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Private/Closed Uncharted Waters

Discussion in 'Pokémon Role Play' started by PentheWonderful, Apr 3, 2017.

  1. (This roleplay is exclusively meant for @Vergil Tanner and I.)

    The sun was high in the clear blue sky.

    Blinding, as it glared off the ocean waves - setting it alight with a jovial shimmer - split by the nose of a sophisticated cruise ship fresh out of the manufacturing plant. It was the newest model - so the advertisement claimed - a pioneer in modern luxury maritime travel, exclusive to the elite - to moneyed names and million dollar faces - for the down payment alone would have surely put any regular trainer - or regular anything at that - to immediate bankruptcy. Fortunately, the jaw-dropping price tag had been anything but for show. As one set foot on the docking harbor and glanced upon the behemoth that was the Platinum Lugia for the very first time, boarded its deck and took in its facilities - on-deck and everything you could see from - it was instantly evident that every dollar, every last cent, had been spent to its highest potential. Countless on-hand service distributed evenly among the three tiered ship, boasting five swimming pools - one of which easily being able to qualify as its own Waterpark - an outdoor dining area, cruise sports facilities such as shuffle board, volleyball, and even services for tethered hang-gliding, battle arenas, a grand dining hall with live music and only the finest international cuisine - it's also been advertised that they cater to even the most specific Pokemon diets - a casino, and even a spa for people and Pokemon alike. The rooms were spacious - impeccably designed to maximize the limited space - worthy of a five star hotel, with en suite bathrooms modeled with the finest fixtures. One could simply stay inside all day, if they did not mind missing out on the other splendors.

    The Platinum Lugia was a sight to behold on the vast stretch of the ocean - at least, the wild Pokemon certainly thought so - attracting a following for itself among the native inhabitants of the water and sky alike. Pelippers and Wingulls glided faithfully above it, occasionally being bold enough to land on the railing were rewarded with showers of attention by the eager passengers, being fed fancy hors d'oeuvre from silver platters carried by the on-hand service. In the water, playful young Wailmers skipped along the waves with innocent, harmless curiosity towards the man-made marvel that breached their territory, cut through the mighty sea with an ease that they secretly envied, overseen by their Wailord mother. They - despite all the other countless attractions onboard - provided the most entertainment for the cruise passengers. That is, those who don't tend to go out much. The lucky fools.

    Cassandra Michaels - an ace trainer and occasional tabloid celebrity, heir to the Moreaux bloodline - lounged leisurely at the quiet, scarcely populated VIP pool - accessible only via an all access pass befittingly called a Gold Card - away from the water park and sports grounds where most of the crowds were amassed. There, she lay on a pool recliner chair, brows knitted together behind the dark lenses of her sunglasses. For as relaxed as she allowed her body to be, leaning back casually against the back rest with one leg folded up towards her chest, her mind was restless. Constantly thinking, processing, making plans and strategizing schedules and activities; what to do next, when to do it, how to do it, why, how many things there were to try and entertain on the ship and how many days she had to do it all. Fun. Yes. This was fun.

    A small sigh left her, turning her head to the side where Ryu - her Lucario - laid stiff as a plank on his recliner. She had instructed him to take it easy and lay down, get the rest he so completely deserved, but like Pokemon like trainer, it seemed they did not quite have a knack for relaxing. Unlike Nine - who was completely passed out and sprawled in a manner completely outside the Ninetales elegance stereotype on the recliner on her opposite side - and her girls, who were all very eager at the idea of a cruise vacation. Of course, this had not always been the case for them, she and Ryu. There was once a time, a very brief time albeit, when they enjoyed relaxing, lazing around and taking it easy beneath the shadiest tree but the chain of events they had managed to endure have left them a little too restless, a little too paranoid to ever truly relax again. Or rather, she supposed they had both just forgotten how. It was not a bad thing, of course, not when she always had her family - her Pokemon family of course - to remind her. Them, and Salem.

    He was her traveling partner for a time, regardless of their history together. They had been traveling together for nearly a year now after their reunion in Korska, but more than that, he was also her childhood friend, and quickly grew to be her best friend, the shoulder she could cry on, and the listening ear she could lament to and - for a time - someone as close as she could call a lover. He was her savior on Jinko, her lifeline whenever she was unsteady and succumbing to the darkness that loomed inside her brain. He helped her relax, helped her feel and live. He showed her the other side of the coin previously unbeknownst to her and he made her feel... Complete. Like a whole human, not just a tool, or a sack of flesh that only had one purpose, or no purpose at all. But was he her boyfriend? Outsiders would certainly see them that way, but... No, they were not lovers. She had honestly thought they could have been, but during the time they traveled together, she came to realize that they were two very different people from two very different worlds. It had been refreshing and exciting for a while, and then it gradually became heavy and grating. He was the type to take the scenic route and enjoy life at his own pace while she valued efficiency and lived on the fast lane. He made her slow down and unwind - and perhaps that was a good thing from time to time - but she had become too comfortable and it dulled her edge. Eventually she decided it just wouldn't work - for her own sake, living the fast-paced lifestyle that she did, she always needed to be on top of her game and constantly working to improve - and she'd returned the gift that had been her prized possession since the events at Jinko. However, they remained on good terms, and still kept in contact.

    In fact, the very reason she was on that cruise had been him. About a week ago, she called him to lament about the fact that her mother had not contacted her regarding an annual gathering of top tier veteran trainers, elites, champions, and coordinators, despite the event being only a week away. It was a big event, often a chance for veteran trainers and coordinators to reconnect and debut their apprentices. They often hold battles and contests among themselves for good times sake, but more often than not, it's a publicity opportunity for their successors to showcase their abilities and gain renown and connections in the world of battling and coordination. These battles and contests are open to public, a high profile tournament whose the entrance fees fund the event the next year, but there are also private events such as formal galas and private parties.

    Cassie recollected the time when she attended the event year after year when she was younger with her mother as her protege. However, given her fraud scandal nearly two years ago - one that she was still struggling to recover from which had laid a near irrevocable damage to her reputation, as untrue as it was - she was apparently regarded as no longer fit to attend the event as her mother's representative. At least, not until she'd proven herself again by conquering the Kalos League. The pressure of the event was often extreme, the expectations high and attention; crushing. And the prizes? They often falling short of what was taken. And even so, she still found that she missed it all.

    Of course, the true prize of the event, Cassie found, had always been the connections. The relationships formed and the perks that came with it. Those very connections were, in fact, the reason she even had a cruise to go on. She had received the invitation a few months prior, and hadn't planned on taking it up at all until Salem suggested she take a break to get her mind off of it. She knew the company's owner personally - he was a family friend that she had known growing up, and he was someone she could trust not to giver her a repeat of Jinko Island's Dark Tournament - and because of this, she received quite a generous discount, as well the Gold Card she was in possession of.

    Clad in an elegant black one piece bathing suit and red shawl that tactically hid away the scars marring her skin, her sleek, black gloves - a precious gift and constant reminder of the horrors she has survived all in one - continued to don her hands. She basked in the abundant sunshine that graced them that day, quietly lamenting how the sounds and smell of the ocean reminded her of Salem; his presence, his voice, his laughter, and how much he would have loved the water park. She had been without him for quite some time now, but she found herself thinking about him sometimes, wondering about his well-being, if he was doing alright. But she tried her best to shake off those thoughts. He's fine. After all, he had her two boys Ace and Fang with him; the former having grown far too addicted to the pampering Salem provided him, and the latter wanting to tag along with his sparring buddy, both of whom she'd lent to the islander after discovering how... Inadequate, his current line up was. Although, that was also two of her tanks out of her team. Oh well, it wasn't like she planned on doing any battling anyway. Besides, just as she had lent Salem two of her Pokemon, he had lent her one of his strongest in return - a warranty and a rather special someone that was currently taking up most of the pool with his extraordinary size - Ajax the Blastoise. Ace should be able to replace him well enough on Salem's team, and he would also provide a Flying coverage that he previously lacked. After all, it was only necessary if he wanted to make it through Mt Coronet.

    The pool was a private spot of peace and tranquility, nothing but the splash of waves, the distant calls of Wingulls overhead... And of course the excited chirps and coos of the Pokemon - her Pokemon - playing in the pool. Whereas her two remaining boys Nine and Ryu were relaxing on the recliners on either side of her, her girls; Jade the Roserade, Aurora the Frosslass, Lady the Liepard, and Peridot the Kirlia, had literally taken control of the pool. Lady was a criminal and would likely try to steal every shiny object on the ship and eat some of the smaller Pokemon, so she was exiled on the island that was Ajax's shell where she was curled up and napping. Luckily for Cassie, the feline was rather fond of the large tortoise, and having him around usually kept her out of trouble. Surprisingly, she got along quite well with Jade, who shared her love for pretty things and shiny objects, and the vain Roserade was even given permission to share Ajax's vast shell with her, both taking in the sunshine. Aurora was hovering over the water, readily providing a cool breeze for her idol whenever she complained to be too hot. Meanwhile, like all children should be, Peridot was rather content splashing about the pool's shallows, occasionally teleporting onto Ajax's head to wake him up, and whenever the massive Blastoise would crack his eye open, she would chitter enthusiastically about what Cassie could only assume to be getting big and strong.

    However, just as she had instructed Ryu to relax, Salem had instructed her to do the same. And just like Ryu, she was failing miserably.
    #1 PentheWonderful, Apr 3, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  2. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Perhaps, Dante reflected as he did his best to avoid making any audible sound whatsoever, Holidays just aren't for me.
    He didn't know what it was about him that seemed to attract trouble so bloody often, but no matter what he tried to do to relax and when and where he did it and no matter who he tried it with, it always seemed to go somewhat pear shaped. Tried to relax on a beach for an afternoon? Team Rocket decided to attack the nearby Ranch to try and make off with some Skiddo's. Try to enjoy a day at the spa? Turns out the steam is being provided by a bunch of overworked Charmander, and some ecoterrorist nutjob tries to blow the entire place sky high to make a statement. When he attempted to relax on an isolated plateau in the middle of nowhere just to watch the clouds roll past, it in fact turned out to be a nesting ground for rabid Murkrow, and come sundown, they were not best pleased at his intrusion. Hell, even on the occasions that he tried to stay in the hotel room or his house and just read a book for the afternoon, there was some kind of emergency downstairs that needed his specific attention to get sorted! It was like the universe itself was out to get him whenever he opted to actually take his sisters advice and relax once in a while. It was enough to almost give an individual a complex about taking a holiday.

    And could you really blame him? It was hard enough for him to actually unwind - his life had kind of conspired to keep him tightly wound, between his early protectiveness of Grace, followed by the isolation enforced on him by the very nature of a Pokemon journey, to the intense training regime, all the way to how he had to treat people thanks to the circumstances of his birth - without the villains and the nutjobs of the world seemingly collaborating to ruin every moment he actually managed to pluck up the resolve to actually do some relaxing. See, some people had an easy time in "switching off" and just drifting off to nowhere; his sister Grace, for example, was extremely good at switching her focus from work to play at the drop of a hat, and always seemed to be having fun no matter what she was doing. For somebody so full of energy, she didn't half manage to sleep in when she set her mind to it. A stampede of braying Taurus wouldn't be enough to provoke her out of bed if she'd decided that it was one of her lazy days, to the point where the only way they could succeed in budging her was to actually tie her to one of those Taurus. And even then, it wasn't a sure thing; as Dante himself could well attest from her early insecure vice-hugs to keep him near, she had a grip that could rival a Machamp in its strength.

    And honestly, he kind of envied her that; it wasn't a common or easy thing, to just be able to switch off and there were times when he himself wished that he weren't quite so driven all of the time. It was in his nature - he was competitive, he wanted to be the best, and when he found something that he loved, like Pokemon Training, he threw everything he had into it and held nothing back - to want to succeed, a nature that his parents - when they ever bothered to be around - had drummed into him from an early age...and that was a difficult habit to break. Grace had been spared that, mercifully - mostly thanks to Dante's own efforts - but it meant that he himself had to undergo double the hammering and pushing as she had had to. He had no illusions that his parents wanted him to one day take over their large Business Empire, and though he didn't really want to...what other option did he have? If he didn't do it, they'd force it on Grace, and such a free spirit confined to an office and suits and meetings with the two faced, backstabbing assholes that his parents had to deal with all day, every day? It would destroy her. Honestly, he was just stalling his own Pokemon Journey as long as he possibly could, enjoying the freedom before the leash of responsibility jerked him back behind a desk forever.

    That's really what he was doing on that cruise; whilst his father had initially attempted to sell the idea as an early birthday present - a cruise on his businesses brand new, state of the art pleasure cruise before it went to open market - it didn't take Dante long to figure out why his parents were offering him the spot. Neither of them could go on the cruise themselves - too busy - but they couldn't very well put in no appearance on their own maiden voyage, and Grace was too unpredictable...so they placed their son, Dante Young, heir to the Young Empire, on the ship as a statement. "Look everybody! We're so confident in this cruises success, we've put our own firstborn son on the ship!" As well as a statement of confidence, it put him in the perfect position to shake the right hands and impress the right people, and gave them the chance to feel like they were interacting with the CEO's themselves through him. It was all political bullshit, and as much as he'd wanted to say no...well, it was hard to say no to his parents, especially when he knew that if he said no too often, they'd just attempt to groom Grace instead. And as her older brother...well, his job was to look out for her, no? Besides, it was one little cruise. What could be so bad about it? He spends a few weeks in luxury on a state of the art ship, travelling through charted, policed, safe waters before continuing on his merry way. Oh no. The horror.

    At least, that had been the plan; and had it just amounted to shaking hands, showing up to the right parties and get togethers, making the rounds of passengers every few days and otherwise relaxing and making a show of enjoying the ships facilities, he might well have actually had something akin to a relaxing time. Hell, he knew that his Pokemon were enjoying themselves; Gary was having fun (or what passed for fun for that little bundle of rage) terrorising the surrounding ocean, Jason and Tails were having their own competitive games on-deck with the other passengers Pokemon, Percy was having a good time exploring skies he'd never seen before, Maggie was enjoying the lazy days, and Syl was...well, being Syl. And if Syl was allowed to be Syl and Dante had been able to find enough quiet time to himself to let Syl bait him into one of her games, he might have actually had some fun. He could never frown for very long when Syl was determined to make him smile, and when she got an idea in her head, it was very hard to dissuade her...especially when the rest of his Pokemon adored her enough to support her in whatever mischief she could think up. She was a lot like his sister in that regard, come to think of it...no wonder they got along so well when he'd gotten the opportunity to introduce the two of them to each other.

    But of course, it was nothing of the sort; he never had any time to himself, no peace and quiet, no chance to slip away and enjoy some quiet time on his own, simply for one reason; the women. As soon as it had become public knowledge that the handsome (and yes, he knew full well that he was considered handsome; he didn't think it arrogant to repeat what he'd been told many, many times before), responsible, wealthy heir to one of the largest business Empires in the world was on the pleasure cruise to make an appearance - and that he was single - of course every wealthy family immediately put their most eligible daughters on the ship as well in an attempt to snare him. It didn't help that he had a reputation for slipping away at the end of social functions, after the polite chatter and greetings were done; now he was trapped on a ship for several weeks, and every parent and every young woman looking for arm candy had their claws out for him. Hell, even some of the young ladies who didn't care about his position were chasing him, simply because he was good looking, cultured and well-spoken, and that - as you should know by now - was like catnip to most girls their age. So the time he didn't spend in casual conversation with important passengers was largely spent trying to avoid the various gaggles of girls seeking his attention.

    Now, I know what you're thinking; Oh no, precious rich boy, complaining about how he's being chased by a horde of beautiful women who want to smother him in their affection, how does he cope? But please, hold your sarcasm and consider for a moment; this wasn't one woman who was genuinely interested in him as a person pursuing him. This was a horde of them who didn't know a thing about him besides his appearance and his position, hounding every waking moment with their inane chatter and false attempts at modest flirtation, refusing to give him even a moments rest. Even when he attempted to relax in his cabin, he was disturbed seemingly every ten minutes by coy invitations to spend time together on deck, or to go for dinner, or - in one memorably forward example - an offer to come and help them select their lingerie for that nights formal function. All of this would have been overwhelming for most men, but consider also that Dante had spent the last decade resolutely avoiding all unnecessary interactions with other people, and that he had no idea what he was doing with other people - especially other wealthy people - most of the time. He wasn't stupid by any means, but...large crowds made him uncomfortable. Now consider how vexing all of this attention must have been, for somebody unprepared for it and unwilling to entertain even a second of it.

    And that leads him to his current predicament; sneaking through the hallways of a ship that his father technically owns, trying his best not to alert any of the passengers as to his passing such that he may be able to have a moment or two of peace to himself. He'd gotten good at moving with relative quiet over the years, but...well, he'd never had to sneak through a gleaming tiled corridor in a suit and formal shoes before, and he was proving less than adept at it. No matter how carefully he trod, his shoes always seemed to squeak as they bent and then clip against the polished floor, his shirt always rustling at the wrong moment and his pokeballs always rattling against his belt. It was a miracle that he'd not been spotted as of yet, especially considering that he'd only just managed to slip away from a group of six especially determined young women; they were all attractive enough in their own ways, a variety of figure types, hair colours and heights, but well...none of them really excited Dante. None of them had that air of mystery or adventure or mischief or independence. None of them had the fire and the bite that made women interesting; all of them came across very much as pampered wealthy women who, whilst he was certain they were pleasant in their own way, didn't really have much in common with him, and didn't have much in the way of actual adventure in their bones.

    And that was fine - not everybody could have that, nor should they - but...well, he knew what he liked, and they weren't it. Hence, him trying to slip away from them rather than staying to chat with them. They'd followed along with him when he left, feigning a reason to go the same direction as him, and it was only when he pretended to spot somebody he knew ahead, then darted off to take several corners that he'd broken line of sight with them...and he could still hear them very close by, confused as to where he'd gone, alternatively calling his name or discussing which way to proceed with each other when they reached a fork in the corridor. And unfortunately, thanks to his noise - which they regularly commented on - they were drawing closer.
    "I think he went this way, Sasha," one voice nearby said. The voice was followed by the sounds of high heels rattling off into the distance, and Dante almost considered breathing a sigh of relief...until another voice pipped up.
    "Oh no, it's this way. You can hear his shoes in the corridor...poor thing must be lost. Come on, follow me!" Followed promptly by footsteps coming from the corridor he'd just turned away from.

    His breath hitched in his throat as he cast about wildly; he was trapped in a long corridor, it seemed, the nearest bend in the path further away than he could make without sprinting - and thereby giving his position and his intentions away rather spectacularly - and there was only one door set into either of the walls. It would be obvious where he'd gone, of course, but maybe it would buy him enough time to either hide or exit through another door in whatever room he ended up in. It could well be a broom cupboard, but in that case, he was trapped anyway, no? Drawing a deep breath, he stepped over to the door and slipped in as quickly and quietly as he could, closing the door gently behind him just as he caught the shadow of a young woman in a relatively revealing summer dress stepping around the corner. He took a step backwards from the door, before turning around to find himself in a small reception-like room, with a young woman looking at him curiously from behind a fairly expensive looking desk
    ; the first thing that hit him was the smell of chlorine and damp filling the air. Along with the fact that he'd just come from one of the upper floors...he placed it mentally in his plan of the ship. Ah, yes. The pool. He glanced at the receptionist - miming a finger to his lips as he gestured behind him - and strode through the door opposite him. He didn't bother showing her the Gold Card in his back pocket; all of the staff knew him by site, and since he technically owned the ship...well, there wasn't anywhere on it that he wasn't allowed to go.

    The pool was quite obviously high quality; open air and rather large, it had marble tiles in all the right places, air intake grates to cool the heating fans underneath and a pair of sturdy ladders on either side to allow for quick exit from the pool rather than having to scramble in a rather undignified way up the side of the pool. It, of course, had a gradient depth system, the closest to the door being the shallowest and the end near the edge of the balcony - and therefore overlooking the ocean rather directly in its glass bubble underneath - being the deepest. The balcony pool itself was deserted, mercifully...save for a small bundle of figures at one edge of the pool, now looking at him curiously. A woman, it seemed - appearing to be doing a rather bad job of relaxing, it seemed; though she was reclining on the deckchair, she was still rather stiff and not exactly relaxed, as if relaxation was something that she'd only heard about in passing; honestly, he understood the feeling. He doubted he was going to get to relax at all until the cruise was long behind him! - in a sleek, elegant and tasteful swimsuit surrounded by what he could only presume were her Pokemon, currently engaged in various states of play not dissimilar to how his own tended to behave when allowed to let loose and relax.

    He quickly scanned each of them; fairly rare breeds, and they seemed to each be healthy and strong, especially the lumbering behemoth slumbering next to her in the pool; he took a double take at that one, noting with curiosity the abnormally large Blastoise that was currently in the midst of what seemed to be an extremely deep slumber. No match for Maggie, of course, but something to be careful of...Blastoise never got that large without being exceptionally tough. Lucario as well was notoriously tough to train effectively, and having one in such good shape? Impressive. He'd probably employ Jason against that one, but regardless, it might well be a tougher fight than he was used to. The others he scanned over as well, overall being very impressed by how tough the team looked, making notes here and there as to which of his own team he would employ against them...he might well want to engage in a Pokebattle against this girl at some point, if only to test himself against such a well balanced team, which itself was a sign of a decent trainer; perhaps there were people worth speaking to on this boat after all? - before returning his gaze to the young woman. The first thing he noticed? Well, yes, besides the form-fitting onepiece swimsuit (and the gloves, which he found curious, but not all that noteworthy; who was he to remark on somebody elses oddities, the man who often found a suit more comfortable than jeans and T-shirt?), he noticed that she was extremely attractive, almost bewitchingly so, and he held no shame about that; he was a male, after all, and biologically programmed to recognise things like that.

    Had he had the time, he might well describe just how attractive she was with her curled black locks falling about a well-sculpted face, her eyes hidden behind some rather large black shades, or how her admittedly stiff and uncomfortable but still oddly confident (don't ask him how it worked, but he just...got a feeling that she was anything but timid) posture told him volumes about how she wasn't just another pampered rich girl but actually a woman of some substance, in possession of at least some hint of a spine - which he always found intriguing - but perhaps also found the overtly luxurious surroundings disquieting rather than comforting (much like him, honestly). But he wasn't really in a good position to wax lyrical about just how she stopped him short for a couple of long moments. The most important thing was slipping away somewhere to hide, and beyond the locker rooms - set into the wall behind him, just by the door to the reception - he couldn't see any other way out. He could hide in the mens changing rooms, but if this young lady informed them that she'd seen him...well, they'd just come in after him. He shook his head briefly, and took a few steps towards her, offering a polite bow at the waist as he did so.
    "My apologies for disturbing your time alone, Miss," he said sincerely; he'd had precious little time to himself enough to know that such a thing was precious and not happily disturbed. "I'm merely passing through; I hope to be out of your hair momentarily."

    He glanced back towards the pool door; shadows were beginning to pass in front of it. He didn't have much time. He grimaced at the notion of being trapped in more vapid conversation with those girls. They were nice enough, but Gods were they boring. He looked back at the unknown female, still half reclining on the deckchair.
    "I know it is presumptuous to as for a favour before names are even exchanged, but I seem to find myself in a spot of bother; perhaps you could assist me in escaping some unwanted company? I would be greatly in your debt." He glanced back at the door; the shadows hadn't moved on. In fact, they seemed to be multiplying through the glazed window. He grimaced again. They were coming in. If he dashed for it, he could reach the locker room, but...it would be a close run thing. He looked back at the young lady, smiling at her politely...but with just a slightly beseeching edge. If she didn't help him, probably the rest of his afternoon was doomed.
    #2 Vergil Tanner, Apr 3, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2017
  3. It appeared that relaxing was much more stressful than actually... Doing something - anything - she usually did on a daily basis, and that often included surviving one disaster or another. Yes, it was practically common knowledge among her friends that she did not necessarily have the best luck, or that she simply attracted trouble wherever she went. Things just always seemed to take a turn for the worst whenever she was around, so often that most of her friends had come to think that she was perhaps cursed, and that in itself was a possibility that she had never personally opposed. In fact, it was entirely possible. After all, she did own a Ninetales who was still learning the ropes of being one, and the species in general were notorious for laying curses on people. Who's to say he hadn't done so accidentally? Not that she really minded, of course. She had long come to love the thrill of danger, the possibility that the next breath she took, the next sight she saw, would be the last. It made her life exciting - made it worth living - and perhaps it was not something to be proud of, but she had grown rather skilled at finding trouble.

    That is, as long as her therapist doesn't find out. Not that she needed to see Dr. Silva all that often anymore what with the therapeutic 1001 knots and weaving methods Salem had been teaching her. Added by the relaxing acoustic music that the doctor sends her at the end of their therapy sessions, it had all been extremely successful in keeping the worst of her anxiety and psychological trauma at bay.

    See, when you've been through the worst of what life has to offer, nearly lost your life more times than you can count, had everything you cared about taken away and everything you've worked for destroyed before that, jumped off the deep end and clawed your way back, you don't get to walk away. All those experiences, all those scars and taints, they stay with you, follow you. Change you. You'll never be able to go back to the way you used to be, never be able to see things, feel things the way you used to. You're simply damned to become an anomaly, an outlier, for all time. But now, she's come to accept that that was okay. It wasn't so bad, because despite it all, she had people - well, Pokemon - who cared about her and although they don't always understand her, they accepted her the way she was, and loved her. And that was why... She felt that she needed to get better, become better. For them. That was why she was learning how to take a day off and relax again like a normal person should after a year of non-stop travel and training. She wanted to be better for them, because after everything they've endured for her, they deserved the best, and she... Was not. Not yet, she would tell herself, but she will be. The very best that she could be.

    And now, she was... What was she doing again? Oh, relaxing. Right. Another - albeit shorter - sigh left her as she shifted slightly in her position, finding instead how tightly her eyebrows were knitted together behind her sunglasses, how her muscles were coiled tightly beneath her skin, ever ready to spring into action from her seated position, as opposed to how they should be loose and relaxed, melting into the pool chair and enjoying the sunshine - wait, what happened to the sunlight? "My apologies for disturbing your time alone, Miss," She blinked, and her eyes were functioning again. Allowed her to see as opposed to gazing. And through her sunglasses, she realized that there was a humanoid shadow cascading over her, automatically beckoning her to look towards its source.

    And there, she discovered a vision that must be a byproduct of her sickly hallucinations.

    A gentleman, tall and fair, stood before her. Dressed in the finest suit she had ever had the pleasure of laying her eyes on - and she had seen quite a range of them in her time among the elites - tailored to perfection, fitting exquisitely to his silhouette, dressing his long limbs in a way that would put any other suit to shame. He was sleek and cleanly cut, firm and sturdy, controlled and refined, but powerful and clearly capable all at the same time. She could see it in the way he stood, in his impeccable posture, and the way he held his chin up, how he peered down at her with those striking blue eyes, contrasting so strongly with the darkness of his well-kept hair, how it swept perfectly over his face and out of the way of those intense eyes. It indicated someone of power, of authority, knowledge, and confidence in oneself. The Pokeballs clipped onto his belt also suggested a trainer, a capable one if her observation had been correct. Now, Salem was - by all means - an extremely attractive man; charming and alluring and practically oozing with sex appeal. His energy was magnetic, drawing everyone in like a moth to a flame. But this mysterious stranger, radiating with experience and wisdom, was capturing her attention for a different reason. There was something, something in his eyes, this... Similiarity that pulled on her curiosity, that attracted her in a way unlike Salem. There was a certain undertone in his energy, in his gaze and embedded in his muscles that rang familiar in her, left her intrigued and confused all at the same time.

    A certain... Darkness.

    "I'm merely passing through; I hope to be out of your hair momentarily."
    His voice was deep and smooth, crisp as winter air, laden thick with an accent that made him seem all the more elite. Important. However, she refused to move from her position, continuing to regard him still in quiet contemplation. She watched the way he turned his head towards the door - and she was an extremely perceptive person, keen enough to notice the air of elegance and refinement he carried in just that one small movement - and she followed his gaze in mild curiosity. The pool door, it appeared. And then, for a split second, a couple of shadows, silhouettes, taking shape, growing closer and closer through the glazed windows. This sighting seemed to trigger something in the man, a spike of anxiety and discomfort in his energy, and the pieces clicked together then and there.

    He was running.

    Almost immediately, a smirk pulled on her lips, one of amusement and satisfaction on solving the puzzle before the answers were given, and discovering that she had the upper hand in the situation (and boy did she love being in control). A smirk that only grew upon his next statement, followed by the arch of her eyebrow behind the wide frame of her sunglasses. "I know it is presumptuous to as for a favour before names are even exchanged, but I seem to find myself in a spot of bother; perhaps you could assist me in escaping some unwanted company? I would be greatly in your debt."

    And there it was. The magic word; debt. It was a passion she had, collecting favors. They were her currency, one of the things that made her tick. She held many favors from many people, and that was in part the keys to her success as a trainer, and as an elite. She valued favors over most any other form of payment. Cash, jewellery, and expensive gifts were nice, of course, but favors, now those were irreplaceable. Their value will never decrease, never fluctuate. They can't be taken, nor lost or stolen. Once they were given, they were irrevocable, and the possibilities were endless. And at this, her attention was truly captured.

    Cassie shifted her position, sitting upright as she straightened her leg. One hand propped up behind her, she pulled her sunglasses over her head, gazing at him directly for the very first time and marveling just what a pretty color his eyes truly were, and she certainly did have a soft spot for beautiful things. She regarded him again then, drinking in his appearance from head to toe before turning her attention beside her, to her confidant, for his opinion. Ryu, ever the vigilant Lucario, had noticed him from the moment of his approach, and was now looking on to him in an unusually... Perplexed way. Cassie could feel it without even needing to really look. Lucario were known as the Aura Pokemon, famous for their ability to sense and read aura; the energy emitted by all sentient beings, and raising one, Cassie had found that some of this ability had 'rubbed off' on her, so to speak, allowing her a better observation of the people around her. However, aside from possibly being the best judge of character, Ryu was also extremely protective of her - overprotective, even - and as such, always frowned upon every single lover she had had and was only beginning to warm up to Salem, now that he was no longer a prominent threat. But at that moment, he simply seemed perplexed, glancing back and forth between her and this dandy gentleman.

    Well, that certainly wasn't a 'no'.

    "Hmm... In my debt, you say?" She began as she turned her attention back to the man, all the while properly setting her sunglasses on the top of her head. Her eyes sparkled with interest, and just a hint of mischief. She knew she should probably be relaxing, but she found that this was just much more entertaining. She slid off the chair and stood in one, smooth, unbroken motion. Effective and precise. "Intriguing."

    At that moment, she could feel it, the eyes of the collective residents of the pool on her. On them. It was unnerving, and at the same time, made her job much more difficult. There were plenty of witnesses now who would be able to attest to seeing him, even if she did manage to hide him. Her eyes gave a quick scan of the area, counting the number of places for him to hide, and their access. No, none of them worked. Everything was too far away, and the footsteps - the clicking of high heels, she knew that sound by heart - were drawing closer and closer. Well. It appeared there was only one option.

    "Jade." She turned her attention sharply to the Roserade lounging on Ajax's shell. The Pokemon looked over, cooed curiously, and pulled itself to its feet in the most flamboyant of flourishes. "Let's show everyone that Petal Dance you've been working on." In an immediate response, the rose Pokemon's eyes seemed to light up in excitement, absolutely beaming as she twirled, and took her start position with her rose limbs outward, bowing deeply. Aurora, ever the doting fan, chittered excitedly, drawing all eyes on the bowing Roserade then. With the spotlight now completely on her, Jade straightened herself, bent down, and jumped high into the air, folding her arms over her chest and then quickly pushing them outwards, shooting out a barrage of rose petals that filled the air in a cloud of pink, seeming to keep her aloft as she danced across the air, twirling gracefully in her descent, and sticking the perfect landing back on Ajax's shell just as the petals delicately rained down. And of course, striking the final pose, driving the crowd - small as it may be - wild in applaud. The turtle in question, of course, remained completely oblivious and deep asleep.

    The petals showered down the deck in generous amounts, into the pool where the other pool-goers dove to play with, easily obscuring anyone's view. Just as planned. As the petals rained down in a way that was almost romantic, Cassie strode over to Dante in two, long steps, and slid up in front of him. She only came up to his neck in height, but that was close enough for her to whisper softly, meant for only him to hear as her hands slid up his chest, and she noticed how he smelled like a storm on a winter night, cold and crisp with just a tang of static. "Hold your breath."

    And then, she pushed him into the pool.

    She looked on as he descended to the bottom of the pool, an act that was quickly becoming difficult with the amount of rose petals obscuring the surface. However, once his eyes met with her's once more, right before the petals covered him from view, she held her index finger up to her lips. Keep quiet.

    Right on cue, the door swung open, followed by the chatter of excited and eager women as they entered the VIP swim, only to be greeted by the curtain of rose petals that continued to rain down. Everyone would be focused on the petals above surface, but just to be sure, she pushed Ajax forward, closer to where Dante was near the ledge, to block him from the rest of the swimmers should they decide to dive. Cassie watched the women discreetly, feigning her own fascination towards the shower of petals which they too enjoyed briefly, before remembering their goal and scanning the area. They fanned out for a brief moment, making sure to get the best vantage view of the area - luckily none thinking to look in the pool - and decided that the man they sought simply was not there. In just over a minute, they had gone again.

    Once the doors were shut and the petals had cleared away - either gathered on the deck, the pool, or flying down to the ocean below - Cassie turned to Jade and clapped appreciatively. "Bon travail, Jade." Of which, the Pokemon responded in another bow, one that indicated she did not really need the validation to know how good she was. And then quickly, she crouched down by the edge of the pool, and dipped her gloved hand into the water, through the layer of petals, intending to help Dante out of the pool and cue him that the women had gone.
    #3 PentheWonderful, Apr 7, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  4. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Hm. He wasn't entirely sure what he had expected upon disturbing her relaxation, but whatever it had been, he was most certainly surprised; he had assumed that, with her facing the door and having such an obviously difficult time relaxing, she'd seen him enter. After all, he'd hardly made an effort to slip in unseen - he had assumed that a man wearing an obviously expensive suit would stick out like a sore thumb in an area that most people tended to visit whilst wearing decidedly little clothing, and that attempting to be stealthy about it would have just made him all the more obvious in regards to the fact that he very evidently did not belong - and being as tall and as broad as he knew he was comparative to many other men on this particular cruise (considering that they were all rather wealthy and loathed the wilds, he was of an unusual build among the social elite, he knew), that had seemed to be the best way to go about things. But apparently, that was not the case; if her reaction was anything to go by, he had startled her by his sudden presence, indicating that he could most likely have slipped into the locker room without arousing any of the other poolgoers suspicions. Oh well. He supposed that what was done was done, and he took comfort in the knowledge that he had made the intelligent choice given the information that he'd had available to him.

    Oh, of course, when he says that he startled her, she didn't give any noteworthy outward signs; she didn't jump out of her skin with a yelp, she didn't fall off of the chair in that way that comedy skits like to pretend is so common, her eyes didn't bug out of her head and she didn't kick out at him and throw him into the pool as he tried to avoid a thrashing limb like in a bad Saturday morning cartoon. For one, this was real life and people rarely reacted so strongly - I mean, sometimes it happened that somebody was particularly jumpy, but they tended to be the exception rather than the rule; usually all you got was a slight straightening of their back and a sharp intake of breath - and for another...well, he got the impression just from her seeming inability to relax and unwind that she was...maybe not a serious person 24/7, but certainly a disciplined individual, somebody who was used to having complete control over her own actions and maybe even her surroundings, and thus was unused to such overt outward signs of surprise. Indeed, if she was as good a trainer as her varied and healthy looking Pokemon suggested, then a large part of her job was to keep control of her emotions and her reactions in order to not give anything away. Against the true elite of the Trainer Leagues, even the smallest perceptible twitch could give you away at a crucial moment.

    So no, there was no leaping out of her skin and swearing, no sitting bolt upright in surprise and no spluttering demands to explain who he was. All he could see from her in response was a flickering of the skin around her mouth, a slight turn of her head - as if her eyes were just focusing on him and she was only just noticing his presence - and an ever so slight hesitation as she registered the situation. And he only saw that because he was looking directly at her, from only a couple of feet away; had he been slightly distracted or a little further away, even those tiny tells would have been completely lost on him. He felt his respect for her - planted when he first saw her rather strong looking team of Pokemon, allowed to splash and play in the pool; some trainers would have strictly forbidden that kind of horseplay, and it was refreshing to find a strong trainer who allowed them to also enjoy themselves and relax - swell more than a little; it took a truly remarkable trainer to hide her reactions so completely, such that only close inspection by another professional could reveal her true feelings. Perhaps he hadn't made a mistake in approaching her after all? Even if it was not the most optimal path to evading his tormentors manicured grasps, it was surely worth it to meet another trainer as apparently serious about it as he was.

    In fact, now that he thought about it, something seemed oddly familiar about the young lady. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about her appearance - that facial structure, those black locks, something about her team...it all seemed familiar. Which trainer did he know about that looked like her and had such a diverse roster? Roserade and Blastoise, for one, rarely got along well enough for the former to be peacefully languishing atop the latters shell but...there they were, lounging in the centre of the pool. He felt like he should be able to recognise such a team make up and such a distinctive appearance as hers from the roster of elite trainers he had met previously, but...maybe she just had one of those faces, no? After all, you could believe that you had met somebody before and be completely wrong. It happened all the time; you recognised a friend and called out, only to realise too late that the person you were addressing was nowhere near who you thought it was, leading to that awkward moment of "Sorry, thought you were somebody else," followed by a hasty retreat. Could that be what it was? It was odd, to get that nagging feeling about somebody he knew he hadn't met before - and who obviously didn't recognise him from a hole in the ground - but he set that aside for the moment. He did not have the luxury of time right at that moment.

    He did note the smirk she sported as she straightened up - apparently him being "in her debt" intrigued her, and whilst he might have been concerned about that with any other female on board, he had an inkling that this was probably a professional interest; trainers learned pretty quickly that while cash was important to buying supplies, favours were far more important, especially from skilled or connected individuals; after all, cash couldn't buy your way out of a sticky situation in the middle of a forest, but a favour sure could - but decided to let it slide; after all, if he was asking for her help, he could afford to take a little light ribbing. In any case, he supposed that from outside his own desperate point of view, it was rather amusing; a wealthy, handsome individual fleeing from two attractive upper class women, like a skittish Pokemon ducking behind rocks whenever a Trainer wandered by? He did admittedly - from an objective standpoint - see the humour in the situation, but for him...well, it was anything but funny. For him, it was possibly one of the most dire things he had ever had to endure. Rampaging Pokemon? Sure, no problem. Team Rocket leading a Raid? Bring it on. Two boring and vapid socialites wanting to talk his ear off about all kinds of nonsense? A nightmare made flesh. It was a matter of perspective, really.

    In any case, it didn't take the young lady long to gather her wits; whereas before she had been lying stiffly and sternly in position on the chair as if paralysed and posed there in some mockery of true life, she was now filling with a far more relaxed kind of energy, a certain poise and positioning of her body that spoke of volumes of experience. He marvelled briefly at the change as she slid to her feet in a single practised motion, and caught him with her newly uncovered eyes; he blinked just a little as he caught sight of the sparkling silver pools that had been revealed from behind her glasses, stricken briefly by the intensity he found in them. It was only a brief pause - he had more important things to worry about, after all! - but he would be lying if he said that her eyes were not strikingly beautiful, and - from his limited experience, at least - extremely rare. It seemed that he'd stumbled across a rare creature indeed. He found himself lifting an eyebrow at her in response, though; so, she had trouble relaxing, but instantly lost all kinds of tension from her shoulders when presented a challenge? When given a task to complete, a puzzle to solve, she was in cool control and completely focused on the task at hand? A woman after his own heart, he mused; he was often the same way.

    He might try to relax and enjoy the quiet time to himself, but he always felt somewhat...out of place. Kind of restless, waiting for the next challenge, the next battle, the next objective. The next difficult situation to test the limits of his abilities. Whilst he doubted that this task was anywhere near beyond her, he had to admit that he took a kind of pride in provoking a more relaxed reaction from her. At least he was more interesting than staring listlessly into space, right? In any case, she called over to Jade - the Roserade, presumably, given that Pokemon's reaction - and as soon as she mentioned Petal Dance...it clicked. Petal Dance in and of itself wasn't going to hide him - it drew too much attention, and didn't provide much in the way of a smokescreen for him to escape or hide behind - but the fact that it was loud and obvious was precisely the point. It was one of the oldest strategies in the book; obfuscate and distract, then strike while the enemy is looking elsewhere. Whilst everybody was looking at the Petal Dance - which they were, thankfully, because it was admittedly a uniquely gorgeous and well-practised Petal Dance that Dante himself might have stopped to appreciate had his situation been slightly less pressing - it gave him the perfect chance to slip away in the confusion...but to where?

    See, the locker rooms were too far away now - the pair would be through the door momentarily, and if he was caught in the open, he was finished - and there were no real large areas for him to hide that weren't exposed on the flanks, such that if they moved in the wrong way, he would be completely exposed in a rather awkward position. So what did she have in mind? He turned his slightly querying gaze on her, eyebrow still raised as she stepped closer. He noticed - absurdly - that as she moved closer the air changed; instead of the overpowering smell of chlorine permeating the air, it suddenly smelled of crushed leaves and soil after a fresh spring rain, with just a hint of flowerscent carrying on a western breeze. He inhaled it into his lungs, wondering absently whether that was just her, or the shampoo that she used. It was a ridiculous thought, but he wasn't exactly experienced with women, and he didn't tend to like many people in his personal space. He almost took a step backwards to increase the distance, but paused. Something about her did seem familiar, and not just in the "I've seen her before" way. His hesitation allowed her hands to rest on his chest, forcing a blink from him. This was....all rather forward, and rather inadvisable considering their current predicament. Was this part of her plan, to look intimate with him so that the ladies might give up? He didn't think that would work; they seemed the type to get more determined if they tho- Wait, did she just tell him to hold his breath?

    It all clicked together in a moment - her proximity, her hands on his chest and the distraction provided by "Jade" - and alas, it was a moment too late. He was already stumbling backwards before he could offer a protest, only just managing to get a breath inside him before he felt himself tumbling head over heels. He twisted his body at the last minute - striking at the pool with his elbow as he turned; after all, hitting the water in a flailing star was only going to knock the wind from his lungs and make hiding underneath the water that much harder. The more force you hit a pool of undisturbed water with, the more it hurt; falling from a great enough height effectively turned it into a slab of concrete! - and managed to enter sideways in a sort of half-dive that served to minimise his contact area...and then he was plunged into the surprisingly cool water of the pool, the force of his descent already pushing him towards the bottom. His first instinct was to kick for the surface and clear his eyes - the water was stinging at his eyelids from the sudden impact - but he fought it down. The girls would have entered the room by now...and he could not afford to tip them off. His clothes could dry, but he would not get his afternoon back - ever - if they got their well-kept claws into him. So instead, he pushed himself further to the bottom, turning in place when he got there, opening his eyes just enough to see the lip of the pool through the surface...and, of course, offer as withering a glare as he could manage towards that troublesome young lady. The worst part? He couldn't even say that it wasn't a good plan. It did exactly what he wanted it to do, and to be fair, he hadn't exactly specified where he wanted to hide...or where he didn't want to, as the case may be.

    He waited patiently under the water, silently counting down the seconds of his remaining breath; he'd gotten good at holding his breath during his training with his Pokemon, and could currently hold this amount of breath inside his lungs for roughly three and a half minutes before he had to seriously consider the fact that his brain required oxygen to continue functioning, and he wasn't even past the one third mark before he saw shadows moving on the surface. For a moment, he worried that it was the girls, having found him despite his best attempts to hide, but after a moment the shadow resolved itself into a familiar - and accursed - form. She bent down and stuck her hand into the still rippling pool, beckoning. So...the ruse had worked, then. Fantastic, he supposed. He repositioned his body, ignoring the slight shivers that the water was forcing from his body, and the fact that his freshly tailored suit would have to be logged for water damage; he wasn't the kind of person to get bent out of shape over material damage, but...well, when his suit cost as much as this one had (his best suit, that he'd packed specifically to make an impression on behalf of his family), he was loathe to damage it. He could afford to replace it, but he objected to habitually spending as much money as the suit cost on pointless shows of extravagant wealth. It made him uncomfortable.

    He broke the surface a few moments later, letting out his breath calmly and sucking in a new, fresh one as he flung his arms over the side. He looked up at the she-devil he'd had to make a deal with; she got to push him into the pool - having immense fun with it, he would imagine - and yet somehow he owed her? If only he'd known that he was making a deal with a Crossroads Demon, he would have worded his terms more carefully. He shook his head, flicking water from his now messy, soaking, plastered-to-his-face hair as he regarded her treacherous hand - the hand that had disguised its intentions with an almost tender caress - like a coiled viper. "Well. My parents wished to know the quality of the facilities, so at least I can report to them that the pool is at least functioning as designed," he muttered to himself dryly. He regarded her again, noting that mischievous twinkle in her eye, and the sly grin. Despite himself...he just couldn't bring himself to be annoyed. It was masterfully played, it was a good plan, and now that he was on the surface again...he could even see the funny side. He allowed the corners of his lips to twitch into an almost-half-smile. "My gratitude for your...quick thinking. Remind me to be more specific next time." He paused, as if realising something. "Oh, and by the way...I most certainly owe you." He shook his head again. Two could play at that game. He took her hand, making as if to use it to help himself out of the pool...and then pulled sharply, dropping his weight back into the pool.

    She might have been prepared for it, she might not, but when somebody a head taller than you and easily twice your weight pulls downwards with assistance from gravity...well, you tend to go with them whether you like it or not. She sailed over his head an impressive distance before crashing into the pool in a wave of water and foam, and he took a moment to admire it as he backed against the edge of the pool, leaning against it idly. His legs kept him afloat, kicking in the water as he watched her curiously, an ever so slight playful smirk creeping across his face. He shook his hair again and glanced at his sodden clothes with just a little bit of bemusement. He didn't mind the prank; it was the fact that if the suit was ruined, he was going to be spending an exorbitant amount of money on replacing it, and he never felt comfortable dropping that amount of wealth on a single item. He shook his head, peeling off his soaked jacket - which was easily the most delicate part of the whole ensemble - and hefted it out of the pool, throwing it from his position in the water to hang over a nearby vacant pool chair, the one directly next to the ones she and her young-looking Ninetails had been occupying. He kept his pokeballs around his waist though...a good trainer never relinquished his balls carelessly, and the balls themselves were mercifully waterproof.

    I mean, it probably wouldn't help, but...well, he could maybe get Jason to steam dry the stuff if he got it hung up. He looked down at his shirt, now almost completely see through and stuck to his chest; so much for not making a scene. He just hoped that those two harpies were well and truly gone, or he would be giving them quite a show. He just hoped that they weren't dry-clean only; He'd have to set it to drying, but he wasn't about to start stripping here in the middle of the pool; he could strip off in the locker rooms, if he had to, and hope that his trousers didn't appear too sodden on the way back to his room. On the bright side, his suit might be toasty again soon, and he did always like that feeling of a freshly pressed shirt laying against his skin. He just hoped that Jason managed to keep control and not set fire to them this time. For one, he didn't feel like walking back to his cabin in just his underwear; that would attract entirely the wrong kind of attention, and he didn't think he'd get so lucky as to dodge the unwanted attentions of the determined bacholerettes on this ship a second time in as many hours...and he really, really didn't want to press his luck on that front any more than he already had! He looked back up at the young lady - his erstwhile "rescuer" - and canted his head to the side curiously, giving her another playful half-smile. She didn't seem the type to let anybody else have the last word, and he was equal parts looking forward to and dreading her retaliation. She didn't seem the type to get bent out of shape over such a small, juvenile act...but you never knew. People on a boat like this were rarely who they appeared to be on the surface.
    #4 Vergil Tanner, Apr 7, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
  5. Through her glove, through the invisible movement of water nudging against her hand, she could tell that the stranger - familiar as he was, similar as he felt to her - was pushing up to break the surface, and as such, she pulled her hand out from the water's clutches, finding herself observing just how gracefully he breached the water's surface, how the rose petals parted for him, how his hair - now limp and clinging desperately to his head - fell about his smooth yet strong, rugged face, making her think she was witnessing some sort of poolside photo-shoot. It was quite impressive - she might add - how well he had been able to hold his breath - especially with such little preparation. How calmly he inhaled, as if he could have stayed under for much longer and it wouldn't have been any trouble. She knew for a fact that that was exactly something Salem would have done just to give her a scare. He was such a child like that.

    Of course, the whole point of her being there on the cruise in the first place was to focus on herself - on her needs - for once. Even if it technically was Salem's idea, and the fact that she only did it to fulfill his wishes - she can't say no to those pleading eyes of his - the least she could do was be able to tell him that she had a great time and felt incredibly rested. That was not going well so far, so she needed to focus- no, she needed to relax. Yes, she needed to focus on relaxing. That's what she should do. And so she turned her attention back to the present, and time continued on its normal flow after slowing down in comparison to the lightning speed of her thoughts, and she refocused her gaze on the mystery man she had pushed into the pool. He threw his arms over the ledge, soaked to the bone and yet she found that it was a good look on him, pleasantly surprised to find that even after having his dignity injured, his pride undoubtedly wounded, and his appearance utterly ruined, the strength of his presence and the calm intensity of his expression remained - intensified, even - and it was a sight that made her shiver in delight from the thrill rushing through her veins. She had noticed the Pokeballs he brandished on his belt upon their meeting, and now, she knew for certain that she needed to challenge him to a battle sooner or later.

    He regarded her outstretched hand with a tinge of annoyance - understandable, of course. Any normal person would be, and he was certainly entitled to it, although technically she hadn't done anything she wasn't supposed to do regarding his request - and that was precisely why she couldn't wipe that slight grin of her face. "Well. My parents wished to know the quality of the facilities, so at least I can report to them that the pool is at least functioning as designed," He commented dryly.

    And she responded in amusement with, "You're welcome for that too."

    And then... Something rather unexpected happened. She had expected this man to react negatively, expected to break whatever facade he might hold and receive a scowl, and perhaps even a good reprimanding over ruining his moneyed suit - and of course, she probably did deserved that - but would have found it all greatly amusing anyway. Yet there was none of that. Instead, after a moment had passed between them, his annoyance quickly melted into amusement, she could see it in the way he relaxed the muscles of his face, how his eyes softened for just a fraction. His lips quirked upwards and so did her eyebrow, all in pleasant surprise. Not only had he managed to see the humor in his unceremonious tumble into the pool, he also saw the cleverness in her rather unorthodox method of problem solving, and of that, she was very, very pleased. "My gratitude for your...quick thinking. Remind me to be more specific next time." Her grin softened in its mischief, and instead, grew in sincerity and acknowledgement as she added a slight nod. Yes, she liked this man already.

    However, then there was that... Pause. A suspicious little thing that bristled the hairs on the back of her neck suspiciously. Naturally, being able to read her aura, Ryu picked up on this as well, and was on his feet before anything else. Tense and ready to spring into action upon a moment's notice. "Oh, and by the way...I most certainly owe you." And she could hear it, there was something in the tone of his voice, perhaps... A hint of mischief of his own? He reached out then and immediately - and instinctively - her muscles tensed, ready to spring and deep down she wondered if she was being paranoid - this man was clearly taking up her offer to help him out of the pool - but there was just something off about the whole thing that-

    A gasp. Sharp and short.

    She felt the tug against her hand, firm and sharp as it yanked her forward, carrying her in its momentum and very soon, she could not feel the ground beneath her feet. She felt the wind against her face, the suspension and helplessness and the sudden sensation of falling as it churned her stomach. Time seemed to slow down around her and her mind jumped into overdrive, allowing her to pick up the sights within milliseconds of her predicament. It felt as if she were laying on her back, and the way her head was position, thrown back towards the spot where she had just been crouching moments before, everything was upside down. She could see Jade and Aurora on Ajax's shell, their eyes wide and mouths ajar in shock while Lady remained blissfully unaware. She could see Ryu by the chairs, his mouth ajar as he let out a cry that startled both Nine and Ajax from their slumber - with the former nearly leaping out of his chair in surprise and the latter cracking an eye open - and finally, the man - with his arm still outstretched in mid-swing - and the smirk slowly forming on his face.


    And in the final seconds before impact, Cassie twisted her body around - her shawl a stream of red ribbons around her lithe form - and her parkour training kicked in as she pulled her legs forward and over her head, moving against her momentum to flip swiftly in the air and unfurl herself, deterring her forward movement and straightening her legs and body just in time for a smooth entry as she came down into the water, and the pool swallowed her whole. She barely made a splash, and anyone who had been watching gave a sportive applaud at her "performance". There was a clearing in the layer of rose petals where she entered, and surfaced moments later, her back towards her team and the stranger. Naturally, her sunglasses were no longer perched atop her head, rather, it hung miraculously on one ear - albeit comically - and her volumous ebony locks were now as flat against her head as her shawl to her shoulders. If Ryu had not been tense before, he certainly was then. He was going to pound this guy, beat the living shit out of him for hurling Cassie into the pool like that, what was he thinking?! He was absolutely shaking from his rage, teeth bared, but he would not move unless he had her orders to. He may be protective of her, but he was not a brute. He could control himself. For now. The rest of the team - excluding Ajax and Lady, with the latter only caring so much as to crack an eye open before resuming her nap - watched with wide eyes and bated breath. Nine seemed the most confused out of the group, having just woken up and groggy and missing a majority of the events that transpired. But judging from the reactions of his team mates, he did know one thing, this was certainly not good.

    Her first reaction? Well, that was to pull the dangling sunglasses from her ear, flicking it in a precise and controlled manner to remove some of the water from its lenses while the other hand seemed to brush her hair out of her face. She placed the sunglasses back on top of her head in a single, practiced motion, and finally, finally did she finally turn back to face her audience. She held a stern, serious look on her face that seemed to make her Pokemon go rigid, watching the way he peeled off his jacket with an almost harsh judgement. They scanned him from the waist up, locking in place with his eyes, and just so - just a fraction - they softened and glimmered with curiosity. Again, there was something about him... A certain intensity in his eyes that always captivated her without fail. A kind of... Danger, that made her shiver with adrenaline, made her heart race. Yes, she definitely liked this man. That being said, Ajax had begun to paddle his way over to her, causing both Jade and Aurora to leap off him and evacuate to the pool edge by Ryu.

    The Blastoise nudged his massive head against her side gently, grunting as if asking if she was alright. But even as gentle as he tried to be, he still managed to knock her slightly to the side, and that broke the face she was holding - the facade - transforming it into an amused grin as she broke out into a pleased laugh. "That was great." She shifted her body to face Ajax then and caressed his head affectionately, scratching his hard to reach places with both hands as he breathed out his approval. In the meanwhile, she turned her attention to the stranger, now floating idly in the water with his see-through shirt, revealing the strong muscles she had imagined him to had before. "I like you."

    Almost immediately, the tension left all the Pokemon sitting by the poolside, each letting out a respective sigh of relief with Ryu feeling the anger evaporate from his being. He relaxed his stance some, and shook the last of it from his head, but he was still unable to shake off the strange similarity he sensed from the man's aura. Cassie climbed up on Ajax's shell, inevitably waking Lady from her slumber and illiciting the feline growled at the unwelcome intruder. Her trainer did not bat an eyelash, however, simply pulling the sunglasses from her head - gleaming brightly from the water and tasteful platinum embroidery - and slipping onto her's. The growling stopped almost immediately, replaced with a content purr for the offering, and once more gave back in to her nap.

    Ajax began to paddle once more, turning to ferry the petite lady back to dry land. Once there, she was immediately greeted by Ryu, who leaned as far as he could on the pool's ledge without actually jumping onto Ajax's shell, followed by Nine and the two girls. He gave a concerned growl, followed by a soft yip from Nine and a couple of chirps from Jade and Aurora, all of whom were looking at her rather intently. In response, Cassie smiled softly, giving a small tilt of her head and a relaxation of her body that indicated assurance, that she was okay, and that seemed enough to alleviate the worry strewn across her team's face.

    Jade interpreted this as a green light, and once more hopped back on Ajax's shell to continue her sunbathing, settling stylishly by her trainer's side and was quickly followed by Aurora, who remained hovering nearby as she did not have Lady's consent to share the spacious shell, and was, frankly at a disadvantage towards the Liepard. Ryu bowed his head, communicating relief and understanding, while Nine huffed softly in relief. She gave her two boys an affectionate scratch on the head - between the ears for Ryu and on the cheek of Nine - which they responded with a deep purr. "Go on then." She urged, nodding them towards their pool chairs once more. Nine obliged more than happily, hopping on and settling down, curling his tails around him in a more dignified manner than before while Ryu was slightly more hesitant to leave, and simply ended up sitting up on his.

    However, instead of hopping off Ajax to join the two and dry herself, Cassie decided to stay. She stayed and looked over the man who now fully intrigued her once more, eyebrow arched and a small smile across her lips as she caught sight of those brilliant sapphires that seemed to hold an intellect and wisdom far beyond his age. Crossing her leg crossed over the other and leaning back against her arm, she began, "I'm Cassandra. What can I call you?"
    #5 PentheWonderful, Apr 12, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  6. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    You know, perhaps Dante should have considered his actions a little more wisely; throwing a mischievous young woman into the pool might seem like a charmingly juvenile prank to play, and - if his read of her impish sense of humour was correct - the optimal way to react to her actions in regards to her personality, but perhaps it had not been the best strategic move of his life. See...she may well have found it funny, but he was suddenly acutely aware as she went tumbling into the pool that he was rather exposed in his current position, and at prime striking distance for most of the young ladies rather formidable looking team. Pokemon, if raised by a considerate and skilled trainer, could get extremely protective of their owners and should any harm befall them, they may well choose to act first and ask for forgiveness later, before the trainer could stop them from retaliating. He hoped that this was one of the teams that was less likely to do that - from what he'd gathered from the teams behaviour thus far, and the young womans quick thinking, he was hoping that she was an experienced trainer with a disciplined team - for his own sake, more than anything else. He didn't think that they would kill him, but...well, the Lucario behind him seemed exceptionally angry at him at that moment in time, and he was not in the best defensive position imaginable.

    He did his best to ignore the stares of the Pokemon, of course, acting normal in the hopes that his lack of a follow up attempt on her life - for example, forcing her under the water, or lashing out at her - would assuage their doubts, or at least prevent them from acting from uncertainty. If one acted nervous after such an experience, it was more likely to agitate things than not, especially if the team was still deciding whether or not they should be angry. He just had to hope that his guess on her response had been accurate, and that she was not the type to hold a petty, hypocritical grudge. If she was...he might be in trouble. He kept his back to the team, then, but couldn't ignore the fact that they'd pretty much all woken up and were staring at him - excepting the Liepard, who seemed wholly unconcerned with the spectacle; unsurprising, considering what he knew about Liepards in general - which did worry him a little. It was hard not to be worried, when surrounded by six obviously strong, well trained Pokemon whose owner you'd just thrown in the pool, but he did his best to act unconcerned. If you acted liked there was nothing wrong and that everything was normal, more often than not people tended to assume that it was. He just had to hope that that psychology worked on Pokemon long enough for the young lady to resurface and call them off.

    He watched as the She-Devil resurfaced after her little trip, unable to keep the impressed eyebrow-raise from his face; he'd thought that his own descent into the water had been calculated and controlled, but quite honestly, hers put him to shame; she'd had even less warning, arguably, than he had but she managed to execute an almost flawless reversal into a dive that not only broke the surface of the water such that it didn't knock the wind from her lungs, but also almost managed to make it look somewhat intentional. He knew the truth, of course, but then he was the one who'd pulled her in in the first place. So...experienced, quick on her feet and in her head, in possession of a decent looking team of strong Pokemon...he knew already that before this cruise was over, he'd have to challenge her to a battle. Trainers as obviously experienced and cool under pressure as her were hard to come by, and it was always a pleasure to match skills against somebody who might actually beat you. And looking at her as she picked herself up and readjusted herself - even going so far as to almost casually flick the water from her glasses - he knew that she had the poise and the self control necessary to best him, if he made even the slightest mistake.

    Of course, her poker face apparently wasn't that good without her glasses, so that might be a mark against her in battle.

    See, as she turned around she wore a stern, unimpressed looking face that seemed to make the rest of her team go rigid and almost fearful in their poise - So, Note 1: Her Pokemon were scared of her losing her temper. Good to know - where before they'd been almost universally glaring at him. They went back to watching him with the savage intention to hurt and maim, of course, but they seemed to think that it was a lot more likely...but Dante ignored them. He was busy studying this mysteriously familiar seeming young woman. He was struck once again by the vibrancy of her bright silver eyes, the way they seemed to shimmer in the reflected light of the water as it lapped around her after their twin disturbances, and he had to admire how her hair - now similarly plastered to her face as his own was - still looked rich and black as a clear summers midnight even after being exposed to such volumes of water. If anything, her hair being stuck to her cheek and the water running down her face and shoulders only served to make her look more attractive to him, but that was a purely subjective analysis. What he studied...was her body language, and how she looked at him. And that was how he knew even before her smile broke that she was not about to order her Pokemon to bumrush him.

    It was how she held herself; though her expression was stiff and unimpressed, her shoulders weren't squared and puffed out like you would imagine if you were truly angry. Her back was straight, yes, but from good posture rather than righteous indignation and she held none of the other aggressive body language you might possess if you were truly angry. And honestly? Her eyes were the biggest give away. Though she was attempting to look at him with harsh condemnation, the look never reached her gaze. No matter how hard she tried, it didn't seem like she could halt the small twinkle of mischief in the corner of her eye. And then, of course...there was that little glimmer. That flash of curiosity when her eyes met his that told him, more than anything else, that she was more intrigued, more curious, than she was annoyed. That despite what she seemed to be trying to fool him into thinking...she was most certainly amused, and just as intrigued by him as he was by her. The thought made his heart quicken just a little in his chest; at least he knew that it wasn't just him. The twinkle, the glimmer, was so small that he was not surprised that her team - being further away from her than him, with one exception (well, two, but one of them was still asleep) - had missed it on first inspection. Besides...he doubted that her team were studying those admittedly gorgeous mercury pools with as much attention as he was, and it took her being bumped slightly to the side - and the subsequent beaming grin and almost musical laugh that made him want to smile along with it for some reason - to snap him out of his deep study of her gaze. Her team notably relaxed, and so did - internally - Dante. It was always a relief to know you weren't about to be kicked in the head by a Lucario.

    He catalogued the affection she showed her Blastoise and its reaction - Note 2: Her Pokemon (Most of them, anyway) genuinely liked her. The sign of an effective trainer - and allowed his eyebrow to quirk upwards slightly, impressed. He did have to smile a little, too, an ever so slight twitching upwards of the side of his lips, which was usually the closest he ever came to smiling. It was always nice to know that he'd guessed his subjects reaction accurately, and it was always pleasant to hear that he'd made a decent first impression. He may not have really enjoyed the company of most people, but he at least liked to make a good first impression with people just in case he ended up actually liking them. And from her own demeanour and her apparently consistent sense of humour - as well as her obvious skill as a trainer - he knew he liked her already. She looked at him - and he felt her eyes wandering for just a moment, though he did not begrudge her the act; he'd been surreptitiously sketching her own figure with his eyes the moment her back was turned, after all - and he offered a small inclination of his head at her comment. "And I am gladdened by your positive opinion. It is rather unbecoming of a gentleman to leave a lady dissatisfied, after all." He offered her another small twitch of his lips. He certainly didn't want to disappoint this lady, that was for sure.

    He took a brief moment to admire her form - obviously well-maintained and well proportioned, the swimsuit doing wonders to compliment her in a rather tasteful way - as she fished herself out of the water and onto her Blastoise's back, taking particular notice of how the water slid down her slender, extremely attractive legs. His eyebrow twitched ever so slightly at her dealings with the Liepard - apparently that one didn't really care much about her Trainer, at least not when she was disturbing a nap or when she wasn't giving her a present; potentially important information, if there was a divide there that he could take advantage of in a battle - but he smoothed his features over as she turned around, relaxing back on one arm as her Blastoise began to ferry her back to the side of the pool. As she was carried over, Dante himself braced his arms on the side of the pool and pushed himself upwards onto a sitting position on the edge, his legs still idly hanging in the water. His head tracked her as she moved, paying careful attention to how she was greeted by her other Pokemon; they all seemed much more relieved at her safety than the Liepard, and he noted that, too. Note #3: Her Pokemon largely loved her, and she seemed to hold genuine affection for them, too. A sign of a good – and formidable – trainer. His itch to challenge her only intensified.grateful that he was far away enough to admire her smooth legs as they crossed. He wasn't leering, of course, and it wasn't a lustful look at all...he just appreciated beautiful things, and respected people with the commitment to maintain the health and appearance of their body...and she obviously had both beauty and commitment. Besides, he was a young male; he was going to at least notice attractive women, was he not?

    He canted his head to one side as she gave her name - Cassandra. Where had he heard that name before? Any number of places, he imagined, but that nagging feeling that he knew her, or at least of her grew just a little; Cassandra. He felt like he should know that name - and offered his own twitching smile in return. So, they had gotten to the "Names" part of the discussion? A good sign. A lady like Cassandra rarely offered their name unless they were genuinely interested in getting to know you a little better. He inclined his head. "A pleasure and an honour to make your acquaintance, Cassandra." He bowed slightly, bending at the waist as much as he could, dipping his head in a gentlemanly (albeit seated) bow. "You may call me Dante, and I am happily at your service." No last names for now. He didn't want that kind of attention, and if she didn't recognise him...well, he was happy to find one person on this boat who didn't give a damn who he was. It was refreshing, in more ways than one. He glanced around quickly at the area around them, then down at his belt. He tapped at one of the balls thoughtfully, then turned his attention towards Cassandra. "Do you mind if I let my team out for some fresh air, or would it cause issues with your team?" He asked, gesturing to the Pokeballs on his belt. "I have regrettably been forced to keep them confined to their balls for the last couple of days, and now might be the only chance I get to allow them time to stretch their legs, as it were." He could have just released them, but...well, it was only polite to ask the other trainers present if they had any issues with it, or if any of their Pokemon were likely to cause problems....and honestly, Dante wanted to get off on the right foot with Cassandra; she seemed like exactly the kind of person he wanted to interact with more often, and if nothing else, she was significantly more interesting than anybody else he'd met on the boat thus far.
  7. It was intriguing, the way he smiled. It wasn't like the way most people would express their happiness, by pulling the edges of their lips of with ease - sometimes even giving a glimpse of teeth - and even unlike the others who are condescending, whose heads are always held up high so that they may look down on those around them, who pull only one edge of their lips upwards in a mocking, arrogant smirk. No, the way this stranger smiled, it looked as if the muscles of his face were simply not built to smile, such that the action - when performed - was as confusing as giving the middle finger with your toes. His smile was in twitches, his body held in chains, alert and ever struggling to fully let their guard down even as he tried to sit leisurely by the pools edge - his soaked, white shirt practically translucent as it clung to his body, showing off just what she had expected to see, and just a little bit more - with his legs dangling in the pool still... But she could tell he was being sincere regardless, because his smile, his stiff, twitching smile, they reached his eyes - bright as the sunlight shimmering off the deep blue ocean - all the same.

    He bowed, brief, seated bow that only allowed a slight bending of the back and the dip of the head, a far cry from the one he had given her earlier in the first moments of their encounter and yet, somehow far more charming in his soaked, disheveled condition. She supposed it was because this way, he seemed more real. More alive and living than the theater doll he was a moment ago. Because those dolls? Those perfect, beautiful, exquisitely dressed figurines belonged in their dollhouses. Not there, with her, or with her Pokemon who have been through hell and back, experienced reality to its extremes to ever be content with those dollhouses again. And looking at this man - despite the doll language he still preferred to use, refusing to break character in the theater - and looking in his vibrant blue eyes - so dangerous and sharp as a knife - told her that he did not belong in a dollhouse either. No, you certainly did not develop that edge, that unique wit and alertness, that rare calm refinement and calculating gaze from sitting inside a golden cage.

    "You may call me Dante, and I am happily at your service."

    Dante... Dante... Her brows knitted together in thought, barely a twitch before she redirected them to arch an eyebrow instead. Where had she heard that name before? She knew it for certain now, that the name existed in her memories, familiar in her ear. And there it was again. That feeling of deja vu, a knock in the back of her mind and a soft voice telling her that she knew him. She knew this man, and yet it was like trying to catch a cloud. It would only slip right through your fingers again. He spoke with the eloquence of any elite - if not more so - his accent only further elevating the richness of his voice, the class he had about him, and yet it was heavy in formalities, meaningless nonsense that stripped meaning and sincerity from the purpose of his words, cheapening its worth. It was detaching - those formalities - keeping them a distance the way all aristocrats liked to be. It was safe. It was tolerable. But right now, despite only having met, it was out of place, for she felt like she knew him better than to believe he was what he appeared to be. A dandy gentleman? No, there was something more, far more, beneath the surface... And such a trait was what made a man worthwhile indeed.

    Her eyes tracked the movement of his eyes, glancing about cautiously, and then down to his belt where she was once more fixated on the Pokeballs clipped on there. She counted them, and found six. A full battle team. He moved his hand towards one of them, gave a light tap, and Cassie felt her heart skip a beat, felt her adrenaline spike inside her veins and her fingers twitch atop Ajax's shell. She could have even sworn her pupils dilated slightly. Of course, beside her, Jade had also become aware of the familiar tapping sound of a finger against a Pokeball - all trained Pokemon had to be, of course - and her smile fell just slightly, and it was the same for the rest of the Pokemon - excluding Lady, and Ajax - who turned their heads to attention at just that one, small action.

    "Do you mind if I let my team out for some fresh air, or would it cause issues with your team?"

    Cassie let out a breath she hadn't realized had been held. She regained control of her emotions, reigned them in by their chains and smoothed the spike of adrenaline from her blood. "I have regrettably been forced to keep them confined to their balls for the last couple of days, and now might be the only chance I get to allow them time to stretch their legs, as it were." Jade noticeably lost interest - and perhaps tension - and simply returned to vainly preening her petals and leaves. Ryu let out a prominent huff and Nine turned his attention elsewhere, ears lightly twitching, while Aurora remained alert just a fraction of a moment longer before returning to her marveling of Jade. Their trainer, in the meanwhile, gave a mental shake of her head. Of course she was always eager to battle a strong opponent, but had she been that bored to jump at the first opportunity? No, no, silly girl. There was a time and place for everything, and patience was a virtue. Besides, he had already seen her cards. It was only fair that she got to see his.

    Although... She would be lying if she wasn't the slightest bit impressed by his manners.

    "Please, be my guest." She gave a slight wave of her hand, nodding politely. "My team are very well adjusted, and as long as they don't disturb my Liepard's nap, there shouldn't be any problems..." Slowly, her lips began to softly curl, gradually shifting back into that smile of mischief from before. She glanced back at him, and beckoned him closer with her index finger. She waited patiently for him to come closer - inhaling his crisp, winter scent of fresh snow and frost covered mints - and then leaned into his ear, whispering, "You see... She's a lot like me. We don't particularly like to have uninvited guests... As you've... Probably experienced." Her hand reached up, delicately grabbing the collar of his soaked, white shirt between her fingers, neatly tucking it back in place, and then flicking off a rose petal that had decided to cling there.

    Afterwards, she simply pulled back and chuckled.
    #7 PentheWonderful, Apr 18, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2017
  8. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Perhaps he should have expected the reaction his attention to his Pokeballs elicited; any trained team of Pokemon - and any half decent trainer - was bound to respond in a certain way to hearing the tap of a finger on a Pokeball. He hadn't considered it after the past few days stuck on this accursed boat with very few actually dedicated trainers, but he should have anticipated it from her. It was almost Pavlovian in how ingrained it was in their psyche's, since whenever they usually hear such a sound, it was the indication of a coming battle, be it a random trainer encounter, a Gym Battle, or even - if you were unlucky - an ambush conducted by far less scrupulous individuals. If you were going to survive in the areas further out from the towns and cities, you needed to have all of your sense sharpened and kept honed, just in case that extra half second of attention, that brief moment of realisation that came a split moment sooner than it did to most other people proved to be the difference between victory and defeat...and, in certain extreme cases, between life and death. People didn't usually get injured or die on the roads around wild Pokemon - as used to humans as they all were by now - but sometimes accidents happened...and sometimes, an unscrupulous trainer or two might take things just a touch too far. Heaven knew that the various Teams had been known to sic their pokemon on other people to get what they wanted in the past, so...it never hurt to be attentive.

    In this regard, Cassandra's team was obviously exceptionally well trained; whilst obviously they had varying reactions to the sound - some looked concerned, some looked disappointed and a couple of them looked decidedly eager - they all obviously heard, recognised and reacted to the sound in as sharp and rapid manner as he would expect from his own team, perhaps even a touch quicker in some cases. The Liepard in particular looked interested, but...she had already displayed that she was decidedly above it all and even willing to growl at her trainer, such that he was beginning to suspect that this was her usual attitude to anything that did not concern her directly. He idly wondered whether she would battle right now if Cassandra ordered her to, or whether she would simply ignore her Trainer and do what she wanted, as Liepards were notoriously self-centred...but he discarded that notion as unimportant. He would plan around the Liepard for their battle, assuming that the Liepard would do as instructed, and if she didn't...then he would have a contingency in place to take advantage of its disobedience. There was no real way to predict her behaviour without seeing her in combat in the first place, after all, and speculation was largely pointless. Of course, perhaps the reaction that impressed him the most out of the group was Cassandra's herself.

    Some trainers would panic at the sound of battle, or stiffen and go rigid and extremely serious, their back straightening and their fists clenching with adrenaline as the sudden rush of combat flooded their system. Some would lose all emotion in their face, and some would instantly leap forwards and hurl out a Pokemon without thinking, eager to begin already...but Cassandra? Cassandra was another creature altogether. Her eyes instantly narrowed - did they dilate? It passed too quickly for him to be sure, but that flicker of her eye certainly suggested something more than simply being eager - and he saw her eyes run over his belt rapidly, as if trying to see through them...but she didn't order out a Pokemon. No, she controlled herself, held herself back, and he was impressed. Not everybody had that kind of discipline, and not everybody could stop that natural impulse before it went too far. If nothing else, it allowed her a chance to see what she was up against before changing a Pokemon or sending one out, which was obviously a huge tactical advantage. He could see something else, though; her previous stiff, uncomfortable posture was gone. All hint of it ever having existed, the last bits of it, had finally melted away from her body, leaving her far more relaxed and naturally ready, poised...as if ready to spring from the Blastoise's back in a moment. So...unable to relax at the pool, but completely at ease in a Battle? Yes...yes, she was his kind of woman.

    He nodded to himself as she answered, already half turning his body to reach down towards his belt to fish out his first pair of Pokemon - Tails and Jason, who would largely be responsible for corralling the rest of them into behaving themselves, and most importantly, keeping Maggie away from the pool - when he paused at motion out of the corner of his eye. His hand fell away from his belt as he turned his head, looking up at her just in time to see her crooking her finger for him to approach, smiling at him mischievously. He'd already learnt to distrust that almost cheeky, impish, devilishly decievingly alluring look of hers, to not be taken in by that coaxing glimmering twinkle in her eye...but he found himself curious nonetheless. Another trap? Entirely possible, given their history thus far, but he found his interest almost undeniably piqued by the soft curvature of her lips and the coaxing nature of her expression. Apparently, she wished to say or do something that required him to approach, and whilst he would do so with caution...he also found himself practically magnetically drawn to obey her summons. He wasn't normally a particularly submissive individual, and usually chafed at most kinds of authority - hence his desire to roam the world - but something about this woman just made him...a little more inclined to play along, if only in the hopes of working out where in the world he'd met her before.

    He pushed himself up and out of the pool properly, his soaking trousers dripping in an almost constant torrent on the side of the pool as he quickly brushed himself down - spraying some excess water drops beneath him as he did so - and turned to approach Cassandra. He did so almost cautiously, keeping a half eye on her hands at all times in case she sought retribution of some kind for her trip into the water - you never knew; experienced trainers could easily hold a small grudge to prank you at a later date - but she did no such thing. She simply leaned forwards - an action that wafted her scent towards him again, the crushed grass of a post-shower spring night, the gentle breeze carrying the scent of newly blossomed flowers across a gentle moonlit meadow, the coolness of night contrasting how stuffy and enclosed the day must have been, a scent that reminded him of the open world beyond the ships confines, and almost forced a wistful smile to his lips before he forced it down - and allowed her quiet, almost musical voice to play in his ear. Her breath tickled at his ear, causing the hairs on his back to stand on end in response (his ears were exceptionally sensitive to stimuli, you see, and when an attractive, interesting young lady in a tight swimsuit was close to a sensitive area, it awoke certain reflexive reactions in most people). He tilted his head towards her idly, noting with suspicion that her hands were now on his shirt...but she simply puffed them back into shape and moved to withdraw, allowing him a moment to relax, such that he barely noticed when she plucked a rose petal from his shoulder and flicked it away; he'd felt like he'd forgotten something, but of course dusting himself off was hardly becoming in front of a young lady such as this. He regarded her with a small half-smile, lips twitched upwards in bemused contemplation of her, regarding her with a curious fascination now that her silver eyes filled most of his vision, her scent wafting through his lungs. Yes. He would have to get to know this young lady better.

    He lifted an amused eyebrow in her direction, canting his head to one side as he regarded the Liepard and her Trainer. They didn't appreciate uninvited guests? Something told him that he would prefer the Liepards reaction to Cassandra's, if he was truly unwelcome, but as it was if it meant being thrown in a pool by an obviously capable trainer as Cassandra? He might gatecrash more holidays in the future. As it is, she pulled backwards, smiling that smile of hers...and Dante found himself - oddly, for him - taking a small step forwards to follow. He was dangerously close to the edge of the pool, but...what was life without risks? He allowed himself a small, one-syllable half-chuckle, a sound of deep bass rumbling from the back of his throat, no small amount of mirth dancing in his eyes. "All things considered, it could have been much worse," he mused almost teasingly. "As it is, we both got to enjoy a rather refreshing dip in the pool. I would call that a win. Wouldn't you?" He paused, then reached out - slowly at first, so as not to alarm her other Pokemon; contrary to what some people may tell you, he did not enjoy being in the middle of a large pile of angry Pokemon - and, still wearing the almost-mischievous half-smile, plucked a rose petal of his own from out of Cassandra's hair from where it had gotten stuck upon her exiting the pool.

    As he did so, however, he ended up misjudging the distance between himself and Cassandra – or at least, he thinks he did – and as he plucked the petal from her hair, he felt the tips of his index and middle fingers across the curvature of her cheek, just in front of her ear, and the world almost turned upside down. In that brief moment, it felt like Dante's breath was stolen from his lungs as if he was punched in the chest, forcing a rapid replacement of his oxygen supplies, a quick, sharp inhalation through his nose the only reaction he could muster to the quick, rapid spark that shot through him. His finger had only barely grazed her flesh, but already he felt his body reacting to that quick touch; his interest in the young woman, her obvious capability, her odd, familiar bearing, the way her lips curved into that alluringly mischievous grin that told him not to trust her, but beckoned him to follow anyway...and most importantly, the way she'd been looking at him, not as a piece of meat or something to be oggled, but a point of interest, something to be studied and peeled away, obviously as fascinated in him as he was in her...it all combined within that touch to send a small jolt of static through him, practically paralysing him for a few moments, his hand lingering on the side of her face, only intensifying the sudden bolt from the blue. The tips of his fingers tingled to the point of burning, and his gaze locked with hers, a mixture of brief surprise flickering across his face. He looked at her, this...this familiar impish beauty, so out of place on a cruise like this, so...so intriguing and deliciously enfuriating, considered the tingling shock that he felt pulsing through his nerves, and for a brief moment, he searched her gaze, wondering – perhaps – if she had felt the same sensation, or if it was only him? It was another long moment before he managed to finally pull his hand away.

    He took the petal and – forcefully tearing his gaze from hers - regarded it for a moment, using the break to reorder his thoughts. He had to get himself together, and quickly. He took a steadying breath, steeled his will, stilled his expression...then flicked the petal aside casually, returning his gaze upwards, managing – for the most part – to keep a straight face. "Besides. Uninvited guests can prove to be rather unexpected amounts of fun, if you get the correct ones." He twitched his eyebrow meaningfully, then took a small step backwards, his hand falling to his belt. "If you'll excuse me for a moment." He said, offering a minute inclination of his head. He plucked two of the shrunken balls from his belt - visibly unmarked, of course; no sense in telling his opponents which Pokemon he was sending out ahead of time. No, what he had was a simply brail language embroidered on the reverse of the ball, near the hinge. He could tell at a feel which ball he was touching, which helped in the heat of battle - and held them out in front of him, held between two separate fingers. He activated them, letting out a stream of red light from the centre, which quickly coalesced into two large, canine forms. The one closest the water, a large, black Houndoom - Jason - took one look at the pool and quickly stepped backwards warily, shooting an accusing look at him. The other, a sleek, well-groomed and graceful looking silver Alolan Ninetails - Tails - simply looked around curiously, appearing for all the world utterly unconcerned by its surroundings, or the other Pokemon on the benches. Its gaze fixed briefly on Cassandra's Ninetails, cocking its head to one side curiously, before looking at Dante.

    "Yes, you're getting a small holiday," Dante said quietly, crouching down to their level. He held out his hands, and both of the canine Pokemon leaned their heads into them to get an idle scratch. Jason flicked his gaze behind Dante at the young beauty in a swimsuit, and let out a small, quiet rumble from his throat. Dante looked at him flatly. "Quiet, you, or I'm making you swim ten lengths of the pool." A mock whine, followed by a barking almost-chuckle. Dante ignored it. "I'm allowing the others out of their balls in a few moments. You two know what to do; just make sure that they refrain from breaking anything, and ensure that they stay away from the Liepard. Especially Syl. Oh, and keep Maggie away from the water; We don't want a repeat of the last time she came to a Water Park." Ok, so, perhaps taking an electricity pokemon to a water park was ill-advised, but...well, he was young! It was an honest mistake. Tails and Jason just nodded their heads in understanding, though Tails leaned down and nosed at the backmost ball on his belt curiously, before looking up at him. He shook his head. "Unfortunately, I do not believe it wise to allow Gary free reign. We are on a cruise ship, and his appearance might cause some...alarm." That was an understatement if ever he'd made one, but...well, obviously the young lady behind him was curious about his team. It would not do to tip all of his cards at once, no?

    He stood back up after a moment, fishing two more balls from his belt. Activating them, the red beams quickly coalesced into Maggie, his Magnezone, deliberately set to hovering a good distance away from the pool - Jason made a beeline for her immediately, smart thing that he was - and Ariel, his Ariados, who simply sat there and blinked, looking around curiously. After a moment, she stretched - she was the one who least liked being kept in her ball for extended periods of time - and proceeded to crawl up and onto two of the empty deck chairs, investigating them curiously. He watched them for a moment, before reaching for his last ball. This one, he aimed directly at his feet - he knew exactly what she was going to do when he let her go, so he positioned the beam between himself and the pool, since he didn't feel like another dip any time soon - and let out Syl, easily the most rambunctious of his team. Almost as soon as the beam had half formed, the coalescing form of his Sylveon, Syl, was bounding upwards and into his arms, burrowing against his chest with an intensity that only Syl after three days in her ball could muster. He didn't need to hear her purring, since he could feel it against his chest, her ribbons reaching out to wrap around his forearm.

    He allowed himself a slightly wider smile than normal, one hand moving to scratch Syl under her chin, which elicited a rather pleased mewl. "I missed you too, Syl." He murmured as he turned around to face Cassandra again. Syl peeked out from his arms and - seeing the rest of the new Pokemon, which she had apparently been too busy assaulting him to notice - her eyes widened. She glanced up at Dante and, after an encouraging inclination of his head, bounced out of his arms and onto the poolside. She took a few tentative steps, then - seeing the Roserade atop Blastoise's shell - bounded towards the edge of the pool, chittering excitedly in greeting, her ribbons trailing in the air behind her. She hit the edge and looked up at the Roserade, eyes wide and head tilted. He watched her go, a bemused smile on his face. She always had loved flowers. Tails padded up by his side, then settled down into a sitting position a little way to his right, just by the deck chairs that were currently occupied by Cassandra's own Pokemon, giving each of them a curious study. Dante himself shook his head, and turned his attention back towards Cassandra. He glanced around at the newly almost doubled number of Pokemon running and lounging around, and lifted his eyebrow. "There we are. Hopefully they can dispose of some excess energy without damaging anything." He wasn't exactly certain, but Tails and Jason should be able to keep them in line. At least, he could hope, right?
  9. The moment she pulled back, she could see it, the way he moved forwards - just a half step closer - drawing dangerously near to the edge of the pool. His eyes entranced, laced by a spell, but at the same time, remained keenly aware. Yet, he did nothing to stop it and instead - completely surpassing all her expectations - acknowledged it. He did nothing to correct that step forward, wasted no effort in trying to cover up what had been done, and Cassie found that tidbit of response made him all the more intriguing, further boosted his appeal in her eyes. It had also said things, of course, conveyed certain messages of interest that reciprocated her own, and honestly she could not stifle the pleasure it brought her to hear that curt, brief chuckle that rumbled from his chest - low and deep - reminding her of thunder on a stormy night. The light dancing in his eyes, exuberant and vivid in its portrayal of mirth reminded her of sharpened blades, like knives glinting in the sunlight, sharp and lethal. Dangerous in its appeal, powerful and beautiful yet, in a moment's notice, could end one's time on this Earth. But that was exactly why she loved it, why danger had always been her greatest weakness. She could never resist, for how could she refuse?

    After all, for a long period of time, danger had been her only friend.

    "All things considered, it could have been much worse," He mused with a hint of playfulness, almost as if goading her on, lightheartedly challenging her and that in itself captured the fidelity of her attention. Watching him closely, mapping the smallest twitches and shifts in his body, the way those well-trained muscles - now perfectly visible through the translucent nature of his white shirt - flexed and relaxed in perfect coordination, allowing him a seamless, almost effortless way of moving that was at the same time sturdy and firm, perfectly capable and ready to spring into action in a moment's notice. She found herself observing his hands especially, noting their size and the way his tendons pushed against skin in a similar manner to the veins in his arms, screaming to her just how well worked they were, and then up to his broad shoulders, held back in perfect posture and forming an impressive upside down triangle silhouette, extending upwards to the muscles of his neck, how easily she could see the tendons there as well. And she knew then and there that he would not even need his Pokemon to deal damage.

    And in many ways, this reminded her of Salem. Upon an external observation, they were of similar height and build, both possessing thoroughly worked and trained bodies of gods that would put any average man to shame - and that in itself made her wonder just how she was able to run into these gems in a world of coal so often - with seamless movements and ease of action, yet at the same time, were polar opposites of each other. It was in their energy, in their auras and in their gazes. Reflecting two men from two completely different worlds, yet somehow perfectly parallel to each other as opposites. Salem, who was open and free - vibrant - wearing his heart on his sleeve and always full of life, bursting with boundless energy, warm as a tropical sun and comforting as a golden beach, radiating a hidden power, a strength that rivaled the might of an ocean. While Dante... This man she had just met was a tundra. Vast, powerful, and just as deadly, but cold and secluded at the same time. Private. He was a blizzard, obscuring the vastness and depth of his soul, almost impossible to see through or read, and yet his strength was undeniable just the same. Freezing and dark... With just an underlying tone of bitterness... He truly was more familiar than she thought. "As it is, we both got to enjoy a rather refreshing dip in the pool. I would call that a win. Wouldn't you?"


    And then, there was this... Pause. This split second where he simply did not do anything. Almost as if he were simply contemplating his next move. When very slowly, very carefully, he began to reach towards her, extending his hand to her face and for a moment, she was inclined to move away. She did not particularly enjoy being touched, and especially not by people she hardly knew and yet... She had already let this man, this stranger into her space before, when she had leaned in to whisper to him, when she stepped close enough to him to breathe in his scent and push him into the pool, and there was that constant nagging in the back of her head, this... Familiarity that made her wonder; was he really a stranger after all? At the very least, was someone similar to you ever a true stranger? And before she knew it, her curiosity had gotten the best of her, wondering what he was planning to do and what he would achieve out of it, and so she stayed. She remained still and allowed him his will and therefore none of her Pokemon would see cause to stop him as well.

    She focused on his face, desperately trying to place him in the correct time and place in her memory, grasping at the tiniest detail that might indicate where she had seen him before, how she knew him, or why he looked so painfully familiar. But instead, she was distracted by the smile he held on his lips, that minuscule, twitching smile that somehow managed to portray the playfulness that it did despite its size, and she was intrigued by... By how that simply made his eyes shine brighter, lighter, like... The sunlight glistening off the surface of a glacier. And she could feel his fingers and their feather light caress, sweeping across her hair and for a moment, she had her eyebrow raised questioningly, until very notably, she felt him pull something from it and it dawned on her that she must not be the only person with a few petals to spare. He pulled back and all of a sudden, she felt this light, gentle brush against her cheek. His fingers - she realized - were calloused and rough as they dragged briefly across her skin, forcing an involuntary intake of breath through her nose as she felt her muscles seize at the contact.

    And she could have sworn she felt static running through her veins

    Her skin was left tingling in an almost giddy way. Lingering. Lasting. Looming with no intention of dissipating any time soon and for a brief moment - a moment that seemed to stretch on to hours - they were simply locked in each other's gazes, wondering what the hell had just happened. She felt the way his eyes roamed her face. Those icy blues leaving a trail of heat wherever they wandered and she felt herself a deer in the headlights, unable to deny him of such a privilege for it suddenly felt as if he had the upper hand, and it was certainly no simple task to be able to put her in such a position. And yet, he had done it. He had found that little niche in her armor that lead him right past her defenses, and straight to her core where he tugged on her heart... And there were only so, so few who managed to do that. Several of those people being Salem, and her own mother... And also... Also... Her eyebrows furrowed together in thought, grasping at the new puzzle piece that had just shown itself; not only did this man feel familiar, but... It was likely, very likely that she actually knew him, and he knew her. She placed that piece into its frame, barely a fraction of its entire, clear picture, but she would find them. Sooner or later. For there was something undeniable in his touch, in his gaze and the way he interacted with her that was almost uncanny. It was a familiar, frightful, yet dear sensation, filling her heart with feelings of insecurity and awe at the same time and it all... It all felt so close within her grasp, yet invisible to the naked eye, and she searched his eyes as frantically as he did his to find that answer, that second piece to complete the picture when he shifted again, drawing himself back completely, as she felt her hand twitch as if tempted to keep him there, prevent him from moving, and yet... She let him go.

    She let him go.

    He moved his gaze away and she could just feel the force of which he did it in. Briefly regarding the petal that she had forgotten existed, before quickly disposing it. However, the petal was the least of her concerns as she instead paid attention to the way he stilled his face, smoothing it back to a neutral expression, communicating to her that the subject - that accidental, electric brush - was to be dropped and discontinued. And that was fine, completely fine. She allowed the emotions, the giddiness and knots in her stomach to drain away from her heart, flowing down with the pool water that trickled onto Ajax's shell, and she returned to her state of emotional void, but keeping just enough to allow for... Sincere, responses. It was not difficult, however. In fact, it had been far too simple. After a lifetime of controlling her emotions and all the things she had been subjected to these recent years, it became much more difficult to feel rather than not to feel. And the only remedy she had discovered to effectively chase it away had been Salem. But he's not there now.

    "Besides. Uninvited guests can prove to be rather unexpected amounts of fun, if you get the correct ones." At this, she allowed herself a small chuckle in agreement. Indeed, despite everything... She was having much more fun with him than she had alone. Her Pokemon helped, of course, but she had just found it difficult to fully find amusement in the activities they found interesting or fun. Ryu and Peridot, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the cruise liner's gym facility, and while Cassie admitted that she had worked up a good sweat from that, it didn't quite manage to take her mind away from her thoughts and concerns. Ajax and the girls couldn't seem to stay away from the spa facility for pleasant massages and pampering, but Cassie found it exceptionally tricky to not think and contemplate while sitting in the mud bath or getting her nails done, and especially difficult to find any relaxation in the massages when she could just barely tolerate the therapist touching her and undoubtedly making faces at the scars that graced her skin. Nine, on the other hand, enjoyed simply basking in the sunlight and taking a nice, relaxing nap... Which was the activity that she had decided to try that day, but obviously to no obvious success.

    "If you'll excuse me for a moment."

    She blinked, and finally her eyes were in working order once more, barely hearing the full sentence that Dante had uttered in her train of thought, but figured a response was in order regardless. "Yes, go head." She felt her eye twitch involuntarily. That was definitely not the best response she could've come up with, but nevertheless, she kept close watch of his movements, observing the way he plucked two particular Pokeballs from his belt and all at once she felt her heart race, felt the adrenaline pumping through her veins and her fingers fidget anxiously. She was finally going to see his full team, and that was one step closer to obtaining another puzzle piece, another tidbit of information to place him in her memories and achieve the answers she sought. She did notice a certain... Anomaly, to his Pokeballs, however. Minuscule imperfections - bumps, as you will - to their smooth surface that he ran his fingers across. Braille? She felt her heart skip a beat, a grin beginning to pull on the edges of her lips at this... Magnificent being she had encountered. Certainly, braille on Pokeballs were nearly unheard of, but it was undeniable that it was not only innovative, but brilliant, and only went to show just how... How brilliant Dante must be!

    It did, however, hand her that second piece of the puzzle, though very tentatively. For, someone as composed, collected, and intellectually endowed as Dante would surely have at the very least made it to the Pokemon League of at least one region, which leaves her to the hypothesis of, perhaps she had read about him, or seen him on a news broadcast. It was very likely, of course. Suits like those don't come cheap, and one must have achieved at least some degree of success as a trainer before you could afford one - unless, of course you were born into a wealthy family, but any good family would have pushed their children to earn their own cash instead of spoiling them rotten, and Dante certainly did not seem like the type one bit - and there was also the fact that she kept a record of all the League level trainers. He must be in there somewhere. She just needed... Some confirmation. However, it was also then that - barely a moment later - when Dante released the Pokemon contained in those two pokeballs he had plucked, and Cassie found herself with bated breathe as she watched the light form - as did her team. Well, the alert ones, that is - and witness two canines appear from the blinding beam; A Houndoom, and...

    Nine's eyes widened almost immediately, his ears fully alert on the top of his head while his entire body seemed to stiffen up and lock in place. The movement of his tails ceased completely, almost holding his breath as the silver beauty's eyes scanned the pool area with nonchalance, up until her eyes fell onto him, and it was then that every last strand of his fur stood on end, completely puffing out from the silhouette of his body, rendering him more similar to a Mareep than a Ninetales. The sight was certainly something to behold, for it even managed to pry Ryu's focused gaze away from the formidable looking Houndoom. Lest to say, Cassie and her girls - that is, with the exception of Lady, who was still blissfully asleep and unaware - were already laughing softly behind the polite cover of their hands. Clearly that was not helping Nine's case, and he was fully aware that he should be doing something to cover or compensate his ridiculous presentation, and yet, he found he was frozen in place. Ninetales in general were considerably rare creatures, not anyone could encounter one, let alone have the privilege of training them, and this female especially was quite an extraordinary sight to behold. An Alolan variant, absolutely captivating in all her shimmering glory.

    Trainers would kill to have one, and it was really no question as to why. They were a different typing altogether, far more scarce and difficult to acquire, but were powerful, magnificent creatures all the same. This was the first time he had ever laid eyes on one, in fact, and the difference was apparent even in energy. Where with a regular Ninetales, he would have detected a radiating warmth - a strong wave of heat laced with psychic energy - but now, all he could feel was a cool, icy chill - sweet and airy - penetrating through his fur and skin with ease. And it was this energy that left him dumbstruck and oh so intrigued. Why, it was quite a similar thing that happened when he first met Flare, Curt's female Ninetales and his current... Flame, so to speak, and yet it had been years since they'd seen each other or even gotten in contact with each other that... Well, he began to worry their paths have split for good. It was a harrowing thought, and it effectively halved the feeling of fluster in his belly which, in and of itself was replaced with guilt; further aiding in his fur predicament. He shook his head, forcing his fur to bristle back in place and that was that.

    He took a deep breath, calming himself, and settled back down comfortably on his deck chair. This female's trainer does appear to be quite smitten with Cassie - not that that was of any surprise, but... He does admit that there was something... different, about this man, and a quick introspection of Ryu's own contemplation seemed to validate as much. That is, after he was done finding amusement in his misery, that damn Lucario. Just wait until he meets a female of his own species (which, he dare say, are even more rare than female Ninetales, given their females make up only 12.5% of an already scarce population). He will take immense pleasure in laughing his tails off when the day finally comes that they - and she did seem rather intrigued of him herself. That was good. That meant he would get the opportunity to interact with her in the near future, at least.

    In the meanwhile, Cassie had taken close observation of the two Pokemon, noting carefully each word - names, and... A water park incident, huh? - each gesture and movement Dante made. Both canines were obviously very well kept and in good health - their eyes bright and coats shimmering - and she could tell from the faint lines of muscle underneath them that they were very capable and well trained as well. And observing the way Dante commanded them, easily pushing his Houndoom - a particular Pokemon that can easily make life a living hell for any trainer if not disciplined properly - into a state of submission with just one look and a flat statement. Yet, it was a good kind of authority, a good kind of submission that stemmed from respect and comradery as opposed to fear and inferiority. In fact, just one of those canines would have won him at least three gym battles. And then came the rest - or at least, almost all, considering "Gary" was to not leave his Pokeball should he raise alarm.

    It was a statement that caught her intrigue and frustrated her all at the same time for not getting to see him - a Magnezone, Ariados, and surprisingly, a Sylveon. The pink, highly affectionate and excitable creature was certainly something she had not expected on Dante's line up, but tactically they were quite a formidable opponent, and certainly very useful and well rounded if Dr. Adinia Moon's own Sylveon had been anything to go by, and they were certainly not easy to acquire. Eevees required quite a considerable amount of affection for them to evolve into one, but judging from the way this particular Sylveon had practically leaped into Dante's arms even before wrapping its ribbons around his arm, she knew that Dante possessed not only thte intellect and wit to conquer an opponent, but a formidable bond with his Pokemon as well. The Magnezone in particular had managed to catch the attention of Peridot, who promptly skipped off of Ajax's head and onto his shell by Cassie's side with finesse, carefully peeking over her trainer's arm for a curious look and who would blame her? Magnezone - albeit an easy target for Ryu - took no little amount of time and effort to raise and rightfully so. If they were played right, they could be fatal opponents on the battlefield. But it was exactly this revelation that she needed, that little nudge and hint to put merit behind her previous hypothesis. The second piece.

    With the lineup and connection Dante possessed, the synchronization and harmony he shared with his Pokemon, he should have taken down at least one Pokemon Champion.

    However, her contemplation was interrupted by a series of sweet little mewls coming in her direction. Both she and Jade promptly turned their heads to the source of the sound; the Sylveon, unsurprisingly. However, it was at this time, watching the creature in motion did Cassie truly come to appreciate its aesthetic. Well groomed and of healthy muscle ratio, ribbons long and flowing with ease through the air and her - yes she could tell it was a girl from the sleek, slender torso and petite muzzle - eyes bright and full of life. It was quite an adorable and magnificent sight to behold, why, if she had just a little less self control than she did, she would have surely hopped down and scooped the adorably fluffy creature into her arms. Jade, however, was not her, and sharing her trainer's love for beautiful things she let out a whistle-like squeal as she brought her roses up to her face. She quickly corrected her actions, fortunately, opting to hop onto her feet with a tasteful twirl while sashaying the petals of her crown with grace as she posed herself atop Ajax's shell. She did not want to disappoint her newest fan, of course! Aurora, however, was visibly perturbed by the exchange, and crossed her arms in a huff. It wasn't fair that this newcomer, sweet as she was, had gotten Jade's attention so easily when she was her number one fan!

    Still, Jade looked over towards Cassie for permission to interact with Syl, which was promptly granted with a simple nod. The Roserade grinned rather widely, and soon she hopped off Ajax's shell in favor of dry land to observe the Sylveon's ribbons and bows a little closer... They were simply... Tres magnifique! Meanwhile, Nine has yet to remove his eyes from the silhouette of the Alolan beauty, and it was quickly catching Ryu's attention once more. "Are you going to speak to her or what?" He spoke telepathically to his flustered companion - his voice deep and rumbling - earning a visible flinch of surprise from the latter.

    "Ah... No. No, I don't think so, she seems- ... She seems busy, yes. Perhaps later." The vulpine's telepathic voice was much lighter, clearer with an air of youthful vigor and intellect all in one. His tails flicked anxiously. However, all he got in response was a roll of the Lucario's eyes. "If you say so. Just don't hold your breath in the meanwhile, I suppose."

    Although, the real center of attention would have been Jade and Syl, who seem to be hitting it off rather quickly with each other as they engaged in lighthearted play of 'catch me if you can' with the Roserade skipping around the pool, weaving a trail of rose petals behind her in an elegant dance. Something that Peridot was quickly urged into by Cassie in place of her shy observation of the Magnezone, but luckily the Kirlia was accepted rather quickly into the game. That left Lady and Aurora on and near Ajax, with the Froslass watching the play rather icily in bitter jealousy. She merely crossed her arms, however, and huffed, earning a soft chuckle from her trainer, who turned her attention back to Dante the moment she felt his eyes on her - and how sensitive she was to eyes indeed. "There we are. Hopefully they can dispose of some excess energy without damaging anything." His eyebrow was arched, likely somewhat astounded by the sum of Pokemon now occupying the lounge, and Cassie certainly didn't blame him. They had a LOT.

    She pulled a soft smile across her face, all the while wringing the soaked shawl draped over her shoulders. "Well. It's not as if anyone will really punish us for those damages, non?" Allowing just a bit more of her French accent to seep through, she flicked her eyes upwards to him, smirking slightly in a playful manner as she wrapped the shawl around her shoulders once more. Ajax's shell felt far too large with only her and Lady upon it then, especially after having Jade and Peridot on it but a few moments ago. The Blastoise could certainly handle some more passengers, nor would he really mind. And so, Cassie locked her gaze with Dante's, making sure he was looking her way when she indicated him to come over with a tilt of her head. All the while, outstretching her gloved hand out to him.

  10. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    He had expected, if he was honest, an outburst of barely-controlled anarchy as soon as he allowed his team out of the confines of their balls. As good as Jason and Tails were at controlling the more rambunctious members of his squad, they were only two Pokemon who did not happen to know Double Team, so could not be in several places at once...and guaranteed, the moment Syl ended up accidentally stepping on the Liepards paw was going to be the moment that Maggie decided that she wanted to take a dip in the pool and Ariel somehow pissed off the surly-looking Lucario. He trusted his team to not misbehave too badly, but they did tend to become harder to control when they had not been given the opportunity to burn off their excess energy in a few days, and even more so when they happened to be meeting new Pokemon that they weren't being asked to stomp into the ground, as it were. He wouldn't have really blamed any hyperactivity either; a few of them had never been on a boat at all, and meeting new Pokemon - particularly Pokemon as strong as they were, and equally well trained, as Cassiandra's team most evidently was - was always exciting for them. Why wouldn't they be particularly excitable, given the circumstances? No trainer worth his salt would get angry or surprised at them for such behaviour.

    So imagine his surprise when he looked around at the veritable zoo that he and Cassandra had seen fit to unleash on the unsuspecting cruisegoers, and found that not only were they getting along, but nothing was on fire just yet! That could change, obviously, but the most anarchic moments of two teams meeting for the first time were the first few minutes, where the aggressive ones asserted dominance, the playful ones started tumbling over each other and the ones that had a natural enmity either decided to go for each others throats or simply ignore each other completely. Those first few tense minutes, where each group sized each other up, trying to work out how they felt about each other...that was the most difficult part of any meeting, and could easily set the tone for the rest of the day; whether it was going to be a chaotic mess of bickering that was best avoided before it started, or a wild mess of playful, happy Pokemon with two exhausted trainers in the middle of it all trying to keep a semblance of order intact. He'd imagined in his head at least some kind of chaos as they met each other, particularly amongst his more energetic or absent-minded Pokemon, but...no. No, it seemed like - for a change - his team were on their best behaviour from the get-go. Or perhaps he'd simply been too harsh on them in his own head; well. If they behaved themselves here, he'd give them the benefit of the doubt next time.

    In his defence, he was only going on what their last meeting with another trainers Pokemon had been like. Yes, that trainer - Gerome, he believed his name was - and his sister, Jerelilah, had been insufferable pieces of aristocratic human refuse, and their Pokemon had been as snobby and condescending as you would expect, but really, Jason hadn't needed to start that fire, and if nobody else, then Grael should have known better than to egg him on. Dante didn't particularly regret the incident, but he'd had to give the team a fairly extensive piece of discipline just on principle. He empathised with their frustration and just how badly the siblings had gotten on all of their nerves, but there was a time and a place, and certainly a way to do it that prevented them from being discovered. Had they evaded notice, then perhaps Dante would have conveniently forgotten to punish them...but as it was, if he wasn't seen to be shocked, embarrassed and angry, people might have started talking, and for somebody with his surname, alas, that was never going to be a good thing. He, personally, didn't give a flying Sentrets left teat about the baggage his name carried, but he knew at least two people who did, and they were two people he would rather not have to deal with until absolutely necessary.

    But in any case, he was pleasantly surprised at his teams restraint and self control; they did not instantly spread out and start causing trouble, they did not attempt to pick fights, they simply...relaxed. Ariel, for her part, had not moved a single inch from the pair of deck-chairs she was occupying, quite happily watching the rest of the Pokemon interact idly. She always was one of the more "chilled out" Pokemon on his roster, and unless they were battling, was very content to just sit in one spot and not move very much if she could help it. Of course, it was in her nature; Arachnids were quiet, patient predators through and through, spinning their webs and their snares, then hiding up in the canopy or behind a tree branch for almost hours on end, waiting for something to fly through its stick dinnerplate. they were not aggressively energetic creatures, and though they were capable of exhibiting frankly alarming bursts of speed, they much preferred to lie in wait in an advantageous position and strike when the time was right. So was it any surprise that she was taking the opportunity to just lie there in the shade, enjoying her first day off in a long, long time? He didn't think so, and he wasn't about to push her to get involved. This was her holiday as well, after all!

    Maggie was the complete opposite, of course; she might be a Magnezone now, but she'd never lost that innocent curiosity that she'd had as a Magnemite, and though he knew that she had to grow up one day...well, he just couldn't bring himself to extinguish that spark of playful childishness. She was brutal in battle - she was, despite appearances, extremely competitive when it came down to it - and extremely loyal, so what reason could he possibly have to remove what individualism she had? So long as she was safe, loyal and careful, she could do whatever she wanted on her time off, as far as Dante was concerned...though he did notice with just a little consternation that she was beginning to drift closer to the water. That in and of itself wasn't necessarily bad - her premature detonations had long since been brought under control, so he wasn't worried about her accidentally zapping the pool with any great amount of power - but he had to admit to being a little twitchy after last time. He watched her carefully as she floated over towards the Froslass - who looked decidedly grumpy, now that the Roserade she had apparently been admiring had gone off with Syl - and gave her a curious little bump on the back. Maggie was shy and didn't really speak much, but, well, her curiosity often got the better of her, and as far as he could recall, she'd never actually seen a Froslass before, now that he thought about it.

    Don't get him wrong, he'd faced them of course, but...well, a Magnezone wasn't his first choice against that particular Pokemon. It wasn't a bad counter, as those things went, but Jason and Ariel were far better choices against that enemy typing such that he never brought her out to face it, simply because there was no need. So obviously, Maggie was finding herself rather intrigued by this mysterious new Pokemon, and that seemed to be enough - for the time being - for her to overcome her shyness. And Syl, well...she was anything but shy. He turned his head to track her movement across the edge of the far side of the pool, and had to smile slightly. She was just...being Syl, running around and playing catch with the exuberant Pokemon she'd found herself instantly bonding with. That was Syl, always making friends extremely easily. He watched as she managed to catch the Roserade, tangling up in a clumsy bundle as she lost her footing and fell to the ground with her, before bouncing up to her feet. After a quick nudge with her muzzle to check that her new playmate was ok, she shot off in the opposite direction - now expecting to be the one being chased - with her long, elegant ribbons fluttering in the breeze behind her as she bounded from side to side happily, the purest image of careless excitement and joy.

    The complete opposite, of course, sat on his haunches near where Dante was standing, next to Tails, his gaze flickering from place to place anxiously. Jason, whilst sitting in one place, was never still. He took his duties as Dante's "Right Hand Man" seriously, bless him, such that anywhere Dante was looking, Jason was looking elsewhere to make sure nothing was being missed. He was a mischievous and playful companion in his offtime, but when all of the Pokemon were out like this, he tended to focus more on their antics so that Dante could relax for a little bit, which honestly, he didn't think was necessary. The fact that Jason wasn't having to move, even though his eyes were quickly moving from the formidable looking Lucario, towards the oversized Blastoise, towards Syl, then Maggie, then back to the Lucario, was testament to the fact that he really didn't have much to worry about. Dante placed a reassuring hand on Jasons head, and gave him a quick, comforting scratch; this was Jasons holiday as well, after all. He could relax a little. Jason glanced up at Dante, then allowed some of the tension to drain from his muscles. Nothing bad was happening, nothing was exploding and nobody had died...he could afford to unwind just a little bit. After all, wasn't he supposed to be the one who forced Dante to let some of that tension go on occasion? What was he doing worrying? This was an experienced team. They knew what they were doing.

    And besides, it gave him a chance to engage in some of his own little brand of fun, too. See, he'd noticed - as had most everybody else - Cassandra's Ninetails rapt attention on Tails, and though the other Pokemon had opted to giggle and ignore it (though Ariel likely didn't care, and Maggie was too curious with the Froslass), Jason was not about to let it go. He let out a quick half-bark under his breath, as if chuckling again, and shunted Tails with his shoulder as he ostensibly shifted his weight. The poor lovestruck pup was still openly staring at Tails, even when he wasn't looking her way. Jason could appreciate being struck dumb by a gorgeous member of the fairer sex, but the poor boy was being far too open with his interest...he needed to at least try to act a little cooler! Tails spared Jason a glance at the contact, tilting her head languidly. Jason gestured with his head, and allowed a rumbling chuckle in the back of his throat by way of speech. "Looks like you have an admirer. Poor Pup, I think he'll need the Lucario to help him pick his jaw up from the floor, and soon. He might swallow a fly or six."
    Tails, for her part, simply looked at Jason with one of her eye-ridges lifted in reproach. "Quiet, you Brute. He is simply surprised." She glanced at the younger Ninetails - and she could tell that he was younger; his disposition and demeanour screamed youth and relative innocence - her head cocked. "I find it cute, after a fashion." She actually rather liked people who wore their heart on their fur; it made it far easier to tell what they were thinking, and she was far too old for subtle games and politicking. Besides, from the lean pull of his muscles beneath his fur, she could tell that he was, despite his youthfulness, an exquisite specimen of a Pokemon. Young, full of energy, earnest and sincere with the power to back it up? Rather impressive, honestly.

    Jason snickered, shaking his head.
    "Never pegged you for a cradle robber, Tails. He has to be at least a quarter your age, half at most."
    "When you are as old as I am, Jason Dear, age becomes irrelevant. Especially amongst a species as rare and diminutive as mine."
    "And the youngsters are more energetic, I would imagine." A flat glare from Tails, which was met with a broad, many-toothed grin. "Well if you're interested, go make his year! He'll be wrapped around your paw by the end of the first minute."
    Tails just gave him a deep, searching, almost scornful look, then let out a soft, yipping chuckle. Jason scowled slightly at the tone. "Oh, Honey. You have no idea how Ladies actually work, do you? If he wishes to speak to me, then he must approach me. I might not care much about age, but courage? That, I put a great amount of stock in." With that, she lifted her paw to her muzzle and idly lapped at it, as if cleaning...though she did give the young male Ninetails who seemed so enraptured by her a quick, sly glance as if to say "Well?" before looking away. Jason just let out another rumbling chuckle, his eyes still scanning the pool. Well then, it seemed like Tails was about to spend the rest of the day alone, because from what he was seeing, that little Pup was deliberately avoiding coming over. Not because he wasn't interested - anybody who was watching could tell that he was extremely taken with Tails already - but because he didn't have the Alpha Stones for it. Oh well. His loss, right? His eyes tracked their way back to where Syl was playing; he'd have to keep an eye on her, just in case the other two got too rough with her. Dante wouldn't appreciate it if Syl came back from her game injured, after all.

    In the meantime, Dante simply left his Pokemon to it. They knew their bounds, they knew the limits and they knew their strength...now that the first few telling minutes had elapsed, he had no real fear of any of them getting into any real trouble and didn't particularly feel inclined to chase them around the pool trying to get them to enjoy their holiday in static silence. After all, they were the ones relaxing, and they could do it in whatever way they wanted that didn't cause too much trouble. He turned his attention back to Cassandra, his eyebrow lifting slightly at the subtle emphasis on her already lilting accent, the musical notes of her naturally melodic voice tingling as they entered his ear, sending a soft pulse of warmth through his chest; he'd always loved that kind of accent, the sort of gently sing-song rhythm and coaxing musical temptation promised in those words, and when mixed with her confident and obviously capable demeanour and the quiet, deliberate strength behind the words that she imparted...well, he couldn't help but give her his full attention. How could he do anything else, with such a bewitching woman in possession of such a beguiling voice? But there was something else, too; something nagging at the edge of his mind, trying to penetrate the soft little buffer that had been erected around himself, the little wall that actually was allowing him - for the first time in a long time - enjoy the presence of another human being.

    The thing was, it was that voice...he felt like he should recognise it. The accent was bothering him, in combination with her team and her general attitude...surely somebody like this, with as powerful a team was well known, and now that he could place her accent...it was maddening how hard it was to pick a name out of the sea of faces that he had memorised. It was frustrating, especially since he wanted to just enjoy more time with this intriguing young lady. He split off a small portion of his attention and set it to work sorting through the filing cabinets in his head, rifling through the various documents in an attempt to figure out where he knew this woman from, even as he readjusted his primary focus back to her in the present...which wasn't all that hard.
    Her voice was literally music to his ears, and it had him effortlessly matching her playful smirk, an expression that he was not entirely used to wearing all that often. Even if he couldn't figure out immediately where he knew her from, or why she seemed so familiar, or why that dark strength behind the eyes gave him a pleasant sense of companionable shudders...he could still enjoy the company of somebody interesting before he left, no? He inclined his head in acknowledgement. "They could certainly try, but I agree; I do not think that it would be particularly wise." He offered her a small, knowing smile.

    Though of course, him not being charged was probably for a different reason entirely, he decided for the moment not to mention that. She'd apparently not yet figured out who he was, which he fully intended to enjoy for at least a few more minutes. But it was the thought that counted! He met her beckoning gaze with a challenging, almost flirtatious one of his own - his lip curled up in a half-smirk in response to her daring gaze, then stepped up as she offered her hand and - with only a quick glance at Maggie to ensure her behaviour, and a quick look at the ground to calculate escape routes if she decided to attempt to throw him in the pool again - proceeded to heave himself up onto the oversized Blastoise's back, carefully avoiding the two previous tenants of the apparently prime value real estate of the shell, allowing his legs to dangle over the side in a controlled, precised manner. He shifted to make himself comfortable, and tried to ignore her sudden proximity; the warmth beating off of her skin, her delicately crushed spring showers scent wafting slowly into his lungs, the thin sheen of water covering her smooth, obviously well-exercised and well-maintained skin and ample, enticing curves in that tight swimsuit...he wasn't openly checking her out, but being this close...well, he could see it out of the corner of his eye, and one thing he was not having trouble remembering was the sight of her fishing herself out of the pool, that's for certain.

    And then there was her luscious black hair and startlingly contrasted silver moonlit eyes, looking at him coquettishly as he settled down. She was stunning, no two ways about it, and his mind was forcefully dragged back to that moment of contact, that sharp spark between them...the brief moment of connection that had shocked him to his core....she was a remarkable woman, that was for certain, and definitely not one to have the opportunity to spend time with her wasted. He inclined his head in gratitude and, after a moments more contemplation, he patted the shell on the opposite side to Cassandra.
    "Believe it or not, this is the first time I have had the pleasure of sitting atop a shell like this. I have taken journeys on other Pokemon before, of course, but never a Blastoise. How would you say it differs from other Pokemon? I would imagine that if you were attacked whilst surfing, your options would be rather limited should you wish to avoid taking an unplanned swim in the ocean, correct?" His own Pokemon weren't very versatile in that situation either, but at least Gary had some kind of natural place to sit, with fins and scales nearby that could be used to grip onto, if necessary. Not perfect, but still, it was something right? But from the looks of it, if you weren't careful on Blastoise's shell you could easily fall off, and speaking purely selfishly for a moment, that was something that Dante didn't relish the thought of. He enjoyed swimming as much as the next man, of course, and if he could pull Cassandra in with him then so much the better...but it wasn't exactly "Plan A." Yet, anyway.
    #10 Vergil Tanner, May 3, 2017
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  11. Today was decidedly not a good day for Aurora. But then, it was always hard to watch someone you admired so much and wanted to become bond so well so instantly with someone they'd just met, especially if you were the one who's been there all along. It was completely unfair, and surely her frustrations were justified! How would anyone feel to have their idol and friend taken away? To be shunned and ignored? Oh, the travesty! Not to mention the sun was really beginning to beat down too! She really should have sprung for that Never Melt Ice when it was offered to her! Oh, why was she so naive? Well, she knew why, that was her nature after all, but, still; why did she have to be so naive?

    The young Froslass let out a long sigh of discontent - breath misting despite the warm, sunny weather - slumping her shoulders as her sleeved arms hung limply. Maybe it would be better for her to just get out of the sun for now-

    A nudge, and almost immediately Aurora tensed back up with a small screech. Did something - or even worse - someone just touch her?! The Froslass whirled quickly around and immediately noticed the startlingly large Magnezone behind her! How had she not noticed it before? Was she losing her edge already?! Or- well, she never really had that much of an edge in all honesty - she was pretty much the baby of the group before Lady and Peridot came along - but she'd been improving! Golly, Ryu really was right... You could never let your guard down for one second lest- Oh no, the Magnezone! "Are you alright?!" She squealed in a bit of a panic, her voice soft with just a hint of a ghostly echo. "Any nausea, lightheadedness or abrupt mood changes? Oh gosh, that was dangerous!" The ice maiden placed her hands over her cheeks, looking Maggie over to thoroughly ensure its well-being. There were just certain things that could not be helped, after all. A Pokemon with Flame Body will burn your hand even if they don't mean to, a Pokemon with Static will paralyze you, and a Pokemon with Cursed Body will... Well, curse you.

    With the exception of Ninetales of course. They curse whoever they feel like and just say they only curse people who touch their tails.

    Of course, on the other side of the pool was an entirely different story. Merrily running about was Syl, Jade, and Peridot. Three extravagantly beautiful Pokemon any coordinator would kill to have on their team chasing each other along the poolside. An elegant flurry of petals and ribbons and twirling frills... Up until Syl eventually managed to catch Jade and knock the both of them over, entangling each other in her ribbons at which Peridot let out a small squeak in surprise. She watched the two with concern and while Jade was momentarily surprised, she quickly decided that she must look outstandingly fabulous wrapped in a Sylveon's ribbons! She cooed happily and made a quick recovery, patting Syl on the head with her roses in response to her nudge, and happily skipping after her to continue their little game. Peridot let out a slight sigh, crossing her arms with a slight shake of her head at the two - Jade and Syl were many years older than her, and yet, she felt like she was the most mature one of the bunch... But then, they were both much more powerful than her, so she must learn their ways! - and nevertheless, ran after them as well.

    And then of course, there was Ryu and Nine. The two males sitting on the pool chairs, engaging in one on one bro talk- or, rather Ryu's brutally honest commentary on the sad, sad image that was Nine's female game. He knew that it would likely come around to bite him in the ass someday, but with just how much rarer female Lucarios were, that day seemed far, far away. But then karma can be a jerk that way. Oh well, it doesn't really mattered - he supposed - because for the first time on that cruise, he was actually having some genuine fun. "Oh, they are definitely talking about you now." Said the Lucario with his gruff voice and a twitch of his ear, looking over to the two canines a few feet away. He may not be able to tell what they were speaking about precisely, but he could read energy and aura, and for certain their energies were bouncing to and fro each other. Besides, the discreet little glance they snuck towards the young Ninetales behind them was quite telling in the first place.

    "You don't know that for certain." Nine countered, looking indignantly over to his bipedal companion while his tails swished in displeasure. It was actually quite a sight to behold. "They could be speaking of Jade and Peridot chasing their Sylveon friend." Adamantly, he insisted, although deep down he knew it couldn't be true. But still, he needed some sort of excuse to keep himself from thinking of the silver beauty before him, exquisite and rare as she was, he still had a status - a remaining relationship - with Flare, and before that was cleared up, he was not about to betray her that way. "But even if they are, it's not as if we could - or should - do anything about it."

    And yet, he found it incredibly difficult to pry his eyes away from her.

    As such, he caught sight of her cheeky little glance back towards him while she lapped at her paw - looking away just as quickly, almost flirtatiously - all too well. Immediately, it felt as if he had been hit with a Giga Impact - and he actually has been that one time against a Makuhita - and it immediately knocked all the air he had in his lungs, the furs on his tail and back effectively standing on end in response to the shiver that ran down his spine. Perhaps she actually had cast some sort of Ice move on him? The move certainly did not miss Ryu's keen eyes, and in response, he cocked an eyebrow in slight surprise. "Oh, she's feisty for an ice girl." He mused, looking towards Nine who looked back at him in time, panicked and frantic and effectively... Losing control. His ruby eyes flashed - a brief, quick gleam - and Ryu was officially knocked out. His head tilted back, limbs losing all tension, and he simply fell over; sprawled awkwardly on the pool chair but breathing evenly. Fast asleep.

    "Crap- Arceus, why?!" Nine exclaimed in pure agony, springing to his feet with ease on the chair and quickly went to work untangling his friend's limbs and arranging him into a more... Respectable sleeping position. If his fur had been standing on end due to... Masculine instincts before, then now it was standing from complete embarrassment and panic. Not only did he knock out his teammate with Hypnosis, but he must have made a complete fool of himself in front of the Alolan beauty! Arceus, he is such an idiot... What he would give for someone to use Amnesia on him right now... Well, the clever thing to do would be to look busy now, he supposed. Although he had to appreciate the irony that his little slip up had allowed Ryu to be more relaxed on that pool chair than he possibly could on his own. Speaking of which... His gaze soon glanced over to the Spinarak just a few chairs from them. Surely the arachnid had witnessed what had just transpired as well... Sighing, the Ninetales let his head hand slowly, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "I am such an idiot."

    The Houndoom was probably laughing his ass off right now, and the only Pokemon he was certain didn't see what happened was Lady. The one Pokemon who wouldn't have cared what occurred regardless.

    Indeed, the sleek Liepard was still peacefully asleep atop of Ajax's vast shell, indifferent to the new passenger that Cassandra had invited aboard. She gave a small, soft chuckle in response to Dante's knowing smile, waiting to make sure he settled down alright before reaching over to caress Ajax over his head, at which he kicked off from the pool's edge in order to drift lazily to the center of the pool. The rose petals parted in his wake, scattering around them on the water and bringing such a sweet scent to their little ride. Cassie took a deep breath of it, noting how well it mixed with the smell of the sea. "Believe it or not, this is the first time I have had the pleasure of sitting atop a shell like this. I have taken journeys on other Pokemon before, of course, but never a Blastoise. How would you say it differs from other Pokemon? I would imagine that if you were attacked whilst surfing, your options would be rather limited should you wish to avoid taking an unplanned swim in the ocean, correct?"

    Dante patted Ajax's shell and she blinked. The dull sound pulled her back from her thoughts, and once more she fixed her attention on the utterly soaked man sitting beside her, looking ridiculously attractive in his now translucent shirt and messy hair. How the water rivulets ran down his face from the tips of his dark hair, framing a rugged, handsome face with two intense blue eyes that seemed to stare right into her soul and demanding that all thought processes in her mind ceased. And they did. With Dante sitting next to her, his scent of crisp winters and clean, refreshing mint finding its way back to her, she supposed that clearing her mind wouldn't be such an impossible task after all.

    Now, what was he saying again? Oh right.

    "Well, to be perfectly honest I usually just grab on to my traveling partner." She began lightheartedly, letting out a soft chuckle. "Or Lady, alternatively. Since she's the one with claws." Just as quickly, however, she pulled a playful little smirk onto her lips, managing to coax that glimmer of mischief in her eyes. "This big guy isn't mine, you see. He belongs to my traveling partner, Salem. He was the one who recommended I join the cruise, actually. We did a little bit of a temporary trade, call it a parting gift, if you will..." Her right hand instinctively reaching for her left wrist, rubbing it - or rather, the finely woven ribbon hidden beneath the cuff that was tied around her wrist - absently. "So currently, he has my Swanna and Garchomp, and I, his Blastoise. My transport Pokemon for his. Naturally I am much more familiar with Ace - my Swanna - who transports me both in the air and in the water. However, I can count on him to make sure Salem doesn't mess up too badly when I'm not around. And Fang - my Garchomp - well, he just wanted to come along."

    And then, she simply shrugged, humming softly as she leaned back against her hand in a casual manner. A slight smirk on her face when she looked back at him. "You know how it is."
    #11 PentheWonderful, May 17, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  12. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Maggie watched the Froslass with curios confusion as she span on the spot, almost shrieking in surprise; she hadn't thought that she'd crept up particularly stealthily on the forlorn looking lady, and she certainly didn't think that she was that frightening to provoke such a response in a Pokemon who, in all honesty, likely didn't have much to fear from her at all in the first place, even if they happened to be in the same Battlezone. Honestly, Maggie was more used to people reacting to her with some kind of frustration after she'd done something wrong or thoughtless or silly; Dante himself never got mad at her (and yes, she knew full well that she technically didn't have a gender, but she didn't really like referring to herself as an "It," and her name already fit the female pronoun, so why not?) and never so much as raised his voice at her, not even after that whole Swimming Pool Debacle a few years ago...he just took her aside and explained quietly why people seemed so exasperated with her, and that was that. But she wasn't stupid. Absent minded and impulsive, yes, but not stupid; she knew that she did silly things sometimes, that the other Pokemon in Dante's team, although all nice to her besides Percy and Drake, probably despaired in their own heads at her ditzy (though she personally preferred "Quirky") nature.

    It wasn't her fault, though! She couldn't help it! It just didn't occur to her to think before she acted. Sometimes she just...did things, and only when they went wrong did she realise why it was such a huge deal that people were looking at her like she was mental! Like right now, for example! She'd only wanted to get the Froslass's attention to cheer her up, but with her sudden fussing, she realised that apparently that was wrong too. She remembered - sheepishly - that a lot of Ghost Types had some kind of Curse haunting them, and how reckless it had been for her to just nudge her without considering that possibility. It was touching that the Froslass was so concerned about a stranger, though, she had to admit. She paused for a moment and considered the question, trying to diagnose herself as opposed to how she normally felt. She didn't feel different, but then...how would she know, if she were so absent minded? He whirred in self-debate, then slowly rotated one way, then the other in an approximation of a shaking head. She made some metal noises, then, a series of whines and grinding and static-y computer tones. It wasn't easy to communicate for her - she didn't exactly have a language most other Pokemon could understand - but she could at least make basic ideas known. "I'm....Fine. Think. I...Maggie. You....name?" She managed slowly, tilting in the air curiously.

    For Syl, of course, there wasn't much to say; she was bounding and playing as her heart desired, happily wrapping her new play companions up in her ribbons - the Roserade certainly looked fabulous in such a pretty ribbon dress! - before flouncing away cheerfully, mewling happily whenever any of them came close. The three of them in particular were gathering a rather large crowd of admirers on their own - children and younger ladies, come to watch the three beautiful Pokemon playing their silly game - and of course, Syl was happy to encourage them. At one point, she padded over curiously to the nearest child, a girl of maybe four or five years old with long, brown pigtails, and nudged at one of the tufts of hair sprouting from the side of her head. Humans could have ribbons as well? That was amazing! She would have to try and get her Master to get some ribbons! Then they could chase each others trailing pretties all the way through the forests! He would have so much fun! She mewled again, gesturing for the child to follow as she took a few steps back.
    "Chase me! Come on, it's fun!" And what's more, the child almost followed...until a strong hand, presumably her father, pulled her back a little with a rumbled excuse or some other. Syl gave the father a baleful look, then turned and flounced off, just in time to avoid Peridot and Jade, who were closing in behind her.

    Watching all of this with a keen, critical and ever so slightly trepidatious eye was none other than Jason, apparently the only Pokemon in this entire damn clustermuck besides that accursed Liepard who had any sense of responsibility without mischief. And when a Houndoom has to be the voice of reason and serious pragmatism, you know things have gone downhill sharply; even Tails, usually level headed and aware, was too busy teasing the poor young male opposite her to even pay attention to what was going on. He let out a soft growl as he watched Syl flaunt a little too closely to the pool for his tastes, then flounce away again almost as quickly...she knew that she couldn't swim particularly well, so why would she risk a dunk in the water? Was it just to taunt him? He shook his head a little. Tails glanced at him, a small, knowing grin on her face, damn her.
    "Oh, do calm down, dear. Syl is simply being Syl and having some fun. She shall be perfectly fine. You really should not worry so much."
    "Somehow, I'm not comforted. Possibly because I'm thinking 'How does she know, she's too busy oggling that child over there.'"
    He jerked his head towards where the poor male Ninetails had just - apparently - managed to accidentally put his "friend" and apparent confidante to sleep. Right now, the poor thing seemed like it wanted to just curl up and disappear until it was all over. Jason could empathise with that, at least!

    Tails simply yipped a small, quiet chuckle.
    "I find him amusing. He's cute, in an awkward way. At least I am being at least a little obvious in regards to my intentions." That earned her a flat stare from Jason, who slowly rose to his feet, giving her a baleful glare and a tiny, almost imperceptible growl. Of course, of course. I am overstepping myself. You are simply taking your duties as shepherd of Master Dante's Rabble seriously. If you wish to keep an eye on her, perhaps you should move closer, so you are able to sweep in and rescue her if she falls into danger. Hm?"
    A pause, then a set of pawsteps padding away from her, towards the edge of the pool. Tails smiled to herself and glanced behind her, watching for a few moments as Jason padded his way around the pool, settling down a short way away from where Syl, Peridot and Jade - were those their names? She thought that was what she'd heard, though she could be mistaken - were entertaining their small crowd with their antics. She just pitied the first person to try and lay a hand on Syl...Jason could be a little overprotective when it came to the tiny little ball of furry fun. It was kind of adorable, in its own way. She simply smiled, shaking her head, then settled back down to watch the antics of her new favourite reality star.

    It wasn't that she was deriving pleasure from his embarrassment, or even that she found his troubles amusing...it was that she found him almost absurdly cute. He was obviously no slouch when it came to the actual skill department - his Hypnosis was obviously exceptionally strong, if an accidental activation was enough to send the Lucario to sleep - and the sleekness of his coat and the obvious power in his muscles was appealing in that he could obvious handle himself - and had evidently been trained to a high standard - but there was something about him personally, his sudden nervousness and anxiety when it came to doing anything in front of her that she found endearing. She would not make the mistake of assuming that he was inexperienced or incompetent - such assumptions could lead to trouble later on - but he was certainly not exactly the most cool and collected individual in the world. And that was good; it added some spice to his personality. She tilted her head to one side at the spectacle - Ariel, for her part, seemed to have closed her eyes and attempted to doze off, though with her Insomnia, that would prove to be a problem - so it was just the two of them. Tails allowed herself a small chuckle, and when the other Ninetails glanced up, she caught his eye, then flickered towards the Lucario.

    "He was annoying you, I assume? If only I could do the same with Jason. Alas, Hypnosis seems to be beyond my capabilities. You're a lucky fox indeed, no?"
    Her voice was slow, drawn out...well-reasoned and measured, the sound of slow, tinkling crystalware on a silver tray, scintillating in its melody as if she were straining to break into song at any moment...however somehow still refined enough such that any song she did sing would sound completely natural, regardless of the circumstances. The way he gawped at her suggested that he'd never seen an Alolan Ninetails before...so perhaps she would need to give him some encouragement. It was not unheard of for shy young males to require a more confidant female to prod them into action. Perhaps she could aid him in shaking off his shellshock, and then they might be able to have a somewhat stimulating conversation. If not, then she would simply approach one of the other Pokemon for interaction, if they proved to be available. But honestly, she was hoping for some kind of bonding with the little cutey; it wasn't often that she got to interact with other Ninetails, and even rare that they were trained to such a high standard. It would be remiss of her to not at least attempt to put him at ease, would it not?

    Meanwhile, Dante was having a rather interesting chat with Cassandra. For one, he'd just learned about - he would guess - the remainder of her lineup, or at least the majority of it. He'd assumed that she would have some extra Pokemon lurking in her Box somewhere, in case of emergencies or if she needed to plug a hole for some reason, and he'd expected her to have some impressive specimens, but...well, Swanna was a solid choice for Flying and Water coverage, but it was the mention of Fang, her Garchomp, that caught his attention; most trainers he had met had never even seen one in the Wild, let alone managed to attempt to capture one, so the fact that Cassandra had been able to subdue, capture and tame such a monstrously powerful creature was indeed a testament to her skills as a Trainer. Now, the obvious question was whether she'd been able to direct him in any serious amount of training, or if he was a wildcard who refused to listen to her - she wouldn't be the first skilled trainer to have issues with a problem Pokemon - but that was pretty obvious. From the way she spoke? She had control of him, which was both expected...and impressive. Of course, what was more impressive was that she trusted this "Salem" with him, and that was no small thing. Trading could be done casually, sure...but you didn't give away a rare, powerful, potentially troublesome Pokemon like a Garchomp to somebody you didn't at least know and trust, right? At least...he wouldn't.

    And that brought him onto the crux of the matter; Salem. Whoever he was, he was obviously somebody that Cassandra was fond of. She'd gifted not one, but two powerful and fairly rare Pokemon to him for his function, and she'd already noted that he was a travelling companion...and one that she was comfortable enough with to "Cling onto." He kept his eyes on her as the Blastoise pushed off from shore, as it were, drifting into the middle of the pool. A small stab of something pierced the comfortable warmth he had been feeling a moment ago, spreading a kind of cold tingling through his chest. Who was this Salem, precisely? Was he simply a friend, or was Dante in the middle of flirting - and yes, he was self aware enough to know that what he was doing could easily be classified as flirting - with a woman who was spoken for? And if she was indeed spoken for, had his initial reading of her been incorrect? Was she simply being playful and polite, or was she the type of woman to set her eyes roving when her "other half" was not around? Had he misjudged her intentions, or her character? Or was he simply overthinking the matter on account solely of her mentioning somebody she knew? This was the problem with being as isolationist as he was; he had really no idea how to navigate the more...delicate and subtle aspects of social interactions.

    He paused for a moment, briefly considering letting it go...but he had to know. He already felt a small pull towards this woman, this enchantingly attractive, obviously skilled and intelligent woman, this woman who he felt he knew from somewhere before that he couldn't quite put his finger on...and he needed to know exactly where they both stood, if he was to act with the proper decorum and respect. He needed to know whether he was infringing on some unseen boundary. Frankly, he needed to ask, if only so that he knew whether to hold her at arms length and eliminate her as a possible interest. He wasn't adverse to the idea of companionship, of course, only a fool would be...but it was harder for him to consider it on account of his status as the heir to a wealthy family (since you never knew what people were really after until they revealed it themselves), and his own personal baggage. And if he was honestly beginning to find himself interested in this woman...it would behove him to know beforehand whether she was, in fact, actually available or amenable to such an arrangement. As much as the possible answer honestly terrified him for some absurd reason, he knew that he had to ask...of course, in as non-intrusive a way as possible. He still had to act with respect and decorum, after all. A gentleman never pried into what was not his business, after all.

    "This 'Salem' must be rather singular," He observed, picking his words carefully. "I cannot speak on your behalf, of course, but to lend a Garchomp to any individual, you must be certain that you can trust them...and, of course, be certain that they can control him! I certainly wouldn't lend my Garchomp to just anybody. It might just be him, but Drake does tend to get a little...ill-tempered from time to time. Gary does too, of course," He gestured towards his belt, "As does Percy...but they are far easier to control, in my experience. And of course all of them, as well as Mischievous little Clay, are my Transport. Amusing, when you think about it." His most aggressive pokemon were also the ones he relied on to not drown him or drop him to his death. It was almost scary, in a way, if you didn't know them; Gary was almost unfailingly loyal to Dante - he would get angry and short tempered, sure, but he had never yet disobeyed a request or order from Dante...and Percy was just grumpy. He wasn't angry or aggressive, he was just permanently in a foul mood, it seemed, with everybody except Syl. Of course, it was hard to be grumpy or angry at Syl for any length of time. Of course...he was procrastinating. He just didn't wat to ask the question. He paused for a moment, then took the plunge. "Are you and Salem particularly close? I apologise if I am overstepping my mark, of course, I am simply curious; it is not every day that you hear of a trainer willingly lending another individual a Pokemon as rare and volatile as a Garchomp, after all." He glanced away. Despite himself...he couldn't help but feel a creeping sense of dread at her answer. If nothing else, he had a personal code, and if she was indeed spoken for...well, he would have to take that fledgling interest and stuff it somewhere really rather dark and isolated. He was a lot of things, but he was not that kind of a man. Period.
  13. Aurora watched with high concern when the Magnezone began its self diagnosis, making note to watch out for any abnormal energies herself in the meanwhile, and let out a small breath of relief for the lack of, which was soon confirmed by the magnet Pokemon itself. Her breath was a chill in the air, a true anomaly towards the contrast of the warm sea breeze that melted the snowflakes within in a matter of moments. Gee, this really wasn't her day. Not only had she lost Jade to some Pokemon she had never met before, she also nearly cursed a Pokemon she never met before. Maybe it was the heat- no, it probably was the heat, but at that point, she felt a lot more ditzy than she normally already was. She was just about ready to go back to her pokeball and cool down, but the sudden whirring and grinding sounds emanating from the Magnezone captured her attention. She turned back to it then and lifted a hand up to her mouth, contemplating the rather choppy message that it had just conveyed, and then hummed softly. "Aurora." She began, and then blinked slowly. "...Maggie, was it? It's nice to meet you... Sorry about earlier, you spooked me a little." And then, the ice maiden found herself giggling softly. "Scaring a Ghost type. That must be some sort of achievement, isn't it?"

    At that moment, her day didn't seem so bad after all. Even if Jade was hanging out with other Pokemon. Eh, well everyone needs their space, she supposed.

    And speaking of space, Jade was rather determined to close the one between her and the gorgeous little Sylveon and her gorgeous flowing ribbons! She may have gotten wrapped in them before, but she certainly did not get the chance to properly feel them. Of course, it was not like she had never seen them before - Kalos was known for being the Fairy eeveelution's region of origin, after all - but she had just never gotten the opportunity to see them and admire them up close and personal before! Surely a small caress upon it won't hurt anyone! And considering Syl was now being sidetracked by a little girl, this was her chance to catch up! "I'm going to get you, mademoiselle~!"

    However, on a different side of the spectrum, Peridot was just... Not seeing the point of the activity. She did not find enjoyment in it, nor any personal benefit or gain and yet, here she was, still chasing after them. This was supposed to be for fun, but she did not see what was so fun about chasing each other - well, chasing the Sylveon - around a poolside. However, Cassie had assigned her to join them, and she cannot fathom the thought of possibly letting her trainer down! Besides, she seemed rather occupied speaking to the trainer that had thrown her into the pool, so... She probably did not want to be bothered. Alright, back to the task at hand; catching the Sylveon, was it? Peridot had to admit, she was rather fast. Aha! Surely if she can catch up to her, or at the very least outrun her, she would be increasing her speed and thus become a much more beneficial member of the team! Yes! She would catch up to her and claim victory! Hence, she picked up her pace and leaped forward, surpassing even Jade! Yes! She felt very powerful!

    Meanwhile, Nine was just about ready to make a beeline for Cassie's cabin after a moment or two of simply sitting there, on the floor, probably looking like the biggest idiot on Earth, contemplating his life and plotting his escape. The alternative was, of course to hide behind the pool chairs, out of view of the Alolan female or to beg Cassie to be returned to his Pokeball, but neither of those alternatives spared him as much - or even any - dignity or masculinity as he could handle losing. He began to stand then, and turn to the exit, when he lifted his head up just so to catch the gaze of the silver vixen, which, of course made it impossible to resume his escape now. "He was annoying you, I assume? If only I could do the same with Jason. Alas, Hypnosis seems to be beyond my capabilities. You're a lucky fox indeed, no?"

    The sound of her "voice" brought a shudder through his spine, threatening to raise his fur once more. It was absolutely enchanting. Delicate and light as the chime of one gently tapping an ice crystal, smooth as a song and reminiscent to a refreshing, cool breeze on a hot summer day. Well, a day much like today, at least. Nevertheless, his throat had gone incredibly dry and his heartbeat was simply beyond his control. He had one thing to be glad about with Ryu being knocked out, at least. He won't be conscious to make fun of him about this later. "Hm. Yes. Well. When you have a Lucario as a team mate, you find it's much easier to deal with lectures on justice and equality by putting them to sleep." Going along with it, yes, alright good decision. He can feel his paws moving, but he certainly isn't heading for the door. Back on the poolchair? Okay. "Of course, it's quite stimulating the first five or ten times, but afterwards, it gets old. Especially since Fire Ninetales like myself aren't exactly known for being the most moral of Pokemon. Not as bad as a Liepard of course, but... A bad enough reputation for people to regard you with caution, and for parents to keep their children away from you." He lays down then, swishing his tail lightly. "After all, benevolence is a trait more commonly attributed to your variant, is it not?"

    So far so good.

    And speaking of so far so good, Cassandra hadn't been sure what to make of Dante based on first impressions, but from pushing him into the pool to sitting with him then on Ajax, making light conversation and casual banter, that opinion had quickly changed for the better. There was just this... Ease, when it came to interacting with Dante. This comfortable familiarity and understanding that allowed her to take to him fairly quickly. Perhaps it was simply respect, or even comradery between two elite and experienced trainers. Knowing the hardships it took to raise a good team and forge a strong bond with them, the prices you needed to pay for success and the grime and soot of politics and diplomacy you needed to endure for fame. Whatever it was, she liked Dante, simply because - despite the masks they wore - there was an air of honesty about him. A straightforwardness that, frankly, appealed to her. There were not many men like him, especially not an elite who tended to ride the coattails of their parent's success and the money they were born into. Those who otherwise become insufferably arrogant and full of themselves after tasting success of their own. It was sad how rare men like him were, but at the same time, incredibly thrilling and gratifying for her to encounter. It was indeed reminiscent to finding a sapphire among a pile of coal.

    And frankly, he was exactly her type. If she was asked to describe her ideal man, it would fit Dante to a tee. She sighed quietly then, with a slight turn of her head in order to make sure Dante did not see it, and gave a small, almost imperceptible shake of her head. What silly thoughts. "This 'Salem' must be rather singular," An eyebrow raise. She glanced back at him with intrigue, yet, caution at the same time. They had just barely begun to know each other, yet... He was already prying into her private life? "I cannot speak on your behalf, of course, but to lend a Garchomp to any individual, you must be certain that you can trust them...and, of course, be certain that they can control him! I certainly wouldn't lend my Garchomp to just anybody. It might just be him, but Drake does tend to get a little...ill-tempered from time to time. Gary does too, of course,"

    She felt her finger twitch involuntarily, just knowing that this man not only kept a wildcard on his belt too dangerous for release on the cruise ship - Gary - but also a Garchomp? It brought much intrigue and curiosity, brought the desire to gush on about the spectacle that were Garchomps like the nerd that she was on the inside, yet, she restrained herself; a feat surprisingly easy to accomplish, given the information was being shared with the intention of getting information himself. She knew where this was going, and frankly she was surprised she had not expected it sooner. People always wanted things. "As does Percy...but they are far easier to control, in my experience. And of course all of them, as well as Mischievous little Clay, are my Transport. Amusing, when you think about it."


    She tapped her finger absently - impatiently - against her thigh. He was rambling. "Perhaps it would be, if I knew who - or what - any of those are." The alarm had been raised in her, but she retained her amusement and calm nonetheless - she can thank years of practice for that - smirking back at him as she leaned her weight further on her arm. "You're dropping a whole lot of names Dante, but not enough information to go with it. Or are you trying to drive me mad with curiosity on purpose?" She mused lightheartedly, teasingly, but as per any diplomatic discussion - as that was exactly what they had slipped back into - held a double meaning. She knew he had something on his mind, information he wanted to extricate from her, and she began to realize just... How open she had been with him. Sharing with him all the Pokemon she had on her roster while he cleverly hid his trump cards. Devious, she begrudgingly admitted. He won that game, and when it came to games of cunning and trickery, she was quite a sore loser.

    "Are you and Salem particularly close? I apologise if I am overstepping my mark, of course, I am simply curious; it is not every day that you hear of a trainer willingly lending another individual a Pokemon as rare and volatile as a Garchomp, after all." And there it was. The bottom line he had procrastinated in delivering. He's using you. Her monsters steadfastly whisper from the dark corners of her mind. He's been sent by someone. Wants to use the information against you. And naturally her instinct was to assume the very worst; that he had been baiting her up to this moment the second he asked about Ajax, that it was her mother who had sent him to test her, or perhaps even a journalist for a gossip tabloid looking for new material to write about. It had happened before, and back when she was younger, more naive and gullible, she had fallen for it, and paid dearly. However, that was only the thoughts, the suspicions and paranoia of the very worst part of herself; the monsters in her. The creatures that had kept her alive and - ultimately - pulled her through her darkest time, but... They were not needed now.

    Nevertheless, it was a topic quite sour on her mind, on her tongue and in her heart. She knew what the question was, of course, what it implied and what the desired answer was, and yet... It piqued her suspicions. Why did he want to know anyway? What did he need it for? Why was it important enough to ask about? She tapped her finger against her lap in contemplation; was she just overthinking it? Certainly if she were more confident with herself, she would be able to toy with the idea that he was interested in her, in a way that was deeper than just simple acquaintanceship. That perhaps, he was jealous of Salem. He seemed a gentleman upon first glance, and gentlemen certainly did not infringe upon a territory where he was not welcome, but... Considering his actions - that is, throwing her into the pool - she could not really say for sure. Not that she really minded, of course. He was simply more exciting that way.

    But nevertheless, it was better to be safe than sorry. If she'd already shown too much of her cards before, then she would at least like something over him. She did not like feeling helpless, being without control or insurance, knowing that there was nothing she could do or say to change the situation, but that was in part why she loved the world outside her family's reach; the events and interactions that occurred within, the command and authority she had over her team, over herself. It gave her control, and power, knowing her actions and her words meant something, was capable of turning situations around. And that was why she stayed away from her parents' household - and ultimately, her sister - so that she could remain in control and in power. But in this current situation, she simply was not.

    Cassie turned her face slightly, away from Dante, to make sure he did not see the subdued glint flashing through her eyes - one she could not restrain in time - and struggled to let it show in her body language. Difficult as it was to remain with her air of nonchalance and poise, she managed. "Hmm." She hummed lightly, tapping her finger against her thigh once more. Compulsively, almost. "Well, it's complicated. Can we change the subject?"

    And really, that was all she could say.
    #13 PentheWonderful, Jun 10, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  14. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Well, this was certainly a first for Maggie; whilst the rest of the team were rather understanding about her disabilities and were eminently patient with her regarding them, it had to be said that many other Pokemon were...not quite so understanding. She knew that very few of them would ever say it to her face - there was, thankfully, some shame that was fairly universal within the Pokemon Community wherever you went - but she knew what they were thinking, and what they said about her behind her back. Slow, thick, "Special," Ditzy, frustrating...all words that were inevitably going to be used to describe her inability to communicate "Normally." All Magne-pokemon had their own unique little language because of their biology, but most of them were at least able to make a decent try at speaking in Common, which meant that on the occasion that somebody like Maggi came along...they were viewed as slower or stupider than the others. Her Trainers team was different - they knew her, and knew the truth about her disability - but she would be lying if she said that it didn't get her down sometimes, the inability to make new friends because of that barrier. And people wondered why she went off on her own without speaking much. It was because as soon as she spoke, they pigeon-holed her. Better to stay silent and retain at least a little bit of common respect.

    But this Froslass, "Aurora" as she was called...she was different. She quirked her head curiously at Maggie's odd speech patterns, sure, but she answered with a smile in her voice without hesitation, as if it just....wasn't something that she was overly concerned with. Of course, Maggie wasn't a mind-reader - she'd need Grael for that - but she was in an optimistic mood. Why couldn't she meet an open minded, gentle-hearted Pokemon who didn't judge her by the way she spoke? It was about that time, and didn't Maggie deserve a break? She whirred softly, what passed for a laugh with her, and bobbed up and down in the air. "Always....wondered. What....ghosts....afraid?" She whined a little in frustration at being unable to eloquently put forth her ideas, but...well, that was the curse of being crap at Common. She'd just have to deal with it, and hopefully Aurora wouldn't think too much of it. She didn't seem the type to care all that much, but...you could never really tell what people or Pokemon were really thinking underneath it all, and Maggie was especially bad at it, in the moment. Well...considering that the only alternative was to distrust everything everybody ever said...Maggie was happy to give Aurora the benefit of the doubt, for now.

    Syl, on the other hand, was having no trouble in trusting her newfound playmates. Whilst the Kirlia seemed to be a little more reserved and hesitant to get into the game at first, the Roserade was on point. It took quite a lot of Syl's effort and concentration to avoid getting tangled up with the Roserade once more, thereby losing the game. But fear not! Syl was not about to be captured by anybody save Her Master! Her Trainer frequently had her play this game with the rest of his team, having to avoid and evade their attempts to capture her, and she won far more often than she lost! Of course, sometimes they managed to corner her and tag her, which always made her pout a little, but she was still the most bouncy and nimble Pokemon in his arsenal, which just meant that the rest of his team had to try twice as hard! And just chasing after her was not going to beat her! Although...they were rather fast, come to think of it, so perhaps she shouldn't be showboating as much as she is. But then, that would ruin the fun! What good was winning the chase if the others didn't know that she was winning? And what's more, Jason was there! He was only sitting by the side watching, for the time being, but the big ol' grumpy Hounddoom was still there, and she had to show off for him, if only to get him to smile a little!

    She effected a little bow towards him - earning her a bemused cock of his head, which she took as a victory darnit! - and then flounced away, just out of reach of the Roserade who had managed to sneak up behind her. That one was close, such that she actually had to try to avoid it, and it seemed like the Kirlia was actually beginning to take an interest....which was bad, for her prospects of winning. Two on one was always harder, especially in a wide open space without cover like this. She mewled weakly as she backed up towards Jason, casting this way and that for a way to avoid the two closing Pokemon....perhaps she could hide behind Jason, then leap over him to escape when they closed in? That could work! She turned in place to carry out her cunning plan....and was quickly shunted in the chest by a large black paw. She stumbled backwards, right into the path of the Roserade, staring at Jason's smirking face. But...but...she was betrayed! She gaped at him wordlessly. He just shrugged, with that sly little smirk still plastered on his muzzle. She opened her mouth to say something...but it never made the air, as she was soon set upon by the Roserade and Kirlia from behind. She and Jason would have to have a talk about this later, make no mistake about it!

    And speaking of talks, on the opposite end of the pool, Tails found herself chuckling to herself at the male Ninetails's antics. His nerves were clear for anybody with eyes to see - or at least, anybody with eyes who was familiar with the reactions of nervous men in the presence of a beautiful woman - but she had to admit...he certainly covered them up well enough. He did lean a little too heavily into the formal speech and unflappable attitude for her to fully buy it - he doth protest too much, she thinks - but it was natural enough to confirm for her that at least a little of it was his actual personality; intelligent, then, and not bad when it came to his wit. She was better, of course, being a lady of vast experience and far superior patience, but she was not about to insult him by considering him to be naught but a pup. He was young, yes, but as her Master showed her...youth was not the same thing as inexperience or lack of ability. Only a fool would underestimate somebody based solely on age. She tilted her head to the side, still sitting regally on the poolside floor as easily as if it were a rich red-and-gold velvet rug, before stretching her front half languidly, almost lazily, extending her back and upper underbelly in front of him. An obvious move, perhaps, but one that she knew would throw him off balance for a little while.

    Because honestly, the "Bad Boy" approach only worked on younger, more impressionable Pokemon, and only when they bought it. Her personally? She didn't believe it for a second. If nothing else, if he was truly a Ninetails of Ill Repute, he would be reacting much differently to her aloof and deadpan attentions. Their pride was easily ruffled, after all, and not believing themselves to be in control was one surefire way to make them react in an adverse manner. She straightened up a little once more, regarding him coolly, with only a little bit of a glint in her eye.
    "I find that such a reputation is rarely deserved. People are oft too quick to label 'spirited' as 'Ill-Tempered.' I find that more often, it's just young men wanting to look 'cool' for the nearest female, not who they truly are." She lifted one of her brows curiously, as if wondering which one this young Ninetails was. Until he started being genuine with her...well, he wouldn't get so much as her name! After all, she didn't want to introduce herself to the strutting peacock trying to impress her. She wanted to introduce herself to the handsome young man who hid behind all of that in an attempt to look nonchalant and cool. Besides, she was far too old to bother with the "Bad Boy" image that so many young men seemed enamored with these days. It had become old hat for her half a century ago.

    In the meantime, Dante found himself at somewhat of a loss when it came to Cassandra. He'd initially intended his comments about his Pokemon to be purely conversational - something to help connect them, a shared interest in Pokemon and perhaps some shared empathy over the ones that insisted on making their Trainers lives difficult in some form or another - but she seemed overly bored by the whole affair. Oh, she didn't make it obvious to most people, but he could tell. The tapping of her finger against her leg indicated impatience, and the little comment - said slyly, almost playfully - was still edged with an ever so slight annoyance at his attempt at playing coy. True, he'd intended to spark her curiosity as to his team to perhaps start a conversation, but she seemed annoyed that he was not sharing their identities straight away. Perhaps another trainer would have, but he had learned the hard way not to reveal all of your trump cards too early. After all, she was still a rival trainer, and if he wanted to defeat her when they inevitably battled, he would - if her poise and control was anything to go by - need every advantage he could get his hands on if he was to secure victory. And of course, a true Master only took to the field when victory was already all but assured.

    But it was her next reaction that puzzled him...and distressed him, too, in equal measure. As soon as he mentioned Salem - and got around to his question, phrased as innocently as he could manage - she stiffened up. She didn't say anything, of course, and she didn't leave in an offended huff, but he could feel the atmosphere of their conversation change subtly. Whereas before it was warm and a little playful, an air of trading quick remarks and jibes at each others expense in a light hearted attempt to get the upper hand, now it turned almost...frosty. She turned her head away, her hair obscuring her face, and he had to wonder what she was hiding. After all, a trainer as obviously skilled as her never did anything randomly or without thinking; she would always have a reason for it, a strategy or a tactic that required the movement to achieve, and the only thing he could think of that would be achieved by hiding her face was to hide a reaction from him. So...was she angry? Upset? Annoyed, or afraid? Or all of them, perhaps? Had his question been too forward, and tipped his interest in her too soon, and she was disappointed that he had expressed an interest that she did not share? Or perhaps she was simply affronted at the forward, prying nature of his question, or perhaps she simply resented his attempt to draw information from her so directly.

    Her comment, of course, did not clear matters up much. But then, he supposed that it was not supposed to, considering that she evidently did not want to speak on the subject. It did indicate that he had simply asked after a sensitive subject - otherwise she would have said something more akin to "It's none of your business," which would imply that she was angry at his prying - that she did not wish to think about. And that gave him something in turn to consider; where his attentions, such as they were, truly welcome? Was it complicated in that they desired each other, but had not yet made their feelings known? Were they together in an intimate sense, but they disliked the label? Were they together, but spent so much time apart that their relationship was currently strained by the distance? Was it something as simple as being together but having to keep it secret, or something as complicated as her being in love with him, but him being married to her sister? "Complicated" was such a vague term that it could mean anything from the mundane to the extreme, and would be used in the same way, the same context. He wasn't really certain how to interpret it, or whether it was an indication that extra attentions were unwelcome, or more likely to succeed...so in that respect, his question failed entirely.

    Well, perhaps not entirely. If she was in a happy relationship, committed and public, she would have answered differently. So at least he knew that even if she was in a relationship with this "Salem," it wasn't exactly ideal, and it possibly was one of unrequited emotions. He would have to be careful - cautious in his exploration of her attentions, in case he stepped over some kind of line - but he had not been flashed a red light. More of an amber one; caution. Be careful. He was not about to start outright flirting with her, but...perhaps if he proceeded carefully, in a measured, considered manner...he would be able to work out how best to proceed. He was interested in her, he knew that much - she'd piqued his curiosity, and his attention - so now all that was left to do was get to know her more closely, and try and figure out whether his attentions were actually welcomed, or would be met with scorn, disgust and anger. Needless to say, he was hoping for the former. It wasn't every day that he met a beautiful, intelligent, driven young woman who was as talented and skilled as Cassandra obviously was, and it would not do to allow her to slip away without at least attempting to ingratiate himself into her affections. He had to at least make the attempt, no?

    But for the moment, he had annoyed her by bringing up a painful or perhaps frustrating topic of conversation for her, perhaps, so he had to at least attempt to make amends. Despite her air of nonchalance, it was subtly....off. There was a slight unnatural stiffness to it, a restlessness reflected in the resumption of her finger tapping the rhythm against her thigh. He would have to act quickly, or risk an abrupt and annoyed departure, it seemed like. Well...it was fortunate that he knew what she wanted; she wanted to know about the rest of his team - as any trainer would, having met another skilled trainer - and she'd said as much earlier during his attempt at casual conversation. He inclined his head slightly.
    "My apologies, Cassandra. I did not intend to broach a sensitive subject, or cross any kind of line. I was merely curious, nothing more." He paused for a moment, turning his gaze away from her and out across the pool. "As recompense, I have an offer for you. It occurs to me that I now know seven members of your Pokemon team, whereas you know the identities of only six of mine. Gary, Falcone, Grael, Juggernaut, Clay, Sludge, Percy and..." he paused for a moment, and pulled a slight face. "...Mrs Stabbington. You may blame my dear darling sister for that name. In any case...select one, and I shall reveal their identity right here and now, with no strings attached. What say you? Is that an acceptable reparation for my boorish behaviour?" He lifted an eyebrow. Casually revealing one of your trump cards for no cost...well, it was not something that Elite Trainers took lightly. The slightest surprise could be used to secure victory in a tight spot, after all! He just had to hope that she saw it the same way.
  15. The Magnezone whirred, a sound that greatly resembled laughter, yet not at the same time. It was a lot more mechanic, a lot more metallic than one might normally associate with laughter, but, in a good way. It was a good kind of different. A pleasant kind. And so Aurora joined her new friend in laughter, bobbing up and down rhythmically with her as their voices chime into the open air. Her mood was lifted instantaneously, she could hardly even remember what she was so upset about - well, she did of course, but it just didn't bother her as much now. They all needed their space sometimes. A chance to go out and expand your horizons, y'know? It was perfectly normal, healthy even. And yes, she did realize she was probably being a pretty big hypocrite right then, but, it didn't bother anyone, so, no harm done, right? "Always....wondered. What....ghosts....afraid?"

    The Froslass ceased her laughter momentarily, briefly, to ponder Maggie's question. Bringing her sleeve up to her mouth in contemplation, Aurora hummed softly in contemplation, and then... She came up with the most brilliant response. "The Dark." She lowered her sleeve, revealing the cheeky grin pulling across her face moments before she burst into a fit of giggles. "Get it? Because Ghosts are weak to Dark types?" She only came to laugh harder at the "brilliance" of her own joke, so hard she eventually needed to wipe a tear from her eye. Ah, comedy gold.

    Meanwhile, things were finally tipping in Jade and Dot's favor when Syl - betrayed by her own team mate - was pushed right onto their path. No way was Jade squandering that opportunity! Before Peridot even had time to react, Jade rushed forward with Quick Attack, her form becoming a blue of green and a flourish of of petals for a brief moment, her form morphing into that reminiscent of a vine in her fluid motion, wrapping smoothly around the stumbling Sylveon in a matter of milliseconds, and with an enraptured whistle, the Roserade gave her a gentle squeeze. "Et voila! I got you, mademoiselle~" She cooed, and proceeded to twirl the feline around. Much to the dismay of Peridot. The little Kirlia gasped inadvertently, stopping in her tracks and stomping down her foot. She knew, deep down, that Jade was naturally faster than her. Not only was she fully evolved, but Roserades in general just had an above average speed stat - and she was well aware that Cassie had drilled up all the speed of her original team members relentlessly from Day 1 of capture - and knew for a fact that they were also above the top speed of Sylveon. Jade could have caught Syl if she really wanted to, but her senior was simply more interested in the game than the victory. Completely different to her. Peridot did it for the training. She needed to get to Jade's level, or at the very least, be the best that she could possibly be, reach her top speed at her current level of evolution. Of course, if she wanted to win. she could have just teleported and caught the Sylveon on her next maneuver. Her ability was Telepathy, after all. She could have read Syl's mind if she wanted to. That being said... Jade only won because she let her!

    And so Peridot crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and scoffed indignantly.

    But on the subject of straightening up, the subtle straightening of Tails' back immediately snapped Nine into alert - warning mode - for that was the stance one took to prepare a heavy blow, hone one's wit and focus and deliver a baffling comeback. And so naturally, he needed to prepare as well. He raised his head higher - just slightly - perked his ears straighter and slowed the movement of his tails just so, in order to shift his full focus to his mind and mouth. He needed to coordinate the two well, he couldn't afford to possibly degrade and embarrass himself further. "I find that such a reputation is rarely deserved. People are oft too quick to label 'spirited' as 'Ill-Tempered.' I find that more often, it's just young men wanting to look 'cool' for the nearest female, not who they truly are." What?

    Nine blinked quickly.

    Well that certainly hit him out of left field. What did the first two statements have anything to do with the last? Was that just her way of calling him out on his confident front? Well, at the very least, this lovely lady certainly deserved the honest truth, and an explanation. Nine let out a soft sigh - one that lifted the tension from his muscles rather effectively - and hung his head slightly, ears drooping as he swallowed the large pill that was his pride. "It's not so much as wanting to look 'cool' as it is being uncertain, and fearful of... Shaming myself further. I have never seen your variant personally before, and I wanted to learn more about you, but I assure you, I hold no ulterior motives or intentions. I am currently committed to another lady, and I do not intend to betray her. Hence... Might we be able to start over?"

    And starting over was exactly what Cassie needed with Dante at that moment. To say the least, their conversation had taken quite an unexpected turn, and spiraled down from there. It was not his fault, of course, she only had herself - her monsters and the voices in her head - to blame. She ruined the moment, that frail, delicate, wonderful moment they were sharing, and for that, she felt utterly terrible. Dante was not a bad guy - far from it - in fact, he was the ideal gentleman, the perfect spouse candidate, considerate and just mischievous enough to capture and hold her attention for that long. He was simply being curious, trying to make conversation, and... She shut him down, just when the ice was breaking between them. In all honesty, she was quite surprised on just how... Upset she was about this. How desperately she wanted to make things right again. There was just something about him, something that made her want to remain on his graces, to... Keep him impressed. Of course, it could just be because he was obviously a skilled trainer, likely the champion of a league somewhere- huh... She just realized that it must have been a year since she followed the progress and rotations of Gym Leaders and League members around the world, when a few years ago, she kept tabs on everyone who ever had their names listed on the board of Leagues and Gyms. How time has changed. Yes, he was likely a new gym leader, or perhaps even champion that she was not aware of.

    That must be why.

    "My apologies, Cassandra. I did not intend to broach a sensitive subject, or cross any kind of line. I was merely curious, nothing more." Her eyes drifted back to him, captured by the color of his eyes which gaze across the pool, looking elsewhere and at that moment, she was glad. She did not know if she would be able to comfortably handle him looking at her after her shut down. "As recompense, I have an offer for you. It occurs to me that I now know seven members of your Pokemon team, whereas you know the identities of only six of mine. Gary, Falcone, Grael, Juggernaut, Clay, Sludge, Percy and..." And then he made this face, this... Slight pinching of his nose in slight irritation that indicated clear displeasure. And a moment later, she figured out why. "...Mrs Stabbington." She was fortunate to be able to stop her laugh just in time, leaving only a soft stifle of a chuckle and an upwards pull of her lips that she quickly hid by turning her head away. "Interesting."

    "You may blame my dear darling sister for that name." This piqued her intrigue. A sister? She certainly did not expect that, and was honestly quite ashamed. Though she was not quite sure why. It was an interesting tidbit of information, certainly, but nothing of urgent importance. She too had a sister of course, but... They were not close enough to be called that, she supposed. Nothing she was too proud to speak of. "In any case...select one, and I shall reveal their identity right here and now, with no strings attached. What say you? Is that an acceptable reparation for my boorish behaviour?" But this. This intrigued her. And it also gave her guilt at the same time. It was extremely conflicting. Did she want to seize this rare opportunity? Yes. Did she feel uncomfortable that the reason she had even gotten this opportunity was because he was taking the blame that was never on him? Yes, and... Well, there was also a part of her that said no. Opportunities are opportunities no matter how they came to be, after all. And who was she to squander this particular opportunity?

    A small half smile pulled across her lips then, her eyes drifting back to him as she canted her head to the side, spilling locks of black hair over her shoulder in doing so. The mischief returned to her eyes and her lips, slowly pulled into a cheeky grin. "Well... If you insist." Water under the bridge. No hard feelings. She seemed to say in sub-text as she righted her position then - straightening her back and lifting her head just a little higher - and canted her head the other way while tapping a gloved finger against her chin in mock contemplation. She pursed her lips slightly, and raised an eyebrow in playful display of deep thinking. In reality, of course, she had already been processing and making assumptions to the mystery Pokemon in his possession the moment he began listing off their names. Some she managed to guess rather easily thanks to their names alone such as Sludge and Juggernaut, clearly a Muk - what other sludge-based Pokemon was there, after all? - and Chestnaught - the dead giveaway was in the association the name had; a hefty creature ending with a much too familiar syllable. It was a Kalosean starter, after all - respectively. As for Clay... Perhaps a Claydol? Although that might be too on the nose. Which meant that left her with Percy, Grael, Falcone, and Gary.

    One might think choosing to reveal any one of those Pokemon would be as equally advantageous, but they would be wrong. Given their current condition, with no PC box on-board to swap out team members, the clear choice would be the Pokemon he actually had with him. The Pokemon that she would actually need to face in battle should they come to it. And that Pokemon would be, "Gary. Do tell me about him." She smiled softly, charmingly at him. "If you would be so kind."
  16. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Honestly, Maggie was just pleased to have somebody like Aurora to talk to; she wasn't making any special demands of her, she wasn't going out of her way to cater to what she saw as Maggie's unique "disability," and she certainly didn't seem like she was just putting up with her to be polite; as far as Maggie could tell - and, granted, she wasn't always the best at reading people or Pokemon so she could be entirely wrong - Aurora was just...genuinely interested in her. She was genuinely interested in Maggie's company, she was sincere in her appearance of friendliness, and where Maggie was concerned, she couldn't actually detect any falsity in her mirth. She'd seemed...cold and a little distant at the start, as if she was thinking about something else or otherwise preoccupied, but now that they'd managed to get into it a little, it seemed that she was warming up a fair amount. Of course, Frosslass's tended to be a little frigid at first - it came with the territory, to a certain extent, what with being an Ice and a Ghost type - but if you could get through their initial wariness, they were as variable as any other Pokemon; you had nice ones and nasty ones of all types. Except Charmeleons. They were all dicks. Maggie, personally, had never met a single Charmeleon that wasn't an entitled little sh- no. No, her Master had trained her better than to use such language. She was better than that. Just about.

    In any case, she happened to have lucked out a little bit; this Frosslass appeared to be just about the sweetest thing that Maggie had ever encountered, and if she'd had a mouth, she would have been beaming at that moment in time. To find a friend on a cruise that her Master had anticipated nothing but stuffy horror and overly formal hell on was certainly a nice surprise, and just a brief aside glance in his direction told her all she needed to know about his feelings on the matter; he seemed to be rather taken with the young woman reclining beside him, which was all well and good; if they got along, it meant that she might actually get to see her newest pal after today after all! She let out a whirring laugh at Aurora's joke - an obvious punchline, more of a pun than a joke, but funny nonetheless - and bobbed in the air with pleasure. "Dark....just as...scared...you...surely!" She whirred. After all, there weren't many Mono-Dark Types out there, and almost every type of Pokemon that had the Dark Typage was vulnerable to at least one attack that Frosslass's could use. Obviously you wouldn't send a Frosslass out against a Dark Type if you had a choice, but...Aurora here wasn't entirely helpless. Her Master probably had the moves and combinations planned out, but she'd overheard enough of Jason's training in regards to Frosslass to know that if she knew the right move, Aurora could at least hurt Jason, if it came to it. Hopefully it wouldn't, though!

    In the meantime, Syl was still staring in shocked horror at the Judas in front of her when she was suddenly tackled from her feet by a rather enthusiastic Jade. She didn't even see the Quick Attack coming - and good thing too, or she might have considered that cheating as well! - and the next thing she knew, she was suddenly in the air being twirled around by an extremely happy Roserade. Syl's indignation at "losing" quickly evaporated, however; she'd lost, fair and square, and being a sore loser in the face of such a cheerful Pokemon was almost impossible! Oh, she was not about to forgive Jason any time soon for his horrific betrayal, but she couldn't rightly be angry at Jade for taking advantage of her own moment of weakness, now could she? Especially not when she was having so much fun being spun around by her enthusiastic playmate. Her ribbons quickly twirled around the Roserades forearms - partly to keep her anchored there, and partly to show her some level of friendly affection - as the air whistled past her, and she let out a soft giggle. "Congratulations!" She laughed as they came to a slow stop, her feet - after some initial hesitance - finding the floor again. She shot a look over at Peridot, and almost - almost - frowned at how put out the little Kirlia seemed. Without hesitation, she bounded over towards her and gave her a conciliatory prod on her hand with her muzzle. "It's ok! You'll get me next time, I'm sure! You were suuuuuuper close quite a few times!" She gave a yipping laugh. These new playmates were just so....so fun and interesting!

    Of course, Nines was just as interesting to Tails, if in a different way. The confusion over her statement that flickered across his face ever so briefly was amusing; ok, sure, she perhaps should not have phrased it quite so cryptically, but it was still amusing to see him attempt to puzzle out her meaning. Boys in general just had no idea how to handle women, and seeing a cute little innocent like this "Nines" here attempt what many men far older than him failed to do on a regular basis, well...it tickled her a little. No doubt Jason, the beast, would have teased him had he been watching, but a quick glance over to the other end of the pool confirmed that he had, in fact, taken up position watching Syl run around and play with her new friends. For as bristly and brusque as he sometimes appeared, he really was a bit of a sweetheart deep down, especially towards Syl. But then, pretty much everybody had a soft spot for the little ball of innocent fluff. Even Percy, that cantankerous old bastard, seemed to be a bit tender when it came to Syl. In any case, Jasons absence was probably for the best; if Nines was as nervous around just Tails as it appeared he was, then she couldn't imagine that being heckled from the peanut gallery would do him any good either.

    Of course, it was probably for the best that he wasn't there for Tails own good, too; for as little romantic interest as she held in Nines, Jason would almost certainly have attempted to turn his Taken Status into something to tease her over. Don't get her wrong, he was cute in his own way, but she knew precious little about him to develop that kind of attachment to him upon first sight; she was an older female, after all. She was no longer in any real hurry to secure a Mate. It would either happen, or it would not and there was no real sense in forcing the issue. Of course, him being Taken was rather intriguing in its own right; he did not seem overly happy about it, and unless she missed her mark, there was none of the telltale excitement in his bearing when he made that admission. It could simply have been that he was embarrassed to admit a vulnerability - his Variant was extremely prideful by nature, she found - though, so...who knew? She simply tilted her head to one side. "There is no need for such formalities, young man. Water under the bridge, as they say. I can assure you, I have no ulterior motives on my end, either; I am past the urge to run around after every handsome young Fox I see. Your Mate need not fear for your Innocent Virtue." She gave a small, sly smile, her eyes twinkling with mischief. "You are curious about me, then? What do you wish to know? I am an open book, so long as you keep your questions....proper." She settled down onto the ground, reclining lazily as she rested her head upon her paw.

    In the meantime, Dante regarded Cassandra coolly as she made her decision; he'd expected her to select Gary, honestly - with the lack of a Box for switching Pokemon, and her previous curios looks at his belt, it had been obvious which Pokemon she would choose - but he was pleased that he had predicted correctly. If she'd been distracted by one of the other names, deliberately set out to bait her, he would have actually been somewhat disappointed in her. A true Ace Trainer knew, of course, how to weigh up possibilities and advantages and disadvantages, and she stood to gain much more by knowing the last member of his current team rather than who he had in reserve. He had no doubt that she had probably already guessed at least one of his Pokemon - Juggernaut was not exactly his most creative name - and possibly one or two others based on their nicknames. Hell, she might even have guessed Gary's identity, and simply wanted a confirmation; he honestly couldn't tell past her slightly amused, mischievous gaze. Either she had no idea, or she had the perfect poker face...or both. Given her obvious status as an Ace Trainer - an identity that continued to nag at the back of his mind as he tried to figure out exactly who she was - he would kind of expect her to have a decent game face on her. She wouldn't have gotten through any of the Leagues if she didn't, after all.

    He paused for a moment, as if giving her a chance to reconsider, then gave a small, wry smile. "Somehow, I anticipated that answer. Perhaps I should consider applying for a placement in Saffron Gym, no?" He lifted a bemused eyebrow, offering her a twinkle of mischief in his eyes before turning his gaze to the rest of the pool. There weren't many people in their section of the pool - or at all, now that he looked at it; there were people milling around, but the pool itself was somewhat empty compared to the various attractions around the deck - so perhaps releasing Gary for a few minutes would not be that unwise. Anybody who saw him would inevitably see Dante and his team, as well as Cassandra's, and with a Gyarados suddenly appearing in the pool, the logical explanation would be "Somebody owns it." He would have to keep him on a tight leash, but...he didn't honestly think that Gary would break anything or be any real danger. The biggest problem would be people possibly panicking, but if they weren't already panicking over an Ariados, a Blastoise, a Houndoom and a Magnezone being near the pool, then perhaps this collection of cruise-goers were a little more used to exotic Pokemon. Besides, if he let Gary out and there was too much of a hubbub, he could just recall him in a mere half heartbeat if necessary.

    He nodded slowly. Showing was often much more effective than telling, and a part of him did kind of want to show off to this enigmatic young lady. Not to the point where he would reveal the Gyaradosite on Gary's Fin - it was hidden for a reason - but still. He did kind of want to impress her, as juvenile as that might seem. He gave her another half-smile, a pulling upwards of the corners of his lips as he unhooked the ball from his belt.
    "I believe it would be more effective to simply introduce you two. I warn you, he can get a little ill-tempered around strangers, so he might be a handful." He paused, and brought the ball up to his mouth. "I am letting you out into a public pool, Gary. Somebody wishes to meet you, so behave or you are being sent straight back to your Ball. I hope we are clear on that." After waiting a few more moments to ensure that it sank in - Gary was loyal to a fault, but he was still a Gyarados; sometimes his emotions got the better of him - he pointed the ball at the area of the pool directly behind them - currently empty of other cruisegoers - and fired the thin red line into the water. He just hoped that there would be enough space back there; Gary was easily a good twenty-one feet long from nose to tail, which sometimes made it a little hard to find space for him to stretch his fins. It would be a bit of a squeeze in this pool, but hopefully him "standing" upright would help alleviate some of the claustrophobia.

    The thin red line quickly coalesced into a more serpentine shape, the bottom coiling around the base of the pool, the front half of his sinuous shape quickly forming above the water line, towering above both him and Cassandra on the back of Ajax. Dante himself simply stood - with a small grunt of reluctant effort - to face the Gyarados as it coalesced. When the red energy had finally disappeared, a great Gyarados stood - sat? - in its place. He stretched out his upper half, his scales rippling with the effort as he let out an almost relieved-sounded roar of approval. Needless to say, the volume of the sound had many, many other pool visitors jumping in fright, and a low level chatter immediately erupted upon Gary's appearance. After a moment of stretching, Gary looked down and around, his eyes - permanently looking furious, as was the case with most Gyarados - scanning his surroundings. A small, guttural growl emanated from his throat, but he wasn't actively breaking anything yet, so...Dante took that as a victory.
    "Gary," he said loudly, attracting the Gyarados's eyes immediately towards him. "Remember. Behave. This isn't a battle, it's a holiday." His words were calm, but his tone snapped with firm authority that sounded very much like it was unused to being argued with. Gary paused for a moment, then leaned down to place his head on the same level as Dante's, his mouth almost the size of the entirety of Dante's upper half. Dante met his gaze evenly...then his mouth twitched into that half-smile of his.

    Gary leaned forwards, his head touching Dante's left side, almost as if he were nuzzling at his Master. Dante allowed himself a small, single-syllable chuckle.
    "It's good to see you, too. You can remain out so long as you don't cause any trouble." A reluctant growl of agreeement sounded as Gary pulled away a little. Dante gestured for Cassandra to join him, standing in front of Gary. "Cassandra, allow me to introduce you to Gary. Gary, Cassandra." Gary let out a growl, almost suspicious in nature, as he regarded the newcomer. Dante lifted an eyebrow, but didn't speak up; Gary tended to be a little...possessive of Dante whenever he was out of his ball, and getting him to stop with that attitude was beyond what even Dante could manage. Besides. He wasn't about to discourage his Gyarados from being loyal, affectionate or attached to him, now was he? "Gary here was the very first Pokemon that I caught on my own. As a Magikarp, obviously. It took us a while for him to progress past that stage, but...here we are." The pride was obvious in Dante's voice, but not pride in himself; oh, he'd trained Gary up to be the Pokemon he was, sure, but it was Gary who had put the effort in, Gary who had put the determination and the work in, Gary who had never once given up. He was proud, yes, but he was proud of Gary, not himself. And being able to show Gary off to a trainer who might be able to appreciate how hard it was for Gary to get to where he was today? That was an opportunity that did not often present itself. So sue him for enjoying the moment a little bit, ok?
    #16 Vergil Tanner, Jun 27, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
  17. Everything was going well. Everything was great, everything was fine up until... She figured it out too late.

    Cassandra kicked herself, cursed and spited herself for not seeing it earlier. It was a play on letters - as most Pokemon nicknames were - derived from the creature's species. It was only one letter; one letter that needed moving for her to have been able to uncover the mysterious sixth of Dante's team, and she wouldn't have needed to have him release it in the first place. She could have kept the favor, saved it for another time, another thing. Something more urgent and important than... Guessing games. Favors were her currency, but it seemed she had spent this one a little too unwisely and she hated that. She always valued efficiency and effectiveness above all else but right now, she was not being much of either, and the consequences could be devastatingly dire. Ah well, it was too late - and too ineffective - to dwell on the past now. The line had been fired, and her concerns had only been confirmed. As the light morphed into a serpentine shape, stretching long and large, coiling around the pool and towering far above them, Cassandra rose to her feet. She felt the world slow down around her, moving in milliseconds - the way she should have before, but she was a second too late, and in battles, those precious seconds were what determined the win and lose of a battle - as she watched the light take physical form, and she stepped closer to where the behemoth's head protruded from his shell and her muscles grew tense, coiled like a spring; ready to take action at the slightest movement. Gone was the lighthearted expression, the mischievous twinkle in her eyes. In its place was a steel gaze, an intense focus, a calm, detached expression. Her brows furrowed together, if only slightly - barely a millimeter in its shift - her mind whirring in calculation.

    And of course, her purposeful transition and the appearance of the leviathan naturally alerted the rest of her team members - excluding Lady and Ryu, who were both fast asleep (albeit one willingly and the other, not so much) - as well. Their heads snapped to attention, and Nine specifically felt his fur stand on end. For a brief moment, he simply stood there, stiff as a statue while Tails' words were forgotten; waiting for an instruction from his trainer, but after a while, found himself simply unable to stay put as he abandoned all else to come rushing as close as he could get to his trainer and the Blastoise - who had drifted quite far into the center of the pool - without actually leaping into the pool after them - he was still a fire type, after all - and was quickly joined by the other active members of the team; Aurora, Lady, and Peridot, all three of whom needed to abandon their respective activities to address a much more... Grave, matter. After all, a Blastoise and a Gyarados brawling on the deck would easily lead to the utter destruction of the entire ship, especially at both of their given sizes.

    Of course, it wasn't that they feared Gary would be particularly menacing - they'd all faced Gyarados before. Well, all except for Peridot - or even indicative of challenging, it was simply that Ajax grew up in a place where Gyarados were the main cause of death of its citizens. Originating from Regalo Del'mar; a pristine, tropical archipelago with the misfortune of being located near Gyarados breeding grounds despite its nearly unparalleled natural beauty, the islands are annually terrorized by hormonal - and therefore, extremely aggressive - oversexed leviathans looking to find a mate. According to Salem, around this time all the men and their Pokemon were tasked with the duty of protecting their tribes from the Gyarados, lest they wander too close and decide to take their frustrations out on the community, or simply from the massive tidal waves they produced in their battle for a mate, and both he and Ajax were no exception to this. In short, Ajax has simply grown up seeing Gyarados in a bad light, and despite having been familiarized with caught Gyarados before, he was still hyper alert and suspicious around them.

    Cassandra glanced back to where her Pokemon had congregated by the poolside, focused her gaze on Peridot - the Kirlia nearly shivering beneath the intensity of her trainer's gaze - and nodded her over. The little Pokemon gave a quick nod, and teleported herself onto Ajax's shell beside her; being the smallest and lightest, she was less likely to wake or attract Ajax's attention by boarding his shell, especially when she did not need to leap on him which, in itself, would have caused quite a bit of force that would rock the Blastoise back and forth at the very least. This was plan B, in case things headed south and... Ajax needed neutralizing. It was around that time Gary emitted a growl, one that is distinct to his species, and certainly one that Ajax instantly recognized. The behemoth's eyes flew open, his head lifting up to meet the eyes blood red irises of the leviathan. His maw parted, his body rumbling with a coming growl, but before it could escape him, before it could make itself known, Cassandra stepped forward, purposefully - firmly - planting her foot into his shell, drawing the Blastoise's attention towards her. Their eyes met, and Cassandra lifted her chin, straightened her back and squared her shoulders. Her gaze was focused - unmoving and unwavering from Ajax - firm and sure, authoritative, commanding yet, assuring at the same time. She was not threatening him, nor was she attempting to strike fear into him, she was simply... Letting him know that he did not need to act, and assuring him that everything was alright. She nodded at him, and the behemoth soon - albeit very hesitantly - stood down. Though his eyes remained fixed cautiously on Gary, his head was once more partially submerged beneath the water. Despite this, Peridot and Nine remained alert, while the two girls had decided that the situation was now mostly under control, and stood down.

    And so, it was then that Cassie left her focused state of mind, allowing sound and sight and feeling and vibe to filter back in. She returned her gaze to Dante, and filled herself in on the moments she had missed. See, although her mind might be away during a certain lapse of time, her eyes and ears continued to function, seeing and hearing, recording the events that had transpired and storing them away into her "archive" of a mind. She quickly flipped back to them - the recordings a few seconds earlier - and referred to what she heard, as opposed to what she saw - as her eyes were trained on Ajax - and listened to Dante's dialogue with his Gyarados. "Gary," He'd called, firm and loud. "Remember. Behave. This isn't a battle, it's a holiday." Authoritative and strong, not unlike the tone and method she used to communicate orders to her own Pokemon. Of course, such a tone took years for one to master, or even hope to acquire - which... really made the fact that Salem had mastered it in a couple of months all the more baffling - but still, there was something about his voice in this tone, something... Familiar, yet, completely unique at the same time. She could not help the small smile creeping onto her face, one that only grew all the more wide when she saw the way they interacted.

    A fearsome Gyarados, easily a prime example of his species, nuzzling his trainer as if he were still a harmless Magikarp. And his trainer? The man who was so confident, powerful and authoritative with no flaw in his composure or calm, perfect in his calculation and strategy, was giggling like a little boy. Her stance loosened somewhat, her eyes softening, but her overall posture remained tall and alert. Just in case. This subtle shift, however, was enough to signal Jade and Aurora to fully stand down, and for both Nine and Peridot to lower their guard - if only somewhat - and Cassie was soon smiling at Dante in particular, an eyebrow arched as she tipped her head - subtly - to one side. Her eyes glimmered with amusement, lighthearted mirth and genuine awe at the spectacle. And she did not mind this, of course - that her feelings were showing so easily at that moment - for surely it was for a perfectly good reason. This trainer... He was no regular trainer, and it only nagged at her that much more that she didn't even know who he was.

    "Cassandra, allow me to introduce you to Gary. Gary, Cassandra." Dante motioned for her to come closer, but she refrained from immediately doing so - Gyarados were known for being easily provoked - and only after Gary had reacted to his trainer's request, and after she had smoothed her foot calmingly over Ajax's shell when his back rose, and helped it to fall again. She folded her arms over her chest idly, striding over to the taller man's side, and there, the glimmer in Dante's own eyes; the pride and joy he felt from seeing his Gyarados, the excitement and genuine love melted Cassandra's own frozen, mangled heart. If only just a little. "Gary here was the very first Pokemon that I caught on my own. As a Magikarp, obviously. It took us a while for him to progress past that stage, but...here we are." And that, was how she truly knew what a great trainer he was. Any buffoon with a bit of cash could simply purchase a powerful Pokemon and spin a wild tale around how they acquired it, but few had the ability to actually raise a Pokemon, and raise it well, and fewer still could raise a Magikarp - which are only capable of learning three moves. THREE - and evolve them into a Gyarados, and even more few and far in between are those who actually develop a close enough bond with their Magikarp-turned-Gyarados to have the gigantic serpents not swallow them whole out of spite or vengeance or simply because they could, let alone a bond strong enough to allow the interaction she currently witnessed.

    She chuckled softly, and only then did she fully turn her attention towards Gary. He was quite a good size - clearly above average - and one glance was enough to tell her how powerful he was; the rippling muscle beneath his scales, the depth and heaviness of his breaths and just... The intensity of his eyes. It actually gave her a small, thrilled shudder. Battling him would be quite a memorable event indeed. And not only that, she could also tell that the Gyarados was exceedingly well cared for. His eyes - in addition to their intensity - were bright and alert, his fangs pearly white and his scales shimmering without a fault - no breaks or disturbances indicating a lack of it anywhere on his body (or at least what she could see from there - and his fins spread without a single damage. She would know, of course, her mother owned one herself, and Gary here was clearly well fed and well groomed - perhaps even rivaling her mother's own - and that in itself scored quite a lot of points in Cassie's book. It was one thing to have powerful Pokemon, but another to keep them well-maintained and healthy. Hence, she smiled approvingly at Dante, and then appreciatively towards Gary as she unfolded one arm and lifted it up, slowly but surely, before the Gyarados, where it hovered. She allowed a few seconds to pass for him to inspect her hand, grow accustomed to its presence and allow her to proceed. She waited for that exhale - the first one after a moment of bated breath and alarm - and then waited some more for his steady breathing, the lowering of his fins, before proceeding and placing her hand against the side of Gary's maw without hesitation. Her hand looked absolutely minuscule and ridiculously delicate compared to the monstrous Gyarados. Despite this, she gave Gary a gentle caress, her certainty - and in it, her reassurance that she knew what she was doing - and confidence never once wavering, scratching him gently in that special spot just behind his fin. Her mother had told her about it, and her father had explained why it was as profound as it is, and she was ever grateful of that knowledge now.

    "He's magnificent." She told Dante sincerely, looking over at him with a genuine smile. "I have to admit, I'm feeling quite jealous right now." And she was joking, of course. At least, for the most of the second part. However, this particular statement, she meant wholeheartedly, "You've done an excellent job."
  18. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Perhaps, in retrospect, he should have expected the sudden hubbub upon Gary's appearance. It wasn't every day that an above-average-sized Gyarados - a species known for its violent tendencies, raw destructive force and hair trigger temper - suddenly appeared from nowhere, with no warning, in the middle of a cruise ship. Even though a logical analysis would tell somebody that it was a trainers Pokemon, that wasn't a reassurance for most people. Unlike most other Pokemon, Gyarados were not inherently loyal to their trainers and it wasn't uncommon for them to belong to trainers who couldn't handle them or their destructive instincts. Trained Gyarados were rare, true, but even amongst the small percentage of trainers who had them, they usually had a strained - at best - relationship with the great monsters. There was a reason, after all, why most people considered a Gyarados more akin to a force of nature than a mere animal; they were powerful, aggressive and if you pissed one off, it would not stop chasing you until one of you was physically incapacitated or worse. Entire island chains had been wiped off the face of the map because a murder of Gyarados - he wasn't sure what the actual term for a group of them was, but a "Murder" seemed appropriate. Or perhaps "A Rampage of Gyarados" would fit better? - had torn through the area.

    Given all of that, the reaction that Cassandra's Pokemon had - immediately standing straight and rushing over to support their trainer - was entirely justified. They had no idea what was going on besides 'Holy Crap, a Gyarados has just appeared,' and honestly their quick reactions and first instinct to move to protect and support their trainer was a testament to just how effective a trainer Cassandra had to be; when faced with something like a potentially angry Gyarados, many Pokemon - and, indeed, friends - would turn tail and run, attempting to get themselves as far away from the potential wrath as possible. At the very least, they would hesitate before running to place themselves in the firing line, as it were, but Cassandra's Pokemon did not even flinch; they immediately stood up and hurried to Cassandra's side to face the new threat, which spoke volumes not only about their training and how well drilled they were, but also their loyalty to Cassandra. They obviously loved her a great deal, and that was the mark of a truly great trainer. Any fool could acquire a powerful or strong Pokemon, but only a dedicated and compassionate trainer could inspire true, genuine loyalty in their team. It was something that Dante had worked hard to achieve, so he appreciate just how much effort must have gone into their upbringing.

    Honestly, had Dante been able to refocus for a moment, he would have done something to reassure Cassandra that she was in no danger. At the very least, she was standing next to Dante, and he knew for a fact that Gary would not do anything that risked hurting him. It might sound odd, but Gary had in the past refused to attack a Pokemon or human who had pissed him off, but who was standing too close to Dante to get a clear shot. They'd worked on that, of course, and Gary was getting much better with his pinpoint accuracy...but it was heartening to know that his Gyarados - and one of his oldest friends - was still loyal enough even in the midst of a bloodrage to consciously avoid harming him. Or maybe he was simply biding his time. Who knew? In any case, Cassandra's reaction, too, gave Dante a valuable insight into just what kind of trainer she was. She immediately lost all pretences of flirtatious playfulness. Her relaxed postured became serious and wound tight for battle, and her eyes took on a far more cool, calculating and authoritative shimmer. She went from the relaxed, playful, seductive enchantress who had thrown him into the pool, to a true force to be reckoned with. Glancing at those eyes, he knew for a fact that were he to battle her, it would be one of the most challenging fights of his life.

    And that gave him a sharp, sudden thrill. His heartrate spiked as he took in her expression. He'd only gotten a glimpse, but his memory was good enough to analyse it in his own time as Gary calmed down. She was a gorgeous woman, of course, but there was something uniquely attractive about a powerful female with that kind of steel in her spine. The kind of strength that made it clear that she was not about to put up with nonsense, and that she'd sooner stand and fight trouble head on, with her head held high, rather than cower behind her Pokemon. His estimation of her had already been rather high, but now he found it rising higher as she didn't even flinch - or hesitate - when faced with Gary. Though he had to focus on keeping Gary under control around so many potentially hostile Pokemon, he could at least devote a half second to admiring how she held herself in the situation. A soft shiver ran down his spine; if it was possible, she was even more attractive now that he knew what her battle face looked like, and it took him all of his willpower to avoid challenging her to a battle there and then. To enjoy an afternoon with a beautiful, witty woman, followed by a battle with a strong, capable trainer? That happened to be the same exact woman? There was nothing quite like it.

    Of course, he was also not particularly worried about what Cassandra's Pokemon were doing. They were defending their trainer and ready for a fight - which tended to start fights more often than it discouraged them, if everybody was squaring up to each other - but his own team knew full well what he would want them to do. And indeed, a quick glance around told him all that he needed to know; they'd seen him releasing Gary, which in and of itself didn't bother them. They knew Gary, they'd trained alongside Gary, and though they were sometimes wary over his temper, none of them really had a problem with him. Most of them had known him when he was just a Magikarp, after all, and knew that for all his irrational bursts of emotion, the only people Gary actually tried not to hurt besides Dante himself was the rest of the team....so long as they didn't antagonise him, of course. So when he'd been released, they'd barely moved...until, of course, the rest of Cassandra's team had hurried off mid-play to square up against him. That, they took notice of...and after a quick glance at their trainer, they'd moved to the positions he's drilled into them. If a fight looked like it was about to break out, he'd trained them to automatically seek the best position possible, just in case.

    So, as Cassandra's team focused on Gary, clustering in one spot, Dante's team took the initiative. Jason backed up a little towards the corner of the pool area, making certain to keep all of Cassandra's team members in his line of sight, ready for a preemptive attack if things went sideways. Tails did the same, taking the corner parallel rather than opposite him; as Dante had demonstrated in training, having a Fire and Ice Pokemon surrounding an enemy on opposite sides could only lead to disaster if the target managed to evade. Besides, with them focusing on Gary, Jason and Tails now had the flanking position on her team. In the meantime, Ariel adjusted herself on her deck chair, lining herself up perfectly with the horizontal line overlooking the divide between Cassandra and her team, and Gary. If things got out of hand, she could separate them long enough to give Gary a chance to charge up one of his more powerful attacks, and give Dante time to get out of the way. Besides, this way she had a good view of the entire battlefield, and could easily provide support, should it be required. The only outlier was Syl; she hadn't really been drilled for battle - Dante tended to keep her out of bitter wars of attrition - as extensively as the rest of his team, so was a little bit more at a loss as to what to do.

    Dante had, of course, trained her...but she had never really been entirely that interested in fighting. Still...if somebody was threatening Her Dante and Dear Gary, well, she had to do something! After a quick look around, she found the perfect spot; she bounded up the Lifeguards tower - currently unoccupied - and took up position overlooking the pool. This way, if somebody needed support, she could deliver it from above! And if there was no battle, then excellent; she could just use it to jump into the pool in celebration! Yay! Of course, that wasn't necessary. Cassandra had far better control over her team than that, and no sooner had tensions started to rise - with the overly large Blastoise stirring beneath their feet - than they immediately simmered down again. Cassandra soothed and controlled her team, and Dante managed to keep Gary's temper under control. He looked back at Cassandra as she approached - albeit just a touch hesitantly, which was understandable given the situation - and her warm, playful expression had once more replaced her firm, cool battle stance. The difference was breathtaking, and honestly, in that moment he wasn't sure which side of her he found more attractive. But that wasn't important at that moment. What was important was keeping everybody safe and calm. He didn't want to blow up his fathers new business venture. That would not make him popular.

    He watched carefully as Cassandra reached towards Gary; whilst Gary seemed inclined to behave himself, sometimes it was hard to predict what would set him off, and he tended to be a little bit funny about humans other than Dante touching him. He was also the jealous type; if he thought that Casandra was a threat to his closeness with Dante, he might snap at her just to spite her. But, it heartened him to see that Cassandra apparently knew exactly what she was doing; not many people knew how to approach a Gyarados, and fewer still knew about the spot just behind the Gyarados's fin, but...apparently she did. He deflated just a little - apparently this wasn't the first Gyarados she'd handled - but he found his estimation of her rising yet again. She truly was a remarkable woman, and of course...this was all useful data for working out just where he'd seen her before. Which was, of course, driving him insane. He knew he knew her, he just couldn't - at the time - work out where. It was going to make him feel very stupid when he figured out the answer, especially given how good his memory usually was. He reached up himself and laid a hand on Gary's scales, giving them a gentle scratch, almost idly. Gary was regarding Cassandra suspiciously, growling just a little as if in warning not to try anything funny, but for the moment, he appeared to be tolerating her.

    He was too proud to admit that what she was doing felt good, but if his Master trusted her enough to let her touch him, then...he would refrain from eating her. For the moment, anyway. He reserved the right to change his mind if he so desired. His body shook just a little as his eyes flickered over the arranged Pokemon in front of him; they looked noticeably tense, as if they might spring at any moment, and he himself prepared himself for that eventuality...especially if that Blastoise decided to move. That would be the Pokemon he would have to defeat first. He saw the rest of the team taking up positions just in case, and he snarled his approval. He didn't always get along with them, but they knew what they were doing more than most. And if any of these strange, weak Pokemon dared to attack him, he would slaughter them all. Who did they think they were, daring to look at him as if he was about to go on a rampage? How fucking dare they judge him based only on his species? He should kill them all, just to prove a fucking point! He bristled just a little...he felt that old ball of rage building in his head, but he restrained himself as he looked at Dante. Only His Masters calming hand on his scales served to settle him back down, and reminded him of what he had said; behave. Holiday, not battle.

    Dante breathed a sigh of mild relief, and turned his attention back to Cassandra. At least she was impressed by Gary, even if she'd seen it all before. He couldn't help the upswelling of pride from returning. "He did all of the hard work," he admitted, "I just gave him an occasional push. He worked hard to get here...and he works even harder to make me proud. Silly fish." He heard Gary growl as if angry at the name, but Dante knew that it was only for show. He quirked a soft smile. "I'm always proud of him." He scratched at the spot behind Gary's fin, that little spot that few people knew about - again, he was impressed that Cassandra knew about it, and made a note to ask about it later - and this time, Gary let out a soft, rumbling sound of approval. He'd show enjoyment for his Master, but not this odd stranger. Not until he knew what she wanted and whether she could be trusted. He glowered at her a little, doing his best to stay calm...and then a small sound caught his attention. He turned his head, away from Dante and the woman, looking at the edge of the pool to find Syl standing there, looking at him and mewling pathetically. She pawed at the water, then gazed at him beseechingly.

    Oh, for the love of...he glared at her for a moment, but when her pathetic looking doe eyes did not abate, he let out a defeated growl, and lifted the lower half of his body - the part nearest the edge of the pool - out of the water. Syl yipped in pleasure and bounded onto it, before half-padding, half-skipping up the length of his body to the base of his neck. Once there, she paused, and looked at him expectantly. He held strong for a moment, then crumbled and lifted that portion up, too, to allow Syl to hop across to his head, where she curled up rather happily. He turned his head back towards Dante and the woman with a glare that dared them to mention it. Dante, for his part, pointedly ignored it...though he did wear an amused half smile on his face at the sight of the fearsome Gyarados with a Sylveon curled up and sleeping on his neck, just behind his head. He gathered that her assertion of being jealous was not entirely true...though it should be. Gary was easily one of his best trump cards, and probably the most challenging Pokemon he had for any trainer. It wasn't just his sheer raw power...it was that Dante had taken care to teach Gary a large range of moves. No matter what you hit him with, the chances were he knew something to counter it. But this wasn't a battle. Yet. He canted his head to one side.

    "I have to admit that your teams reaction - and yours, of course - makes it clear just how capable you are. Perhaps you would be willing to show me what you can do one of these days?"
    In a battle, yes, but...he found himself intrigued. He wanted to know more about this woman, whoever Salem was be damned. "It isn't every day that I meet a woman as...intriguing as you." That shared moment, the spark that ran through him, flickered through his mind for an instant. "It would be criminal for me to miss such an opportunity, would it not?" Honestly, he knew he was asking without asking. He was building up to it, of course - there was an official function later tonight in the VIP Restaurant that he had to attend, and having her along as his +1 would make the evening far less unbearable - but he was, by nature, nervous about inviting people to things, especially attractive females. He spent the large majority of his life in the wilderness for a reason, and that was to get away from people, not invite them closer. He had to see if she was amenable to the suggestion first, before he offered. Besides, he didn't want to be too forward; given her attitude towards this "Salem" character, he did not want to risk stepping on any toes or crossing any lines. He was not that kind of man. As tantalisingly intriguing as Cassandra was, he did not dare risk going too far and driving her away. It had been far too long since he'd met anybody half as interesting as her, and he would hate himself for years to come if he blew his chance by being over-enthusiastic. Cool, calm and collected. He could do that. Right?
    Merciless Medic likes this.
  19. For a little while, they were just standing there, simply showing affection to the sizable leviathan before them; both purring and glowering at the same time. It wasn't an outstandingly common thing to be able to do, but Gyarados managed it well. Mostly because of the scowl their faces were naturally set in; they constantly looked pissed off. Even when they're not, and trying to be affectionate. They can't help it. Hence, Cassandra never really took much offense from it. Besides, it was extraordinary enough that Gary was letting her touch him at all, and not even attempting to nibble on her or swallow her whole - she'd been there before - it wasn't the most pleasant thing of course, but survivable if you were familiar with Gyarados anatomy and feeding habits. Nevertheless... Dante truly has done some remarkable work. It wasn't easy to tame a Gyarados, let alone train them to such an extent and she couldn't help but feel both awe and jealousy all at the same time. Perhaps a little bit of intimidation too. Just a little. She would not want to make an enemy out of him, that was for certain. Especially now, when his team had unintentionally given away a battle formation to her viewing pleasure. From the corners of her eyes, taking in their positioning and strategical placements, their proximity to Dante and each other, and how they chose to view the field. This had obviously been drilled into them, but it was a double-edged blade. They would have the upper hand on her should a battle break out, yes, but unfortunately for them, a battle hadn't broken out, and all that were left were ghosts. Dante had tipped his cards, and she'd gotten a little peek.

    Judging from their positioning alone, moving away from her team - their targets - instead of stepping closer, she could already tell that this formation relied on long-distance offense. To pick out their victims like snipers. She knew for a fact that both Alolan Ninetales and Houndoom have extraordinarily high Special Attack and Speed, which would allow them to fire powerful long-range attacks and move into new positions quickly - and for the case of his Ninetales, evade attacks quite easily with her exceptional speed - but she knew that they wouldn't dare move in closer, as quadrupedal Pokemon tend to struggle more with close combat - they'd only be able to bite and ram, optionally scratching, but they have little to no means of defending themselves from direct body blows outside of evading - and most of her current roster were bipedal, which gives them free limbs for defending. There was a reason why most Fighting type Pokemon were bipedal, after all. Now, as for the Ariados, she was not quite sure of its purpose. It is notoriously slower than Houndoom or Ninetales, and rather big as well, which would make it difficult to evade or reposition. At the same time, it also had a higher Attack than it did Special Attack, which would make it more advantageous for it to be closer to the fray than further. Perhaps the purpose was intervention? It did technically have String Shot and Spider Web, after all. And of course there was Syl, who had positioned herself on the life guard's tower. Sylveon had quite an arsenal of healing and support moves - she'd seen it firsthand courtesy of Dr. Aidinia Moon - but also extraordinarily high Special Attack for long-ranged blasts.


    She shifted her eyes back to Dante now, the trainer himself, and her respect for him only continued to escalate higher. She smiled, pulling the edges of her mouth into an upwards curve, and then she relaxed herself further, tilting her head slightly to one side, and at the same time she sorted through her archive, playing back the things she'd heard while her eyes flitted around the poolside. "I'm always proud of him." He'd said, and it had been what stood out to her the most. In part, because his voice had been so sincere, heartfelt and warm, and there were just... So few trainers - elite ones - who ever remembered to say that anymore. She realized how endearing it was. How... Scarce. "You should be." She responded in turn, pulling her smile just a fraction wider against her thinking, calculating eyes. Always calculating. But she can also be sincere at the same time. That was simply how her mind worked. The calculations, the ideas and numbers and facts and theories needed to keep running in the code that was her thoughts. They needed to keep running to keep the monsters locked up and hidden away. Her brows furrowed slightly, and her smile wavered.

    But somehow, Cassandra managed to pull her hand back in time with Gary's withdrawal despite the far away look in her eyes, thinking ahead to far off places. She registered the pleading mewls only later, looking in time to see the great serpent turn his head. And that was when she saw it; the shimmer of something metallic amongst his fin. An accessory. A metal earring. Her eyes widened just a fraction more, eyebrow quirking up with interest. What could that be? This man, this deliciously mysterious, intriguing man just seems to become more mysterious, and more intriguing by the minute and it is eating her away inside that she could not place a name to his face. She realized that she had been losing her edge for a while now - traveling with Salem had been an adventure all on its own, but she feared that she was growing too soft, too relaxed with him - but she hadn't realized it'd been this bad. It was exhilarating and frustrating, thrilling and maddening, magnificent yet oh so sickening at the same time. And the funny thing was,

    She liked it.

    "I have to admit that your teams reaction - and yours, of course - makes it clear just how capable you are. Perhaps you would be willing to show me what you can do one of these days?" Intrigue. She could hear it in his voice too. Her eyes flickered towards him, and before she knew it, a soft smirk pulled at her lips, and her eyebrow raised in interest, curiosity, and thumped against her chest, picturing a battle between the two of them... It would be glorious. And truly, there was no other way to know someone than to face them off in a test of skill and strength, no? "It isn't every day that I meet a woman as...intriguing as you. It would be criminal for me to miss such an opportunity, would it not?" Cassandra folded her arms over her chest, shifting so that she may fully face him, and then tipping her head slightly to one side - spilling the curtain of her dark hair over one shoulder - and chuckling softly. "Oh I know. And it certainly would be." She flashed him a grin - a glimpse of her pearly whites - one that was cheeky and teasing. She liked the way he chose his words. It was humble, and it suited his persona very well. But at the same time, she knew there was more underneath. More that she wanted - no, needed - to uncover. "Technically I am supposed to be on vacation from such things, but... Perhaps I could be persuaded." She knew what he was implying - what he meant to say - and it was not difficult to work out that they were on the same page. They needed more time together. To pick apart each other's pieces and arrange them into a coherent image and surely proceeding where they currently were - in a semi-private pool out in the open with Dante in his drenched suit - was bad form. No, they needed to continue these pleasurable pleasantries somewhere more... Appropriate. And naturally, he too felt the same.

    She could see it in the way he sealed his lips tight - it was a subtle, barely noticeable strain - how his eyes burned to proceed, yet his mind did not allow. Restraining the words that he seemed to desperately want to get off his chest. His face remained collected and composed overall, but his body language was tense, anxious, it was different from the "natural" gesture she had seen before. There was something he wanted to say, a question he wanted to ask, perhaps, but she could hear the murmurs drifting into her ears, could feel the eyes focusing on the back of her head. She could not hear them, but the pointed tones carried over by the wind were enough for her to make a conclusion. Their welcome had been overstayed, and as painful as it was to cut their interaction so short, it was mandatory before someone decided to grace their attention on her - and not on the luxuriously dressed and drenched gentleman - actually recognized her. Besides, there would be another time, and another place. She would see to it. But for now, this would have to be a brief farewell.

    She glanced to where the crowd had mostly been congregated, and then shifted her gaze back to Dante. She smirked slightly, and gave a subtle shrug, and then spun on her heel - and her hair swayed behind her - and bent down to pat Ajax on the head once more. The Blastoise looked up lazily, and she gave a curt nod in return. He simply gave a deep, rumbling snort that reverberated through his body, and then he proceeded to rotate on his axis and paddle back to the poolside. Finally, she turned back to Dante and hummed, "I hear they are showcasing a Kricketune orchestra in the dining hall tonight. I've actually never seen an orchestra of them before. I'm quite curious."

    She lifted an eyebrow then, inquisitively, "What about you? Any plans tonight?"
    #19 PentheWonderful, Sep 29, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  20. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Pool
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Perhaps Dante should have been more worried. Not about his Pokemon and their current positions - they'd picked their spots well, adopting a long-range crossfire formation to utilise the difficult terrain; Cassandra's team was huddled together in one easily accessible pod, and should it have come to a battle, a good half of her team would have been wiped out in the first twenty seconds as they scrambled to secure a more defensible location. He had no doubt that Cassandra could turn it around somehow, but she'd be starting off with a handicap that was hard to recover from, especially give the long range specialisation of his current team, and the more immediate threat that Gary provided - or even that they might have things escalate into more violence. After all, they were well drilled enough to know not to attack unless either Dante gave the order, or if he was in sufficient danger to warrant a preemptive strike. No, he wasn't concerned about his Pokemon or the possibility of a battle which, given their respective teams obvious discipline, was unlikely. He was more thinking about Cassandra herself. She was obviously a highly skilled, highly experienced trainer who was - even as they chatted idly about how impressive Gary was, much to Gary's obvious secret pleasure - currently eyeing the positioning critically.

    She wasn't being overly subtle about it. Oh sure, she was trying to disguise it at least a little to appear polite, but somebody like Dante, who was used to doing the exact same thing in similar circumstances? It was obvious what she was doing. She was studying his Pokemons reactions, their chosen locations and probably squirreling away any details she could about his teams composition. He didn't take offence, of course - any trainer worth their salt would do the same, and he would have been disappointed had she not taken the chance to do so - but nor did he really feel much of a threat. She probably thought that she'd gotten a decent sneak peek at his tactics, especially given the satisfied glimmer in her eyes...but that was not something that Dante was worried about. His team had chosen this formation because it was convenient, easy to set up and very easy to exploit given the current position of her own team, but it was hardly a formation that could be readily applied in battle. True, he couldn't use it against her now that she'd seen it, but that wasn't the biggest loss in the world. His team was drilled on a myriad of formations and team tactics, and - obviously - this one was somewhat rare in its usage. After all, how often did two trainers get into a six on six free for all? The most that would happen was a three on three, perhaps, and even then....Dante had other, more efficient strategies than the Crossfire Six.

    What he was more grateful for was that she was too busy looking at the formation to properly pay attention to Gary; though his Gyaradosite was well hidden when he turned his head, had her hand drifted in the wrong direction on the wrong fin, she might well have found it...and then, there his trump card would go. He tried not to let on that he had that thing - he preferred it to be a surprise tactic he could pull out when he needed to, and use the moment of surprise to his advantage - and he was much more uncomfortable with the prospect of a possible opponent and rival discovering that than the viewing of one of his dozens of battle formations. If he was honest, he'd probably take an entirely different team in to face Cassandra if he had his way; he wanted a mixture of long range and close range fighters, and whilst Ariel would do perfectly fine as an Interceptor and First Responder, her current team seemed to have a good amount of hard physical hitters, and he'd need his own answers to those members if he was to stand a chance against her. Agility and speed was fine, but if her Lucario got a good hit or two off on the wrong member of his team, he could end up losing ground to her very quickly. And he had a feeling that in order to beat her...he'd have to dominate the field very early on. Or at least come up with a clever plan to make her believe that she was winning, before turning around to spring a trap of some kind. But the latter would be risky...and fun.

    Of course, her answer to his non-question was also very much a non-answer. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but he should have known better than to anticipate a direct "yes" from such an obviously mischievous, teasing creature. She obviously drew no small amount of satisfaction from giving people the run around - a habit that he could respect for its tactical ability to keep people off balance, even if he could imagine it being more than a little maddening - and of course, even if she thought he was similarly intriguing...she'd never say it out loud. He thought for a moment - fancied, if you would - that he could see a shimmer of interest and amused intrigue in her eyes as she looked at him, but it was gone after a moment - either hidden behind carefully cultivated control, or having been entirely imagined - leaving him to wonder if he'd even seen it. But he must have, mustn't he? Her smile wasn't put upon or false in any way that he could see. A woman such as her would never outright state that she was interested, obviously - too much disadvantage to be gained there - but she would also not make a secret of her disinterest if it was so felt. Truly, he imagined that the surest way to tell if she was interested was to listen and detect if she was brushing off his cautious advances...which she didn't seem to be doing at all.

    In fact, if her body language and the smile - genuine and cheeky, rather than patronising and pitying - were to be believed...could she actively be welcoming his attentions? It was a sudden, hopeful, uncharacteristically optimistic thought...but it was one that he could not bring himself to dispel. She was the finest, most obviously capable, intelligent and charming woman he had met in a very, very long time, and the notion that she might well consider him in a similar light? Well, if he was a slightly less jaded individual, he might even be giggling to himself like a teenage girl at the thought. But, he wasn't, and he wasn't. So he simply allowed himself a small, dry smile. "It's good to see that modesty is alive and well in today's world. Too many people are far too certain about their own superiority." It might have been sarcasm, but....it was well meaning sarcasm. If she could tease him and his compliments, then he could most certainly offer a jab or two at her affected bravado. It was a game, he imagined, to see if he could match wits with her. And though he didn't usually care to try to engage in such social pissing contests, he found that with her...they took on a unique allure. Normally he would consider himself above such trivial verbal fencing. But not today, perhaps.

    Alas, their time seemed to be coming to an end. The Blastoise beneath his feet - Ajax, he believed she called him - began to paddle them towards the edge of the pool, and for the first time, he actually seemed to register the slowly growing crowd looking at the rather eclectic and dangerous looking collection of Pokemon...most of the children were busy watching Syl and the two Ninetails and the Roserade, but most of the adults were casting fearful gazes up at Gary's terrifying maw, and he realised belatedly that perhaps this hadn't been the best place to show off. It was just so easy to get caught up in her company, it seemed, to the point that though he'd noticed the gathering people...he'd not actually given them much of a thought until that moment. Foolish, perhaps, but...logically speaking, who would attack such a large collection of powerful Pokemon in broad daylight? Hell, even Team Rocket wasn't that brazen. They tended to prefer targeting weaker or vulnerable trainers or installations for their scores. After all...highly trained Pokemon were unlikely to listen to anybody but their recognised Masters, and there was a good chance that even half of their teams would be able to handle anything that was thrown at them. Still...he should have been paying more attention. He made a mental note - not that he expected it to make much difference - to try and pay more attention to his surroundings the next time he was with her. And even though she hadn't actually answered...he found himself sincerely hoping that there was.

    Of course...he soon got his wish. He watched her carefully as she turned back towards him, regarding him with nigh on unreadable eyes...for most people. But for some odd reason...he got the impression that somehow, impossibly, he knew her. He saw something in those gorgeous silver eyes of hers that sparked that feeling of recognition that was bothering him so damn much. He had to work out who she was, damnit, and soon before the feeling of missing something right before his eyes became too much and he had to claw his brain out with a spoon to stop the incessant itch. But there was something else there that made his heart leap. Was that...a glimmer of hope? She was returning the question back towards him, offering a venue for a meeting. That was the only reason he could imagine that she would give him the location of her evening plans, and as they reached the edge of the pool, he seized upon it immediately.
    "I find myself, as it so happens, forced to visit the dining room myself tonight, much against my wishes." He paused, turning to return his team to their balls, the closest of them disappearing in beams of red light, leaving just Jason and Syl left out. Each of them began to round the pool towards them. In the meantime, he stepped off of the Blastoise elegantly, managing to keep his poise and balance even as the foor beneath him failed to bob slightly under his weight.

    He turned, offering her a supporting hand off of the shell. He expected that she didn't need it, but...it was more the symbolism involved than anything else. Besides...he found within himself a sudden urge to feel her against his fingers again. It was odd...but not something he found he had the strength to resist. She took his hand, her fingers closing lightly around his palm, and although he'd found it a little weird at the time...he was suddenly grateful that her gloves were quite so thick as they were. If they hadn't been, then the small tingles that crept along his arm from the contact would probably have been an explosion of pins and needles that would have rendered his arm entirely unusable. He helped her down, allowing her to gain her balance, but try as he might...he couldn't let her hand drop, so it stayed balanced on his between them as he continued.
    "I had expected it to be a rather dull affair filled mostly with solitary business...but if you are planning to attend, then perhaps it could turn out to be an enjoyable night after all." Honestly, he'd heard Krikitune Orchestra's before. Whilst nothing magnficently groundbreaking in their own right, he had to admit that the good ones were very, very good. Alas, the bad ones were...awful, to say the least. Still, even if they were monstrously bad enough to classify as a War Crime, he could not imagine anything injecting a sour note into an evening in such intriguing company.

    "I shall be there at eight," he said as Syl and Jason padded up beside them. "If you decide to attend, it would be a pleasure to welcome you to my table." And with that, he took a small step backwards - causing her arm, which he still had gentle hold of - to extend towards him. The crowd was beginning to become a little larger, and it was only a matter of time before the ladies he had been avoiding in the first place came to investigate what the fuss was all about, and he wanted to be long gone when they were. "In any case, I believe it time to take my leave before I am cornered once again by the tireless hunters that stalk the halls. I hope to see you tonight." And with that, he offered her a low bow, his second hand coming up to rest on her lower wrist as he pressed a chaste, formal kiss to the back of her hand. He would have preferred it if she'd not been wearing the gloves in the first place so that he could actually feel her skin beneath his lips...but he supposed that she must have a reason for wearing them, and he was not about to be so presumptuous as to slip them off. He straightened slowly, moving as if to let go of her hand...when somehow - and he wasn't sure how - her arm slipped forwards. Or maybe he slipped forwards. Or maybe they both did, but in the end, the result was the same.

    As he was relinquishing his grasp of her hand, his other hand - which had moved to rest on the top of her wrist, just before where her gloves ended - slipped, and ended up trailing upwards, fingers and palm sliding along bare, warm, soft flesh. It dragged up her arm towards her elbow as he stepped away, and though the contact lasted only a few moments before his body carried him away, it still sent a shockwave of energy - similar to earlier, when his fingers had grazed her face - throughout his body. He sucked in a sharp breath through his nose as every hair on his arm - thankfully covered by his suit - stood on end. The energy cut through his mind and made him pause for a moment, his eyes locked on hers...before he managed to regain his composure - barely - enough to speak. He wasn't sure he could trust his voice, with how much his head was spinning and how much his heart was pounding...her skin was so soft and warm, and the way that her waves of black hair fell across her face as she stared at him, silver eyes wide and curious...so intriguing and intrigued...the notion that this beautiful, capable woman might actually be feeling the same things he was...he shook himself. He had to at least try not to gush over her too much.
    "...it was a pleasure..." he managed to murmur, the surprise evident in his voice. He steeled himself, steadying his balance as he gave her a gracious inclination of his head before he took another small step backwards before he turned and walked away, taking his jacket from Jasons jaws before returning him and Syl to their balls as he went. He had a dinner to prepare for...and a cold shower to take.

    He managed to slip through the hallways without much trouble - though the fact that people were still flocking to the pool to see what was going on helped him, since nobody looked at him twice in their excitement - and managed to retreat to his room without running into the three women who seemed intent on entrapping him somehow before the cruise was over. His initial plan had been to remain in his room until he had to emerge for official business, getting it done and slinking away again...but with a woman like Cassandra on board...well, he knew he could no longer do that. He wanted to get to know her better, he wanted to figure out if this connection he felt with her was genuine and reciprocated and - above all else - he needed to figure out why she felt quite so familiar to him. He needed to work out where he'd seen her before, or where he thought he'd met her before...and as was always the case when he met a capable individual...he needed to test his skills against her. No other arena would tell him more about her or who she was than the battle arena, and maybe she would be as impressed with him as he was with her. He knew how that sounded, and the fact that she had a "Complicated" relationship with another man gave him pause...but it didn't stop him needing to know more about her.

    She was the most captivating woman he'd met in a very, very long time, and he was not about to let his uncertainties contribute to her getting away from him without at least an attempt to get to know her. No way in hell. So, as was perhaps to be expected, he spent the next several hours in his room attempting to get his head straight in preparation for their implied dinner later that day. She'd not actually said yes, true, but she was the one who'd made the invitation to the dining room, so...he could only assume that she intended to show up. He was going to be there regardless - he had a job to do, after all, ensuring that the facilities were up to scratch - so it wouldn't be too much of a hassle to get a little bit more dressed up in order to make a good second impression. He wasn't sure if his first impression was all that brilliant, but...he could hope, couldn't he? He spent longer than he'd like to admit agonising on how to present himself, but in actuality, the decision was really very simple; should he wear his normal casual wear, a basic suit and tie, or go for something more special? More unique? He'd packed one of his favoured "Wow Factor" suits in case he needed it, but the question was...should he wear it for her? Or would she think that he was trying too hard to impress her?

    In the end, he decided to go for it. It was better to be overdressed than underdressed, after all, and if she was intending to go to the dining room for the performance, then the obvious assumption was that she would be at least dressing in a somewhat formal manner. More formal than her swimsuit, at any rate, which meant that if he showed up in the same sort of suit that she'd met him in...well, he'd be giving up a chance to show her that no matter how well suited and booted he'd been beforehand, he could always do better. So it was that, only twenty minutes before he was due to sample the Dining Rooms catering facilities, he was standing before his full length mirror taking in his general appearance before the "Big night," as it were. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous - it was only dinner, after all, and she might not even show up; there were a million and one reasons she might decide that he wasn't worth her time, after all, and it took all of his willpower to stop himself from listing them in his head. Instead, he focused on straightening up his suit; he'd brought - knowing that this was an official visit from him as a representative of his parents, not a holiday - his most expensive suit in case he had to impress anybody important. As somebody who wore suits very regularly, he of course had to vary the style up a little bit and this particular one was a sleek black affair in the Eastern high-collar style, adorned with very little in the way of embellishment save for the stylised black Rayquaza along the left pectoral and upper stomach area.

    It was simple, perhaps, but there was a kind of refined elegance in simplicity. This kind of suit - specifically tailored to fit him like a glove, tight and loose in all of the right areas - was designed to carry with it a kind of authority and importance that was not helped by needless frills and empty flair. It was made of high quality materials, it was finely tailored and it suited his matching black trousers and elegant, minimalistic black shoes rather well. Alongside that, beneath the jacket itself was a matching simple black and gold-designed shirt that wouldn't draw attention with too much contrast should the buttons of his jacket come undone. He wasn't some pompous rich teenager who thought that opulent wealth made him look cool and trendy. He was a fully grown man, and he knew what suited him and what didn't. And quite frankly...he wanted Cassandra to see him at his best. He did have to pause for a moment, however; even with his Pokeballs stowed on his belt - disguised at the rear of the ensemble, shrunk down to their minimal size - and the suit and his hair all nicely arranged, something was...missing. If he was going to make himself presentable and formal and dress to the nines to impress this woman...he should go the whole hog. And a suit like this was just...incomplete without some kind of subtle accessory to give it a bit of life and individuality.

    He eyed the bedside cabinet for a moment, before relenting and pulling open the drawer to reveal a small black box hidden away next to some relatively important paperwork, his ticket for the cruise and his international identification. He stowed the latter into his breast pocket - just in case - next to his Trainer Card and Pokegear, then cradled the box in his hand, opening it gently. Inside was a small silver lapel pin in the shape of a crown and curling tendrils, obviously old and a little weathered, but blatantly well cared for and recently shined. It was a remnant of a time long passed, back before he'd even started his journey as a Pokemon Trainer, given to him by somebody really rather special to him. More his sisters friend than his, but...one of the few people he actually genuinely liked back then, and the only person he knew from before that he actually missed. He tried to keep it safe and out of danger, but...if he was dressing to impress...he could think of no better option than this little accessory. It was personal, it was delicate and elegant...and it went very well with the outfit, sitting nestled on the right hand side of his collar, just inside the buttons. Now that that was in place...there was only one more thing to equip himself with, and that was his insurance policy.

    See, he tended to keep a GPS tracker on himself at all times - given the nature of the world, he wanted to be able to get a signal out if something were to happen to him; he'd been stranded in the middle of nowhere before, and a tracker really came in handy when people started to wonder why he was three days late to the dinner he'd agreed to the previous week - and though the one he'd been wearing in the pool earlier had ended up shorting out after so many dips in the water, he always tended to keep a second one on him. This one, hopefully, would prove to be a little more resilient. The last thing he wanted was to go overboard, and have his only way of being found to be short-circuited by some freak tsunami or something. So, he slotted the tracker - disguised in a simple black-gemmed stud earring in his left ear - into place, smoothed out his jacket...and took a deep breath. Time to stop procrastinating. With one final look in the mirror, he turned on his heel and strode out of his room with a confidence that he only hoped he could fake, if not actually feel, if and when he saw Cassandra later than evening.

    Thankfully, the journey to the Dining Room was entirely uneventful - though he did have to make a detour or two when he spotted a large group of individuals down the hallway that could have been disguising those three worryingly determined women from earlier - and he managed to get there in rather good time, all things considered. The host recognised him on sight - he imagined they'd all been briefed about one of the major shareholders son being on board to inspect their facilities - and ushered him inside. They first attempted to give him a center-floor table, but...considering his eventual guest and the fact that he did not want to be on display for everybody to see while he ate, he politely declined and instead selected a small table by the side of the floor. It still had an excellent view of the orchestra stage - the entertainment for the night only just taking up position now - but was out of the way enough to offer some small amount of privacy, whilst also being situated close enough to the large screen windows to get a gorgeous view of the setting sun over the rippling blue horizon. He gazed at it for a moment, nodded, and slowly took a seat. Just as the host was about to leave, however, he turned towards her, gesturing to get her attention.

    The Host - a pretty blonde girl, about a year younger than him and with an admittedly radiant smile - paused hesitantly, as if worried that he would find something to criticise already. Honestly, what had her supervisor told her about him? He gave her a small smile in an attempt to at least reassure her of his lack of cruel intentions.
    "Miss....Maddison," he began, glancing at her nametag. "I am expecting some company tonight. If you happen to see a raven-haired woman, perhaps a year or so younger than me, with brilliant silver eyes-" He thought for a moment, "- and perhaps a pair of gauntlet gloves covering her hands by the name of Cassandra, would you kindly escort her to join me please?" If she wore those things in the swimming pool, it was a fair bet she'd wear them elsewhere, too. It was a gamble, but...from what he'd seen, it was a reasonable one. The Host paused for a moment, surprised, then gave a small nod.
    "That...shouldn't be a problem, Sir," she nodded. "Shall I retrieve a menu for your date as well?"
    Dante gave a wry half-smile despite himself. "She isn't my date," he clarified...though he couldn't help but add a mental unfortunately to the end of that sentence.

    To his chagrin, Maddison gave him a slightly disbelieving look, obviously taking in his dressed up appearance. Well...she might not be his date, but he still wanted to impress her.
    "Just a friend. But yes, please. If you would be so kind."
    "Very good, sir," she said, giving a small bow and another slightly disbelieving look. Well...let her believe whatever she would. She slid the menu into place opposite him and stepped away, beating a hasty but dignified retreat as he flicked open his copy of the menu to take a look at the options. There was a little bit of everything, of course, but the main focus appeared to be various variations of seafoods and popular cruise dishes. Nothing especially adventurous, but all of it sounded delicious and really rather expensive in taste. Not surprising, given the high class nature of the cruise ship, but considering that he'd been fed posh, high class food for the last week in preparation for this journey...he could already tell that the first thing he was going to order upon setting foot on land was going to be the greasiest, most unhealthy, most decidedly un-posh dish he could find within a five mile radius. And it was going to be glorious. For now, however, he simply flicked through the menu and tried to ignore the sudden anxious churning of his stomach. If she didn't decide to come...he was going to look very, very silly indeed.
  21. "I find myself, as it so happens, forced to visit the dining room myself tonight, much against my wishes."

    An eyebrow arched, a soft chuckle leaving her lips. There was something about him. That special brand of humor and wit he possessed that was just unlike any other she'd ever known. The conversations she held with him too were unlike anything she's ever had before. He was... Unique. A rare find. She would know, of course, she's seen her fair share of men from all walks of life during her journeys. And him, well, she was quite certain she had never met anyone like him before. Thus, it drove her all the more mad at just how... Familiar he was at the same time. Salem had also been different and unlike anyone she'd ever met before, but then, he had been raised in a completely different world - as it were - and even then, Dante was completely different from Salem. They were two polar opposites and it still astounded her just how... Different they were, yet, no less interesting than the other, and she had been quite interested in Salem at the time indeed. If she was intrigued before, then she was completely invested now. After all, she had just arranged to meet with him again that night, albeit quite indirectly, and just as expected, he caught on to her intentions just as fast, without missing a single beat even. With a slight tilt of her head, her smile pulled into a subtle grin, and then a soft chuckle, watching him swiftly - with great control and precision - return all but two members of his team; the Sylveon and Houndoom.

    Afterwards, he stepped off of Ajax, and she was captivated by the way he moved. The elegance in his control, his seamless motion and infinite poise. It was almost as if he were hovering. But as someone who watched for every detail, she knew better. The smoothness and control ones' body possessed is greatly attributed to powerful, well-trained muscles laying underneath. Those strong, fibrous strands that regulated each movement so finely, moving clockwork efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time, he held authority in his steps, each move that he took. A purpose. It was unlike simple, flowing water, it was more akin to controlled, precise jets. It proved to her just how... Formidable he was, and how dangerous he could be, and that simply intrigued her more. He offered his hand to her, and she placed her's delicately in his and was surprised to find how... Comfortable, it felt. How... Warm, his hand was, even through the thickness of her glove. She could imagine it against her palm, and how well it fit there, allowing the warmth to properly creep up her arms and fill her chest. That too, was dangerous. She followed after his lead, stepping off of Ajax with lighter steps and ladylike poise - a feat easily accomplished by those years she spent learning ballet and proper posture - after all, if he were to be a proper gentleman, then it was only fair she behaved like a proper lady, no?

    Of course, by that time, her Pokemon had congregated around them, joining Syl and Jason with Nine swiftly moving to her side, her bath robe in his maw and looking much more relaxed than when Tails in the vicinity. With a swift pat to the belt dangling around her hips - where her pokeballs sat on display - she too returned all but Nine, from whom she took the bath robe gratefully and brushed the back of her hand against his cheek to show her affection to. And it was then that she realized... He too had not been looking forward to breaking the contact between them. "I had expected it to be a rather dull affair filled mostly with solitary business...but if you are planning to attend, then perhaps it could turn out to be an enjoyable night after all." A soft hum and a smirk became her only responses, a glimmer of mischief and intrigue flashing through her eyes as he took a step back. "In any case, I believe it time to take my leave before I am cornered once again by the tireless hunters that stalk the halls. I hope to see you tonight."

    And then, in a gesture she least expected, he bowed deeply, earning a surprised look even from Nine as his eyes widened and his ears perked. Dante clasped her hand in both of his now, bringing it up to his lips and pressing a gentle kiss against it. At this... She was caught off-guard when her heart fluttered in her chest, when her pupils dilated, and at once, she felt like a little girl again, discovering the wonders of the opposite sex all over again. But that had not been the end of it. No, for as he pulled away, there was... A slip - that was the only way to describe it - as his other hand lost traction against her glove when her hand was released, and the momentum carried him forward, his large, rough palm gliding across her arm, and all at once her nerves exploded with heat and frost at the same time. The friction of his hand shot shivers up and down her body as it dragged across her skin, the contact eliciting infernos that filled her chest and set her heart ablaze as it hammered away in her chest. And for that moment... Her mind went completely blank.

    In that brief, fleeting moment that seemed to last an eternity, those sensations burst inside of her, leaving her muscles weak and her mind wondering just what had happened exactly. Her voice was silent, yet at the same time, she could feel it trembling. She was oh so excited and elated, yet... Terrified, at the same time. She had only just met him, she had only just known of his existence a few minutes ago, and yet, here she was, moon-eyed and helpless already. Had she really become so soft? Even after everything she'd been through? Well, she supposed she could only blame Salem for that. He was the one who taught her to connect with her emotions again, after all, if only a little bit more. But... Right now, none of that mattered. What mattered was what she saw in front of her; those big, blue, vibrant eyes, sharp and intense, yet, oh so lively at the same time. Like a raging fire.

    She nearly forgot to breathe.

    "...it was a pleasure..." He murmured, and she could not agree more. But then she remembered that he did not have telepathy, and therefore could not read her mind and she needed to express herself verbally in order to further their soon to be concluding interaction.

    "The pleasure is mine." She said, and tried her best not to sound too breathless. After that, he straightened himself, turned sharply on his heel, and walked away. And that was when reality hit her a bit too hard, and she was knee-deep in self-loathing before she could do anything about it. Ugh, she was such an idiot! The first proper, intelligent, witty, and skilled elite to approach her on the cruise and she was already head over heels and starstruck! Oh, how far she'd fallen. She must have looked like a complete idiot gawking at him like that, or worse, seeming completely incompetent and inexperienced, and that his interest was misplaced. And to think she used to play this game so well, she used to be at the very top of it all. And now... It was apparent that she was but a ghost of her former self, a hollow shell. But the part that hit her most about it was... How much the realization- no, reminder, hurt. She'd thought that she had come to terms with that long ago - that she was not and will never be the person she was before - and that she didn't care, and that she was okay with the way she was, and she would thrive with the way she was, but... There was new pain in knowing she was no longer at her best, that she'd already reached her peak, and realizing that... This man, that Dante, was far out of her league. And it... Scared her, to think of how he would react or think of her when he realized that too.

    But at the same time, it also raised the question of... Just why she cared so much. Why it mattered so much to her, but, really... She knew the answer to that. She was simply too afraid to acknowledge it, and her pride, which constantly told her that she was better off alone, that things were easier alone and that all she needed were her team, would not allow her to acknowledge it. But the truth was, it felt as if she'd finally found an equal. Someone who would be able to keep up with her and not slow her down, someone who would constantly keep her on her toes and push her to be the absolute best in the way she wanted to be. But also... Someone who would be able to understand her struggles, her hardships and troubles. Who would... Understand her darkness, and how it felt, and perhaps make her feel not quite so alone in that regard. And that was why... That was why she was shamelessly refusing to let him slip through her fingers.

    With a new gleam in her eyes, a new fire, she gazed ahead, to the sky and where it was. It was quite far past noon now, judging from its position alone, and it was at that same time she noticed Nine's gaze on her, concerned, but, curious. In return, she smirked at him, smugly and reassuringly, quirking a playful eyebrow as if to ask, "what's with that look?" before she proceeded to wring the water from her hair and give it a small toss. And then, she slipped simply slipped into her bath robe and tied it shut. And then, she simply turned on her heel, followed in perfect sync by Nine as he circled around to remain on her right - tails swaying elegantly in his motion - and proceeded walk away; hips swaying with each step forward, until she eventually disappeared through the exit.

    After all, she had dinner plans that night, and plenty of preparation ahead of her. Including waking Ryu from his hypnosis induced slumber.

    The trip to her room had been rather uneventful, discounting the stares of admiration Nine received on their way. It was a good kind of attention; it validated the work she'd put into training, raising, caring, and grooming her confidant, and truly his diet and care did not lie. His posture was excellent - head held high and chest pushed outwards, puffing proudly - his milk white coat - not quite golden yet due to his young age - was shiny and clean, his tails luxurious and his mane thick. Of course, his care had not been for her discretion alone, she was well aware that he secretly loved the attention, and it did wonders for his motivation and morale. She upheld the philosophy that looking good made you feel good - and said philosophy worked extraordinarily well for Pokemon such as Ace, Jade, and Lady - and it allowed her to show her Pokemon how dedicated she was to them, their care, their health and happiness. It was a great bonding exercise, and really, a labor of love altogether.

    That being said, she invested just as much attention and effort to care and groom herself - recently, at least. After her... Depression, had passed - because honestly, she did not believe in the whole "looks don't matter" bullshit, because it obviously did. No matter what, people are going to judge you by how you look, and how you present yourself. Especially during first meetings. People have the habit of filling in things they do not know with things they do know, and how people know you - those crucial first impressions - are through how you look - how well you dress, how well you groom yourself, how well you take care of yourself - and how well you communicate. After all, looks and speech are an expression of who you are, no? Hence, the first thing she did as soon as she reached her room as step in the shower, rinse the chlorine out of her hair and skin and quickly followed by her beauty regimes; face masks, scrubs, and hair care. She did this at the same time she brushed Nine's fur and snapped Ryu out of his slumber, pried him off of Nine when he sought vengeance for being knocked out, and brushed him too. After her facial and hair masks were done, she went back in the shower to rinse them clean, and that was promptly followed by an hour or two of hair drying and styling, and another hour for makeup and ensemble picking, which Ryu and Nine were involuntarily dragged into until she realized how useless the two were, and consulted instead with her girls. She'd brought quite a few dresses in addition to her "daily" wear for the various events scheduled on the cruise, and luckily a dinner for two had been one of the things she'd prepared for.

    At the end of their lengthy deliberation, they reached a unanimous decision of a simple, sleek, form-hugging black dress that flowed to the floor and a long slit that gave a cheeky peek of her leg. It was simple, without any embroidery or decoration, but that was exactly why she liked it so much. It was effective, it was flattering, and it was comfortable; covering just enough to entice one's imagination while showing just enough to leave them wanting more. It felt good to wear it, and it felt good to see herself in it. She hadn't dressed up to such an extent in a long, long time. Hence... She decided to use a different kind of glove that night. A pair of elegant, black accessory gloves that are much lighter compared to her usual gauntlet ones. She... Wanted to be able to feel things better, as embarrassing as it sounded. Before she slipped them on, however, she recorded a message to send to Salem, asking how he and her boys were doing in Sinnoh. He did not have a phone, so the least she could expect was that he would receive her message the next time he visited a Pokemon Center and booted up a PC.

    The gloves, much like the dress, had been tailor made just for her, and she'd gotten it shortly after she was back on her feet. It had been for a live interview. She smiled sullenly, but quickly shook the thoughts away. No, tonight, she was going to be happy. So instead, she busied herself with grooming and accessorising her two boys, who would be escorting her to dinner, slipping a sleek suit coat onto Ryu - leaving the buttons below the horn protruding from his chest open - and tied a dapper bow tie around Nine's neck. "C'est magnifique!" She chimed happily, clasping her hands in front of her at the sight of her two boys. She knew Jade must be fuming about not being taken to debut at that night's dinner, but if the situation allowed, she would get her opportunity.

    Nine raised his head proudly and wagged his tail, while Ryu adjusted the sleeves of his jacket and continued to straighten the wrinkles and folds in between. Cassandra petted the both of them lovingly on the head. And then... She turned back to herself, and how she looked. Her ensemble was to her liking - with a thin, delicate belt around her hips to clip her minimised Pokeballs, acting as wonderful accents to her simple dress - and her makeup was natural, but she took great lengths to ensure it was flawless; with light blue and silver tinges in her eyeshadow to highlight her eye color and every strand of hair styled to perfection and allowed loose, flowing down her back. But... There was still something missing.

    Her hand reached into her hair. She knew that she still needed a piece - that extra wow factor - to tie it all together, but... In all honesty, she still had very little in terms of worldly possessions. She had a nice, spacious home and various travelling gear and supplies, yes, but... None of those extras to wear to impress. She'd already sold most of them just so she could feed herself for a couple of months, and the others she'd given up to pay for a debt she did not owe. All except...

    Her eyes drifted towards the vanity, where she'd organised her beauty supplies and "accessories". She stepped forward and pulled the drawer absently, observing the small roll of cloth that was placed inside of it. With one hand, she gently uncurled it, revealing its contents; a single, delicate and intricate hair pin crafted from silver, with a brilliant, luminescent moonstone embedded in its center. It was one of the few things she simply could not let go, one of the few things she actively fought to keep. After all, it was a remnant of her past, from someone very dear to her, and it meant far too much to her to be able to part with it. Especially considering... She might never meet that person again.

    And so, she swept one side of her hair back, pouring her dark locks over one shoulder, and pinned it back with the delicate accessory. It felt... Good to have it there. Granted, there were not many opportunities for her to adorn it, especially given her current focus on conquering the Kalos League. But for tonight, she would wear it, and she would enjoy herself. Smiling softly at her reflection, she picked up the delicate white purse that contained her essential documents; trainer card, cruise ticket, gold card, international identification as well as some money, just in case. And with that... She was ready, with a few minutes to spare.


    The journey towards the dining room was relatively uneventful, with Ryu and Nine successfully scaring away and intimidating unwelcome company or interaction along the way. It felt good to have them by her side again, it always did. They made her feel confident, strong and large, like she could do anything. She hadn't felt that good in a long, long time. And when she finally reached the doors of the dining room, she could already hear the sounds of Kricketune softly serenading as they warmed up. She was just in time it seemed, and she did enjoy being on time.

    She could feel a pair of eyes watching her, and as she passed in front of the receptionists desk, she discovered just who it was that singled her out. A young woman, with soft blond curls and bright blue eyes, stopped her gently in her tracks. She couldn't possibly be any older than she was, and not much taller either. "Excuse me, miss. Might you be Miss Cassandra?" She asked softly, and Cassie felt her eyebrow raise inquisitively.

    "Oui. Is something the matter?"
    She asked cautiously back, a caution that proved unnecessary as the host's face broke into a wide grin.

    "This way please, miss." She bowed her head, and then proceeded to lead her forward, past all the large round tables occupied by lavishly dressed people and Pokemon alike. And deep down, she was relieved. Sitting there, among all those beautiful people and Pokemon in the sea of extravagance and chatter, would not be her ideal choice of spending the evening, and luckily for her... Dante seemed to think the same. Across the room, where the smaller tables were placed by the large windows, she saw him. And that moment, it was as if time had stopped.

    Sitting there, on his own, away from the crowd as the moonlight shone down on him, was Dante. His posture was incredible - back straight and shoulders back - further accentuated by the simple, black, form-fitting suit he wore. Outside of the Rayquaza embroidery on one side of his shoulder and a tasteful pin on his collar, it clearly did not possess the same complexity or detail as the suit he wore before, but... That was what made it so effective. Without the exposed layers or varying colors, she could see his silhouette so much better, could trace each and every outline from beginning to end, and allowed her to appreciate his god-like build, his broad chest, narrow waist and built arms. The dark scheme of his attire made his blue eyes pop all the more, and from this angle, she truly got to appreciate his profile, the structure of his face.

    His thinking, almost brooding expression making him look so mature, so alluring. But what truly surprised her, was the stud earring that he wore. It was something that hit her completely from left field, took everything she found familiar in him and twisted it into something entirely new. Not many elite men ever had anything like piercings or tattoos on them - most of them had the balls of a Liligant and were too concerned about marring their "delicate" skin or feared the judgement of their parents too much - and to see it on Dante was... It was just mind-blowing, to say the least. It set him apart from all the other elite men she knew, from all the Richie Riches and well-mannered puppets, and it made him so much more. It made him seem so... Bad, so dangerous that it was almost ridiculous. Especially when she didn't think he could look more attractive.

    Well, she was wrong.

    In her brief moment of reverence, the host had moved ahead of her, reaching Dante first in order to announce her arrival, and she quickly snapped her head on straight again. She could feel both of Ryu and Nine's accusing eyes on her, but she paid them no heed. Instead, she continued forward, gliding elegantly down the rows of tables to her new acquaintance. Her dress trailed behind her lightly, fluttering gently with each step she took. She pulled a smile onto her face, and as Maddie stepped back and she was finally close enough to get a good look at him... She found that the smile was one of the most genuine she'd ever given. "Bonsoir, Monsieur."
  22. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Restaurant
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    Honestly, the menu was just about what he would expect; upper class, fancy food with a lot of flair, but barely any real substance. It was all intended to attract the eye and show off just how wealthy its patrons were rather than actually providing a filling, good-value meal. Oh, he had no doubt that the food being presented tasted good and was prepared to the highest standard possible - otherwise the wealthy patrons would be even more disappointed, since even the rich disliked poorly cooked food - but the problem was that the food on offer - a variety of seafood dishes with various fluffy garnishes - was light, with little to no actual density to it. It would disappear in an instant, and leave you feeling still rather peckish for more, if you had a half decent appetite on you. The portions, too, were not overly large from what he could tell, focusing more on looking pretty than actually being good value for money. Sure, he was successful enough and from a good enough family that even were he paying - which, frustratingly, he wasn't; he was the son of the lead investor, after all, there to investigate the conditions on the ship, so he wasn't paying a damn dime for anything...it was chafing, being so obviously favoured, but there was naught he could actually do about it - it likely wouldn't break the bank, but that wasn't the point.

    Just because he was wealthy didn't mean he wanted to throw lots of money around, overspending just because he could on things that didn't actually satisfy him. Why do you think he did his best to remain in the wilderness away from the trappings of society? He preferred the simplicity and freedom, quite honestly. But then, he supposed that was the benefit of the favouritism he hated so much; he wasn't being forced to overspend on a dish he didn't really want in the first place, was he? He was being given it for free rather than having to hand over an exorbitant amount of money for it, enjoying a dish that most people would never be able to afford in their life...without charge. And he wasn't entirely sure whether he should be relieved or annoyed; on the one hand, he wasn't being forced to pay for something that had been overcharged in the first place. On the other...he was being waited on hand and foot like he was somehow inherently better than everybody else just because his father was important, and given food that everybody else here had had to pay for in some way or another. How could that do anything but grind his gears together? If he was going to be treated like he was superior, then at least it should be because of something he'd done, right? He'd still hate it, but...it would be a little more tolerable. Or was that just too much to ask?

    He sighed heavily, setting down the menu and his bitter thoughts as best as he was able. He was presumably meeting a beautiful, intriguing woman here for dinner, and there he was fretting over the morality of being given things without cost. And he had to wonder...what would Cassandra think of the whole affair? She was obviously a woman who was used to the finer things - her entire demeanor screamed "Upper Class Education," much as he imagined his own did - but she was also so very different from the Lasses and Elites that he'd met on his journeys thus far. At the same time, both self assured and confident, but grounded in reality. Witty and intelligent, but not overbearingly so, or condescending in the slightest. So he had to wonder...would she understand his frustration? Would she empathise with the conflicting emotions and the vague sense of discomfort he felt, or would she be more likely to laugh as he agonised over an issue that she herself found easy to rationalise in her head? Would she validate, or scorn? Find it endearing...or amusing? And more importantly...which one would he prefer? Which one would impress her the most? Because he knew full well that was what he wanted; he wanted to make a good first impression. He wanted to leave her impressed with him.

    Towards what end, he had no idea...but he felt an aching need in his chest to have her like him. She was the first trainer - and woman - that he'd met who was worth knowing on this cruise, and he knew that if he screwed it up somehow, he'd never quite forgive himself for it. And that was assuming she decided to come at all; yes, she'd intimated that she'd do so, but then...she could always have been lying to escape fairly easily. After all, it was easier to lie and simply not show up than it was to say to somebodies face that you weren't interested. Or she could have changed her mind in the interim, and decided that she did not want to inflict an evening of his company on herself after all. He'd been known to miss signals and signs, after all, so what if she'd not been as interested as he was? What if she'd been watching him, doe eyed and fawning over her, with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement, and had opted to simply allow him to leave with his small level of dignity intact? The thought sent a small pang of anxiety through his chest. It was possible, of course...and the voices in his head that liked to remind him how imperfect he really was seemed to be in agreement that it was, in fact, more than possible; it was probably. It was then that a slight movement of black caught his eye on the edge of his vision, and upon turning his head automatically to investigate, he caught sight of her...and every single one of his doubts evaporated into thin air, as if they'd never existed.

    Walking towards him - following after a somewhat amused looking Maddison - was perhaps the most striking vision of beauty he'd seen in a very, very long time. Her long, gorgeously flowing black hair was left to fall about the very same slender, mischievously expressive face that had thrown him in the pool earlier on, one side - the side furthest from him, as she approached at an angle - held back presumably by some sort of pin, giving it a pleasingly asymmetrical, striking look. Her elegant black dress clung to her body, accentuating and exaggerating (not that she needed any exaggeration whatsoever, with how well shaped her body naturally was) the curves that had been suggested by her previous swimsuit, and allowed his roving eye a long, studious look at her long, slender leg as it used each step to slip out from beneath the slit in her dress, the black fabric doing wonders to compliment her smooth, elegant, brilliantly poised leg. Her hips sashayed from side to side as she walked, her body oozing confidence and competence, the fact that her body besides her hips were moving in a natural, balanced sway making absolutely clear that not only was she absurdly attractive...but she was controlled, precise and capable at the same time. Dante had always loved a confident woman, and watching her making her way towards him now, her two "main" pokemon - he would assume - flanking her left and right...well, it was obvious that she was a formidable individual indeed.

    Of course, as she approached, he was already moving. He slipped out of his chair as she came to a halt a short distance away, noting just how closely her Pokemon were watching both him and her. Protective, then. That was good; it meant that they actually cared about her, which in turn meant that she was just as good a trainer as he'd originally imagined. Any old trainer could get a bunch of strong Pokemon and show them off, sure...but only a great trainer could inspire the kind of loyalty that she was obviously receiving from them; he could only hope that his own Pokemon displayed the same kind of loyalty and affection towards him. He'd have had his own Pokemon out too, of course, but since he didn't know whether she was coming with hers out or not, he'd decided to wait, rather than to simply presume. After all, if you didn't have your Pokemon out as companions to the dinner and they came with their own out, you simply had to release them from their balls.

    If they arrived with none and you had companions out, then it looked really rather rude, having set up a scene for them to walk into and feel intimidated. Of course, the other side of him was forced to admit that he'd kept his back because he had been hoping that she'd do the same and that they'd have some quiet time, just the two of them...but he supposed that was an idealistic, naive hope. This wasn't a date, after all, as much as he knew he wanted it to be. This gorgeous, graceful, confident creature...she enraptured him, everything about her; The way she walked, the way she smiled, the way she said hello, everything about her just screamed at him to stop, stare and take notice...and it took every bit of willpower for him to not just gawp at her, slackjawed and stupid. Even so, however, he couldn't stop his eyes from roaming over her from head to toe, taking her and all of her majestic beauty in, knowing that she was likely watching him do so...but utterly unable to stop.

    Still...after a brief moment of weakness, he was able to shake himself free from his enraptured staring long enough to recover at least some of his wits. He smiled and cleared his throat, having the good grace to look vaguely embarrassed before he took a step forwards, extending his hand to take hers in a friendly gentle-but-firm grasp. He did, of course, make damn sure to keep his hands on her glove this time; he'd already embarrassed himself once already, and he was not about to allow himself to do so again in as many seconds. He gave her a genuine, sincere half-smile, the corners of his lips twitching upwards into a subtle, understated but no less sincere smile. "Cassandra. It's a pleasure to see you again," he said, bowing slightly. He was briefly surprised that she'd decided to don slightly thinner gloves this time around, though not exactly disappointed; he could feel the warmth of her hand beneath the fabric, and a sight tingle crept up his arm at the indirect contact. It almost made him flush. Almost. He only just managed to fight down the blush that crept up his neck from the innocent contact as it set his heart fluttering lightly. Her smile lit up the entire room, splitting her face from ear to ear, and in that moment he knew that he wanted to make her smile like that as much as possible. A naive, hopelessly romantic thought, yes...but it was genuine. So genuine, in fact, that it shocked him with just how much he actually genuinely wanted it.

    He suppressed a shiver, disguising his embarrassment with a quick kiss to the back of her gloved hand before he straightened. "And I must say, it's nice to be able to greet you without being soaking wet this time. Unless you intend to have your bodyguard-" He glanced wryly at her Lucario "- cast me into the sea from the window." He lifted an eyebrow wryly. "I didn't bring my own company because I feared I might be intruding, or attempting to impress. But since I believe your companions deserve some company as well, I think it would be appropriate." Reaching down to his belt - where he'd set them, as always - he tapped a pair of his Pokeballs, sending a thin red line shooting out to either side of him. He had to, of course, let go of her hand to do so - hesitantly, of course, the loss of that warm presence in his hand an aching loss more keen than he'd originally expected it to be - but...he endured. For now, anyway. The red lines soon coalesced into more sturdy, powerful shapes, the one opposite the Lucario forming into Jason - who promptly looked around and sat on his haunches, keeping a close eye on the Lucario he found himself opposite - and the one opposite "Nine" forming into Tails, who simply canted her head to one side and regarded Nine with mild amusement. "Greetings, Good Sir. I do so hope that you missed me." To which, of course, Jason simply gave a short, sharp snicker.

    Not the best matchups if it came to a battle, but of all of his Pokemon, these two would cause the least fuss, and he trusted them the most to behave themselves. You worked with what you had, after all. Ignoring their Pokemon for the time being, Dante stepped around to the opposite side of the table, gesturing for Cassandra to follow him. He turned, sliding the chair out from under the table, and gave her an almost smirking smile.
    "If you'd care to join me, My Lady...?" He asked slyly, straightening up to face her properly. A slight glimmer in her hair almost drew his gaze towards it - the hairpin being used to hold her hair in its beautiful style, he imagined - but he ignored it, focusing his attention on her face. She had his undivided attention. Besides...he'd already brazenly "checked her out," as it were. He wasn't about to let his eyes go wandering again, lest he get into even more trouble. That would be a decidedly bad idea. He just had to focus on her, not what she was wearing, and he'd be fine. Not like that was hard, of course; she intrigued him endlessly, and now that she was there with him...it proved to be a very interesting night indeed, much to his obvious pleasure.
  23. He was on his feet before she even knew. Swiftly, he moved to a stand, with great ease and precision. It was captivating; the way he moved, so seamlessly and effectively. She could watch his movements all day and never get bored, she believed. There was just something about it, a refinement that was so terribly lacking among men, a certain grace and poise you'd find in a dancer, but with a power and sturdiness - the ability to truly command a situation and bring all attention to you - that they lacked. He was a trainer. The epitome of a trainer. Young and determined, hungry for success and the euphoria of victory in every battle he fought. But at the same time, calculated, efficient, powerful yet tactful. But most importantly, never satisfied. Just like her. "Cassandra. It's a pleasure to see you again," This man that stood before her, he's got it all, the complete package. And at that moment, she had him wrapped around her finger, she knew, long before he took her hand and bowed, placing a gentle kiss on the back of her palm. The power thrilled her.

    But at the same time, she could feel his warmth radiating from the palm of his hand, bringing fourth the illusion of touch, of contact, all thanks to the thinness of her glove. She made the right decision, it seemed, as it allowed her to feel more of that touch that intrigued her so. She felt incredibly warm suddenly; it was the kind of warmth that made you feel... Safe. Comfortable. Something that made her crave for more, especially considering how she hadn't felt any of those in a long, long time. But for now, a smile pulled at her lips, one that mirrored his own when he eventually straightened himself. His gaze lingered longer than it probably should have, and normally she was not very fond of lingering glances - but perhaps it was because of the disgust, ridicule, or blood lust held in them, and soon after, the general discomfort of being looked at - but this time... This time she was okay. It... Made her happy, even. "And I must say, it's nice to be able to greet you without being soaking wet this time. Unless you intend to have your bodyguard-" His gaze then shifted to her right, where Ryu stood and responded in kind with a pointed glare. "- cast me into the sea from the window."

    She laughed softly.

    "I didn't bring my own company because I feared I might be intruding, or attempting to impress. But since I believe your companions deserve some company as well, I think it would be appropriate." And just then, twin red beams shot from his belt as he tapped on the spherical objects that adorned it - his Pokeballs, clearly, and quite a nice touch in fact - materializing two, familiar quadrupedal figures that quickly got Nine's fur standing on end once more, even flinching visibly as his eyes widened and locked onto one particular silhouette out of the two. However, it was a gaze that did not last long. As, the moment Tails fully materialized, his gaze was quickly averted to the side. He felt embarrassed, yes, but at the same time it felt strangely... Rude, somehow, to look at the female directly. "I-... Indeed, it is nice to see you again, madame." Now he's just hoping that she didn't find him looking silly or overdressed with his little bow tie. Luckily for him, Ryu was now far more occupied by Jason, who he deemed a more probable threat and certainly more worthy of his attention and focus than Nine's silly crush. He eyed the Houndoom cautiously, but otherwise, remained faithfully still by his trainer's side.

    Seeing them up close now, it was even more obvious how well the two canines were cared for. Their fur was silky, smooth, and perfectly even; their eyes bright and full of life; their bodies strong and well-muscled. Their behavior alone spoke volumes about their discipline, being able to sit calmly where they are without being too nosy of their surroundings; carrying themselves with a grace and poise unlike that of their trainer's. Of course, it was only natural that trained Pokemon would go on to mimic certain traits of their trainers, heck she's even heard news of a Frogadier that evolved to look like their trainer which, she was not quite sure how that happened. Her father had been extremely interested in the matter however, hence her knowing perhaps a little more than she should. Nevertheless, the matter at hand was that mimicry was a prime marker in a Trainer-Pokemon bond, and these two canines had it.

    Her eyes flicked up once more - finding Dante with such ease yet again - as the man moved to the chair across from his; pulling it from under the table with a rather sly, playful look in his eyes. One that drew her to him, welcomed her more and more into his company. "If you'd care to join me, My Lady...?" He purred, almost, a sound that greatly piqued her interest with its mischief and teasing. A loopsided smile pulled at her own lips; nonchalant and composed. She needed to keep her cool, after all. She wasn't about to trip over her heels and faceplant into the floor in front of this gentleman. With other men, perhaps. But then, with other men, she would have surely had Ryu chase them away ages ago. And so, she stepped forwards, striding lightly to the chair and sitting herself down. Nine and Ryu remained where they were, occupied by their own companions for the night and it occurred to her that, perhaps she should not have had them out. However, they were almost never in their Pokeballs in the first place, and having them around comforted her. But now, feeling Dante's presence looming behind her, nearly sending shivers up her spine from the intensity of his energy alone, she didn't quite feel like she could pay attention to anything else.

    Adjusting herself on her seat and correcting her posture, Cassandra then cast a gaze to the four gathered beside them, and then to their hostess who stood at the ready just adjacent to them still. Elegantly lacing her fingers together on her lap as she said, "Mademoiselle Maddison, would you be so kind as to escort our beloved companions to their own table please?" Her voice was cool, composed, yet still held the authority of an order, not a request or suggestion. The blond steadfastly gave a curt bow. "Of course, miss. I will be back with you shortly."

    With that, the four were ushered over to a vacant table quite close to the buffet, yet still in clear view of their own. And now... That left just the two of them to their own devices. Cassie simply turned her head slightly, and faced forwards, to the chair that was now vacant. She could still feel Dante behind her, his scent lingering and teasing her with every breath she took. That fresh breath of a winter storm. She smiled - almost slyly - as she crossed one leg over the other. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long." Softly, she murmured. In a voice much more playful and... Sensual, than the one she used for Maddison. This voice.... It was just for the two of them.
  24. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Restaurant
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Maggie, Ariel, Syl

    She laughed, and it was like a thousand soft, lilting chime bells ringing out in a gentle breeze as it swayed through a quiet meadow. The sound was light and playful, almost delicate in its pitch, and yet somehow...sturdy. Strong. Like despite its fragile appearance, it could withstand the might of a hurricane roaring through the forest and emerge unscathed and still lilting, using the wind as a means of further transportation to spread itself over a vaster area, the wind serving only as a vector for further exploration. It was the kind of laugh that made you shiver as you realised that this...this was her true laugh. She had others, obviously, for other people; fake laughs for people she disliked but had to humour. Nervous ones for when she was uncertain of herself, sarcastic laughs and sardonic ones for mockery or wry amusement, raucous ones that were more wheezing gasps for air than they were laughs...but this one...this one rang true in his ears, echoing sweetly in his skull long after the audible sound had dissipated into thin air and been lost to the mists of time. It was the kind of laugh that you heard and you could tell...this was genuine. It was amused, delighted, pleased...but not overwhelmed by everything that was happening. It was a tender laugh...an intimate one, one that would only ever be shared with one person at a time. The thought made him want to shiver in delight.

    To make a creature such as this feel such genuine, gentle warmth and mirth...it was a privilege, he had to admit, and one that he only barely managed to stop himself from grinning at like a moron. He liked to think that her previous impression of him had been of a calm, collected, sophisticated gentleman with a mischievous side, somebody who could match her wit and poise, and to start grinning like a moonstruck moron...well, that would not do. It would dispel whatever illusions of intelligence and refinement he'd managed to conjure before her, and he found himself...almost aching to impress her with his charm. He might not have any, granted, but that was exactly why he was trying so hard not to make his powerful interest and magnetic pull towards her so obvious. It would not do to look too keen; a woman like Cassandra would be able to see it a mile away, and might well be turned off from any fawning affection. He was not one to show fawning affection, of course, but she struck him as the perceptive type...which was both somewhat worrying, and agonisingly intriguing. It was part of what made her so alluring to him; the challenge. The fact that she could match him, challenge him, perhaps even best him in some way. She was a different creature entirely to the women he normally interacted with, standing out from the crowd like a diamond amongst coal.

    She slipped herself into her seat with all the delicate poise and fluid grace that he'd come to expect from her, never missing a beat in her flawless execution of the maneuver that he was certain had to be taught to women privately by their mothers when they were small, and he enjoyed the brief moment of proximity while he could; the earthy, musky, scented smell of the room was briefly replaced by a gust of springtime breeze after a rainstorm, a hint of crushed leaves and summer flowers drifting on the wind before it carried it - and the musical notes of her chiming laugh - away to parts unknown. His eyes fluttered closed ever so slightly as his eyes pulled away from her to face forwards - it was never polite to stare, after all - catching a brief glimmer of silver in her hair - her hairpin, most likely - between the flickering of his eyes. He was losing his touch a little - normally, he would have examined that flicker of silver for anything unseen or hidden - but with her...he couldn't help but feel at ease. She was a kindred soul, perhaps, somebody not unlike him, who could understand a little of his struggles and burdens. With her...he didn't have to be so observant and cautious, did he? Could he not just enjoy an evening in the company of a captivating young woman and allow the smaller details to slip by? Surely, nobody could hold that against him, could they?

    His eyes flickered over to Maddison - who was wearing what seemed to be her best attempt at suppressing a wry grin directed at him, though at that moment in time, he could not bring himself to care - and nodded his agreement at Cassandra's suggestion. Could this mean that she, too, wished for some alone time with him? That she wished to dine with him absent distraction? His heart surged in his chest at the thought. Her Lucario was protective and obviously highly trusted, and yet...she was sending him away, effectively, to spend more time with him undisturbed. That meant something, right? Could she be as interested in him as he was in her? He could only hope. He watched as their Pokemon were led a short distance away, moving from behind her chair and around the table back to his own seat to settle down opposite her across the small table. In the meantime, his own Pokemon were taking their own places at the - naturally slightly shorter - table, Tails deliberately placing herself opposite Nine. She canted her head to the side, looking at him slyly from one eye. Oh come now, Darling. No need to be so formal. Please, call me Tails. Her tails flicked slightly. Madamme makes me feel dreadfully old, save for very...specific circumstances." She fluttered her eyelashes teasingly, to which Jason - seated next to her - gave a soft, bemused snort as it kept its eyes both on Ryu and the couple at the table. He'd never seen Dante so...enamored, and with the Lucario so obviously opposed to his presence...he needed to watch his Masters back. Just in case.

    Back at the table, Dante seated himself gracefully and elegantly, smoothing his suit jacket out absently as he shifted his position. His hands rested on the table before him, fingers lying on the edge of the menu he'd been perusing but not making a move to open it. They could order a little later; for now...he just wanted to enjoy the soft, delicately accented tones of her gorgeously lilting voice. Had she kept him waiting? A little. Not that it mattered. He canted his head to one side, one eyebrow raised slightly as the corner of his mouth twitched upwards into the barest hint of a small, genuine smile.
    "Think nothing of it. It afforded me the chance to peruse the menu to at least appear somewhat educated on food in the event you ask me for a recommendation. I need to at least attempt to appear knowledgable and sophisticated, no?" His sly smile spread a little further. "In any case, even had I been waiting for several hours...it would have been more than worth it."

    His eyes tracked along the edges of her dress, although he made a special effort to keep them polite and reserved; it would not do to be so brazen and uncouth as to stare at her chest as soon as they sat down, after all! He did, of course, pay special attention to her hair and the angles of her face, the gentle twinkling of those beautiful eyes...he blinked subtly to avoid getting lost in them too quickly.
    "If I may say so, Cassandra, you look absolutely divine tonight. It would not be an exaggeration to say that you are easily the most beautiful woman in the room." And he wasn't just talking about her appearance. Her wit, her poise, her confidence and intelligence, the mischief he saw hiding behind that sparkling gaze of hers, the obvious drive and talent and ability that reflected in her Pokemon, the qualities that had won such a fiercely protective loyalty from the notoriously fickle Lucario...all of it screamed out at him, demanded his attention...no matter who else was in that room, no matter what they were wearing...he knew that none of them would ever rival the beauty sat opposite him. And he dared anybody to even try.
  25. For each of the individuals involved, the night proceeded as differently as two sides of the same coin. For Ryu in particular, it'd started off on a rather... Surprising note. For the very first time ever, Cassie had sent him away during a private dinner. She never sends him away in private situations, and especially not when her interlocutor was a male. That circumstance was usually when she'd have him the closest to her; in his Pokeball on her belt or directly by her side. But this time... This time she sent him away. Why? Granted, he was still close enough to see everything and intervene in a moment's notice if something were to happen, and yet, it still felt so peculiar. He knew that she liked her privacy when it came to her more intimate relationships, but not when she'd just met the prospective mate. There was just... Something very odd yet, intriguing about the male, he had to admit. His aura was incredible, nothing like he'd ever encountered before, yet... Oh so very similar. In fact, it was just like... Cassie's. He blinked once, then twice, eyes flicking back and forth between the two and there, he saw it. The similarity in their intensity, their presence, their vibration and frequency. Where Salem's aura had been her polar opposite, this male's aura was a perfect match. Yes... Yes, this made sense. That was why he couldn't quite disregard him as easily as all the others. He could respect this male, and he would certainly not try anything as recklessly as he might with anyone else. That, in and of itself, was a great threat indeed. Not just to him, but to all their safety, and he knew he was assuming the worst again, but, it was always better to be safe than sorry.

    Nevertheless, he took his seat and so did the other three. He didn't need to look to know that the Houndoom was glaring holes into the side of his face - he too shared his trainer's aura, and it sent his blood pumping in excitement, waking that constant itch of battle lust. He was a Lucario, after all. His kind lived for duels - but he ignored it. He didn't want to start a battle - as much as he wanted to, their match up was perfect for a challenging battle - in the middle of a high class establishment, after all. He was raised and trained better than that. However, he then felt that burning gaze flickering away, and then returning, and flicking away again. Was he also watching his trainer? Did that mean he was his trainer's confidant as well? Fascinating. Eventually, Ryu purposefully met the Houndoom's gaze, and quirked his brow up inquisitively, grunting curtly. Is this unusual for your trainer as well?

    Meanwhile Nine, oh the poor, hapless boy, he could barely sit still. His tails moved faster, more frantically than they used to and his ears were pressed firmly to his head as he kept his gaze averted. Curse his lack of charm and wit to the opposite gender! It was his only weakness! Well, that and small, fast-moving objects... After all, by Ninetales standards, he was still barely out of his juvenile phase, and boy did he feel it. More on certain days rather than others, sure, but he still felt it. It was... Odd, really. He felt much wiser and more mature as a Vulpix, but then, they didn't quite possess the life expectancy of a Ninetales. After Cassie evolved him with that Fire Stone, it was as if he'd just been hatched all over again, and given there weren't too many Vulpix in the Abundant Shrine - where he was caught - he never quite needed to develope his social skills. Hence, it was times like these - meeting his other kind - that he felt the most like a newborn. It was not a pleasant feeling. Especially when everyone around him just continued to prove him right. He huffed softly - a Ninetales equivalent to clearing one's throat - and finally brought himself to meet her gaze, feeling literal shivers run up his spine from her gaze. The power of an Alolan Ninetales truly was fascinating. He felt his ears ease up slightly, only to have his fur puff out in response to her... Last statement. Ah- err... Hm, I- I beg your pardon, ma- ehm, Tails?

    Of course, the same vibe could not be applied to the table where the two trainers sat; completely detached, separate from the roiling energies and emotions experienced at the other table. Cassie watched Dante closely as he sat himself opposite to her, and her eyes trailed the way his hands smoothed down his suit, almost instinctively as he made himself comfortable. It was not a judgemental observation, not a piercing gaze to pick out any mistakes or missteps or tells that he might have given off, no. It was a kind of glance that... She found she hadn't used much these days. It was one of intrigue, curiosity, and... Utter entrancement. The kind of gaze that remained simply because one is unable to look away. Completely enchanted and wanting more. Every little shift he made, every little twitch and breath as he placed his hands on the table, was flawless. She could not find any breaks, any twitch or move that was unnecessary or awkward, she just... Couldn't. How was that possible? How does someone control themselves so well? She couldn't understand it. Or perhaps... Perhaps just as she'd thought him utterly enamored by her, she was enamored just the same.

    Her eyes moved to meet his gaze, but along the way, they found themselves catching a glimpse at a gentle shimmer at the center of his suit lapel. She hadn't quite noticed it before, and briefly she wondered how she managed to miss it in the first place - had she already slipped that far? - but, no matter. She focused her attention on that item, that small, tasteful adornment on his lapel, and smiled softly. It seemed she wasn't the only one who'd decided to wear silver to the dinner. Of course, one would argue that gold was the pinnacle of accessories, but, she'd always found herself more allured to the modesty and ethereal charm of silver. After all, true class was showing taste and restraint. But then, she could also be speaking from her personal experience of bankruptcy where gold was simply... Distasteful, to adorn. You cashed in what you could and lived a day longer. She shook her head. Now was not the time to dwell on those thoughts. No, she wanted to enjoy herself for once and most importantly, she wanted to enjoy herself with Dante. But still... That piece he wore seemed... Terribly familiar.

    However, she was soon interrupted by the gentle call of his voice, pulling her attention to him, almost immediately. The look on his face... She couldn't help but smile back. He was a handsome man indeed - very handsome, in fact - how could anyone possibly resist? She chuckles softly. Good looks, good charm, and good sense of humor? This guy was unreal. She caught herself averting her gaze in a way that was almost... Bashful. She never broke eye contact with anyone. That was a sign of submission, and as an elite among the politics of the court, the last thing you wanted was to submit to someone's will. And yet, apparently she couldn't help herself, couldn't seem to keep her guard up. This was dangerous. So, very dangerous, yet... She found herself willing to take that risk. She'd already been through hell and back. What was the worst that could happen? Besides... Was she really not allowed to feel comfortable around others? It'd been one of her greatest challenges in all of her relationships, including the one with Salem, yet... With Dante, it just came so naturally, so easily. As if she'd already known him before, and known him well. It seems there's more to him than meets the eye. Not that that's really much of a surprise. "Oh, of course. A blatant lack of knowledge in a single dinner's cuisines simply won't do." She hummed, playfully quirking an eyebrow at him to match that small, sly smile on his face. She laughed some more, albeit softly.

    She can't remember the last time she'd truly smiled and laughed this much.

    Cassie could feel his eyes on her before she even needed to look; phantom tingles running the bare skin of her leg that peeked through the cut of her dress. Of course, it was a tasteful kind of glance. One that showed appreciation and admiration, but also showed respect and restraint at the same time. Not a lot of men had that skill anymore, and for that, she was very impressed, and very pleased. He just knew how to push all the right buttons, it seemed. Hence, in response to his acknowledgement of the effort she'd put into her appearance that night, she smirked softly and crossed her legs; adjusting herself on her seat and briefly flashing a bit more skin before the table obscured it from sight. She placed her hands on the table and laced her fingers together. Their gazes met once more, and her smirk soon transformed into a smile. There was something about his eyes, outside of their untainted beauty and intensity, outside of the intelligence and strength they reflected. There was a... Familiarity. A likeness that felt almost uncanny, and she simply couldn't put her finger on it. Nevertheless, her observation came to an abrupt end the moment he blinked, throwing her off focus and sending her reeling back into her own head. She shook her head subtly, pushing the thought into the back of her head, pinning the pieces together for later use, and focused on the moment that occurred now. He always seemed to know what to say, when to say it, and how. She'd heard those compliments hundreds of thousands of times before, of course, but... When he said it, it actually held meaning. It was not empty. It held value. And she believed it. And it made her feel good. She felt her gaze flicking away again. What was going on with her that night? It must be the time she spent doing nothing on this oversized, floating entertainment center. And yet, she still chuckled anyway. "You look quite dashing yourself. Although, perhaps it's the fact that you're not soaking wet or being hunted down by ravenous women." She grinned cheekily, eyes flicking back to him, nose subconsciously scrunching up slightly as mischief glinted in her eyes.

    However, it was in this glance that she caught sight of that accessory on his suit again. That... Lapel pin. Upon second observation, she realized just how familiar the item was. It was an extremely rare piece crafted by the famous silversmith, Rudolph Javier. There were only five of them ever created, and were among the last pieces he crafted before passing away. Her grandfather owned one, which was then passed down to her mother and from her mother to her. But, she hadn't much use for it as a silly young girl, so she'd given it away to... To... Her brows furrowed together, the pieces suddenly clicking together in her head. The familiarity, the connection, the nagging at the back of her head, all the fragments slotted together in that very moment, finally creating the picture that had been screaming to be made, and it was all thanks to that pin. What were the odds? A million in one, a billion, maybe more? And yet, and yet, and yet... That was the only explanation. The only solution which fitted all the pieces together and formed a congruent image. This had to be it, and he must be...

    Her eyes drifted up at him, and suddenly she was hit by a wave of nostalgia. All the voices inside her head, the ones that'd been pestering her now became music in her ears. Those eyes, that same, intelligent gaze and strong facial structure... Yes, she saw it now, and she realized... Just how much he'd grown. How different, yet, completely the same, he looked. The boy she'd known as a child. Her first, true love - childish and silly as she'd been then - and, for a while, her catalyst for improvement. Here he was again. Right in front of her. Her eyes were wide as she looked at him, lips parted, forming words with no sound until she finally snapped back to reality and entered her body again. "... Dante... Dante Elias Young...?" Her voice was low and slow, almost... Uncertain. But then, a light bulb went off in her head, and she quickly reached up to her hair, pulling the clip that had been holding up her hair, not minding as her midnight locks came tumbling over her shoulder. She glanced at the delicate, silver piece for a moment, contemplating just how much it'd come to mean to hear. What were the odds they'd both be wearing these? She smiled softly, and placed the accessory on the middle of the table for him to see. "... Do you remember?"
    #25 PentheWonderful, Apr 2, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  26. Dante was most certainly not acting like himself. This much, Jason didn't even need to look in his direction to notice with as long as he had been with his Master; when you grew up around somebody, no matter how cagey and aloof they tended to be, you got a sense of their moods and their whims and their different subtle tells, and Dante had not always been so detached and protective of his innermost workings. He'd been a child, once, and though he had still taken his responsibilities with the utmost seriousness - a trait that played a large factor in Jason's undying respect for the man, to be sure - he had still been a child. He'd been playful and silly and even mischievous once upon a time, and it was only the constant journeying across the land that had served to straighten out his more...rambunctious tendencies. People responded to traveling and hardships and challenges differently, and it had beaten Dante into the shape of the man he was today; Calculating, intelligent, capable and with a talent for keeping things close to his chest. And more than anything else, he tended to dislike the company of other humans, preferring the companionship of his trusted team over the whimsies of his own kind.

    But tonight, there was something...different about him. He was not shying away from human contact, he was not looking for an escape or an excuse to leave; oftentimes, when females of his species showed interest in him, Dante either responded with indifference, polite refusal or - occasionally - what passed in his head for outright panic, depending on who was showing interest. He'd never really shown much interest in finding a mate, but...his body language here was entirely out of sorts for his usual behavior. He genuinely seemed interested in this human female, and seemed entirely invested in enjoying the evening with her rather than - as was his custom - viewing it as a chore to complete. It was unsurprising, of course - his Master was a strong, intelligent man so it made sense that it would take a strong, intelligent female to pique his interest - but it still took a moment for him to process...but then, the same was obviously true of the Lucario sitting across from him. His potential hostility radiated off of him in waves. It was obvious that he did not appreciate Dante's interest in Cassandra, and if his uneasy glances towards his Master were anything to go by, he was prepared to launch into an attack at a moments notice. That, of course, did not sit well with Jason. Though a Lucario would not be Jason's favoured opponent - whilst he could hurt it, badly, the same was true of the reverse - he would take his chances if that was what was required to protect his Master from a crazed fight-junkie.

    Of course, the begrudged grunt did provoke a wry, amused rumble from the depths of Jason's diaphragm. So...this behavior - the interest, the intrigue, the obviously flirtatious body language and even dismissing her beloved thug away from her side - wasn't ordinary behavior for Cassandra? An interesting piece of information that he squirreled away for future use. The Lucario had given something away, and Jason was not about to do the same. Especially not to a Pokemon who seemed so hostile towards his Master. He simply tilted his head to one side. I'm sorry, but I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. The lie was obvious, but it didn't stop Jason feeling more than a little smug. It was always nice to pull a fast one on a potential enemy who thought himself superior. And of course he felt superior; all Lucarios inevitably did.

    On the other side of the table, however, the dynamic was extremely different. The young Ninetails - Nine, wasn't it? - was hardly acting anything other than supremely adorable, and even though his good grooming and physical ability was obvious - Tails had to remind herself that a Lady did not brazenly window shop more than a few times - it was obviously also a younger specimen, and one who had not had the opportunity to interact with many of his kind. She almost felt bad for teasing him in such a manner, but...it was simply too amusing - and his reactions too endearingly cute - to stop.
    You flatter me, Darling, but surely I am not so terrifying as all that. By all accounts, it is I who should be wary of you. She allowed herself a wry chuckle, her tails flickering behind her in cool amusement. Fire and Ice rarely play well together, but...perhaps you could make an exception for me? Her muzzle twitched, her eyelashes fluttering ever so slightly, so quickly that it was almost imperceptible to anybody but Nine, whom she had fixed with her cool, amused gaze. I would very much like to get to know you a little better. We Ninetails are so dreadfully rare, after all. It would be a shame to waste such an opportunity... she paused, ...Nine, was it? She practically purred his name...which considering they were communicating largely non vocally was an achievement in and of itself. He was cute, true...but she also liked talent and strength and potential...and this little Nine had each of those in spades.

    But Dante...Dante didn't feel like teasing or provoking or anything of the sort. Jason was right in his assessment that human interaction ordinarily tended to either bore or vex him - despite how smooth he'd managed to be this evening thus far, he was not exactly known for his stellar social skills; it was probably more to do with his and Cassandra's inherent compatibility, their...similarities drawing them together, if he could take a moment to err on the side of cheese for half a second - but Cassandra...she was different. It was cliche to say, perhaps, but it was true. She was far more capable, far more...intelligent and strong than the women he normally met, she had that drive inside her that made her push to the top, made her capable of surmounting any danger or difficulty, gave her that confidence that whilst the weaker willed, more vapid women were chasing him down to try and spend three hours talking without saying much of anything at all, she could simply recline back and capture his attention with a wry look and a snarky one liner. It was that confidence, that self-assured nature that resonated most powerfully with him, how she didn't simply sit there and simper and giggle along to his jokes, but fired back with her own sharp wit and clever tongue. If anything, she could probably give him a run for his money in any number of ways, and that...that excited him no end.

    Of course, being a man whose interest was piqued...he had to admit that seeing her blush and seeing her gaze flicker away if only for half a moment...knowing that she was feeling a similar kind of attraction to him, knowing that he wasn't the only person taken off guard by just how powerfully they seemed to get each other...it was the best kind of terrifying. It was knowing that despite his preference to remain aloof and detached...he had no control over what was happening, not really, and that for once...he didn't actually care. He wanted to feel out of control with her, because it seemed that...that was how he was going to get what he wanted, and that was simply more of her time. And of course...knowing that his smile and his jokes and his tasteful glances at her beautiful form - and yes, he'd caught that glimpse of flesh, and it had taken a serious amount of willpower to keep his thoughts on track at that moment - was eliciting a visible response at all from an obviously well controlled, disciplined woman of such high caliber...it was definitely a pleasant ego stroke to be sure, and since he was human...he did enjoy the occasional ego stroke, especially if it came from a beautiful woman. He was detached, not mechanical.

    He tilted his head to one side fractionally, a small quirk twitching at the corners of his mouth before he could stop himself. The banter was...actually refreshing. It was at the same time blunt and to the point - no hidden meanings, refreshingly straightforward and honest - but at the same time...empty of any real stressful weight. There was no double speak, but also no content to worry about dissecting. It was simply...two individuals on the same wavelength, having an almost-flirtatious back and forth, a sparring match of wit, as it were, neither of them willing to forfeit, but at the same time not wishing to make the riposte's too difficult lest the match end prematurely in a dissatisfying anti climax. His fingers moved to drum briefly at his closed menu, as if thinking.
    "I do believe that my memory of the menu is such that I can attempt to at least bluff my way through any cursory quizzing you may wish to perform. Though the portion seems obscenely tiny, I do believe-" And then he stopped. A flash of silver in her hair as she leaned towards him, a shape that suddenly nagged at his memory, stopping his train of thought cold. He had no idea why - it had been a glimpse, barely enough to register - but there was something...nagging. Pieces had been slow to click together that day, but he felt like...like he was missing something vital, and that nagging sensation of fundamentally missing something...he hated it. He always had.

    And it was then that it happened. Her eyes flicked down to his chest - his lapel, specifically - and all mischief and mirth drained from her face. He could see the cogs turning in her head, he could see the slow realisation of something dawning on her and that only increased his furtive attempts to work out whatever it was that she was seeing. What was it? What had he missed that she was only just realising? He frowned uncomfortably, opening his mouth to ask...and then his name fell from her lips. But it was different this time. It wasn't a flirtation, it wasn't a tease or a joke or a compliment, it was simply a...a statement. His heart stopped in his chest for a moment, his entire body locking up in sudden surprise as she then uttered not just the name he'd given her, but...his full name. And not just his surname - anybody could have figured that out, given his comments about his father effectively owning the ship - but...his middle name, too. Nobody knew his middle name. In interviews and profiles, it was only ever kept as "E," and only his family and closest friends had ever heard that part of his name. He blinked slowly. She knew him. Dark hair. Cassandra. A pokemon trainer, a champion with a liltingly musical voice and a drive and competitive streak that pushed her to the top. Strong, determined, intelligent but undeniably aloof and detached, keeping herself distant from others with a guard that seemed nigh impregnable.

    He knew who she was.

    He saw her sliding the hairpin out, his eyes sliding over the familiar shape and gleam, and he recognised it; he'd given it to her the day he'd left his hometown on his journey. She'd come to see him off, and he'd given her that very hairclip to remember him by...to think that she'd kept it all these years, to think that she'd remembered him and kept the clip safe and polished and in such good condition...but then, hadn't he done the same with her gift? The present he'd almost refused to accept on the spot, and only relented when faced with the prospect of upsetting one of - if not the - best friend he'd ever had...and there it was. His eyes flickered up to hers, his heart pounding in his chest. Over a decade. Over a decade and they'd not seen each other, and then they met there of all places, they'd met and reconnected without even realising it. The sudden resonance and attraction all made sense, now. Why he felt like he knew her so well...because in a sense...he already did.


    He asked almost hesitantly, hands reaching across the table to enfold her own, his body leaning forwards as if to stare deeper into her soul as he caught those suddenly painfully familiar silver eyes with his own wintry gaze.
    "Cassie, is that...?" It was. A broad smile split his face...and then crushing guilt. He blinked, and shook his head, a sudden frown on his face. All that trouble, years ago, and he'd never been there for her. How could he call himself her best friend, her childhood friend, if he hadn't been there when she'd needed him? He had been a world away, he'd been gathering himself...and he'd failed to make it in time. Before anything else, he had to confess that to her. He had to at least let her know that he'd failed her, and how sorry he was. "Oh Cassie...I'm so, so very sorry. I should have sought you out before now. I heard about everything that happened to you, every last bit, and I failed to appear beside you. I was preparing to come find you, but by the time I'd gathered everything I needed, you'd already won the battle on your own." He glanced away, suddenly ashamed, but forced himself to look up at her. He met her gaze again, and despite the guilt...he couldn't stop himself from smiling broadly.

    It was just...so good to see her again, after all this time. And it was especially gratifying to see her grow into such an amazing young woman.
    "But I always knew, of course, that could do anything you set your mind to. It's good to see you again, Cassie, truly. And I will say right now...I could never forget you, even if I cared to try. Which, of course, I do not." His face split into yet another smile, a small twitching of his lips and a separating of his mouth, but...it was there. Cassie. He'd finally reconnected with her...and what a wonderful woman she'd grown to be. And no, this did not put any hindrance on his attraction to her. If anything...it only stoked the flames higher. He'd found his childhood friend once more, and he knew already that he wanted to know every single inch of the woman she'd become.
  27. Honestly, with how capable this Houndoom's trainer seemed; how controlled he was, how he carried himself with such authority and self-assurance, Ryu expected better. Especially from the one supposedly being his partner, his closest confidant. The Lucario felt a frown tugging at the end of his muzzle, ears pressing page to the top of his head slightly in response to the Dark's belittling chuckle-like-growl. Annoyance flashed in his ruby eyes as clearly as amusement flickered in his... Dinner guest. Well, Darks were still Darks, he supposed, and if Lady was of any indicator - and he normally preferred not to use the impish feline for any sort of indicator at all if he could help it - then he really should not be so surprised. But then, he would not normally assume that a Pokemon was prematurely evolved like Lady was either, but with this Houndoom's behavior... He might just consider it. Especially with that incredibly juvenile response he eventually came up with. Ryu simply raised an eyebrow in an unamused manner. Seriously?

    Well, as much as a non-answer was, it was still an answer, and he must think him an absolute moron to not be able to infer the true meaning behind it. Just as he'd allowed some information slip, the Houndoom had done the same. In a much less dignified manner, granted, but a slip nonetheless. Not that the information would be of much use anyway to him or his trainer anyway; it was completely irrelevant to someone like Cassie, and if they thought otherwise, then, they - or at least, this particular member of the team - might not be as formidable a foe as he originally thought. Really, if he wanted to be as unpleasant as this Houndoom was, then he wouldn't have expended the courtesy to even ask. He wasn't blind, he could see just how astonished he was as well, and if he wanted to push even more, he'd just use his aura sense and eliminate the need for common courtesy altogether. Ryu rolled his eyes. Grow up. You are behaving like a pup.

    Nine, on the meanwhile, felt as if the very floor was about to fall through, and take him down with it. Honestly, this shouldn't be so terrifying! He'd been through much, much worse before, seen things that would mentally cripple someone for life, and yet, here he was, still trembling like a young kit under the gaze of a female Ninetales. Granted, a female Ninetales who was actively teasing him, what with her flickering tail and twitching muzzle, oh, and let's not forget batting her eyelashes at him and somehow managing to emulate purring over telepathy. Arceus knows how that was even possible. Was this what one would classify as being their "only weakness" then? Was this his Achilles Heel? Honestly, he can't help but feel a bit disappointed in himself. He always thought it would be something cooler... Like a radioactive crystal from outer space. That would've been awesome. Well, you take what you're given, he supposed. Swallowing anxiously, his eyes flicked back up to meet the female's gaze, and then immediately began to trail to the side before he could help it. ...Y...es... That is my name. He shited slightly in his seat, tail flicking stiffly. What would you like to speak about? Any thoughts on what you fancy for dinner tonight?

    Just a little bit away from their table, by the windows bathed in moonlight, Cassandra and Dante sat, for a moment, in silence as their minds arranged the infuriating puzzle which they lacked the pieces but was now... Complete. From the corner of her eyes, as she'd been taking off her pin, she saw a light enter his eyes, a pause, a thought that had previously seized his entire body. She'd slid the hairpin across the table, and when she looked up again, the recognition was already there, shining brightly from his brilliant blue eyes. And then, her name fell from his lips, but it wasn't the name she had given him. It wasn't the title that was bestowed upon her by her parents, it wasn't the title that carried her heritage and social standing, it was not the proud name of a success story, nor the name of a scandalous failure. It was just... Her. Nothing less, nothing more. And honestly, she shouldn't be so surprised; if he knew who she was, then surely he would know the name she normally liked to use for herself, yet... It still felt so strange, hearing it from him again. The boy she admired as a little girl... She must have changed so much to him, and she had so much to tell... If only she could.

    Her gaze flickered, and she realized too late how it had wavered, but by the time it returned, his hands were reaching out to enfold her own, and hesitantly, she allowed him to. They touched, and that beautiful, comforting and familiar warmth flooded her body, and had it not been for his gaze, capturing her own, seeking her so earnestly, she was certain her eyes would have shut, and she was glad they hadn't. Otherwise, she would have missed the broad smile that split his face; so bright and elated, it managed to erase the existence of her demons, clawing to escape the clutches of her mind's hold and manifest themselves. But unfortunately, only for a moment. He blinked, and so did she, and when she saw him again, his smile had been replaced with a frown, and the warmth sapped out of her body, greedily devoured by those demons as they leaked from her chest. And for a moment, she wasn't certain what that frown meant, whether it was disapproval, or... Pity. Her lips stiffened for a moment, arms twitching as if to pull her hand back, but she focused on his eyes again, and noticed the details she missed; guilt.

    He felt... Guilty? For what? He hadn't done anything wrong. Her eyes reflected this confusion, which soon vanished when he spoke once more, and she felt her eyes shut down. She looked at him, but she could no longer see him. She sat there, but she was no longer in front of him. She was back, inside her own mind, the darkness, as his voice echoed inside the emptiness, feeling so far away. She remembered being terrified of this place, fearing she would one day be trapped there forever, unable to come back, but by that time... She'd grown so accustomed to it that it felt... Safe. After what happened in Jinko and Route 15... She came to learn that it can be much safer than reality sometimes. And there, she contemplated the possibilities, what it might have been like if he'd been there, relaying them over the horrid memories that came up to greet her, but found that it brought her more grief - a new kind that she was not accustomed to - than simply accepting what had already happened, and what had been left behind. She was past that now. It didn't have to haunt her anymore. The last two years were time enough. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, she returned to the dining hall, to the Platinum Lugia and to Dante's presence, and a portion of her mind worked to relay what her eyes had recorded while she was away. She saw the shame that briefly crossed his face before he turned away, and she was reminded of the guilt he felt. Yet despite it all... He was smiling now, and that smile was sincere.

    And a small smile pulled on her face as well.

    He truly cared about her, there was no question about it. He was genuinely happy to see her again, and the guilt he'd shown before was just as real, as every bit as genuine, and she knew then that he was still the Dante she knew, and it was as if no time had passed between them, except for the heaviness she now carried on her shoulders; one that often made her feel as if she were a thousand years old. He hasn't changed, but was she still the girl he knew? She worried... Perhaps she might be too different now. Yet, seeing that smile on his face, those hopeful eyes and elated words, as empty as they were to her ears... How could she let him down? For the longest time, she'd strived, worked her tail off to be someone he wouldn't feel ashamed to be around, and for a good number of years, the thought of him was what kept her from crumbling beneath the pressure and expectations of her mother. She'd never let him down before... Why start now?

    Gently, her hand turned in his, shifting to curl her fingers around his own, absently tracing the tendons of his wrist and the inside of his palm. Her eyes flickered down to their hands, "The last few years have indeed been... Difficult." She began slowly. "But I'm still here, somehow." She managed a wry chuckle, and a small smile. "So in the end, everything worked out just fine, wouldn't you say?" Her eyes flicked back to him, and her smile widened, if only slightly. To say the past few years had been difficult was a massive understatement, but to remember how abandoned, how alone and forgotten she felt during that time; when she realized perhaps... We truly were on our own when it mattered most, or that she simply didn't matter enough for anyone to remember, or important enough to be a cause worth fighting for, it was more difficult. She would rather lie, including to herself. Those times had been hard yes, but in the end, none of it had been anyone's responsibility, nor burden, but her own. "I'm happy we get to meet again.
  28. Of course, the Lucario found some way to make himself feel superior. It was what his type did. His type always looked down on the other Pokemon just because they didn't have this single-minded drive to beat the snot out of everything that moved. They thought that their much-vaunted fighting abilities, supposedly so innate to the species, set them apart from everybody else. They always dismissed everybody who didn't share their own narrow view of ethics and honour as immature or useless or some other nonsensical condescending insult, and never considered that maybe they were the ones who had an incomplete or otherwise limited view of the world. Not every problem could be solved through punching it, after all, and their practice of only giving respect to people who could handle themselves in a fight? That was ridiculous. He'd been the same way, once, but Dante had quickly schooled that out of him. After all, did this Lucario disrespect the nurse who healed him after every fight, just because she wasn't a warrior? Lucario were all the same.

    And as such, as much as this one obviously didn't respect him - and had apparently written him off as no more than a pup, something that Jason would be very, very eager to prove him wrong on; it would be a tough fight, but Jason liked his chances - the feelings were more than mutual. He respected his obvious ability, true, but if this Lucario couldn't see his own immaturity over that high-perched nose of his, then that wasn't Jason's problem. It was just another weakness to exploit if it came down to it, and haughty arrogance was always the easiest thing to trip people up with. Don't get angry at another persons flaws...exploit them. Another thing his Master had trained into him. So instead, Jason just gave a soft, almost amused barking laugh, shaking his fur a little as he shifted his weight at their makeshift table. Better to be acting like a pup than a brainless thug, he remarked dryly. You need to take several deep breaths. You look like you're gonna jump the table and kick his teeth in if he so much as uses the wrong fork. Your Master is a big girl; I'm sure she can handle talking to a hunky boy without you hovering over her shoulder. Can't she? The mockery was obvious. Being protective was one thing, but anything could be taken too far...and Lucario's tended to take things to extremes.

    However, the conversation on the other side of the table was somewhat more civilised, though no less uncomfortable, at least for one of the people involved. Tails regarded Nine coolly over the candle in the center of the small arrangement, sitting poised and graceful and elegantly still, her tails only flickering every so often in response to a small change of mood. She held herself with dignity and poise, every inch the lady that her former Mistress had trained her to be, a coy little smile on her muzzle and no shortage of mirthful amusement twinkling in her eyes. Though this young man was obviously well trained and highly capable - and possessed more than an average level of intelligence, from what she could glean - it was obvious that he had no real idea how to handle members of the fairer sex, a fact that she was taking great delight in exploiting. She didn't want to torture the poor boy too much, but...well, call it a baptism by fire. If he got through this without sacrificing his dignity in some dramatic fashion, he'd at least be able to function during future conversations with her. You either sank or swam, after all, and you didn't get a second chance at first impressions.

    She tilted her head, as if considering his question, letting out a considering, thoughtful hum that vibrated from her chest and came out in a melodic, almost musical purr. Her eyes scanned down the simplified Pokemon menu, then back up at Nine. She knew what she wanted, of course, but...perhaps it was time to see how well he could think on his feet.
    Honestly, darling, I find myself somewhat torn. We ladies do sometimes have ever so much trouble making up our mind. Perhaps I could trouble you for an opinion? She caught his gaze and held it for a long moment with wide, brilliantly sparkling arctic-ocean-blue eyes. The filleted salmon in white wine sauce is a classic for a reason, of course, but I've heard excellent things about this chefs Coconut Crab. It's a dish he supposedly developed whilst holidaying in my own dear homeland, and is supposed to be divine. But I'm uncertain whether coconut and crab truly mixes together well on the palate, and whether my own delicate tastebuds would react negatively to such a concoction. Do you have any recommendations, Monsiour Nine? I'd be ever so grateful if you could lend me your assistance. Her tail flickered again cheerfully as she sat there, watching him carefully. You could tell a lot about a man by the advice he gave. What kind of gentleman was her precious little Nine, she wondered?

    But food was the last thing on Dante's mind as he sat at the table, leaning forwards with the hand of a woman he'd never thought to see again clutched in his gentle but firm grip, watching anxiously for any sign of anything from the woman opposite him; condemnation, anger, rejection, disgust...all of those emotions that he had played over and over in his head, imagining her feeling towards him and his failure to appear in her most desperate moment. What good was a supposed friend, after all, if when the chips were down and everything was on the line, they failed to appear? If they weren't there when the storm was at its worst, then should they really be welcomed when the skies cleared? He had been intending to come and aid her, or at least offer her some degree of support, but that didn't matter one whit when it hadn't manifested in reality. A man was judged by his actions, after all, not his intent and everybody knew what road was paved with good intentions, now didn't they?

    But much to his surprise - and his relief - the condemnation didn't come. There was no pulling back of her hand away from his touch, no sudden scorn and anger, no sudden turning of that witty tongue against him to lash him down for his failures. In fact...what happened, after the wave of relief had passed, almost made him wish that she'd turned her anger on him. He watched as - for just a moment - the life and colour drained out of her face, he watched as the smile and the mirth and the mischief bled away as if drained by some kind of vampiric monster out of the nightmares of children, her visage turning grey and almost fragile. His heart skipped a beat as he recognised it - the sudden falling away into a void of nothingness, of suddenly being so overwhelmed by feelings and pain that you retreated into yourself as far as you could go - and it actually physically hurt him to see her like that. To see the lively, innocent, exuberant young girl he remembered reduced to such a...a crippled, tragic state. It was to be expected, to some degree, given what she'd been forced to endure and the obvious pressures of her high-profile family, but it still...kind of broke his heart to see that radiance dimmed somewhat by the hardships of the world.

    But it wasn't all bad; she might not have the radiant innocence and optimism of youth, but it had been replaced by something altogether more useful, and - if he was honest with himself - that much more alluring. She was confident in herself, held herself with a kind of poise and self assuredness that only came from conquering the unconquerable. She knew she was good, she knew she had the ability to handle herself, she had the grace and poise and elegance of fireforged warrior who was not about to break at the slightest push. She had the wit and charm of the truly intelligent, and the ever present analytical brilliance and attention to the world around her of somebody who was used to dealing with every awful situation that happened to come her way. And that confidence, that intelligence, that precision and skill...he'd take that over blind, empty optimism any day. And when he saw her pulling herself out of that trance, when he saw colour returning to her visage as her eyes alighted on his smile...he found himself once more swelling with pride. She'd changed oh so much...but at the same time, she'd not changed a bit. He was still able to make her smile, and he thanked his lucky stars for that. Not literally, because stars couldn't be lucky, but...that wasn't the point.

    He almost let out a small shiver as he felt her fingers beginning to trace the muscles and tendons on his hand, his own fingers moving to reciprocate the gesture by gently caressing the back of her palm with his nails, dragging gentle patterns in her skin as his eyes roamed over her, taking in every detail of her beautiful, now-so-achingly familiar face for posterity. His posture relaxed a little, now not so focused on impressing her with his poise and ability and instead just...enjoying the reunion with somebody he'd missed for the longest time. And of course, seeing the woman she'd grown into...well, his interest hadn't waned a single bit, he would say that much. If anything, now that he knew who she was, flames that had long since gone dormant were in the middle of being stoked anew. It was exhilarating, being this close to her again.
    "No matter what you endured, you survived, and we have been brought back together. And I must say that I am...truly overjoyed to see what a magnificent woman you have grown to be, and it is truly my pleasure and honour to be able to enjoy your company tonight." He paused for a moment, hesitating and fighting down a sudden blush. "Of all the things that I could have imagined happening on this cruise...this is one event that I did not plan for. And for once...I am very, very happy to be surprised." Most of his surprises were of the life threatening or obstacle-inducing variety. But this...this was a surprise he could live with.
  29. And it was at that moment that Ryu stopped caring. The Houndoom clearly had no interest in being civil with him, and for whatever reason, decided he would take low shots at him instead. Well, he supposed you could only train Pokemon to such an extent. Perhaps the canine would be a more respectable opponent on the battle field, but outside of it? It was becoming clear that he simply had a nasty personality to begin with. Although - if his next statement was anything to go by - perhaps it was not entirely his fault. Ryu knew well that he was quite notorious for making bad first impressions, but, it wasn't as if he could help it. Not after what he'd been through, and especially not with his duty towards his trainer; who was quite notorious in her own right for attracting all sorts of trouble - intentionally or not. Hence, Ryu simply glanced back to Jason, expression flat, and responded, That's just my face.

    Meanwhile, Nine - being the courteous, wholesome gentleman that he was - remained with eyes averted on his seat. Surely it would be... Undignified of him to glance upon a lady too long, or gawk at her, or Arceus forbid, somehow make an utter fool of himself in front of her and somehow embarrass her too. There was just... Far too much at stake! The pressure was maddening and he was not trained for this! By Arceus, he would give anything to retreat into his Pokeball and simply hide for the rest of the evening. Of course, that was simply a luxury he could not afford. As Tails finally responded to his question in that purr of her's - how was that even possible? - that sent an almost literal shiver up his spine, threatening to puff his fur out once more. He managed to restrain himself this time, however. Barely. Although, hearing what she actually had to say and having something else to think about actually helped to soothe his nerves. Alright, so the lady was struggling to pick an entree was she? He could do that. Shaking off his nerves, feeling the tension leave his muscles - although that in particular took some work when Tails was so clearly emulating a Kalosean accent. Had she spent some time in Kalos herself, he wondered? - Nine fixed his gaze on the menu before him, scanning over the two dishes Tails had picked out, and easily made his choice. From his objective point of view, the solution was simple. His tail began to flow more seamlessly behind him.

    Well, mademoiselle, the filleted salmon in white wine sauce is indeed a sensible choice compared to the other options available. However, with a slight extension of his psychokinetic abilities, Nine lifted up his menu and flipped its pages to the very first one, revealing a picture of Chef Mavro, the head chef on the cruise. If we consider the background of the man serving us tonight; one of the more renowned students of Kalosean Elite Four's Siebold, we see that he is, in fact, more renowned for his innovative flavor combinations, and the Coconut Crab is his specialty. He shut the menu then, smoothly floating the booklet back to himself and continuing, with more confidence. From my perspective, you would be able to find filleted salmon in white whine sauce in any five star dining establishment, being the classic that it is. However, the same cannot be said for this Coconut Crab. Would it not be more sensible then, to order it while it is available to you, mademoiselle? After all, if you find it is not to your liking, you may always order something else. But who knows when you might stumble upon such a peculiar dish again? At this, he finally managed to smile.

    As for Cassie... As much as it hurt to smile, to hold those expectations and hopes up high on her tired shoulders again, she still managed to do it anyway. How long had it been since she'd needed to play this charade? To put on this face? Perhaps not too long ago... Yet it felt like a lifetime all the same. It was just that this time, it was for a cause she truly cared about. It was for Dante. It was for this moment they shared between them. For their reunion. And more than anything, she wanted their reunion to be a memory she could look back fondly upon, without regrets. And she would not let her demons ruin it. But really, it was much easier to do than you'd think. Especially with the way his fingers gently dragged his nails in patterns across the surface of her palm; her skin tingling beneath the trail he left behind, making her heart beat just a little faster. The sound of his voice, so gentle and sweet in her ears, so sincere in its tone. How could she not smile at that?

    Finally, she met his gaze, taking in his face as if seeing him for the very first time, and she felt her smile grow. He'd grown into his masculinity and his age, yet, she could still see the little boy she grew up with - once upon a time - there, in his eyes, and she loved that most of all. So many things have changed, and it brought her so much comfort knowing that some things will still stay the same. Indeed, they were all grown up now and making a name for themselves, out in the world. But all that mattered was that they were here, in each other's proximity with the same hopefulness... The same feelings. "I'm glad to hear that, Dante." Slowly, she shifted her hand, angling it slightly to simply... Grasp his hand. Hold it within her own. It was so much bigger now than she remembered it to be, and it made her chuckle a bit to see that she could no longer fully enclose it within her own. "I've missed you."

    The sound of a soft whistle filled the air, one that resembled a violin being played to a single note. Cassie shifted her eyes slowly - almost hesitant to break their gaze - and she fixed upon the stage, where the Kricketune orchestra had gathered. Despite the name, the orchestra also seemed to hold a few Kricketots and Chatots, all dressed in a dapper uniform. People were beginning to rise from their tables to dance to the first arrangement of the orchestra, and Cassie found that she was too elated now to sit still and eat. A small grin had pulled across her lips, as she glanced back towards Dante, her hand gently squeezing his own, her eyes gleaming with the stars just outside their window. "Dance with me." And by that time, she was already rising to her feet, gently enough not to surprise him, and slowly enough to allow him a chance to reject. Her eyes plead to him, as she stood by the side of the table, her body angled towards the dance floor with her hand still gently grasping his own, and with his approval, she began to lead him there, to make a night, a memory they would not soon forget.

    If only she knew.
  30. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Restaurant
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Falcone, Ariel, Syl

    Perhaps Jason was just being uncharitable. He was ordinarily much more calm and collected than this - often ending up playing the Straight Man to the rest of his Masters team of oddballs and freaks - but there was just something about Fighting Types - and Lucarios in particular - that just rubbed him up the wrong way. They always looked at everybody who didn't punch the crap out of people like there was something wrong with them, like they were somehow beneath them, and the way this Lucario looked at his Master...well, he didn't like it. He understood being protective of your trainer, but he wasn't glaring daggers into the young womans back just because Dante was paying attention to her and not him. And just from the way this Lucario looked at Jason himself told him all he needed to know about his thoughts; he looked down on Jason. He thought Jason was beneath him. But...perhaps he should be attempting to prove the asshole wrong, rather than acting like a smug little pup. It was just...Jason hated boats. All this water all around them, it was...unnatural. And being looked down on by a fighting type whilst on a boat, where the slightest slip on-deck meant that he could die tended to...make you a bit edgy. He just glanced at the Lucario, and gave a sharp snort before returning his attention to the menu. Sometimes, silence was the best answer.

    In the meantime, silence proved to not be an acceptable or preferable option for Nine, or Tails. The stuttering shyness and timid reaction to her flirtations was cute and all, but Tails needed a little more...spine in her men. Call it age, maturity, impatience or cynicism or whatever else you would, but when you got to be Tails age, you tended to get a little more impatient with the stuttering and stammering and hesitation of certain youths. Nine was adorable in his own way and she couldn't deny that his youthful uncertainty when faced with her charms - and the delightfully expressive nature of his rather handsome features - was endearing to the extreme, but if he didn't have anything past that initial physical attractiveness...well, style was pleasant, but substance was satisfying. At her age, she wasn't looking for a boy toy. Though cuteness was definitely a bonus, she was looking for a man to capture her attention. Which was why Nine caught her attention in the first place; despite his thus far nervously gentlemanly behavior, his muscular structure, his glossy coat, the little spark behind the eye...it all spoke of a uniquely capable and intelligent young man, and that was exactly her type. Besides. Young men just had so much energy. Maybe he'd actually be able to keep up with her, no?

    Hence the question, of course; any male could point at a dish say "That looks good." What she wanted was for him to give her some reasoning. Show her what kind of personality he had, what kind of thinking went into his decisions. Did he play it safe, or did he give adventure a try? Did he think things through based on logic, or instinct? Did he know anything about what he was talking about, or did he fake it and try to act the expert? All of those little things in the nuances of his answer that would tell her all she needed to know about his personality beyond that admittedly adorable exterior...and she had to say, she was not disappointed. So. He was a risk taker, a man with a taste for adventure, who made decisions based on logic and reasonable extrapolations on known information. He did his homework, and considered his answer before giving it rather than blurting it out in an attempt to impress her with supposed off the cuff intelligence. And it seemed, with a problem to solve, he was far more comfortable in his own skin; a very good sign. Under pressure...he could be relied upon. Too few men could have that said about them and have it be true. She canted her head to one side, tails flickering and picking up a little pace as she felt her interest pique. The way he talked about food...she was actually having fun. She was a foody at heart, and meeting a man of strength and intelligence who also knew about the culinary arts, well...she would be lying if she said that she didn't want to unravel this delicious mystery of a man further.

    You make an excellent point, Monsieur
    , she mused softly. Whilst his dishes aren't always so spectacular - who could forget the disaster that was the Pepper Clam Chowder? - they are always memorable, and it is not every day that you get to taste a new and unique flavour. Very well, you have convinced me. She sat back a little, nosing the menu closed. She gave him a sly little look. We can share the dish, perhaps, and share in either its genius...or its misery. Of course, if it is the latter, I do expect some significant reparations for your bad taste. A lady must be granted satisfaction somehow, after all. She lifted one brow at him playfully, but otherwise gave no indication of her mood. I must say, however, that I am much more a fan of his rival, Chef Gastron. Whilst Mavro does have a penchant for peculiar and exciting dishes, he does have a much higher failure rate because of it. Gastron, however, takes a more measured approach, slowly improving and innovating on his existing dishes until he has something entirely new. Perhaps not as flashy, but it does prove to be a far more reliable method. Wouldn't you say? Another test, of course...but that wasn't 100% the case. It had been a long time since she'd been able to have this kind of conversation about anything she found so interesting as food. If he could keep up...well, maybe he was more than just a pretty face. She gave him a subtle flutter of her lashes.

    But elsewhere, things had taken a small turn for...a different kind of conversation. As much as it warmed his heart to see Cassie smile so readily when she looked at him, his heart ached in a way he didn't understand as he realised that there was just something slightly...off about her smile. It wasn't the pleasant, intrigued smile she'd worn at the pool, or the proud, impressed one she'd had when meeting Gary. It wasn't the sudden surprised and happy one at realising their shared identities and connections. No, it was...ever so slightly hollower. It was still sincere - and it had his heart racing to realise that just looking at him smile was enough to provoke even a halfway happy smile from her - but there was an...edge to it. Like the smile only filled about three quarters of her self, that the rest of it was just...for show. A frown flickered across his face. He knew that smile, of course, since he himself had worn it in the past. The facade of happiness, when something much deeper was bothering her. He knew he shouldn't have mentioned her past troubles - that was his mistake, and one that he would happily pay for if it made her smile more whole again - but he wasn't entirely sure what to say. How did you make something like what she'd gone through better? You couldn't. The most you could do was tell her...that it was ok. That you understood. That she...he nodded, and looked at her, ready to speak...but he didn't get the chance.

    As the orchestra began to tune themselves up, the rest of the audience looked up from their tables and menus. A spattering of polite applause resounded, then fell silent as the orchestra - made up of various different types of musical Pokemon - began to play the first few chords of its first piece of the night. A slow, deliberate, marching waltz, the sort of thing you open a show with to get people paying attention and in the mood, something easy to move to, refined and classical and something that everybody in the room had likely heard more than a few times in their life. He watched Cassie's face light up a little, and suddenly...he was back with the same young girl who loved to dance, who couldn't resist moving her feet whenever she heard a beat, pulling him and his sister along to move along with her. It had been a decade since he'd really danced last, and he knew that he was likely to make a fool out of himself when compared to a woman as naturally graceful and poised as Cassie...but looking at the joy on her face, feeling the urgency in her hand, tugging him up to his feet...he knew he couldn't resist. He slid to his feet in a single graceful motion, stepping up to join her as she moved towards the dance floor. "
    A dance with the most captivating woman who shall ever grace the deck?" he asked, his eyes finding themselves drawn to and fixed upon her face. "I would have to be an absolute fool to decline. It would be an honour and a pleasure, Cassie." And of course...he knew that he was aching to impress her. To give her something to smile about. If she walked away thinking he was a graceless, uncouth lout...well, that would hurt more than never seeing her again.

    They approached the center of the dancefloor, his hand slipping closer to hers as they approached. Whilst he didn't know how to dance, he was a quick improviser; the dance was a waltz, which was not exactly a difficult dance to perform if you knew the basic movements and if you knew your partner well enough. A quick glance around the room told him all he needed to know; matched strides from side to side, slightly swaying hips, the occasional dip and spin...he was not about to be able to do anything fancy, but he'd had enough rudimentary lessons to know how to not trip over himself or her, and if he could apply the same discipline and adaptability as he had mastered in his Battles, then perhaps...this was not going to be so difficult. They reached the middle-center of the dance floor - and he could feel the eyes burning holes in the back of their heads from their "Escorts" tables - and his hand slipped naturally onto her waist, the hand in hers intertwining their fingers together as they rested between their bodies. He maintained a respectful distance from her, of course - he was nothing if not a gentleman - but all the same...he felt so achingly satisfied to be so close to her once again, a satisfaction and excitement that shone through his small little half smile as he found himself swallowed up by her eyes. His hand holding hers came up between them, palm facing hers, fingers up, intertwined with hers. The traditional position was, of course, out to one side...but this...this felt right. More intimate. More...familiar.

    As the new bar began - obvious, if you ever played music - he took his first step towards her moving on instinct and his best guess, the years of basic grace training coming back to him, matched of course by her step back. He stepped outside her, turning them on the spot, then to the side again - towards the side where his hand rested on her waist - then back and on the outside again, turning them in a slow, graceful, measured circle. He stepped to the side again, leading her with their intertwined hands, once, twice, then a small outside turn, keeping it steady and simple for the moment, getting used to the beat and the pace...and her. Having her so close, even if separated by a respectable distance, it felt like he was a kid again, dancing with a carefree and innocent Cassie all over again. He felt his heart beating at a million miles a minute, his pulse racing and heat blooming in his skin. His smile was entirely genuine, his half-smile splitting into a tiny fraction of a proper grin...but no less genuine.

    His hand tightened over her waist, aching to pull her closer, but he managed to resist the improper urge, focusing on not tripping over her feet. His eyes traced her face, beautiful and shining in the dim chandelier light, eyes shining like the moon outside above the ocean. He saw himself half-reflected in those lunar pools, but he focused more on her, her eyes, her gently curving face, her soft lips and her lustrous, flowing black hair. She was the Cassie he remembered, beaten and battered...but still alive, still there, hidden beneath the years of rust the years had inflicted on her...but still there. Just...oh so very beautifully all grown up, and magnificently so. Intelligent, capable...and oh so achingly beautiful. He took a half step closer to her, his hand tracing ever so slightly to the back section of her waist, stretching the boundaries of propriety to breaking point. That half-hollow smile from earlier still haunted him. That idea that she thought that...she needed to
    fake it for him.

    He looked her directly in the eyes, searching her face for...for something.
    "Cassie..." he murmured softly, her name rolling off of his tongue as if it was always meant to be there, as a whisper. "I've missed you too." He smiled softly, then, leaning forwards, aching to be closer to her. He was straining the bounds of propriety to breaking, pushing further past that little line that he knew he should be staying behind...but he just couldn't help it. He'd missed her for so long, and now that they were together...that magnetic pull that he'd felt earlier in the pool just seemed to be getting stronger the more time he spent with her. And oddly enough...knowing her story, knowing her hardships, seeing that edge of emptiness creeping in at the corners of her smile...he just felt more drawn towards her. He understood that side of her, he knew what that kind of emptiness and isolation felt like. He knew how hard it was to fill it up with anything that didn't just disappear in a puff of smoke.

    But much like air, he abhorred a vacuum, and he abhorred it even more when it came from her, a woman who stole his breath away as easily as breathing, and yet seemed to have this gaping hole in her. He didn't care if she didn't feel that same attraction. He just wanted to see her smile, without that edge. Just a simple, pure, unfiltered show of joy without any kind of caveat to it. But how could he get that smile from her? He didn't want to draw attention to that edge, for fear she'd topple over and find herself descending endlessly into it. But nor did he want to ignore it, and have her think that...he hadn't noticed, just like everybody else that she ever had to deal with. It was tricky, and he was...not the best at navigating social issues like this. But perhaps...she was like him, in many ways. He didn't hurt as deeply as she, of course, and he hadn't been through nearly what she had. But...what would he have to hear, to make him smile? Being too direct made it sound like an accusation. But maybe...just maybe...he could couch it in the right way.

    "You were always a better dancer than me, Cassie," He said softly as they turned in place once more to the rhythm of the piece on stage. "It was like...breathing to you. You just closed your eyes...and away you went. It was always spectacular to behold." And that was true. She'd always seemed to be a natural, but more than that...she was easily his best (human) friend. He remembered how the three of them - him, Grace and Cassie - had been nigh on inseparable on her visits, but despite his protectiveness, and his habit of pulling her out of the danger she sometimes ended up in...it was always Cassie who would get him out of the more complex trouble Grace landed him in. She was quick on her feet, even back then. He smiled at her fondly, slipping ever so closer, to the very edge of acceptability. His hand left her waist, and rested on the small of her back.

    "You always knew just where to move, just what to do. If I stumbled, you were there to support me and disguise my mistake. If I fumbled ahead, you always managed to keep pace."
    And then...there was the pressure. Being from a powerful family, it was sometimes all he could do not to buckle under the pressure of the expectations and the pressure of protecting and sheltering Grace. In a lot of ways, he was bearing the burden of two, but when Cassie visited...he got to relax. He got to act like a child again, he got to actually...smile and laugh with somebody who understood exactly what it was like. And oh, she would never let him stay inside and mope. If she found out that he was upset or unhappy, she'd always come up with some kind of scheme to keep his mind off of things.

    "And if I found myself lost, and unable to dance...you pulled me up and made me do it anyway, and all of my troubles just...ceased to exist."
    His hand slipped up her side as they moved, sliding between them until it came to rest on her shoulder. He ached to reach up to cup her cheek, to caress her soft, beautiful face to try and coax a happy smile from her...but he resisted. They were not that familiar yet. That would be going too far. "In all my travels...I've never met a partner who could hold a candle to you. I never said it back then, but..." He smiled. "Thank you. You were exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I hope that one day, I can do the same for you." It was too early for him to be that for her now. But one day...one day, he would make her smile. And on that day, there would be no hint of that hollowness that he could see eating away at her, and he would know that he'd finally managed to give her what she deserved.
    #30 Vergil Tanner, May 13, 2018
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
  31. Of course, Nine was very much aware of the connotations this impish female was implying. What she wanted. She was testing him, for whatever reason. Perhaps as a potential mate, or simply for her own amusement. He wasn't certain, but in the end, did it really matter? As long as they got along and didn't make trouble for their trainers, that was all that mattered, wasn't it? Perhaps it was simply his age, or where his focus currently lie, but he had not once thought of romance or finding a mate, and so it always caught him off guard when he met other Ninetales who did, and often it was difficult to understand or relate to them. By all means, he knew he was still a kit - 50 years old for a Ninetales was nothing, after all - but his experience and his appearance often forced him to think and behave much older than he really was, and it was exhausting sometimes. It was in that respect that he truly understood and related to Cassie and the endless roles they had to play in front of other people, to please other people. It was why they were as close as they were, and what separated their relationship from her and Ryu's. It was why he was one of her closest confidants. And looking and Tails now, he can't help but wonder if this front she was showing was truly who she was, or if it too was a mask. It never occurred to him that some people may just be that way naturally, though he must admit it's rarity could be why the trait is so admired, and why everyone tries so hard to imitate it.

    From her chef preference alone, he was able to see some truth in that line of thought; a strategic, calculated creature who preferred taking measured, controlled steps. Someone who made their decisions based on risk assessment and current data to reduce damage and risk as much as she can. She was a female who liked to play it safe, draw inside the lines and thrived in her comfort zone; patient and diligent in reaching her goals. It reminded him of how Cassie used to be, once upon a time, and that thought gave him more comfort in her presence. Surely you cannot blame me for others' failures, could you? He began in response to her first statement, and then continued, I do not mind sharing a dish. I would hate to see food wasted. And because after recent events, Cassie had become particularly strict - well, stricter - with her budget. But now... Now it was on to the main portion of the conversation. I understand your perspective. It may be advantageous to employ a more measured strategy on occasion to consider loss and profit, success and failure. However, one does not push past the limits of their ability and distinguish themselves from the crowd without taking a bit of risk, no? It is true that Gastron's methods are more reliable and yield more consistent results, but he did not get where he is nor find the method he currently uses without first taking a leap of faith. Surely there was risk involved when he created those dishes he constantly refines today. After all, could you truly call yourself a creator, an artist, a chef, if you simply borrow the work and creations of others and change it gradually until you could perhaps call it your own? In which case, I prefer the methods of Mavro, not because it is the more flashy or interesting method per say, but rather, because he does not let the fear of failure stop him from making his vision come true. And I believe that bravery is quite a valuable asset indeed.

    And so, the fact that their trainers had slipped away to the dance floor completely flew over Nine's head. But not Ryu. No, he was watching them very closely. This time, however, it was less so from possessiveness, but rather... Paranoia. Bad things often befall his trainer - the recent years made that extremely clear - and the last thing he wanted was for her to somehow get kidnapped off the dance floor as soon as she disappeared from view. But then, that might be his fear talking. Although, considering that it'd come true not two years ago... Who's to say it won't happen again? Of course, it was his job to worry, so Cassie didn't have to. And at that moment? Worries were the farthest thing from Cassie's mind.

    As she and Dante arrived at the center of the dance floor, surrounded by other lovely couples who had already begun their dance, Cassie could not control the feeling of nostalgia that washed over her. All at once, she was a little girl again, coming from an upper-middle class family with little more than a fearsome reputation - what with the near ruin her grandfather had almost inflicted upon their finances - and the entire world resting upon her shoulders; saying goodbye to her best and only friend. She still remembered wishing that night, as they danced the final dance together, to be older and wiser, beautiful and intelligent, and someone Dante would be impressed by, so he remembered her that way, instead of the way she was then. But most of all... She wished he didn't have to go. She saved her tears for when she got home and retired to bed, of course, but that night... It was one of the nights that made her world just a little bit colder... Just a little more empty.

    And now, here they were again, fulfilling her childhood wish as his hand slipped onto her waist, moving into position, and her only regret was that the little girl who made that wish... She was no longer there to see it come true. Cassie closed her eyes, telling herself to focus on the symphony, on the melody and the rhythm, and when she opened her eyes again, he was there - the boy from her memories - grown up but still the same as he was before, and as he smiled at her... As his eyes shined with satisfaction and excitement from seeing her, being with her... Her demons simply fled, retreating to the very back of her mind and leaving her alone, and the pain didn't hurt as much anymore. As their palms pressed together and their fingers intertwined - just like the way she remembered doing as a child, when it was time for them to part - and his presence filled her space, she felt... Whole. Like a missing part of her had finally been returned, and all she wanted to do was lunge forward and embrace him.

    She grinned softly, and her gaze tender, and with that, they were off.

    The wind brushed across her face and played with her hair as they moved to the rhythm, gliding across the floor in a way that made her think they were floating, and in that moment... She remembered just how much she loved to dance. Her heart beat inside her chest, and Cassie felt alive, uplifted by the joy and warmth that propelled her to cloud nine. Her grin grew wider, her body moving on its own as her muscles recalled the training they'd received once before. She followed his lead, in perfect sync as her dress fluttered behind her. Eventually, her eyes met his gaze, and she focused on the adonis before her, once more reminded of the perfection she'd found herself tangled with, and how he seemed to be thinking the exact same thing. She could feel his hand shifting around her waist, making her heart beat faster in her chest in a way it hadn't done in a very long time. Could you blame her? He was her first love, after all, and the man he grew up to be was nothing short of impressive. And very badly did she wish she could say the same for herself.

    But as his eyes began searching her own, it dawned on her that every thought, every emotion she felt had been clearly projected through her face. She kicked herself mentally, forcing herself out of it. She was becoming soft. And yet, it was just so difficult, especially when he called her name, when he was smiling to her like that, moving... Ever so close. How could she turn him down and shut him out when he was so clearly reaching out to her, laying himself bare for her and doing exactly what she was doing and feeling exactly what she was feeling at that moment? Perhaps, if it were anyone else, she would not have batted an eyelash. But Dante? She couldn't do that to him. No matter what, she knew she couldn't, especially when it was so achingly clear that he had the same void inside of him, a wound that kept growing, an emptiness and a shackle of thorns. And deep down, she was also aware that... That might be the death of her one day.

    And when he spoke - his voice gentle and soft as it rumbled in his chest like distant thunder during a storm - she only felt herself slipping out of her own control more and more. Despite what he was saying, she understood what he meant. It was a necessary skill you developed in a life among the elites. And at that moment, she heard everything she could only dream of hearing as a child. His approval, his admiration, and most importantly of all... The impact she had on him, and just how significant it had been. The hand she'd placed on his shoulder twitched subtly, a slight tick of her fine muscles as it ached to pull him close, feeling his own hand across her back while the other slipped free of her grasp, sliding up her arm - almost causing her to gasp and shiver, and the hairs on the back of her neck to stand on end - and a ball of warmth settled in her stomach, spreading across her body as his large, rough hand came to rest on her shoulder, and her eyes were glued to his own. Partner... It was a common word, one she heard especially often, but coming from him, and what it implied... It made her cheeks stain with just the subtlest hint of red, and all her previous thoughts... Well, they were left to the mists of time, and forgotten.

    With a soft chuckle, her free hand reached up and placed itself over his; so small and frail in comparison, and once more entwined itself with him. Slowly - almost hesitantly - she leaned her head towards her shoulder where their hands were united, pressing her cheek against his hand in a rare display of affection - one that left Ryu's jaw falling slightly agape - and turning her head slightly to brush her nose and lips against him as well, and her eyes were shining brightly as she murmured, "... That means a lot to me, Dante. Merci beaucoup..." And her voice rang true and sincere, and for a moment, she wondered if the little girl who made that wish so many years ago was gone after all.

    That is, until a great shudder reverberated across the room, shocking the orchestra and dancing to a halt as the ship began to sway more noticeably back and forth. And then... With a great big "CRASH", everyone and everything was flung off the floor and into the air... And all the lights went dark.
    #31 PentheWonderful, May 27, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
  32. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Restaurant
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Falcone, Ariel, Syl

    Of course, Tails had to concede his point - there was always some risk involved in art, and if you merely copied what else was out there it never progressed - but the fact that he was missing was simply that there was nothing original under the sun; in design, art, science, philosophy, sociology, fashion...everything built on what came before. It was either a further exploration of the themes developed earlier, or an outright response to it; a direct answer to the predecessors of that very piece, inspired by and built upon their shoulders in some way. To come up with something entirely original was almost impossible and, if it was done by anybody, was sure to be immediately unpopular as the "wrong" time to do it. And there was a reason for that; art had to move in slow steps because it was a conversation. A slow, building conversation between the ages, a meandering discussion with old friends at dinner that never truly ended or began. It simply...changed. And just like in a conversation, changing the subject too quickly, creating a sharp left turn...it alienated people, it failed to read the room properly and ended up simply making people uncomfortable. Risks had to be taken, yes, but you had to at least make it related to what else was happening. Besides, people very rarely wanted something drastic and knew. They wanted small variations on what they already knew. People were so very boring, after all. She flicked her tails happily - it was really rather pleasant getting to discuss this with another intelligent being who appreciated fine cuisine - but...alas, she did not get the chance to answer.

    At some point - he hadn't really registered when - Dante had completely forgotten to keep track of his feet, relying more on instinct and trust to keep him relatively straight and narrow. His dancing expertise was slim - as he'd said previously, he knew enough to avoid tripping over or stepping on his partners feet - but with her, it didn't matter. She knew how fast to go without putting undue pressure on him, she knew how to move in a way that was easy to follow and yet graceful and easy on the eyes, and when he saw her smile so openly, so genuinely when it came to flicking this way and that on the dance floor, it was just so easy to allow himself to be led along in her wake, his feet finding their way as and when they could. But of course, she wasn't really paying attention to his feet, or his hips, or his shoulders; her eyes, when they opened, were fixated on him in such a way that gave him the shivers. Before, over dinner, she'd been merely...interested. Intrigued. Here, he could see deeply into her very soul, could look into the inner workings of that beautiful mind of hers and realise that...she was doing the same to him.

    She was seeing into his very being, she was investigating him the same way he was her, and he could only hope from the expression on her face that she found what she was looking at as appealing as he did. That what she saw impressed and intrigued and - dare he say - infatuated her as much as what he saw did to him in turn. Now ordinarily, that would have worried him; normally, being so open and vulnerable and obvious to somebody so powerful and capable and intelligent as Cassie was was a bad thing; for a trainer as competitive and serious as he was, he always needed to bring his A-Game, and part of his overall strategy was complete unreadability, utter unpredictability and the appearance of calm collection at all times. The slightest blink, at the level he fought at, could make the difference between victory and defeat and very often did. So to have somebody as good as Cassie be able to simply glance at him and know everything he was thinking and feeling...normally, it would be terrifying. But now, right now...it was exhilarating, because he was doing the same damn thing to her.

    And what he saw...it set his pulse racing, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Every single moment of fascination and intrigue and infatuation he'd felt thus far was reflected in every etching of her visage, and as she seemed to realise this...he saw a similar reaction of shock, momentary horror...and then warm acceptance bloom across her face. Seeing her smile so genuinely, without pretense or falseness or insecurity, hearing that beautiful, melodic laugh of hers ring out across the oh so tiny but achingly vast space between them...it was wonderful. After seeing so much reservation and worry, seeing so much damn weight on her shoulders, to know that she could laugh like that again, and that he'd managed to give it to her for at least a moment...maybe he wasn't so useless, after all. Maybe being able to repay her that kindness she'd afforded him in the past was not such a pipe dream after all. His heart leaped into his throat as she rested her cheek against his hand, a small flush creeping up the back of his neck, blood rushing to his cheeks at the soft, silken feel of her ever so graceful, beautiful porcelain skin, so sturdy and yet looking oh so painfully fragile.

    And then her lips...soft and warm, plush like velvet and yet firm with experience and calluses of stress born into them, pressing against his hand. A jolt of electricity passed through him, stealing the breath from his lungs as he gasped a sharp exhalation of air, her simple touch and the intimacy it implied - the intimacy he secretly yearned from her already, had yearned since the day he'd left her to begin his journey - stealing the breath from his lips and the thoughts from his brain. His fingers twitched, spasming under the sudden blazing heat and tingling, stabbing icy coldness that rocked his body at such a sudden touch. He felt the urge to step closer, then, to slide his hand further around her body, to cup her cheek properly and gather her into his arms, to turn this dance into one of true intimacy as they both bared their souls to each other in the gentle bonding rhythms of the dance. He almost did it, too. He smiled at her, that soft little quirk of a half smile, the twitching of one corner of his lips that served as a smile for him spreading wider than before as he began to step forwards-

    But at that moment, the floor seemed to shudder and give way beneath him. One moment he was stepping towards her, caught up in the moment and the music and her smile, and the next...there was nothing beneath his feet but empty air. A moment later, as if in slow motion, the ground came rushing up to meet him once more, the momentum throwing both him and Cassie high into the air of the dining room, the lights around them flickering and shutting off as a resounding crack echoed throughout the whole ship. As surprised as he was, he had no real conscious recollection of what happened - past rewatching the events later using his photographic memory, of course - and moved purely out of instinct. As soon as he found himself sailing in the air, his first thought, his first reaction, was simply to protect himself and Cassie from harm. He could hear on the edge of his hearing the sound of several windows and glasses and plates shattering and crashing to the ground, no doubt sprinkling it with sharp pieces of porcelain and glass, which made it a...little more difficult to perform.

    But he responded as best he could; as they were thrown into the air, he launched himself forwards as quickly as he could, gathering Cassie in his arms and turning, falling shoulder first onto the floor of the dining room in a roll, absorbing the brunt of the impact for the both of them and turning it into kinetic energy. He only rolled a couple of times, of course - the fall hadn't been that high - and though he could feel the twinge of a bruised shoulder, at least there were no broken bones or smashed limbs. He looked down at Cassie - he'd ended up half-atop her, somehow - eyes wide in surprise and alarm. Though the lights had been shut off from whatever impact had hit the ship, there was enough light by the moon outside to just about see by in certain areas. He shook his head to clear it, glancing around; panic, shouting, confused muttering, but nobody seemed to really know what was happening. Already, he could see their Pokemon picking themselves up from the ground and hurrying their way over to them.

    He frowned, and look back down at her. "Are you unharmed, Cassie?" He asked quietly. "Somehow, I do not believe that that was a good sound...or even the last of its nature." He was never that lucky, after all. He moved to stand...then paused as a shadow flickered across her face, then the entirety of the beam of lunar light they found themselves positioned in. He immediately snapped his head around, catching the tail end of a long, sinuous form disappearing into the water outside...followed by several more following it under the waves. The night was too dark to make out specific details, but he recognised the shape. Unless Onyx had learned to swim...there was only one type of Pokemon quite like that that tended to attack humans indiscriminately. He sucked in a sharp breath and looked back down at Cassie, scrambling to his feet and hauling her up along with him. She'd likely seen it at the same moment he had - if not before - but it bore saying, just to ensure that they were on the same page. He glanced at their Pokemon as they drew close enough to hear him.

    "Gyarados. Likely an entire Murder of them, rare as that is."
    It was rare for them to travel in groups larger than three, but he'd counted at least four passing by, and that meant...a Murder, which was usually at least six or seven strong. And that in turn eant...bad, bad things for this vessel and the people on it, if they didn't get to the Life Pods quickly. Damnit, why had he Stored Maggie back in the box? Now he had to deal with a Murder of Gyarados and he didn't have a dedicated electricity Pokemon. This was...actually extremely awful. Tails and Jason appeared to agree, judging by their body language. He felt the switch click into place in his head, the shy, nervous, tentatively vulnerable man he'd been during the dance replaced with the Ace Trainer, the Champion, all emotion draining away and being held at a distance. His expression changed from one of concern to one of cool, aloof, calculating logical business, seeing only the problem at hand and not the whirlwind of emotions he'd been barely clinging his way through only moments before during the dance. So...the problem. He needed electricity, primarily. He had some rock-applicable members of his team, but with the lack of rock on board this ship - funnily enough, people didn't tend to carry large boulders with them on cruise ships - that was not about to do any good. Falcone knew Smackdown, which could work, but the problem was that Falcone was especially vulnerable to water; one decent hit, and she'd be down for the count, and she did not have the speed necessary to avoid it.

    Thunder or Thundershock, on the other hand, was liable for Friendly Fire given the vast body of water surrounding them, and if any of the passengers fell overboard...well, he didn't want them falling into electrified water. Everything else he had was either neutrally effective, or resisted...and Gyarados could learn an obscenely diverse range of techniques, even in the wild, which made them obscenely difficult to deal with solo, let alone in a large group. Really, there were only two Pokemon he had with him who could deal with it, and one of them was a risk. He pursed his lips...then shook his head. They had to risk it, if they wanted to get out of there alive, and in this situation...two was the most he would risk using at once. He couldn't afford to split his concentration, and the more of his team that were out there, the more likely something was going to go wrong and he was going to have to go back to rescue them. He would in a heartbeat, of course, but he'd rather not die to do it. He slipped his pokeball off of his belt, and aimed it at Tails.
    "Sorry, Tails." She didn't pout, of course; she was intelligent. She'd figured out exactly what he had, and was already in the middle of stepping closer. He sighed as she disappeared into her ball, then crouched down to talk to Jason, eye to eye.

    "I know it's a risk, boy," he whispered quietly, running his hand over his fur. The cold, calculating look in his eye faded as he allowed his affection and respect for the Houndoom to enter his visage. Jason understood, of course, and he could see the same expression in his eyes...but tinged with determination. He wasn't about to let some overgrown watersnakes get the better of him. That was good, because they didn't have much time; that the Gyarados hadn't already attacked a second time was a miracle in and of itself. "You know why I need you." He was the only member of Dante's (current) team that could hit the Gyarados with electricity and not risk electrocuting himself, or the people around him, and that was exceptionally important. Jason knew as well, of course, and simply nodded, growling his determination; he was not about to let Dante down, not now, and he trusted his Master to always have his best interests at heart. If he said that the risk was worth it, then he was going to believe him. Dante smiled softly, giving Jason another scratch under the chin before he stood up, the emotion draining from his face once more as he reached back and palmed his rearmost ball; he didn't have the space right now, but as soon as they were in the open, he was going to need Gary to get them off this ship in one piece. Hopefully Jason could use his superior speed to avoid any trouble until then.

    He looked at Cassie...and the ship shook again, another launching jump upwards as something large collided with it. Somewhere on the ship, metal screamed in protest, the sound of something being rent open. Immediately, the ship began to tilt, tables and discarded plates and instruments sliding towards the far wall. Dante jerked in place, shifting his weight to try to keep his balance, only barely managing to stay upright. Though his face remained neutral, just a flash of irritation passed through the corner of his eyes; battle Gyarados whilst also avoiding falling on his face? That was one thing he could have done without on his holiday. In the meantime, on the far side of the room, marshals were already corralling the panicking passengers through the emergency exits and picking up people who had fallen over due to the lurching of the ship, their various Pokemon aiding in the shepherding. Dante knew the layout well enough to know that those passages were very easy to access from the outside, running around the exterior of the ship. It made sense for evacuations - if something happened to the ship that caused rapid abandonment to be necessary, it was better to be near the water than trapped in the bowels of a gigantic metallic sea-coffin - but when it came to attack by Gyarados...well. When was anything ever simple when faced with something like that?

    It was a risk, to be sure. Another blow rocked the ship, and another one, and this time bellows of incandescent, unrestrained rage echoed through the ship, accompanied by the heightened screams of the passengers, now shoving each other in their haste to escape the room. They were out of time. He looked at Cassie seriously.
    "That route takes them along the outside of the middle-upper section of the ship. It's at least partially exposed to the sea, not that it would matter much either way if a Gyarados wanted to get at them." He pointed towards the balcony they'd been sat in front of, the glass now shattered and the door hanging off of its hinges. "There is a passageway to the roof of the ship from the balcony. Should we take the ladder to the top level, we could use the vantage point to draw attention to ourselves in a defensible position and distract the Gyarados long enough for the passengers to make their escape. Once the Lifepods are safely dispersed, we can retreat using our Pokemon instead of the boats."

    After all; they had well trained, powerful Pokemon.
    They were Elite Trainers and Pokeleague champions. They had the best chance of surviving against such huge odds...and if they risked it, they could save hundreds of lives, including children. And if he died doing it? Well. If even two other people survived this whole mess because of him, then it was a net win. He looked at her, straight into her eyes, and took a deep breath in through his nose. A large part of him ached to send her with the refugees, to send her to safety so he knew she could escape...but he knew her better than that, already. She'd never run like a scared child, and she'd be offended if he tried to treat her like one. She was a fighter. And when it came to facing such insurmountable odds? He'd not rather have a single other person in the world by his side. He looked back at the still screaming, running, panicking passengers and staff. "Are you with me, Cassie?"
    #32 Vergil Tanner, May 27, 2018
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
  33. As with every pleasant experience in her life, it was quickly - almost ridiculously at this point - followed up by a horrible, horrible event. So much so, so very often and consistent that it was almost inevitable and expected, that she was desensitized to it, even. Well, no, that wasn't entirely true. At some point, she'd hit a level so low that she began to find entertainment from her misadventures, and actively sought that danger to feel... Something, as opposed to nothing at all, but, damn was it exhausting. It was why Ryu was always on edge, on the look out for danger and tense as a board, why Nine needed to mature so quickly over the past year and why her team were willing to push past their limits, beyond what they thought were their natural capabilities in the first place. Their past hadn't defined them, no, but it had made them into what they were today, and at that moment, as they were flung into the air, as the glass shattered and the lights went out, the only thought racing through Cassie's head was, This is going to hurt.

    And she'd braced herself. Braced herself for the coming impact. For the ground to slam into her, for the glass shards to pierce her skin, for the wind to be knocked out of her, and - already - for the ironic laughter to come from her throat as the pain spread through her body. And yet... None of that happened. Instead, what happened was arms wrapping around her body, falling into something firm and sturdy, yet, less harsh than what the floor would have been. She felt herself rolling, and felt a weight on top of her, and when she inhaled, she smelled... Him. Dante. And suddenly, she wasn't so tense anymore. She wasn't so... So cold or harsh. All this time, she'd always been on her own, surviving on her own, receiving hits on her own and dealing with the pain on her own. She'd never relied on anyone. In fact... She never had anyone to rely on. There was never anyone there to catch her when she fell, pick her back up and steady her on her feet. She'd always needed to do those things on her own. But now... Now Dante was here. Now he was holding her, keeping her... Safe. And it was... A strange, foreign feeling. Though, one that resonated distantly in the back of her head, somewhere in the abyss. Her vision focused, and the first thing she saw was his face, how he shook himself from the impact and how his eyes were wide and alarmed, yet... Overall, seeming composed. That was an excellent reaction to such event, of course. Unlike her, who simply seemed... Bored, and somewhat tired. Of course, by that time, Ryu was at their side; almost seemingly teleporting. The moment the boat started swaying, he was already up on his feet and remained that way after being flung to the air, collecting himself and then taking off through the debris to his trainer, followed loosely by Nine, who approached with Tail and Jason.

    "Yes. I am unharmed." Cassie answered to both Dante and Ryu, who was burning the question into her head from his intense gaze, though the rest of his statement was, unfortunately, left unheard as her eyes flickered to the windows instead, where a shadow had momentarily passed and blocked the moonlight. Ryu's gaze followed seamlessly. It had been brief, but, she managed to see it in her memory as it flickered by; a long, sinuous tail with distinctive fins, and turbulent, irregular movement of the water outside. Her heart skipped a beat in her chest, a shine flashing across her eyes as they remained fixated on the window; watching. She allowed Dante to haul her up to her feet - assisted by Ryu, naturally - and flickered her gaze back to him, registering his presence once more only when he verbalized her thoughts; Gyarados. A whole murder of them. Briefly, her mind flashed to the lessons her father used to give her on Pokemon; the private tutelage that she would sit for for hours and hours on end. "It's their mating season, and we're intercepting their migration route." She righted herself on her feet, the ace trainer inside of her clicking into place at the forefront of her mind - turning her body language from fluid to alert, ready to spring into action - integrating with the sludge and darkness of the Drop - relaxing her posture once more, but keeping her eyes sharp and alert - and mutating and corrupting the thoughts that were produced. "You'd think the organizers would have chosen their routes better."

    Nine slid up beside her, pressing his head into her palm, and her eyes flickered down to him, smiling at the comfort and concern he offered, and gently caressing his mane, but her full attention was on the thoughts blitzing through her mind. There were only two options for her to endeavor; escape on Ace - whom she'd thankfully switched out for Jade after her temper tantrum for not being allowed to attend dinner - and convince Dante to abandon the ship with her, or stay, and... Play. The logical answer was clear, of course. Every man for themselves, and she likely knew better than anyone how kindness was repaid in this world. The hell and suffering she'd endured, the price she paid, all for people who didn't even care whether she lived or died. Who simply wanted to forget her, or perhaps never cared that she existed in the first place. Why should she help them? The people on this boat, she didn't even know them, let alone like them. What would it matter if they perished? Why did she have to prevent them from experiencing what she experienced regularly, when she had to deal with it? What would she gain from helping them? What would she lose? What's stopping her from leaving right then, and saving herself and the Pokemon and one person that mattered to her? Nothing. She knew Nine would follow any decision she decided to make, but then, she glanced at Ryu, saw the determination in his eyes, and knew that no matter how great his urge was to protect her... It was second to doing what was right, and he would protect her as best as he can so she can do that.

    And then, she glanced at Dante, and saw that same determination in his eyes. It was uncanny, and she very nearly chuckled at the thought. The bashfulness and vulnerability he'd shown just moments before had gone, as his mind ticked and whirred, instead showing the champion she'd only seen glances of before. As he briefed and interacted with his Pokemon, she listened to the steel and contemplation in his voice, the emptiness his emotions had left behind, the chill. She could almost see his breath cloud from the cool he'd slipped into. The man was gone, and now, she was faced with the machine; a dangerous instrument that set out and accomplished his missions without fail. Cold, effective, calculated and swift. Perfect, as imperfection would only slow him down. And Cassie found... They had more in common than she thought. If before, she'd been scared of him discovering the darker sides of her, at that moment he'd proven her that he could be just as dark, just as twisted. He could, she knew it, she could see it in the cold of his eyes. They were both messed up. It was the price to achieving the success they possessed, it seems.

    And to know this... It thrilled her fragmented, splintered heart.

    His eyes turned to her, hitting her with the impact of his focus, his intensity, yet, at the same time, the cold. She could feel it in her skin, the winds of a tundra blowing past her skin, and it thrilled her. The ship shook once more, but Cassie simply grabbed hold of Ryu, who in turn wrapped his arm around her waist and barely budged in place, completely unwavered. At this moment, her eyes were watching Dante closely; testing him, evaluating his reaction, and to find that his reaction was only that of mild annoyance? She felt a small, satisfied smile tug at the edge of her lips. She listened to his proposal closely, and evaluated that as well. The roof. It likely had the best operating space, and the best vantage point with very little distraction. And if they were assaulted, taking the top of the ship off wasn't going to sink the entire vessel. She nodded in approval, more to herself than anyone. With her current roster, she was definitely not out-tanking the Murder, but she could certainly outsmart them, and neutralize them that way. The point was to distract and divert, not KO and conquer. Well, it seemed she never had a choice to leave in the first place. Not that she really minded. Compared to what she'd been through already, what was a murder of Gyarados?

    And so, upon Dante's invitation, she glanced at Ryu first, who nodded his approval, and released his grip. Nine growled out his exasperation lowly in response, to which Cassie chuckled in response and ruffled his mane once more, murmuring, "You and me both, boule de feu." To which the vulpine snorted. Cassie sighed softly, glancing back at Dante, and proceeded to grab and tie the hems of her dress up around her waist - reducing its length by half, just above her knees - and bunch her hair up into a messy bun on her head. She assessed the area for a moment, taking note of the debris of sharps and shards, and concluded that going barefoot would not be a smart decision, but neither was running around in heels. And so, after another, rather tired sigh, she reached down and snapped the high heels right off her shoes, turning them into makeshift sandals, and after straightening herself up, she nods. "Alright, let's go."
    #33 PentheWonderful, Jun 17, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
  34. The one thing that surprised Dante, at least initially, was just how...well Cassie ended up taking the news of their quite possibly impending deaths. Now, he hadn't expected tears of panic and wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of shirts like some old religious fairy tale where they needed to make a show of just how screwed everybody thought they were, but he'd expected some kind of...recognition of the danger. Widening of eyes, perhaps, or a flicker of surprise at the sudden intrusion or even just a muffled curse that expressed irritation at having events line up to put them in mortal danger on what was supposed to be a relatively relaxing cruise. But no...no, there was none of that, oddly enough. If anything, she simply looked...resigned. As if she'd somehow anticipated something like this, or as if she was expecting something bad to happen as soon as she felt even a glimmer of happiness or comfort. Considering what she'd been through, perhaps that was to be expected - it was easy to become cynical when it seemed like the Universe was hellbent on making you its personal chewtoy - and he certainly wasn't naive enough to think that everything he'd heard was even half of the full story.

    But it was one thing to understand it and quite another to...see it. That bitter edge to her eyes, the frozen "here we go again" that seemed to stay glued to her, as if she fully expected any joy to be promptly and unceremoniously ruined. Whilst he hadn't wanted or expected to see panic in her gaze at what was transpiring, the fact that this had all become so old-hat to her by now...it actually made him more than a little upset. Whilst he was proud of the strong, intelligent, capable woman she'd grown to be, he couldn't help but feel in that brief moment of gazing into her dejected, resigned eyes...a not insignificant degree of anger at the world that had been so cruel as to attempt to drain away the vigor and passion of a girl he remembered as being so...full of life and excitement. The world did such a thing to everybody, of course - you couldn't stay ten years old forever - but to do it to Cassie, and in such a brutal, merciless way...it was not something he would forgive very quickly. But now was not the time for such esoteric declarations of impotent philosophical rage at the uncaring nature of the universe. They had a much more immediate - and surmountable - problem at hand.

    For a moment, he actually imagined that he might hear Cassie refuse to join him; the look in her eyes before he raised the question...well, he'd seen it before on other trainers. The "Screw this, I'm outta here" attitude, the kind of look that somebody got when they were attempting to work out the best way to extricate themselves from a sticky situation safely, and to be honest, he didn't blame her or hold it against her. It was a perfectly rational thing to consider in their current situation, given that unless you were truly an exceptional trainer with a whole host of exceptional pokemon, it was pretty much suicide to attempt to engage an enraged murder of Gyarados on your own. The most you could do was escape, and hope that enough people got off the boat to avoid it being a complete tragedy. But the look didn't last long, and he was gratified to see Cassie apparently change her mind, resolving instead to stay and help him out; he would not have blamed her if she'd decided to withdraw, but honestly, he had been hoping that she'd decide to aid him. For one, because he couldn't do it on his own. For another...well, as silly as it may sound, he wanted to see her in action. He wanted to see just how strong she was, and he wanted to experience that...that partnership that they used to share again. This was a very different type of dance, but it was still a dance, and he ached to see if they still matched each other as well as he remembered.

    Within the Void - the empty space inside where he evaluated his actions and emotions and discarded the ones that didn't help, that empty, cold place that he always retreated to in the heat of battle where he could keep his head and react on a moments notice in a logical, precise, devastating way - he felt an echo of something at the edges of his consciousness. The slightest tremor of emotion within his subconscious, powerful enough to resonate within the depths of the Void. He paused, and examined it. Excitement. It was not an unfamiliar emotion, when faced with a challenge, but to have it be this powerful, this loud...it was not the challenge that was provoking it, no. This was...Cassie. He was getting to fight alongside Cassie for the first time, and he just couldn't wait to see what she was capable of. More, he couldn't wait to show her what he was capable of. He wasn't a show off by nature, obviously, but it was impossible to deny that he wanted to impress her. He wanted to show her how far he'd come, and that no matter how good she was, he was her equal. And this...this might well be giving them the chance.

    For one thing, she had definitely impressed him in one regard; he looked at her, and he saw that same emptiness, that same cold, calculating expression that he imagined himself to be wearing, the cool gaze of somebody weighing up their options and evaluating them against each other, of cold, dark logic regardless of the moral cost. But it wasn't...cold, per say. That was the wrong word. More like...dark. Amoral. As if it didn't care what the moral implications were, so long as she ended up coming out on top. Whilst on anybody else that might worry him a little, he knew Cassie. He knew that, deep down, she was a good person, despite what the world might have done to her, otherwise she wouldn't be staying at all. She had the capacity to care about something, and that meant that no matter how dark her logic went...she was still Cassie. And he wasn't going to lie, seeing that logical, rational, calculating expression...well. He was even more certain that he wanted to impress her. She'd grown into a capable trainer, and he wanted to make sure that she thought that way about him, too. He grunted as he straightened, shaking his head.

    "It is not the fault of the Captain, or the Navigators," he said quietly, looking out at the increasingly choppy waters. Obviously, anybody planning a voyage across vast stretches of ocean were going to check the migration patterns of nearby species, and pretty much the first thing any captain looked for was whether Gyarados of all things were known to be sighted nearby. It was not uncommon for an entire cruise to be cancelled if even one Gyarados had been seen in the waters surrounding the route, considering how aggressively territorial they were known to be. He shook his head again as he moved towards the balcony doors, reaching out and taking hold of the edge. With a harsh pull, he yanked it off of what remained of its hinges, allowing it to clatter down to the side of him, not bothering with being neat. "I double checked the route myself. No known Murder of Gyarados was documented as traveling through this area, and certainly not during Mating Season. Either this is a previously unknown Murder, or something drove them away from their previous Mating Grounds and into this stretch of ocean."

    Neither one was especially comforting. Either there were entire Murders of Gyarados that nobody knew about - disconcerting, to say the least - or there was something out there that had scared off a large group of Gyarados. He wasn't sure which one was more worrying.
    "In either case," he continued, reaching up and pulling on the lever that dropped the ladder onto the balcony, "it does not matter at this moment in time. They are here, as are we, and we must deal with them either way. Jason, Vanguard." he said the order as an afterthought, almost, but Jason was apparently read for it. He responded to the codeword immediately, leaping up onto the middle rung of the ladder before hopping over the lip of the roof. A moment later, he came bounding back down - using Return - as if he'd jumped backwards as soon as he'd landed. He gave Dante a sharp nod of approval, before hopping back onto the lip; Vanguard effectively meant "Scout the area, return and report, then secure a beachhead." Codewords were so much easier to say in the heat of the moment, and oftentimes disguised your intentions from your opponent. In a battle, ensuring that your opponent didn't know what you were doing was vital.

    He glanced at Cassie.
    "It's safe, for the moment. I shall go first." He turned, mounting the ladder. The rungs were slippery, what with the high waves and spray of the sea - and the passing Gyarados - but not so wet that keeping his grip was particularly difficult. After taking a moment to ensure he had his balance, he scaled the ladder quickly, hoisting himself up and over the lip, his eyes constantly scanning the horizon as he gave Cassie the "All clear" sign over the edge of the roof, even as his legs adjusted to the choppiness of the water, keeping him largely balanced in place. He wasn't a sailor and he wasn't a dancer, but he'd been on the water enough times to be able to maintain his balance well enough. They weren't at their destination yet - they'd have to head through a few smaller side corridors before they got there - but hopefully the journey would only take a couple of minutes. He only hoped that they got there without incident...though given everything else that was going on...perhaps that was a vain hope.
  35. Cassie was not a hero.

    She did not save people, she did not come to anyone’s rescue, and she sure as hell did not risk her life to save someone else’s. And the one time she had? That turned out to be the biggest mistake in her life. She wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t naïve, and she was certainly not an idealist. She had no ideals. Ideals were just virtues one creates to feel superior or different to other people. Ideals were selfish, and they obscure truth, and the truth was, you don’t get buried with any of the good things you’ve done, or the people you’ve helped. Not even with the people who conceived you in the first place, who you were related to by blood. No, at the end of it all, you were alone in a pit for the rest of eternity. Unfair and cynical, perhaps, a touch fatalistic, but that was what the world had made of her. A cynic. That hadn’t always been the case, of course. As the saying goes; inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist, and boy has she had her share of disappointments. In people, in Pokemon, in relationships, friendships, and family. There were very, very few things she still held hope for, and Dante was one of them. Hence, she was a bit more willing to give this a try, if only to please him and Ryu. As much less as she could probably care about the people currently on the boat, she also didn’t want to break the illusion Dante had of her. She was certain he still saw her as that naïve, hapless young girl who could not lie to save her life. Innocent and fragile. Kind-hearted and pure. She was none of those things anymore, but did she really want him to know that? Did she want him to discover what she was now?


    No, she couldn’t handle that.

    So, focusing on the current situation. That was all she could really do. Well, that and distracting an entire murder of Gyarados away from hundreds upon hundreds of flailing, screaming people who certainly would not have done the same for them if the roles had been reversed. People who she was certain wouldn’t even thank them for what they’ve done, or remember their names, but would jump at the opportunity of claiming to know if it meant a minute or two of screen time in the evening news. Sad, pathetic people, all of them. But really, she was no different. Probably a little bit worse. Cassie shook her head. Focus. Her eyes glanced back to Dante, barely catching on to what he had to say about the ship’s captain and navigator. Not that that particular tidbit was of any importance. After all, she’d only said what she had regarding the route as a throwaway comment. But what she was interested in, was the fact that apparently… This particular Murder had been redirected from where they were supposed to be. She could probably make a guess or two as to what the cause may be, but, in the end, she decided that she didn’t really want to know. Of course, that, and the fact that he’d just managed to yank a door right off its hingers with his bare hands. It was nothing too extraordinary for a Pokemon to be able to do, of course, but a human? Well that was something else entirely, wasn’t it? And she would be lying if she said that the snug fit of his suit hadn’t shown her exactly what she’d wanted to see. Rippling muscle upon a clear-cut silhouette. Yes… She certainly didn’t want to disappoint him. She didn’t want to lose him again. Especially not if it was because of her own doing.

    Anything but that.

    And so, Cassie took in a breath, pushed all irrelevant thoughts aside to be devoured by the Void, and she proceeded forward, across the shards of broken glass and scattered silverware. She moved quickly, purposefully, yet her face remained indifferent. An almost endless range of move combinations ran through her head, various tactics and strategies, countless fallbacks and failsafe, pouring out into her vision, filling the darkness and empty spaces of the room before her. Ryu and Nine followed seamlessly by her sides, Nine slightly behind and Ryu slightly ahead. The sound of Dante’s voice echoed in her ear and was immediately pushed to the back of her mind, but not before being pulled through the frontal lobe of her brain and processed, followed by the thought noting his use of codewords. Her lips twitched upwards slightly in response to this. It was a tactic that she employed as well, and one that was devastatingly effective if used right. One might say great minds think alike, but Cassie would rather feel relieved that she wasn’t too far behind him, at the very least.

    As she reached her destination, she noted two, three more irregularities across the water’s surface. The night air was crisp, and the winds were unforgiving, but the sting of the cold against her poorly protected skin became euphoric as it merged with the adrenaline that was being pumped through her veins. She felt alive. Her eyes flicked towards Dante’s in time to meet his gaze, and simply nodded in response to his statement. She kept half her attention on his progress up the ladder for the all clear, or perhaps she simply wanted to make sure he didn’t lose his grip and fall, though, she supposed that would have been highly unlikely. The other help, she directed towards the water, for any sudden movement, and to plot their escape if things were to go down south. When worst comes to worst, and it fell between saving Dante or the rest of the passengers, she was grabbing him and taking off and never looking back.

    “Ryu, how many? And how far has the ‘herd’ gotten?” She asked. But it had not been a question, it’d been a command. Immediately, the Lucario closed his eyes, the four appendages hanging from his head raising and vibrating as he sensed the auras within the boat’s proximity. A moment later, he opened his ruby eyes once more, his irises constricting as he focused, and proceeded to send a telepathic message to her, “I’ve sensed 12 in total, Cassie. It’s not looking good. The passengers have just reached the life boats and are beginning to board, but they will need a path to escape.” At this time, she noticed movement from the roof in the corner of her eye – must’ve been the signal – and after a slight nod, she was once more on the move building momentum with a small run, grabbing hold of the ladder and propelling herself over in two steps. She landed flat on her feet and low to the ground in a crouch to maintain balance, and then straightening herself with the poise of a dancer, light on her feet and steady on her toes, and with a single bound, Nine and Ryu were by her side once more, angled just so to cover the blind spots their trainer could not see, scanning the distant horizon ahead of them. Nine, with his teeth bared and a low growl rumbling from his chest.

    Cassie turned to Dante then, shifting her weight onto her heels as she placed a hand on her hip. “A murder of 12, and a herd of cattle currently boarding the life boats. They’ll need a safe path through. Perhaps a distraction is in order?” She tapped a particular Pokeball on her belt absently.
  36. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Restaurant
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Falcone, Ariel, Syl

    Things did not look all that rosy from higher up; the seas were churning in a constant, savage mess - a far cry from the calm nature of the waters from only a half hour previously - as large, dark shapes slid and coiled beneath the chopping waves, the occasional fin breaking free from the surface to send a spray of water in all directions. The ship itself was currently in relatively decent shape, all things considered, but it took him all of his self control and balance to remain standing upright on the smooth surface of the roof, his knees slightly bent and his center of gravity constantly shifting to keep him relatively still and stable. The waters beneath the ship sent it tossing too and fro, and more than once, he had to take a step to rebalance himself after a particularly brutal wave struck the side of the ship. For the moment, at least, the damage seemed largely superficial but that was not going to last. With this many Gyarados in one place, anything large enough to draw their attention was going to meet a shattered, watery end, and he did not want to be on the ship when that happened; in an ideal world, it would be perhaps two or three Gyarados and he and the crew would be able to handle it, but this many? No. No chance in hell.

    See, facing two or three wild Gyarados was actually not that difficult. You only had to keep an eye on two or three combatants, they were chaotic and uncoordinated so you could manipulate them into getting in each others way, and they were just as likely to fight each other as you. But more? He had no idea how many there were, but it was obviously more than five, and that was four too many for him For one, that was too many directions to keep track of at once, and too many different wild combatants that could react in unpredictable ways. For another, even if they did fight amongst themselves you were still likely caught in the crossfire, and it became impossible to discern anything in the middle of the melee. And with that many attacks coming your way, avoiding all of them was practically impossible. The most they could hope for was that they managed to distract the Gyarados from the lifeboats long enough for people to escape, then use their own Pokemon to rendezvous with the survivors and guide them back to the nearest inhabited land. It would take a while - they were in the middle of the ocean between continents, after all! - but provided they stuck to the known Routes, they should be fine. Of course...that was what he had thought half an hour ago, and look at them now. They could not take anything for granted at that moment in time.

    A moment later, he heard the sound of feet hitting titanium, and didn't need to turn his head to know that it was Cassie alighting beside him. Oddly enough, he did notice from the corner of his eye that she seemed to come almost from above, or at least higher than standing, indicating that she'd...what, vaulted from the ladder? Even though it was risky - on the roof of a ship in a tossing ocean, you didn't want to leave your feet any more than necessary or you could end up having a very nasty landing - he couldn't help but feel impressed. She was always acrobatic and athletic, and obviously the years had not done anything to dull her edge. Seeing her demonstrate her physical capability was both reassuring and - outside the Void - oddly alluring; he'd always admired capable women, and from the ease of movement, the grace of her landing, the surety of her balance and the obvious athletic excellence that such a feat demanded all screamed of her capability in more ways than one.

    It was all he could do not to turn to her and lift an eyebrow and smile, congratulating her on such an obvious display of excellence despite its perhaps unnecessary nature, but alas inside the Void, Pragmatism reigned. As much as he wanted to, he simply did not have the time to appreciate her ability, or just how well her body looked, rippling and flexing as she twisted and turned in that figure hugging dress of hers. He did, however, save the memory for later review. Instead, he glanced towards her and nodded. "I agree. We are not going to win this battle in the conventional sense, but considering our objective, we are not required to." Twelve. Jesus fuck, this was not how he'd hoped that this evening would go. Of course, it was just his luck; he met an enchanting young woman who ended up being his long lost childhood friend, and what should happen to balance the scales of the universe but a Gyarados Attack. He supposed he simply wasn't allowed to have nice things. He reached down, and unhooked a second Pokeball from his belt, his finger brushing over the brail to ensure that he'd picked the right ball. "Go big or go home, I believe they say."

    He glanced at her again, a glimmer of excitement edging into his eyes. There was the cool, rational, detached Void, but just at the very edges...there was energy. It had been too long since he'd had a decent challenge, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Cassie once more, ready to dance in their own way...he couldn't deny, it was enough to get his heart racing. He didn't normally feel this way about life threatening situations, so...what was it? Was it just her presence than had him invigorated, or was it something else? He paused for a moment and realised...he wanted to impress her. He wanted to show off. His Pragmatic Self attempted to eject the feeling as unnecessary and dangerous, and whilst it was evicted from the front of his mind...it stuck around at the edges, always there at his periphery. Most peculiar. But he had no time to consider it now; he had a Murder of Gyarados to piss off. He lifted his Pokeball to his lips.
    "Gary, your cousins are causing quite the ruckus. I believe you and Jason are required to teach them some manners. Please get their attention."

    He gave Cassie a short nod, then pointed his ball at the ocean waves, the long red line hitting the choppy water and quickly coalescing once more into the vast, thrashing serpentine form of a freshly rested - and now rather restless, now that he knew he was being summoned into battle - Gary. He reared up from the waves as the red faded away to blue, his perpetually furious visage turned towards Dante. Dante gave him a nod, Jason positioning himself to watch the angle Dante wasn't facing, and Gary let loose. Turning on the spot, his tail crashed down into the waves as he reared his head back and roared, screaming out Dragon Rage in a deep, guttural, bone-shaking roar that even vibrated the roof that he and Cassie happened to be standing on. Combined with Cassie's own efforts...well, hopefully the other Gyarados would not react kindly to such an obvious challenge, and would focus on them instead. By Arceus, he never thought he'd hope to get attacked by a Murder of Gyarados, but he supposed that if you lived long enough, all things were possible. Well...at the very least...at least he wasn't alone. It was time to see whether they still had it.
    Merciless Medic likes this.
  37. Cassie nodded back at Dante, and the thrill of danger filled her veins.

    They stood there, on the highest point of a cruise ship among 12 raging Gyarados roaring and striking the vessel with each swish of their tail, circling around them like a helpless prey. And in many ways, that was exactly what they were. Not many people – it seemed – on the cruise had much battle experience. Or at least, it was nowhere near as extensive as they would claim it to be. Or perhaps, they were simply better at picking their fights, and simply had more common sense than they did, standing where they were at the eye of the storm. And yet… That feeling of dread and burden, the solitude that anchored her to the ground in such situations was simply absent. She knew why right away, of course, it was so obvious.

    Standing beside her was the most powerful, most capable and experienced trainer she had ever had the pleasure of sharing the battlefield with. With him standing there, she felt confident, like there was nothing she couldn’t do and despite the unsteady ground they now stood upon, she’d never found a more stable support. She didn’t need an anchor to keep her steady, she didn’t need to build walls to cover up her gaps and constantly construct and deconstruct them with every shift. He was there now, and despite having never shared the battlefield with him before… She trusted him, and she knew, somehow, that he would have her back. Because he’s Dante, and if he could help it… Then everything he willed shall be done.

    And as Gary emerged from the sea and let out a mighty roar of Dragon Rage, Cassie was filled with euphoria. This is what she lived for. This danger. These moments that could very well be her last. These powerful emotions that could only be evoked by the very fear of death itself. And just like that, the side of her she so desperately wanted to hide just moments ago… Was beginning to surface. That gleam in her eyes, the almost twisted tug of a smile across her lips. Oh yes, she lived for this. And before she could control herself, she turned to Dante and grinned, and when their eyes met, she was stunned to find the exact same glimmer in his eyes. That love of the thrill, that twisted passion for danger. Her heart skipped a beat in her chest, and she felt a sudden, strange desire to embrace him again the way she had as they danced. Her heart was bursting and she was… She was filled with energy and… Assurance. “Let’s give Gary some assistance, shall we, girls?”

    And at this, her hands adeptly clipped two Pokeballs free from her belt, releasing two distinctly different silhouettes from the flash of light that ensued; Lady and Peridot. She outstretched her hand and Peridot swiftly hopped on and made her way up along her arm and to her shoulder. Lady scanned the surroundings with her glowing green eyes, gleaming with the same light as Cassie held in her’s. She chittered in excitement, almost beckoning the Gyarados, and tensed up her muscles in preparation, and Cassie slid onto her back like clockwork. She leaned down, whispering into the feline’s ear, “Let’s play Pied Piper.” The trainer glanced over at Ryu and Nine. “Protect the herd and take care of any debris that comes too close. Make sure no one gets left behind.” She knew how capable and intelligent the two were, after all, and they were the only ones she trusted to operate without supervision on such a momentous task. And after the two nodded and took off to the evacuation group, she glanced towards Dante, an impish, almost flirtatious smirk, pulling out a clicker from a pouch on her belt. “Watch my back. Closely.

    And with that, she gave Lady the first click of her clicker, and the Liepard launched into action, taking off straight towards the edge of the roof and launching them off into open air, right into the fray of Gyarados. Just as her momentum began to slow, and it seemed as if they were going to plummet into the water, Peridot’s eyes flashed carmine and the three of them vanished from the air, reappearing moments later above the Murder, over the head of one particular Gyarados. “Night Slash!”

    Mid-air, Lady’s claws began to glow, and Cassie held tight as the feline spun her body around to build momentum for the attack. She threw her paws out, the energy leaving her claws and slamming into the Gyarados below them hard enough to tip its head over to the side slightly, giving them room to land and immediately launch off again to the next head that emerged from the water. “Peridot, let’s put on a light show!”

    As they flew through the air, a bright light pierced through the darkness in a halo around them, followed by Psybeam to the sky that mimicked the display of an aurora borealis, catching the attention of the remaining Gyarados attempting to target the lifeboats. Lithe, nimble Lady was able to evade the swings of the massive Gyarados, knocking them into each other as they tried to snap them up, breaking left and right on each click of Cassie’s clicker and being teleported away whenever they got too close to a dead end. They got quite a number of the Gyarados pissed and got them agitated at each other as they rammed into each other for the umpteenth time.

    And then, as they reached the absolute end of their path, where there were no other Gyarados and there was nothing but water ahead, Cassie clicked the clicker one last time, and Lady leapt off the body of their previous serpent, into the air where time slowed down once again. Her hands moved almost on its own, returning Lady to her pokeball and launching another one into the air, releasing a brilliant white Swanna who immediately swept down to catch her just inches from falling into the water, before a Gyarados chomped her in half.

    With that, they took to the safety of the sky, Peridot still aglow on her shoulder, as they drew a good half of the Murder further out into the sea and away from the ship.
    #37 PentheWonderful, Mar 24, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  38. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Roof
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Falcone, Ariel, Syl

    Adrenaline was dangerous. Everybody who knew anything about battling always talked about the rush of energy you got when that first Pokeball was thrown, when you got to stare your opponent down across the field or cave or stretch of water or wherever you happened to be battling, how warmth and life and strength poured through your body and made you and your Pokemon feel like you could do anything together. How that energy, when focused on your opponent, forced to combat your opponents same funneled focus, truly showed who you were as a trainer and - indeed - a person. And they were right. It was those moments of clarity. Those frozen frames between moves where you had to make snap-second decisions on where and when and how to apply that energy that set the Champions apart from the Chumps, the the hunters from the prey and the Legends from the Wannabes. But to be truly great, to be a true master of the artform, you had to understand the dangerous of that thrill, too.

    You had energy, yes, but without control, it made you inaccurate. Inprecise.

    You had the drive and passion and killer instinct...but that made you reckless.

    Everything slowed down to a crawl, your perception sharpened...but with so many details...it was easy to miss something.

    That was the true cost of Adrenaline, and without the skill to focus it, to channel it, to hold it distant from yourself and allow it to fuel your body but not to cloud your mind? That was the true sign of Mastery, in Trainers and Pokemon both. And luckily for him, it seemed, Cassie had at least mastered that aspect of battling; he saw the same energetic snapping of her motions as any trainer with an excess of energy, but not the clumsiness of somebody who knew not what to do with it. He saw the darting, restless eyes, but not the unfocused haze that lacked understanding. His eyes followed Nine and Ryu as the bounded off elsewhere, and after a moments hesitation, decided to leave them be; too many cooks could spoil the broth, after all, especially if he sent two pokemon with them that they didn't know, hadn't met and had no synergy with. As much as he wanted to ensure the passengers survival, the simple fact of the matter was that sometimes the right thing to do was simply...nothing. Cassie had sent her most trusted Pokemon to deal with the issue. He had to trust that she knew what she was doing, or neither of them would survive this.

    He watched out of the corner of his eye as Cassie and Lady set off across the water, taking advantage of the Gyarados's serpentine bodies and incandescent rage, smirking just a little at how similar they were; if you had to face multiple opponents, the best way to do it was to exploit their weaknesses, and as he was saying about Adrenaline...well, Rage had a similar weakness. Focus. Of course, riding on the back of Lady was somewhat dangerous, given how fucked you were if you got hit and your team was left without direction, and how much it might end up cutting down on the Liepards mobility, but there was arguably no better way to translate sudden commands than being in the thick of it yourself. Jason's hearing was more than good enough to pick up his own commands, after all. That being said, he had to say that it showed just how dangerous she was as a trainer; unpredictable, and unafraid of getting her hands dirty. He himself would ride into battle if it was necessary, and it was...exciting to meet another trainer who was that way inclined.

    He watched her movements - almost as sinuous as her Pokemons - with no small amount of admiration, before he peeled his eyes back to the matter at hand. She had her style, and he had his. She was a field commander...and he was a Grand Strategist. It was time to do his job. Now, Houndoom might not be the best Pokemon to go up against Gyarados
    - one decent blow from an angry Gyarados's water moves would likely KO him entirely, at best - but it was the best option he had, all things considered, and he had a few tricks up his sleeve to ensure that that didn't happen. He reached out in front of him in a relaxed poise, making sure to keep his body limber and ready, soothing the stiffness from his limbs, and Jason did the same. "Jason. Sheepdog." That was all he had to say; all of his team had been drilled in specific Codes and Procedures, so he didn't have to waste time - and the advantage - calling out moves ahead of time. It might not be as fancy as Cassie's little Clicker - he'd have to keep an eye on that, and see if he could discern a pattern of some sort - but it would do.

    Jason immediately shot off towards the ocean, taking a running leap off of the roof to soar through the air, landing lightly on Gary's back. Gary - knowing the command, too, and retaining enough control of himself to actually listen - twisted as soon as Jason was safely on board and made a beeline for the nearest dark shadow coiling beneath the waves. Gary shot past - Jason snarling out an excellent Taunt as he passed - and twisted around, gathering up several more shadows which fell into pursuit behind him, Jason only just high enough on his back to stay relatively dry on his back. Once they'd gathered up enough of them - about five or six, give or take - Dante nodded to himself. He snapped his fingers loudly - more out of habit, though Jason obviously heard him with how good his hearing was - and changed the command.
    "About face! Begin Guerrilla Warfare." Immediately, Jason dug his claw into Gary's neck - Gary having not heard the command, his head being underwater and surrounded by probably-screaming Gyarados - which translated the message easily enough.

    Gary twisted on the spot, rearing up out of the water to his full (-ish) height. Particles of light gathered in his mouth as he pulled back, his jaws opening wide as he proceeded to rake the area in front of him with a staggeringly powerful Ice Beam, blasting the area in front of him back and forth, serving to freeze the choppy waves in place for a handful of moments. Whilst the attack would have little effect on the Gyarados themselves, it hadn't been targeted at them directly; following as closely as they were, they didn't have the time to change direction, and several of the lead serpents crashed head long into the shallow wall of ice that had sprung up before them. The lead pair reared up in shaken pain, the ones behind them crashing into and tangling them up with the ones in front. Most of them surfaced in some way as they thrashed about, attempting to straighten themselves out, breaking up the thin ice wall in the process.

    But that was ok; it had done its job. As soon as they began to surface, Jason began his part of the coded move - the codes varied depending on if they were Solo or in a team, and this was the specific code for Jason and Gary, out at sea - as he took a sprinting start down the length of Gary's tail, before leaping off - with an assisted flick from Gary himself - towards the lead wild Gyarados. The Gyarados saw him coming, of course, but by then Jason was already alighting on the beasts head, light pawprints almost unnoticeable to the enraged beast, who was too angry and - dare Dante say it - horny to actually pay attention to such tiny impact points. Hence, the Gyarados wouldn't be able to tell the difference when Jason leapt off...but left an afterimage of himself on the beasts back, several more copies leaping off in different directions to "land" on the other surfacing serpents as he used Double Team to split himself into several distinct copies of himself.

    Of course, the other Gyarados saw the different images of Jason running from place to place, and - in their enraged state - proceeded to attempt to attack the annoying little canine that had now alighted on - seemingly - all of their backs. The large group of Gyarados was suddenly engulfed in scalding jets of water, large bursts of energy and crashing tails and gnashing teeth as they tried - and failed - to catch the annoying images flickering in and out of sight, instead catching each other in their crossfire. Such good fortune couldn't last forever, however, and Dante - who had kept track of the real Jason from afar - saw more than a few close calls, where Jason only just managed to get out of trouble in time. More and more of Jasons duplicates were getting destroyed, and Dante frowned as one particular Hydro Pump barely skimmed Jasons tail as he jumped and flipped away. Enough was enough. He snapped his fingers again.
    "Blitzkrieg Withdrawal," He snapped, to which Jason obliged with gusto.

    He turned on the spot on the back of his Gyarados, running up the length of its neck and getting to its head...where it promptly sank its fangs into the beasts face, accompanied by a large blast of electricity as the Thunder Fang did its job. Jason leaped off of the beasts thrashing body...just as Gary - who had heard the order - unleashed a Thunderbolt directly at the group of enraged sea-lizards. The bolt struck the center of the writhing mass directly, electricity arcing out and sending every single one of the beasts crashing back into the water in spasms of pain. Of course, such a move also placed Gary at risk; as soon as the thunderbolt hit the water, it was going to travel back towards Gary, since...well, water and electricity never mixed. He could get Gary out of there, but that would leave Jason stranded at sea, in the middle of a group of Gyarados...or in his ball, wasting precious time to prepare. Thankfully, that was covered by the Withdrawal action; as soon as the Thunderbolt streaked across the sky, Gary turned his attention to the still-midair Jason...and sent Dragon Tail directly for him.

    A large, several-hundred-pound mass of scales and muscles smashed directly into Jasons side at full force, sending a small crack through the air towards the ship...but it wasn't the sound of breaking bones and yowls of pain; It would have been, had it not been for the protective dome of shimmering blue light that sprung into being and enveloped Jason at the exact right moment, Protect doing its job wonderfully. Of course, being in midair, the momentum could not be cancelled, and even as Dante recalled Gary into his ball, Jason himself was streaking back across the sky to land with a roll and a growl back beside him on the roof. Dante glanced out at the ocean - the sparking patch of water showing signs of movement - and grit his teeth. Cassie had successfully - and masterfully - distracted about half of the Murder without casualties, and even in the midst of the battle, he could feel his respect for her grow; anybody could walk the walk, but seeing that she could talk the talk? It made him think that maybe - just maybe - they'd be able to get through this after all.

    But, of course, that was a thought he could not entertain. After all, they weren't out of danger yet, and it would only be a matter of time before the full Murder was on them again. Well...he was reasonably certain that one of the Gyarados had been taken out, at least; there was no way that it could survive a Thunderfang followed by a Thunderbolt. So...one down, then, and eleven to go. Fun. He pointed the pokeball in his hand at the water, Gary's shape coalescing once more. Jason glanced up at him, and he offered a small smile in return.
    "We're not out of the woods yet, old friend," he mused quietly, "But we've faced tougher challenges than this. Give us some Cloud Cover." Jason growled his approval, opening his mouth and firing a cloud of purple inky gas past Gary, and out a little to sea, spreading it down below into the water, too. If they were going to get involved in a war of attrition, well...maybe poisoning them with Toxic would help a little. He could hope that it would at least slow them down a little, and if worst came to worst and the Murder killed them...well, at least they took the Murder down with them, in a way, and stopped them from going after the survivors. It wasn't Plan A, but...it never hurt to have contingencies. He glanced at Cassie, soaring overhead on her Swanna with a slightly wry smile. He hoped she was ready for Round 2.
    #38 Vergil Tanner, Mar 24, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  39. Unlike Dante, Cassie did not have many heavy-hitters on her team. It was a gap in her team, she knew, and did she regret not rounding her team up as well as she should have? Perhaps, but over time, it also allowed her to develop her own… Particular style of battle with the Pokemon she had. Of course, she had Fang who was a pseudo-legendary, but relying on him and only him in a pinch was a fool’s practice, and she knew she never would have even made it past her first Elite Four with that mindset. No, her battling style has indeed gone through numerous changes through the years, from pushing her Pokemon past their individual potentials and honing their general strength, to simply… Fighting for survival. And through it all, she came to learn just what kind of trainer she was.

    And she didn’t need heavy hitters to survive.

    Her eyes scanned the vast, night seas alive with writhing serpent bodies with detached consideration. Up in the air, they were as safe as you can possibly be in the case of a Gyarados attack. Of course, the goal was to simply distract them long enough to give the passengers a greater chance of getting away. If they were smart, they would use their Pokemon to accomplish that, and she hoped that the crew had been trained to handle such situations. Well. It wasn’t her problem now, was it? As soon as they were on the lifeboats and sailing in the water, that meant she’d done her job. Of course… If she shifted her priorities just slightly from “allow passengers to get on lifeboats” to “ensure passengers can get away on their lifeboats”, then her objectives too changed dramatically, shifting from “keep the Gyarados distracted” to “ensure that the Gyarados won’t hunt them down” and that meant… Essentially taking them out, or scaring them away. Of course, there were very few things on this planet that scared a Gyarados, and they could only evade blasts of Hyper Beam and Hydro Pump and Dragon Rage so often until there was a misstep and both she and Ace got fucking incinerated out of existence.

    Priorities, priorities, she supposed.

    Wild Gyarados were rather simple creatures. Piss them off and you have their attention indefinitely for the rest of your lifetime, or until they bring that lifetime to a sudden halt themselves. It accomplishes her goal, oui, magnificently at that. This half of the murder won’t see anything but her which would give the lifeboats plenty of time to get away. Although theoretically, they could stay in flight for a very long time – given that Swanna are known to have some of the best stamina among Flying types - she also needed to consider that eventually, she had to go home too, and bringing a murder of Gyarados to a port with you was never a good idea. Cassie gave a long, almost irritated sigh, rolling away from a blast of Dragon Rage and then tucking over a Hydro Pump. Ace crooned in annoyance. All things considered, he had as much patience as she did when it came to, essentially, fruitless effort, and she had a bad feeling in her gut. Perhaps it was that trauma of the last time she’d chosen to help someone out of the kindness of her heart, and how harshly she had been punished for it. She still had a bad taste in her mouth even after all these years, and… How could she not? It had cost her everything, and perhaps, if she still had nothing, she would not have cared so much but now… Now, she did have something. People and Pokemon she couldn’t afford to lose again.

    Her eyes trailed back to the sinking yacht, slowly disappearing into the inky darkness below. The lone trainer at the rooftop, surrounded by a Murder of Gyarados and going down with it. There was something about the image that simply… Tugged at her heart. Had it been anyone else but Dante, she would have laughed it off as a fool’s errand and abandoned them to their choices but with Dante… There was a sense of heroism there that suited him so painfully well. And the reason it tugged at her heart so much was simply the fact that that was exactly the kind of thing he would do and that was exactly the kind of demise he would face. At the expense of saving other people. And perhaps… That was why he threw Ryu off so much. Because that was exactly the kind of Pokemon he was too. Always keeping her on the right path, her guiding compass when she could no longer differentiate right from wrong. Yes… she would stay because leaving meant losing the person she cared about, and keeping him alive… That would be her reward.

    After all, even if she didn’t know him, even if they had never been childhood friends, she would be a fool to squander a trainer with such talent. The crazy moves and maneuvers he pulled with Jason and Gary, how clever and unorthodox they were and how well coordinated and practiced everything looked. And how deeply she wanted to test her own skills against it. Despite it all, she supposed, she was still a battler. It was in her blood, even if she had been disowned. He had a love for the battle, a passion and focus and it was the edge that elites held over rookies and wannabes. And because of this, she grew to admire him even more. It was mesmerizing to watch him work, but, she had her own problems to worry about at the moment. And the very least, they seemed to have the same idea that the only clear solution was to take the Gyarados down, actively battling them instead of simply distracting them. Only one option had a clear outcome, after all. And so, she nodded to herself.

    It was time to begin Round 2.

    Now that they were safely far enough away from the yacht and the escaping lifeboats, she had more room to wreak havoc. She pulled Ace up to gain more air and put a greater distance between them and the Murder, but to also condense them closer together as they leap up to try and snap at them, falling over each other to do so. Dante’s attack combining Electricity with Water had given her quite a devious idea. It was nasty, but if it worked, it would hopefully be enough to convince them to move on. She moved up to a kneeling position, down on one knee, on Ace’s back, watching the Murder below as they spiraled up into the sky. She halted him. “Alright, mes beaux amis. Let’s do something a little different.” She glanced between Ace and Peridot, who gave their individual cries. “Ace, create an Aqua Ring around the Gyarados, and Peridot, on my go, strike the ring with Thunder Wave.”

    Each Pokemon gave their respective nods and Cassie nudged Ace into a dive. As they neared the water surface, Ace launched an Aqua Ring, enveloping the Murder in massive rings of water using the surrounding seas, confusing them as the move began to heal instead of harm, and then, when they were close enough, “GO!”

    Peridot shot her Thunder Wave, lacing it into the ring as Ace opened his wings at the last minute just before they hit the water and rising back up. The wave electrified the aqua ring and its pulsatile healing effects were instead changed to a paralyzing one as the electricity jumped to the Gyarados’ soaked bodies and were magnified by the Aqua Ring’s pulse. The Murder roared as they lost control of their muscles, thrashing and breaking the Aqua Ring, but also causing them to sink beneath the water’s surface. However, before their heads could disappear completely, Cassie commanded, guiltlessly, as she ran her fingers rewardingly along Ace’s feathers, “Thunderbolt.”

    And a crack of thunder split the dark night sky in a beam of light, slamming into the water and cobwebbing across the serpents underneath. She could only hope for further paralysis.

    Of course, it was difficult to discern the lightworks of electricity from their own attack and a completely foreign, enemy assault. And Cassandra realized too late. "Protec-" A Hyper Beam shot from the depths of the sea, breaching the water’s surface with such intensity that it evaporated the splash in an instant, and slammed into Ace and the half-formed shield square on, jerking them up violently into the air and then… Plummeting into the black waters. Damn. Her half-open eyes saw the world falling in moments, but she could barely move her limbs without searing pain making her stop. She forced her fingers onto her belt, however, recalling Peridot and Ace back into their pokeballs and she remembered Ace’s wing looking… Off. She glanced back to the yacht, trying to find Nine and Ryu – they’d be so worried – but it was all for naught.

    She slammed into the Gyarados infested water, and everything went black. Karma was a real bitch.
    #39 PentheWonderful, Jul 16, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  40. Name: Dante E. Young
    Location: Cruise Liner, Roof
    Current Team: Jason, Tails, Gary, Falcone, Ariel, Syl

    The problem with a Murder of Gyarados was that it wasn't as simple as dealing with "one Gyarados but there's more of them." Any large group of Pokemon carried its complications, certainly, but generally speaking if you could deal with one or two Tauros - for example - you could probably figure out a way to deal with a herd of them. They were herd animals, after all, and all followed similar, predictable patterns. Not a Gyarados. A Gyarados by its very nature was just a large, unpredictable bundle of rage that you didn't so much guide as you did "point in a direction and run the other way." Unlike other Pokemon, the problems a Gyarados caused tended to multiply; they were furious, angry, aggressive creatures and if you got more than one of them into an area, they always seemed to feed off of one anothers anger. One got angry and aggressive, and that made another one angry. That one got angry and roared or snarled and made another one angry, who maybe unleashed some form of attack on the first one, which just made the first one angrier...and suddenly you had a group of perpetually angered Pokemon who were just egging each other on to greater and greater heights of fury. And the angrier they got? The more problems they inevitably caused.

    As such...well, there was a scale. One Gyarados was a problem that required an Elite Trainer to deal with. Three was a catastrophe that needed a squad of highly trained Rangers to redirect without loss of life. Five? If you got to five, you were looking at a natural disaster that could - and would - level entire islands and cities before they eventually ran out of steam. So it would be no exaggeration to say that dealing with twelve of them - well, eleven now that one of them had been struck by two electricity moves in a row - was pretty much the worst thing that could have happened on that cruise. One, Dante could deal with. Two or three, at a push, he could reliably defeat. But six of them, in the wild, without any of his dedicated anti-water Pokemon? He could buy time, certainly, but he was only human. He knew his limitations, he knew the limitations of his squad, and he knew that an outright victory was not going to happen. There was simply no way he could hope to be lucky enough to defeat twelve Gyarados, even with help, without casualties. The most he could hope for was that he would be able to stall them long enough to give the liferafts a chance to escape before effecting his own withdrawal without sustaining any serious injuries in the process.

    But then, he supposed, that would be a victory in its own right. Victory and defeat weren't just a simple matter of defeating all of the Pokemon set against you, or losing your own team. It wasn't always as simple as that. In organised Pokemon battles, certainly, those were the win conditions but the real world was never quite so clean as that. In this situation, he wasn't aiming to defeat the entirety of the Murder. Whilst that would certainly be a good thing and would make everybody involved a good deal safer, that wasn't the objective. The objective was to ensure the passengers escape and survive the encounter. It didn't matter if he didn't manage to rout the enemy force entirely, so long as the civilians and staff of the cruiseliner managed to get to safety. That was his "Win Condition," as it were, so trying to outright defeat the Murder was out of the question. It would require a great deal of unnecessary risks to both him and his squad, and he was not about to place his team - his friends - in more danger than absolutely necessary. His mind worked quickly as he watched half of the Murder tear through the ocean towards him, his vantage point over the top of the new cloud of poison allowing him a relatively decent overview of the battlefield.

    Gyarados were not subtle creatures. They saw a threat, and they attacked it, head on, bursting through any obstacle in their way. It was their greatest strength - the epitome of "Unstoppable Force" - but it also made them predictable. With a flick of his hand, he tapped Jasons pokeball and recalled him, sheltering him from what was about to happen. He could keep track of three Pokemon at one time, but Jason was extraneous to his current plans, and keeping him out only risked him being struck by a stray Hydropump or Water Gun for no real gain. Meanwhile, his fingers dragged over his Pokeballs - the pads feeling out the correct braille pattern - and tapped the correct ones. The red laser beam quickly coalesced by his side into a large spider shape as Ariel - his Ariados - squatted by his side, the other beam forming into the graceful, dainty form of Tails, idly cleaning herself as she waited for her cue. He snapped his fingers to get Tails, Gary's and Ariel's attention. "Volleyball Setup Three," he said simply, pointing ahead of him. "Behind the cloud cover." Immediately, Gary and Ariel sprung into action with a speed and precision that - win or lose - made him exceptionally proud. It was one thing drilling them in all of these weird and situational combinations that you'd never think would come in handy in an actual battle, but when you got into one of those odd situations and your team responded like it was second nature? How could he be anything but exceptionally proud of just how much they trusted him, and how well they remembered his lessons?

    This was the thing. A lot of his stranger commands would be of no use whatsoever in a proper Pokemon Battle. They either took too long to set up, or were so dependent on their surroundings that you could only really pull it off in one or two specific locations. The flip side was, of course, if you happened to find yourself surprised on unfavourable ground...you had some weird tactics already lined up and ready. Take now, for example; the best way to stall anything was to throw an obstacle in the way that slowed them down. Alas, you couldn't just build a wall in the ocean from nothing. Certain Pokemon could do it with their minds, but he didn't have any of them on him at that moment, so he had to work with what he had...and what he had were two Pokemon who could make some rather interesting combinations between the two of them. As soon as Dante gave his command, Gary gave a primal roar, his tail lashing out ahead of him and whipping the waters into a frenzy. The already-restless sea churned in fury as a pair of waterspouts - or more accurately, Twisters - spun their way out of the ocean, towering into the sky on either side of him. As soon as they were at a decent height, easily fifty feet or so apart, Tails took her cue.

    Her tails stiffened out at an angle as she stood erect and firm, the cold rolling off of her body in waves, chilling the freezing air around her as she directed her Blizzard forwards, the temperature rapidly falling below zero as it hit the sea beyond Gary. The Twisters - filled with water as they were - soon froze into a pair of twisted, knotted pillars of ice, the great wave that had been about to crash down on the side of the sinking yacht caught in mid-flow. Cracks began to appear in the wave, of course, as the ocean continued its rolling course, but that was no concern of Dante's. He recalled Tails just as Ariel fired off the first of her many, many Spiderwebs and String Shots, a large arcing stream of sticky silk emanating from her jaws. Normally, she'd need to create the web between herself and wherever she was aiming, but thanks to the unique mechanics of the move, she was able to stick the ends in pieces, all connected via her mouth. She span it quickly, an ugly but strong netting of webbing from post to post. All that was left to do was ensure that the approaching Gyarados ran headlong into it. Of course, that was easily done; at a simple command from Dante, Gary simply raked the area ahead of him with Ice Beam once more, freezing just enough of the water beneath the surface to cause the Gyarados to erupt from the frozen surface in thrashing confusion as they passed through...directly into the cloud of Toxic that soon infected their systems.

    Without a way to reliably recover from the poison, at least Dante had the satisfaction of knowing that if he died, most of the Murder would probably die as well before long. There was something to be said, he thought, for spite. As it was, the first few Gyarados soon ended up encased in sticky spiderweb, cutting down their speed and manoeuvrability, and it wasn't long before their thrashing entangled the others, too, resulting in a large mess of tails and fangs as they got progressively angrier, helped of course by the occasional tactical string of fresh web from Ariels maw. The water would dissolve the spiderweb quickly enough, of course, but with any luck they'd end up confused and fighting amongst themselves...and any amount of stalling of their momentum would buy the refugees a few precious extra seconds. A tap of his belt recalled Ariel - she'd done her job - and he was about to order Gary to attack again, probably with a thunderbolt...when a large sparking blast of light caught his eye. He frowned and glanced away - just for a second - in time to see a large ring of electricity arcing around the other half of the Murder. It appeared that Cassie had utilised a combination of her own - it looked like...Aqua Ring, combined with an electrical move of some sort? He'd have to remember that - but where was she? He couldn't see her past the arcing Hyper Beams that periodically raked the sky-


    Oh no.

    He saw her, then, lit by a backdrop of brilliant silver light as she plummeted towards the ocean, trailing a path of smoke behind her as she fell. He felt his heart lurch and his stomach drop with her. She'd been hit. No no no, not her, anybody but her. It made sense, of course; one trainer could only handle so many Pokemon before they ended up getting caught off guard, and with her insistence on accompanying her Pokemon into battle, it was an inevitability that she'd eventually get caught in the crossfire. But the logical inevitability didn't stop the shock of agony echoing through his chest at the thought of losing her. He had to act fast; a fall from that height would knock her unconscious easily - or worse - and even from a pragmatic standpoint, he couldn't deal with twelve Gyarados on his own. And from a more selfish perspective...if he lost her, regardless of how many other people he saved, this would be a monumental failure...and her death would be on his hands, considering that he was the one who'd convinced her to put herself at risk in the first place. He grit his teeth and turned his attention back to Gary, the Retrieval command fresh on his lips-

    A blinding blast of light from the mess of Gyarados as a furious Hyper Beam streaked through the sky towards the ship. He ducked immediately on reflex, just in case, but the beam didn't strike him. Instead, it cut straight through the ship beneath his feet, slicing through the metal as if it weren't even there. Terror gripped his chest as he heard the telltale detonations of something really rather important catching fire, and the trembles as the ship began to split and keel to one side.
    "That is most certainly not a good sound..." he muttered to himself bitterly. Another tremor hit the ship and he was already running, his feet pounding on the wet metal roof towards the edge. The ship was no longer safe footing. He needed to get off. The edge of the ship looked like it was a million miles away, but still his feet pounded against the roof, closing the distance as the ship listed further and further to one side and windows beneath him blew out with a wash of heat and smoke. He looked at Gary as he hurled himself from the side of the ship, a command on the very tip of his tongue to catch him and withdraw; there was no hope of a rout now, and the most he could hope for was to collect Cassie and lure the Gyarados away.

    The words had barely begun to leave his lips when a loud crack like thunder echoed behind him. He turned his head in time to catch the full searing heat of the explosion on his face, the shockwave catching him in midair. It was a myth that an explosions shockwave was enough to propel a human being any amount of distance into the air - whilst powerful, the shockwave emanated in all directions, so its actual force was mitigated somewhat - but a human who was already in motion, already off the ground, already falling? No, it caught him easily and hurtled him away from the ship. There was a sudden, lancing agony in his stomach that knocked all of the breath from his lungs, just in time for the collision with the inky blackness of the churning sea...and then the pure, raw darkness of the deep abyss beyond.
    #40 Vergil Tanner, Jul 16, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019

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