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Rocket Files

[ Codex of Information ]

0 · 512 views · located in Kanto Region

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

Description



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Stefan Gregorovich
AGE xxxx 54xxxxTRAINER Rocket Boss
xHEIGHT 6'0"xx.xWEIGHT x 180 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Stefan Gregorovich is the current leader of the entire Team Rocket organization. Once a trusted subordinate of Giovanni’s, he took over the group in the years following Giovanni’s disappearance and repurposed it to oversee the interaction of trainers and pokémon. With this new guiding purpose in mind, he legitimized the enterprise (though he did not disconnect it from the criminal underworld completely). It was his guidance that brought the organization to its current position of prominence. But any strategist knows that continued innovation is the key to remaining in power. And to gaining more. Recently, he's been moving the team into the civilian government sector; rumor has it he may soon run for mayor of Saffron, or perhaps even Prime Minister of Kanto.


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Remi Dodds
AGE xxxx 33xxxxTRAINER TR Admin; Zapdos
xHEIGHT 5'10"xx.xWEIGHT x 142 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Remi Dodds is the former Third Bird—known as Zapdos—who spends most of his time doing whatever he really feels like it. He's a little more lively than his counterparts, and doesn't really seem all too interested in the on-goings of Neo Team Rocket. He joined mostly for fun, and to see how far he could actually go within the group. The only thing he's really interested in is fulfilling certain... desires. Ones that aren't exactly smiled upon in the real world. To put it simply, Remi is a psychopath. Looking at him, one wouldn't quite guess that considering that he can be charming as fuck when the need arises, however; it is difficult for Remi to care about anything or anyone. How he managed to rise so quickly through the ranks of Team Rocket is a bit of a mystery, but it is thought that his skills in battle and his disregard for... things is what helped elevate him so quickly. He's interested to see who took his spot, though, and intends to... well, that's for him to know.


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Katia Durova
AGE xxxx 30xxxxTRAINER TR Admin; Articuno
xHEIGHT 5'7"xx.xWEIGHT x 132 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Katia is the second member of the original Beasts, known as Articuno. Perhaps a fitting name since Katya is about as cold as ice. She cares very little for things around her, and only seeks to further her position within her clan. She was originally engaged to Eryk, however; it pissed her off to no end when he anulled it, and engaged himself to Cyrilla. It ruined any chance she had at attaining the highest position within their clan, and she's never forgiven him for it. She, like many members of Koga's clan, joined Team Rocket at a young age, and has served in the organization for a few years, already. She is a blunt and brutal person, only seeking to further herself in anyway possible. She isn't above using dirty tactics, either.


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Ingrid Steele
AGE xxxx 38xxxxTRAINER Officer
xHEIGHT 5'8"xx.xWEIGHT x 135 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Section Chief Ingrid Steele is a career member of the Kanto Pokémon Special Forces (KPSF), a paramilitary law enforcement organization. She heads the Black Ops division, and as such is in charge of coordinating and authorizing highly-classified missions that fall outside of law enforcement's public jurisdiction and authorization. Deep-cover operations, espionage, and sometimes even things like targeted assassinations or political kidnappings all fall within this range, though realistically there are more often acts of sabotage decidedly less severe than that. Steele's particular area of expertise—some might say obsession—is Neo Team Rocket. She considers it her personal mission in life to expose them for the criminals they are and bring the entire operation crashing down around Gregorovich's ears. She has a vehement hatred for the man, for reasons unknown. At present, her most promising inroad is Special Agent Rheinallt, who has buried himself deep enough in the organization to make executive. Needless to say, the pressure's on for them both to deliver.


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Melody Rheinallt
AGE xxxx 19xxxxTRAINER Ace Trainer
xHEIGHT 5'11"xx.xWEIGHT x 140 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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Melody Rheinallt, more commonly known as Mel, is Kasimir's younger half-sister by almost a decade. His father, Victor, remarried after the amicable divorce from his mother Sheena. Michelle, Mel's mother, is a lawyer who works in Saffron City, which is where Melody was born. Unfortunately, Victor and Michelle divorced as well, but that hasn't really kept Kasimir from seeing a lot of his younger sibling. They're quite close, and while he can't talk about his work with her, she knows that he's somehow involved with Team Rocket. She doesn't exactly approve, but she trusts her brother to do the right thing when it counts, so she doesn't let it bother her. She calls Kas about once a week, mostly to check on him. Mel is a trainer; she is currently advancing along the chain of Kanto Gyms in pursuit of all eight badges.


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Drake Bellamy
AGE xxxx 22xxxxTRAINER Gym Leader
xHEIGHT 5'10"xx.xWEIGHT x 165 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Drake Bellamy is the grandson of Blaine—the former Gym Leader of Cinnabar Island—and the nephew of Clair, the dragon master of Johto. He took over Blaine's position as the Gym Leader on Cinnabar, however; he's done away with his grandfather's puzzles and riddles. He hates them, and thinks that they were more hindrance than anything else. He's a relatively young Gym Leader, having only been in the position for two years, but he is formidable and serious. This, however, is not seen in his every day life. He's more gentle and laid-back. He's the friendly sort who likes making friends wherever he goes, and does his best to involve himself in the community. He makes friends fairly easy, which some people find strange. They suppose it's just some sort of charismatic draw he has.


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Carter Hayes
AGE xxxx 24xxxxTRAINER Officer
xHEIGHT 5'11"xx.xWEIGHT x 175 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Carter Hayes is the young, newly appointed Chief of Police on Cinnabar Island. Formerly a cmpetitive pokémon battler of some renown, he still participates in high-level tournaments from time to time, but has otherwise devoted himself to the career path that seems to lure most of his family in eventually—he is in fact the son of an Officer Jenny, and accordingly related to several others. He's extremely popular on Cinnabar, his recognizability and good reputation matched perhaps only by its Gym Leader, Drake. Carter has an intense, but generally well-hidden, dislike of Neo Team Rocket, who he is convinced are in fact criminals that have succeeded in buying off large chunks of the justice system. He refuses to take their presence on his island lying down, and intends to make it clear that the eyes of Cinnabar law enforcement will not be so easily turned away from the truth.


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Rosanna Miller
AGE xxxx 33xxxxTRAINER Journalist
xHEIGHT 5'10"xx.xWEIGHT x 120 lbs.

FIT x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAARES x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌
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CON x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌ AAAKNO x ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌▌

Rosanna Miller, stagename Rosanna Thorne, is a model and actress turned journalist, soomeone who grew tired of being acclaimed only for her appearance and wished to put her moxie and cleverness to the test. Though she's easily wealthy enough not to need to work any longer, she runs an independent online publication—The Pokéflute—where she typically publishes long-form feature stories that have included deep dives into some of the most pressing political, social, and pokémon-related issues today. Her exposé on the use of unsafe substances on the international battle circuit prompted a legal crackdown on the matter, a charge spearheaded by Neo Team Rocket. Rosanna herself is entirely nonpartisan however, seeing her job as uncovering the truth for all to see, regardless of who it advantages or disadvantages. She has a keen nose for a story, and a dogged determination to pursue good leads, regardless of the risk.


So begins...

Rocket Files's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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#, as written by Aethyia


April 28th
Aidan's Office - Morning - Sunny
Aidan Klein


Aidan blinked slowly. The large monitor screen in front of him was occupied by the image of an older man with longish grey hair and a fastidiously-trimmed beard, his weathered face partly hidden behind spectacles with a thin silver rim. He was dressed in a crisp black suit, layered over a black shirt and tie, the only bit of color the ruby tie-pin holding the length of satin in place. He regarded Aidan with a solemn expression—then again he pretty much always looked like that. There were bags under his eyes; Aidan wondered if maybe running things in Saffron without him was a less-smooth transition than they'd hoped for.

"Her boat should be arriving within the hour. As I said, I'm assigning this to you personally. The R&D team is going to be crucial to the success of Project Nebula, and she's going to make the difference in that." Gregorovich picked a lighter up from offscreen and flicked it a few times, lighting the cigarette between his lips. It made Aidan twitchy for the same, but he hated it when rooms smelled like old smoke, so he refrained.

"You ever gonna tell me what Project Nebula is or do I have to guess?" He knew some set of the things it was apparently going to need, including this woman's research, but the larger picture was entirely beyond him.

From anyone else, that question probably would have earned the boss's cold glare and no answer at all. In this case, though, Gregorovich leaned back in his chair, exhaling a cloud of smoke and studying Aidan through the monitor. "It's an attempt to develop a new method of identifying and contacting pokémon in distress. Conventional investigation methods are slow and imperfect; you know this as well as anyone."

Aidan nodded slightly, hardly needing the reminder.

Gregorovich sighed. "I can't say much more because I don't know much more. It's hardly more than the grain of an idea right now, and I can't afford to place much stock in it. That's why you're there, though. I need you to keep an eye on the developers. Make sure they have everything they need—do everything possible to make the project viable. If it works... if it works it solves 90% of our efficiency issues. Changes the game completely—saves more pokémon than you can imagine."

Aidan knew there was something the boss was keeping back from him. It was in the way he sat, the way his eyes rested a little too heavily, it felt. But the boss had been leading NTR all this time, and though sometimes Aidan wasn't sure about their methods, the man's vision had never wavered. And when it came right down to it, that vision was one he was prepared to do anything for. So it didn't really matter what he was holding back, and he was sure it would be shared in time.

"I trust you," he said simply. "Sometimes I wish you trusted me a little more, though."

Gregorovich cracked a little smile. "I trust you more than anyone else. Not as much as you've earned, I know, but still. I'm a creature of old habits, son, you know that."

"Yeah, you and me both, old man." Aidan shook his head; Gregorovich chuckled, waving a hand dismissively.

"Go on, go meet your charge. She's very clever; perhaps you won't be so bored as Katia makes you."

Aidan rolled his eyes at the mention of his former teammate—already a little more annoyed and bored just by that—and flicked the monitor off. Standing, he rolled his black sleeves to his elbows and inwardly lamented the island heat. At least he wasn't required to wear the damn uniform, though monochrome black might need to be a decision he rethought when summer rolled in.

Heading down the stairs, he nodded once to Hayley, the Executive Assistant, and passed out of the mansion. He contemplated taking his motorbike to the dock, but it didn't have a passenger car and he didn't really want a nervy scientist on the back while he was trying to drive. So he walked instead, arriving dockside just as a passenger boat pulled up to the pier.

People filed out of the boat, a couple of them glancing in Aidan's direction before scurrying off. A woman exited next, dressed in a simple light blue tank top, a pair of black wide-leg capris. She had on a large sun hat, perhaps to keep the sun away from her eyes. She was pulling a large suitcase behind her with what seemed to be relative ease despite its size. It might have been due to the fact that there was a bayleef to her side, holding onto the handle with one of its vines and pulling it along with her. She glanced in his direction, and smiled, making her way towards him.

“Hi," she spoke, her smile softening somewhat as she glanced towards her bayleef. “Are you from the research facility on the island? The one that used to be the old mansion?" she asked, glancing back in his direction. “Oh, but I should introduce myself regardless. I'm Nevena Solomon," she stated, holding out her hand as if to shake hands with him.

"Dr. Solomon," Aidan acknowledged, closing his hand over hers. He made an effort not to squeeze too hard, but the shake was firm. "I'm Aidan, and yes, I'm from the Field Office. Is the suitcase all you have with you?" He cocked an eyebrow and nodded at the bayleef doing most of the work hauling it. He knew that she'd had the opportunity to send her other belongings ahead—those would have been left in her apartment by now. Still, he'd sort of expected to be handling more than one small bag.

She furrowed her brows at him, but nodded her head. “It is. I don't have much as far as personal belongings go. It makes it easier to move around when I have to," she stated, glancing in the bayleef's direction before turning back to him. “And please, just call me Nevena or Nev," she stated, her expression smoothing back out into something more jovial.

“I'd actually prefer it if it was anything other than Dr. Solomon," she added, huffing in a nervous way. “Oh, and this is Basil. She's my bayleef, and assistant, slash caretaker," she stated, huffing lightly at the expression on Basil's face. It looked mixed parts pleased and annoyed at the statement.

Aidan huffed softly. "Sounds like a big job," he said a little wryly, extending a hand forward to offer the pokémon a pat if she wanted it. "I hope she doesn't mind splitting the duties a little; you've been told you have a supervisor for this project, right?"

Basil nudged his hand with her head before pulling back. “I don't think she minds, really. She probably thinks it's too big of a job for her, anyway," Nevena stated, earning a light glare from the bayleef. “And yes, I've been told I'll have a supervisor for the project. I presume I'll be meeting them at the base?" she stated, arching a brow in his direction.

Aidan snorted softly. "Actually, you're looking at him." He could understand the confusion; he certainly didn't look like the kind of person who'd be put in charge of a team of intellectuals. Which was a nice way of saying he looked like dumb muscle. He'd put in a bit of effort to change that, at one point—back in his competing days he'd tried for something more clean cut, but it was fussy and annoying and didn't solve the basic problem, so he gave up after a while. It wasn't like Gregorovich cared. With the boss, if you were good you were good, and it didn't matter how you looked.

He supposed it was likely that Solomon could appreciate something like that; Aidan figured that being young and pretty in addition to being a leading mind in her field sometimes made people forget the last part. He could easily imagine that old men had mistaken her for an assistant or secretary more than once. It was part of the reason he'd made such a point of calling her 'Doctor.' But if she didn't like it he figured he could just do what he always did and use her last name by itself.

"We can go check out the facility if you like, but I've also got your new residential address and a key for you so if you prefer to rest that's fine. You're not expected in the office until next week."

She blinked slowly before her eyes widened. “Oh, I'm terribly sorry! I didn't mean to confuse you with someone else. I just... I thought you were with a taxi, or a Farfetch'd driver," she stated. She pinked a little in the face, perhaps from her misconception, and shook her head softly. “And it'll be a pleasure to be working with you, sir!" she stated, bowing for some reason, it wasn't clear. Basil rolled her eyes at Solomon before using one of her vines to gently tap the woman's shoulders. She straightened herself back up and cleared her throat.

“If you don't mind, I'd like to check out the facility, first. That way I can see where everything is, ahead of time, and get straight to work on my first day. I don't want to get lost trying to find whichever office or lab I'll need to be in."

Aidan had snorted at the misidentification; he figured he might get mistaken for a grunt or something, but for her to think he wasn't even affiliated with the organization—

He had said he was from the office, right?

Well, it didn't matter to him in either case. Shooting Basil a wry look, he shook his head. "No harm done. Facility's only about a twenty-minute walk; if Basil wants a rest, I can carry your bag for now."

“Oh, it's fine. I can carry it myself, really. Basil just likes to help out when she wants, hence why she's my assistant. She does what she wants, really," she replied, smiling at the bayleef that merely nodded its head as if in agreement. “And I'm sure she'd like the walk. It's really warm and being a grass-type, I'm sure the sun will feel nice for her," Solomon continued, turning her smile back towards him.

“And if it's only twenty minutes, it should be fine. I don't want you to carry my bag when you don't have to," she added. Basil nodded her head, letting out a soft cry as if to agree with Solomon's earlier statement.

He shrugged. "All right. Let me know if you change your mind; it's not really a big deal for me to do it." By the same token, it may well be no difficulty for her, either, and he was fine deferring.

So he turned away from the docks, getting them set on the right road before dropping back next to her. He considered if any of his pokémon could use the walk, but most of them weren't the sort you could casually stroll around with in the middle of town. Frost was, but she hated the weather even more than he did. Brick was too stupid to risk in public. Ed and Jax were too big, and Skiff didn't walk anywhere.

So he pinched the second ball on his belt off, giving it a lazy toss. Rex shook his coat out, flicking his spaded tail. He considered the new people for a moment before padding up to Aidan and headbutting him in the stomach.

Correctly interpreting this, Aidan scrubbed roughly at the houndoom's head and neck, giving him a good scratch. Satisfied, the pokémon approached Solomon, head tilted inquiringly. "He's a big baby," Aidan said, knowing that houndoom had a particularly bad reputation for viciousness. Not entirely unwarranted, but only because so many of them were raised badly.

She didn't really seem bothered by the houndoom, though, and immediately crouched a bit to scratch under his chin. “Oh, but he's so adorable," she nearly cooed. Basil rolled her eyes at Solomon before nodding her head in Rex's direction, but didn't get too close to the houndoom. She didn't seem afraid of it, just standing guard of the suitcase Solomon let go of temporarily.

“And he has a really healthy coat," she stated, glancing up at Aidan before she stood from her spot. “I bet you spoil him," she added, giving Rex one last scratch around his neck.

"Not as much as you do, I don't think." Aidan figured somehow that she was the type to do it.

He whistled sharply, and Rex came immediately to heel position. He'd learned a long time ago that it was important for him to be able to do that—people tended to panic of a pokémon like that was anything other than perfectly polite. He'd had people cross the street to avoid them regardless. Like Rex was going to go eat their kids or some bullshit.

Picking the walking pace back up, he steered them back to the old mansion. It was a brick building, like a lot of the older constructions in town, three stories tall and not really much to look at from the outside. The gardens were exceedingly simple and minimal, but tidy; the placard next to the gate proclaimed it only to be 'NTR CINNABAR FIELD OFFICE.'

Sliding his ID into the scanner at the gate, he remembered he had hers as well, and fished it out of his pants pocket. "I don't recommend losing that," he noted, "but I guess it's not the worst thing if you do, since you're stuck with me breathing down your neck all day anyhow." The gate swung open to admit them, and he started them up towards the house itself.

“Duly noted," she stated, nodding her head as she did. “I have a lanyard I can put it on. It's kind of hard to lose something hanging around your neck, after all," she continued with a light shrug of her shoulders. “It's feasible, though. I have lost something like that before," she stated offhandedly before she glanced at the building ahead of them.

“I promise I shall do my best to ensure that this process is as smooth as possible so it doesn't wear you down too much," she spoke, almost completely serious it seemed.

He shook his head. "Just focus on your research. The rest is my job, and you don't need to concern yourself with it." The last thing he needed was to have to tell the boss progress was too slow because the R&D team had it in their heads that they had to pay some kind of special consideration to his presence. It was half the reason he hadn't bothered to specify just who he was, in the structure of the organization. The level of oversight would be weird enough without them knowing it was basically the boss's own eyes doing the observing.

"Anyway," he continued, holding open the front door for Solomon and the pokémon to enter first. "First level is the office pool. You need something from an administrative assistant or a grunt to lift something for you, they'll be here." The setup was pretty clear—the assistants shared a large desk immediately ahead in the foyer; a door to the left led to the large room where the grunts had cubicles set up. To the right was the kitchen and the janitors' supplies.

"Second floor is where we've stashed the execs—that's Nero, Rheinallt, and Niav; you'll probably see them around at some point. Basement's storage and pokémon intake. Third floor's R&D, and my office. Anything you want to see first?"

She seemed to contemplate his offer. “I think the R&D area should be the first place I look. As long as I can find my way, there, the rest should be fairly easy to navigate," she stated. She glanced towards Basil, though, and pulled a pokéball from her belt. It must have belonged to Basil because the bayleef looked vaguely irritated. As if she didn't want to go back in the ball.

“I promise it's only for a few minutes. You won't be in there long, alright? And when we get to the new place, I'll give you your favorite treat," Solomon spoke as if she were bribing Basil. The bayleef seemed to contemplate it for a moment before she nodded, letting Solomon recall her. She huffed softly before pulling her suitcase to the side.

“Might as well leave this here instead of dragging it behind me," she seemed to explain before she smoothed out her shirt. “Third floor, right?"

He nodded, turning momentarily to the assistants' desk. "Hey Hayley, can you watch Dr. Solomon's suitcase for a few minutes?"

She grinned. “No problem, sir. And welcome to Cinnabar, Dr. Solomon!"

“Thank you, Hayley!" she responded, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

Aidan headed for the stairs, putting a hand on Rex's head. The houndoom relaxed a little at the signal, ranging a bit from his side to bound up the stairs towards the second floor. Someone up there had already made friends with the doofus—Aidan's money was on Rheinallt, and he was seldom wrong about these things. But the door to the executive suite was closed, so he headed more sedately up the rest of the stairs towards R&D.

"There's two others on your project right now," he said as they climbed. "Dr. Greene is an engineer, since apparently you're going to need one of those. Ms. Parker is currently a research assistant, while she finishes her degree. They're both supposedly very good at what they do."

She arched a brow in Aidan's direction. “That sounds about right," she stated as if she knew some things. “I know you said you'll be supervising us as well, but," she started, glancing at him from the corners of her eyes, “what will you be doing, exactly? Is it just supervising, or do I have to accommodate for you to be there as well? As in, are you going to be assisting with the project?" She seemed curious if the way her brow arched was anything to go by.

“And if you are going to be assisting, what will you be doing?"

He considered this a moment; the boss hadn't exactly specified. "My office is close to the lab," he said. "I'll probably be in and out. If I can do something useful though, you're free to ask. I'm good for moving things and reaching shelves at least." He also wasn't half-bad with a wrench, but he suspected anything she'd need Greene to build was too complicated for him, so he left it at that.

"I won't get in your way. If I do, tell me I am so I can get out of it."

She huffed a light laugh, but shook her head. “I doubt you could be in the way," she stated before she tapped a thoughtful finger to her chin. “I'm sure when it comes time to build, Dr. Greene and I would love the assistance. The things we'll be moving around will likely be pretty heavy, depending on the material that they'll use, but as far as anything else," she paused to regard him with a light smile.

“I'm sure you'd rather keep company with other people rather than us," she stated, something a little melancholy in her tone, though she didn't define what she meant by us. “And if you get in the way, I'll be sure to tell you as much!" She sounded a little more jovial that time.

Confidence issues.

He didn't need to be especially perceptive to pin that one down. By the same token he knew the word of a stranger was unlikely to make much difference at a surface level, and further discussion was likely unwelcome. So he nodded at the last part. "Fair enough. Let's go get you introduced, and then we'll see about the rest of the place."

Setting

Characters Present

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


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


Too bad the punch wasn't spiked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He really wished he'd spiked the punch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Name's Niko," he stated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The feeling is mutual."

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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June 8th
Cinnabar Island Park - Afternoon - Cloudy
Nevena Solomon


The weather wasn't all that bad today. It was pleasant enough that Nevena could enjoy being outside with just a simple white sundress and a sun hat. She had taken her pokémon to the nearby pokémon park, the one she and Aidan frequented, deciding that it was a good day to let them roam around. Being cooped up in the apartment all morning was boring for them, she assumed, and she wanted them to stretch their legs a bit. Floof definitely needed the exercise since she was still relatively young. And it was now that she watched the wooloo casually hopping along, nudging Fluffy as if to entice him to chase her. He was curled up near a tree, probably using the shade to hide from the sun, but Floof didn't seem to want to leave him alone.

Basil was currently sitting near Nevena, glancing with mild interest at everything around her. That's just how she was, Nev supposed. Basil was never much of a interacting type, but she was gentle enough around those that approached her. She'd ocassionally reach out towards Floof, pat the wooloo's head with a vine, and then turn her around to go after another pokémon. It was oddly adorable to Nev, and she chuckled lightly at the antics.

Floof decided to make a run at one of the other pokémon in the park, a deino from the looks of it. She jumped lightly into its side, however; it seemed to topple over from the lightest impact. Nev was at once alarmed and trying not to laugh. Alarmed because Floof didn't look like she'd run into the deino that hard, and trying not to laugh because it just laid there, like one of those fainting skiddo. She quickly stood from her spot and made her way over towards it, gently picking it up its head and trying to get it to stand.

“Floof, look what you did. You need to be more careful," she stated, earning a light trill from the wooloo. “Seriously, come here and apologize," she stated, pointing her finger to the spot next to her. Floof just made a face that looked like she was pouting, however; a chuckle to the side caught Nev's attention.

“Don't worry about it, he's just dumb. She didn't hit him hard and he's pretty dramatic," the young man stated. He had pale blue hair and matching eyes. Not quite the blue normally associated with the Jenny family, but more so the kind one would say Claire had, or even a Stone. He was dressed in a crisp light pink shirt and a pair of blue jean shorts that fell to his knees. He smiled at Nev and held out his hand towards her.

“I'm Drake Bellamy, by the way," he greeted. Nev immediately stood and took his hand into her own.

“Oh, I've heard so much about you! You're Cinnabar's Gym Leader! You took over for your grandfather and are one of Kanto's... er, well, I shouldn't say that, really," because telling him that he was one of Kanto's most eligible bachelor would come off as a bit creepy to Nev. And she didn't want to be that kind of person. Plus, there were other things about him. How he was one of the youngest in history to become a Gym Leader, and how his statistics were fairly good for him to try out for the Kanto League if he'd ever thought about it. He chuckled, though, and glanced to her side.

“Oh, and this is my neighbor, Aidan," she stated, momentarily forgetting he was there. She'd been so distracted by Floof, honestly.

Aidan certainly didn't seem to mind, anyhow, just sticking out his hand to shake in turn. She'd noticed he never smoked in the park, and he wasn't now, either, though he still hadn't really gotten used to the idea of dressing for the island she didn't think, sticking to black and long pants. At least his shirt didn't have any sleeves. He'd started to tan a little, as they spent more time outdoors, and usually wore sunglasses to ward off the glare.

"Aidan Klein," he said simply. "Taking the afternoon off? There was a line outside the gym this morning, if I remember right."

Drake made a vague nose that almost sounded like he was being strangled. It was slightly alarming to Nev, but he reached to rub the back of his neck. “Yeah, I have a line outside of the gym, but... well, I need some time off from all the battling. There's been an influx of challenges lately, especially ever since the old mansion opened up. Getting all kinds of people and challenges from there, but I don't mind, really. I need the workout."

Nevena tilted her head in a questioning manner. “How so?" she asked. From what she knew of Drake, he lived a relatively normal lifestyle. Ate healthy, had his training regime, and still had time to do things around the island. He chuckled somewhat, though.

“Honestly, I'm kind of... avoiding someone right now. It's, uh, nothing bad, I promise, but I'll open the gym again sometime in the evening for that late rush. It'll be fine until then," he stated, waving a dismissive hand in front of him.

“Oh, and it's nice to meet the both of you. I've never seen a pokémon like that, though. Is she from another region?" he asked, glancing in Floof's direction. She trilled happily at him before rolling off, causing Nev to shake her head.

“She's from the Galar region. There aren't a lot of galarian pokémon in Kanto mostly because of how far it is and the environment is completely different. Some would do well while others would likely be uncomfortable. Luckily for Floof, she's a little more adaptable," she replied, smiling just a bit at the wooloo. Drake nodded his head as if in understanding.

“Huh, I guess that makes sense. You... look familiar, though. Have we met before?" Drake asked as he glanced in Aidan's direction. Nev arched a brow at that. She was almost certain that Aidan didn't know Drake; they wouldn't have introduced themselves like that if they had known each other. Maybe it was because Aidan was Kanto's former Champion that Drake recognized him. He would, after all, know who the current and past Champions were as a Gym Leader.

"Uh..." Aidan cleared his throat. "Once, yeah, but you were a lot shorter. Figured you wouldn't remember considering how long ago it was." He placed his arm at about the height of his torso, looking a bit sheepish. Almost... embarrassed? Maybe that was what the slight tinge of pink to his face was, or maybe it was just the sun. "Big get-together. You were there with your aunt and grandfather; I was kind of awkwardly in the corner till the old man insisted on talking to me."

“Ah! That's right!" Drake stated suddenly, snapping his fingers before pointing one at Aidan. “Man, that was a long time ago. I don't even remember why they wanted to do that. Something about bringing the family together or something like that. But, hey, it's good to see you after all these years."

Nev arched an eyebrow at that. She didn't know they were acquainted already, even if it was several years ago. She smiled, though, at the scene.

“And yeah, gramps is always like that. You can't be a wallflower in any kind of situation when he's around. He'll just chat your ear off," he stated, huffing lightly before leaning in closer towards Nevena. “My advice is to never be alone with gramps. He makes even the most mild of situations a bit uncomfortable. He means well, but still...." he trailed off, causing Nev to chuckle lightly.

“Well I'm sure he's pleasant company, regardless," she replied with a light smile.

"Pleasant's not the word I would use," Aidan muttered. After a moment, something seemed to occur to him, though, and he pinched one of the pokéballs off his belt. He usually didn't release many of his at a time, even when they were at the park, though he hadn't really explained why, except to say that they weren't really suited to it. But he expanded the ball and gave it a little toss.

"Remember Brick?" When the light cleared, there was a garchomp there; he scratched at his head with one paw, blinking slowly at all three of them.

“Uh, yeah? How could I forget Brick when I have my own version right over there," Drake stated with a large smile on his face, pointing back towards the deino that seemed to be fixated on the garchomp. “I swear, they're two peas in a pod. That one came right up to me, nudged one of the pokéballs, and caught himself. All he ever does is sleep, eat, and headbutt shit. See," he stated just as the deino made its way towards Brick, and lightly hit Brick's leg. It seemed to be smiling in a very dopey way, and Nev couldn't help but find it oddly adorable.

Brick, in turn, lightly whacked the deino's head with one of his paws.

“Aw, but he's so cute. Look at that face; how could you not want to love on it," she stated, catching the deino's attention. It waddled up to her, and stared up with an open mouth. She snorted softly.

“He thinks you're going to feed him, now," Drake stated, folding his arms over his chest.

“Oh, that's alright. If you don't mind, I always bring little chips of frozen yoghurt for the others," she stated, reaching into the bag she had tied to her wrist. It wasn't large or anything, but Drake shrugged his shoulders; Nev took it as silent permission and fed one to the deino. “Would Brick like one, too?" she asked, glancing in Aidan's direction.

He shrugged. "Probably too much."

Brick did, indeed, seem to be intently focused on her, and after a long moment parted his large jaws to an absurd width.

"Just give it a toss," Aidan advised. "He wouldn't bite on purpose but he's really stupid. I've got a couple scars on my leg from when I stood too close to breakfast one time and he missed."

Nev snorted softly as she tossed a chip towards Brick. Drake chuckled, though, as Deino opened his mouth again, as if anticipating another treat. Nev shook her head, but obliged the deino one more before putting the bag away.

“It must be a dragon thing, being so stupid. I can't say for certain for the rest of my team. They're usually pretty good. And Aunt Claire's dragons are well-behaved. I think you and I have crap luck when it comes to dragons, Aidan," Drake stated as he shook his head. Nev chuckled lightly.

“I don't think it's so much as luck as it is fate, really. After all, you two seem like the only ones who'd be able to care for them, properly," she stated. From what she could see of both Brick and Deino, they were well taken care of, and not just anyone would want to put in that much effort to raise a pokémon like that. Drake snorted, though.

“Fate, huh? Guess that's one way of putting it."

"Always knew my luck was shit," Aidan replied.

Brick, sensing perhaps belatedly that no more treats were forthcoming from Nev, wandered over to Aidan and closed his mouth over his trainer's shoulder. He didn't seem to be biting, exactly, more like a play version of it. Aidan sighed and lifted both arms to pry the pokémon's jaws away from himself, which Brick seemed to take as some kind of challenge. Stepping out from the garchomp's grip, Aidan continued to hold him at arm's length by the mouth, while Brick tried to get traction enough on the ground to push past the defense.

Though the muscles of Aidan's arms tensed with the effort of resisting this, his facial expression didn't change much. It seemed he was used to this kind of thing. "And they say dragons are majestic," he drawled. "Noblest pokémon type, best handled by experienced trainers only. I don't think any of those people have ever actually met one."

Drake laughed at the antics before shaking his head. “I guess they meant majestic in other ways. They were probably thinking of Dragonite or Altaria at the time they said that. Or even a Tyrantrum. Those things look majestic, but most of the other dragons are just like... Brick and Deino, here. Oh, and I actually do have a Brick of my own, other than Deino." Drake reached for one of the pokeballs at his belt and pulled one off. He gave it a light toss as the silhouette of a Gabite appeared.

It blinked at the three of them before its eyes settled on Brick. “Meet Brick Jr." Nevena laughed at the name. These two were something else, really. She felt a strange warmth in her chest as she glanced between the two. It must be nice having friends like this.

“Named after the first Brick, but luckily he's not as stupid. Hey Jr. go entertain your namesake," he stated. The Gabite merely seemed to arch a brow in Drake's direction before huffing and stalking off elsewhere. Drake shook his head and sighed.

"Sassy bastard, isn't he?" Aidan said this with some amusement. Fortunately, Brick seemed to be interested enough in this new development to ease up and plod after the gabite instead of continuing to try and play with his trainer. Grimacing, Aidan wiped his hands off on his jeans, sighing slightly and shaking his head.

He managed a lopsided, unusually carefree smile, though. "Nice running into you again, kid."

“Same to you, old man," Drake stated, grinning lightly at the statement. Nev blinked a bit and tilted her head. Aidan didn't seem much older than her, so did that mean she was an old lady to Drake? She swallowed softly and smiled, though. “And you too...?" Nevena's face turned a bright red. She'd forgotten to introduce herself!

“Oh, I'm sorry, I'm Nevena Solomon! You can just... um, I'm sorry, I didn't," she stuttered softly as she shifted nervously in her spot. She hadn't meant to forget. She just got a little excited about the recent developments. Drake didn't seem to mind, though, and laughed.

“No worries, Nev. Nice to meet you, too. Hopefully we'll be seeing the both of you around more often. I'm sure Deino and Jr. would just enjoy playing with Brick again," he stated, glancing in the direction Brick had walked off to. Nevena chuckled lightly. That sounded nice.

"Yeah, we'll just have to avoid populated areas," Aidan said, rolling his eyes. Pulling his cell from his pocket, he brushed past a few windows before handing it to Drake. "You wanna plug in your number? Feel free to let me know if the guys and girls need some exercise. Mine could always use more chances to run around where they won't accidentally destroy anything." His eyes narrowed a little, but it seemed to be in good humor.

"And I'm interested to see how good you've gotten."

“Oh, definitely."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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June 17th
Ana's Shelter - Afternoon - Warm
Eryk Nero


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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July 2nd
Field Office 9 - Morning - Warm
Kasimir Rheinallt


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gregorovich seemed to consider this a moment, tilting his head slightly to the side. From offscreen, he retrieved a cigarette and a metal lighter with something engraved on it, flicking it open and holding the end of the cylinder to the flame. Flipping it closed, he returned it to its position beyond their line of sight and sat back in his chair, the padded leader creaking softly. "And what exactly do you believe will come of it, as you say?" he asked, seeming genuinely curious.

Eryk seemed to contemplate something before he sighed softly. It was Cyrilla who answered, though.

“We're not entirely sure, sir," she spoke softly and calm. “From our initial report, it's that you want us to see if she's a viable candidate to be a volunteer for a project of yours. The only things we've managed to learn about her, so far, are the obvious: she's a relative of the Nurses Joy, and she owns and operates the Shelter and Hospice."

Gregorovich nodded slightly, though Kas thought he saw some form of... disappointment, maybe? Something like it flashed briefly across his features before it was gone. "I see," he said simply, taking a drag from the cigarette. Kas was pretty sure it was one of the imported sort from Kalos, papered in brown rather than mostly white, and a fair bit longer than standard.

"What of you, Mr. Rheinallt?" He asked quietly, fixing his eyes on Kas through a thin haze of smoke.

"Me, sir?" he asked, blinking as if confused. It wasn't far from the truth, really.

"Yes. Aidan has informed me that you're a particularly clever sort. What do you make of Miss Asher?"

Kas expelled a breath, then shrugged a little. "I think she's smart, and bighearted. I'm also pretty sure she has a secret of some kind, which is why when I fixed her computer, I also installed some spyware in it, so I can monitor her internet use."

Gregorovich exhaled a quiet ha, something that sounded quite amused. "Excellent. Anything of interest so far?"

"She likes classical music and probably knows how to dance, and she's closest with an aunt she refers to as Miranda, who runs the Pokémon Center in Lavender Town. She also likes looking up new baking recipes and cat pokémon videos. So... not much of use, no."

It was sort of a risk, being deadpan and pretty flippant with the boss, but it only seemed to entertain Gregorovich, who nodded slightly. "Very well then. I suppose I'll count that as satisfactory progress, though if you could also monitor her phone, I'm sure it would help. Continue to get close to her—that's your only real task for this month. Questions?"

Kas shook his head.

Eryk and Cyrilla both shook their heads. They didn't seem to have anything they wanted to ask or say, and Cyrilla spared Eryk a glance. His brows were furrowed lightly, but he didn't look upset or anything. Something must have come to him, though, and he turned his attention back towards Gregorovich.

“Is there anything in particular we should monitor her for? A particular skill of some sort?" he asked.

Gregorovich considered this for a long, drawn-out moment, then nodded slightly. "Yes. In particular, I am interested to know if the girl is a psychic. A telepath, in particular. Of course, I understand that this is not the kind of question one can simply ask someone, and it would be preferable if she divulged this to you of her own volition, if it be true. But do be on the lookout for evidence of it, if possible."

He exhaled, and the smoke momentarily thickened. "I understand you have some talent of this nature yourself, Mr. Nero, but according to people who know about such things, if she were one as well she would likely be able to detect it if you attempted to discern this with your own abilities, yes? It is paramount not only that we find such a person, but that we do so in a way that endears us to them. So handle with care, as the saying goes. You're not the only team attempting to locate a likely candidate, but you are the one I have highest hopes for, probability-wise."

Kas didn't bother to hide his surprise at this news, figuring there was no reason to. He noted, though, that Aidan didn't seem to have any. He must have already known, but did he know why they were looking for someone like that?

“Understood," Eryk stated simply. His brows were furrowed deeply, and Cyrilla placed a hand near his forearm before dropping it. “I will do what I can to see," he added, turning his attention briefly to Aidan and then back towards Gregorovich.

The boss nodded. "Much appreciated," he said simply, smiling faintly. "Best of luck, as it were. She seems like a nice young lady, but some nuts are tougher to crack than others."

The screen went dark. Kasimir blew out a breath. "Damn," he murmured. "That was intense."

Aidan snorted softly. "Might want to get used to it, Rheinallt. You're an executive now, not just the IT guy."

“It does come with the territory, Kas. Being an executive means you have to see the boss every once in a while," Cyrilla spoke. She didn't seem amused or anything. She looked mostly concerned, though it seemed to be directed mostly at Eryk for some reason. He shook his head lightly before turning his attention towards Aidan and Kasimir.

“Is there anything else we should be made aware of besides surprise visits from Gregorovich?" he stated, though there was something fairly light in his tone. Almost as if he were joking about something. But Eryk didn't joke; he didn't seem capable of it.

Aidan shook his head slightly. "I had to work to get him to tell you that much. Sorry for springing it on you, but that was the condition."

Kas, who had rolled his eyes slightly at Cy—it wasn't like he was an idiot, though maybe he should be grateful he was playing one better than he thought—looked at Eryk with some concern. Still, he wasn't about to ask in a room full of people, so he only sighed slightly and stood.

"Well in that case I guess I better go write some more spyware," he grumbled. He'd seen Ana's phone only once, but knew the model. Should be doable in a few days' work, though getting it onto the thing would be a different trick.

“Hm, you'll do a good job, though, Kas. You're the IT guy, after all," Cyrilla stated with a light huff. Eryk rolled his eyes, though, and turned towards Aidan.

“If there's nothing else, I will be taking the rest of the day off," Eryk spoke, his expression smoothing back out. “I'll be making a stop by Anastasia's today to see how the two pokémon are doing; it has made her a little more inclined to talk that way. If Gregorovich wants us to be her friends, this is one way to do it." Cyrilla's lip twitched slightly upwards, but she didn't say anything to Eryk.

"You won't hear me complaining," Aidan replied simply. He paused, then, tilting his head a little. "If you don't mind letting me know if anything changes with them? I know how the others are doing, but I've stayed away from the shelter for the obvious reasons."

“Sure. I'll have Cyrilla send you a message once I've found out," Eryk stated, causing Cyrilla to huff lightly.

“He can't work his phone very well," she offered as way of explanation. Eryk merely shrugged his shoulders. He didn't seem to deny it.

"Works for me," Aidan replied, apparently less bothered than Kas by the fact that a grown man didn't know how to work a cellphone.

Technological incompetents. Just... everywhere.

And he was stuck being the IT guy.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just for tonight.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Excellent. Glad we got that sorted out."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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August 10th
Cinnabar Island - Late Afternoon- Humid
Drake Bellamy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Taking the afternoon off?" he asked casually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It's obvious, isn't it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ana put a gentle hand on his shoulder and squeezed briefly before letting go. Aidan, on the other hand, muttered something under his breath. "That happen a lot, kid? It looks like it happens a lot." They'd reached Yselda's; he pulled the door open with a soft jangling sound and ushered the others through, taking the spot at the back of the line, which was about to the door anyway. The shop was very popular during the summer, for obvious reasons.

“Not as much as you'd think it does," Drake replied, pushing a soft sigh through his nose. Kevin's actions hadn't quite escalated too far, however; the fact that he'd tried to invite himself along with Drake's company wasn't a good sign. If he was starting to just invite himself, who knew what he'd try next. Still, it wasn't something to worry about, yet. Drake had other things to do, other things to take care of.

“Seems like he's not over you, though. If you ever feel uncomfortable or just need someone," Cyrilla started, reaching into her back pocket and pulling out a wallet. Drake snorted softly at it. It was a feebas zipper pouch, and she rummaged through it before pulling out a piece of paper. “This has my direct line and personal phone number. I'm not hitting on you, I promise," she stated, grinning lightly at him as Drake coughed a bit into his hand, feeling his cheeks heat up a bit.

“I'll be glad to help you out of any tough situations, alright?" she winked at him before turning towards Ana and Aidan.

“Thanks, Cyrilla," he stated. It was a nice offer, he supposed, but he didn't think he'd ever really need it. Still, he tucked the card into his pocket. He'd program her phone number into his phone, eventually, but for now, they had shakes to order. “What would you guys like?"

"Cream soda float," Aidan said simply. It wasn't clear if he'd been here before, but he had barely glanced at the menu, and that was something they served here.

Ana, who he knew from experience was very difficult to talk into letting things be bought for her, hemmed and hawed a bit before settling on a chocolate sundae. She'd almost certainly end up trying to buy him something in return within the next couple of weeks, but for the moment at least, her protestations were minimal. She did insist on buying Luna and Nova vanilla soft serve herself, however, rather than letting anyone else do it, and when they settled at one of the outdoor tables, she set the paper dishes down for the pokémon first.

It was enough to coax Siri from Aidan's head, and she joined the others. Drake took a seat so that he was on Ana's left, Cyrilla on her right, and Aidan in between him and Cyrilla. He took a sip of his strawberry milkshake; they were the best ones in his opinion, as Cyrilla seemed to be happily sipping on her own chocolate shake. This was, strangely, nice. He felt a little comfortable despite his encounter with Kevin, and it felt more relaxed.

He needed to do this more often.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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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 schedule, but it was true. "I'd love to," she said brightly, still vaguely dazzled by the fact that these interesting people kept inviting her of all people to things. Never mind the fact that the most interesting person was actually living in her house.

Honestly, how was this her life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, was he saying that because—?

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

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

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

“Ana—" he said, tone softening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eryk Nero Character Portrait: Kasimir Rheinallt Character Portrait: 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: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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August 25th
Downtown Cinnabar - Afternoon - Light Drizzle
Cyrilla Niav


Cyrilla chewed the bottom of her lip as she stared at the clothes rack. She and Mel had gone into town for a bit of light shopping. Diva had torn one of Cyrilla's shirts by accident; she'd been in the middle of cleaning her room when she'd thrown the shirt over her shoulder, and Diva thought Cyrilla was playing. She grinned a little to herself as she rolled her eyes before glancing over in Mel's direction.

“Hey, Mel, what do you think? Should I get this for Kas?" she asked, pulling out a tie dye muscle shirt. It had, from the looks of it, been misplaced in the women's section. She snickered softly as she held it in Mel's general direction. “I think it'd flatter him since he likes loud colors," not to mention he looked really nice in some of them. She wouldn't say that out loud, of course. She liked Kas well-enough, but she had to keep a certain distance from what that like meant. She couldn't get too friendly with him, after all, even if she wanted to.

Not even Mel.

The other girl's head popped up from over a rack of clothes; she eyed the shirt and sighed theatrically. "Oh god. He'd probably even wear it." Rolling her eyes, she shook her head a little. "Like... I swear he knows style really well, but you wouldn't know it half the time because he dresses like a beach bum."

She was at the moment rifling through a rack of casual, summery dresses, the majority of which were either simple sundresses or the t-shirt kind. Her perusal seemed to be mostly perfunctory; occasionally she'd pause and consider something for an extra moment before moving along.

Cyrilla laughed a little as she contemplated actually getting it for him. He would wear it, even if it was a little ridiculous. “You're not wrong. You should have seen him in his yukata," she replied casually. He had looked especially handsome in it, but she hadn't told him that. She'd stated they all looked good, but there was just something different in telling an individual they looked particularly charming.

"Ah, that'd be the green one with the bamboo pattern, right? That's a good one. Honestly I think he likes to wear obnoxious clothes sometimes because it throws people off. If he turns on the charm he can actually be really—" She caught herself, apparently cutting short something she'd been about to say. She didn't try to hide the fact that she had, turning the hitch into a shrug. "Well, that's beside the point. Point being, he likes to be ridiculous."

Abandoning the first rack, she shifted to another, humming a little as she made her way through the clothes there. "Okay so if you had to pick a lucky outfit for your biggest gym battle to date, what would you wear?" She arched an eyebrow in Cyrilla's direction. "I want to project confidence, but I'm not sure if I should go for all-business ladyboss confidence or flirty hot-chick confidence. I kind of like both for different reasons."

“Well," Cyrilla began, giving Mel her full attention, “I'd say do something more towards the flirty hot-chick confidence and save the all-business ladyboss confidence for your later challenges. Drake's the, what, fifth gym leader in line, right? After you destroy him, I'd say start moving that confidence up from the flirty hot-chick, to the hot-chick, to the I'm a fucking badass type." Mel had a certain air about her that made Cyrilla believe that she could pull off just about anything.

Mel was very pretty, already had the sort of confidence one could only dream of having, and she seemed to be really good at what she did. Cyrilla didn't doubt that Mel had what it took to make it all the way to the Elite Four.

"Seventh, actually," Mel said with clear amusement. "Once I have this badge I only need to grab the one from Viridian, and that's the Kanto set." She huffed a little, bypassing a few more blouses. "By your logic I guess that means I should be trying for just plain hot?"

“Confident hot," Cyrilla nodded as she glanced back at the rack. “And I guess I need to brush up on my gym leaders," she murmured. A thought occured to her as she glanced back at Mel. “If you only need one more after Drake, that means you challenged Jasmine in Fuchsia, right? Please tell me you utterly destroyed her," she asked. Jasmine was a member of Cyrilla and Eryk's family, but the woman was just unbearable.

She thought she was a gift from Arceus.

"Obliterated," Mel confirmed. "Wasn't even hard, after Sabrina. For a grandma, that lady slays. I hope I'm that badass when I'm eighty-whatever." She moved away from the rack and put her hands on her hips, turning a slow circle in place. "Confident hot, huh? I think that calls for some legs. Help me find a pair of shorts that'll make my ass look awesome?" She tilted her head. "Maybe a pair for you, too? You're living on an island now, after all."

She grinned, her smile bright white against the golden-brown of her skin.

Cyrilla couldn't help herself; she laughed so hard that she doubled over to hold her stomach. “Oh my Arceus, I really do like you," she stated once she was able to catch her breath. “Well if that's the case, then you need something that's going to accentuate your curves. Hm," she glanced over towards a shelf that had denim shorts, but those wouldn't do at all. Denim was nice, but they were on an island, and they wouldn't really sit properly on Mel's body.

“Oh," she stated as she picked up a pair of shorts. “These, definitely these," she stated, handing Mel a pair of biker shorts that were a neon coral color. “They'll make your ass pop, and the color will look really good on you," she grinned at Mel.

It was apparently Mel's turn to laugh, because she did, still smiling broadly even after it faded. "Okay, okay, I think I can work these. And let's see... for a shirt I think... this one, and this under." The bike shorts would almost go to the knees, and she'd picked a thin, loose white t-shirt with a bright graphic print to go with. Normally it might be too long and loose, but there was enough fabric there to tie higher, too. The tank top she'd selected to go underneath it was an ocean blue, just a little bit of teal in it. The bright color would likely show through the white shirt easily.

"I like it. It's still definitely casual enough to train in, but cute too." Nodding, she draped the garments over one arm and turned to Cyrilla.

"Okay, so what about you, lady? What makes you feel awesome and hot?"

Cyrilla snorted softly. “That's easy," she stated, grabbing a pair of black shorts in the style of Mel's. Biker shorts were always comfortable and easy to move in. Not to mention they were breatheable which was ideal in this kind of weather. She glanced at the shirts next, though, and pursed her lips. “Ah, and this," she stated, pulling out a green tank top. The back was mostly non-existent, but it would sit well on Cyrilla's hips.

Of all the things Cyrilla actually liked about her body, it was her back. Her hair was her favorite asset, but it was her back that she liked showing off the most. “These are what I'm getting," she stated, turning in Mel's direction.

"Nice," Mel said, clearly approving. "I love stuff with cool patterns on the back and all that. I can't really do midriffs so that and the legs are where it's at." She offered no particular reason for this; perhaps it was simply a preference.

"By the way, like... stop me if this is weird but do you have like... the island girl's kit yet? Couple of swimsuits, a good hat, sunglasses, that kind of thing?"

“I have a swimsuit, yes. As for a good hat and sunglasses, not really. I've never stayed on an island long enough to need any of that. Cinnabar's the first one, actually," she replied with a light shrug of her shoulders. They'd been on Cinnabar for a few months, now, and Cyrilla thought it'd be at least a few more months before they were going to move on. And that was all dependent on Ana and whether or not they found out she was a psychic.

“Why do you ask?" Cyrilla stated, tilting her head curiously at Mel.

"Just wondering if we should find somewhere to get you those things," she said with a shrug. "Well, and wondering if my useless brother's been helpful or not. I should've known he wouldn't be. He's at least tolerable to live with, right? Not giving you trouble?" Mel headed towards the shop counter to pay for her purchases, though she kept most of her attention on Cyrilla even as she fished a wallet out of the back pocket of her denim capris.

“He's been helpful in some ways, I suppose. We did the get drunk on an island backbeach, thing," she stated, smiling just a bit as she remembered the evening. It had been nice that night, and again during the Camellia Festival. The latter, though, was so that he didn't have to accidentally run into Rosanna. She'd understood the necessity of keeping a lie, she supposed, and she'd been more than happy to help him out. More-so than she should have been, really.

“And are you kidding? Kas and I were talking about installing a bounce castle inside the spare bedroom before you started staying with us. Which, in all honesty, was probably a good thing you did," she stated, huffing lightly as she shook her head. “But really, he's very easy to get along with and living with him is a dream. We switch cooking days and what not but I do most of it. I don't mind, really. I like cooking."

"Oh lady, don't let him get away with less than half the chores. If you're cooking more often make him do your laundry or something. He won't mind." Mel paused a moment, seemingly considering this. "Unless you'd find it too weird. Which is probably why he hasn't offered. He's better with personal space than he makes himself out to be."

She shrugged a little bit, though, her expression morphing into something a little slyer. "At least you've gotten drunk on the backisland, I guess. That's an important one. I already knew, though. We talk like once a week. He uh... mentions you. A fair bit, actually." She arched an eyebrow, studying Cyrilla's face as though trying to gauge her reaction to this bit of information.

Cyrilla was a little surprised by that. He mentioned her to his sister? Why? She was his coworker, sure, a friend even, but Cyrilla didn't think herself so important as to be mentioned to a family member. At least she didn't think so. She blinked slowly, though, trying to digest the information. That wasn't a good thing, though. Maybe she should put a little more distance between them? As much as she wanted to be friends with Kas, it just wasn't something she could afford.

She had no doubt that he could take care of himself, and he'd likely be fine even if it was just for work, but Cyrilla knew her family. The fact that she was living with him without Ryk was likely to land her in hot water, but they didn't need to know that. And it wasn't like members of their family often came to visit. She pushed the thoughts from her mind, though, and huffed a little.

“I suppose I'm a little flattered. I hope it's all good things he says about me," she joked, rolling her eyes a bit in a humorous way. “But your brother is a good guy, and I'm not saying that just because you're his sister," she clarified. Kas really had a good heart, even if most of the time he was as silly as Cyrilla was.

“He's... how should I put this," she paused, tapping her chin in a thoughtful manner, “he's a sweetheart, really, and I like him. He's a good friend."

"I'm glad," Mel said, oddly quiet. Accepting her bag of purchases from the cashier, she waited for Cyrilla to pay for her items as well, then stepped back out into the main covered hallway of the strip mall, blending easily with the crowd. The light rain had chased a lot of people inside, and unsurprisingly the shopping center was a popular destination for them.

It took another minute or so for Mel to speak again. When she did, though, her tone was thoughtful, and a little cautious. "He doesn't... he doesn't really let himself have a lot of friends. Acquaintances, sure—he's got that part down, but he—" she pursed her lips and shook her head. "Anyway, I'm glad he has you and the others. I worry about him."

Though the smile was on her face, Cyrilla didn't quite feel it. Something clenched painfully in her chest at Mel's words. They stung more than they should have, but Cyrilla kept the feeling off of her face. “I suppose he and I are a lot more alike than I thought," she stated absentmindedly. “He's... well, don't tell him I said this, but he is my first real friend. I didn't have any growing up," mostly because everyone in her family hated her. Even her parents. She wasn't... she banished the thought.

“I'm glad I have him, too. So don't worry too much about him. I'll do my best to make sure he thoroughly enjoys himself and is well-taken care of, deal?" she stated, arching a brow in Mel's direction. It was a lot to promise, but... it was something Cyrilla felt she could do. It wasn't as if her family had to know, after all.

Mel's face brightened at that, and she shook her head a little ruefully. "Don't be too nice to him or he'll never leave you alone," she joked. "He's basically a giant skitty."

“Me? Too nice?" Cyrilla blinked dramatically, placing a hand over her heart before a grin spread across her face. “Never," she stated, huffing lightly at the joke. “And I mean, I don't know. Skitty happen to be very cute and adorable. I wouldn't mind if I had one that never left me alone," she added, chuckling lightly.

"Is that so?" Mel replied, a strange little smile curling one corner of her mouth. "I guess we'll see, then."

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Character Portrait: Rocket Files
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#, as written by Aethyia


August 29th
Backisland Beach - Afternoon - Sunny
Melody Rheinallt


Mel stretched her arms above her head, feeling the familiar pull of warm muscles, then bent to touch her toes. She, Una, and Pyrrha had just been for a run along the Backisland beach, and she had to admit it was a nice one. This was so much better than visiting Kas in Mahogany Town or Cerulean City had been, back when he worked at either of those places. Not that she was here just to see him, of course; but as a place to get in some training before the last stretch of her gym run, it was hard to imagine better.

No doubt the rainy season would be along soon, but the truth was, Mel loved that part of the island climate just as much as the long, hot summers. There was something powerful about the storms in a place like this, or like Tangelo. She'd missed it badly since the divorce and her mom's move to Saffron.

Figuring she'd hang around on the beach for a while, she tossed another two pokéballs, letting Gemma and Argent out as well. The starmie made immediately for the water, and she couldn't blame her, honestly. It looked amazing. She might swim herself in a few minutes—she was wearing a suit under her white shorts and mint-green tank. For the moment, she contented herself with removing her running shoes, pulling a towel out of her small bag and laying it down on the sand. Argent and Pyrrha went to wander; Una curled up near her, though, the liepard much preferring to lay in the sun than risk the water, no doubt.

Reclining on the towel, Mel pulled her hair loose and then away from her neck, sighing in contentment at the feel of the warm sunshine on her skin. Man, this was really nice. If she didn't watch it she was going to fall right asleep.

Before she even had a chance to consider falling asleep, there was movement to her right side. It was a pokémon from the looks of it, and turning gave her a better view of the deino that seemed to be sniffing at Una. It turned its attention to Mel, though, and tilted its head at her. It made a soft snort, before its mouth opened, its tongue lolling to the side.

A deino? Those were definitely not native to this region.

Sitting up, Mel took a quick look around, but other than the appearance of the new pokémon, she didn't seem to have any company. There were a few people much further down the beach, but that was the wrong way—the deino had come from the other side. Brows furrowing, she turned to the pokémon. He looked friendly enough, and was clearly trained—there was just an obvious difference between wild pokémon and those who were accustomed to human company.

"Hi there," she said, rising onto her knees and reaching over to give the creature a pat on the head. She was careful, of course, not to move so fast as to startle him, or anything like that, but honestly he didn't seem like the type to be easily startled by anything. She rubbed the fur on his head, still looking around for anyone he might be with. "Did you wander away from your trainer, little dude?"

He made a grunting sound, seemingly pleased with the fact that he had wandered away from his trainer. He bumped his head gently against Mel's hand, though, seemingly wanting more head pats. He moved away when a voice could be heard, though, and turned his attention in the direction of the voice.

“Oh... for the love of, Deino you idiot! You're not supposed to wander away like that!" the voice belonged to a young man, perhaps a couple of years older than Mel, herself, was. He had pale blue hair and matching eyes, and seemed to be wearing a pair of khaki shorts that fell to his knees. The shirt, though, looked like it could have belonged to Kas's wardrobe; it was a salmon pink, with an image of a munchlax on it.

“I'm so sorry for this idiot. I hope he didn't bother you too much," the man spoke, offering Mel an apologetic smile as the deino wandered over towards him. He snorted at the blue-haired man, bumping his head against the man's legs.

Mel's eyes rounded slightly; amusing wardrobe choices aside, the pro-battling wonk in her recognized the person she was talking to immediately: this was Drake, Cinnabar Island gym leader. His official pictures didn't really do him justice, she thought—he was a lot cuter in person.

And she was kneeling in the sand like an idiot.

Suppressing a grimace at the less than awesome circumstances—she was kind of sweaty from her run and totally still wearing her unimpressive workout clothes—she stood nonetheless, flashing a bright smile. She knew she had a good one, and took a little comfort from the fact that this at least wasn't affected by her present state of not-very-impressive.

Running a hand back through her hair mostly to make sure it was laying decently instead of sticking up at a weird angle, she shook her head. "Not at all. Just wandered by and wanted some pats on the head." Sticking out her free hand, she offered it for a shake. "Mel Rheinallt. You must be Drake Bellamy."

“I am. It's nice to meet you, Mel," he stated, offering her a wider smile and taking her hand into his. He glanced down at the deino, though, and shook his head. “At least it was just head pats. The doofus likes to bug people for frozen yoghurt chips. A friend of mine got him addicted to them, and now he just thinks everyone walks around carrying them," Drake stated, shaking his head lightly. He seemed to have thought of something, though, and he tilted his head in her direction.

“Are you new to the island? I haven't seen you around before," he asked, blinking curiously at Mel. “I mean, I haven't really been out as much as I should, so it's possible I might have missed meeting you," he added with a light shrug of his shoulders.

Her grin was a little more mischievous this time, as she regained her metaphorical footing to go along with the physical kind. "I'd like to think you would've noticed me if I lived here," she joked, winking a little. Fake it till you make it, right? "But no. I'm just a visitor. My brother lives on island right now, though—he and a bunch of his coworkers just moved into the Old Mansion facility?"

She was sure he had to know about it. NTR setting up a major base of operations in your town was kind of big news, especially when the town wasn't itself all that large. Cinnabar probably counted as a small city, but it was definitely on that borderline.

Drake huffed a little laugh as he shook his head. “I'm sure I would have remembered someone like you, but I do know what you're referring to. I met a couple of the grunts that work there; some of them are pretty nice," he stated, his grin turning a little sheepish. There was a faint color to his cheeks, but he cleared his throat and it was gone.

“You said visitor, right? Are you just here to visit your brother? Cinnabar is a hotspot for tourists, so... I mean not that you're a tourist! Visitor and tourist are completely different... I'm just going to stop talking now," he stated, chuckling nervously as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Oh arceus, he was adorable.

She hadn't really expected that—most gym leaders were a little more brusque, probably something that happened when they had to deal with fans and suchlike. But here he was rambling a little like she'd genuinely caught him off-guard or something, and damn her if she wasn't just a little bit chuffed about it.

Mel's eyes narrowed with amusement; her smile turned the faintest bit coy. "Well not just to visit him, no. I'm also actually here to meet you." She put it in the most flirtatious way she could, because why not? She was having fun, and didn't seem to be making him uncomfortable, exactly. She did kind of want to fluster him, though. Setting a hand on Una's head, she let that set in for just a beat before she shrugged and elaborated.

"I sort of thought I'd be training for a while longer before that happened, though. I take my gym challenges very seriously, after all."

“Oh, um, well..." he stated, clearly caught off-guard, it seemed, by her statement. He cleared his throat awkwardly before offering her a small smile. “Ah, so that means you're a trainer, and you're here to challenge me. Well," he stated, glancing down at Deino before rolling his eyes.

“I guess I'll just have to make sure I'm ready when you come challenge me. Oh, uh, obviously the gym is closed today," he began, pointing to himself as if saying that his being out was giveaway, “but it's mostly open at the beginning of the week, and during the weekends unless otherwise stated."

Deino nudged Drake's hand a bit before turning his attention towards Mel, and making another grunting noise. “I think that's his way of saying he's looking forward to your challenge," Drake stated.

Her eyes softened as she regarded Deino. "Aww, but I'm going to feel a little bad, battling such a cutie," she said, reaching a little forward to give his head another pat. "His handsome trainer, on the other hand, looks like a lot of fun."

Mel arched an eyebrow as she straightened back up, knowing that the polite thing to do here was probably to back off and let the guy have his space. It sounded like his gym was open a lot, which meant his days off were probably completely necessary recharge time. He didn't need to be harassed by some random girl.

"Before you go, though, can I ask you for your lunch recommendation? I'm looking for somewhere close, and preferably cheap." It didn't bother her to say that; it was a generally well-understood truth that most trainers were on a budget, and she was no exception. Her family might be reasonably well-off, but she'd wanted to earn her own way through this, and so far, she had.

“Oh, sure," he replied, contemplating something, it seemed. “Hm, how about this, since you're here visiting your brother and to challenge me," he began, glancing at the deino for a moment, “how about you come with me? I'm on my way to the Magikarp. They make the best burgers on the island and they're relatively cheap. That is, of course, if you'd like to come. I wouldn't mind the company and it gives me the opportunity to meet new people. Er, well in this case to meet you."

He grinned a little sheepishly, but it was obvious he wasn't asking her to a date or anything. It was as if he was genuinely offering to take her to lunch as, maybe, a friend, or to show her around.

“Oh, and they have the best malts and onion rings."

Mel laughed. There was just something disarming about him, about this kind of easy kindness. Part of her knew she shouldn't trust it, because that was exactly the kind of thing that got her into trouble, but at the same time she knew somehow that this was just genuine generosity. He had no designs or intentions, and honestly it seemed like a great opportunity. Not just to pick a gym leader's brain, though that would be cool if he let her, but to just kind of... enjoy the afternoon in good company.

So she switched off the part of her that looked for opportunities to flirt or make entendres, and decided to just take things at face value for once. Her smile was a free, uncomplicated thing, and she nodded slightly. "I'd love to. Let me just get the team gathered up." Efficiently, she unclipped the three necessary pokémalls from her belt, leaving Argent out. The sylveon knew what to do anyway, approching and leaping up into Mel's arms so they could arrange her over her shoulders.

Pulling her her hair into a knot at the nape of her neck, Mel nodded at Drake. "Ready when you are, leader-man. Let's go."

He smiled brightly and nodded his head. “Great, it's this way!" he stated happily enough. He turned towards the direction they needed to go, it seemed, and Deino trailed along happily beside Mel. He'd occasionally grunt, but it was more as if he was just greeting the people they passed by.

“So, what made you decide to become a trainer?" he asked, shoving his hands into his pocket as he glanced towards Mel. “From your sylveon, it's obvious that you've taken really good care of her, and she looks fairly strong, too. I'm sure half of my team is going to have a tough time against her," he stated, grinning just a little bit.

Argent puffed herself up a little under the praise, and Mel laughed softly. "Careful; you'll give her an ego if you talk like that." She supposed it was technically bad strategy in a certain sense, making him aware of the pokémon that was probably her best shot against his anchor. But if surprise was the only thing that won her the badge, she wouldn't feel like she'd earned it anyway.

Rubbing the sylveon's ear, she shrugged a little. "I think I kind of always wanted to be one," she admitted. "You know how the age limits only went into effect recently, right? Well I'd actually started before then, but... some stuff happened and I had to go back home partway through. Then the laws were passed and I had to wait to restart anyway. So I gave myself some time to get my head on straight, then started all over again. Argent's been with me since the first time, and Una, my liepard, was the first pokémon I ever actually caught, but the rest are from this time around." She'd in fact only completed her team a sort while ago.

"I've been at it for about a year and a half now, and I'm really hoping to make a shot at the league eventually. I'd like to maybe get into pro-battling, too, but that's mostly all a pipe dream at this point. If I even manage to collect eight badges I'll have done so much more than most people, and I should probably be satisfied with that, but... I dunno. I kind of just want to see how far I can get. I've got something to prove, I guess."

More like someone to prove wrong, but she tried not to think about that too often.

"What about you? How'd you get into gym leading? Just a family thing, or...?"

He'd been listening intently, it seemed, as she explained her reasoning before rubbing the back of his neck. “You could say that, yeah," he spoke with a light shrug of his shoulders. “Honestly I think it was more that I wanted to be part of the reason so many people kept pushing themselves, y'know? Like, if they could get to me, then they were already proving themselves and one step closer to achieving their dreams. Sounds weird when I say it out loud like that, but meh," he continued, grinning a little sheepishly.

“I mean, Cinnabar Gym was always renowned when gramps had it as one of the best fire-type gym leaders. When I took over it, I kind of wanted to be the first dragon gym leader since it runs in the family, too. I don't have anything to prove, really, but... well, I suppose the one thing I do want to prove is that even though we're just gym leaders, we can still be just as tough as the elite four. That probably doesn't even make a lot of sense, does it?"

He seemed to roll his eyes at himself, before he smiled in a good natured way. “And I may not have battled you, yet, but I think you have what it takes. I think you could definitely make it to the Elite Four and battle the current champion. And it's not a pipe dream! A dream is a dream no matter what, so you should keep following it. You're still young, you can still do a lot of things that you want. Battle the Elite Four and Champion; go partake in the pro-battling world. You seem like you have the right kind of spunk and energy for it!"

Mel wasn't sure if it showed through on her face or not, but she was half-incredulous. She honestly didn't think they made people this nice. She'd used to think so, once, but she'd been very, very wrong about that. Releasing a soft breath, she shook her head. "I think it's gonna take a little more than energy, but... thanks." Her smile softened a little.

"And I mean, I'm not sure about anyone else but... I think the job of being a gym leader must be even harder in some ways than being a member of the elite four, or the champion. You have to make sure to present the level of challenge your gym is certified for, no more and no less, so that you can accurately test trainers against those benchmarks. It's got to be hard not going all out all the time—and hard to train your pokémon not to. I think that takes a lot more finesse and skill than just giving it everything you've got at all times."

“Well still, you got this!" he stated, giving her a bright grin as he blinked. “And yeah, that is true, but sometimes we get to partake in the tournaments they have for scouting potential pro-battlers so we get to go all-out, then. It doesn't happen very often, mind you, but it's fun when they come around. I think there's a tournament coming up, actually, pretty soon. Next month, or the month after; I have to look and see," he stated.

“Oh, look, there it is!" he spoke suddenly, pointing forward. Ahead there was a small building with a few tables outside with umbrellas to keep the shade. It didn't look like a diner or restaurant of any kind, but more of those old outdoor type places. There was the window to order, and that was it. It had a magikarp roof, though, which was probably why they named it as such.

“This place might not be anything fancy or upscale, but trust me when I say they have the best food around. Well, at least in my opinion. A friend of mine says that Jo's place has the best food, but I beg to differ," he stated with a grin.

"Guess I'll have to try both and see what I think," Mel replied with a smile. "You should order for me, though. I'm not picky, but I want to try what you think is the best stuff here."

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 9th
Marna's - Evening - Rainy
Anastasia Asher


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"After you, Doc." he said flatly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What if I'm ninety in spirit?"

Ana laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just a little!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just one more, with them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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September 12th
The Cloyster - Late Afternoon - Overcast
Nevena Solomon


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

And she wanted to pick their brains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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#, as written by Aethyia


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It's a little concerning."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It figured, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Aidan Klein
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September 21st
Cinnabar Gym - Late Afternoon - Hot
Drake Bellamy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was really getting out of hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrilla Niav Character Portrait: Anastasia Asher Character Portrait: Rocket Files Character Portrait: Nevena Solomon
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September 27th
Cinnabar Bowling Alley - Afternoon - Overcast
Cyrilla Niav


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"...you guys want snacks?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

Setting

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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 laid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. His sunglasses were tucked into the vee formed by the unbuttoned top third of the shirt, though there was a white layer underneath. His hightops were green and white, and looked to be a bit on the worn side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled a little ruefully, though. “Maybe one day... it won't be like this. Maybe one day I won't have to be here, in a place I don't want to be, and doing things that make me sick. But I suppose it's just wishful thinking." It certainly felt like it.

He sighed quietly. "You really don't get it, do you?" he murmured, more to himself than to her, it seemed.

Before he could elaborate, though, the waiter showed back up with their food, including for the two who still weren't yet present, and Kas rolled his eyes, removing his phone from his pocket and firing off a text. "Honestly, Mel. Traffic doesn't get that bad on the island."

As if on cue, Mel and Drake appeared a few moments later, settling into the booth on the other side. "Hey guys," she said, a smile playing at the edges of her mouth. "Sorry we're late."

Maybe she didn't get it, but she supposed she was grateful for Drake and Mel's appearance. She offered them a bright smile, and arched a brow at the two of them. “Yeah, sorry we're late. We were taking a Farfetch'd when it broke down, so we hoofed it the rest of the way," Drake added, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh, and thanks for ordering our stuff for us!" he added, causing Cyrilla to chuckle lightly.

“Hm, well you're lucky they just brought it out so it's still warm," Cyrilla stated as she glanced at her burger. “Hm, now let's see if these are as good as you've hyped them up to be, Drake," she added, grinning at him.

“Of course they're good! This place has the best burgers, ever. I'll have you know that yours truly is a certified burger master," Drake stated, looking rather smug about the declaration. Cyrilla rolled her eyes lightly.

Mel let out a soft snort. "'Certified Burger Master'?" she repeated, a broad grin blooming over her face. "There's no way that's a real thing, you dork." She nudged him in the side with her elbow, clearly enjoying herself; perhaps the walk over had broken any ice there might have been.

"I think it's a self-appointed position," Kas added dryly, taking a bite out of his food and reaching for the malt. He used the straw this time, though.

"Is there a cherry in that?" Mel asked, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.

Kas sighed, using a clean spoon to fish it out. "Fun fact, everyone: my sister is crazy about cherries. I don't know why, but she is."

"Strawberries too," she corrected, accepting the cherry and eating it right off the end of the stem. "Especially with chocolate. Mirmir likes citrus fruits and cream, though."

“I like pineapples, to be honest. There's something a little sweet and tart about them that makes them taste really good. Never been too big on strawberries, though. They're too sweet sometimes," Drake stated, rolling his own eyes and feigning a slight hurtful look when Mel had elbowed him. “What about you, Cyrilla? Since everyone's talking about favorite fruits and otherwise," he added, titling his head in her direction.

“Mangoes with tajin seasoning. It's really good because the seasoning itself is made with salt, chile powder, and dehydrated lime. You might actually like it on your pineapple; it pairs really nicely with it," she answered easily enough. Besides, tajin seasoning wasn't as spicy to her as it was for most people. It just added a sort of boldness to the fruit. Maybe it was because she just liked spicy things?

“Ugh, how do you all do spicy things! I've tried... really, I have, but I can't," Drake almost sounded like he was whining.

“Because we're not lightweights like you, of course."

“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 then those of us who know better."

"Yikes," Kas replied, sipping from his beer. He was pretty relaxed, to all appearances, but then he was the one who had no idea what they were in for. "Also, not to like... make it worse or anything, but do we have a plan for what to do if she wants to like... visit the shelter or something? I can't imagine letting her talk to Ana is anyone's idea of a good time."

“First off," Eryk began, narrowing his eyes a bit in Kas's direction, “she has no business at Ana's shelter. This is our mission; she's not allowed to interfere with it unless she gets permission from Gregorovich." Eryk doubted Gregorovich would consent because this was time-sensitive, and Katia was not exactly the type of person you sent in for missions that required something of a delicate approach.

“Secondly, you're not wrong," he added, turning in Aidan's direction. “No one is ever ready to deal with her shit. She'll be here in the next hour or so; I suggest we figure out the best course of action to take so that she doesn't fuck anything up." All of his hard work would be for naught if she somehow let something slip. And if it messed with either him or Cyrilla, Eryk knew she would do it on purpose.

"Rheinallt has a fair point, though," Aidan murmured around the cigarette. "She could easily just introduce herself as your relative. And if you told Ana she was visiting, it might be stranger for her not to stop by the place you're living. Or at least I could see her using that as an excuse. If we want to head her off before she gets the chance to do anything like that..." he hummed.

"Why not, uh... volunteer the info?" Kas shrugged when Aidan looked at him curiously. "You, as her former teammate, do her a 'solid' and brief her on Ryk's current missions and stuff. Make it clear that he's doing important shit for Gregorovich that she can't mess with in the process. She gets the impression you're at least kinda willing to play ball with her plans, she learns not to go for that angle, awkward collision avoided."

Eryk arched a brow at the suggestion. It might help in that sense if Katia knew what he was doing. It would give her a reason to back off for now, and wouldn't necessarily jeopardize whatever they had going on. If Aidan fed Katia the information, it would get her off of his and Ana's back. That was the most important thing, right now. He blinked a bit when he realized which direction his thoughts had taken. Ana and this mission were the most important things right now. It was the mission that was important.

“You said you would take one for the team, might as well make it this. And..." Eryk paused as he narrowed his eyes somewhat, “she might just tell you things that will help us in the long run, too. She's more willing to listen to you than to anyone else who isn't Gregorovich or part of the family." Katia never shut up about things like that, and part of Ryk wondered if Katia had something for the man. He huffed lightly at the thought.

“Just be careful or she'll decide you're her next target."

"Not funny, Nero," Aidan replied, though the irregularity in the smoke cloud he exhaled somehow suggested inaudible laughter. "But sure. I'll make sure she knows, I guess." He picked up his low tumbler of whiskey and took a sip, setting it back down on the table with a soft thud.

"She coming in by boat, or taking a charter plane in?" he asked suddenly, but a moment later, the reason became clear. A small aircraft droned in the distance, audible even over the wind. They weren't especially common on the island—boat transport was the standard, though there was a small local airport on the backisland where planes could be chartered in and out.

Eryk groaned lightly, and downed his sixth or eighth shot of vodka. He couldn't really remember what number he was on. “She's coming by plane; something about it taking too long on a boat," he answered. “She's a little early if that's her plane, but it wouldn't be the first time she's lied about the time she'd be somewhere."

Really, Eryk should have known better. Katia was always early to the places she'd say she was going to. If she said an hour, it'd likely be anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes. She just liked to make people panic for no reason other than because she could. Taking a deep breath, and downing his last drink, he glanced towards the other two.

“Who's coming and who's hiding out?"

"I should probably show, I guess. I'm nominally in charge of the office and all."

"Why don't you guys do that, and I'll take care of the bill? Curious as I am, it'd probably be weird if I was there right off the bat, especially if we don't want to let on that you actually have normal shit like friends." Kas grimaced, reaching out and patting twice on the back. "Good luck out there."

Eryk actually forgot about that. He had friends and, as Kas put it, normal shit. He huffed lightly, though, and shook his head. “Thanks, and you'll meet her soon enough, I'm sure," Eryk replied as he stood from his spot. He bid Marna and Kas farewell before he left with Aidan. The walk to the docks was slow, but deliberately so. He wasn't in a rush to see her, nor hear her. The air strip wasn't too far from the docks, and when they arrived, he could already see the top of her annoying purple hair. Her expression was dark, and she seemed to be glaring at everyone who passed her by, however; when their eyes met, her expression changed into something more that looked like disgust.

That was fine by Eryk; she disgusted him, too.

He briefly glanced in Aidan's direction before turning his attention back towards Katia. He didn't say anything to her. He had nothing to say, after all.

“Klein, what are you doing here?" she asked, slightly confused. “It's supposed to be just him; Gregorovich hasn't given us anything specific," she added, tossing her head in Eryk's direction. It jostled her ponytail, but other than that, she looked like she always did. Dressed in a white tank top with a purple one over it, she placed a hand on her hip as she shifted the bag at her back. She handed it towards Eryk, though, and he gave her a flat stare.

“I'm not your fucking bell boy. Don't hand me your shit," he said as he narrowed his eyes. She narrowed her own at him.

Aidan shrugged, acting entirely like his usual self. "I'm technically in charge of the field office. Apparently that means doing shit like this; it's happened before." He didn't give any particular indication how he felt about it. He did, however, extend a hand as if to offer to carry the same suitcase Eryk had refused.

"You got a place you're set up or what?"

“I did," she replied dryly, glancing in Aidan's direction with narrowed eyes. It took her a moment longer before she handed the bag to Aidan, and huffed lightly. “But the place I was set up at decided they didn't have any open rooms so I'll be staying wherever Nero is staying," she stated in a nonchalant fashion. There was something in her eyes, a dangerous glint that was covered by a smile, however; Eryk knew it for what it wasn't.

“No. You're not staying with me. Go see if the Delaney has any open rooms for you to rent from," he shot back, earning an arched brow from her.

“Oh? Is there a reason you don't want me staying, Ryk? Niav not being a good girl and putting out like she's supposed to?" she asked. Eryk bit his tongue. He wanted to tell her to fuck off, but that wouldn't work for her. She'd merely roll with it and turn it into something else.

“I'm on a mission for Gregorovich. You'll be informed about it, later, not in a public place like this," he merely stated. It seemed to satisfy her for the moment, however; she made a soft tsking sound.

“What about you, Aidan? You've any room to spare?" she sounded almost hopeful that he would. Eryk inwardly winced. She was going to be a pain for the next few weeks, wasn't she?

Aidan sighed, flicking ash from the end of his cigarette. "Yeah, fine. You can stay at mine. I wasn't planning on this though, so you'll have to give me a few hours to change out the sheets and whatever." He shot a brief glance at Eryk. There was little change in his expression, but nevertheless it was pretty obvious why he was agreeing to this—it would stop Katia from insisting on anything less convenient, including staying with Cyrilla and Kas or anything like that.

"We gonna get moving? There's a car waiting in the lot. We can talk shop there."

I owe you one, Eryk spoke directly to Aidan with the use of his telepathy. He didn't want Katia to hear him, after all, and he would owe Aidan. It was still strange to Eryk, connecting to someone's mind like that, even if for a brief moment. He'd have to practice it at a later time with someone just so it wouldn't feel like he'd run straight into a wall, head first. It was different with pokemon, though.

Katia, however, beamed happily at Aidan when he'd agreed to let her stay. “See, why can't you be more accommodating like Klein?" she asked, furrowing her brows at Eryk as they made their way towards the car.

“Because I'm not Klein."

Clearly," she responded, rolling her eyes. When they approached the car, they shuffled in with Katia in the middle. “So... let's talk shop. What's Gregorovich having them do?" she asked once she made herself comfortable.

Stubbing his cigarette out on the ashtray in the car, Aidan expelled the last of the smoke out the window and leaned back, crossing his arms. "Infiltration, of sorts," he said. "Two at once. The long term one's for Project Nebula, so I don't have to tell you how much boss has riding on it. That's the one he's changed locations for—he's living with a mark. The other's a foray into pro-battling. Dunno what details you're cleared for, so I'll have to stop explaining there, but... you get the idea, I'm sure."

Katia looked like she wanted to sneer at what Aidan had said, but she seemed to settle on pursed lips. “Fine. I get the idea," she replied as she rolled her eyes. “Just so you know, I'll be checking in with Niav, too. There have been some unsettling things being said and her parents want me to check in with her while I'm here," she stated, grinning slightly.

“This is a mission that all three of us are doing. Don't do anything stupid, Katia, or it's not Gregorovich you'll be worried about," he let the threat hang in the air as she furrowed her brows at him.

“I'm not a complete monster, Ryk. I'm merely going to get her side of the story, is all. Jeez, I swear you jump to conclusions too quickly."

“How long are you going to be here?" he asked, watching as she smiled slyly at him.

“Why? Miss me already?"

“No. I want to celebrate when you go." Katia made a face at him but rolled her eyes.

“The first week of November, asshole."

Aidan looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, but only for a moment before his features smoothed out again. His chest rose and fell with a deep sigh, but it was entirely silent. He fixed his eyes out the window and pretended to ignore the insults being traded back and forth, at least until they reached the Cloyster.

"All right, this is our stop. You headed back to hers, Nero, or getting out?"

Eryk really didn't want to leave Aidan alone with Katia, however; he had promised Anastasia that he would help her with some of the duties before the day was out. Sighing deeply, he shook his head.

“I'm headed back. There are a few things I need to take care of," he answered, pursing his lips in Aidan's direction. Katia didn't seem too inclined to say anything about his response, thankfully. She merely rolled her eyes and leaned a little towards Aidan's direction.

“Guess that means you'll be showing me around the apartment," she said simply, though Eryk felt a little sick to his stomach at the way she said it. There were certain implications there that he was almost certain she meant. He really did owe Aidan. Badly for this.

But Aidan's expression didn't change. He only nodded, as disaffected and detached as he'd ever been, and pulled Katia's bag from the trunk. "Sure. We're this way."

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.