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Kasimir Rheinallt

"Why yes, I *am* the brains of the operation. Thank you for noticing."

0 · 1,029 views · located in Kanto Region

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

Description

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xxImageImageImagexxxxxKasimirRheinallt
xxxxxxxxx◙◙◙◙* Male xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 26 xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 6'6" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 195 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* TR Exec: Raikou

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--Image- TECHNOLOGY good with computers; TR tech specialist
MARTIAL ARTS former competitive fighter
GENIUS excellent memory, can quickly read and absorb info, extremely intelligent
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Image I'm breathing in / I'm breathing out
- - - - - - - I'll cut the ties that hold me down .


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Kasimir's an odd personality, in some ways. Technically speaking, he's the 'nerd' among the Three Beasts—that is, the one in charge of the technical aspects of their work, including communications, cracking, and security. He certainly has the skill for it; though he lacks a formal degree in computer science, he's received a lot of training, done a lot of his own learning from other sources, and has an estimated IQ approaching 180, and as such he's become quite excellent at it. He can talk the talk and walk the walk as well, and this does go along with a certain stereotype that he completely fails to live up to.

He's actually, on the surface of things, probably the most socially-adept of the Beasts, too, and in great physical shape, both of which are obvious and go a long way to causing a lot of confusion. He's been mistaken for Ryk by new people quite a lot, because he just seems like the fearless leader type. It's bad enough that he's taken to wearing a pair of fake, thick glasses around the office to look more like 'the tech guy.'

Of course, no one in their right mind would actually put him in charge of anything, and this is because of his other obvious personality traits: Kas is both lazy and an obvious flirt. In fact he can seem highly superficial to people who interact with him only casually, and this is something he cultivates on purpose. He's honestly not really fond of being taken too seriously, and thinks that his current spot as the number two guy on the team is the perfect one to be in. He can't get bossed around by too many people, and he doesn't have to make the big decisions. He just gets told what they're doing, and helps make it happen.

The charming, frivolous personality is part-truth, part deception. It works as a pretense because it's close to the truth, but it also very effectively masks a number of important things. The most important, of course, is that Kasimir is in fact a mole: a member of the Kanto Pokémon Special Forces (KPSF) planted in Team Rocket for long-term espionage. The KPSF hopes to accumulate sufficient evidence of wrongdoing and illegal activity to shut Team Rocket down forever. For this, petty thefts and the like simply aren't going to do—Team Rocket has bought enough of the international justice system that they need something huge, and it falls to Kasimir to find it. As one might expect, that's a lot of pressure, and he's constantly lying to everyone around him, which is exhausting.

It's also more than a little guilt-inducing, which is not a great sign. Kasimir hates to admit it, but he doesn't hate all of his coworkers, and he learned pretty early on that while Team Rocket is indeed corrupt as hell, most of the lives that will end up completely ruined if it's taken down are relatively innocent office worker types, people who believe in the stated mission and know little to nothing about the unsavory parts. He tries not to let that get to him too much, but...


Image Soon, kill the myth
- - - - - - - I'll begin / be the first to witness.


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There’s honestly nothing too special to recount about Kasimir’s early years. He has a relatively functional family unit, he supposes. His parents are divorced, and he’s lived with his old man for most of his life, but his folks are still on friendly terms, and so he sees his mom pretty often, too. He’s the middle child of three, with an older sister and a younger one both. He and Crystal are pretty close in age—she’s thirty now, if he remembers right, but his baby sister Harper is only about twenty still, and actually not related to his mother at all, being only his half-sister by his father’s second wife.

There’s never been any crazy drama; they all get along pretty well. His father, Victor, is a dojo master, and runs the one in Fuchsia City now, though Kas was born in the Orange Islands. His mother Sheena still lives there, and runs an inn for tourists, as well as a restaurant. Crystal has since returned there to take over, while Harper and his stepmother Michelle, a highly-regarded attorney, mostly live in Saffron City after his dad’s second divorce only a couple of years ago. Kas was always a pretty independent kid—his grades in school were not fantastic, though he was generally acknowledged to be a very good student… just not the kind who turned his homework in when he was supposed to. He was always good with pokémon, and did the traditional journey thing at eleven like most kids do, returning at the end of a couple years to finish out his education. He’d considered making a run at the League, but never bothered with it, uninterested in the prestige or the challenge, in all honesty.

He entered a magnet high school for science and technology, one founded and sponsored by the legendary Steven Stone. It was about then that he started to take things a little more seriously, and was known for hanging around the computer labs after school hours whenever possible. He was also a fixture at his dad's dojo, though, which at the time was in Cerulean. He was a competitive fighter at the junior level, and won his fair share of tournaments, including a couple nationals. Though he had a lot of prospects for college and the like, a bad experience with Team Rocket in his youth led him down a rather odd path.

After he finished school, he enrolled in the Orange Islands Police Academy, entering basic training at the age of roughly eighteen. He excelled, his natural deductive skills, intelligence, and athleticism serving him well, and his savvy with both technology and pokémon making him stand out even among his peers. He was scouted into the Kanto Pokemon Special Forces right after graduation, and entered their ranks as something of a specialist in covert operations and tactics. Over time, he accumulated an impressive track record, and out of all his peers, he was chosen to lead an important operation—the long-term infiltration of Team Rocket, for intelligence.

His cover was deep—he really had to join the organization, work his way up through the ranks, and prove at every turn that he was cut out for the work Team Rocket did, including pokémon theft. While most of the other moles in the organization were weeded out over time, Kasimir has never been so much as suspected, as far as he knows. So far, he's been able to avoid getting too close with anyone in particular, having a large network of friendly acquaintances rather than any friends, as such, even eight years in.


Image I'm breathing in / I'm breathing out
- - - - - - - I'll be the enemy .


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ImageImagexx--ImageImageImageImagePRINCESS C. CHARIZARD 
----ImageImage RASH

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ImageImageSIGRÚN LUCARIO 
-ImageImage ADAMANT

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xx--ImageImageImageImageWIDGET FLYGON 
----ImageImage SASSY

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ImageImageLANI VAPOREON 
----Image CALM

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xx--ImageImageImageImageNORA TYPE:NULL 
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ImageImageMEEP MAREEP 
----Image QUIRKY

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Cyrilla
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AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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This line is here to take space.
I'm so fucked.

He shouldn't have slept with her. He can't say he regrets doing so, because it was—well. It certainly isn't helping his muddled, uncomfortable feelings that he could feel how different this was even in the middle of something like that. Sex has always been mechanical for Kas. Fun, yes, but very dependent on things like skill and knowledge. With Cyrilla, he... felt. Feels, even now. And it's the last thing either of them needs.

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Eryk
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AAAttractionx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARespectxxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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You know, I really do admire the guy.

Of all the things Kasimir ever expected to discover about Eryk, a certain sort of innocence wasn't at all on the list. The guy's a Koga, for fuck's sake, and he's done shit for missions every bit as dirty as Kas has. And yet there's some part of Eryk that's just fundamentally untouched by all of that. Some part that hasn't turned cynical, disaffected, done with it all. Kas has to fake that. For Eryk, it's real, and that's amazing.

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Anastasia
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She's such a good kid.

It's not really fair to call her a kid—there's a certain world-weariness to Ana that suggests she knows more about hardship than she lets on. She's sure as hell miles more mature than he was at nineteen. But there's also a curious kind of... something like innocence about her. It's a striking contradiction, and sometimes he finds himself wondering where it came from. Also her crush on Ryk is obvious and hilarious.

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Aidan
AAFondnessxxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
AARivalry xxx ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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I'm going to come out of this owing him too much.

It's not just the training or whatever, though he has to admit he's found his discipline again, as well as maybe, some little touch of ambition he thought he'd lost a long time ago. Maybe it's just because as he is now, he knows he's outclassed by Aidan in every way: as a trainer, as an athlete, but most importantly as a human being. The guy's just fundamentally decent, in a way Kas really doesn't think he is. Go figure.

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Nevena
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What a dork. Gotta love her.

Nev's making a lot of progress, socially, though Kas isn't sure his pointers really have much to do with it. Still, it's nice to see. She's a brilliant scientist, but contrary to popular opinion, having a healthy social life isn't going to impede that. Work-life balance, one step at a time. Also, he's pretty sure she has a thing for boss, and he kinda wants to see what happens with that.

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Coding by Aethiya, inspired by maccotango's guide to the same.

So begins...

Kasimir Rheinallt's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Excellent. Glad we got that sorted out."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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#, as written by Aethyia


August 12th
Cinnabar Pokémon Center - Afternoon - Hot
Anastasia Asher


“And you've already taken care of the paperwork. Good." Aunt Lydia smiled slightly, though Ana could see the way it was slightly strained. She couldn't blame her, exactly—her job was a stressful one even on the easier days, but more than that she knew it was her fault.

Ana wasn't really anyone's favorite relative. Well, except maybe Auntie Miranda's, but Auntie Miranda wasn't anyone's favorite relative either, except Ana's. These facts combined meant that they tended to be a bit... apart, from the rest. She knew Lydia wasn't especially pleased that her niece was in her part of the world, but the older woman wasn't outright rude to her or anything, so she just pretended not to notice. That was the easiest way to do things, anyway.

“Hey Ana, is that guy who was with you last time here, too?" Her cousin Brenda didn't much care for her, either, but last time she'd made a trip down to the Center, Eryk had been with her to carry things, and Brenda had rather seemed to like him. Even now her eyes scanned the lobby, almost as if expecting him to walk in at any moment, and there was a faint flush to her face.

"N-no, sorry." She wasn't really sure why she was apologizing, except that it was instinctive.

Brenda sighed theatrically, twirling a strand of her curly reddish-pink hair around her finger. She was about the same age as Ana, but still in training for her certifications. “Lame. How did he get those scars anyway? He's good looking with them, but can you imagine how hot he'd be without them?"

"Excuse me?" Ana said, the sound of her own voice surprising her. The tone of it was sharp, matching the quicksilver snap of anger that had prompted them. "That's an extremely rude question, and frankly none of anyone's business. Besides, he—" She cut herself off, shaking her head, and cleared her throat.

Brenda raised an eyebrow at her and shrugged. “Arceus, you don't have to get so defensive, weirdo. It was just a question." The way she said it practically dripped with condescension; like it was stupid for her to be worked up over the situation.

Ana bit her tongue.

“Brenda," Lydia scolded absently, digging through some paperwork for the documents she wanted. She disappeared into the back room to retrieve the new patient.

Brenda rolled her eyes, then returned them to where Ana still stood on the far side of the counter. “Back to carrying things by yourself, huh?" Her tone implied she very much thought Ana had lost the services of her new volunteers, but she tried not to rise for it.

"No," she said quietly, tone reverted to the meek thing it usually was. "There are just different people helping this time. They'll be here in a moment."

As it happened, Cyrilla arrived with Kasimir in tow. It looked like they were chatting about something, a large grin plastered on Cyrilla's face. She waved when she spotted Ana, though, and all but jogged so that she was standing next to her. She was smiling brightly at Ana, though, and stepped in as if to give Ana a hug, before she paused in her motions.

“It is alright if I hug you, right?" she asked, seemingly unsure. “That's a thing friends do, right?" she continued, huffing lightly at herself, it seemed. “Oh, and good afternoon! Eryk says he's sorry he couldn't make it. Things came up at work, and all, but he'll try to do it next time," she added.

Was that a thing friends did? Ana honestly wasn't sure. She probably wouldn't be too nice to hug right now, anyway, with having just come in from the sweltering heat outside. The middle of August on Cinnabar was melting season, which came just before the rainy season. "Um. I think it's okay," she said, offering a small smile. "I don't know if friends do it, but Anas do, so."

"They do, huh?" Kasimir asked, leaning down to hug her a bit from the side, albeit carefully. "That's excellent. Kases totally hug, too, so this works for me."

She laughed softly, though from the corner of her eye, she caught Brenda giving Kasimir a very obvious once-over. Fortunately, before she had to subject him or Cyrilla to the awkward introduction that would follow, Aunt Lydia had returned with a small pokémon carrier. Ana preferred these to pokéballs for hospice patients, and they were the standard for injured pokémon, so there were plenty around.

“Okay," Lydia said, nodding to Cyrilla and Kasimir but otherwise all business. “Here's cacnea. He's been trimmed but the spines are still an issue, of course." She set a paper bag on the counter. “And there's his medicine. It should numb the rotting areas at least but he's going to need grafting regularly, and a very dry environment."

Ana nodded; this wasn't anything she was unprepared for. "Got it," she said simply. Kasimir took the carrier without even needing to be asked, lofting it carefully but without any indication that he so much as felt the weight of the pokémon inside. Ana was envious for a moment before she pushed it aside, taking up the paper bag of medicine. "Thanks, Aunt Lydia. See you two next time."

Lydia nodded, but Brenda just waved an unconcerned hand. “Whatever."

Considering the chilly reception inside the Center, the blistering heat outside was almost welcome.

“So, cacnea, huh?" Cyrilla stated once they were outside. She peered at the pokemon inside of the carrier and smiled a bit. “He's so cute," she stated, scrunching her nose a bit as she continued to smile. She turned her attention back to Ana, though, and arched a brow in her direction.

“So, Ana, how have you been since the last time I saw you?" she asked. If she'd noticed the way Brenda had seemed unconcerned, or the way her aunt acted, Cyrilla didn't mention it. “Which was yesterday," she added, huffing lightly to herself.

That was nice, actually—Ana didn't really want to have to explain it. It was easy enough to put from her mind as they walked anyhow, huffing slightly at Cyrilla's question. It had, in fact, only been a day. "About the same," she said, feeling a slight twinge in her legs but not letting it change her stride. She'd been doing so well lately—she refused to believe this might be a sign of something else coming on.

"Thanks for coming to help me pick him up, by the way," she added. "I can manage the carriers by myself most of the time, but it's a lot faster with help."

"That's what I'm here for," Kas joked. "Carrying heavy things and reaching high-up things. I'm basically the Kalosian Army knife of people."

"Don't forget fixing electronic things," Ana added, pretending to be very serious.

“And don't forget he can cook a mean meal," Cyrilla added, nodding her head as if she was agreeing with them. She snorted softly, though, and glanced at Ana. “How are things with Ryk, so far? Has he been on his best behavior?" she asked, arching a brow in Ana's direction. From the way she asked, though, it sounded rather genuine, as if she'd expected him to be nothing but cordial at Ana's place.

Kas snorted. "Oh please. The second Ryk's anything other than the perfect gentleman to Ana, I'll eat—" he paused, clearly trying to decide on something appropriately disgusting. "Well in any event he wouldn't be."

Ana narrowed her eyes at him and sighed, but really he hadn't said anything mistaken. Eryk was exceptionally patient and easy to live with. She offered Cyrilla a shrug and a little smile. "He's sweet," she said simply. "And very helpful." Surely, of course, Cyrilla already knew these things, so she saw no particular need to elaborate.

“Good, I didn't want to have to knock some sense into him if he wasn't," Cyrilla responded, clearly joking about it. Shaking her head, though, she seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Hey, Ana," she began, turning her attention towards Ana, “do you have any plans for the seventeenth?" She tilted her head in a curious manner as she regarded Ana for a moment.

“We're going to be watching a tournament at Nevena's place. I doubt Eryk's had a chance to ask you, but it would be great if you could come, too. You don't have to if you don't want to, but... well it would mean a lot to Ryk and us if you did."

"A... tournament?" she asked.

Kasimir nodded. "Pro-battling. Ryk and I are kinda considering getting into the scene, so Aidan's putting us through our paces and making us do research. The final tournament of this season's on the seventeenth, so we're gonna be watching at the Cloyster."

Ana didn't want to say that she had literally nothing on her schedule that wasn't doctor's appointments or looking after the shelter, but it was true. "I'd love to," she said brightly, still vaguely dazzled by the fact that these interesting people kept inviting her of all people to things. Never mind the fact that the most interesting person was actually living in her house.

Honestly, how was this her life?

“Ana!" A new voice called out to her from behind, and she tried not to wince. She knew exactly who that was, and what the urgency in his tone probably meant.

Knowing there really wasn't any escaping the inevitable, she pulled to a stop. "Erm, you two can go ahead if you want," she said, shooting a glance at Cyrilla and Kasimir.

The latter regarded her with searching eyes. "I think I'm fine taking a little break," he said slowly.

There wasn't really any time to respond to that, though, because Carter was well within earshot now, dressed as he usually was for a day of work. He was the precinct's Captain, so he didn't have to wear the ordinary patrol uniform anymore, but the sharp black suit and blue tie served just as well, especially considering he wore his credentials in the blazer pocket—Cinnabar Island Police Department.

"Erm. Hello, Carter," Ana said, doing her best to forestall what was sure to be a rather uncomfortable discussion. "This is—"

“Are you insane?" He was clearly not in the mood to be introduced to new people, which she'd been afraid of. “You let one of themmove in with you? Do you have any idea how much danger you're in?"

Cyrilla looked vaguely confused at Carter's statement, though her eyes did narrow slightly. “She's not in danger of anything," she spoke, her brows furrowing lightly. “Eryk has been living with Ana for nearly a month, now. Nothing's happened to her, and clearly she doesn't mind," she added. It was obvious that Cyrilla was upset at the accusation that Eryk was, somehow, putting Ana in danger.

“If anything, it's probably been safer since he moved in with her."

Carter's eyes snapped to her. “Cyrilla Niav," he said, before his eyes slid to her right. “You're a Koga, and so is Eryk. You really going to stand there and say either of you's safe for anyone to be around? Your family's dirty money, and anyone with two brain cells paying attention knows it. Ana might not realize how unsafe it is to get wrapped up with people like you, but that doesn't mean all her real friends are so innocent."

"Hey say that again, buddy, this time to me." Kasimir narrowed his eyes and took half a step forward.

Carter lifted his chin—he had to, to properly make eye contact with someone so tall, but he didn't look daunted in the least. “And you're Kasimir Rheinallt. I don't know what your deal is yet, but your record's clean as a whistle, and that—that I just can't fucking believe." He swept his eyes up and down coldly, narrowing as they resettled on Kasimir's face.

Wait, was he saying that because—?

Ana had opened her mouth to respond when Carter continued. “Regardless of the rest, you're all fucking Rockets. And what idiot sees a bunch of your kind all getting suddenly interested in the same thing and doesn't wonder what you're up to?"

At this point, she'd had quite enough, not least because some of the words had landed where he'd no doubt really been aiming: her.

"Captain Hayes," she said, pursing her lips when his eyes swung to her, evidently surprised that she hadn't used his first name. "Please leave my friends alone. They haven't done anything wrong, and there's no point in saying that they could. Anyone could, including you or I."

“Ana—" he said, tone softening.

But she shook her head. "If there is something more to say, you can say it to me, and later. But I have no intention of changing my mind. Eryk is my tenant, and all three of them are my—are my friends. You don't have to like that, but you do have to accept it. Besides, I'm sure there's an important reason you're in this part of town, right?"

His face contorted; he clearly wasn't pleased to be told off, even so gently. He released a haggard sigh, glaring at the other two before abruptly turning on his heel and departing. Down the hill, Ana could see several police vehicles; he must have simply spotted them walking by and run to catch up.

When he was gone, she sighed and bit her lip. "I'm sorry for what he said to you," she said softly. "He really hates NTR, and I think it's just... making him paranoid. Not that that's any excuse for being so rude."

Cyrilla's gaze had been downcast during Carter's statements, and there was a slight tremble to her before it disappeared. She glanced up at Ana and forced a small smile, it seemed. “It's alright, Ana. It's... it's really nothing we haven't heard before. You'd think I'd be used to it by now," she huffed lightly, rolling her eyes at herself, it seemed, before she sighed heavily. Taking a deep breath, she glanced towards Kas and then back towards the cacnea.

“Sorry for the trouble, little guy," she spoke, apologizing, it seemed, for the scene that had been caused. “Hope you won't hold it against us," she added before turning her attention towards Ana.

Ana could understand the sentiment, but at the same time, she knew part of it wasn't right. "It's not your job to get used to people being jerks to you," she said softly, stepping forward to wrap Cyrilla in a soft hug. She'd said she hugged, after all, and this seemed like the right kind of occasion for one. She seemed to stiffen for a second before relaxing in Ana's hold.

Over Cyrilla's shoulder, Kasimir half-smiled at her. "Thanks, Ana," he said. "You're a good egg, you know that?"

She snorted, rubbing Cyrilla's back a little before she pulled herself out to arms' length, her hands still resting gently on the other woman's shoulders. "You sure you're okay?"

“I'll be fine, Ana. I promise," she stated, a small smile crossing her lips. “I'll be even better once we get back to your place and treat ourselves to more of your brown butter chocolate chip cookies," she stated, the smile stretching just a little further on her face.

“Oh, and you have to let me cook you dinner. There's this new recipe I've been meaning to try out. You too, Kas. You're going to eat it and enjoy it, I promise," she added.

"Ugh, my life is so hard," he complained. "Gorgeous women make me dinner and cookies all the time and all I have to do is reach the occasional tray or fix a computer or something."

And just like that, any remaining tension seemed to dissipate, and Ana could only laugh.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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August 14th
Marna's - Early Evening - Overcast
Eryk Nero


Eryk sighed heavily, running a hand down his face. He was in a foul mood, and the reason was the email he'd received earlier today from Marah. He hadn't understood the context of the message, vaguely making out things that were insulting Cyrilla, or insulting his own intelligence, but he didn't really care. What he cared about was the fact that she had the audacity to say she was going to have his engagement to Cy, annulled.

She could try.

It wouldn't work, and they both knew that. It was one of the requirements he had made. If they wanted him to continue to be an obedient member of the family, then Marah was just going to have to get used to having Cyrilla as a future daughter-in-law. Not that he was rushing their marriage, though. He knew they were both uncomfortable with it, but they also knew it had to happen eventually. Otherwise his mother would keep sending him shit that he didn't want to deal with.

It was the reason he was currently at Marna's, too. It was one of the very few places he could go to think. To clear his mind and not have to worry about what was going on outside. For some strange reason, Eryk had invited Kas and Aidan along. It wasn't like he minded the two of them, really. They were easy company to be in, and Eryk was sure from the look on both of their faces, they could use a drink, too. He'd just arrived before them.

Kas arrived first, giving Eryk a little wave before he approached the bar to put his order in with Marna. As usual, the place was pretty quiet—it didn't seem to do a whole lot of business, honestly, though it was hard to say why that was. The food was good, and the drinks were always cold. The building didn't look like much from the outside, though, and was a bit further back from the beach than most, though they could see the ocean from the side deck.

Heaving a sigh, Kas dropped into the chair directly across from him, folding his arms together on the tabletop and smiling a little wryly at him. "You look like you've had a hell of a day, Ryk," he observed, pouring from the pitcher of icewater on the table while he waited for his order.

“So do you," Eryk replied dryly, furrowing his brows lightly before rolling his eyes. “It was mostly fine up until the end," he stated, taking a drink of his beer. He hadn't asked for the stronger stuff yet, mostly because he didn't think he'd need it. Yet. He was hoping the beer would be sufficient enough to dissipate his current anger, and so far, it was. He pushed the bowl of nachos out in front of him, routine habit by now.

He always ordered a large amount of nachos in order to share with the other two whenever they came to Marah's, or anywhere they went that had nachos, really. He didn't necessarily mind sharing, though. He might have consumed food quite a bit, but this just felt right to him. Plus, he was almost certain the other two didn't mind.

“What about you? Why'd you look like shit, earlier?" he'd leave out Marah's email for now.

"Cy and I had a run in with that cop you mentioned a couple days ago. Hayes. We were with Ana at the time. He'd done his research in the meantime—at least normal background checks on all three of us. He knows the two of you are Koga, and he's uh... really fucking paranoid about how much time we're spending with her. Problem is, aside from the fact that he's a racist and an asshole, he's... kinda right about the rest of it, and she's not dumb." He drained half the glass of water and grimaced.

"So I've spent the last couple of days backdooring my way through the CIPD computer system, to try and figure out what they have on us. It's been... long." Marna appeared with his drink then, sliding it easily across the table with a smile and a nod. Kas caught it with a word of thanks. "Can you get another for both of us, Auntie? It's been that kind of day."

Her expression was sympathetic. “Seems to be goin' around," she noted, heading back to the bar.

Eryk furrowed his brows. That explained why Cyrilla was depressed. Hayes must have said something that made her that way. But Hayes wasn't wrong to be suspicious, though. This was only going to make their job so much harder. It wouldn't be hard at all if they'd just told her what the deal was, but Eryk couldn't be that stupid. Finding out if she was psychic was the priority. Seeing if she'd be willing to volunteer for whatever Project Nebula wouldn't be too hard, he didn't think, if she was.

“He's an ass who's going to make this much harder than it needs to be," Eryk muttered as he took a bite from his nachos. He chewed it and swallowed before turning back to Kas. “What else does he have on us, besides the obvious?" he asked. If there was more that Hayes could use against them, he needed to be prepared. They all did.

"Not sure yet," Kas admitted, taking up a couple of the nachos himself and popping them whole into his mouth. "I know the PD had files on all of us—and I mean everyone. The entire office, down to Mr. Bates." Bates was an elderly man who served as the mansion's night janitor. "So far it's basic stuff; criminal records, birth certificates, the kind of research you could do with a formal background check or a web search. Which is... well, a fair bit if you know what you're doing, but nothing confidential."

He took a large swig of what seemed to be a spiced cider, and leaned back in his chair. "Problem is, we seem to be the subject of an active investigation, which means I wouldn't put it past him to be doing shady shit, like trying to flip some of the grunts, or have us put under surveillance, or even just go digging a little further into our personal business. Legally, unless he suspects us of a crime, he can't use police resources for this, but that's the problem. We're all NTR. It's not going to be hard to get a judge to believe we have something to do with a crime, especially, say, that B&E we totally actually did at the breeding facility, which was apparently reported."

"Yeah but those fuckers were doing shady shit. We had probable cause." The new voice was Aidan's; he slid into the seat next to Eryk with a drink already in hand.

"We did," Kas said. "But the problem is the report alleges that someone stole things unrelated to that function of the facility or NTR. Personal belongings of an employee."

"Like fucking what?"

"A wallet, some jewelry. Look, it's totally bullshit. We all know it didn't happen. But the report was filed, the case is still open, and NTR is the obvious place to look for the 'thief.' So Captain Hayes has the perfect excuse to look into us all. It won't get him subpoenas for big stuff, but it's possible he could legally compel us to hand over some employee records, if he plays his cards right."

"Sonuvabitch probably had the employees file that theft report just for that, huh?" Aidan shook his head, looking faintly impressed almost despite himself.

"I'd bet money on it."

Eryk sighed heavily into his drink. Chances were if those items were stolen, it wasn't by any of the grunts. They all knew better than to try and jeopardize a mission like that, and it was why the few grunts that had gone, were ones that knew how to prioritize. Hayes was going to be a big thorn in all of their sides. Eryk could already feel it. He'd been lucky enough to be either at work or some place else when Hayes visited Anastasia. He furrowed his brows.

“I'm going to have to start locking the door to my room before I leave, now," he muttered softly. It wasn't that he didn't trust Anastasia, because he did. It was Hayes he didn't trust, and even if Anastasia told Hayes to stay out of Eryk's room, he knew the man would be stubborn and do something he ought not to. He also didn't bring his work home, so it wasn't as if Hayes would find anything.

The worst thing he'd probably find in Eryk's room was the old grey yukata he had with venomoth holes in it. Maybe he'd see if mankey would stay in his room? He immediately banished that thought. Mankey was still young and destructive. Eryk didn't have much in his room to begin with, but he really didn't want to have to replace a broken bed, or some other piece of furniture. He turned his attention towards Aidan, though.

“How are things on your end?" he asked.

Aidan shrugged. "Not horrific, I guess. Been reestablishing contact with a few of the people I know who are still in the pro-battling business. I shouldn't be your agent or anything—if a name like mine's too close to you, people are going to be too careful. But I can lean on things behind the scenes a little, put in a good word here and there, that kind of thing." He paused as Marna brought their food—they'd both taken to ordering things that could be shared like Eryk's nachos, though they switched more often. This time it looked like Aidan had bought a large quesadilla cut into several wedges, and Kas had ordered some assortment of battered and fried fish and vegetables with a few dipping sauces. They both pushed the dishes to the middle of the table, and Aidan handed out smaller plates as he continued.

"Of course, it's too early for any of that yet, so I'm basically just reminding people that I'm around, indicating a bit of interest in returning to the scene, that kind of shit. I hate the politics of this and I always have, but there's some people who can manage to do it without being obnoxious."

"Gotta be careful with that or there'll be rumors of a comeback in no time," Kas noted, dipping what seemed to be a fried pineapple slice in the sauce.

Aidan rolled his eyes, giving his head a shake. "There's gonna be those no matter what I do. Someone'll mention talking to me, someone else'll hear it, and in the offseason like it'll be soon, they'll start a rumor on a slow news day, just to generate interest. It's how this shit works. I know about as much about the pro-battling scene as you seem to know about cops, Rheinallt." He arched a brow, as if inviting explanation.

"Stepmom's a lawyer," Kas explained.

Nodding, Aidan turned to Eryk. "What's eating you, Nero?" he asked bluntly, taking a bite of quesadilla.

Eryk furrowed his brows for a moment before he realized Aidan hadn't meant that statement literally. He swallowed the bit of nachos he had in his mouth, before answering, “My mother," he stated, brows furrowing deeply. He didn't generally hate people, but he'd decided awhile ago that his mother wasn't a person. He wasn't sure what she was; a mother, though, she was not.

“You were Katia's superior a few years ago, right?" he stated, arching a brow at Aidan. “I'm sure she was bitter about it then as she seems to be now, and talked," he stated, shaking his head softly. Katia never seemed to be able to contain her emotions that way. Kas, of course, didn't know who Katia was, and he turned towards the man to explain.

“Katia's family is the oldest branch not directly related to the Koga main branch. She was originally supposed to marry me before I agreed to Cyrilla's parent's proposal. Marah is still trying to find ways to have our engagement annulled so that Katia can be the next head of the family. If that doesn't work, she's trying to get Cyrilla and I... married sooner," he sneered at the thought. He didn't understand the way Marah's or Katia's mind worked. If Katia had married him, she would only be the Head's wife, not the Head, herself.

He decided to leave out the heir portion of that, though. It was too disturbing a thought to dwell on. He just didn't see Cyrilla that way, and he doubted they'd even be able to do as Marah seemed to want.

Even if he hadn't said it directly, though, Kas and Aidan were the furthest thing from stupid. He saw the moment Kas connected the dots; he made a vaguely-horrified expression and shuddered. It didn't even look exaggerated.

Aidan just regarded Eryk for a moment with something that looked very much like sympathy before expelling a breath through his nose. "Katia talks, yeah," he said simply, leaning back and extracting a cigarette from the box in his pocket. Once he'd lit it, he leaned back a little, making sure the smoke was drifting out over the deck instead of towards either of them. "You know, I used to think some of my exes were a pain in the ass, but lately I've been thinking I got off easy in that department, and it was still enough to push me out of the game completely." He shook his head. "Not that she's an ex of yours, but..." he waved his free hand vaguely as he took a sip of his drink with the one holding the cigarette.

"Fuck that noise," Kas said emphatically, though it wasn't clear exactly what he was agreeing with. It did seem to be an agreement, though. "Rich people are nuts. No offense, Ryk, but fucking arceus, man. Is your mom like... nagging you to have the ceremony soon or whatever?"

“Soon, yes," he answered, taking a long drink of his beer. “I've managed to convince her to wait until the end of the year because this mission is top priority. Even she doesn't have that much influence to try and interfere with it," he stated. His family may have been part of Team Rocket since its inception, but Giovanni no longer controlled it. It was Gregorovich, and if this mission was as important to him as Eryk thought it was, then he knew that his family couldn't do shit without incurring Gregorovich's wrath.

He pursed his lips, though, as he stared at his drink. “I'm still trying to figure out ways to get her out, though," he admitted. He hadn't found any, of course, but he was looking. If he could get Cy out of the family, somehow, then he wouldn't have to subjugate her being tied to him for the rest of their lives. He knew she wouldn't complain if they were married; she might even be happy that it was him, but it was something he knew neither of them wanted.

“Unfortunately families like ours are complicated, and not easy to leave." Born a Koga, always a Koga. That was how their family operated. He threw back the rest of his drink and started on the second one.

"Leave the family, huh?" Aidan sighed quietly. "Sounds rough." He pushed a heavy breath out through his nose as Kas continued to eat evenly from most of the plates, a contemplative expression on his face.

"I guess it's probably not quite as simple as like... her and you both marrying someone else, right? Like they'd try to do something to stop it if you made it clear that's what was happening?"

Eryk wouldn't lie and say he hadn't thought of that option, but it wasn't possible. If they did marry someone else, that person would be subjected to the family, and that was something neither of them wanted to do. He pushed a sigh through his nose.

“It's not that simple, no. If Cy or I married someone, it wouldn't be us leaving; it would be that person becoming part of the Koga family, and not a lot of people could endure that. It would, however, stop them from trying to push another arrangement on us. My family may be one of the oldest, but there are things even they couldn't do," such as marry him or Cyrilla to someone else if they were already married.

"Sounds like you two need to find yourselves a coupla badasses," Kas remarked. It was light, but he didn't seem to be minimizing things, either. "Or do something so terrible they kick you out of the family. What do Kogas like to do? Kick lillipups? Snatch candy from babies? Plot world domination? Honestly they sound kind of like ridiculous cartoon villains. Not that I'm doubting you guys about what they're like," he amended quickly, and apparently quite sincerely.

"Does that mean they'd kick him out if he became real-life Crobatman or something?" Aidan snorted softly.

Kas chuckled. "He's already got the 'eccentric rich guy with badass ninja training' part down." His smile faded a little, though, and he tilted his head at Eryk. "If there's ever any way I can help though, man, just say the word. I ain't afraid of no ninjas. My old man raised me better than that." Though the words sounded a bit like a joke he'd make, he seemed to mean it as a serious offer.

With a small nod, Aidan added, "same here. Plus it'd piss off Katia and she deserves it after all the crap I've put up with from her, so. You'd be helping me, actually."

Eryk felt the corners of his lips tilt up into something he hadn't been able to do for a while: smile. “I don't suppose either of you would mind marrying me for a while," he stated, rolling his eyes a bit and taking a bite out of his nachos.

"I'm telling you, you literally can't be worse than my ex," Aidan replied, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"Yeah, I'd do it," Kas replied with a shrug and a soft laugh. "So, you know, two excellent back-up plans if worse comes to worst or whatever."

Eryk rolled his eyes, but that strange smile still hadn't left his face. “Not sure if they're excellent back-up plans, but it is nice, I suppose, to know they're there."

This had... turned out better than he thought it would.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


August 17th
The Cloyster - Afternoon - Overcast
Aidan Klein


As he'd sort of figured she would be, Doc had been mostly successful in her mission to discover the others' favorite snack foods, so preparation was fairly easy. They made the nachos in her kitchen, as well as a few other things that took a bit more work, including guacamole and the like. They'd set it all out on the coffee table in the living room with Basil's help, the TV mounted on the wall already tuned to PSPN, where commentators were giving a recap of the earlier season to catch people up for Cerulean Rumble.

"Hey Doc, did you remember to take the beer out of the freezer?" They'd put it in there to chill quickly, as they hadn't had quite enough time to just use the fridge. They'd been on a bit of a crunch, in general, mostly because they'd sort of forgotten to do any advance preparations the night before, too busy trying to get Maribelle and Balthazar out of the City of the Dead.

Worth it, as far as he was concerned.

“Basil pulled them out about five minutes ago and set them in the fridge," she replied, making last minute adjustments to the way things were set up, it seemed. “How does everything look? Does it look okay? Do I need to run to the store and grab anything else?" she asked as she glanced in Aidan's direction with pursed lips.

“I just want to make sure everyone has what they need so they can relax and enjoy themselves," she added, smiling somewhat as she glanced over the setup once more.

He snorted softly. "I think we're fine. Honestly I expect at least a couple of them to bring more stuff with them; they're that kind of people."

No sooner had he spoken than there was a knock on the door, and he moved to answer it. It was Doc's house, of course, but they were both hosting, and he doubted she'd mind that he answered her door. On the other side of it stood Nero and Ana, the latter holding what did indeed seem to be a large plate of—huh. That was actually an entire pie. This girl. It smelled like caramel and apples and cinnamon and shit. Like honest-to-arceus homemade pie. He didn't think he'd ever had one, honestly.

"Come on in," he said, opening the door wider so they could move in past him. "You managed to beat Rheinallt and Niav, and they only live a few floors down." He was pretty sure Rheinallt had mentioned something about bringing his sister, but that was fine, too.

Nero huffed lightly at the statement and shook his head. “It would be those two that were late," he spoke, glancing towards Ana for a moment before glancing at Doc. “Solomon," he greeted. Doc smiled brightly at Eryk and motioned for Ana to set the pie down on the table with the other snacks. There was enough room for it between the nachos and guacamole.

“Eryk, Ana! Hi! Glad you could make it," Doc stated happily enough as she waved a little in their direction. Basil snorted softly before walking back towards the kitchen area, grabbing two cups as she did. “Would you guys like anything to drink? I have soda, tea, beer..." she trailed off, listing some of the drinks they had bought.

“I'll take lemonade if you have it, for now," Eryk stated as he glanced at Ana. Basil was already in the fridge, grabbing the pitcher of lemonade as she waited for Ana's response, it seemed.

Ana's eyes shifted between Doc and Basil before settling on the latter. "Soda, please," she said warmly, accepting the can when it was handed over to her with a vine like it was the most normal thing in the world. Then again, her place had a lot of pokémon around, so maybe it was.

She settled on the one of the sofas, patting the spot next to her with a look up at Nero. Aidan noted that she'd left the end free, and that it had a view of the whole room, including the door, so Nero would only be next to one person and able to observe everything that went on if he needed to. He didn't think it was coincidence—she was very clearly doing her best to anticipate what would make him most comfortable.

He felt a little twinge of guilt, but pushed it away, moving back into the kitchen to help Basil with a few finer tasks like making ice.

Nero took the seat next to Ana, seemingly content with the spot, and glanced in the door's direction. “The idiots are here," he spoke in a deadpan voice. No sooner had he said that, there was a knock at the door. Doc seemed happy enough to answer it, and indeed, Rheinallt, Niav, and another young woman were standing at the doorway.

“For your information, we're not idiots, Ryk," Niav stated, as if she'd known Nero had called them such. He rolled his eyes, though, as she thanked Doc. She was carrying a plate of brownies, it looked like, and from the smell alone, there had to be mints inside of it. There was another batch of brownies as well, though they didn't smell as sweet.

“Good, everyone's here!" Doc stated happily as she closed the door behind the last person inside. “Make yourselves comfortable, and feel free to take off your shoes or... er, well that's part of making yourselves comfortable, I suppose," Doc stated sheepishly. Nero huffed lightly as Niav snickered.

“It's alright, Nev. We understood what you were trying to say," Niav stated as she placed both plates down on the table.

The young woman—had to be Rheinallt's sister, from the sheer physical resemblance—meanwhile, made a slightly strangled noise high in her throat when her eyes landed on Aidan.

"Mirmir you fucking shithead," she whispered, too loudly not to be heard, though she seemed to be making an effort, tugging at her brother's arm and dragging him away from where he'd started to walk towards the seating area. "You should have told me."

"Told you what?" Rheinallt clearly knew what, from the shit-eating grin on his face, and from the way the girl's eyes flicked back to him, Aidan had a feeling he did too.

"That one of the people at this super casual tournament watch party is Aidan fucking Klein!" she hissed.

Aidan turned his face away so his amusement wouldn't be quite as obvious. From the way she was dressed, and the fact that she was definitely carrying a spiral notebook, he inferred she was a trainer and serious about it, so he wasn't annoyed the way he might have been if she were some other kind of fan.

"Ohhhh, right," Rheinallt said, smacking himself on the forehead as though he'd simply forgotten. "Hey boss, this is my sister Melly. Melly, this is my boss, but you know him as the guy whose miniatures you used to have in your—"

The poor girl immediately smacked a hand over his mouth, managing to maneuver her other to offer a shake in Aidan's direction. "Hi, sorry. Don't listen to him, he's an idiot. My name's Mel. It's an honor to meet you."

Aidan couldn't quite suppress his smile as he took her hand and gave it a shake. "Nice to meet you, too, Mel. Since your brother can't talk right now, this is Eryk Nero, Anastasia Asher, and Dr. Nevena Solomon."

Finally letting go of her brother and relaxing a bit, Mel shot a grin at the others. "Hey everyone. Thanks for letting me join. Mirmir's talked about all of you; I think we'll get along just fine."

“You collect minatures, too?" Doc stated, eyes widening slightly as she grinned at Mel. “Oh, remind me to show you the ones I still have! I used to have one of Aidan, too, but Fluffy tossed it out a window a few years ago," she stated, not missing a beat as she spoke. She turned towards Aidan with a sheepish smile, though, and cleared her throat.

Niav snickered softly as she took a seat on one of the loveseats. “So, now that everyone is here, what's the game plan?" she asked, folding her legs beneath her. She'd taken off her shoes, though, so they wouldn't be on Doc's couch.

“We're supposed to be watching the tournament," Nero stated, arching a brow in her direction. She sighed and shook her head.

“Does anyone else want drinks? I've got plenty!" Doc decided to say.

“Oh, I'll take a soda for now!" Niav stated, chuckling lightly as Basil walked a soda to Niav. “She's very well-mannered, this one," Niav stated as she rubbed Basil's head. Basil huffed lightly, but didn't seem to be offended. She merely turned her big eyes towards Aidan, tilted her head, before shuffling off to the kitchen to grab everyone else's drinks.

He nodded back at her, quite sure he understood, before making his way over to the seating area. There wasn't quite enough room for everyone with one three seater and one two-seater couch, but both Rheinallts eliminated the need for discussion by easily parking themselves on the floor. Aidan passed a cushion down to Mel, who accepted it with a word of thanks and a small grin, apparently already mostly over the awkwardness. She was like her brother in more than just looks, it seemed.

"Yeah at the moment they're still giving a recap of the season, since this is basically the Grand Championships this year," he noted. "At least for singles battling. They do another, different tournament for doubles, and word is there's going to be a big rule change next year for that, but at the moment that's as far as they divide it."

"Oh that's right," Mel reached for a paper plate, loading it up unselfconsciously with nachos and a slice of pie. "There's going to be single-trainer double battles like now but they're also gonna make team double battles a thing, right? Like with two trainers?"

He nodded. "It's probably mostly going to be a gimmick for a while—they'll pair up big names to draw lots of attention and stuff. But if it goes well it might catch on."

“Considering how popular it's become, especially among the younger couples and Ace Trainers, it could catch on pretty quickly," Doc stated, glancing at the available seats before taking a seat next to Niav. “The only draw back I see it having is whether or not they'll be able to get sponsors for it. Most sponsors only like to back one trainer, so it might be difficult to find one to back two. Of course that isn't to say they couldn't find their own sponsors, but it might... clash with whatever they're also trying to sell," Doc stated as she reached for one of the plates that had brownies on it.

“Those are semi-sweet brownies with pecans, just so you know. Ryk doesn't like sweet things," Niav stated as Doc took one.

“Oh, I take it these are sweet, then?" Doc stated as she took one from the other plate, as well. Niav nodded her head as she took some nachos for herself, and a piece of Ana's pie.

“Is that something we're going to have to learn to do, as well? Double battles in pairs?" Nero stated, furrowing his brows in Aidan's direction.

"No. Like I said it's totally separate, and single battles will always have the most prestige. You could do both if you wanted, but I think for your purposes it's probably better just to focus on one thing at a time." He arched an eyebrow subtly, reminding Nero as well as he could that the cover story was that this was something he wanted to do, so talking about it in terms of what they did or didn't have to do wasn't terribly convincing.

"I still can't believe you're finally getting into pro-battling," Mel said to Rheinallt, nudging him with his elbow. "You finally get your shit together right as I wind up my gym circuit? Are you asking to be my nemesis?"

He laughed, shaking his head. "I'm not that stupid," he said with a grin. "A good opportunity came up, is all. How often do you get the chance for free coaching from a real pro?"

"Ex-pro," Aidan corrected in a deadpan. "I'm retired."

Mel looked very much like she wanted to ask about that, which wasn't uncommon, but she was polite enough not to, for which he was grateful.

"So um... is there a chance that some of the people in this tournament could be opponents for Eryk and Kasimir later?" Ana asked, tilting her head at the screen. They were doing trainer profiles now—presently the screen showed Ernest Waters, who'd been pro since probably before some of the people in this room had been born. One of the greats, to be sure, but mostly in the business for the chance to mentor younger trainers, usually. He was a reliable top ten finisher at most any tournament, but usually didn't crack top five, which was how he liked it. Not to say he didn't give it his all—he did—but he had less fire for winning than he did for good matches, even the ones he lost.

Aidan shrugged. "If they do well enough, sure. This tournament is basically the who's who of pro-battling. You'll notice even a lot of gym leaders and elite four members aren't expected to place that well. That's a sign of how tough the competition is."

“Oh, but I hear that there's a new upstart who's kind of expected to place really well in the tournament. I believe her name was Amaris Castro. She's been knocking back challenges like they're nothing. She's got good statistics behind her, and I think she's currently sponsored by the Devon Corporation. Her blastoise is gigantic, and is basically her mascot," Doc stated, glancing in Mel's direction.

“How good is she?" Nero asked, seemingly curious. Doc seemed all too happy to oblige.

“Well, you know how Aidan just said that the competition is tough?" Doc began, waiting until Nero nodded before continuing, “they think she has a really good chance of placing second place, if not outright winning it. Like I said, she has a very good team behind her, but a lot of it comes down to strategy and how well her pokemon can take super-effective moves. It wouldn't matter much if her blastoise was strong, but was easily felled by a thunderbolt or even a solar beam."

“But if they think she's got a good chance at winning, then she's probably prepared to take type weaknesses into account, right?" Niav asked as Doc nodded.'

“Yep."

"There's all kinds of strategies available for that, of course. Some people tend to stick to one way of dealing; the really good trainers tailor their strategies for that to individual pokemon." One way to do it before battle even happened was to train a team that included a lot of dual-types, of the sort that minimized super-effective types by covering the weaknesses of one type with another. Water-grounds like quagsire were good for that, completely nullifying the electricity problem at the cost of grass becoming even more punishing.

But the two of them had the teams they had; there wasn't really enough time to make adjustments on that level, and besides he wouldn't want to ask them to. Above all, pokémon you trusted and understood were the best ones to take into battle, and so while he could teach them a few things for when they came against poor matchups, the emphasis was just going to be on making the pokémon they had as good as they could possibly be at what they did. Type matchups didn't matter quite as much if someone's pokémon were just leagues stronger. That was mostly how he'd dealt with it, back in the day.

"It sounds like an awful lot to keep track of in the heat of a moment," Ana acknowledged, dipping a chip in the guacamole as the screen shifted to show the first match beginning.

"It takes some getting used to, but it's a skill like any other," Aidan replied with a shrug.

Mel, who'd been scribbling notes as Aidan and Doc spoke, turned her attention to the screen as well, lifting a forkful of pie to her mouth at the same time.

“So what about pokémon that have unconventional moves?" Niav asked, arching a brow at Doc and Aidan. “Take, for example, Noct. Despite being a pure dark-type, he knows flamethrower. If my opponent had a grass, ice, or bug-type, wouldn't that be just as effective?" she continued, taking a bite from the nachos on her plate. Doc shook her head, though.

“Not entirely. While he may know how to use flamethrower, it wouldn't be as effective as if it were, say, Zero or Rex using flamethrower. They're both fire-types, and they have specific flame sacs that produce a stronger variant of the attack. It's like if Floof tried to use thunder wave. It could paralyze a pokémon, however; the paralysis wouldn't last as long as it would if Meep had been the one to use the attack," Doc explained. Niav nodded her head in understanding, it seemed, before turning towards the screen.

“Even if a pokémon's moves aren't conventional, knowing a different type move wouldn't be such a bad thing to have, right?" Nero asked, arching a brow.

“Nope. If a pokémon knows a different move that could, theoretically, be used to its advantage, it wouldn't hurt."

Aidan nodded. "It's one of the ways people get around super-effective opponents. If the move is super-effective in the one situation you really need it for, it's not as big a deal that it's a bit underpowered. The trouble is it's not smart to have more than one move like that on a pokémon or you risk not being able to use them to their full potential. So you've got to pick your one carefully, and while it might be surprising once, in the pro-battling world, you have to expect that everyone you face is going to know exactly what your movesets are." He shrugged. "So it can help, but on a probattling zoroark, I wouldn't recommend flamethrower. It's not solving any problem he has except maybe if he's up against a steel-type, and they tend to be so defensive you're not getting a lot out of the super-effectiveness anyway, plus a ton of them are dual-typed with things that resist fire. I guess it's useful against bugs, but... realistically that's an edge case."

"Of course, it solves the 'I need a campfire' problem pretty effectively," Mel noted, and Aidan smiled slightly.

"It does. Optimal battling movesets are just that: optimal for battling. If your pokémon do something else, mostly, like help you in daily life, or participate in contests, or whatever, you want different ones entirely."

“Yep, but you're also forgetting that, while a lot of steel-types may be dual-types, it all comes down to special attacks and special defenses. Steel-types are defensively strong, but their special defense is what lacks the most. Of course, these kinds of things aren't always obvious at first glance, so it's always a good thing to research some of your known opponents to see what they specialize in, or things of that nature," Doc added, smiling a bit as she took a bite of her brownie.

"I didn't forget shit, Doc," he replied, shaking his head faintly but smiling so she'd know he wasn't actually mad. There'd been a whole sub-lecture in there about special attack and special defense, but he didn't want to talk anyone's ear off.

“You guys really know your stuff. I mean, I wouldn't expect any less from Aidan, all things considered, but you, Nev? I know you're a professor, and all, but still... you seem really excited about this," Niav stated, arching an amused brow in Doc's direction. Doc merely nodded her head, though.

“I am. I love tournaments and the pro-battling world. It's so interesting and I get to see various ways pokémon are raised. It's not just catching them and training them. That plays a small part, but actually seeing a person come up with a strategy, and then playing it out with their pokémon? It's really entertaining."

"Yeah, listen to her," Aidan added. "She's got a good head for this stuff, and her advice is going to be just as good as mine, so might as well make note of it."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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August 30th
The Cloyster - Early Evening - Rain
Nevena Solomon


Nev knew it was silly.

She could tell from the look on Basil's face that she thought it was silly, too. She couldn't really blame Basil, considering that Nev was staring at the Fletchinder website. Fletchinder. It was a dating site. Nev didn't have any business on such a thing, but... well, she thought that maybe she ought to give it a try? She was already thirty two years old. Work and school had consumed a majority of her youth, and she didn't really have time to date.

Not that there were many suitors for her. Most people often looked at her and snickered, or made inappropriate passes at her. She didn't think very highly of her appearance; she wasn't as beautiful as Cyrilla was, and she certainly wasn't as cute as Anastasia. She was just... plain. Basil trilled at her, though, and pulled her from those thoughts. She offered the bayleef a small smile as she glanced at her phone. She had invited Kasimir over, earlier, to help her with this. He was so charismatic and confident in a way Nev didn't think she could ever be. It wasn't a bad thing, but there was just something about him.

She'd invited Cyrilla, too, since she thought the younger woman would like to help. She and Anastasia had been a big help during the Camellia Festival, after all. The doorbell sounded, though, as Basil made her way towards the door.

“Hey, Nev," Cyrilla greeted as she walked into the living area. Nev had a desk set up with her computer in the far left corner, which was where she was currently sitting.

“Cyrilla! Glad you could make it. Is Kas with you?" she asked, noticing the man's absence. Cyrilla snorted softly and folded her arms across her chest.

“You don't think I'd be sufficient help?"

“Oh, no! I just... well," Nev laughed nervously. She hadn't meant to imply that. Cyrilla snickered, though, and shook her head.

“Don't worry, he's coming. He had to stop by the apartment, first. He just got back from a run and didn't think you'd want him all sweaty in your apartment," she stated, chuckling lightly as Nev did the same.

Sure enough, Kas showed up a few minutes later, freshly showered and looking effortlessly put-together in a light pink shirt over a cornflower blue undershirt. The sleeves of the outer one were rolled to his elbows, and he slid off his sandals in the entrance, stretching up to brace his hands on her doorframe and half-swing himself inside.

"So I have to know: are we really doing you up a Fletchinder account, Sis? Because I gotta say this is an unexpected development. I didn't even know you were interested in the dating scene." He let the apartment door shut behind him and plopped down onto the two-seater, pulling his long legs up underneath him and crossing them with an arched eyebrow.

Nev puffed her cheeks a little, feeling a bit of heat rush to them. “Well... I mean I thought it might be different?" she'd phrased it as a question without meaning to.

“Different, how?" Cyrilla asked, causing Nev to laugh a little nervously.

“Well, I've never dated before and... I thought it might be a good experience," she answered, causing Cyrilla to arch an amused brow. She shook her head, though, and glanced in Kas's direction.

“Not every experience is good, but... I can see where you're coming from, I suppose," Cyrilla spoke before turning her attention back towards Nev, and tilting her head. “Alright, so, Kas, we've got our work cut out for us. Where should we start?" she stated, still keeping her eyes on Kas. There was something almost mischievous to Cyrilla's smile, though, something that seemed a little more plotting. Nev wasn't entirely sure how to take that, but turned her attention towards Kas.

Kas hadn't looked too surprised at her answer—then again, he'd probably been able to figure out the part about her not having dated. It might have been why he was under the impression that she wasn't interested. Idly, he used his thumb to crack the knuckles of his left hand, pressing down on each finger in turn until they clicked, and hummed thoughtfully. "Well," he said, shooting Cyrilla a smile Nev couldn't interpret. "I suppose where we should start depends on what Sis is really after. You've gotta give us more than 'it might be a good experience.' What do you want out of it? A one-night stand? A steady boyfriend? Girlfriend? A non-monogamous relationship? A friend with benefits?" He listed off the options rather neutrally, clearly not inclined to judge her regardless.

Nev hadn't actually thought about that. She pursed her lips as she contemplated what she was after. What Kasimir had listed hadn't sounded too bad, but she didn't think she could ever do a one-night stand, or a friend with benefits. What even was a friend with benefits? She'd have to look it up later, but for now, she had to really think about what she wanted.

“Well, I guess I'm looking for something more substantial," she finally answered. “Something that's, uh, how did you put it? Steady?" she stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes a bit.

“Nothing wrong with that," Cyrilla stated as she hummed a quiet note. “Assuming you want a steady boyfriend," she put an emphasis on the last word, causing Nev to nod her head, “The next thing would be what attracts you to a person? Their appearance, their personality?" Cyrilla continued, plopping herself down on the floor and glancing up at Nev.

“Oh, well... I've never been too inclined of a person's appearance, I suppose, but... well, I guess a nice personality?" Nev wasn't entirely sure. She'd never done this before, after all.

Kas snorted softly. "No preferences at all? Really? It's okay to have a type, or to have things that are actual turnoffs or dealbreakers, appearance-related or otherwise. The more honest you can be with yourself about that, the better, because it means you'll choose people you're actually compatible with, which means it won't be a waste of your time or theirs. A lot of the game is..." he paused, tilting his hand back and forth in a so-so motion. "A lot of it is guesswork, so the more clues you can give yourself about whether someone will or won't work, the better. It's not mean, if you're worried about that—if you know what your preferences and requirements are, then you can be up front about them and no one will feel strung along, and that's actually kinder."

He gestured more broadly. "So lay it on us, Sis. No judgement. Anything you like more than neutral? Anything you can't stand?"

“I don't know, honestly," she murmured softly. It wasn't that she didn't have any preferences; she just didn't know what they were.

“Alright, let's start with the basics, then," Cyrilla spoke, folding her legs beneath her and leaning forward. “Have you ever liked anyone before?" she asked, causing Nev to nod. There had been a few people she'd crushed on, but nothing ever came of it. She was much too shy to ever say anything about it, and they didn't seem interested in her that way.

“Alright, then tell us what you liked about them."

“Well, they were basically my friend," Nevena began, pursing her lips together as she tried to recall the people she'd ever crushed on. “And they always had the prettiest shade of red hair," she added. Now that she thought about it, almost all of her crushes had red hair of sorts. Cyrilla grinned broadly, though, as she arched a brow.

“So you have a thing for redheads. That's a start," she stated, glancing in Kas's direction and snorting softly.

He huffed a soft laugh and shook his head faintly. "I guess that's a start. It also sounds like you prefer people you can develop strong friendships with. So forget about the dating element for a second: what, to you, makes a good friend?"

“Well, I suppose that one's a little easier. Someone who makes me feel at ease, like I don't have to pretend or be something I'm not. It just feels much more relaxed, and... I don't feel so afraid to show my more refined quirks," she stated, rubbing the back of her neck, nervously. “It's also appreciated when someone can at least be honest with me if I'm being too weird or annoying," she added. A little honesty never hurt anyone, even if it did sting her a little. She tried her best to not be annoying to anyone or overbearing.

“So honesty and acceptance," Cyrilla summarized. Nev nodded her head, as Cyrilla seemed to chew the bottom of her lip in thought. “Nowadays those kind of traits are rare to find," she began, speaking softly for a moment before shaking her head. “But you basically want to build a friendship with someone, right?"

“I do. I know a lot of people aren't necessarily looking for something like that, especially those a bit... younger," she winced slightly at her own choice of words, however; Cyrilla barked a short laugh.

“You'd be surprised, actually, how many of the younger people seek that kind of thing, out," she stated, shaking her head softly. “They're just not so inclined to admit it."

“Do you look for something like that?" Nev asked, genuinely curious. The question seemed to catch Cyrilla off guard, though, as she blinked in surprise.

“Me? No... I," she paused as if she were unsure how to answer that. “It's not something I've thought about, really," she stated, but the way she said it sounded a little strange, to Nev. It was almost as if she were lying, but Nev couldn't be too sure. She wasn't good at reading people or the different tones to their voice.

“What about you, Kas?"

He was regarding Cyrilla a little curiously, it seemed, but when Nev turned the question on him, he shrugged in what seemed to be a careless way. "I'm one of those irresponsible young people," he said, pointing to himself with a flourish. "Mostly I look for stuff with no strings. But I don't use Fletchinder for that; usually I just got to bars or clubs and pull there. It's easier to get a sense of someone face to face, and if it's not working it's not like either of us has to sit through a whole date just to be polite. Plus it's painless that way when the boss sticks me on a mission that involves that kind of thing. A steady monogamous girlfriend or boyfriend would just get mad if I had to woo someone for information, you know?"

He pulled his phone from his pocket, glancing down at the screen to unlock it. "But you're interested in something completely different from me, so your strategy is going to be almost the opposite. I turn on the charm and cast a wide net. You are going to be yourself and be as honest and forthright as possible. You'll catch some assholes—that's just the way these things work. But like tends to attract like, so you might get lucky and strike on some good, honest people too. Now say cheese." He grinned at her, and the camera on his phone flashed in her direction.

Kas looked back down at the screen a moment later and burst into laughter, passing it over to Cyrilla. "You think we use that?"

Cyrilla snorted as she tried to contain a laugh. “Oh, definitely. It's too good to not use," she replied, glancing in Nev's direction. Nev was vaguely confused, and not so sure Kas was right about catching people. She wasn't the type to do that, she didn't think. “You're very photogenic, you know that?" Cyrilla stated as she glanced back at the picture on Kasimir's phone.

“Thank you?" she stated, supposing Cyrilla meant it as a compliment. At least that's what it sounded like.

“You're very welcome. Now, come on, tell us a little more. What are your likes, hobbies, dislikes, preferences," she stated, listing off a few things. “Nev, you and Kas switch spots; he needs to do your profile for you," she stated, motioning for Nev to take a seat next to her on the floor. Basil trilled lightly as if to object before shaking her head.

She did, however, take a seat next to Cyrilla, leaving the chair open for Kas to take a seat. “Well, I guess my hobbies are mostly work related," Nev stated. “Oh, but I do play video games with Aidan. Does that count as a hobby?"

This prompted Kas to exchange another look with Cyrilla, laden with some meaning Nev didn't quite understand, but he shrugged, settling into the chair and situating himself in front of her laptop. "Well it's a hobby, but you probably don't want to make direct mention of another guy when you're talking about it. That'd come off weird on a date."

He navigated to the webpage for Fletchinder, setting his phone down for the moment and opening a blank profile from the looks of it. "Okay," he said, starting to check boxes and fill in text fields. "You're a woman seeking a man for a long term relationship, monogamous. Oh—education and job. This is the section where you get to show off. Normally, I'd recommend you don't because some men are stupid and easily scared away by women who are smarter than them, but since you're not just looking to get laid you're gonna want to be pretty open about that..." He filled in a few more fields.

Apparently he remembered where she'd gotten all of her degrees and when, which was fairly impressive, as she'd only ever told him that once.

She wasn't entirely sure why, but she did feel a little bad about not mentioning Aidan. “Even if he's just a friend?" she asked cautiously. She trusted Kas and Cyrilla to know what they were doing, and the look Cyrilla gave her made it obvious it was a silly question, but Cyrilla merely shook her head.

“Especially that. You see... like Kas said, some men are stupid, and get jealous very easily when there are other men in your life. Even if Aidan's just a friend, if you were to find a possible someone to be in a long-term relationship with, he might feel threatened by your friendship. As sad as it is, that's just the ugly truth when it comes to having male friends when you're a woman. Of course, you'll find some men who say they don't necessarily care, but there will always be a hint of jealous in the back of their minds."

Nev supposed Cyrilla had a point about that, but Nev couldn't really fathom that. Why would they get jealous about male friends? Why would it matter if they were dating? It shouldn't matter.

“But it does matter, Nev," Cyrilla spoke as if reading Nev's mind. “It's easy to see where your thoughts are going when you wear them so openly on your face."

"Honestly she's right though," Kas said, pausing in his typing and shaking his head. "They shouldn't care, and the good ones won't. But bringing up that your main hobby outside of work is tied to one specific friend could be misleading in the sense that some people are going to interpret that as a possible situation where you have feelings for the friend that you're not acting on for some reason. No one likes to feel like a backup plan. It can be kind of a delicate balance, but you want to be clear in communicating so you don't give that impression."

He switched fields and continued typing. "If you are clear that your male friends are just friends and some guy has a problem anyway, then he's an asshole and you should get out of there ASAP. Especially if he tries to guilt you into hanging out with them less. That's controlling behavior, and it's a sign of abuse. Don't ever put up with it Sis, you got me?" He regarded her seriously, unusually so for Kas, a certain brightness to the gold of his eyes.

“Of course, Kas," she replied. That was a little strange, even for Kasimir. Cyrilla regarded her with a somewhat serious stare as well.

“If you ever feel uncomfortable, Nev, you let them know that. If they don't stop, then you need to leave. Don't let anyone pressure you into something you don't want; if they get forceful," she paused, pulling out her cell-phone from her back pocket, “you call me, or you call Kasimir or Ryk." Nev nodded her head. It was the only thing she could do.

Was dating that dangerous?

“Alright. Thank you, really, the both of you for helping me with this. I didn't think it would be so... harsh."

“It's not that it's harsh. People are just... well, they're stupid for a lack of better words. But I promise that, once you find yourself someone you can enjoy yourself with, it... it'll be worth it," Cyrilla stated, smiling just softly enough that it looked a little misplaced on her face.

"And try not to worry too much. We're reading you the riot act because you haven't done this before, but most bad dates aren't that kind of bad. Just boring or whatever." He grinned a little. "Some of them are going to be bad, though. That's just how this works." He did something with his phone and her computer that transferred the photo he'd taken earlier to the right spot on the page.

"Okay. Now I've filled out all your basic fields and put your picture up. This last box here is for you to say anything you want. Some people go all out with these, but personally I think it's better to leave a little mystery—give enough to hint at conversation topics, but hold enough back that they won't know your answers just from reading your bio. You want people to want to get to know you."

He shifted out of the seat, gesturing for her to resume it. "Oh," he added, seemingly just thinking of something. "I'm not sure what your supervision arrangement is like on this. Should you be telling boss you're doing it?"

For some reason, that question caused Cyrilla to snicker a little. “I probably should?" Nev stated. She wasn't sure, actually. Did Aidan need to know? Did it matter since this was a personal thing, and not at all work related?

“You should at least give him a heads up so that he knows. It'd be the nice thing to do, but he is also your superior," Cyrilla stated with a light shrug of her shoulders, glancing in Kas's direction with an amused brow.

“I guess you're right. I think he's in, should I go tell him now?" Nev asked.

Kas huffed. "Sure. The bio can wait till you get back I guess. We can help with it if you want." He shrugged, and shot a look at Cyrilla with narrowed eyes. Honestly those two seemed to be communicating telepathically half the time.

Were they telepathic? They certainly seemed to be with the way they always seemed so synchronized. Maybe it was just Nev seeing things?

“Oh, uh, I couldn't possibly ask you to do that! You're already doing so much for me," Nev stated once she realized what Kasimir said. Cyrilla huffed lightly, though, and shook her head.

“It's not a problem at all, Nev. Now go tell Aidan about your dating profile and we'll finish it up for you, alright?" Cyrilla stated, all but shooing Nev out. With a light chuckle, Nev stood from her spot on the floor and pursed her lips together.

“Thanks again," she stated, watching as Cyrilla nodded and stood from her spot. She leaned over the chair Kas was sitting in as if to look at what had been typed so far as Nev left her apartment. It was a good thing Aidan lived next door, she supposed. She hovered by his door for a moment, lifting her hand but not quite connecting it to the door.

“Oh, come on, Nev, it's just... you're just telling him about a profile and nothing more," she stated to herself, finally knocking on Aidan's door. But why did she feel so nervous about it?

It opened a few moments later; Aidan blinked slightly down at her and tilted his head. "Hey Doc," he said mildly, the corner of his mouth tilting up just a fraction. It disappeared a moment later, though, as he seemed to take in the expression on her face. "Why don't you come in?" he offered, stepping back away from the door so she could. "You want a drink or something?"

“Oh, no thank you, I'm fine," she stated, smiling and relaxing a bit. She did, however, step into his apartment without missing a beat. It was pretty routine, by now, that they were often in one or the other's place. Most of the time she spent it at Aidan's because of the video game. They weren't close to finishing it, yet, but Nev suspected that it would only take them a couple of more weeks before they were close.

“I won't take up too much of your time, though," she stated, remembering why she'd come here in the first place. “I just... well, I, um," she stuttered a bit, furrowing her brows at herself. She took a deep breath before shaking her head.

“Kas and Cyrilla are making a fletchinder account for me and... well, I just... thought you should know?" Arceus why was this much more awkward than it should have been?

Aidan, who'd been headed for the living room, paused as the words rushed out, turning back to her with the closest thing to confusion she'd ever seen on his face: brows furrowed, mouth pulled slightly to one side as though he'd tasted something unexpected. He lifted a hand to his hair and scratched the back of his head. "Fletchinder? Like the... the dating app or whatever?" This didn't seem to clarify much for him, but anything else he might have said was interrupted by an odd thump sound. It seemed to have come from the hallway; he rolled his eyes at the door for a moment before turning back to her.

"If this is about the supervision thing, you don't have to tell me stuff like that, Doc. Your personal life is yours, as long as it doesn't mess with work. Honestly, you can let it mess with work if you want to, even—it's not like I won't cut you any slack, you know?" He huffed softly and smiled at her, just a little.

"If you wanted my opinion as your friend, though... good luck out there. You ever need an excuse to get out of a date quick, send me a text that's just a punctuation mark. I'll call and act like you've gotta go in for a thing."

Nev pursed her lips together and furrowed her brow. “You know, from the way you, Cyrilla, and Kasimir put it, I'm not so sure this is a good idea," she murmured. She huffed lightly to herself, though and rolled her eyes. She did say she wanted to give it a try, though. Something new. “But thanks for the support! I'll make sure if anything like that happens, I'll text you, Cyrilla, Kasimir, or Eryk. Because apparently I have choices," she stated, smiling just a bit.

“Well... since I'm already here, do you want to see how much further we can get in the game?" She had said she wasn't going to take up much of his time, but... well, she was here already, right? And they were making decent progress.

He expelled something like a soft ha at the question, then turned towards the door momentarily. "You heard that, right?" he said, raising his voice a little. "Go home for the night, you two."

There wasn't any response that she could hear, but Aidan seemed satisfied. "Sure thing, Doc. Let's see if we can't get past the water labyrinth this time."

Nev groaned. “I forgot we were at that level." Still... it was shaping up to be a pretty good night.

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


August 31st
Cinnabar Pokémon Park - Afternoon - Overcast
Anastasia Asher


Ana sighed, stretching her legs a little in front of her. It had been cool enough to wear leggings today, which she was grateful for. They tucked into the boots Cyrilla had bought her neatly, her black and white striped socks poking over the tops. She was wearing another t-shirt dress over it, this one a softer deep purple color with a tie around the waist and a slight pattern. She knew she tended to give off a bad impression, but today she had to put a better foot forward for the shelter pokémon. They were here for the chance at adoption, after all; she didn't want to ruin their chances by being unapproachable, even if she felt a little uncomfortable.

It had been sort of a slow day; she knew it probably had a lot to do with the fact that pidgey and magikarp and even the likes of ekans or oddish were not popular choices next to the breeders who specialized in traditional starters like squirtle or exotic pokémon like sandile, which were not native to Kanto at all. Still... she'd been able to adopt out hoothoot and skiddo, so that had to count for something.

Her little display was obviously pretty homemade, too, as nice as she'd tried to stencil the sign and everything.

Still, at least she wasn't dealing with the kinds of lines she could see a short distance away at the NTR table. Since all new trainers had to register through them, and older ones had to update their licenses, it was pretty crazy. She was fairly sure even the likes of Kasimir's sister Mel, Drake, and Carter would be in line. She'd need to redo her own registrations, too, as she was still technically a trainer, and Luna and Nova were registered as battle pokémon.

But she could do that when the lines had gone down a little and it wouldn't be such a bother to anyone.

Eryk didn't have as long of a line as Kasimir and Cyrilla seemed to have. He had, at most, about five to six people. But even then, it didn't look like they were in line. They just seemed to hover a bit. He didn't look especially put off by it, and if anything, he looked a little relieved. Ana knew large crowds made Eryk slightly uncomfortable as much as they were for her. Cyrilla, however, seemed to be quite at home, chatting amicably with the trainers who were signing up at her line.

She'd occasionally glance in Ana's direction, direct a person towards her table, and wave a little. She didn't do it to all of the trainers, but it seemed that the ones she did direct to Ana's table at least approached. Eryk would, also, occasionally glance in Ana's direction, perhaps to see if she was doing alright, before he turned his attention back towards the others. They were both dressed in their NTR uniforms, it seemed like. Eryk's was a crisp white suit with a black shirt underneath, the sleeves rolled about halfway up his arm. His slacks were also white, but it seemed he'd opted for pants instead of something more suited to the weather. Cyrilla's was also white in color, but a short-sleeved blazer that barely passed her biceps. There was a black camisole underneath, and the pencil skirt she'd been wearing grazed the top of her knees with short slits on the sides. Perhaps to make it easier to move in.

Kasimir wore the same version as Eryk, but the jacket was thrown over the back of his chair, leaving him free to roll the sleeves and lean a little more casually back as he worked. His line seemed to be moving the fastest; he had a laptop in front of him, and would type without looking at the screen as he spoke to each new registrant and sometimes their parents as well. As usual, his instinctive facility with people was standing him in good stead; there were a lot of smiles and laughter from the people in his line.

Ana stood as a new pair approached, a father and daughter, just from the looks of them. The girl, no doubt exactly seventeen, clutched her papers to herself tightly, as if she were afraid they'd blow away if she didn't protect them.

She wasn't the keen observer someone like Aidan was, but Ana could tell these two didn't have a lot of money. It was the way their clothes were a little worn, repaired instead of replaced, and obviously bought from somewhere modest. The man looked like he hadn't had a haircut in a while, but the girl's was fresh. Her clothes were a little better, too, and though Ana thought the trainer's bag on her shoulders might be secondhand, it was in good condition.

"Hello," she said, smiling softly. "Welcome to the Cinnabar Pokémon Shelter table. Is there something I can help you with?"

The girl glanced at her father, who nodded, so she turned to refocus on Ana, pushing a strand of her brown bob behind her ear. “Um... I'm Melissa. I'm hoping to get my first pokémon today."

"Nice to meet you, Melissa. I'm Ana. Do you know yet what kind of pokémon you're looking for?"

“Not really," Melissa admitted, shaking her head a bit. “I don't even know if I want to battle or do contests or what. I just... I just want a friendly one, I guess?"

Ana smiled. "Well then you're in the right place. Why don't you meet a few of our residents, and we'll see what you're thinking then?"

Fifteen minutes later, and Melissa had walked away with pidgey, now named Jo according to the adoption forms. She was short fifty pokédollars, but Ana had thrown a couple of potions into the deal, so honestly that made up the difference anyhow. She thought it was important for Melissa to be able to help her new friend in case of emergency anyway.

Expelling a breath, she sat back down to sort the paperwork, and noted that registrations at the tables seemed to be heading towards.... break? Shift change? She couldn't be sure exactly, but there were a few more people in NTR uniforms standing around at any rate.

It seemed to be somewhat of a shift change since Eryk stood from his table. He spoke something to one of the grunts who nodded their head as he glanced in Ana's direction. Cyrilla said something to him, causing him to roll his eyes before he seemed to head in Ana's direction. Once he arrived, he took the empty chair to the side, and sat next to Ana.

“How are things here?" he asked once he was seemingly comfortable.

She offered him a warm smile, deciding that now was probably as good a time as any to take a little break herself. She'd stay here, of course, in case anyone else came by, but she took her empty chair again and dug into the cooler near where she sat. "Pretty well, I think," she said brightly, coming back up with two glass containers of lunch. She passed one over to Eryk—there were utensils packed conveniently in the lid—and took the smaller for herself.

"So far we've adopted out three pokémon, which is more than I was expecting, honestly." she only had a few more than even could be adopted. Even supposing that ekans, oddish, and magikarp ended up staying, they and her current hospice patients—stunky, cacnea, feebas, and Rufus—only numbered seven, which was a very low number for her.

"How about things on your end? Not too many people, I hope?" She pried open the lid of her lunchbox, using the small fork to stir around the cobb salad a little.

He shrugged his shoulders a bit before opening the lunchbox she'd handed him. “I haven't had a single person in my line," he spoke calmly, poking at the contents of the box. “Most of the people who are registering are going through Kas's line or Cyrilla's. Not that I mind; it keeps me from doing a lot of the paperwork," he added, taking a bite of his food.

“You said you've adopted out three pokémon?" he asked once he'd swallowed his food. “How many more do you have?" he asked, arching a brow in her direction.

Ana laughed softly, wondering if perhaps he'd simply intimidated them out of it without realizing he was doing so. It didn't seem like the kind of thing Eryk would do quite on purpose, but she could definitely see it happening by accident. People were too easily turned away by surface things, and his resting facial expression did suggest a certain amount of... grumpiness, she supposed. She couldn't quite understand it even so—to her the most intimidating thing about Eryk was how handsome he was. Attractive people always made her feel like kind of a mess, but fortunately even that was fading a little as she got to know him.

"Three more adoptable," she said, nodding back at them. Magikarp was relaxing in a child-sized inflatable pool one of the NTR workers had been kind enough to let her borrow, while oddish and ekans lounged in the sun.

"Do you mind if I go through you, then?" she asked, chewing and swallowing another bite of the rich salad. "To renew my registration?"

He shrugged his shoulders once more. “I don't see why not. You don't have to, you know," he stated, glancing at her from the corners of his eyes. “It's not like we have quotas to meet or anything like that. I'm not required to have people register through me; I'm only required to show up."

“But if you want to," he started, glancing around as if to look for something. He pursed his lips when he didn't find it, and glanced back in Ana's direction. “I can grab the papers for you if you'd like."

"You don't have to right this second," she said, not wanting to interrupt his break. "But.. yes. I'd like to."

The sound of a throat clearing alerted her to a new presence; she looked up to find Kas grinning at her just before he put a small stack of paper down on the table. "Figured you'd need these," he said, tilting his head a little. "I'm kind of sad you didn't bring me lunch though, Ana. I've done twice as many registrations as Cy, and Ryk hasn't done any." He made a show of pouting, and she huffed at him, reaching back down into the cooler.

"I did bring you something, though," she explained, handing him the container of cookies. "Don't forget to share them with Cyrilla though."

He looked genuinely surprised for a moment, blinking dumbly before the grin returned, and he inclined his head. "You got it, Ana." Giving them both a lackadaisical salute, he returned to the other area.

Eryk rolled his eyes, but took the papers Kas had brought. “If you keep indulging him, he'll only get worse," he murmured, signing the spots that required his signature. He glanced over the papers to make sure everything was in order, it seemed, before placing them to the side. “Like you said, you don't have to right this second, but here are the papers for registering," he stated, glancing at her.

“Did... you happen to bring any of those oatmeal cookies?" he asked, his head tilting slightly to the side. They were, apparently, his favorite of the ones she'd made so far.

Ana grinned. "Sure did!" A smaller container came out of the cooler, and she slid it over to him while she got started on her registration paperwork. It was actually only the third time she'd properly done it—she'd had Luna and Nova for a bit longer than that, but they hadn't been battlers until she'd registered for her journey, so there hadn't been a need for it.

It was conveniently timed, though—the registration date happened close enough to her birthday that she'd been able to do her first round just before she turned seventeen. Probably the only real guarantee she'd had that she'd have a proper journey at all. She certainly couldn't do that kind of thing alone now.

“Thank you," he stated as he opened the container to the cookies. There was a slight subtle smile on his face before it disappeared. He seemed content enough to be eating the cookies, waiting politely as Ana worked on her papers. Something must have occured to him, and he glanced back at Ana.

“You're registering for Luna and Nova, correct? Did you go on a journey?" he asked, seemingly curious about her answer.

Ana nodded slightly as she finished with the first side of the paper and turned it over. "I did. Only for about a year before I ended up here on the island a year ago. It wasn't really..." she paused, pursing her lips. "I didn't really have any goals in mind as such. I just wanted to see interesting places. Travel a little. I'd never really been away from home before." She'd done enough battling to fund her trip, of course, and because she'd only ever had two pokémon, they were quite strong, but she'd never really bothered trying to challenge gyms or anything like that.

She glanced up, tilting her head. "What about you?" She'd have been surprised if he had—it seemed like rather more... freedom than she thought he'd really experienced, based on the way he acted sometimes. But he had a full team of six, and he had to have acquired them somehow. Mankey and Moira, she knew, of course, but she didn't know if the other four had been catches or something else.

Eryk shook his head, though. “No," he stated, blinking slowly as he turned his attention towards the container of cookies. He seemed in a contemplative mood of sorts before he sighed softly. “I didn't get the chance," he spoke softly, as if he was not meant to be heard. “My family..." he paused, almost hesitant to keep speaking before shaking his head.

“My family doesn't partake in journeys the same way as other people might. We... are raised in a very particular way. We don't get much say in what we do," he stated, furrowing his brows lightly before taking a bite out of a cookie. “But I suppose it's not as bad as I might make it seem," he added. “As I've said before, Moira was my first. Imp was our first catch, when I was in Viridian, along with Orion," he stated, huffing a bit.

“Runt was a gift from Cyrilla, though. He's almost a year old, now, but Icarus... he followed me for days. He wouldn't stop no matter what I did. I tried to have Orion chase him off, but he was adamant about following me, and kept making strange sounds until I finally added him to my team," he rolled his eyes a bit at that statement.

She felt a pang of melancholy for his sake. It sounded as though it were something he would have done, if not for his family, and she was genuinely sad he hadn't. Even though she'd done nothing useful with the year, it had been... a nice time. An opportunity to see things she wouldn't have the chance to see again, and to bond with her pokémon alone on the road.

"I'm sorry," Ana said softly, though she smiled a little bit at the story about Icarus. That... kind of tracked, actually. "It's... mostly camping, as I remember it. Maybe we could all take a trip sometime?" Her eyes shifted momentarily towards Cyrilla and Kasimir before returning to Eryk. "I hate that feeling. Of having missed something. And I never know how long an opportunity's still going to be around, so—it seems to me like maybe while we've got the people, it might be worth doing?"

His head tilted as if he were actually contemplating her suggestion. “I don't see why not?" he stated it, though it sounded as if he wasn't quite sure about it. His eyes drifted towards Kasimir and Cyrilla for a moment before glancing back towards Ana. “I can see if the others wouldn't mind taking off a week or so for it. Perhaps... next spring?" he stated as if he were suggesting a time.

“It would be more ideal, then. Depending on where we took a trip, it might be warmer around that time of year, and it won't necessarily be ruined by the rainy season. There tend to be more hurricanes and storms this time of year and taking a trip, even if it's to camp, wouldn't be ideal."

She nodded. "Sounds like a good time to me."

She thought, with the way things were going now, that she might just make it, too.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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September 1st
Field Office 9 - Late Morning - Drizzle
Cyrilla Niav


Cyrilla hummed softly to herself as she typed away at her computer. She could hear Zephyr purring slightly underneath her desk, probably curled in the bed Cyrilla bought for her the other day. Siri was hanging off the back of her chair for some strange reason, and Noctis seemed preoccupied with the orchid plant on the edge of Cyrilla's desk. Diva seemed content laying on the small two-seater sofa in the office, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“You're a jerk, you know that?" Cyrilla stated as Diva snorted at her. “You could at least make some room on the couch for Siri. You know she likes to cuddle with you," she continued, watching as Diva lifted her head and glared. “Fine, fine. Have it your way, jerk." Chuckling softly, Cyrilla powered down her computer, shutting it off before a knock at her door caught her attention. She spotted Eryk in her door, lips pursed in a relaxed line as he glanced at the pokémon around the room.

“Meeting, and then lunch," he stated in his usual tone. “It won't be too long, I don't think. Aidan says he has something to tell us about the upcoming qualifying tournament," he added. Cyrilla blinked before nodding.

“Alright, give me a second," she stated, as she recalled her pokémon. Siri refused to go into her ball, though, causing Cyrilla to shake her head, and scooped the noibat up. “Fine, but you better be on your best behaviour. And no using Aidan as a roosting spot, alright?" she stated, earning a happy chirp from Siri.

They made their way towards the conference room where Cyrilla was certain Aidan and Kasimir would be. “Here," Eryk stated once they'd entered the room. He and Cyrilla took a seat as she cradled Siri in her arms, resting her head on top of the noibat's.

The other two were indeed already present—Kas had some middle-aged guy's picture up on the projection screen. Aidan was writing something in a file, but looked up to nod slightly at them as they entered. "Good, you're here." Closing the file, he glanced at Kas and nodded slightly.

"Right," Kas said, shrugging and gesturing up at the man on the screen. He was wearing an expensive suit—not quite a top of the line brand, but not far off, either, with a blue silk tie and a bowler had. "This guy is Antonio Geiger. He's a pretty middle-of-the-road promoter in the pro-battling scene. He specializes in scouting new talent and matching them with sponsors, which if he does successfully nets him an 'introduction fee' paid by the sponsor."

Aidan nodded. "It's legal, but some people think it's kind of shady. What's not legal is taking fees from trainers to be promoted, but some of them do it anyway. We're pretty sure Geiger doesn't though, which is good, since I've just confirmed that he's going to be at the Cinnabar Island Preseason Tournament at the end of the month."

Eryk furrowed his brows lightly, and pushed a soft sigh through his nose. Cyrilla arched a brow at that, though. She already knew where this was going; Eryk and Kasimir had to find a way to be scouted by that particular promoter. She glanced at Eryk and watched as the expressions passed over his face. Well, the ones she could tell were there, anyway. He didn't seem too pleased, but that was just how he was.

“That means we have to catch his eye if we want to be promoted?" Ryk asked arching a brow at Aidan.

“With the progress you and Kas have made so far, I don't think it should be too hard, Ryk," Cyrilla stated. He might not have had the chance to go on a journey to be a trainer, but he was undoubtedly good at it. Kasimir was a good trainer, too, from what little she was able to see of their matches against Aidan. She'd been too busy reading all the material Aidan had given her, and then some from the library.

"That's the basic idea," Aidan replied with a shrug. "Of course, doing well in the preseason tournament will take care of most of it, but the rest is going to be Cyrilla's job as your agent. You're going to want to shmooze this guy, talk up your clients, see if he's willing to grease some wheels for you."

Kas snorted softly. "Make him think we're worth the effort to talk up to sponsors in turn, huh?"

"Pretty much."

“Think you can handle that?" Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes. She could hear the concern in his voice, but he didn't have to worry about it.

“Did you forget that it's my specialty, Ryk?" she countered, raising a brow in his direction. Siri chirped as if agreeing with her, causing Cyrilla to chuckle a bit. “The real question here, Ryk, is are you prepared? I might be talking the both of you up, but you also have to do your part, too. Kas, I'm not so worried about. The guy is as charming as a skitty, but you?" she began, shaking her head a bit.

“You need a different kind of charm. It's not that I don't think you could do it, but different things work for people. Kas has his charm, and his charisma. You... need to find something that works for you." Eryk pursed his lips together, but shrugged. At least he wasn't going to protest. Cyrilla inwardly felt relieved.

“Whatever helps us out," he finally stated, causing Cyrilla to smile a little.

Aidan snorted. "I mean let me put it this way: there's a fair number of curmudgeons in pro-battling. They let me in, after all." He glanced back towards Kas. "You got the tournament details?"

Kas nodded, switching the screen to what appeared to be a list of names and an as-yet incomplete bracket view. "Okay so it's a preseason event, which means none of the big names are going to be out for points yet. But the nice thing about it is the top four finishers all qualify into one regular-season tournament of their choice, so if we can manage that, then even if the promoter thing fails we can buy ourselves another chance."

He hummed. "As far as competition goes, it's hard to say how it's shaping up. Most of these people are locals and unknowns; I'm still running checks on some of them so I don't have all the information yet. Plus there's still a week before registration closes. Tournament's capped at three hundred, but I don't think it's going to have any trouble reaching that number, so it'll probably run a whole weekend. I've put in our registrations already—as you can see."

The names Nero, Eryk and Rheinallt, Kasimir were indeed included in the list, sorted alphabetically with the rest. Right below Kas was Rheinallt, Melody, too.

Cyrilla grinned a little as she rested her head on Siri's and turned so that she was facing Eryk. “Looks like you'll have some good competition, Ryk," she stated, earning a soft snort from Ryk. “What, you don't think so?" she asked, highly amused by the way his brow arched slightly. It almost looked smug, and that had surprised Cyrilla a bit, if she were being honest.

When was the last time he'd been so expressive?

“I wasn't saying that, exactly," he stated, reaching over to scratch behind Siri's ear. Cyrilla huffed lightly as she turned towards Kasimir.

“You hear that, Kas? Ryk thinks he's going to kick your ass," she huffed lightly before shaking her head. Aidan said that the four finishers would still be able to land another chance at getting a promoter if they couldn't get one this round. Cyrilla, of course, was going to take her job very seriously, even if it was mostly just for cover.

"I'm offended," Kas replied, holding a hand to his heart, though the glimmer of amusement in his eyes easily gave him away. He seemed to find Ryk's unusual range of expression to be as interesting as she did, though, even as his playful grin faded to more of a smirk.

“The qualifying tournament is at the end of the month, right? Is there anything else we need to prepare for? Other than what we've already gone over?" she asked. It wouldn't hurt to be as prepared as possible. The more she had, the more she could work with. Of course, that didn't mean she couldn't work with less.

"Not really," Aidan replied. "Try not to totally ooze confidence if you're speaking to a possible connection to the endgame here," he advised Ryk and Kas. "And with your stuff, Cyrilla, focus for now on talking them up, but later down the line don't be afraid to drop a couple hints that they're feeling the pressure. We're trying to draw out the sharpedos here—we're gonna have to act like there's some blood in the water, but not too much or they'll sense a trap."

"Oh good. We're chum now. This'll be fun," Kas joked.

Cyrilla snickered softly as Eryk rolled his eyes. “Not too late to back out, you know," Cyrilla joked. This was their mission; they couldn't just back out. To her surprise, though, Eryk narrowed his eyes in her direction, lips pursing into a fine line.

“Not a chance," he spoke, something fierce flashing in his eyes. Cyrilla hadn't seen that in such a long time. The last time she'd seen anything like that was when he...

“Good," she stated, hiding her smile behind Siri's large ears. “How about we go get lunch, now?" she stated, picking her head back up and glancing at the others. “Unless there's something else that needs to be done."

"Sounds good to me," Aidan said, stretching his arms over his head. "I'll head up to the lab and grab Doc."

“We'll meet you guys in the foyer!"

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


September 4th
Jo's Restaurant - Noon - Sunny
Aidan Klein


It was, at this point, something of a common practice. Roughly two or three times a week, Aidan would drag Doc away from her research at lunchtime to have a meal with the three beasts. Sometimes this was in the cafeteria setup, but most of the time they went out. He surmised that they took care of themselves some other way on the alternate days; he typically brought stuff from home and kept it in the small fridge in his office for the days when the research was too delicate or someone else had too much to do to leave.

In any case, he'd made a point of getting them all out today. There was a problem of sorts brewing, and he wanted to keep everyone apprised of it, just in case.

Probably the thing Aidan liked least about NTR's office culture was how cutthroat and competitive it was, to the point of, frankly, stupidity sometimes. So far this field office hadn't been too bad about it, probably because the hierarchy was pretty obvious and the executives weren't actually trying to undermine each other, which was refreshing to see. He'd been sort of worried he'd be staring down new versions of Katia and fuckin' Dodds here, but it had turned out to be nearly the opposite.

Still, things had a way of seeping up from the ground sometimes.

Once everyone was settled and had ordered their food, Aidan took a long draw from his soda and expelled a heavy breath. "Someone slashed Hayley's tires this morning," he said bluntly. "Or last night, possibly. Either way I'm pretty sure it was one of ours."

“I know, she told me about it earlier," Niav muttered as she furrowed her brows. Nero looked as displeased as Niav did, though Doc's eyes widened slightly.

“Oh, that's so horrible! Is she okay?" Doc stated, glancing between the others. Nero sighed heavily, but nodded his head. “Why would someone do that to Hayley, though? She's so nice and sweet," Doc asked, furrowing her brows.

“You haven't really experienced the work force here, have you?" Niav asked, taking a drink of the soda in front of her. “Sweet or not, some of the grunts don't always get along, and others will hate on each other for no apparent reason."

“I offered to have her tires replaced, though, since it was done on company property," Nero stated, though from the furrow of his brows, it seemed that Hayley had refused.

“They won't replace her tires for her? Since it was done on company property?" Doc asked.

“No, because they can't really prove someone from the company did it. Even if they could, it's not like the company has insurance policies for things like that."

"Oh I know who did it," Aidan replied simply. It hadn't taken long at all to figure out the who, and even less time after that to deduce the why. "I'm garnishing his wages to pay for replacements, so don't worry about that." He shook his head. He might not have the kind of 'proof' that would be recognized in a court of law, but this was a private matter, and Gregorovich had long given him dispensation to deal with such things however he saw fit.

"The problem is, the root cause of the incident was envy. She's perceived as getting in too close with the higher-ups, and using that as leverage for better opportunities, including the raise she just got after the annual review."

"How'd that get out?" Rheinallt said, brows furrowing. "Payroll data is behind several layers of security and she's not the type to brag about that shit."

"Guy who did it's from the finance department," Aidan replied. They could probably figure out who it was if they really wanted to, but all of them knew by now that retaliating, directly or otherwise, would only 'prove' the point and fuel the persecution complex of the group who felt like they were on the outs. "Some of the employees are apparently pretty sure she got that raise because she's sleeping with you, Niav." He raised an eyebrow in her direction.

The statement caused Niav to sputter into her drink, and she reached for a napkin to clean the small mess. “Oh my Arceus, are you kidding me? Hayley's an attractive woman, but she's not my type at all. She's really sweet, though, as a friend," Niav stated, furrowing her brows slightly. “And that's besides the point that she has the biggest crush on Luke. I'd never do that to someone," she added. Nero narrowed his eyes slightly in Niav's direction, though. It looked like he wanted to say something, but refrained.

“If he has a problem with me, he could have just came to me directly and said it to my face. And besides, the only person I've slept with was Lorraine. Why didn't they target her?" Niav seemed to admit, causing Doc to mimic Niav's earlier actions, and seemed to choke on her drink.

“Really, Cy? Lorraine? I thought she disliked you?" Nero stated as Niav shrugged her shoulders.

“One thing led to another and shit happened, Ryk."

Despite the gravity of the situation, Rheinallt laughed softly, more at the byplay than the predicament. "C'mon, Cy," he said, rolling his eyes, "you know bullshit like this isn't about the truth. It's about perception, and you do flirt with Hayley sometimes. Some people are stupid and can't tell the difference."

“Well, you're right on that point, Kas."

Aidan sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "You know we have rules against fraternization for a reason, right?" He regarded them all with a flat stare. "Now I have to ask you all if there's been anyone else, because there's paperwork I have to file for this shit." HR technically should do it, but no way he was allowing Tanya access to that kind of information—the entire office would know within the day.

"Uh... all of us?" Rheinallt asked.

Aidan narrowed his eyes at him.

He sighed. "Okay fine. Niko, but only once, and only because we ran into each other elsewhere. I usually make sure to keep business and pleasure separate."

“Same, Lorraine's the only one and usually business and pleasure are kept separate. I mean, I think I've done a pretty good job; I haven't slept with Kas, at least," Niav stated, snorting softly as Nero rolled his eyes.

"What, is that challenging or something?" Rheinallt sounded all too pleased with himself, but his tone was jocular rather than serious.

“No one," Nero answered, casually drinking his lemonade. Doc looked rather uncomfortable by the conversation, and her face was almost completely red.

“I mean... you would know, because you're my supervisor and all," she muttered quickly, and softly before turning her attention elsewhere. She'd, somehow, thought the question had included her. He did say all of them.

"Yeah, Doc, I know." Theoretically she could be meeting someone from the office outside of work, but he knew she wasn't. Most of her nights were spent at his place, and involved nothing more scandalous than her sheer ineptitude at complex RPGs.

Still, at least he knew what paperwork he had to file. "I guess you've really stirred some imaginations, though," he noted, glancing back and forth between Rheinallt and Niav, "because the rumor mill is pretty ridiculous. Honestly I wanted to have this conversation here because I think it benefits us all to know what's being said so we can work on dispelling it. So if you've heard anything, add it to the pile."

Niav snorted softly and shook her head. Doc looked to be keeping her focus on her glass, not bothering to glance up at the others at the table. “The most recent one I've heard about myself is that I like being in large groups with a preference towards the women," Niav answered in a nonchalant fashion, not at all concerned, it seemed, about the rumor.

“Oh, and then there's supposedly the one where I use my own office as an orgy club..." Doc snorted almost incredulously as her eyes widened a bit.

“Not that it's true. Trust me, if I used my office for that, Ryk would have jumped off the building a long time ago."

“I would have."

"Also, I would have been so offended that you didn't invite me."

Aidan rolled his eyes.

"Oh, I heard a funny one last week. Apparently Ryk has a thing for knives and likes threatening people with them. It supposedly happened to a secretary who wasn't fast enough getting him some paperwork. Mostly it's dumb stuff, you know—so-and-so's really scary, what's-his-face is a tremendous slut, and so on. People making things up to be heard."

“I heard an interesting one about Solomon," Nero stated, turning his attention towards Doc. “Supposedly she's sleeping with you," he began, turning his gaze towards Aidan, “and you." He glanced at Kas, next. Doc made a strange noise that sounded like a strangled squeak as she slumped into her chair. Niav barked a short laugh as she shook her head.

“You're forgetting the one where she's also a part-time stripper because apparently someone thought they saw her at that strip club. What was it called, Audino?" Niav added, glancing in Rheinallt's direction.

“I've never even been there!" Doc stated suddenly, almost dropping her cup. Niav snickered, though.

“That's why they're called rumors. They're not always true, Nev."

"Mostly bullshit, actually," Aidan grumbled, dragging a hand down his face. He had a feeling he might know where a few of the ones about doc had come from—he'd have to see what he could do about that at least.

"Apart from the one, the mill apparently just thinks we're really thirsty all the time," Rheinallt said, rolling his eyes. "I mean, arceus, two of us have a healthy libido and suddenly we're all sleeping with everyone in the office at the same time or something. Bullshit hardly begins to cover it."

Aidan shrugged. "If that's all it is, we're not doing too badly. You two pump the brakes on flirting with people at the office please. Everything else'll either go away on its own or get boring enough that they only use it when there's nothing else to talk about."

“Guess that means we'll have to save all the flirting for when we're at home, Kas," Niav stated, snickering softly and rolling her eyes. “But sure thing, boss-man. No more flirting at the office," she continued, grinning lightly as she pat Doc's back. Doc seemed to still be choking on her drink before she furrowed her brows and shook her head.

“It'd be preferable if you'd just stop flirting with people and sleeping with them, but I'm not going to stop you. Just don't do it at the office, like Aidan says," Nero stated in a nonchalant fashion and shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, yeah, I heard Aidan the first time, Ryk."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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September 5th
Marna's - Afternoon - Light Rain
Eryk Nero


Eryk pursed his lips together, nearly cursing at himself when he'd almost hammered his thumb. His mind had been elsewhere as he helped Aidan and Kasimir patch a hole in Marna's roof. They'd noticed it a few days ago, and since they were heading into the rainy season, they had convinced Marna to let them help her fix it. Ryk knew a little about fixing things; one of his many skills he had, but he wasn't quite as good at it as Aidan seemed to be. But then again, he wasn't ever really good at a lot of things. He just knew how to fix things to the point that they wouldn't break again, or would last a long while.

“I think that should be good enough," he stated, leaning back to inspect the work.

Aidan shifted over to check it, tugging a few times at where they'd laid the boards to be sure they were in solidly, then nodded. "Really she needs to get the whole roof re-shingled but that's probably too expensive at the moment," he murmured. "And she's not the kind to accept that kind of thing on charity." He shook his head. "At least it won't leak. Rheinallt, did you finish checking the rest?"

"Yeah boss," Kas called back. "There's a couple spots over here that are looking a little worn, but everything's watertight for the moment. No use doing a big repair job until after storm season anyway, or some tree branch could ruin the whole thing at random."

"Fair point."

“If you boys are done up there I've got dinner for you inside," Marna called, lifting a hand to shield her eyes against the slight rainfall as she peered up at them. “And drinks on the house for your help."

Eryk pursed his lips, feeling a little uncomfortable about the free drinks. He'd just have to make sure to leave a generous tip; maybe enough to get her started on a savings for the new roof. “Thank you, Marna," he stated, glancing towards the others. He made his way towards the ladder they'd used to get on the roof, and climbed down. Once they were all settled inside, he used a couple of paper towels to dry off his arms and face, tossing them into the trash before taking a seat at the table Marna had set up for them.

Once everyone had settled, and Marna made her way back towards the counter area, Eryk pushed a soft sigh through his nose. “Do you think she'd let us help her with the repairs if we offered it to her in a way that suggested that it wasn't charity?" he asked. Marna's had, oddly, grown on him. He enjoyed his time here whenever Kas, Aidan, and himself visited. It was quiet, tucked away, and didn't have a lot of customers.

He'd wondered about that, though. Marna had a good selection of drinks, and had some good food. It wasn't as if it were unaffordable, either. She had fair prices for everything.

Aidan hummed, running his hand through his damp hair to pull it out of his face. "I doubt it. She's got a lot of pride. I think our best chance is probably getting her to do something for us and passing the roof off as payment for it."

Kas's eyes lit up. "Funny you should mention that—I have an idea." As had become rather traditional, Marna had prepared orders for all of them that were eminently shareable, so they didn't really have to split anything. Kas pulled a couple of cheese fries off a stack of them and chewed before he explained. "So uh, I dunno how much attention you were paying to Ana's file, Ryk, but her birthday's in like... four more days. Why don't we ask Marna to help us with a last-minute surprise birthday party? She can do the food and rent us the space."

The space was never particularly full anyway, but if they rented the whole thing out, they could probably deem that kind of expensive.

Aidan looked thoughtful. "So part of it for the space, part of it for the food, and part of it for 'putting her out on short notice'?"

"Yeah, basically. Plus if we invited the girls and Drake, it'd be an eight-person party, so that's a fair amount of food. We could pay her whatever she asks for it, which is going to be way too low, and then say we felt guilty about it later, and surprise her with roof tiles and an installation after storm season's blown through."

That wasn't a bad idea, actually. “I wasn't aware it was her birthday so soon," Eryk replied, furrowing his brows slightly. He knew Anastasia's birthday was in September, just not when, exactly. “We can ask and see," he continued. He knew that Cyrilla and Solomon wouldn't say no to doing something for Anastasia. They were as fond of her as Eryk was, and that wasn't a good thing. He'd tried not to, but Anastasia had a way of making him feel at ease.

“What... exactly do we do for someone's birthday?" he asked hesitantly. Eryk never celebrated birthdays, before. He hated his birthday for various reasons, but that didn't mean everyone else did. He'd never had a cause to celebrate someone else's birthday; not even Cyrilla seemed inclined to celebrate hers very often. When she did, it was usually somewhere else.

"Don't look at me," Aidan said with a shrug. "I've never done that either. This one's all Rheinallt."

"I mean..." Kas shrugged, taking a swig from his beer. "It doesn't have to be anything complicated. Usually some people just hang out together in the name of the occasion. Sometimes it gets a little more elaborate, like with a proper party, and some people buy gifts, though I sort of feel like Ana would be uncomfortable with that idea." He set the beer back down on its coaster. "We could probably do something really simple and she'd be happy. You know, gather here, have some food and drinks and music. Maybe a few games or something. It doesn't have to be some big production."

Ryk supposed that would make Anastasia happy. He knew anything loud or large would definitely make her uncomfortable. In that sense, she was a lot like himself. They both didn't like being around large crowds, or a lot of people.

“I can see how she'll feel about it. I'm under the impression that she's also the type to not like surprises," but he could be wrong about that. Maybe she did? Maybe he shouldn't tell her about the party, then. He didn't want to ruin it for her, after all, especially if the people who were going to attend were people she considered her friends.

“But I suppose we should ask Marna first, to see about renting the space."

Aidan nodded. "We can take care of it before we leave." Dipping a pita wedge in what appeared to be smooth hummus, he bit into it and hummed. "Any updates on the situation with your old lady?" he asked, tilting his head slightly at Eryk.

Eryk pursed his lips together and furrowed his brows. “Yeah," he spoke, taking a bite from his nachos. He'd almost forgotten about his mother's email. “You remember yesterday? About all the rumors? It was only a matter of time before they reached her, too," he stated, tasting something bitter and sour in his mouth. It wasn't the nachos, he knew that. It was just the feeling he got every time his mother was involved.

“She's trying to use that as leverage to annul the engagement, again. I'll have to talk to Cyrilla about it. She'll have to... stop certain activities if we don't want anything else getting back to her. At least if they don't pertain to a mission," he continued. If Marah found out that Cyrilla was casually sleeping around, she would have more leverage to use against them. And that was to say nothing of what Cyrilla's own parents would do if they found out.

They had worked hard to get the engagement to Eryk; he knew they'd fight tooth and nail against his mother to get it, even if it meant doing some unsavory things. Not that they wouldn't, that was just how low most people would go within the family. He glanced at Aidan for a moment.

“I don't think it has anything to pertain to Gregorovich's current mission, but..." he paused to push a soft breath through his nose, “Katia will be here next month. I don't know when, exactly, but she'll be here on the family's orders. Just thought you'd like to know." As far as Ryk knew, Katia being here was only because his mother insisted on it. She was, after all, doing other things for them, and whatever Gregorovich was having her do.

The previous three beasts might not be active, but that didn't mean they weren't still being used to do other things. He didn't know what the third member of their group was doing; Dodds had only been mentioned in files.

Aidan made a face, one that looked like he'd tasted something rotten. "Ugh, fuck me," he grumbled. "I don't know what I did to make that woman decide I was the one she talked to about all her 'problems,' but I'm not looking forward to it again."

Kas snorted, his lips pulling into a broad smile. "You must just have one of those faces," he said, laughing when Aidan scowled at him in a rather unfriendly manner. "Orrrrr she's a masochist, who knows? I'm kind of interested to meet her, though I'm sure it's going to suck for you guys."

"Him especially," Aidan said, pointing at Eryk with another pita wedge before he dipped it into the hummus. "I just get talked at—she doesn't want to marry me, thank arceus."

“She doesn't want to marry me; she needs to, according to her," Eryk stated, feeling his lips pull back a bit. “Like I've said before, it's stuck in her head that if she marries me, she gets the family. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that she and my mother were planning to have me removed if the marriage had gone through," it was a rather humorously dark thing to say, but Eryk did have a nagging suspicion that it might have been true.

Why else would Katia be so obsessed with marrying him?

“And at least I warned you ahead of time. You could always just... find a way to avoid her when she's here. It's not like you have to be around her; you're here for something else that doesn't require your other members."

"I don't think you quite understand," Aidan replied with a sigh. "If I'm not around, she'll find me. Surely you're familiar with how stubborn she is that way." He shrugged. "If I sit around listening to her for a few hours, she'll probably spill her plans eventually anyhow, so... guess I'm taking one for the team."

"Heh." Kas shook his head. "I guess that makes us a team somehow?"

"Guess it does."

Eryk felt that strange quirk of his lips on his face again as he huffed lightly. “I suppose it's only right for the leader of the team to take one for the team," Ryk stated, rolling his eyes softly as he took a drink of his lemonade. It was still strange to hear: Team.

It was stranger still to consider these two, friends... but Eryk didn't mind.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"After you, Doc." he said flatly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What if I'm ninety in spirit?"

Ana laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just a little!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just one more, with them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav
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#, as written by Aethyia


September 22nd
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Rain
Kasimir Rheinallt


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

All in all, he'd take it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“It didn't sound like a challenge."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lucky tosses?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you squint really hard, I suppose."

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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September 30th
Cinnabar Stadium - Afternoon - Clear
Eryk Nero


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh. I'm sorry."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wasn't entirely sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kick her ass, Eryk!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Back at ya, jerk."

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Pretty much, yeah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Don't call me boss."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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October 5th
The Cloyster - Early Afternoon - Rain
Eryk Nero


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You're free to stay until then."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We managed just fine without you, Ryk."

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

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

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

"Not comforting, Melly."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Anastasia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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October 10th
The Magikarp - Early Evening - Clear
Cyrilla Niav


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

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

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

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

She had to keep telling herself that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled a little ruefully, though. “Maybe one day... it won't be like this. Maybe one day I won't have to be here, in a place I don't want to be, and doing things that make me sick. But I suppose it's just wishful thinking." It certainly felt like it.

He sighed quietly. "You really don't get it, do you?" he murmured, more to himself than to her, it seemed.

Before he could elaborate, though, the waiter showed back up with their food, including for the two who still weren't yet present, and Kas rolled his eyes, removing his phone from his pocket and firing off a text. "Honestly, Mel. Traffic doesn't get that bad on the island."

As if on cue, Mel and Drake appeared a few moments later, settling into the booth on the other side. "Hey guys," she said, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth. "Sorry we're late."

Maybe she didn't get it, but she supposed she was grateful for Drake and Mel's appearance. She offered them a bright smile, and arched a brow at the two of them. “Yeah, sorry we're late. We were taking a Farfetch'd when it broke down, so we hoofed it the rest of the way," Drake added, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh, and thanks for ordering our stuff for us!" he added, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

“Hm, well you're lucky they just brought it out so it's still warm," Cyrilla stated as she glanced at her burger. “Hm, now let's see if these are as good as you've hyped them up to be, Drake," she added, grinning at him.

“Of course they're good! This place has the best burgers, ever. I'll have you know that yours truly is a certified burger master," Drake stated, looking rather smug about the declaration. Cyrilla rolled her eyes lightly.

Mel let out a soft snort. "'Certified Burger Master'?" she repeated, a broad grin blooming over her face. "There's no way that's a real thing, you dork." She nudged him in the side with her elbow, clearly enjoying herself; perhaps the walk over had broken any ice there might have been.

"I think it's a self-appointed position," Kas added dryly, taking a bite out of his food and reaching for the malt. He used the straw this time, though.

"Is there a cherry in that?" Mel asked, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.

Kas sighed, using a clean spoon to fish it out. "Fun fact, everyone: my sister is crazy about cherries. I don't know why, but she is."

"Strawberries too," she corrected, accepting the cherry and eating it right off the end of the stem. "Especially with chocolate. Mirmir likes citrus fruits and cream, though."

“I like pineapples, to be honest. There's something a little sweet and tart about them that makes them taste really good. Never been too big on strawberries, though. They're too sweet sometimes," Drake stated, rolling his own eyes and feigning a slight hurtful look when Mel had elbowed him. “What about you, Cyrilla? Since everyone's talking about favorite fruits and otherwise," he added, titling his head in her direction.

“Mangoes with tajin seasoning. It's really good because the seasoning itself is made with salt, chile powder, and dehydrated lime. You might actually like it on your pineapple; it pairs really nicely with it," she answered easily enough. Besides, tajin seasoning wasn't as spicy to her as it was for most people. It just added a sort of boldness to the fruit. Maybe it was because she just liked spicy things?

“Ugh, how do you all do spicy things! I've tried... really, I have, but I can't," Drake almost sounded like he was whining.

“Because we're not lightweights like you, of course."

“Fair."

"Honestly I think it has more to do with being raised on it," Mel noted with a little grin. "For example, Orange Islands cuisine is usually pretty spicy, so we're used to it. Kas is crazy, though—he can do things like just munch his way through a jar of picked gengar peppers like it's nothing. Not even I'm that insane."

He shrugged. "Dad kept them in the fridge, is all. I got hungry."

Cyrilla was certain her eyes were wide with awe as she blinked in Kas's direction. “Gengar peppers, seriously?" she stated, trying to comprehend the fact that he ate them at all. She enjoyed spicy things, but even she had her limits. Gengar peppers were too much for her. “Wow. I did not think anyone could eat those regularly," she added. Drake looked about as shocked as Cy felt, so at least she wasn't alone in that respect.

“Yeah, well if you two grew up on it, what's your excuse, Cy? You're not from the Islands, are you?" he asked, causing Cyrilla to snort softly.

“If I was, I'd have a beautifully tanned complexion like Mel and Kas, here, but no. I'm not from the Islands. I'm from Fuchsia, and my love of all things spicy came from just being subjected to eating all kinds of foods for various reasons," she replied, shrugging lightly. It wasn't a lie; she had to be comfortable eating all kinds of things in order to complete missions and such ilk.

"Same," Kas said, "except my family thought they were doing me a favor. Don't tell Crystal I said this, but when she was learning to cook, she was terrible, and I was the taste tester."

Mel laughed. "You'd never guess it now—she's literally a chef with actual stars, just like Sheena, and everything she touches becomes delicious, but he's not wrong."

"And that's the story of how I became a human trash compactor, willing and able to eat massive quantities of pretty much anything that can be eaten."

"Oh, remember that time she experimented with insect-based dishes for like a month?"

"Yes, Melly," he replied, widening his eyes and giving them a faraway look seemingly on purpose. "Yes I do. So. Many. Ants."

She tried. She really tried not to laugh, even going so far as to place a hand over her mouth, however; Cyrilla failed. She started laughing, and also snorted at the same time which caused her face to turn a light pink. “Well that explains a lot. I guess compared to their cooking, mine's probably more mediocre," she stated lightly, feeling the laugh settle down into something of a small smile.

"There it is," Kas murmured, low enough that only she could catch it. He gave her a sly wink, then continued at a better volume. "And don't put yourself down. Your food's delicious."

“Oh, Kas, I'm sorry, man. That sounds like it was disgusting, all those bugs," Drake looked like he'd seen a ghost, his complexion paling just a bit. Cyrilla arched a brow and leaned on her arm.

"At least he got a lot of protein," Mel joked. "Those muscles didn't come cheap."

Kas groaned. "Don't remind me. Dad's the worst. More importantly, Drake, I've always wanted to know: did the old man ever like... make you do riddles and stuff at home? Or did he actually just confine that shit to the Gym?"

“Oh. My. Arceus." Drake began, causing Cyrilla to tilt her head. She was a little curious as to what he had to say on that. From what she remembered, Blaine had implemented riddles and the like as a function of his gym challenges. No one was allowed to battle him until they could solve a few riddles. They weren't easy, from what she'd read. Drake turned his attention towards Mel, first, looking rather serious about what he was going to say.

“First off, I will never put you through that horror. You or any other gym challengers. Ever. Secondly, he made me memorize them when I was seven. SEVEN! Do you know what that does to a kid? And then he tried to make me agree to keep the stupid riddles as part of the gym challenge when I took over. He even wanted me to keep the gym on the volcano. That was a dangerous place to have it in the first place!" He was a little red in the face by the time he'd finished. Cyrilla chuckled softly as Drake took a long drink from his cup.

“Oh, and no, he didn't confine them to the gym. He still tries to make me implement riddles back into the gym."

Mel was laughing so hard she was at serious risk of losing some of her lemonade out her nose. She managed to save herself, but coughed into her elbow a few times, still unable to quite suppress her amusement. Sniffing, she wiped a few stray tears from her eyes. "Your face," she managed, voice pitched high and soft with the effort it took to speak.

Kas snickered. "Don't hold back; tell us how you really feel," he said with a grin.

Even Cyrilla found herself snickering softly.

“Guys... guys you don't understand. Those riddles. They gave me nightmares. Sometimes I'd wake up and gramps would be standing in my doorway, grinning like a madman and holding up a book of all of his old riddles. I swear he could smell the fear and just come running."

“Oh, poor Drake," Cyrilla stated as she tried to contain her own amusement. “Sounds like it wasn't easy living with Blaine."

“Seriously. You have no idea."

"Well at least you're not in a volcano anymore," Mel said, popping an onion ring into her mouth and chewing it over. "Mom says thanks for that, by the way."

“Mom?" Drake looked vaguely confused before his eyes widened slightly. “You mean your mom's Michelle Kane?" he asked a little incredulously. “Huh, I can sort of see the resemblance. And, well, I guess she's welcome? I know gramps had a lot of damages to the gym whenever he was the gym leader, not to mention the amount of trainers that were injured as well just trying to get up there. If there's anything else I can do to help her out, just let me know. I don't want gramps' problems following her everywhere now that I'm the gym owner or leader, or whatever you want to consider me."

Cyrilla arched an amused brow at his choice of words.

“Is that right?" she stated, feeling something sly cross her features. “What do you think, Mel? What do you want to consider him?"

Next to her, Kas snorted softly, but didn't interrupt, observing the byplay with some interest.

Mel, on the other hand, shrugged, failing to totally suppress a grin but managing a sort of coy nonchalance nevertheless. "Well I dunno, Cy. That's a good question, but I think it should be a mutual decision. So maybe I should be asking Drake what he'd like me to be to him. I did already ask him out tonight, after all. Ball's in his court." She arched an eyebrow, but didn't seem to be demanding an answer immediately or anything.

Cyrilla did her best not to outright grin at the expression on Drake's face. He looked absolutely mortified for some reason, but she had a guess.

“You asked me out!? Is that what this is? Is this supposed to be a date?! Oh... my arceus, if I'd known that I wouldn't have chosen the Magikarp!" he stated, burying his face in both of his hands. Cyrilla could see the tips of his ears were turning pink, though, and snickered softly.

“He's so adorable. Mel, I think you might have just embarrassed him into adorable mode," she stated, trying not to laugh at him. He blinked slowly, though, and glanced at Kas and Cyrilla.

“So... was this supposed to be a double date? Is that why the two of you are here!? Ugh, I would have chosen something a little different for all of us..." he trailed off, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes.

“It's not the place that matters, Drake. It's mostly the company, and besides, Kas and I are just here as spectators. Wouldn't really want to miss this," she stated, tilting her head slightly in the direction of Kas, and blinking about as innocently as she could. Drake pursed his lips together, though, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

"I wasn't trying to deceive you about what this was," Mel added, smiling a little more gently and patting Drake on the back. "But I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I was hoping you'd pick someplace fun and comfortable, and you did. It's not like I'm carrying a bunch of fancy stuff around in my trainer's bag anyway, so casual is exactly right."

"See? No harm done." Kas's eyes were narrowed with mirth, but it wasn't even remotely mocking at the moment. He was watching Mel, Cy noticed, and smiling at the way she was looking at Drake, whose head was in his hands. There was a tenderness to his expression that was rare; he shook his head a moment later and it was gone.

Cyrilla felt something tight in her chest, something that seemed to squeeze her heart, but she ignored it. Had to ignore it. Drake was still pouting, though, as he regarded Mel with an even stare.

“I would have at least suggested Jo's. They have more options as far as food goes. It's just burgers here," he muttered softly, taking a drink from his cup. Cyrilla rolled her eyes faintly, but was still smiling nonetheless.

“Well you did say this place had the best burgers. I don't think you could have chosen any better, really. And besides, you still haven't answered the lady's question. What would you like to consider her, and vice versa?" Cyrilla asked, watching as Drake's face turned a bit pink.

“Oh, uh, well... I, um..." he began, stuttering a bit. Cyrilla supposed it might have been something to do with Kas being present, but Drake rubbed absently at his neck before shrugging. “Well, I'd like to say that we're at least acquaintances," he stated, glancing in Mel's direction. It looked like that was all he was going to say, however; he smiled a bit.

“But if she's willing to be my friend, maybe we can go from there? Just because this is a date doesn't mean you just jump into something... I mean, you're a nice girl and all, Mel, but if we're not really compatible, why bother with anything further, right? If it turns out we make awesome friends, that's great! If... well, if it turns out we are compatible... maybe we just take it from there?"

Mel pretended to consider this, releasing an exaggerated hmm and stirring the ice in her cup with her straw. "I think I can get behind that," she agreed with a little nod. "But only if you do me two favors: firstly, let me have your number, and secondly, call me sometime. I've got all the free time in the world on the road, but you're busier than that so I'll let you decide when. Deal?"

“Deal. Oh, uh... just be prepared that when I do, I get nervous sometimes so it might take me a few tries..." Drake replied, grinning slightly as if to himself. Cyrilla rolled her eyes, but they were adorable. The both of them together like that... it almost made her think of something before she shook the thought from her mind. Drake reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet and retrieved a card from it. “It has my number and a line to the gym just in case you can't reach me on my phone."

“Aren't you two so adorable," Cyrilla couldn't help herself.

"Yep," Mel replied shamelessly, lightly plucking the card from Drake's fingers and programming both into her phone. "We're the cutest." Her fingers flew quickly across the screen and then she looked up with a grin. "Sent you a text, so now you have mine, too."

“Ah, thanks," Drake stated, his face turning a light shade of pink as he glanced at his phone. He seemed to program Mel's name into it before turning towards Cyrilla and Kas, coughing lightly into his hand. Cyrilla thought it really was adorable, and couldn't keep her laughter contained. It wasn't loud, thankfully, but she shook her head in their direction.

“Well, since that's all been figured out, how about we go to the Alcremie factory after this? I hear they make the best cheesecake, and it'll be on me!"

"Oh no," Kas deadpanned. "You've discovered the Rheinallt family weakness: free delicious food."

Mel laughed. "I think that's just a normal human weakness, honestly. But it sounds great." She beamed at Drake, and then the rest of them, so genuinely happy it was plain to see.

“Mel's right, it is just a normal human weakness. I'm not gonna say no to free food, especially free cheesecake," Drake stated, nodding his head as if to agree. Cyrilla faintly shook her head, but she was still smiling from all the laughter.

“Well as Kas and Mel both already know," she began, arching a brow at the both of them, “I like feeding people. It... makes me happy when I can, especially if it's something I made. Feeding people by buying them food makes me happy, too, so... I guess you're kinda stuck with me always buying or making you shit whenever you lot are hungry."

It did make her happy whenever she did small things like that. She wasn't entirely sure why, though.

"Man, I'm gonna miss this island when I leave," Mel said, taking her check from the waiter who'd just reappeared.

"All the more reason to come back and visit once in a while."

“You should come visit whenever you can. Drake here would love a visit, too," Cyrilla stated, accepting her own check as Drake took his. He sputtered a bit, but nodded his head in agreement. This... it was nice. Cyrilla couldn't help but feel she'd miss this, too.

She quietly cried herself to sleep that night.

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Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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#, as written by Aethyia


October 12th
Seedot Condominiums - Afternoon - Clear
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kas opened up the back of the loaner van, wondering if the shiny black with its characteristic red stripe was a bit... much for a quiet neighborhood like this. Almost certainly so, but he didn't have his own, so company vehicles it had to be. Removing the two plain silver briefcases from the back, he closed the van doors over with his foot, then made his way into the lobby.

In pretty much every way that The Cloyster was modern and shiny and chrome, these condos felt more blended with the natural island landscape. Stucco walls, clay roof tiles, an abundance of not-especially-well-tended local flora, and a distinct atmosphere of being lived in. He figured there were probably a lot more families and old folks in this block than his own, which seemed to mostly house singles, young couples, or people who needed a home in Cinnabar, but who lived most of their time elsewhere.

Of course, it would seem none of the friendly homeyness made it particularly safe as a haven from a stalking ex, so there was that. But then, that was the problem that he in particular was here to fix.

Unsurprisingly, security didn't do more than nod at him as he passed, suspicious van or otherwise. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that he'd gone full nerd-chic today, and looked about as threatening as the average pencil-pusher, which was to say not at all. But some of it was probably the fact that it was broad daylight and he looked like he knew exactly where he was going.

When he reached Drake's unit, he shifted his burden so that both briefcases were in one hand, then knocked with the other. "Hey Drake, it's Kas," he called out, figuring the extra assurance that he wasn't Kevin would be welcome enough.

It took a minute or so before the door opened, but it wasn't Drake who greeted him. It was Axe and Brick Jr. They both regarded Kas for a moment before stepping to the side, allowing Kas inside the apartment. Axe stuck his head out of the door, glanced both ways and closed the door behind them.

“Hey, Kas! In here," Drake's voice called out as he popped his head out of what might have been his bedroom. “Sorry, I would have answered the door, but... well, Axe and Jr. like doing that now," he chuckled nervously. He cleared his throat before he went back into his room, only to come out a second later with a towel in his hand.

“The, uh, faucet was leaking in the bathroom again. Had to fix that before it flooded the apartment," he stated as if to explain the towel in his hands. “Can I get you something to drink, or eat, or..." he trailed off.

Kas shook his head. "No need for that. But we should probably sit down and discuss what you're after in a security system. I can do a lot of stuff, but depending on what your goals are with it, what equipment I'll set you up with is going to change."

It wasn't like he wanted to make the guy talk about the exact nature of what stalking was going on. Even so, that information would be useful if he was comfortable sharing it. Kas set down his briefcases next to an armchair and took a seat, bringing his legs up to cross underneath him. "It's on the house, so we don't have to worry about cost considerations, but... lemme put it this way: I did the security setup for the main vault at Saffron HQ. There's an entire monitoring room just for the controls and shit. So the more we can narrow down your goals here the uh... less like that it'll have to be."

For a moment, it looked like Drake was going to protest the part of this being on the house. He shook his head, though, as he took a seat across from Kas, and pursed his lips together. “I guess what I'm looking for is something that will at least alert CIPD a little faster that someone is breaking into my house. I don't know how many times I've come here and found," he paused, reaching around the couch he was sitting on, and pulling a few letters from inside the cushions, “these. I've kept them to see if they'd be any use to CIPD in buidling a case against Kevin, but so far they haven't said anything."

“I think what I need is something that will also record him in the act in clear picture so I have evidence that it is him, and not some random fan." He visibly shuddered at the word. “I don't need anything too high-tech, but something that'll just... give me the proof I need."

Kas nodded. "Okay, so it sounds like you want a good alarm system with a direct line to the PD and the best cameras I've got. That's doable. Which rooms do you want to cover? Just this front one here, or..." He could understand if the answer was yes. Loads of people were not comfortable being filmed going about their business, and that made complete sense. But there were ways around it. "I can set the film to erase every twenty-four hours if the alarm's not tripped, if that's a concern."

“It's a pretty small apartment," Drake began, motioning around his apartment. “I mean, I hardly spend time here to begin with, so I wouldn't mind having a camera just about everywhere, really. Oh, but maybe not the bathroom? That... that would be a little too much, I think. I rotate my time between staying at the gym, and staying here, so a camera in just about every room would be sufficient."

“Oh, and that would be good. The film being erased every twenty-four hours, though I'd make it thiry-six hours just in case. Because even if he doesn't trip it, it might actually still catch him hanging out or something like that."

Kas snorted a little at the mention of the bathroom, but let the opportunity for a joke pass by. The rest made sense, of course. "Sounds fine to me. Anything additional you want? I can set up your phone to record anytime his number dials you, that kind of thing." It seemed like Drake was mostly interested in collecting evidence, which from a legal standpoint would probably help him a fair bit. And he could certainly help with that.

"I can also do a setup on the Gym if you want, though that'll probably take more gear than I have with me right now. Would have to order the parts in, and all that."

“Oh, you know what, that sounds like a good idea. If you could do that for my phone, I'd greatly appreciate it. As for the gym setup... that would be amazing if you could, but I'd like to pay you for that. Er... well if you do installment payments. Despite being a rather well-known gym leader, I don't make that much as one." Drake seemed rather pleased with the outcome of Kas's help, and nodded his head in a sagely manner for some reason.

“But if not, that's fine. I can get gramps to pay for it since he kind of owes me, anyway, the old bastard," he muttered the last part lowly. Axe made a soft snorting sound as if he'd found it funny.

Part of Kas wanted to insist. This kind of cause was... close to his heart was putting it lightly. But he could understand that some people weren't comfortable accepting things for free, so he nodded, already mentally calculating the costs of the equipment and cutting them in half for what he'd charge for the Gym. "Sure. I'll send you an invoice. No rush on the installments; whenever you can make one is fine. Or just buy my drinks for a couple years; either-or."

He grinned, pulling on of the briefcases up onto the coffee table and opening it. There were several small, concealable cameras inside, along with the wiring necessary to record the feeds. "Do you have a laptop or something? I can set it up so you can access the feed whenever you like, and save anything from the archived footage that seems important before it gets erased. There are also services you can hire to do that for you, but since you seem to be collecting your own evidence anyway I can tell you they're probably not worth it if you have the time yourself."

“Depending on how much it'll cost me, I just might be buying your drinks for several years. You don't look like the type who drinks a lot in one sitting, though given how much you, Ryk, and Aidan all drank that night... you might be right," Drake replied slightly amused. He reached under his couch, though, and pulled out a laptop that had a bit of dust on it. He smiled sheepishly at Kas as he handed it over.

“I've been meaning to get a new one, but I don't really use it much... so... this is what I have as far as laptops go."

"Ughh... this is ancient!" Kas made an exaggerated face of disapproval and took the laptop as though it were somehow infectious. "Arceus, does this even have enough processing power?" He recognized it on sight, of course, and it did, but it was good that Drake didn't appear to use it for anything else, because it wasn't going to be able to do much other than handle the surveillance software once he rigged it up properly.

"You're not making it easy on me, Bellamy," he joked. "Anyway, if I can borrow your phone for about half an hour I'll set that up first. The rest of this should take me the afternoon or so, but if you've got somewhere to be and you can trust me in your house, you don't have to stick around." He smiled a bit. "I won't blame you if you don't want someone wandering around in here without supervision, though."

“Yeah, well, the one at the gym is newer, at least," Drake stated, waving a nonchalant hand in front of his face. He pursed his lips together, though, before sinking into his chair. “I do have to go to the gym to take on some challengers. I'm getting a bad rep as being rather lazy and not really hosting any challenges. The people upstairs are getting kind of annoyed with me about that, and say that if I want to keep the gym, I have to at least have ten to twenty challenges done by the end of the month."

“But no worries; I trust you to do what you have to do. I mean, even if you do go snooping around, you won't find much except a bunch of old comics and maybe a soda can or two underneath the bed. Goopy likes playing with them and pushing them around underneath there. Drives me insane when I'm trying to sleep," he muttered, huffing lightly in Kas's direction.

"Ha—fair enough." Kas felt a twinge of sympathy; gym leading was a lot more work than the average person thought it was, and the league supervision was pretty much constant. If he didn't get his duckletts in a row, there could be a serious inquiry into that stuff. "I happen to know you'll be giving out at least one badge this month, so maybe that'll help you get them off your case." He grinned, already removing various camera components from his briefcase.

Drake barked out a short laugh. “Yeah, you might be right, though honestly, at the pace I've been going, it might be about three," he stated as he stood from his chair. He dusted off his shorts, for some reason, before arching a brow at Axe and Brick Jr. “Alright, guys, let's head out and leave Kas to do his spy stuff. Oh, and if you do happen to get thirsty or whatever," he paused, turing his attention towards Kas, “there's a couple of sodas in the fridge and maybe a beer or two. I forget they're in there so they might not be as good as the soda."

Kas considered this for a moment, then nodded. "At least it takes a while for booze to go bad."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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October 16th
Marna's - Afternoon - Windy
Eryk Nero


Eryk threw back the drink in his hand a lot quicker than he wanted. It burned on the way down; vodka always had a tendency to do that, but he didn't mind right now. He'd received word about an hour ago that Katia would be arriving on Cinnabar Island within the next hour or so, and he wanted to be as drunk as he possibly could. It probably wasn't the best plan to go with, but he really didn't want to deal with her right now. Anastasia still had a light cold, though she looked like she was recovering nicely. Pushing the thought away, he sighed heavily and glanced at the other two.

He'd invited them along mostly because he didn't want to be alone when Katia showed up. Aidan had previous experience in dealing with her, but Kas was new to the whole thing. He felt a little bad for bringing Kas into it, but he'd wanted to be, apparently. Pushing a sigh through his nose, he shook his head faintly.

“Are you ready?" he asked, though he wasn't sure why. He sort of already knew the answer to it.

"No," Aidan replied in a grumble. He was drinking much more slowly than Eryk, but had also already made his way through two cigarettes and was starting in on a third. "No one's ever ready to deal with Katia. And if you think you are, that just means you're even more not than those of us who know better."

"Yikes," Kas replied, sipping from his beer. He was pretty relaxed, to all appearances, but then he was the one who had no idea what they were in for. "Also, not to like... make it worse or anything, but do we have a plan for what to do if she wants to like... visit the shelter or something? I can't imagine letting her talk to Ana is anyone's idea of a good time."

“First off," Eryk began, narrowing his eyes a bit in Kas's direction, “she has no business at Ana's shelter. This is our mission; she's not allowed to interfere with it unless she gets permission from Gregorovich." Eryk doubted Gregorovich would consent because this was time-sensitive, and Katia was not exactly the type of person you sent in for missions that required something of a delicate approach.

“Secondly, you're not wrong," he added, turning in Aidan's direction. “No one is ever ready to deal with her shit. She'll be here in the next hour or so; I suggest we figure out the best course of action to take so that she doesn't fuck anything up." All of his hard work would be for naught if she somehow let something slip. And if it messed with either him or Cyrilla, Eryk knew she would do it on purpose.

"Rheinallt has a fair point, though," Aidan murmured around the cigarette. "She could easily just introduce herself as your relative. And if you told Ana she was visiting, it might be stranger for her not to stop by the place you're living. Or at least I could see her using that as an excuse. If we want to head her off before she gets the chance to do anything like that..." he hummed.

"Why not, uh... volunteer the info?" Kas shrugged when Aidan looked at him curiously. "You, as her former teammate, do her a 'solid' and brief her on Ryk's current missions and stuff. Make it clear that he's doing important shit for Gregorovich that she can't mess with in the process. She gets the impression you're at least kinda willing to play ball with her plans, she learns not to go for that angle, awkward collision avoided."

Eryk arched a brow at the suggestion. It might help in that sense if Katia knew what he was doing. It would give her a reason to back off for now, and wouldn't necessarily jeopardize whatever they had going on. If Aidan fed Katia the information, it would get her off of his and Ana's back. That was the most important thing, right now. He blinked a bit when he realized which direction his thoughts had taken. Ana and this mission were the most important things right now. It was the mission that was important.

“You said you would take one for the team, might as well make it this. And..." Eryk paused as he narrowed his eyes somewhat, “she might just tell you things that will help us in the long run, too. She's more willing to listen to you than to anyone else who isn't Gregorovich or part of the family." Katia never shut up about things like that, and part of Ryk wondered if Katia had something for the man. He huffed lightly at the thought.

“Just be careful or she'll decide you're her next target."

"Not funny, Nero," Aidan replied, though the irregularity in the smoke cloud he exhaled somehow suggested inaudible laughter. "But sure. I'll make sure she knows, I guess." He picked up his low tumbler of whiskey and took a sip, setting it back down on the table with a soft thud.

"She coming in by boat, or taking a charter plane in?" he asked suddenly, but a moment later, the reason became clear. A small aircraft droned in the distance, audible even over the wind. They weren't especially common on the island—boat transport was the standard, though there was a small local airport on the backisland where planes could be chartered in and out.

Eryk groaned lightly, and downed his sixth or eighth shot of vodka. He couldn't really remember what number he was on. “She's coming by plane; something about it taking too long on a boat," he answered. “She's a little early if that's her plane, but it wouldn't be the first time she's lied about the time she'd be somewhere."

Really, Eryk should have known better. Katia was always early to the places she'd say she was going to. If she said an hour, it'd likely be anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes. She just liked to make people panic for no reason other than because she could. Taking a deep breath, and downing his last drink, he glanced towards the other two.

“Who's coming and who's hiding out?"

"I should probably show, I guess. I'm nominally in charge of the office and all."

"Why don't you guys do that, and I'll take care of the bill? Curious as I am, it'd probably be weird if I was there right off the bat, especially if we don't want to let on that you actually have normal shit like friends." Kas grimaced, reaching out and patting twice on the back. "Good luck out there."

Eryk actually forgot about that. He had friends and, as Kas put it, normal shit. He huffed lightly, though, and shook his head. “Thanks, and you'll meet her soon enough, I'm sure," Eryk replied as he stood from his spot. He bid Marna and Kas farewell before he left with Aidan. The walk to the docks was slow, but deliberately so. He wasn't in a rush to see her, nor hear her. The air strip wasn't too far from the docks, and when they arrived, he could already see the top of her annoying purple hair. Her expression was dark, and she seemed to be glaring at everyone who passed her by, however; when their eyes met, her expression changed into something more that looked like disgust.

That was fine by Eryk; she disgusted him, too.

He briefly glanced in Aidan's direction before turning his attention back towards Katia. He didn't say anything to her. He had nothing to say, after all.

“Klein, what are you doing here?" she asked, slightly confused. “It's supposed to be just him; Gregorovich hasn't given us anything specific," she added, tossing her head in Eryk's direction. It jostled her ponytail, but other than that, she looked like she always did. Dressed in a white tank top with a purple one over it, she placed a hand on her hip as she shifted the bag at her back. She handed it towards Eryk, though, and he gave her a flat stare.

“I'm not your fucking bell boy. Don't hand me your shit," he said as he narrowed his eyes. She narrowed her own at him.

Aidan shrugged, acting entirely like his usual self. "I'm technically in charge of the field office. Apparently that means doing shit like this; it's happened before." He didn't give any particular indication how he felt about it. He did, however, extend a hand as if to offer to carry the same suitcase Eryk had refused.

"You got a place you're set up or what?"

“I did," she replied dryly, glancing in Aidan's direction with narrowed eyes. It took her a moment longer before she handed the bag to Aidan, and huffed lightly. “But the place I was set up at decided they didn't have any open rooms so I'll be staying wherever Nero is staying," she stated in a nonchalant fashion. There was something in her eyes, a dangerous glint that was covered by a smile, however; Eryk knew it for what it wasn't.

“No. You're not staying with me. Go see if the Delaney has any open rooms for you to rent from," he shot back, earning an arched brow from her.

“Oh? Is there a reason you don't want me staying, Ryk? Niav not being a good girl and putting out like she's supposed to?" she asked. Eryk bit his tongue. He wanted to tell her to fuck off, but that wouldn't work for her. She'd merely roll with it and turn it into something else.

“I'm on a mission for Gregorovich. You'll be informed about it, later, not in a public place like this," he merely stated. It seemed to satisfy her for the moment, however; she made a soft tsking sound.

“What about you, Aidan? You've any room to spare?" she sounded almost hopeful that he would. Eryk inwardly winced. She was going to be a pain for the next few weeks, wasn't she?

Aidan sighed, flicking ash from the end of his cigarette. "Yeah, fine. You can stay at mine. I wasn't planning on this though, so you'll have to give me a few hours to change out the sheets and whatever." He shot a brief glance at Eryk. There was little change in his expression, but nevertheless it was pretty obvious why he was agreeing to this—it would stop Katia from insisting on anything less convenient, including staying with Cyrilla and Kas or anything like that.

"We gonna get moving? There's a car waiting in the lot. We can talk shop there."

I owe you one, Eryk spoke directly to Aidan with the use of his telepathy. He didn't want Katia to hear him, after all, and he would owe Aidan. It was still strange to Eryk, connecting to someone's mind like that, even if for a brief moment. He'd have to practice it at a later time with someone just so it wouldn't feel like he'd run straight into a wall, head first. It was different with pokemon, though.

Katia, however, beamed happily at Aidan when he'd agreed to let her stay. “See, why can't you be more accommodating like Klein?" she asked, furrowing her brows at Eryk as they made their way towards the car.

“Because I'm not Klein."

Clearly," she responded, rolling her eyes. When they approached the car, they shuffled in with Katia in the middle. “So... let's talk shop. What's Gregorovich having them do?" she asked once she made herself comfortable.

Stubbing his cigarette out on the ashtray in the car, Aidan expelled the last of the smoke out the window and leaned back, crossing his arms. "Infiltration, of sorts," he said. "Two at once. The long term one's for Project Nebula, so I don't have to tell you how much boss has riding on it. That's the one he's changed locations for—he's living with a mark. The other's a foray into pro-battling. Dunno what details you're cleared for, so I'll have to stop explaining there, but... you get the idea, I'm sure."

Katia looked like she wanted to sneer at what Aidan had said, but she seemed to settle on pursed lips. “Fine. I get the idea," she replied as she rolled her eyes. “Just so you know, I'll be checking in with Niav, too. There have been some unsettling things being said and her parents want me to check in with her while I'm here," she stated, grinning slightly.

“This is a mission that all three of us are doing. Don't do anything stupid, Katia, or it's not Gregorovich you'll be worried about," he let the threat hang in the air as she furrowed her brows at him.

“I'm not a complete monster, Ryk. I'm merely going to get her side of the story, is all. Jeez, I swear you jump to conclusions too quickly."

“How long are you going to be here?" he asked, watching as she smiled slyly at him.

“Why? Miss me already?"

“No. I want to celebrate when you go." Katia made a face at him but rolled her eyes.

“The first week of November, asshole."

Aidan looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, but only for a moment before his features smoothed out again. His chest rose and fell with a deep sigh, but it was entirely silent. He fixed his eyes out the window and pretended to ignore the insults being traded back and forth, at least until they reached the Cloyster.

"All right, this is our stop. You headed back to hers, Nero, or getting out?"

Eryk really didn't want to leave Aidan alone with Katia, however; he had promised Anastasia that he would help her with some of the duties before the day was out. Sighing deeply, he shook his head.

“I'm headed back. There are a few things I need to take care of," he answered, pursing his lips in Aidan's direction. Katia didn't seem too inclined to say anything about his response, thankfully. She merely rolled her eyes and leaned a little towards Aidan's direction.

“Guess that means you'll be showing me around the apartment," she said simply, though Eryk felt a little sick to his stomach at the way she said it. There were certain implications there that he was almost certain she meant. He really did owe Aidan. Badly for this.

But Aidan's expression didn't change. He only nodded, as disaffected and detached as he'd ever been, and pulled Katia's bag from the trunk. "Sure. We're this way."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


October 23rd
Cinnabar Island Gym - Afternoon - Light Rain
Melody Rheinallt


It was hardly the most spectacular day for a gym challenge, really, what with the overcast sky and intermittent drizzle. But that was all right—it was still the day she'd picked, the day she felt ready, and that was enough.

Brushing down her loose tank, Mel waited patiently outside of the gym. Apparently Drake was making up for some time off lately, so there'd actually been a small queue out the door this afternoon. She didn't really mind. She had an umbrella for when it started to rain, and the company of her little audience to make the wait go by faster. Eryk and Ana had shelter work to do today, unsurprisingly, but she'd been invited to Ana's house for dinner afterwards. For celebration, she'd said, though Mel didn't want to count her torchics before they hatched.

Kas was there, though, and Aidan had come along too, claiming he had nothing to do in the office right now anyway. Mel sort of suspected that he was using her as an excuse to get away from that woman named Katia that everyone had been talking about, but that was fine by her. She sounded like a really unpleasant sort of person.

Cyrilla was there as well, for the same reason as Aidan, perhaps, and Nev had tagged along, too. The latter of them said it was so that she could cheer on Mel, and the both of them were huddled under a feebas umbrella that Cyrilla had brought with her. Nev had, apparently, forgotten her own, but the both of them seemed to fit comfortably underneath.

“Are you excited for your match, Mel?" Nev asked curiously, glancing in her direction. “It looks like everyone who has challenged him so far has lost," she stated as a challenger exited the door, a seemingly disappointed look on their face. There were ten minute intervals between each match, perhaps so that Drake could rest his team before the next battle.

Mel grinned. "Sure am. I was kind of hoping to be first challenger this morning so I'd know his pokémon were completely fresh, but someone insisted he needed his beauty sleep." She jabbed her elbow into Kas's ribcage; he pretended it hurt, doubling over a little with a grimace on his face.

Aidan lifted an eyebrow. Unlike the others, he'd just worn a coat that seemed to be water-resistant. His hair was a little damp, though, and wasn't styled up the way it usually was, falling more naturally around his face and neck instead. Mel wasn't really into older guys, but she could acknowledge that he looked handsome like that regardless.

"I'd hate to see what he looks like without if this is with," he said sardonically.

"Hey," Mirmir protested, offering himself up to be butt of the joke as he often did. "I have it on good authority that I'm a very nice-looking fellow."

Well aware of the opportunity she was being presented here, Mel took him up on it. "Yeah. If by 'good authority' you mean your mother tells you so."

Aidan laughed softly. "Ah, so this is what it means when people say 'a face only a mother could love.'"

Cyrilla chuckled at their banter while Nev pursed her lips together. “That's not nice; Kas is a very nice-looking person," she stated, causing Cyrilla to roll her eyes a bit.

“They're poking fun of him, Nev. Of course Kas is a very nice-looking fellow," Cyrilla seemed to explain, making air quotes with her free hand. Nev made a silent 'oh', and huffed nervously. “Besides, it's not like Kas really needs his beauty sleep; can't say the same for poor Drake, there," she added, nodding her head in the direction of the door as Drake called the next challenger. He yawned slightly, mouth covered with his left hand as he glanced in their direction.

With a large smile on his face, he waved at them before turning back inside the gym with the next person. “If he's half as sleepy as he looks, and is still winning, you might be in for a good match, Mel," Nev stated, seemingly excited for it.

Mel grinned. That challenger going inside meant she was the next, and she could feel the excitement building. "Oh I knew that to begin with," she said with a little smile. "Both the upside and the downside of being personally acquainted with the guy, I guess."

"Hmm," Kas added, drawing out the humming sound as though newly-contemplative. "Personally acquainted, is it? Didn't know that's what the kids were calling it these days."

Mel didn't bother resisting the urge to roll her eyes. Like he didn't know what was going on. "That's what it's called when you've only just met and are trying to see what'll happen, yeah," she drawled. "You've at least heard of taking it slow, right Mirmir?"

He scratched his head, putting in an exaggerated expression of deep thought. "It might be ringing a bell, sure."

Cyrilla huffed lightly at the exchange, shaking her head a bit as Nev looked slightly confused. She merely shrugged it off, though, and smiled in Mel's direction. “Well I think it's pretty admirable that you're both taking it slow," she stated.

“Hm, I have to agree with her on this one. Most people just jump straight into something and end up falling out after a couple of weeks. If it doesn't work out between you and Drake, at least you'll have made a friend, if nothing else," Cyrilla stated with a small smile on her face. “But I think you and Drake might have what it takes. You're both very comfortable, already, and that's a good sign, I think," she added shrugging her shoulders.

“Just make sure you kick his ass, first," she grinned, then, referring to Mel's upcoming match. Nev chuckled lightly and shook her head.

“She's already going to kick his ass, Cyrilla," Nev said as she grinned. “Oh, you should see if he wants to come over for your celebratory dinner, Mel! If he's finished with challenges, that is."

Mel had to laugh a little. "There's something a little ironic about inviting him to a celebration of victory against him, but I'll see if I can swing it." She knew she was definitely audacious enough to do something like that, and didn't think it would offend him. Even if she won, it wouldn't be like she was defeating him full-stop or anything—it was a Gym Leader's job to provide a very specific level of challenge, not to go all-out with their best pokémon or whatever. So it shouldn't be an insult or anything she didn't think.

Besides, teasing aside, she really did like him, as a person. He was goofy in a disarming way, and warm and sweet. In other words, pretty much the antithesis of every bad dating experience she'd ever had, and some of them were—

Well, better not to think about that now. She'd gotten used to the thoughts intruding sometimes. It was what they did. But the comfort of this moment was a strong defense against them, and she let herself relax into it a little. Whether it turned into anything more or not, she'd made a friend that could do that for her even when he wasn't around, and that was itself something rare and worth cherishing.

“Well... you don't have to tell him it's a celebratory dinner if that's the case. You can just say it's a dinner with friends," Nev stated, still grinning. Cyrilla shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“It's a celebratory dinner, Nev. No way around that one... and besides, it's not like he'll say no if Mel asks nicely. Oh, look, there's your chance, Mel," Cyrilla stated as she nodded her head in the direction of the door where Drake appeared. He grinned in their direction and motioned them towards the gym doors.

“Hey guys!" he greeted, smiling brightly at all of them. “I'm a little jealous. I don't have a cheering squad for me," he stated, his lips forming into a mock pout.

“Yeah, well, you're not as cute as Mel, so... you'll just have to suck it up," Cyrilla stated as she grinned at him, earning a light chuckle from Drake.

“I guess you're right on that one," he said lightly before leading them inside the gym.

"You hear that guys? He thinks I'm cute." Mel grinned, something that turned into a chuckle when Aidan rolled his eyes in an exaggerated fashion. She happily followed Drake inside, the others trailing after. She waited until they'd broken away to head for the spectator seats before she broached the topic further, though.

"Hey, Drake? Before we get started—are you free around dinner time? Everyone's getting together at Ana and Ryk's place for dinner. I thought maybe you'd want to come?"

Intellectually, she knew the nervous flutter in her stomach was needless; it wasn't as though she were actually asking him out. Hell, she'd done that, kind of, already, though apparently he'd not noticed that was her intention. But still she found herself unsure of his answer, and hoping it would be the affirmative one, so emotionally there wasn't much of a difference.

“Hm," he seemed to be contemplating her offer, pursing his lips together and regarded her with a serious gaze. A goofy grin spread over his face, though, as he nodded his head. “Of course I'd like to go! After you, there's at least three more challengers so by the time I'm done with them, it'll be dinner time, right?" he stated, tilting his head to the side a bit.

“I'll be there, for sure," he added as he smiled at her. He cleared his throat, though, and took a step back. “Alright, just to reiterate old rules and what not," be began in a nonchalant fashion, making his way towards the center of the gym. “We're using only five pokemon in total. Your objective is to defeat me in anyway you can, and you are allowed to switch out during the match, however," he paused to clear his throat, “you are only allowed to use the same five. In other words, if you send out a new pokemon that wasn't part of the original five, then you'll be disqualified, alright?"

“Any questions or concerns before we begin?"

She grinned, then shook her head. "None whatsoever. Come at me, leaderman." Mel reached for her belt, pinching off the first of her five chosen battle partners for the day, but held off, curious to see who Drake would send out first and willing to change her strategy if the choice was different than she expected.

Drake chuckled lightly at the name before he tossed his first pokemon out. “Alright, Axe, time to play again," he stated as his fraxure appeared. He growled lightly before tilting his head in Mel's direction. Axe let out a bellowing roar as he seemed to prepare himself for the battle.

Mel decided that her instinct was as good as any, and gave the pokéball a toss. Shaolin, her meinshao, emerged, looking ready as ever for a spar and dropping into a fighting stance immediately.

As soon as he match was signalled to begin, Mel called for Shaolin to use calm mind, then force palm immediately after. The pokémon bounded towards Axe, whipping forward the lashes of fur at the end of one arm to strike.

“Use Crunch!" Drake commanded. Axe roared before charging Shaolin, the area around his mouth glowing in the process.

The two moves collided; Axe's jaws clamped down around Shaolin's fur, but the move wasn't effective, and she just used it to yank him in to hit with her other arm regardless. They broke apart, then charged back in. Both pokémon were high-attack close-quarters battlers, but Shaolin had an edge, and in the end, she pulled out the victory.

Mel withdrew her as soon as the battle was over, sending Una out instead. She had a tough fight against Brick Jr., but the Gabite emerged the victor, only to be felled by Gemma's powerful Ice Beam. It was a battle of water types after that; an odd thing in a dragon-type gym, but gyarados was close enough, she supposed. Gemma scraped by with a psybeam, but was in no shape to continue, so Mel withdrew her as well.

Ptrouble defeated Deino, but ran into a bigger issue against Drake's salamence, very clearly his anchor pokémon. Fortunately, Mel had an ace in the hole for this particular gym, and withdrew her aerodactyl in favor of sending out Argent. Grinning, she folded her arms across her chest. "Attract."

“Aw, c'mon!" Drake stated as he threw an arm out in a vague gesture. “I forgot that move existed," he muttered before shaking his head. “Typhoon, use Dragon Tail," he said as the Salamence merely regarded Argent. He didn't move, and instead, seemed to lay down, and stretched out his neck. He made a soft grumbling noise in Argent's direction, causing Drake to shake his head.

“You're a big baby, you know that?" he stated in the Salamence's direction. Sighing deeply, he shook his head and made his way out towards the floor, resting a hand on Typhoon's wing. “You lost, ya big dope," he spoke gently, but seemed amused more than anything. “Guess that means you're my first challenger today to win the Volcano Badge," he stated, fishing around in his breast pocket and pulling a tin can from it. He popped it open and pulled what looked to be the said badge from it, and motioned for Mel to meet him halfway to the center.

“Congrats, Mel. A battle well won... or something like that." He chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck.

Mel laughed softly as she hopped down, more than happy to meet him in the middle and accept her badge. Argent, always both good sport and incorrigible tease, nuzzled her little nose against the very end of Typhoon's in an almost conciliatory gesture. Typhoon seemed mostly pleased by this, and released a short huff of air.

"'Something like that'?" Mel replied, perhaps not so dissimilar from her pokémon in this respect. "It's a perfectly legitimate move, I'll have you know." She winked as she retrieved her badge case, not so different from the one he had—her aluminum shell was decorated with a tropical flower pattern in teal and green. She set the Volcano Badge in the seventh spot; there was only one missing from the set now.

Drake snorted softly before he chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, I know it is. Just didn't think it'd ever be used in a gym battle, is all," he stated, rolling his eyes seemingly at himself. “Ah, but still, that was a good battle. Best one I've had all day, really," he continued, before rubbing at Typhoon's wing. The Salamence shook it, though, as if to shake Drake's hand off, before nudging closer to Argent.

“I don't think it's going to wear off anytime soon, either." Drake shook his head and glanced towards the others on the spectator seats who seemed to be laughing at him. Nev and Cyrilla were, at least. Mirmir was grinning, and Aidan shook his head a little.

“So... what time should I be there for dinner? Seven, eight?"

"Seven thirty if you can swing it. You've got my number if you can't." She dropped the little reminder with half a grin before recalling Argent. "Anyway, we should get going; you'll need to rest before the next challenge and all. Good luck, leaderman."

Typhoon seemed almost saddened by the sylveon's disappearance, but Drake recalled him before he could make a spectacle of himself. “Alright, seven thirty. I'll be there, you can count on it," he replied with a large grin of his own.

“Yeah, well, you better since you're making a promise, Drake," Cyrilla stated as she stood a little to Mel's left, arm linked with Nev's. “You don't want me coming after you, if you break it," she added, the grin on her face belying the fact that she was being serious, it seemed.

“I'll be there, I promise," Drake stated, lips pursed into a fine line, but he didn't seem upset or anything.

“Good. Come on, Mel, let's go tell the other two about your victory! And see if they need any help with dinner," Nev stated, offering her free arm towards her.

She took it, shooting Drake a parting smile over her shoulder and waving with her other hand as the group exited the gym.

All in all, she'd had a pretty fantastic day.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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October 30th
Cinnabar Mansion - Evening - Drizzle
Nevena Solomon


Nev was excited.

They'd spent a majority of the afternoon decorating the mansion for tonight's festivities. It was her birthday tomorrow, but it was also the day that the others would be doing something else. Not to mention it was also Halloween, tomorrow. After Mel's victory, they'd all agreed to celebrate Nev's birthday the day before. It was endearing to Nevena because she'd never had anyone to spend her birthdays with. She always spent them alone, at home, with her pokemon, or occasionally at the movie theatre if something interesting was out.

This one, though... she was going to cherish it.

Nevena was currently in the mansion's locker room with Ana, Mel, and Cy. Cyrilla had found a costume for Nev to wear for the party tonight, but she felt a little exposed. The black dress was cut into a very deep v-neck, and fell just slightly below her shoulder blades. The dress itself was a little smooth and formfitting, with the bottom portion of the dress cut into a sheer black material. It barely fell past her knees. She'd never worn something this revealing before, and she felt slightly uncomfortable in it.

But as Cyrilla had said, she'd only be wearing it once, and it was nice. The sheer gloves that accompanied it felt like silk, and went to her elbows. The black ribbon stilettos she'd worn to complete the outfit were still a little strange to her. She was used to wearing heels, but the heels were just a little bit different than what she was used to.

“Oh, how does it look?" she asked the others once she'd stepped out. She fiddled with the belt around her waist as she glanced towards the other three women.

"Get it girl," Mel said, feigning an exaggerated once-over with a little grin. "That's sexy as hell." She said it with just enough lightness in her voice that it was clearly meant to be a genuine compliment, rather than to make Nev feel awkward or anything. Mel herself was dressed in an ancient style, with gold colored costume jewelry, exaggerated eyeliner, and enough bandage on the visible parts of her body to make the mummy part obvious. She was actually quite strategic about it—the bandage was shredded and dangled from around her wrists, elbows, and neck, while the diaphanous gown was neither revealing nor excessively modest.

"You look really nice," Ana agreed, tying her obi. She'd used temporary dye to darken her pink hair to black, painting her lips a blueish grey shade that made her look frostbitten, which along with the white kimono and obi, gave her away for a yuki-onna. With the natural delicacy of her features and small size of her frame, there really was something ghostly about her.

“Oh, but the two of you look really gorgeous!" Nev couldn't help herself, and felt her cheeks heat slightly. Mel and Ana looked really good in their outfits of choice, and she couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. She blinked, though, when Cyrilla rounded the corner, and whistled in Nev's direction.

“And here I thought the dress was a little too small. It fits you really well, Nev. You look drop-dead gorgeous," Cyrilla stated as she grinned in Nev's direction. She'd dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein, it looked like. The dress itself was sleeveless and more modest than most things Cyrilla had worn, before. She had cloth that looked like ribbons, tied to her wrist and traveled up her bicep. There was a thin white belt that was tied around her waist, and like Ana, seemed to have temporarily dyed parts of her hair black. It seemed more like highlights since it was pulled back into a loose tail.

Her lips were painted black with a small amount of black eyeliner, nothing too exaggerated like Mel's.

“Thank you, Cyrilla. You all look really lovely. It's almost hard to believe you're actual people," she stated, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

“Hm, well, yes, now let's go see how the boys did," she stated as she winked in Nev's direction before sharing a grin with Mel.

Mel waggled her eyebrows in a way rather like her brother, and the group of them exited the locker room.

The ground floor of the mansion, with its enormous ballroom, had been transformed into the main party space, with long tables of food and several hired caterers set up at a bar to serve drinks of all kinds. A lot of the office's employees and their guests were present, man dressed in costume according to the theme, which was 'classic horror.' Sydney, dressed as a possessed nun, was in the middle of conversation with Luke, whose dark skin and black clothes were painted white with a rather accurate skeletal depiction, and Niko, who was dressed as... a nurse?

There were a lot of sheet ghosts, and a few people not really dressed up, but for the most part everyone was participating.

"Hey guys!" Kas was the first to approach them, speaking a little more loudly than usual over the music. He already had a plate of snacks, and was dressed as Frankenstein's monster, with some rather good stitching effects on his face, neck, and arms, as well as tattered pants, a shirt with the sleeves rolled, and suspenders. "Looks like you went all-out, huh?"

“Only the best for Nevena," Cyrilla responded as Nev smiled.

“You look really nice, Kas," Nev stated as she glanced around the area. She could see Lorraine talking with Hayley, the former dressed in a practical labcoat, however; it looked more like a tattered labcoat dress. Was she supposed to be a mad scientist? Hayley, however, looked to be dressed in what appeared to be a pink fairy costume, or maybe something similar to what a sylveon outfit would look like.

"Nice is a weird word for this," Kas replied with some amusement. It was indeed a rather monstrous look, all things considered, as though his body were pieced together with large, crude stitches.

“Hey, it's the birthday girl and her entourage," another voice chimed in, belonging to Drake. He made his way towards them, holding out a drink in Mel's direction. It looked benign, fruit punch, maybe. He was dressed in a red flannel that was torn near the elbows and wrist areas. There looked to be fur sprouting out of the torn areas, especially near the torn parts of his blue jeans. He even had some fur taped to his jaws, and his nose was painted black.

There was a tail sticking out behind him, almost in the shape of what a midnight lycanroc's tail looked like. Maybe he was supposed to be the lycanroc-man?

"Ohhh, thank you," Mel said, accepting the drink and easily making room for him in the circle. She laughed softly at the extra 'fur' on his jaw. "Should I scratch you under the chin for being a good boy?" she drawled, struggling to maintain a straight face.

Kas snorted. "Get a room."

“Hm, you'd like that wouldn't you," Cyrilla stated, rolling her eyes a bit. Drake seemed to almost sputter in his drink, though, his face coloring slightly.

“Uh, no, you don't have to do that, Mel," he responded with a light shake of his head. Nev thought it was adorable, though, the way he seemed nervous about it. “Oh, I also didn't know what to get you for your birthday, Nev, but I've left it on the table over there," Drake stated as he pointed to a small table. Nev blinked in relative surprise.

“Oh, that's very sweet of you, but you didn't have to get me anything," she replied as she glanced at the table. There were at least three other gifts there, probably from some of the others. It wasn't required, though. Nev didn't invite people with the intention of receiving gifts from them. She wanted them to have a good time; that was all she wanted for them.

“Well, too late. We all kind of got you something... I think. Ryk and I got you something so ours is a combined gift," Cyrilla stated with a grin, before shaking her head. “Speaking of the doofus, is he still having trouble putting his outfit together?" she asked in Kas's direction. “Last I heard he was with you and Aidan."

"Yeah they're both still in the locker room. I did Ryk's special effects, but he and boss have kind of complicated costumes." He shrugged, glancing at the table as Ana added her gift to the bunch. There was already one there that seemed to be from both himself and Mel. "Shouldn't take them too much longer, though."

Cyrilla huffed lightly and shook her head. “I didn't think it'd be that complicated. He's mostly got the right structure already for it," she stated, shrugging her shoulders. “I'm going to go see if Noct and the others have everything set up for tonight's haunted house events, so don't party too much without me," she stated, waving her hand in front of her in a nonchalant fashion.

“Oh, do you want me to come with?" Nev asked as Cyrilla shook her head.

“You stay here and wait for the others. It won't take me too long, I promise," she replied as Nevena pursed her lips together.

“Alright, if you say so." It wasn't much longer when Eryk appeared, and Nev could see why Kas had said what he did about the costume being complicated. The areas where his facial scars usually were, were covered by what looked like open sores and wounds. He was wearing yellow contacts, too, to give the much added affect for a zombie-like appearance. The black shirt he'd worn, long-sleeved, was torn in random places, and the black pants he had on were torn as well. There were red bandages around his arm as well, and what looked like a bite mark on his neck.

“Oh, that looks amazing, Eryk." Nev stated, eyes wide in awe. Everyone so far had really good costumes. Eryk blinked slowly in her direction, though, and tilted his head.

“As do the rest of you," he spoke, his eyes lingering a bit in Ana's direction.

"Okay so we've got a bunch of undead, a witch, a couple of mad creations, a wolfman... now I want to know what Aidan is," Mel said, casting her eyes around as if to spot him.

"Already regretting this," answered the man himself, appearing behind Nev. He was smoking, but from a pipe this time, which went with the long, heavy trenchcoat, vest, and wide-brimmed hat of his costume. There was a prop crossbow slung over his back, even—or was that real? It was hard to tell.

"Van Helsing!" Ana declared, seemingly impressed.

Aidan nodded slightly, doffing the hat in a wry manner. "For all your vampire-slaying needs." He tilted his jaw, subtly gesturing across the room.

For a second, Nev didn't follow his gesture. She stared at him, instead, and blinked slowly. “Oh, wow," she stated before she could filter her thoughts properly. “You look really good in that, Aidan," she continued, earning a light snicker from Drake. She blinked a few more times before her eyes widened. “Oh, I didn't mean to say that out loud!" she coughed lightly and finally glanced in the direction he'd gestured.

She could see the young woman named Katia in the distance. Indeed, she seemed to be dressed as one of the old brides of Dracula. The dress was as deeply v-cut as Nev's was, however; it was longer and trailed down the floor. The color was almost a gradient white to pink, and the underbust she wore with it emphasized certain parts of her body. She really could have passed for a bride of Dracula if they'd actually existed.

Eryk, however, seemed to be furrowing his brows in Katia's direction, and seemed rather tense. From what she'd been able to tell, he didn't particularly get along with Katia. Nev couldn't blame him, really. The woman even gave Nev bad vibes... and Nev usually liked every person she met. There were nights when even Aidan stayed at Nevena's place on the couch since Katia took up his living space. She didn't mind it, honestly. She was glad to help him out when he needed a place to escape.

“There just seems to be one vampire you can't slay, Van Helsing," Eryk stated in what appeared to be dry humor. Drake huffed lightly, though.

"Don't count me out yet," he murmured. He seemed to be only half-invested in the conversation, though, and his eyes dropped to the floor near Nev for a moment before he seemingly inhaled wrong and coughed, withdrawing the pipe even as Ana shifted around to rub his back.

"Are you all right?"

He cleared his throat once more, then nodded. There was a faint redness to his face, likely from the coughing. "Yeah," he said, flicking a glance a Nev before looking back at Ana again. "Fine, thanks."

Kas's eyes narrowed like he was trying to figure something out, but in the end he just went back to snacking. "Does the haunted entertainment part of this start soon? I'm kind of surprised Katia's not the boss monster for that."

Mel laughed, but the words seemed to remind Ana of something, and she withdrew her pokéballs from her obi and released both Luna and Nova. "They're helping Cyrilla," she explained, seeing both of them off with a wave.

"So's Rex," Aidan noted, replacing the hat on his head. "I'm sure he's having the time of his life."

“If he's anything like Imp, then I concur. He's helping out as well," Eryk muttered, as Nev chuckled lightly. “I think she'd send someone back once all the preparations are done... and don't count Katia out, yet, Kas. She just might make an appearance as one at the end of the entertaiment. She likes to ruin everyone's fun."

“It's so strange that the two of you are from the same family. You and her share no similarities at all," Nev stated as she blinked in Eryk's direction. He gave her a flat look, though, and shrugged.

“We're of the same family, but we're not related," he seemed to explain. Nev made a slight 'oh' before she glanced towards the others, making an effort not to look at Aidan for longer than necessary. She didn't really need to embarrass herself any further, after all.

“Hey, isn't that Cy's lycanroc, Diva?" Drake stated as the said lycanroc made her way through the crowd. She growled lightly at Drake for some reason before going up to Nev, and grabbing at her hand. Nev chuckled lightly as she let the lycanroc take her hand, however; Eryk rolled his eyes.

“I think the preparations are done," he stated as if to explain Diva's appearance. The lycanroc huffed as if she were agreeing with him, though.

“Oh, let's go, then! I'm excited to see what they've done!" Nev stated as she allowed Diva to lead the way.

The others followed behind, eventually exiting the relatively tame ballroom into the foyer, which at the moment looked old, decrepit, and dark, the sole source of light a dim lantern hung near the stairs. Probably a few of the pokémon who could cast illusions were responsible for that. It had a lonely, desolate sort of air to it; Luke was presently standing at the bottom of the staircase.

“Sorry, guys," he said, grinning slightly. “I've been instructed to allow only one or two people in at a time. Big groups kind of ruin the ambiance and the scares. So who's first?"

"Nev should go since it's her birthday," Ana said, smiling. In the dim light, the bright white of her kimono almost made her glow.

Nev pursed her lips together as she frowned. “Oh, but maybe someone should go first?" she stated as she turned towards the group. Eryk arched a brow in her direction, though, in a curious fashion.

“Do haunted houses frighten you?" he asked, causing Nev's frown to deepen.

“Oh, if that's the case, I'll go with you!" Drake stated taking a step forward before Cyrilla appeared at the top of the staircase, and making a slight tsking sound.

“Sorry, love, but you're accompanying Mel through," she stated as she descended the stairs. Once she was out, she placed a hand on her hip and arched a brow at the group. “Since we have an even number of people here, you are all going in with pairs."

“And how are you deciding these pairs, Cy?" Eryk asked as he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. She grinned at him.

“Easy. Everyone whose costumes are the closest to each other are getting paired. Unfortunately that means I'm going with Frankenstein, here," she stated, jabbing a finger in Kas's direction, though she didn't seem upset or anything. “You and Ana are going together, Ryk, which leaves Van Helsing and the Witch," she finished with a small grin on her face.

“Oh, but that seems a little unfair, doesn't it? Maybe we should just draw sticks?" Nev tried to suggest. It wasn't that she didn't want to go with Aidan. She'd be more than happy to, but... well, she wasn't entirely sure why she was trying to talk herself out of it.

"If it bothers you that much, I'll switch with someone," Aidan said, his brows knit. It was hard to read the expression on his face, but he didn't look happy, to be sure. He shifted his eyes away from her, though, studying a fixed point on the wall like it no longer concerned him.

For some reason, Nev felt her face heat up, even the tips of her ears. Her eyes widened slightly as she shook her head. “No, oh, that's not what I meant," she stated a little panicked. Had she said something that bothered him? She swallowed thickly and pursed her lips together. “I just thought that... well..." she wasn't sure how to explain what she'd thought would be a little more fair to the others.

“I honestly don't mind if I go with you, Aidan," she murmured softly, dropping her gaze to the floor for a moment.

“How about this; since it's obvious that Mel and Drake should go together, how about they go first? Then, once they go, we can decide who goes with who the second round?" Cyrilla seemed to suggest, but Nev shook her head.

“No, it's fine, Cyrilla. I want to go with Aidan. I think... well, I think it'd be nice to see if it's anything like the Haunted House level in the game we're playing," she stated, as Cyrilla made a slight 'aw'. Eryk rolled his eyes, though.

Aidan huffed softly, his expression much more like its usual neutrality than the slight edge of displeasure it had taken on before. "I'll take notes while you're jumping, shall I?" he drawled, but he did extend an elbow in such a way as to clearly be offering his arm to loop hers through, if she so desired.

Cyrilla snickered softly as she shook her head. Nev, however, pursed her lips at Aidan, and looped her arm with his. “I'm not that easily startled, I'll have you know," she stated as they walked up the stairs. She knew that she was, though, and gripped his arm just a bit tighter. She could play the game easily enough, but being in an actual haunted house was a lot different than playing through one on a game.

“Have fun you two!" Cyrilla called out as they entered through the door. It wasn't much, at first. There was eerie music playing but nothing too unexpected. The hall they were in was decorated with what looked to be galvantual and ariados webs. There was electricity flowing through some of the webs, after all. Nev subconsciously shivered. She had nothing against the pokémon, but webs were another thing altogether.

“So far, nothing like the game," she muttered softly, turning her attention towards Aidan.

"Yeah it's missing some—" he was cut off as a ghastly shriek sliced across all sound, even as a ghost seemed to appear from the wall to the left, wailing miserably and disappearing again through the wall to the right, as if it hadn't quite noticed them. Aidan blinked, but the expression on his face didn't change much.

From beyond, they could make out a soft sobbing sound, further down the hallway.

“I take it back!" she stated as she clutched a little tighter to Aidan's arm. She hadn't meant to step closer to him, but when the ghost had appeared from the wall, it was all she could do from nearly jumping out of her skin. Why did she agree to do this? She felt something slide down her back, the touch gentle enough that it sent a shiver down her back.

“Make it stop, make it stop," she repeated as she tensed. The touch faded, though, not long after, but Nev was still tense. “Oh, why did I agree to this?" she voiced out loud as she clung to Aidan's arm.

Aidan managed not to laugh at her, though there was a little amusement flickering in his eyes nonetheless. Still, he squeezed her arm in a reassuring manner and waited patiently until her immediate panic had subsided before doing anything else. "We don't have to do this, you know," he said simply. "There's an exit over this way; we can skip the whole thing and go back to the ballroom if you prefer. I'm not going to be disappointed or anything."

She wanted to say yes, to leave this haunted house behind, but her pride demanded she stay. So, she pursed her lips together and shook her head. “Not after everyone's hard work was put into this. I can't just leave halfway through; it wouldn't be... right." She took a deep breath to try and relax her nerves, however; something like cold breath ghosted over her neck.

“Okay, pride be damned. Let's go."

Aidan actually smiled a little. "Right this way, then." He selected one of the hallway's doors. Normally it led out into the back stairwell—and apparently it still did. The dim emergency track lights that were always on for safety were still there, and apparently this part of the building had been left alone. Aidan took them out the rear exit, then doubled back slightly so they could re-enter the ballroom. The others, of course, were still going through the haunted house.

Grabbing a drink off the bar table, Aidan steered them back to where their things had all been piled, setting the drink down in front of her and removing his crossbow to prop against one of the other chairs. "Have a seat, Doc. When you're all settled, I have something for you."

Nev blinked in his direction and tilted her head a bit. “You have something for me?" she stated. “Oh, but... you didn't have to, really," she continued as she glanced down towards the drink, and grabbed it with both of her hands. She didn't immediately take a drink of it, though, and tried to fight down the blush that was threatening to form on her face. She had really sweet and thoughtful friends. They didn't need to get her anything, and yet they still did. She smiled softly at the thought.

“But, um, thank you. For the drink and... whatever it is you have for me."

He snored softly, taking a smallish box out from beneath his chair and pushing it across the table towards her. "Don't thank me yet. It's nothing all that important. Just a little project."

The box was about shoe-sized, wrapped in neat, rainbow pastel paper and tied with a silver ribbon. 'To Doc' was written in Aidan's surprisingly-neat penmanship just under the bow.

Nev smiled as she pulled the box towards her, feeling a strange warmth in her chest as she glanced at it. Some part of her wondered if he'd ever use her name, or shortened version of it, but she was fine if he called her Doc. For now. She was a little startled at the thought before she shook it from her mind. Instead, she focused on the box and untied the ribbon, removing it before opening the present. She blinked a little stupidly at what was inside, and delicately, she retrieved the controller from the box.

“Oh... you," she began as she glanced back towards Aidan. She smiled brightly at him before turning her attention back towards the controller. It was pink in color, but that wasn't what caught her attention the most. Despite it being her favorite color, the controller itself was designed in a theme she recognized. On the left side was a small, chibi image of Balthazar, and on the right side, was an image of Maribelle.

“It's the... thank you, Aidan. This is... it's," she didn't know what to say, exactly. “I didn't know they made custom controllers for it," she stated, turning her attention back towards him.

"Uh." Aidan looked oddly unsure of himself for a moment, then grimaced. "They don't, exactly. Well, they do, but most of them aren't that good. I couldn't find one I thought you'd like, so I did the finish and the grip stuff myself. It's a little amateur, but if you didn't notice the mistakes, I'll take it." He gave her a wry half-smile at that.

Nev blinked incredulously at Aidan. “You... did this?" she stated in slight disbelief. Amateur or not, it was done really well. “It's really good, Aidan. I would have thought this was done professionally, if you hadn't told me that. You're very talented," she said truthfully. She was going to have to find out when his birthday was so she could get him something just as nice. Just as thoughtful.

“I really love it, thank you." She would have to put it to good use. “I'm almost tempted to just go try it out, now, but..." they couldn't exactly leave her birthday party. It would be rude, she thought.

He sat back in his chair, adjusting the hat so it would not impede his vision. "It's also the office Halloween party," he pointed out, almost as if reading her thoughts. "It'd go on without us just fine if you wanted to go." The smile tugging at his mouth was more genuine this time. "Entirely up to you though."

He did have a point.

“Alright. Plus, it'd be nice to finally get out of this dress," she stated as she grinned at Aidan. Her apartment was next to his and she could easily change beforehand. “Thanks again, Aidan." This had to be one of the best birthday's she'd had in a long time.

Setting

Characters Present

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


October 31st
Lapras Hotel Conference Room - Morning - Rain
Kasimir Rheinallt


Kas pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose; since they were on pro-battling business today, the three of them were dressed accordingly, which meant he was in full nerd-chic. Fortunately he had plenty of wardrobe items that would do fine for the purpose. Today he wore a thin dark green sweater over a shirt and tie, with a blazer over that, on the rationale that he really should look nice for this kind of meeting. They did actually have to make a good impression on the promoter, after all, even if they'd already signed the contracts.

He was sure the other two were right behind him, but even so he paused at the door to make sure they caught up before he knocked or anything.

Ryk was the first to catch up, his strides just a bit longer than Cyrilla's. She was the shortest member of the group, after all. He was wearing something similar to what he'd worn during the tournament sans the longcoat, though. The dress shirt was still black in color, and long-sleeved, however; his slacks were an ash grey color, and the tie that he'd worn was a bright orange. It complimented his coloration, but the orange was slightly loud, even for Ryk. His hair had been left loose, however; there was what appeared to be braviary feathers tied in, somehow.

Cyrilla wasn't too far behind, coming up behind Ryk dressed in a pale lilac blouse with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. The skirt she was wearing was a high-waisted sheath pencil skirt and black in color. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun, with a single hair pin stuck into it.

“If only I were a few inches taller, I wouldn't fall behind the both of you so often," she grumbled as she smoothed out her skirt. Ryk rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“You're not that much shorter, Cy. Let's get this over with, though," Ryk said with a heavy sigh.

With a little shrug, Kas knocked on the door, then opened it, stepping inside and holding it for the others to follow.

Inside the room was a conference style table, not quite as fancy as the one at the office but plenty fancy nonetheless. Sitting at it was a heavyset middle aged man in an impeccable suit, with a neatly-trimmed goatee and a watch that was clearly expensive but stopped short of ostentatious. The man knew how to present himself, at least. But then Kas hadn't thought that Aidan would steer them towards a slimeball, and if anyone could spot one from distance, it was probably the so-called human lie detector.

The man stood politely as they entered, accepting some documents from the also middle aged woman standing slightly behind him—probably his secretary or assistant, just from positioning. He set these on the table, then stepped out from his seat.

“Mr. Nero, Mr. Rheinallt, please come in. Good to see you again as well, Ms. Niav." He offered each of them a firm handshake, then gestured to the seats in invitation. “I'm Antonio Geiger; this is my assistant, Natalie Dupont. You were both quite something at that tournament the other week, if I may venture to say so."

Eryk remained quiet for a moment before he inclined his head in Geiger's direction. “Thank you," he stated, brows furrowing lightly as he tilted his head a bit. “It's been awhile since I've been able to do something like that." His expression smoothed out a bit after that. His attention was still fixed on Geiger, though it wasn't harsh.

The group took their seats, and Geiger resumed his own as well, scooting his chair in a little closer to the table. “It's easy enough to tell that you fellows enjoyed yourselves out there, and I think you've got what it takes to do well in the regular season." He nodded, almost as if to himself, then expelled a breath. "Of course, setting up a sponsorship involves a lot more than just that, unfortunately. The sponsors are invariably corporations, and there are all kinds of complications that go with that. Most of the time, they want trainers who are going to succeed, but also ones who fit their image."

Kas supposed that made sense. If you were throwing money at someone, you wanted them to reflect you well and all that. "And you're the matchmaker, right?"

Geiger snorted at the phrase, smiling a little wryly. “That's definitely one way to put it. I suppose the questions I ask aren't too different, either. Which brings me to the point of this meeting: I'm happy to represent you both, but I need to know more about you to do it effectively. Having an understanding of who you are will allow me to better arrange a sponsorship for you. So if you don't mind sharing, I'd like to start with the basics. Just tell me a little bit about yourselves: where you're from, what you do when you're not training or competing, what your lifestyle's like... that kind of thing."

Eryk pursed his lips together, and glanced in Cyrilla's direction. She merely smiled at him and nodded her head slightly. “I'm originally from Fuchsia City," Eryk began, taking in a deep breath. “Or my family originates from there," he seemed to correct himself. It was true either way he'd said it, though. “Most of my time is spent at the local hospice shelter where I volunteer. It's what I do most days when I'm not training."

“I work at the NTR office located here when I'm not doing either of those things," he leaned back a bit in his chair after he'd spoken.

Geiger raised his eyebrows a bit; it was sort of hard to tell whether this was because of the sparseness of the answer or because it contained a reference to NTR. He glanced to Kas next though, so in either case he'd clearly elected not to comment.

"I'm from Tangelo Island on the Orange Archipelago," he sad with half a smile. "My mom's a chef and my dad's a dojo master. I did the traditional journey thing for a while, but ultimately was too lazy to make a real shot at the league, which I kind of regret sometimes." Lifting his shoulders in a little shrug, he continued. "I've got two sisters, and my family's always been pretty supportive. I never went to college—didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I'm in IT now though. Self-taught programmer and general problem-fixer."

Nodding along with the explanation, Geiger glanced once at Natalie, who was diligently taking notes on a tablet. “Are you good at it? Programming, I mean."

Kas let himself grin. "My employer seems to think so."

“Do you use any of the skills the rest of your life has given you in battling?"

Kas thought about it for a bit. "Well I spar with my pokémon sometimes. I have to admit I'm a pretty rational rather than emotional thinker, so I guess that shows up in both my work and battling, but it's not like I think it's numbers alone or anything. The extra element to it is why battling's more challenging than anything I could do on a screen. It takes..." He paused, then shrugged. "Heart, I guess. And that's something that's not just off-the-cuff easy for me in the same way some other things can be."

Geiger kept nodding, clearly approving of what he was hearing. “Good, good. There's angles we can work with in there. Just need a couple quick talking points—you know your IQ?"

Kas shrugged. "I think it's around 180. Haven't taken a test in a while."

The promoter's eyes widened. “Almost doesn't matter, at that point," he murmured, then nodded again. “Okay, your angles are obvious. Now let's see..." He returned his attention to Ryk, a thoughtful frown on his face. “No offense, Mr. Nero, but you don't look like the caretaking type. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for present purposes. How'd you end up with a job like that?"

Ryk huffed slightly at Geiger's comment. “I get that a lot," he muttered before his shoulders slumped a bit. He fixed Geiger with a gaze, though, before he answered: “I'm not exactly a sociable person, but helping others has always been... second nature. It's easier when it's helping pokémon, though."

“A bit of a dark caretaker, if you will," Cyrilla added with a light smile on her face. Eryk looked like he wanted to roll his eyes but refrained.

“I ended up with the job when I ran into the owner of the shelter. I helped her carry a bag of feed and bedding to her place where I learned of the shelter. I've volunteered there ever since," Eryk stated as he folded his arms.

“I'm also renting a room there to make it easier to help out."

“NTR by day, lowkey good samaritan by night. That's something else." Geiger shook his head and smiled a little, apparently genuinely chuffed by the information. “What's the work like? Difficult? Rewarding? Both?"

He had something of a knack for interviewing, Kas would admit. It wasn't anyone who could draw much out of Ryk, especially as a stranger. He was kind of interested in the answers himself.

Eryk seemed to contemplate the question. His brows furrowed lightly as he pursed his lips together. “It's more rewarding than it is difficult," he finally answered. Taking in a deep breath, he exhaled slowly as if he were trying to find a way to properly explain what he meant.

“Some of the occupants there will never be able to be adopted out, nor will they live very long lives. Being there to help them along in any capacity makes it feel as if I've accomplished something," he shrugged lightly, “and if I accomplish anything, it's... a relief that it can be something like that." Eryk fell silent for a moment after that.

“This opportunity, however, is giving me a chance at something I've wanted to do when I was younger. Unlike Kasimir, I wasn't able to partake in a traditional journey, but it was something I had entertained the idea of. If there is a chance to enter the pro-battling world... I think it would be close enough." Eryk seemed entirely genuine in his statements.

By the end of his remarks, Geiger was grinning, and even Natalie wore a subtle smile as she made notes. The promoter inclined his head, adjusting the lay of the watch on his wrist and humming almost to himself. “Well... after all that I think it's only fair to tell you that sponsorships are a crapshoot—sometimes a company is only looking for one specific thing and can't be budged." He rolled his eyes, as if this were a problem he'd been frustrated by too often. “But... somehow I think I'll be able to set something up for both of you. I've learned enough to know who to approach first, at least. You don't mind me sharing these details with potential sponsors?"

Kas shook his head; he sort of figured some of that would be necessary. Hell, the famous pro battlers were followed around by actual journalists, who would be much less scrupulous about digging into the past than Geiger was—he at least did the courtesy of asking directly.

Eryk shook his head as well. “If it helps us find a sponsor, then by all means use the information to the best of your abilities. We are..." Eryk paused in his statement as he glanced towards Kas and Cy. “We are counting on you for this. If there is anything else you need... or any further questions answered, I will do so."

“I'll do my best," the older man promised, reaching into his breast pocket and removing a small tin case. From it, he drew out three business cards, sliding them across the table to Kas, Ryk, and Cy. “I'm sure we'll be in touch over the due course of things, and I have all your contact information already, but if there's anything you want to ask me, or something I can help with, feel free to give me a call." He smiled affably at them.

“It can be a lot at once, trying to break into this world. I hear you've got a pretty expert mentor, but if for some reason you find yourself with a question he can't answer... I've been in the business a while. Might be able to help."

Huh. That seemed pretty above and beyond, really. "Thanks, Mr. Geiger," Kas said, sliding the card into his wallet.

“Please," he replied. “Call me Antonio."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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November 2nd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Light Rain
Cyrilla Niav


“Cyrilla."

She jumped at the sound of his voice, knocking over the cup that held her pencils. Cyrilla glanced up at Eryk, pursed her lips together, and tried to keep the emotion off of her face. She'd just read an email... and she didn't want to share the contents of it with Eryk. Not yet, at least. She knew what he would say, what he would try to do. But she had to do this. Alone. She couldn't defy her parents. If they wanted her back home for a week, or two, then she had to go. Eryk, however, narrowed his eyes at her.

“The meeting will be starting without you if you don't hurry up," he stated as he moved from her doorframe. Sighing softly to herself, Cyrilla grabbed her executive coat from its place on her chair, and pulled it on. She walked behind him slowly, chewing on her bottom lip as she contemplated her options. “When do they want you back?" Eryk's question caught her off guard, as she glanced up at him. “And don't say you don't know what I'm talking about, Cy. I know they sent you a message."

“I leave tomorrow evening," she stated softly. She knew it was pointless trying to hide something from him. He always knew. “I have to let Aidan know, too, so that he can find a temporary replacement for me. I won't... be much help until I return," she added. She felt a slight shiver go down her spine. She didn't know what the reason was, only that the email hadn't sounded pleasant. They were angry about something. Sighing softly through her nose, she pushed the thought from her mind as she and Ryk approached the conference room.

“We'll talk more after this," Eryk stated as he pushed open the door. Cyrilla didn't really know if there was anything to talk about. It was simple. She forced a smile on her face, though, when she spotted Aidan and Kasimir, taking a seat in her usual spot. Eryk did the same, furrowing his brows in Aidan's direction.

Aidan glanced between them and frowned, obviously catching on to the fact that something was amiss. It was much harder to tell if Kas noticed; he looked up from his screen once, then went back to typing after a quick "hey guys." It wasn't clear what exactly he was working on, but he kept at it for a bit, lifting one hand as the other kept going to rub his thumb along the inner arch of his eyebrow, like he was easing a tension there.

Their collective boss didn't try to stop him, instead just beginning the meeting in the usual unceremonious manner. "Well," he said blandly, "the meeting with Geiger apparently went well, so nice work on that, everyone. He says he's starting to reach out to the first round of potential sponsors, so for now all we can really do on that is sit back and let the guy do his job." He lifted his shoulders in his usual lackadaisical shrug.

"It hardly seems useful to sit here and ask for full reports on Ana, since, well." He waved a hand vaguely. It was easy to understand what he meant by it—they all spent quite a bit of time with her, no one moreso than Eryk, obviously. "So I guess I'll just ask if anyone has anything new to say that we should all be aware of or not."

"I've tapped the rest of her electronics," Kas said dryly. "Is it relevant that she's really into classical music and recipes for semisweet desserts?" The mocking tone with which he said it indicated that he knew the answer.

Aidan sighed. "I doubt it sits well," he said quietly. "But this is part of the job, too. Anyone else?"

Cyrilla frowned slightly as she contemplated her options, which weren't many. She only had the one, and that was to let Aidan known she'd be gone for a couple of weeks. She just wasn't sure how much information she should tell him. She didn't have to tell him much, honestly. She could just say she'd be out of town for a couple of weeks, and be done with it.

“I'm requesting immediate leave for two weeks," she finally stated, glancing up to meet Aidan's gaze. “In the mean time, I need someone to replace me for those two weeks to cover any work that I might miss because of it." She didn't like the idea of missing work, but...

“I can cover some of the work load for you, Cyrilla," Eryk stated without glancing in her direction. “It won't inconvenience me if that's what you're worried about."

“I'm worried about you taking on too much work, Ryk. You have your own work to deal with, and that doesn't even include the time you spend helping Ana. I might not do much, but the little that you would take on would eat into that time you spend at Ana's. I'd rather Aidan have someone else fill in for me while you focus on your work." She didn't want him to overwork himself, after all. And she didn't want him to do that for her when someone else could do it easily enough.

"Well it's not like I can conjure an executive out of the ether, Niav," Aidan pointed out evenly. "A grunt's not gonna cut it. So for the time being, the three of us are just going to have to split the necessary stuff, and the not-immediately necessary stuff will just accumulate while you're out, if you can't do it remotely." He paused, then sighed.

"Also it probably doesn't make a difference, but I should theoretically remind you that NTR policy says you have to ask for shit like leave two weeks in advance. Don't worry about it this time, but whatever's so urgent's going to have to learn how to wait if this is going to happen again."

Kas glanced up again at that, clearly perplexed. It wasn't hard to figure out why—as her boss, Aidan was entitled to more information than that, if he wanted to ask for it. But he was very obviously not doing so. "I can take more of the extra than Ryk, since he's doing the heavy lifting on the Ana thing," he said simply.

Aidan nodded.

If it really came down to it, they could have Katia do some of the work, too. Not that she would, but it was still an option. Katia wouldn't be leaving until a few days after Cyrilla was, after all, but Cyrilla wasn't going to ask her. And it wasn't like she wanted to leave unexpectedly.

“Unless it's been amended, anything dealing with the family is considered excused. From my understanding, that is still in place even if we're Neo Team Rocket," Eryk stated, though. Cyrilla knew what he meant by that, and Aidan likely would, too. Even if he didn't know much about their family, there were certain rules put into place for the Koga clan's convenience.

“Even if it weren't urgent, if it dealt with the family, we'd have to answer it regardless of notificiation," he continued. Cyrilla sighed softly, though, and tapped Eryk's shoulder.

“It's fine, Ryk. I'll pull in overtime for the work I'll be missing, even if it's not on company time," she tried to jest with him, but he merely furrowed his brows. “I'm sorry for the position this will put everyone in, but I'll do my best to make it up to everyone somehow," she stated as she glanced towards Kas and Aidan. Truth be told, it was inconvenient to the three of them. She'd be placing unecessary work on them, but if she didn't have to go, it wouldn't have been a problem.

But life wasn't fair to her or Eryk, and she had accepted that fact a long time ago.

Aidan's frown deepened, but he inclined his head slightly. "Got it. I'll... well, never mind. This might sound stupid, considering you'll be in Fuchsia, but call us if you need anything."

It was small, but the smile on her face was more genuine than the smile that she'd entered with. She nodded her head in Aidan's direction, feeling her heart warm a bit at the statement. “I appreciate it, though. I will if something comes up," she replied softly. She wouldn't be able to, though, but it was nice that the offer was there.

“I don't think there's anything else as far as other updates go," Eryk stated, glancing back in Aidan's direction. Progress was moving as fast as it could with Anastasia, which meant it was moving like a squirtle, but that was fine for Cyrilla. She furrowed her brows softly and glanced up at Eryk.

“Will you let Ana know that I won't be visiting for those two weeks?" she asked. She wanted to go see the young woman after they were done with work today, but now she had to spend the rest of her evening packing the necessary things, and finding someone to take care of her pokémon for her. She couldn't bring them with her. Eryk could watch a majority of them, but Siri and Diva were another story. The noibat was too sociable and needed a certain kind of attention that Eryk wouldn't exactly be able to give. Diva was stubborn and would try and insist that she go along so Cyrilla needed someone who'd be able to handle that. Maybe since Diva was comfortable with Kas, she could ask him?

“Sure. I'll tell her when I go there," Eryk replied, placing a hand on her upper back before dropping it.

The other two seemed to be in agreement that the meeting was over, and it adjourned there, allowing all of them to return to their offices.

Or at least, it would in theory. Before Cyrilla could leave after Aidan and Eryk, Kas spoke. "Hey, Cy." He paused, looking uncharacteristically uncertain of himself for a moment before he pressed forward. "Is this—are you okay?" While he had no way of knowing the specifics since no one had told him, she had shared a bit of her general difficulty with her family. No doubt he was concerned; he didn't even seem to be trying to hide it, really.

It was sweet of him to be worried. She was still getting used to him being a friend, and she contemplated whether or not she should tell him the truth. It meant opening up a bit, and telling him that she wasn't okay. She was terrified because she didn't know what her parents wanted. She knew it had to be Katia's doing, though. The woman must have found something, or said something to Cyrilla's parents. Or maybe she told Eryk's mother, Marah, and she was the one who said something? All Cyrilla knew was that she was in trouble, and it wasn't a coincidence that Katia happened to be around when it did. It was a feeling she had because Cyrilla knew that she had been careful about a lot of things. Things that she didn't want her parents to know.

Taking a deep breath, she shook her head. “Not really," she answered. To hell with it; she could let him know how she was feeling. It wasn't like he'd be able to do much about it, and chances were this was going to be the last time she could be open with someone other than Ryk. “To be honest, I'm terrified. It's not exactly pleasant to be summoned back to the clan, especially so urgently." She rubbed at her left arm before letting her shoulders slump a bit.

“I don't know what it is that made the request so urgent, either. I have a feeling it has to do with Katia, and Ryk, but... it's speculation at best. I won't know for sure until I return," she said lightly. She sighed before she lifted her gaze back to him. “I have a favor to ask, actually," she stated, lifting her gaze so she could hold his. “I can't take my pokémon with me, so I plan on leaving most of them with Ryk. Diva and Siri, though... I need someone to watch them. Diva's notorious for escaping Ryk, but she's very comfortable with you. I don't think she'll try it like she would with Ryk. And Siri seems to be especially fond of Princess, and she likes to be sociable. Can... I ask you to watch the both of them? I'll compensate you and make sure they have enough food."

“It's a lot to ask, but you're the only one I trust with them. I'll ask Aidan or Nev to do it if you can't, though. I don't want to inconvenience you with them."

The more she talked, the deeper he frowned, a furrow appearing between his eyebrows and staying there. He let her speak, though, not saying anything until she'd been quiet for a moment or two. "I'll do it, but I don't want you to compensate me," he said after a moment. "You said it's a favor, so that's what it'll be." He made some effort to ease his expression into something lighter, but it didn't quite become a smile.

"But Cy... do you need someone to go with you? It sounds like your family's not exactly safe. If that's true, I'd like to come with."

Cyrilla was certain that the surprise she felt was also visible on her face. He wanted to go with her because her family didn't sound safe? She felt a small smile tug at her lips, but she shook her head. “Even if I did need someone to go with me, you couldn't. Anyone who isn't part of the family isn't allowed in." It was a stupid law. The clan hardly let anyone inside the compound if they weren't already part of it.

“Thanks, Kas. It..." she wasn't sure how to finish that sentence, and she furrowed her brows. “It means a lot to me that you'd offer to go with me, but it means a lot more to me that you'll take care of Siri and Diva. I'll be back," perhaps not in one piece, but she'd be back. Cyrilla just wanted to get this over and done with. “And when I'm back, we'll go do something stupid to unwind. Maybe go get drunk on the backisland, again, or poke fun of Eryk," she stated, offering a small smile as she tried to lighten the mood.

He exhaled gently, more sigh than amused huff, but it was something, and the minuscule turn at the corner of his mouth was almost a smile. "Whichever you prefer." He looked like he had more to say about the family issue, but if he did he kept it back, choosing to defer to her judgement.

"When's the boat out? I can at least see you off at the pier so Diva and Siri can, too."

“The boat leaves at six, give or take," she replied. She was going to take the late boat mostly because she wanted to postpone her arrival to the compound as much as possible. And it gave her enough time to do what she needed to. She would have to go shopping first thing in the morning for Diva and Siri's food and make sure they would have everything they would need for the two weeks she would be gone.

“Thanks again, Kas. I feel like I'm going to be saying that a lot," she huffed lightly. “You... don't have to see me off, but..." she paused, chewing the bottom of her lip. She glanced down at her feet, feeling strangely shy about her next statement. Maybe because it did mean a lot to her that he was going out of his way to help her. Maybe it was because of her stupid little crush on him, but whatever it was, she forced it down, and grinned back up at him.

“I'm glad you are."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav
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#, as written by Aethyia


November 3rd
Cinnabar Pier - Evening - Overcast
Kasimir Rheinallt


Unsurprisingly, the weather had not seen fit to be too nice on the day Cy departed—it had been cloudy all day and spitting rain for most of the afternoon. That much had stopped, for now, but the wind was still buffeting things about in the kind of way that promised a storm wasn't too far out. No doubt the boat's captain would be wanting to leave exactly on time to beat the storm. The water was already a bit choppy, and the shrill cries of the wingulls further out punctuated the rushing sound of the wind and the ocean.

Cy didn't have much baggage with her, which was not surprising, but it left him feeling like there wasn't a lot to do with himself on the walk over, so he slid his hands into the pockets of his light zip-up sweatshirt and tried not to think about exactly what she was leaving to go do.

It wasn't as though anyone had outright told him that her family was abusive, but you could only say things like 'they'll be upset' in a dark tone so many times before someone like him got the picture. He'd all but stated his suspicion to her yesterday, and while she hadn't confirmed it as such, her answer had been telling enough. He knew he was right, and he had a new most likely guess about where those scars on Ryk's face had come from.

It felt shitty, knowing there was nothing he could effectively do. Calling the cops was out, going with her himself was apparently out, and the nuclear option—arresting them himself—wasn't going to do anything except blow his cover without way more evidence than he had. He'd considered cracking their computers, only to find that while this was possible—okay, so he'd done more than just consider it—the Kogas effectively lived in the dark ages. They had computers, but a cursory poke around hadn't discovered much of interest. They probably kept analogue records more than digital ones.

Kas was used to a lot of things that most people should not be used to. Feeling powerless to help someone was one of them. That didn't mean he liked it. And it didn't mean this was even really about him.

"We're a little early," he said, furrowing his brow at the blocked gangplank leading to the passenger boat. Not letting people board yet, then. "You want to find somewhere to sit while we wait?"

“Sure, we can go sit over there under the awning," she stated, shifting the bag over her shoulder a bit. Siri was clinging to Cyrilla's head, resting slightly on her free shoulder. The noibat seemed to be pleased with the weather, though, unlike most of the people. “We probably have enough time to grab a quick drink, too. They're not as good as Jo's, but they have decent chocolate malts, here," Cy seemed to suggest as she glanced up at Kas.

"You want a malt when it's this chilly out?" he asked, inflecting his tone with a teasing lilt and shaking his head with mock befuddlement. "I think I can make that happen. Chocolate or some other flavor?" He figured the least he could do was pay for the damn thing; for once he planned on insisting if she tried to demur.

“Chocolate, of course," she replied, managing a grin in his direction. It didn't quite reach her eyes, though. She didn't seem to be in a good mood, despite the smile she'd been wearing. Perhaps because she was leaving to a place she didn't want to go to. “And malts are good in any kind of weather, I'll have you know. Chilly or hot, malts are just... good to have," she added, glancing back out towards the pier. She seemed to be contemplating something before turning her gaze back towards Kas.

“I'll take a small one if they do smaller sizes. Don't want to get stuck with it if I don't finish it. I could take it on the boat, but..." she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders. Siri chirped in disapointment as the gesture caused her to be jostled a bit. Instead, she climbed down Cyrilla's shoulder, and stood on the ground, clinging to Cy's leg. Cy merely rolled her eyes at the noibat but smiled nonetheless.

Kas nodded, making his way over to the little restaurant and placing a to-go order at the counter, for a small chocolate malt and a large one. The guy behind the counter looked a little surprised, but the machine must have been in working order, because he came back with them in about a minute. Paying for both, Kas picked up a couple of spoons in addition to the straws and carried everything outside, where he rejoined Cy.

"One chocolate malt, small in deference to the lady's wishes," he said, keeping his tone light. He nodded down at the pier, then dropped easily into a seated position right there on the dock. His legs were long enough that if he let them hang off the edge, he'd soak them halfway to his knees.

Popping the lid off his own styrofoam cup, he set it down carefully, partway under his shoe so the wind wouldn't carry it out into the ocean, and dug in with his spoon. "Two weeks, huh?" He said it more than asked, as he well knew she'd be gone at least that long. "Apartment'll be lonely without you."

It was true. Perhaps too true, if he were being totally honest with himself. Of all the parts of his job, not getting emotionally invested had always been one of the harder things. He'd managed okay for a long time, but now... he wasn't so sure. Intellectually, he knew he shouldn't be sticking his nose into any of this. But he'd stopped doing this job by the book before he'd ever really started. It was just all the more obvious lately.

She huffed lightly, taking a seat on his other side, and folding her lengs underneath her. It allowed Siri to climb into her lap, as Cyrilla spooned a mouthful of her malt. “Well, you'll have Diva and Siri to keep you company. And if you get really lonely," she paused to grin softly at him, “you could always just sleep in my bed." She chuckled lightly at her own joke, it seemed before shaking her head.

Kas sorted. "I'll be lonely, not a total creep," he replied with mock offense.

“Honestly, it probably won't even be two weeks. It'll probably be a week at most, depending on what it is they want. I can't say for sure," she shrugged her shoulders lightly, feeding the noibat a bite of the malt. She replaced the spoon with a straw, perhaps so she wouldn't use the spoon she'd just used for Siri.

“But if that's your way of saying you'll miss me, ditto. I'm going to miss you, too, Kas. Two weeks might not seem like a long time, but time has a funny way of dragging itself out when you're in Fuchsia. It's not going to be the same as having you or Eryk around. Or even Aidan and Nev, and I can't forget about Ana. You guys... it's the first time I've felt like I've had friends. I might be a shitty one, but... well, I appreciate you all for being patient with me."

“Navigating something new like that is... it's still a little strange," she stated, giving him a half smile before rubbing between Siri's ears.

He shook his head, a little emphatic about it. "Everyone's got a learning curve, Cy," he replied simply. And honestly from what he'd inferred of how she grew up, the more surprising fact was that she'd managed to get this far at all. He felt a little twinge in his chest, and tried not to let the emotion that went with it show on his face, taking a spoonful of his malt so as to occupy his face with something else.

"You're not a shitty friend," he said once he'd swallowed. "Just a new one, and for all that you're doing pretty well." He could point out specific incidents if he wanted: drinks on the backisland, making soup for Ana when she was sick, setting up an elaborate haunted house for Nev's birthday and the office party, helping Ryk prep for his pro battling debut, all of it. But it wasn't even anything specific that made him so strongly sure of what he said. It was the little things, the boring everyday stuff. Little ways she had of demonstrating that she did care.

Switching off to make food with him, sharing her streaming passwords, lending him her stapler when the one by the printer mysteriously disappeared again. Normal shit.

“Well, that's nice of you to say," she replied softly. “But I suppose you're right about that. Learning how to be a friend is just..." she paused as if she didn't want to say what she'd meant to, and shook her head. “When I come back... if things seem a little off, I want you to know something," she began, turning her attention towards him. Her brows were furrowed, and her lips were pursed together. What she had to say next seemed important to her.

“I want you to know that I'm glad you were my friend, and that I got to be yours. I want you to know that... this meant something to me, even it might seem silly to most people. I value our friendship, perhaps a lot more than I should, but that doesn't change the fact that I do. I'm glad you were my friend, Kas."

Contrary to the effect she probably intended the words to have, they filled him more than anything with a profound sense of alarm. "The fuck are you talking about, Cy?" his tone was low, his eyes uncharacteristically dark as he ducked his head to meet hers. "This doesn't get put in the past tense unless we want to put it there." If that was what she wanted, he'd accept it, but dammit, she didn't. He knew she didn't. So what the fuck gave?

She sighed heavily, keeping her attention on Siri. “I've told you before, Kas. I don't get a choice. I don't know what Katia has told my family, but... I have to expect the worst. If that's the case, chances are I... won't be able to continue this friendship with you, or anyone else. I'll have to take the mission at face value," she spoke softly, almost as if she didn't want to say anything at all.

“I'll have to keep everyone at arms length, be more professional. Colder. I'll have to treat every one as if they mean nothing to me, and... as much as I don't want that, it's what I'll have to do. I don't want to risk anything else with my family, and I don't want them to do something to Ryk because of my inadequacies. Ryk has done enough for me, endured enough for me," she continued, taking in a deep, slow breath.

“That's why I'm telling you this, now." She lifted her gaze back to his, offering him a small smile. “That's why I'm thanking you, now, because I don't think I'll be able to when I come back. What this is... the last few months we've had, I'll always cherish that. You're a very sweet and kind person, and I'm sorry you wasted that on me. But I'm glad you did because for the first time in my life... it felt like I mattered and that I could have friends, and enjoy them."

It was his turn to sigh, and shake his head. He thought he understood the root of the misunderstanding now. "Cy," he said, his tone gentling. He set his malt down, reaching out, one finger extended until the tip rested over her shirt, on her sternum. "Friendship happens here," he said. "Well actually it happens in your head, because the brain is in charge of emotions and not actually the heart, but allow me the metaphor for a moment." The faintest half-smile tugged at a corner of his mouth.

"I understand if you have to act different. I do. Believe me, I—" he swallowed, knowing he was skirting dangerously close to the one thing he could not, under any circumstances, tell anyone. "You've got things to protect, including yourself, and I get that. But this? In here?" He pressed a little harder, for emphasis. "This is yours. No matter how secret you have to keep it. And I promise you, no matter how you have to act to me, I'm going to keep believing there's a tiny, tiny part of it I'm still in. So... this isn't the end of our friendship. No matter what they make you do, okay? You do matter, because you matter to me. And I'm gonna keep hoping that I matter to you."

“See, now that's not fair," she stated, frowning slightly as she kept his gaze. “You being this... nice," she seemed to clarify, but a small smile appeared on her face nonetheless. “And this is why you're probably one of my best friends. You always say things to help me understand a little bit better how these friendships work. And you'll always matter, Kas. To me. Just like Ryk does, and Ana, and the others. You moreso because, well..." she trailed off, glancing down a little sheepish.

“Well, like I said, you're like my best friend. I won't... I won't let whatever they do, break me. I'll come back, and nothing will have changed. I won't have to act any different than I do now, and I won't have to distance myself from anyone. And if I do," she paused to rehold his gaze, “I ask that you don't let me. If I try to distance myself from everyone, don't... remind me why I don't want to. Can I ask that of you?" She seemed serious about it, if anything.

And because she was serious, he couldn't be anything else. Wouldn't want to be anything else. "I promise, Cy. Don't worry about that—you just do whatever you have to do to get through the next couple weeks. We'll get the rest figured out when you get back." Above all, that was what he wanted. And while Kas wasn't enough of an asshole to think that what he wanted was the important part here, he hoped nevertheless that she'd abide by the wish. Because it meant that things might just work out okay, in the end.

The smile that crossed her face was one of her more genuine ones that she wore when she smiled at brightly at him. “Alright. We'll get the rest figured out when I get back," she seemed to repeat, patting Siri's head before reaching towards her belt. She pulled the last pokeball, Diva's, and gave it a light toss, summoning the lycanroc. Immediately Diva shook her large mane, and glanced between Kas and Cy. She huffed lightly, but took a seat on Cy's other side, tilting her head a bit as Cy glanced at her.

“Alright, Diva, you be good for Kas, here. If you promise, I'll give you the rest of this malt. If Kas says you were anything but good, I'm going to have Aidan use Brick to give you a good workout, alright?" she stated, causing Diva to give Cy a rather flat look before shaking her head. Cy laughed softly as she used the spoon from earlier to give Siri another bite of the malt before handing it over to Diva. Once Siri was finished with her bite, Cy picked her up to set her on Kas's shoulder.

“You can leave the door to my room open so that Diva and Siri can sleep in there. I don't mind, really. They can take care of themselves if you leave their food in my room as well. The only thing you'll really need to do is socialize Siri a bit. She likes talking to people as I'm sure you've noticed," Cy stated as she glanced behind her. It looked like the boat was getting ready to start loading its passengers, and she sighed a bit heavily.

“If something comes up with Diva or Siri, you can take them to Ryk. I won't be reachable until I get back, but he'll be able to handle the two of them. Thanks again, Kas," she stated as she stood up. “I'd like one more thing from you, though, if you don't mind," she continued as she huffed almost to herself it seemed.

“I'd like a hug, if you don't mind. You give the best ones and I feel like I'll be able to take on the world if you did." She was grinning at him, now.

He laughed a little at that, but stood willingly, opening his arms and letting her step inside his considerable wingspan before wrapping them around her and pulling her comfortably to his chest. "Deal," he said, giving her a soft squeeze and resisting the urge to lift her off her feet. She was kind of short, after all, compared to him, and it would have been slightly more comfortable for both of them that way.

Still though, he put his back into it, and his heart, too. That was the key to a good hug—you had to mean it, and not worry so much about the rest. "Take care of yourself," he murmured against her hair. "It's my best friend I'm trusting you with here, so you better."

She laughed softly at his statement and nodded her head where it was buried. “I'll make sure I do my best," she replied softly, turning her head to place a chaste kiss on his cheek as she pulled away from the hug. “And you take care not to get too lonely without me, alright?" she stated, reaching down to grab her bag and pull it over her shoulder. Diva made a soft whimpering noise as Cyrilla ran a hand through the lycanroc's mane. Siri chirped from her spot on Kas's head, but didn't seem to understand what was going on.

“You be a good girl for Kas, alright? I'll be back in a week, so help him take care of Siri until then. I'll be fine," she whispered the last part as she leaned down to hug Diva. The lycanroc didn't seem too convinced, but returned the hug. “See ya later, Kas," she stated, giving Kas a two finger mock salute before leaving towards the boat. Diva glanced up at Kas and sat on her hindquarters, before watching her trainer leave.

Impossible, he wanted to say, but it didn't seem like the right moment, not for a light joke.

And then, when he watched her board, hand resting on Diva's head, he realized he wasn't even sure it was a joke.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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November 7th
Field Office 9 - Evening - Hurricane
Nevena Solomon


Nev sighed heavily as she pulled her hair into a tail. They were, essentially, trapped inside of the office building because of the storm outside. The hurricane sirens had blasted over the loudspeakers, and while some of the grunts were able to leave, Nev, Eryk, Kas, Aidan, and Katia were among the ones who didn't make it out in time. It wouldn't have bothered her so much, but of all the people she was stuck with, she could do without Katia.

The woman was nearly insufferable. She could understand, now, why Eryk and Aidan didn't seem especially fond of her. Nev was almost certain there was an underlying hatred in Eryk's case, but she couldn't be too sure. “How long do you think we'll be stuck here?" she asked, turning in Eryk's direction. The five of them had gathered in the conference room mostly because it was the only place that had enough space to breathe.

“Who knows. Maybe a few hours, maybe all night, but it doesn't fucking matter," Katia answered, causing Nev to furrow her brows.

I wasn't asking you, she simply thought as Katia drummed her fingers on the table.

“Can you stop? It's fucking annoying," Eryk stated, a little irritated by Katia's actions. The woman merely grinned, and continued drumming her fingers. Nev sighed softly, and turned towards Kas.

“Think you can find us a good music station?" she asked. The lights were still on, but with the way the weather was going, who knew how long it would be before they went out.

He blinked at the question, his face pulling to the side. "Well I doubt we're getting any radio signal in this weather but the wifi's working for now I suppose." He opened the top part of his laptop and for a moment, his finger blurred rapidly over the keys. "Uh... genre requests? I'm not really sure what everyone here thinks is 'good.'"

"I'll listen to anything that's not pop," Aidan replied, leaning back in his conference room chair with his arms crossed over his chest. He'd been about ready to go home before the sirens happened, so there wasn't really anything for him to be doing, unlike Kas, who seemed to be at least trying to get some work finished in the meantime.

“Well, I think anything is fine at this point, really. Maybe just actual music, like classical or something of the sort. I think it would really help to fill the silence," Nev stated as an alternative. Clearly it was the wrong thing to say as Katia heaved a dramatic sigh.

“Ugh, classical music is boring, though. Play something lively, and maybe electric," Katia stated as she turned her attention towards Kas. Eryk immediately gave Katia a flat look and rolled his eyes.

“I agree with Solomon; play something that fills the noise," he stated as he turned his attention away from Katia. Nev chuckled softly before pulling out her laptop. If they had wifi for a while longer, she could at least send an email to one of her colleagues to see if they had a suitable power source for their machine. They hadn't been able to find one, and that left her research at an impasse. If they wanted to get somewhere, they needed to be able to find something that would work.

And something like that wasn't easy.

Kasimir sighed. Clearly the lack of consensus had left him a bit less than certain what to do. With a roll of his eyes, he made a few keystrokes, and it wasn't long before the introduction to something mellow but synth-based filled the room. Clearly that was the best he could do with the conflicting opinions.

Unfortunately for Nev's work plans, the wifi seemed to be knocked out. It wasn't clear how Kas was getting the music if so, but it was possible it was predownloaded.

Aidan muttered something inaudible under his breath and propped his feet up on the conference table, tilting his head back to look upside-down out the window behind him. "That's probably going to get worse before it gets better," he noted flatly.

“Thanks for the info, captain obvious," Katia muttered beneath her breath, leaning forward to place her chin in the palm of her hand, and rest her elbow against the desk. Eryk rolled his eyes at the statement, but didn't seem inclined to say anything. Perhaps he thought it was best to not pester Katia or feed her nagging.

“If it bothers you that much, there are other places to be in the facility. You do not have to be here with us, Miss Durova," Nev stated as she glanced up from her laptop. From the way Katia was sitting and acting, it seemed like she didn't want to be in the room with everyone. Or maybe it was because Nev and Kas were there? Katia would often glance in Eryk and Aidan's direction which Nev found strange, but didn't necessarily know why. The way she glanced at Eryk was completely different from when she glanced at Aidan, and Nev felt a little twinge in her chest every time.

“It's not that easy to get rid of Katia, Solomon," Eryk, stated in a slow drawl. He was leaning back in his chair. Katia snorted as she rolled her eyes. Nev wasn't necessarily trying to get rid of Katia, but she thought it might release some of the tension that seemed to be building up. She sighed softly, and glanced at the time.

“Well, if we're going to be here for a while, we might as well see if there is anything we can scrounge up for dinner. It's almost dinner time," she stated as she glanced towards the others. Eryk seemed to contemplate it before shrugging his shoulders.

“I'll go with you if you want to see what there is," he stated, pushing his chair back and glancing in Katia's direction. “Anywhere else is better than being here," he added, though Nev understood his implication. He didn't want to be anywhere near Katia, but the situation was unfortunately doing just that. Nev smiled regardless, and closed her laptop. With the wifi out, she wasn't going to get much else done. Once it was placed safely back into the bag, Nev stood from her spot and glanced towards Kas and Aidan. She went to invite them, however; as soon as she opened her mouth to say something, the lights went out.

“Well isn't that fucking great," Katia groaned as she sat up.

“Uh... why haven't the back up generators kicked in, yet?" Nev asked. Eryk shrugged, indicating he didn't know.

Kas heaved yet another sigh. Closing the lid of his laptop, he checked out the window to confirm that yes, the lights all around were out, too, throwing the entire area into heavy darkness. There was a slight metallic grinding, and then a small light appeared, throwing warm shades of gold onto Aidan's face and hair. He'd flicked on his lighter, and immediately started checking through the drawers of the side table near the window.

He came away from the search with a proper flashlight, which he flipped on, throwing the beam towards the door. "Should probably see what's perishable in the fridge," he noted. "Since I'm thinking the power will stay out a while."

There was a slight pause, then Kas hummed a note of agreement. "Backup's on a separate grid, but that's out too, seems like. Might've been hit by lightning or something."

"I can check the breakers when we get downstairs," Aidan added. "If those don't work we're just going to have to wait."

“I'll go with you to check the breakers," Katia stated as she stood from her chair. She didn't seem inclined to push it back into place, and that didn't sit well with Nev, for some reason. Maybe it was because Nev always thought it was common courtesy to push chairs back in once you were done with them? She shook the thought from her mind, though, as Eryk made a slight snorting sound.

“Why would you go with Aidan? You don't know shit about breaker boxes. You'd just get in his way," he stated, earning a harsh glare from Katia. Nevena blinked a bit and tilted her head. If anyone knew about breaker boxes, it was likely to be Aidan and Kasimir. Not that breakers were complicated, but Nev didn't know how true Eryk's statement was.

“Because I'd rather be with him than with either of you three," Katia retorted, causing Eryk to roll his eyes. Nev sighed softly and shook her head.

“We have to make it downstairs, first, before anyone goes anywhere. And we don't have back-up flashlights in here," Nev spoke as she reached inside her bag to pull out her phone. She could use the flashlight aspect of it, but only for brief moments. She didn't want to drain the battery too fast with no way to charge it. Who knew how long the lights would be out for?

“Imp... you're better at seeing in the dark, help out," Eryk stated suddenly as a bright red flash signaled the gengar's release. That wasn't a bad idea, to have the pokemon help out, however; none of the pokemon Nev had would be much help.

“Let's get going. The sooner we can turn these lights on, the sooner I can be rid of you all," Katia stated, causing Nev to furrow her brows.

“It's not like anyone invited you to come along," she muttered beneath her breath. It was loud enough, though, that Eryk heard it. He huffed lightly but it didn't sound quite like a laugh.

One of the others snorted in what sounded like amusement, but she couldn't tell whether it was Kas or Aidan. The group headed downstairs, the bright beam of the flashlight illuminating the path as Aidan led the way to the kitchen. "Should be some candles in one of the drawers," he said, sounding vaguely puzzled by this. "I'm not sure why, exactly, but I've seen them before."

He handed his lighter off to Eryk and nodded back out the hallway. "Breakers are that way. I'll be back in a minute." He paused as if waiting for the inevitability of Katia moving to join him, then ducked back out of the room.

When they were gone, Kas whistled, low and soft. "I honestly forget how awful she is every time she leaves," he admitted. "It's like I can't even believe it's real. Then she comes back, and reminds me it is." Digging through a few of the drawers, he found a small tea light, then flicked Aidan's lighter, catching the flame on the wick and pushing it towards the center of the kitchen island before pulling out another, this one more of a squat jar candle.

“Be happy you didn't grow up with it," Eryk mumbled. Nev could almost hear Eryk rolling his eyes in the dark, and chuckled lightly to herself. “Since we're in the kitchen, might as well see what we can use to make dinner. The stove is a gas one, so we should still be able to get by," he stated, making a motion with his hand.

“Well, anything should be fine at this point. It's mostly what we have for ingredients that we can make a dish with. I saw a pack of noodles in the pantry not too long ago. If they're still there, we can make ramen or pasta," Nev suggested. It would be the easiest and simplest thing to make. Nev couldn't really cook all that well, but she remembered Kas could. Eryk seemed to do okay since he occasionally helped out Ana. Maybe she should invest in cooking classes?

Kasimir hummed, clearly considering this. "All right, you two go through the fridge and pantry and see what there is. I'm going to check the cabinets to see what supplies I can cook with." It was a fact that pots or pans or spices occasionally disappeared from the kitchen, so he probably wanted to make sure there was actually cookware to use.

“I'll take the fridge, you take the pantry," she stated towards Eryk as he nodded his head. He made his way towards his destination as Nev headed towards the fridge. She rummaged through it rather quickly, scanning as she went to see what they had. She didn't want to keep the door open longer than necessary if Aidan and Katia couldn't get the lights back on. Or the back up generators.

“We only have salt and pepper," Eryk stated as he seemed to rummage through the pantry. “And some rice and sesame seeds. What do you have?" he asked. Nev pursed her lips together.

“Some tofu, soy sauce, and a thing of green onions. There's not much else in here right now," she answered. That means that someone would have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. “Do you think you can make anything with those limited ingredients, Kas?" she asked, turning her attention towards him. Maybe he had something in his repertoire?

He snorted. "Well it won't be super fancy or anything, but I think I've got enough for something, yeah." Pulling down a frying pan from the cabinet, he eyed Eryk for a moment and switched it for a larger one. "I think we'll probably be—" He paused as a few emergency lights flickered on, illuminating the kitchen just enough that they could see each other reasonably well.

"Well, well. Looks like boss got the backup generator online, at least."

“Well that's a relief," she stated more to herself. “We won't be without some kind lighting for the whole night, at least," she added, turning towards Kas and Eryk. Eryk, however, had his lips pursed as he seemed to contemplate something.

“We're going to be stuck here all night," he stated, turning to face Kas. “The rain hasn't stopped, and it's coming down harder," he continued. Now that she actually concentrated, Nev could still hear the rain hitting the building. To even hear it through as much layering as the old mansion had, was a testament to how hard it was coming down.

“It could be worse," Nev decided to say, giving Eryk a reassuring smile. “We could be stuck in a smaller building with unpleasant company," she continued, earning a soft snort from Eryk.

"So... we could be stuck in a smaller building, you mean," Kas rejoined, opening the tofu pack with a knife and draining it in the sink. "Because while I love you guys, I could uh... I could do without everyone's least-favorite delibirdbrain." He rolled his eyes, visible even in the scant recessed lights, and shook his head faintly, leaving the tofu to drain while he diced the green onions.

Probably Katia and Aidan wouldn't be too much longer, if they'd managed to restore emergency power, but clearly he wasn't too pleased by the prospect.

Nev couldn't blame him for not being pleased. “How is it that the two of you are from the same clan," Nev asked, glancing in Eryk's direction. “You two are nothing alike," she added. It wasn't that two people couldn't have separate personalities or differences. Nev just found it strange that they were of the same place and yet complete opposites. Eryk snorted softly as he shrugged.

“Guess I was lucky," he replied, causing Nev to smile a bit. “She's a plague on humanity, but she'll be gone soon," he added, straightening out a bit and glancing in Kas's direction. “Need help with anything? Before the, as you put it, 'delibirdbrain' shows up to ruin everything?" he asked.

"I'm good. Small number of ingredients." Kas seemed to be working his way through them rather efficiently, too, and the stove was burning away at the pan he'd found to fry the tofu. He was whipping up some kind of sauce to go with it, too, it looked like, the process smooth and easy.

"You think she knows that, though? That's she's gonna be out of here soon? Because it seems like she's made herself right at home, you know what I mean? Boss's place is probably more hers than his at this point." He grimaced, and shuddered. Whether that was put on or not was hard to tell.

“With the way she's glued to Aidan's side, I don't think she does," Eryk replied, grimacing slightly as if he were plagued with some unpleasant thought. Nev didn't blame him, really. Aidan spent a majority of his time at her place; Mama Basil had been more than happy to accomodate him by setting up the couch as a potential bed if he needed some place to sleep. It seemed like Katia was very fond of Aidan in a way that made Nev feel uncomfortable.

She couldn't put an actual word to it; jealousy felt like too much of a word, and she wasn't even sure that was the right one. Why would she be jealous of Katia? “Something bothering you, Solomon? You're glaring at the table," Eryk stated, snapping Nev out of her stupor.

“No, I'm fine. Just wondering how you and Aidan managed to deal with her, is all. She hasn't been unpleasant to me, but from what I get from you and Aidan," didn't necessarily mean that Katia wasn't an unpleasant person. Sure, Katia would occasionally glare at Nev when she was working with Aidan, or if she happened to be on one of her walks with him, however; Nev never wronged Katia.

“Just because she hasn't been unpleasant doesn't mean that she doesn't have it out for you. You are a potential threat to her in a way that I will never understand. She won't do anything to you, she's not a complete idiot..." Eryk trailed off before pinching the bridge of his nose. “But do not, under any circumstances, be alone with her. She has a way of getting into people's head."

Nev pursed her lips together, unsure of what he meant by that.

“In any case, whether she knows she's leaving or not doesn't change the fact that she is. She's here on clan business which means she'll have to report back to them in the time frame she gave them. Even she wouldn't dare go against protocol," he continued before shrugging his shoulders.

"Never thought I'd be singing the praises of buraeucracy," Kas noted with a wry smile, already plating up their food. "But I guess there's a first time for everything."

Eryk seemed like he was about to reply to something, however; a shriek caused him to turn his head in the direction it came from. A slow, subtle smile crossed his features as he huffed lightly. “I guess Imp couldn't pass up the chance to have fun in the dark," he stated as if to clarify the source of the sound.

“Nero!" it was Katia's voice, and she seemed to be upset with Eryk. She wasn't anywhere near them, yet, but Nev couldn't help the light chuckle that left her. Kas laughed, too, soft and under his breath, but easily audible in the kitchen.

“Well, I suppose if we want even a semblance of a nice dinner together, we should probably get started before she returns," she stated, glancing towards Kas. Eryk was already picking up his plate, and nodded his head.

“Agreed. Aidan can manage on his own," Eryk stated before he took a bite of his food. Honestly, Nev wasn't sure how Aidan managed it. She felt a little bad for him. Maybe when Katia left, she could get him an appointment at the local massage place?

Kas nodded emphatically. "Patience of a saint, asskicking skills of a total badass. I'd say I want to be him when I grow up, but I don't really plan on growing up in the first place." He grinned at the both of them, setting a couple other plates aside and taking up his own, sliding into a stool across from the two of them.

"Enjoy it, guys. Might be the last pleasantness we get all night."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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November 9th
Cinnabar Island - Late Afternoon - Overcast
Katia Durova


She wasn't getting anywhere with this shit. So far, the only sketchy thing Nero was doing was living at another woman's place. For mission purposes, she had been told. Mission purpose her ass. Like he'd actually live at a target's place for something like that. Whatever Gregorovich had him doing must be something big, though. Katia knew the type of person Eryk was. He wasn't the type to get too deep into a mission as to actually live at the target's residence. Mostly because Niav was his fiancée and there was a reputation he had to uphold. Even if it was just for the purpose of Gregorovich's mission, there had to have been another way to get closer to the target. Eryk would have thought of one.

Pushing the thought to the back of her mind, she glanced at the current people she was with: Aidan and Rheinallt. She'd managed to drag Aidan away from the woman next door, Solomon. Katia didn't particularly care what their relationship was, but she didn't like the fact that Solomon and Aidan seemed close. And Katia was a firm believer that a man and woman couldn't simply be just friends. No, there was always some underlying attraction that would eventually surface. Katia couldn't have that, though. Aidan was going to be hers, eventually. She would have to continue weeding out any possible competition. Katia wasn't stupid to believe that she wouldn't have competition for Aidan, but she just didn't know how much. So far, it only seemed like Solomon.

“So why exactly is Nero living with the target?" she decided to ask. Nero wasn't going to say much, and Aidan could only give so much information to her. Rheinallt, however, was in no particular position to say or do anything, but Katia figured he would be the one with the most information to pry from. The only question was, how hard was it going to be to get the information she wanted from him?

Rheinallt, strolling along next to her, was eating what looked to be grilled pineapple slices out of a small paper basket. He'd picked it up from a food cart a little way back. It wasn't entirely clear why he was here, except that he'd already been with Aidan when Katia managed to hunt him down away from Solomon. It seemed like one of the others was always around him, whether it was one of those two, or Nero. At the question, he shrugged.

"Deep cover, obviously. To get closer to her, he's convinced her he's a certain type of person, and acted accordingly. It happened to end up with him renting the extra room at her place. It's not like they're fucking or something, relax."

Katia rolled her eyes heavily at Rheinallt. She wasn't concerned about that. “It wouldn't be the first time he's done that for the sake of a mission," she replied off-handedly. It was, however, a first that he'd actually decided to live with a target. For as long as she'd known him, he'd never really so much as expressed a desire to be that close to a target. There was nothing in it for him other than a quick completion of his assignment.

“But Nero's not a people person. He wouldn't want to live with someone who wasn't Niav," she stated, glancing towards Aidan for a second before turning her attention back to Rheinallt. “He's always requested to be with her whenever it came to moving around. That he'd volunteer to live with this target seems a little off. Does she know something that she's extorting him?"

Rheinallt burst into laughter; even Aidan snorted, a strange smile flickering over his face for a moment before it disappeared, its meaning unclear. While the other continued laughing, he replied. "Whatever it is—and I'm pretty sure it's just convenient since this mission is quite long-term and nebulous—it's not that. The target's not exactly the kind of person who could or would do something like that."

Katia felt her eyes narrow thinly in Rheinallt's direction. “Everyone is capable of it; whether or not she could or would is only a matter of what she does or doesn't have." Katia knew that to be a fact. Everyone was capable of some despicable thing in some form or another. It was something she'd learned outside of the clan, and inside of it as well. She rolled her eyes, though, and shook her head softly.

“Whether or not it is just convenient is irrelevant. There's something else going on," something that Nero wasn't saying. Katia would have to ask the Niavs if they were able to get anything from their daughter when she returned to Fuchsia. “So in layman's terms, why is this person so interesting to the boss?" From what she was hearing, it didn't seem that the target was too interesting. She must be from some prominent family, or was maybe of some use to Gregorovich in some way.

Rheinallt's laughter had trailed into chuckles; he tossed his empty paper basket into the nearest trash can. "Arceus, boss, can you just picture Ana trying to extort someone? I mean what's she gonna do, pout? Look really earnestly at him?" He assumed a wide-eyed, innocent expression, looking like—what was that expression—butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He was strangely good at it, but unable to maintain it for long before he laughed again, shaking his head all the while.

Aidan rolled his eyes. "I don't know what to tell you, Katia," he said bluntly. "Misson details are classified. Nero's doing what he feels like he has to do to meet the objective. Suffice it to say that we need some pretty personal information on the girl, and she's not the kind to trust easily, or to fall for a typical seduction or whatever."

Katia felt her eye twitch lightly at Rheinallt's antics. She wanted to smack him, but decided against it. He was taller than her by at least a foot, and had a way about him that was slightly intimidating. It didn't necessary warrant fear, but it did make her slightly cautious. As for the mission being classified, Katia would just have to see if Gregorovich would be willing to shed a little more light about it. It would be more difficult that way for her, but from the way Rheinallt was reacting, she wasn't going to be getting much information from him.

“If that's the case for Nero, then what's your case, Aidan? Boss doesn't normally send you in to babysit." No, Gregorovich valued Aidan too much to send him on such a menial job. He had to be back up just in case Nero failed. Not that Nero failed his missions before, but perhaps this might be his first? Katia felt a small spike of happiness at that thought. If he failed... he'd likely fall from favor. And if he fell from favor...

He blinked slowly, then lifted his shoulders with his usual nonchalance. She'd never seen him get angry about anything, really, or excited for that matter. "Project's important," he said, drawing a carton of cigarettes from one pocket and his lighter from another. He flicked it a couple times, then lifted one of the sticks of tobacco from the packet with his mouth, lighting the end and then putting the carton and lighter away.

Taking a long draw, he exhaled. "Important enough that he wants me directly supervising. It's not the most eventful job I've ever been given, but I don't make a point of questioning my orders." It's subtle, but she can detect a faint emphasis on the last few words.

She rolled her eyes at it, nonetheless. It was apparent that she wasn't going to get much information from either Aidan or Rheinallt. They were useless to her for the moment, but she'd figure something out eventually. For the time being, she'd just have to make due with the information she had, now. It wasn't much, though. Not enough to use it against Nero, and not enough to make any implications that she could.

“I'll find out sooner or later," she stated more to herself with a light shrug. And she would find out. She wasn't quite that good at gathering information, but she could be creative when she wanted to be. She wouldn't have obtained her rank thus far if she wasn't. She would just have to keep a close eye on Nero, for now, but she didn't have much time. She was leaving the day after tomorrow. Maybe she'd ask the boss to be relocated here so she could? On different pretenses, of course. Maybe he had work she could do, or something of that nature.

“What does this island have to offer in way of entertainment; I'm bored," she asked. Might as well entertain herself one way or another, she supposed.

Aidan threw a look at Rheinallt, who grinned. "Well that depends," he said. "What entertains you? Club scene? Long, romantic walks on the beach at sunset? Cuddly baby pokémon? Roller derby?"

“And if I said long romantic walks on the beach, you gonna provide just that, Rheinallt?" she replied with a bit of a bite to her words. He was an annoying little fuck, wasn't he? She didn't know how Nero put up with it, let alone Aidan. But from the looks of it, Aidan seemed to be doing just fine in Rheinallt's company.

“Forget I even asked," she continued. She wasn't sure she could be in Rheinallt's presence for much longer, anyway. He was like a beedrill: annoying. “Whatever, I'm heading back to the apartment. You coming or are you going to be with the shit head?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction. She had a feeling she knew the answer he was going to provide. She'd make it one day so that he wouldn't even have a choice. For now, she was going to bide her time until it was right.

"I dunno, Katia, you just stood me up. Boss here might have to do the honorable thing and take your place." Casually, he swung an arm over Aidan's shoulders and made a show of leaning into it, even going so far as to bury his nose in Aidan's red hair, a sly grin playing at his mouth.

For his part, Aidan rolled his eyes, but surprisingly tolerated the contact. Remi had tried something similar, once, and Aidan had nearly broken his arm seemingly by automatic reflex. But he wasn't even tense, though he did level Rheinallt with a flat look. "I ain't gonna take you out, but if you want a consolation drink, I guess I can buy one."

"Perfect."

Oh, she was going to murder Rheinallt. She wasn't sure how, yet, but she was going to.