"Are you okay?"

I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and a patch of heat on the side of my leg.

I shook my head, trying to silence the witch's voice that kept repeating itself in my thoughts.

"I'm fine. Just tell me what happened." I stared unflinchingly into Amber's eyes, subtly leaning my leg into Dusk's side to show her my appreciation.

Seeing my serious expression, Amber's frustration seemed to melt away with a sigh.

The melancholy remained.

"There really isn't an easy way to say this…" Amber began hesitantly, an uncomfortable edge to her tone. "Jenna was almost assaulted around an hour ago." Amber finished by crossing her arms as she stared pointedly at me with an analyzing gaze.

My eyes widened at the implications, guilt setting in my heart.

I could blame Arthur all day if I wanted, but I had let my rotten self and my greed get the best of me.

Letting a beautiful girl go off alone in the city had been a terrible idea.

I swallowed the spit that had unknowingly pooled in my mouth.

"We were near the hotel when I left her…" Was the only response I could form.

I hated how it sounded like an excuse.

"Doesn't really matter in a big city like this." Amber stated like it was common knowledge. She then gave a sigh of acceptance. "I suppose I should cut you some slack since that wasn't where we had found her."

"Where did…"

"I found Jenna being harassed by some guy and his Mimikyu near an alleyway at the Pokémart."

How did that happen? She would have had to walk past the hotel to make it to the shop.

"According to her, she had run out of food for her Lopunny." Amber informed me without me even needing to question her. "She also needed some fur care products."

I suppose that made sense. She wouldn't have known that the card would have given us an unlimited supply of food for our stay. And she was a coordinator that had to be overly concerned about the appearance of her Pokémon.

But then…

"How did she end up in the alley? She's not really the adventurous type. I can't imagine she wouldn't stick to the main roads." I spoke aloud my thoughts to Amber.

"Dunno. I imagined the guy who was harassing her might have dragged her there. I just happened to hear a commotion when I was taking a shortcut to get Pokémon kibble myself." Amber said, shrugging with an uncomfortable look. "And not like I was gonna question her after an ordeal like that…"

"Lyra didn't try and stop them?" I questioned with confusion.

"Lyra?" Amber tilted her head.

"Amber's Lopunny."

"She was cowering in fear the same as Amber. I shouldn't really have to tell you that her Lopunny doesn't seem like the battling type."

Even then, she was still a Pokémon, a fully evolved one to boot. I refused to believe that she wasn't capable of handling her own in combat. The amount of different Pokémon I had seen be used in battles on Pikatube were astronomical and varied.

Some people, just like Ash, were able to take base or first stage Pokémon to tournaments and place well with them.

I was more inclined to think that Lopunny had confidence issues like her trainer.

Or maybe she just had a dislike of fighting due to personal reasons.

Nevertheless, I kept my opinion to myself.

It was my fault the scenario had occurred in the first place.

"You interfered then?" I asked Amber, hoping to get the full story.

Amber simply nodded her head.

"He was a nervous one, but he seemed pretty intent on having Jenna." Amber began. "It was thanks to Whisper showing up that we were able to successfully intimidate him away without much issue. I thought it was gonna turn into a brawl…"

It was strange how worried Amber looked when she said that.

"Not that I'm not thankful for a peaceful resolution, but why would you have been worried about battling him?"

She was no slouch in that department, so why the reluctance?

"Regulated fights and street fights are two completely different ballparks, Aster." Amber spoke quietly. "If he had another Pokémon in hiding I would have been completely disadvantaged. People definitely don't fight fair when there's something they want."

I nodded my head in concern, knowing that there was truth to those words.

Humans would do a lot of nasty things in order to insure their own happiness.

Even at the expense of others.

"While that was terrible, I was more concerned with your dumb decision to leave her on her own." Amber's angry tone from earlier was back in place, folding her arms and turning her head away from me. "Jenna told me that you were escorting her to Floaroma in the form of a request, correct?"

I sweated a bit while nodding my head in hesitation.

I suppose I did a poor job of that considering that it is my literal job to protect her.

But why would Amber care exactly?

"You know that, even without any legal documentation, you can still be held accountable for her safety during certain situations?"

I was taken aback a bit at her question.

I definitely didn't know that.

Seeing my reaction, she continued.

"If she's from another region, for example, the Sinnoh Pokémon League could easily use you as a scapegoat should she be favored by a highly influential sponsor."

Damned politics!

I was no good with that kind of horse garbage.

Jenna was even from Kalos. I couldn't say Amber's worry was not unwarranted.

But, again, why would she care exactly?

"I'm not sure why you're angry. I would be the one to pay for my actions. Not you." I narrowed my eyes in suspicion.

Amber merely turned around to stare out the window of the balcony of the room.

"You still have to get me a good birthday present of course!" Amber exclaimed with a huff. "You can't exactly do that from a courtroom."

I slumped at her words with a half-lidded annoyed gaze.

I should have known.

"You're the one who said I didn't need to worry about getting one." I pointed out.

"Did I?" I kind of forgot when I found—" Amber began, pulling out a familiar black card. "This in Jenna's possession."

It was the VIP card!

I sweated a bit, stealthily making my way to grab for it while she wasn't looking at me, my hand slowly inching towards the alluring sleek money-saver.

I was close to grabbing it from her, unnoticed, until she pulled it away at the last second.

I cursed under my breath and looked over her shoulder to see a foxy smile on her face in the reflection of the glass.

"I wonder whose it is?" She questioned aloud with faux curiosity, fanning herself with the card in an exaggerated manner. "I might be more inclined to find its owner if there was a reward for doing so~"

I hadn't considered this outcome when I let Jenna borrow the card…

I wasn't all that bothered about someone stealing the card while I was here in Jubilife as I literally had the hotel heir's phone number. I would have been able to call her up to have the card cancelled and, if they were generous enough, to be given a replacement.

So I felt little risk having Jenna hold on to it.

Not to mention I had spent the past week around Jenna. She didn't seem like the type to run away with it, and I didn't exactly flaunt the card around her for her to be aware of its existence in the first place.

And had she stolen it… then kudos to her for having superb acting skills my lack luster eyes couldn't pick up on.

Now I was faced with perhaps the worst outcome possible.

A selfish foxy maid had gotten the card from Jenna, and was now using it to blackmail me into going to a social gathering with an offering in-hand.

I suppose I did say humans would do a lot of things to insure their own happiness…

"Fine, I'll go to your party…" I reluctantly gave in.

"And?" Amber asked without missing a beat.

"And I'll bring a nice gift…" I said through gritted teeth.

"Oh, this card has your name on it, Aster!" She exclaimed in mock surprise as she turned around, handing me my luxury ticket.

"Who would have guessed?" I sarcastically replied in a dull tone as I accepted it, Dusk cackling near my leg.

I heard a series of knocks on the door.

"There's no reason to talk about what happened with Jenna. She was pretty shaken up about the whole thing, but I managed to help calm her down. I just wanted to tell you about it so you could be a little more vigilant." Amber advised with a pointed look, making her way towards the door.

I nodded my head, sweating a bit at her authoritative tone. No reason to bring up more trauma…

Wait, wasn't this my room?

Amber stopped just as she was about to pass me, placing a hand on my shoulder as she used it as leverage to stand on her tip-toes to place her head next to mine.

"I recommend not lending gifts to a girl just because you think they're cute, loverboy~" She whispered into my ear, her breath tickling my ear, before skipping off towards the door to answer it.

I flinched away from the foxy maid as I watched her go, my face heating up.

The hell, woman!

I narrowed my eyes and glared down at Dusk when I heard the onset of another cackle beginning to form.

I felt satisfied when she put her ears to the base of her skull and looked up at me with an innocent expression.

"It's dead-eye!" I heard a familiar voice gleefully shout.

I looked over towards the door to see a certain white-haired battle maniac barge right past Amber as soon as it was open, strutting around like she owned the place.

I noticed that her arms were stretched out almost as if she were…

I widened my eyes as I swiftly sidestepped Whisper's attempt at a hug.

These two do not know the definition of personal space!

"How cold of you!" Whisper exclaimed with a laugh.

"I've been embarrassed enough today, thank you…" I grumbled out, involuntarily glancing at Amber out of the corner of my eye.

I could see Amber lowly talking with Jenna about something, a Lopunny by the ginger's side. I focused my attention back on Whisper when I found I couldn't hear much of what they were saying.

She had a raised eyebrow and a ghost of a smile on her face.

"Sounds like you and Amber got up to something interesting while we were away then~" Whisper said with a teasing lilt.

I rolled my eyes at Whisper, not even bothering to respond to her attempts at riling me up.

Jenna and Amber came into the room proper, Lyra practically skipping. Both were carrying a bag of Pokémon kibble each.

They placed one bag by each bed.

I noticed Whisper walk up next to me and lean her head towards me, thankfully not like Amber had.

"We went back to pick up the Pokémon food that she forgot about." Whisper explained with a giggle, probably finding Jenna's airheaded nature slightly amusing.

In this case, Jenna forgetting about it was certainly warranted.

She had been accosted before she could make it to the mart. Most likely, in a daze, she was lead to the hotel by Amber after informing her of where she was going to be staying.

I analyzed Jenna's demeanor anyway to find little out of the ordinary. Her interactions with Amber seemed jittery and awkward like she had been with me, maybe even a little more. It was like nothing had happened at all. Had Amber not told me about it, I would have been none the wiser.

It was like the incident didn't really bother her…

Almost like she was used to it.

I furrowed my brows at this thought, wondering if I was being paranoid. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't know how to broach that kind of subject in the first place. A topic like that was completely out of my expertise, and my comfort zone.

It was best to leave sleeping dogs lie for now.

"I heard you were tutoring Arthur." I said, glancing over at Whisper to see a rare frown, a torn or unsure expression on her face. I couldn't really tell.

Creepily enough, she had been staring at me while I had observed Jenna…

Her expression seemed to liven up at my voice, however.

"Oh, that? I do some tutoring on the side for a bit of extra cash." Whisper explained with a nonchalant shrug, a ghost of a smile back on her face. "That Burning Jealousy TM was pretty expensive, you know? I had to have it shipped straight from Galar."

I couldn't imagine how costly that could have been.

If certain TMs could only be obtained from certain regions, then having one shipped from a region that was quite far from Sinnoh would be no joking matter.

A simple Dig TM cost around 500.

I couldn't imagine how much a TM like Fire Blast went for…

I was sweating just thinking about it.

"I see…" Was my only response to such a statement.

Though I was a little surprised that Whisper had taken to teaching others rather than gaining money through bets, which was the norm for trainers.

"No one would bet against a tournament winner." Whisper softly said with a smirk.

She seemed very proud of her reputation.

Being known for an achievement like that would garner a lot of interest from would-be trainers to study under her.

"C'mon Whisper, let's go. Dad's waiting for us." Amber called out, heading towards the entrance of the room.

Whisper let out a groan of annoyance.

"Can't we just ignore your dad's stuffy business meeting for one night and hang out with these two?" Whisper asked pleadingly, a grimace on her face as she slumped her shoulders.

They appeared to live together if Whisper herself was required at a meeting like that.

Amber gave a sigh back in response as she lingered near the door, turning to give Whisper a shared look of disgruntlement.

"As much as I would like to, Jenna and Aster are going to be getting up early to head to Floaroma Town. Not really worth a scolding when we'd only be able to stick around for an hour or two." Amber began, a foxy smile finding its way back onto her face. "Besides, Aster will be coming back for my birthday. Right, Aster?"

I nodded my head with a grunt of affirmation, decidedly not pleased with how I was being coerced.

"Ohoho, that's sure to be fun!" Whisper excitedly yelled out, practically bouncing her way out of the room at that information. "You did also blackmail him into getting you a present, right?" Whisper quietly asked Amber in a tone that told me she wasn't even attempting to be very discreet about it.

Amber responded with a widening of her foxy grin to the point I'd call it shit-eating.

You know what, that's exactly what it was!

I wasn't bitter at all about being blackmailed. Nope. Couldn't be me.

"Yeah, yeah, just get out of our room already!" I yelled at them with an angry shake of my fist.

I heard them giggle at me before they exited the room.

"See ya later, loverboy~" I heard Whisper and Amber shout out at me in unison.

I blushed at that statement, hoping none of our neighbors heard that.

That fox and that devil were going to give me an aneurism at this rate!

I clicked my tongue and made my way over towards one of the beds, plopping my bag on the ground next to the bag of kibble.

"I g-g-got us some more food so we wouldn't have to get it in the m-m-morning." I heard Jenna quietly stutter out an explanation.

I looked over to see her going through her own bag, pulling out a change of clothes.

She refused to make eye contact with me.

Lyra gave me a silent wave and a smile in her trainer's stead.

I waved back and gave a fake smile of my own. Dusk by my side mirroring my actions with a wagging of her tail.

I had no doubt in my mind my smile had looked horrifying, but Lyra didn't flinch like Amber had.

I barely managed to hold back an apology for my rotten actions today.

"There's no reason to talk about what happened with Jenna. She was pretty shaken up about the whole thing, but I managed to help calm her down. I just wanted to tell you about it so you could be a little more vigilant."

Amber's advice echoed in my head.

"Thanks, I'll be sure to pay you back later. You can go ahead and use the shower first while I order us room service." I said, turning back towards my bag to put the kibble away, a frown marring my face as soon as Lyra couldn't see me anymore.

That Lopunny's smile still didn't feel genuine at all.

It was like she was keeping a charade for her trainer's sake.

I heard a mumble of agreement from Jenna, most likely from exhaustion. I heard the opening and closing of the bathroom door behind me.

Having finished putting away the food, I turned around to see that Dusk and I were alone.

I realized that Jenna took Lyra with her in an attempt to feel safe, most likely a reaction from today's events.

I heard a whine near my feet and turned to see a confused looking Dusk staring up at me. Her tail was bent low to the ground.

I wasn't sure what exactly she wanted me to tell her.

Was there anything to say in the first place?

Did Dusk even understand what had happened?

Instead, I silently sat at the edge of the bed, Dusk immediately putting her head in my lap.

I gave her an awkward smile and began to caress the top of her head.

All I had to do was get Jenna to Floaroma safely and I wouldn't have to deal with this anymore.

I heard the sound of running water and turned my gaze towards where Jenna had gone.

I wondered if her shower thoughts would inevitably bring her back towards that alley.

After that morbid thought, I had decided then and there I wouldn't take anymore escort requests.

I wasn't cut out to be a guiding knightly hero…

I woke up to the sound of a familiar jingle being played by my Pokédex. Before I could lift my hand to silence it, I was already being assaulted by a certain adorable hyena's tongue.

"Dusk, I give, I give." I groaned out, trying and failing to push her head away from me. "I'm up, okay?" I pleaded with the hyena, my voice crackly.

I felt her shift around on the bed as I sat up, swiftly turning off the alarm with a simple tap of the screen.

I then turned and watched Dusk lower herself down on the bed in a familiar stance that reminded me of a lion on the hunt.

I widened my eyes as I realized where I was and who I was sharing a room with.

I immediately dove towards Dusk and put as much of my weight as I could on top of her. I encircled my arms around her middle to hopefully prevent her from moving.

Dusk looked over at me with a confused expression, her ears flat against her skull.

She had been planning to jump onto Jenna's bed and give her a similar morning greeting.

"Are you crazy!?" I whispered heatedly so as to not wake Jenna. I turned my anxious gaze to the other side of the room to see that Jenna and Lyra were still sound asleep, both cuddling each other under the covers.

I suppose I should have seen this coming as I had never shared a room with someone else other than Looker, and he was always awake before me.

Dusk would just see her usual antics as her doing someone a favor.

"She'll have a heart attack if you wake her up like that…" I mumbled into Dusk's ear, hoping she would understand what I was saying. It twitched, lightly tapping me in the face.

I let her go when I heard her whine apologetically. Her ears fell flat against the base of her skull as she looked towards the floor with a sad look in her eyes.

I sighed and patted her head, receiving a slow wag of her tail in response.

"It's okay. Just understand that you can only do that with me. Other people might have a problem with it." I gently told her.

She nodded her head with a low growl, clearly not happy being forbidden to show affection.

I crawled out of the bed quietly and made my way over to Jenna's bed.

"She must be a really deep sleeper if she didn't hear all that commotion." I muttered under my breath. "Then again, I should me more surprised Lyra didn't wake up…"

I looked down to see that Lyra was snuggled up to Jenna's chest, her two paws pressed up against the nervous girl's stomach. Meanwhile, Jenna had her arms encircled around the chocolate and cream colored bunny, using Lyra's large fluffy ears as a pillow. I noticed that the pillows provided by the hotel were missing.

With a quick look around her bed, I found them placed neatly on the ground in a stack.

These were pretty nice pillows. Were Lopunny ears really that soft?

I looked back over towards where the two were sleeping, and felt the sudden urge to pet the oversized ears.

"Lyra… Ice Bea…"

I flinched away from the bed when I heard Jenna grumble, both hands shooting up and away towards my side

Without even realizing it, my hand had been inching towards the fluffy ears.

I saw Jenna shift a bit in the bed, her face rubbing against her makeshift pillow.

"Grr?" Dusk made a confused sound at my weird pose.

I relaxed after hearing that and blushed a bit when I realized how creepy I was being by watching her sleep.

Instead of acknowledging Dusk I made to order room service digitally with my Pokédex.

I could wake Jenna up after I took a shower. By then our breakfast should be ready and we can head out…

But, before I could do that, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.

The covers of the bed had fallen a bit off of the bed from Jenna's shifting. She was wearing an old-looking white t-shirt that had become positioned in such a way, during her tossing and turning, which exposed a bit of her shoulder and a bit of her back.

My blood froze at what I saw.

I could see several deep pink and red gashes that ran along the lower part of her shoulder towards the upper left of her back, the marks stretching even further down to where I couldn't even see. Based off of the many wrinkles on the outskirts of the scars, I could tell that these were very old.

I would even guess that these had to be inflicted when she was at a young age based off of how stretched they were.

For someone whose appearance was very immaculate, seeing those marks on her body was oddly disconcerting.

It was like staring in the mirror and not recognizing the person on the other side.

It just simply didn't look like it belonged on a nice girl like her. Whatever or whoever had done it couldn't be anything but a monster.

I felt a bump against my leg and I robotically looked down.

"Ruff…" Dusk woofed at me with a look of concern.

I turned away from her quickly, swallowing the lump in my throat, and recomposed myself.

"I'm going to shower and head down to the lobby, Dusk. Make sure Jenna stays safe and makes it there, okay?" I commanded the hyena.

I only briefly glanced over to see her slowly nodding at my directions unsurely.

I would simply pretend like I hadn't seen anything.

I then swiftly unpacked a change of clothes and ordered Jenna some breakfast.

I had suddenly lost my appetite…

I was currently sitting on a sofa in the hotel lobby, my backpack placed near my feet as I waited for Jenna and Dusk to meet me. The only other person here was a lady running the reception desk, but she left me alone with only a morning greeting.

While I could have waited in our room, I just... I just wanted to be alone right now.

With Dusk around, even though she was adorable and I was thankful to have her, I was finding that I wasn't quite as alone as I was used to being.

Being an introvert, I had a tendency to become overwhelmed or needing space from social interactions, if even for just a moment.

And I didn't want to worry about the expressions that came over my face as I thought about what I had just seen.

For her to come from Kalos, having only one Pokémon, and seeming to be pretty new to coordinating. I could gather that she wasn't traveling in her home region because of certain circumstances. It just wouldn't make sense to not start off a journey at home on familiar ground, unless you're looking for a challenge.

Jenna didn't exactly seem like an adventurous person. Sure, she wanted to capture a Ponyta in Oreburgh, but that was more of a fanciful whim than anything.

After considering these facts and those scars, they both told a story I wasn't at all ready to hear.

"Amy wasn't kidding when she said you'd be up early." I heard a familiar voice say with a yawn.

I turned my surprised gaze from the floor to see Whisper plop down on the other side of the sofa.

She had small bags under her eyes, and her white feathery hair was a little messier than usual. Her ghostly smile, a common sight on her face, was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's Scarlet, dead-eyes? Did you ditch her again?" Whisper questioned with a dull tone as she rested her head with a propped arm on the sofa's armrest.

I assumed Scarlet was the nickname she had given Jenna.

"Dusk is with her. She'll probably be down once she's eaten breakfast." I answered quickly, glancing at a nearby digital clock in the lobby to see that it was almost six o'clock.

"Isn't she your only Pokémon? What if you were to be assaulted right now?" Whisper said with a conspiratorial teasing tone.

I rolled my eyes at her imaginary scenario.

"I'm in a hotel lobby with two witnesses and several cameras." I explained my actions, pointing at several corners of the room with said devices. "Unless you plan to assault me, I should be fine."

There was a fine line that one had to manage so that paranoia didn't turn into obsession.

I glanced over to see Whisper's ghost of a smile back on her face, one of her eyebrows raised as she stared back at me.

"Is that an invitation~?" Whisper teased with a seductive tone.


"You're no fun…" Whisper muttered playfully with a chuckle, another yawn escaping her throat.

"What are you doing up so early anyhow?" I questioned with a suspicious gaze.

Judging by the dark circles, she didn't seem like an early riser.

I wouldn't put it past her to wake up early in the morning just to mess with us.

Whisper snorted at my question with a shake of her head.

"After your battle yesterday, Arty insisted that I tutor him for the better part of the day." She explained, turning her head to stare out of the window next to us. "He's even paying double my rates. Arty even said he had thought up a new technique to use against you."

I sweated a bit at that. That guy certainly seemed dedicated.

I just wish that dedication didn't involve me…

"It doesn't matter that much since I didn't sleep well last night anyway." Whisper added with a shrug.

"The business meeting was that bad?" I questioned, curiously.

She didn't seem to expect me to remember her talking about that last night as she actually paused before answering.

"Sure, let's go with that." Whisper answered with a snort.

"I see…"

The way she derisively answered me told me otherwise, but I didn't really know her well enough to call her on it.

Now that I thought about it, this was the only time she and I had spoken alone.

Yet I somehow felt very comfortable around her.

Perhaps it's because of her casual nature? Or maybe it had something to do with us winning against her in the finals of the tournament?

I wasn't really sure.

But, without realizing it, we had spent 10 minutes or so sitting there in comfortable silence.

I became confused once I realized she still seemed intent on sitting here with me.

Was she planning to see us off?

That would be out of character for her.

I gazed over at Whisper with an open mouth, ready to question what she was still doing here.

To my surprise, she was just sitting with an uneasy look. Her brows were furrowed in concentration, one of her fingers lightly tapping away against her cheek as she rested her head in her open palm.

It wasn't the look of someone who liked to torment people.

"Say, you've noticed it too haven't you?"

I flinched when she suddenly asked me a question, breaking the silence.

She still wouldn't turn her head towards me.

"Excuse me?" I responded, unsure at what she was suggesting.

Whisper appeared to consider something before shaking her head and crossing her legs.

"That girl is… strange." Whisper gave a click of her tongue as if finding the word unsuitable. "She's hiding something… Don't you think the same? It's why your dead-eyes looked even more dead when I found you, right?"

Damn it… She had seen that?

The whole point of me coming down here was so I could think about that problem in peace.

But it would appear that Whisper had drawn a similar conclusion to me. Though I wasn't at all sure how. Jenna usually wore clothes that showed very little skin. For Whisper to pick up on a feeling like that, without the information I knew, would be very strange.

"Why do you think she's hiding anything?" I questioned with trepidation, unsure of where she was going with this.

"We talked for a bit when I escorted her back to the mart. I mostly asked questions about you." Whisper gave a ghost of smirk when she said that. "One of the questions I asked her pertained to why she decided to have someone like you guide her to Floaroma."

I felt like she might have been trying to insult me with that line, but the look in her eyes told me otherwise.

So I decided to let it slide and remained quiet instead.

"She actually looked a little offended when I phrased it that way. Gave some vague answer about how you had 'gentle eyes', or some other nonsense." Whisper explained with a wave of her hand. "It just felt weird to me. Kind of like how you are."

I remained silent as she gave her thoughts, a memory playing unbidden from my mind.

After a minute of staring, she licked her lips, which creeped me out, and sat away from me on her side of the booth.

"He smells weird." Her smiled dropped a few centimeters on her face when she said this, her brow furrowed.

"Do you… do you think she smells weird?" I hesitantly asked the devil, uncertain if that moment at the diner had just been an attempt to rile me up.

"I'm surprised you remember me saying that. Though…" Whisper commented, pausing for a moment. "That doesn't really answer my question."

The white-haired devil had decided to dodge my question. Either she was finding amusement in my random inquiry, or there was some truth to it.


"Why do you care anyway?" I decided to dodge her question as well.

I barely interacted with this girl. For what stake did she have in my personal life?

She gave an airy laugh.

"You're a careful one… Can't say I dislike that though." Whisper said in a tone that wasn't teasing at all. "Would it be… odd if I say that maybe I have grown fond of you?"

"Yes, it would."

She raised an eyebrow, amused.

"Why's that?"

"I have done nothing of worth to gain you or anyone's affection." I explained simply as if I were talking about the weather.

Saying you are fond of someone meant that you liked them, that they held a certain amount of affection for you in their heart. There could be many reasons for this. But probably the most common, and misleading, one was an affection born from greed or value.

An example of this would be like with money. You see, humans had a tendency to quantify objects or items they desired by putting a price tag on them. A lot of the time, unless it was a necessity like food, the price of one item, like a painting or a book, would have a different amount of monetary value associated with it depending on how one viewed it.

If one liked that painting then they would be more willing to pay a large amount of money for it over someone who had a disinterest in it.

The same could be had with the book. Except, unlike the painting, its worth would be dictated not only on aesthetics, but what was contained within the book. Certain stories had a profound effect on a person, and could make them feel emotions based off of the events or characters that were being portrayed in the story.

The phrase 'Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder' applied here.

In other words, value was being gained based on an emotional or even recreational motive of a person.

Humans liked to do the same with people.

If one was a beggar, you would inevitably gain favor with someone who gave you a sandwich, and grow out of favor with someone who spat on you and your hunger. Without realizing it, we had put a figurative price tag on both human beings, even if that was not our intention in the first place.

It wasn't like the person who gave you that sandwich didn't have motives of their own. They didn't give it to you because they liked or cared for you.

It was because they pitied you.

And, in a way, giving you that sandwich alleviated any possible guilt that they felt. In other words, they still gained value out of that exchange.

So the receiver, in my opinion, owed the giver nothing.

Regardless, it was still hard to remain neutral when a person helped you for seemingly no benefit of their own.

I should hold no value in the eyes of Whisper.

Unless Whisper's concern wasn't for me, but for Amber.

I held no disillusions that Amber held some regard for me, even if she wouldn't say it aloud.

I felt she overestimated my efforts in the tournament. I gained something at the end of it after all.

Whisper could be trying to help me for her sake.

That would make more sense.

I heard a digitized pinging notification from where Whisper was sitting.

"Well, it doesn't matter." Whisper said with a shrug, as she glanced at her phone. "I'm just telling you so you'll be careful. Take my advice or leave it. No skin off my nose either way, dead-eyes."

Whisper suddenly shot up out of her seat and made her way towards the hotel's entrance, giving a casual wave over her shoulder.

"See ya around~"

I made to reply to her, but was stopped when a shot of pain coursed through my head.

"Be careful, young one." I heard a velvety feminine voice echo inside my head.

Within those eyes I saw a pool of wisdom and ambiguity. The secrets and knowledge contained within the red orbs threatening to swallow me in a gout of flames. The strange aura the witch gave off sent a shiver down my spine, despite the pleasant sounding voice that had echoed inside my mind like a mother's lullaby.

I recoiled away when I felt a hand gently tap me on the shoulder.

Looking over towards the source, I saw a surprised Jenna and a worried Lyra. Jenna's hand was frozen in mid-air from where it had tapped me on the shoulder.

My sudden reaction had obviously shocked her.

She began to blush as we stared at one another, unsure of what to say after that.

I was getting really tired of hearing that witch's words.

Why did they bother me so much?

"Ruff!" I heard Dusk break me from my thoughts as she pulled at my pant leg in the direction of the entrance.

"O-oh, right! We should be heading out now…" I trailed off, remembering to pick up my tipped over bag from the floor. "Are you ready, Jenna?"

I had apparently flinched away from Jenna's hand enough to knock it over.

"U-um, yes…"

"Pun-Pun!" I heard a frustrated cry from Lyra, and turned to see her staring at her trainer with thinly veiled annoyance.

Jenna looked at her confused.

Lyra made some eating motions and then pointed at me, the crimson girl's eyes widening in realization.

"T-Thanks for ordering me b-breakfast… A-And for the r-r-r-room…" Jenna thanked me with a blush on her face, her eyes refusing to meet mine as she stared at the ground.

I brushed it off easily. It's not like I wasn't gaining anything from doing all that.

By ordering her breakfast I saved time. The room itself was free and comfortable.

"No big deal…" I simply replied, making my way towards the entrance. I could hear Jenna's quick steps follow me after a couple of seconds as she realized I was already moving.

We were just one trip away from Floaroma Town.

After that, I wouldn't have to deal with this anymore…

The trip itself had somehow become more awkward after our rest in Jubilife.

That could probably be attributed to me wanting to not talk about anything with Jenna. I was too scared that I might accidently bring up the incident that had occurred in the city, as unfounded as that fear was.

I just had no real way of dealing with a situation like that. It was completely out of my expertise.

So I cursed whatever god was responsible for rain in this world instead. I was good at complaining at least…

My lack luster eyes stared up at the blackened clouds that littered the sky with hatred. My Pokédex had informed me, thanks to my instructions, that a storm was brewing. One that had not been forecasted by whoever was responsible for reporting them.

Apparently, weather in this world could change at the drop of a hat. My searching online suggested that it was perhaps due to certain local Pokémon affecting the weather, or even some legendary hoo-hah.

It was now around two or three in the afternoon. We had traveled around half of the way according to the GPS, and were currently stopped near some thick woods. Though the report was about half an hour old, and I had no service thanks to the onset of the unexpected weather.

This meant no Pikatube during our stop.

I had just finished helping Jenna setting up her tent, where her Lopunny had decided to retire early to. The bunny had still being tired from our early awakening this morning.

We were currently sitting around the campsite, neither of us wanting to go into our tents.

We had no idea when we would be able to exit them once the rain decided to pour, so we had no desire to relax in the stuffy tents until we had no choice.

"A-are you sure i-it didn't say when the s-storm would pass?" Jenna, desperation in her voice, asked me the same question for a third time.

I looked over from the log I was using as a seat, brush in hand that I was using to pamper Dusk as she sat in-between my legs.

I sighed when I saw Jenna looking at me with those doe-filled eyes again from a rock she was using as a chair.

I could tell she was really worried about making it to Floaroma in time.

"I'm sure it won't last more than a day. We should be able to make it with a few days to spare, so just calm down." I responded with the same answer I had given her both times, returning to brushing my adorable hyena's fur.

A growl of pleasure rumbled from Dusk's body as I caressed her mangy-looking coat.

I heard Jenna make a noise that sounded like a cross between a whine and a grunt of disagreement.

She was still displeased with that answer.

I subtly rolled my eyes and opened my mouth to make a snarky comment.

A rumble of thunder in the distance interrupted me, followed by an aggressive snarl by Dusk.

The duck?

"Jenna…" An unfamiliar crackly voice spoke lowly.

I immediately shot up along with Dusk, dashing my way over to Jenna. I turned around swiftly to see a boy with mid to long black hair that reached to this base of his neck. He wore a simple gray hoodie and matching sweatpants. His most prominent feature was his black eyes that had extremely dark rings around them that made it look like he hadn't slept in a week. He appeared to be around Jenna and I's age.

"Mi-Kyu…" A squeaky voice spoke up near the guy's feet.

I cautiously glanced down as I placed my back in front of Jenna, Dusk taking a stance in front of me like she would during a Pokémon battle. Her hackles raised, and her maw snarling.

I saw what looked like the perverted form of a Pikachu, its red pouches looking like they were drawn with red crayons. Its form shifted and swayed in the gentle breeze that blew due to the oncoming storm.

I recognized it as a Mimikyu.

The boy fidgeted when I returned my gaze to him, but I could see a look in his eyes that sent me on edge.

It was the look of obsession.

"I found Jenna being harassed by some guy and his Mimikyu near an alleyway at the Pokémart."

"He was a nervous one, but he seemed pretty intent on having Jenna."

"It was thanks to Whisper showing up that we were able to successfully intimidate him away without much issue. I thought it was gonna turn into a brawl…"

I realized with sudden clarity that this was the same guy Amber had informed me of.

For him to follow us all the way out here was…

It was frightening…

"Harry, p-please I beg you, l-l-leave us alone!" Jenna shouted from behind me, fear in her voice.

I turned my head around towards the crimson haired girl in shock.

On her face, that should have only contained shock and fear. I instead saw recognition, fear, and acceptance.

She knew this person. Not only that, she wasn't at all surprised to see him here.

Which means she had foreseen this.

"Who is this, Jenna?" I demanded an answer from the girl.

I refused to be kept in the dark any longer.

Jenna refused to meet my eyes as she stared at the tired looking boy across from us. I could see a hint of sadness and pain in her eyes.

"That's Harry… He's my ex-boyfriend…" She slowly explained, her eyes slowly drifting up to look at me. Her expression danced with despair when she had a look at my own.

I was furious.

Not only at Jenna, but at myself.

I had let appearances deceive me, and I now found myself in a shitty situation that I wanted no part of.

I analyzed Jenna's demeanor anyway to find little out of the ordinary. Her interactions with Amber seemed jittery and awkward like she had been with me, maybe even a little more. It was like nothing had happened at all. Had Amber not told me about it, I would have been none the wiser.

It was like the incident didn't really bother her…

Almost like she was used to it.

This had somehow happened several times before.

Jenna had contracted me for this job, knowing that her obsessed ex-boyfriend was after her.

"Give her back… She belongs to me…" The strange boy whispered in a threatening tone.

"Kyu…Kyu…" His Pokémon mimicked his tone.

Apparently Dusk didn't like Mimikyu's tone as she barked something at the Fairy-type.

Mimiyu's swaying quickened in response like it was agitated.

I was half-tempted to give in to his demands just to spite Jenna, but I knew that guilt would overwhelm me later.

"Be careful, young one."

I know now damn you!

Now shut up and let me think!

It was one thing for Amber to deceive me into joining her for a tournament. That's a harmless affair with no one being injured in the end. Jenna's situation was a lot more different.

This Harry guy was obviously way more intent on harming me if he didn't get his way.

The insanity and obsession that pooled in his charcoal eyes told me this.

I let my anger pass by me when I remembered this. For now it was best to deal with the threat before me and talk it out later…

I analyzed the situation with a keen eye.

Harry had a Mimikyu which was a Ghost/Fairy type and itshouldn'tduckingexistcausePokémonaren'reallllllllllll….

I heard sum shouts and barks, but there aren't any trees I can see… sowheredidthebarkcomefrom?

When did the ground get so close to my face?

Why did I feel like I was gonna vomit again?


My thoughts became confused and jumbled as the edges of sanity slipped away like a drowning dream.