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The medical center had an odd quietness at this time of day. The previous times you'd entered there'd been at least one or two people in the lobby mulling about, but right now it was empty save the bored-looking receptionist. The likely-a-pokegirl gave you a look as you greeted her in turn with a nod.

Your steps led to the room you'd rented; Diane was close behind, quiet, silently following along. You wished you could read her thoughts, as the nurse looked entirely driven towards the thought of what was to come and not the things that had been said. You guessed that was the right way to think about things right now- Kiara was going to be what she was going to focus on after all.

Kiara was released into the room, and the infernal looked around before she turned towards you, her heart-shaped face sporting a coy grin. "Time for a snack?"

"No," you replied flatly, gesturing at Diane to enter the room. You gave the nurse the infernal's sphere. "Patch up her tail, recall her, get some rest. Food if you need it too, the backpack's at the side of the bed."

"Yes, Master." Diane was looking at Kiara as if she was just about ready to tear out the infernal's throat.

"Are you going to leave us all alone with nothing to do?" The infernal did a pretend pout at you, batting her eyelashes.

Time alone, right, nothing to do, lots of time for the mind to wander around. Prisons were a punishment because they forced you into a state of isolation. "Might as well use the time to rest. The alternative is having Diane find out how sensitive she can make your tail."

That sobered up the infernal fast, her tail decidedly twitching away from the nurse.

"For you, Diane, just rest, last night you lost a lot of sleep," you declared. "We'll talk about potential things to do later."

The door closed with a hiss, and your mind mulled.

Books, words, English, teaching Monica should definitely be an activity and... You shook your head. Silence, blessed silence. You moved towards the cafeteria, water, food, something to chew on and a moment to relax. You pulled out the dex and had been just about ready to write down some notes when you remembered the assistant’s words. He'd checked your profile, he'd seen everything you'd done since you became a tamer.

Right, this piece of tech was yet another thing you couldn't trust.

Much to your shock, said device dinged right as you'd been glaring, as if sensing your displeasure and wanting to distract you. It was a message from Kat. She was asking to meet up as soon as you could at... an address you didn't know where it was. You gave a short confirmation and paused as you glanced at Felix's previous email. Carefully, you read it over again.

Succubi tend to see things in terms of power, and people who're kind do not mesh very well with that.

Power.

You scratched your chin, the succubus respected "power"... You had to laugh a little at the word. What did that even mean? She could kill you with barely a consideration, what did "having power" mean in this context? Every day it was becoming more apparent words didn't mean the same things as they used to. The context has changed, humanity has changed. Everything's changed.

Your head throbbed slightly, but you ignored it in favour of continuing through your thoughts.

The whole thing felt like it was just the tip of the iceberg. Pokegirls were sapient, yet it was clear instincts were stronger in some shape or form. Biological essentialism... boy was that a term that came with its own flood of headaches. At what point did sapience end and instincts begin? How predictable was a tamed pokegirls' behaviour based purely on their breed? How much was actually just some social role being pushed onto them? The fact each of the pokegirls had a feral state that appeared far more deterministic made it all the more complicated.

A part of you wondered if you'd be any less confused if you'd decanted yourself into psychology rather than chemistry. The teacher inside of you wanted to laugh and weep at the same time.

What came out instead was a deep sigh. You had troubles, you were an adult, what did adults do when they had problems? You were fairly sure that, had you asked this to Alice, the response might have involved "drinking" somewhere as a joke. Opting to steer clear of that option, you aimed for the next best thing. You prepared a mail explaining the... update to the Kiara situation to Felix.

And sent.

A long sip of water, you glared at the dex. You'd want to get yourself some pencils and paper when you'd get the chance. For now, the note-taking function would do even if you couldn't trust the little piece of technology to not tattle.

Anyway... what to do... what to do... How did you handle four relationships at the same time? Your thoughts once more bounced towards a classroom. What would you do were they, say, students? "Well, I wouldn't fuck them, that's for one," you snorted loudly, feeling an edge of grim humour in your own words.

Placing the dex away, you opted to chew on the situation in the back of your head for the time being. As much as you'd love to just spend the day not having to worry about things, you hadn't gotten a good enough grasp on Raven to really have a clear picture about where she was coming from.

Might as well talk to her on the way to wherever Kat was.

You checked the map the dex displayed. It didn't tell you the fastest route, but did point out the location of the address the young woman had handed over. That would have to do.

Outside, the high noon sun had passed not that long ago; the number of people mulling about had shrunk, probably lunch hours. You released Monica, watching the feline look around for a long handful of seconds before focusing back on you. "Rick," she declared with that little big smile that said more than any word could.

She hugged you, to which your scoff was an empty complaint. "Could you protect me? I'm going to bring Raven out."

"Raven safe," she spoke with no doubt or hesitation.

"Well, wish I could trust her that quickly," you replied, prying yourself away from her hug before releasing the Arachnae.

She appeared kneeling, looked around for a moment, and stood demurely, dusting her legs. "Thank you for the healing, Master. I regret not having been able to properly handle the Succubus. What should my punishment be?"

"No punishment, we all underestimated her." You shook your head- it seemed Raven came from a rather strict culture. "Honestly, I suspect the only real way to tire Kiara out would involve a second bigger Kiara, and I'd rather not find out what that might cause to the world as a whole."

"Having two Succubi within the same harem does tend to create a great deal of friction, or so I have heard," she nodded.

So much for the attempt at a joke. "Let's walk. I'd want to know more about you, Raven, since you're joining the team and all that."

Another short nod. "There is little worth mentioning, Master, I was put through a level 5 eight years ago due to a crime I'd committed. The Mistress had taken me in due to my silk, and taught me to weave."

Those words sounded awfully similar to Diane's own retelling of her life. "Why did you stop using the words like 'sama'?"

"Would Master like me to? I'd heard from Kiara that they were not used in this land," she explained softly.

"Erm, whichever you're most comfortable with," you replied.

Another nod. "Very well, Master," she proclaimed.

The Arachnae continued her walk next to you, quietly gazing at the people milling about, her hands demurely placed in front of her. Her short silver hair moved with the breeze, and she kept most of her eyes save two closed as she moved. It almost looked like she was trying to appear as if a doll or at least as inoffensive as possible. You had a very hard time trying to read that, her focus remained purely ahead, her steps closely measured.

How should you crack through this? "Do you have any hobbies?" You threw the question into the air.

"I find weaving to be most enjoyable, Master." And as soon as she said this she became quiet again.

"Do you... design clothes?"

"Oh, no, that would be above my station, Master, the Mistress would always design clothes for me to weave." The answer was controlled, her smile practised, the slight bow of her head a reinforcement of that demure appearance. And yet, you noticed a heartbeat of hesitation. "Would... Master wish me to weave clothes?"

"I'm certainly in a shortage of good clothes, and your silk is quite soft," you replied, trying to lean into that topic. "What would you need to be able to weave something?"

"It would mostly depend on the desired quality, unfortunately without a loom I do not believe I'd be able to do anything too complex or durable," she said, another instant of hesitation as her eyes looked at you- there was a short moment of panic. She rushed to speak again. "Which is not to say I need a loom, Master, I am perfectly able to weave with only my hands and legs in my other form."

Huh? "No need to worry, I'm not exactly in a stable condition right now," you tried to be reassuring, wondering where that had come from. "I'd understand if you'd be more comfortable with someone that had the resources to help you bring out your... potential..." You blinked for a moment, scratching your chin.

"Rick?" Monica spoke up as she bumped slightly into you, leaning down to look at you.

You shook your head. "No, it's nothing. Just a thought." You pulled out the dex for a moment, opening the note taker and writing down a quick 'Teaching books? Needles? Thread? Chalk?' and carrying on, turning back to Raven. "Anyway, if you think you can help with your weaving, I'm very interested in the idea. I've got no clue how any of that works, so learning about it seems fascinating."

That cracked the mask a little, ever so slightly a smile reached her lips, she bowed her head in a slight nod. "I would be happy to show you, Master."

"And what about you?" You asked before the silence returned. "Do you have anything you'd be interested in learning? I do happen to be a teacher."

"A... teacher?"

"Chemistry, for the most part," you replied, then shrugged a little. "Though now that I say it out loud it's probably not something that would seem interesting."

Raven looked at you for a moment before turning towards the front, only keeping you in the corner of her eye. "And is it customary for... teachers... to share their knowledge with their pokegirls?"

"I'm not exactly a stickler to customs," you avoided the question, mostly because you weren't too sure about the answer yourself. You probably didn't want to know either way.

You'd expected a response, a follow-up perhaps, but none was made, as the arachnid nodded again and continued walking quietly down the road. It made you want to sigh, but you held back in case that might give her the wrong impression. Your eyes turned to Monica, who beamed at you with a wide smile as soon as she'd noticed. A gesture you returned before considering what to do.

Not finding anything specific that wouldn't feel forced or might be taken the wrong way, you opted to remain quiet, hoping that maybe Raven would feel the urge to start some conversation herself.

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Ravnicrasol

Bio: Got into writing English fiction out of practice.

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