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The Torchic gagged, her claws faltering before they could reach her opponent. Elaine kept her stance tight, driving another punishing blow into this rival’s stomach before cocking her fingers back; with a wordless shout she slashed her talons across the other Torchic’s breasts, the wounds spraying blood as embers blossomed from the impact points. The Torchic collapsed in pain and Elaine raised her eyes to the faceless crowd around her.
“I’ll take her.”
Elaine followed the man out of the training center. Two years, she had fought here. Dozens of interested tamers had come and gone. Finally, she was walking out with one.
She stirred. Eyes blearily opened to see a shadow hovering over her. Then, pain. Elaine cried out as something far too large forced its way between her legs. Her skin tore. She tried to claw at whatever was hurting her but her arms refused to move. Her legs would not respond.
“This is what I paid for?” a voice hissed. Elaine screamed as the object slammed deeper. “Well-trained? Ready for battle?” Elaine choked when something else was forced into her mouth. “This is all you’re good for.”
Darkness. Elaine’s hand flew to her groin but the pain was gone. She was… alone again. In the distance, she thought she saw figures moving. Thought she heard conversation, but try as she might could not make out the words. Two figures exchanged something. Then another two, and another, and another, and she pressed her hands over her ears as the voices became louder. Mocking.
“A fuck toy, that’s all she is,” one said in disgust. “Worthless in battle. But hey, at least she was cheap.”
“A Torchic, worthless?” another voice asked. “You sure about that?”
“Oh, she’s a vicious little thing,” the first replied, “but nowhere worth the trouble. She acts like a feral.”
“Looking to get rid of her?” Elaine tried to move towards the figures but found herself stuck again. She could feel heavy straps coiling up her legs, holding her back. “If she’s no better than a feral there’d be a researcher interested in her.”
“Maybe. I want to try training for the gym challenge, and she’s just a liability,” the first voice replied. “I’m not going to try and battle with only five pokegirls.”
“LET ME FIGHT!” Elaine strained against the straps holding her back, throwing her head forwards as she screamed. “LET ME FIGHT! LET ME-!” she jerked back as more straps caught her arms, working their way across her body and cocooning her tightly. “LET ME FIGHT! LET ME FIGHT!” she viciously bit down when one of the straps tried to gag her but to no avail; all she could do was send muffled screams into the void as everything went black.
With a gasp Elaine shot upright. It was dark and she could feel the cool night air running over her naked skin. She was covered in sweat. As her breathing slowly returned to normal her reality settled back in.
Her first tamer had thrown her away within days, passed off from customer to customer as nothing more than a whore. She’d probably gone feral more than once as each one tried to ‘break’ her in their own way, which made the memories blur together that much more. But she’d held on. Clutched to the fire burning in her soul. She wanted to fight. It was all she’d ever wanted. Whoever, whatever she’d been given to hadn’t walked away without remembering her. She’d made sure of it.
And then she’d just been… abandoned. Dumped into a field, half-feral, and studied. Over time she’d carved her own place out from the other pokegirls. They’d learned not to get too close.
Until she’d heard of an opportunity. A chance, to find a tamer who would use her to fight. It had ignited her flame again. The Torchic on Birch’s reservation had tried to gang up on her, to keep her away from the selection, but she left half a dozen unconscious and had resolved to do whatever it took to be the last one available.
Somehow, it had worked. But it had gone wrong. This tamer taunted her from the beginning. Threatened her flame. So she’d fought. And… he’d overpowered her. Just like always, she could do nothing to stop a human from having their way with her.
And now this. Elaine flexed her gloved hands, feeling her talons slide over the heavy leather interior. She knew how to lay still. To let the humans take what they wanted. It hurt less that way. But she’d always, always found a way to strike back.
She slowly played with the unlocked straps securing the gloves to her wrists. She could take them off. Right now, while he slept, she could take them off. She could hurt him before he hurt her again.
But if she failed… Elaine shivered. She had felt the intent in Nicholas’ words. If she disobeyed him, she would become no more than a toy again. And this one would not give her away, would not give her another chance. “I will break you,” Nicholas whispered, “and you will become as useless as Marybelle was to me. But I will do it.” His merciless eyes swam before her as she felt him hook his fingers into her collar. “You. Are. Mine.”
Elaine collapsed, trembling, back to the ground, her arms and legs curled up as she fought the waves racking her body. What did she want? To fight? Stability? To be free?
Tears dripped down her cheeks as she silently cried, her thoughts in turmoil, her body frozen in indecision, until she slowly hiccupped herself back to sleep.
Nicholas finished removing Elaine’s gloves and bent down to begin on her shoes. As he removed each one he watched her toes flex, spreading as she put her feet back down and digging her talons into the ground for stability. He knocked the worst of the debris from the shoes before putting them away in his bag, straightening and surveying Elaine as he did.
Over the week since they had left Petalburg she had grown more and more withdrawn. Barely speaking unless spoken to, always doing what he said without any hesitation. Morgana had only been able to shrug helplessly whenever he’d asked her what Elaine was thinking. She’d gone from a wall of rage to one of… nothing.
He could see it in her eyes, too. The dull crack that had first appeared in Petalburg, after he had collared her, had taken over until she barely had any life left. Where her eyes had once smoldered with fury and suppressed energy they now sat empty. Her movements were slowed, and when he tamed her she just lay there. He worried that he’d taken too long. That now she had truly broken.
“It’s been a pleasure, Nicholas,” Cameron was saying as he reviewed his footage. “Excellent energy with that celebration scene, by the way.”
Nicholas glanced over at the rest of the group. The scene in question had been after May had successfully won the Rustboro gym badge and the other two were still excitedly talking amongst themselves. “Hey, that’s what this was all about, right? To get new tamers excited and draw them along to the Frontier.”
“Hell yeah it was,” Cameron chuckled. “We had a few rough moments but I believe Scott will be very happy with what we’ve got here. Will you be sticking around? For any reshoots.”
Nicholas gazed at the two teenagers for a bit before shaking his head. “I’ve been gone from my harem long enough. Once I figure out transportation I’m heading back to the Frontier.”
“Fair enough,” Cameron replied. “Well, best of luck, Nicholas. Travel safe.” He waved and walked over to where Phil and Todd were similarly reviewing their equipment.
“Master.” Nicholas glanced over at Morgana’s quiet call. She flicked her head slightly and he continued turning until he was looking at Elaine again.
Elaine was also staring at the small group. Brendan and his Treecko Karin, May and her Mudkip Mizune. He thought he might be imagining it, but her eyes seemed damp.
“Elaine.” Elaine turned to him to see Nicholas holding a crooked finger. “Come with me.”
She followed him further into Rustboro, away from the others, away from the busy town center, until he turned down a large cul-de-sac in front of a massive office building. There were benches set up on the far side and he led her to them before taking a seat and looking up at her expectantly.
Elaine sat next to him, leaving Morgana standing, and moved her eyes to the ground between her feet. “Yes, Master?”
Nicholas thought long and hard about how to proceed. If Elaine was gone, nothing he did would matter. But he knew he didn’t want this pokegirl sitting beside him. No part of him did. The vicious, untamed pokegirl he had first met was better than this.
But not better for her. Neither was this. He could only pray that she still had the ability to come back from the edge. He had to believe that Elaine, the true Elaine, whoever that may be, was still inside her. Was still there and wanted to come out.
“What do you think I want from you, Elaine?” he asked. “Why do you think I claimed you as mine?”
“Whatever you want, Master,” Elaine murmured. “I am yours to do with as you will.”
“Wrong.” Elaine didn’t react to his cutting tone. “I do not want anything. I want everything, Elaine. I want all of you. You are mine, yes, but you are hiding things from me. You are not giving me everything you are. I have seen what you have. I have felt it. I. Want it.” He shifted so that he could pull her chin up. “I refuse to believe that you have broken. It was too easy. Too simple. I was promised a challenge, Elaine. I was promised a fight.” He tightened his grip on her chin and bored his gaze deep into her empty eyes. “Or was it all a lie.”
One of Elaine’s talons ticked down a single grain on the wooden slats of the bench, the only outward indication that she was responding to him. “You won,” she mumbled, voice distorted by his hand.
“THEN GIVE YOURSELF TO ME!” Nicholas roared. “IF YOU TRULY ARE MINE YOU WILL GIVE YOURSELF TO ME! GIVE ME YOUR PRIDE! YOUR RAGE!” He released her chin and shot to his feet. “I will take it from you if I must. I will strip away everything you are until I am satisfied that you are hiding nothing else. I will tear down every wall you try to build in my way. However I must do it. Pain. Pleasure. I know what I will find, Elaine. If you will not give yourself to me willingly I will carve away until I hold your very soul.”
Slowly Elaine raised her head. “You will find nothing else.”
Nicholas’ eyes narrowed and he hissed gleefully. “Yes, Elaine. I will. You swore that I would never break you. I know the truth, no matter how you pretend. There is defiance inside you. I will find it.”
This time the creak was audible when Elaine’s fingers slid down the bench. “You will not take it from me.” Her eyes flickered ever so slightly. “I have survived worse than you, Master. They could not break me. Neither will you.”
And then she was gone again. Elaine’s hands relaxed, her head lowered, and with a trembling breath the tension left her body. Nicholas waited to see if she said anything else and when she was silent he turned to look at Morgana.
Morgana barely shook her head. “Nothing, Master.”
“That’s fine.” Nicholas looked back at Elaine sitting silently on the bench. “I saw enough.”
He was reaching for his pokedex to start searching for a way back to the Battle Frontier when a commotion could be heard from the office building. After a few moments the glass sliding doors shattered and with a yell two forms charged out, instantly swerving to cut out towards the city as quickly as possible.
“What the-“ Nicholas started, taking a few quick steps in pursuit before turning to stare at the broken glass. Within seconds he saw a flurry of activity as numerous uniformed security personnel poured out of the building, a few scientists dressed in anti-static gear stumbling out behind them.
“WHERE’D HE GO!” Nicholas quickly raised his hands when one of the security guards focused in on him. “YOU! DID YOU SEE A MAN IN A BLUE MASK?”
“He ran towards the city!” Nicholas yelled, pointing down the street. “Two people!”
“Get the chief on the line!” Another guard roared into the building. “YES YOU, pick up that phone of yours and call the precinct!”
The original guard was jogging towards Nicholas. “Did you get a good look? You said two people?”
“Uh, not really,” Nicholas stammered. “I think one of them was running on all fours?”
“Yeah. Must have been his pokegirl.” The guard cursed. “You’re sure you didn’t see which way he went?”
“Just towards the city,” Nicholas repeated. “I’m sorry, I didn’t chase him.”
“Didn’t expect you to.” The guard turned back and began shouting. “SECURE THE BUILDING! MAKE SURE THERE AREN’T ANY MORE INTRUDERS!”
Nicholas stared at the building for a few minutes before beginning to walk briskly down the road. “Morgana! Elaine!” He glanced back to make sure Elaine was moving before snapping his fingers. “MOVE, Elaine! Let’s go! If you can’t keep up I’ll put you in your pokeball.”
That got her to his side quickly and Nicholas led the two back onto the main thoroughfare. He didn’t see the fleeing man or his pokegirl but a few people were staring towards the north side of the city so he began walking that way. After just a few short minutes of walking he began to hear shouting.
The scene he came upon was chaos. A small farmer’s market had been set up along the road and market stalls were in pieces. People cowered in place, a few police officers and their pokegirls holding a standoff with the masked man and a bristling, growling canine pokegirl. The man had a knife out and was holding it to the neck of a crying avian pokegirl, a few shallow cuts showing where the criminal had already nicked his hostage.
“RELEASE THE HOSTAGE!” One of the officers was shouting. “STAND DOWN AND COME QUIETLY!”
“Oh, please, please! Peeko!” An elderly man was wailing, held back by a few onlookers as he cried. “Please, let her go!”
“I’ll slit her throat!” The man cried. “I swear I will! There won’t be enough time to save her if you get any closer!”
“No, please, no!” The man wailed. “Not Peeko!”
“DON’T MOVE!” The police seemed frozen as the man took another step backwards. “Someone find that pokegirl’s pokeball!”
“Briney doesn’t keep Peeko in a pokeball,” another officer muttered. “Treat her like a human.”
“Shit.” The man had taken a few more steps now, putting a new stall between him and the officers. “Just release the hostage!”
The man chuckled. “Now why on earth would I do that.” He glanced at the stall in front of him and his grin widened. “Anyways, while I’d love to let you stall for time, I’ve got places to be.” With a command he whirled, bundling the avian pokegirl up and beginning to sprint down the street. Before the police could react his pokegirl let loose a rending howl and sent the stall flying towards the line, scattering the herbal powders piled on top of it in a thick smokescreen that left the entire crowd coughing until the air cleared.
“Shit,” one of the officers wheezed again. “Suspect has… escaped… fleeing north!” He waved at his partner. “Chase him down!”
The pokegirl he waved at staggered before letting out a groan and sinking to her knees. All around the street similar effects were taking place as the combined powders overloaded any pokegirl that inhaled them.
Nicholas had been far enough back that Morgana and Elaine hadn’t been hit by the cloud and he moved forwards when the air began to clear. “Hey!” He got the attention of one of the human police officers and pointed down the road. “I’m fine!”
The man was still coughing but he shook his head. “No… that’s a dangerous criminal. We can’t risk him harming the hostage.”
Nicholas glanced at Morgana. “I have a Ralts. I’m probably the best chance we’ve got at getting her back safely.”
“Do. Not.” The officer doubled over in another coughing fit. “Do not… engage, citizen.”
Nicholas sighed. “I can’t stand back and do nothing. Not when someone is in danger.” Despite the officer’s protests he gave chase.
As he reached the outskirts of the city he started scanning for any trace of the fleeing criminal. To the north there was a gentle slope leading to a secluded beach in the shadow of the mountains but no visible trail up, so he instead turned to the east. Various hiking trails sprouted from a central hub and as he got closer he could see signs declaring one of them closed.
“Which one did he take.” Nicholas stared at the multiple paths. “If I was running…” his eyes traveled to the closed trail, “…I’d go the way they wouldn’t expect.” He inspected the signs a bit closer. Heavy, fresh footprints could be seen on the other side and he straightened back up with a nod. “This way.”
Morgana’s ears were raised high as she followed him up the trail, searching for any sign of distress from either the man or his hostage. It was quite some time before she grabbed his arm. “Master.”
Nicholas slowed. The forest path had been getting sparser and sparser as they approached the mountains and now he could see the trail winding up to a large cave entrance. The signs had continued, including a barricade across the mouth of the cave, but the barricade had been broken in half. “He’s in there?”
Morgana barely nodded. “I feel… anger. Pain. Fear.”
“Let’s go.” Nicholas slowly approached the entrance. It had probably been natural at one point but he could see how the opening had been carved wider to make access. Low lights were strung along the walls, giving just enough to see but keeping the inside of the cave gloomy. “Hello?”
Noises echoed back to him. Curses, the sound of shifting rocks, and Nicholas eased his way into the low light.
A hundred yards away the winding path was covered by a rockslide and it was there that he saw the man struggling. His pokegirl scrabbled at the blockage while her tamer kept one hand on his hostage and used the other to pull debris away as fast as he could. Another curse and he jumped back as a new slide covered all of his progress.
Nicholas cleared his throat as he got within earshot. “HEY!”
The man whirled. “Who the- Hey! Stay back!”
Nicholas stopped. “Didn’t you see the signs? The cave is blocked.”
“Of course I saw the signs,” the man sneered. “This is the quickest path through the mountain, blocked or not. Now get out of here before I chase you off.” His pokegirl stepped in front of him, fur bristling as she growled at Nicholas.
“You’re trying to get through the mountain?” Nicholas glanced at the avian pokegirl. Peeko, he had heard her called. “Why not over it? I’m sure your pokegirl there could carry you around.”
Peeko’s eyes widened and she tried to shake her head but the man tightened his grip. “She’s… injured. Can’t fly.”
“Oh. That’s a shame.” Nicholas stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Well, I have some medicine on me. How bad is her injury?”
“…what do you want from me?” the man asked suspiciously. “Pretending to offer help like this.”
Nicholas shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t care who you are or what you’re doing. It’s not my problem. But this is a dead end and unless you want to keep hauling an ‘injured’ pokegirl around until the cops show up, well, that’s your problem.”
The man chuckled. “Knew it. Nobody would be out here unless they were after me.” He waved Nicholas away. “Get out of here.”
“See, that’s the thing.” Nicholas didn’t budge. “I don’t have to leave. You do. Because I can see that that rockslide won’t clear easily. And there’s only one way out of this cave.”
The man shook his head. “Then stand there and watch me escape.”
“It’ll take too long.” The man paused. “By the time you make a big enough gap to get through the police will be all over this place. Closed path or not, they’ll check it. And then you’re screwed. Run now, find a different route, and you might slip by. But not if you’re hauling around dead weight.”
With a click the man’s knife appeared in his hand. “Well then I guess I should get rid of it.”
“Oh, sure, kill her,” Nicholas said in a bored voice. “Then there’s nothing keeping me from sending my pokegirls at you.” He shrugged. “Two on one. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like those odds.”
The man stared at him for what felt like hours. “Move out of my way.”
Peeko whimpered when the tip of the knife dug into her throat. “Move, or she dies.”
“She dies, you have no more leverage,” Nicholas replied calmly. “I’m sure you’re smarter than that.”
The man gritted his teeth. “Then leave me alone.”
“I’m not leaving without that pokegirl.”
“Well then I guess we’ll just stand here,” the man replied in exasperation. “We’ll all just stand around until the cops show up. And then I’ll stand around with them, too.”
Morgana squeezed Nicholas’ hand slightly and he cleared his throat. “I told you, I don’t care who you are or what you’re doing. I just want that pokegirl.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that.” The man shook his head. “Like you said. I lose her, I lose my leverage. There won’t be anything stopping you from attacking me.”
“How about this.” Nicholas stepped to the side of the cave. “Leave your pokegirl with Peeko. Walk out of the cave. I’m sure you have a pokeball for your own girl; once you’re clear of me you can recall her safely and go wherever you want. Leaving me in the cave here with what I want.”
The man sized him up. “And if you or your pokegirls try to stop me…”
“Your pokegirl will have more than enough time to kill the hostage.”
“Hmph.” The man glanced at his pokegirl before nodding. “Fair enough. I’d rather not get into a staring contest with the cops.” He pulled his knife away and jerked his head at his pokegirl, bringing her over to change positions with him before securing his bag. “No sudden moves.”
Nicholas nodded. “Go on.”
The man slowly walked past, keeping a close eye on Elaine especially until he was well out of reach. Then he shouted. “BLEED HER!” Nicholas cursed, whirling to see the canine pokegirl rip her claws into Peeko’s body before the recall beam took her. “HOPE YOU’VE GOT THAT MEDICINE, BUDDY!” The man shouted, sprinting out of the cave before Nicholas could react.
A wail echoed through the cave as Peeko collapsed, her white wings quickly turning red as she struggled to stop the bleeding. Nicholas was with her immediately, digging through his bag and pulling out every potion he had.
Morgana was beginning to follow when she felt a thunderous presence snap behind her. Whirling, her eyes widened when she saw Elaine’s lips pulling back, her jaw trembling as her teeth clenched together. Suddenly she could feel everything. The melting pot of hate and rage that Elaine had tried to suppress boiled over and her eyes flashed, springing to life as embers began flaring across her uncovered skin. She glowed, the feathers along her arms and neck smoldering in her pure, impotent fury.
“Elaine NO!” Morgana tried to cry, but her voice meant as much to the incensed Torchic as a stiff breeze. With a bloodcurdling scream Elaine sprinted towards the exit.
Nicholas’ head snapped up and he fumbled with his belt, catching Elaine’s pokeball and trying to recall her. The beam caught and Elaine screamed again, the red light beginning to overtake her body before she threw herself out of the way and shattered the connection to a shocked gasp from Nicholas. But it had bought some time. Morgana dove, wrapping her arms around Elaine’s stomach and holding desperately on as the Torchic flailed. She cried out in pain when Elaine’s fist punched into her face but still held doggedly on, her horns glowing as she summoned her power. Elaine finally staggered when Morgana’s psychic assault battered her mind and slumped, still moving towards the exit, until Nicholas took better aim and finally managed to recall her.
Morgana fell to the ground with a whimper, blood dripping from her lacerated skin and Nicholas turned back to Peeko. She was breathing normally, her bleeding stemmed, so he lay her down and rushed to Morgana’s side. “Morgana, Morgana.” He pulled her bangs back and hissed gently. Elaine’s strike had torn a massive line from eye socket to lip. “Oh, Morgana. You brave, brave pokegirl.”
Morgana clutched him tightly as Nicholas treated the wound. “She would have killed him,” she cried, tears dripping from her uninjured eye. “She- she would have died.”
“It’s okay,” Nicholas whispered. “Don’t talk. I know.” He looked up at the cave entrance to make sure the criminal had truly gone before sweeping Morgana into his arms in a tight hug. “It’s okay. It’s over now. Everything is okay.”
“LET ME FIGHT!”
Elaine’s eyes snapped open. For a moment she wasn’t sure if she was still dreaming but the unmistakable feeling of the leather collar around her neck quickly made it clear that she was awake. There was a low light source somewhere nearby and she carefully lifted her head to scan the room.
Nicholas sat facing away from her at a small table. The light was coming from it, the soft glow of a computer screen, likely his pokedex. As she watched he moved, reaching up the table and touching something. “Hey. Glad I could catch you.”
Elaine remained silent as someone spoke back. “Fine. Had some excitement today, but I’ll be headed back soon. As soon as I can find a way.” Nicholas let out a deep sigh and raised one hand to rub his face. “It’s not… I don’t know. I need to be back with you.” Another pause as he listened. “Elaine is…” Elaine quickly settled back and closed her eyes when she saw Nicholas’ head start to turn. After a few seconds she heard him shift again and cracked her eyes open to make sure he’d turned back away. “She’s asleep. She had an outburst during the excitement, so she’s recovering from it.” He lowered the hand that had been against his face and Elaine almost thought he looked… sad. “I don’t know what to do.”
Another long pause before he spoke again. “I still can’t figure her out, that’s what. There’s just so much pain inside of her and she refuses to let it out.” He shook his head. “I tried to take control, like we talked about, but all that did was make her close up in a different way. It’s like she only responds when she’s threatened. I don’t want to threaten her. I’m trying to help her, not drive her further off the cliff.” He rubbed at his eyes again, using both hands this time. “The incident today… there was a criminal, and he had a hostage. There was no reason for him to but he hurt them. And Elaine… broke. If Morgana – right, you haven’t met her… she’s a Ralts I picked up… If she hadn’t been able to stop her, I don’t know what Elaine might have done.”
Elaine watched Nicholas rub his face. Over, and over, while he listened to whoever he was speaking to. “No. No, I’m fine. I’m in control. Just tired. This whole filming bullshit was not what I needed right now.” He finally lowered his hands again. “Elaine has so much potential. A good heart. I’m afraid that I’ve ruined my chance to bring her gently out of her abyss.” He let out a deep sigh. “We thought it would help her to lose control, for me to force her out… all it’s done is make her more volatile, I think. If I’d just sat down and thought for a second it would have been obvious.”
Nicholas was absentmindedly playing with something as he listened again. “I think she’s… I don’t know if she is. But I hope that she’s broken open a bit again today. Enough that maybe I can talk to her. Actually talk to her, not back her into a corner so that she has no choice but spit back. I don’t-“ Nicholas winced and gripped his skull. “I don’t want to keep hurting her but it’s so hard! She won’t open her shell and whenever I pull a piece away it tears a piece of her away with it. I just wish we could start over.” Light glittered over his face, reflecting in the tears that he blinked from his eyes. “I can’t help but think… if I had been allowed to meet her, get to know her, take some time without having those stupid cameras and responsibilities forced on us, that maybe… I could have avoided all of this.” He sniffed and rubbed his eyes. “Now it may be too late.”
Elaine slowly rested her head back onto the mattress as Nicholas spoke again. “That’s what I mean. It may be too late for her to ever see me as a friend.” She heard him groan. “I’m just another enemy hurting her.” Suddenly a chair shifted. “I shouldn’t be talking here, she might wake up. I don’t want to disturb her.” Elaine kept her eyes closed as he shuffled to the door, pausing to probably look at her again before a light flashed across her eyes as the door opened and closed.
Nicholas quietly shut the door before letting out the breath he had been holding. “Well?” He whispered.
Kalmiya’s voice responded. “She was watching you, Master. An excellent strategy.”
Nicholas turned off his pokedex and moved to one of the chairs in his hotel room. “Maybe.” He sat down, eyes wandering to the table where his bag lay open. Elaine’s gloves and shoes were spilling out along with the other pieces of bondage gear he’d purchased. “I still don’t know how to move forwards from here. But if she was listening, then… maybe she’ll tell me.”
The morning sun was gently pooling across the living room floor when the bedroom door opened again. Very, very slowly, almost as if it had opened on its own and was swinging to rest.
Nicholas was motionless in his chair and the scene remained static for a few minutes. The bedroom door cracked open, the drifting sunbeam catching a few motes of dust as Nicholas’ chest rose and fell with his breaths.
Eventually fingers curled around the edge of the door and pushed it further. The sun caught Elaine’s eyes and lit them aflame as she eased out and crept towards the sleeping human. Even though her usual outfit was barely enough to count as clothing she had still been fully dressed when he left her on the bed the night before. Now, she was not. Naked except for the collar that still hung around her neck.
Elaine came to a halt fully in view of where Nicholas slept. She stood silently, watching as the sleeping man seemed to have no reaction to her presence, before turning to look at the bag on the table.
Nicholas, of course, was as awake as she had been the night before. Kalmiya had woken him at the first sign of movement and now he relaxed, keeping his breathing steady as she whispered Elaine’s movements in his ear.
“She’s staring at the bag, Master,” Kalmiya reported. “Now she’s approaching it… she’s reaching for something…”
Elaine eased the leash from its position, taking great care not to let the metal clip make any noise as she lifted it into her hands. She held it for a long time, light glinting from the metal a few times when her grip shifted, before the muscles in her arms tensed.
A quiet click was all that Nicholas heard before Kalmiya reported Elaine had returned to the bag. She rummaged for a minute before glancing back at him. Nicholas forced himself not to react when Kalmiya spoke urgently in his ear. “She- Master she’s turned towards you. There’s smoke coming from her mouth.”
You’re asleep. Nicholas kept himself still. His breathing might have skipped a bit from Kalmiya’s warning but with any luck Elaine wouldn’t have noticed.
The deafening crash however was impossible to ignore. Nicholas’ eyes shot open and he scrambled back as best he could when he saw Elaine bending over him. “E-Elaine?!”
“Good morning. Master.” Elaine watched him flounder in his chair before letting go of the arm and allowing it to topple over backwards. “Get up.”
Nicholas shot to his feet. The sound he had heard seemed to have come from Elaine’s hand – it was firmly pressed against the table in front of him. “Good… uh, morning. How do you feel?”
Elaine didn’t bother with a response. Instead, she lifted her other hand to display the leash. The leather where the buckle attached to the main length was charred and curled and as Nicholas watched Elaine brought it to her mouth, sinking her teeth into the weakened part before embers sprayed between her lips. With one more savage yank the leash separated and Elaine spat the glowing metal buckle onto the floor in front of his feet before opening her hand to let the now useless leather fall with it.
“…huh,” was all Nicholas managed in response.
Elaine hooked one talon under her collar and pulled, tilting her chin as she did in the very image of defiance. “I am yours,” she growled. “There is no doubt that I have been unable to resist you.” She bared her teeth with a snarl. “But you will no longer take my freedom away from me. If you give me what I want then you will receive everything I am, just as you wish. But if you do not.” Her lips turned up into a sneering smile. “I will deny you.”
Nicholas carefully folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t remember giving you anything to bargain with, Elaine. Up until this morning you understood that.”
Elaine’s smile grew. “I did not understand yet. What I have is not something you have given me, because something like that you can take away. No. What I have you can never take from me, no matter how much you threaten or try. And that is why you want it so desperately.” Her eyes danced as she crowed her next few words. “But I can deny you, Master. And so I have a way to beat you.”
Nicholas was smiling. The same smile Elaine had seen briefly during that first night. She hadn’t recognized it then, considering it was the first time anyone had ever looked at her in that way before. But she didn’t need to recognize it this time to understand that it was different. It was not pity, nor hatred, or disgust, it did not mock her or make her feel afraid. No, it was none of those things. It made her feel more powerful. Proud and excited in her victory. Her victory OVER the human that now smiled as if he had wanted that defeat all along.
Nicholas maintained his smile but beneath it he was holding back a savage grin. Finally after weeks of suffering he was looking at Elaine’s true face. Something he had only seen glimpses of beneath her shell. His desperate attempt had worked. She had listened, and now, at last, he might have a chance to build a relationship with her.
He’d made a few mistakes along the way. And the way he had fixed some of them hadn’t worked the way he’d wanted them to. But Elaine had not broken. She was one hell of a strong pokegirl to have survived whatever led her to this point, and then his fumbling attempts at reaching out to her on top of that.
“I have survived worse than you, Master,” Elaine whispered to him. The slightest of embers smoldering in her dead eyes. “They could not break me. Neither will you.”
A part of him still wanted to break the pokegirl in front of him for her defiance. But that was just a part. He was more than the dragon. Just as Elaine was more than her hatred and pain. If she could find the strength to move beyond it, he had no excuse not to do the same.
“I hope you understand that this will still not be easy for you,” Nicholas finally replied. “I will push you to your limits to test your resolve. Because words are just words. They mean nothing without the strength to fulfill them.”
Elaine let go of her collar and let her sneer fall back to a cocky grin. “What is it you have said, Master?” Her eyes bored into his as she spoke. “If it is not a challenge, then what is the point?”
Nicholas began to laugh and after a minute Elaine joined him. Then with a shout Nicholas leapt at her; Elaine ducked away from his grasping hands, letting out a delighted shriek before making a lunge of her own. A flurry of movement followed until Nicholas managed to hook his hand into her collar and, with his advantage, twist Elaine down to the hard floor. Both human and pokegirl panted from the sudden exertion but Elaine didn’t struggle once Nicholas had gotten her pinned.
Nicholas wormed his fingers further around the collar, making sure he wasn’t choking Elaine as he did. “I have wanted nothing but a challenge from you, Elaine.” Elaine hissed when he dragged his lips over her face and gently squeezed her ear between his teeth. “I will challenge you, and you will challenge me. Just remember.” He released her and moved his lips so that he was whispering straight into her ear. “You. Are mine. I will never throw you away.” He waited a few moments but when Elaine didn’t make any reply he pulled back and let go of her collar. “Apple.”
Elaine blinked a few times as Nicholas was getting off of her. “Excuse me?”
Nicholas brushed himself down. Elaine’s talons had hooked into his shirt a few times but they hadn’t torn it as far as he could tell. “Remember that farmer’s market? I saw some good produce on display. Would you like to go get an apple?”
Hesitation was clearly visible in Elaine’s expression and movements but she slowly got to her feet with a slight nod. “That… would be nice, Master.”
“Cool. We can check out of the hotel too, since I want to keep moving. Gotta get back to the Battle Frontier and the rest of my harem somehow.” He flashed a smile before pulling Morgana’s pokeball from his belt and activating it. “Morgana! We’ll be heading out soon. Once I pack up and Elaine gets dressed.” He turned back to Elaine with a questioning look. “I assume you want to put something on?”
Morgana swiveled from him to the Torchic. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Elaine glanced away. “Master… our, Master, was correct when we first met, Morgana. That fight was between him and me. Not you.” She kept her eyes averted as she stumbled through her apology. “I… am sorry to have treated you like I did.”
She looked back when someone gently took her hands to see Morgana looking up at her with a pure, joyous smile. “I forgive you, Elaine,” she murmured. “I can feel you now. And I know you mean what you say.”
Elaine coughed and pulled her hands free. “G-Get out of my head.”
She grunted when Morgana embraced her with a giggle. “Your head makes me happy.”
Elaine looked to Nicholas with a growl. “Master.”
Nicholas wiped the smile from his face and cleared his throat. “Morgana! Elaine has asked you to back off.”
Morgana let out a soft whimper and squeezed Elaine once more before letting go and taking a few steps back. “But…”
She squeaked when Nicholas grabbed her from behind and pulled her up into his own arms. “No, no buts. You will respect her wishes.” He smiled at Elaine through the squirming mess of a Ralts that he was trying to hold onto. “So? Will you be putting anything on?”
Elaine hesitated a moment more before bobbing her head. “Yes, Master. Thank you.” She quickly vanished back into the bedroom while Nicholas fought Morgana.
“Morgana you little-!” Nicholas grunted when one of her flailing limbs smacked his nose. “OW!”
Morgana instantly froze. “Master! I’m so sorry-“ she squeaked again when Nicholas took her momentary distraction and used it to wrap one arm around her torso, under her sundress, cupping her breast with his hand while the other hand held her steady as he went for a kiss. Morgana panted slightly when he broke contact again and pressed his forehead to hers with a giggle.
“I’m just as excited as you are,” he whispered, “but you must control yourself, Morgana. Let Elaine move at her own pace.”
“Oh, Master,” Morgana breathed, wrapping her arms around his neck. “The wall, it- it was gone. There was hope.”
Nicholas nuzzled her. “I know. Feeling that you wanted nothing more than to do what you did.” He kissed her again, softly this time, before setting her feet down and letting her go. “But you must, must let her move at her own pace. I hurt her by moving too quickly. I don’t want to hurt her again.”
Morgana’s ear flicked under her hair. Should she tell him that Elaine’s emotions had jumped when he spoke? That the Torchic was most likely listening to them, right now?
No. She stretched up to kiss him again and sighed happily when he sat, pulling her into his lap and beginning to stroke her. She would listen to him, because the joy he currently felt was too addicting to risk losing. It rivaled even what she knew from her sister and she finally understood how the other human had taken her place so easily.
Not too far away, in the lobby of the hotel, a man argued with the receptionist.
“I know he’s staying here,” he said again. “Just tell me which room and I’ll deliver this myself.”
“Mister Topolski was very clear,” the receptionist apologized again. “He is not to be disturbed, under any circumstance. If you wish to deliver a message I can hold it here until he changes his mind.”
The man sighed and dropped an envelope onto the desk. “President Stone will not be happy if the message doesn’t make it through.”
The receptionist bowed his head slightly. “I promise to do everything in my power to deliver his letter, sir. I am well aware of the President’s influence here in Rustboro. However, our policy here is that the guest comes first, even when in regards to someone like President Stone.”
The man snorted and turned to leave. “Commendable, really. Just make sure it gets delivered.”
“Of course, sir.”
Tamer: Nicholas Topolski
Elaine, Torchic – Level 12
Morgana, Ralts – Level 11
Kalmiya, Porygon-Z – Level 5