Saturday, September 10th, 302AS
Isis, Jade Islands League
“It's no use. All I can find are rumors that it works and a bunch of researchers saying it won't.” Constance took her eyes away from the computer monitor and spun in the chair to face Vince, who was sitting on the bed. “You really think a psychic could help her remember anything?”
Vince pushed his palms against his eyes and then swept his fingers through his hair. “I don't know.”
Constance walked over and sat down on the bed next to him. “If no one thinks this will work Vince, maybe we should just run her through a complete cycle. Is it really fair for Hanako to wait only to find out she's really gone?” She ran a hand along his cheek, “Is it fair to you? You're already torn up over this. What are you going to do if you can't save her?”
“I. Don't. Know! Okay?!” Vince stood up and started to pace back and forth for a short distance. “But I can't just give up without trying. Without at least showing her to someone who would have an idea of what we could do. She'll be a completely different person, but she'll still look the same, sound the same, smell the same; you think that'd be fair to Hanako?! There's no way she would get it. I don't even know how to tell her what happened!” Vince screamed and struck the wall with both hands before leaning his head against it. He didn't hear the door to the room open.
“I thought they'd do better with me. I thought I could keep them together. I thought- I wanted to take care of them. But now...” He slumped to the floor, still facing the wall as he sat with his head hung low. “They trusted me. Tuuli trusted me. Hana trusted me. She trusted me with her life, and Hanako's. I couldn't even keep them safe.”
Vince's heart froze when he felt someone very small wrapped their arms around his neck from behind. “I am safe here. Safe with you, master.” Tiny arms were hugging him fiercely, like if she had the strength Hanako would squeeze all of the pain out of him.
Vince didn't say anything, he didn't move until the pokekit released him and then he only turned so he could see her. She was sad and she was scared. It was obvious she had been crying. Reshmi stood just inside the door, and both her and Constance seemed too nervous to breathe. “Leshmi says that Mama can't wake up.” Vince swallowed hard and nodded. “And... Leshmi says that she won't know Hanako when she can wake up?” Vince nodded again. “Master helped Mama before. Help Mama again.”
“I... can't. This is different, Hanako. I can't help her.” A ball of tears and trembling pokekit threw itself into Vince's lap. For an eternity Vince was nothing more than a fixture, holding still as Hanako cried herself to the point of exhaustion. Then Reshmi came over and gently scooped her up out of Vince's lap.
Vince looked painfully up to his Arachnae. “You told her?”
She nodded. “As best as I could. She kept asking about Hana, but you didn't seem like you... I'm sorry.”
“No... No it's okay.” Vince sighed. He pulled Hanako's ball off of his belt. “You think she feels safe, in there?”
“I do.” Constance nodded to affirm Reshmi's words. Vince recalled the pokekit and then stood up wearily.
“Constance, whose night is it?”
The Tick-Tock pulled Vince towards the bed. “It's your night, you get to choose. If you just want to go to sleep, that's fine.” Vince nodded tiredly, and dropped onto the bed without removing even his shoes. One of the two 'girls he had out did it for him, and then they both crawled into bed with him and snuggled up close, one on each side.
Thursday, September 15th, 302AS
Isis, Jade Islands League
Vince had his entire harem out. He paced back and forth while Constance, Reshmi, Ava, and Natsumi all watched him with varying degrees of intencity. “So, I've been thinking. I know I was going for badges up until...” Vince stopped pacing to run his fingers through his hair. “...a little while ago, but I think I'm going to change focus. There's something I want to try out here, in Isis. So we'll be staying a while, and probably won't be doing much feral hunting. Or any fighting at all, really. Just what we need to have enough bounty points to get by.
“You girls should still train, some, so you don't get rusty. Constance will make sure. I'll get back to challenging gyms soon, just... Like I said, something I want to try to do. I think it should help.”
Constance and Reshmi both accepted that. Ava wasn't reacting at all. Natsumi let out a huff, and looked like she was about to say something when Constance shot her a dirty look. The Sayjin paused for a second, then continued with what she was going to say anyway. “No offense master, but it's a waste of my abilities if we're not going to be fighting. I thought you said we would be challenging the gym here when we arrived.”
“THING'VE CHANGED! OKAY?!” Ava nearly jumped out of her skin, Constance and Reshmi merely flinched. Natsumi seemed to be struggling with the idea of being ashamed or offended. Vince recalled her before she could decide. “Anyway... that's all I wanted to say. Tomorrow I'm going out into the city but you girls can do whatever today.”
Friday, September 16th, 302AS
Institute for Studies Into Sorcery, Isis, Jade Islands League
“I'll tell you one last time, even if it was the proper time to apply for admission and if you had the outstanding academic records we look for instead of dropping out of basic schools after failing a year, you have so little potential you may as well have no magical talent what-so-ever. You can not be taught here. Quit wasting my time.”
Vince grabbed the shoulder of the administrator for Jade Islands League's first and largest magical academy as she turned to walk away. “Look, there has to be something I can learn. Just healing magic, that's all I want to know.”
“UNHAND ME!” Vince was sent flying by an invisible wall of force. The mage was glaring at him angrily as a pokegirl ran up to investigate the commotion.
“Is everything alright here, ma'am, sir?”
“This pokeblooded brute assaulted me when I told him he wouldn't be accepted into our school!”
Vince jumped to his feet and was about to shout back an unpleasant response when the pokegirl spoke up. “Actually ma'am, I don't think he had any violent intent. To me it only seemed that he wanted to speak with you.”
“Well,” the mage jerked her robe back into place from where the fabric had been a little messed up, “he should still keep his hands to himself. But I suppose you're right and I overreacted.” She briskly marched off, and the pokegirl that had interfered shook her head and turned to Vince. She had green eyes, one vivid green and the other cool with a lot of blue mixed in. Her blue hair fell to about her jawline, and had purple and red streaks.
“It's... you.” Vince remembered the Officer Jenny but also remembered he never knew a name to call her.
She apparently still didn't have one because her response was only, “Yeah, me. I thought I told you you didn't have to get in trouble if you wanted to see me again?” Vince gave a half-hearted smile. “So what was that about?”
“I was hoping I could learn healing magic, but apparently I'm useless at that too.”
The Officer Jenny sighed. “You sound like I feel. I was transferred here, but they don't really need any more 'Jennies, so I'm on reserve. Nothing to do all day so I've just taken to randomly wandering the streets to pretend to be doing something useful. Still better than sitting in my ball. Why do you want to learn healing magic? You don't seem like the healing type.”
Vince sighed. “I'd rather not talk about it here.”
The Officer Jenny nodded her head. “I know a place that's got good coffee, if you want to go there.”
There was a short wait to have their order taken, and then when the waitress came to them she turned right back around and got the manager. He came up to their table and spoke quietly to the Officer Jenny. “Ah, um, you. I still have not been reimbursed for your previous orders. Until I get those credits from the police I'm afraid I'm going to have to refuse to serve you here.”
The Officer Jenny was stunned. “I, I informed the chief about that a week ago. She should have taken care of...”
“Well, she hasn't. Now sir, unless you intend to order something, I'm going to have to ask you both to leave.”
Vince pulled out his pokedex. “I'll just have a danish and a glass of milk. And I'll cover her order this time.”
They got their orders and Vince just looked at the Officer Jenny's drink. “That's not coffee.”
“Yes it is.” She responded before taking a sip of the iced drink topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. “Thanks, by the way. I can't believe the chief hasn't taken care of this yet. I reminded her a week ago. She's known since last month.” She took another long sip. “Honestly, I sleep in a pokecenter's storage room on a bedroll. I eat all of my meals out of the cafeteria there. This little bit of allowance I get, and I can't even spend it on coffee? Oh, but you were going to share your misery first. What happened with you, and why'd you want to learn magic?”
Vince sighed and put the half eaten danish back on the plate. “I was... attacked by a group of three pokegirl thieves. I lost one of my 'girls and another one had her mind wiped before the JILF was able to rescue me... I still feel like I should have been able to do something, so I thought if I could heal them when they were fighting-” Vince shook his head. “But I won't be able to learn, so so much for that idea.”
“I'm so sorry. Gods, I feel like such a selfish bitch, going on about coffee when you... Are you ok? What about the rest of your 'girls?” Everything was blurted out in one breath as the straw she'd been drinking out of fell onto the table.
“We're doing better... I still don't feel ready to get back on the Ponytaur just yet. I still can't shake the feeling that I could have done more.” The Officer Jenny just put her hand on his and gave him a sympathetic look. Vince suddenly changed the topic. “Hey, have you ever seen a human use a pokegirl technique? I always thought it was some crazy trick they did broadcasting fights from Capital or Crimson. I even tried to learn how. My mom said I got some of them right, just didn't have enough power to make them work.”
The Officer Jenny paused for a moment, as if she was considering why Vince would ask that. “Actually... I have. There's a guy here in Isis that puts on shows and stuff in the areas designated for battling. Fights against his own harem. He admits that a lot of it is tricks and rehearsal, but I know I've seen him really use the abilities. His name's Aiden Chase, he might be out there today even.”
“Really?” Vince perked up. “That would be something to see, even if it's just to figure out how he's faking it.” He chugged the rest of the milk he'd ordered and then picked up the half eaten danish. “Would you mind showing me where he usually is after I run back to the pokecenter and grab my 'girls?”
The Officer Jenny sipped at her drink again. “Sure. I'll wait here.”
There was a small group of people gathered around. They all jumped back when a shower of rock was sent spraying over their heads, but the bits of debris hit a dome shaped barrier and fell down within the ring. Constance and the Officer Jenny were walking with Vince, and as they got close enough to see in the ring, they saw the man who must have been Aiden. It was hard to place his age exactly. He could be anywhere from early thirties to late forties, maybe even older. His hair was a dull blonde color, and his eyes were green. He kept in shape, but that much was obvious from what he was doing. A well toned Elf breed was causing a pile of stones to levitate, and the human was waiting for them to be sent flying at him before he smashed them in the air with an expertly applied punch or kick. There was a silver colored glow that would intensify every time he struck. “See, right there. I think he's using Rock Punch. What he says anyway.”
The man kept destroying all of the rocks sent his way until the entire pile of them had been expired; then he wound up a punch and threw it in the direction of the Pinielf, as Vince's 'dex identified it. There was too much of a distance between them for the technique to connect, but Vince could see the dust in the air dragged in a spiral by an unseen force that followed the same vector as Aiden's fist. The blast of air struck the Pinielf in the chest, and although she barely even reacted to the technique, she bowed down in front of the human, who turned and bowed to the applauding onlookers.
“Now then, I know I ask this and no one ever takes me up on it, but any challengers?” Most everyone gathered laughed at the joke, but the ones standing near Vince stood out of the way as he waved his hand in the air.
“Sure, why not?” Vince and the two pokegirls with him took advantage of everyone else moving around him to get closer to the battle area. Aiden looked at him with a surprised look on his face. Vince brought a pair of wrist wraps out of his pokepack before shrugging it off and handing it to his alpha.
The older man grinned as Vince stepped into the ring. “Very well then. And what is the name of our young challenger?”
“Vince,” he replied curtly.
Aiden put his hands up in a guard position. “Alright Vince, let's see what you can do.” Vince took the invitation and attacked first, making a quick jab that was slapped away. The two faced each other for a moment, bouncing on their heels, waiting for the other to strike or lower their guard. Vince spotted an opening in Aiden's guard and launched a flurry of punches, but as soon as he attacked the hole wasn't there anymore and Aiden avoided them again. The older man watched Vince's attacks with a strange interest. He was always on the defensive and Vince let out a growl in his head at the thought that the man was testing him. But since he wasn't sure how strong the older human really was, Vince had been holding back too.
As a heavily gifted human with over ten years of training, there were really only two types of humans Vince thought could beat him in a fight. Those who were armed, and those who were masters at their chosen discipline. Since the man was using his bare hands, he had to be the latter. Even after Vince stopped holding back, Aiden was still avoiding everything. And he had this smile growing on his face with each attack. It wasn't a confident smile, but a satisfied one. Like he was evaluating Vince with each punch the young man threw. “Tell me Vince, your mother trained you?”
Vince lightened up his attacks so he could respond. “Yeah, how'd you know?”
Aiden nodded knowingly and still managed to keep blocking and dodging attacks. “You just seem like the kind of young man that'd grow up with a fighting type mother. And I recognize the style you use. I taught it to a Tyamazon I had a couple decades ago. Good to see she's passed it on to her son.”
“My mom's a Herochan, not a Tyamazon.”
“Of course she's a Herochan is, but Pritha was a Tyamazon when I first tamed her.” Vince froze in the middle of their sparring match and Aiden chose that moment to finally attack, knocking Vince flat to the ground. The older man went to offer Vince a hand but Constance and the Officer Jenny were already helping him up. “Hm. If you wouldn't mind, Vince, I'd like to have you and the two pokgirls accompanying you over to my place for dinner.”
Vince looked at the Officer Jenny, eyes wide at the revelation his mind was slowly piecing together. “Did you know?”
“Did I know wha-”
“It was serendipity, Vince, but I'm glad for the chance. Now, about dinner?”
Aiden Chase lived in a rather nice home. The front lawn was well kept, the same with the back so far as Vince could see. The entire property was enclosed in a low stone wall, and the building itself had stones set in the walls decoratively. The top branches of a single tree peaked over top of the roof.
Vince, Constance, and the Officer Jenny who had been invited to come too all followed Aiden and his Pinielf in. As they were taking off their shoes in the entryway a pokegirl that looked to be a Dark Elf evolution came up to greet her master. “Welcome home master, oh. Guests?”
Aiden nodded. “For dinner.”
The grey skinned elf type nodded. She had a lighter shade of skin than most other Dark Elves Vince had seen, and her hair was black with a few purple streaks in her bangs. “Very well then. Welcome.”
“We can take care of all of the introductions at dinner, but this is my Archmage, Shannon. Vince, do you have any other 'girls put up? Your entire harem's welcome to eat with us.”
“Uh, yeah. I've got four put up right now.” Shannon nodded and then went out of sight.
Aiden gestured towards a living room area with a lot of sofas. “You're free to make yourselves at home, though after a few minutes I'd like to have a word with you in my study, Vince.”
The study walls were lined with bookshelves, and a desk was littered with open books and scrolls. Aiden left the door open a crack as the two men entered. “So, questions?”
Vince had a ton of questions, but didn't feel like asking all of them. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Interesting first question given the situation. Or maybe not. I'm taking a chance to get to know you. I can understand if you don't want to stick around, but Shannon's probably started dinner for seven more than usual, so I'd appreciate if you'd at least stay to help us eat it all.”
Vince clenched his fists. “So you're really... Pritha's old tamer.” Aiden nodded. “Why did you give her away? You had to know how much it hurt her. I still can see how much you hurt her.”
For a second there was a spark of anger in the older man's eyes, but it vanished before he spoke. “I left Pritha, and you, in the hands of someone I trusted to take better care of both of you than I thought I could given the circumstances. I hope you can accept that.”
“Fine.” That was the same answer Pritha and Azar had both given him. Vince fell silent for a few minutes as Aiden waited patiently for the next question. “If you taught mom when she was a Tyamazon, and she told me you had been a tamer before then, how old are you?”
Aiden laughed. “That's kind of a personal question.”
“You're the one that suddenly revealed he's my father.”
“True. For now I'm just going to say I'm probably older than you think.”
“Can you teach me how you were using those techniques?”
Aiden paused to consider. “Now there's an interesting question. And why would you want to learn how to use pokegirl techniques? We're both tamers, we should let our 'girls do the fighting for us.”
“What if you're sick of letting them fight for you? What if you feel like you should be able to do something, anything, to help them?! I know I can't match other pokegirls but I'm strong enough I could make a difference!”
“The only difference you'd make in a fight is making your 'girls hold back as they try even harder to protect you! Humans do not match pokegirls. Ever! Give up on the idea. The only reason I even learned in the first place was a fleeting fancy. Outside what you saw today I never use them.”
“THEN WHAT FUCKING GOOD ARE WE?!” Vince lost his cool and stepped aggressively towards the older tamer. Aiden moved faster though and before Vince knew it his back was pulled behind his back and twisted at an uncomfortable angle. When he tried to fight against Aiden, his arm was only twisted more.
“Look, I have a pretty good guess why you feel this way. You look just like my reflection in a mirror when I first had a 'girl die on me.” Vince stopped fighting and Aiden let him go. “And I know you were taught to think they're not human and just tools but we both know that's bullshit. We spent days, weeks, sometimes months out in the wilderness with no one but them for company. That makes them more people than the faces you barely remember in the cities. We have to tame them, they rely on us for it. That's something humans had been doing for thousands of years before Sukebe or pokegirls showed up. It means you've got thousands of years of instincts telling you that they're the weak fragile ones and you need to be the strong protector. But three hundred years ago Sukebe turned everything ass over end and the only thing those instincts are still good for is driving guys like you and me crazy, or getting them killed.
“You want to help them? You want to make a difference? The biggest thing you can do is keep yourself alive. Because you know what the worst thing that can happen to a pokegirl is? She's left alone, with no one. They need us. They need us so bad most of them instantly trust anyone who fulfills that need. And only an idiot wouldn't pick up on that. I don't know what the hell they're teaching tamers these days, but the lot of them can't figure shit out on their own. They get the most wonderful companion they could ask for free when they sign up to be a tamer, and they just worry about upgrading and collecting. Some of them never figure it out. Others like us learn the hard way. But we've learned before it's too late, so we can make a difference from that point on. The pain eating you up right now, it hurts. But part of that's because you're fighting it. Stop and think about the 'girl you lost and ask yourself this. 'Did I love her?' Do you love the ones you still have? They probably all love you. They can't help it.
“Let your 'girls out. They'll be there for you. I'll let you know when dinner's ready.” Vince was left on his knees weeping from the verbal assault. He wasn't sure if he could deny any of it. Aiden briefly placed a hand on his shoulder and then left the study. Vince could hear him speaking to the pokegirls outside. “He probably wants you in there.”
Friday, September 16th, 302AS
Isis, Jade Islands League
For an hour or so, Vince and his pokegirls, plus one unnamed Officer Jenny, were all one single mass of crying and hugging, trying to give as much comfort to everyone else as they drained themselves of all the tears that had welled up over the past few days. Vince thought that even Natsumi had been there, though the Sayjin had distanced herself again before he was paying enough attention to know for sure. They all came out of the study looking worse and feeling better. For the rest of the time until dinner they waited around in the living room, or explored Aiden's back yard. Hanako seemed rather drawn to the one tree, and all of Aiden's pokegirls seemed drawn to the 'kit.
Then Aiden told them that dinner was ready, just in case their noses hadn't let them know already. Introductions were made. Besides Shannon, Aiden had the athletic brunette Pinielf named Comfort and a tattoo covered Starlady named Nanna. They had all sat down to eat at a massive table burdened with a literal feast when the chime for an incoming com call sounded. “That's the business line.” Aiden said with clear annoyance in his voice.
All three of his pokegirls chimed in at the same time. “It's probably important.”
Aiden stood up from the table and refolded his napkin. “It's probably the same question he's been asking. But we don't want him canceling his order. You'll have to excuse me. Please, go ahead without me. Shannon, see what everyone wants to drink.”
Choices of drink seemed more extensive than what you were offered in most restaurants, so Vince and his pokegirls wound up sampling and sharing. Vince found himself rather pleased with the taste of one drink in particular, and had already finished a glass before Aiden came back. He had a few more glasses before dinner was through, and a couple more when everyone was done eating but still sitting about the table and talking. And that was all he could remember of the night, because Vince was unaware that the drink he had taken a liking to was alcoholic.
Saturday, September 17th, 302AS
Isis, Jade Islands League
Somehow, Vince, some of his harem, and the pokeballs containing the rest of them had wound up in a room somewhere on the basement level of Aiden's house where they all passed out on the floor in various piles of bedding. A stack of bedrolls had been left out with the best of intentions, but remained unused.
Vince woke up with the feeling that there was a FairyCute trapped in his head desperately trying to break her way out while her bigger sister kept spinning him around trying to find a way in. He stumbled up the stairs and into the living room, where Aiden was waiting with a pitcher of water and bottle of painkillers.
“First time drinking I'll take it, and you managed to pull a number on yourself. Your Officer Jenny was pretty close to keeping up with you too. The rest of your harem gave up when it was a more sensible time. Oh, and Comfort and Shannon have your pokekit.”
Vince downed the offered pills and glass of water. “I... don't have an Officer Jenny.”
“Oh. Well, that makes things interesting.”
“Master?” A sleepy feminine voice asked from the stairway. Coming up from the basement was a naked, red-and-purple streaked, blue haired Officer Jenny with a pale complexion; completely naked with both hands handcuffed together.
“I think this might be a form of pokegirl theft.” Aiden said with a great deal of amusement. The Officer Jenny's eyes just got wide. Vince's got wider.