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Eryk Nero

"I find myself looking for something I cannot have, and yet..."

0 · 743 views · located in Kanto Region

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

Description

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xxImageImageImagexxxxxErykNero
xxxxxxxxx◙◙◙◙* Male xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 27 xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 6'1" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 171 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* TR Exec: Entei

AAFIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAINT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAACHA x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AABTL x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAMED x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AACON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌


--Image- TELEPATHY can communicate with people via psychic connection
IMMUNITY immune to poisons
INTIMIDATION just has to look at people, really...



Image I want to be a good man / I want to do right
- - - - - - - I don't wanna be a criminal for the rest of my life .


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Eryk has little in way of a personality. He doesn't seem to express much emotion, and that's usually on a good day, however; expressing himself can be a little difficult. Things like expressing emotions, feeling and allowing them to manifest, were often frowned upon in his family. Where he was once a kind and gentle person, his family has beaten those emotions out of him. In place is a man who appears as stern and intimidating as his family wanted him to be. He's a bit cynical of the world, because of it, and does his best to not attach himself to people. Attachments are seen as a weakness as well, and anything that can be used against him, is something he does not want. Eryk cares a great deal more than he lets on, but finds it very difficult to allow that side of him, out. He was always taught that everything he felt was wrong, and that he should harden himself to the world.

He is, without a doubt, a conflicted person, and Eryk knows this about himself. There are things he has done in his life that he is not proud of, but somehow they always convince him that it was for the greater good--that every foul deed, every mission that he accomplished was always for the best interests of the people around them. Eryk knows better than this, however; he can't seem to bring himself to stop. The moment he even thinks about it, someone or something is there to remind him that he cannot. The most obvious reminders are the literal scars he bears. Some of them were not meant for him--they were meant for someone else, but he took those lashings. Anything to spare the one person he has left who believes in him.

He wants to be better--do better, and his friend is the only thing keeping him from falling completely under the control of his family. He will do everything in his power to protect that, though, and Eryk has been known to be deeply passionate towards the things--and people--he wishes to protect. His anger is nothing to be dismissed, either. While it may look, for all intents and purposes, that Eryk is an angry, resentful person, he is not, by nature. But when he is angry, the slow build-up of bottled emotions, can be very destructive. He's only lost his temper a total of three times in his life, but even those who were at the end of it, have likened it to the rage of a storm. It is dangerous, and does not end until it has run its course.

But Eryk does his best to keep a lid on his anger. People have to be direct with him, after all, if they want him to understand what they are talking about. He is not one for metaphors or pretty words and flatteries. He prefers for people to get straight to a point, and not waste his time with things like that. He is, in every sense of the word, a literal man. He takes everything at face value unless someone takes the time to explain it to him. But in reality, Eryk just wants to rest... and be the person he's lost along the way. That's the only thing he's ever wanted for himself.


Image It's getting harder and harder to see
- - - - - - - is there any good left in me?.


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Eryk doesn't like talking about his past much, simply because there isn't much to say about it. He was born into the main line of the Koga family, a direct grandson to the infamous Koga, himself. Koga was the Gym Leader of Fuschia City---and unbeknownst to many, a former Team Rocket member. He specialized in infiltration, espionage, sabatoge, and was one of the top assassins before Team Rocket was defeated. But in Eryk, he saw something, a potential he'd not seen in years. As the only grandson set to inherit Koga's position, he began teaching Eryk the ways of the clan. He learned to build immunity to poisons, create them, and how to become a shadow. These were things, however, that went against his very nature. He was told to always put himself before others--that the lives of those around him did not matter, only his. But Eryk could never bring himself to think that way.

He was never proud of the things he did, and it burned a hole so deeply into him that he felt ashamed. Ashamed that he was being trained to deceive people, to hurt them when they didn't deserve it. He was too gentle, too soft, for his family, and they were keen of these flaws. Eryk paid for them in more ways than one for his defiance, carrying literal scars over his body from a young age, but none so prominent as the ones on his face. And so he hardened himself to the things that once brought him joy, warmth, and happiness. His smile was taken, and Eryk doesn't know exactly when he just became numb to everything.

The crack in this shell, however, came in the form of a white-haired child from his clan. She reminded him of himself when he was younger, and when she'd smiled at him, aware that expressing any sort of emotion like that was bound to get her into trouble, Eryk felt something in him stir. He wasn't sure what it was, exactly, but he knew he wanted to protect her--to protect the only warmth she seemed to give him in a family that condemned it. He knew that she would be at the receiving end of his family's ire because of how close he was with her, but they'd both understood that. And neither cared enough to give up their symbiotic friendship. He needed her as much as she needed him to keep himself from losing what little of himself he had.

And when her family suggested an arranged marriage... he didn't hesitate. This was how he protected her, and how he could keep from marrying Katia, another member from his clan. Katia wasn't exactly an ideal partner, but he had accepted it at the time when his family had arranged it, however; this was his last act of defiance towards his family. If they'd agreed, he would become compliant to their desires. And so they did, and so did he. He joined Neo Team Rocket as a result, working his way from the ground to the top ever so slowly. He never wanted to be part of this group, regardless of how they branded themselves, now.

Still, he doesn't have much of a choice. When he was promoted to Entei, the leader of the new group of Beasts, Eryk decided then that he would do whatever was necessary to ensure that he kept Cyrilla safe. To keep himself from falling completely into his family's clutches. It is a position he does not want, but he feels something stir within him. Something that makes him want to make things right, but... where to even begin? There are so many things wrong, and yet... he wants to rectify them. He just needs somewhere to start, something or someone to give him a sign.


Image Am I worth forgiveness?
- - - - - - - I can't make myself believe / show me that you're listening .


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ImageImagexx--ImageImageImageImageMOIRA ABSOL 
----Image LONELY

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ImageImageIMP GENGAR 
-ImageImage IMPISH

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xx--ImageImageImageImageORION PIDGEOT 
----ImageImage BRAVE

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ImageImageRUNT TYRANTRUM 
----ImageImage BOLD

AAATK x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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xx--ImageImageImageImageICARUS ESPURR 
----Image QUIRKY

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ImageImageRED MANKEY 
----Image ADAMANT

AAATK x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AADEF x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AASTK x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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AASPD x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌


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Anastasia
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
When did she start becoming something I cared about?

Eryk isn't entirely sure what to make of this. He cares about Ana. He cares, and that in of itself is strange. He's never cared about anyone the way he does her, and it's... strange. He almost let himself indulge in that brief moment of happiness on the backisland, however; he can't do that. There are things he just... but he wants to give her the something, and that frightens him more than anything.

x
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Kasimir
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
He is a friend.

To say that Eryk considers Kasimir a friend says a lot about how much Eryk's disposition has changed. He would rather die than admit it, but he enjoys having Kas around and appreciates the banter they have. Between him, Drake, and Aidan, it's almost as if he has brothers. Eryk isn't too sure what to do about that, but Kas is, first and foremost, his friend.

x
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Cyrilla
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I don't know what she has planned.

She's at least happier than Ryk has ever seen her be. Cyrilla has managed to get out of the family in more ways than one, and Ryk is actually proud of her. Proud of the fact that she left, that she's finding a new life for herself, and making friends that are making her happy. Ryk wonders if... maybe he might be holding her back a bit with their arrangement. He wants to ask her about it, but now isn't the time.

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Aidan
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
I didn't think we could be friends.

Honestly, Eryk doesn't know what to think of Aidan any longer. He owes him a great deal, after all. The help with the training, the nights out they go drinking with Kas. It's strange to him because it's almost as if this was what a family should be like. He respects Aidan a great deal, and doesn't think he'd have made it this far without his training and help.

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Nevena
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
This line is here to take space.
It's very easy to be around her... sometimes.

Solomon has somehow become part of the small group of friends that Eryk has seemingly accumulated over the last few months. He is partially surprised that she hasn't been particularly put off by his demeanor, but then again, he has changed a bit. Still, he doesn't mind her company at all, and appreciates the small things she tries to do for everyone. And also the very large well-intended, if annoying, things as well.

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Image



*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...

Eryk Nero's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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Image


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
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#, 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
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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
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#, 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
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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

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

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Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
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#, as written by Aethyia


May 5th
Near Cinnabar Docks - Afternoon - Humid
Anastasia Asher


The Cinnabar sun beat down overhead, hot and unforgiving as the season slowly advanced towards summer. They arrived so much earlier in the year here than they did elsewhere. Frankly the biggest annoyance of island life was the short life of spring and fall.

It was that much worse dressed in black, though Anastasia wasn't about to change that much of herself, at least. She didn't know why she clung so stubbornly to an aesthetic that suited her surroundings so little, but she did. Maybe it was just the fact that she could. That of all the things in her life that were out of her control, how she dressed and presented herself to the world was one thing that was only and always her choice to make. Maybe it was just because she liked ruffles and ribbons and the color black, though; it was sort of hard to differentiate.

Her dress today was a knee-length thing, worn with stockings and a pair of rather practical, scuffed military-style boots and belted around her waist even though the tuck of the tailoring would have done that fine on its own. Her one concession to the environment was that it lacked sleeves despite the high neck, and she'd braided her lengths of rose colored hair in a coronet about her head, a practical hairstyle accessorized with nothing, because she did still have a job to do.

One which was currently a gigantic pain in her posterior. Ass, Ana. You can say ass.

She'd thought she was saving some time, getting her supplies directly from the late boat that came in that afternoon. As she was almost out of both feed and bedding, she hadn't wanted to wait for it to be delivered the usual way, which probably wouldn't have happened until the truck went out all over the island tomorrow morning. It would have been fine if the whole thing hadn't been delayed a week—she was a good enough planner to not ever accidentally leave herself out of stock, but delivering all the way out here wasn't always profitable, and so the special allergy formulas and hypoallergenic bedding that Ekans needed were not, in fact, as readily available as they were promised to be.

Greedy corporate jerks.

Bastards. What are you, twelve?

Unfortunately, hauling all of her new stock at once was a bit difficult, even with Luna and Nova's help. She was frail, and she knew it. More importantly, she was still in a crowded enough part of the island that she couldn't risk moving them the other way. Maybe she could pass it off as her pokémon moving the feed bags, too?

Suck it up, there's nothing else for it. As long as this stupid body can move, it's going to move. She sure as heck wasn't calling Drake or Carter for help. They had actual lives.

She managed to get one of the feed bags onto her shoulder without falling over, but the other one still lay on the ground, all fifty pounds of it taunting her. Arceus, the two together weighed more than she did, didn't they? Anastasia expelled a hard breath. "Okay. I guess we're going to have to do this in two trips." But how? She wasn't about to leave one of her pokémon alone, but leaving her stuff in the middle of the sidewalk was a nonstarter, too. The dock was about half a mile from her house, which was no big deal to walk but would take time.

A person cleared their voice, then, soft and gruff at the same time. When she turned to see who it was, a young man stood a polite distance from her, carmine red eyes staring intently at her. It didn't seem to be in a lecherous or uncomfortable way, but there was something about it. As if it were just how he looked at things: angry or intensely. It made more sense to her than lechery or discomfort, anyway. She didn't usually prompt those kinds of feeling in other people. She didn't usually make them angry, either, but she did know that some people just looked grumpy.

“Do you..." he paused, as if he were unsure of himself or how to actually speak to someone. His brows furrowed before he pushed a sigh through his nose. “It looks like you need help. May I be of assistance?" he spoke in a deadpan voice. His hands were shoved in the pockets of his dark grey trousers, but the sleeves to his dress shirt were rolled up to his elbows. Probably due to the heat, though the shirt he was wearing was a light grey color.

“It won't be any trouble and I'm not looking for any compensation. You just look like you could use some help," he stated, his brows furrowing as if he wasn't quite sure that was what he'd wanted to say.

Ana blinked slowly. Her fundamental mistrust of strangers warred with her need for the assistance, which so abruptly-offered left her a bit on the back foot. This fellow didn't look like the sort who routinely went about offering to help random people from the kindness of his heart, but then... she knew a thing or two about being misjudged based on appearance.

Her eyes found the scars on the side of his face, but it was neither fear nor pity that she felt. In fact, it was the dark slashes that broke the fairness of his complexion that decided it for her, in a way she'd be hard-pressed to explain.

"Just getting all the arguing out of the way up front, huh?" she said with a wry little smile, referring to the bit about no trouble and not wanting compensation. "Okay then. If you really don't mind, you could lift that bag for me?" She could carry the one she was already holding, and Luna and Nova had the bedding under control, so that was really all that was left. "I'm about half a mile up the road, Mr...?"

He stooped to pick up the bag with what looked to be relative ease, and glanced back at her. He shook his head, the shagginess of his hair becoming more prominent before he shifted the bag over his shoulder. “Eryk Nero. You can just call me Eryk if that is your preference," he stated in a rather casual manner, or about as casual as he seemed to try and make it. He probably wasn't very good at socializing from the way he seemed a bit tense.

That was fine by her. Ana wasn't really very good at it, either. She smiled a little, in case the cue that it was okay would help anything.

“And you are?" he questioned, arching a brow in her direction.

"Oh. Sorry." Case in point, when it came to her own lack of social skills. No matter how hard she tried to be the kind of cool, casual, aloof person she'd admired before, she always ended up bungling the simplest things. "I'm Anastasia Asher. Well. Ana really. Whole thing's kind of silly." She waved a hand at nothing in particular, then cleared her throat.

Remembering that they should probably be moving, she started up the sidewalk, Luna and Nova walking a little ahead of her and—Eryk.

She didn't know exactly what he'd meant by that. If that was her preference? It was a strange way of saying he didn't care. She wondered if he did. Maybe there was a wrong answer. Should she stick to Mr. Nero? That was kind of weird—he didn't look much older than twenty-five, if she had her guess, but she wasn't great at ages. Still it seemed too close to hers to just call him Mr. for no reason.

Ana flicked a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. He certainly wasn't having any trouble carrying the thing, which was good. She'd have felt bad if he started to struggle with it or something. She might be small and weak, but a year of doing this kind of thing had helped her get used to it, and she at least knew how to balance things, which helped a lot. She found herself wanting to say something, but not exactly sure what to say.

He shrugged and glanced at her from the corners of his eyes. They shifted towards the bag she was carrying, and there was a brief crease to his brows. “Anastasia is... a nice name," he stated, as if he were unsure if that was something to say in this context or not. He released a soft sigh, though, and nodded towards the bag.

“I can carry that one as well if you'd like. It won't be a burden and it might make it easier on your shoulders. I mean this in no way offensively, but your frame does not seem to be built for something of this weight. If you can handle it, then I apologize if what I said is offensive to you," he spoke, blinking once before he continued, “but if you would like to rest a moment, I can carry the bag."

He didn't try to take it from her, at least, and seemed to be interested in what she wanted to do.

Oh dear. He really was awkward too, wasn't he? Whether that was a good thing or a bad one, it made Ana smile, the warm expression blooming on her face for just the briefest moment before she remembered herself. Cool. She was trying to be collected and such.

"It's okay," she said, trying to keep that in mind. "I might not be built for it, but that's exactly why I need the practice. I have to lift things like this all the time, for my job."

He arched a brow in her direction, but shrugged. “If it gets too heavy before we reach your destination, let me know and I will carry it for you," he spoke, turning his attention back outwards. “Where is it that you work that requires... this," he stated, shifting the bag on his shoulder as if to motion towards it.

“Is there a farm or shelter on the island? I've just moved to here a few weeks ago and haven't been able to... see it," he continued as if to explain why he hadn't known about Ana's shelter, or anything in particular about the island.

It wasn't surprising that he didn't know about the shelter, of course, so she explained. "I run a pokémon shelter and hospice," she said, adjusting the bag a little as they walked. She could feel sweat tricking down her back; humid days like this were her least favorite, by far. It made all the difference in how bad heat actually was. "Normally my supplies are delivered, but some of them are harder to get, and not all the people who make them are great about being on time out to the island like this, so I had to come pick them up myself today."

She was sure it wasn't that interesting, though, so she tried not to ramble. "You might run into some of that yourself," she noted. "Depending on what you do. We don't have a proper airport, so a lot of things come in by boat, with only the occasional charter plane." She tilted her head, sort of hoping he'd explain what he did for a living, but not inclined to be pushy about it.

He hummed silently and nodded his head. “I don't think it'll be a problem for us. I work at the old mansion that was converted into a research facility. I'm..." he pursed his lips together as if he didn't know how to describe what he did, properly. “I'm just a clerk there, so I do a lot of the paperwork and the filing for them."

He remained quiet for a moment longer before he shook his head. “If you'd like," he began, shifting his attention towards her, “a couple of my colleagues and myself can help you with these deliveries, and at your shelter. From the looks of it, it seems that you don't have volunteers, if at all, to help you with things like this. We typically work most of the early mornings and are off by the afternoon. If you'd like, we could give you a hand on the days you need it."

The offer sounded genuine.

Honestly Ana was taken aback. He was right, of course, that she had very few volunteers. Carter helped out sometimes, and Drake when he could, but they were both very busy people. Then there were Mr. and Mrs. Lane, but they were elderly and not really able to do much of the physical work, so she just let them play with the pokémon sometimes and called it volunteering for enrichment, which it was.

"I—" she caught herself about to express some skepticism and paused, trying to properly consider her words. "That's very kind of you, truly. But... well, would you like to see the place first? Maybe meet everyone? I can hardly ask you to commit your time—and your friends'—sight unseen, after all." It was actually a little unnerving, but she couldn't put her finger on why except that people were not usually so solicitous to her. Especially not ten minutes after meeting her.

He blinked slowly, then shrugged. “I don't see why not," was his simple reply. “If it seems like a bit much, perhaps I will rescind my services, but..." he paused, glancing at her, “I don't think they would mind much. They like to do community service everywhere they send us. Our job requires us to move around a lot, but there are times where we stay in one place for a year or so. Doing community service makes them feel... necessary."

His eyes narrowed, then, as if he were thinking of something, before he shook his head.

Ana hesitated. That was... a very odd thing to say. She supposed it might be the same awkwardness she'd already noticed, so she tried not to think much of it, but she could feel her lips press together uncomfortably. "Um... well, regardless I think they should make sure they know what they're getting into. There are plenty of worthy causes to volunteer for on the island, after all."

At this point, they'd reached the front gate of her property, and she sets down the bag carefully with a little sound of relief. Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved her plain steel key ring, counting back to the gate key and fitting it to the wrought iron barred doors. It creaked a little as she pushed it open, holding it in place for both her pokémon and Eryk to enter. "You can just put that down anywhere; Luna and Nova can move it to the right shelf later."

He set the bag down against the side of the gate before glancing around. His brows were slightly furrowed, but he didn't seem upset about anything in particular. His attention went back to her, though, and he blinked slowly.

“What do you do, exactly?" he asked, his head tilting just slightly to the left as he waited for her reply, it seemed.

Ana's reply was interrupted by Rufus, who waddled out from his spot napping in the shade of the house. The wheezy old stoutland had more grey in his coat than brown, these days, but his stubby little tail wagged enthusiastically as he approached nonetheless. Ana crouched to greet him, running her fingers from the top of his head back behind his ear, and smiled softly when he leaned into the contact.

She still had a query to answer, though, so she stood, watching with some interest as the old pokémon, self-appointed warden of the shelter, approached the newcomer, sniffing at his feet and then his pant leg. "Well as the name might suggest, we take in pokémon who have been recovered from abusive or neglectful situations, or those voluntarily surrendered by their humans, and also those who need a place to live out the remainder of their lives in peace, should they have some kind of incurable condition that can be managed well enough for a good quality of life before passing. Most of those, we get from the Center; it's less common, but we are licensed to run as a hospice also. Our aim is always for rehabilitation and rerelease or adoption otherwise, but..." she gave a little shrug.

"With the present state of things, it's hard. Lots of people want to be a pokémon's first human. Others think of our residents as damaged, and many younger trainers especially want pokémon they think can be competitive in battles. We get a lot of those cast off for not being strong enough, or not having that kind of personality, so the adoption rate is fairly low. The island's small, too—I've been here about a year, but I've only adopted out about ten pokémon in that time."

She gestured to the large yard abutting the house. Its major feature was the big pool, equipped for both fully-aquatic species and those who swam sometimes. A pidgey roosted in the large dogwood tree towards the back of the house; ekans sunned himself on a big, flat rock she'd had put in when she moved. A few magikarp were the pool's only current occupants, and then there was Rufus, of course. "This is most everyone; a couple of those adoptions were last month, and a few of the hospice patients have died, so we're running kind of below capacity at the moment. All the supplies we carried are for ekans; he has food and bedding allergies that mean he has to be kept differently from everyone else. You should feel free to say hello; everyone's friendly."

He blinked mildly before glancing towards Rufus. He knelt a bit, offering his hand out so Rufus could sniff it before he scratched behind the stoutland's ear. There was a soft expression on his face, but he didn't smile. It didn't look easy if the way his eyes narrowed slightly was anything to go by. He stood, then, and glanced towards Ana.

“It must be difficult caring for hospice patients," he spoke, his voice oddly soft. “Seeing a pokémon through to the last moment of their life must be difficult," he spoke as if he had some experience with that, but he shook his head, and took in a soft breath. He glanced back towards ekans and his hand twitched slightly before he glanced back at Ana.

“I might know a person or two who are looking for a companion pokémon. I could recommend your shelter to them if you'd like," he stated. “It might help those who are adoptable find a home, at least."

"I'd appreciate that," Ana said sincerely, before huffing lightly and adding, "though I'm kind of the only game in town when it comes to that so I hope they'd end up here eventually." The quip was dry, but light, and she didn't mean anything bad by it.

She couldn't help but notice the reaction to ekans, though, and tilted her head faintly, a slightly more mischievous smile flickering across her features before she reached into her pocket, tossing a little homemade drawstring bag Eryk's way with a soft underhand lob. She had a feeling he'd be able to catch something a lot less softball than that. "Those are his favorite. Ekans's. I make them myself."

Approaching the sunning rock, she reached out and felt her mind connect to the pokémons, sending warmth and gentleness over the connection even as she spoke aloud. "Hey, buddy. Someone's here to meet you. Want to see?"

She always gave her charges a choice, but when she extended an arm down towards ekans, he rose towards it easily, twining up over her shoulders to lay his head down across her chest and loop the rest of himself several times around her body in the serpentine equivalent of a hug. She rubbed his head gently with a finger, noting that his scales seemed to be clearing up a little, and walked back over to Eryk. "He's in a good mood today. You want to feed him a snack?"

He glanced towards Ana before his attention shifted towards ekans. He opened the bag she'd tossed towards him and pulled one of the treats from it. He seemed a bit hesitant for a moment before he took a step forward, and held out the treat towards him.

“I know someone who would like an ekans," Eryk spoke, a small shift in his expression apparent. “I can see if she'd like to adopt him when he is available for adoption," he stated, glancing back towards Ana.

She wondered if this was one of the colleagues he'd mentioned. "Well by all means feel free to tell her, but she should keep in mind that his special dietary needs are a lifetime sort of thing. The reason I have him is that he's recovering from a bad case of scale rot, but eating normal pokémon food will just aggravate the condition again. It would be a bit more work than looking after the average ekans, but if she doesn't mind he should be perfectly adoptable in a couple of months from now."

She paused as the pokémon lifted his head from her sternum and regarded the food in front of him. Quite quickly, he darted out to take it from Eryk's hand, though as Ana knew he would he didn't so much as scrape the new person's fingers in the process. He swallowed the food whole, tongue flicking out into the air as he scented for more.

She huffed quietly, even as Luna and Nova passed by with the bags she and Eryk had carried, levitated in front of them with psychic power. Rubbing the side of his head, she tilted hers at Eryk. "I understand if you have somewhere else to be, but can I offer you something to eat or drink? I know you didn't plan to hold me indebted, but I'd feel better about it if I could... I dunno. Say thank you with more than just the words."

He seemed to contemplate her offer for a moment, feeding another treat to ekans as he hummed quietly. “I don't see why not," he finally stated. “And it doesn't seem to be a lot of work. If you'd be agreeable, my colleagues and I can come help you whenever you need it. Just let us know ahead of time of when you'd like help," he stated, pulling his wallet from his back pocket and digging through it. He produced a small business-like card from it, but it was very plain. There was his full name, a phone number, and another phone number with the word Cy next to it.

“That is my number, and one of my colleagues's number. You can reach me at either one," he stated, tilting his head in Ana's direction.

A card? Ana smiled a little. Her auntie had made her make cards of her own; she had yet to give away more than two of them. "I have one of these, too," she said, "with the shelter's number. I'll give it to you inside. I, um, don't usually carry them, which I guess kind of defeats the purpose." She shrugged a little sheepishly. "I don't usually have the kind of acquaintances who use them."

She wondered why a clerk needed business cards, but didn't think much of it. Maybe he was on his way up the ladder or something; it couldn't help to be prepared. Plus apparently he moved around a lot, something else she wouldn't have picked a clerk to do, but for all she knew that was perfectly normal. Ana wasn't really familiar with that sort of thing.

"Anyway, uh—do you like oatmeal cookies? I have some with raisins and some without, and tea? I could make coffee instead, if you prefer, or there's lemonade or water." She realized she was rambling and stopped, digging out her keys again since they'd be going inside her house this time.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Oatmeal cookies with raisins are fine," he spoke, his lips pursing into a fine line as he seemed lost in thought. “And water is also fine," he added. His brows furrowed though, when she approached the door to her home.

“I can stand outside and wait. I don't want to intrude in your home," he stated, his brows furrowing deeper.

Ana paused, uncertain. She wouldn't have thought of it as weird for a moment until he'd mentioned it. Now, well—it was a little weird, wasn't it? To invite someone into her home within half an hour of meeting them? But oddities aside, he did seem like a nice person, and she didn't really want to shut him out. "Oh," she said, unable to help the slight note of disappointment as she figured it out. He didn't want to come in. Of course; why would he?

"Erm. Well, there are garden seats out back if you'd like. I don't want to make you eat and run or anything. Unless you'd prefer I wrap up the cookies so you can go?" She wasn't sure what the right thing to do was, and a bit of fluster showed through, her collected persona crumbling like the papery thing it was until she was just a faint shade of embarrassed pink.

You idiot. He probably thinks you're coming onto him or something!

He shook his head softly. “I don't want to take up too much of your time," he spoke. “You don't... need to do either of those things, either. If you'd like to just give me your card, I'd consider it thanks enough," he stated, trying, it seemed, to smile in some awkward way, but it didn't quite reach even a small stretch of his lips. He just looked less grumpy, if anything.

Oh he totally thought she was coming onto him, didn't he? Ana's face flamed; she nodded awkwardly and hastily turned back to her door, fitting the key in with shaky fingers. Oh arceus I'm so stupid. Where did this go wrong? Am I creepy? I'm creepy.

The door came open, and she stepped into her house feeling entirely out of sorts, determined now not to make this any weirder than it already was. Swallowing, she fumbled through the drawer beneath her landline telephone, there only for the shelter, until she came up with the little metal case that held her business cards. Plucking one out, she hesitated a moment, eye catching on the plate of cookies on the kitchen island. If she didn't use tupperware, he wouldn't have to feel obligated to come back, right? That seemed like an acceptable compromise; she really felt terrible about this whole thing now and thought maybe it would help somehow.

So she wrapped the cookies up in a cloth napkin, tying a clumsy knot at the top and hurrying back outside. "Sorry," she mumbled, looking down at her feet and extending the whole thing towards him, card carefully tucked beneath the knot. "Um. You can just throw them away if you want but Drake says they're good so you might like them?"

He took the cloth from her, gently, and shook his head. “I'm sure they are... acceptable?" he questioned, almost as if he were asking her, but then he cleared his throat and furrowed his brows as if at himself. “Thank you, Anastasia," he stated, blinking slowly before turning his attention back towards the yard.

“If you need help tomorrow, we can return to help out. In the mean time, I can see if there are those at the field office if they are looking for companion pokémon, or other," he continued. “I'm certain we'll see you again," he stated, though he didn't explain what he meant by that. Perhaps because Cinnabar was such a small island to begin with, he meant that they'd see her in passing?

Acceptable. Oh arceus.

"Uh, you're welcome. More importantly, thank you for the help. I'm sure we're likely to, erm, run into each other again." She knew with great surety that she would not be calling to ask them to help her out, after the embarrassed hash she'd made of all of this.

All this effort to make herself a better person, and she was still getting everything so far wrong.

Finally dragging her eyes back to him, she met red with blue and tried to smile instead of grimace. "Have, um. Have a good rest of your day. And really, thank you."

“You as well, Ana. And... you're welcome."

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
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#, 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: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt
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#, as written by Aethyia


May 11th
Field Office 9 - Evening - Muggy
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kas closed the lid of his laptop, breathing a heavy sigh and setting it aside. He was supposed to expect a call from Steele in the next couple of days; he wasn't especially looking forward to it. His real boss was on his ass a lot lately. He couldn't blame her, exactly; eight years he'd been at this, and this new assignment was the best chance by far he'd ever had to catch Team Rocket out at something. It was perfect placement, really: on the executive team with a bunch of people who didn't know him from Adam, close to some kind of top-secret project that apparently required civilian cooperation.

The thing was, Steele would want an analysis now, of how likely this was to yield what they wanted, and Kas just didn't have that. He had no idea what this project was, and while he expected his connection to Nevena would help him figure it out, he sure as fuck couldn't lean on that too fast or it would look beyond suspicious. He needed these people to have the right impression of him first. And he needed them to trust him, to a certain point.

It probably didn't require making friends, exactly, but he needed them to not be on guard with him, and he wasn't sure he could have landed in the middle of a more challenging group for that. Aidan was scary-observant, so much so that Kas was wary to be the sole focus of his attention for any length of time. Cyrilla clearly didn't trust anyone but Eryk, nor he her, but the relationship was oddly fraught, too. He was pretty sure he'd thought it before, but he'd eat his shoes if they were engaged for anything beyond convenience, which was a whole other set of questions.

Who did marriages of convenience anymore?

The trouble was, he had no idea if getting into that kind of tangle was something he even needed to do. Ideally he wouldn't, but it seemed to be really tied to whatever fucking weird companionship issues they had in general, and if he was ever going to be anything but the stranger living in their apartment, that meant getting at least kind of into the mire.

Plus, he actually did feel like an ass for making Ryk walk out like that the other day, even if he still had no idea why the fuck that had happened.

Standing, Kas gathered his things to leave the office. Cy had taken a half-day to go hang out with Ana, he was pretty sure, but Ryk was still in. Now was as good a time as any to try making some amends.

Locking his office up behind him, he approached Ryk's door. It was partly open, so he knocked on the frame and stuck his head in. "Hey man, we could've left an hour and a half ago. Do you want to go get a drink or something?" They had the next day off, so it didn't strike him as an unreasonable thing to ask, even to someone considerably more dedicated to the work.

Kasimir was a workaholic, but this was part of the work.

Eryk glanced up from his paper work, his brows knitted deeply as he arched a brow. He glanced back at the paperwork in front of him, signed it, and set the pen to the side. “Sure," was his curt reply. He took the pair of glasses resting on his nose, off, and placed them into a drawer before he stood.

“Any place in particular that you have in mind?" he asked. Eryk didn't get out much, that was obvious. He was either at work, at Ana's helping her out, or at home. He didn't seem to go anywhere else.

Kas shrugged. "There's a decent dive not far from here called Marna's. A bunch of options, some food, nothing too fancy, no tourists." It was the kind of place you went to when you didn't want to be bothered, which was a sharp contrast to where Kas spent a lot of his off time but was something even he needed more than occasionally.

He'd noticed Eryk's general lack of much social activity, and while at first he'd just put it down to the guy being an introvert—which was entirely fine—now he wondered if there wasn't something more to it, really. Heading down the stairs first, he paused at the entrance to the office to let Meep out of her ball. "They allow small pokémon in, if it's not disruptive," he explained, sliding his hands into his pockets and leading the way.

"I didn't know you needed reading glasses. Is it for everything or just screens?"

“Mostly for the small print. And I usually don't wear them because..." he paused as if he were trying to think of the word, “they get in the way, too often. I can see just fine without them, but when it comes to reading anything too small, I need them." He shrugged his shoulders, though, before he let them drop.

“What's the sudden interest in getting drinks, though?" he asked, his eyes narrowing slightly, though not in a way that conveyed suspicion. More like curiosity, but that was it.

Kas didn't feel any particular need to hide his intentions. Ryk was a direct kind of guy, and seemed to prefer a direct approach, and that was honestly something of a relief. Kas could do pretty much any style of socialization someone wanted, but some of them were exhausting even to him. This wasn't.

"Well it's partly an apology because I was actually an asshole the other day," he said plainly, offering Ryk a shrug. "Which I really am sorry about. The joy of meeting new people: figuring out all the ways you're gonna screw it up before it goes right." The last part was obviously sarcastic, but not in any sort of way really aimed at Eryk. Self-deprecating.

That was part of his actual personality, so there was that, at least.

They'd reached the bar, and Kas pulled open the door to let Ryk in first. Marna's was pretty well-lit, the windows open to the island air outside. Someone played an old piano in the corner, but not loud enough to really detract from the obvious peace and quiet of the place.

Marna, the owner, was an elderly woman with braids in her white hair and deep wrinkles pressed into the leathery brown skin of someone who'd never believed in sublock and spent most of her life outside. Familiar, to him, in a sort of general, homey way. She grinned at his entrance—they'd made fast friends when he'd wandered in a few weeks ago—and greeted him in a thick Cinnabar accent.

“Kasimir, welcome back. Who've you brought?"

"Marna," he replied, returning the grin. "Good to be back. This is my friend Eryk. You got room for us up there at the bar?" It was sort of a joke since there was no one sitting there at all, but she took it as intended.

Gesturing widely at the whole thing, she shrugged. “I saved you a seat. Think you can fit all those beanpole limbs or should I have left more room?"

Eryk huffed lightly. It almost sounded like he wanted to laugh, but either didn't know how to, or was refraining from it. It was likely the former, though, since his brows furrowed lightly, and his lips were pursed.

“I think it should be sufficient room," Eryk stated, taking a seat at one of the stools. He glanced towards Kas for a moment before he turned his attention towards Marna. “I'll take the strongest thing you have," he spoke, resting his forearm against the counter. He took in a soft breath and seemed fixed on the display behind the bar.

Marna nodded, immediately reaching for a bottle on the top shelf and pouring a pair of shots, one of which she gave to each of them. Kas sat down next to Eryk, stopping the woman when she went to replace the liquor.

"We'll take the bottle, thanks auntie."

She huffed a little and shook her head, but left it between them on the bar anyway, and went back to polishing glassware.

“You don't have to apologize, Kas," Eryk spoke finally once everything was settled, shifting his gaze towards Kas. “You weren't being an asshole. There are just... certain things in which Cyrilla and I are not..." he pursed his lips together as if he were trying to figure out the right way to say what he wanted to.

“It's fine. You weren't being an asshole," he seemed to reiterate. He probably didn't know how to explain their situation.

"I have to admit," Kas said, throwing back the shot and setting the glass back down. It was a rum, apparently. Not bad, but definitely stronger than anything he usually bothered with. "I've kind of been... wondering about that for a while." He poured himself another, motioning for Ryk to tilt his glass so he could refill his, too.

"Now I'm not exactly an expert on being in love, but uh... you and Cy don't even seem attracted to each other. So... can I ask why the hell you're engaged, or is that too personal?" He was conscious of the fact that something like this could be difficult subject matter for anyone, but that there seemed to be even more weird complications in their particular case, somehow. "If it helps sweeten the deal at all, you can ask me something outrageously personal afterwards." He grinned, not because it was entirely a joke. More to... ease the sting, if there was any. Booze was good for that too, hence his choice of venue.

“It saves her life in more than one way, and keeps me from marrying someone I don't want to," Eryk replied almost immediately, downing the second shot Kas had poured him. He stared at Kas a moment longer, as if he were trying to figure out just how much to tell him about that statement. “Our engagement is mostly a clan thing. Her parents wanted her to marry me; mine wanted me to marry someone else. Logical choice was to choose her." He poured himself another drink and downed it again. He didn't seem too bothered by how strong it was, and poured another.

“It would have been better if she'd been able to leave the family, though," he muttered softly, as if he hadn't meant to say that. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose, and downed his fourth shot.

That was... a lot.

Kas mulled for a moment, taking a sip this time rather than the whole shot, though he nudged the bottle towards Ryk. Seemed like the kind of thing with an edge that needed taking off.

Leaving aside the fact that the 'clan' thing meant they were distantly related—distant enough that it wasn't an issue apparently, but still—the whole cold nature of it was kind of unexpected. It wasn't like Kas was some great romantic by any means. He had zero plans to ever be married himself because love was a con and no one went a lifetime tied to the same other person without getting bored, he firmly believed. But even he found something altogether too ruthless in the way Ryk's family seemed to handle it.

"Guess that's making the most of a bad situation," he demurred. If ever there was a good reason to marry someone, getting them out of an even shittier arrangement was probably it. "Sounds pretty dire, though. Saving her life in more than one way, better if she left the family. They don't like her or something?" He made it sound like Cy might've been suicidal or something, which was alarming but probably not his business. Still, though—the whole thing was tangled, and Kasimir was curious by nature. It couldn't hurt to ask, he figured.

Ryk was always free not to answer.

“No," he replied, taking another shot. He seemed to be downing them pretty fast, but on his sixth one, he seemed to just stare at it. “They don't like her. They don't like what she means to me, and they..." he narrowed his eyes a bit, as if he were glaring at the shot glass. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose, once more, and shook his head. “It's a complicated mess."

He side-glanced Kas for a moment, his eyes narrowing in a contemplative manner. “If it wasn't me, she'd be engaged to someone else, someone worse," he spoke softly, as if he truly believed that. Maybe he did, with the way he was making their family out to be. “She's..." he paused a moment, “a lot more fragile than she appears to be. If you knew her as I do... nevermind." He shook his head softly and downed his drink, setting the cup down a little harder than he'd meant to if the way he flinched a bit was anything to go by.

“What's done is done. There's no undoing it," he spoke, staring at his empty shot glass. “You don't look like the type to have a complicated family history, though," he stated, arching a brow in Kas's direction.

Maybe it was the drinks, but Kas found himself genuinely sad, a strange sort of sympathetic sorrow settling over him like a heavy cloak. He brushed an errant drop of rum from the lip of his glass with a careless movement of his thumb. What a shit situation. He didn't really understand how rich people did things, but he knew the Kogas were rich as hell. One of the oldest-money families in Kanto. The world, honestly, right up there with the Hugheses and the like. Even the Stones were new money by comparison.

And he sort of already knew that in that world, arranged marriages and things weren't entirely uncommon. People used them for political and business ties, that kind of thing. He suppose it was how they stayed rich. He made a little mental note to go digging, see what he could find. If nothing else, the Koga finances would be interesting to see, and the family was intimately tied to the old and new Team Rocket, so it wasn't like it was an unworthy angle by Steele's logic, either.

The question about his own life drew his attention, and he huffed softly. It wasn't even really a proper query, just a statement. "Is that your attempt at asking me something outrageously personal?" he asked, mouth ticking up at the corner as he poured himself another. He was drinking more slowly than Ryk, to be sure, but his head was starting to fuzz a bit anyway.

Eryk furrowed his brows slightly, shaking his head. “No. I... wouldn't know what outrageously personal would be." His lips were pursed into a fine line as he stared into his shot glass. He swirled it a couple of times, as if he were trying to think of something. He didn't seem to find it, though, as he set the glass down.

“What... is considered outrageously personal?" he asked, seemingly serious about the question.

Kas laughed softly, trying to figure out how to answer a question like that. "I suppose it depends on the person," he admitted after a moment. "For most people who've only just really started getting to know each other, questions about things like money, sex, politics, personal history, or religion could all be considered too personal to ask about. Anything that might be awkward or embarrassing, or feel invasive, or like exposing a weakness. But I'm a little different, I guess. I don't really keep secrets, and I don't get embarrassed, so you can pretty much ask me whatever you want to know." He shrugged.

There were, of course, questions that would be bad if answered truthfully, but Ryk didn't even know to ask those, and if he randomly hit too close, well... Kasimir was an excellent liar.

“I wasn't aware those were considered too personal. I suppose that makes sense as to why most people were off put by me when I asked them," Eryk spoke, almost huffing to himself. “I won't ask, Kas. Your business is your own. Maybe another time," he stated, pouring himself another shot and staring at it. He downed it a moment later, though, and his tense posture seemed to relax a bit.

“This place isn't bad, though. I'll give you that," he stated, making a vague gesture around him. “Perhaps this can be... normalized," he continued as if he were unsure that was the word he wanted to use. He shrugged, though, and poured another drink.

"I'm almost offended I'm not interesting enough to ask about," Kas replied, using a light tone so it would be obvious he was joking. "But if you want to normalize, sure. Why don't we invite Aidan next time and make it a guys' thing?" Something told him Ryk hadn't had many friends before, and while Kas wouldn't have minded inviting Cy or Sis at all, it might be... different, this way.

Plus, he told himself, it would be an excellent way to ingratiate himself with both of them, while keeping some of the heat of Aidan's scrutiny off him. Or something.

“I don't see why not," he replied easily enough. His eyes narrowed in Kas's direction for a moment, though, as he seemed to contemplate something. Whatever it was, he shook his head and turned his attention back to his shot glass, filled once more with rum. “It might... be interesting."

That, Kas supposed, was one word for it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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#, as written by Aethyia


May 17th
Marna's - Evening - Muggy
Aidan Klein


He'd been more than a little surprised to receive an invitation to join Rheinallt and Nero for drinks at the local bar, but hadn't seen any reason to decline. He figured it was as good an opportunity as any to check in with them and see how they were finding their arrangements, such as they were.

He'd reached the place first, ordering himself a beer to get started and taking up residence at one of the tables on the small covered deck. Marna, as he supposed the elderly woman must be, had hung windchimes at the edges of it, and they caught the breeze and rang with pleasant sounds, some of them wood, others glassy or made of shells, even. It was pretty late, but the sun was still barely around, casting the island sky in deep oranges, reds, and streaks of violet. It smelled a little like there might be rain tonight, though there weren't many clouds in the sky yet.

The wind was nice, though. Broke through the oppressive humidity enough to stir the shaggy ends of his hair.

“Something to eat, Ula?" The voice, and the unfamiliar word, broke him from his staring out towards the ocean, which was a ways out from here but not so far that he couldn't see it. He turned towards her, laughing grey eyes and crinkled skin.

He considered it for a moment. "Sure, thanks," he said after a moment. "And something for Kasimir and Eryk as well; he said you know them."

From the way she snorted, she clearly did. “You got it." Shuffling back towards the bar, she entered the kitchen through the door behind it, leaving the place empty but for him. At least for the moment.

Nero arrived a moment later, looking vaguely confused for a moment before he spotted Aidan. He shook his head and took a seat across from Aidan, eyes pulled just into a soft narrowed expression as he glanced out the direction Aidan had a moment ago.

“Aidan," he greeted. Aidan had learned that was just how Nero greeted people. He didn't seem to find the need for pleasantries, and always seemed to get straight to the point.

"Nero." Aidan nodded back, unconcerned. He'd been accused often enough of being brusque himself; there was just a certain type of person who didn't talk a lot, and that was fine. He didn't really tend to mind, whether they were mostly quiet like Nero or near-constantly rambling like doc sometimes got. "Plans for the weekend?" It was only Thursday, hence the emptiness of the bar, but the office had a long weekend. Sort of impromptu, but necessary since the ancient air conditioning unit had given out this afternoon.

Aidan hadn't been too interested in making people come to work in this heat just for one extra day, so he'd made the call to shut the place down for the long weekend and get the damn thing fixed. He could probably do it himself, but for some reason Gregorovich had a weird thing about him doing that kind of manual labor. Aidan wasn't so fussy, but if the boss would rather the professionals handled it, that was fine too.

“Not particularly," Nero responded as he nodded his head towards Marna who'd brought him a beer. He took a slow drink of it, apparently not too inclined to down it. “Unless you consider volunteering at Ana's as plans for the weekend," he added, holding the beer out in front of him as if he weren't too interested at the moment.

“One of the doors isn't closing properly; I planned on helping her fix it," he stated as if he were explaining why he was volunteering. “And you? Plan on taking Solomon on another walk?"

Aidan, who'd been about to swallow, snorted, and had to fight to down the beer before he lost it. He coughed a bit, striking the center of his chest with the side of his fist, but it trailed off into an odd sort of chuckle. "You've really got to work on your phrasing," he remarked, shaking his head faintly. "Rex, I would take on a walk. The Doc, I would go on a walk with."

He figured it was an honest mistake, so he explained it. The other possible explanation was a pretty sexist one, and he didn't judge Nero to be that kind of guy. Nor Rheinallt, for that matter. He'd not have accepted the offer if he had. Nero made an expression that seemed more like an 'ah' and nodded his head as if he understood the statement.

"As for whether we will, I dunno. Would you like to come with if we do?"

Nero's brows furrowed in thought as he seemed to contemplate Aidan's offer. “If I'm not busy, I don't see why not," he finally stated, taking another drink from his beer. “It would be a better evening than spending it with the other two," he muttered into his drink before he set it down, perhaps, referring to Rheinallt and Niav. “There is nothing wrong with them, they're just... a bit much," he continued, shaking his head softly. He took in a deep breath, though, and remained quiet after that.

Aidan could certainly see that being the case sometimes. They were both rather... energetic, by comparison to Nero, and in a very particular way. "I'm sure they somehow manage to get exponentially worse around each other," he noted, quite certain of it.

As it happened, though, the front door to Marna's opened a moment later, at the same time as the woman herself emerged from the kitchen carrying the food on a large tray. She swung to greet him, only to unluckily catch her foot on a barstool someone had left too far out. The tray and everything on it would have gone flying, but fortunately Rheinallt reacted quickly, snatching the tray up with one hand to the bottom of it and steadying Marna by the should with the other. Aidan would eat the contents of his half-pack of cigarettes if that guy didn't have formal martial arts training, or at least something similar.

"Easy there Auntie," he said, grinning in a manner that could easily be described as carefree. He wasn't quite that though. Or at least Aidan didn't think so.

After Marna had sorted herself out, he handed the tray back to her, and they both approached the table. “Sorry about that," Marna said, dishing out the food. Aidan's appeared to be a spicy poke bowl, which he was more than fine with.

He accepted the dish with both hands. "Not a problem," he said softly. "You all right?"

“Just fine, thank you," she replied, smiling broadly at all of them and setting Rheinallt's drink down last. “You boys all take your time now, and just give me a shout if you need anything."

Nero, for his part, didn't look concerned, but there was a furrow in his brows that conveyed otherwise. He wasn't very good at expressing himself, it seemed. He nodded his head, though, in Marna's direction, as she left. He turned his attention towards Rheinallt, then, and narrowed his eyes.

“Kas," he greeted, nodding his head in Rheinallt's direction. “Enjoying the break?" he asked, arching a brow in Rheinallt's direction.

"Now, see, Ryk, that question's a trap. You're asking me, in front of our boss, if I'm glad I don't have to go into work tomorrow." He shot Aidan a grin. "And my answer is, 'obviously.'"

"Now you've done it, Rheinallt. Gonna have to tell Gregorovich your team's got a slacker," Aidan deadpanned in reply, taking a large bite from his bowl.

The other man laughed. "Oh good. You do have a sense of humor. I was worried when I got over here and Ryk seemed to be comfortable."

“I deal with you and Cyrilla on a daily basis; it's obvious that it'd be more relaxing in Aidan's company than yours," Nero replied easily enough, though from the sounds of it, he didn't seem to be joking. He took another drink of his beer before setting it down and reaching for his own food. It appeared to be nacho supreme minus the jalapeños. He motioned towards them, though, and furrowed his brows.

“Feel free to have some if they suit your tastes," he spoke, as if he were offering to share his nachos.

Rheinallt readily took him up on it, bringing a small cluster of the nachos towards himself. Aidan's dish wasn't really easily shared, but the other man too pushed his plate towards the center. It seemed to have a sort of flatbread on it, sliced into small pieces, with various things topping it. From the smell alone it was fairly spice-heavy.

"We're not that bad. At least I don't steal your food out of the fridge or leave a bunch of mess laying around, right?"

"Low bar," Aidan noted, but not without a flicker of amusement.

“Neither of you do, really," Nero responded, taking a bite out of his nachos before turning his attention back towards Rheinallt. “You both just make too much noise, especially when you both get excited over something. Point in case was yesterday when you were both energetically talking about how cute Meep is, or something of that sort," he added, taking one of Rheinallt's slices and staring at it.

He smelled it as if he were checking for something before he took a bite out of it. “A little more quiet would be appreciated."

To his credit, Rheinallt looked like he was taking this at least mostly seriously, crunching over his nachos with a thoughtful expression. "I did offer to do ground rules, you know. We could work it out so that we have to shut up after a certain time if you wanted. Or, because you probably won't go for that, I can just try to be quieter."

He shrugged. "I guess I never noticed. Grew up in kind of a noisy household."

"Big family?" Aidan asked, trying some of the flatbread and finding it pleasantly flavored. Definitely spicier than his poke, though.

"Compared to some, maybe," Rheinallt replied. "Lot of big personalities, though. I have two sisters, my mom, my dad, my dad's second ex-wife, a handful of aunts and uncles, and enough cousins to lose track of. They weren't all around at the same time, mind you, but I wasn't ever really alone, either. Sometimes it got kind of claustrophobic."

Aidan could almost see that. If his file was to be believed, Rheinallt wasn't just 'really smart' but an actual genius, and if Aidan had his guess, there were actual sensitivities that had come with that, ones he'd probably learned to suck it up and ignore. He wondered if his family had understood or not. Not the kind of question he could ask, at any rate. He didn't seem to think poorly of them overall.

"What about you, boss? Brothers or sisters?"

"Only child," Aidan replied. "And don't call me boss."

Rheinallt grinned.

Nero looked entirely unsure if he should join the conversation in the way it seemed to go. He took another, slow bite of the slice he'd taken from Rheinallt's place and chewed it. He seemed to make up his mind, though, as he washed the bite down with his beer before turning his attention back towards Rheinallt and Aidan.

“I'm an only child in a large, complex family. You both know the Koga family; not much else to say about that," he stated, his eyes narrowing towards his drink almost as if he were angry with it. His expression smoothed out, after that, though, and he took another drink, finishing it off.

Aidan knew enough to know not to press the topic much further than that. He'd been on a team with a very angry, very talkative Koga for several years, not to mention other things he knew simply because he was the closest thing Gregorovich had to a confidante. He polished off his own beer with a shrug.

"And now we both know why Rheinallt can't stand to hear himself think, and we want him to shut up at least fifty percent more often."

Good-humored as always, the other man took the joke on the chin, chuckling softly and shaking his head. "I swear other people like me this conversational."

Nero huffed lightly. “We're not other people," he responded, taking another bite of his nachos, almost frowning when he ran out. He simply took another one of Rheinallt's slices, though. “But... I suppose right now isn't so bad," he added, slightly arching a brow.

“Eventually we'll find a balance. For now, though," he paused, taking a bite out of the slice, “this is fine." He shrugged lightly.

Aidan huffed softly. He supposed it was, at that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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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
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#, 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: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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June 17th
Ana's Shelter - Afternoon - Warm
Eryk Nero


Eryk pursed his lips into a fine line as he ran a hand through Rufus' fur. The stoutland had taken a strange liking to Eryk, and he couldn't quite understand why. What about him was so appealing that this stoutland sought his company every time he arrived at Anastasia's? He didn't mind, per se. It was a lot better than being hypnotized by Imp whenever he was out of his pokéball. It was why he never really let Imp out. Unless, of course, if he'd been in the pokéball for too long. He didn't like keeping his pokémon cooped up in their balls for long if he could help it.

He wondered, sometimes, if they felt cramped, or uncomfortable in there? He pushed the thought from his mind, though, and stood. He was supposed to be here helping Anastasia fix one of her doors. Apparently it had become unhinged after a rather rough hit from an unhappy pokémon, but he supposed he could fix it well enough. He wasn't exactly a skilled repair man, but he could make due with some things, he supposed. That was what he did best; learned things so that he could apply them to potential missions in the future.

Knowing how to fix something was beneficial in some cases, but he couldn't say for certain that it'd be something permanent. She might have to get a professional out here, if that were the case. He'd make the call if he had to, really. Pushing the thought aside, he approached Anastasia's door, and knocked on it, carefully. She might be around back with the others, but he figured he might as well knock, first.

The door opened a few moments later, but it wasn't Anastasia who was on the other side of it. Rather, it was a young man, perhaps in his early twenties, dressed casually in a loose t-shirt and jeans, barefoot on the wood of the entry. Like a lot of the young men on the island, he wore his dark blue hair slightly longer than was common other places, in this case pulled into a tail at the nape of his neck. He frowned slightly at Eryk.

“...can I help you with something? Shelter's closed for the afternoon." His tone was flat; he arched an eyebrow as he looked Eryk up and down, more assessing than anything.

Eryk regarded the man with a flat stare. He didn't know who this man was, but he rightly didn't care. “I'm here because Anastasia needed help with an unhinged door. I'm here to help her with it. I regularly spend my time here, volunteering so I am aware of the shelter's hours," he responded in a flat tone, as well. He didn't particularly care that the man was assessing him. Eryk was under worse scrutiny than whatever this man was trying to provide.

“If you do not mind, can you tell Anastasia that I'm here. She knows who I am," he added, nodding his head in the direction behind the man.

If anything, the eyebrow arched more sharply at that, before the man's eyes narrowed precipitously. He grunted something like an assent, and called back into the house without taking his eyes off Eryk. “Ana, there's a guy here. One of your new volunteers." Though his voice remained the same, his expression twisted just slightly on the phrase 'new volunteers.'

There was an indistinct response from inside, which probably meant she was on her way. The man did not step out of the doorway, however, nor did he invite Eryk inside. Instead, he tilted his head a little. “If you're just here to volunteer, that's fine," he said simply, “but don't think everyone's as oblivious as Ana. Buncha Rockets on her doorstep? Looks shady to some people. Don't go getting her involved in any of that shit."

Eryk narrowed his eyes at the man. “That may be, but you underestimate her. She's not as oblivious as you may think she is. Shady or not, that's all I'm here to do. Volunteer," he merely replied. He didn't like this man. He wasn't quite sure why, though. Who Anastasia had as friends or company, or lovers, was none of his business. If this man was any of those, then Eryk would just have to take precautions to avoid him. He didn't need this man interfering with the mission at hand.

He'd have to let the others know, too, that they would need to be careful when interacting with Anastasia with this man around. Anastasia didn't know they were with Team Rocket, but it wasn't a far off assumption to make. He had told her that he worked at the old mansion, and everyone on the island knew that it was occupied by Team Rocket, alone.

The man's answering snort was interrupted by the subject of discussion.

"Carter?" she inquired, causing the other man to shift slightly aside. Anastasia peered out from behind him, offering Eryk a small smile. "Oh, hello, Eryk! You're here about the door, right? It's, um, been fixed already, actually—I tried to call you but no one picked up? I think I might have been a bit late and you'd already left the office; I'm very sorry."

The half-smirk on Carter's face was indication enough how that had come about.

"Oh, speaking of which, have you two met? Eryk, this is Carter. Carter, I was just telling you about Eryk."

“So you were," Carter said, still half-smiling. He held a hand out towards Eryk, something almost challenging in his expression. “Carter Hayes. A pleasure, I'm sure." The biting edge of sarcasm was obvious in his tone of voice.

Eryk shook the man's hand with a firm grip. If this piece of trash was trying to intimidate him, it wasn't going to work. Eryk had enough intimidation to last a lifetime that was far worse than anyone could imagine. That's just how it was in his family. He knew for a fact that it was the same for Cyrilla, but he pushed those thoughts out of his mind, for now. Instead, he glanced in Anastasia's direction, and shook his head.

“It's alright, Anastasia. If the door is fixed, then perhaps you won't need my services this afternoon. If that's the case," he glanced towards Carter, before turning his attention back to Anastasia. “I should probably leave the two of you alone," he, afterall, didn't want to interrupt their evening if that was the case.

"Um." Anastasia looked vaguely confused; she was starting to wring her hands for some reason. "Don't let me keep you or anything, but you're welcome to stay."

Carter seemed to be fighting not to roll his eyes, but after a tense moment, he sighed. “I've got to get back to the station, I suppose. You sure you don't need anything else, Ana?" He donned his shoes and reached over to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear; Anastasia seemed to exert effort to keep herself still, a flash of discomfort passing over her expression before it smoothed out.

"I'm all right," she said with a nod. "I was just going to let everyone out to play this afternoon."

Carter hummed slightly, then returned the nod. “All right. Call me if you need anything."

She made a soft sound that he must have taken for agreement, because with one final venomous glare at Eryk, he took his leave.

It wasn't until after the gate closed behind him that Anastasia chanced a glance at Eryk. "Um. He didn't give you any trouble, did he?"

Eryk didn't bother to hide the fact that he rolled his eyes. Either Carter and Anastasia were a couple, or Carter was trying to make something out of nothing. Either way, it didn't concern Eryk, personally. It concerned the mission. He shook his head, though, at Anastasia's question.

“It'll take a lot more than that to cause me any trouble," he answered truthfully. “It appears that he cares for you a great deal, though. I wasn't aware you were with anyone," he stated in a nonchalant manner. Not that it was any of his business, really. “But if it wouldn't be too intrusive, I suppose I can stay a little longer."

It wasn't like he was in a hurry to go back home, after all.

"W—" Anastasia looked a little stunned, and it didn't take long at all for a rush of color to flood her cheeks. "Oh, um," She cleared her throat, swallowed, and then cleared it again, shaking her head. "It's not really—let's go play with the pokémon!" Abruptly stepping over her own threshold, she tugged the door closed behind her and moved past him, neatly ducking to the side to avoid contact and hurrying down the stairs from her small porch to walk around the side of the yard.

Rufus was still there, of course, and wandered obligingly behind them. Ana tugged a couple of pokéballs from the belt she wore loose at her waist and gave them a toss, Luna the espeon and Nova the umbreon appearing a moment later.

It was a matter of about ten minutes to get all the pokémon moved to enjoy the outside part of the facility. When they'd managed it between them, Anastasia toed off her boots and rolled her leggings up to her knees, sitting on the pool's edge and dipping her feet into the water. Still a little bit pink in the face, she patted the spot next to her in clear invitation.

"Sorry," she said quietly a moment later. "I'm not very good at talking about things."

Eryk took the seat next to her, opting to fold his legs in a criss crossed style rather than dip them into the pool. He shrugged at her statement, though. “It's fine," he replied, using a bit of a more neutral tone.

“I'm certain I come off the same way," he added. He wasn't that good with talking about things in general. “You don't have to say anything if you don't want to, Anastasia. If you'd rather sit here in quiet, that's fine, too." He wasn't going to say otherwise. It wasn't like he had interesting things to say, after all. He could talk about work, but even then he wouldn't be able to say much on that.

"Thanks, Eryk," she replied in a quiet voice. Reaching up to toy with one of the low plaits she was wearing her hair in today, she huffed softly when one of the pokémon, this one a feebas with a prosthetic fin, came by to nibble at her toes. Her face scrunched, as if there was something unpleasant about it, but the tiny bit of laughter that escaped her suggested otherwise.

Rufus waddled over in his usual wheezing sort of way, plopping down between them and leaning his head on Eryk's leg. Anastasia patted his back, eyes narrowing a little at the corners. "Can I ask you a question?" she asked after a while. It barely broke the quiet at all, even then.

He rubbed behind Rufus's ear and nodded his head. “I don't see why not," he stated, turning his full attention to her. Cyrilla had always said that it was best to give someone their full attention if they were being asked something. He supposed it had something to do with it being obvious that they were either listening, or serious about something. He didn't really know.

"Are you really a clerk for NTR?" She tilted her head to the side, meeting his eyes with a slightly-furrowed brow. There was no accusation in her voice, only curiosity.

Belatedly, she seemed to realize something, because she started to backtrack almost immediately. "Um, not that I'm calling you a liar or anything! You just... uh. How do I put this? Well, maybe this is just my bias talking, but you and the others don't really seem like... office people? Especially not you. Maybe what I'm really asking is how you ended up there."

He considered her question carefully. He supposed the way he and the others presented themselves didn't quite read clerk, but he figured that was the closest to what they really were. “In some ways, yes. I am a clerk for NTR. And how I ended up there," he paused for a moment, his brows furrowing slightly. Pushing a deep sigh through his nose, he pursed his lips together.

“It's part of my family, you could say. Everyone has always had a position within an NTR building, and I suppose it fell to me to continue the legacy," he answered truthfully. Though it wasn't the entire truth, it was enough that he wouldn't have to explain further. At least he didn't think he would have to.

She nodded like she understood, a wry sort of expression crossing her face for a moment. "I can understand that part," she admitted. "Maybe the hair gives it away, but I'm a Joy. It sort of felt inevitable sometimes, that I'd end up doing something like this, or running a pokémon center in a little town somewhere."

Anastasia paused, and then cautiously continued. "Is it something you wanted for yourself, too? Your job?"

He blinked mildly in her direction. No one had ever bothered to ask him that before, so he wasn't entirely sure how to answer it. The obvious answer was no, this was not a job he chose for himself, but he couldn't exactly say that. So, he shrugged instead.

“Couldn't say, for sure. In a family business, you're expected to continue on, and whether or not it was something you wanted was irrelevant. My family is different than yours, though. From my understanding, the Joy family doesn't require its members to always pursue medicine," he stated. “And what about you? Was there something else you wanted to do besides... this?" he gestured around them in a vague motion.

"I... never gave my future much thought, to be honest," she replied, glancing around at their surroundings as though studying them. It didn't last long, though, before her eyes came to rest back on him. "For what it's worth, though... you can be whoever you want here. Our families are probably really different, and I don't want to sound presumptuous since I hardly know you, but—well. I'm not expecting you to be anyone in particular, and the pokémon don't either. So if you ever want to just come by to spend time with us, you don't always have to do work, okay?"

He blinked, his brows furrowing slightly in her direction. He didn't have always do work? He could be whoever he wanted here? These were... strange, to Eryk. It was a strange kindness that made him feel tense, now. It was... oddly nice, though. To be offered that. He nodded his head and turned his attention back towards the pool.

“That is... thank you," he spoke, because he didn't know what else to say.

"You're welcome," Anastasia said, swishing her feet in the water a bit. She lapsed back into silence after that, though, clearly taking him at his word that there was no need to force conversation for his sake. Rufus snuggled a little further into his leg, and a light breeze gusted through the yard, relieving the early summer heat a bit.

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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#, 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
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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
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#, 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: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
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July 13th
Ana's Shelter - Late Afternoon - Hot
Eryk Nero


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It's good."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would you like to meet her?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He might as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


July 17th
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Sunny
Aidan Klein


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aidan rolled his eyes; Rheinallt burst out laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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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: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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July 25th
Cinnabar Island - Early Evening - Clear
Eryk Nero


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

Match what, he didn't know.

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

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

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

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

The other man sighed quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What? No hot pink?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aidan nodded. "Yeah, actually."

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

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

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

"Now there's an image."

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

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

"No."

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

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

“Ass."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, 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: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher
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July 25th
The Camellia Festival - Evening - Clear
Eryk Nero


Those asses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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