch. She could see the kitchen from where she stood, mostly stainless steel appliances with a black and light grey checkered back splash. These people were really going for psych-ward appearances. She shuddered to think what the rooms look like.

“Alright, new plan," she began, turning towards Ryk and Kas. “This is... just ridiculous. We need more color than this. You," she stated, pointing towards Ryk, “need to go find something to brighten this place up. Kas, you and I are going to go to the nearest furniture store and get different furniture for this place. I don't even want to know what the rooms look like, yet."

She'd refurnish the apartment herself, really. Ryk just furrowed his brows.

“There's nothing wrong with this," he spoke, causing Cyrilla to sigh.

“Of course you wouldn't find anything wrong with plain."

"Oh, furniture shopping. Count me in." Kas sounded a touch wry, but no more than that. He grimaced slightly, though, when Eryk asserted that the apartment as it was was fine. "Honestly I don't know if we can trust him to find something like that. He'd come back with a navy blue tablecloth and think that counted." He grinned a little, shifting past them to check out the side hallways. It seemed, oddly enough, to split into three different rooms, two kind of next to each other and a third, probably the biggest, on the other end.

It was probably intended for Cyrilla and Ryk to occupy the big one, Kas the furthest one, and the middle one to be used for guests or an office or whatever else.

“I call the big one!" she stated, glancing towards Ryk and grinning. He merely shrugged his shoulders, causing her to roll her eyes. One of these days she was going to get him to do something other than just... nothing.

“I'll take one of the other ones, then," he spoke, moving towards one of the rooms.

“Really, now. You're hopeless," she muttered to herself before glancing towards Kas. “And you don't have to go furniture shopping with me. I can take care of all of it if you give me a list of things you're looking for in particular. Comfort, style, et cetera, et cetera." Honestly she wouldn't mind. It would give her the opportunity to get a head start on scouting the area out. And she wouldn't be hindered by a second person by having to wait for them.

He considered her for a moment, eyes slightly narrow. "If you'd actually rather go by yourself, that's fine," he said with a little shrug. "But in that case don't worry about me—I can get my own stuff." He shot a glance at Ryk disappearing into his room and snorted softly. "Guess this means I'm on the end."

She grinned at him. “I wouldn't say no to the company," she began, arching a brow at him, “because I'm sure nothing beats the company of a rather attractive person and sightseeing, no?" She shrugged her shoulders, though, and turned in the direction of her room. She wanted to see what she had to work with, first, before deciding on any furniture, after all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


April 29th
Field Office 9 - Afternoon - Muggy
Kasimir Rheinallt


Too bad the punch wasn't spiked.

Kas had considered doing it himself, actually, but then he'd have to go to the trouble of procuring the booze, erasing the footage, and like it or not there was always a chance of someone having a bad time if they drank alcohol unknowingly. Consent was important and all that.

Still... this had to be one of the worst parties he'd ever been to, and considering the fact that he'd been to more than one cheap-beer-fueled rager in his Academy days, that was saying something. Dear arceus, these people were just so fucking stiff.

This morning there'd been a block of seminars designed to welcome the new staff to the building and provide refreshers for everyone else. It wasn't awful to know how the basement intake room worked and stuff, except Kas had been down there for two minutes yesterday and already figured it out. And the rest of the stuff had been so general it might as well have been the basic training he and Ryk had done eight years ago all over again.

Now everyone was awkwardly standing around in the large foyer, most of them clustered in small groups or around the snack table, while a few more solitary types held up their wall of choice. He could have wandered around socializing—he was more than capable of striking up a smooth conversation with even shy people, but it seemed HR wasn't done with them yet.

The building's local rep, Tanya, was a willowy woman in her mid-thirties. Nothing wrong with that, of course; the trouble was that she was absolutely vapid. Kas couldn't recall the last time he'd been this bored by a pretty face. Or well, it actually happened a lot, but he was typically able to exit those situations, and he really didn't want to make quite that bad of an impression just yet. He preferred to ease people into not expecting much of him rather than slacking too often from the get-go.

“All right everyone," Tanya declared, clearing her throat for attention. She was the kind of woman used to getting it whenever she so desired—that much was easy to tell. Next to half the male eyes in the room had been on her already, for very different reasons than his, and this was a room in which a lot of pretty women were standing. “We're going to do an icebreaker. This one's called Heads Up!"

Kas resisted the urge to groan. That was the one where people picked random cards from a deck to wear on their foreheads so people could help them guess who they were.

“We'll be using our NTR pokégears for this; the app should already be on your new devices. If you'll all break into groups of three, we'll start by putting pairs of groups together and we can rotate when the rounds are done!" Tanya smiled with cherry-red lips, beaming at all of them.

He really wished he'd spiked the punch.

Someone clicked their tongue behind Kas before the person walked to his side and into his field of vision. It was Cyrilla, and she glanced up at him from where she stood, arms crossed over her chest. Her hair was pulled back into a tail, it seemed, a little more professional, but there were still a few strands at the front that hung loose.

“I suppose it makes more sense for the three of us to be grouped together, but..." she trailed off, glancing in a direction where Ryk was. He was staring at a person who seemed to be trying to make small talk with him. Eryk didn't do small talk, from what Kas remembered, and his eyes were suddenly on them. Immediately, he walked towards him and Cy before standing on her other side.

“Well, I guess that means he agrees," she spoke, snickering softly at the expression on his face.

Kas snorted, quirking an eyebrow at Cy. "What? You mean spending your afternoon with me at this scintillating soirée isn't your idea of a good time?" He asked the question in jest, because no sane person would really want to be here, but that didn't mean he couldn't rib her for making it sound like being in his group in particular was something that 'made sense, she guessed.' Hardly a ringing endorsement, which he only found funny.

Opening the requisite app on his gear, he ignored Tanya giving directions. It was obvious—the app had a timer, after which the screen would display his 'identity,' meaning he should have it out of sight by then.

This presented its own conundrum, because Kasimir was tall enough that not everyone would be able to see his forehead, so he set it to his shoulder instead, angled so he couldn't see. Cy's screen identified her as Lt. Surge, funnily enough, and apparently Ryk was 'a drunken chansey.' At least the cards were kind of funny.

He looked up, curious to see who would be in the first group of three to match up with them.

Cyrilla huffed a light laugh at that, and shook her head. “Hm, I couldn't think of better company, really. It beats just being with that one all day," she stated, jabbing her thumb in Ryk's direction who looked to be having a bit of difficulty with his pokegear. She rolled her eyes before she took it from him, and set it up. “I swear you can't operate even the basic things you should know. What would you do without me, really?" she stated, though from the tone of voice she'd used, it sounded more like an older sibling scolding a younger one, even though Ryk was the older one, here.

“Whatever," he finally spoke, narrowing his eyes slightly in her direction. She just shook her head. “I don't understand the meaning behind this. Why can't we just do what we're here to do? There's no need to bond when we likely won't be here for very long," he muttered beneath his breath, causign Cyrilla to hard roll her eyes.

“Because you need to be able to work with your coworkers, and not against them, Ryk. That's why they are called coworkers," she responded, however; before she could say anything further, her attention was taken by a group of people that approached them.

“We were grouped with you," a young woman spoke. She was dressed in formal attire. A black pencil skirt with a white blouse tucked into it. Her dark hair was pulled back into a bun, and thick square glasses sat on her nose. “I'm Lorraine," she introduced herself. Another one stepped forward, this one a man probably in his late twenties. His hair was a bright flame orange, slicked back, and his eyes a dark brown. They were narrowed slightly before he shrugged his shoulders. He was wearing something that mirrored Lorraine's color scheme, though he was wearing a pair of slacks and not a pencil skirt.

“Name's Niko," he stated.

The last was a thin man nearing forty, Kas would guess, with a native islander's complexion. For some reason he was wearing a tweed jacket despite the temperature outside. Kas supposed the air conditioning in here did work a little too well sometimes. He very much had the look of a pencil-pusher about him, the kind of logistics wonk that Kas pretended to be, save for the precise undercut of his floppy black hair. “Nice to meet you," he said in a mild alto, much higher than even his thin frame would suggest. “I'm Luke." This prompted a second look, and Kas realized his throat was smooth, free of the prominent cartilage bump. Ah.

"Well welcome to our corner of the room, guys," Kas said, shooting all three of them a winning grin. Luke smiled back, at least. "I think we're supposed to take a look at what you have here... let's see."

The pokégear Luke was awkwardly holding to his forehead read 'Steven Stone.' Lorraine's said 'confused tauros,' and Niko had 'pro battling cheerleader.' Well that should be interesting.

Sticking his hand out towards Niko, he offered a shake. "So what color pom-poms do you prefer, and does the skirt chafe?"

Niko furrowed his brows a bit before taking Kas's hand and shaking it. Cyrilla snickered lightly, though Eryk merely looked unamused. “Dunno, depends on whether or not you're offering to do a check-up," Niko replied, giving Kas a clue into his identity, perhaps. That or he was flirting with Kas.

"Always happy to help, though I'm sure people in your profession have to stay in tip-top shape." He winked, not yet sure whether that was flirtation but willing to run with it either way.

“Well, there are worse things on a warm day than whipping yourself into a frenzy," Cyrilla stated, arching a brow in Lorraine's direction. The woman merely glanced at her, an expression to match Ryk's, before she narrowed her eyes slightly.

“Hm, yes, well I suppose it is better than being a paranoid trap maker," she replied in a deadpan voice.

“Oh, I didn't know you knew that about me. It's quite fun, really," Cyrilla stated, clearly either ignoring the clue, or not really caring much about it. Eryk had yet to say anything, and just merely glanced between the other people.

“You look a bit like you could stand a bit of medical attention yourself," Luke told Kas with a small smile. “Are those bags under your eyes?"

"Damn," he said with a feigned-heavy sigh. "If only I were a pokémon I could ask Ryk over there to help. Though he might break a few eggs in his state."

Luke laughed, clearly catching the thread of the joke. “Are you sure? Wasn't there a movie about you? Pokémon House?"

"Wait, I'm a frat dude? A... tired frat dude?" At Luke's nod, he checked his screen and found that it did indeed say 'sleep-deprived frat boy.' Huh. Maybe Niko was flirting after all, because that had nothing to do with doctors.

Eryk merely narrowed his eyes slightly at Kas's statement. “He's not wrong, Ryk. If you have any more, you'll just end up passing out, and you'd be no use to anyone, really," Cyrilla added.

“Considering that he's required to assist at any given time, I'd do the same if I were in his position. Thankfully, I'm not a pokemon, so I don't need the help," Niko stated. Eryk looked like he'd rather be doing something else, but sighed heavily.

“You collect rare rocks," he spoke in Luke's direction. Cyrilla shook her head.

“Ryk... that's not how... you know what, never mind," Cyrilla stated before turning her attention towards Lorraine. “As for you, Lorraine, perhaps you should avoid battles until your condition gets better. Otherwise you won't know where you're going, and with those three little whips at your back, it'll only increase your anger," she spoke. Lorraine rolled her eyes in what seemed to be good nature.

“Perhaps, but then again being out and about beats being couped up all day receiving challenge after challenge, and only specializing in one thing," she stated.

"Speaking of," Kas added to Cy, "shouldn't you have been promoted by now? Colonel or something? Or do your superiors think you're too much of a live wire?"

“Surely that's not it," Luke put in with a little grin. “I'd be shocked!"

Kas offered a hand for a high-five. "Stunned, even?"

Luke clapped his smaller hand into it with respectable force. “Nay, paralyzed."

She must have found it funny because she started laughing. Even Lorraine cracked a small smile, then. “Well, considering that I am stunning," she spoke, running a hand through her ponytail and pulling it over her shoulder, “I guess I must be a poor excuse of a Lieutenant Surge since I don't have the trademark golden hair."

“There are worse things to be missing," Niko stated, shrugging his shoulders a bit. “You could be missing an important egg used for treating patients because you were too busy blacking out to remember shit," he continued, glancing at Eryk with an arched brow.

“Oh for the love of..." he stated, checking his screen to see what it said. “I'm a drunk chansey," he stated, causing Cyrilla to sigh heavily.

“Just ignore him; he's a kill-joy," she stated, turning back towards Niko with an arched brow. “You at least seem to be having a lot of fun at major competitions. Know if they could use another able body? I promise to bring a pom-pom style oricorio with me as back up" she stated, blinking in an innocent manner, causing Niko to snort.

“I dunno, I mean, you have great legs for a cheerleader, but not as great as mine," Niko replied, holding out his leg as if to prove his point. Cyrilla laughed again.

Kas and Luke laughed, too, but then the bell at the front of the room rang, signaling that it was time for the groups to rotate. Niko, Lorraine, and Luke shuffled off elsewhere, and a new trio approached, including one surprisingly-familiar face.

"Sis!" he enthused, grinning broadly and sweeping down to pull the blonde scientist in for an ursaring-hug. "I haven't seen you since I transferred out of Mahogany Town! How have you been?" He'd only been there for a short while a couple years ago. The last few months of his time there had been Nev's first with NTR; as the guy in charge of the outpost, he'd sort of made it his responsibility to help her out, at least until he'd been transferred to Celadon for a while.

Aidan was with her, too, his pokégear nowhere in sight. "We can just not with the icebreaker," he said, rolling his eyes slightly. "I'm calling Admin privilege on that one."

“Thank Arceus," Ryk muttered as he folded his arms across his chest. Nev, however, looked slightly surprised to see Kas, and she'd managed a small squeak of surprise when he'd hugged her.

“It's nice to see you, too, Kasimir," she replied, pulling out of his hug with a light pink dusting her face. She cleared her throat softly as she glanced towards Cyrilla and Eryk. “And it's a pleasure to meet you..." she trailed off, as if expecting them to introduce themselves. Cyrilla stuck her hand out, smiling in turn.

“Cyrilla Niav, and this grump here is Eryk Nero. Don't let his face fool you, he's really just a big cuddly mareep," she stated, earning a light glare from Ryk. Nevena didn't seem too bothered by it, though, and nodded her head with a smile.

“Well it's a pleasure to meet you both. I'm Nevena Solomon, but please do feel free to call me Nev," she spoke, earning a nod from Cyrilla. Eryk kept his arms crossed over his chest, though, and seemed to be staring off at the other groups. Probably really just staring at nothing in particular, since it was Ryk.

The third in their group introduced herself as Penny, giving Kas what he suspected was an attempt at being subtle in her once-over. He fought not to grin, and mostly succeeded. Some trace of it must have made it to his face though; she flushed and darted her glance away.

Aidan sighed. "I don't know why HR insists on this," he muttered quietly. "It's not like we have a friendly, collegial atmosphere atmosphere around here."

He wasn't wrong; Kas had been genuinely surprised by the last group being at least personable. Very often, Neo Team Rocket offices were cold, inhospitable places, where everyone was clawing their way towards the top of the organization and the bigger paychecks and chunks of prestige and influence that went with. The mission statement did attract some do-gooder sorts, but the shadow of the previous iteration of Team Rocket loomed. So did the organization's extralegal nature, outside the typical justice system of any government but enforcing its rules regardless. Those tended to draw ambitious people of a certain competitive stripe.

“Probably because they're trying to change that," Cyrilla spoke with a shrug of her shoulders. “Even though it really won't change a thing," she added, earning a confused look from Nev.

“Why do you say that?" she asked. Cyrilla arched a brow.

“Isn't it obvious? A lot of us don't really require working together, and if that's the case, then we'll likely only be getting in each others way. Why bother getting to know people if you won't be around very long to actually care?"

“I guess I didn't see it that way since I'll be constantly working with a team," Nev stated as she furrowed her brows. “But in the mean time, it wouldn't hurt to at least get to know some of you," she continued, smiling at them. Cyrilla huffed lightly and shook her head.

“Well, you shouldn't get to know us too well," she began, something of a pained expression crossing Cyrilla's face. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared, as if it had never been there at all. “We don't want you to miss us too much when it's finally time to leave."

Nev chuckled lightly at that. “I'll do my best. Besides, I have Kas to keep me company, too, right? How's Meep by the way?"

"Adorable as always," he replied with a grin. Meep was in fact his youngest pokémon, and had barely hatched when he met Sis. "Speaking of, didn't your last email mention a Floof? We should get coffee to catch up and let them play."

“Oh, gosh, you're right!" she stated, eyes wide with a large smile. “I was just telling Aidan about her, yesterday. I plan on taking her to the park later on today so she can get some exercise in. If you want to join us, I'm sure Floof would be more than happy to have a playmate. In all honesty, she could use it. You all should come, actually. It would be nice to let all of our pokémon get together to play, if you'd like."

Cyrilla snorted softly. “It sounds like it could be fun." Ryk, however, didn't seem to feel any particular way about the invitation. He lightly shrugged his shoulders, which could have indicated anything.

Fortunately Kas had enough enthusiasm for the both of them. "Sounds great," he replied with a grin. "I admit I'm curious about what pokémon a former undefeated champion keeps on him." He quirked an eyebrow at Aidan.

"A brat, an idiot, a big baby, and assorted doofuses," he said dryly.

“At least yours doesn't try to hypnotize you," Eryk muttered lightly beneath his breath. Cyrilla snorted softly at Aidan's statement, though, and glanced at Ryk.

“Yeah, but you also have Runt, Ryk. He pretty much symbolizes the definition of idiot," Cyrilla stated lightly, earning a flat look from Ryk.

“I reiterate. Doesn't try to hypnotize you at inconvenient times."

“Oh, this is going to be fun. I look forward to meeting all of your pokémon, and getting to know you better," Nev stated excitedly.

“The feeling is mutual."

Maybe this wouldn't be a typical NTR workplace, after all.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



April 30th
Field Office 9 - Mid Morning - Clear
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed heavily.

Why did they need to prove that they could work together? He already knew he could work well with Cyrilla. They'd managed things, together, before. With Kasimir, Eryk thought that he could work rather decently with the other man, but it was hard to know for sure. Eryk wasn't really a people, person, but he figured, in the end, it didn't really matter. The purpose of this exercise was moot, at best. Smoothing out his uniform, he raked a hand through his hair and sighed through his nose. He really didn't want to do this, but if Gregorovich wanted to see them work together, Eryk supposed he didn't have much of a choice.

He exited his office, turning slightly to walk towards Cyrilla's. He knocked on it lightly before opening her door, narrowing his eyes slightly when he spotted her. She was at her desk, typing something, it seemed before she glanced up and noticed him. She smiled softly in his direction, and Eryk felt a ghost-like smile appear on his face, but that was absurd. He didn't smile. He'd lost that a long time ago, and when she frowned at him, he knew he hadn't smiled at all.

“We're supposed to be meeting in the field. Let's go," he stated, watching as she rolled her eyes.

“Give me a second to finish this," she stated, pointing to her computer. She typed a few more things before she stood, smoothing out the skirt to her uniform and pulling her hair back into a tail. “Is Kas already waiting for us?" she asked, glancing up at him. Eryk rolled his eyes, but shook his head.

“Probably," he shrugged. “I'm not his keeper." He may have been the leader of the three, but that didn't mean he had to keep tabs on his teammates. They didn't need to watch each other, or keep track of who went where. If that were the case, Eryk was almost certain that he'd never hear the end of toilet breaks, or some other kind of break he didn't care for. Cyrilla snickered softly, though, and shook her head.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, boss-man," she spoke, causing him to roll his eyes. He forgot how immature she could be, sometimes. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he walked towards the back yard of the research facility. They had set it up the day before with a few maze-like structures. He wasn't entirely sure why, but he supposed he'd find out when they were given their announcement. Or assignment. Whatever it was going to be. He should probably pay more attention to his emails.

When they reached the meeting area, Eryk glanced around for the third member of their group, pursing his lips softly when he didn't see him. Maybe he just missed him? A difficult thing to do considering Kasimir's height, but Eryk didn't really care too much.

A moment later, he spotted him, holding court with a group of grunts, as the expression usually went. He seemed to be rather unconcerned with whatever the exercise was that they were doing, and was laughing in a rather carefree fashion at something one of the other had said. Probably Luke, from the way he clapped him on the shoulder a moment later.

The smaller man noticed Eryk, though, and nodded in his direction, prompting Kasimir to glance his way. With a word to the group and a wave, he took his leave, sliding his hands into his pockets as he headed over. They hadn't been required to wear the uniform for this, and Kasimir definitely had not, dressing instead in tan cargo shorts and a bright blue shirt with a pattern of white palm fronds. He looked more like a vacationer from mainland Kanto than a Rocket Executive.

"Morning, Ryk," he greeted, not excessively enthusiastic but clearly in a good mood. "How're you?"

Eryk shrugged his shoulders, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes. “That's universal for, I'm fine, Kas, how are you?" she stated, shaking her head in the process. Eryk supposed she could interpret it however she wanted to. It's not like he actually cared if Kas was good or not. As if sensing this, Cyrilla elbowed him lightly in his arm, causing him to furrow his brows.

“What?" he stated, rubbing his arm. It didn't hurt, but it was slightly uncomfortable.

“So, did you read the email about the details?" she was looking at him when she spoke, as if she knew Eryk didn't really read his emails. He pursed his lips together.

“We're doing an exercise of sorts," was his reply. Cyrilla sighed heavily.

“Mind filling in the blanks for him, Kas? I can't with him, right now."

Kasimir grinned. "And good morning to you, Cy," he said, as though they didn't all live together. Though they did conduct themselves separately, so it was possible Cyrilla and Kasimir had not, in fact, seen each other yet today. "As for what we're up to here, it's a little exercise in coordination and skill. As you can see, we've got a system of mazes here. There's a flag at the center of each, and we're racing the grunts to get them. The catch is, when one of us enters the maze, we have to blindfold ourselves. They don't."

The mazes, as far as Eryk could see, were tall enough to reach about Cyrilla's shoulder, so it was possible to see over them, but not all the details of the maze at once. Still, sight would be a significant advantage.

"Beyond that," Kas continued, "our strategy is entirely up to us. Whichever team gets their five flags first is the winner. We're allowed to physically confront each other to prevent that, but no pokémon, no weapons, and no actually trying to hurt anyone."

“Well that just takes the fun out of it," Cyrilla murmured, though she was grinning so Eryk wasn't entirely sure what she meant by that. He studied the maze for a moment, and pursed his lips together. He and Cyrilla had good memories, but even he doubted that they'd be able to remember every detail to which turn, and what to do, next. And if they were turned around by a grunt, then that woudn't be good. He narrowed his eyes in Kasimir's direction.

“There was nothing in the email that said one of us couldn't stay behind and direct one another," he spoke. He had, in fact, read that much, at least. The only problem was, who would be the one to stay behind? Cyrilla was, perhaps, the faster of the three. She'd probably be able to maneuver with a little more ease, though she did lack a bit in the physical department of strength. He knew she could probably work this maze with relative ease, even while she was blindfolded, however; the objective was to work together as a team.

“Since you're the tallest of us, you stay behind and direct us," he stated, side glancing towards Kas.

“And here I thought I'd never see the day that Ryk would put his trust in a complete stranger. Wow," Cyrilla stated, grinning in Eryk's direction.

“Oh, shut up, Cy." She only snickered softly.

"Height," Kasimir said with a shake of his head. "A certified genius and technological wizard, and you want to use me for my height." He sighed dramatically. "Well fine. Run separate mazes. I can handle both of you at once, I promise." He arched an eyebrow and winked, though it seemed to be a joke aimed more at Cyrilla than Eryk. Perhaps because he expected her to appreciate it more.

And appreciate it, she did, apparently. The grin on her face was more a cheshire grin than anything. “You sure about that, Kas?" she stated, clearly amused, however; she shook her head, chuckling as she moved towards the entrance of one of the mazes. “Well, come on, Ryk, we don't have all day. Let's get a move on!" she stated, motioning for Eryk to follow her. Eryk rolled his eyes, though. They were both... too similar for his tastes. The way they acted around each other was something Ryk could have done without. He was here for business and nothing else. Cy and Kas... well, he didn't really want to care.

“Get her lost if you can," Eryk grumbled as he glanced in Kas's direction. With deep sigh, he made his way towards the entrance of one of the mazes. He glanced towards Cyrilla, who was apparently already blindfolding herself before she'd even entered the maze, and grinned in his direction.

“Good luck, Kas! Make sure Ryk doesn't get lost!" she stated. Eryk had half a mind to tell her to fuck off, but she'd likely take it the wrong way, and he really didn't need to hear any retort from her. And knowing Kas, he'd probably fuel the flame. When he stepped through the entrance of the maze, he took the offered blindfold, and covered his eyes with it.

“Whenever you're ready, Kas," he spoke loud enough so that Kas could hear him. He could hear just about everyone else moving around already, but he was putting his trust in Kas to get them to where they needed to go.

Kasimir was still chuckling, but Eryk could hear him moving around, possibly dragging one of the picnic benches set up along the maze to a place he could stand on it. The grunts were moving about as well, but for the moment they were probably just trying to get their own flags. "Ryk, get in there and take your first right, and then the second left after that. Cy, you're gonna want to hang two lefts and then go until you hit the end and take a right."

Shrugging his shoulders, Eryk decided to follow Kas's directions. He took the first right, sliding his fingers along the edge of the maze to ensure he was going the proper distance before taking the second left. He could hear the grunts moving, and talking about something, but he was focusing on Kas's directions. He couldn't hear what Cy was doing, but that was likely because she'd always been the silent one.

“Alright, Kas," he stated, waiting for the next set of directions. It didn't take them long at all before Eryk found the first flag, and he could hear Cyrilla for a brief moment, finding the second one. They hadn't run into a grunt yet, which was good. He could hear them, though, getting closer. They were likely going to try and take his flag from him before he could reach the next one.

“Kas," he stated, waiting for a response in which way to go.

"Yup. You've got a couple coming in from your right. Head out at 2 o'clock from your current position, then hang an immediate left." To his credit, Kasimir's words were clear, loud enough without shouting, and precise. "Cy, you're gonna want to speed up. Grunts incoming at four and six o'clock. Exit to your left, then book it until you hit your third right."

“Got it!" Cyrilla shouted, perhaps doing what Kas had told her to do. Eryk, pursed his lips together, and nodded. He moved as quickly as he could, trusting Kas to guide him in the proper direction. To his credit, Kas hadn't led either of them into a direct conflict with the other grunts. Eryk would have been thoroughly impressed if he wasn't currently blindfolded. He'd preferred to not have been, but he couldn't do much about it.

“Which way, Kas," he spoke with a little more urgency. There wasn't too much time to linger. The grunts would catch up to him if they weren't quick.

It was here that the clip of Kasimir's words accelerated, each new direction fronted with a sharp Cy or Ryk to make sure it caught the right person's attention. He always kept them aware of at least their most likely next two moves, but sometimes adjusted in light of the way the Grunts reacted to their strategies, something that Eryk could be certain they were doing but definitely did not see.

Still, somehow, he and Cyrilla made it out of their mazes at about the same time, unscathed and carrying their flags. Eryk lifted his blindfold only to see that Kas was donning one. "I've memorized the center maze," he explained. "Should be able to get in and out really quick. If you two want to get started on yours, I can help untangle anything that goes wrong when I'm done."

It did seem to be the most efficient way to handle the fact that there were three mazes left. The grunts had brought back two flags already, too, so it seemed like the faster they could make this happen, the better their chances.

As promised, it wasn't more than three minutes or so after Eryk started his second maze that Kas's voice reappeared, guiding himself and Cyrilla to the centers of their own. There was less chance of avoiding the grunts this time, as the narrowing number of relevant mazes meant there were more of them in each.

Eryk supposed that they were going to run into a bit of a problem now that there were more grunts in the mazes. He could already hear Cyrilla getting into a scuffle with one of them, now. “Hey, now that's no way to treat a lady!" she shouted. There was a quick succession of muffled sounds before it sounded like she continued onward. Eryk would have rolled his eyes but he didn't.

Kas directed them a few more times, and Eryk found himself in a similar situation that Cyrilla had, however; he wasn't as gentle as he thought she was. It wasn't a lot of force, he didn't think, because he wasn't supposed to harm the grunts. But exceptions had to have been made for this, right? He pushed forward, and managed to grab another flag. Between them, they had four flags. The two he had, the one Cyrilla had, and the one Kas had managed to get.

That left them with only one more.

“Kas, get me out of here," he shouted. He would have to rely on Cyrilla to get hers, but he also had to keep a hold of his own at the same time. He could hear her getting into another scuffle with a couple of grunts, but he couldn't focus on that right now. He needed to get out with his own flag before he ran into other grunts.

"Hang a left, Ryk," Kas said. "Grunt incoming, three o'clock!"

There were a few more collisions on the way out, but he did manage to get free of the maze, in just enough time to see Kasimir bodily hauling a grunt away from Cyrilla, who was just emerging from her maze as well. "Get those to the finish, quick!"

Ryk didn't need to be told twice. He nodded in Cyrilla's direction as they both took off towards the area they needed to get to. To finish this ridiculous exercise so he could go back to doing what he needed to do. When they'd reached the finish line, he handed the flags over to the necessary person and glanced back towards Cyrilla. For some strange reason, she was laughing. He didn't even want to know the reason behind that, but she seemed to be having fun if anything.

“Oh well, here comes the man of the hour now," she stated, glancing in the direction of Kas, who was, indeed, making his way towards them. He supposed a lot of this was due to his help, but... he merely shrugged his shoulders.

“That's Ryk for, thanks, Kas," she spoke, as if supplementing the word for his actions.

"I'm learning a whole new language," Kasimir quipped with a grin. "And hey, no thanks necessary. Just doing the job boss-man told me to do." He saluted in a way that could only be intended humorously, more a lazy flick of his hand than anything approaching a serious attempt.

“Well," Cyrilla started, grinning up at Kas as she placed a hand on her hip. “If you stick around Ryk and I for awhile, I'm sure there are other languages you'll be learning," she stated. Eryk furrowed his brows deeply.

“Oh, for the love of... can you not start?" he stated, narrowing his eyes in displeasure in her direction. She blinked at him, almost innocently at first, but Ryk knew better.

“And where would the fun in that be, Ryk?"

He really wished he didn't share an apartment with them.

"You sure?" Kas asked. "I'm fluent in body language already, y'see. Though I don't mind expanding my dialects." He seemed to be entirely ignoring Eryk's protestations as well, but then he grinned a little more broadly and shook his head.

"Let's get Ryk inside outta this heat before he combusts on us, huh? Boss's gotta be happy with that result, so maybe we can all celebrate later or something."

“Oh, definitely, we should celebrate."

Ryk shook his head, but he welcomed the reprieve, anyway. He needed to be away from these two as quickly as possible, and like Kas said, the boss had to be happy with their results.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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Image


May 2nd
Field Office 9 - Mid Morning - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk glanced between Kas and Cy. They were both in his office, Kas taking up a majority of his chair while Cy seemed perfectly content on the bean bag she'd ordered for his office. It was pink with light purple dots on it, and was the only real thing of color here. He didn't understand why she'd felt the need to order it in the first place, but she currently sat in it with Siri, her noibat, and Icarus, his espurr, in her lap. Icarus was content to lay in her lap, though the espurr never really made any facial movements. He wasn't quite sure why that was, but Icarus was a strange creature to begin with. Siri, on the other hand, was munching happily on a berry of sorts, before she left Cyrilla and landed near Kas. It looked like she was offering Kas the rest of her berry, and Eryk just shook his head.

He didn't understand any of their pokémon, but he supposed it really didn't matter in the end. They all had their own unique personalities. “Alright, so," Cyrilla stated, calling the attention towards her. “What's the plan now that we've managed to scout the area?" she spoke, causing Eryk to rub his temples.

“It is my impression that the boss wants us to interact with her," he spoke, furrowing his brows lightly. He didn't understand why, but he couldn't exactly say no. “He wants us to befriend her."

"Seems that way," Kas agreed, accepting Siri's berry remnants with a large, bright grin. "Why thank you, m'lady," he said with a wink, rubbing carefully at the pokémon's large ears. "Perhaps you might be willing to accept a token of my gratitude?" With a flourish and a bit of sleight-of-hand, he presented the noibat with what seemed to be dark blue berry jelly, delicately formed into the shape of a flower. Siri seemed all too delighted, and took the jelly flower from Kas, making her way back to share it with Icarus.

Turning back to the others, he shrugged. "Sounds like pretty typical fieldwork to me, no? Difference is she's not a politician or something. Probably best not to overwhelm her at first."

“We do this small, then," Eryk stated first, running a hand down his face. “We'll each do a round, and then gradually assimilate ourselves. It'll be easier for me and Cy because I can introduce Cy as my..." he paused, furrowing his brows a bit. Cyrilla narrowed hers, too in his direction.

“How about we leave that part out, for now, alright? The both of us already know that we need to play every angle to our advantage. If you introduce me as your fiancée, well..." she trailed off. Eryk pursed his lips together. What did that matter? The boss wasn't asking him to sleep with her, or even seduce the young woman. All he'd asked was that they make friends with her. That was it.

“Since you're more impressionable, Kas, why don't you start, first?"

"Impressionable?" Kasimir looked highly amused. "I don't think that's quite the word you're after, Ryk. Do you mean to suggest I'm more personable, perhaps?" He tilted his head, then tipped one of his hands side to side. "I dunno if that's a good idea though. I'm the computers guy, remember? I don't mind helping out, but this isn't exactly my specialty. I could always let something slip on accident."

His tone was strange—it was unclear if he was joking or being serious about that. "Besides, aren't you guys the ones who've done missions like this before?"

“He has a point, Ryk," Cyrilla spoke, rubbing the back of Icarus's ear. “We can't afford to have anything leaked out so soon, and besides," she continued, leaning a bit to her side as Siri tried to climb back into her lap. “She's a cute girl. You could always work your charm on her if it makes it easier," she arched a brow in his direction, a slight grin pulling at her lips. Eryk resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“If you're so interested, why don't you do it?" Eryk retorted, narrowing his eyes slightly in her direction.

“Because I still have scouting missions to do, Ryk. I can't just put those on hold to befriend someone, and other than that, you need the practice. Arceus knows how lucky you've been so far in seducing other targets knowing how bad your people skills are. It can't be that hard, can it? Just talking to her?" She glanced at Kas as if he'd reinforce her statement somehow.

"Honestly, man, you should run a class in that. I don't even understand how you do it. It's like a cactus succeeding at seducing someone. Not a cacturne, a cactus." Kasimir was smiling, his words lacking any bite but having more than a little playful disbelief in them. He turned to Cyrilla and continued. "I mean, we'd know a thing or two about being so pretty people just approach, but I don't think even we could pull that well being half as prickly. I kind of want to see it happen."

Cyrilla snorted softly, while Eryk just narrowed his eyes at Kas. “Another good point, Ryk," she stated, grinning in Kas's direction. “But in all seriousness," she began, turning back to him, “you really should be the first one to approach her. Not only will you be doing yourself a favor, but if you're at all something she's looking for, well... I don't see why that couldn't be allowed to flourish."

Eryk knew what she was talking about, however; he shook his head. “No, it cannot. I will, however, take the first introduction." He glanced at Kas, next. “Before I do... you will at least help me with introducing myself." Cyrilla huffed a soft laugh.

“Ryk, we all live together. You should have been able to pick up on some things, you know."

Kasimir chuckled, though not as obnoxiously as he might have. "Oh my, Ryk, are you telling me you want me to help you learn to talk to pretty girls?" He looked rather like the meowth that had got the canary, with that jagged grin on his face. "I mean... they're people too, you know. How would you normally introduce yourself?"

Cyrilla snorted in an attempt not to laugh, it seemed, and in that moment, he regretted even asking Kasimir for his help.

“Never mind, forget I asked," he spoke, causing Cyrilla to laugh. “And you, hush," he stated, only to cause her to burst into a fit of laughter.

“Oh, come on, Ryk, it's not that bad, honestly. How about you get some practice in while we all go get lunch? You can place the order nicely, and then go from there, alright? What do you say, Kas?" she spoke, glancing down at Icarus who trilled lightly, as if agreeing with her. Ryk rolled his eyes.

"I'm in favor. We have yet to celebrate our victory from the other day, after all." Kasimir leveraged himself out of his chair and huffed at Cyrilla, still with two pokémon on her lap. Hand-to-heart, he bowed in an exaggerated fashion and offered a hand to assist her to her feet. "May I?" No doubt he was well aware she could easily manage for herself. He wasn't actually an idiot, after all. But he was strange.

"What do we feel like eating?"

“Why thank you, Sir Kasimir," she responded, taking his hand and standing up. Siri had flown to the empty chair, then, and curled into it, falling asleep almost immediately. Icarus, however, crawled over to her shoulder, and slid down her side before making his way towards Eryk. He blinked up at him, and Eryk rolled his eyes, but pointed to the bean bag Cyrilla had occupied. A small smile appeared on Icarus's face as he made his way to curl up into it, seemingly satisfied before falling asleep as well.

“Why do they have to be so cute?" Cyrilla stated, causing Ryk to shake his head.

“There's a place just down the street we can go to. They have your favorite: kalosian toast" he stated, watching as Cyrilla's face lit up for a moment.

“Brunch sounds really good to me, and it's simple enough, I suppose," she replied, shrugging as if she weren't as excited about it as Eryk knew her to be.

“Then brunch it is."

"Oh, brunch. Sounds like there are mimosas in my future; excellent." Kasimir mimed bringing Cyrilla's hands towards his lips but did not actually make that kind of contact. He released her then, though, stretching his arms up towards the ceiling, which he wasn't too far off being able to reach, between his height and armspan.

“You would like mimosas," Eryk murmured softly, and shook his head.

He studied Cyrilla from the corner of his eye. "Kalosian toast, huh? Sweet or savory?"

“Oh, definitely savory. I eat for taste," she replied, grinning up at Kas. “If it were sweet, well... as much as I love sweet things, I also enjoy eating food that's not just sugar," she continued. Her favorite foods, Eryk knew, were spicy things, after all, so it made some sense, he supposed.

“Ryk, here, actually enjoys things that are a bit bitter and not so tastey," she continued, though she leaned in closer to Kas as if to tell him a secret. “He likes oatmeal cookies," she whispered, but it was loud enough that Eryk could hear it.

“I can hear you."

Kasimir, who had obligingly leaned down as if to receive the secret, gasped theatrically. "Quelle horreur," he murmured, widening his eyes and clutching slightly at his chest. "I bet he likes carrot cake then too, right?" Even as he asked, he started them on the way out.

"I dunno, Cy, he might be beyond even our considerable talents to properly socialize."

“So what if I like oatmeal cookies and carrot cake. It's not like either of you asses have to eat it," Eryk stated, narrowing his eyes as they made their way down the road. Cyrilla looked offended, and to her credit, Eryk actually thought she was. He was half way to apologizing when she started laughing. He really hated her, sometimes, when she did that.

“Eryk, there's nothing wrong with liking things that other people don't. We're just having fun at your expense. You need to learn how to take them as they are and roll with them, because people will do these things with you. It's what friends do, right, Kas," she stated, smiling up at him before turning her attention back to Eryk. He just rolled his eyes.

"Right you are, Cy," Kas replied, flashing her a grin just as bright.

When they arrived at the place, they were greeted by the waiter who smiled in their direction. Cyrilla glanced at Ryk expectantly, as if waiting for him to initiate the socializing bits. He sighed.

“Hi, welcome to Emile's," the young man stated, causing Eryk to grimace slightly.

“Table for three," he spoke, swiftly. This was going to be a pain in his ass, wasn't it?

"Okay so lesson one: please and thank you. We really are starting at the beginning, aren't we?"

Setting

Characters Present

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

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May 6th
Ana's House - Afternoon - Warm
Cyrilla Niav


Cyrilla was almost certain she'd died of laughter, yesterday. After the whole debacle with introducing himself—she and Kas had followed to make sure he was doing alright—Eryk came back with an update. Anastasia Asher sounded like a very interesting person, and the fact that Eryk had made things awkward and she still hadn't chased him off, well... that was a special kind of person. Anastasia still hadn't called, though. Cyrilla had her phone and Eryk's because he was horrible with anything related to technology. How he managed thus far was something Cyrilla attributed to herself. It was why she had convinced Eryk to take her and Kasimir to go volunteer their services to Anastasia so they could see for themselves just who she was. From what he'd told them, it was something she and Kas apparently did when they were moving around.

Taking a glance over, she nodded her head, satisfied with her attire. She'd chosen to wear a pair of black capris cargo pants that were, perhaps, a little form fitting. It was comfortable for Cyrilla, and she knew they would be doing some kind of physical labor today. And to be outside, well, it was why she'd chosen a light grey tank top. Comfort over fashion, most people would say, but Cyrilla had managed to make it a bit of both. Her hair was pulled comfortably in a tail, but it was currently settled over her right shoulder. Maybe she should have it cut to deal with this heat?

Casting her eyes towards her companions, she couldn't help but smile softly at Eryk. As usual, his face was pulled into his grumpy look. His brows were furrowed, his lips were pursed, and his shoulders were hunched forward a bit. He'd chosen a pair of dark grey pants and a white shirt as his work attire. One of these days, she was going to throw everything in his closet away, and get him an entire new wardrobe. The man could not dress himself even if his life depended on it.

Kas, for his part, looked more like a native islander than either of them did, and it wasn't just his complexion. He'd worn a casual linen shirt in soft pink, sleeves rolled and a third of the buttons undone, with a thin white t-shirt beneath, over khakis. He looked kind of like he'd stepped out of a catalogue, but also ready for work. His mareep hopped along happily next to him, not venturing far but evidently curious about her new surroundings.

She shook her head to herself and huffed lightly. “I can't believe you almost screwed it up, Ryk. I mean, she gave you cookies, and you couldn't even stay to eat them with her. You're losing your touch, old man," she stated, grinning at him as he turned his eyes towards her.

“Whatever, Cy. It's not like I did it on purpose. It was just intense," he stated, furrowing his brows deeper. She laughed softly, though. Eryk was hopeless, sometimes.

“You mean awkward, Ryk. You're looking for awkward."

"I dunno," Kas drawled, a slow smile dragging over his face. "It might have been kind of intense, too. I'm looking forward to seeing for myself." He cocked an eyebrow at Cyrilla in a way she was beginning to recognize, one that invited conspiracy. "If Ryk's not up to the job of making friends, I guess we could always step in after all, right? Her picture's pretty cute; it's not like it would be a hardship."

Cyrilla grinned at Kas's statement. “He's got a point, Ryk. He has a lot of those, actually, but still. Her picture is pretty cute, and from what you said, she sounds very interesting," she continued, watching as Eryk's brows furrowed deeper. There it was. The glare. He was glaring at her right now, and it only caused the grin on her face to inch up a bit more.

“Oh what's this? Is Eryk jealous? You've only known her for a day, and you're already jealous? Be still my black little heart. I think he's jealous, Kas," she stated, glancing back in Kas's direction.

“Shut up, Cy, I'm not jealous," he replied, shaking his head as he walked a little further in front of her. Cyrilla leaned in Kas's direction.

“I think he's jealous."

Kas snickered, obviously entertained by her ribbing of their third team member. "What an unforeseen complication this makes," he lilted, laughter trailing off into a soft chuckle.

They seemed to be drawing close to the location, however; there was a wrought-iron gate and fence around the property; the arch of the gate marked it as CINNABAR POKÉMON REHABILITATION AND HOSPICE in neat block letters. It was unlocked; the yard appeared to have a few lounging or playing pokémon in it, with a few more in the pool, but the operator was nowhere to be seen.

Or at least not until she emerged from the building towards the rear of the property. Her wardrobe was rather unique, consisting of dark black work pants with rather a lot of buckles and zips, and a sleeveless black shirt with a band logo emblazoned on the front. A pair of red suspenders crisscrossed her back, but the bubblegum-pink of her hair gave her away for the woman they were looking for.

"You know, if I'd had to guess Ryk's type..." Kas murmured with a soft laugh. "She wouldn't be far off."

At that point, the little woman spotted them, or perhaps more specifically Ryk, and her eyes widened. "Eryk?" Disbelief colored her tone. "You—you came back?" She blinked, eyes moving from Kas to Cyrilla. "And—with your friends?"

Cyrilla huffed lightly at Kas's statement. If Eryk had a type, she supposed Kas was right. Eryk glanced back towards Cyrilla and Kas, giving them a stare that Cyrilla knew meant behave. She arched a brow, and smiled in Anastasia's direction. Eryk turned his attention back to the pink-haired woman, and gave her an awkward wave. It was difficult to not laugh at him, really.

“I did," he stated softly, perhaps a touch softer than Cyrilla wasn't aware of before. This was definitely interesting. He'd never been one to be nervous or embarrassed, or any of those sorts of feelings, really, but maybe he was just that good of an actor? Cyrilla couldn't really say. She knew him as he was before, but she was still getting used to the person he was now. She pushed the thought from her mind, though, and waved at Ana.

“I see Ryk told you about us. He couldn't stop talking about you, yesterday. I presume you're Anastasia?" she stated, trying to keep the grin off her face when Eryk turned his glare back towards her.

Anastasia only looked more surprised to hear that, her cheeks pinkening softly before she shook her head. "I uh... well I'm a bit odd I suppose. I'm sorry if you were uncomfortable?" She said the last to Ryk, but asked it like a question.

Kas looked like he was very poorly trying to contain a laugh. "That's not quite it, but never mind him. I'm Kasimir," He stuck out a hand, flashing a bright white smile.

She looked for a moment vaguely dazed before she blinked, extending her own hand forward much more carefully. It was thin, as was the rest of her really. Not quite so much as to look malnourished, but definitely very slender. Honestly she looked a bit like a doll, all big eyes and delicate features and soft hair like that. If she'd been dressed differently, it would be even worse. Kas seemed to shake her hand very gently.

"Hello," she said softly, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm Ana, but you probably already knew that." She offered her hand towards Cyrilla as well. "Eryk said you were colleagues? Do you clerk at his office too?"

“I'm more of his secretary," Cyrilla spoke, glancing in Eryk's direction. He told her he was a clerk? Of all the things he could have told her he did... he chose clerk. She wanted to laugh, really, but she smoothed out her expression and took Ana's hand in her own. It really was delicate and soft. Not like Cyrilla's hands which were a little more calloused thanks to her work. She pushed that thought out of her mind, though.

“I'm Cyrilla, but you can just call me Cy. It's easier on the tongue," she stated winking in Ana's direction before glancing back in Eryk's direction. He looked like he wanted to roll his eyes, but refrained from doing so. “So, Eryk tells us that you don't have very many volunteers to help you out. We're all free today if you'd like some help, now," she stated, tilting her head to the left.

Ana's eyes lit up, a smile, small but genuine, blooming softly over her face. "Really?" She glanced back and forth between all three of them, as if waiting for someone to back out at the last moment. None of them did, of course, and so the smile remained. "Well, um, if you don't mind then, today is bedding change day for everyone, which is why they're all outside, and then I need to feed them and then I have to drain and clean the pool."

"Sounds like a lot to manage on your own," Kas remarked sympathetically, either genuinely feeling it or an extremely good actor.

Ana certainly believed it, shaking her head as if to banish the concern. "It's usually not as much; bedding gets cleaned every day but only changed once a week, and the pool only needs a big clean twice a month. I usually make sure those things happen on different days but sometimes I have to work around deliveries." She cleared her throat. "Sorry, I'm rambling. Anyway, um. If you want to follow me to the shelter building, I would really appreciate the help."

“Oh, but it's adorable," Cyrilla spoke, feeling her own smile smoothing out a bit. Eryk rolled his eyes at her, but followed after Ana. It really was adorable the way she rambled like that. She could almost find it endearing, however; Cyrilla quashed that feeling as soon as it appeared. They were here to not make friends in that way. Ana was a target; not a friend. The smile on her face did not falter, but she had to close her eyes for the smile did not reach her eyes. She knew that. She followed behind Eryk as Ana led the way towards the building, glancing around at the scenery.

“It's a really nice place you have here, Ana," she spoke, feeling that the use of conversation was a good way to learn a bit more about her. “How long has this been something you've wanted to do?" she asked, though she wasn't quite sure if it was something Ana wanted to do. Maybe this was a first step to something else?

"Well," Ana replied, humming slightly as she opened the large door into the shelter building. It was a cozy space, lacking cages or anything of the sort. Rather, the divides between areas seemed to be much more organic, with the spot for bird pokémon having a large fake tree for roosting and so on. She took down a couple of pitchforks and handed them to Kas and Cyrilla. "I've been running it for about a year. I was on my journey before that—well, not really a proper one or anything, just traveling with Luna and Nova. We started kind of considering it then, and when we'd had enough of moving around all the time, my aunt told me this building had opened up. I put in a bid, which was accepted, and then we got it all fixed up."

Removing a large hose from one corner, she started dragging it in the stand, at least until Kas stepped in to grab the thing with his free hand and a smile. "D'you mind?" he asked.

Ana shook her head. "Uh, no. Thank you. I'm really not used to having help, sorry." As they maneuvered the hose outside and she put one end of it in the pool, she sighed quietly, taking a brace of pokéballs from her belt and recalling all the swimmers that could not climb out on their own. The rest vacated as if on some unspoken signal—probably used to the routine. "The hardest part was getting the pool up to code. It wasn't before, and Neo Team Rocket has a lot of regulations for facilities like this, to protect the pokémon. It makes it hard for a small place like this to stay out of the red, but that's okay. We manage."

She started to drain the pool, opening a tap which apparently worked in reverse. "Um so if two of you don't mind changing the bedding, there's a wheelbarrow I can show you in the shed. And then maybe someone can help me scrub the pool? There's more regulations for that so I have to be here to make sure it's up to standard and everything."

Cyrilla turned her attention towards Kas and arched a brow at him. “The two of us can take care of the bedding while Eryk helps you scrub the pool," she stated. Eryk made a face, and looked like he wanted to protest for a second, but Cyrilla fixed him with a gaze.

“I can help with the pool. It won't be a problem; just tell me what you need me to do," he spoke in that neutral tone of his, but there was a hint of grumpiness to it. Cyrilla tried not to snicker at him.

“See, even he agrees. Alright, as far as changing the bedding, it sounds pretty straight forward. Is there anything we should be aware of or anything like that before we get started?" she asked, grinning up at Kas for a moment before turning her attention towards Ana.

"Just that there are three kinds," Ana said. "They're color coded so it shouldn't be hard to figure out. Red gets the hypoallergenic kind, blue gets the normal sort, and yellow gets the sandy one." She smiled again, still a small one, still to all appearances genuinely pleased. "And thank you so much, all of you. Really."

“You're very welcome, Ana. It's no trouble at all, really. We're glad we can help out, isn't that right, Ryk?" she stated, watching as Ryk shrugged his shoulders. She rolled her eyes. “That's Ryk for sure, you're welcome," she spoke. One of these days she was going to get him to use his words and not his actions to tell people things. Some of the things he did could be misinterpreted as harsh or mean. She didn't need him to do that.

“Alright, Kas, let's go have a little fun," she meant it in the most innocent of ways, for once.

He laughed softly, but gave her a nod, gesturing forward with his pitchfork as if in invitation. "After you, m'lady."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


May 6th
Ana's House - Evening - Warm
Kasimir Rheinallt


They'd asked for work, and they'd certainly gotten it. It had taken several hours to get through Ana's list of shelter chores, which included feeding the pokémon, administering medication, and giving everyone basic health checks. Apparently their mark was a registered pokémon nurse, unsurprising for someone related to the Joy family. Kas might have wondered if that was what the boss wanted with her, except there was a perfectly serviceable pokémon center in town, and more than one nurse in the Rocket ranks, and for some reason, it was this girl he was specifically interesting.

He couldn't quite figure it out. Biting into a chocolate chip cookie and chewing it over, he studied the young woman across the table not with a lecher's eye but with an analyst's. One afternoon working for a person wasn't enough to get a full read, of course, but he could tell several things about Anastasia Asher right now. Firstly, she actually gave a shit. She had no idea they were from NTR, and yet every single regulation, no matter how onerous or difficult, was followed in both letter and spirit. Hell, she went above and beyond. Kas had done a few facility inspections in his day, and while he could tell the place was underfunded, he also knew that the pokémon here were looked after as well as pokémon could be. Ana's personally-registered battlers, an espeon and umbreon, were no different in that respect.

So it wasn't that there was possibly some violation going on, and he doubted very much that Ana was secretly connected to some trafficking ring or shady breeding operation, which might have demanded the undercover work. She was also just an incredibly nice person, and it made him feel bad for the fact that they weren't in this to actually be her friends, because dammit if he couldn't tell she was a little lonely, too.

It might have been the way she'd invited them for tea and cookies after the shift was over. Chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, and some kind of orangey tea for him. It was honestly very good, and somehow it made him feel like a horrible human being.

Not that this feeling was ever too far away.

Setting her teacup down on its saucer with a soft clink, Ana exhaled, as though a little weary. Understandable; that had been a reasonable amount of labor even for the likes of the three of them, and she was, well... rather frailer than they were. Not to mention all the medical stuff she had to do by herself, since none of them were certified for it. She smiled, though, at all three of them.

"Eryk said yesterday that the three of you hadn't been able to see much of the island yet," she said quietly. She was very quiet, in general. A little shy, despite the bold way of dressing. "I could take you three on a little walking tour this evening, if you like? As a way of saying thank you for the help?"

Cyrilla had set her cup down as she shook her head. “Oh, we were glad to help! I haven't had a work out like that in..." she paused, glancing up as if she were trying to remember how long it'd actually been, “I'd say a year or so. And that would be actually very nice of you. We haven't had a chance because we've been so busy with work, but since we're actually free, I'd say now is as good a time as any. Wouldn't you say so, Ryk?"

Eryk, who'd been munching quietly on an oatmeal cookie, eyed Cyrilla warily. She was grinning much too broadly for his liking, apparently. “It would be nice, yes," he stated softly. “But you shouldn't feel obligated to do so, Anastasia. We could consider this as our thanks," he stated, motioning towards the drinks and cookies.

“You're so hopeless. I, for one, would love to see the island and get acquainted with it," she stated, arching her brow in Kas's direction. “Wouldn't you say so, too, Kas?" Eryk narrowed his eyes, but sighed.

“I suppose it couldn't hurt," Eryk seemed to relent.

"I'm in favor," Kas said, polishing off his cookie and tea both.

Ana smiled, and collected everyone's dishes before they headed out. "Oh. If it's not too much to ask, where are you all living? I don't want to show you the things you've already seen." She pulled on her boots at the entrance, pausing for all of them to re-don their shoes as well before stepping out and locking up behind them.

Kas didn't see the harm in sharing, so he shrugged a little. "The Cloyster? Metal monstrosity downtown."

She nodded, wrinkling her nose a little in what seemed to be amusement at his description. "It's very... distinctive, yes," she demurred. "In that case, you've probably seen a lot of what passes for downtown around here, so maybe we can start with the back side of the island. It tends to be where the locals go when they don't want to deal with tourists, and if you're interested in swimming or surfing or anything like that, it's the place to go."

Cyrilla snickered as she glanced up at Eryk. “Ryk, here, can't really surf for his life, but I'm sure he'd like to go swimming," she stated, earning a pointed gaze from Eryk. “And I haven't been surfing since the last time I visited Alola. That was... about three years ago, now," she stated, nodding her head slightly to herself, it seemed.

“I can surf well-enough, Cy," he spoke, narrowing his eyes at Cyrilla as if he were offended somehow by her statement. She merely arched her brow at him.

“By well-enough, do you mean falling off your board every ten seconds? If that's well-enough, I'd hate to see what good, is," she replied, smirking slightly at him. Eryk rolled his eyes before turning his attention towards Ana.

“If you'd be so kind as to show us, anyway," he muttered. It almost sounded like he was embarrassed that, that tidbit of information was out.

Kas was pretty sure he was going to have to find an excuse to see this in action. As an island kid himself, he'd spent a large chunk of his childhood in and around the ocean, first year-round and then at least during summers after the divorce. That included surfing to be sure. He wondered how someone with Ryk's innate sense of balance could be that bad at it.

Ana, though, smiled slightly. "There's lots of other things to do, of course. Restaurants, and a less-touristy boardwalk, that kind of thing. You can even rent boats and scuba gear if you like." She locked up the gate behind them as well, and took them the opposite direction from the one they'd used to reach her place.

The streets were fairly unremarkable residential housing for a while, mostly one-story properties with thatched or terra-cotta roofing. Many of them were brightly-painted stucco, yellow and green and light blue sticking out amongst the more traditional, well, cinnabar.

But it didn't take long at all for Ana to veer aside from the sidewalk, taking a path that didn't seem to belong with any property in particular and leading them through a cluster of palm and similar trees that eventually spat them out onto a stretch of beach. There were a few people minding their own business on the sand, but it was far from crowded.

"The locals sometimes just call this the Backisland, or Backisland Beach," Ana explained, looking rather incongruent in the harsh black of her clothes. The sand was almost white, it was so pale, and there was a bit of glare from the sun on both the water and the beach. Kas, well prepared, dropped his sunglasses onto the bridge of his nose and ceased to worry about it. Arceus he was with a bunch of pale people, wasn't he?

Ryk, at least, was somewhat tanned, but Cy and Ana were about as pale as could be, especially Cy. She was practically an albino. “Oh, it's so beautiful," she stated, smiling just as bright. It almost looked genuine in that moment, as if she truly thought that, but it disappeared a moment later. “We really should come back, maybe when the sun's gone down a bit more. I'm sure the pokémon would love to run around here and stretch their legs," she stated, blinking mildly before turning towards Ana.

“Can they do that, though? I know some places don't allow pokémon outside of their pokéballs, or if they are, they have to be kept on a... leash depending on the type," she stated, her brows furrowed lightly.

“That's what the park is for, Cy," Eryk stated, arching a brow in her direction. He still managed to look grumpy even with something as simple as that. “Besides, you can come at night to do that, too, when there's hardly anyone around." Cyrilla smirked, then.

“So does that mean I can go skinny dipping, too?"

Eryk merely furrowed his brows. “Not what I meant, Cy. Now you're just twisting my words around."

“Oh, come on, Ryk. You should loosen up a bit and enjoy yourself every once in a while. I'm sure Ana, here, would do the same, right Ana?"

Kas had to stifle a laugh, because he was pretty sure that shift in color happening on Ana'a face was a spectacular blush. "U-um. N-no, I can't say that I have," she said, very obviously trying to remain polite in the face of Cy's rather blunt declaration. "B-but you can in fact release pokémon here, if they are legally releasable on Zone 3 areas. Just not the tourist beaches."

"One more reason to prefer here, I suppose," Kas said, grinning and deciding to take a little mercy on the poor thing. "What else is around the back side of the island?"

The relief on her face was so obvious he couldn't help but chuckle.

"Oh, um. Well there's a few places to go, like the bowling alley, a couple of bars and restaurants, an arcade, and the skating rink. Er, roller, not ice."

“Oh, we should defintely check out the bowling alley," Cyrilla stated, turning her attention towards Eryk. He shrugged his shoulders, though, as if he were not too interested.

“I think the skating rink would be better," he murmured, causing Cy to raise a brow. He shrugged again. “They're calming," was the only thing he said.

“Of course you'd find going in circles, calming," she stated, but she chuckled anyway. “What about you, Ana? When you're not taking care of the shelter, what do you do for fun?" she asked, her head tilting in a curious manner towards Ana.

"I... don't have a lot of free time," Ana admitted. "When I do, I like to read, or bake—there's a library just down the street." she pointed in the right direction, and Kas followed her trajectory for a moment before deciding it wasn't in view yet.

He couldn't help but notice that her hobbies were the kinds of things a person could very easily do alone. He wondered if she had any friends at all, or if the loneliness he'd suspected might be there was in fact deeper than he'd expected. It was... well, a little sad, honestly. She seemed like a perfectly decent human being.

"Well," he said, letting none of it show. "Maybe if we help you out a bit more often you'll have some more time, and we can con you into showing us all of that stuff." He grinned, keeping most of the flirtation out of it. A light touch was probably best here, especially with Cy being Cy at the moment.

"Oh, I—well you definitely don't have to do that," she said, clasping her hands in front of her with an adorable earnestness. "But if you'd like to I'd be happy to accompany you all. Um. Sometimes it takes a little time to get to know the locals. If I'm with you they might be a little... less inclined to mistake you for tourists."

“We wouldn't mind," Eryk stated, glancing in Ana's direction. “Helping you out at the shelter more often," he spoke as if clarifying what he meant. “You do a lot at your shelter, and it would be a way of... repaying you for showing us the island and whatever else there may be to it."

“It's a win-win situation for everyone here, really. We get to learn more about the island, and you get help out with your shelter. And it won't be any trouble for us. As Ryk told you, we like doing this kind of thing. It makes us feel..." Cyrilla paused for a moment, as if she were trying to think of the word, “useful. And I for one like feeling useful to someone." She sounded extremely genuine in that statement with an odd touch of melancholy in her tone.

“Indeed," Ryk agreed. “Besides..." he paused, narrowing his eyes slightly as he glanced back out in front of him, “I enjoy working with the pokémon."

Kas wondered how much of what they'd just professed was true. He suspected most of it, actually, which was interesting information that he carefully filed away into the back of his mind. He wished he could say it was just one friend wanting to remember things about the others, but... well, he had multiple reasons to feel bad today, it seemed.

Ana managed a shy smile for all of them. "Then you have yourselves a deal." she said, blue eyes lit with excitement.

He really hoped she wasn't signing herself up for something terrible, but he had no way to know.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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May 9th
The Cloyster - Morning - Hot
Eryk Nero


He blinked.

She stared.

He blinked once more, hoping that when his eyes opened, she wouldn't be there.

“I'm not leaving, Ryk. I don't have to be a telepath to know what you're thinking," Cyrilla spoke, pulling Zephyr, her meowth, from her shoulder and settling it into her lap. “Are you going to tell me what you think of her, yet? I'm interested to know," she continued, rubbing the spot between Zephyr's ears, earning a soft purr from the creature. Eryk merely pursed his lips together, his eyes narrowing as he tried to discern her true intentions. The grin on her face, he knew it well. Well enough that she was either up to something, or going to try and embarrass him one way or another.

“No."

“Oh, come on, Ryk! You have to say something. Kas, help me out here, buddy," she stated, tilting her head backwards over the couch so she could see Kas. He was in the kitchen, currently, either getting something to eat, or something to drink. Eryk didn't know, nor did he care. He narrowed his eyes, though, in Kas's direction.

“Don't involve him. He doesn't care," Eryk stated, pursing his lips together.

"Ouch, Ryk. That hurts my feelings. Of course I care." There was a little bit of shuffling around, then the sound of the cabinet being opened, and a few moments later he'd returned from the kitchen, handing Cyrilla a glass of apple juice and leaving himself with water. He didn't give the impression of being concerned with his health, but living with him had made clear that in addition to being tidy, he habitually took care of himself.

Falling softly onto the other end of the couch, he pulled one leg up towards him, propping the other on the coffee table. He always gave Cyrilla more space than she really needed, for some reason. "Besides you should know I'd never pass up any opportunity to mess with you, so." He took a couple swallows of the water and placed it on the small table near his elbow.

"Was I right about the type thing?"

“Type?" he asked, immediately regretting it when Cyrilla grinned brightly at him.

“Oh, definitely his type. I mean, look at him," she spoke, taking a drink from her apple juice while pointing in Eryk's direction. “He's all flustered already and he doesn't even know why. I mean, it's alright to admit that kind of thing, Ryk. For instance," she paused, glancing in Kas's direction.

“Kas would be my type if he weren't so..." she trailed off as if she were unsure of the word she wanted to use. “Hm, actually I take that back, he is my type," she stated, grinning in Kas's direction before turning her attention back towards Ryk. He narrowed his eyes in her direction.

Kasimir huffed a laugh, raising his glass as if in salute. "Always flattering to hear you're maybe almost a pretty lady's type," he replied benignly.

“We've already been over this, Cyrilla. This isn't a seduction mission. I'm not interested in her that way," he stated, putting an emphasis on each word so that it would get through to Cyrilla. He knew it wouldn't, but he wished it would.

Kas hummed, either unconvinced or unconcerned. "Okay then, so if you're not into Ana, what do you like? No reason you have to live like a monk while you're here, you know. I hear the island nightlife's pretty good. Locals mingling with tourists—excellent if you're looking for something fun to relieve stress. Would probably work if you wanted something more long-term, but you're that kind of 'why bother when we're gonna leave?' sort, both of you. I can tell." He nodded sagely, as if this was indeed something he knew.

"No reason not to have a bit of fun though, right?"

“See? He gets it, why can't you?" she stated, arching a brow in Ryk's direction. He sighed heavily. She knew why; they both knew why. He only did so for missions's sake. What Cyrilla did, she did on her own accord. He had a certain reputation to uphold. Honestly, he was a bit surprised SHE hadn't said anything about Cy's infidelity, or so she would have called it. She probably didn't even know, really. He supposed Cyrilla could write it off as part of the mission, of getting information from the locals. People often were a little more loose-lipped during those kinds of situations, he supposed.

“I don't have to explain myself to the two of you," he spoke, shooting Cy a glance. Her brows furrowed, her eyes faltering for a moment as she sunk back into the couch. She smoothed her hand over Zephyr's back. “Cyrilla," he began, but she shook her head.

“No need to explain Ryk. I know," she replied, offering him a small smile. He stood from his place on the loveseat and grabbed his keys. He wasn't sure if they'd be there when he returned, but he couldn't be around the two of them at the moment. She would recover from his statement, and continue trying to prod him with Kas. And Kas certainly wasn't making it any better. Perhaps, the professor, Dr. Solomon, would be better company. Or even Aidan. From his understanding, they both lived in the same complex, just further up.

With that in mind, he left his shared apartment and took the elevator three floors up. They were on the 6th floor, and Aidan and Dr. Solomon were on the 9th floor, if he remembered correctly. As he exited the elevator, he spotted Solomon exiting her apartment, placing her key inside to lock it, he supposed, as her bayleef stood behind her. It almost looked like the bayleef was acting as a guard before it spotted Ryk. She used a vine to tap Solomon's shoulder, catching her attention which shifted towards Ryk.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Nero," she greeted, smiling at him. “Is there something I can help you with? Or did you come to see Mr. Klein?" she asked, tilting her head to the side.

“You can call me Eryk. It's fine, and I was here to see if you're busy," he stated. She seemed to brighten at the prospect of being helpful in some way.

“I was actually about to head out on a walk. I wanted to see more of the island before I head into the office," she began, “you can join me if you'd like?"

At that point the door next to Solomon's opened, and Aidan stepped out, wearing a sleeveless black shirt and black jeans. His wardrobe seemed to be even more monochrome than Eryk's. There was a pair of sunglasses nested in his unruly red hair; he looked entirely unfazed to see Eryk.

"Joining up with the Doc's sightseeing club, Nero?" he asked, locking his apartment door and dropping his key into his pocket. "I think we're headed—what?" he glanced at Solomon with the query. "To the park today or something?"

“The park would be nice, I suppose. And if there's something you'd like to talk about, that would be the place to go," she stated, nodding her head softly in the direction of the elevator. Eryk wasn't entirely sure he'd call it joining anything; he'd seen some of the island with Anastasia's tour, but he supposed he could join them for this.

“If I'm not going to be in anyone's way, then yes, I suppose I am," he spoke, his eyes narrowing slightly at nothing in particular. It was just how his expressions were. Vague, pointless sometimes, and other times they insulted people, somehow.

“Great, now, let's get to it," Solomon stated as she made her way towards the elevator. Eryk realized, belatedly, that she was dressed nothing like the previous researchers would be. When they'd met her, she was dressed in a suit and pencil skirt, with a coat; typical attire for a researcher. Now, though, she was wearing what looked like a pair of khaki shorts and a plain white t-shirt. It was something he'd expect Cyrilla to wear around the apartment as pajama's more than anything. His own attire was, perhaps, not suited for the heat, but he supposed it really didn't bother him as much as it did the others. He couldn't really say.

He followed them into the elevator as Solomon pushed the button for the bottom floor. “So, Eryk, tell me about yourself. What do you do?" she asked, curiosity evident in her voice. He arched a brow at her. He glanced in Aidan's direction.

“I have his old job." It was, essentially, true.

"Upkeeps a proud tradition of people called 'Entei' having shaggy hair," Aidan agreed flatly, as though this was the only requirement of the job. His hands rested comfortably in his pockets; it was hard to say for sure, but this seemed like it might be sort of a routine for him. Perhaps they regularly walked around the island before going into the office, or something.

"More seriously, Nero's the Executive in charge of Field Office 9. The other two are too, kind of, but where rank distinctions are necessary, you're looking at the boss." The other man arched an eyebrow, studying him with apparent interest for a moment. "Disagreement with the roommates, huh?"

“Not so much a disagreement," he began, shrugging lightly. “They are being insufferable, is all," he continued, which was mostly true. They were teasing him about something that wasn't true, and he'd be damned if he had to sit through that shit. It was bad enough that they assumed she was his type. It was bad enough that they thought he'd be able... he stopped that train of thought and quashed the feeling it produced. He had a job to do.

Nev, however, arched a brow in his direction. “Isn't one of them your fiancée, though?" she asked, and Eryk pushed a heavy sigh through his nose.

“Doesn't mean we don't have disagreements from time to time," he supplied easily enough. Marrying someone out of love wasn't something everyone could afford. He was doing it for his own reasons, but there was, he supposed a familial reason, nonetheless.

“Well, I suppose that makes sense," she replied as if she didn't know, herself. He wondered about that, but he wasn't going to pry. She was, in all senses, an appealing person. Not particularly someone he'd be interested in, but there was an appeal, there.

They reached the outside, then, the sun and heat making their presence known right away. Aidan took the sunglasses from atop his head and put them on his face. "You had breakfast yet?" he asked. "There's a little place on the way we like; they can do you something portable pretty quick so you can walk with it if you're hungry." He didn't seem to be interested in prying into either Eryk's or Solomon's business, but there was something odd about the question.

He wasn't making eye contact with either of them, seemingly preoccupied with something off to one side, though it was hard to say what, since the street was mostly empty at this time of day.

“I have not, no," Eryk replied to Aidan's question about breakfast. He was going to eat breakfast with Kas and Cy, but he'd left before he could actually eat. Solomon seemed to brighten at his answer, though, an extra hop to her step as they continued to walk.

“Oh, then you'll love this place," she stated, smiling brightly as if it were her favorite thing to do. Perhaps it was? Eryk knew that some people didn't stop smiling, each for various reasons. He just knew he couldn't do it. At least not in the same way he used to. “They have the best kalosian toast, and they even have galarian muffins. I think the best thing they have, though, is their biscuits and gravy with eggs. It's so good," she continued. Eryk huffed lightly at her enthusiasm, and turned towards Aidan.

“She always like this?" he asked.

There was a faint flicker of a smile over Aidan's face as he turned back to address Eryk's question, but it was gone in the next eyeblink. "Pretty much," he said. "Except at work. She can get really hyperfocused there. I have to remind her to do basic shit like eat and take breaks. I'm basically a scientist-sitter these days." He made sure his volume was sufficient that Solomon could hear as well, perhaps not wanting to speak about her without her knowledge. Though what he said could have been a complaint, he didn't seem to mind.

She huffed lightly, a light pink dusting her cheeks. “And I said I was sorry about that," she murmured lightly. “But he's not wrong. I do forget things like that, and I feel bad because he's supposed to be my supervisor, not caretaker. I used to have Basil do that," she stated, pointing to the bayleef that was trailing behind them, seemingly enjoying the sun.

“But she's not allowed outside of her ball in the room," she continued. Eryk could see why that would be a problem. Basil was a large creature, and she would likely get in the way of the other scientists working. He nodded lightly.

Aidan rolled his eyes. "I'm not criticizing, Doc. And I told you you don't need to apologize for stuff like that."

“I suppose there are worse things to be in our line of work," Eryk stated as he glanced back towards Aidan. “You could be babysitting the other two idiots," he continued, referring to Cy and Kas. Honestly, he'd probably prefer scientist-sitting than dealing with those two at the moment.

He huffed softly, lifting an eyebrow as they headed into a small building that must have been the breakfast place. It seemed to have a menu for sitting and a menu for takeout, which focused on portable things like sandwiches and wrapped crepes and so on.

Aidan dug around in his back pocket for his wallet. "Yeah I've heard Rheinallt can be a handful. Seems like a decent guy though. You'd know more about Niav than I do." His tone sugested he'd heard some things about Cyrilla nevertheless, but he didn't bring them up for whatever reason. "What do you guys want? I'm senior so it's on me this time."

“Biscuits and gravy, please," Solomon stated, tucking Basil's ball back onto her belt. She'd recalled the bayleef before they'd entered the establishment. Eryk, however, glanced towards the menu, his brows furrowing slightly. He didn't need Aidan paying for him, but he had a feeling that if he were to object, Aidan wouldn't let him.

“I'll try what she's having," he murmured. He supposed it wouldn't hurt, and if Solomon thought they were good, then he'd give them a try. Everything else didn't really sound appealing to him, after all. This, at least, was a bit nicer than being with the other two. If only they could be more like this... he wouldn't mind so much.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



May 13th
Cinnabar Island - Afternoon - Clear
Nevena Solomon


Nev smiled to herself, locking the door behind her as she left her apartment. The day outside had been beautiful, from what she could tell from her window, anyway. She'd decided it would be a good day to meet Anastasia. She'd heard much from Cyrilla and Eryk, and he'd even suggested that Nev take a look at the pokémon around. She wasn't particularly in the market for another pokémon; having four was enough of an upkeep to begin with, but she supposed it wouldn't hurt to look. Especially if it would help out Anastasia. Nevena was always one for a good cause, and Anastasia's place sounded just like one.

Maybe she'd donate to the place? It would be helpful, from her understanding. She'd have to bring it up with Anastasia when she arrived. She entered the elevator and pressed the button for the bottom floor. When it stopped at the sixth, however, she smiled as Cyrilla entered, blinking in mild surprise before smiling at her.

“Good afternoon, Cyrilla. Are you going somewhere?" she asked. Cyrilla nodded her head in response.

“On my way to Ana's, actually. What about you? Are you off on one of your walks?" she asked.

“Oh, what a coincidence, so am I!" Nev replied happily enough. “Let's go together! I wanted to see what the place was like and to see what she had for adoption," she continued, causing Cyrilla to arch a brow.

“Are you planning on adopting one?" Cyrilla asked, stepping out of the elevator once it stopped on the first floor. Nevena stepped out behind her, and shrugged her shoulders.

“I might, but it depends, really," on a lot of things. How much care it needed. If she'd have enough time to devote to it. She didn't want to get another pokémon if she couldn't care for it. It wouldn't be fair to the pokémon if she couldn't, and that was the last thing Nev could want.

“Well, she has plenty that you'll like, I'm sure," Cyrilla stated as they exited the building. The walk to Anastasia's was mostly quiet, but it was pleasant to Nev. She didn't feel the need to talk about anything, and Cyrilla didn't seem inclined to ask her questions. It was almost like when she walked with Aidan. He was always so... something. Nice? Kind? Patient? She didn't know the word for it, but she often found their walks enjoyable, even when they said nothing at all. It was just comfortable.

It wasn't much longer before they reached Anastasia's, and Cyrilla waved towards the pink-haired young woman who was outside, motioning her over towards the both of them.

“Hey, Ana! I brought someone with me, this time. Hope it's alright!" she stated, grinning broadly at the other woman.

Anastasia was garbed in black overalls, accented with a red sleeveless shirt and a number of straps that seemed to be mostly ornamental, though they matched her belt, and from that hung what appeared to be an assortment of tools. Her pink hair rested in one long, thick braid down her spine, bound at the end by a black ribbon; even contained thus it reached well past her waist. She straightened at the sound of Cyrilla's voice, turning towards them with a curious expression.

"Hello, Cyrilla. Feel free to come in." She didn't quite smile, but there was a relaxing of the little muscles around her eyes which achieved a similar effect somehow. She was quite small, and almost too thin, though the clothes made it difficult to tell. She'd been playing with one of the magikarp in the outdoor pool, it seemed.

Their entrance was greeted by a stoutland, elderly from the amount of grey in his fur, who waddled over and sniffed at their feet. "That's Rufus," Anastasia explained, probably for Nev's benefit since Cyrilla had been here before. She approached, too, holding a hand out to shake. "It's nice to meet you ma'am; I'm Ana. I run the shelter." She paused, expression contorting a little awkwardly. "Which you probably already knew. Sorry." She cleared her throat a little awkwardly.

“Oh, it's quite alright. You don't need to apologize for that. I'm Nevena, but you can call me Nev, if you'd like," she replied, taking Anastasia's hand and shaking it. “And it's nice to meet you, too, Rufus," she stated, kneeling down and sticking her hand out so the stoutland could sniff it. She rubbed his ears once he seemed comfortable enough, and she smiled at him. “He's so adorable," she murmured, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“Of course he is. He's the cutest one here, isn't that right Rufus?" she stated, kneeling down to pet the stoutland as well before she stood back up.

“If you don't mind," Nev began, standing back up and dusting off her pants, “can you tell me a little about this place? I've heard a few things from Eryk and Cyrilla, here, but I thought the best information would come straight from the source." She offered Anastasia a reassuring smile.

“She's probably interested in the pokémon since she's a professor," Cyrilla stated, as if she were trying to give Anastasia the reason why Nev had asked.

Anastasia's eyes widened slightly. "You're a pokémon professor?" she asked, blinking slowly. "That's amazing! Uh, I don't think we'll really have much here that's of interest; it's really just your run-of-the-mill pokémon shelter. We run hospice services out of it too, but most of our patients have been those without humans, so there's not a lot of people around on the average day."

She hummed, like she was trying to decide what to say, and pursed her lips a little awkwardly. "Honestly I'd probably just ramble at you, so uh... are there any questions you have or facilities you want to see?"

Nevena smiled brightly and shook her head. “Oh, by all means, ramble at me!" she stated. She didn't mind if Anastasia rambled, actually. “To be honest, I do it myself. It helps clear the mind of unnecessary thoughts and also organize them, if that makes any sense." Nev chuckled nervously, though, and shifted in her spot.

“But, I suppose, what I'm interested in is how you care for them. It can't be easy, especially when so many of them have particular needs. Oh, and I'd like to see the whole facility, if that's not too much to ask," she added. Cyrilla huffed lightly, and shook her head, but mostly remained quiet. “I'm also interested in helping you out with the monetary situation, if you accept donations. Eryk mentioned that you were having some difficulties, and if there's an official form I have to fill out, I'd be more than happy to contribute."

Anastasia remained in place as Nev spoke, slipping her hands into her overalls and blinking slowly. "Um," she said into the silence that followed. "I guess we can take those things one at a time. Caring for the pokémon isn't too hard; they usually tell me what they need." She paused, eyes rounding slightly in what must have been surprise, and stuttered to correct herself.

"Er, well, I mean not directly most of the time. But I guess after a while you can kind of get a, uhm... sense? Plus of course a lot of the sick ones have symptoms and such—I'm a licensed pokémon nurse so I know what to look for most of the time." She shrugged, clearly not feeling that this was particularly impressive, and turned to lead them back in the yard a bit.

"So that's the outdoor pool. It's just recreation-grade; not a proper tank. That's inside the shelter building proper, but I like having the outdoor one too. It lets them get some sun, and it means people can swim with them without special equipment, and they like to play." She pointed to another small building, behind the house and its attached garden. "That's the toolshed, nothing too interesting in there. Over there's the shelter supply storage; it has a lot of different compartments and climate control settings for food and bedding storage. And then the bigger building's the shelter itself." From the outside it was actually an aesthetically appealing building; simple blue and white stucco with a slate tiled roof hosting several solar panels.

"We try to do as much renewably as we can; someday I'd like to put in a small wind turbine and some rain barrels, but the filtration units are difficult to get, and, well... expensive. So for the moment we make do with older models and supplementing our power with the local grid. It helps power sun lamps and things inside... I've basically got a bunch of different terrain domes set up, and then there's the front area with just plain bedding for the pokémon who need to be isolated for medical reasons or who prefer to see me when I'm working, that kind of thing. The terrain domes are pretty basic right now; I'd like to include more features, but..." She shrugged.

"That's all sort of pipe dream stuff. We're up to certification standards, at least, and nobody seems too uncomfortable."

“You're amazing," Nev spoke without really thinking. Anastasia took care of a lot of things by herself. Even if she had volunteers, from what Cyrilla and Eryk had said, they weren't always around to help. “I know a few people who could help with that, though. The turbine and rain barrels. They'll even give you a discount. If you'd like, I can give one of them a call and see about maybe making that as a donation for you. It wouldn't be any trouble at all, really!"

“I can help with the donation too, if you'd want. I'm sure Eryk would too, as soon as I tell him. He's always been the sort who doesn't know what to do with his spare change. He has jars full, so I'm sure he'd be more than happy to find a place for them," Cyrilla stated, though it almost sounded as if she were joking about the jars part.

“This really is a nice place, though, Anastasia. It's a lot better than some of the other shelters I've seen," Nev spoke sincerely. While other shelters were more state-of-the-art, there was just something homey about Anastasia's place. It seemed more comfortable, and well taken care of. She really did seem to care more for the pokémon than most places claimed they did. Shelters were, regardless of their statements, always after the monetary aspects of it. They stuck pokémon in cages and waited for people to adopt them without so much as considering if they had any special requirements or things like that.

Ana looked a little gobsmacked at this, perhaps understandably. Even a small wind turbine was tens of thousands of pokédollars to get set up—indeed a pipe dream for an outfit as small and rustic as this one. "I—um. I mean that would be very nice, but I'd have to do so much just to get the right licenses and setup for all of it, I don't..." She looked profoundly uncomfortable, a blotchy flush staining her cheeks and her eyes darting just about anywhere but at the two of them.

"I—I really appreciate the generosity everyone has shown me, but honestly... I just run a little shelter in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure there are plenty of people who could use all of that much more effectively than I could." She was practically stammering at that point, hands sinking deeper into her pockets.

“Little or not, this has to be one of the most outstanding shelters I have seen. For it to even operate as a hospice, a place where pokémon can live out the rest of their days comfortably, is incredible. There are a lot of places that wouldn't even do that much, so it'd be worth it, I think." Nevena would have to make a couple of phone calls, of course, but she'd earned enough favor to use it, she supposed.

"I—I'll have to think about it," Anastasia said, shaking her head. "There's a lot of preparations, and... and just things to consider." Her discomfort was still plainly-obvious; from the nervous shuffling of her feet, she'd really rather be talking about anything else.

“Well, if you let us help you out that way, you can think of it as a birthday gift to me," Cyrilla stated, grinning at Anastasia. Nev was vaguely confused. Shouldn't it have been a birthday gift to Anastasia? Was it Anastasia's birthday? It clicked a moment later, though, and Nev felt her eyes widen.

“It's your birthday today?" she asked. “Why didn't you tell anyone!? We could have done something for it!" she continued, causing Cyrilla to shake her head.

“Not a lot of people know when my birthday is except for Ryk, really. I don't usually go about telling people, but I feel like the situation called for it," was Cyrilla's reply. Nev didn't quite understand what she meant by that, but pursed her lips nonetheless.

Anastasia looked confused, too, but seized upon the new topic, perhaps in part to get away from the old one. "Oh—do you have any plans tonight? I could make a cake? I like baking; it's sort of a hobby?" For some reason it came out as a question. "Or maybe we could all do it together? And eat afterwards?"

“Hm, it has been a while since I've attempted baking something. Cook, I can, but bake? I suppose we'll just have to find out! And doing it together sounds more fun that way," Cyrilla spoke, smiling a strange kind of way. Nevena, however, shook her head.

“Oh, I can't cook very well. And I wouldn't want to ruin the cake. I can... help with other things, maybe?" she stated. While she could cook decently enough, it wasn't anything like what Cyrilla could do, or anyone else, really. Nev only learned enough to keep herself from eating takeout too much. Cyrilla chuckled lightly, though, and shook her head.

“How about you measure things out for us?" she asked, quirking a brow at Nev.

“Oh, I can do that!"

Anastasia found a little smile at that, and led the group back towards the house. "Okay; sounds fun. What kind of cake do you like, Cyrilla?"

“Definitely chocolate."

The hose's owner needed a couple minutes to change out of her work garb, and reentered the kitchen in the same shirt, but with a loose black net shirt over it, and black leggings with red and black striped socks. "So I don't write most of my recipes down, but we're definitely going to need all the usual basics: flour, milk, eggs, sugar, and so on. Most of that will be in the pantry, if you'd like to grab them, Miss Nev?" She paused, blanching slightly. "Should I call you doctor?"

“Oh, please call me Nev. Doctor always sounds so strange to me," Nevena replied as she followed behind Anastasia with Cyrilla in tow. This was nice, Nev thought. She was going to help make a cake for someone's birthday. Was this what it was like having friends? If so... well, she felt something tug softly at her heart.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



May 24th
Field Office 9 - Early Afternoon - Humid
Eryk Nero


Eryk pinched the bridge of his nose as he stared at the computer screen. A mass email had gone out about the grunts wanting to partake in some kind of event. A battle event if he was reading the email correctly. He wasn't required, per se, to join the event, but... he also knew that if he didn't, there would be some words said and he wasn't really in the mood for that. Before he could turn the computer off, a knock on his door caused him to turn his attention towards it. Cyrilla was standing in the doorway, arching a brow in his direction.

“You read the email?" she asked, waiting for his response. He merely nodded. “Well, come on, then. We're supposed to go help set up the staging area for the grunts so that they have a somewhat viable arena to use. It won't take too long; just have to set up a perimeter for them," she stated. Eryk sighed heavily. Didn't they have other people to do that?

“Yes, we do, Ryk. But it's supposed to be more impactful if the leaders help out, too," she responded as if she'd read his mind. She wasn't a telepath, not like he was, but even then, he couldn't form strong connections with people. He didn't mind, though. It wasn't like it was a helpful or useful gift. From what he could remember, his own father had been a telepath. Not quite a psychic, though.

“Fine." He stood from his chair and followed her out the door.

“We're meeting Kas in the foyer, by the way. He should be there already, but you never know." He supposed that was true enough. It wasn't like they all did their work together, after all.

As it happened, their third was in fact in the foyer, seemingly in conversation with that woman who ran the HR department. At their approach, though, he smiled amiably. "And here they are now. Told you they'd show." There was a glint of amusement in his eyes; he crossed his arms over his chest and arched a brow above his glasses. Eryk couldn't actually be sure he needed them; he only seemed to wear them at work, even though he sometimes worked on his computer screens at the apartment, also.

"I'm kind of interested in seeing what a shitshow this is gonna be. How about you guys?"

Cyrilla chuckled lightly, perhaps, at Kas's statement. “Oh, it's not going to be that bad. A few of the grunts want a chance to have some fun, and apparently they think a battle will help them do that," she replied, rolling her eyes in what seemed to be a goodnatured way.

“There are other ways to have fun on this island, are there not?" Eryk stated, furrowing his brows slightly. He wasn't entirely sure why they thought this was a good idea. Maybe they were trying to see who was particularly strong, and a battle was a good way of doing that? Eryk couldn't be too certain, but he thought it was a waste of time. There were other things they could be doing.

“And there's the grump we all know and love. That may be true, there are other things to do on the island that constitute as fun, but to them, this is a way of bonding. It would do you some good, too, Ryk. Let Runt have a go at some of them. You said he's been restless lately, right?" Cyrilla replied, arching a delicate brow in his direction. He supposed she had a point, but he didn't want to participate himself.

“Are you going to be participating?" he questioned, glancing in Kas's direction. If Kas joined, then maybe Eryk would, too.

"I was kinda hoping to get out of it," he admitted. "But then Luke and Niko challenged me and I couldn't really say no, so I guess I'm stuck going for a round or two. I figure Meep could use the exercise or something." He shrugged, as if to indicate he wouldn't be taking it all that seriously in any case.

"I'm not really a fieldwork guy though, so don't expect too much."

“I already don't," Eryk replied a little quickly. Cyrilla huffed lightly before shaking her head. “I suppose Runt could use it as well, or Icarus," though he wasn't too sure about the espurr. Icarus wasn't particularly inclined for battles. He liked to sleep or hang out with everyone. At least that was the impression he got from the espurr.

“Since you and Ryk are participating, I'll be in your cheer squad, then. Now, let's go help them set up so we can get this show on the road!" Cyrilla stated, causing Eryk to purse his lips together.

“You're going to participate, too, Cyrilla. You're not getting out of this so easily," he stated, narrowing his eyes in her direction. She pursed her lips at him, and placed a hand on her hip.

“But... alright, fine. Diva hasn't had a good battle in awhile, anyway. Mr. Grumps, always bossing me around," she muttered the last part as if she hadn't intended for Eryk to hear. From the smile on her face, though, it seemed to be the opposite. Eryk sighed and rolled his eyes.

Kasimir snorted softly, and led the way outside. The grunts, or some subset of them, were already putting the finishing touches on the ring, it looked like. Stakes had been hammered into the ground and ropes tied to create an informal fence, encompassing a wide area that would give most pokémon at least the ability to run around quite freely. Luke seemed to be taking registrations, and constructing a bracket based on the number of entrants.

He looked up and waved them over.

“You guys in, or just here to watch? It's a single-pokémon competition, because some of us only have one and it'll keep things nice and quick that way."

"Sure," Kas said. "Put me down as entering with Meep."

If Luke thought it strange that he was entering with a very young, first-stage pokémon, he gave no indication of it, merely nodding crisply and adding Kasimir's name to a list.

“I'll be entering with Diva," Cyrilla spoke as she smiled in Luke's direction. She glanced towards Eryk, though, almost as if she were expecting him to back out last second. He narrowed his eyes at her, though.

“I'll be using Runt," he spoke simply, watching as Luke added both of their names to the list.

“Hey, Luke, Cyrilla, Nero, Kas," Niko greeted, seemingly excited as he approached their group. “Already signed up?" he asked, as Cyrilla nodded her head. He sighed a bit dramatically, and glanced in Luke's direction. “Put me down with Rocky," he stated, opening his mouth to say something before he was interrupted. Lorraine appeared, eyes narrowed slightly before she turned her attention towards Luka and gave him, her entrance.

“So, the three of you are participating doesn't seem quite fair for us grunts," Niko stated, grinning as if he hadn't challenged Kas. “But fair seems overrated, right Lorraine?" he stated, grinning in her direction. She didn't look impressed, and if anything, seemed to be focused on the area around them. Eryk didn't blame her, really. He didn't want to be here, either, but some part of him was a little... excited? He quashed it, though.

"You say that now, but I only have this job because I know how to work Porygon Office," Kas quipped.

Luke snorted. “Even the spreadsheets?"

"That's what they pay me the big money for, Luke. So I can make the boss's spreadsheets do fancy shit."

After a soft chuckle and a shake of his head, Luke straightened. “All right. Bracket's done. Should be able to clear it in three rounds. First match is Eryk versus Niko, so have at it, guys."

If Eryk didn't know any better, he would have thought Niko bounded away quite joyously. Was a mock battle really that exciting? He mentally sighed, and made his way towards the makeshift ring. He blinked in slight surprise as he spotted Aidan. He didn't seem to be part of... whatever this was, but he was standing by the middle of the ring. Was he supposed to be the referee? From the looks of it, he probably was.

Runt, behave yourself, he spoke to the tyrunt as he released him from the ball. Runt shook his entire body, head first followed by his torso and then tail. Like a stoutland might do after a bath. Eryk rolled his eyes as Runt glanced around the area. His eyes landed with Eryk's, and for a moment, Eryk could have sworn Runt smiled. In front of him, Niko released Rocky, a rhyhorn. It roared lightly, causing Runt to imitate it, or at least as well as a tyrunt could mimic a rhyhorn.

“Any particular rules?" he decided to ask before they began the battle. He didn't think there could be many, but... he'd rather be certain.

"Don't be an idiot and don't be a asshole. Try not to destroy the building." Aidan shrugged, lighting a cigarette as the battlers prepared themselves, then stepped well clear of the pokémon. "Whenever you're both ready."

They were simple enough, the rules, and Eryk nodded his head towards Niko. He grinned, though, and didn't seem to waste much time, starting with a tackle from Rhyhorn. Runt stood there and lowered his head, meeting the Rhyhorn head-on. The force was enough to send him back a bit, but not enough to topple him over. If anything, Runt had the spine of a rampardos, and probably the balance of one, too. Niko looked vaguely surprised, glancing in Eryk's direction. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders, though, and he could have sworn he heard Cyrilla snickering.

“Tackle," he stated as Runt jumped back. He pawed the ground with one foot before charging the rhyhorn, head lowered in what looked to be a headbutt. Eryk sighed heavily as Rhyhorn dodged it and Runt kept going. Runt, come back this way, he connected with Runt telepathically to keep him from going too far. How did he end up with such a... special tyrunt?

The battle went on for at least ten minutes with the same thing happening. Runt would end up going too far for a tackle, and Ryk had to call him back. The battle itself was mostly trying to wear each other down. Rhyhorn didn't seem too tired, and neither did Runt. He supposed that was because Runt was just happy to play.

“Stomp," he spoke, watching as Runt jumped into the air to perform the move. It connected with enough force to roll the rhyhorn onto its back before it regained its feet.

“Alright, Rocky, let's stop playing around. Use Ice Fang!" Niko stated, clearly attempting to end the battle. Ryk wouldn't have minded, exactly, but there was something beneath his skin that bubbled. That refused to lose on purpose.

“Dragon Claw."

Runt's claws glowed as he charged Rhyhorn, and when both attacks connected, it was enough to produce a small explosion, covering the arena and pokémon in dust. It took a moment to clear, and when it did, Runt and Rhyhorn were still standing, though the both of them were doing so on shaky legs. Niko, however, held up his hand, and shook his head.

“I concede," he spoke, pulling Rocky's pokeball from his belt, and recalling the rhyhorn. Runt seemed rather pleased with the win, and hopped towards Ryk with what looked to be a large smile on its face. It wasn't particularly a satisfying, but he could understand why Niko forfeited. Both pokémon weren't in particularly good shape to continue, and it would have been a bit cruel to force them to.

“Well, that was entertaining. Thanks for that, Nero!" Niko stated as he approached Eryk, sticking his hand out in what seemed to be a friendly handshake.

“This is the part you also shake his hand, Ryk!" Cyrilla shouted from the side. Eryk rolled his eyes and took Niko's hand into his own, giving him a firm handshake before they walked off the field. Runt trailed behind him, making a noise every so often until he spotted Cyrilla, and ran towards her. She stretched her arms out to take the tyrunt's large head into them, and gave Runt a good head shake.

“Congratulations on your win, Runt," she stated, before glancing up at Ryk. “And you too, I suppose." Eryk huffed.

Dusting off his hair, Aidan flicked some ash off the end of his cigarette, apparently unperturbed by the debris of the collision. "Who's next?"

"That'd be Luke and I," Kas said, ambling up to the ring. Luke's pokémon was a snorunt, which meant neither had the obvious type advantage; when Kas released Meep, the little mareep hopped about with obvious happiness to be participating.

Despite Kasimir's protests about not being a field agent type, the match was over fairly quickly. As if to be contrary to her youth and inexperience, Meep appeared to be quite strong, with a suite of moves that covered her bases quite well, and Luke ceded the match not a minute into it, shaking his head with a soft chuckle.

“Spreadsheets my ass," he said, though it seemed to be amused rather than angry.

Kas only shrugged. "I'm telling you, mine are great."

After Kas's match with Luke, it was Cyrilla's turn who was facing off with Lorraine. The woman had the type advantage, sending out a croconaw, however; Ryk knew that Cyrilla covered for most of her weaknesses by teaching her pokémon moves that were not naturally learned. And it was a well placed thunder punch that managed to make the win for her. Diva looked pretty pleased with herself, howling as if she'd just defeated some great opponent, however; Cyrilla ran her hand through the lycanroc's mane and shook it a bit. Diva huffed as she trailed behind Cyrilla as she approached the group.

“Alright, so... does that mean we all advance? If so, I'm dropping out. I'm going to hang out with Luke and we're going to cheer the both of you on while the others continue their competition," she stated as she grinned in Luke's direction.

“Hey, don't forget about me, short stuff," Niko stated as he placed a hand on his hip and furrowed his brows. Cyrilla snorted softly and motioned him over, along with Lorraine. She didn't appear too happy to have lost, but she wasn't immediately sour about it. If she was, she was doing a good job hiding it. As far as Eryk knew, he always looked to be in a sour mood, so he couldn't be too sure.

“See, now you have a cheering squad," Cyrilla stated.

“I mean, I told you I had great legs for this." Niko popped out his leg once more, causing Cyrilla to laugh. Eryk only rolled his eyes.

Cyrilla's forfeit required a bit of bracket reshuffling, but Luke didn't complain. After another round, it had narrowed to the two finalists, unsurprisingly Eryk and Kasimir.

"Aw man, can't I just forfeit?" Kas whined, lifting his hands to fold them behind his head. "I've seen Runt go at it—he's got a lethal case of stupid and I don't wanna get caught in the crossfire, yanno?"

"If stupid was lethal I'd have at least one dead pokémon, and I don't," Aidan quipped by way of reply. "You guys gonna battle or what?"

Eryk supposed Kas had a bit of a point. Runt was a little stupid, but he was a good pokémon regardless. He shook his head, though. “I agree with Kas, though. Don't want to put him through that kind of trauma," he stated, a little surprised by how it sounded. Did he just joke? That's what it sounded like, even to himself.

“I'll concede this match to Kas," he stated. He'd be losing, in a sense, but he didn't mind too much. “I guess that means you win, Kas."

"Hey," Kas said, frowning in an exaggerated fashion. "I already said I forfeit. You can't steal my forfeit from me!"

Aidan rolled his eyes.

Eryk shrugged his shoulders. “I just did."

"Ass."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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June 1st
Aidan's Office - Morning - Hot
Aidan Klein


The recently-repaired air conditioning unit hummed in a labored sort of way, no doubt taxed by the task of trying to cool an entire building, including a temperature-sensitive lab, in the burgeoning heat of a Cinnabar summer. If anyone had asked Aidan, he'd have suggested a different central unit for each floor, considering the work they all had to do, but of course no one had asked him. So for the moment he made due with the standing fan next to his window and didn't say anything about it. It was working well enough, at least for now.

"Your written report indicates that the last month was mostly spent in lab setup, yes?" Gregorovich had a copy of the thing in front of him, no doubt printed from the email, but of course anything especially sensitive would be conveyed directly, so it wasn't hard to puzzle out why he was asking.

"Yeah," he replied, pulling the sweating water bottle on his desk towards him. "Dr. Solomon had a lot of materials from previous research; Dr. Greene and Ms. Parker wanted to at least go over those so they were caught up on the relevant information, so she spent a lot of the last month getting them up to speed." The benefit to this was that, having sat in on the lessons, Aidan himself was pretty up to speed, too. Apparently Doc's research had a lot to do with psychic pokémon, and the limits of their mental capacities. The exact nature of telepathic connections, and so on. It was pretty interesting stuff, if a little fringe. He sort of wondered where she'd gotten the idea to study it.

Gregorovich's expression remained neutral; he only nodded once. Still, Aidan could tell he'd been hoping for more of an update than that. "I suppose at least it means they can properly get to work this month," he noted with something of a sigh. Sitting back in his chair, he removed the cigarette from between his lips to tap it over a crystalline ashtray. "What about those three? Their reports indicate they've made contact with the target?"

Aidan nodded. "They have. As you know, she runs a shelter. They apparently decided that was the best way in, and spend a lot of their time outside working hours volunteering." Reading Gregorovich's skepticism, he shrugged. "As I understand it, Ms. Asher doesn't really differentiate much between this and socializing; she'd invited them to do that with her as well, so I'd say they're doing about as well as we could hope for on that front." He left off the part where he knew Doc had been down that way, too—technically it probably wasn't allowed, due to the possibility that it would compromise the mission, but it was a bit late for her to suddenly stop. He knew what Gregorovich would recommend in that case, and was planning to do it anyway.

"Hm. Satisfactory, I suppose." He half-smiled a bit and shook his head. "They say age is supposed to make you patient, and here I have to keep reminding myself that things take time. I suppose... I just want everything to be in place before I'm gone, you know?"

Aidan's brows arched. It wasn't really like his boss to muse on something like that, and immediately he couldn't help but wonder if something had happened. "...sir?"

The older man chuckled. "Ah, sorry. I suppose that was a bit unlike me. I only... hm." He paused for a long moment. "It's nothing. I'm just at the point in my life where I'm starting to think about legacy, I suppose. And succession. I wonder when that happened?"

"Wouldn't have thought you were old enough for that kind of shit, Gregorovich."

As he'd intended it to, Aidan's smart remark drew a smile and a short bark of laughter from the other man. "You're right. I'm being a presumptuous bastard, aren't I?" His amusement faded a moment later, not entirely dispelling Aidan's suspicion that something else was behind this. "In any case, the file I've sent you could make a very effective bit of legacy for you, should you carry it out successfully. I know the cause is near to your heart. I expect of course you'll need some help, as yours is still a rather famous face in some circles."

"Yeah, the version of it from ten years and a whole lotta piss and vinegar ago."

Gregorovich grinned a little. "I liked that you. He's still recognizable, in any case, so the point stands." He stubbed his cigarette out. "If you have need of the Beasts, feel free to commandeer them. It shouldn't take so much of their time that they can't stay involved with Miss Asher. Perhaps if they're clever they can find a way to integrate things. She has the right kind of heart, no?"

Aidan supposed the kind of person who ran a pokémon shelter and hospice was likely to. "Thanks, boss. Will do—they've got some talent." Nero and Rheinallt especially, in this particular area. Niav's talents were a bit different, but they were going to be just as useful, if not moreso.

"Good. Keep me updated, Aidan." With a small nod, the boss's image disappeared from the screen.

Aidan pressed the button on the device that hooked him into the secretary's desk. "Hayley, can you do me a favor and tell Nero, Rheinallt, and Niav to meet me in the conference room in half an hour?"

The young woman's voice came back through immediately. “Of course, sir!"

A few minutes later, she confirmed that they'd all been told, and he spent the next half-hour preparing copies of the folder for all of them. Probably something he could have had an assistant do, but Aidan had never really gotten used to asking other people to do things for him that he could do himself. Relaying messages was about as much as he ever used the front desk.

Half and hour later, he was seated in the conference room with a stack of folders in front of him.

Nero and Niav were the first to arrive. They seemed to be having a conversation of sorts, but it died once they approached Aidan, and took a seat. Nero glanced around as if looking for something, but turned his attention back to Aidan.

“Good afternoon, Aidan. Hayley said you wanted to see us?" Niav spoke first. Nero rolled his eyes gently, and shook his head.

Aidan nodded, but didn't elaborate, since he wanted all of them to be present. He couldn't admit to any fondness for repeating himself.

Rheinallt wasn't late or anything, arriving right on time and taking a different seat, leaning back in the chair and propping his feet on the table. Aidan didn't give a shit, so didn't bother to reprimand him for it.

"Good, you're all here. New mission." He handed out the folders, which were all identical to his own save for the personal note from Gregorovich that had accompanied the assignment. "Boss gave me lead on this one, but it's big and we're all going to have to run it. It shouldn't detract from your other job, but it'll at least get you away from your desks now and then."

"I'm not really—"

"—a fieldwork guy. Yeah, so you've said. You'll do for this, though. It's a large-scale kind of thing, and we're gonna need all competent hands on deck." Turning to the first page of the folder, he glanced over the statistics some analyst had compiled. "These are estimates on the use of performance-enhancing substances on competitive battling pokémon. We're not talking about kids wandering around between towns, here. These are the pros. Problem is, the things are already illegal, so it's not like anyone's just going to fess up to using them. The boss suspects it's not just a bunch of isolated cases, either."

Rheinallt, who'd looked like he was about to complain, was suddenly much more interested. "What, you figure there's big money involved?"

"Most likely. There's big money in professional battling, after all. Some of these trainers have heavy-duty machinery behind them: sponsors, agents, their own trainers, huge fanbases, that kind of thing. Battling is the most lucrative sport in the world, and the stakes get pretty big."

Rheinallt nodded. "I wouldn't be shocked to learn people were doping their pokémon at that level, but what exactly does the boss think we can do about it?"

That one was simple enough. "Undercover infiltration," he said simply. "Nero and Rheinallt, you're going to get your asses sponsored as professional battlers. Niav, you're going to be their agent."

Nero's expression smoothed out almost to the point it looked like he was expressing something. Shock, maybe, or confusion. “What?" he finally spoke, narrowing his eyes slightly in Aidan's direction. Niav, however, seemed delighted at the prospect, a grin forming on her lips. She leaned her cheek on her hand and tilted her gaze towards Nero.

“You heard the man, Ryk. You and Kas are going to go under cover as professional battlers," she spoke, perhaps to clarify to Nero. He merely narrowed his eyes at her. “There are worse things to be going undercover, Ryk, and you know that. Plus," she paused, glancing in Rheinallt and Aidan's direction before shaking her head. Nero seemed to know what she was going to say, though, and rolled his eyes.

“Kas and I aren't professionals, though. They'd see right through that guise," Nero finally spoke. “How are we supposed to convince someone to sponsor us if we're not what they're looking for?"

Aidan almost snorted. Wasn't this guy supposed to be experienced with fieldwork? Still, he answered the question as it had been asked: seriously. "Well, that's the thing. To pretend to be a professional battler, you're going to have to... become a professional battler. Sponsorship is going to be interesting, but the best way to do it is to draw attention to yourselves by winning, and letting your manager rub elbows with potential sponsors. You'll be wanting to look at local regional tournaments to start out with. Amass enough wins or good placements, and you'll qualify for bigger ones. You've got what it takes to get there—I've seen you battle and I'm pretty sure."

They'd been practice matches against grunts, to be sure, but the likes of Luke and Niko weren't half-bad, and the heads Nero and Rheinallt had shown for strategy—as well as the fact that they'd both won with such young pokémon—were dead tip-offs as to their abilities.

“There's a qualifying tournament happening in September," Niav spoke casually, glancing between Nero and Rheinallt. Nero gave her a somewhat questioning look, causing her to shrug her shoulders. “People talk," she stated as if explaining how she knew about the tournament. “Anyway, if you train for the next few months, I'm sure you'll have no problem getting qualified into a tournament league. Of course, that requires you actually working," she directed that statement towards Rheinallt. “But if Aidan says you've got the moxie for it, then it shouldn't be too bad, right? Plus, I like rubbing elbows with people. They spill all of their little secrets that way."

“We spend most of our free time helping Anastasia out. When will we have time for training?" Nero questioned, glancing towards Niav. She rolled her eyes at his statement, though.

“Ryk, we don't have to go there every time we have free time. It just makes you look a bit desperate, and she might take it the other kind of way, you know? She might think you like her in that kind of way. Keeping a bit of distance is good for you. Besides, if you're training, I'm sure she'll understand. Hell, if it bothers you that much, you can just tell her you'll be spending some of your time between things. Maybe she'll even want to help you out." Niav shrugged then, and leaned back into her chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

Rheinallt snorted softly, but offered no further comment on the matter of Asher, though somehow Aidan would have expected something. Ribbing, perhaps.

But nothing of the kind was forthcoming, and so with a slight arch of his eyebrows, Aidan continued instead. "I mean, not to tell you how to run your op, but if it were me I'd just integrate the two a bit. Tell the mark I planned to break into pro battling. People like giving advice, and they like being confided in." He shrugged. "As for the training bit, I can help out with it. I'm not just leaving you to run this yourselves; I'm still in charge of the op. I'm just too recognizable in some circles to pass for a neophyte trying to break into the scene. I can help you train, though, and put in a word with the right people when the time comes. Might help draw you some attention."

It had been years since he was active in that world, and in all honesty he liked to pretend he was something like anonymous and forgotten now, even if part of him knew it wasn't true. He was occasionally recognized on the street, though thankfully it hadn't happened here of all places. At least not in any way that he'd noticed. He was perennially grateful to the people who could keep that kind of recognition to themselves instead of approaching him about it. Made his life a lot less awkward.

“See? This is why Aidan's the boss; he gives you good, sound advice. You should take it, Ryk," Niav spoke, arching a brow in Nero's direction. He merely rolled his eyes, though, and shook his head.

“Whatever, Cy," he murmured softly before turning his attention towards Aidan. “Fine," he finally spoke, sighing softly. “We can notify Anastasia about this, and see if she... wants to help, too," he didn't seem especially certain, though. Niav merely grinned at him and pat his shoulder.

“Good. It'll do you some good, Ryk. You have to learn to be a little more sociable, in these cases, especially if you want to land a sponsor. It's all about making the right impressions; everyone knows that," she stated, causing Nero's shoulders to slump a bit. “Is there anything else on the agenda for today?" Niav turned her attention back towards Aidan when she asked that question.

"Well it's also about battling well," Aidan replied in a deadpan. He appreciated that Niav was good at PR, but there was really no reason to suppose it all came down to that, and he had to wonder if she wasn't making it seem worse to a guy like Nero than it really was. "As for anything else today, no. The September qualifier's a reasonable goal to shoot for; we'll keep that the target and adjust if we need to. I'll check in in a few weeks with a training plan. Get me a roster of your pokémon and their movesets by Friday so I can work those up. Any questions?"

"Seems pretty straightforward to me," Rheinallt replied with a shrug, glancing at Nero.

“What he said," Nero replied, nodding his head in Rheinallt's direction. “Shouldn't be too difficult," Nero muttered more to himself than anything, it seemed.

Aidan nodded. That was that, then.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav

0.00 INK



June 18th
The Cloyster - Evening - Hot
Cyrilla Niav


“Mm," Cyrilla stated as she grabbed a bowl from the shelf. Eryk was out for the night, probably doing last minute work at the office, which left her and Kasimir by themselves. That seemed to be the case more often than not, and she had a feeling it was because she teased Eryk too much. It was a little much, she knew, so she'd made him one of his favorite dishes. It was, perhaps, the only spicy dish he actually liked. Chicken Tikka Masala wasn't hard to make for her; she'd made it countless times for him. She'd made enough food for the three of them, though. Enough for Eryk to get seconds if he'd liked, or even Kasimir.

“Hey Kas," she called out. She didn't know where he was, and she was busy spooning her food into the bowl. “If you're hungry, food's done," she continued, turning around and shooing Noctis away from her. The zoroark made a face, but trudged back to her room, probably to lay down with Diva, Siri, and Zephyr. She always left them out of their pokéballs when she could. She made her way towards the couch, though, and set her bowl down, before heading back to the kitchen to grab a soda.

“There's also naan bread if you want some. It's in the breadbox," she added before making her way towards her food.

Kas emerged from the side hallway where their bedrooms were, yawning broadly. One hand ran through his disheveled hair, the other scratching almost absently at his abdomen. He blinked bleary golden eyes at her, perhaps only just registering what she said, then made a sort of humming noise that tended to pass for agreement when he wasn't yet feeling as chatty as usual.

The sounds of her roommate making up his own bowl of dinner followed from the kitchen, and when he emerged into the living room to join her, it was with a heaping bowl of food and a large glass of water, which he set down on the coffee table, comfortably folding himself onto the smaller of the sofas and throwing his legs over the armrest, settling his back against the other and balancing his food against his chest.

"Thanks for dinner, Cy," he said, digging his spoon in. He always did that, actually. No matter how often she made him food, or whether it was really any extra effort or not, he always thanked her for it. Maybe it was just a habit or something. After he swallowed, he glanced around, obviously noting the absence. "Ryk out or something? Didn't figure him for the night life type." The soft snort at the end of the statement gave it away as a joke.

She huffed lightly before nodding her head. “He's putting some finishing touches on the upcoming team build back at the office. There's still a few things that need to be worked out, but I also need to make a submission for an event or some other thing," she murmured before taking a bite of her food. She chewed it over thoughtfully before turning her attention back towards him.

“It has to be something that's going to be a team effort, of course, but it also has to be something that everyone can enjoy," she continued, smiling just a bit. She, of course, had a suggestion, one that she knew wouldn't be exactly something Eryk enjoyed. But she figured it would be a good way for him to at least blow off some steam. He was a little tense, she could tell from the way his shoulders were just a little too stiff, and the way his jaw seemed to click every once in a while.

Kas scoffed slightly under his breath, tearing off a piece of naan before replying. "I'm hurt," he said, obviously not actually hurt at all. "I didn't get asked to contribute an event!" He chewed over the naan, arching an eyebrow as he rolled his head aside to catch her eyes directly.

"So what fresh hell are you going to be inflicting upon us, dear Cyrilla?" he inquired, an amused half-grin already creeping onto his face.

She snorted softly. “I'm sure they did; did you check your email?" she asked, arching a brow in his direction. She took another bite of her food, though, before she answered his question. “Nothing too bad, I assure you. In fact, I think all... well you and Ryk will enjoy it the most," she stated, grinning slightly before taking a drink of her soda.

Kas gave her a flat look. "Cy, you might not know this, but I run the entire NTR server for this region of Kanto. Trust me, I check my email." He stuck his tongue out, entirely ruining any seriousness the statement might of had, but went back to eating so she could finish her explanation.

“How do you feel about dodgeball?" she asked, arching her brow again as she set her cup down. “I know it sounds a bit childish, but think about it. How often do the grunts get the chance to try and beat a couple of executives? I'm sure they might actually find it fun in some ways, even if, in the end, they'll get their asses handed to them."

She, after all, wasn't going to go easy on the grunts. She might not have been strong like Eryk, or even Kas, but she could still throw a ball decently enough.

He waved a hand. "Childish is basically how I roll, if you hadn't noticed," he said, grin stretching to take over the other half of his mouth as well. "And dodgeball sounds hilarious. Those poor grunts. That's gotta be six kinds of illegal under the Johto conventions." He waggled his eyebrows, but was momentarily distracted by the appearance of Meep, who seemed to have wandered out from his bedroom.

Shoving the last spoonful of tikka into his mouth, Kas set the bowl aside and swallowed. "Who's a good girl?" he asked the pokémon, who responded with one of her soft, chirpy little bleats. "That's right, it's you!" he declared, picking her up and rolling back into place to settle her on his stomach. His fingers carded through her static-laden wool without any hint of discomfort, and he turned back to Cyrilla.

"I doubt we've even got the right kind of equipment in storage. Might need to make a run to the sporting goods place. Been meaning to check out their boards and stuff anyway."

“Ugh, she's so adorable. Why is she so cute?" Cyrilla muttered beneath her breath. Meep was the cutest thing she'd seen next to Nev's wooloo. Maybe it was just a round, fluffy thing for Cy? She huffed lightly at Kas's statement, though, and nodded her head.

“I planned on stopping by tomorrow to see what they had if you want to join me. That way you can check out their boards and stuff, too," she stated, shrugging her shoulders in a nonchalant fashion. She took another bite of her tikka before setting the bowl down in front of her. She leaned back into the couch, though, and let out a satisfied sigh.

“So, what do you say? Wanna hang out with me tomorrow to go see what kind of mischief we can cook up for the grunts and Ryk?"

"Sounds good to me," Kas replied easily, still sifting his finger carefully through Meep's wool. The pokémon seemed to enjoy the attention, making a soft sound not entirely unlike a purr and half-closing her big dark eyes. He rubbed at one of her ears, smiling softly at her in a way that wasn't in his usual repertoire of smarmy grins and smirks and such.

Almost like he'd caught himself doing it, though, the expression soon faded, and he shifted his attention back to Cyrilla. "You heading out tonight, or...?" The both of them spent a fair few nights out, though they'd only inadvertently run into each other once thus far, at a club near the beach. Club Casablanca, it was called. Kas had apparently been on a date at the time, so they hadn't spoke much even then, but both of them were a bit more similar than either was to Ryk's habits, to be sure.

She considered it a moment before shaking her head. “I think I'm staying in tonight. I want to make sure Eryk eats something when he comes home. He tends to forget that, sometimes," she stated, allowing one of her rare smiles to cross her face. She wondered, for a moment, if she and Kas were alike in that aspect, too. Showing only certain sides of themselves to people they trusted. While she didn't trust Kas, no fault of his own, she didn't exactly go about trying to. They got along well enough, and that was enough for Cyrilla.

She pushed a sigh through her nose, though, and glanced back at Kas. “I take it you are, though? If you do, have fun," she stated, grinning somewhat as she nodded her head in Meep's direction. “And if you need a babysitter for Meep, I'll gladly volunteer."

He huffed quietly, the shook his head. "Wish I wasn't, but I got handed this new assignment by the boss yesterday. Gotta keep an eye on someone, and he wants the monitoring pretty close till we know what we're dealing with." With another look at Meep and a sigh, he lifted the pokémon off his stomach and into the air so her face was near his.

"Now you listen here, pretty girl," he said, affecting seriousness. "I probably won't be back home tonight so you need to be good for Auntie Cy, okay?" At the soft bleat that followed, he chuckled. "She's not any trouble, really. She and the others have their food set out already, but she gets lonely the easiest so if you don't mind letting her hang around with you, I'd appreciate it. If that's too much to do I can always go drop her off with Sis, so don't let me force you or anything."

Cyrilla wasn't going to deny the slight giddy feeling she had when Kas was apparently agreeing to let her babysit Meep. She was smiling, perhaps a little too brightly before she shook her head.

“It wouldn't be a problem at all, Kas. She'll have Diva, Zephyr, Siri, Noctis, and myself for company. We'll make sure she thoroughly enjoys herself until you get back," she stated. She was, oddly enough, looking forward to it. Meep was, like she said, adorable, and she would cherish any chance she got to play or look after her. Maybe she should think about getting a mareep of her own? She pushed the thought out of her mind. No two mareeps were the same, and well... she wasn't really in the market for another pokémon. Not yet, at least.

Kas smiled a bit and set Meep down. "All right then. I've gotta shower and stuff, but I should be out of here by nine so you can have girls' night. Or not, I guess, if Zeph and Noct will be there." He picked up his empty bowl and hers as well—that was another thing he always did. If someone else cooked, he did the dishes, apparently.

"You need anything while I'm out? I can stop by wherever on the way home tomorrow morning."

“Oh, I think you just insulted Zeph," she replied, smiling a bit. “Zephyr's a girl, but I can see why that'd be confusing," she stated, but she was more amused than anything. He was probably still waking up from his nap. “But no, I think I'm good for the time being. Oh, if you can," she stated, reaching over to grab her wallet. She always left the thing on the table. Easy to find and easy to grab when on the go.

“Will you stop at the little pokémon shop that has those frozen yoghurt treats that Nev gets? I promised I'd get the girls and boys some today, and I forgot. You can get something for Meep and the others, too, courtesy of me," she stated, pulling a few pokédollars from her wallet and handing it towards Kas.

“I think that should cover it."

"Ah, thanks," he said, accepting the bills and folding them over in his hand. "I think I must've confused Zeph for Zero or something." Grimacing, he shook his head. "Better wake up before I do this mission or boss'll have my hide, huh?"

Without waiting for much by way of response, he wandered back to his room. "Have a g'night Cy. See ya tomorrow an' all."

Oh, now that she had Meep for the night, she planned on having a very good night with the cuddly-looking pokémon. “You have a good night, too, Kas."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


June 23rd
Cinnabar Recreation Center - Afternoon - Overcast
Kasimir Rheinallt


It hadn't been the most spectacular day for a picnic—hot and overcast and occasionally spitting a light rain—but that was what backup locations were for, and so NTR had rented space at the local rec center, which was sort of a combination gym, arcade, and go-kart track. Those participating in the team build had eaten their food in a sullen silence broken only occasionally by the more outgoing and friendly of their number, and now they were lining up across from each other on opposite sides of the gymnasium.

Kas had a feeling this was meant to look kind of unfair: it was himself, Ryk, Aidan, and Cyrilla against literally everyone else on staff, from the admin assistants to the grunts to the scientists, a good twenty-some people. and it was decidedly unfair. Just not in the way most of them were expecting.

Because what that amounted to was him, two actual ninjas, and Aidan against a bunch of office workers ad assorted nerds. While he'd happily count himself among the latter kind of people on most days, he was rather more like the ninjas for this particular purpose. And today was apparently the day that the grunt team figured that out.

"Y'know, Cy, I'm aware competition is encouraged in NTR culture, but I think this is just going to piss off a lot of people," he said, watching as Tanya the HR manager distributed red rubber and foam balls about the size of his head around the gym. About half the people total would start with one, including all four on the so-called 'executive team.' Kas caught the one lobbed for him in one large hand, rolling it along his forearm and launching it off his elbow, only to catch it in his other hand.

Cyrilla huffed lightly as she arched a brow at Kas. “You'd piss people off either way, even if it wasn't dodgeball. The lesson, here, is that they at least have a chance at hitting us. I mean, they'll fail, but if it's in their head that there is just the slightest chance they could win? I'd count that as something," she spoke, shrugging her shoulders lightly.

“It's not like it was a particularly bad idea, though," she added. Eryk looked about as pleased as the grunts did, his brows furrowed and lips pursed thinly.

“Why'd you even suggest this, Cy?" he asked, arching a brow at her. She arched hers right back at him, though.

“Dodgeball? Because I thought it would be a good way for you to lose some of that tension you have. If you're really against it, you can let one of the grunts hit you, and you can go sit out, you know. You don't have to take this seriously, even if the grunts will."

Kas somehow doubted there was any chance of Ryk losing on purpose. He wasn't really that kind of guy. Sure he might forfeit a thing before it started if he had no interest, but once he was in, he was in. He was less sure about whether Aidan would bother taking it seriously, but the other guy had at least picked up one of the balls, glancing over at them with a raised eyebrow.

"You'd piss them off less if you could make it look like it was close. Almost get hit a few times, juggle some catches, miss some shots. Up to you though. Not like I give a damn if the whole office wants your heads." He shrugged.

"Thanks, bossman, that's real encouraging," Kas replied, though it was obviously a joke. Aidan rolled his eyes at the nickname, but offered no further rejoinders. "So... what's our strategy here? Total decimation? Lose on purpose? Make them think they have a chance? Somewhere in the middle?"

“Depends. Do we want the grunts to hate us more than they already do, or do we want them to at least feel better about themselves?" Cyrilla asked. Eryk furrowed his brows lightly as if he were contemplating the options Kas had mentioned.

“We're not losing on purpose," he spoke, slumping his shoulders a bit, “but the whole purpose of the team build is to reinforce the bonds is it not?" He arched a brow in Aidan and Kas's direction for a moment. “I suggest we do something in the middle. Make it look like they have a chance, but also let them know that we're not going to go down without a fight."

“There's the competitive Ryk I know," Cyrilla stated, smiling softly before shaking her head. She held her ball against her hip as she arched a brow in Kas and Aidan's direction. “I guess we have a strategy, unless you'd like to do something different."

They both shrugged. Kas was fine with not being hated, and he suspected Aidan really didn't care, so that it was.

Tanya, self-appointed referee, blew a whistle, which apparently signaled the start of the match, because a bunch of red projectiles came flying in for them. This was going to be the only reasonably challenging part, actually—surviving the initial barrages, which would at least be dense enough to be interesting.

Kas immediately fired his own ball, catching one of the admin assistants on the shoulder, knocking him out, then ducked under a few and plucked one out of the air—getting your shot caught was a way of being knocked out also. It appeared to have belonged to one of the grunts, who joined the assistant on the side of the ring next to Tanya.

Aidan just used his ball to block a few initial shots, then lobbed it for a knot of grunts, who were clearly not expecting it to be that fast. It managed to hit two of them, then ricochet and narrowly miss a third. Shrugging, the other man stooped to pick up a second ball.

Eryk and Cy spent most of their time dodging, not really throwing or catching any of the balls. It seemed they were assessing things before Ryk finally threw his ball, catching a grunt in the gut. It wasn't hard, at least it didn't seem to be thrown with too much force, but it was enough that the grunt dropped his ball before grumbling and walking off the floor.

Sis seemed to be doing alright on her own, but she was smiling as she tossed a ball towards the group of executives. She dodged a few balls seemingly well, but it didn't appear that she had enough arm strength to actually throw the ball very well. Cyrilla managed to catch two other grunts, narrowly dodging a ball herself. Whether it was on purpose or a grunt had come really close to hitting her, it was unclear.

Eryk managed to hit another two grunts, and caught a ball just as it soared near him. He hadn't been looking, either. He shook his head softly before throwing the ball back into the fray.

Between them, they whittled down the numbers, weaving in a few 'narrow misses' and things that caused the growing audience to groan in the distinctive way of a sport fan narrowly thwarted, which Kas figured was a good sign. Of course, should any of the four of them actually get hit, about a quarter of the Grunts would be able to return to the floor, so no few of them were shouting for their remaining teammates to take out their preferred target.

But sure enough, it wasn't too long before the grunt team was down to the final five, at which point Aidan caught one of Sis's weak tosses, taking her out of the match that way instead of by direct hit. That left Niko, who was probably the most athletic of the lot, Luke, who was probably the smartest of those left, Hayley, and Lorraine.

From a field of twenty-five-on-four to an even match.

Niko struck first, aiming for Kas, who knocked aside the ball with his own, aiming it a little towards Cyrilla. "Hey Cy! Catch!"

Cyrilla caught it and chucked it straight for Lorraine, who managed to knock the ball aside. Lorraine threw her ball at Cyrilla, who narrowly dodged it. Either Lorraine was fairly good at throwing things, or she was intently focused on taking Cy out. Eryk, however, threw his ball at Luke. He had done a fairly decent job of mostly taking out grunts with catching their ball rather than hitting them.

Lorraine seemed to mouth something at Hayley, though, and it seemed that they were going to focus their efforts on him.

Luke almost managed to catch the thing, juggling it awkwardly for several seconds before losing grip on it, putting him out of the game. That left Lorraine and Hayley, who were indeed focusing on Ryk. Kas waited until they were both committed to their throws before launching a quick one of his own, catching Hayley in the hip.

Aidan caught her toss, leaving only the one for Ryk to deal with.

Ryk and Cy shared a glance, something knowing between the two of them as he lifted his ball in Lorraine's direction. He made to throw it, however; Cyrilla threw hers first. Eryk's ball quickly followed after. Lorraine only had enough time to block one of the balls headed her way before the ball Ryk threw caught her in the shoulder.

That signaled the end of the game, and Lorraine mumbled something beneath her breath as she walked over towards the group of grunts. Sis came over to the group, shortly, and smiled brightly at the four of them. “That was a lot of fun," she spoke as she glanced at the group. Cyrilla snorted softly and shook her head.

“I don't think I've ever participated in a dodgeball game since middle school," she continued. Eryk tilted his head slightly but didn't seem inclined to say anything.

Aidan huffed quietly. "I think probably elementary school for me," he noted. "Guess I wasn't too rusty, though."

Kas grinned at the both of them. "You guys did pretty well for old folks," he teased. "What was that, like twenty-five years ago?"

"C'mere and say that to my face, you little punk." Aidan's deadpan was accompanied by an exaggerated step forward, and Kas barked a laugh, taking a similar step.

"I said you're old!" he teased, at even greater volume.

Aidan's brows knit, and he tilted his head slightly to the side. "Yeah, no, that's accurate," he replied in the same flat tone. "Can't get mad when you're right."

“Almost twenty years for me," Sis replied, not at all put off by the statement, it seemed. She merely chuckled, followed by Cyrilla. Eryk merely arched his brow before his eyes narrowed slightly.

“You'll be their age soon enough, Kas," he spoke, folding his hands into his pant pockets. Cyrilla rolled her eyes and nudged Eryk slightly in the arm.

“So will you, Ryk. All of us will, eventually, but that's not the point. Point is we all had fun," Cyrilla stated as Ryk shrugged his shoulders. Sis chuckled and shook her head.

“Maybe we should all go get dinner after this? You know, as a bit of a celebratory 'we all had fun despite our ages' kind of thing?" she suggested.

Aidan shook his head, but seemed amenable enough. "There's a couple places around, sure."

It sounded like a plan to Kas. But first...

"In the meantime, why don't we mix up these teams a bit and try again? Should be reasonably fair if it's only one ninja per team, right?" He grinned at Ryk and Cy.

Cyrilla scoffed lightly. “I don't know about that. We can always give it a try, though. What do you say, Ryk?" Eryk seemed to contemplate the statement before shrugging his shoulders.

“Should be fine," he replied simply.

“Well, then let's see what happens." The grin on Cyrilla's face was almost malicious before it disappeared.

Kas immediately stepped towards her side, moving to sling his arm around her shoulders but pausing before he actually touched her, to make sure it was all right for him to do so. "I'm with this ninja," he said quickly, smiling broadly at the other three.

She didn't seem to mind as she leaned towards his hand. Her brow was arched in Ryk's direction as he merely shrugged his shoulders. “Guess that means you're stuck with Ryk, Aidan," she spoke, turning her attention towards him. Eryk huffed lightly, though, as if he were somewhat amused by the thought.

“There are worse people to be stuck with, Cy," he stated.

“You won't be saying that when you lose. And I know how much you hate losing, Ryk." Eryk's brow arched almost in a challenging manner, though.

Kas settled his arm down, grin growing a little. "We're gonna have to work on your trash talk, Ryk. But first, we're gonna kick your asses, so you have that to look forward to." With a wink, he turned himself and Cyrilla to face the rest of the crowd. "All right, grunts, assistants, and nerds! The half of you that would like to be on the winning team can come hang out with me and Cy here. The rest of you have to be on a team with those two shaggy guys, so take your pick!"

There was an immediate shuffle, new teams forming up, and Kas patted Cy's shoulder once before he stepped away to prepare.

All in all, not a bad idea.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



June 29th
Field Office 9 - Afternoon - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk glanced at the others around him. Cyrilla was fidgeting somewhat next to him, a frown marring her lips as she stared out ahead. They were going to be doing a raid at a local breeding facility. Word had reached NTR that the facility wasn't up to date on their papers, and there were some concerns there, as well. Conditions were not good for the pokémon, and supposedly they were being crammed into small cages and areas. One report said they'd witnessed one of the workers beating on some of the young pokémon. That had been enough to get under Eryk's skin in a way he didn't quite like. He knew it bothered the others, too, in some capacity, but something about it struck him in a different way.

He couldn't explain it.

“Do you have everything you need, Cyrilla?" he asked, trying to get her focused on something else, for the moment. She glanced up at him, and pursed her lips together before nodding her head. He returned the gesture, and motioned for her to lead the way to the conference room. They were being summoned to go over what they were going to do. Apparently Aidan had the information from the boss, and it would be Eryk, Cyrilla, Kasimir, and a handful of the grunts who were going to the facility.

“Do you think it'll be bad?" she finally spoke, keeping her gaze outwards as they headed for the conference room.

“Conditions have to be bad enough if they're asking us to interfere directly," he answered. Cyrilla winced slightly as they approached the door. Before they walked in, Eryk placed a hand on Cyrilla's shoulder, and regarded her through narrowed eyes. “Will you be fine?" he asked. She took in a breath and nodded her head.

“Good. Let's go in," he stated, opening the door to let her in.

Aidan and Kasimir were already inside, the latter's laptop open and connected to the conference room's projection screen. They were discussing something, it seemed; Aidan's expression was sharper than Eryk had ever seen it, and though he usually didn't smoke indoors unless he was standing next to an open window, there was one in his mouth now. He looked tense, though the reason for it was unclear.

At the sound of the door opening, his eyes flicked quickly to them and he sighed, expelling a cloud of smoke and gesturing them in. "Address is 416 Marigold Street," he said curtly, apparently all business. "This isn't a check-in visit, it's a raid, so get in and out quickly or someone's bound to call the local pigs and cause you problems." He tossed two dossiers onto the table before Eryk and Cyrilla had even had a chance to sit down.

"Looks like a facility specializing in fighting and poison types, so don't be surprised if some of them have behavioral issues. I want every last one of them cleared out and at intake two hours from now. I don't care if they look fine. If any of them need emergency medical care, get them to the nearest certified professional. You know how this works. Don't fuck it up or we'll be dealing with cops and paperwork for three years."

Kas wore a serious expression befitting the circumstances, but didn't seem to be as agitated as Aidan, picking up the explanation smoothly even as the projected image changed. "This is the blueprint of the facility on file with the city," he said, gesturing at the map. It appeared to show a large single building with only one floor, and then a big yard. "Of course, as sometimes happens with these things, be on the lookout for, uh, unregistered rooms and compartments. Basements, that kind of thing. I'll be coordinating things for all of you from one of the vans. We're bringing two, just to be safe. The facility has a registered total of ten breeding pokémon, but we're expecting more than that, to account for young ones, and, well... the fact that these sorts of places aren't always keen to do the additional certs they'd need to keep more than ten, so. Make of that what you will."

He paused, then shrugged. "Any questions?"

Eryk only shook his head. He didn't need to ask anything; he'd been given the information they'd need for this raid, and that was all that was needed. Getting in and out wouldn't be a problem, especially for him and Cyrilla. They were trained for these kinds of things, however; it was going to be a bit difficult getting the pokémon out without some issues. If Aidan was right, and some of them had behavioral issues, that meant that noise was bound to be made one way or another. He could try to keep some of them calm with his telepathy, but even that had its own weaknesses.

Tapping with a pokémon was different than with a person. He'd learned that the hard way. “It'll get done," he finally spoke, his brows furrowing slightly. Cyrilla nodded her head as well, agreeing, it seemed. It was going to be a bit more difficult since it was still bright outside, but he and Cyrilla could accommodate for that. They weren't exactly stealing something, after all. They were simply removing pokémon from a facility that was no longer up to standards.

“The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can see what conditions the pokémon are in," he spoke simply. He wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Mostly so that the pokémon in the facility were able to get the treatment they needed, even if some of them might be healthy as Aidan speculates them to be.

"Good." Aidan expelled another breath, hard and sharp, and nodded. "Then I'll leave you to it."

Taking that for a signal, Kasimir closed the lid of his laptop and unhooked it from the wall, wrapping the cords up quickly and tucking it under his arm. "To the vans, then." He tossed Eryk a key ring with a single key on it, then led the way down to the mansion's large garage, where several nondescript vehicles of various sorts were parked. There was even a motorcycle, though from the quality of it probably belonged to one of the individuals working here rather than the organization, which tended towards less-flashy vehicles.

The vans were a basic grey, with tinted windows and sliding side doors. Kas opened one of these and hopped up inside, apparently getting himself set up at a small workstation inside. "Pokémon-handling equipment's in the other van, but if you need to stack cages in here, I don't mind company. Address is in your Pokégear's GPS already."

“Thanks, Kas," Cyrilla stated as she climbed into the other van. Eryk didn't know why she was thanking him, though. Maybe for the address being set up in the GPS? He pushed the thought aside, though, and nodded in Kasimir's direction.

“If we need more room for cages, we'll load them up inside with you," Eryk stated before glancing in the direction of the van he was going to drive. “Let's get going, then," he stated, nodding once in Kasimir's direction before climbing into the other van. He supposed one of the other grunts was going to drive the van Kas was in.

It was another twenty minutes before they arrived at the facility. From the outside, he could see two people standing near a cluster of rose bushes. They seemed to be talking about something, but Eryk didn't know what. One of them was smoking a cigarette; it seemed they were on a smoke break of some sorts. Judging by the length of the cigarette, they had at least ten to twenty minutes to get in without being noticed. Of course, that also meant there was a possibility that there were more workers inside. He pulled the van around the back, stopping at least a block away before parking.

He placed an ear piece into his ear and tested it before calling Kasimir. “Kas, what's the best point of entry from this way?" he asked. If they could sneak around the back and secure a route, they'd be able to get this done quickly.

"Well since there are people outside, I'm thinking you'll want to hang a left from here and hop the fence into the yard," Kasimir replied, his voice clear and calm over the connection. "They've got a few security cameras going, but I'll have you erased from those in no time, so don't worry about it. There might be a few pokémon in the yard you'll want to scoop up first; I'll send some of the grunts over with the cages. Back door looks pretty standard—might be locked but I'm sure you're handy with a pick, right?" That kind of thing was pretty standard field training for NTR.

“Alright," he spoke before glancing towards Cyrilla. “You take care of the ones in the yard. I'm going straight to the doors. Join me once you're done," he spoke. She nodded her head, pulling her hair back into a quick bun and pulled on her gloves. He had his own set of gloves, mostly as a precaution of leaving evidence behind. Once they were prepared, he opened the door to the van and stepped out, glancing around momentarily to ensure there was no one around before hoping the fence. Cyrilla followed behind him, and immediately, they were both moving quickly.

Just as Kas said, there were a couple of pokemon in the yard: a stunky and an ekans. Even from this distance, he could see that the stunky was malnourished. Its fur looked slightly matted, and the cream colored parts of it were dark. Eryk didn't need to know why it was like that. It was curled up near a bowl of what looked to be water, however; there was algae inside of it, and didn't even look remotely drinkable. The ekans was curled on a rock, but it too looked malnourished. Some of its scales looked like they were falling off, and it had a rather large scar on its head.

“Cyrilla," he spoke low enough that she could hear him, and immediately nodded her head. He continued his way towards the back door, though, knowing that she would take care of the two poison-types.

“There's a riolu, too, Ryk. He's hiding in the bushes," Cyrilla spoke over the ear piece. Eryk pursed his lips together and furrowed his brows.

“Get it out with the others, and be gentle. They're stronger than they look, Cy," he replied. She made a vague noise over the earpiece, perhaps an agreement before it was silent again. He pulled a lockpick set from his back pocket once he reached the back door, and went to work at the lock. When it opened, he carefully set the pick back, and opened the door cautiously, checking to see if there was anyone around. Satisfied that there was no one at the moment, he entered, leaving the door slightly ajar so that the others could enter as well when they were done outside.

“Kas, what's the first room?" he asked. He didn't want to accidentally walk into a break room, after all.

"Second door on your left is marked as a holding room," Kasimir replied, still even and calm. "You'll want to sweep it for anything not on the map, too, but the pokémon you can see are the first priority here. Your two guys outside are still there. Smoker's lit another, so you should be all right for a bit."

Eryk pushed a sigh through his nose. He took the second door to his left, opening it cautiously as well. There was a bit of a smell in this room, and when he fully entered, he could see why. There were carcasses of dead pokemon on tables, most of them almost skeletal in appearance with fur. There was a skuntank that looked like it had its fur pulled out, and another that looked like it had eaten most of its paw off, probably because its paw had been infected. There was a cut on it that didn't seem healed right. Eryk felt his lips pull back, but a noise caught his attention.

There was a stunky underneath a pile of dirty rags, and even from this distance, Eryk could hear its breathing was raspy. It looked like it was on death's door. Part of its ear looked like it had been cut off, probably from a failed attempt at tagging it properly. He moved over towards it, removing the rags that kept it buried, and ran a hand through its fur. It made a vague wheezing sound as it leaned into his hand. Carefully, he lifted it from the pile and tucked it into his arms. It seemed to curl up, it's breathing becoming more rapid as he tried to calm the stunky.

“Cyrilla, where are you? I need you to get this one out, ASAP," he spoke hurriedly. The stunky wasn't going to have much of a chance if they didn't get it the help it needed, soon. It was barely hanging on through sheer will, and it was young at that. How it ended up in the Holding Room was beyond Eryk. Perhaps the skuntank on the table had been its parent?

“On my way, Ryk," she replied. It wasn't a moment later that she'd entered the room, her eyes wide before they settled on Ryk. Slowly and carefully, he handed her the stunky that seemed almost reluctant to leave him. When the stunky was secured, Cyrilla left, and Eryk did one more sweep around the room just in case. When he was finished, he moved on to the next.

It took a total of thirty minutes to get a full layout of the building. In total, Eryk had only come across three other workers. Five people to work the facility didn't seem quite as well-staffed as it should have been. It might have been that there were more during the evening shift, but Eryk didn't want to take any chances.

“Kas, where's the room they keep the newly hatched?" he asked. It was the only room he hadn't found, yet.

"You mean that last one wasn't it?" Kasimir sounded incredulous. "Uh... hang on." Eryk could hear the sound of rapid typing, and a soft hum that had to be the sound of Kas thinking about something. "So you've been to all the rooms in the facility marked as containing pokémon, but there's an office here in a weird place. Back up three doors, open the one on your right, go down the hall and open the door on the end. And you'll want to be quick about it—the workers are headed back in."

A pause and then, just as levelly: "Hey Cy, can I get you to run around the front and distract the workers for a couple minutes here? Ryk's got one more room to check and there's still grunts coming back with cages."

“Easily done," Cyrilla replied before it was silent again. Eryk moved towards the door Kas had directed him to, and opened it. It was mostly empty inside, however; there were a few over turned cages. He could hear heavy breathing coming from somewhere, though, and immediately, Eryk felt something collide with the back of his legs. It was hard and heavy enough that it sent Eryk to the ground. Quickly, he rolled to his side to avoid a small fist from colliding with his head. He grabbed the wrist, surprised that it was fur-covered, and immediately released it.

When he managed to get to his feet, there was a wild-eyed mankey staring at him. It was breathing heavily and looking frantically around. It jumped around the room, knocking things over in the process. It was creating too much noise, and Eryk needed it to stop. He did the only thing he could think of; he tried to connect to it telepathically, however; he was met with a strong resistance. It was painful, and it caused Eryk to wince slightly. Relaxing his posture as much as he could, Eryk tried to make himself look less-threatening. He could see mankey grabbing things and flinging them in his direction, however; he merely stayed still.

“It's alright," he finally spoke, keeping his voice as level as he could. I'm not going to hurt you, he continued, trying again to connect with it. It allowed the connection briefly, and for a moment, it paused in its tantrum. Its eyes narrowed once more, though, and immediately, it charged him again. Eryk knew it was trying to intimidate him, but he couldn't let it.

He had to remain calm.

After several minutes of trying to calm the mankey down, it finally made its way cautiously towards Eryk. He could see clearly now that it had a broken tail. Probably when one of the workers tried to get control of it. One of its wrists even looked broken. Eryk furrowed his brows as he kneeled down so that he was at an even level with the mankey. He held his hand out gently, trying his best to earn its trust. Mankey took his hand, and sniffed it, holding on with a vice-like grip. It pulled itself closer to him, climbing onto his back before Eryk was finally able to hold it. One of its arms reached over Eryk's shoulder as he brought another hand to its back, securing it.

Once he was holding it properly, he left the room, and exited the building as quickly as he could. He made it to the van where Kas was, and pursed his lips together. There were a couple of cages in the van with him. Eryk didn't think there would be this many at the facility, however; he shook his head. “Kas, where's the closest facility we can go to? A couple of these need to be checked out immediately."

Kasimir clicked his tongue against his teeth, gesturing for Eryk to hop up into the van with the mankey. "Get in. I'll drive. The closest place is Ana's. That gonna work or should I try for the center instead?" It was clear he was asking the question of Eryk as the head of their team, and the one who had to decide how much Ana was allowed to know. It would be pretty obvious they were NTR if they showed up like this, and Kas didn't know Ana had in fact guessed as much already.

He still gave it some thought. “We'll take them to Anastasia's," he finally answered. If they took the pokemon to the center, it was likely they'd have some explaining to do. That would likely get them involved with the police, and that was the one thing they were trying not to do. At least with Anastasia, they could explain the situation. She might even be a little more sympathetic to the cause, considering her own shelter functioned as a hospice.

Kas nodded, putting the van into gear and pulling out into the street. He took a slightly circuitous route first, so that they would not pass the breeding facility a second time, but as soon as he could get them there, they were pulling to a stop in front of Anastasia's shelter. It was regular business hours for her, so the gate was open, several of the pokémon out and about.

Killing the engine and jumping out of the van, Kas pulled the sliding door open for Eryk, then moved to the other vehicle to do the same, just as Anastasia emerged from behind the house, brows furrowed. It wouldn't be surprising if she'd heard screeching brakes outside her property, actually.

Her expression morphed into one of alarm, though, as soon as she laid eyes on Eryk, or rather the mankey. "This way," she said immediately, her tone brisk. "My medical supplies are in the main shelter building. What can you tell me?"

“Newly hatched, broken tail and wrist," he answered. It was direct and to the point. He knew age had a lot to do with how a pokemon was cared for, and that there were certain medicines and antibiotics it couldn't be given quite yet. “There should be a stunky on the way as well, same age," he added so that she could be prepared for that one, too, when it arrived. “It's having difficulty breathing."

Mankey's grip on Eryk tightened, though, as if it knew it was going somewhere it did not want to go. He ran a hand through mankey's fur, though, trying to keep it calm. I'm not leaving, he spoke to it. It seemed to relax a bit, but it did not move its face away from where it was buried. He was going to have to set the mankey down, eventually, though, so Anastasia could check it over. When they reached the main shelter building, Eryk glanced towards Anastasia.

“Where should I set him down?"

"Right over here," Ana said, gesturing to a clean examination table. She crossed quickly to the other side of it, donning an apron and scrubbing her arms and hands clean in the sink before snapping on a pair of gloves. The box label said 'hypo-allergenic'; it seemed she wasn't taking any chances.

When she approached mankey, though, she was very careful, her motions steady and calm. She met its eyes carefully and smiled. "Hello, little guy," she said gently, carefully extending one arm towards the mankey with a soft smile. "I'm Ana. I know it's hard to believe, but I promise you're safe here, okay? We're going to take a look at where it hurts so we can get started on making it better, all right?"

She seemed to be waiting for something, head tilted, hand still hovering a respectful distance from mankey.

Mankey turned to regard her for a moment before turning its eyes up at Eryk. He nodded to reassure the mankey that it would be fine. Slowly, it reached out its hand towards her, taking her own before it slid down Eryk's arms. It hopped slightly towards Anastasia and regarded her a moment. Mankey made a soft grunting noise before it seemed satisfied to let her do whatever was necessary to make it better, as she'd said. Eryk pursed his lips together, though. None of the pokémon should have been in that condition, however; he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Kas and I need to head back to the office, but I'm entrusting mankey to you, Anastasia. Cyrilla will be by in a moment with the stunky and another pokémon that will require assistance. Is that alright?" he asked. He didn't want to overburden her, after all. That, and he needed to report back to Aidan that the raid was successful.

Anastasia nodded slightly, already beginning her examination of mankey. "I understand," she said. "I'll do everything I can for them, I promise." She asked no questions, at least not at the moment.

Perhaps that was for the best.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


Image


July 2nd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Kasimir Rheinallt


After the raid, they'd needed to leave a total of four pokémon with Ana. Two of those, the ekans and the riolu, had since been cleared to be held in ordinary NTR intake while the group assessed what the best course of action was for them, along with the others that had been seized from the breeding facility.

As expected, the local police had been called, and an official inquiry had been sent up to the Field Office, but by then there were pictures and documentation indicating the abuse and maltreatment of the pokémon at the facility, and Aidan had been only too happy to cite to the officers the exact pieces of legal code that allowed NTR in Kanto to seize pokémon in such conditions. As they usually did, they officially maintained that they'd seen evidence of the maltreatment through a window, which had then given them probable cause to conduct the raid. Technically, they hadn't really had it, only the vague suspicion, but it wasn't like anyone could prove otherwise, so the law was on their side and there was nothing to be done.

One of the cops had looked pissed, but some of them were like that. Didn't like NTR edging into law enforcement territory. Kasimir's own feelings on the matter were kind of complicated, but he really didn't think they were in the wrong here. If there'd been no evidence of mistreatment, they'd just have left. It had happened on raids before, misinformation or reports given falsely sending them to places that were actually aboveboard, but what had been in there... well, he for one was glad that place was getting shut down, and with all the evidence they'd collected, the legal system would likely jail the owners for a while, even if some beat cop didn't like it.

Stunky and mankey were still at the shelter; according to Ana, mankey was so young as to need constant supervision while he recovered, and stunky's breathing issue was likely to be permanent, and so she'd offered to take her in, since that was where she was likely to end up even if NTR did its own assessment. No one had seen any reason to suggest otherwise, so official custody of those two pokémon had been signed over to Cinnabar Pokémon Rehabilitation and Hospice.

Today, for some reason, they had all been summoned to the conference room. It had to be for the beginning of the month executive meeting, but oddly Kasimir hadn't been asked to prepare anything for it. Usually he had maps or dossiers or some other kind of information to organize detailing whatever the month's projects were, but apparently those were coming from somewhere else this time. Maybe Aidan was making them? The other man was already seated at the conference table, but it didn't look like he'd brought much of anything with him. At this point they were just waiting for Ryk and Cy, he supposed.

It wasn't much longer when they arrived. Eryk entered the room first, slight bags under his eyes indicating he hadn't slept much in the last couple of days. Cyrilla trailed behind him, though, and they both took a seat near Kas. He regarded Kas for a moment before turning his attention towards Aidan.

“Good morning, Aidan. Good morning, Kas," Cyrilla murmured softly as Eryk nodded his head as if to say the same thing without actually saying it. Cyrilla sighed softly but didn't say anything else, and they both turned their attention towards Aidan. It was as if they were waiting for him to start the meeting, or something of the sort.

Nodding briskly, Aidan lifted a small remote control from the table in front of him and turned on the screen at the back wall of the room. Without any further ado, the entire group of them was presented with the image of their boss, Stefan Gregorovich. Kas's eyebrows shot up in mild surprise; it wasn't completely unusual for people of their rank to hear from Gregorovich directly, of course, but then he hadn't been at this particular rank for very long. It wasn't like he'd had dinner with the guy.

"Good morning, everyone," the boss said, his tone neutral with a faint hint of warmth to it. "I suppose you might be a touch surprised to see me, but I asked Aidan not to disclose that I would be present at this meeting. I didn't want to cause any dread of it, or anything like that."

In a way, Kas supposed that was a legitimate concern. He'd definitely have worried about it if he knew it was coming—the problem was he was now internally scrambling, trying to remember if everything was in order that needed to be. It was, of course—he hadn't lasted this long by being an idiot. But damn if seeing the boss didn't ignite anxiety in him anyway. There was just something vaguely terrifying about the possibility that he'd been found out and this was how they delivered the news.

But Gregorovich only smiled slightly. "I would like to begin by commending your work at the end of last month—I've read your reports of the incident and can only wish we'd known about the facility sooner. That doesn't discount the good you did, though, and I'm relieved to see the pokémon in question are now in much better hands."

If Eryk and Cyrilla were as surprised as Kas was to see Gregorovich, they didn't show it. Instead, Cyrilla smiled a bit at Gregorovich's statement as Eryk nodded his head. He'd been back to Ana's to check on the stunky and mankey the most after the raid, and had seemed rather attached to the both of them for some reason. He never said anything about it, and didn't seem inclined to, either. He kept his attention on the screen though, a frown marring his features.

“Sir," he stated, though it wasn't in a way that conveyed he wanted to ask a question. It was in a way that was simply acknowledging what Gregorovich had stated. A way of thanks, perhaps. Eryk's brows furrowed, though, before he shook his head lightly.

“But there is more, is there not?" Eryk stated. It didn't seem to be in a condescending way. It was as if he were merely stating an observation or a fact, maybe.

"Naturally," Gregorovich replied, waving a hand vaguely as if to say he'd get to it in its own time. No hurrying the boss, naturally. Fortunately, he was a pretty businesslike individual.

It wasn't hard to tell: even if the immaculate monochrome of his expensive, bespoke black suit didn't convince a person, there was the remarkably keen look to the pale grey of his eyes. He might not be reputed to be a human lie detector, or be as impressive in height as Kas or as naturally intimidating-looking as Ryk, but there was a certain obvious, quiet authority and dignity to him. Gravitas, really. This was the man who'd resurrected Team Rocket from the ashes of organized crime and made it the single most influential organization in the world.

Even if Kas's real boss was sure he'd stuck his fingers in just about every dirty-money pie to do it, it was still impressive.

"I'm calling today to get your updates on Project Nebula," Gregorovich said simply. "As there were raid reports to write, I understand the monthly updates not being finished for that, of course, and thought I'd save you the trouble of rushing those by simply hearing the reports verbally."

Kasimir felt another flicker of surprise at this, but like the last he didn't much let it show. Gregorovich could say what he wanted about convenience—he'd just convinced Kas that this project was even more important than he'd previously thought. Why else seek an update this close to in-person when their reports would be in by the end of the week?

"You've all made contact with... Miss Asher by now, as you've said. How are you finding the task of befriending her?"

Eryk pushed a heavy sigh through his nose, almost as if he wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. It was obvious to those around that Eryk wasn't the type to befriend people easily. That seemed more like something Cyrilla, or even Kas could do. But it had fallen on Eryk to make the first initial contact, and he had. Kas and Cyrilla visited the shelter when they could, but Eryk was the one who spent the most time there.

“It is... not difficult, but it isn't quite as easy as expected. She's not exactly trusting of new people, but," he paused, his brows furrowing deeper, “progress is being made, I believe. It will still be some time, yet, before anything comes of us befriending her."

Gregorovich seemed to consider this a moment, tilting his head slightly to the side. From offscreen, he retrieved a cigarette and a metal lighter with something engraved on it, flicking it open and holding the end of the cylinder to the flame. Flipping it closed, he returned it to its position beyond their line of sight and sat back in his chair, the padded leader creaking softly. "And what exactly do you believe will come of it, as you say?" he asked, seeming genuinely curious.

Eryk seemed to contemplate something before he sighed softly. It was Cyrilla who answered, though.

“We're not entirely sure, sir," she spoke softly and calm. “From our initial report, it's that you want us to see if she's a viable candidate to be a volunteer for a project of yours. The only things we've managed to learn about her, so far, are the obvious: she's a relative of the Nurses Joy, and she owns and operates the Shelter and Hospice."

Gregorovich nodded slightly, though Kas thought he saw some form of... disappointment, maybe? Something like it flashed briefly across his features before it was gone. "I see," he said simply, taking a drag from the cigarette. Kas was pretty sure it was one of the imported sort from Kalos, papered in brown rather than mostly white, and a fair bit longer than standard.

"What of you, Mr. Rheinallt?" He asked quietly, fixing his eyes on Kas through a thin haze of smoke.

"Me, sir?" he asked, blinking as if confused. It wasn't far from the truth, really.

"Yes. Aidan has informed me that you're a particularly clever sort. What do you make of Miss Asher?"

Kas expelled a breath, then shrugged a little. "I think she's smart, and bighearted. I'm also pretty sure she has a secret of some kind, which is why when I fixed her computer, I also installed some spyware in it, so I can monitor her internet use."

Gregorovich exhaled a quiet ha, something that sounded quite amused. "Excellent. Anything of interest so far?"

"She likes classical music and probably knows how to dance, and she's closest with an aunt she refers to as Miranda, who runs the Pokémon Center in Lavender Town. She also likes looking up new baking recipes and cat pokémon videos. So... not much of use, no."

It was sort of a risk, being deadpan and pretty flippant with the boss, but it only seemed to entertain Gregorovich, who nodded slightly. "Very well then. I suppose I'll count that as satisfactory progress, though if you could also monitor her phone, I'm sure it would help. Continue to get close to her—that's your only real task for this month. Questions?"

Kas shook his head.

Eryk and Cyrilla both shook their heads. They didn't seem to have anything they wanted to ask or say, and Cyrilla spared Eryk a glance. His brows were furrowed lightly, but he didn't look upset or anything. Something must have come to him, though, and he turned his attention back towards Gregorovich.

“Is there anything in particular we should monitor her for? A particular skill of some sort?" he asked.

Gregorovich considered this for a long, drawn-out moment, then nodded slightly. "Yes. In particular, I am interested to know if the girl is a psychic. A telepath, in particular. Of course, I understand that this is not the kind of question one can simply ask someone, and it would be preferable if she divulged this to you of her own volition, if it be true. But do be on the lookout for evidence of it, if possible."

He exhaled, and the smoke momentarily thickened. "I understand you have some talent of this nature yourself, Mr. Nero, but according to people who know about such things, if she were one as well she would likely be able to detect it if you attempted to discern this with your own abilities, yes? It is paramount not only that we find such a person, but that we do so in a way that endears us to them. So handle with care, as the saying goes. You're not the only team attempting to locate a likely candidate, but you are the one I have highest hopes for, probability-wise."

Kas didn't bother to hide his surprise at this news, figuring there was no reason to. He noted, though, that Aidan didn't seem to have any. He must have already known, but did he know why they were looking for someone like that?

“Understood," Eryk stated simply. His brows were furrowed deeply, and Cyrilla placed a hand near his forearm before dropping it. “I will do what I can to see," he added, turning his attention briefly to Aidan and then back towards Gregorovich.

The boss nodded. "Much appreciated," he said simply, smiling faintly. "Best of luck, as it were. She seems like a nice young lady, but some nuts are tougher to crack than others."

The screen went dark. Kasimir blew out a breath. "Damn," he murmured. "That was intense."

Aidan snorted softly. "Might want to get used to it, Rheinallt. You're an executive now, not just the IT guy."

“It does come with the territory, Kas. Being an executive means you have to see the boss every once in a while," Cyrilla spoke. She didn't seem amused or anything. She looked mostly concerned, though it seemed to be directed mostly at Eryk for some reason. He shook his head lightly before turning his attention towards Aidan and Kasimir.

“Is there anything else we should be made aware of besides surprise visits from Gregorovich?" he stated, though there was something fairly light in his tone. Almost as if he were joking about something. But Eryk didn't joke; he didn't seem capable of it.

Aidan shook his head slightly. "I had to work to get him to tell you that much. Sorry for springing it on you, but that was the condition."

Kas, who had rolled his eyes slightly at Cy—it wasn't like he was an idiot, though maybe he should be grateful he was playing one better than he thought—looked at Eryk with some concern. Still, he wasn't about to ask in a room full of people, so he only sighed slightly and stood.

"Well in that case I guess I better go write some more spyware," he grumbled. He'd seen Ana's phone only once, but knew the model. Should be doable in a few days' work, though getting it onto the thing would be a different trick.

“Hm, you'll do a good job, though, Kas. You're the IT guy, after all," Cyrilla stated with a light huff. Eryk rolled his eyes, though, and turned towards Aidan.

“If there's nothing else, I will be taking the rest of the day off," Eryk spoke, his expression smoothing back out. “I'll be making a stop by Anastasia's today to see how the two pokémon are doing; it has made her a little more inclined to talk that way. If Gregorovich wants us to be her friends, this is one way to do it." Cyrilla's lip twitched slightly upwards, but she didn't say anything to Eryk.

"You won't hear me complaining," Aidan replied simply. He paused, then, tilting his head a little. "If you don't mind letting me know if anything changes with them? I know how the others are doing, but I've stayed away from the shelter for the obvious reasons."

“Sure. I'll have Cyrilla send you a message once I've found out," Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“He can't work his phone very well," she offered as way of explanation. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem to deny it.

"Works for me," Aidan replied, apparently less bothered than Kas by the fact that a grown man didn't know how to work a cellphone.

Technological incompetents. Just... everywhere.

And he was stuck being the IT guy.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher

0.00 INK



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


July 9th
The Cloyster - Evening - Humid
Kasimir Rheinallt


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someday, maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have any in that color, Ana?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hate to ask, but... help?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something like that."

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was tiny, Aidan decided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I will, sure."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I like the way you think, kid."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just for tonight.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



Image


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So?" Why did that matter?

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

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

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

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

Aidan sighed.

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

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

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

“She can be your mascot."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anything else?"

"Not from me," Kas replied.

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Excellent. Glad we got that sorted out."

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Taking the afternoon off?" he asked casually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It's obvious, isn't it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ana put a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed briefly before letting go. Aidan, on the other hand, muttered something under his breath. "That happen a lot, kid? It looks like it happens a lot." They'd reached Yselda's; he pulled the door open with a soft jangling sound and ushered the others through, taking the spot at the back of the line, which was about to the door anyway. The shop was very popular during the summer, for obvious reasons.

“Not as much as you'd think it does," Drake replied, pushing a soft sigh through his nose. Kevin's actions hadn't quite escalated too far, however; the fact that he'd tried to invite himself along with Drake's company wasn't a good sign. If he was starting to just invite himself, who knew what he'd try next. Still, it wasn't something to worry about, yet. Drake had other things to do, other things to take care of.

“Seems like he's not over you, though. If you ever feel uncomfortable or just need someone," Cyrilla started, reaching into her back pocket and pulling out a wallet. Drake snorted softly at it. It was a feebas zipper pouch, and she rummaged through it before pulling out a piece of paper. “This has my direct line and personal phone number. I'm not hitting on you, I promise," she stated, grinning lightly at him as Drake coughed a bit into his hand, feeling his cheeks heat up a bit.

“I'll be glad to help you out of any tough situations, alright?" she winked at him before turning towards Ana and Aidan.

“Thanks, Cyrilla," he stated. It was a nice offer, he supposed, but he didn't think he'd ever really need it. Still, he tucked the card into his pocket. He'd program her phone number into his phone, eventually, but for now, they had shakes to order. “What would you guys like?"

"Cream soda float," Aidan said simply. It wasn't clear if he'd been here before, but he had barely glanced at the menu, and that was something they served here.

Ana, who he knew from experience was very difficult to talk into letting things be bought for her, hemmed and hawed a bit before settling on a chocolate sundae. She'd almost certainly end up trying to buy him something in return within the next couple of weeks, but for the moment at least, her protestations were minimal. She did insist on buying Luna and Nova vanilla soft serve herself, however, rather than letting anyone else do it, and when they settled at one of the outdoor tables, she set the paper dishes down for the pokémon first.

It was enough to coax Siri from Aidan's head, and she joined the others. Drake took a seat so that he was on Ana's left, Cyrilla on her right, and Aidan in between him and Cyrilla. He took a sip of his strawberry milkshake; they were the best ones in his opinion, as Cyrilla seemed to be happily sipping on her own chocolate shake. This was, strangely, nice. He felt a little comfortable despite his encounter with Kevin, and it felt more relaxed.

He needed to do this more often.