Back for the new chapter. I'm sorry if those chapters sound too sad or depressive, but it's a story, so things will get better, eventually. Just stick around for a bit longer if you can. Besides thanks to the beta readers, nothing more to add I guess. Enjoy.

Next Chapter : docsgooglecom/document/d/1A5VHi1ILbo-9kO8glNEo38LhQRKwYTu11ey4seVV_ds/edit


Early in the morning, Max opened his eyes with the light of the sun shining through the fancy curtains. Even though he never slept in such a comfortable bed, he ironically didn't sleep that well since he fell asleep very late in the night. He wished that he could sleep some more, but he was unable to, instead he brought himself to sit at the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes. He then took the time to look around the very spacious room, complete with a beautiful carpeted floor and fancy furniture surrounding him. The ceiling was also high, the windows were very large, everything you'd expect in a typical lavish bedroom of a rich person.

"Oh, yeah," Max mumbled. "I'm a bourgeoisie now."

Not feeling all that hyped, he got up from the bed and went to his backpack to get dressed. He told himself that if he was to live here for a while, maybe he could use the dresser near the bed. After deciding that he would probably do it later, he left the room, where a maid was passing by.

"Good morning, sir." She politely greeted him.

"Good morning." He greeted back, but with less enthusiasm.

Assuming that breakfast wasn't ready yet, he walked through the hallway and made his way to the second-floor balcony, where he had a beautiful view of the wilderness and a small portion of Oxgard. Once outside, he went over to the fence where he rested his elbows, feeling a cool breeze running over him.

"Alright, What do I do now?" He asked himself.

Since he announced his decision to stop being a pokemon trainer, he had wondered what he would do with his life from now on. Should he go try to find a job in Oxgard or somewhere else close by? Become a servant or butler of this place? Build his own house away from civilization and live like a hermit? All reasonable choices, however, all the possibilities he considered always turned towards one thing; his pokemon. Whatever he would end up choosing should be so that they could have an optimal life. He pondered all alone until the sun was high enough to illuminate the world at its full capacity. He then went back inside, thinking that breakfast had to be ready by now. After opening the door, he stumbled across Vicky, the family's sneasel, who seemed to also want to step outside.

"Oh, hi there. Vicky, right?" He greeted her, trying to show some politeness.

Stopping in her tracks, she only glared at him, giving an almost disdainful look.

{Step aside, peasant. Low-lifes like you shouldn't even be allowed to approach me.} She told him in the most haughty tone he ever heard.

"Oh, a real charmer I see." Max retorted.

{Oh, so you can understand what I say.} A tiny smirk crept onto her lips. {This makes things easier. Since that's the case, do us a favor and throw yourself in the garbage already. That way you could spare everyone of your miserable existence.}

"Hem… did I piss in your bed or something?" Max inquired, annoyed, but not really in the mood to start an argument.

{*Hmpf* If you did, you would already be at the bottom of a lake, frozen to the bone. Now step aside.} With this final order, she walked towards him.

She attempted to scratch his leg to move him away, but Max dodged the swipe in time, leaving her claws to cut nothing but thin air. She then walked outside through the same door he did, not seeming to care one bit.

"What a bitch." Max mumbled, closing the door behind.

Luckily, having a lot on his mind seemed to have had its perks as he forgot about that scene rather quickly. After a few minutes of walking, he arrived at the dining room, where Aurora and Dusk were already eating.

"Good morning, dear Max." Helene greeted him with her usual smile.

"Good morning. Where's Bonny?" Max asked while sitting.

{She said she wasn't hungry, so she stayed in bed.} Aurora answered.

"Really? She's usually always hungry."

{Not today it seems.} The lucario answered, between bites.

Max sighed while pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I'll go see her after this." He said while receiving his plate, which contained a whole brunch on it.

{Maybe… she's just feeling very tired. Last night, she…} Dusk started before interrupting herself.

"She what?"

{Well, I'm not very sure of it, but… I think I heard her sobbing soon after we got to bed.}

"Freaking hell." Max cursed before realizing it. "I'm sorry." He apologized to Helene.

"Something wrong?" She asked, a bit lost.

"*Sigh* It seems that Bonny is still suffering from depression," Max replied, looking even more morose than before.

"Poor her. It seems that comfort isn't enough to make her feel better." Helene sympathized.

"Comfort never seemed to be a problem for her, so I doubt it would change anything. It's like all these problems are lining up in front of me so they can take turns beating me up."

"Maybe a pokemon center can help her like they are with your mawile. They are specialized in helping pokemon with their overall health, so maybe they can do something for her."

"Maybe. Speaking of my mawile, I was planning on visiting her today."

"Mike could take you there. And if you would allow me to make a suggestion, maybe you could bring all your pokemon for a check-up."

"...I guess."

{I don't especially like to be touched by a complete stranger, but she has a point. I think we really need it.} Aurora agreed.

"True. Now that I think about it, I should have done that a lot sooner. Just another reason to prove that I'm a bad trainer."

{Master, you-} Aurora started before being cut by Helene.

"We all make mistakes, young man, and even more so when we're not in a healthy state of mind. Correct me if I'm wrong, but could it be that you don't allow yourself to make some from time to time?" She said while looking at Max from the other side of the table.

Unable to answer, Max only stared at his plate, having only taken two bites from his breakfast.

"I think we're starting to scratch the surface of the problem." Helene continued.

"Mistakes… We live in a world where they aren't allowed." Max started. "One slip up; that's usually all it takes to lose everything you've worked for. So yeah, I guess I don't allow myself to make any mistakes. I have already made too many, and someone I cared about died because of that." He shared, his eyesight fixated on his plate of half-eaten food.

"You're not the first victim of such unfortunate events, and you definitely won't be the last. Death is a part of life in a sense, so surely you did everything you could. The only one at fault here is your unfavorable misfortune."

"I don't think so. The one who's really at fault here is Qsalyla, the gardevoir who could only be described as a worthless scumbag at best." He said, annoyed.

"Naturally," Helene replied, not insisting.

"...Maybe I should go talk to her for a bit before going. I have yet to convince her to get out of bed anyway," Max stated, referring to Bonny.

{I know you mean well, but maybe I should go instead of you.} Aurora suggested. {Given her current state, maybe she would be more comfortable with talking to another female pokemon.}

"Yeah, you may be right. She has a bit more in common with you than me, so you have a point."

{That's… not really what I was referring to.}

"No, I'm serious, Aurora. It is better that you go instead of me. No matter how much she loves me, there are things that are better said between girls." Max assured her.

{...Alright. I just wanted to be sure that you didn't take it personally.}

"I may be done with life, but I haven't become completely ignorant."

After that, they ate their meal rather quietly.

{Well, I'm off to go get her.} Aurora said, jumping down from the chair.

{Can I come too?} Dusk asked, doing the same.

{I would like you to, Dusk, but a group of us could annoy her more than anything. It's better that only one of us goes to 'bother' her.}

{Oh, okay. I… understand.} The braixen said, her ears perking down.

{I'm sorry.} Aurora apologized sincerely before leaving.

Defeated, Dusk walked back to the table and sat next to Max, staring at the table, looking demoralized.

"I'm sure she didn't want to exclude you. It's true that being too invasive won't help, so she just did what was best for Bonny."

{...I know.}

Max then realized what was off about her. Everyone in the group was friends, but some were getting along better than others, besides Luna who was mostly a lone wolf. Aurora and Bonny were mostly spending time together and Scarlet was mostly with him. The last ones being Dusk and May. She was even getting quite close with Jade, but since she was gone and May was hospitalized, she felt that she was pushed aside.

"What would you say if we spent the afternoon together?" Max proposed.

{Don't force yourself, master. I know you only said that because I look miserable.}

"Since when do I need to wait for you to look miserable in order to spend time with you?" Max retorted.

{I… never, but…}

"I don't pity you if it's what you're suspecting."

{Really?} Dusk said, looking at him skeptically.

"Well… yes."

{So if I read your mind, I would see that you are telling the truth?}

"What has gotten into you, Dusk?! Since when have you been so inconsiderate?"

{I… I'm sorry, master.} She apologized, filled with guilt. {I'm... why am I like this?} She bemoaned, hiding her face with her paws.

"You're on the edge, Dusk. Don't be so hard on yourself." Max reassured, pulling her into a hug.

{But it's not me, master. I'm not myself anymore.}

"Just give yourself some time."

{Master… I miss her so much…} She said, hiding her cries in Max's torso.

"It's okay, Dusk." Max soothed, rubbing her head. "We all do."

He then let her unbottle her feelings for a short moment before she moved away.

{I'm sorry, master. You must be tired of hearing us cry all the time.} The braixen apologized, wiping her tears away.

"I'm not. And even if I did, you shouldn't stop because of me."

{R-Right… Thank you, master. At least I still have you.} She mentioned while jumping down from the chair to leave.

Max was now alone in the dining room, fingers crossed and resting against his forehead. He stayed there for a little while until he heard a knock behind him. Turning, he saw Mike standing under the frame of the dining room doorway.

"Lady Helene told me that you could use a ride to town."

"Coming," Max replied, standing to join him.

"Do you want me to go get your companions as well?"

"No, it's okay. They need to take it easy for a while. I'll just tell everyone once we come back."

"As you wish."

A few minutes later, they were both next to Mike's assigned car and ready to leave. Shortly after Mike got in, Max was about to do so when he felt someone's presence behind him, who was no other than Luna, in her real form.

{My my, you're getting better at sensing danger.} The zoroark praised him.

"It's not much if you weren't trying your best to stay hidden."

{But it's an improvement nonetheless. I remember a time where you wouldn't have noticed me even if I was heavily stepping on branches.}

"Was I really that bad?"

{Not really. I was just exaggerating a bit, just to tease you a little.} She replied with a small grin.

"Hehe, good thing that I know that it's your way to express yourself, otherwise it wouldn't have helped my morale."

{Exactly why I took the risk. Anyway, I saw Scarlet recently, and she told me about May. Can I accompany you?}

"...Sure." He responded after a brief pause, a bit surprised by her request.

{Why the hesitation?} Luna asked, paws on hips.

"Sorry. I know you're really close with everyone in the group, but… it's the first time I've actually seen you this worried."

{Well, I thought that maybe I could express more of my concern, but if doing so that much isn't welcome…} She said, pretending to leave.

"No no, not at all. I'm actually really glad that you decided to open up to us lately. It just surprised me a little, that's all. It's like I'm seeing you in a new light, and it makes me feel like…"

{You're a good trainer?} She stated, with a tiny smile escaping her muzzle.

"...Anyway…" Max said, shaking his head lightly. "Yeah, you can come." He agreed, opening the car's door to get in.

After Luna followed, they headed towards Oxgard town. It didn't take them long before arriving at the pokemon center.

"I have some shopping to do, so do you mind if I attend it and pick you up later?" Mike told Max and Luna when they got out of the vehicle.

"Not at all, take your time," Max replied.

"See you later, then."

With a nod, Mike drove off, leaving Max and Luna on their own. And with a sigh, Max walked towards the pokemon center.

"Did Scarlet explain to you what happened?"

{Not everything, just enough to know what's going on. Witnessing Jade's death, her old trainer coming back for her, and whatever had happened in her battle with Qsalyla's subordinates… poor little May.}

"I hope they are competent enough here to help her."

{I'm sure they are.} Luna assured him before they got inside.

"Hello sir, how can I help you today? Did you come to schedule a check-up for your zoroark?" The nurse asked him.

"No, I'm here to see if my mawile is doing okay."

"Ah, yes. The mawile's trainer from yesterday. She's still tired and weak, but just the two of you should be alright. I know it's your pokemon, but I'm gonna have to ask you not to stay for too long."

"That's fine. I just want to know how she's doing and remind her that we think of her."

"Very well, right this way."

With the nurse leading them, they were accompanied towards a room at the lower wing of the building. As soon as they pushed the door and entered the room, they saw May sleeping in a bed with a couple machines attached to her body and monitoring her health, which stung Max's heart pretty badly.

"...Anything new?" Max asked, sitting on a nearby chair next to the sleeping mawile.

"We started administering a new antidepressant medication today since the one we gave her yesterday wasn't doing well. Luckily, she seems to be responding to it very well, but her system is taking more time than anticipated to recover." The nurse explained.

"I see."

"She's stable, but I suspect that solely the medication won't be enough."

"What do you mean?"

"Antidepressants are helpful, but they don't resolve the issue altogether. Mental illnesses are not as easy to deal with as physical injuries, so the only thing we can do is to take care of her as much as possible until she gets better on her own."

"That's it? No other treatment or special cure or something like that?" Max replied, impatient.

"Well, I…"

{Max…} Luna stopped him, putting a paw on his shoulder.

"...Sorry. I'm… I'm just very worried for her."

"It's… okay. We can see that you really care for your pokemon."

"More than anything in this world. Isn't there… a psychologist for pokemon, or something?"

"Well, I believe there are, but pokemon that really need it are pretty rare these days, so…"

"You don't know one?"

"I know a few human psychologists and psychiatrists, but nothing for pokemon, unfortunately."

"Since my pokemon can understand human language, do you think one of them could help her?"

"That's a good question. Most pokemon are known to have an intellect close to if not exceeding that of a human's, but their psychology isn't the same as theirs. Tricks and therapy that can help humans might not do anything for a pokemon."

"I guess that makes sense." Max conceded.

"I… could try to contact someone and see what I can do."

"Really? That would be great." Max said, regaining a bit of hope.

"Alright, I'll do that in the meantime. Come back to me when you're done to check how it goes."

Max accepted. "Will do."

With a nod, the nurse left them. With a light sigh, Max turned his attention to May.

"Glad to see you're doing okay, sweetie," Max said, gently petting her.

Shortly after he did that, May weakly opened her eyes, as if the touch awakened her.

{Ma...ster?} She said weakly, lazily turning her head towards him

"Yes, May. It's me."

{I'm… so glad… to see you.}

"The feeling's mutual. You have no idea."

{I'm… sorry. You must be… worried sick because of me.}

"I am. But you're not to blame, May. It's not your fault. For now, just focus on getting better."

{I'll try to… but… I'm so lonely here… without you.}

"I bet you are. I wish I could take you home right now, but… I can't. The nurses are trying their best to heal you."

{I… don't know if… they can help. It hurts… here.} She said, pointing to her chest.

"I know, May," Max replied, a few tears forming.

{Oh no… I didn't want to make you sad… master.} May apologized, feeling guilty.

"It's okay, May. I've been crying like a little girl quite a lot lately." Max said, wiping his tears away immediately.

{No… master. Like a caring and very nice… trainer.} May corrected him. {...As soon as I get better… I'm gonna train very hard… and make you the best trainer in the world.} She said before closing her eyes.

"May… you know that I…" Max couldn't finish his phrase because May stopped reacting. She had fallen asleep once again. "...Sleep tight, Sweetie."

After a quick kiss on the mawile's head, Max stood up and exited the room with Luna.

{Are you doing okay?} The zoroark asked him, not liking how more and more tired he looked each passing day.

Max tried to reassure his friend. "Yeah. I have to keep my shit together. For you, girls."

{At least try to let yourself go a little.} She advised, with the typical motherly tone Max was already used to hearing from her.

"I'll try."

Soon enough, they were back at the main hall counter, where the nurse was frantically speaking on the phone.

"Uh-huh. Yes, I'll do it. Don't sweat it. Alright, thank you so much for the help, I owe you one big time. Just take it easy with the jet lag, okay? Bye." She said before putting down the phone, sighing a bit in relief.

"Good news?" Max asked, resting his hands on the counter.

"Actually, yes. I made a few calls and it turned out that someone I knew at the pokemon nursery academy is friends with someone who knows a retired pokemon that specializes in mental care for pokemon and humans alike." The nurse explained.

"I get for other pokemon, but humans too? What's the point in that?"

"Some people tend to be more comfortable around pokemon, as they are seen as a lot less judgmental than humans." She shrugged. "Sometimes, people just like pokemon more than humans for various reasons." The nurse's explanation made Max look at Luna with a raised eyebrow, with what the zoroark replied with a discreet wink.

"Alright. So, what's gonna happen?"

"I transmitted a message through the medical network asking if she could be sent here." The nurse said.

"She's coming here? She?"

"Yes. The mental specialist is a female gothitelle who lives overseas. If everything goes well, she should be able to arrive in the course of the next week, but I can't say which day exactly."

"That's okay. I'll take everything I can get if it leads to my pokemon's well-being. Thank you so much."

"No problem." The nurse replied with a smile.

"That aside, will it be possible to visit my mawile tomorrow too?"

"Of course. As long as you bring only one other visitor at a time and not stay for long, I see no problem here."

"Alright. See you tomorrow then."

"Have a good day." She wished as both Max and Luna exited the building.

When they left, they noticed that Mike wasn't back yet from his errands, so they got close to the street and leaned against the fence surrounding the pokemon center, waiting for their driver to pick them up.

{At least she's getting slightly better.} Luna commented, trying to lighten up the mood around.

"It's relative. She didn't seem that energetic." His dry, almost robot-like deliveries were starting to annoy the illusion fox, but she tried to keep her composure.

{*Sigh* Your pessimism can be such a chore to deal with sometimes.} She simply stated, hoping he would take the hint.

"Tsk, sorry. Yeah, I guess you're right. She at least opened her eyes." He spat back in an obvious fake happy tone.

{If it would have been sincere, I could have agreed.} She stated.

"Sorry, Luna, but I'm not really in the mood for some lecturing. I love you, so that's why I'm telling you, to not to get impatient."

{...Understood.} Luna acknowledged calmly. {So? A gothitelle from overseas, huh? Are you okay with that?}

"Of course, why would I not? Anything for my sweet girls. I think I'll get an appointment for Bonny as well, she's been really depressed lately. After that metagross incident, her already fragile self-esteem got shattered. I tried my best to support her and show her how much I love her, which worked for a bit, but with what happened recently, all that progress got annihilated."

{The same could be said for Dusk as well. We don't know about her self-esteem, but she surely got badly affected by that other incident.}

"Yeah. Now that you mention it, I think that everyone could use some therapy sessions."

{Are you including yourself?}

"Myself?" Max repeated, immediately pondering the question. "I don't know."

{I believe that you need it as much as anyone else, maybe even more since you seem to have trouble letting go of your past.}

"Oh really? Since when have you become a licensed therapist?" Max said, a bit annoyed.

{I'm just saying that to help you.} Luna retorted, a bit annoyed as well.

Not responding, Max stared at the ground.

{Sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, but it's hard for me to see you like this. I miss the old you.}

"*Hmpf* Trust me, I miss him too."

Shortly after that, Mike arrived with the car and they quickly got in. They drove for a little while before Mike stopped at a red light. The driver took this opportunity to engage them in small talk.

"Sooo… How's your mawile doing?" Mike asked, trying to break the silence inside the vehicle.

Max was looking through the window the entire trip, looking for anything else to occupy his mind.

"Can't really say." He quietly sighed. "We spoke for only a minute before she went back to sleep."

Mike tried his best to be optimistic. "It's a good sign I'd say."

"It's too soon to pronounce ourselves, but I have faith."

The rest of the car trip was uneventful, with the two passengers not looking for something to talk about before pulling up to the mansion.

{What are your plans for today?} Luna questioned, while she and Max stepped out of the car.

"I don't know. I don't feel like doing anything productive, so maybe lay down in front of a tv. It's been a while since I've last seen a good show, and I do have a couple of series to catch up to."

{Alright then.}

"Take care, Luna." Max wished before heading inside.

{Thanks, you too. And… Max?}

"Hm?"

{If you ever want to free your mind a bit, a little walk in the woods could help. So, if you ever consider it, just call me and…} The zoroark said while scratching behind her head.

She seemed to avoid eye contact as she found the brick road very fascinating to watch. Seeing Luna slightly flustered was the strangest thing he had ever experienced so far. Yet, he thought nothing of it and went with it.

"I will. Thanks, Luna. I'm very happy to have you with us." Max replied with a smile before continuing his walk towards the mansion.

Luna sighed to herself one last time, before turning in the opposite direction and seeing that it was almost noon, she dashed away to find a good place to sleep. Once inside, Max immediately headed towards the main living room, where a giant screen was hanging on a wall in front of a large luxurious couch and a coffee table. Moving around the overpriced furniture, Max went over the couch, only to see Bonny already lying on it, staring at the black screened TV.

"Seems like an interesting movie." Max jested.

{Yeah. It reminds me of myself. Nothing.} She replied with a depressed tone.

"*Sigh* Mind if I join you?" He asked, with which Bonny only shrugged her shoulders in response. "I hope that was a yes." He said, sitting at the part she wasn't reaching with her legs. "Maybe there is something really interesting going on right now. Where's the remote?" Max wondered, looking around.

Standing up again, Max started to look around, but no remote was to be found.

"I guess even the wealthy can lose their remote," Max said, scratching his head.

Luckily, a maid was passing nearby.

"Excuse me? I think the remote is lost." He engaged her.

"Oh, there is no remote needed for this TV. It's voice-activated." The maid answered.

"It is?"

"Yes. Just say 'TV turn on'."

Immediately, the TV activated at the last channel it was on.

"Wow. That's cool."

"And if you want to change the channel, say 'Change to channel' with a number of your choice. Or just say 'Change the channel up or down'."

"Nice. Thanks a bunch."

"No problem." The maid said with a smile before continuing whatever she was doing.

"Let's pretend I didn't look like an idiot," Max commented, sitting back.

{You didn't.} Bonny reassured him.

"I suppose." He said before using the voice command to switch channels.

After a couple of minutes, Max didn't like the distance between them as they could be closer.

"Do you want to rest your head on me?"

{Why?}

"So I could caress you, and I would like that very much."

With a low sigh, Bonny changed sides and rested her head against Max's lap, facing the screen.

"Much better, don't you agree?" He said, immediately starting to rub her fur, to which Bonny replied with another shrug of her shoulders.

Max always loved how Bonny's fur felt; very soft and beautiful. Even better than that of a normal domestic bunny. Unfortunately, he felt that she was neglecting herself as her fur was not as soft as usual, had a few small knots, and was covered with a bit of dandruff. Max then remembered that a lack of personal hygiene was one of the many symptoms of depression.

"Would you… like a shower later?"

{I stink, I know.} She simply replied, still looking at the television.

"No, but… your fur is in a bad condition. You know how much I love feeling your fur, and when you finish showering and your fur is all dried up, damn you smell nice."

{Sorry if I disappointed you again.}

Sighing, Max knew that he had to go with another approach.

"How about I bathe you? Would you like that?"

{Like a freshly born baby? Why not? I'm no better than that anyway.}

"That's not what I meant. I just thought that maybe you would like me touching you everywhere in hot water."

Then, Max had the expected result, but it was a lot less enthusiastic than anticipated.

{Sure. At least my skin will be less itchy.}

"Alright. We can do that later this evening. I can even join you."

{No thanks. I don't want you to bathe in my filth.}

"I don't mind it, really."

{Well, I do. That's my only condition.} She retorted.

"...Alright," he said while rubbing her cheeks, where the fur was still quite soft.

Switching channels for a while, they eventually agreed to go with an ongoing action movie. They didn't quite get the beginning, but what they understood is that an ex-hitman tried to get revenge on those who killed his only companion, an inteleon. Besides some commentary here and there, they mostly watched it quietly.

POVC

As both Max and Bonny were trying to spend quality time together, Aurora and Dusk were left to their own devices in the garden. After meditating for a huge chunk of the morning, Aurora wanted to take a break and wander around to see how the others were doing, maybe even finding a sparring partner if she was lucky. On her way to the mansion, Aurora saw Dusk sitting on a rather large patio swing, looking miserable and lost in her thoughts. Aurora immediately felt bad for her and instinctively wanted to walk over and comfort her friend, however the more she thought about it, both of them never really 'bonded' that much. Their only real social interactions were mostly when they had girl time, which was not of a regular occurrence as it used to be. Most of the time, she was with Bonny, with Dusk mostly being with May and…

{Mind if I join you?} Aurora engaged, making Dusk lazily look up at her.

{Y-Yeah. Sure.} Dusk accepted.

{Thanks. It looked comfortable.} Aurora said, sitting next to her. {Not feeling in top shape I see.}

{Who can say that they are right now?}

{Hehe, good point.}

Again, spending time together less than occasionally didn't help at finding fields of interest between the two of them. Yet, she persisted.

{So, hem, how's… the cooking teaching going?} The lucario engaged, trying to spark a conversation with the braixen.

{I haven't really learned how to cook yet, I mostly just keep things heated up and clean around the kitchen a little.}

{Oh. Shame then. Well, practicing that with Scarlet will surely help.}

{Yeah, but human cooking isn't really the same as our crude methods, especially when dealing with lavish meals like how they are prepared here.}

{Another good point.} She replied before a short silence settled. {So, what about-}

{I really appreciate your concern, Aurora, but you don't have to force yourself into conversing with me.} Dusk cut.

{I'm not forcing myself, I really want to talk with you.}

{I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there is not much I want to talk about right now.}

{Let's think of something then.}

{Good luck with that.} Dusk replied, making Aurora sigh inaudibly.

{...How about an activity to do then?}

{Like what?}

{I don't know. Maybe playing one of our board games or taking a walk through the woods. We could also go visit Oxgard on our own.}

{Hmm… yeah. I guess that isn't half of a bad idea.} Dusk conceded, not sounding that convinced.

{Unless you had something else in mind.}

{Besides spending the whole day crying here? No, not really.}

{*Sigh* And besides meditating, I'm not really feeling that inspired either. Looks like depending too much on Max had come back to bite us in the rear.}

{*Hmpf* Speak for yourself.} Dusk retorted, sounding upset.

{I'm sorry. I know you love him, and so do I, but I didn't mean it in a bad way. I like spending time with him all day and night like any of us, but I guess we didn't foresee a situation like this. Like, what will we do if he's absent for a day or two? Personally, I think we lack a few personal interests.}

{What do you mean?}

{I mean that besides Max, we should have some passions, interests or maybe some hobbies. Things we should be able to do on our own.}

Not knowing what to answer, Dusk looked at the ground.

{Besides Max, what do you like for example?}

{...Well, I like nature, flowers and…}

{...And?}

{...I don't know. Preparing master's meals I guess.}

{Okay, that's a hobby right there.}

{What about you? Besides master and meditating, what do you like?}

{Sparring and… that's it I guess. See? That's what I'm talking about.}

{Who said we had to have hundreds of hobbies or interests anyway?}

{Not hundreds, but… nevermind. I suppose today's not the day we find what gives us a feeling of accomplishment. Still up for a walk?}

{Maybe this afternoon. Lunchtime is getting close and I'm starting to get hungry.}

{Yeah, me too. In the meantime, why don't we try to see if we have anything in common?}

{Alright.}

Later, lunchtime arrived and everyone was around the table once more.

"So, Max? How do you find it here? Is everything alright for you?" Helene said shortly after they started eating.

"It's nice, but I still feel a little uncomfortable about it. I mean, you don't know us that much and you invited us to live here as long as we want. It's almost too much of a change for me."

"I understand. The differences in this lifestyle compared to others must be quite abrupt to adapt to."

"More or less. I'm a pretty adaptive guy, but I always had a bit of trouble with others doing things for me. Either it's too good to be true or they want something in return. You offer us a lot, but we don't have much to offer."

"Don't bother with that. It's not like we lack anything, so offering us something in return won't change much. Your presence alone is payment enough. You may not notice it, but it's a bit more lively here since you've arrived. I know I've said this a lot, but you really deserve this."

"Maybe. I don't know."

"If I understand the situation properly, you don't have a lot of people you can count on besides your companions."

"Not a lot, no. You can say that I practically have no family." He paused, as he remembered Luna's pep talk from the previous day. "Blood-related, I mean." Max quickly corrected.

"I see. Besides my son and husband, I don't have a lot either. I have Mike and our maids and caretakers, which I consider my adoptive family, but it's not exactly the same. I'm not as emotionally invested with them compared to my actual family, so I can have an idea of what you're feeling."

"To be honest, it doesn't bother me that much anyway. I've always been closer to pokemon than to humans."

"Well, the ones you have with you are very sweet, so I can understand why."

"Yep. Indeed." Max sighed.

The afternoon then went just like the morning for Max and Bonny, who laid on the couch in front of the tv screen. And as they planned earlier, Aurora and Dusk left the mansion to go to Oxgard.

{Now that I think about it, maybe it would be best if we head somewhere less… civilized.} Aurora said to Dusk, both getting closer to the gate.

{No, that's fine. As much as I love nature, human cities can sometimes be interesting too.}

{Sounds great. We can always go for a walk in the woods another day.}

{That would be nice.}

Then, as they were walking, both were joined by two male houndoom, now walking on each side of them.

{Hey hey, ladies. How you doin'?} One of them said in a slightly seductive manner.

{Erh! Look, guys, we're not really in the mood to let guys join us right now, so if you could please just buzz off, I would really appreciate that.} Aurora told them firmly.

{Ouch, that's just hurtful. We just want to get to know you a little better.} The other one said.

{*Sigh* I'm Aurora and she's Dusk. Now can you leave us alone, please?}

{Geez, somebody likes having friends.} The first one commented a bit arrogantly.

{If I'm being honest, no, not that much. I already have everything I need.}

{Are you talking about that human with the funky scent? Is there something going on between you two?}

{That is none of your business. Don't you have other houndoom around here to bother instead?} Aurora demanded, getting really annoyed.

{Yeah, but it can be quite boring with your own species sometimes. It would be nice to meet other pokemon, so as soon as we knew that a lucario was staying here, we had to check things out.}

{Who just so happens to be accompanied by another fire-type. Since she's also a psychic type, I wonder how good this fire fox is going to feel.} The second houndoom said.

{You better keep it sheathed buddy, or else you're gonna be very sorry.} Aurora threatened.

{I don't think you're in a position to threaten anyone here.} The houndoom retorted.

Instantly, Aurora stopped, alongside Dusk.

{Wanna bet?} The lucario replied, defying them.

{...Seriously?}

{Are you really looking to cause trouble in our own territory?} The first houndoom said, both of them now side-to-side to face Aurora and Dusk.

{We aren't doing anything, you're the ones harassing us right now.}

{It's our turf, so we do what we want in it. If that's not clear enough for you, then maybe we can arrange something else.} The houndoom growled, embers escaping his maw.

{You might as well just submit to us right now, steel and psychic-types have no chance against us.}

Aurora quickly prepared a Bone Rush, ready to counter with Dusk retreating behind her. However, she canceled it shortly after and was even smiling a little.

{What's so funny? Did you realize your mistake and are submitting to us already?}

{Hehe, not really. However, if you're that desperate to soak your brush, you can try your luck with her.} Aurora replied, pointing behind them.

{Huh?}

After turning, both saw Luna standing a meter away from them, arms crossed. They immediately faced her in a very aggressive yet scared way.

{W-Who are you?} One stuttered, his previous bravado slowly leaving his voice at the sight of the imposing female zoroark.

{Me? Just a friend of those you seem to bother.}

{We… weren't…}

{So, you're looking for a good time, huh?}

Oddly, Luna got on all fours and positioned herself as if she was about to pounce at any time.

{If that's the case, I'm the girl for you. I'll even give you a free shot at me, but if you waste it, I will rip away what makes you both male and literally eat it before your very eyes.} She threatened with killer eyes. {And if you keep bothering my friends, especially while I'm around, I will simply eviscerate you and have you both as my dinner. Pokemon meat isn't my favorite, but it is something I can deal with from time to time.}

{L-Look, we're sorry. W-We weren't looking for trouble, okay? We just wanted to get to know them a b-better, like good friends, y'know?} One stammered.

{Is that so? Well then, I'm Luna, a zoroark with a very short temper. Nice to meet you, friend.}

{S-Same.}

{Now that we all know each other, care to move along? I'm starting to get very hungry, and I don't mean that sexually.}

{W-Will do.} One complied.

With their tails between their legs, the two houndooms hastily left.

{*Sigh* As much as that has helped me in the past, I actually hate doing that.} Luna said, getting back on her two legs.

{Yet, you looked kind of badass.} Aurora commented. {And I know someone would have been quite turned on by that if he wasn't so depressed.}

{Maybe. What exactly happened between you and them?}

{Nothing. We were only on our way to Oxgard when they appeared, probably thinking that we'll spread our legs just because they asked for it.}

{I see.}

{But I believe that you showed them who's territory it is now.}

{Not really interested in that. I may stay around, but...}

{Say, Luna. Now that you're here, would you like to join us?}

{In what?}

{A little trip to Oxgard, just the three of us.}

{To Oxgard you say. Hm… I appreciate the offer…}

{It… would be really nice if you joined us, Luna.} Dusk said a bit shyly.

Briefly scratching her head, the zoroark considered their offer.

{Well, it's not like I'm very busy at the moment, but…}

{We know that you are solitary by nature, Luna.} Aurora started. {But we would really like you to spend a bit more time with us.}

{...Alright.} Luna finally accepted.

{Great! Thanks Luna. I think it will be the first time we do something with just the three of us.}

{I believe so too.}

{And now that I think about it, the three canines of the group are now together.}

{Hm, well observed.} Luna conceded.

{We could call ourselves something like 'the three dogs' or…}

{The three hounds?} Luna suggested, playing along.

{That's great. Well thought, Luna. What do you say, Dusk?} Aurora asked the braixen with a gentle elbow hit.

{That… does have a nice ring to it.} She shyly replied.

{Awesome. The three hounds on the go!} Aurora shouted before the three of them got past the now opened gate.

POVC

As Aurora's group was exploring the town, time passed and we are now at the end of the afternoon. Max and Bonny were still on the couch, but they had fallen asleep recently. Max was the first to wake up. Yawning, Max rubbed his eyes before seeing Bonny, napping with her head on him. Max just couldn't get enough of looking at one of his girls sleeping. She was so cute and peaceful. Trying his best not to wake her up, Max very carefully petted her. Unfortunately, it was still enough to wake her up.

"Sorry. I tried my best not to wake you up."

{It's okay.} She said, sitting up. {If I want to sleep tonight…}

"Yeah. Now that there is nothing interesting anymore on the television, maybe we could go for your bath."

{You really are eager to wash me, aren't you? Am I that disgusting?} She asked calmly.

"That's not it. I'm just eager to bathe you. You know that if it wasn't for the fact I don't want to stifle your autonomy, I would do that all the time. I just love taking care of you."

{*Sigh* Let's pretend I believe you then.}

"That hurt." Max jested, standing up with her.

Traversing the mansion, Max and Bonny headed to the best bathroom of the place. Arriving after a minute of walking, both got in and locked the door behind them.

"I'll go prepare it," Max announced while getting next to the huge bathtub.

After setting it to the temperature Bonny liked, he sat on the edge and waited for it to be filled. While holding her own arms, the lopunny walked next to him. Max then noticed how she was staring blankly at the water rising.

"It's a big bath. It could take a moment."

{...Be honest, master.}

"Hm?"

{Did you abandon the idea of becoming a trainer because of me?}

"What?" Max replied, astonished by the question.

Not repeating, Bonny only looked at him, waiting for an answer.

"I… Tell you what. How about we speak of that once you're in. Deal?"

{*Sigh* Alright.}

Waiting a bit longer than he anticipated, the water was finally at a reasonably high level. As soon as Max closed the faucets, Bonny dipped her small feet in it before sitting in.

"How is it?"

{Perfect, just the way you know how I like it.} She said with a rather morose tone.

"Glad to hear," Max replied, starting to drop water on her, slowly squishing her fur down.

When wet enough, Max began to rub her gently, gradually removing the filth.

{So?}

"*Sigh* No, Bonny. I didn't stop because of you."

{Why then?}

"Because that's not the kind of life I want to offer you all."

{So I'm part of the problem.}

"No more than the others."

{...Then, what if… I would be the only one you stop for?}

"I don't know, since it's not the case."

{Then how about the other way around. If I were to be the only one not wanting you to be a pokemon trainer, but still wanted to stay with you while the others would have wanted to continue. What would you do?}

"Why a question like that all of a sudden?"

{...Just curious.}

"Cats are supposed to be curious, not rabbits. Anyway, that's the kind of question that I can't answer."

{But what if we end up in a situation where you have to choose between one of us?}

"And in which context would I need to do that?"

{In a dangerous situation, where you would have to choose between saving one or two of us.}

"Well, that escalated quickly."

{You didn't answer.}

"Because there is nothing to answer."

{We can't always prevent ourselves from catastrophes like that.}

"Well, I'll try. That's the main reason why I stopped; not wanting to end up in a situation like that." Max replied, making the room silent for a moment.

{...In the end, we still come back to the start; it's my fault.}

"Seriously, Bonny. There should be a limit for you to accuse yourself like that. If you don't stop soon, you will even end up believing that my shitty childhood was your fault too."

{...Well, maybe not directly, but if I was there, maybe I could have been there for you.}

"Okay, Bonny. Just, stop now. What do I have to do to remove these crappy beliefs from your head?"

{That, I wish I could answer.}

"Well, we better work on it, because hearing you bashing yourself none-stop is getting really-" Max said, before stopping clean at the end.

Now that was ironic. Max was now lecturing Bonny of what he was doing with Scarlet, and probably the others as well. Despite himself, he got a bit angry at how he kept beating himself up and how annoying he must have been all that time.

"...I'm sorry, Bonny. I'm not one to talk. I make you endure my own pessimism, and yet... I'm truly sorry."

{...}

"And since I've been and still are in your shoes, matter of speech, of course, I know that telling you how wrong you are and to think otherwise isn't the right thing to do. I... guess you believe what you want, Bonny, but…"

Before finishing his sentence, Max strongly hugged his wet companion from behind.

"Just never forget that I love you, Bonny, no matter how or what you are."

{...You're gonna wet your clothes.} Bonny said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

"If only you knew how much I don't care."

A short silence then settled.

{So… you really love me? Even if I suck at everything?}

"Yes, Bonny. More than you could ever imagine."

{...I'm sorry for worrying you.}

"It's okay. I have no grudge against you." Max half jested.

{You know… I'm really doing my best, but…}

"I know, and I'm more than satisfied."

{If only I were stronger…} Bonny bemoaned, shedding a few tears.

"It sure could have helped, but there's not much we can do about it now, Bonny. It's in the past, and telling yourself many 'If only' won't help at all. But what you can do is to prepare for the future. A future where you can bet that I'll be there for you."

{You say that, but I'm not even sure it will be enough. In the end, I'll still be a normal-type.}

"There's only one way to find out, Bonny. You know, one day someone told me that 'You better at least try because if you give up, you fail automatically. But, if you try, you have at least a small chance to succeed'."

{I…}

For a moment, those words got into her in a rather unexpected way. Sure, telling yourself that you suck and will fail at anything is easy, but… does she really want the easy way out?

{...I guess it only applies to what is actually possible.}

"You think that being strong, even a little, is impossible?"

{...}

"You know what, Bonny. Wait here." Max said before suddenly standing up, leaving a rather confused lopunny behind.

After a few minutes of wondering what he was up to, Max was back with his pokedex in hand.

"It's been a while since I learned that, so it took a long time for me to remember. Look what pokemon was the strongest of the girls that came in 3rd place in the last regional championship." Max said, handing Bonny his pokedex.

Upon seeing the image, Bonny's eyes widened slightly.

{Seriously? A… miltank?} She said, a bit skeptical.

"Trust me, her Rollout was crazy strong. She even made rock-type pokemon cry with that move."

{That… I…}

"See? Type doesn't define everything, Bonny. Type disadvantage only means having less room for error. It has never been said that the one possessing a disadvantage couldn't win. Skill and experience is what make the difference."

{Do we really gain experience by losing?}

"Yes you do, actually. To fail is to succeed. Do you think Scarlet won all of her fights? Do you think Luna did? How about Dulshin's pokemon? Think of the strongest pokemon you know and ask yourself that question."

Lowly sighing, Bonny was at a loss for words. Maybe type wasn't everything, but it didn't change the fact that she was weak. She gave back the pokedex to Max, after which he resumed his cleaning. With none having anything to add, Max took a couple more minutes of rubbing everywhere until he believed that she was clean enough.

"Alright, Bonny. I think you're okay. No need to torture you even more."

As Max unplugged the bathtub pipe, Bonny stood up and exited the bath. As she was dripping profusely with her fur all dropped down, Max took a towel and began drying her up.

{I can do it myself.}

"I know, but do you really want to do it yourself instead of me doing it for you?" Max asked, stopping.

After seeing her not answering and looking away, Max resumed. After a little while, she was dried as much as Max could do, making her fur getting a bit puffy.

"There you go." He announced, tossing the towel in a nearby dirty clothes basket. "All clean and pretty."

{Thanks.}

As she was just standing, not sure of what to do next, a small urge arose in Max.

"Can I… do it?" Max asked, going red.

{Do what?}

"You know… that."

{...I guess.} Bonny agreed, looking a bit embarrassed.

With a tiny smile, Max moved his head close to her chest and took a big whiff of her smell.

"Aah! Damn you smell nice!" Max exclaimed, enjoying it more than he should.

{You're weird.} Bonny accused with crossed arms.

"Am I?"

{Yes, but… it's not like I was minding anyway, so…}

"Hehe, thanks, Bonny."

{For what?}

"Just for being there and being yourself. That's all." He replied with a bigger smile, making Bonny look away in embarrassment. "Dinner should be ready soon, so what do you say we head down and get ready?"

{Sure.} She agreed.

With Max taking her paw, they both left the bathroom and headed downstairs, where they waited for dinner in the dining room.