1: Rhea (Our MC)
I loosely follow this map as a visual guide; the creator made it in paint?!?! It’s insane! Some errors here and there, but I follow its design for the most part. Areas can be further apart, some cities are in the wrong places or not listed, and the regions aren’t nearly so close. The best map I’ve found, though!
Amira and Mallory bonded a bit with Rhea, helping her break down some of the country bumpkin vibes and making her feel special. Mallory came up with a few, ahem, new curses that had the girls blushing. We learned about Amira’s bullying by the hands of teachers, and Lori’s casino bust with her dad!
They sung, and eventually made it to Apple City—home of the alien lovers! Now, we’ve got the chance to talk to a real scientist about some of Pokemon’s outer space stuff! Cool! Oh, but before that … we’ve got some mother issues to work out!
I’d like to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:
AmberStar, Al Simpson, DoMar, Max Mustermann-34615, Zel, Darted Table, John Driscoll, Spaceemotion, and my other Patrons!
3:38 P.M. June 25, Thursday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event)
Events: The Preliminaries for the Joint Kanto and Johto Indigo Summer League have concluded; 105 Trainers and their Pokemon have advanced from Bronze to Silver. A week of celebration is to follow, marked with events put on by the Indigo League, after which the Summer Round Robin Cup will begin, to crown the best of each Tier among those that advanced. The battles begin on the 27th. Rhea started her journey on the 9th of June—she’s been a Trainer for 17 Days (16 Officially; 17 since getting Mya and Nova).
Smiling as she made it inside Apple City’s walls, Rhea slowed to take in the pretty and unusual sights. Viridian had been a lot more open than she thought, and everything was planned to the last detail, but this was much less organized.
To their right was an old parking lot for picking up walking travelers, which wasn’t all that interesting. On the other hand, to their left was a vibrant and open park. Decorated trees were placed across the area with a big fountain and what appeared to be a festival was currently underway.
Nova and Mya were out right now; the Buneary and Mawile seemed to have developed some strong detest for each other somehow, and nothing Rhea said was fixing it. Her Eevee absolutely loved being able to be out all the time since the other two refused to be out of their capsules together.
The Evolution Pokemon and Deceiver Pokemon were a little overwhelmed as they followed Rhea’s example, taking in the hundreds of people milling about.
You wouldn’t think this was the last stop before a rocky valley expanse that was home to Mt. Moon’s clustered Rock Pokemon population by how vibrant and green it was. Apple City’s beauty came primarily from its abundance of water, with Kayak Gorge going right through it, making the place a prime spot for many aquatic activities.
Jets of water sprayed around the fountain in the center of the park, and of course, a flying saucer spun atop the spray. It looked nice; they’d slowly descended from the high terrain of Mt. Moon and into the deeper valley, and without the mountain’s frigid downward winds that cut through the canyons, the sun blazed his glory down on them.
Children in bathing suits ran through the explosions of water from the jets, and two wide and long visqueen plastic slip n slides had been set up—there was one for kids and a far more rapid one for adults and Pokemon.
There appeared to be a competition for doing tricks and how far you could get; there were several adults engaged in the contest, but most of it seemed to be teenage girls and boys, egging each other on to beat the Poliwag, Squirtle, Vaporeon, and Totodile that made up the champion spots.
The Totadile was doing some kind of sliding dance that had Gables salivating to give it a go, and Serenity seemed to want to enjoy the deep fountain with the other Water Pokemon.
Amira and Mallory let the two Pokemon have their fun, taking off to join in the festivities; the Froakie promised to look out for the Feebas. Serenity had more than a few shocked onlookers watch her float through the air with Gables in tow, running across the ground.
“Wow,” Rhea mumbled, mind spinning as she tried to take everything in. “What’s the celebration—aliens?”
Mallory didn’t respond, still locked in what appeared to be an aggravating conversation with her mother through text. She popped her tongue a few times before hissing and brushing back her bangs. “Stupid…”
Amira pointed at various attractions with a giggle, trying not to bother Lori’s private discussion. “What gave you that idea?”
“I suppose it must be…” Rhea forced a smile. “This is all new to me.”
The little alien spaceship night lamps around the city were cute, and dozens of small booths around the field sold limited-time souvenirs and figurines of various thought-to-be extraterrestrial Pokemon.
Amira directed them to a nearby shaved ice booth. “Ever had this before?”
Wide-eyed, Rhea shook her head while adjusting her backpack. Nova was a little nervous about leaving her side with so many people passing by that pointed and talked about her; some of them had seen her Contest performance, which was a sore spot for her, and the black and white Eevee was very noticeable.
Mya was more interested in the food than the attractions, running after Amira.
Rhea glanced at Lori to whisper, “Want one?”
The purple-eyed girl absently waved her hand. “Eh—yeah, yeah, sure, umm … hmm. Cherry or some flavor like that’s fine; I’ll pay you back.”
Following the redhead, Rhea’s eyebrows pulled together while studying the picture display and getting in line with the others. “Eh … Lori wanted cherry—ah, they’ve got it! What is shaved ice?”
Amira pushed her circular glasses up on her nose with a small grin. “You’ve really never had shaved ice?”
“No! No! Seriously,” Rhea urged. “I mean, I’ve heard of it, but only like in videos online and stuff … Is it shaved ice?” she laughed.
“Flavored ice,” Amira stated, pointing at the Snorunt that froze a wooden peg the owner was using as a base to form the block. Next to him, a blonde teenage boy was using some kind of metal tool to shave it into a steel bucket; there was another container filled with the chips beside the man that he was currently operating with a scooper to put into biodegradable paper cones.
“Cool … Oh, they have strawberries? Yes!”
Oh, I’ll get you three some, too. You can get one once Mya is done, Alice.
Her Pokemon chirped with pleasure at the news. Nova and Mya studied the pictures to select what they wanted. Nova chose peach while Mya got apricot.
The Mawile happily dumped the entire thing into her large mouth since it could melt and digest liquids before returning to her pokeball soon after, allowing Alice to come out.
The newborn bunny bounced to the board with quick hops, jumping up and down with excitement while pointing at peach, mimicking Nova on her suggestion, the excited Pokemon trusting in her big sister’s tastes.
She ordered it, with Amira doing the same for Holly and Amber; Serenity was content chilling inside the fountain. The Feebas seemed to be training herself for when she’d have a whole river to roam, advised by her redheaded Trainer.
Rhea frowned, looking at the cone holder in front of Mallory as she continued to furiously text away without even giving the item a glance.
She must be in a pretty big conversation … Should I say anything? No! Stupid! Super stupid! If I was mad at my mom, I wouldn’t want someone butting in.
Turning her focus away from Mallory, she eyed the festivities. “Eh … Amira, when were we supposed to be at the facility?”
“Hmm? Oh,” she cleared her throat, hissing a little, “brain freeze … Oof, umm, yeah, don’t eat yours too fast.”
“Noted?” Rhea mumbled. “You okay?”
“Yeah, heh, just a bit too happy, I guess.”
Rhea chuckled. She was glad to see Amira becoming more comfortable around them and opening up more; the girl knew so much but seemed to have had a bad experience expressing it to others. It was almost as if she expected Rhea to start chiding her that she’d already known everything she said.
Rubbing her forehead and adjusting her glasses, Amira sighed. “Muk, I forgot how that felt … umm, the Admin set it for 8 P.M. to give us time to travel and explore.”
“That’s cool,” Rhea said, scanning the crowd. “Why did they have a festival right now? Isn’t it a bad time with the Indigo Cup going on right now in Silver City?”
Amira brushed her bangs behind her ear as a breeze blew it out of place. “It would be, but they’re capitalizing on the International Bronze League, which is smart. Kanto is receiving a big bump in tourism because of it.”
“Huh, I didn’t think about that.” Rhea sat back, playing with her empty paper cone. “This is good, by the way … it really helps with the heat.”
Her gaze darted to Lori before shifting away; the bright-faced Unovan girl was usually so cheery, but something really seemed to be getting under her skin.
Crossing her legs, Rhea hummed, watching the crowd cheer on various floats that were now being pulled down the adjacent street to the park. A stage set up beside the city wall had a costume contest finishing up, counting out the crowd votes for the prizes.
Festive kites and umbrellas were being carried around by dozens of people, showing Cleffa, Staryu, and Elgyem’s evolutionary families—in fact, much of the decorations seemed to revolve around the three popular extraterrestrial Pokemon.
Her vision locked on little balloons several children were running around with. “Eh … what’s that?”
Amira followed her finger. “Ah—it’s Minior, a Pokemon said to have come from meteors.” A comfortable smile brightened her full lips as she followed their path, the children weaving through the groups of adults and teens. “It’s cute if you see the videos of it…”
Rhea gasped, pointing to the tail end of the floats in wonder as a gigantic Rayquaza wove back and forth through the streets; the feet of a few dozen people could be seen between the crowd as they operated the seventy-foot long costume. “Wow! That looks so good! Zinnia would be sooo freaking out right now!” she exclaimed, gleefully clapping.
Mallory viciously scratched her temple while baring her teeth a moment and really getting into the angry text. “So dumb!”
“Kind of like you?” Amira forced a giggle, focusing on Rhea rather than the costume or Lori. “Zinnia … a friend of yours?”
“I guess … Heh, kind of?” Rhea mumbled, bright blue eyes sparkling at how much effort they put into the design. “Zinnia stopped by once to talk to my grandpa when he was away from Hoenn—he was away from the house, too, he-he-he, and so she hung out with me until they got back. She’s so fun and cool! Zinnia’s close to Rayquaza—she said he’s got some connection to Arceus’s group, but eh, heh, apparently they’re not on the best of terms.”
Amira huffed, leaning back with a small frown while folding her arms under her chest. “Not surprising—I haven’t heard that many good things about the ‘Alpha Pokemon’ from my mom. She said his attitude is Garbodor … She hates using Muk since she thinks it’s cute—I don’t know—she’s weird, but who’s Zinnia?” she asked, scratching her neck as the sun cut through the branches to shine upon them.
Rhea’s eyebrows rose. “Wait, you don’t know who Zinnia is?”
Amira silently shook her head, twisting the empty paper cone on top of the table.
“Oh, umm … Well, she’s this super-strong and cool Champion-tier Dragon specialist in Hoenn. She’s got this adorable little Whismur she calls Aster—super cute! Zinnia typically does her own thing, but she hung out with me for a bit when I was fourteen. Oh! She even took me flying around Mt. Silver on Sammy, her Salamence! He was so much faster than anyone I’ve ever … No, wait,” she paused, thinking back, “no, your mom’s psychic flying was so fast…”
Amira chuckled at her enthusiasm. “Yeah, well, my mom’s one of the best at it … that I know of, anyway,” she shrugged.
Rhea quickly nodded in agreement. “Yeah, your mom is awesome, too!”
“Ugh—my mom’s a dunce,” Lori grumbled, fidgeting with her hair as she waited for another text. “She’s so dense…”
“Really?” Amira mumbled, “I thought she was one of the most devious Dark-Type specialists in the world.”
“Battling doesn’t equate to parenting skills,” Mallory growled, getting back into her text chain.
Amira’s lips tucked to the side. “Huh … So, Rhea, what’s up with this Zinnia girl? How old is she?”
Rhea shrugged, looking down at Alice and Nova as they began playing with Amber; Holly remained in her pokeball to allow Serenity her time in the fountain. “I have no clue about her age—my grandpa adores her, though, and even my grandma respects her. She’s super cheery, and I’ve heard Iris totally gets along with her…”
Her teeth showed as a hiss passed through them, and she gave the redhead an apologetic smile. “And, heh, you didn’t ask for her life story … Sorry for the info dump.”
Amira giggled. “It’s fine!” She sighed, leaning back to grin at the fountain. “It’s fun and interesting learning about the obscure and powerful Trainers in the community—you’ve got the hookup, unlike me.”
“What about your mom?” Rhea asked, correcting her posture a bit.
“Eh … My mom’s circle mostly revolves around her small group of friends. She’s acquainted with a ton of Trainers, but her stories are always about my dad or … ugh, Ethan.”
Rhea rolled her eyes. “You mean Gold? Man, he’s so annoying!”
“Right?” Amira spread her arms. “I don’t know—the funny part is that my mom says he’s always been like that, though. Anyway, back to Zinnia.”
“Zinnia…” Rhea rubbed her shin with the side of her sandal. “She’s one of the people I admire—she does whatever she thinks is right, full force, and with a smile on her face! You know, she even stood against Steven Stone and my grandpa a few times, which is one of the reasons why my grandparents respect her … My granny goes to her to keep up on her Draconid language studies since she’s a native speaker.”
A slight smirk lifted Amira’s cheeks. “Crazy, but … I don’t know, from what I’ve heard about your grandpa, he’s a fan of every Dragon Master.”
Rhea’s smile strained. “Eh, not really, to be honest. He’s always butting heads against the Dragon Community because of the way they handled Iris’s upbringing.”
“Huh?” Mallory’s gaze shot to her while tapping the side of her phone against the table. “He’s even against Drayden? I thought Iris and him were like super close.”
Rhea swiftly shook her head. “No! No! No! Drayden is one of my grandpa’s best friends; they’re always talking, and he’s the reason my grandpa even knew about Iris. He needed my grandpa’s connections in the Dragon Village to give her a chance to live in Opelucid City with him.”
Amira glared down at the dirt. “Is everyone in the Dragon Village that restrictive?”
“Not everyone, but a lot of important people were just scared of Iris’s affinity to Dragon Pokemon—at least, that’s what my grandpa…”
Amira held up a hand to stop her jabbering, jabbing her thumb at a few people that seemed to stop for a moment to linger and listen. “Anyway, I didn’t expect there to be a small festival going on.”
“Yeah,” Rhea said, getting up to grab a flyer from a nearby guy that was handing them out. The group lingering wasn’t moving on, and teenage girls gathered to record Nova, Alice, and Amber play.
She sighed, moving her chair over to sit next to Amira and look over the information. Mallory was back on the typing grind with what Rhea assumed was her mother.
“Quite a few activities, huh?” Amira mused, trying to ignore the listeners. “A lot of them are over since it’s getting close to 4 P.M.”
Rhea nodded. “Looks like most of it goes through the morning to afternoon. Oh, Mallory, there’s a dance hall that’s near the City Square that’s free of charge right now.”
“Never good when it’s community stuff like that,” Lori grumbled. “They’ve gotta make it all G-Rated.”
“Heh, what’s wrong with that?” Rhea forcefully asked.
“Boring … Does she really think I’m stupid?”
“Your mom?” Amira asked.
“Yes! She’s so … Mmgmmg…”
Rhea scooted a bit closer, brushing back her bangs a little while hanging over the paper to keep it out of the way. “Oh, there’s a poll going on to see which is the most popular extraterrestrial Pokemon! That’s cool … Man, I wish we could spend more time checking all this stuff out.”
“Never been to a festival?” Amira asked, forehead creasing with concern.
She shook her head, causing her blonde high-ponytail to swing at her back. “Just the small events the school and Masters put on.”
That got a few hums and glances from the listeners, but they soon coughed and started up a quiet conversation with one another. Rhea continued to ignore them.
“Do you want to spend more time here?” Amira asked.
Leaning back with a low groan, using her core muscles to keep herself up, Rhea checked the security of her ponytail. “I don’t think so—we really need to go make those, eh, reservations, don’t we? It’d be cool to check this place out, but I’m good to wait, and we have that tour.”
Tapping the tail-end of the cone on the table, Amira scratched her neck and stretched a bit. “Mmh … we can make the reservations and chill since we do have a few hours.”
Mallory grunted, shoving her phone in her skirt pocket before putting on what Rhea knew was a fake smile. “Okay, girls, so … What’s the plan? Sorry, I just had to wade through the sludge … My mom.”
“Something wrong?” Rhea asked.
Wait, no! I said I wasn’t going to get involved! Stupid!
Mallory scratched her ear, looking away with a dull smile. “Just the usual—my mom’s always too busy … Until she isn’t. She saw Cass’s video clips and wants to come hang—I don’t know—it’s just like her to come to me before going to Cass. She just … mmh-hm-hm-hm … always has something that comes up last minute.”
“So she bails?” Rhea whispered, fingers tightening in her lap.
“Yeah, well, my mom’s let me down a lot.” She brushed her hair back with a weak shrug. “It’s whatever, though—she’s in her own little world.”
Purple eyes widening with a forced smile, Lori straightened a little and leaned in. “Annnyway, it’s like—enough with waking up on the wrong side of my head, am I right? Quit with all the gloom and doom! I’m tryin’ to keep it on the bright side—so, what’s up?”
“Uh…” A forced laugh shook Amira’s chest. “Your mom isn’t going to randomly show up?”
“Naa!” Mallory looked up and shook her head. “Please, my mom? She’s too busy doing League stuff, so probably not.”
Amira’s lips tightened, glancing around at the festival participants. “It’s still the week of celebration before the matches really get underway, and at the end of that grace period for the Trainers—she’s probably finished with her immediate League duties this late into the week.”
“No way,” Mallory grunted, “c’mon, can we get on another subject? I mean, she could—it’d be spontaneous, which is like her, but I stopped expecting things from her a while ago. She never goes out of her way to come up to Sinnoh.”
“We are in her home region,” Rhea slowly laughed. “Oh, but Amira and I were thinking about going to reserve our stuff and then the … Heh, what was it called again, Amira, TACSCOT, or something?”
Amira rolled around her neck and stretched her back out. “That’s it.”
“Yeah, that starts at eight.”
“Sounds fun!” Mallory grinned. “Let’s go!”
The three of them got up and grabbed their bags. Serenity and Gables returned after playing the game and practicing swimming; the Froakie had earned 3rd place on the styling competition with the slip n slide, earning Mallory and him 250 credits.
Amira took out her GPS, motioning them to follow her. “Umm, on the way, do any of you want to grab dinner?”
Alice, Nova, and Mya cheered in unison.
“Heh, I thought you’d never ask,” Rhea chuckled, rubbing her stomach; they hadn’t eaten anything since the morning. “Oh, and…” she opened up her bag with a grimace. “Yeah, we need to stock up on supplies before heading out tomorrow.”
Amira hummed. “Yeah, can do…”
They paused before hitting the sidewalk, turning around as gasps erupted around the area, and the group following them dropped their bags in shock. Two very well-known figures stood several meters away, glancing around while gaining their bearings.
Karen wore a bright smile and a tight black and purple romper tank top with heels; she looked as wild and fabulous as her magazine and social media appearances. Will stood by her side, wearing his signature mask and noble garb.
Chewing gum, Karen sighed, putting a hand on her hip while focusing on her stepdaughter. “Thanks for bringing me, Will.”
A short chuckle shook the man’s slim chest. “Anytime, Karen. Good luck.” He vanished in multi-colored lights.
Karen’s 5’9” Umbreon came out of her pokeball as the woman brushed back her absurdly thick silver hair and scanned their audience; the ball somehow stayed attached to her hip and returned to its original size upon releasing the Pokemon.
Nova’s mouth dropped open in shock at seeing the Moonlight Pokemon, and the two casually walked over to join them.
“Lori, It’s been weeks since I’ve last seen you face to face.”
Mallory’s smile was forced behind her sunglasses. “Thanks, Mom, for, you know, just poppin’ in wherever you feel like it … or ignoring me entirely.”
Karen chuckled, stopping in front of them, the woman certainly was as well-endowed as her stepdaughter. “You make it sound like I’m a bad mother.” Her silver irises shifted to Rhea with a sly smile. “Rhea, you’ve grown even more beautiful since the last time I saw you, and Amira, you’ve come into your own, too.”
Amira had a pure and innocent smile. “I’m grateful for the compliment.”
“Y-yeah!” Rhea stumbled back a little to give Lori and her mother space, holding her forearm. Nova was practically jumping up and down with Alice as she talked to the Umbreon that nuzzled against Lori’s outstretched hand.
“Nice to see you, too, Lumica,” the violet-eyed girl mumbled. “Okay, Mom, you have my attention. What?”
“Do I need a reason to be here?” Karen asked with a perfect smile, putting a hand on her cheek. “I thought we could have a little daughter-mother time. Is that fine, Rhea, Amira?”
Mallory rolled her eyes while looking at the sky. “Hey, can you guys get the reservations?”
Amira didn’t skip a beat. “Of course. Aren’t I paying for you anyway?”
Lori gave her a small grin. “Thanks. I’ll be back as soon as possible … It shouldn’t take long. Right?” she asked, eyeing her mother. “We’ve got this tour thing for a space place that I’m looking forward to.”
Karen lifted a silver eyebrow. “Oh. Is that right? Hmm … when were you ever interested in space stuff?”
Mallory smirked, still not making eye contact with her very forward mother. “I don’t know—ten seconds ago?”
Rhea winced, but Karen only laughed at her daughter’s response.
“I see. I wouldn’t want to take away from your precious party time—at the UFO center,” she snickered. “I know you are trying to make memories with your friends. In fact, there’s a nice cafe nearby that I frequent when in Apple City for their delicious pastries. Why don’t we go there and order dinner?”
“Whatever,” Mallory sighed. “Go on ahead, guys. I’ll catch up in a bit.”
Amira and Rhea hesitantly left with a wave.
“Good day, Grandmaster Karen,” Amira respectfully said, almost causing Rhea to trip over her far more familiar statement.
Karen returned the wave. “Have a lovely meal, girls. Oh, and it seems Lumica wishes to join you—She’s not picky, and I’ll pick up her tab.”
How did she know…
Classic, Rhea’s lips tightened, knowing the trick from her aunt. I hope they’ll work it out, she mumbled to Mya. Her Mawile wasn’t listening, too focused on the Umbreon.
Looking back with a bit of worry, Rhea moved closer to Amira as they drew the crowd’s attention, but thankfully no one followed with Lumica’s uneasy aura hanging near them. “Do you think Mallory thinks we’re abandoning her?”
“What?” Amira shook her head, managing her hair. “She probably feels more uncomfortable talking openly to her mom with us there … I’d be the same.”
“Really?” Rhea asked.
Amira gave her a slight smirk. “We can’t all be you, Rhea.”
“I’m nervous when we’re around my mom,” she mumbled in her defense.
“It was a compliment.”
“Oh! Heh, thanks…” her head drooped. “Ugh, why am I so awkward … Hey?”
Amira bumped into her side. “You’re awkwardly adorable; it’s great.”
“Making fun of me now?” Rhea giggled. “I don’t know—it’s just hard sometimes.”
Amira gave her an incredulous look. “What, to talk? You’re all about charging in and blazing the trail.”
“I don’t know, maybe…” she looked away, rubbing her arm.
Everyone has such different relationships with their family. Amira’s super close … to the point of almost smothering, while Mallory has a hot and cold relationship with them. Is it really so complicated? Well, I guess my family is somewhat complicated…
Amira lifted an eyebrow. “Mhm?”
“Just thinking about my family.”
Amira nodded, turning back to the street. “So, what do you want to do—eat or register first?”
Turning her mind away from her mental spiral, Rhea scratched the side of her head. “Probably go register first.”
Nova and the other Pokemon seemed enthralled by Lumica as she walked with them through the streets, absently following Amira. Rhea kept her silence throughout the journey, taking in the massive buildings.
The gorge cut through the middle of the city, and its beauty stunned Rhea. The water was so blue and vibrant, and she could see large bridges linking the north and southern half of the metropolis.
They took the zig-zagging path that led to the docks built into the side of the cliff and went inside. The line wasn’t as long as Rhea thought it would be, and they looked out of the building’s glass windows at the water—there were even panels in the floor to view the pristine environment underneath the waves.
Apparently, the city did a fantastic job at managing their trash because not a single piece of filth could be seen inside, and a video showed that Rangers were hired to patrol the waters with various wild Pokemon that took great pride in their environment that they incorporated into the maintenance of the gorge. Littering came with heavy penalties, and unlike many other areas, Apple City enforced them without exception.
Making the reservations and selecting out of the twelve available kayaks, they made sure to consider Mallory’s wide hips and long legs; Rhea got a linking tether for the Unova girl, too, so she could keep her close.
The excitement was bubbling in Rhea’s chest at the thought of getting back out on the water and the mystery Amira needed her help with.
Grabbing their tickets, the redhead brought them to another one of her pre-selected restaurants that would help beat the 5:30 dinner rush. Of course, once the senior staff saw Amira; they were ushered into an upper floor VIP dining area with a view of another park hosting various activities involving Clefairy.
Lumica went through the menu with their Pokemon, recommending certain dishes that they all took, and waved her paw to the stationary waiter, pointing at a spot on the Pokemenu that her Trainer would cover all the expenses. There were no problems when Amira mentioned Karen.
Rhea smiled. Karen seems so nice … I don’t know about her relationship with Lori, though … Is it wrong to like her? I’ve always kind of liked Karen. No! Stop overthinking it!
Leaning to the side to stare off the low balcony to see the active UFO city, Rhea smiled. She was really out of the forest and in a metropolis—for once, she didn’t feel rushed or lost in the madness. She was on her own and with a team of her own.
This is so nice.
Amira’s head tilted while studying her. “Hmm. What is that look?”
Rhea shifted her hair across her front, shaking her head. “It’s just … I never thought I’d be here—I can’t really say how I’m feeling, but … it’s just magical.”
“I would disagree about this being magical,” Amira mumbled, looking around at the city. “It’s a decent place, and I have some good memories here, but it is far from the most glamorous area in Kanto.”
Looking up at the rising moon and falling sun, Rhea giggled. “This is all new to me … everything seems so magical, and a lot of it is thanks to you, Amira.”
Amira’s cheeks darkened a bit, and she fiddled with her glasses on her dress front. “What do you mean ‘thanks to me?’ I’m … not doing anything.”
Rhea grinned. “You’re the best tour guide! You know everything and where we should go. I wouldn’t have even guessed to take this route.”
They paused as their food came, which was shockingly fast.
Mouth dropping open, Rhea pointed at the massive bowl of soup and entrees set before her. “Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to eat all of this?!”
Amira snickered, regaining her composure while giving the confused waitress that brought it a nod. “It’s exactly what it looks like. Just eat what you can.”
“Mmh…” Rhea’s brow creased. “I hate wasting food…”
The redhead didn’t respond, but a small smile brightened her already lovely face as she pulled out her napkin and prepared to eat.
Rhea mirrored her but was more than a little intimidated by the size of her meal; it was the same at the Rocket feast—it had been a feast, but at least they had a lot of people to split it up.
Alice and Mya took turns eating their dishes, carefully watching and imitating the elegant Umbreon. Rhea was still worried about the two and their relationship, but both of them weren’t thrilled to address anything yet every time she asked.
Her phone went off as she started with the salad; it was her mother.
6:06 P.M. Mom: I just got off the phone with Mimi, and she’d be happy to show you around herself. Don’t think you’re intruding, like you usually worry about, you silly girl! Mimi’s got some extra time, and making Amira hyped gives points to the project in Giovanni’s eyes. It’s a win-win! She’ll meet you at the front at 6:45.
Mom … I don’t think I’m intrusive. Although, I guess I would be kind of worried if she didn’t say it … Muk.
Returning the message, she smiled.
6:07 P.M. Rhea: Thanks! Amira should be happy to have it be the foremost scientist of the whole thing. You’re the best, Mom!
6:07 P.M. Mom: I’m crying! Love you! I’m the best? I’m going to save this for hard days—today was hard. Love you! Have fun tomorrow and tonight! Take a bunch of pictures!
So many exclamation points, Rhea giggled.
“Something up?” Amira asked. “Is it Lori?”
“No, my mom. She’s got Mimi to personally give us the tour.”
Looking impressed, Amira hummed. “Mimi Metcalfe herself? I’ve never met her. She runs the entire research division. There isn’t a better person to get answers from; I’ll message my contact and make him aware.”
They looked up as Lumica lifted a paw to get their attention, pointing to the street.
“Mallory and Karen are coming back?” Rhea asked.
She nodded with a chirp.
“Wonderful,” Amira whispered, texting her contact. “We should meet Mimi at the scheduled time.”
Mallory and Karen floated up a minute later, suspended in the air through Psychic Flight from her mother’s Spiritomb. Lumica nuzzled Nova’s nose, saying goodbye, which almost made the little girl faint from excitement; she’d asked a billion questions and got a billion answers from the patient senior.
Lowering to the balcony, Mallory and Karen hugged.
“Thanks, Mom—I actually had a pretty good time.”
“I’m glad,” Karen giggled. “We’ll have to do this more often. You know, maybe when you get to Saffron City … Hmm? There’s this amazing exclusive dance club on a particular roof only accessible to those that can make it there!”
“I’d love that! Can we bring Cass?”
“Of course! A girl’s night out.”
Lori closed in to hug her again, kissing her cheek. “Thanks, Mom!”
Pulling away, Karen gave them a wink and wave. “Perks of being in the Elite-4; he-he-he, I can fly in the city and do basically whatever I want. Bye, girls, I’m off to meet my other troublesome daughter now.”
Floating into the air, her Honchkrow exited its pokeball, and her Spiritomb placed her on top of the giant 5’5” Big Boss Pokemon. “Have a fun time, and watch yourselves! Three gorgeous girls can attract danger!” she grinned.
“Just give me a heads up next time, Mom!” Mallory yelled.
“He-he-he, where’s the fun in that?!” Bracing herself, the Honchkrow turned, dove a little to cut the backdraft, and shot into the sky with powerful beats of its wings.
Folding her arms under her bust with a shake of her head, Mallory sighed. “Wow—yup, that’s my mom. So, what’s up—oh, we’ve already eaten,” she said as Gables and Miky jumped out to talk to the others.
Amira leaned back in her seat with a smile. “You seem to be in a brighter mood.”
“Eh, you can say that,” she hissed, rubbing the back of her neck. “My mom just annoys me sometimes, but things tend to work out. My dad’s coming to chill in a few weeks, and I’m hyped for that.”
“That’s nice.” Amira pointed at Rhea, food in her mouth, still trying to finish her colossal meal. “Rhea’s mother got us a tour by none other than Mimi Metcalfe, the most important person of TACSCOT.”
Mallory grinned, dropping down in a seat. “Sweet! Heh, we goin’ when Rhea stops stuffing her face?”
Rhea swallowed and gave her a dirty look. “I’m not a Tepig! I just—they gave me all of this—I can’t let it go to waste, and your mom even paid for it!”
“Good thing!” Mallory’s face turned grave. “I was seriously worried about you for a bit—Amira and I talked about how you might just drop dead on us in the middle of the road with how little you eat.”
“Wha-what?!” Rhea’s cheeks flushed crimson. “I-I eat plenty of food!”
“Mmh?” Mallory leaned over to look at Amira, who nodded.
“Yes, I’ve noticed it, too, Rhea. You tend to keep your meals … lean.”
Rhea huffed, glaring down at the bowl of soup in front of her. “I eat just fine. I’m not trying any special diet or anything—I just don’t need to eat all that much.”
A depressed sigh puffed through Mallory’s lips. “You’re light on the meat, too—how’d you get those curves with that diet—where’d it come from? Well, I mean, your aunt certainly has curves,” she giggled, “but c’mon, girl, don’t make us worry about you.”
Looking down at herself, Rhea spread her arms. “What are you talking about—I’m not that curvy—I’m not too skinny either.”
Mallory sucked on her lip, not convinced. “Eh—girl, I’ve seen you practically naked; ya can’t tell me that. You’ve got curves; own it!”
“I agree—to an extent,” Amira mumbled, looking away while fidgeting with her glasses again. “I am not—my fashion isn’t the same as yours, Lori.”
“A shame,” she teased, looking her up and down. “You could make any boy drop his jaw. Y’all are easy targets,” she snickered.
Rhea smiled at Lori’s jabs. She really is different than everyone I’ve grown up around. I like it, and she’s right! I do have curves … I just don’t know if I can ‘own’ it like her, though, she laughed to a confused Nova.
“Our boats ready?” Lori asked.
Amira nodded, and Rhea forced herself to chug the rest of the soup, coughing a bit at the end. “It is … Oh, well, that’s certainly one way to do it.”
“That’s more like it!” Mallory stretched out her back. “Okay. We ready to go?”
“Fine,” Rhea grinned. “Still, I’m not anorexic!”
Amira got up and situated her strap over her shoulder. “We’re only stating what we observe, and we’re worried about you.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Rhea sighed, preparing to go. “I mean, I kind of don’t have the biggest appetite, but … I’ll ask my mom if I need to eat more.”
Mallory swapped Gables out for Miky to give the imp some time to stretch his legs. “Got anything you want to learn here?”
An edge of excitement cracked in Amira’s voice that Rhea hadn’t heard before. “A lot! There’s so much that my last tour left me wanting. I’m hoping Mimi will have the answers I want.”
“I’m looking forward to it, too,” Rhea said, and they left the restaurant.
They were forced to take a cab to get there on time, given the packed streets, floats, and not knowing where everything was. At 6:46 P.M. the three of them stepped through the expensive-looking front doors of the Apple City Space Center of Observation and Technology.
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