He hadn't been hunting for a shiny ralts, not that anyone would believe him.

He was just looking for a ralts, any ralts. He'd always found them so endearing, how they shuffled as they walked, the way they so easily overbalanced from the weight of their big heads. An over-excited ralts would trip over her own feet when she ran and end up crashing helplessly into the ground. Although they were pokemon, they made him want to protect them, instead of the other way around. He wanted to pick her up when she fell, scold her gently for rushing, teach her better...

So, yes, he did spend quite a long time looking for a ralts, but it wasn't because he wanted a shiny one. It wasn't like he was ignoring all the rest. He'd spent weeks searching at places other people said they'd seen ralts without seeing so much as a flash of red horn.

And then...she'd been right there when he woke, dawn's rosy glow illuminating the shape of everything he wanted.

He'd named her Shiromuku. He'd been so proud.

And as soon as he got back into town, the judging started. Trainers he met wouldn't believe that he wasn't some obsessive shiny-hunter, how much he cared about his Shiromuku, that it didn't matter to him if the hair that covered her round red eyes was blue or green. And weren't their own words green enough with envy? Jealous that he'd found one so rare and they hadn't.

He'd soon learn it's just how people are - judgmental, even outright prejudiced. You had to believe in your own knowledge of right and wrong, whatever small-minded people might say differently. You had to learn to brush aside their nagging, their mistaken concern, instead of letting it drag you down.

He'd raised her. He lavished attention on her, kept her out often, had her practice and practice to unlock the perfection he knew was there. His acquaintances started to send him odd looks. They'd say it was odd, or that he should train his pokemon equally, or some other gripe, but she was just a helpless little ralts when he got her. They didn't understand what she needed. They didn't understand she didn't need him to let up a bit. She appreciated everything he did. He nurtured her potential, molded and trained her clumsy desire to please, and soon she budded into an adorable twirling kirlia whose only flaw was an over-eager enthusiasm he was happy to gently correct. He was patient, he taught her patience, pruned away mistakes until she blossomed into a graceful, demure gardevoir.

Master, she'd called him. He told her, of course, that she didn't have to call him that, but she wanted to. She wanted to because she was so grateful for what he'd done for her, for everything he'd taught her. And at first he'd looked away when she talked like that, flushed at her words, brushed it off pretending she meant it as something other than what it was. She blushed too, dropped her eyes, stuttered a little at times. She asked him to teach her how to cook and soon she was preparing all his meals.

How could he make her stop any of it? It wasn't as if he minded, not so long as it was her choice. Quite the opposite, really... What did it matter what his friends said? They didn't understand. And they were only jealous, deep underneath, especially as he and Shiromuku tore through their opponents in each tournament. It made him proud, really, that she could think so highly of him. That he'd raised her so well.

And then she confessed she loved him.

The acquaintances were long gone, and his so-called friends, well, he knew their feelings on the matter. How could he deny her, deny what they had together, just because of some small-minded bigots?

He's good for her. He's always been so good for her, and this just proves it further. Her love for him is so strong, their bond is so pure, that she managed to transform into a mega for the first time not long after. She looked like a wedding dress, not those slim ugly modern things but rounded and puffed, and he tells her she's so beautiful, how narrow it makes her waist, how her torso is slim as back when she was a kirlia, how she moves like a cloud... It isn't a white dress, of course, it isn't a white cloud...but he thinks he prefers how dignified she looks in black.

Of course, love isn't a balm for everything. He does catch some minor bug and finds himself laid up with a headache. She dotes on him, bringing him teas and toast and soup delicately flavored to not upset his stomach. The headache fades but he feels worn out and decides to stay home a while longer. What's the point of going out, anyway? He's won enough money - won in no small part thanks to his bond with Shiromuku - he doesn't need to work, and he has no desire to see his two-faced "friends" or listen to the ignorant prejudices of strangers.

And their time together is only making her more perfect. He has her practice mega evolution, watches her glow and reshape herself for him.

His parents come by. He supposes he shouldn't have expected anything different than their false concern, their badly hidden disapproval. All they wanted to talk about was why he refuses to see anyone these days, how wane he looks, wouldn't he consider getting out more? It wasn't healthy to spend all his time cooped up alone in his house... They wouldn't accept he wasn't alone, wouldn't see how happy he was, not even when he finally asked Shiromuku to show them the door.

He is still a bit under the weather. He spends his days sitting quietly and reading, or in bed...but he's still got energy enough when it comes to being in bed with her, and he doesn't need to worry about cooking and cleaning when Shiromuku assures him she loves doing it, so why shouldn't he indulge her?

When he stumbles one day, getting out of bed, she's there by his side before he can hit the floor. She helps him lie back down, tells him there's no need for him to get up if he's feeling weak. She's so considerate, he tells her. What would he do without her? And she tells him she'll make him breakfast in bed. He watches her glide through the door on the black ribbons and thinks with pride how he can't remember the last time she was in her ordinary gardevoir form.

"You're just what I always wanted," he whispers later, and is surprised by his voice, the way it sounds like air moving through a dry reed.

He can barely make out his own words, but Shiromuku, his perfect Shiromuku, has no difficulty. Of course, Master, she tells him, her black fingers stroking his face. I've always known what you wanted. And even when she hadn't known, even when he'd said he didn't want her to and she insisted, even when he scolded her for her endearing mistakes...she'd been just what he wanted. He tries to correct her, but it's so hard to form the words.

She's there when he opens his eyes again. Of course she is. "It's so strange, isn't it... I spent so much time looking for a ralts, so much time searching, and then you just appeared, just like that... Like it was fate..."

You called to me, Master. Drew me with what you desired, pulled me close as strongly as all the others fled. She's bent over him, her tiny mouth kissing his nose, the twin red horns of her chest over his own heart.

"...fled...?"

Your devouring nature, she says. But what would have left them stunted and bent was to me like water to a lily.

He tries to raise his hand to cup her cheek, and her own hand raises his and presses it just where he wished. The fingers don't look like he remembers them.

It was not joy given freely that could nourish me, and honesty would poison. It is in constriction I expand.

His heartbeat is so loud in his ears. So loud except when it skips.

"...something's... Shiromuku, something's..." He can't seem to get out the final word.

Don't worry, Master, she says. Can you not see yourself in the pools of my eyes?