A half full mug of air-temperature coffee sat on top of a stack of papers spread out over a table in the lounge of the pokecenter in Isis. Sitting in the stiff, lightly padded chair was a man quickly approaching the age of twenty. He had a dull colored, purple hair, and eyes of nearly the same color. His jawline was covered in stubble from a few days of not shaving, and bags were under his eyes from sleep deprivation. He was dropping a pencil eraser first onto the table and then catching it as it bounced back up to his hand while staring blankly at notes he had jotted down over the head of the pokegirl quietly snoring against his chest. She was a Dracass in her human form, looking to be a girl just entering high school and dressed in simple, well worn clothes.
Evan Thatcher was torn from his trance when the pencil bounced off the table at an odd angle, and fell to the floor. He tried to reach for it, but couldn't bend enough with Sienna on his lap, so he instead shifted her about a little to relieve one leg that was falling asleep. He looked at the display for his pokedex, his own profile brought up on the screen. The tally of his bounty points was what he was concerned with. In less than a month he'd be summoned to the courts in Allat, the deadline for paying his dues to the Jade Islands League.
He was behind. He would have liked to blame the recent all-call he had been pulled into; a miserable, wet and terrifying experience. And then there turned out to be no danger, when it seemed the league had called half its population of tamers to rally. Everyone was awarded with a miserly sum of bounty points to compensate and then sent home. But he had overcome such obstacles before, even if this disruption had been more inopportune than most.
No, he was behind because he had been letting countless little things slip, taking too many little breaks and treating his harem just a little too much for their situation. The uncommon stones hadn't seemed expensive at the time he bought them, and all three of his girls appreciated the chance to evolve. But now that he was crunching the numbers, part of him was regretting adding a little bit more to the deficit. He couldn't help it though, they'd been with him through so much and to each of their credit, they were happy with him. He supposed he was happy too, though he never would have expected to be content with this kind of life. Scraping over bounty listings and trekking out into the wilderness for weeks at a time. Now if he could just have a three-way with some wild Vampires, he wouldn't have to cancel the plans for his birthday.
“I've got a fresh pot.” Evan looked up to see the Ingenue attendant standing over him in a bath robe. Her hair was damp and falling in front of her face or clinging to her neck and shoulders. She motioned to the coffee mug he'd been nursing all night. He graciously accepted her offer. She took his cup back behind the counter and returned with it full and steaming. She let her robe spill open as she slowly bent at the waist to set it in front of him, her eyes peeking at him through her bangs.
“Thank you...” Evan said as his eyes browsed what she was putting on display. The Ingenue smiled as she turned and sauntered back to the counter. Sienna stirred and woke up as she smelled the coffee.
“You're still up?” She asked as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
“Yeah, want some coffee?” Evan offered his Dracass the cup, and she took a sip while looking over the notes written out.
“Where did you get coffee anyway?”
“The attendant brought me it. We talked some last night after you dozed off. I think I made an impression.”
“She came out to bring me the coffee before she got dressed from her shower.”
“Oh.” Strangely, an Ingenue was one of the breeds Evan took a fancy to. They always seemed to have pleasant attitudes. Sienna knew this, Evan never spoke about things he wanted much so she always paid attention to the rare times when something did come up. She frowned a little as she finished analyzing the bounty point situation. “I don't think you could afford to buy her from the league though.”
“No, I guess not.” Evan leaned back and sighed. “Not at the rate we're going. God I'm tired.”
“I can finish going over the bounty postings. Go sleep.”
“Not yet, I'm almost-” Evan stopped to peer out the window, shielding his eyes from the golden rays of the rising sun. “Isn't that... what was his name? That tamer that got gender-dusted by that Flowergirl I traded him... Vince!”
Vince, a younger, athletic tamer with light pink hair and blue eyes, entered the pokecenter, walking with the aid of a cane. A dark skinned beauty of the magic typing, guessing by the ornate witch's hat she wore, held the door for him and a calm and composed very near human 'girl with a long curved sword across her back and bright teal hair and eyes followed behind him. The trio had heard Evan's exclamation when he recalled the name, and now were staring at him and his Dracass ponderously. Vince stamped the cain against the ground as realization dawned on him. “Evan, right?”
Sienna jumped up and Evan rose to greet his fellow tamer. “Yeah. It's been a while. I don't know if I should say you look like you're doing well or not. On one hand, you've got a TickTock and a Rhonin, I'd guess? But on the other, there's the limp.”
“Samurai, actually.” Evan let out a low whistle as the teal haired pokegirl bowed politely. “Constance and Yin Zhi.” He motioned to the respective pokegirl and then his legs. “And this isn't anything, really.”
“Uh...” Vince didn't appear to be too comfortable with that question. “Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm allowed to tell you.”
Evan blinked a couple of times with a slack jaw. “It's nothing but confidential? You've got to be full of 'taur shit for one of those.”
“Well, are you going to be in town long? I could tell you about it later, not now though.”
“Nah, I've got to head out as soon as I find another bounty to go after. No rest for the wicked.”
Vince ran a hand through his hair. “That getting kicked out of the JILF thing still? You never did tell me what you did.”
“No, I guess I didn't. Hmm.” Evan stroked his chin thoughtfully. Maybe he'd grow a beard. “Tell you what, I'll stick around long enough to swap stories. I'll even go first.”
Three years ago...
Evan Thatcher always wound up involved in police business way more than one would expect a JILF cadet to be in, but that was what he got for having a man like James Ewald as a mentor. And they were always the loveliest situations. Like today; it was an old story that was retold far too often. Well to do family, teenage daughter, unexpected threshold, and then things got ugly. But today's retelling added a dangerous twist. The daughter had thresholded into a Dracass, fairly impressive for a family that played at being pure blood.
Most people would have the sense to not abuse a pokegirl that could evolve into a murderous killing machine from suffering abuse, but this poor girl's parents didn't seem to have that much sense between them. The mother and father had been arrested, the younger sister was in the care of the grandparents, but there was still a little dragon 'girl who was very hurt, very scared, and very close-to-slipping-over-the-edge-and-becoming-a-Dronza. And it just so happened that all of James' colleagues believed Evan was someone good with pokegirls, “nicer than what's good for him,” even. And because of that, Evan was now expected to try to diffuse the situation before force had to be applied and they risked giving the Dracass one more reason to hate all of humanity. Saving abused pokegirls was always better PR than creating menaces in the middle of the city.
Evan approached the closet at the end of the hallway. The door was cracked open, and he could see the heavy, knobbed end of a scaly tail and the tip of a dragon's wing. So she was in her draconic form. “At least this won't be boring,” Evan muttered under his breath, trying to mask his apprehension with humor. “Sevda, are you in there?”
“Then who am I talking to?” Evan asked the door. The tail moved slightly and the wing was pulled back from view.
“No one. I'm not anyone. I'm just a pokegirl. Are you with the police?”
“Something like that. My name is Evan Thatcher and I'm a cadet in the JILF academy nearby.”
“Sevda's parents... what happened to them?”
“They were arrested. They'll probably wind up in the breeding centers.”
A chill went down Evan's spine at her response. “Good.”
Evan shifted uncomfortably. He didn't feel like this was going in a good direction. “Let's not talk about her parents, let's talk about you. Are you hurt at all? I've got some potions if you need one.”
The tail shrunk out of sight. The room was quiet for a long time, then when the Dracass spoke again her voice seemed smaller, younger. “Potions... What happened to the younger daughter?”
She's with her grandparents now.”
“That's good. Grandma isn't like... Sevda's parents. She'll take care of Aysel.”
“I'd like to take care of you, if you'll come out of there.” The words slipped out of his mouth without him really thinking them. Evan waited for them to blow up in his face without risking a breath. But the door slowly came open, and there she stood. Maybe she honestly believed him, maybe she only wanted to. She was bruised, he could nearly count all of her ribs. She let him collect her in his arms and then after a minute capture her in a pokeball. The entire time Evan felt like it was killing him.
“Why did you have me talk to her?” Evan asked James without lifting up his head from where he was cradling it in his hands. They were back at the police station at James' desk. “I feel like something a Slutge would turn her nose up at.”
“You really think any of us old timers would have been able to convince her to come out of there? You're the only one that had a chance to convince her because you're the only one of us that still could believe maybe everything would end okay.”
“No. I knew the whole time. A girl that close, the only therapy they'd approve is a level five.”
“Maybe she knew too then. Here.” James put a packet of papers into Evan's hands. The JILF cadet finally did look up at the older police officer. “It's the forms to claim that Dracass before she's put up for adoption.”
“What good can I do her now?”
“How should I know? I just thought I remember you saying you promised someone you'd take care of her.”
Evan did claim the Dracass after the side effects of the level five conditioning cycle wore off. He named her Sienna and before graduating for the JILF academy she would become his alpha. The younger sister from the family, Aysel, also came into contact with him through exchanged emails, first thanking him for what he had done, then wondering how he and his pokegirls were doing, and eventually just to discuss each other's respective lives. Life was good for Evan Thatcher and his harem, up to a point.
The point where his life changed started out peaceful and sunny, like so many days in the city of Allat. Then there was a terrorist attack on a private girl's school spearheaded by Team Machismo. There were rumors of loveballs, and things quickly became a standoff when the criminal team revealed they had taken hostages.
Sienna watched her master pace back and forth in the barracks as he listened to the radio coverage of the crisis. “Master, why are you getting so upset about this attack?” At this point Sienna didn't know that Evan was pen-pals with Aysel.
Evan stopped to look into his Dracass's eyes. He let out a deep breath. “You know you were put through a level five before I got you, right?” Sienna nodded, it was fairly easy to figure out considering she had no memories from before the day he had let her out of her pokeball. “Well, you were put through the level five because you were about to evolve to a Dronza.”
Sienna's eyes became nearly as wide as a pokeball as she stifled a gasp with both hands. Evan continued. “You were a human girl once, and when you went through threshold, your parents, they become complete monsters. You would have evolved and started killing everyone in your neighborhood, except for your younger sister. She would bring you food while the rest of the family was sleeping. She would sneak out of the house to buy P-meds with her own allowance to heal you after the beatings. She cried with you after your father... after he tamed you. She was the reason you held on to hope. Eventually the shopkeeper for the tamer's supply store she kept going to put things together and sent an anonymous tip to the police.”
Evan pulled out a photograph from his wallet. It was two human girls, holding each other and laughing. One was a couple years older, but other than that they looked nearly identical. “She sent me this picture, of you two from before. Sienna, she goes to that school.”
Sienna took the picture and spent minutes studying it, touching the face she shared with a complete stranger that felt strangely familiar. She turned her eyes to Evan, pleading and clutching the photograph to her breast. Evan grabbed his pokedex and made sure his tamer's belt was secure before speaking to her. “We have to do something. Whatever it takes.”
Evan stood before the judge's podium, his posture in the traditional at-ease stance out of drilled habit. The judge presiding over his case was a grey haired old hag who looked at him like an insect to crush and sweep away. “Evan Thatcher, the court asks you once more. Did you or did you not give your Dracass explicit orders to kill the perpetrator of the attack on the Odessa's Junior College for Young Women?”
Evan had to be careful with his answer. On one hand, he risked making it seem as if Sienna had acted on her own. It may spare him from some grief, but he'd already been discharged from the JILF over the incident, and no matter what he would be indirectly responsible for the death of the Machismo goon. On the other hand, if he made it sound as if he had ordered the Dracass to go out for blood from the beginning, he'd be guilty of murder and would lose his entire harem. “I told my pokegirls to end the threat posed to the students of the school, ma'am. Whatever it takes.” Those exact words were verified by a psychic scan done on both him and Sienna. They were how he was going to make it through this. It had all been an unfortunate accident.
It wasn't just Aysel he had saved that day. To nearly a hundred girls, all of their family, all of their friends, and nearly the entire city who had been following the story thought of him as a hero, and the media gobbled it up. There were people outside the courthouse protesting the fact there was even a trial even as the ruling was yet to be made. He was obviously guilty, but the wrong charge and the whole situation was charged to explode.
“Very well. It can not be denied that you have saved the lives of many of the Jade Islands' promising youth by your actions, and given the situation I'm sure many would have acted the same. Even so, a human life was lost, no matter how tragically misguided that life may have been. Then again, you are a promising tamer and the league needs as many of those as it can. You will be placed on parole, for a term of three to five years depending on your behavior and productivity. Among reporting in to a parole officer every month, you will be fined a total of two thousand bounty points which you must collect in full before the probationary period ends. If you fail to collect at least four hundred bounty points a year, we will be seeing each other again and I will not let you off so easy.” The judge's gavel rapped on the stand.
Evan took a sip from his once again cool coffee once he finished the tale. Vince, Constance, and the now clothed Ingenue running the front counter were still held in the trance of listening. Yin Zhi gave a curt nod to the older tamer. Sienna was still on her master's lap with Evan's arms slipped around her waist. The purple haired tamer looked out the window at the sun, which was ever climbing higher into the sky. Then he looked at the clock on his pokedex. “Cheetit spit, that took longer to tell than I thought. Sorry Vince, you'll have to fill me in on your story some other time. Bounties aren't going to catch themselves.”
The pink haired tamer snapped his fingers. “Bounties! That's right! There were two Sharptits circling out near the docks around sunrise. One big one and one smaller. I was coming here to fill out a sighting report. I've only got one 'girl that'd be strong against them, and didn't know if I could lure them out of the water by myself. Figured I'd better play it safe.”
Evan stopped in his tracks and turned to look at Vince. “What if you had another tamer backing you with a Thundnaga and Juganium? Also, I've got Cam to lure them in shallower, she's a Phoenix now.”
Vince looked to Constance, who thought for a moment before responding, “I think we could manage with a force like that. Let me borrow Sienna on the way and we'll work out something by the time we get there.” Evan jerked his head towards the TickTock and his Dracass started a hurried and hushed conversation with Vince's alpha. Soon the group of them was heading out the doors of the pokecenter to make their way to scout out the docks.
Evan quickly did the math in his head. “Go ahead without me for a bit, I'll catch up!” He ran back into the pokecenter and up to the lobby.
The Ingenue was just being relieved by the day shift when he got to the front desk. He caught ahold of her by the forearm, causing her to blush. “Hey, when is your next shift?”
“Tonight again, sir. Here. Why?”
“I'll see you tonight then!” Evan pulled away from the quickly reddening but grinning Ingenue, catching her fingertips with his before completely parting. Then he ran out the door.
Splitting the bounty fifty / fifty, he would finally have enough bounty points to meet his quota. In fact, he'd be a little over, almost enough to purchase a civil service pokegirl from the leagues. It was looking like he wouldn't have to cancel Aysel's plans for his birthday after all, and he'd even be able to get himself a present.