a new year brings new expectations. civil unrest starts to manifest in the form of online criticisms that spike after the three day war. now that the region no longer has to face the threat of megalopolans, the people of hoenn turn to address smaller and more personal issues. will the league rise up to the situation? what about questionable events that have transpired, overshadowed and overlooked in the face of more imminent issues?
after the ultra beast war, hoenn begins to heal. the megalopolan invasion may have failed; however, it is clear there is much more at stake. a prophecy revolving around a cyclical meteoroid, the appearance of necrozma and a dangerous and viral alien threaten the safety of the region once more.
with rocket's new boss, the resurgence and reappearance of the crime syndicate's presence is imminent. the league has done its best to repair its reputation, and with the victory of a war under their belt, perhaps it is enough. but the seeds of distrust have already been sown in the ravaged land of this region, causing many to wonder what will grow?
a siren's call draws her to the shores of dewford. the allure of a mural in a cave, full of knowledge she has yet to tap into. it's unable to be ignored, too loud, too enticing to go unnoticed. of course, a moment spent in a virtual hot spring planted the beginnings of the trip in her mind but actually going had been a different story. it took some time, some effort, and some missed work for her to make it. and now, here she is, dark hair billowing in the ocean's breeze as she stares at the opening of the cavern itself.
fate, destiny, whatever you would like to call it, has a funny way of throwing obstacles in your path, however.
she doesn't venture into the cave just yet. no, something else requires her immediate attention and that comes in the form of a large mass washing ashore. a beached wailord... it sends her into an immediate panic with just a glance at the poor thing. how long can it survive outside of the depths of the ocean? is it in pain? oh god, how can she even handle this? sure, she has some muscle on her team in the form of her discolored golurk but he's resting in his pokeball and the little shieldon in her arms isn't equipped to handle such a giant pokemon.
as if sensing her turmoil, the shieldon in question coos at her. curious eyes travel up toward her face and she's glancing down at nugget with a frown. "what should we do?" the shieldon tilts his head at her and a sigh escapes the woman a moment later. "we can't just leave it there..." it's spoken more to herself than nugget but he coos back anyway, the attempt at being comforting going a long way in the end. the coo drives her to make up her mind, to settle upon a course of action and follow through with it.
and so, she finds herself wandering away from the wailord in search of help, her flipflops in one hand and nugget balanced in one arm. the sand feels nice between her toes and if she wasn't desperate in this moment, she could almost enjoy it. ah, but she can't and she's walking the beach for a purpose. the walk is short, however, as she stumbles upon a man who seems unoccupied. perhaps he'll help... no, no perhaps. he has to. she has to believe that he will. "excuse me?" she calls in an attempt to capture his attention. "are you busy?" the question lasts in the air for a minute before she's suddenly rambling, struggling to find the right words to convey how urgent this is. "there's, um, a wailord that seems to have beached and i can't get it back into the water by myself. could -- would you help me? i'm sorry to ask but you're the first person i've found. i don't know how much longer it'll be able to stay there."
the taste of panic lingers in her mouth and it's far too familiar for her liking. it's funny, it almost tastes like iron, heavy and metallic and dyed red.
he should feel relaxed, he should, but he feels anything but. even as he's sat on the warm sands of dewford with his legs extended out, his mind is elsewhere, distracted by his thoughts.
it's been about a week since he's returned to the region and he still feels out of place, like he doesn't quite fit in anymore. it's an absurd thought, he knows as much, but it's that small doubt that gnaws at him. it's the main reason why he hasn't returned to work yet.
so he sits. and continues to sit for what feels like hours before a voice pulls him out of his thoughts. he squints his eyes as he looks up at her, the sun's glare slightly hindering his vision. "hey! no, not particularly. how can i help?" he asks as he stands up. he's mindful when he dusts the sand off his shorts.
as she starts rambling her explanation, he senses the urgency in her voice and immediately shifts his demeanor. he focuses, nodding when she's finished. "right. how long ago did you find it? it can survive for a few hours out of water, but we should still hurry." he asks, though judging from her tone he can assume the worst. he quickly follows with, "which way?"
he follows her without a moment of hesitation. his flipflops slow him down a bit as they almost seem to sink into the sand with each step. it doesn't take him long to decide to take them off before carrying them in one hand. time is of the essence, and yet he cannot help but engage in small talk in an attempt to alleviate the tension.
"i never caught your name. i'm alexander," he says.
relief is as instant as his reply, washing over her senses. it dulls the panic she feels to an extent, just enough for her to function without dissolving into an utter mess. perhaps that's why she flashes him an almost too bright smile, one that the shieldon in her arms tries to mirror a second later.
"thank you," she breathes. "i really appreciate it." and she does. there's nothing but honesty in her words, each syllable practically dripping with truth. it's not in her nature to lie, not with this. part of her wonders if that will ever change, if it will fade beneath the weight of the world. there's a cruelty she has come to understand, one she's almost terrified of seeing again. he isn't cruel, though, and she has to remind herself that every stranger she comes across isn't going to harm her. not again, never again. it's funny that she hadn't thought of that possibility when first approaching him. the brief moment of doubt only shows itself after she's done pleading for his help, after she's already explained everything that's wrong with this situation. is that the naivety she has? is it still there despite everything going wrong? will that, too, ever go away?
as he speaks, she fiddles with a stray lock of dark hair. tucking and untucking it behind one ear as if it's somehow bothering her. it isn't, though, and her excessive moving of it only manages to tickle at her face. "um," she starts, eyes retreating to the water. it hasn't been long but... she hadn't stopped to think of time after spotting the water type in the first place. panic settled in and that was that. "not long. half an hour at most? i -- i kind of panicked and immediately went for help." was that the right decision to make? will he judge her for not thinking clearly? the strand of hair stills beneath her fingers, a slight tremble wiggling at the pieces.
"oh, this way," she murmurs before rotating on her heels. her pace is a little too quick at first, something she realizes after sparing a glance over her bare shoulders to see him plucking flipflops off of his own feet. the action is enough to make her linger and an awkwardness overcomes her. the shieldon in her arms coos toward the man once he's caught up and she stays at a slower pace, sticking to his side like he's always been there.
idle chat is good, she decides with another glance toward his figure. it's distracting and majority of the time, she needs anything and everything to help her keep her thoughts from getting out of hand. and so, before she responds, she silently thanks him for releasing the frantic air around them, for reeling her in and capturing her attention. "illeana," she says and there's a softer tone to her voice, an almost honey-like sound. it's better than her previous tone, less hectic and more reflective of who she is. "it's a pleasure, alexander." there's a pause, a brief silence, and then the urge to fill it rises and she's giving in without a second thought. an insecurity always manages to show through her words in the end and this sentence is no different. "i hope i didn't interrupt you," she murmurs. her eyes find her bare feet as they trek through the sand and while nugget is more than happy to stare at their companion, she can't manage to hold eye contact. "were you on a walk or something? you seemed interested in the ocean." it's an observation that hadn't settled until now and once it does, assumptions lead to guilt and she's apologizing again as a reflex, as a habit from bad memories and worse times. "i'm sorry," and then she says nothing further, allowing the gentle crashing of waves against sand to fill the space between them.
it doesn't take him long to get a decent read on her. behind the panic and urgency that she carried when she first approached is someone who cares deeply, perhaps too much. he can tell in how she presents herself, in how quickly she corrects the silence in the air. and for a moment, he smiles, because he was once like her.
"oh no, you didn't," because there was nothing to interrupt. she pulled him out of his thoughts, sure, but he's more relieved than anything. "i just needed a quick getaway and dewford seemed most appropriate. i haven't visited in a while." the convenience of air travel is something most take for granted. to be able to travel from city to city is a true gift, one he truly appreciates. he glances at her when she apologizes. "you're good! there's nothing to be sorry for," he affirms with a warm smile, though he's careful not to overstep boundaries. it's a fine line, after all.
the sound of crashing waves reminds him of sunyshore. he's brought back to the port city, to the struggles he had to endure for months. he shakes the memory away.
"rustboro has a small beach right above it. it's not as nice as this one but i like how secluded it feels," he breathes. "that's where i'm from. rustboro." up ahead, the large outline of the wailord comes into sight. it's hard not to feel pity seeing it in the state it's in, but like always, he does a good job at masking his expression.
nugget's inevitable coo makes him turn. "have you had him for long? he's cute." devon corp had funded a great deal of money into the research of fossil pokemon in the past, and so his curiosity is only natural.
as their conversation continues, she finds herself relaxing. the chaotic energy from earlier ebbs away and a comfortable shift takes its place. perhaps she's too trusting, too naive to allow herself to feel content with this stranger beside her but he's nice and she's had too much happen to not drift toward kindness with greedy fingers. the skin of her cheeks radiates warmth and as a rosy tint overtakes them, she returns his warm smile with one of her own. her interest is piqued, however, and she toes the line between being curious and nosy. "a quick getaway?" her eyes find his as she meets his glance. "may i ask why?" hesitance fills her tone, as if she's not certain if she's going too far, seeking too much.
and then, her eyes retreat at the first hint of doubt in her mind. they seek the ocean instead and the sound of waves soothes her for some reason. she hasn't been much of a beach goer, not until recently. it's as soothing as they say, however, and she can't deny the satisfaction of sand between her toes or the calmness the crashing of waves provides. and yet, even as she stares toward the waves, toward the sea and beyond, she can't help but wish it were snow instead. plush snow up to the knees, cold yet soft, that unmistakable feeling of home. sinnoh seems so far away now but snowpoint always exists in some capacity in her mind. his words bring her back to the present and despite their initial retreat, her eyes find their way back to his and she's nodding with a bob of dark hair. nothing to be sorry for. if only she could drill that into her mind.
"it does?" illeana's flush deepens slightly as embarrassment fills and she's covering it up with a soft giggle. "i haven't been to rustboro, truthfully. is it nice?" there's still that feeling of being new here, of not experiencing everything hoenn possesses. sure, she came here when she was younger but she's a reyes. they don't believe in frivolous adventures, only science and proving their minds are the brightest of all. it seems in that regard she has failed them, failed the teachings of her parents. oh well, perhaps she's always been mean to spite them and their malice. when he mentions his hometown, she feels the urge to share her own bubble up in her throat. it's too much for her to quell and it ends up in the air with a soft murmur. "i'm, um, from sinnoh. snowpoint city to be exact." the wailord's outline comes into view and she almost swears she sees snow beneath their feet. a trick of the eye, however, and she ignores the pang of longing in her chest. it's replaced as quickly as it comes with sadness. sadness for the wailord, for everything and anything because it's too difficult to not allow the feeling to fester.
alexander angles his body towards her as he turns and the shieldon coos once more upon realizing that his new friend is focusing on him. nugget raises a small paw, flailing it about in an attempt for a wave. the woman chuckles and as a hand of her own rises to scratch at the soft skin of his chin, her smile turns softer. "not too long," she murmurs. "i stumbled upon him in the safari and had to take him home. he's adorable but a bit of a handful." despite the laugh that follows, fondness drips from each syllable and it's easy to see that she's completely enamored by the little dinosaur. how could she not be? he's precious and interesting and she's unable to stop herself from praising him further. "his name's nugget. i had originally wanted to study him but he had other intentions," there's a brief pause before she's adding, "he's quite the cuddlebug."
her question provokes an involuntary moment of silence from him as he tries to find the right words. perhaps he's too trusting. perhaps he should be more wary of this stranger who approached him out of the blue. but there's something about her that makes him relaxed. he feels at ease, and so he has no qualms about sharing. "to clear my thoughts, i suppose. i haven't quite decided what to do yet since returning to hoenn. i just want to have no doubts when i do decide." his answer is almost trained to be vague, but it's unintentional.
when she asks about rustboro, his expression brightens and beams. "best city in the region, hands down," he says without hesitation, though he quickly follows it with a soft chuckle. "i might be a little biased." he's been to different regions and even then he still finds himself wanting to come home to rustboro. "oh! i was just there last month sightseeing. i loved it." this is the first lie he tells out of necessity. it is true that he was in snowpoint, but he was not there to sightsee. "i find myself missing the cold. sinnoh has a very different climate than here. i wish ours was more like yours."
nugget is a cutie. he already finds the fossil pokemon adorable but what she says only amplifies it. "it is very nice to meet you, nugget," he greets playfully, though he keeps his hands to himself no matter how much he wants to pet it. "study him for research? sorry, i don't mean to pry," he finds himself apologizing now, their roles slightly reversed. he finds humor in it and continues. "what sort of research do you do?" he asks, genuinely curious. the wailord is not too far ahead now as they continue their approach. he remains mindful of the possible time pressure but deems it okay for now. their conversation pulls him in and keeps him intrigued, wanting to know more about her.
a hum slips past her lips as he speaks and she has to quell the need to pry further. he's a stranger, she reminds herself, not a test subject. she doesn't get to know everything about him, not unless he offers a glimpse himself. and for now, he hasn't so she settles on soft questions, as if she's trying to lead the conversation without actually forcing his hand. "what are your options?" she flushes after the words she breathes hit her ears. "if you don't mind me asking, that is. i find that sometimes, bouncing your thoughts off another helps in a way." she doesn't expect him to share much but the lingering spark of hope flutters in her stomach. the hope for being of help, for repaying him for this current kindness he's showing her. she has to be careful, however, for hope is a dangerous thing and she doesn't want to end up too deep.
the brightness that practically exudes from his pores at the mention of his hometown is enough to elicit another giggle from the woman. it's charming, in a way, to find someone who seems to light up at the prospect of home. part of her is almost jealous but that's a foolish thing to be and she waves it away as quickly as it comes. "a little?" she teases. "i'd love to see it sometime since you speak so highly of it." perhaps when she's done with the mural within granite cave, she'll take a detour toward rustboro. the thought occupies her mind for a moment before alexander is speaking and she's drawn in again. ah, so he's been to sinnoh? this information brings a brighter smile to her own lips, one that drips with fondness and almost a sense of pride. "really? isn't it lovely?" her tone shifts into something neither here nor there, as if she's half in sinnoh and half in hoenn. "i find myself doing the same most of the time. there's nothing quite like it," and then she's sighing, glancing toward him. "the weather here is pleasant but i miss the snow, you know? it's refreshing and calm, like nothing i've experienced here." before she can go too far into thoughts of home and what memories it brings, she's shifting into the next bit of conversation as if it's a lifeline and she's drowning.
nugget practically flails in her arms, squirming to get closer to alexander as he takes on a playful tone toward the shieldon. as if sensing the dinosaur's need for being closer, illeana drifts into the man's orbit enough for nugget to extend his paw further. he wants pets, attention, snuggles, and his trainer is too distracted to give them. perhaps this man will? he's going to find out! "seems you have a bit of a fan," she giggles and she's right in a way. nugget is staring at alexander with dreamy eyes, thoughts of cuddles and pets swirling in his mind. while her excited shieldon tries to get as much attention as he can, she takes the opportunity to answer his questions. "genetics," she murmurs and there's a light flush overtaking her cheeks again. it's both pleasant and embarrassing to have someone show interest in her work. perhaps it's because she doesn't have enough confidence in herself or her talents but there's just something about having someone ask about it that makes her uncomfortable. "i, um, tend to study the dna of pokemon to find out if there's more held within the structures of their genetic makeup that could explain things like evolution, regional variants, and color mutations. it's probably boring but," she pauses to flash him a shy smile. "i find it so fascinating."
they're closer to the wailord's location by now, drifting nearer and nearer. within moments, they'll probably stumble upon the poor thing but for now, she's content with the conversation. there's something comfortable about being in his presence, something that almost makes her want to keep talking for hours. she can't, however, because how could someone like her occupy his time for that long? for now, this is enough and she's satisfied to enjoy his company while she can.
she asks the right questions, says the right things, and manages to slip past his defenses. "it does help," he quickly agrees, which buys himself a bit of time to gather his thoughts because there are a few options. he narrows it down to a few. "focus all my energy into restructuring devon corp to focus more on providing aid to the reigon and its people," is option one. he doesn't give any more context because he assumes she'll be able to put the pieces together. "try and get reinstated as champion and continue where i left off," is option two. again, no context but there's more than enough in what he says. "or just take things slow. i'll continue to help out where i can, maybe focus on rustboro like i did before, i'm still not too sure." it's not much of an option three, he has to admit. "which would you choose?" he looks to her for answers, and a part of him hopes he hasn't scared her off.
it transitions nicely into what she says next. he feels warmth in his cheeks at her tease. "a lot." he chuckles. "i'd be more than happy to act as your tour guide if you ever do visit. i don't have any experience in that field but i'm sure my many years as gym leader will prove useful," he jests before the conversation carries over to sinnoh. he agrees with every word she says and gestures down at the sand, at the crashing waves next to them, and replies, "i prefer it to this, if i'm being honest. i love the snow." he can only imagine the longing she must feel for it. he remembers every day he spent in sinnoh felt longer because of just how much he missed home. it's one thing to be homesick but another to be unable to do anything about it.
he catches nugget's little legs flailing about and he naturally gravitates towards her. he meets nugget's dreamy eyes and understands them immediately. he reaches a hand over, playfully teasing the shieldon before giving him all the attention he desires. well, half of his attention, as his other half listens to what she has to say. he almost lights up with enthusiasm when she speaks of genetics before explaining more of her research. "that sounds amazing! have you made any progress? i would love to hear more about your work," he says, completely genuine with his words. he's enthralled by the short explanation she gives him because it sounds like something devon would do if it had enough resources.
the wailord grows in size as they approach but for now, he's focused on what she has to say. he takes in every word and makes sure she knows that he's listening, because he truly does want to know more. and the longer she speaks, the longer he can enjoy her company.
[attr="class","illie b"]the woman is surprisingly quiet as he lists off his options. each one brings about a plethora of questions, an urge to find out more if only to help him further. she doesn't ask, however, as her mind supplies her own answers to inquiries left unspoken. restructure devon corp in response to all that has happened with slateport and the looming threat of rocket, become the champion again, or take it slow. each one has a different path, a different future, a different responsibility. perhaps some even go hand in hand but... she's glancing at him as he looks to her for answers and there's an almost impressed look in her eye. really, how could she know that this man is not only the ex-champion but also the head of devon corp? each feat is colossal in its own right but to be both at once? how can someone be that talented? her mind drifts to FERNANDO SILPH, to his accomplishments, and she finds herself wondering how he manages to deal with the weight of the world at his back. perhaps that's why she takes another moment of silence before her lips are parting and she's offering answers that he might not prefer. "well," she starts and her eyes flitter away to find solace in the ocean once more. "taking it slow might be best. while becoming champion again might also be a good idea, you don't want to bite off more than you can chew you know? besides, you can ease back into all of the responsibilities that come with the other options once you're ready." it's not much but... she hopes it helps him in the end.
is it hot out here all of the sudden? her cheeks burn at his offer and she isn't too sure why. is it that something about the notion of spending more time with him has her flustered? or is it simply that he's being awfully kind to her despite only knowing her all of what, ten minutes? she doesn't understand but she smiles nonetheless, bright and surprisingly bubbly. maybe it's the sun finally getting to her head. should she have worn a hat or something? too late now. "if you insist," she giggles. the light teasing tone in her voice fades slightly into mild insecurity and she's glancing toward the top of nugget's head. "are you sure, though? i wouldn't want to take up your time so selfishly." he offered, sure, but she can't shake the concept that it's out of obligation. it isn't, really, but that need for reassurance shows anyway.
upon hearing his love for snow, any signs of insecurity flee from her body. there's something about snow that never fails to make her excited. even just talking about it gives her this unashamed glee and now is no different. "right?" she sighs. the look in her eyes is dreamy when they travel back to his face. "i'd love to be snowed in again! this past winter, hoenn got a bit more snow than usual and it felt so much like home." and then, her voice takes on a softer edge as she adds, "i miss it." there's nothing she can do about it now, though. this is her home now and even if it takes a lifetime, she'll have to accept that eventually. the longing she feels for white-capped trees, for the looming temple, for the crunch of snow beneath her feet doesn't erase what happened in that corner of the world in the end. even if she wishes it would.
her arm brushes against his as he meets nugget's attempts for attention halfway. the contact draws her eyes in and she's flashing him a shy smile before nugget coos and her eyes retreat again. the shieldon is all too pleased to be on the receiving end of pets, so much so that he squirms a little further in her arms until she's lifting him up a bit. an offering, even, and there's a soft chuckle leaving her throat before she can stop it. for as cute as he is, nugget sure can be a handful. what a precious baby.
the embarrassed flush from earlier deepens as it spreads across her skin. does she look like a tomato? she feels like one. "really?" comes flying out of her mouth before she can stop it and she's shifting nugget's weight from both arms to just one to raise one hand and run it through her hair, awkward and unsure of how to handle his excitement for her work. naturally, she's over the moon with this development but the seeds of doubt still manage to take root. will she bore him if she launches into her rambles? is he just saying that to pass the time? meekly, she offers more answers to his questions, idly twirling a lock of dark hair around her finger. "not yet, i'm afraid," she murmurs. "i've been a little preoccupied with figuring out of my golurk's coloring is a mutation in its genes or if it's a recessive trait showing instead of a dominant one. really, i should be working on evolution research but, well, i've been spending too much time with deus lately." a laugh follows and then she's glancing toward the horizon. by now, the wailord's within their sights and she's gasping because, really, how could she get so distracted?
in that moment, illeana feels torn. on one hand, she wants to keep talking, keep enjoying his company, but the wailord needs their help and she can't just leave the poor thing beached for her own selfish reasons. perhaps that's what prompts her to bring the water type to alexander's attention, a soft whisper leaving her lips as if she doesn't want to speak. "there's the wailord," and her arm brushes against his again while nugget lets out an almost sad noise. even the shieldon knows that they can't keep the man by their side forever and while he retreats back into her chest with a sudden snuggle, she's glancing toward alexander with an eyebrow beginning to quirk. "do you have any idea on how to get it back into the water?"
she does help him in the end. as someone who traditionally has always fully committed to multiple things, doing the opposite and slowly easing into them might be the smarter option now. it'll take him time to readjust, and the last thing he wants is to burn out even before he's had a chance to do good. he doesn't give her a response with words but instead he smiles and nods, making sure to express his gratitude in some manner. he almost feels relieved, like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. so again, he's grateful.
her acceptance to his offer brings a bubbly feeling of excitement. it's familiar and yet it isn't. "i'm sure," he reaffirms before the topic switches. there's a look in her eyes when she speaks and it's one he recognizes because it's a look he has when speaking about his home. and when she speaks about her home and how she misses it, he understands, because he felt the exact same way when he was in sinnoh. "that sounds lovely. i'm sad i missed it," he comments. as sad as he may be, he has no regrets of his time spent in sinnoh. to revisit a place he once lived and studied in when he was younger was a nice experience. he just wishes it had been under better circumstances.
as adorable as nugget is, she has his full attention when she speaks of her work. he's engrossed by what she says, so much so that he doesn't even realize how close they are to the stranded wailord, the very thing that pulled them together in the first place. "i don't blame you. i had a similar curiosity with my elekid. he has a slightly darker coloring though it's nowhere near as drastic as some others i've seen. i was thinking it could be because of a mutation in his genes, but i'm not too sure." despite having the resources, there were more pressing matters to research at the time. her theory of it being a recessive trait is interesting, however, and it does spark a flame of curiosity in him. perhaps he'll help her with her research once they're done saving this wailord.
there's no avoiding being pulled away from their conversation, and as much as he'd like to stay in it, he knows the situation is on a timer. her arm brushes against his and the warmth fleets when they near the water-type. nugget's almost sad noise is as amusing as it is heartbreaking. he gives nugget a feigned pout before turning his focus to the wailord.
to her question, he shakes his head. "this is a first for me," he replies. unsurprisingly there are not that many beached wailords in rustboro. he reaches a hand into his pocket and pulls out a single pokeball, and from it comes his gallade. it only takes galahad a moment to understand the situation, though the psychic-type is pleasantly surprised by the present company. "any ideas?" he asks. pondering on it for a second, galahad nods, and approaches the thick underbody of the wailord. from experience, both galahad and alexander know wailords are beefy creatures that able to withstand a ton of damage. which is why galahad has no qualms about close combating in an attempt to brute force the wailord back into the water.
he's somewhat successful. the wailord moves just an inch. craning his neck back, galahad looks to his trainer for proper guidance. "if we had enough psychic-types we could attempt to use psychic to lift it back into the water, but i only have one on me." he ponders for a little more before he turns to look at her. "what pokemon do you have on you?" he asks, playfully smiling at nugget who he catches staring at him.
[attr="class","illie b"]she's quick to return his smile with ease, lips curling as if it's second nature. in a way, it is, but this smile feels more natural, easier than others even. perhaps it's the atmosphere, comfortable and safe. or, maybe she's simply just overstepping some sort of invisible line she can't see. whatever it is, it grows in brightness at the reassurance he brings. "okay," she softly murmurs and then, she's flushing with the next sentence that escapes her mouth. "maybe after this, if you're not busy." there's a hope in her chest that she doesn't want to indulge and yet, she does anyway. she hopes and it's difficult not to.
her eyes dart away, not bothering to linger long enough to see his reaction. instead, they drift up toward the sunny sky, toward the clouds that lazily float overhead. part of her wishes it could be snowing now. the sight of flurries overhead had always been her favorite growing up. the way they pepper your hair, dissolve on your skin. it had been so soothing to watch. "yeah," she muses, voice faraway, distracted. "it was. i hope there's more next winter." and then, her attention is shifting away from the clouds toward him and she's smiling again, softer this time. "so you can see it too. oh, maybe even build a snowman or have a snowball fight!" thoughts of snowball fights and snowmen fill her mind and she's giggling at the thought, preoccupied and unable to stop herself from uttering whatever nonsense rises. "i can't help but wonder if you'd be difficult to beat in a snowball fight." it takes a moment for her to grasp that she's talking too much of snow and winter and while it leaves her with a giddy feeling, she shouldn't be forcing her own desires onto him. silence follows after and she's content with snuggling nugget a little tighter, offering the shieldon a soft coo of her own when he glances up with eyes like saucers.
"oh, really?" she gasps and there's a surprise in her voice that shouldn't necessarily be there. it's only logical to assume that her off colored pokemon aren't the only ones in the world. it does, however, catch her off guard to find someone who shares the same thought process behind the color differences. she leans toward him a little, eyes dancing with curiosity. "maybe your elekid and my golurk might have similar sequences in their dna, then? i was going to compare samples from deus and my golett but comparing with another of unique coloring might provide more answers." it's possible that they could have similar mutations or her recessive gene theory could be proven correct. there's no way to know for sure, though, unless she locks herself in the lab to solely focus on the samples. hm... maybe when she's home, she'll have to prepare for it. so many theories, so many possibilities. excitement rises at the mere thought of finding out more.
despite trying to hold it back, a light laugh escapes upon seeing the pout he directs toward nugget. the shieldon returns it with one of his own, complete with puppy dog eyes to match. it's an adorable sight, really, and while they have a life to save, she finds herself wanting to see more of this exchange. she knows there's no time for that and the thought fades into the corners of her mind as alexander speaks. "it's a first for me too," she's glancing toward him now, lips settling into a mild frown. "i hope this doesn't happen often for wailords." besides this moment in time, she's only heard of one other event like it. brief memories of alec describing a similar situation with another unlucky wailord has her nibbling at the skin of her bottom lip, nervous and already assuming the worst. while she's absorbed in her thoughts, he calls out a gallade and she's snapping back to attention as the psychic type begins to work toward using brute force to drive the wailord back into the ocean. the gallade looks strong, perhaps stronger than any she's seen, and it's hard to not be captivated by the work of a close combat. a little bit of success is earned but it's not enough for the feeling of anxiety to disappear from her insides.
illeana meets his gaze as he turns toward her, a look of contemplation overtaking her features. "i have a psychic type on hand," she murmurs. "although i'm afraid she doesn't know psychic." both of her ninetales as well as her espeon all have psychic type moves and while it's possible lapis' gem might hold some stored energy within it, it wouldn't be enough to lift a wailord off the ground. while she's mulling the options over, nugget takes the opportunity to coo at alexander again. a smile of his own settles onto his mouth and it's all teeth, all happiness. "maybe a combination of psychic and force would help?" she's grasping at straws now but that doesn't stop her from freeing a hand from nugget's belly to grab at the pokeballs on her waist. within moments, they're joined by not one but two pokemon. an espeon and a golurk, each one as happy to see both illeana and her company as nugget was. while lapis curls herself around the woman's legs with a purr, the automaton offers a bubbly wave toward alexander. "my espeon might have enough power stored in her gem to help with lifting," she explains with a sudden shyness, as if overthinking her choices. "if that doesn't work, maybe more strength would help? i'm not sure." there's multiple options at their disposal but will trial and error waste too much time? do they even have enough time to work through every possible solution? the thought makes her uneasy and she's looking to him for answers, teeth returning to nibble at her lip.
if her eyes had stayed on him long enough she would have seen how his expression seems to flush as his smile grows brighter, more natural, as if he has no control over it. there's also a hope in his chest, one that he knows is dangerous to have, one that he hasn't felt in a while, but maybe that's why he's willing to indulge. "after this it is, illeana." he's allowed a brief moment to really look at her when she peers up at the sunny sky. her eyes seem a shade lighter from the sun. he catches himself staring before she does and he looks away just in time.
the prospect of a longer winter in hoenn is exciting, almost as exciting as listening to her rave about the season. he laughs when she giggles. "i suppose you'll have to find out on your own." he talks all confident but in reality he hasn't thrown a snowball in years. again, the prospect of doing so excites him. it fills him with a childish glee that he's long missed. "i hope so, too." they have a long ways to wait until winter but good things come to those who are patient. or at least that's what he's been told.
he naturally feels the urge to reach for a pokeball at the mention of his elekid. "we can always compare both. in an ideal world we would have another golurk and elekid to test with. i'm sure i could set something up back in rustboro." he supposes devon corporation could spare a little of its resources to help her. he is genuinely curious about the results and if there's a possibility to force this mutation. he imagines it'd be used for all the wrong reasons, but it's always good to get ahead of the curve to prevent it. it's bad enough a black market for pokemon exists.
unfortunately for nugget, puppy dog eyes do not work on him as he's grown immune to them from his poochyena, india. compared to an actual puppy, nugget's is easy enough to deal with. but still, he cannot help but feel the slightest bit of guilt. so when nugget coos again, he almost gives in. almost. he pouts once more before turning to look at the espeon and golurk. he naturally has to stare up to look at the golurk and it looks impressive. he responds to its bubbly wave with one of his own. he's never seen one with that coloring before, which only makes him want to help with her research even more.
he appreciates her suggestions, he truly does, and it shows in his expression. "that could work. let's try that," he says. galahad stands at the ready for another close combat. "whenever you're ready." galahad spares a glance back over his shoulder at his trainer and the two share a knowing look. he narrows his eyes ever so slightly but nods, understanding that even with the help of her pokemon it's unlikely that they'll be able to move the wailord back into the water in time. they both know what needs to be done. but he still wants to attempt her plan because he carries with him a hope that it might work. for her, he'll try. and so galahad waits for his mark.
[attr="class","illie b"]a flutter, a flush, a smile. it's easy as breathing and while she knows she might just be overly friendly, it's a line she can't help but cross. there's something simple about it, about the way his smile widens her own and sends her mind into a slight haze. and yet, she blames it on the sun, on the circumstances, anything but him and his presence and that smile. "perfect," she chirps and her eyes return to continue their search of the sky. she doesn't notice him observing her, doesn't even consider it a possibility. she's just a mere satellite in his orbit, drifting too close to the sun. will she fall too? sink into the ocean heavy as a stone, wax dripping from her wings? she doesn't know and yet, there's an alluring draw that almost makes her want to find out.
the prospect of facing him in a snowball fight is both daunting and exciting. perhaps it's the talk of the snow, of winter and the frigid cold that has her feeling suddenly daring, but illeana finds herself quirking an eyebrow, a teasing challenge already quick on her lips. "will i?" she grins, then, and it's surprisingly easy to dip her toes in banter. "can you handle being bested by me?" the giggle gives the joke away but she's too deep, too far into it to not see it through. "i happen to be quite the snowball fighter." as if it's the only thing she's proud of, her chest puffs out a bit and she's laughing a little harder by now as nugget gives his own two cents with an enthusiastic nod. the shieldon doesn't understand it but she seems happy and that's enough for him to support her claims.
thoughts of winter and all the season brings linger in her mind until they're filed away and new ones occupy their place. he's indulging her, almost solidifying her claims, and part of her is smitten with the notion that someone believes in her and the workings of her mind. it's refreshing, a welcome change of pace from both her own doubts and the suffocating pressure of her parents. "maybe someone would be willing to lend them for comparison?" there's a moment of contemplation that overtakes her, then, and she's humming at the thought. the possibilities of understanding held within the structures of a pokemon's genetic code are seemingly endless, filled with new discoveries just waiting to be unearthed. and as she's shuffling through the concepts, deciding which one could be probable, she realizes she'd be lying if she said she didn't want to share that experience with him. "it'd be interesting to see if the genes really do differ between the two." and then, she's flushing because he's offering to set something up for them in rustboro and it feels more intimate than it should be. "are you sure? i wouldn't want to take advantage of your resources." hesitance and doubt always find their way into her mind in the end and she's unable to hold them at bay.
while his puppy dog eyes might not have worked, nugget still manages to get just a little more attention out of alexander. the pout is enough for him to rumble, satisfied and content for the time being. when they're done... that's another story and another dozen attempts for pets but for now, he's watching with unbridled curiosity. it's not every day they see a trainer in battle, after all. perhaps one day, he, too, can be like them: strong and unstoppable. meanwhile, deus is all too excited to have its wave returned with the same kind of energy in the movement. perhaps that's why the automaton rumbles out its own version of a coo, rough and almost guttural. thoughts of friends and fun fill its mind and she doesn't even have to glance at the golurk to understand what its thinking. "playtime can come later," she whispers toward the behemoth, drawing its attention like a moth to a flame.
a hum escapes illeana, then, as she's glancing toward alexander. there's a searching look in her eyes, looking for something she doesn't understand. reassurance, maybe? confidence? the feeling escapes her and she's left nodding her agreement, mind working to push other thoughts away in a feeble attempt to focus on the task at hand. "okay," she breathes and lapis doesn't need anything else to drift away from the scientist's legs and closer to the wailord. "ready?" she's flashing a smile toward her partners before the beginnings of self-doubt slowly creep over her bones. is she going to make an utter fool out of herself? she's not a battler, not in the slightest... is that much obvious? he hasn't mentioned it and perhaps it's all in her head or, better yet, he's kind enough to not mind her lack of experience. either way, she's finding herself suddenly nervous and meek in the face of giving commands.
"lapis," she begins and the espeon mewls in response. "see if you can lift the wailord while they use their attacks." the espeon coos her understanding and gets to work. meanwhile, deus joins the side of galahad and offers a slight wave before readying itself with an attacking stance. and then, the bright gem in the center of lapis' head glows a stunning red as she struggles to maintain the power enough to lift the heavy mass of water type and deus is lunging, discolored body a sudden blur of limbs and grumbles. a heavy slam is what the automaton decides on, putting the entirety of its strength into driving the wailord back into the ocean. of course, it's not successful and perhaps she should have known better than to assume her ideas would have any footing but she's still slightly surprised when the wailord only barely moves another inch.
"um," she murmurs and the grip she has around nugget tightens slightly. "well that didn't work." there's an awkward laugh that follows and she almost wants to cringe at the sound. "do you, um, have any other ideas?"
the back and forth is almost natural as he falls into it. her grin draws him in and her giggle is what keeps him. he quirks an eyebrow and dons a grin similar to hers. "can you?" she sees the joke through to the end and he commends her for it. he softly chuckles when nugget enthusiastically nods his approval, the small pokemon ever so supportive if their trainer. he silently admires the clear connection they share. as someone who's seen more than a handful of trainers in his days, he knows just how rare it is to find.
the field of research has always been in his radar but for some reason he's never quite dedicated himself more than the occasional visit to the labs. perhaps he was lacking a reason, a force to pull him into the field. perhaps he's found it. "maybe. i'll have to check with the lab but i'm sure they'd be able to find someone." devon has the resources to do so, after all. but he catches himself teetering a bit too carelessly on the line. boundaries still exist between them and the last thing he wants to do is to overstep. "you wouldn't be, don't worry. it is something i have always been curious about as well. i just lacked the motivation to see it through." he leaves the second part unsaid and allows her to fill in the blanks herself. he smiles and does his best to reassure her.
he meets her searching look and greets it with a reaffirming nod, hoping it's enough to soothe her anxieties. he can sort of tell by her demeanor that she's not much of a trainer and that's perfectly fine. he just hopes she knows it is. so he does what he can and watches her command her team. lapis' psychic energies attempt to wrap the wailord while deus and galahad wait for their timing, and when it all comes together, not much happens. he meets her awkward laugh with a chuckle, once again looking to reassure her. "i wouldn't worry about it. they usually have a whole team to do this." he stares at its large body, pondering his options.
looking to her, he considers it for a moment. just how much can he trust her? he's already told her so much and with so little prompting. for whatever reason, he leans towards trusting her. she makes him feel at ease. she listens. he gravitates towards her. perhaps just this once he'll allow himself to be vulnerable. it's a risk he's willing to take. a look to galahad confirms it.
he breaks the short silence between them with a question. "have you heard of mega evolutions?" he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a glove with an odd-looking stone embedded into it. it glows a subtle hue of green and blue and pink as he holds it up to her. "i have been researching the phenomenon for a while now. it basically taps into the bond between pokemon and trainer and allows a pokemon to shift into a much more powerful form." he slides the glove onto his right hand and adjusts it until it feels comfortable. this time it's him who feels a bit anxious as he looks to her for reassurance. "i haven't shown this to anyone. just you." he offers her a soft smile before taking a step away from her. he locks eyes with gallade and they both nod and close their eyes.
it take focus. a lot of focus. he stills his heartbeat and hears the thumping of his chest. breathe in. breathe out. a soft aura starts to envelop him and his gallade. it travels at the same speed, slowly wrapping around them as the stone in the glove glows brighter. and brighter. and then there's a flash. they both open their eyes. "that was more dramatic than intended." he jests. standing where galahad once stood is a similar figure but with more pronounced features. galahad exudes a certain aura that was not present before.
[attr="class","illie b"]"yes," comes tumbling from her mouth before she can think clearly, can even leave any room for doubt to creep in. it's firm and confident and everything she has never been and perhaps, it scares her a little that she can speak so strongly. ah, but maybe it's the look on his face or the way he meets her challenge with one of his own that has her going deeper than intended. another laugh follows and the smile holds firm to her lips, unwavering and all too pleased with him and his company. there's a line, a boundary, and she has never been one to walk on the wild side but maybe she just might.
nugget coos and she's raising a hand to scratch at the skin of his chin while alexander speaks. something's there that she doesn't fully grasp, doesn't indulge in because he's kind and lovely and she has a nasty habit of ruining these sort of things. and yet, that excitement at having another to discover with has her grinning a little too widely, cheeks flushing despite her mind urging them not to. "that'd be lovely," she murmurs. the ocean breeze sweeps around them and while her hair billows and brushes against her arms and his, illeana finds herself latching onto his reassurance with possessive fingers, refusing to release it. "okay. we'll find out together, then!" implications linger in his words and even in hers, hidden meanings thinly veiled by the guise of pursuing knowledge. she doesn't want to glance further into what he doesn't say, what he implies without actually speaking further. it's too dangerous, too uncharted and she doesn't have the skills to navigate it without help. despite this, her smile brightens at his own and maybe she's looking too far already but it feels so natural, so easy that she doesn't mind.
the wailord's body is still resting heavily in the sand, too far away from the ocean and time is passing too quickly for her to fully tell just how long they've been at this. attempt after attempt provides no solutions, no answers, no success. and when she turns to him, there's a slight puff of her cheeks, frustrations growing with each sign of failure. "i'm not surprised," she murmurs and a lingering pout replaces her smile. "it feels like we'd need a whole village to succeed." another awkward laugh follows, mingling with his chuckle in the space between them. he succeeds in his endeavor of reassurance, time and time again and part of her feels the sudden urge to thank him. she can't, however, and she shouldn't but it's a kindness that she's not used to and it's difficult to not seek more. whether she's seeking more assurance or more of him, her mind can't tell.
there's a pause, a moment of interlude, and then she's drawn in by him and the words he's breathing out. mega evolution. the very thought of it piques her interest, curiosity already morphing her features. her eyes never stray as he pulls out his glove, pretty stone gleaming in the sunlight. green and blue and pink. the colors almost dance beneath the rays of the sun and she can't stop the delighted gasp that follows. "i have," she replies and her eyes are quick to dart toward his own. "it's so fascinating! i've never seen it in action, though. everything i know of it comes from books." ah, so he has been doing research of his own? somehow, this doesn't catch her by surprise and she's unaware of the way her eyes shine with a dreamy look. what he says next, however, manages to elicit another gasp from the woman and she's meeting his anxious eyes with a searching stare of her own. is he sure about this? why her? why not someone else? there's implications and unspoken meanings and she's shoving them away because she shouldn't overstep, shouldn't indulge. and yet, part of her does a little bit and she's flushing at the concept. "i'm excited to see," she affirms, genuine and all too interested in what he's about to do.
it's dramatic and lovely and everything she could have ever hoped of the phenomenon. she can't look away, can't even think of it. no, not when there's a glow and a flash of light and the gallade's body shifts and morphs into something more pronounced. it's incredible to witness, a true work of art. the masterpiece of a connection between trainer and pokemon has her drifting closer, subconsciously needing to make sure it's real and not a trick of the light. "amazing," she coos and there's a delight in her eyes, in her body, in her movements. a giggle escapes at his jest and she's winking before she can think twice about it. "it was totally fitting. i enjoyed every moment." whether she's talking of his performance or of the gallade's transformation, she can't discern. instead, she smiles a little brighter, maybe even a little flirty, and she's unaware of the boundaries she crosses. no, how could she be concerned about boundaries when she's just seen mega evolution in the flesh? it's a surreal experience, one she finds herself wanting to know more of. "incredible," illeana can't help but compliment again. her eyes drift away from alexander toward his gallade, taking in the new appearance with microscope eyes. dissecting and analyzing until she's certain it might just be one of the best things she's ever seen. "why didn't you mention this sooner?" comes out in a blurted rush of air and she's flushing because really, how could she just say that? "i mean," she stumbles over her words and it's awkward and almost uncomfortable to witness. "the pressure your gallade is giving off is insane. i had no idea mega evolution could produce such a power."