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 Off To War, Four, Three, Two, One [Social]
Rixie
 Posted: Aug 1 2018, 09:53 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

It was that time of week again, where Soren would, theoretically, come to the Aster house after work and go to the training grounds with Avery. But Avery wasn’t preparing for a training session today; his Pokemon were safely tucked away in their pokeballs, except for Carnation and Bluebell.

The tournament had just ended last week, and it would be the first time they were seeing each other since then. Avery had enjoyed watching the boy's battles. He did his best to stay at the back of the crowd, perhaps somewhat hidden from the boy's view, but it had been rather difficult. The junior tournament didn't attract the same kind of crowds that the senior tournament did, after all. And Avery wasn't exactly small or hard to notice. In the depths of his heart, Avery harbored a secret hope that Soren would somehow manage to claim a prize in the tournament. It was a pity that he had ended up losing to the actual first place winner early on in the tournament. Alas, it was too soon into the boy's training. Perhaps next year. Assuming there was anyone left to fight in tournaments next year.

With the tournament’s end came the announcement that Beta had been preparing, and Avery’s assignment. He was to accompany the party sent to stop Omega. No doubt the witch’s misdeeds were causing problems for people and Pokémon alike. How could they not, when he was essentially playing Arceus? Beta assured him that there would be people who wanted somewhere safer to move to. Avery would be in charge of reassuring them that Crater was still a safe place, perhaps the only remaining safe place left in Terrene, and sending them or escorting them back to Crater.

He sighed restlessly and placed his white-sleeved elbows on the table, resting his face in his hands. It’s not that he didn’t want to go... It really wasn’t. But he had misgivings about the state of things here, and wondered if things would be the same when he returned. He didn’t even know when he would return. Carnation waited silently at his master’s feet, close enough to barely touch his pant leg.

His brown pack was filled past its normal capacity, bulging out slightly along the bottom. It leaned against a second pack, which was equally large and bulky but weighed less than the first by far. It was the proper size and shape to tie onto a Bayleef’s back. Anthuria wasn’t ready as a mount, which meant he’d have to walk alongside the majority of the people in the group... but that was fine by him. She would at least take some of the bulk and burden off his shoulders by carrying the lighter weight things that he was bringing with him.

He was preoccupied and didn’t notice when Rachel quietly snuck into the kitchen and perched lightly on the stool across from him. Carnation, on the other hand, waved the tips of his tails at her in silent greeting.

She gave a warm smile to the Ninetales at her son's feet and she spoke quietly, “A token for your thoughts?”

Avery looked up, his eyes narrowed and squinting, to meet her gentle, patient smile. He shrugged and grunted, “Nothing.” He pulled back, sitting up straight and taking his elbows off the table.

She shook her head and her short white hair bounced against her cheeks and neck, “It’s obviously not nothing. But if you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to say anything.”

He didn't want to talk about it. And he didn’t say a word, just continued staring at her.

She ventured, speaking for him, “I imagine you’re worried about being away for so long.”

Once again, he didn’t say a thing, nor did he move an inch — just kept steadily staring into her eyes that mirrored his own.

Rachel’s gentle smile faded slightly, and she spoke hesitantly, “Perhaps you’re even somewhat afraid... that you won’t come back...”

Avery suddenly shook his head, a strand of midnight-black hair falling in front of his face. He reached up with one large hand and pushed it out of his face impatiently.

“Ah, perhaps not that, then... I guess that was just me... projecting. My mistake.” There was a pause. “Then perhaps you’re afraid things will be different. After who knows how many seasons away, there could be vast changes in the home you know and love... the home you swore to protect.”

Silently, Avery bowed his head. His face was still stony and still as ever, but his eyes seemed almost dim, half-closed and staring straight ahead.

Carnation turned his head towards his master, his eyes a pair of shimmering ruby flames. He wanted, so much, to make it better. But he didn’t know how. So still he waited.

Rachel let a small sigh out through her nose. “Well... I’ll still be here. Crater will still be here. Soren will still be here, or so help me Arceus. Speaking of whom, have you decided what you’re going to say to him?”

Suddenly, Avery sprang to life, standing straight up and sending the stone stool skidding and clattering to the ground behind him. “Ugh.” Carnation leapt to his feet, coming to stand right beside the man. This time, he very lightly pressed his shoulder against Avery’s leg, wordlessly letting him know that he was there, and he’d always be there. Avery didn't need to say anything else for them both to know that he had tried, and failed, to come up with words to properly express what he wanted... what he needed... to tell the boy.

Rachel made a sympathetic click noise with her tongue. “Do you want me to talk to him for you?” She knew this was a risky question, as Avery rarely took her up on this kind of offer. She knew that he had trouble expressing himself, but he was also rather proud. Like his father she thought with a sad, nostalgic smile.

“No,” he said resolutely, the faintest hint of annoyance flashing across his face before he smoothed it back to his usual solemn expression. He was old enough to deal with difficult conversations himself. He sighed heavily, his broad shoulders sinking as he looked out the large, open window. Here came the boy now. He reached down and gripped a handful of Carnation's warm, creamy fur for strength, then he went and opened the door, meeting Soren with his usual stern, solemn face. "Boy," he greeted. "Come in. Sit down." He turned on his heel and headed back into the house, quickly grabbing the chair that he had knocked to the ground a few moments ago and righting it so he could retake his seat.

Rachel greeted him much more warmly, "Hello, Soren. I'm glad you came." Her mouth opened in a smile, but it didn't quite reach her eyes on this day.

Bluebell heard the door open, and she scrambled out of her bed in the next room over to come crashing around the corner. She greeted Soren with a happily waving tail and a belted yowl. She came right up to him and sniffed his hands eagerly. Carnation let out a barely perceptible sigh.






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Notes: One, two, three, four: The boys are marching out to war. Four, three, two, one: They won't stop 'til it's all done.
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 1100 words

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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 2 2018, 06:22 AM
Quote


Player


Dear Diary,

I'm afraid that I've broken something valuable that can never be fixed. I made friends with a peace officer a few weeks ago. He saw Destiny and was impressed by how I've raised her. I'll admit that I felt my heart flutter, and not just because I'm so proud of my sawsbuck. He looked at me with dreamy blue eyes, and it was all I could do to hold myself together and not melt on the spot. We spent a lot of that day just training together and talking. I told him about what techniques I use, and how Destiny has helped me on the farm ever since I first arrived in Crater City.

His name was Aster, Officer Aster if you wanted to be official. I normally try to avoid any relationships with those of higher ranks. The power distortion riles me, and I should have known that it would eventually become a problem with Avery too. However, he didn't seem too superior. He wasn't like some Peace Officers who lord their powers over you and relish giving out punishments and orders. He seemed genuinely interested in learning from me, and it felt flattering. When I managed to get a few words out of him about his job (just a few words. Avery hoards syllables like most workers hoard tokens, and he must be persuaded to share.) he seemed honestly dedicated to protecting and helping workers like me. He was almost too authentic to be real, but maybe I've grown cynical.

He asked when he could see me again, and that's how it began. We started meeting every day. We took meals and breaks together when we could, and I spent every night with him either training or doing other things. I even spent the night over his house a few times. His mom is super sweet, but I almost cried when I met her luxray. I thought the truest memories of my past life were lost forever, but every so often something will remind me of the sadness I endured and it feels like being hit with a sucker punch. Avery offered to take me out and help me catch a shinx. His mom even wanted me to move in with them, but Avery was careful not to pressure me. He knew he wasn't the only man in my life, and he knew that I live on the farm with Gaspar. He said he wasn't jealous, and I loved that he wouldn't try to change who I am or how I want to live my life.

It was all going really great for a while until I messed it all up. We were just talking this evening like we usually do, about our hopes and ambitions. I told him how I want to travel, which turned into admitting that I want to leave this city and never come back. He became really upset about it, as if I'd insulted him personally, and it just got worse and worse from there. I probably should have just stopped. I should have let him win, told him that Crater City was perfect. A bastion of order and mercy in a world without either. It would be a lie, but maybe I could have kept Avery as my friend.

But you know how I am by now. I can never seem to back down from a fight or admit defeat. I also can't lie. I'm too straightforward for my own good sometimes, but I couldn't bear to be fake. I'm sorry for whatever hurt I might have caused Avery, and I'm definitely sorry that he doesn't want anything to do with me anymore. And yet, I'm not sorry for what I said. I told the truth, and I told him my honest opinions because I think he needed to hear them.

I told him that I thought the branding process was cruel, barbaric, and unfair. I told him specifically about my own branding, about how scared I felt, how alone, and how violated I felt afterwards. The pain fades, but that feeling of utter powerlessness is one I'll never forget. It's reinforced every time a peace officer barks an order, threatens punishment, or leers at me like I'm just a possession with no mind or soul of my own. I suppose it's possible that Crater City is the best place to be in Terrene, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still bad. It doesn't mean that we can't make it better, but if Avery and the others in power won't even admit that the system is broken, then there really is no hope for this place.

I'm leaving. If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to get out of here.

--Summer Sharp


Soren was up early, despite the fact that he normally detested getting out of bed in the morning. He'd been busy lately, and today would be no different. The only time he really had to spare was the time that he normally spent sleeping, and he couldn't sleep anyway with Summer's words on his mind. "So...does this mean that you and the ambassador...kissed?" Soren asked quietly.

He didn't expect anyone else to be awake, and even if they were he'd ventured out into the fields beneath the shade of the few trees that grew wild on the edge of the farm. He'd see anyone coming across the flat cultivated land. Genesis was with him, laying comfortably behind him and craning her neck to read over his shoulder. Her eyes scanned the page in the diary with frightening intelligence, and Soren often read aloud to her when he could. If he didn't, she became annoyed and pulled his hair. Genesis was very big now, and Soren suspected she might finally be large enough to try riding. He meant to start training her to be a mount soon.

One of Soren's newest pokemon was also present. Amaranth enjoyed the solitude of this particular spot, and he especially loved the feel of the first rays of dawn on his leaves. The bellsprout wasn't interested in Soren's book or his talking to himself, but Soren enjoyed his company. Amaranth always seemed so calm and relaxed, able to easily bend with the changing winds.

"We did a lot more than kiss, Soren," Summer replied. She sat a bit apart from Soren with her knees up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She looked much similar to the picture of her Soren had seen when he found her diary with her red-orange hair tied in neat pigtails and a face full of freckles. The only difference was that she was a few years older, closer to Soren's own age. That and she was dead. This vision of her was a figment of Soren's imagination. Her blue eyes looked straight ahead, watching the sunrise.

Soren frowned at her and paged through her diary some more. She didn't write dates on any of her entries, so it was difficult for him to determine where her affair with Avery fell in her timeline. He could say with certainty that it was after she turned seventeen (by Summer's own estimate) and before she discovered that she was pregnant. "What am I supposed to do?" Soren asked as he wrestled with the feelings inside of him. There was a burgeoning fear. What if the ambassador was his father, and Gaspar had spent fourteen years raising another man's son?

"You don't have to do anything. Nothing has to change if you don't want it to," Summer replied.

"Everything is changing." Soren whimpered as his fear continued to grow and encompass all of the frightening events it felt like he needed to deal with all at once. The witch had built a portal back into the other universe, the one that both Soren's parent's had been rescued from. That's what he'd been doing with all that metal, and Soren had learned firsthand that Omega had no qualms about sacrificing even the lives of children if it meant meeting his goals. He didn't think anything at all about risking the lives of everyone in Terrene to satisfy his own desires. Add to that the stress of enduring puberty and surviving violent wild pokemon encounters, and you might understand why Soren felt himself nearly brought to tears by this one additional worry.

Summer let go of her knees and stretched her legs out in front of her. "Sometimes change is for the better. But you don't have to bring it up with Avery if you don't want to. We never spoke again. Zero contact. He made it clear he didn't want to see me anymore," her voice was full of hurt and sadness.

"Why did you do it?"

"Because I loved him, obviously."

"Did you love Daddy? Gaspar?" It felt so wrong to call his father by his name, but at this point Soren felt the need to specify.

"You can love more than one person at a time, Soren. You know that." Summer didn't seem to be ashamed at all.

"You've made this really hard for me."

"I died giving you life, and I made things hard for you?" Summer lifted an eyebrow at Soren, but if she was trying to be amusing it didn't work. Soren shrank in on himself, leaning his back against's Genesis's chest and looking up into the girafarig's face miserably. Genesis only stared back with the same cold fascination she always had.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"Me too. That was a stupid thing to say. I know you had no power over that, and you didn't ask to be born at all let alone here in these circumstances. I knew I'd be a terrible mother. And when I really think about it, giving you two fathers might have been the best thing I've ever done for you." Summer said, looking away and standing up. "I'd better leave for now. You'll need to start work soon, but you'd better decide what you're going to say when you see Avery this evening."

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By the time Soren began heading over to the Aster's manor, he'd made up his mind to keep quiet about what he'd read in Summer's diary. He was happy living with Gaspar and training with Avery, and he didn't want to make it weird. What if Avery rejected him entirely? Maybe he didn't want a branded boy as a son. Worse, what if he did? Soren didn't want to leave Gaspar, and as much as he enjoyed spending time with Avery, Soren sometimes wasn't even sure if the ambassador liked him. Gaspar loved him, and Soren knew that without a doubt. Even if they had to work all the time for hardly any pay, it still seemed a lot better than living in that big house with a stern scary man who didn't even smile. No, Soren thought to himself. It was best just to shut up about Summer entirely.

He had Nimbus out of his pokeball when he came to the Aster's house this time. The lamb was looking less like a hatchling now, but he still carried his little doll Stratus in his mouth as he walked. Soren wanted to get Nimbus used to walking with him on Crater City's streets since the mareep normally only came out when he was on the farm or brought out to train or to fight. Nimbus wasn't used to so many humans around, and it was a bit disorienting. At least here near the center of the city, it was cleaner and less crowded.

Soren had his bellsprout Amaranth with him as well, but he allowed the little flower to ride on his shoulder. Amaranth was out for much the same reason that Nimbus was. Soren still needed to get him used to being around him, as the pokemon still didn't seem entirely comfortable with this life as a tamed pokemon. He was a calm and quiet type at least, and he held on by wrapping his viney feet around Soren's shoulder for support.

Today, the ambassador met Soren at the door, and the boy greeted him with his usual bright smile. "Good evening, Ambassador!" Soren chirped, and already he felt his earlier anxiety fading away. He knew that Avery would probably want to leave for training soon. He didn't like to waste time, and Soren always enjoyed the time they spent training their pokemon together. He liked it in much the same way he'd liked school before he was branded. It was a period of time dedicated entirely to learning, playing, and spending time with people and pokemon that Soren liked. The ambassador probably wouldn't think of it as "playing" actually, but it sometimes involved a certain amount of running and jumping which made it enough like play to count for Soren.

The ambassador's own greeting, "boy" was a tiny bit of a disappointment, but Soren was growing used to it. He honestly couldn't think of the last time Avery used his name or if he ever did. Soren sometimes wondered if the man remembered it at all. His command to sit down wasn't entirely out of place either. They often ate dinner together before training. Soren looked around briefly as he entered the house and took a deep breath, trying to determine beforehand if he was going to need to lie and say that he'd eaten already. Avery's mother Rachel was always kind and generous to Soren, but sometimes she cooked meat and Soren didn't have the heart to tell her that he hated it. Today though, Soren didn't smell anything cooking at all, so perhaps they'd already ate and Avery instead wanted to show him something interesting.

This could potentially be even better than training. It was more like mental training. Soren knew by now that the Asters had the largest collection of books that he'd ever seen, and sometimes if Soren brought up a question or Avery thought of something important, the ambassador would pull one out and use it to look something up to share. Soren probably loved reading as much as Avery did, so he always became excited when the ambassador did this.

There did seem to be a strange atmosphere in the house, however. Soren couldn't quite place it, but it tickled at the anxiety of his own that he'd been suppressing, waking it back to life. Soren tried to kick it back down by summoning his emergency well of obnoxious optimism, even as he curiously observed the ambassador righting a fallen stool.

Rachel gave him a smile as he came in, and Soren beamed back at her before opening his arms almost reflexively to give the woman a quick hug. Unlike her son, Rachel always seemed warm and affectionate even when Soren first met the family and she didn't really know him at all. After visiting them almost every week for months now, Soren had grown deeply fond of the woman and such affectionate gestures felt perfectly comfortable between them. "I'm glad to see you too!" Soren told her, his tone remaining obstinately bright despite the uncomfortable gloom in the room. "Hey look, I caught some new pokemon! This is Amaranth. Isn't he cute? His name is just like the flower from that book you loaned me. I thought of it because the ambassador names all of his pokemon after flowers too. I brought the book back, of course. Jillian and I will have to practice reading another time, it seems. She's stationed someplace new to work and I haven't seen her lately. Oh, and this is Cumulonimbus. I just call him Nimbus though. I don't think I've shown him to you before. He's brought his friend Stratus with him."

Nimbus lifted his head when he heard his name, showing off the doll he held clutched between his teeth. Stratus was a soft white and grey doll that looked like it was trying (badly) to imitate a mareep. It had button eyes, a stitched on smile, and no tail to speak of. Still, it was an object of comfort to the lamb especially when he was alone or like now when he was in a new place with bigger pokemon. Nimbus had met both Bluebell and Carnation before, and he didn't think either of them would hurt him. It was difficult to suppress his instinct to run from the predators, however, and he pressed his body against Soren's legs. Nervous or not, Nimbus normally would have at least given the two pokemon a "hello" but speaking would mean dropping Stratus and that wasn't a sacrifice he was willing to make at this moment.

Soren looked down at his mareep, and then he leaned up on his toes so that he could whisper quietly to Rachel. "Stratus isn't a real mareep." As if this fact were not entirely obvious to everyone present. "I made him myself actually, so Nimbus won't be lonely at bedtime."

Soren looked around upon hearing the tell-tale sound of luxio claws scrabbling against the floor and recognized at once who was approaching. "Bluebell!" He cried even before she fully entered the room. Of all of the pokemon in the Aster's house, Soren probably loved Bluebell the most. She shared his own love for fun and mischief, and she even had the ability to put up with Genesis. Soren crouched down and extended his hands to welcome Bluebell's sniffing. Once she'd gotten his scent, Soren extended one hand to give the lioness and affectionate scratch under the chin.

Soren had intended to follow Avery's order immediately, but it was pretty clear that he'd become distracted and forgotten. It wasn't something Soren did on purpose, but his attention span wasn't great at the best of times. If Avery continued to wait for him though, Soren would skip over and take a seat next to Avery as soon as he finished greeting Bluebell. Even then, Avery wouldn't be given Soren's full attention until the boy whispered a soft, "Hello Carnation" to the ninetales beside the ambassador. Carnation didn't get the exuberant greeting that Bluebell was given in part because even Soren was a bit shy around the great big fire-breathing fox. He thought Carnation was beautiful, but perhaps too dangerous and mysterious to the boy for him to be brave enough to touch.

Amaranth gave Avery and his pokemon a wary look, but made no protest as Soren came close. Nimbus was less pleased, and would have been happier if Soren didn't go so close to Carnation. Still, Soren was the only safety that the lamb knew, so he followed. He made sure to keep Soren between himself and the ninetales however.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 4 2018, 02:34 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

Avery sat on his stool and waited with as much patience as he could muster, as Soren greeted every possible thing he could. He was starting to wonder if Soren would feel the need to greet even the books and the chairs. Avery's eyes were slightly glazed even as he watched his movement through the living room and dining room, betraying that he wasn't actually observing Soren so much as he was following him with his eyes while thinking about something else.

Rachel, on the other hand, seemed somewhat relieved at Soren's refusal to acknowledge the awkward gravity present in the room. She hugged him back, just a little bit too tightly and a little bit longer than usual, before letting him pull away and show her his new Pokemon.

Her face beamed into a smile, open and inviting, as he began to tell her all about the Bellsprout clinging to his shoulder cautiously. "My goodness, yes, he's adorable! He looks just like my little Fill used to look!" She suddenly reached into one of the small pockets sewn into her flowing, faded blue skirt, and she retrieved a pokeball. "I've got to introduce you! Maybe he and Amaranth will get along."

Even Avery stirred from his quiet stupor when he heard Soren mention him and using flower names. He finally looked away from Soren, dipping his head low and turning it such that his face was hidden. It seemed that he was suddenly extremely interested in Carnation, who had come to sit by his side. In reality, he was hiding the faintest of smirks, his eyes almost closed and one corner of his lips twitched upwards. Carnation looked up at Avery, meeting his eyes and wondering what the man was so pleased about. His tails stirred slowly, brushing across the floor as he cocked his head to stare calmly at Avery's face.

Soren went on to introduce Nimbus and the doll he carried, and Avery regained his stoic composure. Meanwhile, Rachel, still holding Fill's pokeball in her hand, leaned her ear close to Soren to hear his secret, and she nodded understandingly. "I see. Mareep do usually prefer to stay in big groups. That was incredibly kind of you to do for Nimbus. Just look at how much he loves Stratus!" She smiled and bent down, slowly reaching out with her empty hand to rub Nimbus's small neck, giving him plenty of time to turn and sniff her hand or pull away from her contact if he didn't want it. If he allowed her to rub him, she would then give a very gentle pat to Stratus, too, not wanting him to think that she was leaving his friend out of the snuggling.

She took a step back, away from Soren and the Mareep, and said brightly, "Okay, now I really must introduce you to Fill!" Avery turned his solemn face towards her, a somewhat sour look coloring his expression at the mention of Fill. With a flick of her wrist, she sent the pokeball spinning through the air. It bounced off the ground beside her feet and returned to her hand, while an enormous creature that was as tall as she was materialized beside her. It emitted a low, but loud, gurgling whistle. The moment it set its frightening black pupils on him, they dilated from slits to almond-shapes, and he lurched dangerously towards Soren.

Avery twitched and half-rose from his chair, but Rachel was there first. She was instantly between him and the boy, grabbing an enormous gray and tan feather duster off the kitchen counter and promptly using it to smack the top of his leaf repeatedly. "What did I tell you about guests?!" her voice changed, suddenly harsh and terrifyingly venomous.

The Victreebel bent its gaping maw downwards and cradled his top leaf in his large, leafy arms, rubbing it and whimpering sadly, "Oh! Oh, you've injured me! Oh, it hurts!"

Rachel frowned, feeling guilty despite herself. She shot back, "And don't pretend you're injured, either. This is made of feathers."

Bluebell rolled her eyes at Fill, then gave one of Soren's hands a rough-tongued lick and rumbled happily as she lifted her head so he could scratch under her chin better. Her tail-tip waved back and forth, a little golden shooting star of happiness.

Fill, allured by the rapidly moving, pointed prey, snuck the long vine from the top of his head along the ground and out towards the Luxio's tail, ready to seize it and yank it into his mouth. Rachel, of course, saw this and lightly rapped his top leaf with the fluffy feathers once again.

"No attacking friends either, Fill!" she said with her stern tone of voice. He whimpered again, slouching, and turning hurt, slit-pupiled eyes to her. "You know better than that." Her squinting, cold eyes, tight lips, and sharp nose suddenly resembled Avery's face much, much more than usual. Even though the wrinkles from many years of smiling didn't fade away completely, it was still clear that she could command her own when need be. She sat down across from Avery and Fill wavered across the floor until he was just beside her, and he docilely bent over and laid his top half on her lap, shutting his mouth tightly by clamping his leaf over it.

Her face softened in seconds, and she ran her hand up and down his spotted, yellow body comfortingly. She spoke to Soren, glancing up at him, "Sorry about that. I hope he didn't scare you too much. He can be a handful, especially when he's hungry or bored, but he's really quite a friendly Pokemon." Fill's pupils slid back towards Soren, and he noticed the little Bellsprout on the boy's shoulder.

He brightened up and slowly drew himself back upright. Rachel kept her arm around him, just in case he decided to make a bolt for the boy again. "Oh, hello there, kin. I didn't see you!" the air forced out of his body through the gap between his lip and his leaf whistled softly and cheerfully, a far cry from his previous war-like screech.

Bluebell shot a mistrustful glance towards the Victreebel and slunk behind Carnation, flopping onto her side and tucking her tail safely up against her belly. Her feet pressed against his warm fur and her eyes focused again on Soren, making a happy rumble in her throat despite the tension.

At last, Soren took his seat beside Avery. Carnation reciprocated his whispered hello with a friendly blink and a slow wag of his tails, swishing in synchronized motion from side to side twice. Avery took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. He finally looked away from Fill and Rachel and focused his eyes on Soren. Late, but possibly better than never, he spoke in a near monotone, "Amaranth... Good name." He looked back up at Fill, who was still making noise, just for a moment, before turning back to Soren again. He sighed darkly, and a flicker of annoyance passed over his eyes and his brow as he realized he had already done that.

Rachel made her characteristic, sympathetic clicking noise with her tongue, and pain returned to her face as she was forced to remember why they were here. She wrapped her second arm around Fill and pulled him closer to her, hugging him and resting her head against his side as she wretchedly watched Avery struggle with his words.

"You're embarrassing me..." Fill whined ever so quietly, but the humans ignored him, and Bluebell just shot him an annoyed, dark glance.

She whispered back in a hiss, "You embarrass yourself." In turn, he ignored her.

Avery finally began, "I have some difficult... news." He paused, his gaze flicking down and instinctively catching on Carnation's face. It seemed that without further prompting, he might not ever actually continue. But if Soren stayed silent for an intensely uncomfortable ten seconds, practically an eternity relative to the usual pace of a normal human conversation, he would finally speak.





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Notes: I figured I'd give Soren a chance to react to all this mess before going on.
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 1335 words


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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 5 2018, 02:01 AM
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Player


Soren was very excited to meet Fill when Rachel first mentioned him. The Asters seemed to have a lot of strong, fully grown pokemon, and those weren't common. Even with people in Crater City being encouraged to train as much as possible, it took a lot of time and dedication to bring out a pokemon's full potential. Judging by how well-grown Wave was, the Aster family had been training hard long before the training grounds were built. Soren wasn't paying attention to Avery when he looked away and down at Carnation to hide his smirk, so he missed it entirely.

Soren was instead fully distracted by the huge pokemon that Rachel brought out. It looked monstrous, not at all the kind of creature he'd expect the sweet lady to keep. Even so, Soren leaned forward curiously, fascinated by the huge plant's leaves and vines. A lovely floral scent filled the room. The gurgling sound it made reminded Soren unpleasantly of a growl and it's eyes were like a predatory cat. Soren met them directly, and he flinched when it appeared that it might pounce at him. Despite not having legs, Soren had no doubt that with vines like those, it wouldn't need to run to catch him.

His fear was limited and a bit belated, however, as by now he trusted that the Asters would never allow him to come to any harm within their own home, certainly not to any of their own pokemon. It was actually a glance at Avery, half out of his seat that even made Soren realize that he might be in any danger at all. Rachel, however, proved surprisingly nimble for her age. She was up and shielding Soren in a matter of seconds, and only then did the real fear hit and Soren fully realized that the giant plant probably had just tried to eat him. This was helped not at all by Rachel's furious change of tone, but the fear subsided quickly and was replaced by amazement that the woman managed to tame the creature with little more than a look and a feather duster.

"Is he playing maybe?" Soren asked hopefully, looking between Rachel and Avery in case the ambassador gave him a signal that conflicted with his mother's. Maybe Fill was just such a large and powerful pokemon that he took for granted how much harm he could do to smaller people and pokemon. Maybe he didn't actually mean any harm at all. There was some danger in giving a creature so strong the benefit of the doubt, but Soren didn't think most pokemon attacked people out of malice. Plus, he felt a little sorry for Fill. He certainly wouldn't want Rachel glaring at him that way.

"Hello," Amaranth greeted the larger plant, but he remained clutching Soren's shoulder and watching the victreebel with caution. He was naturally the quiet kind, and he wasn't about to be instant buddies with a pokemon just because they were from the same evolutionary family. Amaranth knew very well that in the wild, victreebel were not above resorting to cannibalism if food was scarce. That said, he didn't want to offend the great plant either. He didn't trust the human female to be able to restrain Fill if he went into a rage.

Hearing victreebel's change of tone and seeing the way Rachel seemed to hug it, Soren couldn't help but smile again. "Yeah, I can see it. Your pokemon is pretty cute too!" Even so, he was happy to move away from Fill and face Avery instead. At least, he was happy for a minute as the ambassador voiced his approval of Soren's choice in a name. Soren beamed at the man, and felt a short and ferocious burst of affection for him. It lasted for mere moments, however, before the grim atmosphere of the house returned and Soren thought maybe he'd been better off facing whatever Fill had in store for him rather than whatever the ambassador needed to tell him.

When Avery at last did speak, his words felt heavy as though each one of them weighed a ton and the man had been carrying them around for a while already. Had somebody died? Soren's mind began to race in the uncomfortably long pause between Avery's words. He'd spent enough time with Avery by now that he should be used to his peculiar speech patterns, but he wasn't. It was a small agony every time it happened. Soren leaned forward, his eyes sympathetic as he interrupted the silence by whispering. "Is Anthuria okay?"

Soren had watched the ambassador's tournament battle, and surely most of Crater City had watched it as well. Avery was their own real life hero, and the city's collective hearts broke to see him defeated in the first round of the senior tournament. Soren had managed to meet the woman who beat Avery, Cynth, in person and found that she was really very nice. It hadn't occurred to Soren that Anthuria might have sustained serious injuries. Hopefully, the ambassador wasn't about to tell him that she died. Oh Arceus, what if that's what had everyone so upset?

Soren reached his right hand down, feeling for Nimbus. The lamb was thinking ahead of him though, and with a short bleat of effort, he'd leaped up into Soren's lap. This arrangement was satisfying to both the boy and the mareep, and Soren wrapped his arms around the fluffy lamb as Nimbus settled down in his lap as though he was a lilipup or a skitty kitten.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 5 2018, 08:06 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

Rachel shrugged and smiled slightly when Soren asked if Fill was playing. She patted the Victreebel's leafy top and spoke in her normal breezy voice, "He might be playing. He does really enjoy being friendly and playful, after all. But even so, if he goes and puts people in his mouth, he's going to end up hurting them. The good news is that, since evolving, he usually tries to swallow things whole, which, ah, might not sound like good news now that I think about it." She giggled like a young girl.

Avery didn't make any response, just frowning at Fill. He had to pull Bluebell out of the creature's mouth before, and he didn't particularly think that Fill was playing... unless Fill thought that eating his playmates was an acceptable method of play. At least the fact that he tried to swallow his prey whole meant that Bluebell was slightly burnt from the acid, but otherwise intact.

Fill wavered at Amaranth's lukewarm greeting. Somehow, he had hoped that the Bellsprout would appreciate him more. His predatory eyes flickered off the Bellsprout and he relaxed slightly into Rachel's arms, no longer standing upright and at attention.

Once Soren sat down and Avery tried to talk to him, the joviality of the atmosphere dissipated. In that grim quiet, Soren eventually prompted him to continue by asking if Anthuria was okay. Avery was still staring at Carnation's face. The Ninetales stared back, quietly offering his support and courage.

"Yes, she's fine," he reassured, somewhat dismissively. He finally turned and looked at Soren, making intense eye contact. Nimbus had jumped up onto the boy's lap and sat down, and Soren wrapped his arms around the young Mareep. "I'm leaving Crater City to find Omega, and offer protection and a home to those being harmed by his actions." He paused for a second and then gestured at the two large packs leaning against the cushion, already packed up and ready to go, "Very soon."

"Oh yeah! That means we won't see get to see Soren!" Bluebell suddenly gasped, upset, as she jumped to her feet.

"Of course, you dolt," Carnation responded in a soft yip as he looked at her with flattened ears. "Did you seriously just figure that out? I thought you were supposed to be smart."

"Hmph! Smarter than you, anyway!" she responded tartly before looking back up at Soren's face with enormous, sad eyes. "I just... I just didn't realize..." She didn't want to scare the Mareep, so she settled for gently rubbing her forehead against Soren's shin. She was going to miss the boy while they were gone. As much as she liked Avery and the life she had with him, Soren held a special place in her heart as someone who actually enjoyed fun and was an excellent partner-in-crime.

If Soren looked at Rachel, he would see she had turned her head to press against Fill's smooth, turgid body so that the boys couldn't see her face.





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Notes:
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 500 words

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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 7 2018, 03:44 AM
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Player


Soren exhaled a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Anthuria was such a nice, sweet pokemon and Soren knew that both Genesis and Nimbus were very attached to her. Losing her would be hard on Avery, and it would certainly make Soren sad, but Soren couldn't begin to imagine how he could share news that awful with his pokemon. Soren tried to brighten again, forcing a weak smile and a satisfied nod at the reassurance that the bayleef was safe and healthy. He ran his fingers through Nimbus's soft wool.

The ambassador was very serious but calm as he delivered the news of his upcoming journey, and while Soren was sad to hear about him leaving, this news alone didn't seem to warrant the complete lack of happiness in the room. After all, Avery had gone away at other times. Going away was part of his job, but he'd always returned in a week or so. It wasn't too surprising that with everything going on, Avery would be called to action.

"Okay," Soren replied, perhaps too calmly. "I'll see you when you come back then. Do you think you'll be gone long? Do you want me to come with you and help?" This last part struck Soren suddenly and he perched on the edge of the stool with excitement. He'd certainly considered signing up to help hunt down Omega, but he'd then thought about what would happen when the witch was finally caught and changed his mind. It all sounded like a great adventure until Soren realized that there might be killing involved. Soren couldn't imagine killing anyone, and he really didn't want to have to see it or play any role in it either. As much as he wanted to feel included and involved, he'd accepted that this might be a task for adults only.

That was until Avery explained what he was doing. Now Avery was giving him ideas. Maybe that'd been what Avery was working up to this whole time. Maybe he was worried that Soren would be too afraid or too weak to keep up. "I can help! You might find people who are frightened or injured. Or you might find children that you'll need to take care of until they can be brought back to Crater City. That's a lot for you to do all on your own, and I can help with that," Soren's voice was filled with determination as he met Avery's gaze with as much ferocity as he could muster (which really wasn't much).

The boy thought he had a point here. Avery could be frightening, which could make it a struggle to convince already terrified people to come to Crater. Soren was more approachable, and his mere presence made Avery more approachable. Soren hadn't put much thought into it before, but this was probably because strangers often assumed Avery was Soren's father. A parent with a child was more easily forgiven for appearing over-protective and more easily trusted to be responsible for the lives of others. "Genesis might be big enough to ride now. I don't know if I can have her ready by the time we'd need to leave, but I'll try my best."

He'd need to pack his own supplies too, and despite hardly ever leaving the city he had all the travel supplies that he needed. Well, mostly. It seemed that his compass might be broken, and he could do well to have more supply packs but he had everything else. He'd just explain to his father that he was helping the ambassador. Or rather, he'd explain to Gaspar (it felt weird to even think his father by his first name). Which abruptly got Soren wondering if Gaspar knew he might not be Soren's real father. That thought was like having a bucket of ice water suddenly thrown over his head, so Soren calmed down for a brief moment and gave Avery a nervous look as though the ambassador might be reading his thoughts.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 7 2018, 05:37 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

Avery was surprised that Soren took the news so nonchalantly. To be honest, he expected the boy to be much more clingy and upset. It... almost annoyed him. Was he being taken seriously? Maybe the boy just didn’t realize how much danger they were in; Avery, Rachel, Soren, everyone in Crater — no, everyone in Terrene — was in mortal peril until the laws of nature were obeyed again and the Omega stopped tinkering with Arceus’ creation like some hubristic, arrogant fool.

He apparently suddenly got it in his mind that Avery was going to ask him to go with him. He sat up straight, excitedly, and asked if he should help. Rachel spoke before Avery had a chance to even gather his thoughts, Absolutely not.” She was staring sternly at Avery and Soren, and every syllable of her sentence was stressed. Her lips were pulled tight and her arms clenched around Fill’s body protectively. Fill squealed in discomfort, and she quickly relinquished her grip and adopted a kinder tone of voice, but her face betrayed her lingering distress, “I’m sorry, Soren. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s true that you would be a wonderful help, especially if they find frightened people who need a kind face and a warm heart, like yours. But... Even if you manage to get your Genesis trained to carry you, it’s too dangerous!”

"She's right," was all he said, meeting Soren's best attempt at a fierce stare. He noticed the boy's sudden change in demeanor as he appeared to get nervous, but he could only hazard idle guesses as to why it happened. He wasn't much one to wonder about such things.

"As for when I’ll be back..." That was the difficult part. "Omega is a cunning man. It may take moons... possibly even seasons... to track him down and bring him to justice." Avery’s eyes looked tired suddenly. It wasn’t a common expression for the man in his thirties, but the sunken, haunted appearance that suddenly overcame his face spoke of someone who had not slept well for at least several days. "By the time I return, things may have changed." He hesitated for a second or two, giving one last-ditch effort at coming up with a tactful way of saying what had to be said. "And another thing... Listen carefully, boy. It’s possible -- likely, even -- that people die on this mission, including myself."





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Notes:
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 405 words


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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 7 2018, 11:29 PM
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Player


Avery would be correct in assuming that Soren didn't fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. He only knew what he'd been told, and that was that Crater City had declared war on Omega. However, even the word "war" had become archaic and fallen into disuse. As far as Soren knew, there had never been such an event in Terrene. It was mentioned briefly when he was in school that the Suffering Universe had wars and that they were awful and millions of people and pokemon died. That was a whole world away, however, and the people of Terrene had too much sense, he thought, to throw so many lives away. Crater City had the second largest population of any city in Terrene, and every man, woman, and child had at least some measure of combat training. It seemed that Omega's defeat would be quick and inevitable.

Soren flinched backwards when the sharp response to his offer to assist came not from Avery, but from Rachel. He sat back on the stool and straightened. "It's too dangerous" was the usual argument against Soren going anywhere or doing anything, it seemed. To be fair, when Soren did try to be adventurous, it usually turned out to be true. It was still frustrating. He wanted to help, and he knew that he could. It didn't seem fair that he should have to stay behind when it seemed that everyone else with a trained pokemon was allowed to go. Soren tried not to visibly sulk, but he couldn't quite hide his disappointment.

"Why so long?" Soren asked in surprise as Avery explained how long he thought this war might take. "The mountains aren't that far way." This wasn't at all what Soren had been expecting. Omega didn't even have a real city up there, it just looked like a giant campsite. The look in Avery's eyes reminded Soren of the look his own father usually had, exhausted and bone-tired. He normally seemed younger, alert and lively, even when Soren saw him after he'd just been travelling. This whole situation was very troubling to the ambassador, and Soren was beginning to worry that they were all in much more danger than he originally realized.

What did Avery think was going to change? The next words out of Avery's mouth made Soren jump up on his feet, practically dumping poor Nimbus onto the floor. Nimbus landed on his hooves, at least, still clutching Stratus in his mouth as he looked up at his boy. The terrible thing was that Nimbus could understand much of this conversation, and he felt for the child. It seemed out of even his scope to comfort Soren, and it was perhaps a sign of how great his own stress had become that the lamb sought comfort with Carnation. Nimbus's feeling towards the ninetales had ranged from outright terror to mild anxiety, but now the lamb butt his head pleadingly against the fire-types flank. If Carnation would allow it, Nimbus would curl up beside him and cuddle next to him. Nimbus wanted the comfort of an adult.

Soren's repressed anxiety was back in full force now. He just found out this morning that there was a possibility that Avery was his biological father, and now Avery was telling him he was going away for years (never mind that Avery didn't actually say years) and he might not be coming back. Soren gripped the table with one hand, feeling like he needed to hold on to something in order to avoid falling off the world that was flipping upside down. "You're not going to die! You can't! Everybody needs you here!" Soren practically yelled at Avery, not because he was angry, but because he was frightened and he'd momentarily lost control of the volume of his voice. The boy's voice cracked on the word "can't" as well, foreshadowing both impending tears and puberty.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 8 2018, 01:03 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

Seeing the boys disappointment reminded Avery of himself. It seemed like ages ago, but there was once a point in time where Avery wasn’t even allowed outside the city walls unless he was accompanied by one of his parents, or Beta. It wasn’t until he was a fully grown adult, and had over a year of sword practice, that he was finally allowed to go where he pleased.

Soren asked him why it would take so long, and Avery took a moment to gather his thoughts. He believed he already explained that, but it was entirely possible he hadn’t made it clear. He responded with gentle patience, taking a quick breath between each sentence, ”I expect it will take a while because Omega is smart enough to figure out that we are trying to stop him. He also knows that his group is smaller and weaker than us, so he won’t try to stay in one place and fight. He will run, hide, and likely use trickery to throw us off his tail. There is strength in numbers, but there is also slowness.”

Once he admitted the major worry that he and Rachel had been wrestling with for several days, Soren’s demeanor changed completely. He leaped out of his stool and looked at Avery with a seemingly panicked expression. Bluebell jumped a foot into the air in surprise, her affectionate rub abruptly canceled.

Meanwhile, Nimbus tumbled out of his lap and looked up at his boy with just as much anxiety and stress as Soren was showing. He was so upset that he turned to Carnation for comfort, and the Ninetales, though surprised at first, more than allowed the youngster to cuddle up to his side. Carnation smoothly curled his tails to wrap snugly around the Mareep, surrounding him with fluffy warmth on all sides and lightly pressing him closer.

Soren’s sudden panic and loss of control gave Avery pause. He frowned disapprovingly, narrowing his eyes and glaring at the boy. With a carefully modulated voice that was calm and deep as ever, he told him, ”Get ahold of yourself, boy. I’m not dying yet, and you can be sure I’ll fight my hardest to make sure I don’t.”

”And so will we!” Bluebell added with enthusiastic ferocity, coming back up to Soren. She demanded his attention by heavily batting one carefully-sheathed paw against his leg, just above his knee.

He took a deep breath before continuing, "You’re right that I may be needed here... It’s also possible that Omega unleashes chaos that takes Crater City by storm. I wish..." He stopped himself abruptly. It had been years since he last slipped up. He corrected, "It would be preferable if I could stay here and defend Crater City." Wishes for what could not be were useless, and best dismissed. Avery did so now, with a curt, ”But that is not my fate, so it’s no use thinking about it.”

He looked up at Soren, trying to gauge whether or not the boy was going to cry. He had one last thing that he had to tell him, one last request: something that he knew would help both Soren and Rachel, particularly if something unfortunate were to occur.





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Notes:
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 537 words

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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 10 2018, 01:36 AM
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At Avery’s glare and cold response, Soren abruptly sat back down. He wrapped his arms around his stomach now that he didn’t have a mareep to hold onto anymore. You could say he was taking the ambassador’s command literally, and he was physically trying to hold himself from falling to pieces. There was a kind of comfort in Avery’s brusque response, however. It was normal, and pleasantly predictable. If Avery had gone gentle and sympathetic, it would be the surest sign that something was horribly wrong.

Soren unfolded himself only to respond to Bluebell’s swat by reaching a hand down to rub her ears. He appreciated her distraction and an excuse to look away from Avery’s eyes so that he might have a chance to fight off the tears that were burning in his own. Despite their reassurances though, Soren found it difficult to put the awful thought that Avery might die away. Even as the man continued talking, Soren kept coming back to it. Even if Avery did come back, it seemed like he’d be gone for ages.

Soren had managed on his own before meeting Avery, of course, but Soren looked forward to their time together each week. And it wasn’t just the training that he enjoyed. The ambassador wasn’t a big talker, and he wasn’t exactly even friendly. However, he always answered Soren’s questions, and the boy respected the man’s opinions and experience. He was always patient with Soren, and Soren trusted him. And despite the fact that Avery never seemed to overtly show it, or even call Soren by his name, Soren thought the ambassador liked spending time with him too. If he didn’t, he would have told Soren to get lost already. The fact that they were even sitting together like this, having this conversation, meant that Soren meant enough to the ambassador that the man at least wanted him to know where he’d be going. It felt like having a friend, a real human friend even though Avery was a particularly unique human.

The idea of Avery being gone for so long left Soren with a painful empty feeling inside, one that wasn’t entirely unlike what he felt when he missed his mother. It was like missing a part of his own body, and Avery hadn’t even left yet. How as he supposed to deal with that for seasons? He wished he could manage to be stoic like Avery and not let everything show, but Soren was just no good at hiding his feelings. A tiny whimper escaped him, and then the first tear made its way down one cheek. He kept his head down and wiped his face against his shoulder, but it was too late to hide it now.

If he’d been paying better attention to what Avery was saying and been less focused on himself, he might have caught Avery’s correction. He might have noted how Avery quickly scrubbed his statement of any residual evidence that he might have wishes of his own, desires beyond following the instruction given to him. It couldn’t be helped. It was perhaps Soren’s stage of development, but despite being particularly emotionally intelligent for his age, he still became self-centered when stressed. Soren didn’t interrupt Avery this time or ask anymore questions. He no longer trusted himself to speak, as he was sure he’d just sob if he dared to open his mouth.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 11 2018, 01:03 AM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

With Avery’s frowning gaze trained on Soren, taking in his every movement, it was lucky that Bluebell gave him a chance to look away. Avery watched him sit down and wrap his arms around himself; it looked a bit dumb but at least the boy was trying, and Avery appreciated that much.

Bluebell throat let out a rumbling, aggressive purring noise when Soren rubbed her head, and she leaned into his touch as hard as she could. Despite Bluebell’s best efforts to cheer him up, though, a soft, sad noise came out of Soren, and he hid his face as some liquid came out of his eyes. Bluebell stared hopelessly, her eyes growing wide and shiny as she tried to use Baby-Doll Eyes on Soren. Maybe if she acted even cuter...

”Crying will change nothing,” Avery’s intense glare bored into Soren’s face and his voice took on a slightly harder tone, losing some of the patient, inscrutable quality that it normally held. Tears always made him feel awkward and uncomfortable; he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He tried to remember what people used to tell him when he was young. ”Your situation will only worsen if you cry and dehydrate yourself.”

Rachel, however, stirred from her chair and cleared her throat. Avery glanced at her. He had almost forgotten she was there. She stood up, retrieving Fill into his pokeball without a word, and walked around the stone table. She grabbed the edge of the table to steady herself and carefully knelt down beside Soren, who was keeping his head down and wiping the tears away with his shoulder as quickly as he could in the hopes that he wouldn’t see them. Bluebell quickly got out of her way, returning to sit beside Carnation and Nimbus. Once Rachel was on her knees beside him, she threw her arms around him in a warm, tight embrace. One hand stroked his hair lightly as she did her best to comfort him, ”There there, Soren.”

There was a barely perceptible hitch in Avery’s breath and his fists clenched so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He gritted his jaw and turned away as his face contorted as though he’d bitten into the most bitter of berries... but only for a second. Seizing control of the pained emotion and thrusting it to the darkness of the back of his mind, he forced himself to be calm. His fists were still clenched, and his jaw still held more tension than usual, but he remembered to breathe out, and back in, and back out.

Carnation, being just beside Avery’s feet and having large fox ears, caught the hitch in his breath and looked up, concerned for his master. He tensed slightly, the tips of his tails beginning to flick and thrash as he watched Avery’s battle that lasted for a mere second or two.

Rachel didn’t hear the quiet pause in Avery’s breath, nor did she have her head turned towards him to see the whiteness of his knuckles. She wouldn’t pull away until Soren relaxed or tried to escape her embrace.

Possibly even more uncomfortable than he was when Soren first started crying, Avery waited with his jaw set and his knuckles still pale.





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Notes:
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 542 words

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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 11 2018, 09:52 AM
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"I'm not crying!" Soren snapped back at Avery even as his voice hitched with the first sob. Soren had learned from his extensive thirteen years of experience of life, that boys were not supposed to cry and the older the boy was the less acceptable his expression of stress and grief became. And yet the knowledge that he was doing something wrong, the idea that he'd made Avery angry with him, and his inability to make it stop all made the tears come harder and stronger. Soren now had no power to fight against the intense wave of his own anxieties that had simply been building and strengthening all day. Even so, Soren continued to verbally deny that he was crying at all as though that would make it stop. "I'm fine!"

Soren didn't even see Bluebell's baby-doll eyes with his own tears clouding his vision. It was a bit of a shame really, he always enjoyed watching her do that. Distantly, Soren noted that Avery's consoling was the weirdest he'd ever heard in his life, telling the boy that he would dehydrate himself. Soren had cried enough to have heard many different methods of getting another person to knock off the waterworks. Teasing was common, and Soren had been called a crybaby and a little girl before, which reinforced Soren's sense of shame but did nothing to actually help. A peace officer had once bargained with him, agreeing not to tell Soren's dad where he'd been snooping if he would just stop crying and promise to stay out of the cemetary (Soren eventually did the first but had his fingers crossed when he did the second). Soren's own father, Gaspar, usually just let him cry and comforted the boy that whatever was wrong would eventually get better, and he was almost always right. But no one "got better" from being dead.

With his head lowered and his eyes flooding over, he couldn't see Rachel coming to kneel in front of him and was stunned when she suddenly seized him in a hug. He hadn't expected it but it felt so genuine and so full of love that Soren couldn't even think of resisting her. He hugged her back, as best as he could. It was rather awkward since he hadn't been prepared, but he managed to get his arms free and wrapped around her shoulders. He buried his face against her neck, letting her warm embrace melt the chill of his fear.

"I'm fine." Soren said again, but this time with less anger and sounding almost like it might be true. He finally made eye contact with Rachel, locking his inky black eyes on her blue ones. He leaned forward briefly and kissed the woman on the cheek. He took several deep breaths, hiccuping only once and wiped at his face a few times with his shirt. He didn't realize that Avery was trying to seize control of his own emotions at the same time, but Soren's process was similar. Exhale, then inhale. Soren was actually a bit jealous of Avery sometimes. Rachel's hug was the most maternal gesture Soren had experienced in his life, and he wished she could have been his mother as well. Summer seemed like a good enough person from her writing, but a living, present mother of any kind was better than a dead one.

"I'm okay. Everything's fine." And even though absolutely nothing about this situation was fine, and everything was awful, Soren at least managed to quit crying and relax some. His breathing was slow and even, though the effect was forced. His eyes were clear at last and he pulled away from Mrs. Aster, feeling ashamed of himself but at least more in control. He met Avery's eyes and took in his set jaw, white knuckles, and glaring face. The man looked furious, but it actually wasn't a far difference from how he looked normally. "I'm sorry," Soren said quietly, looking away again.

This time Soren set his eyes on Nimbus cuddled up against Carnation's side. The mareep lamb wagged his tail slightly when he caught his trainer's eye. He was glad the older female intervened. It was the sort of nurturing that a ewe would give a distressed lamb, and though this whole situation was difficult for the young pokemon to grasp, he could recognize love when he saw it. Seeing Nimbus apparently happy between Carnation and Bluebell, two pokemon that the lamb was still hiding from mere minutes ago actually made Soren smile a little. "Oh look! They're friends now. There's a miracle," Soren remarked, hoping to take the attention off of himself. Of course, it was a shame that Nimbus discovered that Carnation and Bluebell were so nice to snuggle with right before they'd be leaving, but Soren kept that bitter thought to himself. Amaranth, throughout everything, remained still and silent on Soren's shoulder as if this stuff happened to him everyday. In reality, he was listening in curiously but felt it best to just keep his flower shut and keep out of everyone's way.

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 13 2018, 11:38 PM
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Lore


Off To War

It seemed that the harder Soren cried, the tighter Rachel hugged him and reassured him. Avery was no longer taken by surprise, so his breathing and his face stayed in a tightly regulated neutral state. There was no quieting the thoughts, though, despite how coldly he regarded them and tried to push them away. Memories rose despite his best attempts to squelch them.

He knew that she was hurting, too. It was obvious to him, to Beta, and to everyone around them. And yet, when he tried to ask her about it, her words rang clear. "Everything is fine. There's no need to be upset!" She'd turn away quicker than a candle flickering out.

He hadn't seen Daddy's face in almost a moon, and now he was starting to never see Mommy's face either. More and more often, she avoided his gaze. He didn't really know why, but he guessed that he maybe she didn't love him anymore or he did something wrong. Perhaps that was why she stopped cooking, too. For a while, the neighbors and well-wishers of Crater City brought meals to them, to give their sympathy and aid. The meals had stopped last week, though.

"I'm hungry," he whispered.

She looked up distractedly from the scrap of writing cloth in her hands, clearly agitated at his complaint but without any idea of what the problem really was. "Oh. Yes, of course. There's some bread in the pantry." Mommy returned to the words, fidgeting with the corner of the cloth. Wave raised her proud head and stared at Avery with piercing eyes, wondering why the boy was bothering her mistress now.

The small boy shook his head, his shock of murkrow-black hair flicking wildly. "I ate it yesterday."

Mommy looked up again, this time an unhappy frown plastered on her face. "But I just bought it yesterday!"

Avery's eyes were deep and hurt, and his voice fell back into a whisper, "No... That was three days ago..." He looked down at the floor and scuffled his feet against the stone floor.

With a fretful sigh, Mommy got up and headed over to the closet. Wave tensed, but did not follow. The atmosphere in the Aster Manor was confusing and charged, and though Wave was a clever cat, she was not sure how to navigate this kind of charge. Tagging along behind, Avery was quiet and he miserably tried to summon the courage to tell her the real reason he wasn't feeling good. She was busy looking in the pantry, one hand holding the door open and the other rummaging for something simple enough for her young son to make with minimal supervision. Tentatively, the boy reached out and clutched his mother's hand. "Mommy... Please... I miss Daddy..." he looked up at her face and in a matter of milliseconds, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled over down his cheeks in a steady stream. His lips trembled and his face contorted as he blinked the tears away, trying to see her face.

She wasn't even looking at him, though. Not really. Instead, she was casting glances all around the room, occasionally at him, but mostly at the pantry, out the window, towards the yard door. "Oh! Oh, honey... I know you do but... but it'll be alright! We just have to be strong and keep moving! Don't cry, Ave. Look! Why don't you come out to the garden with me? It's easy to stop crying when you're taking care of the garden, right?" a hint of desperation was in her voice as she turned towards the door to the garden and tugged Avery along behind her.

The boy snatched his hand away and stamped his foot in a futile display of frustration. "No, Mommy! It's not alright! It'll never be alright! Daddy's gone and you don't care!"

She held deathly still, her hands dropping to her sides and her head and shoulders drooping precariously low. "Oh, Avery... That's not true..." Her hands moved up to cover her face, but still she stayed turned away from him.

Avery didn't know it, but she was trying to hide the fact that tears were coming out of her eyes now, too. She was trying to stay strong and stay ahead of the looming depression that threatened to swallow her up and spit out an empty husk. She didn't know what to do or how to help her son. He missed Dylan, and she did, too, more than she could handle. If she let in and held him and let him cry, she would cry, too, and she didn't know if she'd be able to ever stop. Her fight or flight instinct told her that if she stopped moving for even one moment too long, she would succumb to the gnawing beast.

Still crying, and with no good response to Mommy's claim at what was true or not, Avery turned and ran to his room. He jumped into his bed and buried his face into his wool-stuffed pillow, softly sobbing. In the background, he heard the front door creak open and quietly shut. Mommy had probably gone to Beta's house, or to the place where they were building the school. Either way, Avery was left to cry alone... and he was still hungry.

Rachel's face subtly brightened into a smile -- still a sad one, but a smile nonetheless -- as the boy kissed her cheek. She gave him a last squeeze before finally letting go fully, leaning back and steadying herself with the table as she got up.

While Soren was busy wiping his face and taking calming breaths, Rachel returned to her stool across from Soren and gave him an encouraging nod if his sight ever turned towards her.

Meanwhile, Avery was staring off into space; his eyes just happened to be locked on Soren's face. It wasn't until a few moments after the boy met his gaze, and murmured a quiet apology, that the tall man was brought back to reality. He blinked hard and started paying attention just in time to watch Soren look away towards the Pokemon.

Avery continued watching Soren as a small smile managed to creep up on his face. His tactic worked, however; once he said the Pokemon were friends now, Avery looked away from Soren back towards Nimbus, who was snuggled into and tucked up against Carnation's plush tails and didn't even seem to mind that Bluebell was less than a foot away, as well. Avery's clenched fists finally relaxed and uncurled.

Rachel chuckled softly, "Looks like he finally gave into the allure of all that warm, soft fur."

Avery didn't say anything, though; he just uttered a noncommittal, "Hm." Then he turned back to Soren, his face stoic and fierce as ever. His striking turquoise eyes glinted as he spoke, finally coming to the point he was hoping to bring up today. "Listen close, boy. I have a request." He swallowed and his eyes bored into Soren's dark ones. "While I'm gone, I need you to come here, to our house. I need you to protect and help Rachel. Do you understand, Soren?"





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Notes:
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 1185 words

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Amissa
 Posted: Aug 14 2018, 05:13 AM
Quote


Player


It was a short relief that Soren's distraction tactic worked. He used the moment as a kind of reset. He could start over and pretend that they'd never been interrupted by his emotional meltdown. Rachel and Avery both allowed this, and neither brought up Soren's crying again.

Soren relaxed a bit more and found himself able to focus better. Despite Avery's statement that crying wouldn't help, it felt like it might have, at least a little. Soren was still aware of his anxiety, his fear that his friend might never return or that when he came back he might not have time or interest in Soren at all. However, he was no longer stuck in it. He could acknowledge it and still move on and give his attention to other matters as well. After all, if Nimbus could get over his fear of Avery's predator pokemon, surely Soren could cope with this much.

Soren looked back to Avery as the man began speaking again, and he looked a bit calmer too. Soren sat up straighter as the ambassador mentioned a request. What could he want? He'd already told him that he couldn't come along and help. Soren's eyes widened as Avery said what he actually wanted the boy to do. He wanted Soren to protect and help his mother, the general. As far as Soren knew, Avery didn't have any other family. He was asking Soren to look after the dearest person in his whole life. And he was asking, not ordering. No one ever asked Soren to do things. No one ever trusted him with anything important. He was Branded. If you asked the peace officer in charge of his deliveries or his sister, even his regular job was more responsibility than he should be trusted with. Soren could have cried all over again, but he didn't. Instead, he gave the ambassador a happy grin and exclaimed, "You do know my name!"

The boy bounced out his stool again right over to Avery, apologizing as one foot came dangerously close to landing on one of Carnation's tails. (Soren was far too careful to actually step on Carnation in any sense. Lore was that a ninetales could hold a grudge forever.) Then, exploiting the fact that the ambassador was seated and therefore at a height where Soren could reach his broad shoulders, the boy would try to wrap his arms around the large man in a joyful hug. If the ambassador allowed it, the contact would be short but earnest. Soren had decided he was going to try to squeeze in a hug shortly after Avery mentioned he might not come back, because there was no way he was going to let Avery leave knowing he might never get another chance. At the same time, he wanted Avery to see him as reliable and competent and not childish, so the ambassador wouldn't get nearly the same tenderness Soren gave to Rachel moments earlier.

"I will, of course. Every day if you want me to. I'll be here," Soren promised, pulling away and beaming. He was just as bad at hiding his happiness as he was at hiding tears. In fact, it was now hard to imagine that Soren had been crying at all a bare few minutes ago if it weren't for some lingering redness in his eyes. "I won't let anything bad happen to your mommy, okay?" He was trying to be serious, but the word "mommy" added a touch of innocent sweetness to the statement. Soren glanced over at Rachel to make sure this was okay with her as well. Soren clasped his hands in front of him, looking so excited and proud that he had to physically restrain himself from invading Avery's personal space any further.

A sudden idea caught Soren so ferociously then that he flinched as though something invisible had fallen from the ceiling and struck him between the eyes. Ugh, he hated to ruin this moment. It felt so much better than what came before it, and it might be the best he'd feel for a while afterwards. However, if Soren didn't ask now, he might never get the chance, and he'd decided he couldn't take that. He needed Avery's confirmation that his suspicions were even possible. "I um...I do have one question though," Soren said, looking away nervously.

"You'll never be able to take back the words once they're out. Are you sure you want to do this?" Soren could hear what he imagined was Summer's own voice in his head.

No, Soren thought and looked back to Avery with his expression abruptly changed. Soren no longer smiled. He looked grim and pensive. But I have to know this much, at least. "It's not really about this. It's about something else," Soren spoke slowly, clearly choosing his words with care. "Did you ever know a woman named Summer Sharp?"

@Rixie

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Rixie
 Posted: Aug 14 2018, 10:54 PM
Quote


Lore


Off To War

A somewhat irritated frown twitched on Avery’s face and he responded, ”Of course I know your-hey!” He took too long to start his sentence, because before he could finish it, Soren had jumped off his stool and wrapped his arms around his shoulders.

Carnation curled his tails tighter into himself, well aware and ever so slightly miffed that Soren had nearly trampled on them. That probably would have hurt, despite the boy’s size. He had a surprising wellspring of patience for the young human, but he still wanted to avoid any unnecessary pain. It was only natural.

Avery’s face twisted into a grimace of discomfort and he held as still and stiff as a log, his arms stuck out at odd angles as he tried to avoid touching the boy. At least it was over as soon as it had started. Avery’s face was still perturbed and uncomfortable when Soren pulled away and beamed brightly at him, but he didn’t say anything about the hug. Instead, he gave a curt nod that was stiffer and jerkier than his usual. “Okay. Good. I’ll inform the officer that he will relieve you from most of your daily duties until I return. I want you to come here every day."

Rachel beamed at Soren when he looked her way, matching his excitement and cheerfulness. She didn't really need protecting, what with having several fierce, strong Pokemon, but she would desperately need his company and someone to help bring water from the city's water supply.

His eyebrow quirked up when Soren called Rachel his "mommy". I haven't called her that since... He seized the thought and shoved it aside like brushing away a thick cobweb. There would be time for that later. His thoughts were too scattered; there was far too much going on in one day. The fear of leaving Crater City unprotected for so long, the struggle of figuring out how to make Soren feel better about the situation, the jealousy of watching M--Rachel hugging and comforting someone in a way she never did for him, the discomfort of having his privacy invaded without any warning... It was all making it very difficult to stay cool and collected, as he knew he should.

There was a sudden change in Soren's demeanor. He looked away nervously, and Avery narrowed his eyes when he seemed to have some kind of concern. Soren looked back at him, suddenly solemn and careful. Now what? He asked his question.

Avery didn't know what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn't that. He remained completely silent, his face frozen in that slight scowl, as his brain worked hard figuring out how to answer such a question. Summer Sharp? That’s a name I never thought I’d hear again. I figured she’d left long ago and possibly died outside Crater. Knew her? Sometimes I wish I hadn’t... What could have possibly brought this up now?

Even Rachel froze with the suddenness of the question. She slowly, somewhat anxiously, looked from Soren's face to Avery's and back again.

Finally, Avery cleared his throat and spoke in a tone so soft and so low that Rachel had to lean towards him to hear it. "I knew her. Why?"

Rachel's face turned into a fret. She waited until Soren answered the question, and then she protested, "Avery, you far more than just knew her! You were practically--"

Like a Pineco bomb going off, Avery leaped to his feet and his fist slammed against the stone table. It shuddered under the impact. Its feet scraped against the stony ground. "Shut up!" he shouted, his voice shredding through the air. The reaction hurt his throat and his pride. He immediately turned on his heel and stalked over to the back door. His hand rested on the top bar of the doorframe and his head leaned against the outstretched arm, hiding his face. His teeth were gritted and bared, and his eyes were screwed shut as though removing that bit of stimulus would be enough to deaden the emotions. His breathing was heavy and Rachel was biting her lip nervously.

Rachel clasped her hands to her mouth, realizing that she had pushed him too hard for such a sensitive time. She started to stand up, changed her mind, and sat back down. She said in as gentle and soft of a voice as she could muster, "Okay, dear."

He finally turned back after taking two long breaths. His face was stoic and rigid, but his eyebrows were knitted together darkly. "Apologies. I don't want to talk about it," he said flatly. He breathed out slowly once again and continued, "You should probably go home before it gets too late. Tomorrow, I'll talk to the officer about having you come to work here while I'm gone."

He raised one large hand up to his face and rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger for a second before opening his eyes again and facing Soren. "In case I don't see you again... Be strong, Soren. I'm putting my trust in you."

Rachel rushed out of her chair to give Soren another large, warm hug before he left. Before he walked out the door, she whispered to him, "I'll see you soon, dear."





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Content warning: Drama.
Tag: @Amissa
Word Count: 872 words

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