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Thread: [M] Pokemon: Avarice Versus Justice! (Ashen and Headwrapper)

  1. #161
    The Moonlight Knight
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    Clive squinted, protecting his eyes from the relentless rain, as he watched Yulia and Valkyrie soar towards the top of Mt. Mortar. The feat did not look easy, the winds and the torrent of rain water battered the young detective and her Pokemon. A chill ran down Clive's back, and he turned to peer back towards the mysterious mound out in the middle of the lake. Was it an escape vehicle? Phoenix himself would not have a need for that, as he had proven he had access to teleportation before. Back up Avarice grunts, perhaps? Could the white mound be some sort of vehicle they would use to transport the captured Raikou? If so, why not capture it in a ball?

    One officer that joined as part of the mission hurried over to Clive. "It's just you?" Clive asked, already anticipating the answer.

    "There's not many of us, sir. It did not seem wise to leave the the researchers short on protection."

    Clive remained silent, not that he would be heard over another one of Raikou's barks, booming like a thunderclap. There was another loud noise, one that came from the lake behind him. The mound, bulging amongst the waves, began to grow. Clive found that the mound was not white, not even most of it. In fact, it was blue, and its size grew larger and larger at an exponential rate. Soon, the figure of a massive Wailord appeared in the center of the lake. However, it did not end there. The Pokemon's tail began to raise up in the air, so high that Clive could have sworn that the Wailord was completely vertical with its face under the water.

    "Fuck fuck fuck!" Clive turned, grabbing the officer that recently joined him. They ran, away from the beach, and more importantly, away from the crash of the Wailord's tail smacking against the water. Away from the massive wave that the impact created, the plumes of water and foam that soared above and came crashing down. Despite their efforts, the wave was catching up with them. Clive clutched at his belt and his breast pocket, doing what he could to ensure he did not lose any of his Pokemon as the waves overtook them. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the police officer grab a Pokeball and release a Pokemon.

    Clive gasped for air when he finally emerged from beneath the wave, which drew back into the lake. His body ached, having been battered and buffeted as the wave crashed over him and dragged him all the way back towards the beach. He wiped his wet hands on his face to clear the hair and water away from his eyes, belching as he did so. In the distance, a disturbingly far distance, he saw the officer standing with his sturdy Poliwrath. The Pokemon must have been able to grab its master in time and, using its profound strength, prevent him from tumbling back towards the beach in the way that Clive did. The officer shouted something while backing away, but Clive struggled to hear what it was. Suddenly, he heard another crash from the lake behind him. When he turned, he saw it: another large wave folding over the lake's surface and rolling towards him.

    In that moment, Clive heard a loud cry from above him. A red figure was descending towards him from the dark sky above, at an impressive speed. It was Yulia's Braviary, Valkyrie. Clive ground his teeth, shifting his glance between the bird Pokemon diving towards him and the approaching wave. None of Clive's usual tricks would be able to help him out of this situation. So, there was no time to think, only act. He turned and began to run up the beach's sandy banks, waving an arm to Valkyrie as they neared each other. As the Braviary approached, so did the large foamy wave threatening to sweep them both away. Clive only slowed to a stop once the Braviary was close enough that he could make out the outline of its eyes, underneath the drenched white feathers on its crown.

    As soon as Valkyrie landed, Clive hopped onto his back. The Braviary pounded its wings heavily, sending water and sand in every direction, before taking off. Clive grunted at the sudden jolt, and clung on tightly as they quickly ascended. The rain stung his skin as they soared against it, and each beat of Valkyrie's wings sent plumes of water every which way. Once Clive acclimated to the speed of the flight, he glanced down towards the ground below, and witnessed the second wave washing over the shoreline he had just escaped.

    From his new vantage point, he could see small dots zooming near the Wailord in the center of the Lake. They zipped, zigged, and zagged around the water, moving towards the shore. "Unidentified persons are approaching the shoreline from the lake... Anyone copy?" After a pause, he only heard static, and he stifled a curse. He would just have to hope the boots on the ground could take care of things there, while he and Yulia took care of things at the top of the mountain.

    The visibility near the top of the mountain was worse than what Clive had experienced so far, and the thunderclap sounds of Raikou's barks were deafening. When they finally reached the top, Valkyrie quickly landed, shakily planting itself on a flat section of land. Clive just about rolled off of the large mount, resting on one knee as he caught his breath. As he did so, he observed Yulia's powerful Braviary, which showed visible signs of exhaustion from its flight up and down the mountain, against turbulent winds and heavy showers. The creature was panting harder and faster than Clive was, and would occasionally shake off the water from its feathers.

    Clive hardly felt like he was in much better shape. He was covered in scratches and bruises from being tossed around like a rag doll from the Wailord's Surf down below, and did not have a chance to recover before clinging onto Valkyrie for the flight up the mountain. Regardless, he had to move. Raikou was up here somewhere, and presumably Yulia was as well. He needed to catch up to her so that they could calm Raikou and find a way to protect it from Avarice's greedy clutches. He drew a long breath before rising to his feet. Another bark sounded, and Clive could feel the ground beneath of him shake as it did. There was no mistaking which direction it was coming from, and so he began to head that way.

    Eventually he could make out the markings of a battle through the torrential rains. He recognized Yulia's figure first. She was tense, focused on the battle. There was clearly a struggle, and her opponent was not to be taken lightly. The lack of visibility made it difficult to tell how much time had passed since the battle began, but there was clearly a struggle. More importantly, Yulia was definitely not taking her opponent lightly. As Clive continued to make his way closer, Yulia's opponent came into view. It was unmistakable who it was, given away by his mask and gaudy cape.

    Lightning flashed, illuminating the entire area for what felt like an eternnity. Clive's eyes quickly scanned the field in front of him, and he saw Raikou on the opposite side of the battle, struggling to stay upright. He counted the two trainers, gridlocked in battle, and Yulia's Pokemon... but what of Phoenix's?

    The light faded, but Clive still got his answer. An orange blur descended and crashed into the ground near Yulia and her Pokemon with a loud crash. The impact sent shockwaves up Clive's legs.

    The Dragonite roared with a loud Baroo! Clive felt his shoulders and back stiffen when he saw the dragon Pokemon, but he tried to wrench himself from the thought. It was no surprise that Phoenix would have strong Pokemon at his disposal, so his possession of a Dragonite was hardly shocking... Except Clive did not recall any Avarice activity taking place in Blackthorn City, which would be the first place he would expect a Pokemon from the Dragonite evolutionary line to originate from.

    Speculation aside, Clive had a job to do. While Phoenix was distracted with Yulia, Raikou was suffering, and more importantly, unattended. He had no idea how many Pokemon each trainer had left, but he had to consider the very real possibilities that Yulia would lose the battle or that Avarice would take control of Raikou prior to the battle's conclusion. After taking cover behind a boulder, Clive released his Zorua and carried it in his arms. "Time to go dark for a while," he said. Almost immediately, the pair became invisible thanks to Shadow's illusion abilities. "If something happens, you need to hide," he whispered to his Pokemon, before starting his trek towards Raikou.

    He took a path behind Yulia, away from the battle, using the boulders to help hide his footprints. He knew his Zorua would not be able to cover up every clue of their presence, so even when invisible it was best to exercise caution. Occasionally, he would stop and brace himself at the sound of a strong attack landing, or when he saw a stray attack strike something nearby. Regardless, he had approached Raikou with only minor difficulty. Here, he could see the contraption attached to the Pokemon's back, which was presumably the source of its suffering. Clive did not recall this kind of device being used before, but wondered if it was fundamental in creating beastly Pokemon like the Excadrill that attacked Jean. He would need to find out how to safely remove the device.

    Phoenix frowned, and placed his hands on his hips. "Dragonite!" he called. "Return to me!" With a beat of its wings, the Dragonite leapt backwards and landed next to him, pausing the battle. "I supposed I should not have expected the both of you to play fair, eh Yulia?" He swiped his finger along the right side of his mask, activating a specialized set of lenses. He squinted as he peered through the bright green, blue, yellow, and red infrared map, in which he was able to clearly see the form of a man holding a small quadruped Pokemon in his arms, even though he was not clearly visible before. "There!" he said, pointing squarely in that direction. "Direct a Thunderbolt there, Dragonite!"

    Clive's eyes widened, surprised to have been suddenly rooted out despite everything that was going on. There was no time to react to the sudden flash of light that originated from the top of the Dragonite's antennae, which illuminated the Pokemon's fearsome face. What a face it was to behold. Just through and below the Pokemon's right eye was a terribly long scar, which extended down its snout. The right eye itself appeared to look normal, despite the disfigurement that passed through it. A sudden wave of recognition overwhelmed Clive, sucking the air from his lungs. Dad's Dragonite? he thought, before his vision was obscured by the white hot flash of a Thunderbolt.

    The Thunderbolt attack was fast, instantaneously unleashing damage in the direction Phoenix directed it towards. Dirt and rocks were sent flying in random directions as the lightning bolts carved up the land, and a chorus of cries echoed when the attack landed. Clive shouted in pain, his voice hoarse, scratchy, and deeper than usual. Accompanying him was Shadow, who let out a shrill cry just before fainting. Above both of them was a loud bark from Raikou, who had been hit also. When the dust cleared, Clive and Shadow had become fully visible again, in much worse shape then they had been when they vanished. Clive teetered in place as he struggled to keep his balance, staring down at his fainted Zorua. His clothes had a dusting of black soot on their surfaces and even some flakes of char on the edges of his sleeves and collar.

    "Aha, there he is!" Phoenix declared, reverting his mask back to normal to get a good look. "Come to put me in cuffs, have you? Come to show me how much of a coward I am?" He held up a black and gold phone, pointing the camera towards Clive. "Well? Anything to say?"

    Clive could not hear anything. The world around him was spinning, fast. Both of his ears rang, the sound like a knife going through his skull. For a moment, he seemed to mumble a sound, a question perhaps, but his shock prevented him from articulating any type of proper speech. Slowly, painstakingly, he reached behind him, drawing out an Ultra Ball. Just as slowly, and painstakingly, he raised his arm arduously, aiming the ball towards Raikou.

    Suddenly, Raikou let out a long howl, quite easily the loudest cry it had let out the entire night. A burst of lightning shot out in a circle around the legendary beast, sending anything in the immediate vicinity flying, including Clive and his Ultra Ball. Clive landed on the ground with a thud, with Shadow sprawled out a few feet away.

    Phoenix shielded himself behind his cape as debris flew passed him. It's almost time, he thought. He turned back towards Yulia and her Pokemon, bidding his Dragonite back into the fray. "Let's wrap this up, Yulia."

  2. #162
    The Ashen One
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    Phoenix was relentless, and Yulia cursed under her breath for underestimating him. His Dragonite was a powerful beast, and Yulia’s Beartic was barely withstanding the never-ending attacks it kept throwing at her. Zita was too tired to fight for much longer. Yulia needed her other Pokemon. She worried her bottom lip, wondering if it would be a good idea to send in her Skorupi. The poor thing was nervous enough, and sending it into this downpour against such a strong foe would likely make it too anxious to fight at all, if she didn’t get blown away with the wind. It was no use; until her Braviary returned with Clive, Yulia hoped Zita would be able to hold out.

    Occasionally, Yulia stole glances at the pained legendary beast a short distance away. With how much pain it was in, with its writhing and its agonized yells, Yulia wanted to help it now, to ignore Phoenix and free it from the contraption he had put on it. But Phoenix would easily stop her now. She needed Clive. Although… As she squinted through the storm, she noticed something off about the ground before Raikou. It was as if rainwater was bouncing off of…something. Deciding it was just her eyes playing tricks on her, Yulia tried to ignore it, and she turned back to Zita as she took another Outrage from the Dragonite. Panting, the Beartic stood its ground and fired an Ice Shard at the Dragonite. But the dragon Pokemon was too quick, and like all of her other attacks, this one didn’t make contact either.

    Suddenly, Phoenix called off his Dragonite, and Yulia straightened, trying to figure out what he was doing. Was he getting bored already? But he had his Dragonite attack elsewhere, near the Raikou, and Yulia then understood what had been so off about that spot. Clive had been there with his Zorua, looking for a way to free Raikou. If they didn’t get out of the way, they would be charred. Yulia felt herself scream, but she couldn’t even hear her own voice, and besides, it was too late. The Dragonite’s Thunderbolt came crashing down on them, distorting Shadow’s illusion and hitting Clive head-on. She started towards him, but she looked again at Phoenix, and she stopped. If she didn’t do something, would Phoenix kill her partner?

    As much as she wanted to help Clive or release Raikou, she wanted to wipe that stupid grin off of Phoenix’s face even more. She called out to him, but her words got lost somewhere in the storm, and she was interrupted by a deafening cry from Raikou. Yulia grabbed for her ears, wincing at the sound. Under these conditions, she could barely hear herself think, but she had to move fast. She called Zita back to her side and commanded the Beartic to use a flurry of ice moves, ignoring the Dragonite to cripple the trainer. When Phoenix heard her plan, he laughed. He didn’t even have to tell the Dragonite to take each and every hit for him, and he wasn’t the least bit bothered by the agony his Pokemon seemed to be in. Dragonite looked ready to fight to its own death, and Yulia refused to drag this on anymore. The battle should have ended ages ago.

    Phoenix yawned and waved his hand lazily. “I’m getting bored, Yules,” he called to her. “You’re lucky I can’t physically hurt you. Next time, let your partner do all the battling. I’ll finish what I started.” He turned away to approach Raikou, and he seemed to speak to it. Before Yulia could reach them, Phoenix was climbing onto the legendary beast. Together, they leapt off of Mt. Mortar, taking the worst of the storm with them.

    Yulia and Clive had lost.

    Yulia barked into her radio, desperately calling for help. She commanded all ground units to follow after Phoenix, and she requested medical help at the peak. She didn’t know if anyone could hear her over the winds, so she repeated herself louder while rushing to Clive. He was cut up and bruised, and his skin from where he’d been struck looked raw, painful. She could have prevented this, she told herself, if she had stalled Phoenix more, had distracted him better, had defeated him; maybe then he wouldn’t have noticed Clive. As guilty as she felt, however, there was no use thinking that now.

    “Clive!” she called, dropping to her knees beside him and looking him over for his worst injuries. Blood was washing away with rainwater, and it was impossible to tell how much he was losing. “Don’t worry,” she said, even if she didn’t know if he could hear her. “Help is on the way. They’ll be able to fix this.” She stumbled to her feet and retrieved the battered Zorua, petting his fur and checking him, too. “You’ll both be okay,” she said, more quietly this time, hoping it wasn’t a lie.

    A nudge on her shoulder startled her, and she looked up to find her Braviary. “Valkyrie,” she breathed, “I’m glad to see you.” She wrapped her arms around him and pet his head. He looked weary, and she couldn’t blame him. After thanking him for transporting both of them up the mountain, Yulia recalled both him and Zita to their Poke Balls, promising them a good long rest soon.

    All that was left to do was wait for help to arrive. Yulia could barely think over the sound of her own grief and guilt, so she again reached out to the ground. She confirmed that someone was on their way up to treat Clive now that the storm was quickly dissipating, but no one had seen Phoenix at all. He must have teleported shortly after jumping off the mountain, she guessed, and she swore. She had let him get away.

    She turned her attention to Clive and placed a gentle hand on his. “I’m sorry,” she breathed, not audible over the rain. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I should have… I didn’t mean… Are you okay?” It was a stupid question, even if Clive was conscious, and Yulia knew it. She shook her head. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “Phoenix got away with Raikou, but we… We still have Suicune, right? There’s still Suicune. And we’ll beat him there, and catch him, and we’ll free the other beasts. We will, I know it.” Yulia was rambling now, more for her own benefit than Clive’s. She needed to say something, convince herself that this wasn’t the end. They would still have another chance, as long as Clive didn’t give up on her now.

    The sound of a helicopter’s blades pulled her attention. Yulia was up in an instant, still cradling Shadow. When the chopper landed, she rushed to meet the people who jumped out of it. The medics had arrived. She quickly explained what had happened as they lowered Clive onto a stretcher and took him back to the helicopter. They were flown back to the base of the mountain, where Yulia handed Shadow to one of the medics. Despite their protests and suggestion that she get looked at too, she politely declined a ride to the nearest hospital and set off, promising she would meet up with Clive soon.

    Now that the storm had lightened up, Yulia wanted to investigate and find any clues that Phoenix could have left behind. There was whatever Clive had seen in the lake, back before they’d ascended, that she wanted to look into. As tired as she felt, she was determined to keep looking for something to ensure that next time, they did not fail.

    She had been alone for only a couple of minutes when she heard footsteps approaching. Yulia looked up to find two young people in Avarice grunt uniforms walking towards her. “Hey, uh,” one said, awkwardly shifting the brim of his hat. “Don’t take this personally, but we have orders to battle you.”

    His partner tugged on his sleeve. “It’s uncanny,” she said, pointing a finger and tracing her own face. “Like twins.”

    Yulia did not have time for this. She looked between the two grunts. They were barely adults, new recruits from the looks of things. Phoenix was so overconfident that he hadn’t even sent experienced lackeys after her? Unless, she figured, there were others nearby.

    She scoffed. “How dare you talk to your boss that way?” she demanded, voice growing lower and eyes narrowing. “I should have your heads for that. Don’t you even know who you’re looking for?”

    The first grunt straightened, his face going pale. “Freya?” he murmured. “I—I’m so sorry, I thought you were Yulia, I—”

    Yulia crossed her arms over her chest. “Shut up,” she growled. “Where are the others?”

    She second grunt averted her gaze. “Phoenix has returned to headquarters, and the others have taken the submarine. We were told not to leave until Yulia—”

    “Get out,” Yulia interrupted. “I suggest you not return to headquarters at all, given your performance here.”

    They both looked up at her, mouth agape. “Y-yes,” the first replied at the same time the second mumbled, “I’m sorry.” In the next moment, they were both running off, terrified.

    Once they were out of sight, Yulia let out the breath she’d been holding. She couldn’t believe that had worked. Any other grunt would have seen right through her. She supposed there were some perks to looking a whole lot like the leader of a criminal organization. Now, she knew there was a submarine somewhere, maybe in the lake, and it had to lead to…somewhere. This would require further investigations, but for now, there was little she could do by herself. Hoping what she’d learned would be enough, Yulia tried to make herself look presentable, and she headed for the hospital, praying that Clive was alright.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
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  3. #163
    The Moonlight Knight
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    It all happened too fast.

    "Is that all you got?" Clive asked. Well, he thought he did, but maybe it only came out as a mumble. Then came his last ditch effort to try to catch Raikou with an Ultra Ball... Then, he was floating, if only for a moment. He had crashed into something, hard, knocking him out of his senses. A while later, he heard Yulia's voice, but whatever she said was all gibberish. When Clive tried to open his eyes, he could feel a vice crushing his skull. So he kept his eyes closed, listening to Yulia ramble on.

    His eyes opened, and he did not know where he was. There was the roar of rotors above him. A short ways away, he saw Shadow was in a small medical chamber used for Pokemon.

    "Clive, can you hear me?"

    A pair of medics stood in front of him. The first, a dark-skinned woman with a sharp chin, leaned forward and observed Clive's eyes pensively. "Just take it easy, we are going to get you to the hospital. Can you focus on my eyes?"

    Of course he could. The woman's face was right in front of him. Yet, it seemed to be moving away so fast.

    Before he had time to readjust his focus, the sound of the rotors disappeared. Everything around him seemingly rushed away, giving way to the image of a whole new environment around him. He grunted in discomfort, shifting his weight slightly as he tried to sit up. He strained eyes, trying to make out his environment in the dimly lit room. Outside was dark, but not in the same way it was before. The moon shown its pale light through the window, unobstructed by any storm clouds and uninterrupted by any flashes of lightning or roars of thunder.

    Clive realized he was dry. From his parched lips to the white gown that covered him in place of the clothes he had on before. As he shifted, sitting up on the side of what he now realized was a hospital bed, he realized being dry did not make him fully clean. Dirt was dried to the hair on his legs, which he flexed back and forth in an effort to shake off the tight feeling. Other parts of his body felt tight, painful even, if he moved the wrong way. A reminder of what had happened, judging by the time of night it was, hours earlier. "Shit," he croaked hoarsely, before clearing his throat. The bottoms of his feet pressed firmly against the cool floor, and he stood himself up rather slowly, but steadily.

    Did things take a turn for the worst? If he was in a hospital, there was a very good chance they may have. Clive was surprised to not find Yulia close by, wallowing in self-loathing for a failure she believed she caused. He found it surprising, and alarming. He paced the room, searching every flat surface he could. The countertop nearby, the stand by the bedside, the chairs, even the bed itself. "Where are they?" he growled. His Pokemon, especially Shadow. Rotom. The damaged Pokeball, the on that used to carry that Dragonite. The Dragonite that Phoenix commanded, the one that Clive was sure knew from before. There was no mistaking the battle scar across the dragon-type's eye, the same one his late father pointed to with pride when declaring how loyal his prized Pokemon was.

    Clive cursed aloud. His patience was absent, having not returned with the rest of his bearings. Part of him wanted to venture out of the room to get some answers. After debating for some time, he cracked the door open and poked his head out. He peered down a long, brightly lit hallway, which reeked of antiseptics. Yup, it's a hospital he thought as he acclimated himself to the smell.

    "Can I help you, sir?" a voice asked from behind Clive.

    He turned his head to look towards the other end of the hall. A somewhat stout woman in light blue scrubs stood behind him. She watched him questioningly, her brown eyes nested atop pudgy cheeks. When Clive was not quick to reply, she raised an eyebrow, and shifted her weight from one strong leg to another. When Clive did reply, she was clearly not pleased.

    "Oh no, I know who you are. You get back in that room and chill out."

    Surprisingly, Clive obliged. He was rewarded a short while later when the the nurse returned, carrying Shadow. Despite what they had gone through, the Pokemon looked healthy, and it eagerly hopped onto the bed with its master. Shadow glanced up at Clive curiously, wrinkling its nose.

    "It's that bad?" Clive asked.

    "Just a bit red, is all," the nurse said stepping closer. "Although you'll want a haircut. It's crazy what damage a Pokemon's electric attacks will do to your ends. That's the least of our worries right now though." She watched Clive's face intensely, watching his eyes as if checking for something in particular. "You must be hungry. Do you feel like you can eat? We'll want to make sure you're at least mostly back to normal before we can discharge you, and I'm sure you'll want to shower some of the dirt and rainwater off. Let me get you something, I'll be right back."

    Clive cleared his throat before the nurse hurried off. "Hey, is there anyone else here? We were at Mt. Mortar..."

    "Checked in? Nope, just you hun. Though, there was a girl who came to visit you earlier. If she's still around I'll send her over, okay?"


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "... although we have no official details yet, the video posted by Phoenix of Team Avarice and the confirmation from my sources that Detective Oiler is, in fact, in the hospital raises alarming questions for us citizens. If, after these events, our tax dollars are continuing to go to such a weak defense against the likes of Team Avarice, then I'm afraid the safety of people and Pokemon alike are doomed.

    Oliver Burnstine looked over his article one more time. "Hmm, maybe my call to action is not very clear," he mused. After a moment of thought, he began making more changes to the document on his laptop.

  4. #164
    The Ashen One
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    With everything around here a blinding shade of sanitized white, Yulia couldn’t help but feel like a Magikarp out of water in the hospital waiting room. At least her hair had stopped dripping muddy droplets onto the pristine floors, and the nurses weren’t giving her quite so many dirty looks as they shuffled by. Still, she felt awkward here in her drenched and dirty clothes, waiting for news of her partner.

    She should have gone home. Or not home—what was home, anymore?—but somewhere where she could have cleaned herself, gotten a fresh set of clothes, maybe a meal or something. The day’s events kept replaying in her minds, especially things she could have done differently, and her sleeves sticking to her skin were a reminder of everything that had happened. Out of place and unkempt, she needed some fresh air. If anyone recognized her here, what would they think? A washed-up investigator, barely out of school, too green to do anything right?

    Her phone was too wet to function properly, but she kept checking it anyway, too used to relying on it to know what was going on around her. The television in the corner of the room kept pulling her attention. It was tuned to the news, and they were already talking about what had happened. An anchorwoman was speaking with a researcher Yulia recognized, one who had gone with them to Mt. Mortar. He had no good things to say about her or Clive, and she gritted her teeth. Averting her gaze did little to block out the incessant noise of her failings. She tried to remind herself that this was only a slight setback, that the good guys lost all the time, and that didn’t mean they would never catch Avarice. There would be a next time, and she wasn’t going to let them lose then.

    Finally, a nurse came into the waiting room and locked eyes with Yulia. “Ms. Oiler?” she said, and that fake name was all it took for Yulia to spring to her feet and follow the nurse all too quickly down the hall.

    Yulia peeked into each room they passed, wondering if she would see Clive. She didn’t know how he would be; the nurses had told her very little, but if she was being led to him, it at least meant he was conscious. She considered the worst, and by the time they stopped at his room, she had to swallow the lump forming in her throat. The nurse nodded towards her and continued down the hallway to give them their privacy.

    He looked about as well as she should have expected. It was hard to see the stoic man in a hospital gown, with injuries all over. Yulia tried to offer him a smile, a small comfort. “Hey,” she breathed. “I’m sorry for—“ But she cut herself off, because now wasn’t the time for pointless apologies. She shook her head. “I’m glad to see you’re okay.”

    There was a TV here too, and Yulia glanced at it before wincing. “You might want to turn that off for now,” she suggested, and before Clive could protest, she did so herself. Silence settled around the room, and she took a seat in the chair across from his bed. She hesitated, feeling even more awkward than in the waiting room. “I had to tell them I was your wife,” she said in an effort to lighten the mood. “They wouldn’t allow visitors except for close family, so…” She laughed, and when she scratched the back of her head, she was reminded of how wet her hair still was. “I meant to clean up a bit,” she admitted, “but I was worried, because it looked bad, what Phoenix…” Her voice trailed. She didn’t want to acknowledge what had happened, not yet. “How…are you feeling?” she asked instead.

    She seemed to remember something, and she reached inside her back. It was wet, ruined maybe, and when she pulled out a can from it, it had bits of wet paper stuck to it. She took a moment to pick them off before offering the can to Clive. It was a lemonade, something from the vending machines in the lobby. “I would have brought you something warm, but I didn’t know when they’d allow visitors, so I figured this was safer,” she explained. “You must be hungry, too. Do you want me to get you something from the cafeteria? Do you know when they’re going to discharge you?”

    Yulia was trying, maybe too hard, to be useful again. She felt that she owed it to Clive, after all. There were so many things she wanted to discuss with him—their feelings about what had happened, or their next steps, or his own recovery—but everything was tangling into one big mess in her head, and she didn’t know where to begin, or if she should. He had been attacked, and she didn’t want to overwhelm him while he was still in pain and in need of rest. But Yulia needed something to focus on, to hope for, to escape the guilt she was perpetually trapped in.

    Realizing she was talking too much and not giving him an opportunity to reply, Yulia straightened again. “Take the time you need to rest,” she said. “It’s been…a long mission, all of this, and I hate to see you keep getting hurt through it.” She thought to what Natasha had said, and Yulia wondered if she had been right, if perhaps it would be best for Clive to take a break from tracking Avarice. Would that spare him further injury? But Yulia shook her head. Selfish as she was, she didn’t want to do this alone. It would be worth it, she told herself, if they could stop Avarice once and for all.
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  5. #165
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    When the nurse returned, Clive stirred in his position at the edge of the hospital bed. His expression softened, if only a little bit, at the sight of Yulia following the nurse closely behind. Her hair was still wet, and like Clive, she carried bits of dried mud on her skin, hair, and clothes. She may have had a few bruises and cuts beneath the cocoon of dirt and rainwater, but she she seemed to manage to avoid any serious injuries. "I'm glad you're safe, too. I screwed up." He scowled, more than usual, upon making his confession.

    He quietly accepted the can of lemonade from Yulia. As he sat idly, listening to her speak, he gently rolled the can between his palms, watching it carefully. By now, he had learned it was easier to let his partner chatter on until her lungs were out of breath and she work out some of her own feelings. It may have helped to intervene and reassure her, but Yulia must know by now how rare that was for him to do. He smiled inwardly, realizing just how far along their understanding of each other had come.

    "She said I'd be free to go once I seem normal and eat something," he said. "Probably won't take too long... just some burns, I guess. Who hasn't been hit with a few thunderbolts here and there, anyway? They hit a little harder when you're older, though." He moved his gaze away from Yulia for a moment, growing quiet. His most immediate concerns upon awakening had been addressed. Shadow silently explored the room, sniffing around the furniture and occasionally glancing back at it's master seeking affirmation. Yulia sat in front of him, seemingly in one piece and with enough spirit left to continue her mission. Only one haunting thought remained. How did Phoenix come to acquire that Dragonite that he commanded? Clive figured that after all of these years, the prized Pokemon of his late father had either passed or was completely reconditioned by Richie.

    He looked back at Yulia, only to avert his gaze once more. "Something tells me you won't need to worry about this mission does to me for much longer," he said, his voice lowering. "They wouldn't be in their right mind to keep me on this one, especially not on the field. They'll keep you on it though, I know they will. I'll say whatever I need to say to make sure of that, if I have to. But they can't afford to lose both of the minds that have been on the case." He frowned, staying silent for while. If Yulia had any protests, he listened, but did not say much and continued to avoid locking eyes with her. Eventually, he would gently pry at the tab on the can of lemonade with his weakened fingers until he managed to pry it open so he could take a long drink.

    There was a light knock on the door. The nurse had returned. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need to check on a few things." She rolled over a small cart that was in the room, which carried a computer. She was quick and methodical, occasionally instructing Clive to move a certain way, turn his head, squeeze something, all the while noting her observations into the computer. "If everything looks good," she said, feeling Clive squeeze her thumbs on her instruction. "Then the doctor will likely have you discharged in the morning. It's just a good idea for us to keep an eye on you for the first night. In the meantime, we can get you fully cleaned up and so you can be a bit more comfortable." She looked over towards Yulia, awkwardly. "I'm sorry, I was not sure. Were you planning to stay with him, Mrs. Oiler?"

  6. #166
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    Once Yulia had finished her rambling and Clive had explained what he knew about his condition, silence settled around the room for a brief moment. Yulia tried to allow herself to breathe and take a minute to collect her thoughts about what had happened. Her blind was already blinking through all the things she would do after a long nap, including all the reports she would have to write, and the delicate way she would have to word things. Would there be more press conferences? She would deal with those. As much as she hated the idea, she wasn’t about to let Clive make this any worse for them.

    When he spoke again, stating the very obvious outcome of the day’s events, that he’d be removed from this case altogether, Yulia’s heart fell. “No.” It was barely a whisper, or perhaps just a breath, that automatically escaped her lips. Yulia stubbornly shook her head. “They won’t remove you,” she said, already trying to think of the ways she could prevent that, the people she’d impress, the things she would say. She knew, though, that it would all be fruitless. That this really was the best option for Clive’s safety. But she couldn’t stand the thought of being so alone. Yulia had spent too much of her life in solitude—or not quite. She’d always been trapped with the person she’d hated most. Clive wouldn’t leave her alone to that. But the man was too reserved, too tired to argue or too defeated to care, so Yulia dropped it. She would try her hardest to keep him on this case, but the more she thought about it, the more she doubted her efforts would get her anywhere.

    She wasn’t given long to wallow. A nurse came into the room then, and Yulia stood awkwardly, as if expecting to be escorted out so that Clive could finish whatever tests he still needed to have done. Remembering the lie she’d had to tell to get here, she sat back down and tried to look like whatever the wife of an injured man was supposed to look like. She waited patiently as the nurse saw to Clive and watched his responses, eager to have more confirmation that he was going to be alright. All things considered, he was stronger than he looked. She tried to tell herself her worrying had been for nothing.

    Satisfied with all the test results, the nurse finally turned to Yulia to ask if she were leaving. Yulia was almost shocked at the question. It wouldn’t have been a consideration if the hospital staff knew who she really was, and she wondered, if they went snooping, if they would call her out on her bluff. Yulia turned towards Clive, an awkward smile on her lips. Would he…want her to stay? He would probably say no. Something about troubling her, or about how he was fine, actually, and this overnight stay was unnecessary. She wasn’t even supposed to be here, and he likely wanted his privacy. But Yulia had spent enough time in hospitals as a kid to know how lonely they were, and she wondered if her partner would like some company. Besides, even if the hospital was guarded, it was still possible Avarice wanted to get back at Clive, to prove whatever point they were trying to make. It would be safer if she stayed.

    “I am staying, yes,” she replied with a polite smile. Yulia paused then, realizing again how she must have looked. Once the nurse left them, she hesitantly turned towards Clive. “I’ll get back to the hotel,” she explained. “Get a shower, a change of clothes, pick up a few things. I think the nurses would appreciate if I didn’t smell like a Trubbish all night.” She got up and rubbed at her eyes. Now that the adrenaline was fading, she was just left exhausted. “What do you want for dinner?” she asked. “I’ll pick up something on my way back.”

    When she had her answer, Yulia started off. It was impossible to keep her mind free of the consequences of their failure today, even if she knew now wasn’t the time to be worrying about it all. She needed to clean herself up and be there for the partner who could have died because of her.

    At the hotel, she took a long shower, scrubbing the dirt and grime out of her skin and wincing when she hit a new wound. Her hair took the longest; mud had clumped tangled strands of it together, and she emptied half a bottle of conditioner before she could force a comb through her pale blue locks. Finally, when she finished her shower, she looked several degrees more presentable, if exhausted. She took some time to feed her Pokemon, including Fritz, who was not happy about being left on his own this much. Then, she pulled an overnight bag together, kissed Fritz’s head, and started back towards the hospital.

    Yulia arrived before sundown with her bag slung over her back and a box of whatever fast food Clive had agreed on before she’d left. He had been moved to an overnight room, so a nurse gave her directions to his wing of the hospital while reception told her his exact room. When she saw him, she offered him a small, sleepy smile. “Hi.” She offered him the food she’d brought. “Like you asked for.”

    She wasn’t expecting him to be awake long, not after everything that had happened, so she had brought her laptop to get started on the new list of things she had to do. She’d gotten herself some coffee—far too much of it for this late in the day, and yet not enough to keep her from feeling like such a zombie. It would be another long night, but for now, she had a moment to sit with her partner. Rest. Talk.

    Though, with so much on her mind, she found it impossible to talk about much of anything. With a long sigh, Yulia collapsed into the chair by his bed, and she said, “I really am glad you’re okay.”
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  7. #167
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    Without giving it a second though, Clive accepted the food that Yulia had brought back. He did so tiredly, but his grumbling stomach demanded a remedy. After Clive had taken a few bites, he nestled back comfortably in his bed. Once situated, he returned Yulia's tired, endearing, gaze, which she directed towards him from her seat nearby. "Same to you," he said, equally as tired and endearing.

    It did not take long for Clive to lose track of their conversation, and unknowingly succumb to slumber.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Good, good. Your Pokemon are learning quickly. You've grown more confident yourself. Impressive, having only given it about two weeks of effort." The old man held out a Pokeball and recalled an indisposed Haunter. "I still can not get used to seeing you battle head-on. Of course that has never been my specialty either, but it is necessary from time to time."

    He watched Clive pensively as he tended to his own Pokemon, his trusted Umbreon. "Even still... You're still getting carried away with your emotions," he mumbled to himself. He reflected on Clive's request for the old man to train him and his Pokemon again, like he had all those years ago. Despite his bones aching and his vision beginning to grow fuzzy, the old man had obliged. He had his reasons, of course. "Care to join me for some tea? Nothing like it, after a good battle."

    Clive stood from where he had been kneeling, and recalled his Pokemon. He straightened his jacket, looking towards his mentor with a sullen glance. "I'm going to be late. I need to go in early... Apparently there's not enough of us doing paperwork all night. There will be plenty of time for tea after I speak to the Chief in the morning."

    The old man nodded, solemnly. He planted a wooden cane made of twisted wood into the ground in front of him, lost in thought. "You're sure about this?"

    "They got me pushing papers on night shift, Naabhi. It's temporary, yeah, but whatever case they put me on is not going to be the right one. They're not going to let me anywhere near Avarice now, but they might be my only chance to find out where he is. He had to be the one to give them Dragonite. And I need to know... How... where... You know? It's my right to know."

    The old man, Naabhi, scratched his chin tiredly. "Yes... If that's what you need to move on. Go on then." He waved his hand casually, pivoting around his cane.

    Clive hurried back to Goldenrod, where he he made his way to the GRPD. He was beginning to miss seeing the place during normal daylight hours. His legs awkwardly carried him to a cubicle in the center of the main office, far from the detectives' office he had grown so accustomed to. He sat down, noticing the reflection of a small scar no wider than the nail on his little finger, sitting just above his right eye, on the blank computer monitor. A small reminder of his night at Mt. Mortar, which vanished once he turned on the computer.

    A few stacks of papers and some late night bookings later, and the morning was soon upon him. "Guess we can call it a night, huh?" one of the officers a few desks away chimed, nodding towards the clock and eying Natasha marching towards her office for the morning.

    We can call it a career, Clive thought. He stood, and began his quick march towards the chief's office. It was time to get it over with. He knew he had to do it before he saw Yulia, before she noticed the paper in his hand and asked any questions. He casually waltzed around the other bodies hurrying towards or away from their workstations, and up the steps. He listened outside the chief's door for a moment, before letting himself in.

    The chief was silent, and had not acknowledged Clive's presence as the younger detective approached his desk. Preoccupied with reading the newspaper in front of him, he would occasionally reach for a sip of coffee or chew on the end of a pen to occupy his oral fixation. Only once he completely finished reading one of the articles did he glance upward. "Just who I needed to see," he said. "I need you back on the Avarice case, starting tomorrow. There are too many other cases and we're not getting anywhere, and the mayor thinks that if you can pull some kind of miracle, it will put us in favor with the taxpayers before the next election. If you can't... well I hope the night shift has been treating you well." The chief then tossed a badge towards Clive, who caught it promptly.

    "You're serious?" Clive stammered.

    "What, did you think I was going to let you off so easy? Go arrest some gold fuckers."

    Restored of his rank and duties, the detective Clive Oiler stepped out of the chief's office. After shutting the door behind him, he looked around. Upon seeing no one to spy him, he gave his badge a kiss and placed the chain around his neck. There was no time to spare. The aches and tiredness of the previous night's work melted away as he hurried to the detectives' office, proudly displaying the badge around his neck and tingling with excitement.There was no doubt now- he and Yulia will capture Phoenix and rescue Dragonite. They will dismantle Avarice, and with any luck, Clive will find Richie once and for all.

  8. #168
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    It had been a long couple of weeks without her partner. Even if Yulia had known that Clive would be taken off the case after his injuries and reckless behavior, she still hoped that he wouldn’t be, so when it did happen, she felt like her dreams had been slashed. Even if she’d always figured she would take down Avarice by herself, she had grown dependent on Clive’s companionship. He was the only one who understood them like she did, and now, alone, the task of defeating them felt hopeless.

    After she’d heard the news of Clive’s removal from the case, she called out sick the next day, missing an important press conference, several meetings, and her assignment to a new partner. It didn’t matter; Yulia wasn’t ready to go back to work, not after losing her partner, and besides, she felt guilty for what had happened to him. Still, for all the devastation she’d felt, she couldn’t imagine what he was dealing with.

    They hadn’t talked very much since that day in the hospital. Outside of conversations about work, Yulia didn’t know what to say. In truth, she hadn’t talked much to anyone since that day. She was exhausted, and after so many failures, all of the enthusiasm she’d had upon graduating the Academy was waning. She wondered if it really was possible to stop Avarice, or if she would finally lose herself chasing an impossible goal. She feared what that meant for everyone she cared about.

    There was one person she couldn’t seem to escape, as much as she tried. Freya had become much bolder, harassing her at all hours of day and taunting her lack of progress. Freya was cocky, but she was careful, and though Yulia paid special attention to her insults, the villain never did drop any clues about her intentions. Yulia had been losing more and more sleep, and most days, the hours blurred together, making it impossible to keep track of time. She just needed a good long rest, or—No, what she needed was to finally put a rest to this. To Avarice.

    At least Freya didn’t bother her while at work. Yulia stared at her laptop screen, her gaze brushing over the curt lines of an email dated two weeks ago but not focusing on any words. She was nursing a cup of coffee, her third today—or maybe fifth. Who was counting, really? Her new partner had already given up on her and requested to be transferred to another case, and with so much work piling up lately, no one, least of all Yulia, had any objections. That left her as the only investigator presently on the Avarice case, though she’d heard rumors that that would be changing soon.

    The email was from one of the Raikou researchers from Mt. Mortar, someone who, thanks to her failure, was out of a job. None of the researchers had reached out to her since, but she scanned for any details she might have missed. She was running out of new leads to search, but she had to feel useful somehow. Avarice had been oddly quiet lately, and she knew better than to take that as a good thing.

    Yulia was losing track of time. She was doing that more often lately, without someone to keep her on track. Days often blurred to nights, and she wondered if her lack of progress lately was in part because she didn't have a partner. Clive worked nights now, and they passed each other in the halls sometimes. They had moved him to primarily busywork, and from how he always looked coming in, he wasn’t enjoying it all that much. Yulia wondered what he was up to these days, but she never felt comfortable enough to reach out to him. She felt responsible for his removal from the Avarice case, and she didn’t know how to speak with him when she thought he might be mad at her. In losing her partner, she also felt that she’d lost a friend, one lingering just out of reach. She wanted to reconnect with him, but it was as if a rift had opened between them, one she didn’t know how to cross.

    Yulia closed her laptop and packed it away in her bag, intending to grab something to eat from the vending machines in the lobby. Though she had finally cleaned up her apartment enough to live in it again, she didn't much have the energy to make her own meals. Lately, she’d been spending too much time confined to either her apartment or her office. She couldn’t remember the last time she had gone out for fun, but she didn’t see the point. To her, it wasn’t overworking if she had nothing else to do, and everyone was counting on her to put a stop to Avarice. Right now, she was the only one who could.

    As she made her way through the lobby, Yulia caught a glimpse of Clive. She stopped in her tracks, trying to stay out of his line of sight, but then she saw him ducking into the chief’s office. Yulia hesitated. She didn’t want to be nosy, but she did want to know what business the chief had with Clive. Maybe it had something to do with all the paperwork he’d been tasked with—or maybe there was something else. Was it possible Clive was being moved again? Or maybe the chief had reconsidered his position on everything that had happened, and he was going to fire Clive. Racked with anxiety, Yulia lingered outside the office.

    To not look suspicious, Yulia soothed the edges of her skirt, fidgeted with the ascot around her neck, and pretended to look at a plaque in the hallway highlighting the diligence and integrity of the Goldenrod Police Department. It wasn’t long before the door opened again, and she glanced just in time to catch Clive’s eye before hastily looking away. Clive stepped into the hallway, but not before she heard him speak with the chief.

    He sounded…happy.

    Finally, Yulia allowed herself to look away from the plaque, and she offered Clive a small smile and a surprised look, as if she hadn’t followed him over here. The bags under her eyes were a permanent feature now. Her heels clicked dully against the polished floor as she closed the distance between her and Clive.

    “Hi.” She wished she didn’t feel so awkward around him, and it didn’t help that her nosiness was now very not subtle. Yulia tried to dismiss her thoughts and glanced at Clive. He was looking more alive than she’d seen him in a long time, and she wanted to know what he’d been told.

    Of course, she had been messaging him, even if she’d been heavily advised against doing so. Yulia wondered just what the boss would do to her if he found her so blatantly breaching confidentiality agreements, but Yulia didn’t feel right keeping Clive in the dark, not when they’d made so much progress together. And, since all of their conversations had been about work lately, Yulia fell back on the one thing she knew how to do: she told him about work.

    There hadn’t been many updates, admittedly, but she had her suspicions about when Phoenix was going to pursue the last of the legendary beasts, and she shared those speculations with Clive. Yulia was nervous about it; she didn’t have faith in herself or her abilities, and she had no idea how she would take Phoenix down alone. But, with Clive off the case and everyone else eager to not work with her, she didn’t have much a choice.

    After mumbling about Suicune and Phoenix some, Yulia finally sighed. “How are you?” she asked to keep things polite. “Are you just starting your day?” She sent a glance towards the chief’s office and raised a brow. “You’re popular today, mm?” Even though she wanted nothing more than to go home and rest, she wanted to know what Clive was so happy about, and besides, it would be rude to leave now, after he’d already seen her.
    Last edited by Ashen; 10-11-2022 at 01:58 AM.
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  9. #169
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    It was a surprise to run into Yulia so quickly. Without a need for a summons, the young detective had approached, offering an awkward greeting. Equally as surprising as her sudden arrival, was her physical appearance. Clive had inferred from their conversations and messages that the girl had been tired, dogged, even a little demoralized, over the last few weeks. What the messages did not fully convey was how overwhelming those feelings must have been for her, so much so that they manifested physically.

    Yulia's face, elegant, pretty, youthful, seemed to have aged somewhat over the last several weeks. Clive sensed it in the dullness in her eyes, the bags underneath of them. Even her skin had lost some of its youthful glow, like waning moon. Clive would have though to give her a hug, if he were the hugging type. After all, there were no excuses for his decisions leading up to his suspension, and he had been so absorbed in his own journey to recover that he had not thought to see his friend in person to check in on her. So, instead of hug, his hand went to the badge around his neck, squeezing it lightly as he sobered up from the excitement of having it returned to him.

    "I'm alright," he answered. When Yulia suggested something about the meeting with the chief, Clive slowed to a stop. "Well, I'm only going to get a lot more popular soon, I hope." He pinched the chain around his neck between his thumb and forefinger, raising it to give Yulia a better view of the badge displaying his rank as a detective. One side of his lips curled into a half-grin, as he waited to gauge his partner's reaction.

    "You will have to tell me more about what we know about Phoenix and Suicune. We're going to stop him this time, and do it for good." He turned his head, yawning audibly into his shoulder. "We should discuss it tonight. I just came off a shift of pushing papers, and you have a long drive home. Technically, I'm not back on the beat until tomorrow anyway."

    After they said their goodbyes, Clive continued his way to his office, his real office. There, he situated a few things, ensured he had renewed access to files concerning the Avarice, and loaded up his bag with some documents he had printed out.

    Back in his apartment, he released his Pokemon and tiredly laid out some of their favorite foods. "This was what I could pick up on the way home. Maybe after I get a chance to rest I can cook us up some steaks or something, huh?" Once his Pokemon were preoccupied with their food, Clive hurried to his room, changed into more comfortable attire, and then returned to the living room. There, he laid out on his couch, holding one of his printed documents over him as he read through it.

    As time passed, the detective's lounging arrangement evolved. Soon, he rolled from his back onto his side. Then eventually, he laid flat on his belly, placing the papers he was reading from on the floor next to the couch so that he could continue reading without having to hold them up. He was nearly done scouring through some old research from a well-known researcher of the legendary beasts, Eusine, before the grips of sleep seized him.

    It was late in the afternoon when Clive awoke. He peeled his cheek off of the edge of the couch, groaning quietly as he sat up. His Pokemon had been lounging around nearby, and they all stirred slightly as they glanced up to watch their trainer. Clive chuckled, upon realizing why his partners were all so eager.

    He grabbed hold of his phone and checked the time while clearing his throat. "Hmm."

    A quarter-hour or more passed while the detective bode his time, packing up his things, stretching his limps, and lounging on the couch for a small while. Then he gave Yulia a call. "Hey. Would you, uh... Does Fritz like steak?"

  10. #170
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    Though Yulia noticed Clive toying with the badge on his chest, she didn’t think he had meant anything by it. Things had seemed so final; was it possible he was implying—? “Oh,” she said quietly, too shocked to say much more. Her gaze found the badge again. It was the one he’d had before everything with Phoenix and Raikou, the one he’d had when he’d been her partner. And if he was showing it off again, then that meant the chief had some sense in him after all. Clive was back. Yulia had her partner back.

    “Yes, of course,” she blurted in response to his confidence. If Clive really was back, then of course they wouldn’t fail this time. Yulia felt much better about ambushing Phoenix while he tried to steal Suicune as long as Clive was beside her. There was so much to do before then. She was already making mental lists of all the things they’d need to plan together, all the documents she’d need to send him, the notes she’d have him look over. Even if it felt like little had happened in the time since he’d been gone, Yulia needed him to be perfectly up to date so that they would be as prepared as possible for Avarice. If Clive started tomorrow, she only had a little bit of time to get everything together.

    So caught up in her planning, Yulia forgot the man was even there, so when she noticed him, she shifted awkwardly and offered him a half-hearted grin. She stumbled over an apology for zoning out, then nodded, trying to regain her focus. “We’ll discuss tonight,” she repeated, nodding her agreement. “That gives me plenty of time to gather all the new information you need and organize it. It’ll give me something to do today that’s not staring at my empty inbox.” She smiled, and for the first time in a long time, it was not forced. “I’m glad to have you back, Clive.”

    Yulia spent the rest of her morning getting together all of the files she had on Team Avarice. She put together a single document that acted as a summary of everything they knew this far, and she referenced it in another document she made, a list of things she needed to tell Clive when they discussed the case again. The list was organized by Yulia’s idea of importance, starting with what they knew about Phoenix and Suicune and ending with all of the tangents she had thought up since day one. When she was finally finished compiling everything, she sent the documents to the printer room, and she made her way there.

    To her surprise, they were still printing when she got there, and she was made painfully aware of just how long her documents were. She considered condensing them so as not to overwhelm Clive, but then, she figured he knew most of these details anyway and could skip over them. Besides, having a note sheet like this could only help them going forward. “This is productive,” she told herself, not realizing she was speaking aloud, as she justified dedicating so much of her time to this task.

    Natasha, who had been walking through the hallway, heard Yulia’s voice. She peeked into the room, and when she saw Yulia was just talking to herself—over yet another thick stack of papers—she continued on. It was just business as usual, then.

    When her documents finally finished printing, Yulia stapled them together and returned to her desk. In addition to the case summary and the list of things to talk about, she also had many note sheets. They contained her hypotheses, and though they were less important than the facts they had, she still wanted Clive to be aware of what she’d been thinking about. Lastly was all the information she’d found in various encyclopedias and on research websites about the legendary beasts. Since that was their next mission, she wanted to be as knowledgeable as possible on Suicune and its connection to the other beasts. Finally, after everything was organized, Yulia put all these things into a single folder to give to Clive later.

    By the time she’d finished all of that, her work day was nearly over. Yulia glanced at the clock on her computer. She couldn’t even remember what she’d wanted to work on that day—more emailing people who didn’t want to talk to her, or checking on things that had no updates, probably. There was very little to do while they waited for Phoenix’s next move, so Yulia was glad for this distraction. With only a couple hours left of her day, she pulled up her inbox again.

    There was an update. After the events at Mt. Mortar, Yulia had returned there to investigate what those grunts had told her. She’d gone diving into the lake, borrowing a couple water-type Pokemon and scuba gear to really explore. There were secrets there, she was sure of it, and she’d wanted to get to the bottom of them herself. While she’d found nothing out of the ordinary, she had found a formation of rocks that had looked like it might have been moved into place by humans. Some of these rocks had even looked like a gate of sorts, though Yulia couldn’t figure out how to open it. She had grabbed a sample from these rocks and sent it in for analysis, and her results had just come back.

    They confirmed her suspicions: the rocks under the surface of that lake were not native to the area but instead had been transported in and carved to fit the natural rocks. Something was being hidden down there, but she didn’t know how to investigate further without damaging the local ecosystem or alerting Avarice of her plans.

    But this was a start. Yulia responded to the email with her gratitude and added these new details to her notes. She briefly considered reprinting the documents for Clive but realized that would be a great waste of paper, and she instead wrote in what she’d learned. So excited about finally hearing back about something, Yulia almost didn’t notice her phone vibrating against her desk. Clive was calling, so she answered.

    “I’ve made a discovery,” she said in lieu of an actual greeting. Though she was still exhausted and jaded, some of the animation had returned to her voice. “Avarice must be hiding something in the lake near Mt.—oh, um.” Realizing that Clive had asked her something before she’d started rambling, Yulia cleared her throat awkwardly, cheeks growing warm. All of this was better saved for their in-person conversation, she realized.

    She considered what he’d asked. “Fritz?” she repeated, charmed that he’d even remembered her Glameow’s name. “He does, yes, but I have to warn you, he has more expensive tastes than I do.” She laughed lightly, because as fussy as her pet was, she still adored him. She paused, then added, “I’ll be over soon. Let me help prepare it.”

    Almost satisfied with the work she’d done that day, Yulia packed up and went home, only to shower quickly and get ready for an early dinner at Clive’s. When she tried to wrangle Fritz into her arms, though, the Glameow protested loudly. “We’re visiting Clive,” she told him, and that seemed to calm the cat, if only a little. Yulia went through her kitchen, gathering things that would go with a steak dish, like several spices, some carrots, and a probably-not-yet-out-of-date onion she still had in her fridge. When she had everything together, she started for Clive’s apartment.

    When she arrived, she shot Clive a text to let him know, then smoothed the edge of her skirt, brushed the hair from her shoulders, and sighed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually cooked for herself, and she thought doing it with someone else might have been fun. The last time she’d had steak—that had been with Clive, too. Maybe, she thought with an amused expression, the man was better for her self-care than she realized.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

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