1: Amira Rocket (Our Guarded Redhead!)
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!
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9:24: P.M. July 3, Friday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event)
Events: The Joint Kanto and Johto Indigo Summer League have concluded; Saria Surge has become the new Vermilion Gym Leader, converting it to a Fairy Gym. It will be open for challenges on the 10th.
Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June—she’s been a Trainer for 24 Days (23 officially; 24 since getting Maya and Nova).
Amira eased out a relieved breath as Yancy’s assistant came into the waiting room, ushering Kekipi and her to follow him to the superstar’s temporary headquarters; they were currently in one of the larger privately-owned battlefields in Cerulean City.
It had been aggravating to just get beyond the crowds of people flooding the streets as much of the city’s population scrambled to either profit from or participate in the flash event; to make matters worse, she was supposed to spend time with Kekipi.
“Sorry for the wait,” the aide chuckled, glancing back at them as they moved around the various bands bringing their equipment through the hallways. “I’m sure it must have been a nightmare getting through the crowds just to get inside.”
Kekipi was far more patient than her. “It’s no trouble; I’ve been having a good time.”
Amira gave him a dubious look. “Is that right?”
“Yeah,” he grinned, vision absently wandering over the various decorations and artwork of past matches in the private stadium. “I’ve been able to hang out with you and listen to you comment on your taste in music.”
“My taste in music can’t be all that interesting,” she protested, trying not to let her agitation leak into her voice.
Right. There isn’t a chance, Bud! We’ve been pushing through people all night, looking for some way into the backstage area; how is that remotely categorized as anything close to fun? Sweet, but come on!
“Mmh, it was nice for me. Typically, when we were traveling together, Rhea, Lori, or your Pokemon always had your attention, so I could never get the chance to learn more about your interests. It’s been nice hearing your comments.”
Amira’s thumb plucked at her shorts at the comment, trying not to bite her lip. That was way sweeter than it had to be… I was just rambling because I was frustrated. Muk, I can’t wait to get my new glasses tomorrow…
“Okay,” she mumbled, “so, maybe you can now tell me a bit about your tastes?”
“Heh. My tastes, huh? I’ve always just listened to whatever anyone else had on, and Heneli or Malia always have control over the stations when we go out. I wouldn’t say I’m that picky on genres, so long as everyone’s happy.”
“C’mon, you have to give me something—there has to be some genre you like more than any other; don’t make me pull your teeth trying to find it,” she chuckled.
“Fair. Fair. Hehe. Eh, let’s see…” He cast his gaze to examine the various bands. “Mmh… Probably the jazz stuff your grandpa had playing.”
“No! Really. Heh, I’m not trying to suck up or anything. I’ve only heard it in movies but never something quite like what that band was playing.”
“Huh… I enjoy jazz, as well,” Amira replied, the pressure against her chest lightening a bit. “Maybe we can find a place away from all the noise tomorrow afternoon to talk.”
“That’d be cool.”
The smiling aide stopped them in front of a room to usher them inside. “Yancy should be expecting you.”
Amira nodded, happy to have this be over with as they walked through. “Thanks.”
“Amira Rocket? Well, aren’t you just the most stunning redhead I’ve ever seen!” Yancy giggled, putting away her phone and stepping forward to hug her.
She hadn’t expected the bubbly woman to be so touchy but didn’t resist. “I appreciate the compliment.”
Pulling away, Amira got her first in-person look at the bright-eyed pop singer. She was about as tall as her, with light-pink, shoulder-length hair, and wore a blue and white dress. There was a beauty mark under her left eye, and the woman’s irises shimmered in a way that naturally drew attention.
Managing her free locks and adjusting her summer hat, Yancy took a second to study her. “I’m only stating the obvious; you have hair like a Pyroar, and you take such good care of it… As elegant as a Ninetales, the mystery of a Delphox, and the voice of a Meloetta—mhm! I believe you have the entire package to do anything you want!”
I’ve heard those words from people my whole life… and usually not as a compliment.
“That’s really nice… Erm, you wanted to talk about doing something together?”
Hands finding each other behind her back, her focus went from her to Kekipi, attempting to fade into the background. “I did… I hope I’m not taking all of your time together. Umm… How about this!”
Taking her phone out, she played with it for a second as she went on with her hypoactive proposal. “I’m sure we’re both very busy women, so… Why don’t we share numbers, and you can shoot me some songs you’re comfortable singing—I can accommodate whatever you want to do—and… we’ll make a spectacular performance tomorrow night!”
Amira pulled out her own phone to tap Yancy’s, exchanging contact info with the action, and was happy she’d rushed the meeting; she could probably sense her mood in any case; high-tier Trainers, especially in the entertainment business, had an uncanny means of aura control to understand people.
Invasive? Sure. Yet, what were you going to do about it? Psychics had the same abilities—or perhaps more powerful; it was just a part of the world they lived in.
“I think that’s acceptable,” Amira smiled. “I know a few songs you’ve written, which should be fine.”
“Hmm?” Vision lifting to see Yancy’s concerned, swaying locks, Amira’s fingers tightened around her phone. “What’s up?”
“I didn’t want to steal the show!” she urged. “This is supposed to be your debut, so I want to perform something totally unique to you. If we do one of my songs, then—well, it just won’t do! I want you to shine the most in our collaboration.”
“Haaa-hehe. Alright,” Amira whispered, shivers running down her arms at the prospect. “Something unique… Why don’t I send you a song I wrote then?”
Yancy’s face lit up like a starstruck child. “Ooh! Are you sure? I’d love to be featured on one of your own songs! Oh, I know—why don’t I set things up so we can release it live and then do a recording studio of it; you can release the single through my label!”
Amira’s gut tightened. “Mmmm… What kind of contract are we talking about—signing me?”
“Not at all!” the singer hastily replied, messaging her people as they spoke. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to take advantage of a young, talented star like you—no, I just love to see young flowers bloom. No contract and all the proceedings can go to whatever you like!”
Her big, sky-blue eyes darted up to her. “Anything you want to do with it in particular? I could have all of it sent to you—with the foreknowledge of regional tax regulations, naturally?”
Kekipi lifted an impressed eyebrow. “Woah… So, I could hop online and listen to it?”
It would be out there for people to meme with, Amira internally groaned.
Pondering the unbelievable offer, she knew it could certainly give rise to negative press, as it always did. If this were the first time this world-famous singer had proposed or done such things, Amira would have thought it a trap, but she was just like Lisia in this regard.
“How about… Why don’t you send all the proceeds to the Ranger Pokemon Relief Charity?”
“The RPRC?! That would be a huge PR win for us,” Yancy thoughtfully nodded. “Are you sure, though? It’s not against the law to make money from your self-image as a Rookie Trainer.”
“Mhm. I really don’t need more hate aimed at me,” Amira waved off. “I’d be more worried about putting a target on your back.”
“Hmm-hmm! I get plenty of hate and obsessed fans—I actually absolutely loved your performance of Elesa’s Obsessed, which, heh, I can more than connect within my own life… Sometimes it’s like a lot of superfans think you owe them your entire life.”
A forced smile lifted Amira’s lips at the connection she shared with the song herself. “Yeah… I can relate to that—I’m sure many public figures can. You saw that, huh?”
“All of the songs you sang today have been making the rounds around Trending.”
Lori… What storm have you started?
“Haaa… I’m sure it has. Umm, my own song kind of follows that same logic of being in the public eye. Is that fine?”
“Not at all! Arceus, I’m excited! When can you send me the practice material—can you message me how you want to have me featured?”
“I can have my mom send me it from home tonight; heh, I’m sure she’ll respond instantly, and for your part… Why don’t you add your own lyrics in it, and the beat wasn’t super important to me when writing it, so…”
“Yeah! I can totally make something fresh for it once I get the tempo and theme you want down. Oh, but make sure I don’t steal too much of your time! You should get out of here before it gets too late—gah, already 9:40… So much to do!”
“I bet. Alright, I’ll send it… over,” she paused as the woman jumped forward to hug her again.
“Thanks for letting me be a part of your personal song, Amira—it means a lot that you’d do that and donate the proceeds to charity? You’re a real Alcremie!”
“Really… An Alcremie? You’re too much, Yancy.”
“Hehe. Eh-heh, I do get a little carried away. I can’t wait to get the material!”
Waving her off as she left with Kekipi, Amira streamed out a long sigh as she let the whirlwind of the hyperactive woman pass. “Well… that happened.”
Kekipi chuckled as he followed her back through the halls. “She seems really nice. How are you really feeling about this, though? You seemed pretty chill, all things considered.”
“Ugh… tired,” she grumbled. “Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet, but this whole thing has been emotionally exhausting.”
Amira left it at that as she looked internally after the confession. Why am I talking so much about how I feel with him? It’s not typical for me to just speak to someone I barely know about things that bother me… Is it because he’s met the family? He’s pretty laid back—I guess—easy to talk to, but…
“Nothing. Umm… It seems Rhea went back with Heneli not too long ago. Mmgm…”
Catching his amusement, Amira scratched her forehead while turning a corner and seeing the exit sign. “I know… I’m not very convincing at the moment.”
“It’s cool. You’ve seemed pretty stressed as we’ve been together, and I know it’s probably not me—at least I hope not—so, I’ve been trying to figure out some way to make things a little more manageable for you—”
He opened the door for her to go through and observed the bustling crowds; there was a guard on the opposite side to prevent anyone from trying to sneak in through the back from the dozens of fan packs hanging around in hopes of getting a one-on-one with Yancy.
“A late-night café might be good,” he continued, “but as it stands, I think the best thing would be to walk you home so you can get enough sleep for your Gym match tomorrow morning… Or, heh, am I completely wrong, and you want something to distract you?”
Good question… I don’t know myself, and I really shouldn’t be this annoyed.
“For the record,” she shot a half-smile up at him, “no; it’s not you. It’s me, as cliché and vague as that sounds.”
“Just another one of those things, huh? So, home or café?”
Seriously debating it, Amira shook her head, and, to emphasize her decision, a yawn came on. “I’d—love to sit down and have a proper chat, but honestly, I’m exhausted.”
“Mmh-okay,” he nodded without any signs of rejection, which she appreciated with his casual, slow walk and hands in his pocket as his amenable eyes wandered the roads and booths they passed. “So, lunch tomorrow at a café, where we can discuss random stuff after your match, or would you like me to pick up something for you and meet you outside of the city to practice your song?”
Taken aback by his offer, Amira almost tripped. “You’d do that?”
“Of course. I know practice is important, and if I can make it easier, that’s cool. We don’t have much going; heh, we haven’t even scheduled our Gym Battle yet. I’m free, so… yeah. Grab you lunch and enough coffee to keep you going?”
“Erm…” Amira hissed, looking away while rubbing her neck. “Unfortunately… coffee can seriously dehydrate you and, eh, can create havoc with your voice, so…”
“Lunch and some hydration sports stuff?” he followed up.
“That’d be great. Thanks, Kekipi, and sorry about my attitude tonight.”
“Glad to be of help, and don’t sweat it; you’ve had a rough day. Hehe. Besides, it’s nice to know you’re super cute when annoyed, too.”
His half-smile and eye contact threatened to make her cheeks color and turn away. “You don’t mean that…”
“Oh! So, you’re a Psychic now, huh?” he winked. “‘Cause if so, I want a refund!”
“Score! I got to see a real smile tonight.”
“Stop it!” she laughed, pushing him to the side as he snickered; he’d actually gotten her to start having a good time. “Why’d you choose to hang around me instead of Lori and the party girls?”
“Seriously?” He scratched his cheek, giving her a cryptic look. “I’m looking at the reason.”
“I’m here, aren’t I; how else am I supposed to get to know you?”
“Am I really that interesting?”
“No.” Lifting an eyebrow at his amused chuckle, he soon clarified. “I mean, you’re an extremely pretty girl, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that didn’t catch my attention first—can you blame a guy?”
“Fair… I suppose.”
“Like a Volcarona to a flame, you’d attract just about anyone, but as I met your family and learned about your life, I saw there was more to you than just the Burn you leave in passing.”
“Is that right? I’m a living fire that scorches everything around me?”
“Eyes? Most definitely! But you don’t see anyone complaining, right?”
“Pfft-hehe… You’re so corny!”
Why is he making me laugh?!
Feeling better as they walked, he kept ping-ponging jokes and adding to her remarks to heighten her amusement; he was good at turning things around, and she’d rarely looked forward to seeing how someone would twist her words.
Twenty minutes later, and almost back to their hotel by taking the relatively empty public transport away from the party, she groaned upon getting a text from Lori, catching Kekipi’s gaze.
“Lori… She sees I’m nearby on our tracker and is on her way back with her group; she’ll probably meet us at the next train stop. Your hotel is the stop after, right?”
“Yeah. Trying to get rid of me?”
“Heh. We should save some mystery for later.”
“Good point. I need to read up more on Fennekin tonight to see if I can get Amber to stop shooting Embers at my face,” he teased, shooting a grin down at the glaring fox.
Amira’s little girl huffed, basically telling him she was keeping her eye on him; he was far too friendly with her Trainer. In reality, she was afraid he would mess their Gym Battle up by distracting her, and this was a pretty stressful match for her since she hated water.
Maybe I should have had you take swimming lessons with Lori.
Her fire fox’s face paled at the suggestion, flaming ears flickering as she vehemently shook her head, making Serenity and Holly giggle.
Turning her attention back to Kekipi when they started to slow at the next stop, she sighed; her time with him had been too short. “See you tomorrow.”
“I’ll be cheering you on in the match.”
She said her goodbyes when the doors opened and met Lori outside, noticing several other parties meeting up.
Mallory’s smirk was telling as she glanced around her at Kekipi before the doors closed, carrying him to his own stop. “Mmh? No goodnight kiss?”
Playful thoughts that had never previously crossed her mind bubbled to the surface as Amira shot her a side-long smirk, taking the lead. “What was that one song again… Don’t Kiss And Tell?”
“Oh-ho-ho… Aren’t you in a good mood! Hmm-hmm! I’ll let my own imagination work then!”
“How was your night?” Amira asked, a spring in her step she hadn’t felt before. “Have a good time with your sister?”
“Cass? Totally! Hehe. You should have seen how much work Len had to do to get Ellie to open up; that girl is so stone-faced, but there’s a little girl in there bubbling to be let out—she has the prettiest smile when you can get her to show it!”
“Ultra shy! She hides it, thinking she doesn’t look pretty, but you should have seen her laughing at Len’s jokes. We couldn’t snap a picture, though; she was on guard, heh, after seeing what I did with your video.”
“Uh… understandably! Most of my night was spent just trying to get to Yancy.”
“Oof… My bad, but you looked like you were having a good time when I picked you up!”
“Picked me up… Uh-huh.”
“Hehe. So…” Lori cast her gaze around the nighttime streets, which were more active than typical, with groups now breaking away from the party. “Kekoa got pretty good at dancing… Is Kekipi?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
Having put her in the fire long enough, Amira streamed out a long breath. “Anyway… how are you feeling about tomorrow’s battle?”
“Hsss… Tomorrow’s battle, mmh… yeah…” she mumbled, playing with her thumbs behind her back. “Gables and Roxie are all fired up… Miky’s going to do fine! He’s just… a bit nervous.”
“Not the only one?”
Lori gave her a skeptical look. “Aren’t you a little? No, I guess you are the girl that can do anything, so…”
“Of course I’m nervous,” Amira huffed. “I like being prepared and knowing what I’m up against, and is it going to be easy? No. Serenity is prepared to give it a shot, and we are going to do some testing with the Master Balls tomorrow morning to experiment on its draw potential and drawbacks. Want to join?”
“YES!” Lori jumped over to hang on her arm. “Save us, Amira; we need you!”
Unsure if she was being overdramatic or genuine, Amira took the safer route. “Sure. Sure. We can have Rhea help us, too, since she has all the experience.”
“True! Yeah, our little blonde bombshell apparently spent most of her time, heh, dancing with Heneli and matchmaking Jason with Inoa, the little Impidimp; she’s got a devil in her!”
“Really? I wonder who pulled that out of her, hmm?”
“Guilty!” Lori sang, followed by a snicker. “Man, what a great night! Did you see that Celebi in the sky with some girl?”
“Huh? What Celebi?”
“No? Huh, Cass swore she saw it, and there are some mentions of it on my feeds—Cynthia apparently spirited them away—I don’t know; it’s just a rumor going around.”
“Weird. Celebi wouldn’t be near a place like this.”
“Right? Probably just someone posting something for attention. Think our blonde will be asleep?”
“We’ll see. She usually gets to bed at the same time each night—if she can.”
Walking up the stairs to their hotel, they unlocked their door with their registered Trainer IDs and walked in; Rhea was sitting on her bed, causing the Unova girl on Amira’s arm to hop on the girl as if smelling red meat.
“Rhea! I didn’t think you’d be awake—oh, take a shower—hehe, I heard from Inoa that Heneli brought you back! Was there a little something extra… Hmm?!”
Mallory was totally engrossed in her own internal fantasy, but Amira could tell something was off shortly after studying Rhea’s downcast expression and her concerned Pokemon; before Amira could formulate a proper way to address the atmosphere, Rhea answered Lori’s question with a nod and mumble.
The response promptly popped Mallory’s bubble.
“Mhm… As in… yes, there was a kiss? Oh… OH! Uh… you don’t look like you have butterflies, so… was there something wrong—did he do something… wrong? Was it bad?”
Rhea’s fingers curled into her palm, and her eyes creased, keeping her focus on her knees. “Amira…”
“Why did you send that text to Heneli?”
“What’s up? Amira, Rhea… What am I missing?” Lori hesitantly mumbled; Gables glanced between them with the same confusion as Alice pointed at Amber accusingly, which had her own Pokemon feeling whiplash.
Sensing the underlying and the never before heard hostility in Rhea’s voice, Amira’s hands tightened at her back, pressing into her rear; it was a real question, and it didn’t take long for her to realize her mistake, even if it was well-intended.
“I’m… sorry, Rhea. I crossed a line that I wouldn’t want to happen in reverse… I won’t do it again.”
“It’s not just that,” Rhea added, saliva sticky and making the blonde clear her throat. “You two are always harping on me about eating… There’s a reason I don’t like to eat a lot—and then to have you ask Heneli if I was eating enough like you were my mother…”
“Yeah… I wasn’t thinking…”
“You… weren’t thinking?” Rhea asked, jaw tightening and her disbelief more than evident as she got up to brush by them to hover at the door, tears now in her eyes. “I just wanted to have friends that would have fun with me… I don’t need to—to be mothered.”
The door slammed shut, leaving Lori and her in the whirlwind; Nova seemed to be trying to calm Alice down as she hopped over to the exit to jump up and press down on the handle to follow their Trainer.
“What… was that about, Amira?” Lori mumbled.
With cramps twisting her stomach and guilt filling her heart, Amira unlocked her fingers to rub her tingling neck; it had happened so fast that she hadn’t fully internalized it, but Rhea was right.
If the roles were reversed, she didn’t know how pissed she would have been, and for someone as kind and accepting as Rhea to blow up like this, there had to be a pretty big trigger, and that had been her messaging her date to babysit her.
I’m the worst…
“Ahem… Sorry, Lori… I’ll be back.”
Knowing she had to try and make it right, Amira hesitated at the half-open door.
Should I go after her, though—why wasn’t I thinking—should I wait until she calms down? I wouldn’t want to talk to the person that did that to me—embarrassed me like that…
Her nose began to burn at just the thought of what she’d so thoughtlessly done; she hadn’t considered Rhea’s feelings at all but accepted that the girl would just do as she was told.
Rhea wasn’t her Pokemon to look after; she was her teammate, and she’d crossed a big line.
Swallowing the saliva in her throat, Amira took a shuddering breath and walked out, leaving Lori to puzzle through Rhea’s sudden outburst.
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