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MATURE: White Swan, Black Swan


Mar 12, 2021
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Hey there, I'm Sinderella! Deciding to start chronicling my longfic here too! I've been planning this fic for a while, and hope to be able to keep up with semi-regular updates!

This fic has kind of become my baby in the past couple months. It's extremely OC centric, but expect to see some canon characters join the main cast in the second arc. There's also some fakemon, a new type, and a new villainous team in the mix. I hope you enjoy your read! :bulbaWave: It's still a WIP so pls pls pls pls don't bash me too hard......

Synopsis: Kalos is currently in the clutches of a drug epidemic, and Odette Cinq-Mars is a former theater hopeful with a little too much time on her hands and a penchant for reading into things a little deeper than most.

When her best friend Noel uncovers an alarming discrepancy in some public case files regarding the drug epidemic, she begins to do more than just question. When an old flame returns to haunt her, she launches herself into the world of the Shiny Pokemon Trade to uncover some answers. She soon finds she might have been in some deep trouble long before she involved herself…

Warnings: I will be tagging each chapter with trigger warnings, but overall, this fic is rated K+-M for frequent adult language, implications of sexual assault and abuse, drug usage, light gore, occult happenings, and overall angst.

Patch Notes!
  • Chapter 6
    • Made Odette way more lovey toward Dorien, despite the fact that she's disgusted.
    • Added small kissing scene.
  • Chapter 7
    • Made Odette way more lovey toward Dorien, despite the fact that she hates it.
    • Made Dorien more handsy toward Odette.
    • Added larger, somewhat noncon kiss.
    • Added emphasis on unhappy shiny pokemon.
    • Added scene where waiter drops drinks all over a rich person, and the rich person yells at him. Odette wants to help, but cannot because she's playing a part.
  • Chapter 8
    • Eliminated every exposition about Odette thinking she's being a stalker.
  • Chapter 9
    • Chapter name change.
    • Entire latter half of chapter was overhauled to eliminate a battle scene, and add a seen where the concept of Odette being possessed is introduced.
    • Blatant show of Pokemon trafficking.
    • Odette is still sent to the hospital, but for a different reason.
    • Added the concept of a "Pokemon Coercion Service" that shiny traders use to coerce Pokemon that have special evolution conditions to evolve.
    • Conversation with Clovis slightly edited.
    • Conversation with Enora heavily edited to show more compromise.
  • Prologue
    • Light edits to typos and incorrect grammar.
  • Chapter 1
    • Changed Noel's "in" at the Kalos PD from a friend he knew in an online class to somebody he knew in person.
  • Chapter 3
    • Chopped down the opening scene.
  • Chapter 1
    • Moved explanation of shiny trade from chapter 3 to chapter 1.
  • Chapter 3
    • Rewrote battle scene almost entirely. Provided more stakes, more Odette getting mad, and more Dorien seeming like a competent trainer.
  • Chapter 4
    • Modified the discussion with Bernard to track with the changed battle scene.
  • Chapter 8
    • Added some extra dialogue to indicate that the Rotom in Odette's RotomPhone is a Rotom going through rehabilitation.
  • Chapter 1
    • Mentioned Odette's blood pressure problems and overall poor immunity issues sooner.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Gave the Purrloins director a name--Martin.
    • Wrote in the concept of Odette's Pokemon taking leave from working to pack for the move.
    • Move date has been moved down to April.
    • Tweaked Acadia bringing up the league--Alola forming the league a few years out, and not within the next few months.
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
  • Chapter 2
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Tweaked Odette talking about Loic--she now speaks more fondly of him. Mentions how he got her out of bed during a depressive spiral, and that he decided to stay with her instead of returning to the wild.
  • Chapter 3
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Introduced RotomPhone as a helper Pokemon in rehab from an injury.
    • Rewrote Dorien and Odette's meeting, where Odette clearly still has a crush on Dorien, and thinks about the almost-relationship they had in high school.
    • Mentioned that Odette had her entire team sans Loic in high school.
    • Odette's realization about Dorien's involvement in the shiny trade hits a lot harder, and it's more obvious that she's perplexed about forgetting it. Emphasis on how she didn't realize it until later into their relationship.
    • Dorien is more forthright about starting a relationship with her.
    • Mention that Odette's team take different classes from her during the day.
    • Move names are capitalized.
  • Chapter 4
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • More exposition on Odette's anger problems. Rewrote the excerpt about her breaking a student's finger. More emphasis on the fact her anger issues have been diagnosed as part of a hormone problems, also associated with her other medical issues.
    • Bernard knows about Odette's former thing for Dorien.
  • Chapter 5
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Adjusted some dialogue around Dorien.
  • Chapter 6
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Included Vienna's partner, a Gardevoir named Thea.
  • Chapter 7
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Mentioned Dorien's clique, consisting of Denis, Colin, Adam, and Lionel.
    • Touched on Noel's former relationship with Colin, and his general awkwardness with commitment.
  • Chapter 8
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Slight line edits.
  • Chapter 9
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Included the names of Dorien's friends in passing.
    • A little more dialogue on Noel's commitment issues.
  • Chapter 10
    • Lowercased all Pokemon species names unless they were being referred to as proper nouns.
    • Adjusted verbiage to refer to Pokemon as "partners" and "friends" and not like pets.
    • Added a little more description to Marieanne and tweaked some of her dialogue.

White Swan.jpg

Prologue Awoken
Chapter 1 A Lot On Her Mind
Chapter 2 The Audacity...
Chapter 3 A Bad, Bad Run-In
Chapter 4 She's Unabashedly Nosy
Chapter 5 How Could This Possibly Be a Good Idea?
Chapter 6 Psychopath
Chapter 7 Something's Rotten in Kalos
Chapter 8 Reading is Essential
Chapter 9 Are You Actually In Control?
Chapter 10 She's Unabashedly Nosy...and Sick
Last edited:
Prologue - An Impulsive Change of Heart
Prologue: An Impulsive Change of Heart
Thoughts of infanticide, talk of infanticide, thoughts of murder, implied child neglect
Author's Note: Hey all! Thanks for stopping by. There's two versions of this chapter--the original that's been up since this fic was posted, and the rewrite. I do highly suggest you focus on the rewrite, but you're more than welcome to read both. Hope you enjoy!
The emergency breach sirens wailed through the halls of the S.S. Mystic Milotic.

Team Enigma usually functioned like a well-oiled machine, but the sirens prompted chaos. Grunts ran around trying to gain information from one another, but every grunt was just as clueless as the next. Some just stood by and waited for further instructions from their feared leader, but nothing came.

He was dealing with the issue himself.

Florent Lambourne threw open the doors to the highly secure keep, located in the bowels of the ship, with his 11-year-old son Armel at his heels. Florent's hardened features were twisted into a look of pure rage, one that appeared to make his maroon eyes glow. He pushed on the sleeves of his navy business suit, trying to keep his hands busy. Armel's face was a little more blank, but there was an obvious glint of childish apprehension in his gaze. He clutched a thick journal tightly to his chest.

The alarm sound was at its loudest in this room, bouncing off the server-lined walls and metal floors. There were no windows for the noise to escape out of, allowing it to swell and rattle through the high-tech research equipment that had been placed throughout the space. All the light fixtures on the ceiling flared red.

The four grunts on guard in the keep whirled around at the loud bang of the doors. Although their faces were entirely covered by their uniform gas masks, Florent could still see their fear, plain as day. Their stiff straight postures, the jumpy ways their shoulders rose and fell in time with their panicked breathing. They were absolutely terrified.

As they should be.

"Your majesty!" one greeted. There was a clear air of distress in the way he spoke.

"Where are they?" Florent grunted.

"Um, they're still there, but…" another grunt tried to answer.

"But what?"

He pushed past the line of terrified grunts and quickly approached the center of the keep. It was a large space, having been built to take up the entire bottom portion of the ship. Florent had to widen his stride to cover the distance quickly. A raised pedestal stood in the center, with a Pokeball holder perched atop it. His heart dropped when he saw that the glass that normally protected the balls inside was completely shattered.

"No, no, no, no…" he muttered to himself as he leaned over the contents. The holder had five pockets, each occupied with its own neatly situated Pokeball, closed and undisturbed. Or, at least, that was how it was supposed to be.

The fifth and final Pokeball was open and broken, as if the Pokemon it housed had blown it out from the inside.

Florent's eyes went wide, much more so when he read the label that marked the pocket.


"How is that even possible…"

"Your majesty," one of the grunts said again. "We are terribly sorry. But we don't know--"

"Did one of you take it?" Florent cut him off.

The underlings quickly fell into a collective fit of denial.

"No, your majesty."

"We would never."

"They're your relics, your majesty."

Florent took a deep breath and straightened his back. He calmly turned to face them as he folded his hands behind him. His expression wasn't angry anymore. His features had relaxed, now showing something a little more stoic.

"You say that, and yet...why is it that my most powerful Blood Legendary has gone missing while you were the ones on duty?" he asked sternly. Like a teacher questioning misbehaving students.

"We didn't know what to do, your majesty," one said as evenly as he could manage. His voice wavered nonetheless. "It had a meltdown. It just busted out and we couldn't catch it."

"Isn't the whole point of guards in the keep to ensure none of my relics go missing?" Florent inquired. He lightly cocked his head to the side for good measure. "So you're either going to tell me that one of you has taken it, or you failed to do your job. Both are equally as bad."

The panic wafting off of the grunts thickened the air and caused a smirk to tilt Florent's lips. He stepped down off the pedestal.

"Your next option is to beg for my forgiveness."

The four grunts exchanged looks. After a beat, they dropped to their knees, and fell over into a bowing position. They then began to run through their memorized code of apology.

"Forgive us, King Florent, for we have wronged you..."

Florent let it go on for several seconds. He didn't bother to interrupt; he didn't bother to terrorize them further. It was in the middle of all of it that he felt an all-too-familiar tickle in his ear. His eyes narrowed, and soon, the voice followed.

"What is it you're going to do?" it asked tenderly.

Florent considered the words for a moment, before holding up a halting hand.

"Cease and rise," he snapped.

The four grunts quieted themselves and stumbled back to their feet.

"You should know that I am feeling peckish," the voice said.

Florent pursed his lips, then turned his head slightly to grab a look at Armel, who had kept quiet through the whole altercation. He had moved off to the side, away from the door, to stand near a table of empty beakers and test tubes. He stood stiff and straight, still clutching that little book of his. That same glint of trepidation still lingered in his eyes.

He felt that perhaps, this would be a good learning experience for his one and only heir. Even if he would probably forget it.

His smirk broadened as he looked back at the grunts and their lowered heads. "Your words have moved me," he began. "So much so that I am willing to forgive your transgression against Team Enigma and I."

There were evident sighs of relief from the grunts. They held themselves quite stiffly, as they were trained, but Florent could still see the tension beginning to leave them.

"However," he continued. He pulled his left hand from behind his back, revealing the single Pokeball he'd had on him. "You've outlived your usefulness to me. Your time for purification has come, my good men."

He pushed the button on the Pokeball, and it popped open with the familiar flash. The inhabitant began to manifest in front of the once-again frightened group.

"Gulattive, it is dinner time," Florent said calmly. He brought his free hand to his lips and bit down on his thumb until it drew blood.

The bead of red that formed on his thumb began to glow, and a stream of light shot out from it and joined the beams emanating from the Pokeball. It met with the manifestation, causing it to begin to grow in size. It grew, and grew, and grew. It didn't appear it would stop growing, until the glowing form had nearly hit the ceiling. However, it stopped just short of it, and faded from the beams of the Pokeball and Florent's blood into reality.

It was a towering, lanky form, with arms were as long as its seemingly legless body. This left the being floating, like a ghost. A cloak appeared to cover it, with a hood up over what should have been its head. However, there looked to be no head to speak of. Only a single, bloodshot red eye sat in place. Once formed, it loomed ominously over the four grunts.

They didn't attempt to run, knowing damn well it would be futile. Their fates were sealed. They accepted it.

"Mom, I'm coming home, pure and true," one muttered as his tears began to soak the inside of his mask. He shut his eyes and prepared for the inevitable.

"Feast," Florent said simply.

A slit tore open in the Pokemon's stomach, revealing rows upon rows of serrated and saliva-coated pincers. A pointed tongue, one that looked to be far too long to fit in its body, licked the pincers before curling outward into the open. The Pokemon emitted a threatening growl before lunging at the grunts. All that could be heard was a set of high pitched squeals, followed by the sickening sound of their bones crunching, and the squelch of their flesh being bitten into. It took Gulattive no time at all to swallow down all of them.

Florent chuckled to himself as he watched the Pokemon finish off its meal, before turning back to the puzzling sight that was the broken Pokeball and holder. He huffed again and crossed his arms.

"Tell me. Were any of them lying?" he asked.

Gulattive slurped to itself, before turning to face its host.

"No, master," it said slyly, speaking out loud this time. "They tasted pure. No trace of Venira."

"Then where could it have gone? How did it break open its ball?"

"It seems," Gulattive began, "Venira has selected a host. It willed an escape, enough to break any bindings."

Florent's brows furrowed deeply, and he whipped around to face the towering Pokemon.

"What do you mean selected a host?" he growled. "You told me that I selected the hosts for the rest."

Gulattive hummed to himself with sinister glee. "You do. But in the event your bloodline expands, one shall inhabit the offspring, as Avareed did with the boy."

Florent moved his gaze over to Armel, who was frozen in his spot. Sheer terror had grabbed hold of his body, and had no plans to let go any time soon. His eyes were locked on the place where the grunts had been standing. All there was left of them now was a puddle of blood.

"F-father, you…" Armel stammered.

Florent scoffed to himself. "Wipe the look off your face, boy. That's how things are handled around here."

He turned on his heel and approached the wall just off to his left, where a giant red button was affixed. With his face now out of Armel's sight, he took that small second to cringe to himself as wash of minute regret came over him. While those bumbling morons had failed to keep Venira secure, they were still valuable numbers among Team Enigma. It had been difficult to come across new recruits lately, and now that he was thinking clearly, he realized he couldn't afford the loss that had just occurred.

And yet, here they were.

Florent wasn't quite sure how he was able to keep telling himself he could keep his destructive impulses under control. After a whole lifetime being the Pokemon of Gluttony's vessel, he should have known by now that there was no wrangling those side effects, no matter how much he tried.

With a single, very aggressive shake of his head, he pulled a key card from his pocket and swiped it into the reader strip that was placed just next to the button. It released, and he shot a look back over at Armel, who was still quivering like a pathetic Magikarp out of water in his spot.

"You'll forget it by tomorrow anyway, my dear boy."

He slammed his fist down on the button, halting the alarm and flashing red lights. All returned to normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Florent turned back to Gulattive. "And you couldn't have told me that me expanding my bloodline, even unwillingly, would cause me to lose these Pokemon of mine?" he queried.

"You didn't ask."

Florent clenched his teeth in disdain. He supposed it couldn't be helped that this particular Legendary was so conniving.

"So, you're implying I have another child somewhere?"

"Not implying, master. Telling," Gulattive stated. "Judging by the speed which Venira left, I am to assume a child of your blood has just been born."

Florent paced back to the front of the pedestal, his eyes downcast in thought. He raised his wrist to his face, seeking the date off his watch.

December 14th, 1997. 8:16pm. The alarm had begun to go off a mere five minutes ago.

"How could I have another child born at this point?" he asked himself. He racked his brain for possible answers. Several mistresses of his were aboard the ship, but none he'd had long enough to carry a baby to a full, healthy term.

"Quite strange that master cannot remember who he has lusted after."

"Shut up, you," Florent snapped. "You're Gluttony, not Lust."

As his father conversed with Gulattive, Armel was wracking his brain for ideas on what he should do. If he were to avoid the same fate as those grunts, he had to be of some use.

He slowly brought his journal to his face and pulled it open, shaky hands flipping frantically through the pages, trying to find something he might have written down that could assist his father in the current predicament. He hoped, somewhere in his previous lives, he'd written some useful information down.

He turned page upon page, his eyes scanning them for any trigger words that might prove worth mentioning. In the several seconds he was turning, he found himself slightly tripped up by the recounts of preceding days, as he always was when he reread everything. Instances that he had no recollection of, rewritten clear as day in his own handwriting, and dated for convenience. He blew backwards through November, October, September, August...all the way back to April, where he finally found something.

April 4th, 1997.


Father's woman left today. He didn't know she was leaving, so he's really angry. Don't mention her to him tomorrow. We will most likely be leaving Galar tonight because of it too, so don't be alarmed if we're elsewhere.

"The Galar-rian woman…?" Armel stammered quietly. He gulped, and took a deep breath, trying to compose himself. Trying to get the image of Gulattive eating four people whole out of his head. If there was any moment for him to be thankful that his brain was fried, it was this one. He'd have no recollection of it tomorrow morning, and it wouldn't be something he planned to jot down.

"Speak up, Armel," Florent shouted sharply. Armel flinched at the way his father's voice bounced off the walls, and his shoulders tensed.

"The Galarian woman," he repeated, louder this time. There was no need, though, as Florent had strode over to him, and now stood over him.

"The one you met back in Spring. While we were in Galar," he clarified. He tentatively closed the journal and held it down at his side, hoping desperately that he'd said enough.

Florent brought a thoughtful finger to his bottom lip, as the memories lit up his eyes.

"Vienna," he recalled fondly. "That was her name. Beautiful, sweet Vienna."

She'd left him without a trace. High, dry, and heartbroken. He remembered going to pick her up from her dorm at her college, only to find she'd left the region entirely. No goodbye, no note, not even a phone call.

He remembered how badly he wanted to wring her neck for it.

He began to caress his chin, allowing his eyes to slip shut in contemplation. Their last time together had been April--eight months ago. It wasn't necessarily farfetched to assume she could have been with child in the weeks before. Still, he thought he'd been careful...

Recalling the timeline of his brief relationship with her caused him to wonder: did she leave him behind because she'd gotten pregnant? He had to wonder if she even knew at that point. If she did, it only gave him one more reason to want to feed her to Gulattive too. Keeping one of his heirs from him was a crime he wouldn't allow himself to forgive.

Especially not when said heir had stolen his strongest relic from him.

"You told me Venira was comatose. How is it that it broke free to find my child?"

"I can't say," Gulattive mused. "Venira has always been an odd one out. It seems they have been reawakened by whatever presence has been introduced. It must be a strong one!"

Florent didn't like that prospect. While the idea of having another heir was one he enjoyed, having said heir attract the attention of the otherwise dormant Pokemon of Wrath…

It just wouldn't do.

"How could I get Venira to return?"

"The child would have to willingly give it to you, or perish."

That was a no-brainer. A newborn couldn't willingly give up the possession, so the demise of it would have to do.

"Well. Then I must do some digging, and find what it is my sweet Vienna hid from me."

He placed a light hand on Armel's head, causing the boy to flinch at the touch. Florent didn't appear to notice it.

"Good on you for remembering, my boy. That journal was a good investment."

"Thank you father," Armel gulped.

"Come. We must go to the surveillance rooms at once."

"Yes father," Armel agreed.

"Is there anything the master requires of me?" Gulattive inquired.

Florent didn't hesitate to hold out his empty Pokeball push the button.

"Yes. Return," he said, as Gulattive was sucked back into the ball in another flash of light. It sealed shut, and he threw it up once and caught it.

"Your services shouldn't be needed until I locate my newborn. It should be a solid meal for you."

His left ear began to tickle again, and Gulattive spoke in his head once more.

"I shall be looking forward to it!"

As the S.S. Mystic Milotic docked in the shipyard, Florent Lambourne sighed to himself. He was annoyed he even had to bother with something like this, but that's what he got for being complacent. Reckless. Horny.

He stared out over the dark Azure sea, deciding he didn't have it in him to stand just yet. So much work to be done, so much on his plate. Leave it to the birth of a goddamn baby to make it worse.

Whipping his swivel chair back around to face his desk again, he grasped at the pile of papers that had been presented to him. The ones that gave him everything he needed to know about his plan for the evening.

Galar was always home to him. He'd spent most of his life there with no plans to uproot. The food was good, the architecture was astounding, and the opportunities…well, they were knocking. Not to mention the women were in abundance, just as eager to approach him at the first sign of his wealth as anyone would be. Nobody had caught his fancy until he met her.

Her. The absolute bane of his existence.

Vienna was leaps and bounds above any other woman he'd laid eyes on. Hair like a luxray's mane, skin glowing like a morelull’s, lips as red as a magmar. So enticing. And her body? Unmatched.

She knew damn well she had a choke-hold on him, too. And she played him like a goddamn fool.

It'd been about seven months since she left him standing at the entrance of her college dorm, wallowing in his idiocy. She thought she could simply avoid telling him she was returning to her home region without telling him her real name. She thought she could skirt around him, spin him up in her web of lies, and get off scot-free.

Never. Not in a million years. People who tried to play him for a moron always lost their heads, literally and figuratively. Vienna, despite the grip she'd had on his heart, was no different. Especially not after what she'd done.

He shuffled through the papers again, finding the notes his spies had put together. She'd said she was Kalosian, and he believed her just based on her accent alone. He was pleased to know there was one thing about her that was truthful.

It'd been a while since he'd come to Kalos. He'd have enjoyed it more if he weren't seeing red.

Anybody would be livid if something were stolen from them, right? What was it with Kalosians thinking they could just take things from him? First it was that slimy Jean-Louis, and now—

Something tickled the inside of his right ear, and Florent's jaw instinctively clenched.

It seems we've arrived, spoke the literal devil on his shoulder. Soon, we'll have the family back together again.

"I don't understand how this could have happened if the ball was locked," Florent said, thumbing his lower lip, his maroon eyes locked on the page he held. Reading the words for the twentieth time in a row.

I've already clarified that I'm just as perplexed as you. However, if we've found the correct source, I can assure you that recapturing Venira will be a simple task.

Florent was silent for a beat. "And you're sure none of the guards had it on them?"

A chuckle. As much as I did enjoy the extended dinner, rest assured that I have not lied about that.

Florent sighed gruffly and settled back into his chair, palming his face. That was…what, twenty men becoming Gulattive's meal? Of course, the Pokemon of Gluttony wouldn't mind that, but that was par for the course.

Gluttony. Liking things in excess. Making Florent do things in excess.

It seemed like a good idea at the moment, the punishment for letting Venira escape being death. But, thinking about it days later with a much clearer head, he could feel the regret settling in.

Team Enigma was no small gang. Much more significant than any organized crime group. And slowly growing. But they couldn't afford such a loss. Yet, Florent hadn't hesitated to throw all who were on duty at the time of the Pokemon of Wrath's escape into Gulattive's mouth.

Rolling his shoulders, he steeled himself with a sharp breath.

They were examples. Examples of why not guarding his prized possessions with their lives was a horrible idea. The next subjects to fill their places would know better once Venira returned to her place in the keep.

"You do tend to pull my leg, Gulattive. Pardon me for wanting to make sure," he replied, letting a rancorous smile upturn his lips as he spoke.

I have no reason to lie about Venira escaping into your newest bastard.

The smile fled off Florent's face, replaced by a scowl he should have probably saved for the confrontation he was about to have. His gaze zeroed in on a specific paragraph.

It has been confirmed that on December 14th, 1997, at 8:16 pm, target Vienna Cinq-Mars gave birth to a baby girl. The child was born eight weeks premature and has been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mount Molteau Hospital. Vienna Cinq-Mars suffered tremendous blood loss as a result of placental detachment and–

It was nice to know that at least she'd suffered, but it was unfortunate she was so resilient. She could have died in childbirth and taken the baby with her.

Florent began to wonder how Vienna thought she would get away with it. She'd never even informed him she had gotten pregnant. Part of him wondered if she'd even known herself, but that was beside the point. She still left without telling him, which was criminal in itself.

It was one thing for Vienna to have lied about her age—he'd remembered thinking she looked a little young to be twenty-four, but he'd decided to chalk her youthful appearance up to her immaculate Kalosian genes, as it seemed those women never aged—but it was another to leave without warning, then bear a child that somehow managed to inherit his most powerful asset.

Florent couldn't afford another illegitimate kid running around with his claim to power within them. The Blood Legendaries were his and his alone to bestow, especially concerning that one Pokemon of Wrath.

He needed to kill that baby. Tonight. And maybe Vienna, too, just out of pure spite. As pretty, as rambunctious, as entirely conniving as she was, she'd make a splendid snack for Gluttony.

He’d normally have one of his operatives carry out the acts, but this was a special case. He wanted to see the life drain from the baby’s face. He wanted to tell Vienna the baby was dead, then perhaps see the horror in her eyes as she realized she would be next. It would be some fabulous revenge.

As he silently imagined his personal murder spree, a knock rang out from the door to his office. He dropped his papers and sat up straighter. "Come in, please."

The door swung open slowly, and in walked Silvain. "Your grace, the ship is set to disembark. There is a car waiting out front for you."

Florent let out another sigh and finally willed himself to stand.

"How hard can it be to kill a premature baby?" he muttered.

Surely not difficult, Gulattive replied, which is why it must be done.

There was a forcefulness in Gulattive's tone that sent an involuntary chill up Florent's spine. He'd never been scared of the legendary, but there was a level of edge to the ‘mon that sent Florent's survival instincts into a frenzy. He sometimes wondered how they'd made it thirty-four years together with little incident.

He couldn't help but notice how dead-set Gulattive was on keeping Venira at bay. She was the strongest, but she’d been stuck in her ball for years. Gulattive had seemed convinced that that was for the best.

All it did was pique Florent’s interest.

The seven legendaries had been with his family for the last few centuries, and none of them had managed to get Venira out of her ball. She was dead to the world up until now. Would Florent have been better off being the vessel for Wrath instead of Gluttony? Now that she had decided to awaken, he had to consider the possibilities…

“You’re quite invested in this,” he commented.

Venira is a tyrant, Gulattive snapped. She must be kept at bay, or she'll destroy all of us.

The sudden outburst caused Florent to jolt, effectively ceasing his trek out of his office. Silvain, ever steeled, didn't move. But, the two were left staring at each other dumbly until Florent could force himself to move again.

"I would be surprised if the embodiment of Wrath weren't a tyrant," he said evenly before continuing forward.

Florent was set on making his way to the ship's exit when a thought occurred to him. He once again stopped mid-step, leaving Silvain to gaze upon him quizzically. Florent didn't acknowledge him as he checked his watch.

9:31 pm. Past Armel's bedtime.

His brow furrowed. He'd been so caught up in tracking down his other kid that he'd begun to neglect the one he already had on hand. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd gotten a good look at the six-year-old's face…

There was time for a detour.

"Please give me a moment. I need to see something first," he said.


Armel's room was a deck up, with all the more oversized bedrooms. Not too far out of the way of his office. He'd make this quick, then be on his way.

Florent pushed the door open to his son's room, eyes squinting in the dark. At least the room was dark. Florent expected at least a lone light shining into one of Armel's books as he evaded sleep with his reading. Florent supposed the boy could be doing much worse things while staying up past 9, but…bedtime was bedtime. He was the boss, and that was that.

Stepping into the room, he was greeted with faint snoring. With a few tiptoed steps, he was near the bed, watching Armel's chest rise and fall at its slow pace. Out cold for the night. Good. That meant Florent wouldn't have to discipline him. He wasn't sure if he could bring himself to, even if Armel were awake. All that energy would need to go into infanticide.

His eyes slowly roved over Armel's sleeping form, and for the briefest moment, he felt himself second-guessing his plans. He very well could kidnap the child and bring it aboard. Raise it like he was Armel; the boy was constantly complaining about a lack of companionship, like the Blood Legendary he harbored wasn't enough for him. Though Florent realized one could only handle so much of the Pokemon of Greed for so long, especially a six-year-old. Eating at his thoughts, making him the poor amnesiac he was.

Florent often found himself annoyed with the impulsiveness Gulattive gave him. Still, he was sure it was far more manageable than dealing with a mind-eater like Avareed. Waking up every day forgetting most of, if not all, of the day previous. Needing to write it all down as a reminder. So much for a child of Armel's age to be dealing with. A sibling to confide in would suit him since he was still too young for another Pokemon partner.

But Florent didn't want to deal with this with another kid. Especially not a kid holding the Pokemon of Wrath. He could barely be bothered with Armel most of the time, but with Armel and a newborn? A newborn he didn't even ask for? Not that he'd asked for Armel, but things happened. It was his fault for not being careful about who he invited back to his room and doubly because he wasn't vigilant with his contraceptives. Besides, somebody had to hold Greed, and he supposed it was best off in his own kid.

Not Wrath, though. He wanted Wrath to go to somebody of his choosing now that she was awake. Preferably himself somehow. Not a baby. Not the baby of the woman who played him.

Cutting his gaze to the nightstand next to Armel's bed, Florent noticed the boy's journal neatly stacked next to the lamp. The one that held every minute of every day, lest he forget about it the next morning. Without thinking, he approached the stand and took the journal in his hand, flipping through the full, wrinkled pages to the most recent ones. It looked like he'd be needing a new book soon. Florent made a mental note to have one of the nannies pick one up.

He lazily skimmed the words, noticing how Armel's handwriting seemed to fluctuate between immaculate and absolute combusken scratch. Florent had half a mind to wake and chastise him about it, but he caught himself on the thought and shook it off. No, that was no reason to wake a sleeping boy. He'd bring it up with the tutors in the morning and leave it at that.

In a moment of curiosity, he flipped to some earlier entries. With a quick skim, he found one that stood out.

April 4th, 1997.


Father brought a friend home today. Her name is Vienna. She has big hair and big lips and is very pretty. She is also very nice. The stuffed impidimp is from her. We like Vienna.

Florent’s rage surged, and he reached over to shake Armel. He stopped as his hand landed on the boy’s back.

No. No. Even poor Armel had been fooled. It wasn’t his fault. Let him sleep in bliss, he thought.

With a shaky breath, Florent flipped back to the newer entries.

There wasn't much of note. Just things about his meals, what he was learning in his lessons, more reminiscing about Pokemon partners. A few notes on nonsense conversations he'd had with Avareed, which he could barely understand. Kids were strange, especially when they had primordial legendaries stuck to them.

He was about to shut the book when he flipped to one of the entries from earlier in the week.

December 14th, 1997


One of the Pokemon got out today. Venira is what father called it. He yelled a lot and threw all the guards that were there in the lower part of the boat. Gulattive ate them, and father made me and the others watch. I was really scared of how much they screamed. It sounded like it was hurting. It was an accident, and I don't think they deserved it. But father told me that he didn't care and that I needed to learn. I don't know what I need to learn but I didn’t like that lesson. Father is scary when he's like that. Blood smells bad. I hope I don't end up like that.

Florent's eyes slipped shut as he exhaled slowly. Now the regret was gripping him entirely.

An example had been made, yes, but at what cost? What was a young boy like Armel supposed to take from watching a group of grunts get eaten alive? Fear that it could be him at some point? What the hell had he been thinking?

Armel couldn't be kept under Florent's thumb with Avareed if he was afraid of him. Besides, he was too young for gore like that. Perhaps when he was older, it would make more sense for him to witness executions.

Florent grasped the page and tore it out in a single flick. Crumpling it, he sat the journal down and turned back for the door. He didn't get very far before the blankets on the bed rustled.


Another slow exhale as Florent stopped in his tracks. He gripped the paper in his fist and turned his head.

"What are you doing up?"

Every time Florent looked at Armel, he always found himself amazed at how much the boy resembled him. From the face to the hair, to the maroon glow in his eyes--the true sign of a Lambourne born with a Blood Legendary. Genetics really were unreal. As much as Florent hadn't wanted to be a father, it was quite neat to have a miniature version of himself. Hopefully, he could raise it to act the same as well.

It was a few seconds before Armel responded with a yawn. "I…I heard a noise."

"I was just checking your windows," Florent replied. "Go back to sleep."

He didn't give him a chance to reply before exiting the bedroom.


"Your grace," Silvain spoke, catching his attention. Florent raised his gaze to meet his assistants, only to see that he was being handed a lab coat, what looked to be an I.D, his dampening device, and Venira’s repaired pokeball.

"These are for you. The subjects in the lab were able to fashion a working keycard for ease of access. You should be able to get into all the wards without much hassle.’

Florent pursed his lips and took the items, eyeing the I.D. closely. It looked official. It felt official, too. With a doctor's coat on, nobody would know what he was up to unless he was stupid.

"You've outdone yourself," he praised as he began slipping the coat over his shoulders. "This should go rather smoothly then, hm?"

When he was sure the coat was snuggly in place and he had everything he needed, he handed Gulattive’s ball to a puzzled Silvain.

“You don’t require Gluttony’s assistance?” he asked.

“I’d prefer if I didn’t have him screaming in my ear while I’m trying to be stealthy,” Florent replied. Some time away apart was always good. The hospital was a solid two-and-a-half-hour drive from the shipyard, so Gulattive would be too far away to interfere. And Florent would have his dampener with him, so no mental interference would happen either.

He wanted to do this alone, without an eldritch god bossing him around. Or doing something rash.

I do not scream in your ear. I speak firmly into your ear, Gulattive protested.

“Of course, sir. I will guard him accordingly.”

“I trust that you will.”

As Florent stepped onto the ramp leading off the ship, Gulattive’s voice began to tickle his ear again.

I’m quite offended that you think I won’t be an asset to you for this, he said.

And I don’t trust that you won’t eat the child yourself and cause me more strife. Let me handle this on my own, Florent thought back sternly.

He flicked on the small radio-shaped device, its dull purr indicating to him that it was working. Even if Gulattive did respond, Florent didn't hear it.


The ride over to the hospital was entirely uneventful. Though, Florent did enjoy watching the passing buildings and foliage. Kalos was a beautiful region. Once all of this blew over, he would try to enjoy it.

As the car rolled on, he shuffled through his notes again. Reading up on who he was up against.

The child was born nearly two months premature. That was an issue in itself. Aside from being grossly underdeveloped before her birth, she was diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome, severe hypotension, and anemia. It was a wonder she managed to survive to make it into the NICU.

Vienna was also spending time in an intensive care unit. She'd suffered traumatic blood loss due to placental detachment, leading to early birth. She was stable and expected to recover fully, and even the baby showed signs of progress, even after only a few days. Annoying.

It'd taken quite a long time for his spies to track her down. There were many women named "Vienna" in Kalos, though none quite as pretty. But Vienna’s father being a cop and her mother being a well-renowned coordinator helped. Much information about their genius daughter, set to go to Professor School on a full scholarship. Vienna Cinq-Mars, the brain. Vienna Cinq-Mars, the player.

He felt ridiculous, putting so much stock in an eighteen-year-old. He supposed he had a right, as he'd been under the impression that she was much older the entire time they saw each other. How was he supposed to know she'd been lying about her age? How was he supposed to deduce that she was fucking with him?

Yes, he was certain he should take her out, too. Nobody needed to know he got played by a barely legal girl. Maybe it was deserved; he was a fool.

Even so late at night, Mount Molteau hospital was still bustling. A wailing ambulance pulled up to the emergency room entrance as they drove through the campus. They passed numerous cars and buses on their way to the main building, where the maternity ward was.

The car didn't park, instead pulling off to the side near what looked to be a back entrance. The door was closed, and a keycard reader was embedded into the wall next to it. Florent slipped out of the back seat, adjusting the coat as he went.

"I will be back here in 20 minutes to meet you, your majesty," the driver said. "Good luck to you."

Florent gave a single nod as he pushed the door shut. "I won't need it," he said.

As expected, the keycard worked. He slipped in through the back entrance and briefly wandered in the direction of what he figured was the front desk. However, he soon caught sight of a sign directing him to the neonatal ward, and he followed his way from there. Simple enough. Maybe he wouldn't even need 20 minutes.

It had been a while since Florent had visited a hospital so late at night. It was rather eerie just how empty it was, as he'd have expected a maternity ward to be a tad busier. Wasn't it a prime inconvenient birthing hour? There had to be at least one poor woman nearby screaming through the spawn of her offspring.

His mind was wandering, though. It didn't matter why the place was so quiet; it was ideal. Less prying eyes around meant plenty of opportunity to smother a baby without getting caught. And because this child was being held up in the NICU, it was like the kill was being presented to him on a gold platter. Maybe he wouldn't even need to smother it. He could unplug some machine as a little "whoops" and call it a night.

The NICU was laid out as expected. Rows upon rows of incubated cribs, all affixed with varying machines to suit each infant's needs. Some were a little more equipped than others—for the more unfortunate souls, it seemed. But, every crib dawned an infantile name tag, each decorated to suit the apparent gender of whoever occupied the spot.

Florent breathed an involuntary sigh of relief because that made his job much more manageable. Here he'd thought he'd have to go around and unplug every crib. While he was never truly above murder, mass infanticide seemed a little extreme for the circumstances. He was only here for one; the other innocents needn't be bothered.

It was amazing how many babies had been delivered with a problem. He'd have assumed the NICU was the main nursery had he not known better. He looped around three whole rows before finally finding the name that had been reported to him in his notes.

Odette Harmonie Cinq-Mars

A cute name. A darling name. It was a pity that it would never truly see the light of day. The rat of a child had committed the grave sin of stealing one of his most prized possessions from him. That could only be punished by death. Even if her entrance into this world did awaken Venira from her slumber, it was still unforgivable. He could deal with the science behind it later when the damn 'mon was back in her ball on the ship.

Florent examined the crib for a beat, trying to decide which wires and tubes hooked up to it could be unplugged to ensure a quick death. He could have been able to tell she'd been born ridiculously weak even if he hadn’t gotten any reports on it. The array of monitors and IV drips beside her safe haven made that clear. Maybe he'd be doing her a favor, ending her life like this.

As he took some quiet steps around the crib, he took a peek inside, just for the hell of it, to see who he was against.

By gods, he wished he hadn't.

Small. So small. Tiny arms and legs splayed out in all directions, each wrapped in a tube or wire. A cannula, most likely the smallest one the doctors had on hand, was still too big for her little button nose, so it had to be taped in place. Her chest rose and fell steadily, indicating she was sleeping despite the discomfort she probably felt. And goodness, she had so much hair on that little head. More hair than he'd ever seen on a newborn baby.

She was perfect.

It was surreal just how fast all of his violent thoughts melted away. The longer he beheld the sight of this baby girl, his baby girl, the more intense the warmth in his chest began to feel.

"Oh, my gods…" he muttered, placing his hands against the tempered glass, longing to run his fingers along her little cheek. The tape would be in the way, though. Was it going to irritate her skin when they pulled it off? Would the doctors even place that tape on her in the first place if they knew it would cause a rash? Surely not. He'd throw a fit.

He blinked at the thought. Him? Throwing a fit at some NICU nurses and doctors because a baby got a light skin irritation from some medical tape? Was he going mad?

No, he wasn't. Just a brief lapse in judgment. He needed to get back to what he was doing. It was all too obvious, now that he was looking at her, that he'd be putting her out of her misery. She wouldn't last much longer without the machines she was hooked up to, so why even bother trying? That was no way for a baby to live, even if it was temporary.

But he couldn't take his hands off the glass. He couldn't look away.

Suddenly, his legs felt like grimer residue. Before he knew it, he'd sunk to his knees, now finding himself at eye level with her. Odette.

"Odette," he whispered.

The name felt like a top-shelf wine against his tongue. It danced off his lips as effortlessly as the fouette of a prima ballerina. It felt magical to say, even at that volume. Vienna was many things, but she at least knew how to pick out names.

This baby. This perfect baby girl. Odette Harmonie. This was his daughter. His progeny. The one presence to have been enough to drive Venira to awaken. The one thing he'd been interested in accomplishing happened when that precious being took her first, albeit labored, breath.

What the actual fuck was he thinking?

Everything he'd previously thought was out the window. He would take her, raise her, and make her a woman of substance, class, pedigree, and power. Being stuck in the NICU like this would be a minor setback. She would be destined for fantastic things with Venira within her. It was certain. He'd make sure of it. Perfection deserved nothing less than the best. He was suddenly very glad he'd left Gulattive behind.

He reached for the hatch that would open the incubator but immediately stopped as he was about to pull it open.

There was a medical ward aboard the Mystic Milotic. It was suitable for an onboard clinic, enough to handle pretty hefty injuries. But, there was no nursery. Nothing to handle a baby who had been born with so many problems; so early.

No, no, he'd make it work. He'd order things in and set it up himself, and—

A light flicked on in the hall, causing him to flinch. He had the badge and coat, and he'd be fine enough to maneuver his way out if caught alone. But holding Odette? Would she even be okay long enough outside the incubator to survive the trek back to the ship? Or the time it would take to commandeer the equipment needed to sustain her? He started thinking about it more, only to realize that no specialized pediatricians were on board. Nobody to handle things if something were to go wrong.

Now he was panicking. He needed to take her with him; he couldn't stand the thought of leaving the building without his little girl.

But he just…couldn't do that to her.

He wasn't equipped to handle it. She wouldn't survive if he took her, and the thought of her dying on his watch hurt him more than the thought of leaving her behind. He'd much rather her be alive and out of reach than in his arms and dead.

He'd also need time to talk Gulattive down from the inevitable tantrum he would throw.

Tears prickled at the corners of Florent's eyes as he kneeled down again. He rested his forehead against the glass, watching her little chest rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall. So small. So beautiful. She needed to be okay. He'd take the heartbreak to be sure of that.

"Gods, I love you so much," he murmured into the glass. He wondered if she had developed enough eardrums to hear him. Or if her brain could compute his words. If she somehow knew that she was half of him.

"Do you know that? I love you, Odette. My world is yours."

Footsteps neared the NICU, but they only sounded like a clock ticking. Soon that clock would go off, signaling the end of this meeting. Florent wished he could stop time and sit there with her forever. Even with her looking so ill, he felt like the sight of her would never get old.

Unfortunately, things didn't work for him like that.

He stood for the last time, running his hands along the glass. Pretending it was her skin. "I will be back for you, my darling. You have my word," he said.

Pulling away from her crib was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.

As the door to the NICU swung open, a nurse entered to do her rounds. Florent stuck himself into a cranny between a wall and another crib, keeping in the shadows as she walked to the opposite end of the room. He watched the woman with tears in his eyes and willed her to take extra special care of Odette. He might kill her instead if she didn't.

With a final look toward his baby's resting place, he tiptoed toward the door and slipped back into the hallway.


The ride back to the shipyard was borderline unbearable. Florent sobbed uncontrollably in the back seat, having to put up the car divider to ensure the driver couldn't hear him. Nobody needed to witness him in such a weak state, anyway.

It hurt. It hurt so badly. It topped every other pain he'd ever felt. He shouldn't have looked in the crib. He should have just pulled a plug and been done with it.

Clawing into his palm, he inhaled a shaky breath. He couldn't think like that anymore. The fact that he'd gone into that hospital with the intent to kill was terrible enough, but it was much worse that he was still thinking about it even after his lapse in judgment. Killing her wouldn't be an option anymore. Truthfully, he'd sooner die in her place.

It was wonderful to think of her growing up, enjoying the things she wanted to enjoy, and being a beautiful, successful woman. He wanted anything and everything for her, all good, and he'd annihilate anybody who willed the opposite. Returning home without her left him feeling like he'd lost a part of his soul.

He couldn't hold her. He couldn't run his thumb over her cheek. He couldn't weave a strand of her curly black hair around his finger. He couldn't take one of her tiny hands in his and kiss it over and over again. He couldn't show her how much he loved her.

How was he going to sleep? Hell, how was he ever going to sail out of Kalos? How could he return to Galar without Odette with him?

Florent hadn't realized the car had stopped until the door was pulled open.

"Welcome back, your majesty. I hope you had a good trip," the attending grunt said as he stood by. Florent sniffled quietly as he hastily wiped the tears from his eyes.

"It was wonderful," he said, stepping out. He did his best to hide the stuffiness in his voice.

"Is everything alright?" the grunt asked. Evidently, Florent needed to try harder. He sent a pointed glance toward the grunt as he cleared his throat and adjusted the collar of his shirt.

"All is well. I expect a bottle of Moet in my room in five minutes," he said curtly. He'd certainly need a drink or five.

Silvain was at the ship's entrance, Gulattive's ball still in his hand. He must have taken notice of Florent's tear-stained face and puffy eyes and quickly became perplexed.

"Sir, are you okay? Was your outing a success?" he queried.

Florent willed himself to take another deep, leveling breath and plucked the specialty ball from Silvain's hand.

"I'd say so," he said, moving past him and toward his office. Silvain's footsteps followed him, but he couldn't concentrate much on that as Gulattive filled his mind almost immediately.

Well, I take it you weren't caught. How did you do it? the Gluttony Pokemon asked.

Florent didn't answer. He was silent on his walk back to the office. Gulattive was no stupid legendary because he picked up rather quickly.

Is Venira in the ball?

"No," Florent said. He threw himself into his chair, setting the ball down on the desk. He felt a headache coming on. At least it would distract him from the throbbing in his chest.

You didn't kill the child. It wasn’t a question.

Florent sighed. “I did not."

The ball rocked. It opened with a foreboding pop, and a slew of maroon smoke filled the room. It wasn't long before Gulattive took form before Florent's deadpan gaze.

When he wasn't powered up by blood, Gulattive looked no more menacing than a mid-evolution Pokemon. His voice still managed to carry all the weight of a primordial eldritch terror.

He was lanky, with arms as long as his legless, floating body. A cloak appeared to cover what should have been his head, but there was none to speak of. Only a single, bloodshot red eye sat in place, blazing in anger.

"How?" Gulattive yelled. The force of his voice caused the chandelier overhead to rock and the china in the nearby cabinet to rattle.

Florent wondered how he should explain himself. He wondered if he even should.

"She’s my daughter," he said. "I decided I didn't want to kill my daughter."

Gulattive seethed, and he slammed his tendrils down on the desk, his single bloodshot eye hovering dangerously close to Florent's nose.

"Have you forgotten that she has become Venira's new vessel? You were supposed to get her back, and the only way to do so is–"

"I decided I didn't want to kill my daughter," Florent repeated angrily, also slamming the desk. "What don't you understand about that?"

Narrowing his eye, Gulattive hovered backward. "If you didn't want to kill her, why didn't you bring her here?"

"I couldn't. She's very ill and needs to stay where she can get the proper care."

Gulattive looked like he was contemplating how to respond.

"What makes you think an ill child could handle Wrath? Are you planning to leave her to be raised by this eighteen-year-old who–"

"Enough!" Florent screamed.

He was tired. His head hurt. His heart hurt far worse. Even so, he wouldn't let Gulattive convince him why keeping Odette alive was wrong. That wouldn't happen.

"Last time I checked, you rely on me for your sustenance, yet you're awfully vocal in my day-to-day doings. I've allowed it this far, but I will not let you tell me why I should kill my own baby. I'm not going to hear it," he spat.

Gulattive might have been frowning if he had a visible mouth. "Aren't you planning to return to Galar? What are you going to do about her being here in Kalos? Do you plan to return for her when she's in better health?"

Florent clenched his jaw and settled back in his seat. Yes, that was something he had considered. It was meant to be a quick trip. But, the thought of leaving was causing him far too much anxiety.

He abruptly turned his head toward Silvain, quietly standing by the door as always.

"Silvain," he called. "Change of plans. Alert the crew."

Silvain stiffened as he was regarded. “Your grace?"

Florent rose and peered back out over the sea.

"We'll be setting up our new home base here in Kalos. Starting today."
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Chapter 1 - A Lot On Her Mind
Chapter 1: A Lot On Her Mind
CW: Strong Language
Odette Cinq-Mars’ maroon-hued eyes were locked on her news app. She leaned against the backstage wall, tapping her clipboard lightly against it, keeping with the orchestra's tempo. She was humming along to the actors' singing while her eyes roved hungrily over the words on her phone screen.

The victim, 25-year-old Gervais Morel, was found unconscious in his car. His Pokemon, a Simisear, attempted to take a firearm from one of the first responders and was subsequently gunned down. The Simisear was later found to have lethal amounts of sacrilege in his system. The Lumiose City PD declined to--

She began to shake her head when a tap on her shoulder caused her to jump. She pressed her phone to her chest and cut her gaze over, meeting a set of slyly narrowed hazel eyes.

“Shouldn’t you be paying attention, Miss Stage Manager?” Noel whispered.

She scoffed. “Shouldn’t you be listening for your cue, Mister Mistoffelees?”

Noel returned the scoff and crossed his arms. “To think, after years of acting classes, you don’t have that faith in me? Purrloins is my favorite musical of all time, you think I don’t know it like the back of my hand?”

With a roll of her eyes, she returned to her reading. “Implying you know the back of your hand.”

There was no response from him. Instead, she felt his chin dig into her shoulder as he undoubtedly tried to sneak a peek at what she was reading.

“Oh, more Team Enigma news?” he said.

Odette impatiently scrolled through the rest of the article before clicking the phone off and shoving it into her pocket. “Just the recent OD case. Nothing new.”

He sighed, then removed his chin. “Oh, that? Lame. I’ve been waiting for a new break.”

“You and me both.”

He leaned against the bunched-up curtain, crossing his arms over his chest. “Anything else to report on? Can you at least tell me what the weather’s like today?”

As if the universe sought to answer for him, a groan of thunder rocked the building. It was quite loud, but it didn’t stop the rehearsal on the stage.

“Why don't you ask one of the castform? I'm sure they'd be down to talk to you about it between their mating.”

To that, Noel chuckled. “Why, dear castform, does your collective horniness cause us so many weather problems?"

“It's just another January, you should be used to it by now."

"Oh no, it's worse this year. The rainstorms have been nonstop, and the temperatures are changing so drastically, I don't know what wardrobe I should be fucking tapping into." He huffed loudly. "2020's got some shit in store for us, I swear."

They were silent for a moment, and Odette heard the sound of something being rolled behind her. She turned her head just in time to catch two of the stagehand machamps, dressed arms to toes in black, moving one of the light props to set on this side of the stage. She snapped twice, drawing their attention.

“Hey!” she whispered. “Stage right, not left. Other side.”

They frowned at her. “Mach,” one grumbled.

With that, they rolled it off to where it was supposed to go. Odette sighed deeply to herself. She brought her clipboard back to her face, flipping up the first page to double-check her prop placement notes. “I swear, they don’t listen.”

“You know, I found something interesting regarding this sacrilege stuff, I figured you’d be interested to know,” Noel said wryly, disregarding her annoyance.

“You waited until now to tell me this?” she asked incredulously, shooting him a side-eyed glance.

“I was going to wait until lunch, but since you’re on your phone on the job, I figured I’d humor you.”

The actor playing Macavity the purrloin began to deliver his ending scene lines. Noel mouthed along to them, mimicking the actor’s conviction mockingly. Odette joined in, though she performed with a little less gusto. It was more like she was reciting them because she knew them by heart. She knew the entire show by heart, actually.

The lights went out on the stage. Macavity’s actor disappeared through a trap door on the floor as the actors left began to shout and squeal in their performance of confusion.

“I was doing some digging last night before bed, getting some dirt on all the released OD names so far,” Noel continued their conversation. He ran his thumbs under the shoulder straps of his bodysuit as he spoke.

“As one does,” Odette snickered.

“Lissssssteeeeen,” Noel insisted, swatting at her. “I was putzing around, looking for some similarities. It’s not much, but ninety percent of the cases have been among people in the wealthier demographic.”

"What's new?" she said flatly. "The cops figured that one out ages ago."

Noel smirked. "Did I mention that the press conveniently leaves out that a decent majority of the Pokemon being affected by sacrilege are shiny?"

Odette knit her brows at him. "No way," she said.

Noel had his phone out before she'd even finished talking, growing smugger by the minute. "No, seriously," he said, swiping his finger across his screen. "Most of these case files are there for public viewing, but my in down at the LCPD managed to send me her admin password for their whole case-file system."

"Who's your in at the LCPD?" Odette asked, "and why don't I know about it?"

"I've got gals in different locales, baby, don't you worry," Noel snickered, heightening his voice for dramatic effect. "Good friend from coding class. We cheated off each other all the time."

Odette narrowed her eyes. "I'm going to pretend you didn't tell me that so this in of yours doesn't lose her job. Grandpa would have a coronary; he's well on his way there as it is."

Noel finally stopped scrolling and held his phone to his chest. "So, as I said," he started, ignoring the comment, "I was putzing around, examining some case files and whatever, and boom. She texts me the login. Asked her for it a couple days ago, said she'd get back to me, whatever," he explained. "I kind of went a little nuts in there; pulled up something on that most recent OD case, and sure enough...didn't match with the public record. Specifically denotes a shiny simisear, while the public record denotes an ordinary."

He handed his phone to her. "Scroll left."

She shot him a wary glance as she took it. She squinted at the screen, which showed a close-up photo of his computer monitor, displaying a website with a bunch of case information. She didn't bother reading all of it because her eyes immediately fell on the part that had been highlighted for her convenience.

Simisear (Standard)

She did as instructed and swiped left. Another photo of his screen displayed an interface she recognized: the LCPD's online case filing system. She'd caught sight of it multiple times, glancing at it over her grandpa's shoulder while he worked. This time, the same information was highlighted again.

Simisear (Shiny)
She blinked in surprise and cut her eyes back to Noel, who was already nodding toward her with a jokingly pensive expression. "What'd I fucking tell you? That's suspicious as hell."

He crossed his arms, pursing his lips in thought as his eyes traveled up to the ceiling. "Granted, not all of them were like that because some cases actually did just involve ordinary 'mon. But the ones that had shinies? All had discrepancies like that. And I'd say, of maybe the..." he trailed off to count his fingers, "twelve I looked through last night, nine of them were about shinies. I'd guarantee it's a majority. Can't say for sure, but I'm willing to bet."

"You got me," she said after a moment of stunned silence, returning the device to him. Her mind had become so aflutter with this new revelation she'd almost completely lost track of where they were in the song. She didn't care, though. She had to dwell on this.

"The wealthy, plus shinies..." she muttered. "Sounds like some shiny trade bullshit."

The trade--very loosely reminiscent of the stock market--was centered around the buying and selling of shiny Pokemon. Hunters searched day in and day out for the coveted shiny and would sell them to willing buyers for ridiculous amounts of money. When Odette had learned about it at face value, it didn't sound inherently awful. That is until she looked deeper into it.

Reports of mistreatment, unethical catching practices, and selling the Pokemon without their consent, among other despicable rumors, were constantly coming out. Last Odette had looked, there was overwhelming support for abolishing it. Despite that, it still stood, loud and proud.

Of course, big names in the trade always made huge efforts to debunk the rumors, but she wouldn’t trust it. Money made people greedy, and greed could make people do some terrible things. Like, say, force-feeding a synthetic drug to a Pokemon.

"I don't understand why the 'mon don't fight back if it's to the point that they're drugging them," Odette said. "Why not protest it if it's so bad? That's always been my gripe."

"Maybe that's the point of the drugs," Noel suggested. "Or they like it. Or all the rumors are fake." He shrugged. "But these pics don't lie. So I don't even know what to fucking think at this point," Noel sighed.

It’d been quite a long time since the region had experienced a synthetic drug problem as bad as "the sacrilege crisis." It started as just a couple of unfortunate accidents, with hardcore partygoers overdosing on some new fad. That substance exploded on the party and battle scene within a few years. Soon, more and more people, and even Pokemon, were overdosing, but not all of them perished. Those who lived exhibited some very strange behaviors, which is what really caught everybody’s attention.

In one police report she had read, a young woman had to be checked into hospice because she'd ingested so much sacrilege that she lost all of her memories, and her brain functions reverted to that of a newborn baby. Another case mentioned a trainer being arrested when they instructed their drugged-up coalossal to eat the opposing trainer’s vaporeon during a battle tournament.

All the users started to call the drug “sacrilege.” Soon, they were also starting to claim they were getting it from a group called Team Enigma. But, all attempts to uncover the group so far had been unsuccessful. So much so that it was hard to believe Team Enigma was even real. The whole ordeal was absolutely mind-boggling to her.

Now, seeing this new take on the issue was sending her into a faster tailspin. What was the reason for keeping that information from the public? Hell, why was the majority of affected Pokemon shiny?

She was starting to wonder if she should trust any of the reports she'd been reading at all. If they were willing to mess with that sort of observation, what other falsities could there be?

It planted a weird seed in the pit of her stomach. Why would her grandfather let that happen?

“How has Chief Cinq-Mars been lately?” Noel inquired.

Odette sighed again. “Like I said, closer to a coronary every day.”

Noel clicked his tongue and began to shake his head. “Poor guy needs a break. Maybe next time he takes one, you can ask him why they're fudging info," he said jokingly.

Of course, being the chief of police at the Lumiose City PD would expose her grandfather to all the terrible things the otherwise beautiful city had to offer. But she’d seen firsthand how much of a toll this was taking on him. Coming up on drug death after drug death would do that to anybody.

She remembered how he’d responded to a call about five fatal OD cases in a residential flat. The bodies, three trainers and two Pokemon, sat there for about a week before the smell of their collective decomposition alerted the other residents. Of course, nothing on them indicated where they might have gotten the drug from. He had been so disturbed that he didn’t talk to anybody for almost a week following the incident.

She immediately regretted allowing her brain to travel there and shook off the thought as quickly as possible. She knew damn well what it was like to bear witness to death like that. Probably even more so.

A shudder racked her small frame. Noel seemed to take notice because he placed his hand back on her shoulder.

“Ease up, you’re good.” He spoke tenderly as if he’d also known where her brain wandered.

“All good,” she assured him, her words short. “Don’t worry about me.”

It was there that the sound of scurrying paws approached behind her. Something began to tug at her leg, and she looked down to find her blue-hued sylveon shooting a droopy-eyed stare at her. A folded piece of yellow legal pad paper dangled between her teeth.

She supposed that was another reason this weird little discrepancy was starting to bother her so much. As a trainer with a shiny partner, she didn't like to bear the thought of her friend falling victim to such a drug.

Odette frowned, both at the thought and at the sight of the paper. Noel gasped and placed his hands over his lips.

Hello, Enora!” he greeted in a louder whisper.

Odette leaned down and took the note from Enora’s mouth, and the fairy-type quickly looped around her to affectionately rub herself against Noel’s leg. He leaned down to pet her, cooing softly as he did.

“Damn, Dee, I swear she likes me more than you sometimes.”

“Why do you act like this shocks you every time?” Odette responded, opening the note. “She’s liked you since she entered the ball. She just has a thing for pretty gay men.”

Sylve!” Enora purred quietly, sitting politely next to Noel’s feet.

Odette retrieved her phone from her pocket and flipped the screen back on, using it as a light to illuminate the note. She squinted through her thick-rimmed glasses to get a better look at it.


If her frown could have gotten any deeper, it did. She shot her head up, her gaze zeroing in on the entrance to stage right, just across from her. She was entirely unsurprised to find Acadia, also decked out in her practice dance garb, standing in view with a stern glare plastered on her face.

Noel snatched the note, and Odette heard him laugh to himself.

“Gods, what a mum,” he said. “She’s just mad we’re more interested in Team Enigma than she is.” He tossed the note over his shoulder and proceeded to stretch his shoulders. Odette knew his cue was coming up shortly, so he needed to be ready. See, she was paying attention. Damn Acadia and her parental-grade micromanaging.

“I was thinking, Dee,” Noel said, stretching his left leg. “You and I should team up and try to uncover this bullshit together. We can give the PD a break, and it’ll be the last hurrah before you move to Alola.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’d be something, wouldn’t it?”

“I’m only half kidding. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you, so I need something to hold me over,” he whined. “Two clueless entertainment workers busting the case of the decade would do it.”

“You can always fly to Alola whenever, it’s only a ten-hour flight,” Odette chided.

Only a ten-hour flight,” Noel repeated. “I can barely stomach flying to see my sister in Galar, and that’s four hours away.”

“Sounds like a personal problem.”

Noel opened his mouth to retaliate, but the song began to pick up in tempo. He held up a finger.

“Hold that thought,” he said. He then strode onto the stage and began what Odette considered the best dance solo in the show. She might have been a little biased because it was Noel. He'd always been a talented performer. Back when they used to dance competitively, he was a force to be reckoned with. She was too. Their duets were always flawless.

The memory made her frown. Her hold on her clipboard tightened.

There wasn’t a world where she ever thought she’d be doing the crew work for a show. She’d grown up wanting to be the person in the spotlight. She sunk herself into her dancing and singing lessons and even picked up acting in high school with high hopes of being the next Broadway performer. Another Diantha—no, the next Diantha; talented performer and Pokemon trainer. That was all she had wanted for as long as she could remember.

The strings section of the orchestra began to groove as Noel took off into his 30 fouettes. Odette took that moment to lean out just slightly from behind the curtain, and she eyed the auditorium chairs. She could see the show’s director, Martin Gagnon, and his assistant watching the rehearsal, probably nitpicking every little thing as he tended to do. Other than that, the thousand other chairs stood empty.

This run of Purrloins! The Musical was sold out for the opening night. Odette began to imagine how the house would look that day, filled to the brim with those eager patrons of the arts waiting to be entertained by some of the most talented performers in the region.

She started to imagine herself in, perhaps, Noel’s position. A big name part, with a big name solo. All eyes on her as she did the thing she swore she knew best.

It all sounded dreamy until she was rudely reminded why it wasn’t.

You’ll never get anywhere unless you do things like this, Odette...

She recoiled back behind the curtain, anxiety gripping her chest. It caused her heartbeat to start ringing in her ears.

Stop, stop, stop, she told herself. Shut up. Shut up.

It’d been over a year since she last stepped out on stage as a performer. She thought picking up a crew worker job would help her get back into it; make her realize she missed it. But every time she thought about it, she thought about that thing that happened. She thought about those words and where his hands and his body went.

She thought too hard about him. She hated it.

She told herself that she’d at least attempt to eat lunch today when she left her apartment that morning. But, as it seemed, whenever she stepped foot into this building--the Lumiose Center for Performing Arts--something always happened that led her to lose her appetite. It’d become almost expected at this point. Probably not the healthiest thing in the world, but that was how exposure therapy worked, right?

She just wished it somehow...worked better.


“Dee, really?” Acadia asked incredulously. “Again?”

Odette opened her eyes from the half-nap she was taking. It was lunch hour, and she’d decided that if she wasn’t going to eat, she could at least try to sleep through it. She was sprawled out on the stage, using her backpack as a pillow. Her fellow cast and crew, Pokemon and human alike, sat around her, talking amongst themselves about who knows what.

Her eyes immediately landed on the untouched bowl containing her nanab berry salad, sitting next to her legs. She stared at it for a long moment before looking at Acadia square in her face. She was quick to take in the peculiar way her brow furrowed and her top lip slightly pulled back to reveal her clenched teeth.

She’s on Mum Mode, she thought. But what’s new?

“What? I’m not going to force myself to eat if I’m not hungry,” Odette said, knowing her words would be futile. Once Acadia made that look, there was no turning back.

Acadia crossed her arms over her chest. “Yeah, not hungry for the fourth time this week?”

More thunder shook the building, and Odette secretly wished it would keep rolling to prevent her from having to answer.

“My stomach shrunk,” she muttered. She flung her arm over her eyes. “Lunch has never been my best meal anyway,” she added tentatively.

“You should at least try to eat,” Acadia returned without missing a beat.

“I haven’t fainted yet, so don’t be too concerned.”

“Come on, ‘Cadia, let her live her life,” Noel huffed. He was sitting next to her head, with Enora curled up in his lap. “She stopped eating because she doesn’t want to grow anymore. She’s perfectly content being a cute little midget.” He reached over and grabbed the bowl, and began to eat from it. “Which means more for me.”

“Veeeeeeon?” Enora queried, perking her head up as Noel began to chew. He stared at her questioningly before his eyes widened in realization.

“Oh right, you like these things,” he said. He picked a berry from the bed of lettuce and fed it to the sylveon, who purred in thanks. Noel started to pet her, but Odette smacked him on the shoulder. He flinched, thus causing Enora to flinch too.

“Owwwwwwwwww-uh,” he whined, rubbing the contact site.

Sylveee!” Enora chastised.

“He asked for it,” Odette insisted. “Five foot zero doesn’t equate to midget.”

“It does for somebody who just turned twenty-two!”

"Tell that to my fucked up hormones; maybe they'll suddenly start working."

Acadia sighed deeply. “Well, excuse me for trying to make sure my friend is healthy. You've spent enough time in the hospital with your terrible immune system; gods know we don't need to add starvation to the list.”

“Again, these all sound like issues that need to be taken up with my endocrines," Odette said flatly. She sat up and rolled her shoulders, releasing a yawn before speaking again.

"You'll be stoked to know I haven't had a hypotension episode in a very long time,” she said. “And I survived flu season again. And since we're talking about it, I only got seven hours of sleep last night, so I’m trying to get the full eight right now. I'm the picture of health, immunocompromised, fucked eyesight and growth, and all."

Acadia was frowning deeply at that point. “Okay, but I'm pretty sure that’s not how 'getting a full eight' works,” she said.

“Well, not now. You woke me up.”

Deciding that she no longer wanted to partake in that conversation, she zeroed in on the current conversation of the others sitting near her.

“Psychic types are ideal,” said one of the dancers. “They can sense the audience's feelings, and therefore know when to play up their performances.” For good measure, she stroked her hatterene partner on her chin, causing her to coo in glee. “Calliope has been in a bunch of performances with me; she’s a natural.”

“I get what you’re saying, but you can’t knock ice-types either,” one of the stagehands responded. His freshly hatched swinub friend sat snugly in his lap, fast asleep. “They’re absolutely glorious to look at onstage.”

“Okay, but electric types can literally bring a house down. Luxray has a voice to end all other singers. He’s something,” another responded. Luxray was laid out next to her, enjoying his own lunch. He seemed bashful at his trainer boasting about him, so he hid his head behind a paw.

“What are we talking about?” Odette asked after a few timed blinks.

“Opinions on the best performance Pokemon,” Acadia said. She’d been listening in.

“Depends on the performance,” Odette said simply after thinking for a beat. Her hand instinctively travelled to Enora’s head. “Solene is the best dancer I know, but I’d never put Enora in dance shoes,” she said.

Syyyyyyyyyl…” Enora sighed in reluctant agreement.

“You wouldn’t need to, people would flock to see a shiny Pokemon do anything. People love the novelty,” another dancer said jokingly, prompting some agreeing chatter.

And apparently, people like giving them drugs, too, she thought bitterly.

Vee,” Enora said in a low voice, ducking her head into Noel’s thigh. Odette scratched behind her ear.

“Hear that? You’re a novelty,” she said, pushing the thought away.

“A cute novelty,” Noel interjected.

The conversation continued on, merely consisting of more arguing. Odette found she couldn’t hold her focus on it for much longer.

“So what were you going to say before we were so rudely interrupted by your cue?” she asked Noel. She shot a playfully sassy look at Acadia. “That we were paying attention to, by the way.”

“It looked to me like you two were just running your mouths, so I couldn’t tell,” Acadia said with a shrug. “Be lucky I didn’t send Vigoroth over instead.” She slyly patted her pocket, where the bulge of her trusty friend's ball was visible.

Odette pressed her lips together, deciding she had a point. Acadia had always been a stickler for the rules, even more so in a place of performance. She had an intense love for enforcing “theatre etiquette,” and she did so using the rather persuasive Vigoroth. Odette’s head began to ache, remembering the countless head smacks she’d endured for talking during an opposing team’s dance performance.

“Instead, you dragged my own Pokemon into it. Conniving,” Odette said dully.

“Oh, I wasn’t going to say much,” Noel answered. “I was just going to bitch that all my friends are moving away.” He sniffled and ran his finger under his eye as if wiping away tears. “First Claude, then Basile, then my sister, now you. Why'd your mum have to put in a transfer?"

"She's been trying to move her base of operations to Alola or Sinnoh for years, and the Professor's Org finally approved her for an Alola move," she explained with a shrug. "Now, she won't be out of town as often."

Noel stuck out his lower lip, his posture going slack. "Who will I hide behind when Acadia yells at me for drinking too much wine?”

“Nobody,” Acadia groused. "You're going to learn to take it to your face."

“Besides, you have the group chat. Just complain there like you always do,” Odette suggested, raising the sleeping RotomPhone for emphasis.

“It won’t be the same, though," Noel groaned, waving a dismissive hand at Acadia.

Odette had to nod in agreement, it wouldn’t be the same. While she was somewhat looking forward to the hefty change, something about leaving behind the place she grew up was only adding to her daily anxiety load. She didn’t know what it would be like not being able to walk three floors down to Noel’s flat when she needed to get out of her head. Or being unable to meet Acadia for lunch when she was bored and needed female interaction. Or, possibly worst, being unable to ride across the city to her grandparent’s townhouse just because.

It would be a new house, a new town, and new people. Shit, even new Pokemon.

She felt like she’d come to terms with it, but it was still ringing...odd.

The move wasn’t for another three months, but the household had collectively decided to get going on packing now. Normally her entire team should have been at work with her, but they'd taken leave to start working on boxing up the place. Now she was down to having one partner accompany her a day, which she supposed wasn't the worst thing in the world if it meant packing was indeed getting done. The focus today was all the glassware because they weren't planning on using it any time before the move.

However, she wouldn't be shocked if her thoughts of productivity were all wishful. Solene and Isaur might keep everything under control without breaking anything, but asking Ange and Loïc to do something productive and careful like that together was like asking an aggron to do jumping jacks: it wasn't going to happen.

Maybe I should have asked Ange to come with me today instead, she thought.

“As sad as I am that you’re leaving,” Acadia spoke solemnly, snapping her out of her thought, “I do think that’s what you need. A change of scenery and a clean slate.”

There were implications to that sentence that made Odette feel blessed to have a friend so concerned about her mental state and disgusted that anything even needed to be hinted at in the first place.

Why couldn’t she just be okay?

“The Elite Family dance studio is in Alola! You could audition,” Noel suggested suddenly. “Alolans are known for being great singers, too, so you could also find another coach!”

“I heard they’re finally establishing a Pokemon League there in the next few years, too. That would be great to get in on as well since you’ve gone back to Pokemon training school,” Acadia added.

Enora appeared to like that idea because her long ears stiffened at the sound of ‘Pokemon League.’

Syyyylll?” she asked.

Odette couldn’t help the dubious tilt that took over her lips. The idea of a clean slate was great, she didn’t deny that. But all of those suggestions made her stomach perform aerials. She thought back to how she’d imagined herself center stage on opening night, and...no. The fear began to gnaw at her again.

“Sounds like a good idea,” she said, ensuring her voice didn’t waver. They didn’t need to know how badly her head was spinning. “I’ll look into it.”
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Chapter 2 - The Audacity...
Chapter 2: The Audacity...
Strong Language, Implied History of Sexual Assault

Odette had never wanted to trade her motorcycle in for a flying-type pokemon. Noel, when he wasn’t going on and on about how his braviary partner Elton didn’t listen to him, always claimed flying was a truly exhilarating experience, but for Odette, nothing trumped a motorcycle. She was in full control, weaving in and out of traffic and between buildings at mach speed; she decided where to go and how fast she went. Flyers didn’t know what they were missing.

Odette tightened her grip on the handlebars as a breeze stirred her bangs, cool against her uncovered head. She’d have to be extra careful tonight, with the roads still being soaked from the downpour. The last thing she needed was to have Acadia screaming, “I told you so!” at her hospital bedside. Or worse, over her grave.

The city storefronts flew by her in streaks of bright light, seemingly absorbed by the headlights of the other cars she was surrounded by. The brisk air nipped at her face, leaving her nose inflamed and beginning to run. She quickly reached up a hand and rubbed at it as she switched into the middle lane of the road. Her eyes darted between the two cars that bordered her bike, and she instinctively slowed down when she saw the right car begin to swerve into her lane without using a blinker. It then sped up as if trying to leave that little faux pas behind.

“Dumbass,” Odette said to herself, returning to her normal speed. Her mind ran with observations as she maneuvered between cars.

Watch the van, they’re lane hopping...that hatchback’s driving under the speed limit, the driver looks like they’re texting, steer clear…why is this stupid sedan on my ass? And there’s the stoplight. Shit, it’s turning. Not even going to try to run it with Noel on here.

She slowed to a stop at the front of the pack of automobiles waiting for their chance to charge across the four-way intersection. The downtime allowed her to rub her tingling nose again and untangle her bangs.

Noel seized the opportunity for a chat. He rested his chin lightly on her shoulder and loudly inhaled.

“Dee, what shampoo do you use again? The inside of your helmet smells so good.

She looked over her shoulder, resisting the urge to laugh at the sight of Noel in her helmet. She'd felt it'd be safer for him to wear the helmet, considering she was the experienced motorcyclist between them, but the thing barely fit his head. Something was better than nothing, though.

“Bulba and Bulba curl moisturizing shampoo,” she answered. Her eyes returned to the traffic running perpendicular to them. “It doesn’t have much of a smell, though. You’re probably noticing the heat protectant spray.”

“I still don’t understand why you straighten your hair,” he sighed. He grabbed one of her braids and began to tug on it playfully. “Your curls are amazing, and you would rock the luxray mane look.”

Odette pressed her lips together. “Until you have thick curly hair to deal with every day, don’t yell at me about what I do to mine,” she said. “I like my braids, and my braids like me.”

Noel kept up with his chatter, but Odette tuned him out as she watched the traffic. The hundreds of tires rolling over soaked asphalt blended with the sounds of rumbling engines around her, combining with the music from the storefronts on either side to create a full cacophony. Odette drew in a deep breath. Most people weren’t fans of traffic noise, but she had always found the sheer volume calming.

The sound of an engine revving echoed violently from over the building off to her right, and it caused her to jolt. Even from far off, it rattled in her eardrums above all the other sounds.

Odette jerked her head in the direction of the disturbance. On the street, a few people had halted, looking around.

“Street racers? Who the hell is street racing in Lumiose at this time of night?” Noel exclaimed, pulling his hand away from Odette’s hair. Before Odette could answer, that same revving noise exploded through the area again, louder than the first.

“Look!” Noel called, nudging her back. Three cars raced around the corner. They were sleek, shiny, and probably cost more than her entire apartment and everything in it. They were colourful, too--clearly, they wanted to be seen doing this illegal nonsense.

Rich people out for a joyride.

“Red light’s gonna rain hard on their parade,” Noel laughed. Odette’s eyes flicked over to their light; sure enough, it had gone green. The cars around them started forward, but Odette didn’t move her foot from the brake. Her gaze was fixed on the three cars. Their speed wasn’t letting up in the slightest.

They’re not going to stop, she realized.

The cars behind her began to honk, and she felt Noel jostle her again, lighter this time.

“Uh, Dee?”

It all happened in a blink. As the sports cars entered the intersection, the honking became frenzied. Cars screeched to a halt. The street racers tore past, sending up a spray of mist. They rounded the next corner, and they were gone as quickly as they’d appeared.

Odette blinked rapidly, trying to process what she’d just seen. The passersby erupted into conversation. Even though she couldn’t make out the words, she could hear their disdain and disbelief.

Those fuckers could have killed somebody, she thought numbly. Around her, the honking had died down. The light was still green, but the traffic remained halted, all sharing in the same shock.

Odette felt an all-too-familiar tingling sensation start to form in the small of her back. Her lips curled back over her teeth. The corners of her vision began to go red.

“Those fucking lowlives,” she spat. She violently revved her bike. “I’m gonna--”

“Hey!” Noel snapped. He smacked her lightly on the crown of her head. “Simmer down, Hothead!”

Odette whipped around in her seat, one fist raised. She couldn’t hear anything above the rush of blood in her head.

“Do you want my goddamn fist down your throat?” she shouted.

Noel flinched back. His hands came up defensively in front of his face. “I want you to drive before the guys behind us shove their fists down both our throats!” he yelled back.

She stared. The red began to clear as the aggravated honks behind her began to pick back up again. She lowered her fist, turned around, and propelled the bike forward. Her heart was pounding as fast as her mind was moving.

“Gods,” Noel breathed when they were well away from the intersection. “Leave it to you to go psycho over some stupid racers. Keep it together, Dee.”

Warm-up breaths, she thought. One second in, one second out. That was a start. Now two seconds in, two seconds out. She wasn’t feeling any different. The tingle in her back had yet to lessen, and her brain buzzed with threats and ferocious thoughts of payback. She wanted nothing more than to blacken the eyes of one of those drivers. Haul him out of his car, slam him against the wall and punch and kick until they were a bloody pulp, until—

The audacity, the sheer fucking audacity…

The breathing wasn’t working. She felt like she wasn’t getting enough air. All of her brainpower was going toward her rage. She had to concentrate on something else.

So, she began to recite the Purrloins! script instead, starting with the opening song.

“Are you blind when you’re born, can you see in the dark, can you look at a king, would you sit on his throne…” she sang to herself. She focused on remembering how the orchestra sounded when they played along with the singers in rehearsal. The harmonies, the rests, the subtle grooves, the way they were never quite together on the sudden rests, no matter how much the conductor scolded them.

She kept on driving toward her building. The more she focused on picturing the stage as she sang the lyrics, the less she focused on the idea of hunting the drivers down and making them pay for their bullshit.

Another turn brought her onto Gigavolt Way. She slowed to a stop outside a low-rise apartment building. The familiar sight helped in cutting her anger for a moment. Arched doors stood behind wrought iron balcony fences and flower boxes brimmed with blooming daisies and pansies. Some of Odette’s night owl neighbours were on their balconies with their Pokemon friends, enjoying the cool post-rain air. They waved as Odette drove by and turned onto the downward incline leading into the garage.

“Flat sweet flat,” Noel hummed as Odette stopped at the security gate and entered her code. She easily maneuvered down the rows of parked cars through the parking lot until she found one of the spots labelled 310. She and her mother had certainly gotten lucky when they moved into the building because the first 310 spot was stationed right next to the elevator and staircase leading up to the lobby.

Once the bike rumbled to a stop, Odette swung off and stomped toward the elevator doors. She’d forgotten about Noel. His voice caught her just as she reached out to jab the elevator button.

“Hey! Temper Tantrum!”

“That’s not my name,” Odette snapped back, not turning.

“It might as well be,” he said. “Quit stomping around and come back here.”

Odette closed her eyes. She didn’t have the patience to deal with Noel being Noel. Nonetheless, she pulled back her arm and turned to face him.

“What,” she said. The word came out more menacingly than she had intended.

Noel had taken off the helmet. He held it in front of him like a shield. “Pick one. We’re either gonna woosah, or we’re gonna sing another happy song.”

The tingle in her back flared again. The attempt at calming herself was wasted.

“Neither, I’m fine,” she ground out.

“Pick one,” Noel repeated as he stepped closer. He had a ridiculous grin on his face. The fuck was he so happy about? “I would suggest singing because the acoustics in here are great. Don’t think I didn’t hear you singing Jellicle Songs.”

His grin didn’t falter, despite the intensity of her glare. All she wanted to do now was get up to her apartment and stretch all the anger out of her system with her Pokemon team, provided nobody was up to anything foolish. But no, Noel had to be a good friend and make sure she calmed down before any of that happened. The babying lunatic.

She sucked in a deep breath.

“Jellicles do, and Jellicles can,” she sang, her voice echoing through the brightly lit garage.

Somehow, Noel's smile widened even further. “Jellicle purrloins sing Jellicle chants,” he belted.

As they continued through the verse, Noel dropped his things and began to do his own choreography for the song as if he were back on the stage at the center. Although she tried to keep herself from doing so, she was soon smiling at the ridiculousness of it. But, the subdued performer part of her was aching to dance with him. She’d spent enough time on the stage’s wings, watching the dancers run through their steps repeatedly, that she felt she knew the choreography and the timings of the scene changes.

As Noel danced, she began to move along with him. Not with the same pep but with just enough gusto to show she had an idea of what she was doing. A couple of steps in, the tingle in her back faded almost entirely.

She stopped what she was doing, arching over and placing her hands on her knees.

All previous thoughts of violence, wrath, and everything in between vacated her mind, leaving her feeling winded. Her vision began to cloud with sleepiness, and her insides felt like they’d melted into jelly. The feeling was so intense that she forgot what she'd been so mad at just moments before. She was so focused on the malaise that gripped her that there was no room to be angry at anything. To even feel anything else but weariness and, of course, regret.

It suddenly pained her to be standing upright.

Gods, I hate this part, she thought through her fatigued haze.

Nonetheless, she made herself breathe through it. She began smacking her lips together, longing for a big sip of water. Something to treat the dry feeling on her tongue and the gross feeling at the back of her throat.

Hydration was always the answer. The results were usually instant.

She felt a hand begin to paw her head as the elevator dinged, signaling it had been called.

“Maybe if you diverted more energy into smiling, you wouldn’t always get so winded every time you got pissed off,” Noel teased from his new spot next to her. "You think your eyes are red because you're so angry all the time?"

Odette dazedly leaned over to open her backpack. She retrieved the water bottle she’d swiped from the backstage fridge just before leaving for the night and started chugging it in greedy gulps.

“Smiling causes premature wrinkles,” she huffed when she finished. "And it's a mutation, ass."

Pushing herself up to stand upright, she blinked until the corners of her vision straightened themselves out. Her guts reformed, and as the water hit her stomach, it sent an instant surge of energy through her nerves. She suddenly felt as if she'd never been tired in the first place. No aches, no dizziness, no urge to fall over. All was right within her again. The regret was still prominent, but at least she could focus on it without the lingering feeling that she would dry heave and pass out.

"I dunno, red eyes and anger go pret-ty well together,” Noel said, his voice inflecting upwards. “Real talk, though. Getting so mad that you’re tired afterward shouldn’t be the move.”

She pursed her lips as she wrestled the half-empty bottle into her bag. “My anger issues know no bounds.”

The elevator dinged again, and the doors slid open. Noel sauntered in. Odette followed with considerably less spring in her step.

“They were just stupid rich kids racing their new toys. Why waste your energy on that?” he asked as they began to move up. "Based on my observations, they might die of a sacrilege overdose soon, so..."

Because,” Odette said strongly, “they could really hurt somebody. If I hadn’t been paying attention, there’s a chance they would have hit us. Then we’d be paralyzed or dead. And they don’t give a shit. The inconsideration just…”

Her jaw clenched, and she pushed back her rising anger. There was no need for a round two of that.

“It just pisses me off,” she finished flatly. She paused. "And that's not funny."

Noel sucked his teeth again, then placed his free hand back on her head. “Sorry, sorry, my bad," he apologized. "But gods, you have so much rage in that tiny body. You must hide it all in your hair.”

The elevator soon stopped and opened into the complex’s main floor. The interior wasn’t nearly as fancy as the exterior, just a wide open space with an empty front desk, a sitting area of mismatched chairs and loveseats, and a wall of mailboxes.

“Let’s see what BS junk we got today,” Noel said as he popped open his own mailbox. Odette’s was quite high up, so she had to stand on the tips of her toes to be able to get the key in the lock.

She was surprised at how much mail she pulled out once it was open. A couple of magazines, pamphlets, and some smaller envelopes.

Maman’s, maman’s, maman’s...she thought as she flipped through the magazine covers. Finally, she came upon a pamphlet addressed to her. She flipped it over to read the cover, and her chest seized at the words that blared in her face.

Fleurrh University of the Arts

You’re almost done!
Sign up for Summer Classes Today!

She dropped the rest of her mail and tore the page in half. The sudden movement made Noel flinch. When she returned from dumping the thing in the trash, she found him watching her with knowing eyes.

His brows raised. “More shit from Fleurrh?” he asked.

Odette didn’t immediately respond. She kneeled and began to pick up what she had dropped.

“What gave it away?” she muttered.

“I know that look on your face. But what gives, Dee? Why are they still bothering you?”

She shrugged. “I only had six credits left when I dropped out, I guess they want to keep reminding me of that.”

Noel shook his head incredulously while nudging his locker closed. He set his own mail pile down and knelt to help Odette collect the rest of hers.

“Oh yeah, because you’re totally going to step foot back on that campus. After everything they did to you.” He considered his words for a second. “Or didn't do for you, more like.”

Her vision was swimming, but not with red this time. Her chest began to tighten, the same as it had when she’d started thinking of him.

She hadn’t gotten anything from her former university for a while. She’d thought for sure they’d removed her from the mailing list. Her, her mother, her grandfather, and their lawyer had told the school’s higher-ups and her former professor's family where to shove it, and she figured that was that.

But life seemed determined to rub salt against her wounds. Odette began to massage her forehead.

He forced himself on you, and you killed him for it…

You killed him.

She didn’t realize she’d started staring at the floor until Noel snapped at her. She jerked her head up, catching his concerned gaze.

“Hey, ma’am, up here,” he said. “You’re good.”

“Sorry,” she said, shuffling the rest of her mail pile together. “All good. I'm fine, just thinking.”

She stood up and pushed her locker closed, shaking her head as a means to rid herself of those thoughts.

“Would a glass of Domaine De La Roserade-Conti help? My mum would happily let us break into the wine cooler,” Noel said, flashing a grin.

Odette had to admit the offer sounded tempting. A solid buzz would put her straight to bed, no wrestling with her brain needed. However, she also had to consider the possible hangover to follow.

She shook her head again, sighing. “It would, but I have trainer school tomorrow. I don’t want to be dealing with dry mouth and wrangling Loïc at the same time.”

At the mention of the name Loïc, Noel’s expression melted into one of slight fear. “Right, handling a rabid mimikyu while hungover doesn’t sound like a smart thing to do.”

Odette scoffed as they made it back to the elevator. “For the millionth time, he’s not rabid.”

“You say that, and yet, he acts pretty damn rabid,” Noel said. “I’ve never met a Pokemon that's so set on causing problems on purpose.”

“Then you’ve never set foot in a Pokemon research lab,” Odette said. “Have you ever met a gengar that’s had too many bottles of protein? It put Loïc’s tantrums to shame.”

Noel shook his head as he pushed the button on the wall. “Fine, fine. I guess the little guy did get you out of bed."

Odette's nose crinkled at the mention of it. That all seemed so far away now; the days after that thing where she couldn't move, couldn't shower, couldn't eat. All she did was sleep because she had no will to do much more. And even that was interrupted by nightmares that the case was going to trial and that there was a chance she might be arrested for it and--

But, of course. Leave it to her mother to bring home an injured mimikyu that needed all the TLC in the world and then some. She couldn't have stayed in bed with him running laps around the apartment and breaking shit, especially in his state. And according to Vienna, there had been no room left in her lab to keep him there, so at home he stayed, keeping Odette on her toes and actually driving her to get up and move.

That was months ago, and Loïc made it abundantly clear he had no intention of returning to the wild any time soon. Apparently, he enjoyed crawling around in the vents and the free pecha berries he got out of the partner lifestyle. And truthfully, as much of a pain in the ass as he tended to be, that made Odette quite happy. Pain in the ass or not, it was a pain she welcomed because she wasn't wallowing in her depression in bed. Now she could at least do it while being a partially functional member of society.

Shuddering at the thought, she sighed. Fond feelings aside, Loïc still acted like a wilding. Surely leaving him home to pack with her team wouldn't bode well.

“Can’t wait to see what nonsense is in store for me.”


Nonsense had indeed struck the Cinq-Mars apartment.

Standing in the doorway, the sound that hit Odette immediately was the ring of the smoke alarm. White smoke rose in three separate columns behind the bar top bordering the kitchen. The dinner table was in complete disarray, with all four chairs completely toppled over and the tablecloth dangling off the edge in a bunched-up heap. A board game and its many colourful pieces were scattered over the wood floors. The only one of her Pokemon partners in sight was her froslass friend, who was face down on the living room sofa.

“I swear to gods...” Odette said as she began to fan the smoke away from her face with her mail stack. “Isaur?” she said loudly. “What the hell?

Fross,” Isaur said, her voice muffled by the cushion. She sounded exasperated, and that seemed to be the only answer she was going to give.

Odette kicked the door shut behind her, then threw her helmet and mail down onto the coffee table. Her eyes began to water as she stomped across the small family room to the dining area, passing the tipped chairs to get to her balcony doors. She threw them open and fanned the rising smoke outside. She tried to hold her breath for as long as possible to avoid breathing the smoke in but found the task to be a little too difficult. She took to staggering her breathing instead.

“What happened to packing?” she yelled through short huffs.

She moved into the kitchen and quickly found the source of the fumes. Her chandelure friend, Ange, was sitting on the floor, bright red in the face from pouting. His signature embers had flared up and were releasing smoke as a result.

“Ange!” she snapped. “What’s the problem? You’re going to smoke out the whole building!”

“Luuuuuuuure,” he said angrily. “Chande, chande, luuuuuuuure.”

Odette began to cough, feeling that tickle returning to her back again, along with a new tightness in her lungs. She grabbed a plastic cup full of water from the sink and dumped it on Ange's fires. They fizzled out, and he slumped over, clearly winded from whatever energy he’d been exerting.

“You’re ridiculous,” she said in a huff, throwing the cup aside. She went back out to the living room and returned to fanning the exhaust. There, her gothitelle friend, Solene, came running out from the hallway leading to her bedroom, breathless.

"Gothi-telle,” Solene said, panting.

“Help me,” Odette said. “Psychic, please.

Solene drew in some air and put her hands together. An orb of pink light formed between them, and suddenly, the smoke still left in the room began to ball together. The ball hovered out the open balcony doors and said doors slammed shut behind it. The beeping stopped, and Odette sighed in relief. She began to rub her back as if trying to coax the tingling sensation out of it.

“Guys, I wanted to come home to a calm place tonight,” she said, irritated. “Of all the days to be up to some shit, today wasn’t it.”

Gothi! Gothi goth!” Solene said insistently.

Odette paused in her rubbing, a thought suddenly occurring to her. She looked around the room almost frantically. Isaur was on the couch, Ange was collecting himself in the kitchen, Solene was in front of her, and Enora was still in her ball.

“Where’s the imp?” she asked.

Solene pointed up at the ceiling, evidently annoyed. Odette looked up just in time for the sound of skittering feet to echo from down from it. Her gaze cut to the vent above her, and it popped open almost immediately. That familiar fake pikachu head hung down from the darkness of the air duct.

Kkkkkkkyu,” Loïc hissed ominously.

Odette narrowed her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of the vents? What could you possibly need up there?”

Kkkkkkkkkkkkyu,” he responded. His body weight shifted slightly, and several other board game pieces and cards fell from the duct. Odette silently watched them all hit the floor before speaking again.

“Why are you being a dickhead?”


Why are you being a dickhead?” she asked again, her anger rising. Loïc was silent after that.

Odette pinched the bridge of her nose and took another deep, long breath. “I’m going to count to three,” she said evenly. “If you’re not out of the vent by three, I’m throwing every single chocolate-covered pecha berry we have in the garbage. Do you--”

She didn’t need to finish her sentence. Upon looking back up, she saw the rambunctious ghost-type slowly floating down to the floor. He landed at her feet.

“Kyu,” he said sweetly. For good measure, he began to rub himself up against her leg.

“You’re so easy,” Odette sighed. She picked up the haphazardly thrown board game and unfolded it, seeing the familiar print of a Monopoly track. She frowned at it.

“Who was playing Monopoly?” she asked, peering up at Solene.

“Gothitelle!” Solene snapped. She pointed down at the now-politely sitting mimikyu, and toward the kitchen.

“Kkkyu,” Loïc replied.

“Chande…” Ange called in a wary tone.

Odette nodded slowly. “I could have told you that the two of you playing Monopoly would be a horrible idea. What were you even thinking?”

There wasn’t a verbal response from Loïc this time. Instead, he scurried between Odette’s feet and dove under the living room coffee table. That was all the answer she needed.

“Boys, when I said ‘start some packing,’ I meant ‘start some packing without getting sidetracked by random shit,’” she sighed. She sat the board on the table, along with her backpack.

“Go-thiii,” Solene spoke in agreement.

Odette eyed the gothitelle dubiously. “Oh yeah, Miss? What’d you do today?”

Solene wildly gestured back toward the kitchen, where there was a stack of four small boxes against the back wall, plain as day. Odette had been in such a hurry to do some damage control, she hadn’t noticed them.

All the glassware?” she asked.

Solene nodded firmly, then gestured to Isaur, who had yet to move from the couch. “Gothitelle!”

At least the girls--sans Enora--had gotten something done.

“Frosssss,” Isaur grumbled, rolling over onto her back. At that moment, Loïc stuck his head out from under the coffee table and attempted to jump up on the couch with her. She immediately sat up and swatted at him.

“Froslass!” she yelled.

Kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk,” Loïc growled.

Odette pulled Enora’s pokeball from the front pocket and pressed the front button. With a bright flash of blue, Enora herself appeared on the table. She stretched herself out, yawning as if just waking up from a nap.

“Loïc and Ange, clean up your mess. Solene, make sure Loïc and Ange clean up. Enora, make sure Isaur doesn’t kill Loïc. I’m going to take a shower,” Odette instructed flatly, grabbing her bag and making her way toward her bedroom. She’d typically be able to attempt to diffuse the situation, but her brain was fried at this point. She needed a breather before she got upset again.

Her bedroom was a bit messier than she normally tolerated. The contents of her closet spilled all over the floor, reaching as far as her desk chair and bed. Most of the drawers on her dresser stood open, also threatening to dump their contents. With the preparations to move underway, she had a lot of organizing she needed to do. What could be packed away until the move, and what she needed to keep out until then. A pile of flattened boxes was leaned up against her wire bed frame, ready for use. Only one box in the room had been packed and taped, but she’d had that box together for over a year--long before this move to Alola was even finalized.

Her eyes instinctively traveled to her wall of empty shelves, catching on the amount of dust that had started to accumulate on them. Despite the fact that she’d shoved every last of her trophies and photos from her performance days into that box, she still found herself glancing at the shelves every time she entered her room. They used to fill her with joy and a sense of accomplishment and worth. But now, they just existed, hoping to hold something else that filled her with those same feelings.

That possibility seemed bleak.

She threw herself onto her unmade bed after tossing her bag to the floor. Lying there, she allowed herself to really take a second to decompress. Forget the day, forget work, forget her team’s shenanigans. She just concentrated on relaxing.

She hoped, in some way, shape or form, tomorrow would steer clear of the weird brushes with the past. Just a day at Santalune Pokemon Academy, focused on nothing but training. That was all she was asking for.

A small crash sounded from the family room, followed by a chorus of angry shouts from her teammates. She cringed to herself and took the deepest breath she could muster.

“All good. All good.”
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I don't really know how to start off this review so I'll just jump right in.

I only read roughly the first half of your synopsis so the prologue came across as jarring as I missed the part about the evil team. I was expecting the story of a woman with a promising career who is assaulted by a close colleague and starts a long and painful journey to recovery. Instead I get a card-carrying villain ripping apart his grunts with his pet Eldritch abomination. It still is a little jarring in my opinion, even after re-reading the synopsis in its entirety plus the rest of your intro post. We go from this very serious, very violent chapter to theater hijinks. That aside, the prologue to me was excessive and, for a lack of better words, edgy. Florent comes across as a cliché super-duper evil villain, what with his dark red eyes and predictable tendency to murder his henchmen for transgressions. In one of the video game forums here, there was a discussion about how Pokémon fangames that try to be more mature and adult tend to overindulge on violence and edginess and so on; this prologue gives me that vibe, what with Florent, the Blood Legendary thing and the apparent blood pack with them, etc. Such elements could work in a story, but here in my opinion they don't because the following two chapters are fairly normal and don't lend themselves to such excessiveness, and both parts of the story appear to take themselves seriously.

Other than that, I don't really have much to say outside of a few very minor nitpicks as the rest of the story is pretty solid: the writing is descriptive and gives me a good feel for what is going on, there aren't any sort of grammatical errors that I noticed, etc. As for those minor nitpicks...
  • The scene with the trainers discussing the best type comes across as a little unnatural/forced, but I can't really put my finger on why. Maybe it's because a Pokémon's type doesn't have as much emphasis outside of gym leaders/E4 members/trial captains etc. who specialize in a particular type.
  • Odette's characterization makes me a raise an eyebrow a little. Her eyes are an unusual color (maroon), she owns a shiny Pokémon right from the get go, her friends praise her amazing yet wasted talent, and it appears that she may possibly be the daughter of the leader of an evil team that has attracted the attention of a very powerful Legendary.
  • This last note is probably the most nitpicky of the comments I have today, and honestly you could probably just ignore it. Anyways, the line "She was in full control, weaving in and out of traffic and between buildings at mach speed; she decided where to go, and how fast she went. Flyers didn’t know what they were missing." doesn't make much sense to me. While, yes, people who use animals for transport are ultimately subject to their whims, it's not though there is no way to control where they go and how fast they move. And Pokémon tend to have a reasonably high level of intelligence so I don't think it would be difficult to train them to follow orders like speed up, go left, etc. I just don't see how riding a motorcycle is somehow more free and less restrictive than riding on a flying animal, especially considering the latter isn't restricted to roads.
Anyways, that's all I have. Overall, as I said before it's pretty solid and doesn't have any sort of noticeable things beyond just the prologue and some minor stuff.
Chapter 3 - A Bad, Bad Run-In
Chapter 3: A Bad, Bad Run-In
Strong Language, Talk of Pokemon Death
Odette’s forehead hovered centimeters over the floor as she pointed her toes. She exhaled deeply, feeling the effects of her straddle wash over her. The knot in her lower back began to loosen, and her glutes began to scream a little. In a good way, of course. There was no better way to start a busy day than with a solid stretch.

A loud sizzling noise rang from the kitchen, and Odette pushed herself upright, keeping her legs straddled. The smell of vegetable omelets started to waft through the apartment, and she felt her stomach rumble. Instinctively, her hand travelled to rest on it.

“Smells good, Sol,” she said. "You really didn't need to cook today, though. I was planning to stop at the food court before class."

Gothiiiiiiiiiiiii,” Solene replied sweetly. She was always looking for an excuse to use the stove, so Odette supposed she couldn't blame her.

From her spot on the floor, perpendicular to the coffee table, Odette turned and eyed Isaur as she slowly flipped through the TV channels. She was using the arrow buttons on the TV set itself, and she’d been at it for almost five minutes.

“Just put on the news and be done with it, goddamn,” Odette said. She thought for a moment. “And where’s the stupid remote?”

A hiss rang from behind her, somewhere near the table. She heard something slide across the floor, and it struck the back of her leg. She shot a look at it, only to see it was the missing remote. She narrowed her eyes before looking over her shoulder. Loïc was sitting under one of the chairs, staring back innocently.

“Very funny,” she said.

Kkkkkkkk,” Loïc replied.

Odette picked it up and typed in the number for the news channel. The screen flipped to it, prompting annoying grumbles to rise from Isaur. The familiar jingle played over the speakers as she hovered over to the couch, and plopped herself down between Ange and Enora. Ange was blinking drowsily, still trying to wake up, while Enora took to idly grooming herself.

“There, was that so hard?” Odette asked.

Fross,” Isaur said defiantly.

"You know there’s nothing good on TV on Friday mornings,” Odette said. She sat the remote on the coffee table, next to her idle phone, before lowering her chest back to the floor. She exhaled, concentrating on her stretch while partially tuning in to the sound of the TV.

“We are still receiving updates regarding the gruesome discovery made early this morning. The Lumiose PD received a tip late last night and made the bust early this morning,” the reporter said. “According to the reports we have so far, ten trainers and their Pokemon partners were found dead at the Pangoro Packing Storage Facility on Crabhammer Road. LCPD Police Chief Bernard Cinq-Mars has been on the scene with detectives securing the area."

Odette’s head snapped up at the sound of her grandfather’s name.

Sure enough, his familiar face popped into view: short, well-kept salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed matching beard framed a pair of tired, somber-looking brown eyes. Despite that, he held himself confidently and spoke with an air of determination that could only be found in somebody as passionate in their job as he was.

“We’re still in the process of investigating what's happened here, but...it's not looking good right now,” he said.

“Can you confirm that this is another case of a sacrilege overdose?” asked the reporter behind the camera.

Bernard’s face fell ever so slightly as he contemplated the question. He soon shrugged. “We'll have to see what the toxicology reports come back with, but I'd say it's more than likely,” he replied grimly.

There was a cut back to the reporter, who continued rambling through her report. However, Odette heard none of it, and her head had begun to buzz: first, with relief that her grandpa hadn’t been hurt and still seemed in good spirits. And then, with some concern: she’d scrolled through her news app for fifteen minutes yesterday on her lunch break and only found the one repetitive OD story. Now, there was a new one. Well, at least ten, more specifically.

She began to scratch her cheek apprehensively. “I should probably call--”

The words had barely left her before her phone began to ring from the coffee table. It morphed into its Rotom Mode and floated up to her face.

"Bzzzzzzzt, an incoming call from Marieanne Cinq-Mars! Bzzzzt!” it said.

She grabbed it hastily. “Thanks,” she said, then answered as she wriggled out of her straddle.

“Are you watching the news?” Marieanne gasped on the other end.

Odette blinked rapidly but couldn’t help the slight smile that began to form. “Good morning to you too, Nana,” she greeted hesitantly.

Marieanne laughed. “Oh, silly me. Good morning, little Swanna,” she said. "Now, are you watching the news?

Odette usually preferred keeping her discussions of sacrilege issues between her and Noel, but she could stand to humor her grandma for a few minutes before she headed off to school. She eyed the clock hanging just above the balcony door and found they weren't due to leave for another thirty minutes. She had time.

“I was. I was getting ready to call you myself,” Odette said, standing up and wandering over to the couch. "Might actually go see Grandpa after class after seeing that, honestly."


It was colder today. It didn’t help that another round of thunderheads had come out to play. Odette had barely made it inside the building of the Santalune Pokemon Academy before the downpour started. Now, sitting in the lecture hall for Mr. Songmin’s Battle Tactics class, she could hear the rain pounding on the building outside. Thunderclaps would shake the classroom every now and then.

On most days, she was a very attentive student, especially in this class. Mr. Songmin was one of those young teachers who prided themselves on being on good terms with their students. He always put effort into making sure his lectures--no matter how boring the subject matter-- were at least moderately entertaining, so the moldable minds in his presence would be more open to listening. Odette particularly enjoyed his enthusiasm. She also loved how his Kantonian accent shone through his Kalosian words once in a while. She found it charming.

However, today her mind buzzed with thoughts of the morning news. No matter how much she tried to shake it off, it was like her brain had magnetized to thinking about it. She had to resist the urge to pull her phone out and see if there were any updates. But she doubted it would be that simple, making her eager to delve more into it.

It's absurd, she kept telling herself. From talking to Bernard about all the cases he’d worked on, she knew it wasn't abnormal for drug epidemics to cause deaths. But at the rate they were happening with this sacrilege stuff, it was starting to feel like they were dealing with something much more intense. Were groups of people found dead in strange places while overdosing on opioids? Or meth? Or anything else, really? What was Team Enigma even trying to accomplish with this sort of thing? Wiping out a whole socioeconomic class, maybe? And why was it so targeted at shiny Pokemon, anyway? She'd need to have Noel look into the file notes when--

“Cinq-Mars, I didn’t know the lecture was on the ceiling.”

She hadn’t realized that she had leaned back against her chair and was staring into space. She slowly sat up.

“I don’t have to be looking at you to be listening, Songmin,” she replied easily, hoping to play off her inattentiveness.

Mr. Songmin smiled broadly as the class collectively chuckled. He sauntered over to his desk, which was stationed right in the middle of the lecture hall. He then sat down on it, crossing his legs and folding his hands politely in his lap. “Mm, then tell me,” he said. “You have a froslass partner, correct? Isaur? What are froslass known for in competitive battling?”

“Their speed,” Odette answered.

“So how would you tactfully use Isaur's speed in a battle scenario? Say, you’re up one, but the partner you currently have out is struggling.”

She folded her hands on her desk in a somewhat mocking fashion. She started to tap her fingers on her knuckles as her mind began to run with adequate answers.

“I’d switch into her in a case of out-speeding. I’d swap her in while the opposing Pokemon was distracted because of whoever was in before or charging up.”

Mr. Songmin nodded along slowly. He didn’t say anything for a short moment. “Fair, but what if the opposing Pokemon again out-speeds her? Froslass most certainly aren’t the fastest competitive Pokemon, and surely there are ways for your foe to knock her out in one hit?”

Odette pushed her glasses up on her nose. “Isaur’s been training with a Focus Sash since she was a Snorunt. She can take a powerful hit,” she said. “In which case, she uses Destiny Bond. Now my foe is stuck between switching out themselves or losing another Pokemon and being down two.”

He pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “Good answer. I’ll pretend I didn’t catch you daydreaming,” he said playfully before standing up again. He returned to the whiteboard and launched into something else about using Pokemon stats to one’s advantage. Odette exhaled quietly. She could shake off zoning out in lectures like this, but she’d have to be on her A-game in battle class.

That class came to an end without another incident. At the very least, Odette could say she now knew that a pachirisu could be a good staller. If she ever decided she wanted to deal with the pain of electric types, she’d have to remember that.

The giant class filed into the hall, where some other older students loitered. As Odette exited, she was cut off by two youngsters, their raticate friends in tow, as they bolted back to their classroom from gods knew where. She sometimes forgot that kids as young as five also attended the academy with bright-eyed partners. The advanced classes were normally held in a building separate from the young kids, and Odette’s classes had primarily older students. But it wasn’t uncommon for some Pokemon prodigies to end up in them. Hell, she had two eleven-year-olds in her advanced monotype class. It was quite jarring to feel like she was back on a university campus, only to find herself sitting next to a primary school-aged kid on some occasion.

She scoffed at the thought, then withdrew her phone to check the time. 12:34, eleven minutes to battle class. She might have had time to get something to eat from the cafeteria before getting her team from their HM class, but her will to eat had faded when she remembered today was an exhibition day.

Every Friday, her battle teacher would randomly select two students to go head-to-head for an exhibition 3v3 match while the other students took notes on what they did right and wrong. The winner would receive extra credit. They were a month into the semester, and she hadn’t been called on yet. Each Friday that passed, she was sure she was getting closer and closer to having to pit her skills against one of her talented classmates while the others looked on.

It caused a hole to open in her stomach every time she thought about it.

It was so invigorating to witness other people go at it, taking in their expressions as they struggled side by side with their partners, hoping to come out victorious. She was usually okay battling it out in her smaller classes, but...in Mrs. Chuquet’s class of thirty-five students, that proved to be a little more daunting.

She rolled her shoulders. She wasn’t sure what was making her stomach hurt the most. The thought of losing or the thought of battling in front of such a large group.

“RotomPhone, any updates on the latest sacrilege OD?” she asked her phone as she turned and started walking for the battle gym. Her screen displayed a loading screen before Rotom’s frowning face popped up again.

Bzzzzzt! Nope, nothing! Bzzzzt!” it said. "It's only been a couple of hours since the last, so I doubt anything would come out so quickly."

Her frown deepened, and she sighed.

“I know, but I can still--”

"Bzzzt, watch out!"

Suddenly, her shoulder made contact with somebody’s arm. Somebody’s buff arm. The person she’d bumped into was at least a foot taller than her and was moving quite fast, so they sent her stumbling back. She would have very much fallen on her butt had they not reeled around and caught her by her arm.

“Whoa!” he yelped as he grabbed her. He pulled her up to stand, slipping an arm around her back in a protective manner. “I am so sorry,” he sputtered once Odette was still.

She stood stiff, staring straight ahead and blinking as she tried to swallow the bout of rage that had shot up through her back. “Why don’t you watch where you’re--” she began as she tilted her head up to peer at the guy. Her gaze caught on a set of handsome green eyes, downturned with concern. A pair of expensive-looking Praltz sunglasses sat on his head, the same ones this guy used to wear daily to school.

The familiarity of his face caused her rage to subside tremendously.

Dorien?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.

His smile grew more excited with each passing second. "No way,” he gasped.

He released his grip on her and took a step back. “Odette, holy hell,” he exclaimed. “I knew I recognized those braids. You look fantastic, my god." He laughed to himself. "How long has it been?"

Odette adjusted her glasses, taking a beat to look him over. Everything about him looked expensive. She was so used to seeing him in their assigned high school uniform that she forgot he had the money to spend on such high-end outfits. The prestigious logos embedded into his clothes seemed to shine like the diamonds they were probably worth. Praltz, Louis Vibrava, Roll-X...

“I…” she stammered. “Yeah,” she finished. "I think...it's been, like, five years since we graduated, yeah?"

Dorien exhaled sharply as he pushed his hair back, minding the sunglasses. “Man, I hate the passage of time. Rodin's chem class feels like yesterday."

She nodded along. "It does. Best partners in that class."

He beamed at her, and it caused some heat to travel up to her cheeks.

"You know it," he agreed.

That was certainly true; the two of them never got anything less than A’s on their projects together. Where she sucked at math, she made up for it with her fantastic presentation and PowerPoint-making skills. His strong suit was the numbers and wooing the teachers with his gene-instilled charm.

She remembered how stoked she was to have him as a lab partner. He was easily one of the best-looking straight guys at Lansat Preparatory Academy, and she wasn't the only student who thought that. But she was the lucky one. Seeing each other in chemistry every day and having to do so many projects together allowed them to get rather...close.

They were almost a thing. Or, perhaps, kind of a thing. She'd been so caught up in her musical theatre studies that having a boyfriend had never crossed her mind. She felt like she didn't have the time or energy. At least until she met him.

Why didn't we ever become official? she thought to herself. Now that she was thinking about it, it was strange. They just...stopped hanging out for some odd reason that she couldn't quite recall.

Suddenly, she felt a little bad. He was a package; what the hell had she been thinking about letting it go?

The warmth was spreading over her nose and was only growing more intense. It startled her, but she figured that not acknowledging it would cause it to fade faster. Scratching at her cheek awkwardly, she decided to ask the age-old question.

“What are you doing here?”

Dorien raised his shoulder gleefully, then flashed a piece of paper that depicted a class schedule. “Late enrollment, believe it or not. I start today. I kind of hit a rough spot in my training and decided I needed divine intervention,” he added dramatically. “I’ll admit, I was kind of worried at first, but I’m so glad to have a really familiar face here.”

A smile began to curl her own lips. “I guess you were jogging because you’re late?”

He exhaled sharply and peered at the slip of paper. “No, actually. Well, not yet. If I can’t find the room, I will be,” he said. He handed the paper to her. "Help?”

She leaned over to examine it, roving her finger over the 12:30 time slot.

Battle Performance - Building A Gym - Tania Chuquete

She blinked in surprise. “Oh, lucky you,” she said. “We’re in the same class.”

Dorien’s face lit up, brighter than it already was. “Lucky me for sure,” he said eagerly. Almost too eagerly. He was always easily excitable, but she didn’t remember it being this excessive. She raised her brow dubiously.

He must have seen her expression change because he rubbed the side of his neck bashfully. “Sorry, like I said. Excited that you're here.” He flinched suddenly and rushed to correct himself. "That I know somebody, I mean."

More heat. A cutiefly hatched in her stomach and tried its hand at flying.

Odette shook her head abruptly, deciding to brush the feeling off. “No, don’t worry about it. I am, too,” she said. “I’m headed there anyway, so you can follow me. My team will meet us there.”

“Sure thing. Lead the way, then.”

She walked ahead, figuring it was best to keep up with the small talk. Asking how he’d been, how he was faring the weather, small stuff. He had no issue talking her ear off. Frankly, she didn’t mind. She’d rather ask him about himself than vice versa, lest she end up in that bad place again.

“What kind of team do you have together?” she inquired as they rounded a corner, maneuvering through a crowd of loitering teenagers.

“Well, I have a thing for steel and fighting types, surely,” he said. “But, I’m trying to keep my group well-rounded, you know? Counters for everything.”

She pursed her lips. “That’s always smart,” she said. And so baseline, she thought.

“That being said, I’ve got my partners Ferrothorn, Togedemaru, Corviknight, Pangoro, Toxicroak, and Bewear,” he listed, raising a finger with each passing name. “I tend to swap between them because I also have Excadrill, Poliwrath, and Conkeldurr.”

Odette nodded. All primary and secondary fighting and steel types. An interesting combination. If and when she ended up in a battle with him, she’d have to watch out. Those steel moves would send Enora, Loïc, and Isaur to the emergency room at a Poke Center if she weren’t careful. But, she could solidly counter those fighting types...

“What about you? I know you always had a neat team--gothorita, lampent, snorunt...and a...shiny eevee, right?”

“Oh,” she said. “They're still around. Well, they’ve evolved since then. Gothitelle, chandelure, froslass, and sylveon. I also recently had a mimikyu join as well. And, of course, RotomPhone here, but he's not a battler. Just on rehab from an injury, so he's helping me function from inside my phone for a bit."

"Bzzzzzt, howdy!" RotomPhone greeted, waving one of his jagged arms.

Dorien nodded in approval, then began to scratch his chin as a thought seemingly occurred to him. "Pleasure to meet you," he said. "But, no battling sixth?”

“I’m having a hard time finding someone who’d fit into my team dynamic,” she said quietly like she was embarrassed about it. “Loïc...” she paused. “I mean my mimikyu friend,” she corrected. “Was a fluke as it is. My maman kind of saddled him on me, but he’s...made himself at home. Pain in my ass, but he makes things very lively."

“Well, I was going to say,” he chuckled, “a shiny sylveon would bring in enough money to last you a lifetime if you sold it at an auction. But, maybe not the best idea if you’re only running five.”

Odette’s eyes went wide. What an absolutely audacious thing to say. She heard RotomPhone buzz in alarm next to her.

“Excuse me?” she said. A mix of intense anger and an undying urge to laugh stirred in her chest. She started to let some of those laughs go, but she stopped when she remembered how Dorien's family, the Bonhommes, got their fortune.

Dorien came from a clan of shiny hunters, and they were active members of the shiny trade. Active proponents of keeping it alive, too.


Now it made sense. That's why they'd stopped hanging out. A whisper of nostalgic horror filled her gut as she vaguely remembered how his familial occupation came to light. How she'd been blissfully unaware of his involvement until the end of the year.

Fucking seriously? she thought bitterly.

How the hell had she forgotten that so easily? She would have assumed something like that would have stuck with her for the rest of her damn life, yet...

Suddenly, her mind was racing again, this time with the thoughts of what Noel had found yesterday.

The wealthy, plus shinies...sounds like some shiny trade bullshit.

“It’s not the best idea, period,” she said. “I’m not somebody who's in favor of the trade. It should have been abolished years ago.”

She watched as Dorien rolled his eyes. It lit a fire in her stomach. “Come on, you sound like the rest of the world. You do know the rumors are fake, right? Pokemon in the trade want to be there.”

That time, she let her laughs out with no stops. She reached up her hand, signaling RotomPhone to go into standby mode. He reluctantly raced back into her hand, and she put the device in her pocket. “It’s almost like the rest of the world is right. Even if the rumors aren't true, there's no need to have a whole institution around it. That just makes it easier to cover up any abuse."

Dorien’s brow furrowed momentarily, but he smiled through it. “That's a little assumptive, but not surprising. If you want, we could go grab dinner later and I'll explain to you how it actually is."

“I don't think that's necessary, I'm pretty set in my opinion,” Odette said harshly.

“Well, then how about just dinner?” He added a smile that she assumed was supposed to be charming, but something about it rubbed her entirely the wrong way. She was getting ready to chew him out for his involvement in such a deplorable establishment, and he was grinning at her like she was flirting with him. Not that she could pull off flirting even if she wanted to, but that wasn’t the point.

“You're getting way ahead of yourself.”

He held his hand over his heart, turning his head away dramatically as if he were offended. “Oh, we're back to the hard-to-get act? You really like to toy with my emotions, don't you?"

She slowly sucked her teeth. The pleasantries of reconnecting with an old flame were fading very quickly. In fact, the sentiment was practically gone. All she wanted to do now was beam her water bottle at him. Perhaps she should have let her anger roll and decked him when he ran into her.

"You know me too well."

She had a much more nasty remark lined up, but they arrived at the gym before she could let it loose. She quickly decided that that was for the best. She certainly wasn’t one to shy away from confrontation, but she was focused on keeping herself in check for this class. She didn’t need to get so riled up over Dorien’s absolutely fucked views of the trade. At least, not now.

She pushed the heavy double doors open and was met with the sight of some of her classmates sitting on the bleachers. The gym itself wasn’t what a standard school gym would look like. No basketball hoops, no volleyball nets--just a practice battle arena. The walls and ceiling were even padded with protection against stray projectiles. The bleachers themselves also had a protective barrier that could be activated whenever a showdown was going to occur. Truly, no expense was spared by the academy.

“Huh. Seems standard,” Dorien commented. His voice had a posh inflection, which made Odette’s nerves prickle in disdain. Maybe getting a little riled up wouldn’t hurt.

“Must be nice to be so rich that ‘state of the art’ is just ‘standard’ to you,” she cracked, her tone wavering on the line between reserved and downright biting. He appeared oblivious to her less-than-friendly demeanor.

“I guess it just comes with the territory.”

“Are you sure you’re not just a spoiled brat?” she queried as they walked across the vast space. This prompted another chuckle, this one a little louder.

“Maybe?” he offered. That same attempt-at-charming smile made a comeback, and she began to wonder if he actually was in the mindset that this was flirting. That didn’t make any goddamn sense to her. Not that she was the flirting expert; quite the opposite, actually. But she wasn’t so emotionally unintelligent that she’d take rude banter as something in the same vein as courting. She somehow didn’t remember Dorien being so oblivious, but what did she know? She’d forgotten why she stopped liking him in the first place, so forgetting how he was as a person wasn’t entirely farfetched in comparison. People change in five years, don't they?

A couple of the students already sitting there sent friendly waves and soft “hey’s” toward her as she trekked up the bleacher stairs to her usual bench. Dorien sat next to her and leaned back against the seats behind him, folding his arms behind his head.

“So give me the rundown. How does it work here?” he asked.

Odette diverted her attention toward digging through her bag for her empty pokeballs, which she shoved into her jogger's pockets. “It’s a battle class,” she said. “You battle. I would think it’s pretty self-explanatory.”

He scoffed. “Yes, but what, no gimmick?” he said. She could hear the grin in his voice.

She inhaled deeply and slowly turned her head to face him. As expected, he was flashing his teeth at her. She couldn’t help but notice how perfectly straight they were.

“Every Friday, the professor picks two students to showcase a 3v3 battle,” she explained. “In case your servants didn’t remind you when you woke up this morning, today is Friday.”

The intended insult flew right over his head. He seemed to show more interest in the idea of the showcase battle, judging by how his eyes brightened. He turned onto his side, fully facing her, and rested his cheek on his palm. “Oh, that sounds fun,” he said slyly. “What are the chances I’ll get grabbed today?”

“I haven’t even been called. So I highly doubt it.” With that, she turned her head back toward her bag.

“Oh, so maybe you’ll go? And I get to watch you battle it out with your little fairy and ghost friends?”

She flinched. His voice had suddenly grown louder and...closer. As if it were right next to her ear.

With her brows scrunched and a deep frown on her face, she turned toward him again, only to find that he’d leaned in close to her. Too close to her. Her cheek was mere centimeters from brushing his nose as she turned her head. Green eyes were narrowed in an all-too-sultry fashion, and his toothy smile had shrunk down to a smirk.

Instinctively, she raised her hand and pressed her palm to his nose, forcing him backward and out of her personal space.

“You can watch me from back there,” she said, emphasizing her last word as she pulled her hand away. “I’m not a fan of people getting so close to me, thank you.”

She watched him tilt his head to the side, his expression growing sad. But it wasn’t any sort of sincere sadness. It was a mocking sadness. Like one somebody might give a farfetch’d for throwing a tantrum over their leek losing a leaf. A fire lit in her veins, and she grasped the strap of her backpack to refrain from backhanding him outright.

“What?” he said, feigning a pout. “Come on, I figured we were doing flame rekindling here.” He exhaled deeply and leaned back into the bench behind him again. “Not to be so forthright after only re-acquainting myself with you ten minutes ago, but I liked our thing. I was hoping to talk about revisiting it, if I may be so blunt."

Not on your goddamn life.

Her grip on her backpack tightened. She was sure the skin on her knuckles would tear open, but she didn’t care. If she let go, his pretty little nose was going to break.

Maliciously crafted words threatened to spew out, but the double doors opened again, and the remaining students, including Odette's Pokemon group, filed in with Mrs. Chuquete in tow. Mrs. Chuquete held her usual clipboard under her arm, and a baseball cap sat on her head of fluffy red hair.

Odette exhaled the shallow breath she was holding, almost feeling relieved that the start of class would save her from the absolute trainwreck of a conversation she was having. It would also save her from the probable expulsion that would come with absolutely pummeling a new student half to death.

“Huh, class starting?” Dorien commented like he was trying to fill the tense silence that had swelled between them.

Yeah, no shit, she wanted to yell. She bit her tongue instead, just in time for Solene, Enora, Isaur, Ange, and Loïc to join her on the bleachers. Solene was the first to notice Dorien, and she nudged Odette frantically upon recognizing his face.

"Gothi?" she whispered in shock.

Odette stiffly shook her head and waved her off. She wasn't in the mood to explain right now.

Breathe...keep it together.

“Alright, settle down, trainers, Pokemon,” Mrs. Chuquete called, silencing the low chatter. “I’d like to get this started quickly so we have plenty of time to discuss and practice ourselves. I know we also have a new student in here today, so this’ll be a good chance for him to see how we do things here.”

Dorien clicked his tongue in response to being acknowledged. It took everything in Odette not to growl at him.

Mrs. Chuquete lifted the front page on her clipboard to look at whatever was under it before dropping it again. “So I’ll keep this quick. First up on the chopping block, Odette Cinq-Mars.”

Odette’s heartbeat, which had already started to ring in her ears, picked up. She suddenly felt very glad she didn’t eat because she surely would have lost it at that point. Her skittish appetite did come in handy sometimes.

If she weren’t so angry, she probably would have had a harder time recalling her team to their balls and getting up to walk to the front of the bleachers. But she happily took it as a chance to get away from Dorien.

Mrs. Chuquete scanned her board for a moment before speaking again. “The slated opponent today was Muraoka Knowles, but she’s called in sick. So I'll give somebody a chance to volunteer before I move down the list.”

Odette’s foot had just hit the arena floor when Mrs. Chuquete spoke. She stopped dead in her tracks, taking the moment to inhale a deep breath. Her eyes slipped shut as a grimace took hold of her features.

For the love of fucking gods, she thought bitterly. She knew what was coming.

“I’ll go!” she heard Dorien’s voice say.

Odette had half a mind to grab somebody’s backpack and throw it clear across the room. She was trying so goddamn hard not to explode, and she couldn’t remember the last time it had been this difficult. Singing ‘Jellicle Songs’ wouldn’t solve this dilemma.

“Oh, the new student is eager, huh?” Mrs. Chuquete queried, raising her brow. Odette didn’t move from her spot, as she was too busy trying, and failing, to blink the red out of her eyes. She only returned to her senses when she felt a hand fall on her right shoulder.

“Odette’s a friend of mine, so I’d never pass up a chance to battle her!” he said.

She jerked her shoulder away from his grasp and craned her neck to glare at him. The cocky smile he returned put her on the verge of an anger-induced heart attack if she wasn’t at that point already. She stomped forward, out to the middle of the arena, to configure which of her Pokemon she was going to send out for the battle. Something to keep her hands and brain busy for the time being.

“Fat chance,” she muttered to herself, shoving her hands into her pockets.

“Oh, friendly rivalry? I like that,” Mrs. Chuquete said. “Dorien, was it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to this class, even if I did show up a little late in the quarter. Hopefully, you’ll be the divine intervention I’m looking for in my training journey.” The way his voice inflected upward in such a playful fashion made Odette roll her eyes. That’s how he used to talk to their chemistry teacher too. Did she find it as annoying back then as she did now? Probably not, because that suave-speak had a huge hand in their straight A’s. But now? It sounded like mawile teeth on a chalkboard.

She heard Mrs. Chuquete chuckle. “Flattery will get you nowhere, but I like your enthusiasm.” Despite the words she spoke, she sounded bashful. There was an almost unnoticeable waver in her voice, but Odette picked up easily. That seemed to be the same response he got every time.

She shook her head to herself as she stopped on the left side of the battlefield. She withdrew the three balls from her left pocket; Loïc, Isaur, and Ange. Enora and Solene were in her right pocket. She had to think this over because she realized, in her rage, that she was in a precarious situation.

One of the pluses of fighting a classmate was that she’d had the chance to observe them in previous classes. She could confidently say that she’d started to pick up on at least half the class's mannerisms whenever they battled, just from standing by and watching them work. She’d figured that she’d be lucky enough to get paired with somebody she’d observed closely by the time she was called for an exhibition. But no, there had to be a fluke, where she ended up battling the guy she’d never seen go at it once. It was a travesty because she could read Muraoka like a book. It would have been such a smooth victory.

The thing that amplified this problem was Dorien’s preference for steel types. He also had fighting types, proving to be a better matchup. But, she was hung up on the fact that steel wiped half her team if she didn’t play her cards exactly right. The battle would be a 3v3, and she wasn’t sure if that would work for or against her. She had to clear her head and really think.

An obvious choice would be to pick Solene as a lead, as she usually did. Psychic didn’t do much to steel, but steel wasn’t that much of a threat to psychic either. Plus, Solene could whip a fighting type easily.

She calmed down a little, knowing that at least part of her usual strategy wasn’t contested.

Another no-brainer pick was Ange. Fire being one of the only weaknesses of steel types, she’d be stupid not to send him in. He packed enough punch to take on whatever Dorien might throw at them unless he decided to send out a poliwhirl. Then that would be an issue. She’d have to hold her breath and hope he left that particular partner at home today.

That left slot three, which is where she found herself stumped. Should she risk Enora or Loïc for the fairy advantage against fighting? If Dorien decided to go primarily steel, though, it would be a terrible time for both of them. Isaur also saw the same problem but didn’t have the same advantage with fighting. Perhaps that just eliminated her from the running? It was such a pain in the ass to figure out...

She’d been lucky enough thus far to have only run into the steel types among rounded teams, but an almost-specialized steel trainer was rough terrain she actively tried to avoid, at least until she could find a counter that would fit her team. She’d tried to steer clear of the two in her monotype class, but there was no backing out of this unless she wanted to see a hit to her grade. She definitely didn’t want to give Dorien that satisfaction, either. If she couldn’t backhand him herself, she’d do it through battle.

“Trainers! Ready yourselves!” Mrs. Chuquete called excitedly. “The first three pokemon you send out will be the only ones you can battle with. Choose wisely!”

She hadn’t noticed that Dorien had trekked to his side of the arena. He spun three pokeballs in his left palm, tapping his foot as if he were waiting on her. When she finally caught sight of him, his smile widened.

“Much luck to you, Odette,” he said mockingly. Her jaw clenched, and she pocketed the balls she was holding and grabbed hold of Solene’s.

“Don’t need it,” she replied.

“You know what to do! Battle to the best of your abilities!”

Odette exhaled.


“Come out to play, Excadrill. Swords Dance!” Dorien declared as he threw his ball forward. With a flash of light and a roar, Excadrill appeared.

Cadriiiill!” it yelled. It crossed its arms over its chest and began to spin around. A soft glow took hold of its claws as it did so.

“Solene, Reflect for incoming attacks,” she said simply as she tossed her ball out. Solene emerged in a beam of pink light.

Gothi,” Solene said, sounding serious. She clasped her hands together as if in prayer and held them to her lips. “Gothitelle.” A shroud of more pink light fell over her.

“Now, Iron Head!” Dorien said.

Odette watched as the dual type lowered into a crouch before propelling itself forward. In a split second, its head made contact with Solene’s stomach. The Gothitelle stumbled backward, grimacing, but she wasn’t fazed otherwise.

“It’s close enough to Charm, go!” Odette said.

Solene unclasped her hands and used them to blow a swift kiss. This sent a stream of pink mist into the Excadrill’s face, causing it to stumble. It shook its head violently, trying to ward off the fumes. But the damage had been done. It reopened its eyes with dilated pupils and stared in awe at the Gothitelle before it.

Dorien gasped deeply. “Snap out of it, Excadrill! Iron Head again!”

“Hold,” Odette instructed quickly.

With slight hesitation, the Excadrill crouched backward again before launching into Solene’s stomach again. She trembled with the force of the attack but exhaled slowly before lifting her head.

“Itelle,” she said.

“Good stuff, Sol,” Odette praised. She cut her gaze from Excadrill back to Dorien. He had that nasty little smirk on his face, but his brows had lowered in concentration.

“Wear off that Reflect, don’t stop hitting.”

Excadrill cooed in protest but quickly shook their head. The Charm had definitely done its job; as long as Solene kept her Reflect going, and Excadrill remained charmed, its attack power wouldn't be nearly as intense as normal.

Just a bit longer, Odette thought.

Excadrill flew forward again and went to town. Butting its head into Solene, slicing away at her skin with some hefty uses of X-Scissor. Solene took each hit like an attack dummy, progressively weakening but nowhere close to falling. She made no moves to attack back, allowing
Excadrill to land hit after hit. Odette made no move to instruct her otherwise either. She kept her eyes on the opposing Pokemon, watching its every move.

With a final punch, the Reflect barrier shattered, its glassy pieces of it falling to the ground before dissolving into a cloud of translucent dust and fading away. That was the punch that sent Solene sliding back into Odette. Odette caught her with ease and exchanged a look with her.

Telle,” Solene said, sounding tired. There was still an air of determination in her voice.

“You’re doing great,” Odette told her. “I think we’ve backed them into a corner.”

She shot a look back at Excadrill. It retreated back to Dorien’s side of the arena, panting heavily. She noticed that one of Dorien’s brows began to twitch, and this time, she let her own smirk take over her face. Was he frustrated already? Good.

Solene nodded. “Gothi-telle,” she agreed breathlessly.

“Hold out for one more,” Odette said, patting Solene on the shoulder. Solene nodded, then stomped forward again. She puffed her chest out and clasped her hands together once more.

Teeeeeeeeeeeellllleeeee!” Solene yelled.

Dorien lightly shook his head, exhaling with a sharp edge. “She’s weak. You can knock her down. Final Iron Head!” he hollered.

Odette slowly dove her hand back into her pocket, thumbing over Ange’s ball. She’d need to time this just right.

Excadrill let out a roar. It crouched before running forward.

“Solene, return!” Odette said suddenly.

Solene was absorbed back into her pokeball, only to quickly be replaced by the chandelure.

“No mercy, Ange!”

Ange manifested just before Excadrill's head made contact. It cried out in pain before scrambling backward. A blue flame took hold of its head; no matter how much it tried to fan it out, it was no use.

Chandeeeeeeeeeeeeeelure!” Ange cried. He puffed out his cheeks, engulfing himself in a periwinkle flame that built until it shot forward and made direct contact with Excadrill’s face. It flew backward and hit the ground with a loud thud.

Odette could hear a deep breath Dorien sucked in as gasps echoed from her onlooking classmates. The tension filled the arena as Excadrill stumbled back to its feet, blue fire spreading up its arm.

“Can you still battle?” Dorien questioned evenly.

“Ex...ca,” Excadrill replied, resting its hand on the burn. It glared intently at Ange, who chirped politely. He waved at the Excadrill before turning to look at Odette.

Deluuure?” Ange asked.

“It’s already burned, so it won’t hesitate to Headbutt you again. But it might have an ace up its sleeve. Smoke it out before we can see it,” she said.

Ange nodded, then suddenly flew toward the mole pokemon. Excadrill appeared to be caught off-guard by the sudden movement and dodged the oncoming blast of fire. They were soon trapped in a dance, Ange shooting flames left and right, while the Excadrill did what it could to avoid another burn. It was already struggling from the first one, and Odette knew it was only a matter of time before it couldn’t go on. Even if Ange couldn’t get another hit, Excadrill was as good as out.

She watched as Excadrill ceased in its dodging to stare Ange down. Ange held its gaze, rocking slightly from side to side, waiting for retaliation. It crouched before running.

“That’s Iron Head!” Odette yelled.

No. It wasn't.

The ground began to rumble, and the force began to build intensity. Odette stared at the arena floor to find that fissures were beginning to form in the shiny finish.

"Earthquake..." she muttered. "Earthquake! Dodge!" she alerted Ange.

Ange barely caught the warning before a pillar of rock shot from the floor. It would have pierced him, but he moved aside just in time.

As Odette held her arms out to her sides to keep her balance, a building sense of frustration rose in her. Her observation had been wrong. The stupid mole had constantly crouched before running in for an Iron Head, but that one time came the ace.

"Don't look so upset, Odie!" Dorien called to her over the intense rumble. "It just can't be helped that I'm one step ahead of you."

Those words sent a chill up her spine. She didn't know why, but it sounded like he was...threatening her?

That chill was snuffed out by an angry heat. She gritted her teeth as she pointed toward Excadrill, still building the quake's magnitude.

"Shadow Ball! Shadow Ball, Shadow Ball, Shadow Ball!"

Her voice cracked under the force of her screaming. Ange shot her a worried glance, but she didn't register it. Not through the red she was seeing.

"Go. Now!"

"Chaaaaaan," Ange hissed. He charged forward, dodging pillar after pillar as he conjured a ball of darkness within his tendrils. He'd made it halfway across the arena without a hit, and it looked like he had a clear shot.

"Deeeeeeeeeeeeee..." Ange called as he reared back to shoot. "Luu--"

Shk. Shk. Shk. Shk. SHK.

Pillars upon pillars upon pillars. Shooting up from the ground, all entirely aimed at Ange. He had no chance to dodge any of them, and they all hit with such spot-on accuracy that it was unlike anything she had ever seen. This was only intensified by the shocked whispers echoing from the onlookers, which she could now hear because the rumbling had stopped entirely.

"Holy shit!"

"What magnitude was that? I've never seen such a dead aim!"

With a sharp exhale, Ange's shadow ball dissolved, and he fell over, out cold.

"A-Ange is down and unable to fight!" Mrs. Chuquete hollered. There was an air of shock in her voice that she didn't bother hiding.

Odette stared blankly at Ange's fainted body. Her mind was spinning so fast that she could not keep up with it. She'd gone completely numb, trying to make sense of what she'd just witnessed.

How did he...

She forced herself to look at him. Their eyes met, and he smiled. He fucking smiled.

But there was no light in his eyes. No crinkle in his cheeks. It was empty. It was downright bone-chilling how he could move his lips like that without it showing anywhere else on his face.

And as soon as it formed, it morphed into a frown. A very prominent one at that.

As if it were timed, Excadrill fell over. Its shallow breaths indicated it was in no condition to fight any longer.

"E...Excadrill is down and unable to fight?" Mrs. Chuquete called. Her confusion matched Odette's.

Odette hadn't known Earthquake to cause recoil damage like that. Then again, she hadn't seen such a powerful use of it like that before. Maybe once it reached such an intense magnitude, the 'mon got affected as well?

Or, perhaps...

In a swift motion, Dorien recalled Excadrill. He wordlessly pocketed the ball, then tossed out the next.

“Conkeldurr, I have some fresh meat for you,” he said darkly as the large Pokemon manifested from its ball. It looked like the same smirk Dorien was wearing just moments before. But that’s not what Odette was hanging on to at that moment.

What? she thought frantically.

Conkeldurr stood there, drool dripping from its mouth and drilling to the ground. It scraped its feet against the polished floor, clanked its two rocks together, then charged.

Odette didn't quite realize what that thing could have possibly been moving to attack until she realized that, in her haze, she hadn't recalled Ange.

It was going for Ange. Ange was out. Why would it--?

Without thinking, she pulled him back and threw out the first ball her hand landed on in her pocket.

"Attack! I don't care what you do, just beat it the fuck up!"

She pressed down on the release button. With a flash of light, Loïc manifested with his claws ready.

"KkkkkkkkkYUUU!" he spat. There was no hesitation as he sprung forward and landed scratch after scratch on Conkeldurr. Loïc played as rough as he could--going for the face, the neck, the stomach. He zigged and zagged around Conkeldurr, going at a speed that made it hard for it to land a hit on him.

Grinding her teeth and trying to steady her breathing, Odette watched the battle intently. Not who her first choice would have been, but it was a welcome one. It was an advantageous matchup. Why Dorien would send out a damn fighting type against her was beyond her frame of logic. With a team that was majorly made up of fairy types, and even one psychic, that was asking for a loss. Loïc clearly held the upper hand and moved much faster too. Conkeldurr was already starting to look really tired. The drool was coming in waves now, and it was blinking slowly--


In a burst of speed Odette would have never expected from a conkeldurr, it whipped around to face Loïc and slammed one of its rocks down on top of him. The world stood still for a moment, and all that could be heard were gasps from the other students.

"Loïc!" Odette screamed. Her lips curled back over her teeth, and she glared daggers at Dorien. "You motherfu--"

A shadow shot out from under the stone. It looped up behind Conkeldurr, and a large clawed hand rose from it. With a heavy swipe, Conkeldurr flew into a wall with a loud crash. It hit the floor, unmoving, as Loïc rose up from the floor. His head was flopped over like it'd been broken, but he looked unscathed.

"Conkeldurr is down and unable to fight!"

"Kyu!" Loïc squeaked. He scurried back toward Odette, who was quick to kneel down to his height. She held her hands out to him, and he sat himself right between them.

"Good fucking gods," she said in a huff. "I thought he got you."

Her breathing was rapid, she could hear her heartbeat in her ears, and she felt tears prickling the corners of her eyes. That was the most jarring thing--she wasn't a crier; she'd never been a crier. But the level of frustration she was feeling was something she couldn't quite contain. Nothing about this battle was making sense anymore.

How was his Earthquake so powerful? Why did Conkeldurr go for Ange like that? Why did he even send out a Conkeldurr in the first place?

The battle was still going on, so she had no time to sit and dwell on it. She didn't feel in the right mindset to be either, with the way her anger meshed with her conscious thought, leaving her on the verge of damn tears. Absolutely pathetic.

As she tried to reel herself in and get back into the game, her conversation with Noel decided to rear its head.

The wealthy, plus shinies...sounds like some shiny trade bullshit.

Dorien was in the shiny trade. Shinies were the ones showing up in sacrilege cases the most. Sacrilege had exploded onto the battle scene and had caused some Pokemon to do some...horrid things. Like eating their opponents and displaying unnatural levels of power.

"Hm. Conkeldurr's my best 'mon. But even I'm no match for a type difference."

Odette blinked a few times, keeping her eyes on Loïc.

If Dorien were involved in the shiny trade, it wouldn't be farfetched to say he's had run-ins with sacrilege. In the case of what she'd just witnessed, it was almost certain he could be giving it to his Pokemon.

"Kyuuu?" Loïc asked.

Odette allowed the thought to linger before she shook her head.

"It's down to you and Solene. You're locked in because I threw you out, and Sol's already taken a slight beating. I need you to focus, alright?" she said firmly.

Loïc averted his eyes for a split second, then looked back at her.

"Kkkkkk," he whispered.

"I'll make it five pecha berries if you can one-shot Shadow Claw this next one," she said.

Loïc hopped up and down a few times in joy before turning back toward the battle. Odette looked up in time to see Dorien pulling his last ball out of his jacket pocket. He popped it open, and with a loud roar, a ferrothorn took form.

“Ferrothorn,” Dorien said. “Your turn."

Ferrothorn didn't look particularly threatening. No drool, no signs of overpowering. At least from what she could see. But that still didn't make her feel any better. It was still a partial steel type. Not only could it take Loïc out, but it also wouldn't take much damage from Solene, and she was already in a damaged state.

Odette needed to take this slow. She couldn't rush into an attack again because that was how she lost Ange.

She stood up and sucked in a deep breath.

"Heavy Slam," Dorien said coldly.

"Substitute," Odette declared.

Loïc reached under his cloak and withdrew a battered poke doll, which he threw forward. As the doll hit the floor, a beam of purple light manifested between it, and Ferrothorn reared up and slam down on it, but it didn't budge.

"Swords Dance," Odette said again.

"Break that Substitute," Dorien urged.

Ferrothorn flew forward with another slam as Loïc raised his hands and spun around. A light purple glow took over his tiny body, and he suddenly looked more energized.

"Now Bulk Up," she said.

She heard Dorien inhale sharply. "Ferrothorn, break the damn sub." He truly sounded frustrated.

Good. It was his turn to be.

Ferrothorn launched one more attack on the doll, and Loïc inhaled a loud breath. The glow that surrounded him got brighter just as the doll burst under the force of Ferrothorn's attack.

"You better knock him out!" Dorien commanded. "Again!"

"Dodge, then Shadow Claw, Loïc!" Odette yelled over him.

Loïc charged forward, bringing up his shadowy hands, which gradually grew in size. Ferrothorn launched upward again, growling with the intent to win it all. As it fell back toward the ground, it rolled out of the way Loïc. He quickly righted himself and landed the clawed attack, and Ferrothorn skidded backward toward Dorien under the force of the hit.

"Good shit, Loïc."

"Iron Head," Dorien growled. Odette's blood ran cold, but she decided to ignore it for now.

"Beat him back. You can do it."

Ferrothorn drove itself forward without a warning, and Loïc did the same. Claws outstretched, Loïc managed to get the hit off. He performed a rapid maneuver, ducking under Ferrothorn's raised body, and slashed it again against the back.

"Nice!" Odette cheered.

Ferrothorn skidded backward, cringing through the damage. Just when it looked like it wouldn't continue, it flew forward again and retaliated with a violent headbutt that sent Loïc flying.

Down and out.

"Loïc is down and unable to fight."

Clearly, she'd celebrated too early. She'd known Loïc was most likely going down in that matchup, but she wasn't through yet.

She shot a glare at Ferrothorn. It was panting. It was still cringing. Loïc had definitely dealt some damage to it. They were on the last legs.

I'm not going to let you fucking win.

She pulled Loïc back and sent Solene forward. Solene blinked a few times, looking surprised that she'd been called out again. She visibly stiffened when she saw Ferrothorn, then sent a frantic look back at Odette.

"Iiitelle?" she gasped.

Odette shook her head. "Heal Pulse. Dodge for incoming attacks."

Solene paused, but she soon nodded. A pink glow immediately surrounded her, and she closed her eyes as she hung her head.

"Telllleeeee..." she hummed.

"Knock Off," Dorien commanded.

Odette bristled. A dark-type move would prove very fatal. "Dodge!"

Solene's eyes snapped open, and she rolled aside. Ferrothorn bounced off the floor as it attempted to make contact, and it stumbled backward, unable to right itself due to how weak it had become.

That was the opening.

"Psychic! Don't hesitate!"

Solene held her hands in front of her, and a ball of pink light manifested in her hands. In a single wave of her arms, the ball expanded into a beam and struck Ferrothorn, sending it back again. It shook off the attack, and in what looked to be a final burst of energy, it ran at Solene.

"Psychic! One more time!"

"Knock. Off!"


The beam struck Ferrothorn. Solene was pushed backward. Both Pokemon were down.

However, after the tensest couple of seconds Odette had felt in a very long time, Solene raised her head.

Ferrothorn did not move.

Battle over! The winner, by one Pokemon, is Odette!” Mrs. Chuquete said. Applause from the class followed immediately after.

Odette let loose a shaky breath. She didn't realize she was trembling until she raised her hand to wipe sweat from her forehead. With the other, she recalled Solene.

“Great battle, Odette!” Dorien said. “I thought I’d had it in the bag given my typings, but I guess you’re just a stronger trainer overall.”

She cut her gaze to him just in time to see him sauntering over with a happy-go-lucky grin. As if nothing had happened. As if everything about that battle was perfectly normal.

He held his hand out to shake, but she didn’t accept it. Instead, she stared him in the face. Scanning, hunting for remnants of that hostility. That darkness. But it was gone. He was back to cocky, spoiled smiles. Acting like everything was okay. Back to thinking they were probably still flirting.

Odette turned, leaving him with his hand outstretched, and speed-walked back toward the bleachers.

Absolutely remarkable work, you two,” Mrs. Chuquete said as Odette approached. “That might have been the most exciting battle I've seen in this class for a long time. Wow.”

Odette brushed past her, ignoring the praise as she clamored up the bleachers to where she’d been sitting. She quickly shouldered her bag, then rushed back down, skipping steps as she went, before beelining for the doors. She avoided making eye contact with Dorien again as she passed him.

“Odette! Where are you going?” Mrs. Chuquete yelled after her.

“Bathroom. I’ll be back,” she replied, the words coming out in a rapid-fire slur. She was out in the hall after that.

That wasn’t necessarily a lie. She was headed to the bathroom. But the latter part was still up in the air. She wasn’t sure if she could sit through the rest of the class with Dorien in there, knowing what she thought she knew.

She was thankful to find that all the stalls were empty upon kicking open the door to the girl's room. She rushed to one of the sinks and threw her bag on the countertop. She then leaned against it, allowing her head to dangle and giving herself a chance to come down from wherever the hell her head was.

She couldn’t even bring herself to bask in her victory. She was far too worked up about everything else that had happened. From the conversation beforehand to the battle itself, to how he was just...perfectly fine afterward. Well, as perfectly fine as he could be. There was something very wrong with him.

He had to be drugging his 'mon. That wasn't paranoia, was it? It couldn't have been. There was something very wrong with those Pokemon, too.

She lifted her head to stare at her reflection, watching herself take deep, steady breaths. Slowly but surely, her heart slowed, and her brain stopped spinning.

Maybe she wouldn’t go back to class. It was her last one for the day, anyway. She could say she had a bout of sickness and had to go home. Chuquete had a soft spot for the illness stories, and Odette knew she could pull it off well.

She also knew she didn’t want to be in there. She didn’t want to be in the building. Every fiber of her being was screaming at her to run.

So, she supposed it would be a good time for her to visit her grandfather instead.
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Okey, new meat. I somehow didn't see this at the time. Or maybe I was just in a mood. I don't know. In any case I will start rectifying it now. I wonder what'll happen first? I finish this RSRS grind or finish reading? Autobattle already failed the current stage I'm on twice, let's see.

- Their feared leader? From the sounds of that it seems more like a cult that pulled everyone in and forced them to do evil.
- Endangering a child. He's either the worst father ever or the best.
- You say he's feared by the grunts a bit too much in this opening scene.
- Well Armel seems just as bad if not worse. Even suspect that voice might be his. Or at least there's a reason for him to be so stoic.
- Blood Legendary, literally? This is edgy.
- I guess this really is a cult.
- A dangerous cult that blood bonds with made up Pokemon for whatever purposes.
- Oh, seven deadly sins intensifies.
- So this guy keeps wiping his son's memory, and yet he doesn't seem to have any sort of problem with him keeping a journal?
- Oh boy, the baby got Wrath. We gonna see a terrible infant? Or maybe a flash forward to years later where he goes Kratos on their asses?
- Man these things are fkn evil. The one at least.

- You have some very uh, unique names with your fic.
- Sacrilege is a literal substance in this fic? The hell?
- I say as the comparatively normal Noel shows up.
- Why Purrloins? I know you're parodying Cats, but why did you pick those of all things? Furthermore in Cats, the Jellicle were a tribe of different species. Saying Purrloins would be like saying there's only tabbys or maine coons. When the cats in this group should have Meowths, Glameows, etc. too
(This is why I personally hate Pokefying things. They often go too hard and miss nuances or even make no sense)
- Castform mating season raises a lot of questions considering they were artificial Pokemon.
- Macavity the purrloin <- Missing caps. And Simisear was capitalized in the news report.
- This synthetic drug crisis reminds me of a lot of things. GTA, Persona, and real life in particular.
- Ohh, that explains why it's called that. It was named by the sins cult.
- Missing line break between the paragraph where a bunch of bodies were discovered only when decomposing and regretting thinking about that. There's a few here and there, may be a formatting issue.
- Well this is sudden. I'd expect trying to go on busting the case out of reporters, but not entertainment workers.
- More on hating Pokefying things: you mention Broadway, a real world location, yet Cats got Pokefied. What do you do about things with no real-world equivilent? Like going back, you could've still called the musical Cats, but showed the actors in cat Pokemon costumes.
- Oh no, the dread that thing that happened. At least we get a hint that it was touching where she shouldn't have been.
- This idiot, thinking eating makes you grow upwards not outwards.
- With her complaining about needing the full eight hours, it seems she's more of a health freak than anything. Which, might make the berry salad consistent with that,
- Shoutouts to misusing literally.
- Wait it's a shiny Sylveon? Did I somehow completely miss that or was it mentioned before? In either case, not being shoved in our face so. Good.
- Vigoroth isn't capitalized either.
- I think you messed something up with the copypaste because the strong language you mentioned is starred out.
- Thinking of pokemon caused her <- No caps there, either.
- And getting an idea of when this takes place, sometime before Alola events.

- Helmet scene made me smile a bit,
- Noel examining his nails? Stereotypically? :p
- “text the group chat <- Missing caps at the start of the sentence here
- Plus a fall from a Flying-type is way worse than a fall from a motorcycle.
- With how she describes riding that motorcycle, it seems to me that being "extra careful" isn't really being careful at all. What kind of maniac weaves between traffic?
- Man Acadia'd speak ill of the dead?
- Yeahhh, have to agree with Odette. Curly hair and tangles are not fun to deal with. Especially when trying to keep it bunched. (Have long hair. Mostly started out of donating it for wigs because people were prodding me too saying I have nice hair. Was going to stop that when I moved, but, then COVID hit and hairdressers are big hotspots for that.)
- watched the traffic The hundreds <- Missing period.
- Well I mean night is the best time to go street racing. Not as much traffic on the road, and therefore not as many people to get in the way or catch you. Although I guess, they're not street racing late enough.
- Yeah, definitely inclined to think you messed something up with the copypaste last chapter. Fuck's here out in the open, but it was censored towards the end of last chapter.
- It's a bit strange to mention the red in the sense of anger when streetlights are involved.
- Well flipside of living near the elevator and staircase, you gotta hear everyone who passes by.
- And fuck is suddenly censored again.
- I've heard of a lot of things causing wrinkles, but smiling? And frowning? Are they saying to just remain blankfaced all the time?
- Thank you for using gods and not the awkward-sounding Arceus. Worst Pokefying ever.
- Well starting to get a better picture of what happened with that touching. Killing though? Christ. From the sounds of it she got away with it too. And uh, the university thinks everything is good or something. Specifics seem a bit hazy.
- She still goes to trainer school?
- Ha, shoutouts to vitamin items! Some of the rarest things to see in fics.
- You may want to go with "I swear to the gods".
- Ange? Now you got me thinking of anime.
- So she just leaves her Pokemon out of their balls when she goes out, despite being big ones that could cause exactly these problems?
- HOW were the Pokemon playing Monopoly???
- March move, huh? Guess this is a ways past the events of the prologue.
- It seems these Pokemon are natural troublemakers that should be kept in the ball, yet aren't because I guess she's too stuborn?

- You know Isaur sounds more like a shortened Ivysaur.
- I don't get what happened, but I supposed that's a mystery. They get a tip, and suddenly they know they're coming and clean up right away? Did they tip the cops off themselves?
- Sacrilege is periodically capitalized and then not.
- Well Gothitelle is vaguely maid-like so no surprise they can cook when you think about it. Still, the mental image of someone whose Pokemon cook for them is hilarious.
- All of that pales in comparison to the worst thing she did, not pay attention to the thing she was cooking. Like, excessively not paid attention.
- Kantonian accent on Kalosian words? I get what you're going for. It amuses me though, since it seems they're actually speaking French, and the teacher has a Japanese accent. And the fic is in English.
- Competitive battling talk in fics, bleh. But you're doing it in a natural way and not bringing up stats.
- One hit KOs in fics though...only really see that in fiction in a case of extreme power differential. I do like the concept of training with a Focus Sash, at least. And more held item use in fiction is something that's needed.
- Why's she even enrolled in a battle class, anyway?
- Ha, shoutouts to the god Pachirisu! Shameless plug, I think I'm the only one actually using one in my writing that could well go in that direction.
- Well middle schoolers wouldn't be getting into middle school at 11 unless they skipped a bunch of grades. They'd be fifth or sixth graders. Unless they were different.
- I'm getting the impression Pokemon School is mandatory in this universe. Since why else would she be in an advanced monotype class when she has a varied team or even that interested in Pokemon seemingly? Or at least, she was forced into it via expectations.
- And boy meets girl. Well, remeets.
- I like the faux brand replacements here.
- Best looking straight guy? I have many mental theories that won't be confirmed.
- No different formatting in the sheet she was handed.
- Randomly, I'm surprised nothing made up except the sin legendaries have been mentioned yet. Thought this dude's team would've been a good chance to get a namedrop.
- Typo where "Eeevee" has too many Es.
- Oh, and there it is. Reason why she fell out with him. Shiny hunters. You know, I have to give credit to you here. I like the concept of them being rightfully shunned, since why wouldn't they in a logical world? Although it seems that also logically, some people don't care because he's rich and got good looks. And it makes sense it'd be a profession. A barely legal one, but still legal one.
- Okay, maybe it's just the teenage girls and gold diggers chasing him.
- Heh, her sugarcoated thoughts amuse me.
- People change, and our opinions on them change. Although I am surprised she blocked out those thoughts specifically.
- Interesting development with everyone being into her. Although with the remark that @SpinyShell made above, yeah. Odette has a bunch of eye-raising traits, although so far, has been written as a better character on average than most derided for having them.
- You know for the charming guy of the school, he has no tact. Maybe that's the point. He thinks he's hot stuff, and he isn't really.
- Well I saw them battling coming from forever away. Although then again, who didn't?
- I'd like to think the guy would have to learn on the notetaking aspect, but then again, battlers can be nutty.
- Oh boy, Swords Dance Excadrill. Here we go with the competitive stuff.
- Although I am confused how you're interpretting Charm. It seems to be closer to Attract without infatuation rather than attack reduction. And Reflect can break without Brick Break, and seems more like Protect.
- Huh, wasn't expecting her to win the first exchange.
- And well this guy got dark fast. Battle snack? Jesus. Who but a villain or at least anti-hero says that?
- It seems Odette's even more worried, even though I think he just meant the thing has some dark move.
- Well he didn't send a pure fighting type out against a pure psychic type. He sent it out against a mixed ghost and fire and then she switched. Also huh, very short round.
- And a fast third round too. Like her rage transfers to her Pokemon and supercharges them. From the sounds of it things happened, you just glossed over it because it was a beatdown.
- Also wow, wasn't expecting her to win the battle outright, let alone 3-0 the guy.
- And the guy takes it remarkably well. Okay, now I'm with Odette. This guy is sus as hell.
- Horrific horror movie character? Was that on purpose because it's clunky.
- And again bringing up the incident at the university.
- And the next chapter is set, to gramps!

And in the end, it seems I've finished reading this before my grind on all these incomplete event missions finished. Took uh, way longer than I'd have liked to get through this. Clearly all the back and forth with notetaking is making me slack off from before in my usual ability to read super fast. But I took a lot of notes, so that's a decent thing for my investment here.

Liking what I'm seeing from this fic so far. I am raising eyebrows at the edgy opening and the traits of Odette, but so far I haven't seen anything that would qualify as a dealbreaker for my interest. And even then I might still remain on the train anyway just to see how it crashes. I'm kind of like that.

A few general notes and observations. Odette as a character questionable things aside is an interesting one. Can tell she's been through a lot, although she does seem a little all over the place. Her Pokemon all seem to have their own personalities, even if some of it's expressed through her keeping them all out for some reason. Dorein catches my interest. Very different from your typical rival, and yet very much the same. If I were willing to place a far out bet, I'd say he's one of the sin king's illegitimate kids, probably the one of Greed or possibly Vanity. Speaking of those, I'm wondering how some of them are going to be handled. If we're going by traditional Judeo-Christian, the king is Pride. His son might be Sloth, and of course Wrath is accounted for with that baby. Wondering how this is all going to tie into things, given the main story is in Kalos and maybe Alola soon, and that's in somewhere unknown and Galar. Acadia I couldn't get much of besides being the mom of the performance group, and Noel is certainly fabulous, or something.

Anyway, interesting story that I'll keep reading on with. Keep it up.
Wow, I haven't been on here in a hot minute and came back to some reviews! Thanks y'all!!

Such elements could work in a story, but here in my opinion they don't because the following two chapters are fairly normal and don't lend themselves to such excessiveness, and both parts of the story appear to take themselves seriously.
I do understand your concern here! This was a big critique I got on some other forums--my overall goal was to open with a bang, and dial it back before things snowballed back into that territory (and they do!). However, I have found I dialed it back too far, and my pacing was a little too slow getting back into it. I completely rewrote the entire first chapter and gave it a little more, uh, urgency? I don't know if that's the right word, but it's not just the boring little "people sitting around talking while MC broods to herself!"

Odette's characterization makes me a raise an eyebrow a little. Her eyes are an unusual color (maroon), she owns a shiny Pokémon right from the get go, her friends praise her amazing yet wasted talent, and it appears that she may possibly be the daughter of the leader of an evil team that has attracted the attention of a very powerful Legendary.
Yes, yes, another note I got on the chapter 1 quite a few times. I did a lot of ahhhhhhh, telling and not showing. I'm hoping the rewrite should fix that? At least a little? As for the shiny Pokemon thing, I was definitely going for the idea that it's novelty, and not really a "big" thing. I more outwardly bring that out in the rewrite. Though, your last point makes me raise my brows a tad--would there be a story to tell here if she wasn't possibly the daughter of the leader of an evil team that has access to powerful legendaries? If that part was omitted, we'd just be talking about a slice of life story regarding a traumatized theater performer, and that isn't the point here. It could be, but it's not!

You say he's feared by the grunts a bit too much in this opening scene.
Honestly, never noticed that. Thank you!

Blood Legendary, literally? This is edgy.
I was voted "Most Edgy" in high school so I have to keep up :)

I guess this really is a cult.
Ahhh YEP.

So this guy keeps wiping his son's memory, and yet he doesn't seem to have any sort of problem with him keeping a journal?
So just want to clarify, it is not Florent doing the mind-wiping :))))))

You have some very uh, unique names with your fic.
Oui, oui, getting French in here

Why Purrloins? I know you're parodying Cats, but why did you pick those of all things? Furthermore in Cats, the Jellicle were a tribe of different species. Saying Purrloins would be like saying there's only tabbys or maine coons. When the cats in this group should have Meowths, Glameows, etc. too
(This is why I personally hate Pokefying things. They often go too hard and miss nuances or even make no sense)
LOL yeah I am very well aware every cat is meant to be a different species but for simplicity sake I was willing to forego it. It hasn't been brought up by anybody yet, but I will take your concern into consideration.

Castform mating season raises a lot of questions considering they were artificial Pokemon.
Details, details!

Missing line break between the paragraph where a bunch of bodies were discovered only when decomposing and regretting thinking about that. There's a few here and there, may be a formatting issue.
Yeeeaaaaaah I spent several hours reformatting between like 5 different sites and this was the last one I did. I was definitely over it by the time I got here, but thank you for pointing them out so I can rightfully reformat.

I think you messed something up with the copypaste because the strong language you mentioned is starred out.
I absolutely messed up. I think I posted on the Serebii forums and it censored all the curse words for some godforsaken reason? And I just....didn't catch them all because, like i said, over it lmfao.

More on hating Pokefying things: you mention Broadway, a real world location, yet Cats got Pokefied. What do you do about things with no real-world equivilent? Like going back, you could've still called the musical Cats, but showed the actors in cat Pokemon costumes.
My logic for Pokefying things is extremely sloppy and unorganized. It all just....really depends on what I can conjure up a decent pun for or not. I figured I'd just leave Broadway as a road in Unova and carry on with my life :LOL:

Wait it's a shiny Sylveon? Did I somehow completely miss that or was it mentioned before? In either case, not being shoved in our face so. Good.
I wrote it into the paragraph where the Sylveon shows up with Acadia's note. If you were speed reading it'd definitely be easy to miss:

It was there that the sound of scurrying paws approached behind her. Something began to tug at her leg, and she looked down to find her blue-hued Sylveon shooting a droopy-eyed stare at her. A folded piece of yellow legal pad paper dangled between her teeth.

Thank you for using gods and not the awkward-sounding Arceus. Worst Pokefying ever.
Oh yeah! I totally didn't write "Arceus" instead of "gods" before getting betasmacked by my beta reader! Totally! All according to my plan!

It seems these Pokemon are natural troublemakers that should be kept in the ball, yet aren't because I guess she's too stuborn?
For this, I was more airing on the side of "Her team used to be well behaved until she introduced the rat of a Mimikyu to the team, and now that Mimikyu is causing strife." As mentioned toward the end of chapter 2:

Since then, he’d gotten a little better, but not by much. He was still destructive, still rambunctious, still liked picking fights with other Pokemon for reasons not battle related.

Nowadays, it wasn’t uncommon for her to return home to some varying degree of chaos, typically centered around Loïc and one of her other Pokemon having a dispute. She’d left her team that afternoon with the instruction to start packing things into boxes, knowing damn well some sort of problem was going to arise.

Kantonian accent on Kalosian words? I get what you're going for. It amuses me though, since it seems they're actually speaking French, and the teacher has a Japanese accent. And the fic is in English.

I'm getting the impression Pokemon School is mandatory in this universe. Since why else would she be in an advanced monotype class when she has a varied team or even that interested in Pokemon seemingly? Or at least, she was forced into it via expectations.
Kinda gets mentioned in passing later, but she's essentially in battle school in place of the theater college classes she would probably be in if she didn't drop out. It's definitely more of an extracurricular thing that she's doing to keep herself busy. Will probably inject a little tidbit that makes that more clear later.

Oh, and there it is. Reason why she fell out with him. Shiny hunters. You know, I have to give credit to you here. I like the concept of them being rightfully shunned, since why wouldn't they in a logical world? Although it seems that also logically, some people don't care because he's rich and got good looks. And it makes sense it'd be a profession. A barely legal one, but still legal one.
Thank you very much! The idea came to fruition after several days of back-and-forth with my beta! I'm glad you like it!

And the guy takes it remarkably well. Okay, now I'm with Odette. This guy is sus as hell.
*smiling nervously* MMMMMHM!

Horrific horror movie character? Was that on purpose because it's clunky.
Definitely not on purpose, definitely more just me Not Thinking(TM)

Liking what I'm seeing from this fic so far. I am raising eyebrows at the edgy opening and the traits of Odette, but so far I haven't seen anything that would qualify as a dealbreaker for my interest. And even then I might still remain on the train anyway just to see how it crashes. I'm kind of like that.
I'm glad to hear! I hope I can keep you entertained at least for a little while longer :)

Interesting development with everyone being into her. Although with the remark that @SpinyShell made above, yeah. Odette has a bunch of eye-raising traits, although so far, has been written as a better character on average than most derided for having them.
I know this was meant to be a critique but, thank you? :ROFLMAO: I guess I have slapped some questionable traits on her but I guess I'm gauging some to be less severe than others, this one included. It's definitely not a contsant that "eVeRyOnE iS iNtO hEr" it was certainly more Dorien being like "yeah my friends and i found you fine in high school so we'd tap that" because you know, he's kind of a creep! But again, thank you!
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Chapter 4: She's Unabashedly Nosy
Chapter 4: She's Unabashedly Nosy
CW: Strong Language
This chapter was NOT beta read, so please be gentle with the critiques! o_O

The Lumiose City Police Department was a towering block of a building. Odette had been told countless times the structure was hundreds of years old, and it truthfully still looked the part. Same degraded gray bricks and mansard-style roofs bordered with stone druddigons that glared down upon anybody who dared draw near. A huge stone arch surrounded the front double doors, which opened and closed as people arrived and left. She brushed arms with maybe five or six people before actually going inside. She hoped her grandpa wouldn’t be too swamped to meet.

As she eyed the enormous LCPD emblem etched into the shiny tiles of the front lobby, she briefly recalled how she used to skip laps around the perimeter of that same emblem when she was younger. She spent some of her time off from school here when her mother was too busy with professor work, and her nana was off coordinating Pokemon contests or coaching some poor soul in them. Bernard would bring her along, and she’d follow him around the office like a baby ducklett, watching him do his police business while he reminded her that the world wasn’t always so fine and dandy and why she needed to stay alert and observant.

To make sure she was doubly aware, he’d enroll her in some peewee self-defense classes, the curriculum ranging from saying no to strangers and, if that didn’t work, how to break out of bindings or how to disarm an attacker. The classes got more intense as she got older, eventually tapering off into a gun defense class that landed her a permit to handle a concealed firearm. It was only then that she realized the master plan behind him bringing her along to his work as often as he did, and she supposed it made sense. The overprotective cop must ensure his granddaughter is equipped to handle anything nefarious.

At the very least, she could say she wouldn’t be able to read the world as well as she did had she not spent so much time here. She owed him that much.

“Look how big you’ve gotten!”

“Same ol’ braids, huh?”

“Good to see ya, Little Cinq-Mars!”


It was the same thing every time she visited, no matter how long it’d been. Bombardment of greetings from her grandpa's coworkers, human and Pokemon alike. All the “how’ve you been’s” and “you look great’s” came one after another as she walked through the lines of desks spread out through the third floor. She couldn’t help but notice that some of them still spoke to her like she was six, but she guessed that was just out of habit. She hadn’t grown a lot since then, anyway. Nonetheless, she flashed her typical half smile as she waved and engaged in slight small talk as she walked.

As the chief of police, Bernard got his own office at the back of the space. The bulletproof window flashed his full name, and it was fitted with a heavy wood door that he could open and close as he pleased. Such a luxury in a place like this. For now, it stood open, and he was leaning on the door frame.

“What a surprise,” he chuckled when she approached. Despite his bright smile and laugh, she could see the sleepiness on his face.

“I’m full of them,” Odette said. She didn’t bother to wait for a response before going in for a hug, and Bernard didn’t hesitate to return it.

“What brings you by here? I figured you’d still be in class at this time,” he said when he let her go.

She shrugged. “Maybe I skipped,” she said. “Don’t arrest me.” She brushed past him and sat in one of the leather chairs in front of his desk, throwing her bag and helmet into the empty one next to it. Her eyes then travelled to the corner, where Bernard’s trusted arcanine friend, Toulouse, lay curled up, fast asleep. He blew smoke out of his nose every exhale, indicating it was quite a deep sleep. She frowned nonetheless.

“T didn’t come to kiss me. I’m sad,” she whined.

Bernard watched her with a raised brow before shaking his head and nudging the door shut. “He’s dead tired, so I’m letting him rest. The lucky bugger,” he said as he trudged back to his seat. He had an abnormal sway in his step, which told her he was certainly on the verge of collapse. He threw himself down into the swivel chair, and a deep yawn escaped him.

“I might be stating the obvious, but you look exhausted. You should go curl up with him.”

Bernard began to rub his face, taking special care of his eyes. The bags that had started to form around them were practically screaming at her.

“What gave it away?”

She wanted to say so much but decided to keep her answer simple. “I really had to look you over, but I think it’s your gait.”

He smiled to himself as he shook his head. “You got me.”

Odette flashed her own smile before she dove her hands into her bag again. “I have something that will help, though.”

“Seeing that helmet wakes me up enough,” Bernard said. “It terrifies me that you’re still driving around on that damn bike.”

She scoffed to herself. She pulled a plastic bag containing snacks out and dropped it on his desk, hoping the sight of it would deter him from the lecture she knew was coming. He gave her some version of it every time he saw her helmet or even the motorcycle itself. People die on those things every day. I’m not worried about you, I’m worried about other drivers not seeing you. I’ll look into helping you get a car instead if that’s how you want to get around…

“What’s scarier? Me driving a motorcycle or flying around on a Pokemon? The drop is much farther down if I were on a Pokemon, just saying.”

“People die from falling off their Pokemon less than they do crashing bikes,” Bernard said pointedly.

“Well, thank the gods I’ve never crashed.”

With that, she began to empty the contents from the bag: two bottles of Moomoo milk and a large pack of Oreos. Bernard’s face lit up, as expected.

“Can I tempt you not to lecture me with these?”

He was already opening the box. “For now.”

They each plucked a cookie from the box. Odette held hers between both hands, prepping to pull it open, and he did the same. They eyed one another, an air of friendly competitiveness starting to fill the office space.

“One,” Odette said.

“Two,” Bernard counted.

“Three,” they said in unison before pulling the stacked cookies apart. They both eyed the pieces with the cream filling still squished against them. Odette frowned when she saw that this particular piece was very stingy on the filling.

“Mine’s small,” she whined.

“Mine takes up the whole thing,” Bernard grinned. He showed the cookie to her, and the filling circle indeed covered it almost entirely to the edge.

“I win.” He then bit into it.

Odette slumped against the back of her chair, taking a reluctant bite of hers. “Law enforcement’s luck,” she grumbled. “I’ll get you next time.”

“Whatever you say,” Bernard said, opening his milk bottle and taking a sip from it. “So, are you going to tell me why you skipped class?”

“I’m sticking it to the man and the establishment of education.”

Bernard’s brow raised. “Sticking it to the man by leaving school and...visiting a police station?”

Odette finished off her Oreo and leaned to grab another one. “I never said my logic wasn’t flawed, Grandpa.”

He offered a half smile. “And the real reason?”

“I had an exhibition in battle class today, and my opponent was...bad.”

“So you won? That’s hardly a reason to skip, then.”

She shook her head as she pulled the cookie apart. “No, it wasn’t like that.” She paused. “I mean, we did win, but when I say bad, I mean...bad bad. Like, you should lock him up downstairs bad.”

She didn't remember him being so...threatening in secondary school. Or as insufferable. She knew people changed after graduating, and she supposed changing for the worse was always possible.

Bernard leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. The look in his eyes signaled that had caught his interest. “That’s mildly concerning coming from you. Why is that?”

She shoved the entire empty half of the cookie in her mouth, deciding to start poking the beartic. She couldn't come out and ask him about what she'd found out, but she could damn well start dropping some lines.

“Well, for starters, his family’s in the shiny trade. That alone should get them thrown in prison.”

Bernard rolled his eyes and rubbed his left temple. He didn't give away any implication that this information might have bothered him. He was too damn good at acting like nothing was wrong here. “I’m not entirely in disagreement there, Swanna,” he huffed. “Unfortunately, that would get me sued.”

“Why’d you have to be a law enforcer instead of a lawmaker?” Odette groused.

“Even if I were a lawmaker, I doubt I’d be able to do much,” he said. “The ones that have been in office have been trying to get the trade abolished since you were in Vienna’s stomach.”

She pursed her lips in disdain. Twenty-two years of trying to get that establishment overturned, and nothing? And shiny involvement in the sacrilege crisis was getting swept under the rug? There were pieces here, and she couldn't make them fit.

“Does that not concern you?” she asked.

“Everything in this region concerns me, hun,” Bernard said solemnly. “But I’m only one person.”

“Right,” she relented. “Your focus is on the sacrilege issue right now, anyway.”

He sipped lazily from his milk bottle before another yawn sounded from him. “I take it you watched the news this morning.”

“And read every article about it before that,” she corrected. “When are you supposed to go home and sleep? Nana’s going to wig out if you don’t.”

“Hopefully, right after you leave. We have a little more debriefing, but I’ll be home to her before she knows it.”

She cautiously began to work at the cap of her own milk bottle, considering how she wanted to piece together her next question. This time, she decided to tread a little closer to bluntness.

“Anything the news isn’t telling us?” she asked.

Bernard shot her a knowing yet warning look. “The news knows just as much as I do,” he said. “I’ll just be reiterating what’s been said if you start drilling me. And even if I did know certain profound things that haven't been disclosed yet, who said I could tell you?”

She frowned. "That hasn't stopped you in the past," she muttered defiantly. "You told me about the new side effects they discovered. And about a few cases before they went public."

“Let's not forget the nuance of those instances, though. I only chose to inform you of things because they were being told to the press not long after," he said sternly, holding up a finger. "Anything else? I have to stay tight-lipped, even to my precious, eager granddaughter."

That was pretty much the expected response. What she'd found was far from little. She supposed it was worth a shot, but a shot that would inevitably miss. Scrubbing files hardly seemed like something they'd want to drop to the press any time soon, no matter the reason.

With a heavy sigh, Bernard bowed his head. "Look, Swanna,” he said earnestly. He leaned over the desk, pushing some papers aside and setting down the bottle to fold his hands together. “There’s nothing even to say. Anything the press knows is stuff we know, and anything the press doesn’t know is stuff we’re still determining if it’s worth knowing. Which...isn’t much,” he explained. He then lowered his voice. “But that’s about all I have for you.”

She'd be impressed with that performance if it didn't royally piss her off. He sat back and began to rub his temple again.

“Why are you so interested in this anyway?”

Odette mimicked his sitting stance. “Because it’s you,” she said. “You’re tired all the time, and you seem stressed.” At least that part was true.

His eyes on her softened up a little. In fact, he even smiled again. Feeling a sense of bashfulness coming over her, Odette shrugged her shoulders and averted her gaze off to her left.

“That aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if my opponent in class today was getting high with his Pokemon on sacrilege," she shot back, forcing the feeling to pass and keep the conversation going.

The smile flew off Bernard’s face, and he held his hands up defensively. “And you didn’t start with that why?”

“Well, it’s a hunch. Kind of. I saw something.”

“What kind of hunch? What did you see?”

She crossed her legs and began to twiddle her thumbs, taking a moment to recall the incident in as much detail as her brain would allow. Dorien’s words, his stances, his looks. He spoke in such a dark way. Like he meant everything that came out of his mouth. And how he smiled at her so soullessly, how the light drained from his eyes...everything about it screamed wrong. And that was on him alone.

She couldn't very well tell Bernard she was also deducing that Dorien's involvement in the shiny trade was leading him to sacrilege, but she figured that would be enough for now.

“It was...the way he stared at me when we were battling. And his Pokemon? He had an excadrill partner, and it was too powerful. It took Ange out in an Earthquake. It was so well aimed, it was scary. You can't fucking aim Earthquake like that. There's no magnitude high enough for that kind of control,” she explained. "Then, then, then, his conkeldurr--"

"Odette--" Bernard tried to cut her off, but she kept talking.

"He went straight for Ange, and Ange fainted. He wasn't fighting. Went straight for him, drooling. Dorien even said something about having fresh meat, and I didn't even know conkeldurr were fucking carnivores, I just--"


She stopped talking and glanced back at her grandfather. She took notice at the way his demeanor had changed. Eyes slightly narrowed, shoulders somewhat tense, hand on his computer keyboard. He was in his information-gathering mode, it seemed. It made her feel at least a little better that he was listening to her in the slightest, even though he'd cut her off.

"Slow down," he said. "You sound frantic, and we don't think clearly when we're frantic."

Odette exhaled sharply, slowing the gears in her head. "I'm slow. I'm calm."

"I'm going to need a deeper breath than that."

She obliged. He nodded and gestured for her to keep talking. "Alright. Continue."

She was quiet for a moment to consider where to begin from. "You know how psychopaths are? How they can turn off and on?" she asked. "We started talking before class, and everything was fine. But he progressively got more and more off. Then during the battle, it was like an entire mood shift," she explained. She brought her finger up to her braid and began fiddling with it. Her eyes moved to Bernard's wall of plaques, and she began to look them over while she allowed herself to speak.

"Like, something just shut off. His look was different, his voice was different. Different person. There were even points where it felt like he was trying to grate on me. Threaten me."

She stopped talking, only to allow her words to stew in Bernard's brain for a second. When he didn't respond, she finally stared back at him. She was confident in her own show right there, and it seemed to be getting to him.

“It's something I dwelled on a lot on my ride over. I know people are besting move power all the time, so maybe it's nothing but...” she trailed off. "It bothered me a little."

"A little," Bernard said in a breath as he rested his chin in his hand, tapping his fingers against his cheek. It looked like he was truly considering her words, and the next thing she knew, he was logging into his computer.

“What was this person’s name?”

She cringed. “Dorien Bonhomme.”

Bernard paused. It was quick, but a pause nonetheless. With a short huff, he pursed his lips questioningly. "Dorien? You mean that chemistry boy you were always hanging around with?"

Odette's cringe didn't waver. "Yeah, that's him."

Bernard nodded slowly. "Wondered what happened to him. Now I guess I understand."

She watched him do some typing, clicking through every now and then. She watched as he bobbed his head, muttered to himself, and squinted. She couldn’t tell exactly what he was doing, but she had at least an inkling of an idea that he was looking into her concern.

“Hm, well,” he said after a few minutes. “What you described does sound peculiar. Enough to warrant some concern in me. However, unless we catch Mr. Bonhomme with sacrilege in his possession, I can't do much with this for the moment. The most I can do is have somebody look into keeping an eye on him. You're free to do that as you wish, as long as you steer clear."

She didn’t know why she was expecting a little more to come out of that, but she wasn’t sure what else there was there to do. There wasn’t much even the LCPD chief of police could do without a photo or video evidence of Dorien snorting sacrilege with his Pokemon pals in the bathroom. She supposed it was enough that Bernard was taking her claim even remotely seriously.

“You still have your gun just in case, right?” he asked.

Odette released a gruff breath. “Locked up under my bed, yeah.”

“Well, it’s not going to do much there, is it?”

“Considering I have a friend that will bite somebody’s head off if I flash him a pecha berry and tell him to, the gun seems sort of redundant.”

Bernard flexed his lips, and Odette braced for a different lecture. Not one related to her motorcycle safety, but one related to her Pokemon safety. And this time, she wasn’t getting out of it.

“And what will you do if you can’t get your pokeball out in time?”

She stared at him with a deadpan expression. “We had the voice activation keys installed on them for that reason.”

“And if they malfunction? And you have to reboot the ball? Or, gods forbid, something happens to your Pokemon once they’re out? Then what? I’d trust Toulouse in a pickle before anything else, but they train the force to use guns for a reason...”

She waved her hand at him dismissively. “Yeah, yeah.”

She then noticed that his expression had grown serious again and wasn’t letting up. She reluctantly sipped from her milk, biding her time before she had to speak again.

“If you must know, I’m also keeping it locked up for the safety of my fellow Kalos citizens,” she said. She brought the bottle back to her mouth. “I’ve been flaring up a lot lately,” she muttered into the glass.

His response was slow. “Should I be worried? Do we need to look into you going back to therapy?”

She began to bite the rim of the bottle mindlessly. She counted the number of times she’d gotten mad at something in the past twenty-four hours.

There were a couple of little things that happened at rehearsal yesterday, then the street racers. That was the biggest one of the day. Her Pokemon’s shenanigans when she got home were another small instance. Then just that morning, she’d missed a light on the way to school and beat her fist on her handlebar so hard that she almost broke her broken handle. Then there was the whole Dorien fiasco. She got really mad there. That would probably go down as the biggest one of the day. Then, she almost lost it on the guy in front of her at the poke center who was insisting the poor nurse didn’t heal his Pokemon all the way…

So, a lot. There was a lot. About on the same level as what used to happen before...that thing happening.

"I don't think any therapist has said anything I haven't already heard."

"Well, repetition helps, you know. And meds are off the table..."

That got a scoff out of her. "They were never on the table to begin with, Grandpa. My body's fucked up as it is." A pause. "I'm just fucked up as it is."

She'd always been a quiet, well-behaved kid most of the time. But, when she exploded? The schoolyard fights and tantrums were abundant. It was troubling enough that it scared her mother and grandparents. Doctor visits chalked it up to anger management issues resulting from a certain hormone deficiency--the same hormone that left her so underdeveloped and somehow caused the mutation that left her with red eyes--as the doctors had put it. They put her on medication for a while, but all it did was exacerbate her health problems.

"Honey, don't say that," Bernard sighed sympathetically. "You can't help the things you were born with."

Bernard always did what he could to help keep her under control. She was always fine when she did things she liked, and she'd learned to play off his calm demeanor. That worked out for a while.

"Sure, but we've seen the shit I do when I'm too pressed. You can only pin so much of that on a hormone problem," Odette grumbled.

She remembered her last day of preschool, right before they moved out of Brackish Town. Some asshole kid in her class kicked a wild bidoof for walking off with the playground soccer ball, and she lost it on him for being so cruel. She'd only meant to twist his hand until he cried, but she couldn't control herself. She could still vividly remember how red her vision had gotten, and she snapped his finger in the heat of the moment.

The school wanted her barred from attending future grades, that being the straw that broke the camerupt's back. It didn't matter then because her family was already in the process of moving out to the city.

Nonetheless, she also remembered how hard she cried about it. She had never cried that hard. Ever.

"Which is why I think it helps to talk to somebody, especially after what you've been through. It's helped in the past, has it not?"

Bernard, Marieanne, and Vienna ultimately decided she needed help after the move. That led to years of visiting a psychiatrist every week, and it was that guidance that ultimately led her to take dance and, eventually, singing lessons. Ways to "hone her emotions" as it had been put in the sessions.

Adding to the occasional trainer school, her tantrums faded into virtual obscurity. Once in a blue moon, she’d crack. But she never broke another person’s finger again.

"I guess so," she said.

Now that all of her extracurriculars had become a source of stress for her, it seemed her tantrums had returned for old times' sake. Taking up more trainer school was barely helping, and being on the sidelines of a performance was probably only making it worse. All because of that thing. That stupid thing.

It was too much to ask for her to be okay, right?

Maybe Bernard had a point. Maybe therapy would be the move again.

She’d stopped going a few months ago because the thought of spending an hour discussing her feelings was giving her more anxiety than she currently needed to be piled on. She wasn't five anymore; she couldn't be coaxed into talking with snacks and a cool puzzle. Nowadays, she'd rather keep to herself.

She shook her head. “But it’s not that bad right now,” she said. “I'm just saying. And I’m just playing it safe.”

Bernard didn’t like that answer. Odette briefly thought he would let it go, but she knew better.

“Are you sure? Is there something else bothering you? I told you if you just wanted to focus on trainer school for now, I would help you out. You didn’t have to take that job at the cent--”

She held up a hand to silence him. “It’s not like that,” she said reassuringly. “I was making a subtle observation, and like a responsible gun owner, I’m dealing with it accordingly. And I’m fine with the way things are.”

He sighed deeply. Very deeply. Which told Odette he still wasn’t convinced. She wasn’t necessarily shocked because the apple never fell far from the tree.

“I’m still worried about you, Swanna,” he said. “I know you say you’re fine, and it has been over a year since everything happened, but...maybe you could try focusing on something completely new?” he suggested. “If trainer school isn’t helping, take time off. Quit your job. Go travel. Have an adventure in another region.”

“I’m moving to Alola in three months, so that’s checked.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Not what I meant. But fine.” He tapped his fingers against the desk. “Then quit your job and do an internship here. I’ll put you and your observational skills to work. You should just get away from performing arts for a while. Focus on something else.”

She’d barely had enough time to start considering his words when somebody knocked at the closed door. She instinctively whipped her head around to face it as Bernard yelled, “It’s open!”

The door swung open, and one of the younger cops shyly poked his head in.

“Uh, sorry to bother you, chief. It’s not urgent, we just need you to come look at something real quick.”

Odette exchanged looks with Bernard, and he stood up. “Hold that thought. I’ll be back in a second.”

“No rush,” she said. She watched as they walked out the door, and Bernard pulled the door closed behind him, leaving her to the quietness of the confined space.

Focus on something else, he’d said. Truthfully, he had a point.

Her exposure therapy wasn’t doing her any favors. Training school was a temporary fix until she had to get up in front of the class and show off her skills. She’d only gotten away with it today because she was so pissed off at Dorien that she couldn’t see straight.

She grabbed a couple more Oreos and tossed one in her mouth, not bothering to break it up into bites. Her eyes darted around the office, taking in all the familiar plaques, pictures, and posters Bernard had hung up all over the grey-blue walls. Pictures of him with his human squad, his Pokemon squad, some awards, and medals.

Her eyes then fell back toward the desk, where he had his horde of family photos out and about for all to see. The one that appeared front and center was a photo of him, cleanly shaven, with no sign of gray in his black head of hair, carrying her as a toddler. She had his police hat on, but it was too big, so it dangled off the side of her head. It was his favorite out of all of them; he gushed about it whenever he could. Those were happier times before she became such a menace.

She stared at it for a while, letting his words run laps around her brain. He’d suggested travelling, but with such a big move happening so soon, there was no point. Quitting her job at the point she was at seemed like a dick move regarding the rest of the cast. But if she was thinking in terms of herself and her own mentality, Bernard was right. Getting away from a performing arts setting would most likely be best, and taking on some mundane internship here didn’t seem like a--

Her eyes travelled down to the papers on the desk that Bernard had pushed aside earlier. She straightened her posture to get a better look at them. She noticed a couple of sheets of copy paper, some printouts containing marked-up calendars, and an open envelope with what looked to be...a wax seal?

Her brow furrowed. She peered over her shoulder at the closed door and then the window. The accordion blinds were shut so that nobody could see into the office. She glanced at Toulouse, who had barely moved since she sat down. He was the heaviest sleeping arcanine she’d ever met, and this time, she was thankful for that.

She pursed her lips and stared back at the envelope. The longer she stared at that splotch of pink on the point of the open flap, the more she was positive it was a wax seal. Who the fuck closed their letters with wax seals nowadays? It seemed like such a waste of time.

Nonetheless, when she was positive nobody was headed back, she quietly stood up and grabbed it. With the envelope now in her hands, it was clear that this wasn’t just a standard post office envelope. The paper was aged to a fine yellowish tint and felt thicker than most normal paper. She ran her fingers along the edge of it, flipping it over a few times in search of a return address. She was somewhat surprised to find there was none. Just the letter “B” printed in thick cursive on the front.

She eventually examined the seal. It was still intact, with streaks of silver running through the pastel pink hue. The acronym “V.C.” was stamped into it. The flap of the letter was already open, so she pushed it up, only to see that the note the envelope housed had been haphazardly folded back inside. Her grandfather had already opened and read it, so she wouldn’t be tampering with much if she took a peek.

Once again, she glanced back at the door, pausing to make sure nobody was about to walk in, then at Toulouse. She waited for him to blow another round of smoke out of his nose before pulling the letter out.

Upon unfolding it, she was somewhat shocked to find that the note wasn’t written in elegant cursive or print. No, it looked like it had been typed out on a typewriter or something. She supposed she was somewhat grateful for that because she couldn’t read cursive to save her life.

Your and your men’s cooperation has proven most helpful. I have my best people stationed within our prime suspect's circles and have gathered far more insight into Team Enigma's happenings. Keep doing what you are doing with your efforts and the press, and we’ll be in touch before the next meeting.
J.L. Ménétries
Virtue Corp.

The longer she stared at the words, the less it made sense. It was such a short note, yet there was so much throwing her for a loop. Cooperation? Suspects? Team Enigma? The press? Virtue Corp?

She read it once, twice, three times, and she still couldn’t make it make sense. Certainly, it seemed like this correspondence had been happening for a while. She’d just intercepted a response of some sort, and she was suddenly dying to see what her grandfather had said in the first place. Hell, what if he was in the middle of writing back to this one? She stood up again and began digging through the pile of papers on the desk. Her search was fruitless, and she slammed herself back into the chair again.

She cringed at the sound it made, and her gaze moved back to Toulouse. He whined in his sleep and slumped over onto his side, and that was that. She exhaled in relief.

This was information she didn’t know she needed or even wanted. It was raising more questions than answers.

Before she could even think twice about what she was doing, she had her phone out and was snapping a picture of the note.

“Bzzzzzt! Taking pictures of letters? Bzzzzzt!” RotomPhone commented.

“Shhhh!” she shushed harshly, pointing to the sleeping fire dog. “Send to Noel Massé.”

“Woops, sorry! Bzzzzzt!” the phone said, mimicking a whisper. “Sending to Noel Massé.”

She shoved the phone back into her bag and zipped it up for good measure. She went back to looking over the note, examining each and every letter, and even the paper itself. On the hunt for something else out of the ordinary, something else that would make this even more bizarre.

The sound of the doorknob clicking snapped her back to reality.

She scrambled to get the note back inside the envelope. It was haphazardly placed to start, so she wasn’t too worried about making it neat. She practically threw it back toward the area where she found it and shuffled a couple of papers around to make it look as close to how it’d been when she initially spotted it. Her butt was barely back in the chair when the door fully opened. She shoved two more Oreos in her mouth for good measure.

“Yeah, don’t worry about it, I’ll sign off on that,” Bernard said from the door. Odette turned around to see that his hand was on the knob, he had the door open, but his entire body was facing the other direction. She took a couple of quiet breaths, hoping to slow her heartbeat.

Somebody outside the office made a comment, and Bernard laughed to himself. “Good one,” he added before turning and nudging the door behind him.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Work stuff, you know?”

She chewed casually, swallowing after a moment. “Hey, I interrupted you today. I don’t mind.”

He sat back down and picked up a few more cookies for himself. “What was I saying before I left?” he asked. He paused to think, then his eyes lit up momentarily. “Oh, right.” He bit into a cookie and chewed it for a beat before swallowing it. “You. Finding something else to do with yourself. Keep your mind busy with other things.”

My mind is certainly fucking busy right now, she thought dazedly.

It was there that her backpack started vibrating.

Bzzzt! Incoming call from Noel Massé!” the RotomPhone said. The material of the bag muffled it.

Odette cursed internally, but she didn’t let that anger show.

“Send to voicemail,” she said. RotomPhone stopped buzzing after that.

Bernard eyed her thoughtfully. “You don’t have to hang up, pretend I’m not even here.”

She shook her head almost too hard. “No, it’s alright. He knows I’m visiting you.”

Once again, the backpack started buzzing again.

Bzzzt! Incoming call from Noel Massé!”

I’m going to kick his ass, she thought.

Bernard smirked at her. “Well, it seems important enough that he’s willing to call anyway.”

She rolled her eyes, deciding she needed to act fast.

“Yeah, I told him we would meet for lunch after I got off school and visited you, but he’s so goddamn impatient,” she said, pushing the exasperated tone. “I’ll get out of your hair and go sate him. The faster I leave, the faster you can go home.”

She stood. “Send to voicemail,” she said again as she shouldered her bag. Bernard stood too, and he went in for the hug first.

“Think about what I said,” he told her as they embraced.

“I will,” she said, sounding sincere. “You’re right. Getting my mind into a different place will be good for me.”

That time, he appeared to buy her answer. He let her go, allowing her to grab her helmet. She walked toward the door, turning back for one final wave as she pulled it open.

Bzzzt! Incoming call from Noel Massé!”

“Bye, Grandpa,” she said.

“Bye, Swanna.”

She pulled the door shut behind her and had to stop herself from bolting for the elevator.
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- How messed up do things have to be that you need to teach a kid how to break out of bindings? Well it's either that, or he's the best and maybe craziest grandpa ever.
- Although I get his point. Especially if things are so messed up she could be targetted based on "is his granddaughter"
- Man that feel when you have to put up with the newbies.
- At the back of the space is a bit of an odd way to put it
- With how you worded it I got this funny mental image of him opening and closing his door for the fun of it.
- Not sure what the kiss me line is about. Not beta read, I guess.
- Well he could make a motion to outlaw bikes, or something...
- I find it a bit strange that Moomoo Milk, a presumable brand name due to coming from Moomoo farms, isn't capitalized, and yet Oreos is.
- Are these randostuff Oreos?
- Hmhmhm. Seems there is political intruige up in here.
- Eaten space between her next question and the news isn't telling us. Also, shoutouts to media blackouts.
- The report she's making about the shiny hunter comes across more like a kid telling a parent or teacher about someone who made them uncomfortable. Which, actually, kind of what this is, minus the kid and parent/teacher part.
- And that thing being brought up, once more.
- At least a partial explanation of it! But, I don't think song and dance is the way to manage anger. Maybe in Kalos, somehow. Also an interesting wrinkle in why trainer school might be mandatory for her
- A random thought, is that milk cold?
- Oho, a mystery of peeking on our hands.
- Huh, that is...an interesting note, all right. Many questions indeed. The conspiracy theorist within me is pondering if there is more sinisterness to this correspondence than meets the eye.
- Well I guess RotomDex doesn't have a monopoly on needing to shut the hell up. Actually I wonder, how many trainers have gotten into trouble because of loud blabbermouth Rotoms? And there seem to be an awful lot of Rotoms on hand to use these devices...
- It seems as though whatever Noel wants to talk about, it's big. Perhaps he knows more than he seems?
- Is there like a mute button on that thing?

And another chapter in the books. One that's mostly dedicated to showing the relationship between Odette and her grandfather. A very good one from the looks of it, but I wonder how long that's going to last, depending on the revelations brought forth by the contents of that paper? It seems it's enough to get Noel to want to call over and over again. So there's that.

This aside, there isn't too much to say about this chapter. Not a lot happened besides learning some backstory., aside from you know, that big one thing that happened. I wasn't in full on typo searching mode, but I didn't see anything too egregious when it came to not being beta read - I mentioned whatever I saw anyway, and even didn't mention a space after a quote. Keep up the good work.
Chapter 5: How Could This Possibly Be a Good Idea?
Chapter 5: How Could This Possibly Be a Good Idea?
CW: Strong Language
This chapter was NOT beta read, so please be gentle on your critiques!
The collective brightness of Noel’s four computer monitors seemed to overpower the light being emitted by the lamp next to his bed. Odette hung off the back of his ergonomic chair as her eyes locked on the words he’d managed to pull up.

Virtue Corp is an organization dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating Pokemon that have been exposed to and otherwise harmed due to the disgraceful shiny trade. Our goal is not only to protect these mistreated Pokemon but to abolish the shiny trade as a whole.
He fell back against his backrest with a dazed huff, and Odette slowly crossed her arms.

“Well, there you have it. Official website and everything,” Noel said.

She raised her hand to her cheek and began to scratch it pensively. “And nothing about J.L. Ménétries?” she asked for the third time since she’d gotten to his house.

Noel exhaled gruffly and leaned back over his desk. He began to click through the rather elegantly crafted website. Odette noticed the accents of pastel pink that appeared against the sleek white background; it matched perfectly with the color of the wax seal.

He pulled up the menu titled 'Our Main Staff' and scrolled through it hastily. The random set of names flew by, accompanied by walls of text that might have been these people’s life stories, but nothing that matched the name she’d seen at the end of the note.

“I told you, nothing’s here. There isn’t even a person on here who has a name starting with a J,” he explained. “I know that doesn’t mean shit because a pseudonym could be anything, but you know…”

He clicked on another area of the website and began to skim it over. “I couldn’t find anything about a ‘J.L.’ anywhere else. Nothing tied him to something like this. So as far as we know, the guy doesn’t exist.”


Odette and Noel turned to look at the far end of the room, next to the closet, where Enora, Isaur, and Solene were playing Twister with Noel’s partners, Elton, his talonflame partner Freddy, and his vullaby partner Ru. Solene, the leader she was, had taken to spinning the wheel and making the calls. The latter five were already twisted and turned all around each other. A series of groans fell out of them at the new instruction, right foot red apparently, and suddenly, Freddy lost his winging and fell flat on his face.

Flaaaay! ”he cried.

Gothi,” Solene replied coolly.

Odette was suddenly happy she’d taken Ange and Loïc home first. She learned the hard way that Freddy and Ange together always ended in something catching on fire, and Loïc playing Twister was just a disaster waiting to happen. The Monopoly fiasco from the night before was enough. Plus, Noel was scared of him as it was.

“Come on, Freddy! You had that,” Noel huffed.

The sound of the door creaking open prompted them to turn toward it. Standing in the doorway was Noel’s father, carrying a tray with two full wine glasses.

“Sorry to bother you two, but I bring refreshments!” he said gleefully as he sauntered into the room. Odette grabbed her allotted glass faster than she cared to admit. She didn’t care about the possible hangover that would plague her at rehearsal tomorrow. She needed that buzz in her system pronto, and she’d let future-her deal with the consequences.

“The cherrim at the winery worked hard on this one, we just broke it out of the vault this morning!” Mr. Massé said.

She chugged it in one gulp.

“They did a good job,” she said through a deep exhale, setting the empty glass back on the tray. Noel giggled into his own cup.

“You...know you’re supposed to sip it, right?” Mr. Massé said hesitantly.

“She did,” Noel said. “It was just a big sip.”

Mr. Massé opened his mouth to speak but decided whatever he had to say wasn’t worth it. He simply sighed. “Nevermind. Are you staying for dinner, darling?”

“No, I couldn’t--” she started to say.

“Not sure why I asked, yes you are,” he cut her off with a playful edge in his tone.

Her expression fell into a deadpan. “I don't get a say?"

"Well, we're not going to send you home empty-handed, adult or not! Dinner will be ready in forty-five minutes, I hope you like ratatouille.” He winked at her before turning on his heel and heading back out, pulling the door shut behind him.

“Lass?” Isaur called in a strained voice. Her head was against a blue dot, and her arm was arched over Ru, touching a yellow dot. Of course, she’d still heard ‘ratatouille’ over all of that.

“Forty-five minutes,” Odette repeated. “Focus on your game.” Gods knew she needed to focus on her own issue at hand herself. She had to sort out her thoughts before bringing her team into it.

With a groan and already starting to feel an alcoholic fog forming in her lightweight brain, she dove face-first onto Noel’s unmade bed.

“I’m going to scream,” she said, her voice muffled by a pillow. “I just wanted an easy day. Was that too much to ask?”

“Oh, always,” Noel cracked. “Though you could have just not looked at the letter.”

She turned her head to shoot him a look. “Can you look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t have looked at the letter?”

Fuck no, baby, and I’d have torn apart the whole office looking for more,” he said, setting his glass down on his desk. “Because that was clearly an ongoing conversation. I’m absolutely quaking at the thought of all the juicy information we’re missing...”

He suddenly threw his hands up triumphantly as another thought occurred to him. "And I'm just stoked as hell that I figured out the cops were skirting the press before this. I'm so good."

Odette almost wished she had torn apart the office. But that surely would have woken Toulouse up. More importantly, she’d have had to explain to Bernard why his office looked like hitmonlee had raided it.

“Well, you know what has to happen now,” Noel said darkly, leaning far back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest. The sudden change in his tone made Odette force herself back into a sitting position.

“No, you’re going to have to educate me,” she said.

“Come on, Dee. Look at the facts here,” he said. He slid the chair over to the bed, stopping when his knees touched hers. “It has to be so much more than a crazy coincidence that all of this nonsense happened on the same day.”

“I think it’s only a crazy coincidence.”

“Hear me out, though.” He raised a finger. “You happen to run into Dorien, who's apparently in the fucking shiny trade. You never told us that; is that why you stopped hanging out?”

“Yes,” she replied confidently, despite not feeling so. Noel was her best friend, but she somehow couldn't find the words to explain how she had forgotten that fact. "Didn't want to talk about it."

Noel narrowed his eyes for a beat but let whatever thought had come to him go. “Shame because y'all would have made such a hot couple. Drugs and abusive trading methods aside, he's gorgeous."

Odette swatted at him. “Continue, please.”

Noel raised another finger. “He threatens you and your ‘mon in battle and freaks you out.”

She pressed her lips together silently, and he took that as a sign to continue.

“Then, you visit your grandpa, the chief of Kalos PD, the man headfirst in the sacrilege cases, only to find he’s in contact with some mysterious man who happens to be involved with an organization dedicated to shutting down the shiny trade, who pretty much admitted to Team Enigma existing.” He paused, seemingly for dramatic effect, and held his hands out to his sides.

"And also admitted they were warding the press off of something involving shinies, which confirms your find," Odette added in a monotone. He was treading dangerously close to having an extremely valid point.

Exactly. They know some shit that they don’t want us to know,” he said.

Her head had been spinning since she left Bernard’s office, and not even the wine stopped that. This wasn’t something that was just going to fade.

“Look, I’m just saying. There’s some pieces here,” Noel insisted. “I think we can make them fit if we start mining for more.”

She raised her brow at him. “Are you saying we should get involved?”

He leaned back in his chair again, kicking his legs up to rest his sock-covered feet in her lap. “Nosy trainers get involved in police affairs all the time. Hell, the cops even enlist trainers for help once in a while. We wouldn’t necessarily be out of line.” He shrugged again before resting his arms behind his head. “We have a legit concern, we’re not getting answers, and now we have some pseudo-legit leads. I say we run with it.”

Odette lowered her brows at him before pushing his feet off her lap. “You really should have been a detective. Or a hacker, at the very least.”

He laughed airily. “And let my powerhouse voice and strong dancing legs go to waste? I see you’ve never heard of multitasking. Who says I can’t do both? I need my pretty sidekick to get started.”

His jesting smile signaled a joke, but she knew him well enough to know there was a part of him that was serious. She’d only wanted to see an end to the crisis for her grandfather’s sake, but now it was very clear that he had a bigger foot in it all than he was letting on. That concerned her even more. And how much had they found out? J.L. Ménétries made it seem like they were right on Team Enigma’s trail, yet it was looking like nothing was changing as of late. As far as she could tell.

Was it possible that the Virtue Corp was, in fact, in cahoots with Team Enigma? Were they working alongside each other for some strange reason? Were they stringing the cops along? Were the cops in on it?

That thought made her stomach hurt.

It had to be just a coincidence that Dorien had decided to pop back into her life on the same day. He and his no-good shiny trading ways, flaunting it all like it was nothing major. She allowed herself to think back to their battle once again. The feeling she got, how her entire body told her to vacate the premises, and how he spoke.

But was that enough to run with? Her gut and her reads on people were usually not wrong…but even if she wanted to go with it, did she want to spend more time with Dorien just for the slightest chance he was possibly involved with sacrilege, and even worse, Team Enigma?

I know you say you’re fine, and it has been almost a year since everything happened, but maybe you could try focusing on something completely new?

She was certain this was not what Bernard had meant when he said that, but this was certainly pretty new. She thought back to his tired eyes, the way he’d fallen silent that one week, and how he so seamlessly lied to her face about what he knew.

Her wary gaze cut over to her Pokemon, who were still quite caught up in their game. She could practically hear Solene and Enora screeching in her ears about how this was a bad idea. Isaur would most likely be all for it. Ange would simply go along with whatever, and she was still fairly certain all Loïc could consciously think about was pecha berries and crawling in the air ducts. She wasn’t exactly concerned about breaking the news to him.

She decided, then and there, she didn’t care about the stern talking-to in-store by her oldest Pokemon friends. She needed something else to do, and really...perhaps this was it.

Maybe it was the buzz, but she didn’t care at the moment.

“Alright. I'm in. Need to run it by the crew, but I'm in.”


Sitting around the coffee table in her living room, Odette watched, unsurprisingly, as Solene got in her face.

"Goth? Itelle, ittelle eeeeeeeee?" she screamed frantically, grabbing Odette by her shoulders and shaking her.

"You heard me," she replied. "I thought I was pretty clear."

Solene's expression fell, and she settled back into her spot on the couch. Her jaw was clenched, and her stubby hands were balled into fists. The expected worrywart mode that Odette had anticipated since she resolved to discuss her decision with her team.

"Telle," Solene said in a drawl, raising a hand to rub the side of her face.

"You don't have to tell me that you think it's a dangerous idea, I'm pretty damn aware of that."

"Gothitelle!" Solene snapped back, whipping her head around to give Odette a wide-eyed look.

"Because!" Odette retaliated, curling her fingers with the intensity of her words. "It's like I said, there's some shit happening here. You saw some of that battle, I showed you the picture of the note, and I told you what Grandpa said and what Noel and I found, there is something. Happening. In Kalos," she stressed. "And I want to figure out what it is."

And she wanted to figure out where exactly her grandfather stood on it. If his lying had gotten a little too out of hand. She wouldn't say that out loud because she didn't want to speak it into existence, but the more she dwelled on it, her curiosity overshadowed her apprehension.

"If not to uncover what's going on with Grandpa, then for my own head."

"Lass oss lass?" Isaur interjected cooly, speaking between the bites she took from an apple. Odette paused to consider her words.

"It's better my exploding anger be channeled into getting Dorien thrown in prison and figuring out what the fuck Grandpa's sitting on than going to work and thinking about...everything else," she said.

She fell silent as her more intrusive thoughts started to seep in, but she quickly shook them off.

That was exactly why she needed to do it. She wouldn't have time to dwell on the past if she were sleuthing; at the very least, her flaring anger could prove useful in keeping her determined. Somehow. Maybe.


"I appreciate the concern, but I've made up my mind."

Isaur appeared to accept the answer, judging by her shrug as she exchanged looks with Ange, who's eyes glowed with interest.

"Chande? Lure?" Ange asked.

"You'd come along with me. To wherever I went, with or without Dorien. You'd help me investigate and provide me with more physical backup if we had to fight."

The flame on Ange's head flared up, and he clapped his tendrils together in excitement. "Lure!" he gasped. Well, that was one.

"Frosslass," Isaur agreed. She downed the rest of the apple, core and all, and held up a thumb. "Lass!"

Two. The easy ones up for a change of pace.

Solene was shocked that Isaur had agreed and flailed her arms in her direction. "Gothitelle?" she sputtered, earning her a shrug.

"Laaaaaa, la laaaaasss," Isaur said, causing Solene to cover her eyes in disdain.

It was there that Loïc scurried out from under the coffee table, the remnants of three pecha berry stems hanging in his shadowy hand. He proceeded to scuttle around, looking for a place to put them, and when he couldn't find one, he settled for hopping up onto the couch and settling into Odette's lap. Once there, he politely set them on her thigh.

"Kyu," he declared, nuzzling down into her legs to get comfortable. Odette stared at him, unamused by the fruit remains staining her pants leg, but set a hand on his fake head nonetheless.

"Thanks for that, Loïc. Appreciate it." She used her free hand to toss the stems onto the table. She'd grab them later. At least he was for it, but that was also expected.

All was silent again as Solene and Enora had yet to vocalize their stance.

"I should also note that I'm not going to force any of you into going along with this," Odette said. "I'm giving you the option, but I understand our creative differences. Don't be obliged to tag along on my account because it's settled, I'm doing this for me now. My brain. My head. My distraction. I'm armed and in a better headspace, and I will figure it out. Noel and his team will be coming along too, so I won't be alone even if you decide to back out. That's a promise. I know better."

There was still no response until Odette felt Solene shift uncomfortably next to her. With a grouchy groan, she settled into the back cushion.

"Ee. Telle," she huffed.

An agreement. A reluctant one at that.

"Are you sure?" Odette pressed. "I'm telling you, you can say no."

Solene fell silent again as she wrung her hands together nervously.

"Sol, I'm serious. Tell me what you're thinking."

Solene looked to be deliberating with herself. Mulling something over in her head, trying to figure out a good response. Her brain gears were practically screaming. She squeezed her eyes shut at one point, inhaling the deepest breath she could muster, before nodding once.

"Gotheeeeee, tell. Gothi," she declared, sounding more determined than before.

Odette quirked a brow at the change in tone. "You want to help? And you're sure?"

A firm nod followed, and the gothitelle was met with approving, proud pats from Isaur. Odette wasn't sure what fire had lit inside her, but it was a surge of confidence she wasn't going to refute.

"Alright. But just know if you lose your nerve, you can back out at any time."

Solene gave a rough shake of her head. "Iitelle."

Odette couldn't help but smirk at the response. She then looked over at Enora, who had her eyes trained on the floor for most of the conversation. Her lips were pressed together into a taut line. She was disgruntled. And thinking hard about something.

"I hate to say it," Odette said softly, "but this probably hits the closest home for you. These are shinies we're talking about, but I would understand why it would make you uncomfortable."

Still nothing.


"Vee," she said sharply. She hopped off her cushion and walked toward Odette's bedroom. As she went, the tips of her tendrils were engulfed in a faint blue glow, which traveled to the pecha stems. They levitated off the coffee table, toward the kitchen, and into the sink.

Odette sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes. "Enora, come on," she called after her. "Don't be like that, I'm not forcing you to do anything! She paused. "And I was going to grab those!"

The sound of the bedroom door shutting was the response.

Enora wasn't on board, and Odette could have figured that out even if she hadn't spoken. So, then why the hell was she begrudgingly agreeing to come along?

Odette pushed herself to stand. "Enora!" she shouted, walking toward the room. "If you have a thought, say it! I want you to tell me what's on your mind!"

No answer.

She ground her teeth together, trying to ward off any oncoming anger. Losing it here wouldn't make the conversation any better. This was a rough territory.

Odette had found Enora has an eevee, and aside from the moment they met in the alley next to Marieanne and Bernard's townhouse, Odette had no idea where Enora had come from and was never one to prod. Much like her, Enora wasn't one who liked to dwell too much on the past. That's where they got along.

Odette couldn't help but wonder if this reluctance was stemming from that unknown past. Was this hitting too close to home for her?

Enora's refusal to speak wasn't giving her much to work with, so that was what she was going with. "Okay. Until you specifically ask to come along, I'm taking this as a hard no. You let me know when you're ready to talk about it."

All was still silent on Enora's end. That was that.

Pushing her bangs back, she trudged back over to the couch and fell back into it, taking a moment to shut her eyes, massage her temples, and collect herself. When she peered back out at her team's concerned gazes, she sighed.

"It's just gonna be the five of us. But we got this."
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Chapter 6 - Psychopath
Chapter 6 - Psychopath
CW: Strong Language, Talk of Sexual Assault

“God fucking dammit, Snooki. Can you be any drunker?”

When it wasn’t Odette's team up to something weird or stupid, her mother always picked up the slack--when she was home, at least. She’d only been back in Kalos since Sunday night, and she was taking every possible moment after to enjoy her leisure time. Vienna Cinq-Mars wasn’t a subtle woman by any means—if she wanted to sit home all day and scream at her reality TV shows, that’s what she did. And if she didn’t want to wear pants while she was doing that…well, she didn’t.

As Odette walked through from her bedroom to the kitchen, she scrunched her eyebrows at the sight of her mother cradling a bowl of nachos like a newly laid Pokemon egg while she yelled at the orange Unovans on their TV screen. At least she had the common decency to put on a pair of granny panties rather than of one of the thongs she managed to leave all over the house during laundry days.

Vienna's longtime partner, Thea--a quiet and observant gardevoir--sat beside her, knitting and looking completely unfazed by everything happening around her. As she usually did.

“You could at least watch something fulfilling, like a horror movie,” Odette commented.

Thiiiii,” Solene chirped. She shuffled over to the couch and sat down next to Thea. Ever the punctual one, she was already ready to go. She decided to pass the time by watching Thea with her needles. Isaur, Ange, Enora, and Loïc were still hanging out in their balls back in Odette's bedroom, so none of them were out and about to keep her company.

“What’s more horrific than that spray tan? I swear, I got better color just climbing up the side of Coronet in the middle of a blizzard,” Vienna said. She then threw one of the chips in her mouth. “The Unovans really know what they’re doing with their TV.”

“Agree to disagree," Odette said.

She fanned her wet eyeliner as she pulled open the fridge. Her eyes fell on the last available water bottle, and she grabbed it in one quick motion. She hadn't even left for her outing with Dorien yet, and she already felt like she was going to explode.

It had been a week since she had reluctantly approached him in class again and “apologized” for her foul attitude after their battle. She chalked it up to a bad rehearsal week, and he seemed more than willing to forgive her. When she offered that they “hang out after class,” he took every opportunity to treat her to extravagant excursions. Private jet flight from Lumiose to Gloire one day, a limousine ride to the movies the next. The plan for the day was a trip to a fancy restaurant on a private man-made island off the coast of Avignon Town, where apparently a cup of soup cost more than she made in an hour's work. She only knew that much because she'd searched up the menu out of morbid curiosity.

She felt idiotic getting as dressed up as she was. It was already a pain in the ass to wake up every morning to straighten her hair and do her full seven-step skincare routine, but adding on a full face of makeup and a nude, loose-fitting cocktail dress that hadn't seen the light of day since her first college party somehow made it all harder.

She didn't want to make herself look that good for Dorien; he didn't deserve to see her in such a state. However, since the restaurant they were going to seemed so high-end, she'd be cutting off her nose to spite her own face if she decided to roll up in a tracksuit instead. Prettying up was a necessary evil here. She'd have to deal with his stupid goo-goo eyes and try not to gouge them out in the process.

She began chugging the water, hoping it would do something to ease her mind for the time being.

“Easy there, you’re going to choke,” Vienna warned over the noise coming from the TV.

Once she’d managed to down half of it, she relented. “That’s always the goal,” she said sarcastically.

“You should really try training up your gag reflex then. Trust me, it’s worth it.”

She could thank her lucky stars she wasn’t drinking at that moment because she’d have spit everything out.

Maman,” she sputtered. “You’re disgusting.”

Thi!” Solene said.

"Gardeeeevoir," Thea whined, sending a deadpan look toward Vienna, who snickered and covered her mouth.


Odette had to take a second to compose herself before she stormed back out to the living room. “You know, you have the mental age of an eighteen-year-old.”

“Yep, all mental growth stopped as soon as they cut you out of me, snookums.”

Odette wished she’d somehow grown some mental wall against Vienna’s out-of-pocket comments over the years. Something like that set them apart from other mother-daughter duos; Vienna liked to act more like an obnoxious older sister, and it didn’t help that she looked the part. People mistook them for sisters all the time. At forty years of age, she still managed to look like she was thirty-something.

“I’ll say it again. You’re disgusting,” Odette said.

"Well, I'll say that you're beautiful. You never dress like this," Vienna gushed.

"Are you even listening to me?"

"Mm, no. I'm too busy taking in the rare image of you in something that isn't a pair of fucking joggers."

Odette rolled her eyes so far back that it triggered a headache. She downed the rest of her water as she trudged back to her bathroom, throwing the empty bottle in the trashcan next to the sink. "Just for that, I'm spending my next paycheck on more joggers."

"Oh no, the humanity," Vienna laughed. "Why must you do us such a disservice and hide those dancer legs from the world?"

Odette decided the best way to stop the harassment was to ignore it. She began digging through her makeup trunk, trying to figure out what lipstick she should bother slathering on. She wondered if it would even be worth the trouble. Her lips looked perfectly fine without it, thanks to the blessing of Vienna's big billowy lip genes. And she didn't want to give Dorien more reason to stare at her. He seemed like the type to really like lipstick, somehow.

"Hey maman, do you have some chapstick anywhere?" she called.

"Probably somewhere in my bathroom. Or under my bed. Or in my underwear drawer. Who knows, really? I'm always losing them," Vienna said.

"Thanks, you're a real help."

RotomPhone, sitting on the back of the toilet, suddenly began to ring, and her shoulders tensed at the sound of it.

"Bzzzt! Bzzzt! Incoming call from Dorien 'Dickhead' Bonhomme!" he said, causing her to groan.

"Fuck," she muttered. She slammed her makeup trunk closed and slipped on the heels she'd set next to the bathtub. "Incoming, Solene!" she yelled, grabbing her phone and trudging back to the living room.

The gothitelle was already up at the door, holding Odette's purse.

"Thi?" she asked.

"Yep," Odette said, snatching the bag. "Let's get going."

Vienna paused the TV and threw her arms up in the air triumphantly. "Have fun, my love!" she said. "I slipped a condom in your purse just in case. It's a heat-activated one, so it's supposed to make things superb."

Thea's one good eye slipped shut, and she buried her face in her hand. "Gardeeee..."

Vienna shrugged. "What, she's in the game, and I want to ensure she's safe and having a good time. What the hell is wrong with that?"

If looks could kill, Vienna would have dropped dead under the intensity of the glare Odette sent her way. The mere thought of getting anywhere near Dorien was nauseating, but doing that? Even Solene looked disgusted.

"Oh my fucking--goodbye," Odette screamed, yanking open the door and slamming it shut once she and Solene were out in the hallway.

Another day, another private mode of transportation. A fucking yacht. She wasn't even as shocked as she'd been when she got onto his private jet earlier in the week. It was as if she was becoming desensitized to the sight of such extravagance.

She and Solene stood outside on the ship's aft deck, watching Avignon Town shrink behind them.

"Goth-eeeee," Solene said in a dejected whisper.

"There it goes indeed," Odette muttered back. She kept her arms crossed tight over her chest, fiddling nervously with the loose fabric hanging off her arm. She only stopped when Dorien approached her, holding two glasses of white wine.

"It's a bit of a ride out to the island," he said as he handed her one. "The place is only accessible by private boats and charters, so I hope you enjoy the trek."

"You always know how to pamper me," she said with her painstakingly crafted half-smile. She resisted the urge to recoil when he slinked an arm around her waist and instead settled for drinking some of the wine. Something to keep herself in place.

She wasn't expecting him to kiss her on the cheek, but she nearly choked on her sip when he did.

"Anything for you, Doll," he said tenderly.

If that was going to be the new thing, she suddenly regretted not packing a bottle of face wash in her purse. Or a can of bleach.

“My brother and I went to eat here months ago, but there was a waiting list of six months. Which is, unfortunately, pretty standard,” Dorien explained, swishing the drink around in his glass. He then sipped from it. “I wonder, did you know this place even existed? You seem like the kind of person who’d frequent more...smaller scale joints, hm?”

The backhanded comment left her gritting her teeth. Still, she chuckled.

"No, I had no idea there was even a private island in Avignon,” Odette said sweetly. Years of acting classes did wonders in pulling off innocent facades. "But I trust you know all the good spots and will keep me educated, yeah?"

A goofy grin passed over his lips, and his eyes drooped smugly.

“Do you even have to ask? I'd show you the world if you'd let me," he declared, lightly bumping his forehead against hers. It would have been such a romantic line had it come from literally anybody else.


The restaurant itself was as gaudy as she expected. Every patron was dressed to the nines, even their Pokemon partners, all sitting around extravagant marble columns, diamond chandeliers, and pretty stone waterfalls built into the walls. The chatter was low, with the occasional sound of glasses clinking, wine being poured, and silverware tapping against plates. Odette felt like she would get charged a fee for just standing there and breathing.

They got their table relatively fast, and it wasn't long before Dorien launched another story about what he and his rich family and friends did in their spare time. It was really hard for her to keep up when she only wanted to shove a champagne flute down his throat.

"Have you ever been jet skiing before?" he asked her.

"Once, in Sinnoh. Part of a research expedition with my maman; her team went looking for jellicent, and they brought me along because I begged," she explained. "I think I was like...ten."

"Oh, that's fun," Dorien said teasingly. "Quaint. Nothing ever beats the jet skis we had in Paldea. They fit right into the yacht, and we were free to come and go as we pleased. But your excursion sounds neat too."

Exca,” Excadrill said. Odette had never heard any Pokemon sound pompous, but she supposed there was a first time for everything. When not battling with its crazy, strengthened Earthquake, Excadrill looked and sounded like any rich person's Pokemon partner.

She swallowed the urge to glare at him and hid it behind a loving grin, which she accentuated by thoughtfully resting her cheek in her palm. She forced out an airy mix of a scoff and a chuckle, hoping it would be enough to mask any disdain wafting off of her.

"It was a long time ago, so I'd love to go again," she said dreamily.

"Say when, and I'll make arrangements," Dorien said.

"You're going to spoil me, Dory."

"That's the point. I imagine you haven't been spoiled enough, and I certainly want to change that."

Odette could barely hear the small growl that rose out of Solene. She nudged her under the table.

The complimentary bread she’d been munching on started to come back up. She casually rubbed her chest, coaxing it back down into her stomach. Barfing in a high-end restaurant like this was hardly “lying low.” She already felt out of place wearing her department store dress while it seemed every person and Pokemon around her was wearing designer attire. Even Excadrill was wearing a damn Dior jacket. She’d have asked Solene to put something nice on if she'd known.

“I'm looking forward to it. This week has been wonderful so far,” she purred. She picked up her glass of mineral water and sipped it, hoping to bide her time before she had to engage in more talk. She was mildly concerned when she didn’t hear a response and shot a glance at him. He’d yet to move, still gazing at her with that droopy-eyed look. It made her skin crawl.

She wished he’d just come out and say what he was thinking so she wouldn’t have to continue being looked at like this. Gods knew Solene was certainly over it.

A florges approached the table, two of the entrees balanced on her hands while the other two levitated off to her sides. She bowed politely like she had every time she came back to wait on them.

Flor,” she said, setting down the plates of food. She clasped her hands together and nodded again. “Gesss?” she asked.

Dorien began setting his napkin in his lap while Excadrill mimicked him. “No, ma’am, we’re all set,” he said. The florges grinned broadly before hovering off to her next task.

Odette gazed down at her food. She’d gone out of her way to get one of the cheapest things on the menu out of pure spite. She’d been very tempted by the beef bourguignon, but surely Dorien wanted her to spend his money. She wouldn't have ordered anything if she weren’t as hungry as she was. Instead, she opted for a mere chicken Caprese salad.

Dorien eyed it over his lobster meal and raised a brow. “That’s really all you’re going to eat?” he asked. “Even Solene got more than you.”

Odette looked at Solene, then down at her coq au vin. Solene stuck out her lower lip before grabbing a fork and stabbing one of the chunks of meat with it. She began to eat, and Odette shrugged her shoulders.

“I’m not that hungry,” she said. “But I guess Sol is.”

Dorien pursed his lips. “Are you trying to watch your figure?”

Odette’s eye started to twitch, and she had to claw into the tablecloth to get a grip on herself. She could see Solene tense up out of the corner of her eye.

“I actually think my figure's fine, don't you think?” The words physically hurt to say.

Iiitelle,” Solene said stiffly, and Odette nudged her again.

Dorien chuckled and held up his hands defensively. “Oh, you don’t have to ask me. The dance lessons did you very well in the curves department.”

Her eyes cut to his neck. The collar of his pressed shirt and jacket didn’t cover it entirely. There was just enough exposed skin to allow an easy chokehold.

Behave, Dorien. We're in public," she teased, swatting a hand toward him as she put all her energy into a shrill, bashful chuckle.

“Well, with your figure, I can’t help but look.”

It was amazing. He really thought he was being suave and flirtatious. She had to wonder if he listened to himself when he spoke. Maybe if he did, he’d realize he sounded like a douchebag. Or maybe not. Odette had started to realize that his head was so far up his ass that it was probably hard to see or hear anything else.

When she didn’t immediately respond, he clicked his tongue, removed his napkin from his lap, and stood up. He motioned for Excadrill to follow him.

“We’re going to go wash up. Don’t miss me too much while I’m gone!” he said with a smile.

The smile she forced might have been too fake, but she played it off by politely waving as he walked off. When she was positive both were out of earshot, she brought her hands to her face and exhaled deeply.

“Goooooth,” Solene hissed.

“I know, Sol, I know,” Odette said. “Imagine how I feel.”

Solene took another bite of her food. “Telle, itelle, itelle.

Odette pulled her face from her hands and shot a look at the gothitelle. “How many times are you going to tell me you think this is a bad idea? I think I’m well aware by now.”

Teeeeelle,” she said with a shrug.

Odette groaned and brought her hand back to her face. She squeezed the bridge of her nose, hoping to ward off the headache that had manifested. There, she felt her mock-designer purse start vibrating on the back of her chair. She nearly jumped out of her skin to get to it, hurriedly pulling open the zipper to steal a look at the caller ID.

Bzzzt! Incoming call from Noel Massé!” RotomPhone said as she read her friend’s name on the screen. She answered it before she held it to her ear.

Noel,” she said in a breathless whisper. She brought a hand up to cover her mouth for good measure. “You need to come be a buffer. I’m going to stab him.”

A snicker on the other end. “We already decided that my tagging along would defeat the purpose of this.”

“I know, but holy fucking shit, this is the worst it’s been all week. It’s like he’s evolving into a bigger scumbag whenever he opens his mouth.”

“So what you’re telling me is he’s a Pokemon?” Noel queried.

“That’s an insult to every Pokemon,” Odette snapped. She noticed Solene glance at her from the corner of her eye, but decided to ignore it.

“Nothing new?” he said, a little more deflated this time.

Odette shook her head. “No. But he definitely thinks we're dating.” Saying it out loud, even quietly, made her shudder.

Noel was silent for a moment, possibly contemplating the statement. “You could capitalize on that. Play gold digger for a bit and wipe him clean of his money before he dies.”

“Pretty sure that only works if he’s seventy years older than me,” she said flatly.

“Well, you can hope he has some terminal illness you don’t know about. Or pray a grimer tries to crawl into his mouth while he’s sleeping.”

Odette laughed at the image of Dorien choking on that particular poison type before shaking her head again. “No amount of money in the world would be worth that,” she said. She paused to consider her next words. “I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it.”

She had the acting down to a T, sure. She could titter at his misogynistic passes and put on the doe eyes while he talked to her about the new million-dollar car he just bought, but every time she did so, the anger would start to build. She'd gotten the hang of swallowing it down, but she'd only been at it for what, a week? And she was already exhausted. How long could she hold up before it all became too much?

Noel sighed. “We’re playing the long game here, and it’s only been a few days.”

She pursed her lips. He was right, as much as she didn’t want to admit it. She’d gone into this knowing Dorien wasn’t going to come out and say anything alarming, but she supposed she didn’t fully consider how long it would actually take. It was true that it hadn't been long, but she also hadn't been prepared for how excruciating the days would be.

At the very least, it kept her mind off everything else. So, she supposed she was getting something out of it. Besides, her maman and grandparents didn’t raise a quitter. She could stick it out.

“Hopefully, he says something sooner rather than later,” she sighed.

She felt a couple of hasty taps on her shoulder and glanced over to see Solene pointing toward the bathroom. Dorien and Excadrill were returning but had momentarily stopped at another table to talk with the diners.

Odette’s posture stiffened. “Okay, okay, gotta go, talk later,” she said quickly. She barely heard Noel’s response before hanging up and tossing the phone back into her bag. She’d just hung it back on her chair when Dorien and Excadrill sat back down.

“Sorry, sorry. Saw some friends and had to say hello,” he said.

“Took you long enough,” Odette replied, lacing a whine around her tone. "I really did start to miss you."

Dorien's eyes lit up momentarily, and he reached out and took hold of her hand as he poked his lower lip out. She made a mental note to scrub her fingers with a Clorox wipe later.

"You're so cute," he said. "Come, let's eat."

Odette pulled her hand away faster than she planned and went straight into her salad while Dorien started his meal. Much to her relief, that prevented any extra conversation from happening. They were all so caught up in their food that nothing was said for five minutes. It was bliss.

“So,” Dorien said after he finished a bite. He politely brought his napkin to his lips and dabbed them off. “I have something I want to ask you.”

Odette suppressed a groan. She swallowed whatever she had before exchanging quick looks with Solene. “What would that be?”

Dorien smirked, and she felt the sting of a metaphorical Ice Beam rock her chest.

“Nothing major,” he said. “I just had a slight concern.”

“Why, because you’re hanging out with a commoner?” she asked jokingly, raising her brow.

He chuckled, almost...darkly. She kept up her smug smile but began to kick off her high-heeled shoes in case her instinct to run came back in full force. She felt it bubbling in the back of her head.

“Well, as you know, I come from a lot of money,” he said. He reached out, took hold of her hand again, and began intertwining his fingers with hers. A bleach bath might be in order after the Clorox wipe.

“My father raised my brothers and me to protect that fortune, so naturally, when I start seeing somebody new, I do my research.”

She couldn't help but narrow her eyes as they darted from their locked hands to his face. Where the hell was he going with this? She grabbed her near-empty glass of water and began to drink again to keep her other hand busy, and Dorien must have taken that as a sign to keep going.

“I wanted to ask you about the manslaughter case you were involved in last year.”

Odette choked on her next gulp and began to cough violently. She wrenched her hand away from him as she slammed her cup back down, then lowered her head to avoid drawing attention to herself.

“Well, I guess it was more of a self-defense killing, considering the victim raped you, right? So that makes you the victim, I suppose...”

The mixture of pure shock from his questions and her water going down the wrong pipe made it impossible to stop coughing. She was certain she would choke to death with this asshole and his mole watching until suddenly, her throat loosened up. The next thing she knew, she could breathe again.

Odette sucked in a couple of greedy breaths to refill her shriveled lungs. She looked back over to Solene, seeing that her hands were engulfed in her signature pink glow. Odette didn’t even have time to thank her because of the anger exploding from the spot on her back. She had half a mind to flip the table right then and there.

Stop,” she said, loud enough to turn a few heads. So much for holding out for much longer. But she didn't care now. Fuck lying low when she was in the presence of such audacity.

“You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve,” she menaced. “Seriously, you thought that was something I would want to discuss with you?”

Dorien held up his hands, but it looked more like he was going through the motions of being startled. Like he was doing it to save face, though Odette was positive that he didn’t care about that. He wouldn’t have asked about something like that or even gone as far as to look it up in the first place if he wasn’t trying to get under her skin. There was no way.

“I see you’re upset.” His emphasis on that last word prompted a chill to run down her spine, but she was far too mad to acknowledge it.

She started to drink the rest of her water for her own sake. She needed to calm down before she did something too rash. Her mind, despite the angry fog, was flooding with questions.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why did he do that? Why is he going there? Why does he need to know that?

She hadn’t felt this exposed since the story dropped. Since she heard people accusing her of doing what she did out of jealousy, out of anger. Even with the overwhelming support she received from the other students at the school, some thought she just did it for attention. And his family. Gods, his fucking family. She couldn’t deal with the scrutiny, and now here she was, dealing with that same thing from the very person she probably despised just as much as him.

Dorien continued, apparently unfazed. “I apologize, but it’s not every day you read that your date killed her drama professor in near cold blood.”

Her grip on her glass tightened.

“What was his name? Jordan Deschamps?” he asked.


The glass shattered in her hand, shards falling into her lap and on the floor. She could feel some of the shards digging into her skin, and saw crimson start to stream from the wounds, but she felt no pain. All she could feel was the heat of her rage.

“Ma’am are you okay?!” a passing waiter yelped. The sentret walking with him chirped in alarm. “Sen! Tret! Sen!

Odette couldn’t find the words to respond. She finally regained feeling in her hand and flexed it, allowing the heavier glass shards stuck in her skin to dislodge themselves. Solene quickly grabbed her wrist and pressed her napkin to the wounds to slow the bleeding.

Itelle? Itelle?!” Solene said frantically.

It was only then that the pain of the gashes started to register. Other waiters, waitresses, and their accompanying partners started crowding around the table. Their questions slurred together in her foggy mind; several more forced “are you okay’s?” managed to break through. One of the workers, who she assumed to be the manager or something of the sort, was phoning for a first aid kit over the headpiece he was wearing.

Through all of that, she peered back over at Dorien. She wished she could say she was surprised that she couldn’t find a lick of remorse on his face, but she was far from that. His eyes had gone dark, and she recognized that threatening hostility from class just those few days before.

The fight or flight senses were kicking in again, but they were truly at odds this time. She both wanted to bolt from the restaurant and make him bleed too.

But, as soon as the manager approached him, that malicious look was replaced with a worried frown. He said something about being shocked, about how he wasn’t sure what happened, but also how they most likely wouldn’t need to call an ambulance. The manager looked relieved by that, then said something else about a free meal. At least, that’s what it sounded like. Dorien glanced down at the diamond-encrusted watch on his wrist, and she couldn’t pick up on much else after that.

“I’m good,” she finally said. “We’ll take the check. I want to go home.”

“Ma’am, at least let us wrap the wound up for your travels, okay?” said a waitress. The chansey standing next to her nodded in agreement.

She shook her head and shrugged. “Fine. But I’m okay. Really.”


“I really am sorry. I didn’t think a glass would shatter in your hand.”

She refused to look at him. She refused to give him any more of her time. She was over it.

Instead, she zeroed in on the throbbing in her bandaged hand to keep herself from punching him as she stormed to the opposite end of the yacht. She very well could have punched him. It'd be so easy. The only other people on the ship were the captain and the sparse staff. Nobody was around, so nobody would see her swinging at him.

It'd be so easy.

“C’mon, Odie, talk to me.”

She leaned over a railing on whatever deck she'd come upon, focusing her attention on the passing waves. Perhaps she could find a life jacket and throw herself overboard. She'd take the displeasure and possible dangers of swimming home over having to share a private charter with Dorien for the forty-five minutes it would take them to get back to the mainland. It'd probably be worth it.

Why did he have to drop such a question on her when there was no other way to get away from him? She had no choice but to get back on the boat. She had no choice but to be in close proximity to him after that. She couldn't help but feel like something about it was planned, which only caused her to seethe more.

Goth,” Solene said, standing stiffly at Odette's side, serving as the much-needed buffer. She kept her hand on Odette’s arm, ready to jump into action if necessary.

“You know, the ride would be easier if you put Solene back in her ball,” Dorien said tentatively. "We can talk about this more privately."

“I think she’s fine where she is,” Odette said, not turning to look at him.

Telle,” Solene agreed.

She heard Dorien sigh and step closer. “C’mon, sweetheart, I didn’t mean any harm. It was a genuine concern.”

“Yep, you just kept rubbing salt in the wound, you fucking psychopath.”

He was silent for a while. She hoped he'd stay that way until they pulled back into the shipyard. Then she could call a taxi and be rid of him.

She'd deal with the "I told you so's" from Solene and Enora; she'd be able to shake that off easily. But being asked about her rape? Not so much.

“I’m sorry,” he said dejectedly. “I clearly got very carried away.” His tone was remorseful, and she'd think he was sincere if she didn’t know any better.

“I think it’s a lot more than that, but whatever helps you sleep on your bed of roses at night.”

She turned away and stormed to another area, only stopping when she found a sofa to sit on. Perhaps it wouldn't be a major loss if she threw him overboard. No life jacket, no nothing. Just left him to the elements. Played stupid and claimed inebriation. Cut her losses and called it a day.

There were far too many ways for that to go wrong, but at least the mental image of him toppling into the ocean gave her some humorous reprieve from her pulsing anger and the throb in her palm.

Her reprieve was short-lived, because Dorien came bounding around the corner. Solene tensed and eyed him closely, and Odette could see her hands beginning to glow.

"Dorien, go the fuck away," Odette growled. "I don't have anything to fucking say to you, and I don't have interest in hearing what you have to say either. Stay the fuck away from us, or it's not going to end well for you."

Dorien sighed deeply, then checked his watch. She had half a mind to rip it off his wrist and beam it at his head.

"Did you hear me? Are you fucking deaf? I don't care that it's your boat, I want to be away from you. Piss off."

“I did say the ride would be easier if you’d put her back in her ball. Hopefully, I have enough.”

She opened her mouth to say something but was caught entirely off guard when she got a fist full of some red dust in her face. It started to sting as soon as it made contact with her eyes.

What the fu--”

A violent cough cut her off. She could hear Solene coughing too, but could not open her eyes to get a good look at her. She didn’t have enough time to let herself be mad that this guy had just pepper sprayed her because her brain was going into emergency mode.

Need milk, need water...stop coughing, stop inhaling it in...need to get away, now.

“1:30 to 2:47,” she heard Dorien say.

The expletives began to well up in her throat, but it was far too busy constricting, trying to ward off the effects of the dust. She found the slightest bit of solace in feeling Solene’s hand on her arm, but the fact that she couldn’t see or help her was causing panic to set in.

She regained control of her body and realized she'd fallen to her hands and knees. If she could crawl along, find the captain...maybe there was a life raft she could use to get off the yacht, even out in the middle of the water...

No sooner had the thought set in did the effects of the vapor vanish. The stinging in her eyes ceased, and her throat opened. The panic vanished, and Odette was suddenly in a daze, wondering briefly where she was. Something had just happened, but she couldn't put her finger on what. She felt like she'd had too much to drink...had she? Where was she? Right, Dorien’s boat. They were returning from the private island restaurant. She looked over at Solene, who was darting her head around tiredly.

She then looked to Dorien, who was kneeling down next to her. The concern was clear in his gaze.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “I had no idea you were such lightweights, or I wouldn’t have ordered that much wine. You seemed fine leaving the restaurant but got really lightheaded just now.”

Right. That's what happened. Getting overzealous on the drinks and then getting on a rocking boat was hardly a good idea. Odette’s temples throbbed, and she reached up to massage them. A sharp pain radiated from her palm, and she recoiled from getting a good look at the bloodied bandage.

“When did I--” she started to ask.

“Faulty glass. Shattered right in your hand, remember?”

She thought about it for a second and was relieved to find that she indeed remembered. Whatever wine she had hadn't shot her memory of the day entirely. Anger surged from her back again. She had half a mind to find the captain and make him turn the boat around so she could go back to that restaurant and yell at the management for using such shitty wine glasses.

She shook her head abruptly. “Sorry. I know better than to drink that much during the day.”

Gothii,” Solene slurred in agreement.

“Well, we'll be home soon. In the meantime, you can lie down if you need to. There are places to sleep on the lower deck," he assured her, helping her back to her feet and easing her onto the couch. Odette used her free hand to pull Solene to sit next to her.

"Yeah," she said dazedly. "I should try to sleep this off."

As the car turned down Gigavolt Way and came to stop in front of her apartment complex, Odette felt a sense of relief. She craved the comfort of her own bed. Not before a good shower, of course.

"Finally," she groaned, picking her head off Dorien's shoulder. He'd insisted she put it there when they got in the car, and being so inebriated, she had to push herself extra hard to stay in character. And, as much as she hated to admit it, his shoulder was far comfier than the window.

The door unlocked, and she stared at it for a long while before pushing it open. Her body felt light as she stepped out of the car, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she felt...dread. Like there was something wrong. Of course, that had to be Dorien’s doing. She could never feel at ease when she was near him.

She pushed the door shut behind her once she was sure she had Solene's ball in her bag, but the window rolled down before she could walk away.

“Do you need me to walk you up?" Dorien asked.

She suddenly felt a little soberer and whipped around to face him. No, he and Vienna could not cross paths. He had no business coming into her safe haven, either. "No, don't worry about it. I'll get myself there."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. You've done enough for me, I'm a big girl," she insisted. She hoped she didn't sound too direct, but judging by the warm smile he sent back to her, there was nothing to worry about.

"Alright, fine. But, before I forget, I need to give this to you,” Dorien said as he leaned on the sill. He produced a yellow envelope and held it out to her.

“There’s a big social gala happening this weekend, and I’d like you to come,” he said. “That’s your invite. I don’t expect you to know anybody there, so you’re more than welcome to bring a plus one if it would make you more comfortable. But you’ll still be going as my date.”

The possessiveness behind that ‘my’ made her skin crawl. She eyed him, trying not to let her disgust show on her face, before snatching the envelope away.

“Can't wait,” she said.

A half smile crossed Dorien’s face. “Kiss goodbye?” he asked, reaching out to her.

She swallowed down a drunken bald-faced laugh while she shoved the envelope into her purse. But that drunken bald-faced laugh quickly melted into something that caused her stomach to ache.

You're acting. It's a stage kiss. You've done these before.

She inhaled a deep, readying breath, then took his hand. He pulled her close to the door and planted a sweet peck on her lips. Well, it would have been sweet if it didn't taste like fucking acid to her. She was grateful that he didn't do anything more than that.

"Go get some rest, Doll. I'll see you later." He ran a loving finger across her cheek while he spoke before retreating back into the car and rolling up the window. He was speeding off around the corner after that.

For some reason, even though he was gone and she'd gotten the date over, something still felt wrong. She decided to tell herself it was just the booze.


Through her inebriated haze, Odette was at least satisfied to see that Vienna had clothed herself. Her hair was sopping wet from a fresh shower, and her face was coated in a gray clay mask. Thea was at the table reading something.

"Oh, hi! You're home early," Vienna said. "I guess you didn't use my present."

"I'll kill you," Odette said dazedly, kicking off her heels next to the door. She grabbed Solene's ball out of her bag and opened it, allowing Solene to wobble over to the couch and throw herself onto it. Still sobering herself up, it looked like.

“Awwww, come on now, I’m just busting your balls,” Vienna whined, twirling a lock of her curly hair around her finger. She then held her hands out before her, beckoning for a hug.

“Give maman some sugar.”

“Just because you said it like that, no.”

Vienna stepped toward her. “Pleeeeassseee? I missed my little red-eye so much.”

Odette stared at her for a long while. She ultimately decided she couldn't say no and stepped over to lay her ringing head on Vienna's shoulder. The tension left her body when she felt her mother's fingers rub over the back of her neck. In the face of what some might call their “unconventional relationship,” Vienna somehow always knew what she needed. She was a good mum. A lunatic but still a good mum.

“Whatsa matter? You look more disgruntled than usual,” Vienna asked, letting her go. "Let me guess. Wine?"

“Too much wine,” Odette huffed, picking her head back up.

Vienna chuckled. “Can’t believe I birthed such a lightweight. I wish--” As she spoke, her eyes traveled down toward the floor. Her words abruptly stopped, and she reached down and grabbed Odette’s bandaged hand.

“Oh, that’s--”

Vienna furrowed her brows as she examined her palm. “What happened?”

“Yeah, that...” Odette yanked her hand away and began to caress it herself. “Bad glass broke in my hand. Nothing deep enough for stitches. Just needs to be re-bandaged.”

Vienna’s gaze became a little more intense, and she crossed her arms over her chest. “According to whom?”

Odette didn’t immediately have an answer for that. She had to close her eyes and think long and hard about why she was so sure.

“One of the first aid chanseys at the restaurant,” she recalled. It sounded right. “I trust their judgment.” Mostly because the thought of having to get stitches sent a chill down her back that matched the ones Dorien gave her. No, thank you.

Vienna paused to consider the statement, then chuckled. “Jeez, honey, if you needed a stress ball so badly, all you had to do was ask. I keep twenty in my desk at the lab.”

Odette let out a sardonic laugh as she leaned against the dining table. “I'm good, but thank you for the offer."

“So, what's the deal? He doesn't do it for you?” Vienna wondered.

Odette flared her nostrils. “I wouldn't say that," she lied. She wasn't quite sure how to word herself here. As much as she wanted to vent about what was happening, she'd promised to keep this under wraps. The less Vienna knew meant, the less she could tell Bernard, and the less she would get caught in the act of...whatever it was she had gotten herself into.

"It’s just...I don't know. Don't want to move too fast, you know?"

The fact that she was talking about this, even as an act, hurt.

“Good on you!" Vienna praised. "I could have learned a thing or two from somebody like you. Would have saved me from people like your sperm donor."

Odette’s nose crinkled in a grimace, as it always did when Vienna decided it would be a good idea to bring up her unknown father. “Well, anybody could have told you that messing around with someone twice your age was bad.”

“They did. I didn't listen,” Vienna said, shrugging. “But, how can I be regretful when I got your cute face out of it?” She reached out and squeezed Odette’s cheeks for good measure. “Red eyes and all.”

She let go and went toward the kitchen, where she dug around in the fridge for gods knew what. Odette silently watched her and let her head start to the right itself. She glanced over at Solene, who was on the verge of sleep. It actually made Odette more sleepy, too.

“I’m going to take a shower,” she announced.

“Left a lot of hot water. Don’t drown, love ya!” Vienna called.

She hobbled over to her bathroom door. Certainly, the hot water would bring her back entirely and allow her to adequately examine the day's events. Though, she wasn’t sure what was there to pick apart. Aside from her shitty luck with glassware, it was remarkably uneventful. At least from what she could recall. She really knew better than to drink that much, especially in the presence of such a problematic person.

What were she and Solene thinking?

However, she did manage to snag an invite to another place. He’d called it a gala, which undoubtedly meant many people would be there. A perfect opportunity to perhaps see past Dorien and look to his colleagues instead. She could even bring Noel to be a buffer if she needed it.

“Hey, maman?” she said. “This is probably a long shot, but do you have any designer-brand dresses I can borrow?”

She heard a cabinet slam and a chip bag crinkled. “Yeah, I stole a few from your nana. I don't know what'll fit you, but we can go through it later.”

Odette smiled and wearily pushed open the door, looking forward to the end of such an obnoxious day.
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- Virtue Corp? What a pretentiously descriptive name...
- The frick how did the Pokes learn the rules
- Sounds like fate! Or a series of unfortunate events.
- A hacker detective dancer? Sounds meme.
- And taking the plunge into possible doom...

- Opening right into things, and wow this guy with a line that makes you want to punch him in the face already
- Man I like no there used to be like no diffence between humans and Pokemon in the lore but man they are almost completely humanized here. The only thing seems to be the reader can't understand Poke talk
- I get the feeling this dude loves what he can't have
- Wonder if there's any lore with that line about Grimers
- Oh welp, just dropping a bomb there with bringing up what happened with Odette.
- Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot.
- Well this guy has no tact at all and if he is involved in the shiny smuggling trade I'm surprised he hasn't gotten axed yet, literally. If not by someone he pissed off, then for being a liability.
- Mistakes were made.
- The fuck did he use amnesia dust
- And a bizarre scene that I guess is supposed to be funny after?
- Very specific amnesia dust that only blanked out one specific thing for some reason.

Things continue to progress along, although Dorien continues to be a total weirdo who is even more of one whose actions sometimes don't seem to make any sense at all. I feel he's either going to be a genius mastermind or such an idiot it's a miracle he got this far, or because of his parents. Well, we'll see where it goes from here!
Chapter 7 - Something's Rotten in Kalos
Chapter 7 - Something's Rotten in Kalos
CW: Strong Language, Talk of Sex
This chapter was written over a four hour hospital stint and a series of antibiotic fueled nights, and has not been beta read. Therefore, it's a little chaotic and probably extremely long winded! Feel free to tear it up or be nice!

“Smell that? That’s the sweet scent of extravagance,” Noel said, adjusting his tuxedo coat. Freddy sat idly on his head, observing the glitz and glamour of the event.

“Somebody lives here,” Odette said. She had to remind herself that this was just the designated party room. There was actually an entire estate attached to this room. The crystal chandelier hanging over the dance floor and table seating area had to be the size of her entire apartment, and that alone filled her with a sense of inadequacy she didn’t think was possible.

Fross,” Isaur said dully. Her stomach growled, and she rubbed at it.

“I told you there would be food. Make like the ice-type you are and chill,” Odette scoffed.

Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal,” Freddy chirped, flapping his wings.

Behave,” Noel said, raising his right arm, which was clothed in his custom-made falconry glove. The black leather had been lined with glimmering gold piping, and there were crystals embedded into each one of the knuckles. It honestly looked like something Elton John would wear...if he trained flying types, of course.

“Normally, I'm all for you acting chaotic, but tonight's not the night," Noel said as Freddy lifted off his head and hovered down to land on his forearm.

Flay,” Freddy said, deflated. "Flayyy?"

Noel pursed his lips and then began to look around the immediate area. Odette followed his eyes questioningly for a moment before her gaze caught on a sprawling and almost imposing-looking sweets table. Two humans and two quagsire in waiter vests were handing out plates of finger foods. It was then she noticed several other quagsire and humans sauntering around with plates of odd looking hors d'oeuvres.

She pointed. "There's some desserts for you. You've clearly--"

Isaur and Freddy were halfway to the table before she'd even finished her thought.

"No, guys, I totally wasn't going to recommend we stay together," Noel scoffed, dropping his arm.

"Bringing Isaur to a place with endless food for a detective mission probably wasn't my smartest move," Odette mumbled. With a shallow breath, she tightened her arm around Noel’s and felt him return the favor.

Her eyes scanned the room, taking in the guests, their Pokemon, and whatever it was they were doing. She had to stop and stare at the amount of shiny Pokemon she saw before her. They were known to be rare, but from a cursory glance, you'd think they were a dime a dozen. Even so, there were a lot fewer than she would have anticipated seeing.

Nonetheless, "bizarre" wasn’t a strong enough word to describe it, but it was one of the only ones that made sense. Frustrating also came to mind too. How many of those Pokemon were caught rather than purchased through the stupid trade? Probably not a lot, and that thought alone was enough to make her grind her teeth.

“What is this, a shiny trade social?” Odette asked herself.

The cocktail hour had only started about ten minutes ago, but already there were hundreds of people standing around in their little groups of friends, drinks and finger foods in hand, laughing and carrying on about gods knew what. On a whim, she began to scan the crowd for a sign of Dorien’s styled brown hair and felt momentary relief when she couldn’t spot him. It wouldn’t be long before he came sauntering along, but she needed more time to mentally prepare herself before that happened. For now, all she focused on were the present shinies.

The more she looked, the more it became clear to her that they looked, well, ragged. Long faces, smiles few and far between. Most of them just lingered at their owner's heels, looking miserable while doing so.

Remorse filled her to the brim as thoughts of the rumors of abuse and mistreatment filled her head. Dorien's insistence that they wanted to be in the trade willingly seemed like an overexaggerated fib.

Why don't they fight back if they look so upset? she thought hopelessly.

The sound of breaking glass drew her attention far off to her right. She could clearly see a young man in a waiter vest kneeling down and staring wide-eyed at the tray of drinks spilled all over the polished marble floor. Standing over him was a woman in a flowing yellow gown, a shiny ponyta at her side. Odette watched the woman's painted lips curl over her teeth, and she kicked a shard of glass aside, making the poor waiter flinch.

"Watch it," she spat, waving her Chanel clutch at him. "These are Louboutins! Don't soil what you can't afford!"

As the waiter sputtered out an apology, Odette turned her attention to the ponyta. The horse watched on with despondent eyes. Its head was slightly lowered like it was somehow waiting for the woman's wrath to turn on it next. Even its ears were flat, a telltale sign that it was not having a good time. At all.

Odette then realized--not only were the Pokemon being bought and sold like property but they were perpetually stuck in the presence of wealthy brats like that woman. That would run anybody ragged on its own.

She wanted so badly to go over there and help the waiter clean up. But, when she saw nobody moving to do the same, she was forced to brush that idea aside. She was already entering the room at a disadvantage, and she didn't need to make things harder for herself by putting herself out in a way the regulars weren't. It stung, but she'd have to endure it and deal with the karma that followed.

At the very least, if she wasn't convinced to get to the bottom of this before, she certainly did now.

“Well, I will say this,” Noel spoke, taking her attention away from the disturbing scene. “For a couple of flat dwellers, we clean up nicely.”

That she could agree with. Noel looked absolutely fantastic in his tuxedo, and the red carnation he had pinned to his lapel simply pulled the whole look together. Not to mention, the flower's hue matched the color of her Ralph Lurantis dress, the one gown in her mother’s small closet of higher-end clothes that actually slipped up around her butt.

The dress was form-fitting, deep red, and didn’t suit her style whatsoever. She felt somewhat exposed in something so tight, but at the very least, it seemed like she’d adequately dressed this time around. So, she decided she’d suck it up for the next couple of hours, and sink all her focus into trying to find some answers to her questions.

“If we can get our hands on some champagne, maybe we’ll feel like we’re part of the club,” Odette cracked, nodding her head toward a nearby table. There were flutes of the golden liquid lined up in expertly spaced rows for anybody to take if they were to walk by. She'd have to watch herself lest she got too drunk again in Dorien's presence. However, one glass wouldn't hurt.

“You had me at champagne,” Noel replied, leading her over to it before he was even finished speaking. He grabbed two and handed one to her before holding his out as if seeking a toast.

“To our debut into high society. Let’s see what the fuck happens tonight,” he said. Odette merely nodded and tapped her cup to his. They sipped together before continuing onward into the room.

“So,” Odette started. “I know you said you wanted to stick together, but maybe we should follow our 'mon's leads and split up?"

Noel was quiet for a moment as he sipped. He cleared his throat. "Probably, yes. You should probably go find your boyfriend first,” he suggested. “Surely, he'll be hanging around all the suspicious parties, right?”

Odette shuddered to herself. “I’m positive. But I feel like venturing outside the realm of Bonhomme will give us a broader scope. I mean, look at these Pokemon. They look miserable."

“Maybe we should use our collective sex appeal and go straight for seduction,” Noel chuckled as he drank more. Odette shot a glare at him.

“Not my jam, but you have fun with that,” she said.

Noel started to nudge her playfully when a loud gasp hit her ears. Noel heard it too, and began to dart his eyes around, looking for the source. It came in the form of a middle-aged woman, who rushed right up to Noel with her purple-hued audino in tow. Its eyes were downcast, so Odette couldn't get a good look at its face. Audino were normally very happy Pokemon, so seeing one so reserved and upset looking added to how disheartening this all was.

“Oh my goodness,” the middle-aged woman said. “Are you Noel Massé?”

Noel blinked rapidly, evidently caught quite off-guard by the question. “Yes,” he said tentatively. He returned his bearings quickly because his lips spread into a suave smile. “How can I help you?”

“I knew it was you!” she said. She grabbed his hand and began to shake it eagerly. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I’m Lissette Archamault. I watch a lot of shows at the Lumiose center, and I just wanted to say that I’m a huge fan of yours! You were fantastic in Cabaret, and I’m so excited for Purrloins!

Noel was very obviously flattered by the introduction, but he seemed particularly caught by this woman’s name. Or, at least, that's what Odette was certainly stuck on. An entire part of the theater was dubbed “The Lisette Archamault Wing” to honor this woman and her frequent and obscenely generous donations to the institution.

“Wow, I’m so honored!” Noel said. He was absolutely brimming with excitement, and Odette bit her tongue to keep from giggling. Seeing him get so worked up was really a fun thing to witness. A little beacon of light in this room of disguised darkness they'd just entered.

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to introduce you to my husband and a couple of our friends,” the woman said. “My husband could talk your ear off about the original run of Purrloins, it’s his absolute favorite.” She paused. “Unless this is a bad time, I’d hate to pull you away from your gorgeous date.”

Noel hurriedly held up his hands, sputtering over his words. “No, no! Hold that thought, please!”

He turned, grabbed Odette by her wrist, and pulled her a couple of feet away. When he was sure they were out of earshot, he turned to her and immediately clasped his hands together.

So,” he started politely. “I know we’re playing detective right now, but--”

Odette shook her head jokingly. “Go. Maybe she’ll tell you something juicy while her husband chats you up about your Mistoffelees.”

His eyes lit up, but they quickly dimmed with concern. “Are you sure? I know this is not exactly--”

“You can still play detective while you try to convince rich theater patrons to further your acting career,” she said. “I’ll just go find my boyfriend in the meantime.” The words felt like battery acid on her lips, but that wasn’t the main point.

Noel exhaled deeply, grabbed her cheeks, and planted a long kiss on her forehead. “Keep your phone on.”

“Of course.”

She watched him rush back over to the rich lady and lock arms with her. He shook hands with the quiet audino before they walked off. Career advancement surely was not the reason they were here, but Odette wasn’t going to be the one to hold him back from it.

She was beaming at the fact that such an esteemed and frequent guest of the center recognized him and even called herself a fan. Noel’s talents had been pretty acclaimed since he broke out onto the scene not too long ago, but witnessing something like that, no matter the place, was pretty nice. It meant he was getting somewhere, and it meant there was still a lot in store for him. She was a very proud friend.

On the other hand, she felt momentarily offended that she also hadn’t been recognized like that. Sure, she’d been called ‘gorgeous,’ but that didn’t hold a candle to being told one has a fan. But there was nothing more to expect. She didn’t step out onstage with Noel. She stuck herself behind the curtain, where she thought she’d thrive just as well.

It wasn’t working out that way, though. The part of her that wanted to be the next Diantha was aching, but that unshakeable sense of stage fright was too much to overcome.

It was simply too hard to be okay.

She grimaced to herself as the smell of cigarette smoke flew past her nose. Upon slightly turning her head, she was jarred by the realization she had mindlessly wandered into the designated smoking area. Seeing all of the apparent socialites standing around, fraternizing over the cancer sticks wasn’t necessarily an out-of-place thing. Kalosians just loved their damn cigarettes.

Her eyes roved from one redhead in a sparkling green dress to a robust-looking man in a standard black tux. He released a bellowing laugh, and the men around him also began laughing. She scoffed to herself.

Something’s fu--

“Well, something’s damn funny, isn’t it?”

The crack had come out of the one person standing closest to her. He was leaning over the barricading fence that separated this higher level from the dining area, his hands clasped together lightly. His head was turned in the direction of the laughing man so that all Odette could see was the back of his silver-grey head of hair and the snom sitting on his shoulder. She couldn’t help but notice his suit too. It was a striking slate grey, nearly matching his hair color.

He turned his head, giving Odette a good look at his profile. A cleanly shaven and defined jawline, topped by a delicate nose. A smoking cigarette hung from between his teeth, and he moved a hand to grasp it between two fingers.

“Maybe he realized he weighs as much as his net worth,” Odette said. She hadn’t planned to say it as loud as she did, and she only realized her mistake when the man started quietly chuckling. Odette took a long, slow sip of her drink, hoping that was going to be the end of the interaction. She felt out of place as it was, but part of her figured that making fun of a regular was a bad move.

“Congratulations, that might be the funniest joke I’ve heard all night,” he said as he pulled the cigarette out of his mouth.

Om!” the snom squeaked.

She side-eyed the man before fully turning back to face him, seeing he was now looking at her. With a frontal view, it was entirely clear to her that he was...


If a god was specifically in charge of designing humans, they took care of him. She could see just how strikingly blue his eyes were. She didn’t even think eyes could get to that shade of blue.

She blinked slowly at him as if trying to ward off a mirage. His smile wavered, and she caught him looking her up and down. She felt a wave of self-consciousness wash over her, and she cleared her throat and turned her eyes away from him.

“That’s unfortunate to hear, I wasn't even trying,” she said, then sipped her champagne.

There were a couple of seconds of silence. Assuming the man had just decided to ignore her, she let relief fill her core.

“I'm going to come right out and ask instead of wondering for the rest of the night,” he suddenly said. "If you don't mind me inquiring, are you wearing high heels?"

The frown took over her lips before she even had a chance to register the question. "If you don't mind me inquiring, is that your natural hair color?" she shot back.

"Mm, no," he replied, not missing a beat. "It's Wella 050."

She wasn't entirely expecting him to answer seriously. Now, the ball was back in her court. She released a loud, relenting sigh.

"Yes. Stilettos might I add." She paused as she furrowed her brow. "Why?"

He took another puff, this time taking time to exhale the smoke. "Curiosity. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking."

"What if I'd decided to kick you?"

He chuckled again, then shrugged. "I guess I'll spend the night in the hospital, then." He was awfully chipper about that thought.

"Are you always this forthright with strangers?"

Another shrug from him. “Some people tell me I'm too blunt for my own good, and I don't necessarily disagree. I'd call it my fatal flaw,” he said. He reached over a nearby ashtray and dabbed his cigarette. He then held it up as if gesturing to it.

“Can I offer you one as an apology?”

She was almost insulted. “Pass. Smoking is a singer’s death wish.”

Provided you still sang publicly, she thought bitterly.

He raised a brow as those bright blue eyes filled with minute confusion. “You’re in the designated smoking area,” he retaliated smoothly. He inhaled another puff before blowing the smoke out in her direction. “I figured that's what you were here for. No need for the snootiness.”

Odette fanned the smoke away lazily. She noticed the aroma also had a tinge of fruitiness to it. She assumed that was coming off his natural breath, which was...nice? No, it wasn’t. Blowing smoke in somebody’s face like that was a rude thing to do. She felt a twang of anger and tightened her grip on her drink.

“Just stating a fact,” she said stiffly.

"Well, if you must know, they lace these particular sticks with pecha berries, so it actually eliminates lung buildup entirely.”

Ah, so that explained the fruity smell. She flexed the corners of her lips, trying to suppress the buildup of a sarcastic remark. It didn’t quite work. “Well, if my mimikyu partner ever decides to take up smoking, I’ll be sure to pick those up at the chemist. He's got a pecha obsession.”

A smirk caressed his lips as he turned his whole body to face her, leaning his hand on the fence. He fished in his inner jacket pocket, then withdrew an unmarked cigarette carton.

“This one little package will run you about €3,000. So good luck with that.”

Om! Ommmmmmm.”

Odette’s eyes narrowed, and that prickle started to intensify. She was allowed to make fun of herself for being poor in comparison to most of the people in this room, but who was this guy and his bug to assume she couldn’t afford a €3,000 pack of cigarettes?

“What makes you think I don’t have that chunk of change sitting in my trust fund?”

Another exhalation of smoke from him. He reached up and scratched the snom on its head. The gesture was so damn cute, and the urge to swoon broke through her desire to punch him in the chest. The conflicting emotions startled her.

What’s wrong with you?

“Because most of the spoiled brats here would be too scared to insult one another that pointedly out loud,” he scoffed. “They prefer to do it the old-fashioned way--behind each other’s backs. Which leads me to believe you’re not one of the spoiled brats.”

That...wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Her guard began to fall back down to size, and the anger started to fade.

“Plus, I’ve never seen your face before, so I was partially running on an assumption on that end,” he added sheepishly.

“...right,” she said.

His snarky grin turned friendly as he held his hand out. “Let me start over. I’m Clovis,” he introduced himself. “And this is Powdered Sugar.” He nodded toward his tiny friend, and it beamed as if it had just been given an esteemed award.


Odette didn’t fully realize how attracted she was to tall hot men and their small partners until that moment.

Okay, okay, she thought. Get a fucking grip.

She eyed him for a split second, taking that time to pull her thoughts back together. She then approached and took a firm hold of his hand.

“Odette,” she replied. She figured leaning on the railing next to him would be okay. He didn’t protest, instead just returning his attention to his smoke.

"So, Odette," Clovis began. "What's a non-brat like you doing at a gathering like this?"

"Oh, you know, the usual," she replied. "Talking about the loads of money I keep under my bed and the six sports cars I never drive I keep in my garage."

That got another chuckle out of him. It was a tinkly little noise that intensified the odd warmth in her chest. "You only have six? That's unfortunate. I was talking to someone who had ten."

"Damn. I need to step my game up, then."

"I'm not much of a car person, honestly," Clovis said. He took another drag, burning the cigarette close to its end. "I'm far more into fashion. I feel that's always the better investment. Though, I'm sure you know that. You must have paid a fortune for that dress."

"Oh, you think I had to pay for this myself?" Odette queried, dramatically holding her hand over her chest. "Please. This is a custom Ralph Lurantis. He makes all my dresses personally, free of charge."

"No kidding," he gasped, covering his mouth with the back of his hand as he bluffed shock. "I've been bugging that old bat to custom make me a suit for years. How the hell did you manage?"

"With my stellar charisma, how else?"

"Shit, and here I am settling for a measly store-bought Comme De Garchomp set. You're in the big leagues."

"Too bad these lovely knockoff Jimmy Chinchou heels don't bring me up to the height requirement for the big leagues."

More chuckles. Louder this time. “Are you sure I can’t offer you a cigarette?” he asked as he put the butt of his out on the ashtray. "I do owe you an apology. Knockoff Jimmy Chinchou's are nothing to scoff at."

“As much as I appreciate the gesture, do you want to watch me choke to death?”

He rolled his eyes, flipping the carton open. He pulled out two of the sticks, biting down on one and handing the other to her. “Don’t be so dramatic. One won’t kill your singing lungs. Besides, don’t you know all the best singers smoke everything under the sun?”

“And look where a lot of them are now,” she sneered, taking it with a hesitant twitch of her fingers. She took a moment to down what was left of her champagne. Unsure of what to do with the glass, she set it on an ashtray. Clovis didn't move to chastise her for it, so she supposed it was okay.

“I’ve never ingested smoke that wasn’t being emitted by a chandelure," she admitted.

Clovis had suddenly produced a lighter. When she looked up, his cigarette was already lit, and he was holding the artificial flame out to her. She bit down on her own, and he held the flame up to the tip.

“Pretend it’s a straw for a second, so the tobacco lights,” he explained. “Don’t inhale yet; just suck.”

Something of a dirty joke looped around her frontal lobe, and she gnawed into the cigarette's tip until she forgot about it. She did as she was instructed, and soon the cancer stick was ignited.

“Okay, now you want to inhale just a little. You don’t want to overload yourself on the first drag,” Clovis continued as he pocketed the lighter.

She took a slow, shallow breath. She could feel the smoke going into her mouth and snaking down her throat while a fruity, flowery flavor spread over her palate. It wasn’t the nasty processed pecha flavoring chemist companies like to put in their medicines, it legitimately tasted like there were real pecha berries in the cigarette. She supposed with a €3,000 price tag, she shouldn’t have expected much less.

She felt a tickle start to form in her throat and took that as a sign to exhale. She didn’t want to push it, lest she actually break out into a coughing fit, and she didn’t want to embarrass herself much more in front of him. She removed the cigarette from her mouth and breathed out slowly, watching as the berry smoke swirled up to mesh with the giant nicotine cloud floating overhead.

Clovis raised his brows, impressed. “And you said you were going to choke to death. Look at you.”

“Fast learner, I know.”

He snickered, and she watched him take a long drag from his stick. His mouth went slack, and some smoke began seeping out. He inhaled it back through his nose before it could get too far, then blew it out altogether. Odette had to turn her head away to hide the pink that had started forming on her face again. She’d never thought of smoking as something attractive, but dear gods...

Get. A. Fucking. Grip.

“So. Chandelure? Mimikyu? I take it you’re a ghost-type trainer?” he queried.

She jumped at the sound of the question. “Oh,” she said quickly. “Sort of. More a general magical-type specialist,” she told him. “So ghosts, a fairy, a psychic…”

That seemed to pique his interest because he leaned a little closer to her. “Wait, that’s neat,” he said. There was a sense of mild excitement in his tone. “I don’t know a lot of full magical-type trainers. What’s your team?”

Odette felt all the air deflate from her head. This was getting to be a little much. She’d had maybe one or two crushes before, but nothing like this. “Ah, w-ell,” she stammered. “I have a chandelure, a mimikyu, a gothitelle, a sylveon, and a--”

She felt something cold barrel into the back of her legs. “Fross! Lass!” it said.

She peered down to see Isaur with a plate full of hors d'oeuvres. Her cheeks were full of something, so much so she could barely speak. But she was beaming nonetheless.

Odette stared at her for a moment, then laughed. “Hey, foodie, how are you faring? Where’s Freddy?”

“Ossssssssss,” Isaur said, shrugging. She shoved something that looked like the remains of a chicken kebab in her mouth. Odette was shocked she even had room for it.

Well, the answer wasn't helpful. Hopefully, Freddy had found Noel wherever he was.

“As I was saying, I have froslass partner as well. This is Isaur,” Odette gestured to her partner and peered back at Clovis but was momentarily shocked to find him kneeling down to Isaur’s height. His eyes sparkled with interest.

“Why didn’t you start with that?” he said. He outstretched a friendly hand to the froslass, who looked confused.

“Good evening, Isaur. I’m Clovis. I do hope you’re enjoying yourself,” he greeted.

Om! Om om!” Snom squeaked.

Isaur took a second to stare at him. Something of a giggle fell out of her, and she floated over and grabbed hold of his fingers with her free hand.

Fross,” she purred.

“The pleasure’s mine,” Clovis said with a nod. He shook her hand, then released it and stood up. Still giggling, Isaur floated back behind Odette’s legs, where she sat down and poked her head out shyly. Isaur wasn’t a shy Pokemon by any means, so seeing her reduced to a laughing mess like that was bizarre. It seemed he was having a similar effect on both of them.

“Let me guess,” Odette said incredulously. “Ice-type trainer?”

“Was it obvious?” Clovis asked.

“The snom partner, the silver hair, the blue eyes, the way you schmoozed a froslass. I can see it,” Odette said coyly, bringing the cigarette back to her mouth.

He held his hands out to his sides bashfully. “Read me like a book."

"One of my many hidden talents," she said, the confidence clear in her voice. "Are you from Snowbelle?"

Clovis shook his head. “No, actually,” he said. “I just figure skated competitively for--" He caught himself, then cleared his throat. Panic flashed in his eyes for a short moment, gone as quickly as it appeared. She might have missed it if she wasn’t staring right at him.

“Actually, that’s not important,” he said easily as if trying to brush it off.

She didn’t peg him as an artistic type, especially not one to engage in a dance-based activity. But hearing that caused the astronomically sized crush she had to grow. She suddenly had so many more questions. However, it was clear he didn’t want to discuss it, so she decided it would be best not to press.

Maybe he was trying to...hide his age? Was he older than he looked? She tried not to frown at the thought. Instead, she attempted to find the words to fill the sudden gap in their conversation and almost panicked when nothing came to mind. But, she needn’t have bothered.

“Hey, LeClair!”

Good things couldn’t last, could they? She felt like she’d been on cloud nine while she was alone with this man and was immediately shot down to hell at the sound of Dorien’s voice. He emerged at Clovis's side no sooner had his words carried through the smoking area.

“Hey, Bonhomme,” Clovis said cooly. Odette watched in silent horror as Dorien eagerly raised a closed fist, and the two touched knuckles.

They were...friends?

Dorien leaned against Clovis’s shoulder. “I see you've already met my date," he said. Odette very nearly threw up.

"Your date?" Clovis repeated.

"Yes! This is the guest I invited, remember?” Dorien asked. “I told you about her yesterday.”

Oh!" Clovis said excitedly, some realization hitting him. He turned and pointed at her with the cigarette. "You’re the one who beat his ass at the Pokemon school."

Odette forced a smile and heard Isaur sigh deeply at her feet. “Yep. That was me,” she said.

Clovis took a long drag, barely able to hold down his laughter. “Well, I’m not entirely shocked by that,” he said after pulling it out of his mouth. His voice sounded strained until he exhaled the smoke directly into Dorien’s face. “He sucks.”

Dorien began to cough, but it gave way to some chuckles as he fanned the gas away. But Odette couldn’t help but notice how forced it sounded.

“Not only are you a liar, but your words mean nothing considering you train ice types,” Dorien commented. Surely, he meant it jokingly, but an edge to his tone made it sound serious. Clovis's grin morphed into something more wicked.

“You say that, and yet,” he said, shrugging his shoulders in an exaggerated fashion. “How many times have I beaten you?"

Dorien sucked in a deep breath, and Odette noticed his jaw clench. “Don't act all high and mighty, I've bested you many times. Remember, I still have the type advantage.”

“Which means it stings more when I win, huh,” Clovis said. That grin didn’t falter, even as he brought the cigarette back to his mouth. “Let me know when you want to admit you’re salty about it.”

“Me? Admit I’m salty? That’s not a gentlemanly thing to do,” Dorien said politely.

“It wouldn’t be the first thing about you that isn’t gentlemanly, sweet cheeks.” A pause, and he clamped Dorien on the shoulder. “Just kidding, you’re a chip off the old block.”

"Oh, you’re so full of it. I could say the same about you!”

Their respective smiles were growing nastier by the minute. After a couple of long, almost excruciating seconds of silence, Clovis suddenly reached over and snuffed out the half-smoked cigarette on the ashtray.

Maybe they weren’t friends.

“Well, that’s enough back-and-forth for me. I should go make my rounds,” he declared. He reached up and patted Dorien twice on the cheek. “I’ll catch you at dinner, salty man. If you see Denis, Adam, Lionel, or Colin, tell them I said hello.”

Odette's ears perked at the names, but she couldn't speak before Dorien did.

"Will do, you damn jokester.”

From the way Dorien jaw remained clenched and the way Clovis's brow twitched, it was all too obvious to her that it there was bad blood there, and neither one of them wanted to acknowledge it.

Clovis then approached Odette. Before she could do anything, he planted a friendly kiss on each of her cheeks. She returned the gesture shakily, praying to the gods he wouldn’t feel how fast she was heating up.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Odette."

“Frossss!” Isaur said affectionately, eagerly floating up to Clovis's face.

He chuckled, and the two of them exchanged friendly cheek kisses as well.

"And it was a pleasure meeting you too, Isaur." he said.

Snommm!” Powdered Sugar said gleefully.

Clovis walked off without another word, shoving his hands in his pockets as he went. Odette waited a second before turning around to watch him go, and boy…she wished she had a photographic memory.

“Your face is a little red, are you getting a fever?”

She flinched and turned to see Dorien leaning his head far too close to her shoulder. She had half a mind to scream in his face. Instead, she sucked her teeth and brought the lit cigarette to her lips, where she chomped down on the tip of it.

“Hm. Must be the smoke,” she muttered, forcing herself to ignore the urge to sidestep away. She heard Isaur grumble to herself unintelligibly.

“I was going to introduce you guys at dinner, but I guess this works too,” Dorien laughed. “He gave you one of his cigs, that definitely means you made a good impression.”

She hated to admit it, but she eagerly whipped her head toward him. “You can tell?”

“Sure, yeah,” Dorien said. “We’re best friends, I know him very well.”

She couldn’t help but raise a brow. “You’re best friends?”

Dorien cleared his throat as he curled his arm around her waist. “Oh, yes. Super close,” he said. "We rib each other, but it's all in good fun."

The doubt she felt was astronomical.

“If there’s anybody you want to be friendly with, it’s Clovis LeClair. He might be one of the richest people in the building tonight. Worth billions,” Dorien added.

Of fucking course he is, she thought.

“He’s richer than you? I love to hear it,” she said, allowing the slightest bit of edge to peek out.

“The LeClairs are involved in multiple business ventures around the world, so of course, that’s more lucrative than dealing in the shiny trade of one region.” He said it like he'd had that line rehearsed. Was that something he talked about frequently?

And more humane, she thought. She wanted to say it out loud. Instead, she just nodded along.

"But enough about me," Dorien continued. He stepped in front of her, moving his hands to her hips while he eyed her hungrily. She could barely hear a growl from Isaur and had half a mind to growl herself. His hands on her hips felt slimy.

She felt slimy for letting them stay there.

"That dress looks absolutely scrumptious on you. Did you wear that for me?" he asked, clutching onto the fabric while his lips formed a lustful smile. Odette suddenly wanted to put out the lit cigarette on his eyeball.

"How'd you know?" she said in a drawl, turning her head to look up at him. She stuck the cancer stick back between her lips and took another drag, maintaining her half-lidded eye contact as she did. That appeared to send him into a frenzy because he inhaled sharply as he placed his forehead against hers. She could smell the mint on his breath and whatever expensive cologne he'd dabbed behind his ears, and it caused some bile to rise in her throat. Isaur moved at her feet, and she extended her leg ever-so-slightly to bar the froslass from doing anything rash.

"You're playing a dangerous game, looking at me like that," Dorien said in a sultry purr. "Especially wearing that, my god. I'm almost jealous that everybody gets to see you in it. But I love showing you off."

"Mm," she responded, pressing her lips together tightly as she spun the cigarette in her fingers. It'd be so easy to just put it out on his face. His cheek was right fucking there.

"Good to know you like it that much. I'll keep that in mind." And by that, she meant she would have Ange burn the dress when she got home. She'd buy her maman a new one someday to make up for it.

Thankfully, Dorien pulled his head back and began to eye her again. He pursed his lips in a quizzical fashion before talking. "Normally, I don't like that color, actually. But on you? Mama mia." He paused to think for a second, then offered a playful grin. "That's a musical, right? See, I know a thing or two about Broadway."

Gods, she wanted to stab him.

"I'm so proud of you," she said. She had more to say, but somebody cleared their throat, and they sounded very close. She looked over her shoulder to see Noel standing with Freddy on his gloved arm. The bird was holding a glass of water in his beak, and Odette locked eyes with him. Freddy nodded once as if gesturing to the glass.

“Man, Dee, smoking? I’m disappointed in you," Noel chastised, shaking his head.

“Oh, Noel!” Dorien gasped, loosening his hold on Odette. “Odie didn’t tell me you and your partner were coming too. Colin's walking around somewhere; I'm sure he'd love to see you.”

Panic surged within Noel's eyes. However, he didn't let his smile waver. “Oh, wonderful," he said strongly. "Dee here really likes to keep important things like that to herself, I guess."

Odette now realized she heard right. She didn't know who Lionel was, but Colin, Adam, and Denis were old schoolmates, ones she wasn't expecting to see here. Though they were always hanging around that clique of rich kids, so perhaps it wasn't that shocking. What was it with the good-looking rich boys and such a fucked up institution? Was there something about it that gave them perfect teeth and pretty eyes?

Noel was playing it cool, but Odette could see he looked a little pained, as he always did when anybody brought up his ex-boyfriends...especially when it involved actually seeing them. He and Colin weren't together very long, since Noel and anything "long-term" and "romantic" never went together. And he liked to keep it that way.

Still, Odette took the awkward conversation as an opportunity to wriggle out of Dorien's arms, desperate to get her hands on that water. She approached Noel, and Freddy extended his neck to give her the glass.

"Thank you," she mouthed as she began to sip it. She didn't realize how much anger she was withholding until the water went down her throat. It replenished the energy she'd lost to playing a bimbo and keeping herself from throwing a table through one of the windows.

Noel stepped around her and held his free hand out to Dorien, who took it without hesitation. Moving along with the conversation, it seemed.

“How have you been? Haven't seen you since graduation,” Dorien said. “I hear you’re doing great things at the performing arts center.”

Noel chuckled bashfully. Well, fake bashfully. That certainly wasn’t his real shy laugh. “Naturally, just living my own dream,” he said whimsically as Freddy fluttered his wings. Now feeling more awake, Odette was taken aback when she watched her friend’s bright smile turn lustful.

“But let's be real here,” he said in a borderline whisper. “I could be doing great things to you if you’d give me the chance, Bonhomme.”

Noel brought Dorien’s hand to his lips without warning and placed a long, firm kiss on it. He didn’t stop until Dorien jerked his hand back.

Odette’s absolute disgust turned to unbridled humor when she saw sweat forming on Dorien’s brow. He was doing a horrible job in masking his uncomfortableness with the situation, what with the way he gritted his teeth through his forced smile and rubbed at his hand as if he’d just been bitten by a parasect.

Isaur began to snicker, and Odette nudged her roughly to shut her up. She sipped the rest of the water to keep herself from laughing too.

"Noel, leave him alone," she whined, straining herself to keep up an annoyed tone.

“L-isten,” Dorien stammered. “I don’t go that way. I’ve never been into that. I can find Colin if you're looking for a hookup, but I'm taken.”

Noel blinked a few times, then cocked his head to the side innocently. Questioningly. He then exchanged looks with Freddy, who looked equally as confused. “Really? No side flings? I totally thought you at least went both ways.”

"Noel!" Odette gasped, smacking him lightly on the shoulder. He met her eye, and she could see the mischievous shine in his. "Come on, I told you we were kind of a thing now."

Noel feigned shock really well. "Ohhhhhhhh," he said. "It's like...official official. Got it. I'm sorry, I must have missed the memo."

"Yeah, I suppose telling you while you were drunk wasn't my smartest choice," Odette sighed, proud of how regretful she sounded. It felt like a nice improvised touch.

Dorien’s expression fell. He dropped his hands to his sides before tucking them behind his back. He inhaled deeply as if trying to compose himself.

“That's right. Official official," he breathed. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I need to excuse myself. I think my father’s business partner is calling me, so I'll leave you two to it for a bit."

Without warning, he sidestepped back around Noel and looped his arm around Odette's waist, pulling her into his chest. He leaned in and planted a deep, heavy kiss on her lips. The gesture's absolute abruptness instinctively caused Odette to suck in her lips, and she positioned herself to bash him over the head with her water glass.

Stage kiss, stage kiss, stage kiss, you're acting. This is fake.

She exhaled sharply, allowing herself to fall into the kiss numbly. She stalled all conscious thought while coaxing all tenseness from her body, trying to mimic coming down from the surprise. When she felt heavy again, she rested the hand holding the cigarette on Dorien's shoulder. He finally pulled away after what seemed like an hour, now wearing a triumphant smile over his lipstick-stained lips.

"I'll come back and get you in a bit, Doll," he said, thumbing the corner of his mouth. He then lowered his voice to a whisper. "Hope that was official enough."

He released her and shot a glare over his shoulder at Noel before storming off.

Odette kept her eyes locked on the floor, blinking every so often. She could feel the cigarette in her fingers and the cold glass against her palm. Her lips were still sizzling where Dorien had left his mark. She could feel Isaur patting her on the cheek. Slowly but surely, she was restarting herself.

"Blink twice if you need a breath mint. Blink once if you're going to throw up," Noel urged, placing a hand on her shoulder.

She took a long time to register what he was saying. She felt dizzy, but her stomach had settled enough to where she was sure she wouldn't vomit.

She gave Noel two long, hard blinks.

Noel nodded, then jolted his gloved arm, prompting Freddy to hover over to the ashtray. Noel then reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a pack of Altoids. He flicked the pack open and handed it to her.

That was enough to pull her the rest of the way out of her haze. She dropped the cigarette and lunged for the metal box. She snatched up four of the white tablets and threw them into her mouth without thinking twice about it. Her body deflated again, and she hung her head in a mixture of exhaustion and an onslaught bout of shame.

"Damn, he really thinks you're dating," Noel scoffed, leaning down to pick the cigarette up. Odette took that opening to smack him on the back.

"Yeah, no shit, honey," she said in a huff. "Why the fuck did you do that?"

She really should have been livid, but the look on Dorien's face was far too funny.

"I'm sorry, I figured you needed the laugh, and I didn't think he was gonna do that. Are you okay?" he asked as he stood upright.

With a couple of timed breaths, it was safe to say that she wouldn't explode. She was damn near ready to crack his skull open. But no. She got it; she was in control.

The kiss was fake. She was acting. She could control herself. She was in control. She could have stopped that if she wanted to, and she knew that.

She knew that...

"I'm good. His reaction was worth it, and that's unfortunately not the first time he's kissed me," she said in disgust. "Are you okay? He said 'Colin,' and you looked like you were going to shrivel up."

Noel pressed his lips into a flat line, adjusted his coat, and pushed through a partially forced, yet snarky, smile. "A little bit. But I'll be fine. I don't want any old affairs raining on my parade right now."

She supposed she could accept that answer. For now. She had other things she wanted to ask, anyway.

“Do you really think Dorien's got a thing for men?”

Noel scoffed. “No. I happen to know that the best way to get under any heterosexual misogynist's skin is to question their straightness. Though I did have a bit of a crush on him back in the day, sorry about it.”

Talooooon,” Freddy commented flatly.

Odette nodded slowly, taking time to realize she found the remark funny. She snickered once, turning her head to exchange a look with Isaur, who was staring at her with lowered brows.

“You’re a little shit,” Odette said back to Noel. She straightened her posture and began to rub her temple. "You couldn’t have picked a better time to show up, but don't fucking do that again."

"Yes ma'am, sorry ma'am," he replied.

"So, where did your fans take you?”

Noel offered a half smile as he reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a handful of folded napkins and business cards. At least he wasn't pressing anymore on what had just happened.

There had to be about four slips of paper in his hand, and Odette wasn’t quite sure what she was looking at until she snatched a card and looked at it. It was indeed a standard business card, but a handwritten number and a note were on the back.

555-8910, personal phone
Call me ♡

She raised a brow at him. “What the hell is wrong with you? What happened to getting juicy information?”

“I can mine for info and window shop at the same time,” Noel said. “You wouldn’t believe how many of these trust fund boomers will pay out the ass to enjoy themselves thoroughly, you know?”

"Tal!" Freddy said.

“I didn’t know you were trying to be a sugar baby now.”

Noel snatched the card away from her. “That college tuition debt isn’t going to pay itself.” He pointed to the card. “This guy? Owns the Battle Maison in Kiloude. He’s fucking rolling in it.”

Odette blinked a few times to mask her puzzlement. “Noel, isn’t he like fifty? And married?”

All she got in response to that was a wink. She knew it wouldn’t be worth getting into it with him; nothing would stop him from his flings. She supposed she had no room to get on his ass, considering she’d just spent several minutes trying to talk to a guy who was leaps and bounds outside her socioeconomic standing and then kissed the guy she wanted to strangle.

I was in control. Could have stopped if I wanted.

Shaking off that thought, she wondered how Noel made it seem so easy. They’d barely been separated for 20 minutes, and he had managed to get his hands on the feelings of not one but possibly four men. As questionable of a talent as it might have been, she couldn’t help but be impressed by it. And for once, envious. She’d have loved to have walked away from that conversation with Clovis with his contact in her hand, but she was just royally incapable of imposing such a request on him.

Noel wrapped his arm around her shoulders and began to lead her out of the smoking area, but not before leaning down and picking up the cigarette she had dropped. He tossed it onto the ashtray Freddy was sitting on.

“Look at it like this. Sex is the best way to get somebody talking. I'm sure letting Dorien mack on you is doing wonders."

"I'm whittling away at him, for sure," she said confidently. Though, whether she was assuring Noel or herself was hard to tell.

"Also, since when the fuck do you smoke? I know you’re taking a break from using your chops, but jeeze.”

She shook her head. “Somebody offered, and I couldn’t say no.”


Dinner time rolled around rather quickly. Odette and Noel had spent so much time scrounging around, trying their best to mingle in with the crowd, that they’d barely noticed people moving to sit at the formally set tables until Dorien came and found them. It looked like he had recovered from his moment of awkwardness because he acted as if nothing had happened. He directed them to his table, which was already seated with humans, but no Pokemon.

Odette quickly noticed that most of the guests returned their Pokemon to their balls as they went to sit. It wasn’t enough for her to warrant doing that with Isaur, especially with Dorien being as handsy as he was, but it struck her as peculiar. Most of the patrons at that fancy restaurant had their 'mons out, so why not here?

“Everyone,” Dorien said when they approached. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “This is my date, Odette, her partner Isaur, my old schoolmate Noel, and Freddy! They’ll be sitting with us tonight, so please be nice. I'm sure some of you already know them, actually."

Odette gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to twist his arm off of her. However, he let her go just in time for his friends to stand and greet them.

“My goodness, your lips look fantastic,” one woman said. “Are they natural, or do you get them done? My last plastic surgeon retired, so I’m in the market for a new one.”

Odette stared at her for a long while, trying to gauge how to answer. “Uh,” she stammered, blinking rapidly as she tried to come up with an answer that would make sense. "They're...natural. But my nana goes to Baby-Doll Eyes Cosmetic Surgery Center in Brackish Town. Rants and raves about it," she said. And that wasn't a lie. Marieanne went for yearly Botox appointments. Odette could barely make a difference after each appointment because she looked fine for her age, but if it made her happy, she wasn't one to judge. Needles in the face sounded like absolute hell, though.

The woman beamed. "Oh, I'll look into that. Thank you!"

Odette managed a grin and a nod. She wanted to go sit, but not before the mini Lansat Prep reunion.

"Well, I'll be damned; never thought I'd see Odette Cinq-Mars in a dress again," Denis greeted. He looked the same, yet far different than he had in school. Still tall, still muscular, still an overall tank. Still very pretty. Though, not so much anymore, now that she knew he was standing by and watching the nefarious crap happen.

Still, she made herself smile. "Hey Denis," she greeted. "Long time no see. You look great."

"Not compared to you," he purred as they exchanged polite cheek kisses. She decided just to let it roll.

Adam was a little more pleasant. For what a playboy he was, he also seemed to know when to keep his mouth in check. He didn't do much more besides the standard cheek-kiss greeting and a compliment.

"Red's a good color on you," he said with a friendly grin.

Next to her, Noel was reacquainting himself with Colin, who already had him in an iron hug.

"It's been so long! How have you been?" Colin said happily, swaying through his embrace. Odette could see Noel trying his best to hide his cringe and barely managing to hang on.

"I'm fantastic. It's great to see you, Colin," Noel said through his partially-distressed smile. When they finally pulled away from one another, Noel nodded happily but still looked ultimately relieved to be free. As Colin approached Odette to say hello, Noel sent her an aggrieved look, which she struggled not to laugh at as she exchanged another round of hugs and cheek kisses.

Dorien also introduced her to Lionel, the last name she didn't recognize. He looked roughly her age, and as good-looking as he was, she didn't recognize his face.

"This is Lionel," Dorien said. "He didn't go to Lansat with us, but he's been one of my longest friends."

Lionel didn't hesitate to grab her hand and kiss it firmly. "How'd I go so long without meeting you?" he questioned flirtatiously. Odette bristled, pressing her lips together to form something of a startled grin.

"I--" she stammered. For once, Dorien was out to save her because he aggressively pulled Lionel back and patted him on the shoulder.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You'll scare her off," he warned, causing Lionel to shrug.

"I'm just giving credit where it's due. Good pick, Dory."

It took every ounce of nerve Odette had not to flip the table in front of her.

Several chairs were still open at their table, and she quickly sat down in one, with Noel to her right. Freddy took the one next to him right before Colin could snatch it. Dorien attempted to grab the empty chair on Odette's other side, but Isaur slipped into it as he pulled it out. Odette swallowed her relieved sigh and grabbed the set glass of water near her plate. She took a long, drawn-out gulp from it.

Frosslasssss,” she taunted.

Dorien stared at her for a long moment before shrugging and moving to the empty chair next to Freddy. “Fine, fine. Who am I to separate Pokemon and trainer?” he huffed.

“Good on you, Isaur,” Noel said quietly, covering his mouth to hide his amusement.

“Oh shucks, table’s already filling up.”

The sound of Clovis’s voice caused Odette to cough on her sip, and she forced what was already in her mouth down before turning to see him approaching, snom still on his shoulder. A greeting made it to the tip of her tongue, but she needn’t have bothered. Everyone else was up greeting him before he’d even made it all the way over. They were polite to her and Noel, but they appeared to be extra nice to Clovis, with the way they showered him with joyous hugs and firm handshakes and cheek kisses.

“There’s always room for you, Clovis!” Colin said.

“You’re far too kind,” Clovis replied. “I can't ask you all to move for me, though.”

Snom!” Powdered Sugar said.

“Nonsense!” Dorien called eagerly. He gestured to the last empty chair next to him. “Plenty of room to sit next to me.”

Fross! Fross!” Isaur said suddenly. She moved to sit on Odette’s backrest, then gestured to the now-empty seat. Odette watched in silent embarrassment as Clovis smiled broadly and stepped over.

“Fancy seeing you here, Isaur. But I couldn’t possibly take your seat,” he said.

Isaur shook her head. “Frosssss!” she insisted.

Clovis snickered, then shot a look at Dorien. He shrugged. “This chair’s closer. Maybe next time?”

“Come now, you’d rather sit next to somebody you just met?” Dorien said. Odette was sure he was trying to be taunting, but it somehow sounded more like a warning. Regardless of what it actually was, Clovis didn’t appear to care.

“Don’t be jealous that she’s the new hotness and you’re the old busted,” he said pointedly.

The table erupted into light snickering, and with that, he sat. Odette eyed him, then cut her eyes to Isaur just in time to watch her land into the empty chair next to an unamused-looking Dorien. She looked positively proud of herself, and Odette wasn’t sure if she was thankful or mortified. Isaur playing wingwoman for her was uncharted territory.

“I hope you don’t mind me displacing your Pokemon,” Clovis said abashedly over the laughs.

“No, no. I think she was glad to move.”

She heard Noel clear his throat, effectively earning her and Clovis’s attention. Noel reached his hand over to the newcomer, flashing his teeth.

“Hi, I don’t think we met. I’m Noel,” he said quickly. Clovis was ever-gracious and shook his hand happily.

“Pleasure to meet you.”

“You know Odette, huh?” Noel asked.

Clovis nodded. “Sure, we had a smoke break just a little ago.”

Noel cocked his head to the side. “No kidding! She’s not really much of a smoker.”

“Well, she did pick it up pretty fast.”

“Yep,” Odette said quickly. “Like I told him, I’m a fast learner.”

“And couldn’t say no?” Noel queried under his breath. Odette kicked him under the table, and he winced. But it got him to stop talking. All he offered in response was a wry grin as he slumped back in his seat.

The next thing Odette knew, everybody was chattering amongst themselves. Now that the greetings and formalities were out of the way, there was nothing else left to do but talk some more until the food was brought out. Noel didn’t seem to have trouble entering into conversation, but Odette found herself alone with her short-circuiting brain, unsure what to do. Actually, that was a lie. She knew what she wanted to do but wasn’t sure how.

“So, what else are you quick at learning?” Clovis spoke.

Well, that just saved her from having to strike up the conversation first. She nearly fell out of her chair when she met his blue eyes again.

“Pardon?” she said.

“Magical-type specialist, singer, good at reading...are those the only things you have under your belt, or are you more in-depth than that?” he pressed.

She opened her mouth to speak but found it difficult to form the words. What was there to her? She hadn’t been asked to “talk about herself” since the icebreaker the Purrloins! cast did on the first day of rehearsals. “I...dance?” she said. “Danced,” she corrected after a beat.

He straightened his posture. His eyes lit up in a way that showed her he was now extremely invested in the subject at hand. “Let me guess, ballroom? No, wait,” he said before squinting. “Ballet. You have the face of a ballet dancer.”

She didn’t mean to roll her eyes as hard as she did, but it just happened that way. “Just not the height or figure,” she said.

“I think short girls pas de deux the best,” he chuckled.

She wasn’t sure when the hell she swallowed a cutiefly, but the one in her stomach was flying in violent circles.

“I was more into hip-hop, actually. Afro dance is my favorite.”

Clovis scrunched his brows, and that little smirk of his became agog. The fact that she was managing to hold his interest like this was becoming thrilling. “Very interesting. I never ventured much past private ballet lessons.”

“Absolutely lame,” she scoffed, picking up her glass of water again. “You don’t know how to dance until you can throw the stiff rules out the window and just move.”

Clovis looked like he had some quick remark, but he was interrupted by a shrill beeping that seemed to be coming out of his suit. His calm and collected demeanor quickly morphed into something more rigged and aggravated, and he sighed heavily. He reached into the same pocket where he’d kept the carton of cigarettes and pulled out a cell phone--the newest Applin brand phone, no fucking less--which was blinking with an incoming call. He didn’t try to conceal it, so Odette got a perfect view of the caller ID before he pressed the ignore button.


Odette averted her eyes away as he set the phone face down on the table. She drank some more to mask the curiosity that she so desperately wanted to show. It wasn’t any of her business, but she definitely had some questions.

Clovis began rubbing his face as if warding off whatever aggravation had just overcome him. He sighed again before turning to face her. “Sorry, where were we?”

“I was calling you lame.”

That smirk returned with frightful ease. If she hadn’t just witnessed his slip into annoyance firsthand, she’d have never known it happened at all. “Right, because you think--”

The phone rang again, and just like that, he was aggravated once more. He picked it up, only to be met with the same caller ID. He muttered a stream of curse words under his breath, then began to look around almost frantically.

“Okay, you know what--” he said. Odette watched as his eyes landed on the beautiful table centerpiece. It was a fantastic arrangement of real burgundy dahlias and scabiosas in a tall crystalline vase. Clovis stood, pushed aside the flowers, and dropped the phone into the water. It landed with a subtle splash, earning the attention of everyone at the table.

Clovis adjusted his coat, then sat back down. He pointed to Powdered Sugar. “Remind me that’s there before we leave. Or don’t.”


“Wow, Clovis, do you know what the power button is?” Adam asked.

“I sure do, but I like this arrangement better,” Clovis replied.

“Did one of your many suitors get ahold of your number?” Dorien said, wiggling his eyebrows for dramatic effect.

Odette’s eyes widened despite herself. Suitors? She should have expected that much—surely she wasn’t the only girl in the room eyeing him. He was the whole package. Gorgeous, seemingly with a personality of substance. The money was just a damn plus.

When she actually cleared her head, she finally registered the biting tone in Dorien’s words. A tone she’d expect from a jealous party, one trying to get under somebody else’s skin. She shot him a questioning look. He locked eyes with her, then blew her a kiss.

Dickhead, she thought, sending back an obliged smile. His contact name in her phone proved truer and truer every time they interacted.

Clovis abruptly paused. His eyebrow twitched as he raised his gaze. “You say that…like I have girls lining up at my door?”

The clear confusion in his tone was enough to calm her nerves.

Dorien shrugged. “Do you not? I’d figure that much from a man of your wealth.”

“Try figuring out other things instead, okay? I know it's hard, but I believe in you.”

Dorien sighed deeply. “Well, if you’re that desperate to get rid of your phone, why not get a little training off on that snom and have him freeze it?” Dorien said.

“I think I’d be better off having him freeze your lips shut,” Clovis snapped in a scoff, not missing a beat.


"Easy boys," Denis chortled. “I get that you’re hangry, but no need to take it out on each other.”

Clovis sucked his teeth. “Oh, relax, it’s just a bit. I’d never actually do it.”

“He’s like my older brother. I have to harass him here and there,” Dorien said through an exhale, throwing his arms out to his sides.

“Naturally,” Clovis agreed.

Odette wanted to groan. Even if it was fake, watching the man she hated and the man she was trying to shmooze act so buddy-buddy was difficult.

"Well. Taking bets on what’s for dinner tonight,” Lionel said. Another round of conversations began, and Clovis turned his attention back on her.

"Sorry. Sometimes our back-and-forths get a little out of hand," he said. Odette had no issue picking up on the aggravation in his voice that he was undoubtedly trying to hide.

"Seems in line for a sibling-like relationship, yeah?" she asked. “How’d you meet?”

Clovis bobbed his head from side to side, pursing his lips pensively. "Another gathering like this. A couple of years back. His family wanted to befriend mine, and vice versa. The rest is history.”

She nodded. “Oh, so it was more of a…political thing?”

A snicker from him. “Things always start political here. Everyone’s trying to get around, make connections, yadda yadda yadda.”

She watched as he averted his eyes over his shoulder, then leaned in closer to her. "That’s also how you pick up on the bones in everyone’s closets," he whispered.

Odette rested her cheek in her palm. She didn’t need to act like she was interested because she genuinely wanted to hear where this was going. The hot billionaire with all the dirt? 'Jackpot' wasn’t a strong enough word.

“Are you going to elaborate on that, or are you just taunting me?”

She half-expected him to blow her off, even though he had brought it up, but he looked to be hunting for an answer. “Hm, well,” he started. "Since you're fraternizing with a Bonhomme and his pals, you should be somewhat in the know."

She didn't like how he said that, but that was the least of her concerns.

Clovis began to scan the room, and Odette instinctively followed his gaze in anticipation. She watched him discreetly point at a woman sitting at a table right next to them.

“Lydia Auclair. She runs a successful vegan bakery company and gained popularity for how good her products taste. But, she somehow neglects to tell her customers that she makes a lot of them with vanilluxe milk because it just 'tastes the best.' Humanely sourced from the Pokemon-Trainer Work Program, of course, but I doubt the vegans she sells to would care enough about that,” he said. He paused again, hunting down another victim. He wheezed to himself as he pointed all the way across the dance floor toward a buff-looking man sitting with a woman on each side.

“Enzo Barbeau. Spends all of his money on high-end hookers, all while his finance company is on the verge of bankruptcy.”

His finger traveled to another man. An older one sitting next to a lady who was obviously his wife. However, neither one of them looked thrilled to be in such close proximity to one another.

“And Burke Agard,” he said. Owns the Battle Maison in Kiloude. Absolutely gay, and his wife Camille knows he has several boy toys on the side to suit that need. She just doesn’t want to deal with losing money in the inevitable divorce, so she pretends she doesn’t know.”

Odette stifled a laugh into her hand, thinking back to Noel’s stash of phone numbers. “You know what,” she said. “Somehow, I think I knew that one.”

Clovis opened his mouth to speak again but was cut off by the sound of a mic being tapped. It echoed through the room, effectively silencing everybody and alerting them to a woman clad in a beige tea-length gown standing in the center of the dance floor.

“Good evening, everybody!” she said. “We hope you’re enjoying the festivities and your dinner!”

There was some light applause and cheering, and the woman waited for it to die down before going on.

“But now, it is time to commence tonight’s slated exhibition battle. We have, of course, selected two contestants from tonight’s guest list to take part with their brand-new Pokemon,” she explained. More, louder cheers were earned from that.

“So please, give a warm welcome to Mr. and Mrs. Patenaude!”

A well-dressed man and woman, presumably the called-upon Patenaudes, stood from their table opposite the dance floor. Mrs. Patenaude wore a floor-length satin orange gown. It was tight fitting, really accentuating her features...save for the fact it was an atrocious color.

“Orange really only looks good on a charmander, doesn’t it?” Odette heard Clovis mumble. She started to wonder if he was reading her mind. She sure hoped not, as that would be a level of embarrassment she’d never be able to overcome.

She focused in on Mr. Patenaude, noticing how he wore a bow that matched the woman’s dress. They locked arms with each other as they sauntered to the middle of the floor, and the applause soon subsided. The couple smiled broadly, clearly looking forward to the battle they were about to engage in. She had to wonder if they did this often...actually, she had to wonder if married couples really battled each other often in general? Was that a thing that couples did to show affection? She couldn’t really recall any times she’d seen her grandparents battle, but then again, neither of them were really battle-oriented trainers…

She was truly clueless. How could she be sitting here, rolling in a primary school grade crush, and not even knowing the basics of what romantic relationships require?

Odette was removed from her intrusive thoughts by the emcee speaking again. She gestured happily to the couple as she regarded the crowd.

“As I said, this will be an exhibition match between our previously selected contestants. We ask that all guests, Pokemon, and humans alike, remain seated at their tables until the battle ends. No interference should be necessary,” she explained. “We also ask that you please enjoy the show! This shall be a fantastic treat for all of us.”

More applause sounded. Odette exchanged dubious looks with Noel as she quietly put her hands together.

“Mr. and Mrs. Patenaude, you may take your positions. I will call the start of the match,” the emcee said. The couple gazed at each other lovingly before exchanging a small kiss. They then walked to the opposite ends of the floor. As they moved, walls of light shot up from the perimeter of it, stretching the length to the ceiling before fading away.

“I guess they use this as an arena a lot,” Noel said. “My poor ass can’t keep up.”

Odette chuckled to herself as she watched the opponents withdraw their respective pokeballs, each one of them grinning with anticipation. Mrs. Patenaude took it upon herself to stick her leg out from the slit in her dress skirt, and she bounced on the heel of her Jimmy Chinchou shoe. Mr. Patenaude adjusted his coat as he stared at his wife, looking...flirty. Odette wondered if this was some sort of foreplay for them. Like a kink. Could battling be a kink? That somehow sounded gross, especially with so many people watching. Then again, voyeurism was also a kink.

She felt more of her brain cells starting to die off. She’d never thought so hard about the ins and outs of romance and sex in her entire twenty-two years of existence, at least in regard to herself. But, leave it to one head of luscious silver hair to change that.

The couple’s collective anticipation seemed to expand and take hold of the entire room. It was amazing how fast everyone fell silent, waiting with bated breath for the battle to commence. Odette had never witnessed such an atmosphere surrounding a mere exhibition battle.. For all she knew, it was staged down to the movement. Still, hopefully, it’d be enough to take her mind out of the gutter for the time being.

The emcee raised her hand. “Trainers ready!” she called. She then paused, seemingly for dramatic effect. “Begin!”

Their Pokemon were out in the field before the emcee had jogged to safety. Mrs. Patenaude sent forth a bright green scizor, while her husband used a dark green malamar. Odette supposed she should have expected them to be shiny, but she still felt surprised seeing them. Being in the presence of so many shiny Pokemon still felt so bizarre.

Sciiiii,” Scizor drawled.

Mal,” Malamar said in a low voice.

All of Odette’s surprise faded out and was replaced with intense concern.

Both of those Pokemon...looked so tired. More tired-looking than any other Pokemon she'd seen tonight.

Malamar were known to squint a lot, but Mr. Patenaude’s malamar was blinking like it was running on thirty minutes of sleep. Meanwhile, the scizor looked as if it was going to topple over at any moment. It wobbled as its feet hit the ground.

With narrowed eyes, she shot another look back at Noel. He was wearing an intense frown, and his arms were crossed over his chest.

"What the fuck?" she mouthed.

"I don't know," Noel responded.

There wasn’t much else to say, so she forced herself to look back at the battle. Did they both...forget to heal their Pokemon before coming into the battle? Were they both just stupid?

“Scizor, use Agility!” Mrs. Patenaude cheered.

“Malamar, Brutal Swing!” Mr. Patenaude declared.

Scizor put its pincers together, concentrating. As it did that, Malamar sprang forward. Well, sprang was a strong word. It looked more like a slow, discombobulated trot. A faint glow took hold of its tendrils as it reared back to swing at Scizor.

Maaaaaaal,” it squeaked.


Malamar swung, and Scizor tried to use its newfound speed to get out of the way. However, it lost its footing and fell over. Malamar missed entirely, and the weight of its swing also caused it to fall over. Neither one made any moves to get up after that.

Was...was that it?

Odette knit her brows, waiting for the emcee to call it. Several seconds passed, and nothing. Were they waiting to see if they would get back up? Odette began to feel her anger creeping up again because this was just fucking cruel. Is this really what the wealthy liked to do? Send exhausted, barely healed Pokemon out into battle to watch them flail around and struggle? What kind of sick--

“Oh darn! They’re still a little tired,” Mrs. Patenaude said sheepishly.

“Well, then, let's just cut to the chase, shall we?” Mr. Patenaude responded.

They withdrew their tired Pokemon with such synchronicity it was a little unnerving. Mr. Patenaude then withdrew another ball from his coat pocket. Squinting through her glasses, Odette could not determine what kind of ball it was. It was pitch black, but the button was bright red. It blinked as if beckoning to be pressed. Mrs. Patenaude revealed her other leg, where the same kind of ball was strapped to her thigh. She grabbed it and held it up.

“We shall!” she shouted.

Mrs. Patenaude pressed the blinking button on her ball, and it opened with a puff of thick black smoke. As the questionable gas seeped from the ball, she brought her thumb to her mouth and bit down hard enough to draw blood.

“I lend you my blood, Hiruition!” she said. As she spoke, something shot from the ball. It moved to the middle of the playing field, as a beam of red formed around the incision she’d made on her thumb. It met the apparition, causing it to explode into a corporeal form.

It was as large as a gyarados, if not bigger, and had a similar body type...no, maybe it looked more like a dragonair? It slithered through the air like one, but it was too fat to be a dragonair, or gyarados...besides, neither one of those Pokemon had a proboscis like that one did. This thing looked more like a leech than anything else. It had a set of dark eyes that Odette could barely make out against its dark purple skin. Its tail end faded off into smoke, in the same way the outer edges of a gastly did.

Odette’s hand began to cramp from how hard she was grasping the tablecloth. She felt something grab her thigh and turned to see Noel’s eyes about to bug out of his head. She couldn’t look at him for too long because she had entirely fixated on trying to figure out just what the fuck this thing was. She’d studied up on her Pokemon species, she was sure she knew a lot of them, and she was even more sure she’d have studied something about a giant leech Pokemon. A giant leech Pokemon that apparently...had something to do with trainers' blood?

She was so confused that she barely registered the thunderous cheering that had erupted around her. Everyone at her table...hell, everyone at every table seemed to be up on their feet, cheering for this...thing.

Out of morbid curiosity, she looked over at Clovis. She wasn’t sure if she was relieved or even more confused to find that he had not moved. The joking smirk he’d had on while they were bantering over their water was replaced by a blatantly unamused frown.

“Odette, what the hell is that?” Noel said, causing Odette to turn her attention toward him. He had to lean over and speak directly into her ear to talk clearly over the cheers.

Talonflay?” Freddy said.

“I--” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t even--”

She couldn’t form the words before Mr. Patenaude opened his own ball. In a similar show of nicking his thumb and opening the ball, another Pokemon took form. A grotesque fish. Or at least, it seemed like a fish. It had fins and beady fish eyes, but it also had a mouth full of horrifically sharp teeth, and it was far bigger than a fish needed to be. Maybe slightly smaller than a copperajah. Slightly.

A black goopy substance dripped from between its teeth and reeked of rotting meat. That somehow wasn’t even the most strikingly odd part of it, though. What stood out the most was the single antennae hanging from its head. It dangled in front of its face and ended in a bright red bulb. The bulb emitted an orb of light that surrounded the Pokemon entirely.

“Lophious, we fight!” Mr. Patenaude hollered through the cheers. “Scald!”

The red glow around lophious intensified, and the goo in its mouth began to illuminate as well. It brightened until it began to smoke up. That rotting stench filled the room, causing everyone to cover their noses. It then spat the goo at the other Pokemon, causing it to cry out in a way that Odette had never heard a Pokemon scream before.

It was unnatural. She’d even go as far as to call it demonic.

“Don’t take that, Hiruition! Bite down hard!” Mrs. Patenaude hollered.

The leech regained itself from the attack and wasted no time flying forward. It moved with such frightening speed and accuracy that Odette felt nervous just sitting there on the sidelines. Its proboscis opened, revealing a rounded pattern of teeth, which sunk into the middle of the fish Pokemon’s head. It screamed and thrashed with a level of aggression that would normally cause a battle to be officially halted, but the emcee didn’t call anything. It just went on like it was supposed to be normal.

At some point, the Pokemon were just allowed to go at it. Biting, hitting, and strangling each other. The couple would call out moves every now and then that Odette recognized, but it seemed they were mostly set on letting those two things rip each other apart. She was barely paying attention at that point because she was still racking her brain for an explanation.

Hiruition...lophious, she repeated in her head over and over again, hoping it would somehow uncover any bit of knowledge she might have buried over the years. When nothing came up, she just grew more frustrated. It didn’t help that the cacophony of roars from the giant Pokemon and the onlookers, not to mention the terrible stench of sulfur, were doing a fantastic job of further clouding her judgment.

Though, she wasn’t sure what actual judgment there was to cloud. She’d never seen or heard of any of those Pokemon.

She numbly watched the two alien things exchange hit after hit. Normally, she ate battles up, looking for things to nitpick, praise, and perhaps compare to her own tactics. But, she could do none of that here. She could only watch in wide-eyed shock.

“Hydro Pump!” Mr. Patenaude demanded. Lophious geared up before spitting a beam of high-pressure water at hiruition.

“Evade it, then Tackle!” Mrs. Patenaude said. Hiruition effortlessly looped around the beam before whipping its tail at lophious, sending it flying toward the ground. The crowd's cheers intensified when Lophious failed to get back up, and the red light faded from around it.

“Lophious is down and unable to fight!” The emcee bellowed over her microphone. “The winner is Mrs. Patenaude and her hiruition!”

Mrs. Patenaude basked in her victory as she and her husband withdrew their Pokemon. They met again in the middle of the battlefield and embraced, smiling and laughing. Like this was a normal thing for them. They locked hands and waved to the onlookers before striding back to their table.

“And that concludes tonight's exhibition. We do hope you had a wonderful time. Please, enjoy the rest of your dinner, and try not to mind the smell too much!” The emcee said. A final round of cheers carried through the room before slowly but surely dying back down as waiters fanned out around the room, carrying trays upon trays of the entrees. Meanwhile, some pidgeots flew down from doors in the ceiling and began to fan the battle fumes out the windows, which opened automatically for them.

Even as her spread of rich-looking lobster tail and vegetables was set in front of her, Odette couldn’t bring herself to attempt to eat. She’d entirely lost her appetite. Nothing in her brain could help her make sense of what she just saw, so she zoned in on the conversation happening around her.

“A hiruition? How lucky!”

“Do you think they could produce another if they tried hard enough? I bet the malamar could hold it.”

“So strong, I hope to coax one out of my own.”

What the fuck were they talking about?

She was clearly an odd one out here; they were all talking like they’d practically expected this to happen. Her gaze traveled to Dorien, where he was engaged in seemingly deep thought with the person sitting next to him. She could barely hear him, so she looked back to Clovis, who was staring at his watch now.

“Clovis, what--” she started to ask.

“Bullshit, that’s what,” he grumbled, almost too low for her to hear. Nonetheless, Odette could pick up the raw anger that coated the words. She didn’t notice Noel was listening in until he leaned over her to get closer.

“What do you mean?” he asked, almost too frantically. “What are they talking about?”

Clovis exhaled a hard breath and threw his napkin on the table. He stood up and pushed his chair in before leaning down toward them. He got so close Odette thought their noses would touch, and she jerked backward out of habit. He spoke quietly as if he were trying to ensure she was the only one who could hear him. The look in his eyes was deadly serious, and it made her blood run cold.

“A word of advice: walk out of here while you still can. What you just saw was a disgusting show of greed that you’d be better off not getting involved in. ”

With that, his expression smoothed. A beaming grin curved over his lips, a convincing one that caused his now-shining eyes to crinkle up ever so slightly. A stark contrast from that dead, hard stare that was on her not even seconds before. It was a little unnerving just how good he was at switching himself off and on like that, but Odette's brain was too busy reeling to really dwell on it.

Clovis cleared his throat, alerting everyone's attention. “Well, friends, it was fantastic fraternizing with you all, but I have an early meeting tomorrow, and it’s already—“

He reached into his coat pocket, then frowned as his eyes fell to the phone, still submerged in the vase.

"Om? Om," Powdered Sugar said.

"I see that,” he huffed. He then leaned over and started trying to dig the device out.

“Aw, come on! Leaving so soon?” Dorien whined.

“Duty calls, and you smell bad,” Clovis replied as he freed the phone from its aquatic trap. He shook it off, his face crinkling in annoyance as he did, before shoving back into its apparent main home in his pocket.

"Ha, ha, so funny," Dorien said flatly. "You have a good night then, LeClair."

Clovis offered another bright grin, then waved. "Back at you, Bonhomme. Good evening, all."

Snom!” Powdered Sugar said in unison.

He then turned and made way for the exit. Odette watched him go, numbly taking note of the moderately rushed skip in his step.

She blinked rapidly, trying to tame her buzzing brain. She then exchanged looks with Noel. His mouth was also slightly agape, as usual, when he found himself at a loss for words.

What the fuck?

Her eyes traveled to Noel’s dinner, and she noticed he hadn’t touched his food either. Looking down at the table, Isaur and Freddy's meals also remained untouched. It was good to see they were all on the same page here.

“Disgusting show of greed that we’re better off not getting involved with,” she repeated in a whisper.

“How do—“ Noel slowly started to speak, but he cut himself off and turned his head away. No sooner had that happened, Odette felt a presence sink itself into the spot where Clovis had been sitting and turned to see Dorien’s gross grinning face.

“So, what’d you think?” he asked.

“I'm...impressed?" She didn't mean for it to come out as a question, and she silently cursed herself for it.

He chuckled, then put his arm around her shoulders and leaned into her. “Have you ever seen Pokemon like that before?”

Part of her wanted to say yes to get around the condescending explanation that was about to come her way. But she couldn’t do that. Maybe Dorien would prove to be useful and give her something she could dwell on instead of an eerie warning.

“No,” she said sweetly. “What were they? They were kinda scary looking.”

Another chuckle as he placed some pecks on her cheek. "Not to worry, gorgeous. I'd have protected you if they got too close."

Get over yourself, she wanted to say.

He thumbed her cheek in the same spot he'd just kissed, his eyes flicking from hers to her lips. She wanted so desperately to push him away. She could if she wanted to, but not if she wanted answers.

Control. You have it.

“I can’t really get into specifics right now because you’re new here,” he said. “But you should know there’s more where that came from.”

This caused her eyes widened a smidge. “There’s more of those things?”

“As I said, no specifics. Just trust that I can get my hands on some very powerful ‘mons for you. That is if you stick around and see how it all works,” he explained. “Plus, I can always put in a good word for my date.”

"You would do that for me?" She fluttered her eyelashes for good measure. She needed to sell the doe-eyed bimbo look here. "I'm not rich, though. I don't think I can afford--"

"Shh, shh, shh," Dorien hushed, pulling back and taking both of her hands in his. He brought them to his mouth and began to kiss her knuckles. "None of that. You don't need to worry about any of that. Besides, you have a shiny, which is the hardest part." With that, he smiled lovingly. "You keep in mind that I would do absolutely anything for you, okay? Trust the process."

A chill ran up her back, and she made herself giggle shyly. "Okay, Dory. If you say so."

She’d come here hoping to find some answers and instead ended up with way more than she bargained for. Trust the process? Those Pokemon?

Something smelled rotten, and it wasn’t the lingering stench from the battle.
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Chapter 8 - Reading is Essential
Chapter 8 - Reading is Essential
Strong Language, Horny Protagonist, Brief Discussion of STDs, Brief Discussion of a Rapist
The week had gone by in a blur. A blur of excessive note-taking, staying up until the wee hours of the morning wasting away at computer screens, and a series of pleasant thoughts of Clovis smiling at her. Noel had volunteered to take on digging into more about shiny Pokemon, while he all but forced her to start looking into the LeClair family.

Sitting in the dressing room under the Lumiose Center, she was going through her ten pages of chicken scratch for the third time that morning. Rehearsal didn’t start for another thirty minutes, Acadia hadn’t gotten in yet, and Noel decided to neglect to tell her that he was leaving his flat early that morning. She’d texted him at every stoplight until she reached the center. No response.

Noel wasn’t one to wake up before eleven, so she found it a little odd. However he was a late sleeper, but he was never late to work, no matter what. If he were in any trouble, she’d know at the start of rehearsal. For now, she decided to dedicate her working brain function to deciphering her findings again while trying to ward off the intrusive thoughts that ran laps in her mind whenever Clovis’s name crossed her vision.

She wondered if her grandfather got worked up whenever he had to research a lead. Daydreamed about them, thought a lot about how pretty their eyes were, and--

Her grip on her papers tightened as a hard grimace crossed her face. She was damn glad there was nobody else in the dressing room--she'd been sure to check before sitting down--because she didn’t need anybody to bear witness to how red her face was. The sweat forming on her brow caused her glasses to begin fogging, and she tore them off her face to wipe them clean on her jacket.

“You’re stupid,” she said as she pushed them back over her nose. She then jostled the packet as if alerting her whole body to the fact that it needed to focus.

Clovis LeClair, the son of billionaire Charles LeClair, owner of the Clair De Lune group, which was made up of more than four hundred different companies based in multiple regions around the world. Most of them were centered around humans and Pokemon working together humanely to get things done in an orderly and, as they put it, “the old-fashioned green and clean way.” They dedicated their companies to making sure Pokemon were treated fairly and humanely. It was truly a noble cause.

Charles had a large family. He married once to the love of his life, and they had eleven fucking kids. Odette couldn’t imagine one woman popping out that many babies. Likewise, she also couldn’t imagine having that many human siblings. Growing up with Solene, Enora, Ange, and Isaur was plenty.

She’d gone out of her way to find all the LeClair siblings' names and ages. The youngest was about nine, and Clovis was twenty-four, about to be twenty-five. Odette was pleased that his and her age difference wasn’t harsh.

Most of the LeClair kids, save for the youngster, were somehow involved in Clair De Lune. Clovis, however, was peculiar. He had the highest net worth out of all of them for his involvement in developing some algorithm that had a hand in optimizing and even revolutionizing data management. She didn't really understand what any of that meant because her brain could compute fuck all regarding numbers and business talk, but she supposed it was impressive.

But the weird part was that he’d never been seen in public until semi-recently. Over the past couple of years, more or less. That was the part that got her. He hardly seemed like a shut-in, flying under the radar and working behind the scenes for twenty-something years while daddy raked in big money.

She supposed she knew a thing or two about acting a part, but it seemed he knew it too well. She’d found him standing alone in the smoking section, sure. However, he was at least somewhat eager to start a conversation, if only to ask her an obnoxious question about her height. She didn’t know any shut-in who’d have even attempted something like that. They’d have merely kept to themselves.

Plus, he pretty much admitted to gathering dirt on people, which meant he got around. He spoke to who he could, maybe eavesdropped here and there, maybe even asked point blank. He was blunt enough to question her height, so he must have been ballsy enough to ask somebody if they were hiring expensive hookers. And honestly, they’d probably answer him. The folks at her dinner table were ready to give up their seats for him, so it didn’t seem far off to assume that much.

He had a pull in that room that she wouldn't expect a multi-year shut-in to possess, even after an extended time out and about.

Then again, she had to consider that perhaps that pull had something to do with his status. Clearly, the LeClair family wasn’t anything to scoff at, so others were probably doing the same. Schmoozing the eldest son of one of Kalos’s richest families seemed like an obviously good political maneuver to attempt.

However, none of that did anything to distract the big thing on her mind: how could he have skated competitively if he hadn’t been seen in public for so long?

She’d scoured the internet, trying to find some record of his competitions--score sheets, videos, anything--and came up with nothing. So, was it a lie? Or, maybe it...had just been wiped? Cops could mess with public access case files, so maybe a billionaire could have information pulled from the world wide web. The question was, why?

She grazed her thumb over the notation she’d made in the margins regarding this information that didn’t add up. If she ever met him again, she’d have to find a polite way to press. Was it something he wasn’t proud of, or was it something more? Maybe he had the information pulled to keep it from coming up for people like her, who spent days trying to research him. Because surely he had his fair share of stalkers. Was he still trying to fly under the radar despite being so out in the open? Maybe he was part of a scandal and wanted to cover all traces of it from whoever went sleuthing on him?

If he wanted to hide it so badly, why bring it up?

She was starting to think it was a slip-up on his end. The fear she'd seen in his eyes after he said it suggested that he hadn't meant to bring it up. That, of course, posed more questions. But it made the most sense right now. Maybe it was a scandal...

Gods, her head hurt. Thinking about him, all the information, and how he’d so effortlessly switched faces. From his warning, cold stare to that fake-yet-real smile as he said goodbye. Even the way he looked aggravated when Jocelyn called before switching back to the smug smirk like it was nothing. He did it with such scary ease. Like he’d been trained to do it.

Was it like her case, where she was good at switching faces for a given situation? Or, on a scarier thought, he was more like Dorien? That wasn’t something she initially considered, but it was a possibility, as much as she detested it. She didn’t need another raging psycho in her life, especially one so pretty.

Speaking of Jocelyn and Dorien’s quips about that call, Odette definitely didn’t leave that stone unturned. As much as she wanted to. But her obnoxiously prevalent feelings got the best of her.

She’d tried to find something on a possible girlfriend or, even worse, a fiance or wife. Nothing came up. As far as these information sites were concerned, Clovis was a single man. So, Dorien really was blowing smoke. But she had to wonder why Clovis had a ‘Jocelyn’ calling him and why he was so annoyed by it. An aggravating secretary? A bodyguard? His old nanny? Did nannies even raise him?

She sighed deeply and leaned her head against the wall she was up against.

Is this how psycho-stalker girlfriends feel?

She needed to get a handle on all of these feelings she was having. They were best kept bottled up with the rest of her emotions because they had no business clouding her head when she tried so hard to think rationally.

Her bag began to buzz, and she could hear the muffled voice of RotomPhone trying to speak to her. The front pocket jostled, signaling it was trying to get out, so she reached over and unzipped it. It hovered out and flew up to her face.

Bzzzt! Such a nice nap, ruined!” he complained. “I’m trying to recover here! I need my health sleeps!”

“I think you look wonderfully healthy, actually," she said. "Your rehab's going great. The techs at maman's lab will be stoked."

"Yes, bzzzzzzzt, but I am sleepy right now and would like to get back to that."

“Tell me what’s up, and I'll oblige," she chuckled.

“Incoming texts from ‘Lansat Twerk Team.’ Bzzzt!” it replied.

Odette set down her notes next to her and grasped the phone, punching in her passcode and navigating to her texting app, where she found that her one and only group chat was indeed blowing up.


Noel Massé
DEE R U IN THE DRESSING ROOM???????? (づ ՞ਊ ՞ )づ SOS

Noel Massé

Basille Tremaux
Be Noel
Be good with tech
Still cant fucking read his phone

Noel Massé
i hope u get crabs (´ ᴗ`✿)

Basille Tremaux
I hope you find god /s

Claude Renaudin
mmm a crab dinner sounds great rn

Noemie Massé
Thank!! You all!! For waking me up!! FROM MY DAMN NAP!!!


Odette took a moment to decide how she wanted to respond to this. She was momentarily thankful to hear from Noel but then supposed that some virtual shenanigans from her displaced friend group would temporarily distract her from her headache. Though, she was wondering what he was so frantic about. Probably whatever thing he’d gotten up so early for. Was it some new information?

She typed up a response and pressed send.

Odette Cinq-Mars
Yeah, in the dressing room @noel

Basille Tremaux
HEY DEE remember to smile at least once today <333

Claude Renaudin
smile dee <3

Noemie Massé
Smile Dee!!!! <333333

Basille Tremaux
Hey Nono if youre trying to take a nap theres this new thing called putting your phone on silent

Noemie Massé
STFU!! I also hope you get crabs!!

Acadia Vaugeois
Didn’t know it was “Wish Pubic Lice on Your Friends” day. Also, smile Dee <3<3

Claude Renaudin
that can be every day if we really put our hearts to it.


After years of a close-knit group friendship, she could honestly say that she never knew what to expect when she opened the chat. It got a snicker out of her and even a sense of ease. It was a welcome feeling after the past few days.


Odette Cinq-Mars
You're all going to give me a cavity :)

Basille Tremaux
Brush your teeth then fivehead :whistle:


She heard the door to the dressing room slam open. It echoed through the empty space, causing her to flinch. She scrambled to shove her notes back into her backpack but didn’t get very far before Noel suddenly bounded in front of her.

“Found you,” he said, panting. Sweat trickled down his red face, and he could barely get the words out.

She set RotomPhone back in her front pocket. “Back to your nap, drama ‘mon.”

Bzzt! Don’t mind if I do!”

She zipped the pocket, then turned to stare incredulously at Noel. “Dude, this is the girl’s room,” she said.

Noel threw his duffel bag down and doubled over, placing his hands on his knees as he leveled his breathing. “Who cares? Nobody's in here, right?" He lowered his voice to ask that

"Made sure of it."

"Well then. I’ve given every woman in this cast dating and sex advice; I have an honorary pass," Noel said, swatting his hand dismissively at her.

Odette scoffed. “Right, because we give out passes.”

Noel was able to pull himself together before peering back up at her. His brow was raised, and he wore an accusing frown. “You’re talking an awful lot for somebody I’ve seen naked like eighty fucking times.”

“What’s your problem? Where’d you sprint from?” she asked, ignoring the quip. There was really no use in arguing with him. “Thanks for telling me you were leaving early, by the way.”

He straightened his posture and placed his hands against his lower back, leaning backward until a crack emanated from his spine. “Yeah, sorry,” he said through a deep exhale. “Woke up earlier than usual to fly to the library when it opened. Phone’s been on silent until about five minutes ago."

“Wow, you know how to read? I'd have never guessed from the way you can't seem to read your phone,” she teased, feigning innocence by sticking out her lower lip. She snickered as he shot an unamused glance at her.

“I can read very well, actually,” he said, pointing at her nose.

He abruptly fell to his knees, unzipped his bag, and began digging through it frantically. Curious, Odette hopped off the counter and stepped over to him, leaning over to get a better look at what he was looking for. She didn’t see much before he whipped out a rather weathered-looking hardcover book. The sudden movement caused her to stumble back. Her eyes caught on the faded words on the front cover.

Pokemon of an Old Past

“A crusty book about the old times?” Odette asked sarcastically. “Case solved. We can stop now.”

“Alright Miss Ma’am, I have no issue turning my ass around and bringing it back since you wanna be like that,” Noel chastised as he stood up.

She rolled her eyes. "Show me what you found, please."

He started flipping through the book. She watched him intently, noting how careful he was with each turn of the page. From where she was standing, she could see the dated yellowish hue each of them had and even noticed that some were ripped and torn toward the edges. She grimaced at the sight.

“Did you take that out of the damn archives or something?”

“I sure did,” Noel replied quickly. “This book was pulled from public checkout because of how decrepit it is. But, I put in a favor with my friend down there. She let me take it for the day because their copy machine wasn’t working.”

Already, she had so many questions. “Gals in different locales?” she started, earning a hearty laugh from him.

“Actually, Bernadette from choir. But sure, that mantra works too.” As he spoke, he began frowning at the book, which he was still flipping through. “Gods, I should have used a damn bookmark...what page was it again?”

With another roll of her eyes, Odette sighed. “So why did you need Bernadette from choir to let you take home an old book because the copy machine wasn’t working?”

Noel didn’t respond that time. Instead, his eyes lit up, and he held the open book to his chest, pressing his lips together in what looked to be anticipation. The sheer excited look in his eye was enough to get her to drop her doubt. She cocked her head, arching a brow.

“Noel? What’d you find?”

“So, in my research this week, I wasn’t coming up with much that wasn’t damn obvious. Pretty much just wiki pages about shiny coloring variations and research notes that didn’t provide anything interesting.” He paused, apparently for dramatic effect. “But,” he said, “I started searching for more analog sources and ended up in the library directory.”

“Alright, that’s why you were at the library,” she said impatiently, snapping her fingers. “Where’s this going?”

Noel inhaled deeply. “Shockingly or not, I thought the library didn’t have jack shit either...until I found this.”

He held the book out to her.

“There is a single page in this book that mentions shinies, and it’s fucking damning. Read it.”

Her gaze slowly traveled between the book and Noel’s eager face. She carefully reached out and took it, slowly turning it in her hands so she could make out the words. Now that it was in her grasp, she could feel how aged it was. The bound leather cover, which surely used to feel smooth to the touch, now felt rough and almost dusty against her fingers. The words on the page were starting to fade in some areas, but she could still easily read them.

Nothing truly caught her eye until she’d made it down to the last paragraph, where she saw mention of oddly colored Pokemon. Surely, it meant shinies. That was where she actually started to read.

It was once said that these Pokemon of odd coloring had the ability to harbor and spawn Pokemon of a different power--grotesque creatures that found their abilities in the sanguinity of their hosts.

She frowned pensively.

“Put it together, smarty pants,” Noel urged.

The gears were already turning. So much so that her ears started ringing. “Harbor and spawn Pokemon of a different power…” she read, talking under her breath. “Sanguinity means blood…”

Hiruition and lophious...those two Pokemon, never seen them before...Mr. and Mrs. Patenaude cut themselves when they brought them out...right? And they were grotesque, super grotesque...

She closed her eyes, trying to get further into the moments before, during, and after that damned battle.

The malamar and the scizor were shiny...people were talking about them ‘holding another’? Those poor ‘mon were tired, too...what’d their trainers say about that? Didn’t seem to care...harbor and spawn...harbor and spawn...harbor and spawn...Dorien...saying things about getting his hands on ‘very powerful Pokemon’ for me. Dorien’s in the shiny trade, they seemed to all somehow be in the shiny trade, they all had them…they all had shinies.

They were all there to watch whatever that malamar and scizor had harbored and spawned? To perhaps see...what their own shinies could harbor and spawn?

Her eyes snapped open, immediately meeting Noel’s intense stare. She blinked a few times, trying to parse how she would say what she wanted to say out loud.

“The shiny trade probably exists because traders know shinies can...make those things, on top of the fact that they're fucking money machines,” she finally said, eyes wide. She raised a hand to hook it into her hair. “Or, try...they're money machines in the first place because they can make those things? The bottom line is Dorien knows that. They all. Fucking. Know that.”

“Ding, ding, ding!” Noel said in triumph, holding his hands above his head victoriously.

Odette slammed the book shut and set it down next to her backpack. She then brought both hands to cover her face, exhaling sharply as she gave her head a moment to calm down. Though, no way was happening.

“Does that play into Team Enigma, though? Does that play into sacrilege? What about Virtue Corp?”

“It definitely does,” Noel said. Odette moved her hands down to her cheeks and peered over at him just as he began wiping some sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his jacket.

“Think about it. Sacrilege is traveling around the top one percent, and the top one percent are engaging in the shiny trade.” He peeled off his jacket as he spoke, letting it fall to the floor. He then started to pace back and forth, crossing his arms over his chest. His brows had furrowed, and Odette noticed that vein on his head starting to pop out, a telltale sign he was thinking hard.

“Then we have those public case file discrepancies specifically writing out shiny involvement in sacrilege-related problems, and we can be pretty confident those are tied into the cops warding off the press for Virtue Corp.”

Odette considered his words, and when she was sure she agreed, she nodded. “Okay, yes.” But she frowned as she thought more about it. “However, it doesn’t fully explain the discrepancies. What does sacrilege have to do with those Pokemon we saw, and what’s the point of covering shiny involvement up? Is sacrilege keeping them at bay? Or something?”

Noel pointed back toward her. “That’s where I’m stumped. That answer has to lie in Virtue Corp, because they’re driving that boat,” he said. “But I think that an organization dedicated to abolishing the shiny trade would want to blow something like this out of the water, not cover it up...whatever it is they’re trying to cover up by tweaking case files like they are. Shit, we don't even know their intentions. They could be just as fucked up as Enigma but much better at fronting as the good guys."

A heavy silence filled the space between them. Odette retreated back into her head to hopefully try to make better sense of these findings. She needed to get her thoughts in a line before she got too overwhelmed. She reached for her notes on the LeClair family and pulled out the last page of the packet, which had only been a quarter of the way filled. She dug into the front pocket of her bag, careful not to jostle RotomPhone, and retrieved a lone pen, which she uncapped with her teeth before beginning to scribble with it.

  • Shiny trade exists because traders know shinies can spawn the weird Pokemon. Hoarding from the public??? Explains why it won’t be abolished despite overwhelming support for it????? Maybe.
  • Sacrilege going around top one percent, who engage in trade--connected to the case discrepancies, but we don’t know why? Virtue Corp's wants it covered up. Still don’t know why.

A thought suddenly occurred to her as she was writing. She remembered the note she’d found on Bernard’s desk again and how J.L. Ménétries had mentioned something about being in their "prime suspect's circles" with “ties” to Team Enigma. If Virtue Corp were dedicated to abolishing the shiny trade, they’d surely know a thing or two about it and how it’s navigated...

She wrote the words down before she even registered what she was thinking.


“Yeah, I'm definitely with you on that,” Noel suddenly spoke, causing her to flinch. She’d been so caught up in getting her thoughts down that she hadn’t noticed that he was looking over her shoulder. She craned her neck to look at him.

Noel began to poke his lower lip quizzically. “The note you found pretty much confirmed Team Enigma’s existence and outed Virtue Corp as the brains behind fudging records. They could definitely know Team Enigma is involved in the trade,” he rationalized. “But I’m still stuck on the why. If Team Enigma is in on the shiny trade, an org like Virtue Corp would deeeeefintiely want that outed, right? Provided we are assuming they are the good guys and not, y'know, playing us like fools. 'Cause then, yeah. Maybe they are working together. Or they're rivals."

She nodded again. “You would think a good-aligned Virtue Corp would want all of this outed,” she said tentatively. However, she had to look at this from all possible angles.

“If we're going on the good guy path, what if they’re trying to keep all of this under wraps to lessen the possible reaction?” she asked. “There’s so much negative press around the shiny trade and Team Enigma’s possible whereabouts and involvement in the crisis. Putting the two together would cause a social explosion if people found out. Especially if my hypothesis that the wealthy are purposely hoarding those Pokemon is correct.”

“Point taken,” Noel said slowly. The more he considered it, the more he appeared to go along. “Something like this dropping on the general public would start a damn riot,” he added. “But I imagine the riots would be even bigger if they found out that things were being hidden from them, you know? Is that a risk the police, or even a good-aligned Virtue Corp, would take? Having a conspiracy like this on their backs?”

She pressed her lips together. “I don't know. Can't put much past people with an obscene amount of money and positions of power,” she muttered. "On the other hand, if they are just as bad as Enigma, I could see why there's no tattling. Keep it to themselves, so nobody is aware of what's actually going on. But if they're rivals, why not? Same reason?"

Noel nodded. "You know how, like...organized crime gangs won't go to the cops about each other? I imagine it's the same deal here if that is the case."

"Right," she agreed.

“I did want to say, steering back onto the good guy route," Noel continued, "we could also consider that they’re keeping it under wraps because they’re also clueless.” He hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his leggings, turning on his heel to begin pacing again. He walked back and forth between her and a nearby bench a few times before talking again.

“Like, maybe they know Team Enigma’s involved, but to what extent? And how does this drug play into everything? Rich humans and their Pokemon are dying, but how is that bridged to the trade? How is it bridged to those Pokemon?”

Odette could only shrug. “We don’t know.”

“And it’s possible they don’t either,” Noel said. “Granted, we are running on a shit ton of hypotheticals here; we’re not some big organization. So maybe I’m comparing bluk berries to cheri berries...”

"Even if they aren't good, that could still apply," Odette said. "Fronting as this good guy organization to get in with the cops to find out more about their rival. And shit."

She sincerely hoped her Bernard wasn't getting played. She also sincerely hoped he wasn't fully aware of what was happening. She wouldn't know how to respond if she learned her own grandfather was helping perpetuate criminal organizations just because they had money and weird Pokemon. If he even knew about the latter.

Suddenly her headache was back.

"Gods, I fucking hate this," Noel laughed bitterly.

Another round of silence swelled between them. It seemed that they were coming down from their frantic Q and A.

“In regards to your hypothesis,” Noel spoke again, calmly this time, “that would explain why I had such a hard time finding information about shinies that wasn’t glaringly obvious.” He pointed to the book on the counter. “That was literally the only thing I read, both on the internet and in the library, that spoke of a legend like that.”

“What did you search up to find the book, then?” Odette asked.

He chuckled for a moment. “Ancient Pokemon,” Noel said. “I started getting this idea that they were some crazy old fossil ‘mon and decided to go that route.”

Odette turned her head and stared at the book for a long while. “Are you saying you think the rich tried to wipe knowledge of those things from public access?”

“I’m sure a bunch of millionaires banding together could make something like that happen,” Noel said in a huff. “I’d bet that book's saving grace was referring to shinies as ‘odd colored Pokemon’ instead of just ‘shiny.’ Though, I think they’d at least be a little more thorough if they tried to wipe records.”

“Nobody’s perfect, not even rich people. Or weird, nefarious organizations,” Odette said.

"Gods, and we're just talking about the organizations themselves," Noel added, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We haven't even touched on those fucking Pokemon. What they are, how they work, the types..."

"Those things were powered up with blood. Never seen that before in my fucking life."

"Would your mum know anything about that? Blood-powered Pokemon nobody's heard of before? Seems right up the alley of a magical-type professor's knowledge."

That had crossed her mind at some point while she looked for things about the LeClairs. She couldn't ask outright lest she let Vienna in on what they were up to, and that was still not something she was keen on doing, especially at the point they were at.

"If she did know anything about it, she never let me in on it," she said. "Spent that whole battle trying to remember if she had, but no."

"Anything specifically about shiny Pokemon? Surely anything weird would have come up after you brought Enora in."

Enora had been on Odette's mind all week, too. Aside from her still-standing reluctance to be involved, now that Odette had witnessed other shiny Pokemon seemingly being used to spawn those things, she was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of it. Enora hadn't said much when Odette told her about it. A couple of dubious looks and a comment or two, but she'd lost herself in thought not long after. She either didn't believe it or it bothered her too much to say much more. Either way, Odette hadn't wanted to press too much. It was a lot for anyone to chew on.

She could still vividly see how tired that malamar and that scizor had been and how their owners paraded them out and about anyway, not giving a single fuck about their well-being or what summoning those blood Pokemon might have done to them. It was haunting enough to witness, and it probably bothered a shiny like Enora to hear about it.

That had to go hand in hand with why they just let it happen to them. Something was keeping them from protesting the treatment. Something was keeping them from fighting back.

But, that wouldn't happen to Enora. However it happened. Odette wouldn't let it.

"She never told me anything we haven't already uncovered. Nothing about blood magic Pokemon ever came up."

Noel didn’t respond to that. Instead, he wandered toward her and leaned against the counter next to her. He released a long yawn as he dipped his chin against his chest.

“I’m exhausted. I don’t want to rehearse today,” he said. And she didn’t blame him. The day had barely started, and she wanted to nap. She wasn’t sure how she could concentrate on calling cues and making sure props were where they were supposed to be when she had all of this nonsense swirling around in her head.

“Did you find anything interesting about your smoking buddy?”

She’d gotten so caught up in putting together the pieces around what Noel had found that she’d totally forgotten what she was looking for in her notes about the LeClair family. She reached back into her bag and pulled out the rest of the packet, and put it back together with the other sheet she’d just written on. Noel eyed it, and his brows raised.

“Look at you, detective,” he said, impressed.

“I wouldn't go that far. This is just the research phase,’” she said, flipping through the pages. “I think I know everything there is to know about him, but I still have some--”

She cut herself off, immediately sinking into another frenzy of internal questioning. She’d been trying to figure out the connections between the shiny trade, Team Enigma, and Virtue Corp, that she had forgotten she had a whole lead here to factor in too. And now that she was looking at it again…

Pressing her lips together, she turned back to the page where she’d noted the figure skating disconnect. The marginal note and her excessive question marks. Cases could be rewritten, records about Pokemon could be pulled, and she had been certain that one billionaire could mess with records regarding their whereabouts in a sport. But she couldn’t find the reason.

“What do ya have, Watson?” Noel pressed.

She began shaking her head. “I’m not sure yet...just some things not adding up. Everything I read had Clovis LeClair pegged as a shut-in, but he started telling me he was a competitive figure skater while I spoke to him.”

Noel appeared taken aback by this. “Him? A shut-in? I'd never read him as an antisocial type.”

Well, at the very least, she knew she wasn’t nuts for thinking that herself. “That’s what I said, too,” she said. “The last thing an antisocial person is doing is competing in something. And even if he did, I couldn’t find anything about it. I thought he might have been involved in something bad, but I'm not quite sure yet.”

“Man, these rich people really like yanking their shit off the internet, huh?” Noel groused. “I wish things were that easy.”

She ignored him to keep tunneling into this. Her eyes roved frantically over the papers as she mentally listed her observations.

She could conceivably believe that he was once a functioning, sociable person who partook in the activity. Then, something could have happened that drove him indoors, leading him to want to pull down all traces of his involvement in the activity. Again, a scandal.

Actually, that hit way too close to home. It rang eerily similar to the issues she was having with herself. Before she could allow herself to become bitter, she continued paving this mental path. She couldn’t stop just yet and needed to keep this rational and not let her feelings get in the way.

“Hypothetically speaking,” she spoke in a low voice, “if Virtue Corp is in their 'prime suspect's circle'--presumably the trade--that means they have undercover parties stationed around...” she trailed off.

Clovis had very clearly been upset by the battle. It showed in how he watched it and looked at her as he warned her to get up and leave. He’d done that in a manner that assured only she would hear, just to turn around and act as if nothing was wrong as he told everybody goodbye. Not to mention, Clair De Lune was set on the humane treatment of Pokemon, too.

That would align with an organization allegedly set on bringing down the trade, right?

That could also help explain the figure skating disconnect. Recluse or not, that was a slip-up.

She’d heard a couple of stories of the cops at the LCPD getting too comfortable in their roles while undercover and accidentally letting something slip. Nobody was perfect, not even a rich person. It would also be a jump, but she was at least finding more ground.

“I am fully grasping at straws here," she started, "but what are the chances Clovis could be an undercover party with Virtue Corp? Regardless of the alignment?"

Noel took a beat to mull it over before grimacing.

“No shot,” he said, shaking his head. He reached over, took the papers out of her hand, and began to skim them himself. “If he was actually undercover, what reason would he have to warn you like he did? That seems risky as hell. You could tell Dorien what he said, and the next thing he knows, his cover’s compromised. You might be reading too much into some misspoken words. I'd sooner believe he's some rich guy who fucked up over something and put his money toward making it all go away.”

“He really panicked over those misspoken words,” she said.

He began to rub his eyes tiredly. “Of course he did, but an undercover party could be anybody. It could have been our old classmates. It could have been the chick who asked if you had lip fillers.” He cut himself off with a wheezing laugh. “Which was hysterical, by the way.”

“Yeah, real comical,” Odette sighed, a tinge of annoyance in her voice.

“Hell, if we really want to go deeper into that route, it could be Dorien.”

She raised a concerned brow, her gaze on him becoming dubious. “Yeah, shiny trade Dorien just being a double agent for Enigma and Virtue Corp. I could see it," she said sarcastically.

“Not everything functions at face value, Dee. But, realistically, Clovis could be some pretty rich man who thought you were pretty and decided he didn’t want to see you get involved in...whatever this is,” he said. "You should also move the rose-colored glasses off your eyes and consider that maybe he did something really bad. Like, I'm not sure what goes on in the figure skating scene, but..." he trailed off.

Odette knew where Noel's head was going, and she grimaced. She'd been trying not to go that far, but if there was a chance Clovis was covering up a scandal, what was the probability that it was something of a--

Nope. Do not, she told herself. She'd cross that bridge if they found themselves there.

She thought her head hurt before, but now it was ridiculous. She understood where Noel was coming from, but she still had some contradictions biting at her.

“But him wanting to see me not get involved would most likely mean he doesn’t like being involved himself,” she said. “But he switched. He threw me the warning, then went back to acting like nothing was wrong. If you don’t like it, why act?” She began to scratch her cheek. “Saving face?”

“He told you a thing or two about getting in with other powerful families,” Noel said. “He could warn you, then pretend like nothing happened to cover his ass. And again, you're a hot girl. If he's previously gotten in trouble for--"

"Noel," Odette said loudly. "He doesn't...he doesn't..."

Her heartbeat rang in her ears. The force against her chest caused an ache that paired nicely with the panic drying out her mouth. The sudden cold sweat that broke out all over her body was just the cherry on top.


"He doesn't give me Deschamps feelings." She strained herself to speak. That name burned to say. It poked the lasting mental wounds the owner had left behind. "I knew from the get-go Deschamps was a creep. Clovis doesn't hit those buttons."

Despite how hard it was to get out, she was firm. She knew "creep alarm bells" didn't always equate to someone capable of doing that to her again, but she trusted her gut well enough to believe her stance for now.

Noel nodded in understanding, holding his hands up defensively. "I get you, and that's promising. I trust your intuition, but I'm just trying to play it safe."

And he was right to be doing so. She knew that deep down.

"I'm watching out for you this time. The chances might be slim, but I want to be careful. And even if he isn't that bad, if he is with Virtue Corp, we don't know their overall alignment."

She sighed slowly and heavily, keeping her eyes trained on him as she brought herself back up. She couldn't fault him. As much as she was trying not to let her crush cloud her judgment, that seemed to be happening, gut feelings or not.

"I know. And you're right," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm just...trying to cover the bases myself."

"I hear you. And I'm here to help with that."

A single firm nod was the only answer he was getting. She wanted to keep going and stop dwelling on the past.

Regardless of his reason or where Virtue Corps stands, it strikes me as a risky maneuver. I could whistleblow him either way,” she said. She released a deep breath as she realized the counter to that. “But at least if he was just a regular rich person, he has the in to say ‘what the hell is she talking about?’ and make me look dumb for accusing him.”

She let out a deep, loud breath. Noel did the same.

“I think two possible things are going on here,” she said. “Clovis could have figure skated before he decided he wanted to be a shut-in, then somehow had all of his participation taken down so nobody could ever find out about it. Perhaps due to something really bad,” she said. She closed her eyes to allow her apprehension to pass. “Or, he’s undercover and absolutely slipped up. And in realizing he slipped up, he decided that shooting me a warning would be a route to go.”

She turned to look Noel in the eye again. “I’m living by your line for this. Not everything functions at face value. At least not until we can stop leaning on hypotheticals.”

“You got me there,” he said.

The door to the dressing room swung open. Odette flinched again, and she saw Noel jolt as well. Nothing like a loud noise to break them out of their trance.

“Noel, I better not find you here. That’s illegal,” Acadia’s voice echoed through the room.

They exchanged looks, and both began to giggle despite themselves. Odette figured she was so fried that she couldn’t do much more than laugh.

“Busted,” she said quietly.

“Hey,” Noel said with a shrug. “If she kills me, at least I can say I helped put together the corner pieces before I died."
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Well better not fall too far behind.

- Feel you about making writing under unideal circumstances. Done it before myself. Sometimes make big progress that way.
- Dang, was not expecting her to think Noel was attractive. In his tuxedo. And remember, the gay one.
- It'd be even worse since she refuses to let her Pokemon into their balls! I'm beginning to think this is a her problem.
- Aaand already recognized. So much for incognito.
- I think there's a joke to be made with Kalosians and cigarettes but this chapter is way too long so let's not dwell on it.
- Well, how blue is too much blue? I'm assuming this is so blue it's anime?
- Herbal cigarettes can ironically be even worse than real tobacco, and it seems like insane anime logic that lacing them with pechas makes the poisons go away.
- Smoke'em if you got'em?
- Seems like type specialities aren't uncommon here.
- Man crushing instead of info gathering. Maybe she does fall in love easy.
- Aaaand the association probably makes it all go away.
- Somebody's jelly that his friend is getting more attention.
- HAHAHAHA, yes!! Might be a little tasteless, but I was hoping Noel would do something like that to drive him off!
- From what I understand, that business card/fling thing is surprisingly realistic.
- Cheek kisses. This is France, all right.
- Curious, Jocelyn. A name to keep in mind.
- Okay maybe I was wrong, maybe she still is crushing hard on Clovis.
- Well somebody's a good spy. Sounds like either a potential ally or a dangerous enemy and nothing in-between.
- I've seen battles that have taken some hard turns right away, but none like this before. Guess I shouldn't be surpirsed here.
- What the fuck? Shit got real fast. Original Pokemon and blood sacrifices. And blood sport.
- I guess Clovis' reaction confirms he's one of the good ones at least. Well, at worst, good relatively.
- Okay this guy's a shitter, using trust the process in a way like that.

This got crazy in a hurry. I guess I'll comment in general next time.
I heard you got a pretty dark story. Let's see what you got, Sinderella.

  • Opening descriptions are well done. We get an idea on what the interior of the ship looks like and what Florent looks like as we move the story along.
  • Your majesty? Is Florent some kind of royalty?
  • Seems like Team Enigma are more than just your typical hooligans. They seem rather polite and loyal to "your majesty."
  • 'Blood Legendary?' The new type is Blood? Oh no, lol
  • Hearing voices in his head? And it's hungry? Uh oh. And here, I thought I'm going to be seeing a grim story about a lady's career in the arts.
  • This Gulattive sounds like some kind of nightmare creature from Yume Nikki.
    • Okay, maybe more than that! It's full-on Eldritch abomination!
  • Father of the Year, everyone! Showing the remains of his henchmen to his little boy.
  • Armel has short-term memory? I could only imagine the sheer terror of dealing with his father's shenanigans again and again, each feeling like a new experience.
  • Oh geez, Father of the Year is actually contemplating infanticide.
  • Well! That's quite a start!

Chapter 1: A Lot On Her Mind
  • Odette has maroon eyes too? I guess that clears the mystery of the other child.
  • A Simisear tried to take a gun and got shot? Geez, lol. And what is "lethal amounts of sacrilege?" Did the Simisear curse out Arceus on top of a church or something?
  • Castform mating season? That can't be good for the environment, lmao
  • Bouffalant fucking shit. Oh, Arceus damn it.
  • Part of me wonders why Odette and Noel are trying to investigate the "sacrilege" cases. Like, what's their stake in this?
  • Oof. Some lady from LCPD is definitely going to lose her job if somebody finds out she compromised classified information to some random actor like that.
  • Shiny Pokémon trafficking? Can't say I'm terribly surprised.
  • This whole drug business is sounding like D.A.R.E.'s worst nightmare. I'm curious to why people and even Pokémon are taking it. What does it do? Or rather, what is it supposed to do? Do these trainers look at some unknown chemical and go, "Yeah, I wanna get a snort of that."
  • Something tells me that Odette's shiny Sylveon will get into trouble at a later part of the story. Maybe.
  • So one thing I've been noticing is that I kept getting characters mixed up while reading, mainly because of the confusing pronoun placement. There were also times when the dialogue was split into two paragraphs, but were spoken by the same person.

Chapter 2: The Audacity...
  • Ohhh, nice city imagery! Reminds me of the times when I had to deal with so many drivers who don't know how to use a simple blinker.
  • Odette's quite the violent one, ain't she? Almost like she's under the influence of some wrathful being...
  • You killed him. Wait, is this figurative or did she actually kill a guy who was forcing himself onto her? I wonder how the aftermath turned out for her to still be up and about as a free woman.
  • Well, Odette's got quite the dysfunctional family. Like raising six children on her own.
  • Funny that you have a Gothitelle named Solene. One I would later introduce into my story is named Soleil; similar-sounding but different meanings.

Chapter 3: A Bad, Bad Run-In
  • There's just something amusing about a Froslass flipping through TV channels out of sheer boredom. Not at all what I was expecting, lol
  • 1,500 kg of drugs? That's... quite a bit... of money to leave behind by the people dealing the drugs. Can Team Enigma afford to lose that much? Or is all this stuff cheaply produced?
  • I wonder if trainer school is an actual requirement in this setting. That would explain why other professions carry their own Pokémon for battling.
  • Ah, the joy of running into an old classmate.
  • And the controversy of shiny hunting rises yet again.
  • "She could hear the grin in his voice." That's a weird way to put it. I didn't know we can hear grins.
  • Geez, Dorien! Might want to keep your horniness to yourself!
  • "Psychic didn’t do much to Steel, but Steel wasn’t that much of a threat to Psychic either." I mean, yes and no? Steel Pokémon resist Psychic attacks, though a low special defense is a vulnerability. Steel Pokémon also tend to lean towards physical attacks, which most Psychic Pokémon have a disadvantage against due to poor defense.
  • Gothitelle tanking two attack-boosted Iron Heads? Very unlikely, even with Charm and Reflect in play. A Gothitelle is not exactly a physical wall.
    • Solene took each hit like an attack dummy; progressively getting weaker, but nowhere close to falling. Again, how? It's a Bug move that will certainly do more damage than Iron Head. And it's a Gothitelle, not a Snorlax.
  • Very curious that the Excadrill used a Steel move against a Fire type instead of a Ground move. That would've been much smarter.
  • Clearly, Odette has the "shift" battle style on for her to be able to switch her Pokémon on the same turn as Dorien sending out his new Pokémon.
  • lol, battle snack. Very subtle there, friendo!
  • It didn’t make any sense to her. Why would he send a pure Fighting type out knowing she had a pure Psychic type on hand?
    • I mean, Dorien did call that he's sending out Conkeldurr before Odette switched to Gothitelle. Not really giving him much of a choice unless he decides to switch again.
  • Well, Conkeldurr hardly put up a fight. I guess Odette had nothing to worry about the whole time. I know Dorien is a sleazebag, but Odette's jumping to conclusions here. Like, he's a serial killer! conclusions.
  • Corviknight went down without a fight. Very anticlimactic.
  • So, is Odette naturally a paranoid person or did she go through similar issues before? She just met Dorien again and she's already thinking that the guy is some kind of Jason Voorhees. Maybe it's related to that one guy that she may have killed in the past?
Been a pretty lengthy read thus far, so I'll stop here for now and summarize my thoughts.

Aside from the prologue, which takes an unexpected turn into Eldritch territory, plot feels pretty slow. I'm rather curious to where Odette falls into this drug crisis story, other than her grandfather struggling to resolve it. Though the prologue heavily implies that she's the host of the creature Venira, it doesn't feel like Odette has any personal stakes so far. Hopefully, that'll change soon.

Though Odette possesses some sympathetic qualities (wanting to live the dream, uncomfortable with moving to a new place, raising a dysfunctional Pokémon family on her own, feeling strongly against treating Pokémon as material possessions to collect, etc.), I can't say I particularly like her. She's rather hardheaded and short-tempered, even unapologetically snapping at her friends for teasing her or trying to help her. And of course, the way she drives, lol. Though I'll give her character the benefit of the doubt; if she's indeed the host of Venira, her behavior makes more sense.

The battle in chapter 3 is by far my least favorite part. How a Gothitelle managed to tank so many physical attacks from an Excadrill (including an attack that it's weak against) is beyond me. It doesn't come across as believable. And after that, Odette just swept the floor with Dorien's team with hardly a fight. Feels rushed and anticlimactic, to the point where her fear regarding Dorien doesn't feel justified.

On the upside, my favorite part is Odette interacting with her Pokémon. And we get to see a distinct personality for each one, which is always wonderful.

I'm curious to what Team Enigma's goal actually is. Or rather, what Florent's goal is. What does he gain from possessing these legendary Pokémon based on the seven deadly sins? What's the purpose of manufacturing the "sacrilege?" Simple world takeover or is there more to it? I guess Team Enigma is more of a cult than an organization like Team Rocket or Team Plasma, considering how Florent views his followers as nothing more than fodder.

Interesting story so far. Looking forward to more.


Chapter 4: She's Unabashedly Nosy
  • How long have these police station employees been working there? Apparently, at least ten years to all recognize Odette.
  • “I’m full of them; you’ll see,”
    • Oddball semicolon.
  • “T didn’t come kiss me; I’m sad,”
    • Another oddball semicolon.
  • Ah, foolish youth betting their lives on things that haven't happened yet. Only a matter of time before Odette's words bite her back on the ass.
  • lol, Oreos. Do we have Coca Cola and M&Ms in this world too?
  • “Even if I were a lawmaker, I doubt I’d be able to do much,” he said. “The ones that have been in office have been trying to get the trade abolished since you were in Vienna’s stomach.”
    • If this is anything like American politics, I'd figure there would be a ton of opposition to abolition as well. Just another thing for people to use and abuse for their wealth.
  • “Considering I have a Mimikyu that will bite somebody’s head off if I flash him a pecha berry and tell him to, the gun seems sort of redundant.”
    • Unless the other person in question also had a gun. Better hope that Mimikyu has lightning reflexes then.
  • Then today, she’d missed a light on the way to school and beat her fist on her handlebar so hard, she almost broke her break handle.
    • brake
  • A history of anger issues, huh? Surely, the embodiment of wrath couldn't have taken refuge within her? No, sirree!
  • Why yes, she IS unabashedly nosy, reading your grandpa's business letters...
  • With a name like "Virtue Corp," something tells me it's not about virtue, lol
  • Well, clearly, Noel can't be bothered to text.

Chapter 5: How Could This Possibly Be a Good Idea?
  • FOUR computer monitors!? What does this dude do on his spare time, lol? Watch four different anime at the same time?
  • So, is this going to be like Aether Foundation where a seemingly good organization turns out to be the antagonist all along?
  • Hangover from one glass of wine? I take it that she's a bit of a lightweight?
    • Orrrrr maybe not. She just chugged that like it's nothing. Okay then.
    • Or wait... the story straight up says she's a lightweight, lmao
  • Noel straight up calling Odette "baby".
  • “Nosy trainers get involved in police affairs all the time."
    • Those damned meddling kids.
  • This is a horrible idea. What are you doing, Odette? Stop.

Chapter 6 - Psychopath
  • Snooki? Please tell me this has nothing to do with Jersey Shore...
    • Reality TV show. Oh god.
  • Woof, Odette's mom is... something. I really don't blame Odette's reaction here, lol
  • Huh. Is it a normal reaction for me to want to kick a rich asshole's face as soon as he opens his mouth?
  • Odette really needs to consider putting her phone on vibrate or silent. I feel like this is going to screw her over at one point.
  • Ugh, Grimer in somebody's mouth? Now that's an image.
  • Whoa, Dorien! What are you doing, man! You don't ask people those kinds of questions!
  • I don't think that's how pepper spray works, if we're talking about the aerosol spray that causes intense burning anywhere on the body. Maybe a powder that causes something similar, but it's certainly not something you'd want to carry with your bare hands. High concentrations of capsaicin can actually cause irritations in your skin.
  • I'm confused as to what happened. So she passed out from being drunk or was she distracted by that powder for a period of time? Why would Dorien even throw powder at her if he's just harmlessly driving her home?

Chapter 7 - Something's Rotten in Kalos
  • To to the author's note: oof! My condolences!
  • Sweet scent of extravagance? I thought something's rotten. Eh? Ehhhh?
  • And now a mention of Elton John! Are we in a parallel universe where Pokémon exist in the real world? And Kalos is just straight up France?
  • Quagsire in waiter vest. That's my favorite image thus far.
  • Champagne? I don't think you want that, Odette. A bit of wine is already enough to knock you out.
  • Well, thank goodness they didn't bring the Sylveon. Imagine if some stray shiny hunter were to find her...
  • Smoking with no detrimental effects? That right there is world-changing!
    • 400,000!? WHAT IN THE WORLD IS IN THAT STUFF TO BE WORTH 400,000!?
  • Well, Clovis sounds like a much better catch than Mr. Psychopath.
  • Dorien no like the gay. His one true weakness.
  • “No. I just know that the best way to get under any heterosexual misogynists' skin is to question their straightness.”
    • You clever bastard lol
  • Clovis with all the dirt on people. At this rate, he'll be able to expose all the secrets of the entire Kalosian government body.
  • Ohhhh, here we go. The crazy, newfangled Blood Pokémon.
  • Ah, nothing like two Eldritch abominations casually wrestling each other in a rich people's gala. Just a normal evening in Kalos!
  • Something tells me that those creatures are somehow involved with the "sacrilege" drug. Were they once normal Pokémon before being corrupted?

Chapter 8 - Reading is Essential
  • The little kid in me giggled at the content warnings.
  • Interesting way to bring in a flashback.
  • A bit strange that Odette wasn't mentioned even once (by name) in the introductory part of the chapter, instead being referred to as "she" for several paragraphs. I'm assuming it's her since she's the main character after all.
  • Horny protagonist is horny, lol
  • Odette becoming a stalker? Oof. Hopefully, it doesn't come to the yandere route.
  • Okay, that group chat is absolute fucking gold, lol
  • Man, look at Noel and his genius detective skills. This dude would have a promising career in the police.
  • So shiny Pokémon can help summon blood demons, being unwilling accomplices. Doesn't seem like the rich are concerned with the condition of their expensive Pokémon, but rather coming up with some excuse to summon more dangerous demons. And I guess the drug they needed was sacrilege, which was produced by Team Enigma. So I guess this makes Enigma and the 1% into a stereotypical Satanist cult.

Apologies for the long post, but I did manage to get through your story within the course of a few days. So far, this is coming out as a solid mystery. Leaves behind quite a few questions and makes you wonder just how deep the corruption of Lumiose City truly is.

Considering they're playing with some extremely dangerous forces, what is Team Enigma's true goal? How are the Lumiose City PD and Virtue Corp connected? What is Virtue Corp and are they legit? Is Dorien directly involved in Team Enigma's activities, or is he just an unwilling accomplice who's just too dumb for his own good? How is Clovis tied to this mystery and what are his own goals? Who did Odette kill and how did it affect her for the rest of her life? Why does Dorien know about this event? What exactly are the Blood Pokémon and why are the 1% trying to utilize them?

Very interested to know what happens next!
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Hey Orion! Thanks for reading, and thanks for your big review!! I'm glad you seem to be enjoying the story so far, and I also hope you enjoy what's to come! I did want to come back to some of your points though--

  • "Psychic didn’t do much to Steel, but Steel wasn’t that much of a threat to Psychic either." I mean, yes and no? Steel Pokémon resist Psychic attacks, though a low special defense is a vulnerability. Steel Pokémon also tend to lean towards physical attacks, which most Psychic Pokémon have a disadvantage against due to poor defense.
  • Gothitelle tanking two attack-boosted Iron Heads? Very unlikely, even with Charm and Reflect in play. A Gothitelle is not exactly a physical wall.
    • Solene took each hit like an attack dummy; progressively getting weaker, but nowhere close to falling. Again, how? It's a Bug move that will certainly do more damage than Iron Head. And it's a Gothitelle, not a Snorlax.
  • Very curious that the Excadrill used a Steel move against a Fire type instead of a Ground move. That would've been much smarter.
  • Clearly, Odette has the "shift" battle style on for her to be able to switch her Pokémon on the same turn as Dorien sending out his new Pokémon.
Honestly, the battle was just a mix of me being lazy with how stats work and trying to get a battle in there. I guess I could best explain it as when I was planning, considering I have a whole mystery on my hands, I cut some corners with how stats work to give my dumb brain a break. Attack is attack, defense is defense, speed is speed. So given Gothitelle has a huge Sp. Def, I translated that to Team Wall(TM). Can definitely see how it'd be hard to parse from somebody looking at it from a game perspective (believe me!) but so far, you're the first person to bring it up as an issue. I do have plans to go back and edit that chapter eventually, probably when I actually tighten up how I write my battles (because honestly I hate writing battle scenes) but for now, I think it gets the point across.

  • Well, Conkeldurr hardly put up a fight. I guess Odette had nothing to worry about the whole time. I know Dorien is a sleazebag, but Odette's jumping to conclusions here. Like, he's a serial killer! conclusions.
  • Corviknight went down without a fight. Very anticlimactic.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, good. I'm very glad you thought it was anticlimactic, that means I did my job :)

The battle in chapter 3 is by far my least favorite part. How a Gothitelle managed to tank so many physical attacks from an Excadrill (including an attack that it's weak against) is beyond me. It doesn't come across as believable. And after that, Odette just swept the floor with Dorien's team with hardly a fight. Feels rushed and anticlimactic, to the point where her fear regarding Dorien doesn't feel justified.
I mean, Odette's paranoia of Dorien is mostly stemming from his comment and how it relates to her knowledge on what's going on in the world at that moment, and the way she reads him--she's extremely hyperobservant and picks up on subtle nuances, and she follows her gut on those nuances. So when she sees him looking at her like something to eat, and makes a comment that sounds eerily similar to a case she'd read about a Pokemon getting eaten...she's not gonna feel kosher about it. I will also say her fear is also somewhat otherworldly and I'll leave it at that.

Though Odette possesses some sympathetic qualities (wanting to live the dream, uncomfortable with moving to a new place, raising a dysfunctional Pokémon family on her own, feeling strongly against treating Pokémon as material possessions to collect, etc.), I can't say I particularly like her. She's rather hardheaded and short-tempered, even unapologetically snapping at her friends for teasing her or trying to help her. And of course, the way she drives, lol. Though I'll give her character the benefit of the doubt; if she's indeed the host of Venira, her behavior makes more sense.
Good good reads on her. She's meant to be hardheaded and she's intended to be portrayed as having anger issues, so of course small things will light her up. That is very much intended, for reasons that you probably already know ^^
Chapter 9 - Are You Actually In Control?
Chapter 9 - Are You Actually In Control?
CW: Strong Language, Light Blood

The shade of the weeping willows was not enough to stop the angry heat Odette was feeling. Her garish and floppy derby hat wasn't helping, either.

Having Enora at her feet wasn't helping her nerves either.

It was barely twenty-three degrees outside, and she still felt like she was going to break into a harsh sweat, all from the heat of the anger bubbling in her back. Despite this, she hung off of Dorien, smiling back at the dead stares from the top one percent. Once in a while, she'd gaze off over the garden, past the stark white gazebos they were standing around, and over to the neatly kept rosebushes that bordered the gravel paths through the garden. At least those were nice to look at.

"What a darling sylveon! We don't see many of the eons around here," a woman said. "Is she for sale today?"

"I don't plan to sell her," Odette said quickly, resisting the urge to curse the bitch out. She pushed through an airy laugh like she'd observed some of the other socialites doing as they spoke.

"That's a shame. Sylveons, espeons, and umbreons are really difficult to find. They don't evolve with stones, you know?" the woman said, swishing her wine around in its glass. "What evolution coercion service did you use to get her to evolve? I've never seen one successfully put out a sylveon!"

Odette started blinking. She must have looked like a deerling in headlights because she had no idea what the woman was talking about.

"I..." she stuttered. "This might be a silly question, but what's a coercion service?"

The woman placed a hand over her heart. "Oh, my apologies, sweetheart. You're new around here," she said. "They're services that evolve some of our lovely Pokemon who don't do so with stones and other knickknacks. To fetch a higher price and whatnot!"

She gasped. "Wow, things like that exist? I went out of my way to get her to evolve myself!"

Odette was acutely aware of Enora's presence at her side, and it physically pained her to allow herself to say those words. Why Enora suddenly decided to come along to this particular outing, she wouldn't say. But it made putting on her act that much harder.

That's all it is. It's an act.

A convincing one at that because some of the patrons began to laugh.

"That's impressive. Are you sure she isn't for sale? I'm very interested," that same woman said.

Odette started to shake her head more aggressively than she meant to. She instinctively extended her leg slightly, trying to metaphorically block this lady from looking at Enora like she was something to covet. "No, I think I'm going to pass."

"I'd give you €1.5 billion for her."

"Well, I'd do €2 billion!" somebody else chimed in almost immediately as if they were waiting for a price to get thrown out.

Before Odette knew it, various numbers were being screamed at her, monetary amounts she never thought she'd have directed at her in her lifetime. Women raised their comically tiny parasols, and the men tipped their bowler hats and waved their decorative canes. The commotion caused a sense of panic to swell within her, and she was suddenly conflicted about what to do. She needed to stand her ground but didn't want to subject Enora to the horror. Odette wanted to pick her up, run, and never look back. She wasn't ready for this; she didn't think Enora was ready for this.

But she couldn't do that. They were way too deep. And Enora had decided to come today, and there was no backing out.

So, she did what her character would do. She shyly leaned into Dorien and grabbed hold of his jacket.

"Alright, alright," Dorien said, looping his arm around her shoulders and raising his other hand. This effectively ended the yelling as the present patrons silenced themselves to listen to him. "She's already made it clear she's not selling, so let's not overwhelm her, okay?"

As quickly as the crowd had piped up, they retreated back into themselves, going back to eyeing Enora like she was something to eat. It was hardly a preferable change, but one that Odette would make herself stomach for now. If anything, she was more shocked to hear Dorien acting like a decent human being.

"So sorry, Dorien. We don't want to scare her off," that woman said again.

"Really, not this one. You make such a beautiful couple," a man said.

She heard Dorien chuckle, and he reached up and caressed her cheek with his thumb. As much as she wanted to retreat, she fully leaned into it but couldn't quite look him in the eye. So, she did something repulsive--she turned her head into his hand and planted a soft kiss on his palm. Maybe he'd accept it as a thank you because she wouldn't say it out loud.

"I really am lucky, aren't I?" he asked. There was a purr in his voice that made her absolutely ill. "Odette was hands down the prettiest girl in our school. But she wouldn't let anybody near her, not even me."

"Wow, a heartbreaker, huh?" somebody commented.

"I was just never really into dating in high school," Odette laughed, looking over at him and bearing the friendliest smile she could muster.

Dorien chuckled again. "She really just has high standards, so of course, she decided that I was worth the time."

"When's the wedding?" another asked jokingly.

Dorien shrugged. "Soon, I hope. I'd be able to die happy if I could call this pretty thing my wife."

Lighthearted laughs traveled around the group again, but Odette couldn't even fake a grin for that. Hearing the word 'wife' fall out of Dorien's mouth, in her regard, unearthed feelings in her stomach that couldn't be adequately described. She'd start by saying she was just downright disturbed. Even if they really were dating, they'd only been at it for a couple of weeks. Was that really where his head was?

She inhaled deeply, trying to ward off the tickle in her back. Focus. She needed to focus. "Don't get ahead of yourself, I just turned twenty-two," she warned, letting the seriousness leak into her tone. But, she smacked him playfully on the chest and reeled herself back. "Though every day with him feels like a breath of fresh air. Even if we haven't been together that long, I could maybe anticipate a wedding relatively soon."

She exhausted herself just speaking that one sentence. It was becoming unbearable.

"Oh, I love young love!" a man piped up. "You're both in your prime, though. No better time to start thinking about building your family. Every big fortune needs an heir."

"And you'd both make such beautiful babies, my gods," somebody else interjected.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to scream so goddamn loud.

I. Am in. Control, she had to keep repeating to herself. This is an act, and it's not real. You are playing a part.

Odette began to paw at her throat and released a couple of timed coughs. She found it harder and harder to hold herself up the longer she suppressed the anger that was churning within her. "I'm a little hoarse," she said. "I need a drink."

Dorien smiled broadly. "Of course," he said. He held his free hand out to the group. "If you'll excuse us."

Odette turned around as soon as he loosened his grip on her and took a couple of long strides away from him. She wasn't sure where she was going, but as long as she could get some distance between her and that gods-awful conversation, she didn't care. She stopped next to a standalone table inhabited by a few others. They were speaking so loud that she was able to pick up on their conversation.

"€10.4 million for the spinda?"

"I'll do €10.7 million. You won't find these markings on any ol' spinda."

The longer she'd been here, the more she understood what was happening.

When she looked around, she saw hundreds more shinies than she had at the gala. As she made her rounds with Dorien upon arriving, she'd bore witness to numerous impromptu auctions, just like the one right next to her. The gala was a social event, but this was a group auction.

Fucking deplorable, she thought.

"Sylveeeeeon," Enora groused quietly. as she sat down next to Odette's feet.

"Don't start with me, I already know that--"

She was cut off by Dorien catching up to her. He locked his arms with her and placed a hand on hers. As if he were somehow concerned about her well-being.

"Sorry about that. Traders tend to get a little excited," he said. He sounded as sincere as he had when he calmed everyone down. As he spoke, a man in a vest sauntered by with a tray of white wine, and Dorien held a hand out to snap at him.

"Two here, good sir," he said. The waiter stopped and presented the tray, and Dorien plucked two of the glasses from it, handing the second one to Odette. She took it but didn't bother to take a sip. She hardly felt like putting alcohol in her system here would be a good idea.

She felt on higher alert than she had the last time, especially now that she was here parading Enora around. What she really wanted was a glass of water. Something for the rage, the tiredness.

"Oh, I'm sorry, are you a wine drinker, Enora?" Dorien asked. Odette watched as Enora shot him a dirty look.

"Sylv," she said stiffly.

"Enora doesn't have a taste for alcohol," Odette said. "None of my partners do. Except for Isaur, but she's just a foodie."

Saying that out loud made her furrow her brow. None of her partners were drinkers, except for Isaur.


Dorien shrugged before sipping from his glass. "Suit yourself, but this is the good stuff. You won't find this wine at any old tea party."

That's what they were calling this one, a tea party. A garden tea party. Before, it was a gala, and now it was a tea party. Instead of a grand ballroom, they conversed in a vast, exquisitely-kept garden. Fountains were buried among rows and rows of expertly trimmed flower bushes and towering trees. Of course, this place looked picturesque. According to what Odette had read about it, it was kept almost entirely by roserades, roselias, and budews. It was normally open to the public and was a stomping ground for ambitious trainers. But today, the whole area had been rented out for this event.

The gathering itself was being held right on the banks of the giant, yet very charming lake, sitting smack in the middle of the flora. It looked like the scene had been pulled from A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte down to the socialites in their vintage tea dresses, suits, stupid little parasols, and fancy hats. Such beautiful scenery, tarnished by the sound of exchanging prices and the sight of Pokemon who just looked defeated as they followed their owners around.

A swell of laughter erupted from a group nearby, and Odette turned her head abruptly. Naturally, Noel stood in the middle as he raised his half-empty champagne glass, clinking it with an elderly woman standing next to him, beaming as if he'd just told a clever joke. He held Ru in a baby harness, strapped to his stomach. The bird was in the middle of downing what looked to be a cupcake.

It was good to see that at least Noel and his partner were having a nice time with the top-donor friends they'd made. She hoped he was getting some good information in that little circle because, at this point, she wanted nothing more than to head home.

But, they were in deep. She had people bidding on Enora, and Noel had a crowd. As uncomfortable as it felt, it was a good spot. If they left now, there was a chance they forfeited their standing, and they certainly couldn't afford that now.

Besides, they'd been there for almost two hours, and Odette had yet to see even a glimpse of silver hair...

"Do you know where I could find some water?" she asked.

Dorien stopped in his sip before nodding his head toward the bar that had been set up under one of the larger white gazebos.

"They'll certainly have some at the bar," he said. "Is the wine too much, Doll?"

"It must be. I feel like I'm going to vomit," she said. She didn't need to lie about that part.

Dorien sighed deeply. "Well, that's no good," he said, sticking out his lower lip. "Why don't you and Enora head up there, and I'll meet you in a bit? I have to go find the other boys; they're around here somewhere."

She definitely liked that suggestion. Time away from him was time well spent. He'd barely left her alone since they'd arrived, and if she was going to continue swallowing her rage, she'd need a break. Especially after that conversation.

"I'm okay with that," she said. She went ahead and pecked him on the cheek to ensure he wouldn't sweep her off into an unwanted kiss again. Gross, but the lesser of the two evils. He chuckled, then tapped her on the nose affectionately. He walked off after that, and Odette waited several seconds before turning on the heels of her character shoes, hiking up her dress with her free hand, and speed-walking to the bar.

"Syyyyyyyylve!" Enora hissed at her feet. "Sylveon, sylv. Sylv!"

"I already told you," Odette replied in a louder whisper. She was panting heavily now, and the corners of her vision were starting to blur. She needed to get to a chair and sit down. "I'm not dropping this until we figure out what the fuck we saw. If you didn't want to get involved, then you shouldn't have asked me to bring you. If you wanted to tell me what a bad idea you thought this was, you had plenty of time to do that safe, at home. This is definitely not the place for you to be riding my dick."

Odette already felt on edge. She'd nearly sunk into a panic when Enora requested to accompany her out without really specifying why she'd had the change of heart. Having her there, nagging her about how stupid her efforts were, really wasn't helping anything. All it was really doing was frustrating her, and frustration never led to anything good.

"Veeeeon," Enora said as they made it to the bar. Odette threw herself onto one of the stools and sat down with the wine glass. Enora hopped up onto the empty one next to her.

Taking a cautious look around, Odette could see that the area was mostly empty, and even the single bartender was busy with other matters at the other end of the bar. She took the opportunity to hunch down to Enora's eye level, despite the sleepiness that weighed her body down.

"I get it, Enora," she said. "But believe me, if you saw what Isaur and I saw last week, you'd get it."

Enora returned her look with a similar level of intensity like she had no intention of backing down from her stance. Odette believed that much too because there was no swaying Enora from anything unless she put the work into it. If there was ever a time for Enora and her to be on the same page, it was now. She needed her to understand.

"I know you've been quiet about it since I told you what I was doing--what the team's doing," she continued, "but now that you're sitting here, looking at the other shinies around you, you need to talk to me. You can't ask to come along then get mad I brought you. If you have something to say, now's the damn time. Clearly, you wanted to see what was happening, or you'd have kept to yourself as you have been, right?"

After a long beat, Enora reluctantly turned her head, looking over the other attendees and their Pokemon. Odette followed her gaze and once again took the time to observe them.

A majority of them looked tired. Maybe not as tired as that malamar and that scizor had looked, but a lot of them walked with noticeably sluggish weight in their step. More noticeably, most exuded an aura of reluctance. They trailed behind their owners with gaits that made it clear they wanted to be anywhere else but there. Smiles were sparse, and cheerful mannerisms were even sparser.

"It's exactly what Isaur and I told you," she said. "From what we understand, some evil shit came out of those other Pokemon, and we have reason to believe that's happening to all the shinies here. Grandpa might know something about it, and Dorien definitely knows something about it, but we know nothing. And we're trying to change that."

Odette could see Enora's ears sinking lower and lower the more she spoke.

"I admittedly don't know what your hangup it. I know you don't like the danger aspect, but you won't tell me anything. I know this hits close to home for you, but I only know that from an assumptive level," she said. "Have you witnessed--"

Behind them, some cheers rang out. Odette and Enora turned around to see two people, a man, and a woman, shaking hands. At the woman's feet were a shiny plusle and minun, both holding onto each other. Those two didn't look sad, though. They looked scared.

The man gestured to them, and the minun shook its head. The woman spoke, and they both shook their heads at that time. The man rolled his eyes, and the woman handed him a pokeball. He called the minun back into the ball, pocketed it as he waved to the woman, then turned and walked off as if he'd just bought a jug of milk.

The plusle began to hobble after the man, but didn't get very far before the woman stepped in front of it. It stared off after the man, and Odette watched as its expression melted from one of anxiety to one of sheer anger.

Before she knew it, it was sparking up. Finally, a display of defiance. Odette involuntarily perked up.

But, the sparks died down as soon as they appeared, and the plusle slumped down to its knees, winded. The woman watched, disdained, as she pulled a device out of her pocket to examine it. It looked like a small radio, and Odette recognized it almost immediately. The police used it on rampaging Pokemon to calm them down and keep them from using their moves in a fit of their fury.

A fucking dampener. That explained so fucking much. Of course, these psychos would be walking around with devices to keep their bought trophies from fighting back. That was why none of them did; they must have known better. She had to wonder if they worked on the monstrous Pokemon too, but was far to stuck on the heartbreaking scene to think too much on it.

Odette wasn't a crier, but fuck...that sobered her up from her anger haze really fast.

Her eyes widened, and she turned back around and sat her arms on the counter. She could see out of the corner of her eye that Enora did the same. They didn't speak to each other for a while.

"Veeeon," Enora whispered after gods knew how much time had passed.

"Do you get it now? You'd want somebody to do something about it if that was you, right?" Odette said in agreement. Enora nodded once in solidarity.

More silence swelled between them. At that point, Enora's ears had gone totally slack, and she slowly aimed her eyes toward the ground.

"You're shiny. And I don't know much about where you came from before you joined my team. But if this is too deep for you, I want you to know that you can tell me. Please."

"Sylv…" she muttered. "Veee, eeeon. Vee."

With an inward gasp, Odette bristled. Tension filled her shoulders, and she recoiled backward.

"This isn't...like that," she said. Her heartbeat picked up speed, and she could hear it in her ears.

"What happened with Deschamps was...unfortunate. But...this isn't like that. I'm paying attention. Noel's with me. I'm sure to have one of you with me at all times now, too."

"Vee?" Enora asked, finally looking up at her again. The intensity of her look caused Odette to catch her breath in her throat. Her internal rage and sorrow cocktail was quickly replaced by guilt.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I really am...so sorry."

Finally, she knew for sure why Enora was so reluctant. She really was asking so much of her.

It was one thing to play undercover cop for busting a drug ring, but they had since realized they were dealing with a much bigger problem. Trafficked Pokemon, being bounced around because they can create those demonic Pokemon. It had to have something to do with the drugs yet, but they weren't sure what.

Odette was asking Enora--and her entire team--to put themselves in a situation they might get hurt. Put themselves in a place where Pokemon were being harmed right in front of them, and just sit back and watch it happen, while perhaps risking becoming part of it. There was even a chance of Odette herself getting harmed through all this, while simultaneously forcing them to bear witness to that as well. Again.

The anxiety she felt whenever Dorien wrapped his arms around her, kissed her, or looked at her like he wanted to take her was astronomical. It matched her feelings as those socialites stared at Enora during that uncalled-for bid. Of course, she swallowed it down. She knew she was playing a part, and none of it was real...at least, that's what she told herself. She told herself it was worth having to deal with the unwanted affection and the attention on her shiny Pokemon to be able to get to the bottom of what was happening here. She could do that. But to ask Enora herself to do it too? And her team? That was a different story, and in the fervor of her efforts, she'd grown blind to it.

"I am asking...a lot of you," she said. "And I am just so sorry. That's why I wanted to talk about this, but I'm so caught up in my own head and not really thinking about what might be going through yours. Or Isaur's. Or Ange's. Or Solene's. Hell, even Loïc's."

For the first time since they arrived, Enora smiled. It caused Odette to grin, and they chuckled with each other. It was a much-needed break from the heavy.

"But," Odette continued, bringing them back to the topic at hand. "I am really invested in this. More invested than I probably have any business being. Because it's Grandpa, you know? And, that plusle, that minun, the malamar, the scizor...it's all of them too," she said as she gestured behind her, out toward the other despaired shinies.

It wasn't an immediate reaction, but Enora soon nodded.

"And we've found so much already. I can't really afford to forfeit all the time I've sunk into this yet, as much as you don't want to hear it. Things are nefarious, but I don't feel like I'm in danger. Yet."

Enora didn't respond that time.

"So, how about this," she offered. "If things start getting bad. If Dorien gets too handsy, somebody pulls out a gun, or somebody, like, dies...I'll pull out. Wipe my hands clean, forget it happened." She dusted her hands off and held them out to her sides. "That's me, though. I already told you this, but I don't want to make you do something you're that reluctant--"

The bartender finally approached, cleaning out a shot glass, effectively cutting her off.

"Can I get you two anything?" he asked.

Odette sighed. "Sparkling water."

"Eeon," Enora added.

The bartender nodded and walked off to get it. About a minute of silence later, another presence moved up next to Odette's right side.

"I'll have what she's having," he called to the bartender as he sat down. Odette nearly jumped out of her skin because she immediately recognized the distinct scent of pecha smoke.

She cut her gaze to the right and expectantly found that head of silver and pair of bright blue eyes she'd been hunting for. Heat traveled to her face as Clovis looked back at her with a bright smile, even as he held a lit cigarette between his teeth.

"Fancy seeing you here," he greeted. "I hope you don't mind if I rain on your secluded parade."

She blinked rapidly, hoping that would somehow allow her to come up with a quick response. "I don't mind at all," she said. "I hate to disappoint, though. I'm sticking to non-alcoholic drinks today."

Clovis stifled a laugh as he waved at her dismissively. "Cheers to that," he said. "By the way, that is a lovely color on you."

She peered back down at the frilly pale pink dress she'd dawned on just before her eyes traveled to the pressed pink shirt he wore. There was a neatly folded handkerchief of the same color in his breast pocket; a nice touch. He also wore a pair of bright white pants that were being held up with matching suspender straps, a single ultra ball fixed to the left strap. The white bowtie wrapped the whole ensemble up perfectly--practically a gift bow asking to be pulled open.


He looked absolutely adorable, in the most gorgeous type of way. And it only made it better than that pink shirt was somehow almost the same hue as her dress.

Stop. You can't even trust him yet, you don't know what his fucking deal is. Keep it together.

"Let me guess. Versace?" he asked. A hint of mischief flashed in his eyes as he reached up and grasped his cancer stick between his fingers. She legitimately smiled for the first time that day before rolling her eyes.

"No, my high school costume stash cleanout," she replied. "From our production of Hairspray. Dorien said 'tea party' and I figured I had nothing else that suited the scene."

He nodded approvingly as he inhaled a drag from the cigarette. "Well, if you don't mind my boldness, you certainly look dashing again."

Her mind was swimming. Again? Did that mean he thought she looked fine the first time they met? Shit, how did he even remember her from that? Even if they had talked for a while and had dinner together, how many people did this guy talk to a day? A week? How would he have remembered her unless he made a conscious effort to?

Then again, he tried to warn her not to come back. So, perhaps he was looking for her as a result of that?

Stop being a fucking moron!

The bartender returned with three glasses of sparkling water and sat them down. Clovis picked his up, nodding in thanks to the man, before quirking a brow at the latter two drinks.

"Thirsty?" he queried. It was there that Enora put her paws up on the counter and peered at him over Odette's shoulder.

"Vee veooonn," she said.

Odette could see the sheer shock that came over Clovis's face, even as she grabbed her own glass and began chugging it. The immediate relief she felt from the bubbly hydration was well worth the wait. She'd nearly finished the drink entirely before setting it down again.

"Right," she said sheepishly. "I brought somebody new today. This is my friend, Enora. Enora, this is Clovis."

"Sylveeee," Enora said dubiously.

"I guess I forgot to mention she was, uh...shiny. She joined my team willingly, though. I found her digging through my dumpster."

Hopefully, he wouldn't get the wrong idea.

It was a long while before Clovis spoke again. He was evidently too busy cutting his eyes back and forth between Odette and Enora. Odette could practically hear his brain working, and she nearly cringed. She watched him pull the cigarette out of his mouth and drink from his glass.

"Funny," he said just after he swallowed his gulp. "I could have sworn by our conversation that you wouldn't get involved with something like this."

Fuck, she thought angrily.

She held up a defensive hand. "I'm not."

He set his glass down and then leaned his cheek on his hand. "Oh, really? How have your bids been today, then?"

"Haven't hosted any, and I don't plan to."

He flexed the corners of his lips, mulling the words over. He put the cigarette back in his mouth and took another drag before blowing the smoke up toward the gazebo ceiling.

"I was a tad shocked to see you here after my warning the other night, but now it's starting to make some more sense to me," he muttered.

The anger she'd managed to wade through previously was starting to flare back up again. She wasn't quite sure why, though. She knew where his head was, and it, of course, made sense. She supposed she was getting so upset because she couldn't bear the thought of this man she liked so much viewing her in such a negative light. Right?

This...this is real bullshit.

"Whatever you're thinking, I can assure you it's not true," she said as evenly as she could manage.

"What do you think I'm thinking?" He quirked a brow again. This time, it was a tad bit more serious.

"Commoner trainer who got incredibly lucky wants to figure out how to push that luck. Rest assured, it's not like that," she shot back.

"Sylveon!" Enora yipped. The suddenness of her outburst caused Odette to turn around to face her. Enora now wore a look of determination--like she also wanted to make it clear that Clovis's current assumptions were wrong.

"Then, what's your angle? It all seems pretty straightforward."

A nasty glare fell over her features as she looked back over at him. Her angered lips detached from her brain and began to run before she could think it over. "I could ask you the same thing, Clovis. What's a shut-in like you doing figure skate--"

She wanted to cover her mouth. She wanted to stop herself from asking such a pointed question like that. However, she needn't have bothered. Hands covered her mouth before she could finish talking, but they weren't hers.

It all happened so fast. She was talking, and the next thing she knew, Clovis was almost entirely out of his chair, lunging forward to press his hands over her mouth. She wasn't sure when he'd grabbed the handkerchief, but it was dangling between his fingers as he held it over her lips.

She blinked once, twice, three times before angling her eyes up toward him. He stared down at her with that same panic he held in his eyes when he'd accidentally dropped that hint on her the first time. This time, however, it was lingering.

He looked over toward a man who happened to be walking by and smiled. "No worries, she just cut her lip a little bit," he assured. The guy seemed to accept that explanation because he walked off. As he left, Clovis's expression morphed back into that same panicked look as he sat down and removed one hand from her mouth.

"Take the handkerchief," he said in a whisper. But, what struck her is that he said it in Galarian. She considered it, before doing as he instructed. He sighed in what sounded to be a relief as he removed his other hand and sat back down.

"Great, you understood," he said. Those words were in Galarian too.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "My Galarian is pretty good," she said, following his lead with the language switch. She didn't quite like how thick her accent sounded around the words, but she knew she could speak it well. "I'm also really good at not letting my screw-ups show on my face."

He laughed, though it sounded rather rancorous. He pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and snuffed it out on an ashtray that happened to be on the counter. He then chugged what was left of his water before slamming the glass back down. He clearly did it more aggressively than he intended because the 'BANG' that rang out made him flinch.

"Gods," he seethed through clenched teeth. "I know better. I really do know better."

"Undercover cops have blown their cover for less," she said quietly before lowering the handkerchief to her lap.

"I'm sure you would know, Miss Cinq-Mars. Your grandfather has been on the police force for years."

Her stomach dropped. The silence that followed compelled him to keep talking.

"Since you clarified that you did your research, I thought I'd return the favor."

She brought her hand to her face and began to scratch her cheek as she turned to lean her elbows on the bar. From the corner of her eye, she could see Clovis do the same.

She wondered how she should word her next question. She knew what a search for her name would bring up and wondered what exactly he found. If he was anywhere as thorough as she was…

"And?" she asked.

He released a huff as he began to tap his fingers on the granite. "The subject matter was less than savory, and I can bet my fortune it's not something you want to discuss with me."

She knew for sure she wasn't breathing normally at this point. She felt Enora place her paw on her hand and sent her a quiet nod.

"How'd you even research me without my last name?" she asked. "Did you ask Dorien for it?"

He didn't immediately respond, but when he did, he was quite sharp with his tone. "Hell no. Didn't want to pique his interest in my affairs. I had a name, and a face, and I knew you danced. It was a process of elimination, but I had the resources to figure it out," he explained.

She supposed with a billion dollars on hand, it was just that easy. She wanted to be upset, but how could she when she had a literal packet of information on him in her backpack? But why would he research her at all? Was it because he knew his slip-up and wanted to know how to keep her from squealing?

For some reason, she felt as if she was up shit's creek without a paddle. How was she supposed to maneuver this?

"I know you're supposed to be a shut-in who's helping your dad Charles run the Clair De Lune group. You also have a lot of fucking siblings," she said.

He hummed to himself for a while, then scoffed. "Just to correct you from earlier, I'm not a cop," he said.

"Right, you're actually a figure skater," she responded, barely loud enough to be heard.

She heard him exhale sharply. "Anything else?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

"Any scandals I should know about?"

The look he gave her was perturbed. "No?" he replied. "Define scandals?"

"What do you think I mean by scandals?"

His brows remained knit as he continued staring at her. He eventually tilted his head.

"Are you asking if I'm a predator?"

"Well, are you?"

He exhaled sharply, eyes momentarily bugging out of his head in a state of disbelief. For a moment, it almost looked as if he'd whip her with a violent tongue-lashing. But just before his expression could become too intense, a sense of...understanding seemed to pass over his features.

"I respect the nerve to ask," he said. He spoke more calmly than she anticipated he would. The look he trained on her now was intense, but she held it, relentlessly hunting for any indication he might not have been speaking truthfully. "But rest assured, I wouldn't dream of being so," he paused briefly, trying to find the right word, "disgusting. If there's one thing I can promise you, it's that."

His eyes were as unyielding as his words. It felt like he was speaking to her with a sense of urgency at that moment. Like he wanted her to know that he was definitely telling the truth.

Somehow, that made her feel better. Just a little. It probably wasn't the best approach, but she needed to know.

"If you're done with the accusations, I'm going to ask you again," he said after a beat of silence. There was a new sternness in his tone that made her blood run cold. "What's your angle?"

She racked her brain for how she felt she could answer this. From her conversation with Noel just several days before, she'd had her share of hypotheses, and she'd been solely convinced that Clovis had something to do with Virtue Corp, and his alignment banked on where Virtue Corp stood. She didn't have much to run with on that account, but it seemed likely, given the other pieces they'd put together.

Of course, there was still the chance that he was simply a rich person who vehemently opposed the shiny trade, somehow. However, given that he'd gone out of his way to research her knowing he said something he shouldn't have said, her first hypothesis was looking more and more probable. If he was trying to hide an aspect of his past, there's no way he'd go as far as to internet stalk her too. If it were her, she'd deny it. Clovis apparently had more to hide, and that was all too clear.

But the biggest question stood: was Virtue Corp on their side, or were they more aligned with Team Enigma?

She didn't have time to think about it. She had to act fast. Answer fast.

"Figuring out what the fuck the shiny trade is. And where sacrilege is coming from," she said. Maybe she could appeal to the fact that they were on the same page concerning their hate for this institution.

He leaned back and crossed his arms, ducking his chin toward his chest as if he were sinking into deep thought. She decided that it'd be a good idea for her to wrap her thoughts up, lest she accidentally say too much.

"So whatever you're thinking? It's wrong. My intentions are good."

And she hoped she was on the right track.

He didn't move or give any acknowledgment of her words. At least, not until a snicker jolted his shoulders. Shaking his head, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a carton of cigarettes. In a couple of motions, he seemed to have it down to a science, the stick was lit between his teeth. He then shot a look not at her but at Enora. He then gazed out over the garden, and Odette followed his look. Her eyes fell back on the woman who split up the plusle and minun, and she had half a mind to walk over there and punch her square in the jaw. The level of heartlessness was astronomical, she still couldn't fathom it.

"I believe you," Clovis suddenly declared, turning back around and resting his arms on the table.

Odette shot a look at him. "You do?" There was no goddamn way it was that easy.

"Veeeee?" Enora chimed in.

With a few nods, he met her gaze as he exhaled some smoke. "I'm sure you've seen it. All these mini-auctions?" he asked. "Just the other day, at another one of these parties, I watched a man auction off a phantump to somebody. He later pulled out a pumpkaboo and the thing had no idea where her friend went. The look on her face when she realized was just--" he raised his hand to cut himself off and shook his head despairingly. "It's fucking haunting."

"I just watched someone split up a plusle and minun pair," Odette said numbly. His mannerisms and words looked promising to her. "One of them tried to fight back, and they have...fucking dampeners?"

Clovis exhaled sharply, and he took a deep drag. "Yeah, they do that. Wouldn't be able to keep such a strong hold on their 'mon without them," he said. "The people here do not care about their Pokemon. They care about the money that comes in from the trade, and..."

"...the things that come out of them."

Clovis sent her a hard, piercing look. "Right." Another drag from the cigarette. He'd sucked it down almost halfway. "The point I'm trying to make," he said as he exhaled. He opened his mouth to continue but shook his head as he moved his gaze to Enora.

"Do you even want to be here?" he asked. "Be honest. With me and yourself."

Odette also looked over to the sylveon, both eager to hear that answer and to hide her surprise. Asking Enora directly what she was feeling? Nobody aside from Dorien's fake self had done that, and Clovis appeared dead set on hearing an answer, judging by the way he stared Enora down.

Enora's ears drooped for a moment, and her shoulders tensed as she realized she was in the spotlight again. She averted her eyes away, and just when Odette thought she would remain silent, she spoke.

"Sylveon," Enora said sternly.

It was Odette's turn to widen her eyes, and Enora turned to meet her gaze.

She nodded again. Firmly. Absolutely.

She was in.

"Veee! Eeon!"

Odette resisted the urge to throw her arms around Enora, instead settling to place her hand on her head.

"Somebody kept asking me if I'd be willing to sell her earlier," she explained. "It made me ill."

Enora said.

"Well," Clovis said. "No shiny Pokemon would choose to be here like this unless they really cared. I'm sure she's here for you." Another drag from the cigarette. "And you wouldn't be repulsed by the idea of selling her like a stock unless you cared for her too."

Odette shared one last look with her trusted partner, who looked far less tense.

"Are you sure?" she mouthed.

"Sylveon." Yes, she was

Odette anxiety subsided, and she felt significantly less screwed than she had just a few minutes before.

"I believe you. And...I apologize for jumping a gun," Clovis spoke.

She shrugged and shook her head, trying to appear as if she were mostly unfazed. "No harm done."

The pained smile he gave her said otherwise, and she understood why.

"Since we seem to be on the same page, though...do you trust me enough to answer some questions?" she pressed.

Clovis sighed very deeply at that. "Surely. I have some myself," he said. "And I propose we answer each other's questions sooner rather than later. But not here." He looked over his shoulder, and she decided to do the same.

"So, may I request that we put a pin in this?" he queried.

Her heartbeat picked up with a mixture of excitement and shock. But, she kept herself together. "I don't think I have a choice. I share your sentiment that this isn't the place," she said. "Though, how do I know you won't play dumb if I try to run you down again?"

She heard him suck his teeth as he turned his head to face her again and took that as an invitation to look at him as well. His eyes were aimed down at the table. Thinking again, most likely.

"Do you have your phone on you?" As Clovis spoke, he was digging into his pocket again. He withdrew the same Applin phone he'd dunked in the vase at the gala. The thing had to have been waterproof because he clicked it on, and it appeared to be working.

"Uh, yeah," Odette said. She reached into the pocket of her skirt and withdrew her own phone. She'd barely gotten it out before Clovis abruptly handed her his. She could see that he'd gone ahead and opened the 'New Contact' menu on it.

"Quickly now," he said.

It might have been a mix of that dumb girl crush and the sheer shock that he was so willing to exchange contacts, but she didn't stall a single second. She snatched the device and punched in her number and name, probably a little more eagerly than she intended to. Upon saving it, she gave it back to him. Clovis tapped the screen several times, and RotomPhone buzzed a second later.

"Bzzt! New text from New Contact: Clovis LeClair!" he said.

"There," Clovis said. "Now you have my number and a written confirmation that we've spoken."

He stood and placed the phone back in his pocket. "We'll be in touch." He switched back to speaking Kalosian, and he went ahead and bowed to her.

"It was a pleasure speaking again, Miss Cinq-Mars. I must make my rounds now, but I'll keep my eye out for you. Keep the handkerchief."

He winked, then walked into the nearby crowd as if nothing had happened. She watched him go, blinking as if she were again watching some sort of mirage fade from view. She exchanged shocked looks with Enora before fumbling to unlock her phone to view the message.

On this day, 1/20/20, Clovis LeClair and Odette Cinq-Mars spoke at a tea party. Clovis and Odette promised to answer each other's questions at a later date.

She read the message over and over again. When he said written proof, he really meant it.

"Veeeeon?" Enora asked.

"I don't know," Odette said. "I think that worked out. But I'll believe it when I see it."

"Sylveon. Sylv."

She nodded. "Yeah, we definitely should go find them. Noel is going to flip out."

She still wasn't quite sure how to feel about the interaction that just went down. She'd need some time to dissect it, but she felt good about it for now. Her warm feelings for him aside, what just happened felt trustworthy to her now. If he were trying to evade her, he might not have even offered his phone for her number in the first place.

So many questions, but not enough answers. But, at least, she could cling to the hope that she'd get them answered. She also felt proud of herself for managing to snag his number. Of course, it wasn't the way she hoped, but she'd call it a win, all things considered.

"...vveeeeeeeeeon," Enora said sheepishly.

Odette frowned, then scratched her behind the ear again. "It's okay. As I said, I think that worked out."

"Sylveon? Syl?"

"For now, I'm inclined to believe he can be of some assistance. There are too many factors pointing to him being at least somewhat truthful, and that's more than what we have now."

That was one thing she at least momentarily didn't have to fret about. The other issue at hand, though...

She sent Enora a wary look. "Are you sure about this? I don't want you to feel compelled to take part in this if you don't want to. That almost defeats the point, you know?"

Enora pawed her ear in a quick swipe before firmly shaking her head. She sat tall and puffed out her chest. "Sylveon. Syyyylvee," she announced. Odette couldn't help but smile at the display. That time, she allowed herself to go in for the hug.

"I mean it, though. You can cry 'uncle' whenever you want, and I won't blame you," Odette said quietly. "For real, okay?"


Odette released her hold and sat back, feeling just slightly more triumphant. A welcome sensation gave the day she had so far.

"Let's go find Noel, then."


Odette weaved along the gravel trails. She'd wanted to walk by the lake, but many people seemed to be down there blatantly ignoring the "Beware of Gyarados!" signs positioned all around the perimeter. None of them appeared to care, though. She wondered if there had ever been an attack at a gathering like this. Trainers frequented those waters a lot, but did the gyarados go after people on land?

Her mind began to wander as she started to imagine herself in a situation of an attack, and her gaze traveled over to Enora, who was in front of her, walking along with Ru on her back. It'd been a while since she'd been involved in a battle with a wild Pokemon, but she supposed it wouldn't be anything she couldn't handle.

"Well. Your impulsivity paid off. Now you're in with the billionaire," Noel said, snapping her back to reality. She looked over at him as he handed her back her phone, an approving look on his face.

She shrugged as she took it, sliding it into her pocket next to Clovis's handkerchief. "He just started to piss me off, and I ran my mouth."

"And you stumped him enough to get him to admit it, at least indirectly. This is big," Noel said.

Another couple who happened to be taking a walk around the bushes too walked by, sending her and Noel polite nods as they went. She returned the gesture and only responded when she was sure they'd gone out of earshot.

"It's something. I'm still thinking about how this is supposed to go down," she said under her breath.

"From what I've seen in the movies, he's going to invite you to an empty, abandoned warehouse for a party," Noel said as he ran his hands through his slicked-back hair.

"That's not funny," Odette breathed. "And for your information, he seemed pretty offended I even insinuated he was a predator."

"Well, that's promising coming out of you. Regardless, wherever he invites you to, you're going to bring Enora and me right?"

At the sound of her name, Enora turned around and smiled. Ru chirped as well.

"I definitely wouldn't want to leave you out of the fun," she snapped. Especially now that Enora was at least tentatively on board. "And I'm obviously not dumb enough to walk off with a virtual stranger when we're investigating something criminal. Playing it safe and covering the bases."

She looked over her shoulder, ensuring they were still far from others as she spoke. The more they freely talked about this, the more anxious she felt herself becoming. Any one of these present snobs could have been listening in.

"Just making sure your formal police academy training wasn't for naught," Noel snickered, kicking a rock aside. His shoe scraped against the gravel, kicking some dust up in the process.

Odette kept her eyes peeled on the distant crowd, and she narrowed them as if that would somehow allow her to see better through the glasses on her face. She eventually caught sight of Dorien standing with Denis, Colin, Adam, and Lionel. As if fate wanted to tell her to go fuck herself, their eyes locked as soon as she noticed him, and he waved excitedly at her.

The smile she formed was bitter as she lazily returned it. Noel noticed her waving and followed her eyes. Upon noticing Dorien, he also began to wave, which was enough to get it to stop. Dorien abruptly dropped his hand and turned to converse with one of the other men. Colin, on the other hand, began to wave, thus prompting Noel to stop.

"Gods, not you," Noel groused.

"Why are you so mean to him? I mean, not that it matters because he's here," Odette mused, "but I didn't remember him being an ass to you."

"He wasn't," Noel said, something far more solemn caressing his tone. "He's an absolute sweetheart, the shiny trade shit aside. This is why I need to be assertive and clear that I'm not interested."

Odette's brow quirked. She knew Noel had his "commitment issues," but something about that seemed...extreme. But she had no room to be skeptical. She was no dating expert. Whatever worked for Noel would work for her.

"I'm more concerned with your man not liking me. I seem to have done a good job on that front," he smirked.

"Lucky you," Odette said. "Maybe you won't get invited to our wedding."

Eyes wide, Noel whipped back around to face her. "Who said anything about a wedding?"

"Oh, you didn't hear? Apparently, it's something he's thinking about. He'd be able to 'die happy' if he could call me his wife," she said sharply.

"Hell no," Noel spat. "You and I are getting married for the tax benefits before I let you meet that bitch at the end of the aisle."

That got a laugh out of her, and she absolutely needed it. She leaned her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his. "My knight in shining armor," she said, feigning a shrill voice. He chuckled and took that as an invitation to wrap his arm around her shoulders.

"I wonder how Denis is dealing with those flagrant ass comments. I think it'd be funny to see them go at it," Noel snickered.

She furrowed her brow, picking her head off his shoulder to peer up at him. "Why would Dorien and Denis go at it?"

Noel sent her a playfully puzzled look. "Denis had a thing for you too, didn't he? Some jealous fighting between rich boys might make this more bearable."

"What the hell are you going on about? Denis never had a thing for me," she scoffed, confused. Noel looked positively taken aback. Like he was about to shake some sense into her.

"He asked you out twice."

"Huh?" She felt she would have recalled something like that, yet she was drawing blanks. "If he did, I definitely don't remember."

"Really? I could have sworn he did," Noel said. He seemed to relent because he shook his head in defeat. "But maybe I'm all screwed up by this sleuthing shit. Or you're just cold and are good at putting that shit out of your head."

"I do classify myself as pretty chilly."

I wouldn't forget that, she assured herself. But it was starting to feel like a false statement. Forgetting about Dorien's occupation, and now apparently forgetting Denis of all people had also had a thing for her? Did she really put that much of her secondary school days out of her head?

"What does it matter, though? They're both off the table. If your faith and reads on the silver delphox ring true, he's the one," Noel said.

That was something better to think about. "Really, now?"

Noel began to shake his head. "If he's not lying, he was hella forthright with the flirting. He looked at you like he would melt when we sat down for dinner the other night. When I said he thought you were pretty, I wasn't busting your balls."

"What are you going on about now?"

"See, this is why we're friends, Dee." He pinched her nose with his free hand, causing her to thrash her head to shake him off. "You pick up on everything but the flirting, and that's where I'm holding your slack."

Her expression didn't change. "Again, I ask. What the fuck are you going on about now?"

Noel dramatically rolled his eyes. "He was flirting with you so goddamn hard at the table, I'm surprised even you didn't notice," he said through a laugh. "If he weren't such a scary fucking enigma, I'd have asked for his number on your behalf."

This was news to her. While Noel certainly had a point, flirting was not her forte, she never once got the vibe that him talking to her was him trying to flirt. They were just...talking about her dancing. And he was telling her about things he knew about the wealthy, perhaps things he probably shouldn't have told a stranger such as herself…

Gods, was that flirting? Maybe it wasn't shocking she'd forgotten being asked out twice, this was clearly not her forte. And for all she knew, he was a part of a villainous organization...

Her face had morphed into a more contemplative expression, and Noel laughed heartily. He wriggled his arm out of her grasp and moved behind her, setting his hands on her shoulders to give her a half-hearted massage.

"Sweet, sweet, summer child Odette," he sang. She reached back and smacked him on his wrist.

"I don't do this dating thing, ass," she said. "Especially not now."

"Nothing's stopping you from window shopping, and you can't go wrong with the richest guy in the garden," Noel suggested. "Despite what we may or may not know about him. Ignorance is bliss sometimes."

While she listened to him talk, her eyes started to wander again. She didn't dare look back in the direction she saw Dorien and the other Lansat boys, lest she unintentionally beckoned them over. Instead, she was hunting for silver again. She thanked her lucky stars Clovis had decided to dye his hair such a ridiculous color because she found him easily among the sea of blonde, brunette, and black.

He was standing by a couple of other men, smoking yet another cigarette. His mouth moved as if he were talking, and his lips slowly but surely began to morph into a smile as his shoulders started to shake.

Gods, he even made laughing look dreamy. She didn't even know what the hell was so funny, and she felt the urge to giggle with him.

"I mean, fuck. Look at him," Noel said. "Honestly, once we figure him out, I bet I could make him have a bisexual awakening if I tried hard enough."

"I thought you said I could have him?"

"That's why I said bisexual instead of gay. We can share."

Odette formed a joking comeback but was interrupted by a shrill roar coming from the lake, followed by some surprised gasps and screams. She looked at Noel before rushing around the rosebush she was standing next to get a view of the lake. The sight of a gyarados rearing its head up out of the water, close to the bank, and near a group of people. Some of them scrambled back, but others actually lingered close. There was a distinct sound of laughter in the air now.

"So much for beware of the gyarados," Noel said, an air of disgust in his voice. "Bet they're going to make their poor shinies fight."

Odette had gotten a similar thought, and she didn't like the prospects of that. If any of the present shinies were as tired as the malamar and scizor had been, that wouldn't end well.

A man stepped forward from the small crowd. Heavyset, bald, suit didn't look like it fit well. He raised what she thought was a pokeball, and brought his thumb to his face.

"Desmocula, let's have some fun!" he shouted. The ball opened in a pop of maroon light, and he bit down on his thumb in the same manner Odette had seen Mr. and Mrs. Patenaude do during their battle.

"No fucking way," Noel said. He took the words right out of her mouth.

In another otherworldly show, a demonic Pokemon reared its head. This one didn't look like a fish or a leech. This one closely resembled a bat. Its ears were bigger than its head, and its fangs, dripping with a black substance, protruded from its jaw. Its wings were long, sporting a deep black color. They almost reminded Odette of a cape a vampire would wear. As soon as the monster had fully formed, it launched itself at the gyarados, with a shriek that made her flinch.

"S...sy-sylv?" Enora queried. Her voice broke, most likely from the sheer bombshell she was witnessing. Even Ru looked surprised.

"Remember those Pokemon Isaur and I told you about?" Odette said. "Safe to assume that's one."

The heavyset man wasn't even calling out any moves. He was letting the horrific bat go to town on the serpent. They were matched in size, but it looked like Desmocula was faster. Every time the gyarados tried to whip it with its tail or go in for a bite, the bat was one step ahead. It zipped and zig-zagged around, landing violent nip after heavy slap, and it wasn't long before the gyarados as wobbling in exhaustion.

"Vullaaa?" Ru squeaked, pointing toward the fight. Noel bristled at the words.

"Good point," he said. He scrambled for his phone. "Why didn't we film the ones we saw before?"

It was an immediate lightbulb moment, and Odette dug into her pocket for her own phone. She'd been too shocked the first time to think of anything but the battle she was witnessing, but now, with a little more clearness, why wouldn't she try to film it? She wasn't sure what she could do with it, but she'd figure that out later. It was damning evidence as long as she didn't make it obvious what she was up to. Surely the wealthy had a "no cameras allowed" rule regarding these things, considering what a secret it is.

"That's weird," Noel said, tapping his phone screen aggressively. "It's telling me my camera app's disabled here."

Odette frowned as she powered on her phone. She didn't put it past Noel to overuse his phone memory, so that had to be the problem. Luckily, she barely used her camera, so she had plenty of room. She tapped on the app, and positioned herself to start filming by angling herself behind Noel so nobody directly to his left could see her.

"Bzzzzzt. Sorry, Odette. Camera's not working," RotomPhone said.

"What? What do you mean?" she asked. "I have no memory usage. How is it not working?

"Bzzzzzzzzzzzzt. Dunno! I can't pull it up. Something's blocking me from accessing it. Bzzzzt!"

Her mouth gaped as she returned attention to the one-sided battle. The gyarados looked like a ragdoll now, but Desmocula was still going at it.

"That doesn't make any sense."

She tried to dwell on it some more, but her focus sunk into the battle upon noticing that the gyarados fell completely limp. A knockout.

Wait...no. The bat wasn't stopping. The gyarados was not fighting back, and Desmocula was still ripping into it.

"Stop," she muttered, somehow hoping that would end the battle. "It's done. What are you doing?"

Nothing happened. The "battle" continued, and blood began filling the water. What made it worse was that she could hear the heavyset man laughing.

"Keep it up, Desmocula! No mercy!"

"Mercy's gone, he's killing it," Odette said loudly. Her lower back started to prickle, and it picked up intensity faster than it usually did. She looked at Noel, who just looked clueless. He was as lost on what to do as she was.

Desmocula went in for another attack, and in a swift bite, it tore off one of the gyarados' whiskers. It didn't even flinch.

She couldn't take it anymore. She'd been walking around despondent Pokemon all day and witnessing the worst of the worst of mankind. She could no longer sit by and watch this happen. Her anger was bubbling over into a violent froth.

Before considering her options, she was already halfway toward the bank.

"Stop! It fainted! You're done!" she bellowed, stomping up to the overweight man. He apparently didn't hear her because he looked surprised when she got to him and grabbed him by the fabric of his sleeve.

"Call that thing back," she seethed. "You're gonna kill it!"

"Bah!" the man spat, swatting at her. "Get away, little one. You don't know what you're fuckin' talkin' about. One less gyarados won't kill anybody, ya know?"

He turned back around, and Odette's vision swam. Without a moment's hesitation, she lunged for the Pokeball in his hand.

"Hey!" he yelped. "I said keep back!"

He wrestled with her, and Odette discovered that there was indeed strength between all that fat. In a single push, he sent her stumbling backward. The force of her head and back hitting the grass knocked the wind out of her, and she coughed violently.

"I should press charges for harassment, you fuckin' bitch. Let me do my thing, and you crawl back from where ya came and do yours."

He stomped back to watch the fight, leaving Odette struggling to recollect herself.

She'd been trying so hard all day to keep it together. She'd been trying so hard to keep herself in control. She dealt with kissing Dorien, discussing marriage with him, getting lectured by Clovis, and watching the shiny trade function. The day had been hell on earth, and she'd managed to keep herself under control and act the part just to find just a smidge of information.

All of that was out the window now. As she pushed herself to sit up, all she could see was red. She reached for a rock.

I'll fucking teach you to push me.

She forced herself to stand and reared back to peg it right at the back of his bald head. However, she was stopped from doing so by that same demonic screech.


She looked back up to see the abomination flying back toward the bank. It had left the gyarados floating lifeless on the lake. It landed with a harsh 'thump' on the grass, and the man extended his arms and flexed the pokeball toward it.

"Desmocula, return--"

The man was cut off by the twisted bat pushing him aside, sending him flying to the side. Odette watched in a mix of surprise and delight as he rolled away. However, the surprise and delight were short-lived when she looked back toward the Pokemon and saw it glaring toxic daggers at her. Tarry saliva drilled to the ground as Desmocula crouched low, growling dangerously.

Odette tensed, her anger subsiding and morphing into fear. That fear grew in size as the demon took a step toward her. Instinctively, she stepped backward, dropping the rock, and that was apparently the only invite Desmocula needed. With a hiss, it lunged.

It all happened in an instant. As the giant bat terror flew toward her, an intense ringing filled her ears, quickly becoming so deafening that she could hear nothing else--not the snarl of Desmocula, or the screams of the onlookers. All sound was absorbed in the ringing, and she could do nothing but cover her head.

Then, it was like something had taken over. Pure, undiluted fury--unlike she'd ever felt before--engulfed her whole being, and she suddenly felt like she was on fire. But the fire was...empowering? She suddenly felt energized, strong, and almost...good?

However, this will wasn't her own. Her conscious thoughts still managed to break through.

What's happening? What's happening? Stop ringing! Brace!

While all she wanted to do was cover her head, something invisible compelled her to stand upright and look this thing in the face. As she stood upright and opened her eyes, she found that she could only see from her left, as the right had gone dark.

...what the fuck is happ--

Her thoughts and the ringing were abruptly interrupted by her own voice.

B̴̨̭̓̋̃Ī̸̱̮̙̝̘͂̚͜Ţ̸̮̱̽̊C̴͖̭̙̱̓̏͠H̸̠̑͝,̷̤͍̈͊̒̓̏͝ ̶͖̭̝̺̖̒̅̐͜Į̸̖̣͍̞̩̓͗̓̅͠ ̸̦̬͂H̸͕̙̓͑̓̉̒͝Ö̵̧̩́͝P̵̤̎̓͆̆È̴̡̲̻̰̼ ̷̰͍̠͔̝̻̏̃̓͐͑̚T̵̟͚̞͌̽͌Ḩ̸͔̭̗̺̂̽̒̓͝E̵̛̹͂ ̷͕̣̥̀͒̏͝ͅF̶̥̳͕̆͊̿̑͛̌Ų̷̤̭̏̊̉̚͜͝Ç̶̼̦̱͈͈̆̋̋K̸͔̺͚̦͚̯̋̆͗̇ ̶͔̬̮͓̊̏̊͛̉Y̷̩͚͛̊̎͒͝Ò̴̱ͅƯ̴̠̐́̽̉ ̸̬̬̻̼͈̉͂D̷̯͍͍̜͇̐̍͑̆͜͠O̷̗̒̈́̈́!̷̪̯͒͛́ ̶̧͇̭͖͌͐̅B̷̢̧̺̣̟̓͂̋̈̋͘I̸̞͍͍̔T̵͚̖̅E̴̢͉͕̭̯͌̉͝ ̵̦͓͚̬̉͂͜M̸̢̛̭̮̲̟͒̿̂Y̷͕͎͘͜ ̶̡͎͔̖̝̪͗͌̌̒̋V̴̧̘̩̙̑͛̊͛͝Ĕ̵̲̝̩̫̮̈̂̓̾̊S̵̮̜̉̒͒̈́̓̀͜͜Ṡ̷͎̥͕Ę̶̀̈́̈́͋̾L̷̜͈͇̩̗̱͋̌̅̋̚,̴̨̠̦͛̄̑̽͐͜ ̷̦͚̩̪̙͐͊̎S̷̡͕͕̟̋̆Ȩ̴͕̪͙́̾̕E̶̞͚̙̓͛͛̚ͅ ̸̘͇́̇̈́̍̐̀W̶͖̏́̒͋̍Ḣ̴̡̘̭̓͆́̏̚ͅA̷̪̝͋T̷̡̲̤͎͌́ ̷̢̪̗̏͊̓͒ͅͅF̸̺̜̋̒U̵̡̧̘̟͋̈́̓͊̾͘C̵̡̗̰̘̫͛͜K̸̦̉̆͘I̸̘͈͋N̷̬̲̬̅̍̋̃͑͝G̴͈̙̤̲̊̃͘ ̴̢̝͔̘͉̣̑̑͝H̵̪̙͙͓͖̍͋̓͗̃A̵͓̬͔͕͌͐̌P̶̺͂͌͐̓̊̕P̷̧̻̎̽͛͊̍Ę̶̥̦̲̠̦̀N̵̻̖̮͌̂̊͘̚S̷̝͖̖͋̿!̴̛̩͍

Desmocula winced in pain and fell onto its side, writhing and barking as if it were being attacked. It whined in agony as it scrambled back onto all-fours, scurried back toward the heavyset man, then disappeared into the pokeball he'd dropped in a flash of maroon light.

The silence that now lingered was tense. The ringing had gone, and Odette was left with the sound of her heartbeat pounding in her ears and her breathing picking up intensity. Her eyes remained locked on that pokeball as she searched her brain for an explanation of what had just happened.

That...was her voice. But it wasn't. It sounded like her, but it sounded distorted. Like it was being broadcasted through a weak radio station. Even more so, what had that done to that Pokemon?

Blinking, she very quickly became aware of how heavy she felt. She felt like she wasn't getting enough air, and her head quickly fogged up. She could also feel tears streaming down her face on the left side. When had she started crying?

She was panting now, and her legs began to wobble. Nonetheless, she still found the energy to raise her hand to her cheek and hastily wipe the tears away. But, as she moved her hand away from her face, she saw a speck of deep red. She examined her hand and found her fingers coated in blood.

Everything went black after that.


"O? Dee? Hey, come on back! Follow the sound of my voice!"

"Step back, give her some air. Somebody get her some water!

"On it."

"Syyylveon! Sylve!"

Odette groaned, and she tried to force her eyes open as she rocked her head from side to side. She felt the grass rustle beneath her as she did and a set of hands on her cheeks, lightly patting her back to consciousness.

"That's it! Hey buddy. Open your eyes and look at me." That was definitely Noel. She could barely make out his silhouette as her eyes adjusted to the light. With a few blinks, she could see his worried yet smiling face.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, madlad," he laughed. "You scared me."


"You fainted. That Pokemon lunged at you, and you passed out," he explained. He ran his finger over her cheekbone. "Don't know when the hell it cut you in the damn eye, though."

She continued to blink the involuntary sleep away, bringing her hand to her face to rub her eyes. She was startled yet again to find more blood coming from her left, and it was enough to get her to sit up on her own.

"Easy, easy. Go slow, give your brain a second to recuperate."

A hand fell against her lower back, and turning her head in the direction it felt like it was coming from, she saw it was none other than Clovis. He grinned nervously when their eyes met, gripping her shoulder with his other hand.

"Hi, there," he greeted. "Do you know who I am?"

She nodded dazedly. "You're Clovis. I'm Odette. We're in a garden," she said flatly.

He pursed his lips, looking somewhat impressed. "Alright, that's a fantastic sign."


Odette moved her attention to Enora, who had crawled into her lap and stared up at her with worried eyes. Odette placed a hand on her head and thumbed her forehead. "I'm awake. I'm awake. Not going anywhere..."

She trailed off just in time for Dorien to jog up, holding a full glass of water. He kneeled in front of her.

"Good, good, you're sitting up. Here, drink," he said, panting. He held the water out to her, and she took it steadily, carefully. She wanted to ensure she'd regained full motor function before she went about snatching things from people.

She wordlessly chugged the water, which did wonders in restoring her to her usual headspace. She no longer felt clouded and tired and instead felt like she could stand. So, she did.

"Whoa, are you sure this is a good idea?" Noel asked, holding his arms out to catch her if she fell. She only stumbled but caught her balance rather quickly.

"I'm good," Odette assured him as she nodded to herself. That was very far from the truth regarding her mental state, but she at least felt like she could drive her motorcycle home now, and that's all she wanted to do. She wanted to get out of here and away from whatever she just bore witness to.

What did I do?

"I think we can go now. I'm ready to go."

"No shot you're operating a bike after just fainting. I'll go call us a Lyft, and we'll come back and get the motorcycle tomorrow," Noel insisted.

"I can drive you home if you'd like?" Dorien offered.

Noel shot him a playfully rancorous grin. "Thaaaaaanks, sweetie, but I think we're good. I got this."

At least Noel could offhandedly curve Dorien without much consequence. It must have been nice.

Clovis interjected into the exchange by raising his hand. "I get free ride share, actually. Let me call it for you," he offered.

Noel looked at him thoughtfully, then clapped his hands together. "I'll take you up on that, good sir."

"My phone's charging at the bar, come on," Clovis said, motioning for Noel to follow him back toward the bar. As they walked away, Odette could hear Clovis telling people to clear out. Odette had been so caught up in her own head that she didn't even notice that there had been a semi-large crowd of patrons gathered around, including the more familiar faces, and they began to dissipate upon Clovis's insistence. That only left her alone with Dorien, and she huffed to herself. She couldn't make any remarks before he had his arms around her.

"Sorry, I--" she started to say.

"Odette," he cut her off.

The raw tension in his voice was jarring. She stiffened her shoulders with a start, and her tired expression turned to something more concerned as she looked up at him. She was jarred for the second time around upon seeing how wildly he was staring at her. His eyes were shining with a harsh mix of seriousness and that malice he seemed to have on standby. It might have been the lasting effects of fainting, or the confusion from what just happened, but she felt an immediate sense of panic.

"Dorien, what are you--?" she tried to ask, leaning away from him, but he jolted her back toward him.

"I need you to tell me how you just did that," he said.

She lowered her brows. There was absolutely no way for her to correctly compute that question because it made no sense to her. "How I did what? What are you talking about? Fainting?"

"No, no, no, no," he said. He sounded like he was on the verge of yelling. "How you hurt Desmocula. How did you do that? You need to tell me."

This was the first time her flight-or-fight senses came to full fruition. Her brain settled on fight because she couldn't run with him on her like this.

"What are you going on about?" she said frantically, leaning her full body weight backward and digging her heel into the ground, allowing herself leverage to push him off of her. However, he was adamant that he not let her go because his grip on her hips tightened. So much so that it actually hurt.

"Don't lie to me. I saw what you did," he said. "I won't tell anybody. You need to talk to me about it."

Her breathing picked up speed, and with whatever might she could muster, she pushed him off. "Stop grabbing me like that," she yelled.

"Sylveon!" Enora barked in unison.

It was the volume of her voice that finally caused him to let go. When they parted, Enora moved into the space between them and began to arch her back ferociously, now dead set on attacking if need be. Not long after, Clovis and Noel come jogging back over. Clovis walked toward Dorien first before looking over at Odette.

"What's going on here?" he asked. "Are we good?'

Dorien huffed, then adjusted his coat. That frantic expression flew off his face, only to be replaced with one of concern. It was that damn easy for him. "All is fine. I think she's still a little confused."

"Confused about what?" Noel inquired, walking up next to Odette and slinging his arm around her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Odette parted her lips to scream an insult but found she wasn't getting enough air anymore. As her breathing sped up, it seemed her lungs shrunk. She was quickly reduced to a panting mess, and whatever heat she'd felt in that moment of strength against Desmocula was long gone. Now, she just felt cold.

"Hey, are you okay?" Clovis asked. He walked up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder again, and Dorien was at his heels.

"Wait, she's pale," Dorien said, his voice rising. "Doll, are you okay? Do you need more water?"

The words formed in her head, but she couldn't speak. She could only focus on breathing. She felt she might suffocate if she stopped for any reason.

Why is this happening now? she thought as some newfound panic began to set in. This is the last thing that needs to happen now, no, no no, I need to be focused...

In a flash of movement, Noel was now in front of her. He ran his hands over her shoulders, trying to generate warmth. "Dee has a history of hypotension. This is one hundred percent an episode; somebody needs to call an ambulance," he instructed calmly.

"Wait, hypotension is...low blood pressure? You can have low blood pressure episodes?" Dorien wondered.

"Yes. Call the fucking paramedics," Noel raised his voice.

"Cancelling the ride, calling," Clovis said. He had his phone in his hand now, and with a few timed taps, he was holding it to his ear.

She wanted to focus on him and his silver hair, but her vision fogged along with her head, and she suddenly couldn't stand it anymore. She lowered herself to the ground, aided by Noel and soon Enora, when she got closer to the grass.

"You're good. All's good," Noel said, still rubbing his shoulders. He was beaming at her, but his eyes weren't crinkled with the smile. "Focus on your breathing, keep your eyes on me, alright?"

Her blood pressure had always been an issue, but bad drops like this were few and far between. Why an episode started now, she'd never know. Karma for not helping that waiter the other night?

Or...what if it had something to do with that voice she'd just heard? That voice that was hers but wasn't. The way it was the thing that scared that Pokemon off. The way Dorien wanted so badly to know what it was when she didn't even know herself.

She was by no means looking forward to the ambulance ride she was in for, and she definitely wasn't looking forward to the IV drip that undoubtedly had her name on it by now.

But, if it got her the hell away from Dorien for the time being, at least until she could think clearly, she'd suck it up.
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Okay C8 now. And I see you're updating here again so.

- tfw thinking about boys messes your mind up. But it is not like she likes him or anything
- Good thing she never heard about the Duggars. Actually she would have an epic rant about them.
- Lots of talk about Clovis here. Intruige. Mystery. But Odette seems trying to talk herself out of it. Maybe rightfully so?
- Being a Rotom shoved into a machine is suffering
- They all go by their actual names, huh? I assume it was a corporate chat thing
- Missing period as he lowers his voice to ask that
- The forbidden part of the library!!
- Did Noel find the fkn Necronomicon in the library?
- Well I was not expecting this to go in that direction for shinies.
- We got a real mystery on our hands
- And the mystery of Clovis deepens

The plot continues to thicken as lore gets dumped. I was not expecting this fic to go in this direction at all though, lol. But I can dig it, so until I get the mojo for the next chapter. Which I kinda did then distractions hit.
Please note: The thread is from 1 year ago.
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