"So how long will this take?"

"Leave it on as long as possible, that'll make it darker," Maya replied, still bent low over Ree's hand.

"And what's this called?"

"It's called henna, Ree, c'mon. This isn't a new thing and I've already told you that four times. Henna, and I learned it from Darius, before you ask that again, too."

Ree liked her sister coming home to visit and all, but she didn't need to be so snappy about it. The elder huffed and examined the design Maya was painstakingly drawing on her hand. It looked... swirly. "Why don't you do yours?"

"I still have some fading ones on my feet, and you don't know how to do it." Maya looked up and gave Ree a flat look. "Nor are you trying to learn it on me. Practice on someone later."

"So... Learned this from the boy toy, huh?" Her sister ducked her head, but Ree could still see the blush on the tips of her ears. "What number is this one? Gonna start collecting them like badges?" she teased.

"N-No! And it's not like that!" Maya replied hotly.

"Then what's it like? ...Isn't this stuff used in marriage ceremonies in other regions and stuff?" Ree asked, pulling her hand out of Maya's grasp. She examined the dark designs her sister had drawn across her palm. Maya, still red-faced, glared wordlessly at her. "You're fourteen. Don't get carried away—"

"I know I'm fourteen! But I can't help it if I'm out training all year and on my own half the time, and if I want to fantasize about a stable future where I can be married and settled down and have pokémon adventures with my husband, that's my own business, Ree!" she burst out. Ree stared at her in shock. After a beat, Maya seemed to realize that she had said too much, and rapidly backpedaled. "I just—have a lot of time to think out on the routes, sorry, it's weird, but—um, it's n-nothing! You know, just me doing the whole boy crazy thing again."

Ree let the subject go, but as Maya finished her designs, she had to wonder just how lonely a training journey could be.

-.-.-

Chapter Twenty-Three: Ree Majors' Wonderful Journey Of Rain

-.-.-

It was pretty, she recognized that from an unattached viewpoint. Pearly white with silver edging around the rim of the lid. There were little swirls near the base, etched into it or something. She hadn't been able to look too closely at it. She had only been able to hold it in her hands twice.

With trembling hands, Ree placed the empty, minimized pokeball on top of the lid. It slipped onto the slot and clicked into place. It felt so final. She had been putting it off, precisely for that reason, but instead of the tears she had expected, she gulped down a few shuddering breaths and that was it.

The urn was pretty, she told herself. It was dignified and sweet and perfect for her. Should the others have been here for this? Ree thought.

No, it wasn't as if this was anything official. This was just her looking at what amounted to a shiny plastic jar in the middle of a muddy forest that just happened to hold the remains of her furry little sweetheart. Who had happened to be with egg. Or child. Or whatever. Like me. Oh, and there the tears came. She had been starting to worry.

She heard the breaking twigs and rustling of the bushes before she heard Harry's voice. "Ree? Where did you go?"

Ree scooped up the urn with its pokeball lid and wiped off the rainwater with her damp shirt. She stowed it in her backpack and zipped that closed just as her companion sloshed into the scene. The forest was too dense for umbrellas but the trees weren't quite thick enough to keep everything out. "I'm here," she answered tonelessly.

"It looks like it's picking up again. I was just, um, worried. Do you want to wait it out or try continuing on?"

Neither of them really had proper raincoats. Hell, Ree didn't even have an umbrella. But they were about a day, or less than, from Driftveil and that was tantalizingly close. Besides, progress would be good for her state of mind. "Let's go. If—If you're okay with that."

Harry broke into a wide smile. "Yeah! O-Of course! I'll go grab our things and we can get going again."

Rain was something that trainers got used to, but Ree had been blessed in the fact that she had rarely had to encounter it outside of cities and relatively short storms. This storm, on the other hand, had decided to travel with them like a very friendly, nice-smelling, overly loud herdier. It was depressing to be perpetually wet, but it was equally depressing to find that it was easy to get used to that sort of misery.

Ree dealt with it with all of the grace that she used with the rest of her life: she walked barefoot everywhere, ducked under Harry's umbrella as often as possible, and wore as few layers on top as she could manage. Harry had been a little embarrassed on her behalf at first (Ree had a sneaking suspicion that this only increased once it became apparent that she was not going to deal with the anguish that was a wet bra), but she had gotten used to it through a surprising amount of willpower.

"It's a little easier to keep them dry if you keep 'em in your backpack," Ree suggested, squishing her toes into the mud. Overhead, the sprinkling gradually transformed into a steadier rain.

"I just wish the rain would stop instead."

"Free water." They hadn't had to deal with lack of water, sticking close to little streams that entered into the bigger river they had crossed, but the constant worry about running out reminded her of her missing blonde. No more convenient water pokémon.

Ree had thought she'd miss Tori—not more, but differently. It wasn't like Mitzi. Missing Tori was in little flashes, like remembering they didn't have a water pokémon, like reading her smut (before it started raining) without judgment, or like getting really angry at a wild unfezant who thought it was a good idea to harass Lala in front of her. But missing her, just like missing Mitzi, had already dulled.

Not completely. Another reason why she was grateful for the rain was that it made the perfect mask for her random bouts of tears. There was an obvious literary metaphor in there somewhere but she preferred to ignore it.

Harry looked down at Ree's legs with pursed lips. Ree couldn't help but grin, though it sort of made her eyes itch. "I'm working on my beartic impression." It was amazing what a layer of mud and grass would do to a week's worth of hair growth. "Wearing wet socks inside of shoes all day can make your feet rot. Haven't you ever read a war novel?"

"No, not really. I try not to," she admitted.

"Not even the classics? In school? Book club?"

"I don't remember feet-rotting in any of my school books."

Ree humphed and Harry rolled her eyes. She knew that Harry wasn't a gamer—it wasn't like she could think of many games that included feet rotting in wet socks, granted—but some stories needed to be read. "When we get to Driftveil, you and I are going to the library. It's not a gym again, is it?"

"No, it's not."

"Damn." It had been hilariously easy, in hindsight, to use the library's layout (and Lenora's protective tendencies) to their advantage. If only all gyms had that sort of easy field. "Know anything about the Driftveil gym?"

"Just the basics... The leader is a man named Clay, I think? Something like that. He deals with ground or rock pokémon, I think. Something tough. I-I've never been that far out. You're the one with that big training book, haven't you looked at the sections on the gym leaders?"

"Kinda glossed over it when I first got it. It's not as if it has their biographies in it, and since then, I've mostly been looking at the specific stuff. Cooking, staying dry, lighting a fire when it's pouring..." She counted off on her fingers.

"Okay, we can look at it later. When we get into Driftveil, we can peel off all this wet stuff, dry off, and then read in front of a fireplace for hours on end," Harry said dreamily, pressing her hands to her cheeks. It just stuck her wet hair in place against her skin.

"Does the Driftveil center have a fireplace?"

"Let a girl dream, Ree."

"Fair enough. Come to think of it, hot cocoa sounds heavenly right now..." Ree sighed and shook out her own wet hair. A big, fluffy towel, a hot bath, reclining in front of a fireplace, hot cocoa, pokémon curled up beside her... "Ugh, it's not fair! I didn't sign up to be rained on for the past two days!" she shouted at the sky. It rumbled in response.

"At least it's not a hurricane or a blizzard."

"Don't mention anything having to do with snow. It's only October. I'm hoping we get a really, really late winter this year and I can continue on my journey without freezing to a tree or something," she said with a shiver.

"You'll likely have to stop somewhere for at least a couple weeks..." Harry said, concerned. Ree nodded; she had already known that. She was making good progress now, but realistically, she had to count out about a month in her journey due to likely bad weather. Hopefully not any more than that. "Or we could head down south. They're not too bad, or we could go to Undella... No, they get cold towards the end of the year, too..."

"I'll just make an igloo somewhere and live off the land. See, my legs are secretly part of my master plan to become a beartic, live off the land, terrorize stray trainers, and not worry about human drama ever again."

"Pokemon can't legally own their own badges."

"Well, you can have mine, then. Pawn them off on the internet or something, buy yourself a mareep with the profits," Ree said dismissively. "I can be a beartic, and find a dry cave to live in, and sleep for three months straight, and not have to worry about poachers or badges. Come to think, don't beartic give bi..." She froze in the middle of the path, mouth still parted from her trailed-off sentence.

Harry stopped a couple of steps ahead of her. "Ree? A-Are you okay?"

Ree managed to push all of her sorrows out of her mind, however temporarily, by the simple realization that she would have to give birth. She looked down at her stomach in horror. "There's something in me, Harry. I... am going to have to push a baby out of my vag. A human baby. Out of my vagina. I am going to have to give birth, and get doped up, and do the screaming mother routine, and holy fucking shit I can't even break the father's hand because he—"

"Calm down! It's okay—"

"It's not okay! I'm going to be in a delivery room by myself in half a year! I'll be shoving a thing this big out of something that's significantly smaller!" She held her hands apart a little ways, and then looked down at her stomach once more. "Harry, I am going to be going through the process of giving birth, and that is not okay, okay? Don't tell me it is. Let me panic."

"I-I don't think it's a good idea for you to, um, panic about that," Harry said nervously. She closed the gap between them and took Ree's hands; the brunette was momentarily startled at how chilly her hands were. "It will be okay. Remember, you'll be in a hospital, with a lot of experts and doctors around. Women go through this all the time and they're okay," she said, voice firm, eyes determined.

Ree was a little impressed by her composure. Sure, it wasn't her pregnancy, but she didn't seem at all fazed.

And then Harry ruined the serious moment by adding, with a giddy giggle, "And then we can swaddle it in something I knit! It will be extra warm that way. I just need to finish your team's set of scarves and socks—oh, no, I have that half-finished hat I could finish for someone..."

"How many projects do you have going at any given moment?"

"Oh, only one or two. But I have a list to do in the future that's getting quite long. And I can't knit while it's raining on us, so we should hurry on to Driftveil, alright? It'll be okay once we get out of the nasty weather and we have some time to unwind."

"...But I have to give birth," she repeated. And, Ree suddenly thought, Mitzi never will.

The crashing of thunder overhead coincided nicely with the grief coming back in full swing. Maybe her life was one extended literary metaphor, and the weather was just playing catch-up.

But then, their bonding moment (or extended metaphor) got rudely interrupted by a man appearing right beside them. Both of them screamed and jumped away, Ree automatically searching for her missing bat, but Harry recovered first. "Wh-What are you doing here?"

"Oh, it's raining here," Allen remarked, holding his hand out from the cover of his already-open umbrella, like he was surprised.

"No, seriously, what the fuck are you doing here," Ree pressed. She reluctantly let go of Harry's hand and missed the small frown that the movement earned. "You should be back in that godforsaken city."

"I was just checking the weather, and saw that a storm was in your area. And I have the day off, so I thought, why not abuse my power and come check on you girls?"

They both gaped at him.

He winced and shuffled away from them, like a lillipup with his tail between his legs. "Okay, bad choice of words..."

"Very," Ree agreed, still staring at him like he was the alien there, instead of his elgyem.

"Okay." Allen took a deep breath, switching his umbrella to his other hand. His psychic escort, clinging to his jeans, looked like it rolled its eyes. "I might have been the one responsible for going through your bag at the hospital, and I might have noticed that you were not really packed for bad weather. I might have a tendency to worry, and this might be compounded by the fact that you're younger than me but pregnant, and that you're overall a pretty cool gal who doesn't need a cold or the flu on top of all of her current problems. And I might have brought you supplies and sandwiches as an apology for how Lenore and I acted towards you and your situation in Nimbasa," he said quickly, managing the speech in only two breaths.

Harry continued to stare, clearly not having caught even half of that. Ree had done a little better, but her understanding was still a little patchy. "I, uh... sandwiches?"

"And an extra umbrella, and raincoats, and dry clothes, and I've borrowed a friend's fire pokémon so we can take a break and try to dry some of your other stuff—"

"Hold up there. Let me process this and recover from the mental whiplash, okay?" Ree held up her hands and he quieted, still looking a little guilty. "...Why are you doing all of this again? Why are you doing any of this? You're not my mom."

"Ree, you left Nimbasa with no rations, no clean clothes, no wet weather gear, and a man bleeding in his hospital room. I am going to worry," Allen deadpanned. He looked them both up and down, and then held out his umbrella to Ree. "You're also walking around in the rain without socks or shoes and your shirt is very see-through."

"Is not." She looked down at herself, feeling very vindicated when she saw that it wasn't, thank you very much. Harry's cheeks rapidly matched her hair and she studied a tree near the path as if it would give her the meaning to life. "...It's just a hassle wearing more wet layers than I have to, you know?"

"I don't want to know what else you're skipping out on. Take the damned umbrella," Allen ground out.

Ree took it with a pout. It was clear, with little ducklett patterns around the edge. Not what she had pictured her military guardian as having on hand. "If you're going to be super convenient and all worried and stuff, could you just, you know, give us a free ride into Driftveil? It shouldn't even be that far."

His elgyem gave a screech that set her teeth on edge.

"I guess that's a no."

"That's a no," he sighed.

"Isn't it a trained pokémon? Shouldn't it listen to you?" Harry asked in concern.

"Tranjero isn't actually mine, he's assigned to me. We're partners and will only work with each other for the duration of our active duty. And he does listen! He's very good at listening," Allen said defensively and Tranjero gave another, lower screech. It sounded like grating metal. "He's just... better at listening to Lenore and my superiors than me."

"You doing something bad by visiting us?" Ree demanded, narrowing her eyes.

"I'm not on active duty right now, as I said. And normally, I'm not allowed to use him for any teleportation, outside of emergencies. I was allowed to visit you guys and bring you stuff on the condition that I didn't act as your chauffeur or start making a habit of this."

"That's stupid. Why can't you be my chauffeur?"

"But it's a pokémon journey, not just a series of stops in cities to get badges," Harry mumbled reproachfully.

"And it breaks two or three laws," Allen added. He shrugged off his rather stuffed backpack and pulled another umbrella off of the side, opening it and shaking out his hair. "Shall we get going then, ladies? I didn't mean to stop your progress."

"Uh, don't you have stuff for us?" This entire situation was beginning to get confusing. Ree couldn't really keep up with him, or her emotional roller coaster, though he was a very useful distraction for said emotional roller coaster. She didn't mind not thinking about pregnancy or birth or death for awhile.

"I'm a big boy, I can carry it," he replied, nonplussed by her question.

"...We're not going to beg," she said flatly.

"Can't I walk with you?"

"We're not that close to Driftveil City," Harry piped up, gesturing vaguely up the path. "We're still about a day away..."

"I know."

"Dude, are you gonna play hooky with us?"

Allen smiled brightly and just like that, they got another traveling companion.

-.-.-

For the most part, the rain tapered off that evening. It still sprinkled off and on, and thunder could be heard to the east, but Ree hoped that they were past the worst of the storm. Of course, everything was still unbearably damp. It didn't even have the dignity of being wet, no, it was damp.

Allen helped them set up a proper camp, using a tarp overhead to keep further rain off of them during the night, and Shady started them a fire. The litwick didn't like all of the general dampness, cooing in displeasure, but she stayed by the fire until it was a healthy size. "Is that your only fire pokémon between you two?"

"Spoiler alert—I didn't catch a fire pokémon in the couple days since I've seen you last," Ree replied.

"And you still don't have a water pokémon, either, do you..." Allen looked down at Shady for a moment, thinking hard, and then pulled a pokeball off his belt. Both girls got another fright when he released something large, orange, and decidedly foreign. "Okay, well, we'll set about drying some of your clothes first. Your litwick can tend to the fire and help with cooking, right?"

"Y-Yes, she's good at th-that," Harry stammered out, green eyes fixated on the orange pokémon. It sat down beside Allen, wagging its fluffy tail, and looked around the camp with obvious curiosity.

"What the hell is that thing?" Ree asked directly.

"An arcanine," he replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"That's not from around here."

"Oh, no, it's not. Actually, he's a friend of mine's, and I let him borrow Maria—my beartic—for a week while he has a mission in northern Sinnoh. Don't worry, he's a good boy! Police trained. And the important thing here is that he's big enough and skilled enough to know how to dry clothes effectively."

"Not to mention keeping wild pokémon away. Not sure many things would want to approach that," Ree added and Allen nodded with an awkward chuckle. The arcanine barked happily and continued wagging his tail.

Honestly, they let military personnel carry around foreign pokémon? Doesn't that send mixed signals? Actually, come to think of it, she wasn't sure the Unovan Field Operations counted as a military group.

"So, I won't ask why you've traded out Harry for Tori, since it can't be a super pleasant memory, but we're going to have to get past the awkward stage pretty quick here," Allen continued before she had the chance to ask. "Not that I'm judging you or anything, but I doubt either of you have had much contact with male trainers outside of battles, and trainers can't afford to be squeamish about some sorts of things..."

"Actually, we have traveled with a male companion already. Kev. He was with us in Castelia, remember?"

"Not really. I just didn't want to assume anything. You two have been careful in choosing people to travel with, right?"

"What's your point, Allen?" Ree asked sourly. None of this was making her feel any better, and being dry could only mitigate his words so much. She didn't like how suspicious it sounded.

"I'm just—I'm not judging you!" he exclaimed, and then had a strange little mix of an exasperated sigh and a huff. It sort of sounded like Yorick when he was about to throw up. His mouth pressed down into a firm, flat line, and he hooked his fingers into the bottom hem of his shirt, then lifted it up and over his head. Ree's annoyance significantly decreased. "Our clothes are wet. We're going to be drying our clothes during the night. I don't know how comfortable you two are and I don't want to cross any boundaries, but the more layers that come off, the better."

"Damn."

"Ree, stop staring," Harry mumbled, politely averting her eyes.

"We haven't gotten any proper eye candy since Kev. And he wasn't built."

"You have a boyfriend, don't you?"

"Eye candy. Totally harmless! Hey Allen, you don't mind, do you? Will you just stay shirtless for the night?" Oh yes, her annoyance levels were zeroed out. She could deal with nice looking shirtless men highlighted by soft firelight with the rain pattering gently overhead... Allen looked unsure of how to respond, shirt in hand, and Ree realized just how bad she had gotten. "Okay, you know what, no one else say anything about it. I have hormonal problems and I haven't been touched in going on two months. Let's just all sit around a campfire and be half naked and no one say anything. I'll be sighing happily to myself."

"I-I'm not going to be half naked! No offense, Allen, but, um, I'm not just—"

"No, no, it's fine! I don't want either of you to be weird about this—any weirder than it already is, thanks Ree—"

"You think I like turning into my sister?!"

"What?"

"...What?"

Ree glared at them both, but the reference was completely lost on them. Of course it was, neither of them had ever met Maya, properly or otherwise. They didn't have any room to judge, anyway. Harry was still young and likely not nearly as hormonal as Ree was, and Allen was... Allen.

She lifted her shirt up over her head, uncaring of the fact that she was braless, and both of them blushed furiously and turned away from her so fast they had to have been lucky not to break their necks. She totally still had the power in this situation. Ree Majors may have been grieving, dripping wet, and hormonally imbalanced, but at least she was still shameless enough to control the situation at hand.

"Oh, you think it's funny, do you?" Ree snapped at Whippy. He shook his head, mouth shut tight to stop himself from laughing. "No chocolate for you tonight."

"Just... get something else on, would you? We're drying clothes, but no need to catch pneumonia!" Allen said as he wrung out his shirt. She had a feeling it was more for stress relief than to get water out. "I don't care what we try to dry, but both of you, at least change into clean clothes. And get your feet out of your socks and shoes. We don't need rot to add onto our list of issues."

"Ha! I told you!" Ree declared, triumphant. It was amazing what could cheer her up.

-.-.-

"What do you mean the goddamned gym is closed?!"

"Until November first. The city is hosting two large tournaments, and Clay will be helping with them. He'll be busy, and most of the trainers in the city will be here for that, so it's easier just to close the gym."

Ree's mood definitely was not as even or as positive as she had hoped. They had made it to Driftveil, all but blackmailing Allen into staying longer than his announced day, and then the gym had been closed. It was only the first week of October.

"I don't want to battle in a tournament, I want to get a gym badge!" she hissed at the unfortunate man at the desk.

"You can in a month. We are still taking applications for the second tournament, and Clay will be participating in both, if you would like practice or to see his team ahead of time—"

"I want to just challenge him and get it over with! I don't want to live in the gym!"

"Oh, I see," Allen said, cutting across Ree's growing tirade. "You're hoping to round up trainers waiting for challenges and get them to join the tournament in order to boost profits and popularity. How often do you do this exactly?"

"These two tournaments specifically are held twice a year. We hold several other throughout the year, although there is only one other that we close the gym for."

"Is it ever fucking open?!" Ree all but shrieked.

"Ree, calm down. It's okay," Harry fretted, tugging on her sleeve. "W-We can use this time to train. And wouldn't a tournament be good for that?"

"She has a point there. You can work on some teamwork things, and shouldn't your tranquill be healed by then? A bird would be useful to have in the sky again instead of on your shoulder," Allen added.

She didn't like being ganged up on. She liked this unforeseen stall even less. They had already gotten lost, they had been rained on for days straight, and there had been more emotional ups and downs than she could shake a stick at. Sure, she was ahead overall, but by November, much of the bad weather would be set in. Who knows how long it would take her to travel through snow? If at all...

But the reminder that Harper would be battling again soon helped. A tiny bit. And she would never admit it. "Don't you have a military to be getting back to?" she scoffed instead, crossing her arms and turning up her nose.

"Why you—you're the one who begged and pleaded for me to stay until you two got to the city!" he retorted. "I've already had to use four days of leave!"

"It's not like we needed the escort, you didn't even do anything."

"Aside from keep you two from getting pneumonia, skinning that deerling for you, keeping you two reasonably dry in the storm, and chasing off that thief."

"I could have handled her." Oh, how Ree would have loved to have handled a pokémon thief.

"I'm glad to have helped," Allen said hastily. "Fine, I redact my previous statement—I kept you from chasing off that thief, which means I will sleep about two hundred percent better in the future."

"Then go off and sleep. We can handle it from here. You know, in the city. Without a gym to challenge."

"Stop being so aggressive," Harry said with a weary sigh. "Let's just go to the center and get a room..."

"You three can sign up for the tournament there, if you'd like," the man at the desk piped up. Ree gave him a look that could peel paint, but he didn't seem at all perturbed.

"Oh, no, I'm not a legal trainer. But I'll see these two to it," Allen said awkwardly, putting an arm around each girl to give them a push, getting them moving.

"W-Wait, I'm not really a trainer, either!"

"I'm not signing up alone," Ree said darkly. She could get Whippy and Lala exercising again, and battling against trained pokémon would be good for them. Harper was moving her wing more and more, even trying to flap when Ree wasn't near enough to stop her, and soon she'd have to take up practicing for flying and battling as well.

They got a small room at the pokémon center, and Allen begged out of staying with them for another night. He didn't have any more leave to burn, and a small part of Ree did feel guilty for asking him to escort them all the way. Even if he was ridiculously easy to talk into it. Ree signed her and Harry both up for the second tournament, starting halfway through the month, and as Allen pointed out to the redheaded girl, "Your training license is still valid."

He said goodbye to them after a late lunch. And after buying them more supplies for when they inevitably went off again. Ree didn't even register the kindness right away. Allen hugged them both bye, startling Harry slightly, and then made Ree promise about a dozen things to keep herself healthy and safe that she would never remember.

"He's really... nice," Harry remarked as they walked back into the center.

"I guess."

"You've only known him as long as Castelia, right?"

"Yeah. That's when he was assigned to me. And Lenore, I guess."

"Isn't he... really, um, attentive?"

Ree turned and looked at her, unsure of how to take the question. Harry fiddled with her sleeves nervously. "He's already assigned specifically to me. I don't see how that's attentive."

"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... guess or anything. He just..."

"He just what?"

"Gosh, well, he came and brought us both lunch and clothes and an umbrella on his day off? He just used his days off to stay with us, to make sure we got here safe, and he's fretted over you the entire time... He just... sort of reminds me of my mother," Harry admitted.

"Huh." She couldn't exactly argue with it. Now that she was aware of it, she had to admit that that sort of went above and beyond normal duty... didn't it? Then again, assigning an operative specifically to her was abnormal. Right? "I... guess he just worries." Well, he did see you almost kill a guy and then have a breakdown, she rationalized.

"I know. It's nice to have someone worrying like that. You and your parents still aren't talking regularly, are you?"

"No, not in... awhile." Not since Harper had gotten shot. She had only talked to them sporadically since starting this journey, and Maya and Scott even less than that. It was sort of nice to have someone watching out for her. "Well, anyway, while I'm not foaming at the mouth, let's sign up for the other tournament. Maybe there's prize money."

"D-Do I really have to sign up with you?" Harry asked pathetically.

"It'll be good for your team. Jackster might evolve soon!" Ree replied with false cheer. Back in her mind (way back in her mind), she still knew that the rest of Harry's team wouldn't evolve until her starter had. After the blitzle did, then hopefully it'd have a cascading effect, and them bam—overnight, Harry would have a kickass team. Or at least one that didn't consist of a baby candle and a baby bug as backup for the nervous wreck of a blitzle.

"I-I don't want to force him..."

But Ree would not be deterred. There were two papers tacked to the wall next to the main counter, with several columns for names. There were still several slots left for the second tournament, and scanning over the rules, it looked like trainers could only participate in one or the other. The first one already had 'CLOSED' written in marker over the top.

Sure enough, Clay's name was at the top of each paper. Apparently, as a 'special guest', he could go in both. Probably to lure in more trainers. "Looks like some of these in each one are his gym trainers. Maybe this will be some useful practice after all."

Not that she was overly worried. She had two grass pokémon and he was a ground user. Then again, the electric gym was supposed to have been easy...

"It starts on the twentieth and has a round a day. I guess the first couple days would be busy... But not all the slots are full for this one yet." Ree awkwardly leaned over so she could write their names at the bottom of the open list. They had not been hung with tall people in mind, probably just more snot-nosed kids thinking they were hot stuff. "See anything about the prizes on here?"

"If you get into the semi-finals, you can challenge Clay without going through his gym..." Harry read.

"Oh hot damn."

"But Ree—"

"Anything about money? I mean, that's useful as fuck anyway, but I wouldn't mind some extra cash. I like having actual spending money."

"I-I don't see anything, but Ree—"

"We can train with the trainers in the city for either tournament until then, and we'll have to check on Clay's battles to see what his team would be like. Ooh, we get to see his team ahead of time! And then Lala's practically healed up, and we can get Harper mobile again soon, she'd be a big help and she'd be easy with the grounded ones..."

"Ree!" Harry burst out, giving her a sharp tug on her sleeve. The brunette turned to her, confused by the outburst, and she just pointed down at the list.

She bent over and read the messy scrawl.

'Scott Felton'.

"...Well shit."

-.-.-

Next Chapter: DUN DUN DUUUUUN. Ree's not really in a good place, and it might not be the best idea for her to see Scott. Then again, with big tournaments in town, how can she avoid him? Ree puts them all on a fierce training regimen to get them up to snuff for the tourneys, conveniently mostly outside of the city in order to avoid her boyfriend, but of course, they can't have nice things on this wonderful journey! Things go wrong, as things are wont to do.