Motivation – The incentives or goals that, in combination with the inherent natures of characters, cause them to behave as they do.

"That was an intense battle!"

"Mmhm."

"Kotone?" I turned to face her fully and resisted the urge to grip and shake her shoulders. "Something wrong?"

"Not really…"

It seemed as though the closer we got to Mt. Moon, the quieter she got.

"I just have this feeling…"

"Feeling?" I tilted my head to the side in confusion. "What kind of feeling?"

"I-I'm not sure."

We were at the entrance to Mt. Moon, and she seemed to shake with anticipation. With a shrug, I tugged her along and pushed her in front of me at the first bend.

"Ladies first," I joked. That's when I saw him.

"S-Silver?" Kotone suddenly squeaked out, "What're you doing here? I thought –"

"So you're still hanging around Kanto," he commented idly, making his way over to us, but his attention seemed more focused on Kotone. I narrowed my eyes and stepped protectively in front of her. That's when he finally seemed to notice me. "You two know each other?"

"Yeah, so what?" I noticed the way Kotone shook behind me and how her face alternated between pale and flushed. "Are you here to fight me again?"

"Maybe," he answered with his usual cocky grin. He unclipped his first pokéball with a small hop backward. I was about to send Meganium out to face him, but Kotone stopped my arm with a sharp tug on my sleeve. I looked back at her curiously only to realize just how close her face was to mine.

"His first pokémon is a Sneasel, an ice and dark type," she whispered and stepped back. I smirked and sent Meganium out to the field anyway. Kotone gave me a look of confusion, but I ignored it. Silver laughed at his spot across the expanse and sent out his Sneasel just as Kotone said he would.

"Have you gone mad?" he taunted with a tilt of his head and hand over his shoulder. "Sending a grass type against an ice type?"

"Go Meganium!" I ordered coolly, ignoring his taunts. We've been through this situation plenty of times before. She gave me a nod before turning to face the Sneasel fearlessly.

After several minutes of heated battling (quite literally), I emerged victorious, much to Kotone's surprise and Silver's usual displeasure. Kotone tugged on my sleeve again to get my attention before Silver could reach us.

"Why didn't you use Ho-Oh? I know Meganium's sunny day and solar beam combo really did the trick, but…"

I patted her on the head out of habit, and her cheeks flared at the action. "Ho-Oh's a little too big to fight in here comfortably, don't you think?"

Before she could answer, Silver came between us.

"I guess you guys aren't normal trainers…" I didn't like how his eyes lingered on Kotone when he had just battled me. "My pokémon still need more training! I'll continue getting stronger in the Dragon's Den, then."

He took off in the opposite direction, definitely not seeming like the Silver I had come to know. I glanced down at Kotone and noticed she had finally relaxed. Without any hesitation, my hand acted on its own and went to rest on her shoulder and pull her closer. I had no idea why I was suddenly bothered by the boy I had come to proudly call my rival.

"… really don't like him," I heard her mumble, calling my attention back to her.

It had suddenly occurred to me.

"How do you two know each other?" I asked, noting the way she tensed once again under my grip.

"H-he's just some jerk I fight every now and then…"

"That's not all there is," I commented knowingly, meanwhile leading us out of the dark cave.

Once the warm sunshine hit our skin, she spoke again, "Well, actually, he's really changed… He's not as big a jerk as he used to be."

Something stirred uncomfortably inside me from the way she suddenly defended him.

I dropped the topic right after that, and soon enough, we were in the bounds of Cerulean City on our way to the gym. The moment we stepped inside, though, Kotone groaned. I turned to her with the intention of asking why, but she beat me to it.

"She's on another date on the cape. We're going to have to go get her."

"Date, huh?" I could feel my mind going into overdrive, imagining myself on a date with Kotone. My face grew warm with that train of thought, and I had to shake myself back to reality. We walked to the bridge in relative silence, our starters trailing behind us. Halfway across, I saw a couple happily chatting and cuddling up to each other and was once again reminded of how Silver had treated Kotone earlier. I grumbled silently from the reminder of his changed attitude and reached out to grab her hand.

"H-Hibiki?" she squeaked out with a sidelong glance at me. I just gave her hand an affectionate squeeze and tugged her along behind me.

"Come on, you slowpoke," I teased, pulling her across the bridge. She just stumbled behind me with stuttering cries of "Wait up!" and "Hey!" We made it through the forest and to the cape faster than we expected. And, just as Kotone had said earlier, Kasumi was a little ways ahead on what appeared to be a date.

"Come on," she imitated, trying to drag me forward with her. "Let's hurry and tell her that you want a match…"

"No."

"Huh, and why no –" I interrupted her question by impulsively pulling her to my chest. "Hibiki? What are you doing?"

"Hugging you." I tightened my grip until I could feel her pounding heart against mine. Truthfully, I just suddenly didn't think it was fair to interrupt Kasumi. Gym leaders had little free time as it was anyway. "Hey, stop squirming."

"'Stop squirming'? Hibiki!" she hissed quietly. "I swear!" Kotone looked away with a huff and very red face. I couldn't help but smirk and take advantage of the situation. She wasn't beating me away, after all. I started leaning in unbeknownst to her, and when she finally whipped her head back to me, we both widened our eyes in surprise.

Our lips collided.

Immediately, we pulled away, as if burned by the contact. Tentatively, we mirrored each other's reaction and reached up to touch our lips. I had the sudden urge to lean in again, but Kotone's voice stopped me.

"D-did we just – I mean, um, ah," she stuttered in a high voice. Her hands moved to cup her rosy cheeks. "Hi-Hibiki, does this mean that –"

"I'm a very jealous person."

"Hah?" Kotone's jaw dropped suddenly, and I couldn't help but smile playfully at her like I always did. "Jealous of what?"

"Oh? What do we have here?" I snapped my head away from Kotone's cute, flushed face and saw one very smug gym leader. "I guess this is my cue to interrupt you, right?"

"Mou! Kasumi, that's not fair!" Kotone pouted at the older girl and suddenly thrust a finger in my direction. "I was totally going to drop in on you earlier, but Hibiki told me not to. So!" She made a gesture of setting something aside. "You should be thankful."

"Whatever… Hmm?" Kasumi turned toward me and raised an eyebrow. "And who's he?"

"Your next challenger!" Kotone answered confidently for me. Kasumi's smile only seemed to grow bigger at that answer.

"Sounds like you've got a lot of confidence in him," she commented more to herself than anything. "Well, let's see what he's got."