"Thats about everything, lad. I hope the wisdom of old Johnny helps you out." The sea-weathered man sitting across from Lee says as he scratches his salt-n-pepper beard. In his lap, his Vaporeon dozes lightly and barely stirs when he leans back in his desk chair.
Across from the sailor and leaning against the wall of Johnny's quarters, Lee jots down one last line in his notebook, his face locked in a grin. It's less than he had hoped, considering the sailor is a career seaman rather than a full-time trainer, but any info on a rare pokemon like Vaporeon is worth its weight in gold. "Hoho. I knew Vaporeon is a heavyweight contender, but this just cements it. I don't suppose you'd know where I can..."
The old man barks out a harsh laugh. "Son, you can buy a brand new car, or you can buy an Eevee. Aha! Your pale face tells me exactly how you feel about that."
One interesting tidbit Lee learned early on in the world of pokemon, is that cars are expensive. No one needs passenger cars when paved roads are largely restricted to cities, and unpaved roads are much easier to traverse on foot, on a bike, or on a pokemon mount. Motorcycles and scooters exist for towns and cities, but most of the examples Lee could find were little electrically powered things. Lee had to ask if Birch was joking when the subject of his jeep, and subsequently the price, came up one day. He even looked up the model of Oldale's sole taxi and found the price of such a barebones vehicle staggering.
Long and short, if you have a car, you either have serious money or serious debt.
"Well... I'll just have to save up I guess," Lee mutters, mentally counting up his money and coming up laughably short. He steps off the wall, prompting Treecko to rise from his place by his trainer's feet. "Thank you for all the info, sir. It'll be a tremendous help. I hope I didn't take up too much of your time."
"Worry about it none, lad." The old sailor waves him off. "Now off with ye. I gotta get back to it before the Captain wonders where I slinked off to," he lifts his pokemon from his lap and tosses her to his bed, where she doesn't even bother to land on her feet, but rather just flop lazily.
A glance at the wall clock makes Lee's eyes widen. Has he really been here for over an hour? "Right, thanks again. C'mon, Treecko." He turns and starts for the door when he feels Treecko leap to his shoulder. The pair exit and find themselves on the port side of the ship. A stiff and unusually chilled wind washes over the man and pokemon, throwing seawater droplets against them.
Treecko looks up, his eyes widening just the slightest amount. He taps Lee's shoulder and points to the sky in the west, the direction the ship is going. Lee follows Treecko's finger and grimaces.
Rapidly approaching from the horizon is a black, rolling storm. Lightning flashes in the clouds like a demented strobe light in a smokescreen and the faint sound of rolling thunder begins to reach his ears. Over the side of the ship, most of the Water pokemon loitering near the top of the choppy water dive deeper out of sight or turn and begin to swim away from the coming storm.
A door opens then closes behind them, and First Mate Johnny stops by the railing with Lee and Treecko, Vaporeon at his heels. He looks in the direction of the storm with a contemplative expression. "Hmm. Looks like a bad one. Back to your room with ye. Don't need you or green bean there getting swept off the ship and eaten by a Sharpedo. Bad for business and althat."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Lee murmurs. "Back to the hold we go, Treecko."
Treecko just rolls his eyes in reply.
The pair walk back to the guest side of the ship, passing a few other people yet to be corralled by the sailors watching the encroaching storm. "Tch, if worst comes to worst, I'll jump ship and make it there on my Lapras!" One young hotshot tells a pair of crewmembers as Lee and Treecko pass by. "She's won me countless contests, y'know?" He beams.
One of the sailors shakes his head. "A Lapras, eh? Might be the best pokemon for calm waters, but in a storm? Son, the rain is going to make her shell slick, then it takes one good wave to throw you off. After that, you're in the water or on a painful collision course with said shell when you come back down. Do yourself a favor and stay on the boat."
The young trainer gulps and doesn't reply.
When Lee and Treecko return to their cabin, they find Brendan has finally fallen into a nap free of any sea-sickened fits and Zinnia sits upon her bed with her pokemon out. Swablu dozes upon a pillow while Goomy has taken residence on Zinnia's folded cloak at the foot of her bed. Zinnia herself sits behind Shelgon as she polishes his metallic shell with a rag, and judging from the smell, a touch of chemical polishing compound. Shelgon himself rests with his legs folded under his bulk, eyes closed in contentment.
The dragon tamer looks up when Lee closes the door behind him gently. "You took your sweet time," she says quietly. "Get lost?"
"No," Lee answers back in an equally low voice. "Found out that the first mate on this ship has a Vaporeon, so I had to seek him out and ask about her. What a fascinating pokemon, Vaporeon. Unique with powers ripe to be abused in battle. I have to have one."
Zinnia smirks. "Well, better start finding tournaments and competitions to enter. Even an Eevee runt is going to cost you an arm and a leg. The Water stone is an extra kick while you're down, too."
"Don't remind me," Lee grunts.
"So, what are you planning on doing with this hypothetical Vaporeon?" Zinnia asks, going back to polishing Shelgon when the pokemon grumbles his displeasure at her stopping. "Something special?"
"I watched that Vaporeon turn her whole body into water and slip into a drain pipe. That alone makes it worth it to me," Lee begins, resisting the urge to draw his notebook from its place stuffed in his back pocket. "If a Vaporeon can do that, what's stopping them from morphing to water mid-fight to negate incoming blows? Maybe shapeshift mid-battle? Can they control other aspects too, like temperature or matter state? Could a Vaporeon literally turn into vapor and become untouchable? If they can do all this, what is stopping other pokemon from mimicking such a stunt? Could Vulpix turn into a literal ball of flame to dance around attacks? Treecko into a storm of leaves? I have to know how it works!"
Lee covers his mouth when he accidentally raises his voice, but Brendan barely even stirs. When he looks back to Zinnia, she stares at him with her jaw dropped just the slightest amount. "What?"
Zinnia shakes her head and closes her mouth. "Heh. Nothing. I guess I should have expected that from you," she says, her smirk back in place. "Some of that seems a little, ah, fanciful though?"
"I'm sure the prospect of keeping large pokemon was fanciful until someone invented the pokeball, too," Lee shoots back, seating himself on his bed and letting Treecko dismount from his shoulder. "Speaking of pokeballs..."
Lee takes Vulpix and Corvisquire's pokeballs from his belt and pops them open, depositing both pokemon on the floor in flashes of light. Near instantly, his connection to Vulpix is restored and it almost knocks the breath from his lungs. Idly, he's glad he sat down before releasing Vulpix, lest his legs wobble from the sudden drain of tension in his body. It only takes a tiny prod from her mind for his to show the memories of what she's missed.
He feels her rapidly shuffle through the memories like one might do a stack of photographs, taking in each one quickly but thoroughly. Vulpix stops on his heart-to-heart with Treecko with a measure of surprise, physically looking up at him. Then, a gentle, vulpine smile blossoms on her muzzle and her proud approval flows into his psyche, making Lee's insides grow warm as he grins in reply.
Corvisquire glances between Vulpix and his trainer before looking around, his beak pulling down into a dour frown that quickly transforms into a scowl.
"You don't need to look so down. Corvisquire," Lee says glibly, his grin still in place as he hugs Vulpix to his side. The vixen's fan of tails slowly wag. "Would a hug make you feel better? I've got a free arm over here."
The snap of the crow pokemon's beak makes it obvious what he thinks about the offer and what he would do to said arm.
Before anything else can be said, a crack of thunder makes everyone jump and jolts Brendan awake with a yelp. The whole ship seems to shake from the noise. All eyes turn to the porthole window, where the tropical sun is rapidly being overtaken by black clouds. White-capped waves slowly make the sway of the ship worse.
Overhead, the old PA system crackles to life. "Attention, please," The grainy, gravelly voice of a man echoes all around the ship. "This is your Captain speaking. We're headed through a storm to Dewford that is expected to last several hours. All passengers, please return to your quarters and stay put. All hands, secure cargo and stand by. Thank you." With that, the line dies, leaving the now howling wind as the only sound in the cabin.
Lee releases Vulpix and stands, quickly walking to the window and shutting it, though not fast enough as a raindrop nails him in the eye with unerring accuracy. "Ow! Fucking-!" He rubs his eye and sits back down, almost tripping and landing on Treecko when the ship rocks under him.
With a grumble, Brendan abandons trying to sleep again when the staccato of thunder and rain pelting the ship like bullets makes far too much noise. "Man, I was having a great dream too," he complains, standing and stretching. "What's up with this storm? It was perfectly clear when we left."
"We've been on the water for a couple of hours, shrimpy. Weather out here can turn deadly at the drop of a hat." Zinnia comments blithely. "Gee, I sure hope nothing bad happens to us~!"
"Don't bring that evil in here, woman. I'll toss your ass overboard myself if I don't get at least a week without some dumb adventure," Lee warns with narrowed eyes. "Everyone just hunker down and try to get comfortable. It's going to be a long day."
"Urg, easier said than done," Brendan moans, looking decidedly green when the ship lurches under them. He draws his pokeballs and releases Marshtomp and Shroomish in flashes of light before laying back on his bed. "Lee? Can you feed my pokemon, please? I don't think I can look at any food, even pokechow, without feeling like hurling..."
"That's fine, just relax and rush to the bathroom if you're actually going to puke," Lee stands and grabs Brendan's backpack, unzipping it and reaching inside for Marshtomp and Shroomish's food.
Marshtomp looks at his ill trainer with his brow creased in concern. The mudfish pokemon then turns to Lee with a low, inquiring croon. "Maaash?"
"Caw, ha." Corvisquire answers before Lee can. "Craw!" He finishes with a dry, cackling laugh that plants a frown firmly on Marshtomp's face.
"Ko, Treecko," Treecko speaks up, from his spot lounging on a pillow with his forearms behind his head. His answer is apparently much less inflammatory than Corvisquire's as Marshtomp smiles at him.
Lee turns to his sole flyer with a flat expression. "Can you not pick a fight with everyone?"
Corvisquire has the gall to smirk.
Lunch is a quick affair. Lee feeds both Brendan's pokemon as well as his own, with Zinnia following suit shortly after. Brendan, as expected, eats nothing and just lays on his bed staring at the wall. Zinnia scarfs a wrapped-up sandwich from her bag while Lee forces down a simple granola bar before the rolling of the ship begins to upset his stomach like Brendan's. With food out of the way, all the pokemon huddle on their respective trainer's bed for the rest of the ride.
Lee sits with his back against the wall on his bed, pokedex and notebook in his lap. One earbud hangs from his ear as he busies himself transcribing his verbal pokedex logs into his notebook. He has to rewind the recording several times as he gets lost watching his pokemon from the corner of his eye during this rare idle moment.
Vulpix and Treecko lay by one another, both talking between themselves in various purrs, hisses, and yips broken up by short verses of their species names. Of what they talk about, he has no idea since Vulpix doesn't seem to deem it important enough to give him a telepathic translation. Both pokemon are obviously at ease with each other, but the cool demeanor of both makes it difficult to tell if they're true friends or merely being professional.
Further behind them perched on the edge of the bed, Corvisquire does not deign to give any of them his attention, instead watching the rain pound on the window with as placid an expression as he can manage... Which is to say a resting scowl. In a dull part of Lee's mind, he's faintly amused by watching Corvisquire's head, which like many avians, remains gyroscopically stable while his body rolls with the rest of the ship under it. The crow suddenly seems to realize he's being watched and turns his head, looking at Lee with a narrowed red eye.
"I'm just admiring you, is all. No need to give me the stinkeye," Lee says, raising his hands. "You've got some good sealegs despite being built to fly."
Corvisquire visibly mulls over the words before turning back to the window without a reply.
'At least he didn't get huffy over it. I swear that bird is such a drama queen.'
Vulpix 'overhears' Lee and lets out a short, vulpine snuffle of amusement, drawing a confused look from Treecko when she stops in the middle of their conversation to do so. "Ko?"
It was then that Lee realizes that he and Vulpix have kept her telepathy under wraps since the beginning of their journey, with the only ones who know being Roxanne, Steven Stone, and Birch. "Ah, well, we've been together long enough that I should probably spill this to you and Corvi," Lee begins, drawing both Treecko and Corvisquire's eyes to him. Lee beckons his pokemon closer, forming a little circle before him. "Vulpix has telepathy and she and I use it often. If it seems like we're silently communicating somehow, then we actually are. Keep that to yourselves, yeah?" He asks, looking to Brendan and Zinnia's little camps, who don't seem to notice over the sound of the storm. "I'll tell them when a good opportunity arises."
Treecko nods easily enough and Corvisquire just rolls his eyes. The crow caws out a short, mocking note.
For a second, Lee debates asking Vulpix for clarification, but decides to go out on a limb and ask; "You already knew, didn't you, Corvi?"
The bird answers with another eyeroll.
"I should have guessed. The PokeDex said your kind are plenty intelligent, and you're already a cut above the rest so you probably figured it out quick."
The flattery has the desired effect of making Corvisquire dial back his hostility from badly hidden to merely sour. His resting scowl eases just the slightest amount.
"I don't suppose you'd be open to finally getting a physical?" Lee probes, silently crossing his fingers.
WIth that one sentence, any sort of goodwill he fostered in Corvisquire dies a brutal death as the bird pokemon hops backward and levels Lee with a glare just short of a full-on Scary Face.
'I guess that's a no...'
Both Vulpix and Treecko tense, subtly scooting between Lee and Corvisquire with their eyes locked on the latter. Corvisquire hisses, his feathers ruffling up and talons tearing through the bed comforter like razors through paper. For a single terrible moment, it looks like the three pokemon are about to tear into each other. Then Vulpix and Treecko both jump a little when Lee's hands gently plant themselves on each of their heads.
"Thats fine, Corvi. You don't have to until you're ready," Lee quietly says. He meets the crow's hate-filled red eyes with his own steady gaze. "None of us will force you, and I only want to do so to get a baseline for you, so I can help you grow. We'll do it when you're ready and only when you're ready," He rubs the cool scales of Treecko's head with one hand while the fingers of the other trace the little heart-mark on Vulpix's ear. "Right?"
Vulpix responds with an immediate nod, her hackles falling as she melts into his touch.
Treecko rolls his twig around in his mouth, silently mulling over Lee's words. Then to his trainer's relief, the gecko pokemon backs down as well, looking away from Corvisquire with a dismissive huff.
Slowly, Corvisquire's feathers lower back into place, but he still keeps his piercing eyes cycling between all of them for a minute with his wings tensed to flap.
"Tell you what," Lee breaks the silence again, looking between his pokemon. "Vulpix is due for a check-up. Once we're back on solid land, you can watch and see what the actual procedure is, Corvi. It's nothing invasive or painful, then you can decide. We'll not talk about it anymore until then, okay?"
Corvisquire finally folds his wings back up with an imperious sniff, then turns back to watching the rain.
The rest of the trip through the storm was turbulent, tense, and generally miserable. The bad weather easily added over two hours to the voyage, changing their arrival from just before 8pm to well after 10pm.
Weary, hungry, and ill-rested, Lee, a shoulder-riding Vulpix, Brendan, and Zinnia trudge off the ship into Dewford's port at the end of the group of passengers. In the distance, Dewford proper illuminates the skyline with city lights.
"Urh, sweet land, I'll never take you for granted again," Brendan moans, falling to his knees on the concrete dock, then down spread-eagle on his belly. "Land, marry me."
"Pretty sure most depictions of Groudon are male, Brendan," Lee says, rolling his shoulders as best he can without jostling Vulpix. One makes a satisfying pop and fills him with a second-long burst of vigor. "I'm sure he'd be flattered, though."
"...Gro-who?" Brendan asks, slowly lifting himself off the ground.
At Zinnia's now intense stare, Lee feels as if he misspoke. "Ah, Groudon. A legendary pokemon said to have created the land and continents. Take that as you will," he says, pointedly ignoring the stares from his friends. He makes a dismissive wave with his hand and quickly continues. "Now, let's get to town and find a hotel, and maybe a place that does late-night take-out. I'm done with today."
He starts walking. After a moment, Brendan and Zinnia's footsteps come from behind as the two fall into step on either side of him. For several minutes their little party walks in silence, and relief muted by exhaustion begins to fill Lee as no more questions come from Brendan or Zinnia.
"So, not many people know about Groudon, let alone so much about it. You're still a pretty fresh trainer, so how did you hear about it?" Zinnia asks, posture innocent but eyes probing.
...Nevermind. He still has enough energy to be nervous.
"Just..." Lee's mouth freezes when Vulpix interrupts his thought by grabbing the words in his mind before they can make it to his mouth. 'Just because I'm a new trainer does not mean I didn't know about pokemon' would have outed him to Brendan, who was there when Oak recited the isolated region story. Before Lee can question just how Vulpix did what she did, he feels her hot breath on his neck as she feeds him a new answer. "Just... some research is all. I did work with Professor Birch for a month before setting out, and he's got a lot of reading material."
If Zinnia is disappointed with the answer, it does not show. Instead, she hums under her breath. "Like that book about my tribe?"
'Fuck off, Zinnia. Why are you doing this when I'm tired?' Lee frowns. "Not exactly. That one..." He stops as Vulpix double checks his answer, then silently approves when it leaves no open ends. "...I found it on a sketchy e-book site. It ended up giving my old phone a virus that a factory reset couldn't fix, so while it was a neat read, I had to trash my phone afterward. Bad trade, all things considered."
That makes Zinnia frown just the slightest amount. "What site?"
"Couldn't tell you. I found it one sleepless night and don't remember."
The draconid woman finally stops asking questions and turns to face forward. A quick glance to Brendan shows the boy isn't listening at all, instead focusing on keeping his dead-tired self moving.
'Lies upon lies upon lies. One day we'll be caught and have to come clean.' Lee tries his hardest to care, but his growling stomach and leaden limbs make even being anxious a hard task. 'It's a problem for another time.'
The three trainers and single pokemon wander from the docks into Dewford, finding it to be larger than Oldale, but definitely smaller than Rustboro. Upscale houses line much of the beach space and one complex near the end by the cliffs must be a resort of some kind. The vibrant nightlife filled with people and bright signs as marks much of the town as a tourist attraction, and it's made even more apparent when Lee, Brendan, and Zinnia step out of a side-street into a main-street lined with bars, restaurants, and shops filled with different curios and all manner of indulgent pleasures. People and pokemon pack the street, their voices mixing with the music all the different locations play and the cheering of a small crowd around a Drowzee street performer, who levitates great balls of water and morphs them into fantastical shapes.
As they walk, Brendan's energy seems to come back with all the excitement around him. His head turns every which way with a smile firmly planted on his face. "Look at all of this! We can't go until we've checked everything out!" A bright candy shop with a Lickitounge painted on the window and a shop offering custom pokeball engravings draw his eyes the most.
Lee pulls his attention away from a rich-smelling tobacco shop when Vulpix nips his ear. 'Yeah yeah, two months cold turkey and all. No need to get bitey. I still want a fancy Cuban, though... Or a cigar from wherever this planet's Cuba is.' He turns to Brendan. "You have fun, hotrod. I'm sticking to my plan of eating and going to bed. I'll text you the hotel and room number. Call if shit gets crazy."
The boy doesn't need any more permission than that and bolts headfirst into the engraving shop, but not before calling back; "You're such an old man! Live a little!"
Lee shakes his head and turns to Zinnia. "You bolting too?"
She opens her mouth to answer, but the ravenous growl of her stomach answers better than any words can. The tanned woman blushes and clears her throat. "A meal sounds good. Lead away."
The pair weave through the crowd further down the road, where the throngs of people thin out somewhat, before slipping into a rustic, open-air bar they don't even bother checking the name of. They find an open table near the back, and after Zinnia throws her cloak over the back of her chair and Vulpix hops off Lee's shoulder, the trainers sit.
"Fucking hell, we're getting a faster boat for the return trip," Lee complains as he feels Vulpix lay across his boots and curl up for a nap. "Twelve hours? Miss me with that."
Zinnia snorts. "Easy for you to say, mister moneybags. I'm not a government goon, so I don't get paid to go out and have fun. I have to source all of my money myself, and I'm not going to blow it on a boat ride of all things when hitching a ride with a cargo ship is way cheaper," she says, propping an elbow on the table.
Before Lee can reply, a young waitress happens by with a pair of menus. "Hello! Drinks to start?"
"Rum and cola, thanks. Don't be afraid of being heavy-handed with the rum," Lee says, popping open his menu to find some standard sports bar fare inside.
"Hrmmm..." Zinnia glances at the back of the menu where all the drinks are listed. "Tequila Sunrise, please."
The waitress nods and jots everything down on a little notepad. "Could I see your ID, ma'am?"
Zinnia's face sours, much to Lee's silent amusement, before she fishes her wallet out and shows the ID to the waitress, who looks at it closely and smiles. "Thank you!"
With that, she hurries off to another table.
"Why the look? Isn't it a compliment to you that you got ID'd?" Lee asks with a smirk still lingering in his face. 'What's the drinking age in Hoenn? Zinnia is only nineteen-ish if I recall.' He looks past her to the bar and spies a Chatot preening it's wings. It stands upon a sign saying We ID. No under 18. 'Ah.'
"How come you didn't get carded?" Zinnia whines rather than answers. "That's a load of shit."
Lee pats the left side of his face where his scars lay. "These, probably. Adds an instant ten years. Glad they're finally good for something."
Zinnia stares at the burns for a moment. "I never asked. Where did you get those? They almost look like..."
"Burns?" Lee finishes, feeling a sardonic smile pulling uncomfortably at said burns. "They are. Before you ask, let's just say the only thing worse than playing with fire and getting burned, is someone else playing with fire and burning you. An accident, and we'll leave it at that." Under the table, he can feel Vulpix listening closely.
Zinnia frowns at the non-answer.
"Now let me ask you some uncomfortable personal things," Lee leans back in his chair. "What's this mission the draconid tribe put you up to? That e-book had bits of lore and whatnot, but nothing concrete."
The waitress chooses that time to drop their drinks off. A rather plain glass of brown liquor is placed on Lee's side of the table while Zinnia gets a much more flamboyant red and yellow drink in a tall glass. "Anyone ready to order their meals?"
"Sampler for two, please," Lee says, surprising Zinnia as he hands his menu over. He shoots her a look and she too hands in her menu. "All of this on one check, too."
Again, the waitress jots down the order and hurries off. "Back soon!"
"Not that I'm not grateful, but why?" Zinnia blinks.
The scarred man takes a chaste sip of his drink first, smiling when it goes down smooth. "You were just bitching about being broke, and you did get me breakfast so I'm just returning the favor."
"Yeah, but I don't think a three credit snack and a full dinner and drinks really compare," the dragon tamer points out, lifting her own drink for a sip. She smirks. "Mister Henson, are you trying the old wine-n-dine on me? The fastest way to a draconid's heart is her stomach, after all."
"That fruity drink of yours is thirteen credits," Lee deadpans, making Zinnia choke as her eyes bug out. He smiles at the reaction and rests his head in a propped up hand. "Again, you were just bitching about not having money, and I'm a cool guy like that. Besides, I'm married to my job now and I'm certain Vulpix wouldn't be amused if I made googly eyes at another female. Right, love?"
Under the table, Vulpix chuffs.
Zinnia grumbles into another sip of her drink. "Funny how you mentioned draconid lore, earlier. I'm actually the Lorekeeper of the Draconid Tribe."
"And what does a lorekeeper do?" Lee asked, an eyebrow raised. "Obviously not anything scholarly like it might suggest since you're out here with us."
When Zinnia doesn't answer, instead looking down at the table with a conflicted expression, Lee relents. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
The tanned woman is silent for another few seconds before answering. "The Lorekeeper... is supposed to be the strongest of the tribe. There aren't a lot of us, so it falls to the Lorekeeper to be strong enough to survive if the rest of the tribe does not, or to undertake special missions for the good of the tribe. That's what I'm doing, currently. The Lorekeeper before me, shes... Not around anymore, and she chose me as the next Lorekeeper before she passed. I and my pokemon have to become strong to fill the shoes she left behind, so the draconids can live through me were something unthinkable to happen."
Suddenly, much of Zinnia's ruthlessness and manic eagerness to battle makes sense. "Swablu would have gained nothing from that battle, so why bother?" Her words from her battle with Ash echo inside Lee's head.
Dying wishes make the most dogmatic people.
Lee nods, swirling his rum in its glass before taking a long pull from it. The liquor is starting to get unpleasantly warm. He sets the glass back down. "She was special to you, the last Lorekeeper?"
Zinnia nods silently, not looking at him.
"What was her name?"
The woman across from him stops halfway through a pull of her Sunrise, the bright colors of it out of place in the somber atmosphere. "Aster," she says after a long moment, her face morphing into a blank mask.
'I thought her Whismer was named Aster? Come to think of it...' Lee thinks back, never recalling such a pokemon in Zinnia's ownership in the weeks he's known her. 'Another timeline thing I fucked up?'
"Aster, huh?" Lee drains the last of his glass. "You're a good trainer, Zinnia. She'd be proud, I think."
Her breath hitches and the stoic mask upon her face cracks, showing something underneath too briefly for Lee to identify. Then without any preamble, she throws her head back and laughs. "Ha! Arceus above, a few sips of tequila and I get all sappy. I was hoping to loosen your lips, not the other way around. How about this, since I didn't get what I want outta you, you've got to help me with something tomorrow."
"A free dinner wasn't enough for you?" Lee asks, shaking his head and holding his hands out in the universally recognized 'really?' pose.
Zinnia easily ignores him and reaches into her back pocket to pull out a crumpled flier. She smooths it out as best she can and hands it to Lee, who takes it and looks it over.
BRAWL ON THE BEACH!
Double Pokemon Battle Tournament!
Bring the whole family! Shops, foodstands, games, music, battles, and more!
Celebrate the new league year with a thrilling tournament on Dewford Island's own white sands! Contestants will battle two-on-two until only one team is left standing! The winner's will receive a shared prize of $10,000 and the bragging rights of being Dewford's best Brawl On The Beach Duo!
The rest of the flier details the rest, like the bands showing up, the restaurants setting up stands, and a little section at the bottom with the usual legal disclaimer.
"Nothing against shrimpy, but I feel like the chances of a win are better if it's you and me," Zinnia says as Lee sets the flier down. "Plus you have to have three pokemon anyway, so unless he has a new one by tomorrow morning, he's out."
"I dunno..." Even with the warming booze in his stomach, Lee still bites his lip as a little flare of anxiety flickers inside him.
"C'mon, it'll be fun!" Zinnia argues. "I'll even split the prize with you~!"
The scarred man snorts. "You're so generous..."
"But really, I am kinda broke and it's money to put towards that Eevee you want," she presses. "Unless you want to do bitch work for that school, this is the fastest way to get one."
That makes Lee's resistance crumble. With a sigh, he agrees. "Alright, I'm in. I need to register for a gym match and give Vulpix and possibly Corvisquire a check-up first thing tomorrow though."
Zinnia grins. "Fine with me. We need to get proper attire, too, so factor that in."
"Duh, look at yourself!"
Lee slowly looks down at his clothes. They're the same camo green jacket, black shirt, jeans, boots, and gloves he normally wears. "Whats wrong with my clothes?"
Zinnia groans and drains the rest of her Sunrise in one unlady-like gulp. "You drive me to drink, you know that? You can't go to a beach like that! You need a speedo and maybe some crocs if you insist on being a nerd."
He glares back at her. "I'll do a lot of things, but wearing crocs and a speedo at once is not one of them."
"Here you are! Sorry for your wait!"
The waitress walks back with a huge tray of assorted bar food and sets it down on their table, making Zinnia's eyes light up.
Lee quickly makes a plate for himself before Zinnia's grabby hands can take everything. "Jeez, woman. Where do you put it all?"
His table partner laughs past a bite of an onion ring. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
The rest of the evening is naught but small talk as two traveling companions slowly turn into actual friends.