After the tearful reunion, introductions were finished and the three tamers decided there were stories that needed to be shared. They set up camp in the designated areas on the periphery of the city and combined resources to make a considerable dinner. Most of the telling came from Vince, who apparently owed Evan a recounting of his tale anyway.
After dinner as things wound down though, Zeke found himself contemplating on an issue with no obvious solution. Tuuli's previous master and harem, who she clearly adored being with, were alive and well. It seemed like the right thing to do would be to surrender her over to Vince once again.
Tuuli had been particularly thrilled to reunite with Ava. The two had been close and the Flirt had taken them into the sky to 'dance' twice already. Zeke couldn't imagine she wouldn't take the chance to return to Vince in a couple days when Sadie Poken's day came around anyway.
A headcount of the pokegirls belonging to Vince threw a spanner into the works of this machination though. Vince had a full harem, six fighters and two non-combatants. He couldn't take Tuuli back even if he wanted to, not without sticking someone into long term storage.
Vince interrupted Zeke's musing. "Hey… Zeke. Do you think you and Cass can help me out with something? I could use a couple of mind readers right now."
The recently evolved Ka-D-Bra perceived Vince's question somehow and came over without being summoned. "What's up?"
Vince swept his eyes over the camp and his gaze lingered on Verse, his overly colorful OfficerJenny. "I want you to try to read Verse's mind without her knowing. I think… I think she likes Evan."
Cass and Zeke shared a moment of eye contact. Zeke was the one to voice their shared question. "Are you worried she'll leave you for him at Sadie Poken's?"
Vince stared at the police pokegirl for a little while more and then dropped down to squat with a great sigh. "I'm worried she won't…"
Cass' considerably longer antennae twitched. "She won't?"
"Yeah," Vince responded. "I got her because, well, I felt like I owed her. She's helped me out a couple times but I think she feels like she owes me. Constance has talked to everyone and that's what she says Verse says. She couldn't imagine leaving me after what I've done for her. But her and Evan, it's… It's like watching you and Zeke, back when you two were totally just friends, you know. The way they chat over their coffee, the way she looks at him whenever he's figuring out what bounties to go after. Except… except I'm in the way of it and I always told her she could move on to something better."
"Can he take her," Zeke asked. "He has seven girls already."
"Yeah," Vince answered. "Verse is technically my other non-combatant. Yeah, she can and does fight, but the league has less of an issue with a Jenny being a noncom than a TickTock who can't use magic.” Vince paused to grunt and roll his eyes. “Verse is the one who worked it out."
Cass sent an inquiring impulse to Zeke, who sent back an affirmative one. The Ka-D-Bra's antennae straightened to stand outstretched and oriented themselves towards where the OfficerJenny was discussing hand to hand combat techniques with Raudha. Cass closed her eyes as she focused briefly.
<Vince is right,> Cass projected to both of the tamers. Zeke could tell because the thoughts were coming much slower, indicating the effort she was putting into the formation of the telepathic message. <She is suppressing the thoughts out of guilt, but she is very enamored with Evan.> Cass' antennae reoriented. <Evan essentially shares her feelings in all regards.>
"I didn't want you to read his mind too," Vince exclaimed while becoming rigid.
"If I'm playing psychic matchmaker I want to be sure she's not going to a man that will care for her less than you do. Besides, I didn't read his mind, I asked his alpha, Sienna."
"Oh," was Vince's response as he settled back down. "But… he does? He will?"
Cass smiled. "Yes, Sienna and Evan will be glad to welcome Verse into their group. Now you need to convince her."
Vince sighed. "Part of me doesn't want to but… I'm not good for her. She always wants to follow the rules, you know. And I've got… If it wasn't for… I lose my temper with her because of it and she just has to take it because she's a pokegirl…"
Zeke sighed and then forced a reassuring smile. "You're doing the right thing, Vince."
Vince's mouth twitched at the corners and his expression became a little less stern. "Thanks. I'll go talk with Constance and Reshmi. They'll know what I should say." The older tamer with the rebel blood curse stood up, lingered for a moment as he watched the OfficerJenny animatedly conversing, and then with a huff made his way towards his tent.
Cass leaned her head onto Zeke's shoulder. The her antenna flopped over to touch his forehead. The thought felt really small and gentle. <Want read Tuuli?>
Zeke sighed. <No need. Telepath too. Enough. Mixed feelings.>
<Want me talk?>
Zeke gently shook his head. <I will. Day of.>
One easy conversation over with. A simple reminder that Lalla's options were to find someone today or be placed in the league's adoption services. She forfeited her place in the harem of Ezekiel Id.
Two mostly easy conversations. Letting Cassandra and Raudha out for the day with confidence he would see them again after sundown.
One difficult conversation he was putting off. Zeke pressed the release button on his last pokeball.
Tuuli had a bright smile for him. Bright and cheerful, just like his first impression of her. Like an embodiment of the sunshine with only distant clouds in the air. Maybe it was the compassion from seeing her sorrow when they first met, but he felt very attached given how short of a time he'd had her. Maybe it was that bright cheer.
"Master," she acknowledged him expectantly. "Happy Sadie Poken's day." Zeke started to respond but Tuuli shot a few inches into the air as she spotted a group approaching the event grounds. "Ava!" The Flirt waved enthusiastically. "Everyone, hello!"
Zeke turned around to see Vince and Evan with their harems out. "Hey Vince, Evan, girls."
"Hey Zeke, where's the rest of your girls," Vince asked.
"Oh, I've been letting them out and talking one on one. So Cass and Raudha are ahead of everyone."
Vince looked down the path warily. "Did Raudha happen to say where she might be going?" Zeke raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "I don't trust her being over her grudge."
"She mentioned wanting to look into technique exchanges," Zeke said. "I don't think you need to worry, Vince."
Vince sighed. He muttered, "Just a habit…"
"She must have really whooped on you," Evan said with an amused smirk on the corners of his mouth.
"Master's niece attacks him," Hana said with a scowl. Hanako matched the expression.
"Every time she's seen me until this last one," Vince grumbled. "Anyway, ladies," he passed out pokeballs to their respective owners. "Have fun today. Oh, uh… Verse." The OfficerJenny looked up at him from the pokeball she was turning over in her hands. "I uh…" Vince looked around at everyone who had yet to disperse. "Shit…" he cursed under his breath. "Hang back for a minute, okay?"
The police pokegirl nodded hesitantly with suspicious eyes fixed on her tamer. Vince's girls all took off, Hana and Hanako being led away by Reshmi when they lingered expectantly. There was a promise that Vince would reunite with them soon. Evan had distributed the balls for his girls ahead of time so they broke away and headed for the festivities quickly. Zeke moved to give Vince and Verse space. Tuuli stayed near him and her attention was clearly on her former tamer and his pokegirl who was mostly unfamiliar to her.
Vince scratched his thigh through his pant leg. "So… you remember when we got together?"
Verse was still thoughtful and quiet, but she smiled a little before responding. "When I tamed you while you were in that jail cell or when that professor wanted to charge you with assault?"
Vince grinned and chuckled. "The assault. Well, after it. After we got drunk and I tamed you at Aiden's place. I…"
Verse became very serious. "You saved me, Vince. I don't know if you knew, but I was close to being written off by the league. They just couldn't find anyone to take me."
"Yeah," Vince said. "I knew. I… I couldn't let that happen to you, Verse. I owed you. Remember what I said, though?"
"That you thought my mother was a Makeup Goth because of-" Verse cut herself off as she started to get heated.
"No. Not that. That… that we'd see if it worked out and if not then I'd find someone…"
"Things are working out," Verse said quickly. "I'm really- really happy with you, Vince."
"Verse," Vince said and then sighed. He put his hands on her shoulders and started again. "Verse, I like you. I still think you're sexy even without you being my only hope of not falling into tamer's disease. But, well, it hasn't always been great. You know?"
The two-toned green eyes stared into his blue ones for a long time. "Most of the time it is," she said as she looked away. "Do you want to get rid of me over a few little things?"
"No!" She jumped from when Vince raised his voice in his haste to negate the question. "No Verse, I… this is really hard for me but I think…" Vince sighed. "I know… I suspected and asked Cassandra to read your mind." Then OfficerJenny's eyes got wide. "I think you and Evan get along really well. Better than we get along and… You know he's more into that law and justice stuff than I am… Way more into coffee.
"What I really want for all of you girls is for you to be happy and taken care of. I'm not… I don't want to be rid of you, Verse. I'd miss you. I'd probably need to take a break from traveling with him just to have time but…" Vince looked deep into her eyes. "I want you to be with the man you want to be with. Really want to be with, Verse. You owe me one, I know. But I owe you two so… So do me a favor and don't worry about me this time. Okay?"
Verse stood frozen staring up at him. Her hands were shaking and lip trembling. Finally she moved, jumping forward to throw her arms around his neck and bury her face into his shoulder. She cried for a moment, and thanked him for everything over and over. But eventually she broke away and chased after Evan. When she caught up with him, the older tamer seemed completely blown away when the OfficerJenny handed him her ball. The purple haired tamer looked back up the path to Vince, who made an acknowledging wave while keeping his face still. Evan returned the wave with hesitation and then accepted the small stasis device and the massive implications of taking it.
Vince watched their backs as they headed to the grounds for a long time. Zeke stepped up and put a hand on the older and taller tamer's shoulder. Vince jerked with a start and then blinked hard a few times. "I'm going to go the other way in…" There was another entrance to the event grounds. Practically on the other side of the city. It would be a long walk. "Happy Sadie Poken's day," he mechanically told Zeke and Tuuli before turning and walking away from where everyone else had gone.
"He's a very kind tamer," Tuuli said in a quiet and thoughtful voice.
"He is," Zeke agreed. After a second of hesitating he added. "And he's got an open spot in his harem now." Tuuli's hair billowed as her head came around to look her current tamer in the eyes. Zeke held her gaze and forced a smile while handing over her pokeball. The Flirt placed her hand on top of the ball and let it rest there for a few seconds. Her fingertips brushed against Zeke's palm as she finally grasped the shrunken down containment device. She nodded and headed off on her own towards the celebration.
Zeke waited by himself for a moment. It would be okay if she went back to Vince. Zeke didn't really think he was cut out to be a tamer anyway. Maybe Raudha would find someone else as well, and that would be his sign to give it up. He thought maybe he could accept that. He shrugged to himself and headed towards the noise of hundreds of minds all excitedly participating in the day's celebration.
Cass found him quickly. They ventured through the fairgrounds together. The two of them encountered Phoebe the Megami again, though this time she was telling fortunes for a donation to charity. They ran into Vince around lunch. He was with Reshmi, Constance, Hana, and Hanako and looked to be in a much better mood.
Zeke and Cassie ran into Raudha and Ava, the AmazonLee was excited to show off the improvements to her fiery strikes she learned from the Charred Blazicunt. They ran into Mackenzie, who exuberantly yelled out their names even though her mouth was stuffed with fried street food. They ran into many of Evan Thatcher's harem as well.
As the day wound to an end Zeke and Cass made their way to where pokegirls who wanted to join or rejoin his harem would be stored. With a wink and a flick of her antenna, the Ka-D-Bra placed herself in the box designated for Ezekiel Id. He collected the pokeballs contained within minutes later.
There were three.
He released a Ka-D-Bra he knew was there. Cassandra took her place to his right.
He released an AmazonLee he was glad was there. Raudha grinned and bounced on her heels waiting for the last girl to be released.
He released a Flirt he was surprised was there. "Tuuli," Zeke said with a voice unable to contain his surprise.
The Flirt smiled brightly. "Master Zeke."
"But I thought…" Zeke trailed off.
Tuuli’s smile dimmed and she looked away for a moment. “I thought too. Right up until you gave me my pokeball this morning.” She looked Zeke in the eyes again. "I'm glad to have been able to see them all again, but…" She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just a simple pokegirl but I could only think that I promised to help you win at the Allat gym." She gave him another sunny smile and then said matter-of-factly, "You're a good tamer too, Master Zeke."