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Nocturn

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The streetlights of Virbank City broke through the otherwise gloomy aura of the night, their artificial glow illuminating the streets with an occasional flicker.

            “So, you two leaving for Castelia soon?” Nate asked the two trainers in front of him. “I expect you’ll want to challenge Burgh soon after your wins this week.”

            “That’s right!” Rosa answered. “We’re taking a ship there Sunday afternoon.”

            “Don’t forget to bring your instruments!” Nate nudged her playfully. “I’ll want to hear some improvements next time we rehearse.”

            “And who’s the bandleader here?” Hugh grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Not you, trombone player. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t bring my sax with me while traveling.”

            “Nice. Just make sure to hold Rosie here accountable, you hear?”

            “I don’t need him to!” Rosa protested, feeling her face grow hot with annoyance. “I’m not a kid, you guys…”

            “We really should be heading home.” Hugh said, turning away from Nate. “Let’s hurry before the Plasma goons start terrorizing the streets.”

            “Alright then. Good rehearsal today, you two! And congrats again on the gym badges.”

            “Bye, Nate!”

            “See ya.”

            “Be sure to say hi once you’re in Virbank next!”


            “Are you sure we should head all the way back to Aspertia?” Rosa whispered, her right hand hovering over the Poké balls in her belt. “It’s really late.”

            “It’s fine,” Hugh replied flatly. The two trainers quickly walked along Route 20, making no haste in their travel west. “Combined, we have five Pokémon.”

            “I know, but, they’re really tired after today. And so am I.”

            They continued their walk in silence, Rosa noticing that Hugh was carrying his tenor saxophone in its case rather than just putting it in a ball capsule so it wouldn’t take up so much space.

            “Shouldn’t you put your instrument away? That looks heavy. I wouldn’t even want to carry my alto-”

            “It’s fine,” Hugh insisted, his apparent exhaustion adding to his usual standoffish independence. “This is what professional musicians did before ball capsules.”

            “Okay, then…” Rosa had a lot of respect for her childhood friend, but his Taurosheadedness was certainly annoying at times.

            Just before the two were about to cross the bridge over the Flocessy river, a shadow streaked across their path, seeming to come from a nearby tree.

            “What the-?!”

            The shadow, apparently a sentient being, loomed over the two trainers and let out a fearsome screech. In the dim light of the moon, Rosa could make out the profile of a certain, rare Pokémon.

            “Noctowl!”

            “Go, Pignite!” Hugh instantly sent out his partner Pokémon, dropping his instrument with a dull thud. The Pignite appeared before them, its breathing somewhat heavy due to a lack of rest.

            “Sage, go!” Rosa released her Snivy, its eyes glinting with determination.

            “A grass-type? Really? Use your head!” Hugh shouted. Before he could command his Pignite, the Noctowl let out a vicious cry and lunged at him instead of his Pokémon. Through the darkness, Rosa could see its talons digging into her friend’s arm.

            “OW!!! What the?! Don’t attack ME!”

            “Sage, vine whip! Hurry!” Two thin vines burst from Snivy’s back as it lunged towards the Noctowl, pulling it away from Hugh. The bird Pokémon immediately whipped around, tearing the vines from its wings and diving at Sage.

            “Sage, return!” Rosa cried, withdrawing her Pokémon before Noctowl’s pecks could do any more damage. “Go, Ellie!” An Elekid took Sage’s place, the Noctowl’s attacks not nearly doing as much damage as they had done before.

“Thunder wave!” At Rosa’s command, the Elekid whipped up an erratic wave of electricity and used the prongs on its head to send the static flying towards Noctowl.

            “Thunder wave?!” Hugh shouted, holding his left arm while stumbling towards Rosa. “You need to use attacking moves!”

            “Calm down, you’re hurt!” Rosa yelled at him before running towards the now-paralyzed Noctowl that was on the ground, struggling to move. “Leave this to me.”

            The attacking Pokémon looked up at Rosa and Ellie, who had suddenly ceased their attacks. The girl leaned over Noctowl, immediately noticing the patch of missing feathers from one of its wings.

“That isn’t from a Pokémon’s attacks…” The Noctowl tried moving away from Rosa as she had Ellie illuminate its prongs with electricity as to have a better look. “What the… is that a ‘P’? This Noctowl’s been branded!”

Rosa hurriedly rifled through her bag, grabbing a ParalyzeHeal to use on the wild Pokémon. Before she could heal the Noctowl, Hugh grabbed her arm and turned her to face him.

“What are you doing?! Either thundershock it to oblivion or let’s get the hell out of here!”

“Let go,” she growled, yanking her arm free of Hugh’s one-handed grasp. She hurriedly sprayed the Noctowl with the ParalyzeHeal, watching as movement made its way back into the Pokémon’s body. As soon as it could move its wings, the Noctowl squawked in alarm and flew away, not before digging its taloned feet into Rosa’s thigh and using her as a launching pad.

            “EEK! Oh, ouch!” she recoiled back quickly, immediately slapping her hands over the wound. Almost instantaneously, Rosa felt blood soaking through the tear in her leggings.

“Hey, get back here!” Hugh shouted into the darkness, running towards the direction of where the Noctowl had flown off. “How dare you!”

“Hugh, seriously… that Pokémon…”

“Are you okay? Let me see where it hurt you. I swear, I swear I’ll teach that thing to never mess with you again…”

“I’m fine, it’s just a scratch.” Rosa insisted, once again opening her bag to look for something. She retrieved a bottle of water and some adhesive bandages, keeping her eyes down as she quickly washed out the cut and patched it up. After seeing that she wasn’t bleeding through them, Rosa put the bandages away.

“What was wrong with that thing? Why would it attack me and not my Pokémon?” Hugh wondered aloud, suddenly remembering his Pignite was still cowering in fear a few footsteps away. He withdrew it swiftly, then noticed his instrument case still lying on the ground. He gave in to the need for convenience and withdrew it into a ball capsule as well.

“If you would’ve listened to me, I said the Noctowl was branded,” Rosa began, her tone void of her usual cheerfulness. “It had a ‘P’ symbol marked into its wing. I think it was from Plasma. Now, let go of your arm and let me look at it.”

Hugh reluctantly let go of his wound, outstretching his left arm towards Rosa.

“No wonder it was so aggressive! Those delinquents are training Pokémon to kill, aren’t they?”

Rosa almost didn’t register what Hugh had said as she examined his wound. The forearm of his jacket sleeve was completely torn through and blood had turned the fabric noticeably darker, even in the low light of the forest.

“Take off your jacket. This looks really bad.”

“It’s not that bad. It doesn’t hurt that much.”

“You’re shaking. That’s the adrenaline talking.”

Hugh threw off his jacket at her request, suddenly wincing as the fabric brushed against his torn skin. Rosa instantly took his arm in her hands, once again commanding Ellie to illuminate the situation.

Rosa quickly assessed the wound, determining from the bleeding pattern that no important veins or arteries had been cut. Regardless of this, it was still a long and fairly deep cut, so she took a roll of gauze from one of the outer pockets of her bag.

“You don’t have to patch me up, I can do it myself.”

“With one arm? Doubtful.” Rosa set the gauze in her lap as she took out an unlabeled medicine bottle, placing it next to her canteen. “First, I need to wash this off.” She poured water over the cut, washing as much blood and dirt from his arm as possible. She found a clean spot on one of her jacket sleeves and dried off the remaining water with it. “Now, this part might hurt a little, but I have to apply this medicine so it doesn’t get infected.” Rosa gently poured a few drops of the medicine onto Hugh’s arm, garnering a hiss of anger from her companion.

“Ugh, what the hell? Is this what Pokémon feel when we use potions?”

“Kind of. Okay, I’m going to bandage you up.” Rosa picked up the gauze and unrolled a long portion of it, tightly wrapping it around Hugh’s arm. She ripped it from the roll with her fingers, setting the unused gauze down once more and tying the bandage up at the end.

“Is all this really necessary?”

Rosa didn’t respond right away, keeping her eyes on the wrapping. After a few moments she noticed a dark spot of blood soaking through the bandages.

“Yes. I’m going to add more gauze, hold still.” She wrapped another layer around his arm, watching again after she was done and sighing with relief as no more blood soaked through.

Hugh put his jacket back on, standing up.

“I can barely move my arm, this sucks.”

“You wouldn’t be moving at all if I let you keep bleeding out. Come on, give Pignite a potion. We have to at least get to Flocessy tonight.”


It was nearly 2 AM by the time Rosa and Hugh made it back to Aspertia City. Rosa had suggested they stay overnight in Flocessy and continue their journey home the next day, but Hugh insisted it would be best to get home as soon as possible.

The two trainers had run into the former Unova League Champion, Alder, while passing through Flocessy Town…

“What are you two young’uns doing out at this time of night?”

“We could ask you the same, Alder. We’re heading back home from Virbank, our band’s rehearsal went pretty late…”

The younger trainers explained what had happened with the Noctowl after Alder had noticed the bandages on Hugh’s arm. The former Champion concluded that the Pokémon had likely escaped from Team Plasma’s ownership, likely fleeing abuse due to the branding on its wing. He had also suggested they stay overnight in the small town rather than continuing onward, especially due to their injuries, but yet again Hugh had refused. Both of their XTransceivers were out of battery and he didn’t want their families to worry about their whereabouts any longer.


            “You’ll want to change your bandages in the morning,” Rosa told Hugh through a yawn as he rustled through his bag for the key to his front door.

            “Will do… man, I can’t find my house key…” After nearly emptying everything from his bag onto the ground, Hugh concluded that he’d forgotten to pack it that weekend.

            “Still nothing?”

            “Nope. And all the lights are out, everyone’s asleep,” Hugh sighed, shoulders drooping. “My mom will be so mad if I wake her up…”

            “Well, you can probably stay over at my place,” Rosa suggested, already beginning to leave the doorstep, walking towards home.

            “Huh? You really don’t have to keep doing all these favors for me…” Hugh hurriedly caught up with Rosa after throwing everything back into his bag, nearly tripping over the flat ground due to how tired he was.

            “What, you think I’m going to let you sleep outside? You’re crazy.”


            “Rosa, I wasn’t expecting you to be out so late!” The only light in the downstairs of Rosa’s house came from the TV as her mother got up off the couch to greet her, having stayed up late into the night awaiting her return.

            “Oh, it’s been quite the day,” Rosa began, accepting a hug from her mom. “Also, Hugh needs to spend the night. He got locked out-”

            “I don’t need to, I just-”

            “Oh, that’s fine, sweetie,” Rosa’s mom interrupted. “It’s not like you’ve never stayed here before.”

            “Can he sleep upstairs with me?”

            “Seriously, that won’t be-”

            “That’s fine. Just keep your door open.” The girl’s mom winked at her before turning to head upstairs herself. “Goodnight, you two. I’ll make breakfast in the morning.”

            Neither of the trainers spoke until Rosa’s mom was out of earshot. As Rosa went over to the TV to shut it off, a very, very sleep-deprived Hugh began pestering her once more.

            “You’re seriously so embarrassing, I don’t know what your mom thinks-”

            “Oh, shush. I just want to keep an eye on you and that injury, don’t even think anything of it.” They headed upstairs to Rosa’s room, where they’d spent countless summers and school nights playing video games and talking about someday traveling with Pokémon. How long ago that all seemed now…

            Hugh threw off his jacket and collapsed onto Rosa’s bed, grateful that it was more than big enough for the two of them.

            “I’ll be right back,” Rosa whispered, grabbing a nightshirt from on top of her dresser. “Do you need painkillers or anything?

            Hugh stared at the ceiling, eyes adjusting to the darkness and the moonlight filtering through the slightly parted curtains. His left arm ached, but he didn’t want to bother Rosa any more that day.

            “No, thanks, I’m fine.”

            “Suit yourself, then.” She headed across the hall towards the bathroom. After she’d left, Hugh decided he should change into the extra set of clothes he had in his bag, but suddenly felt as if he was unable to get up. It was the first time he’d laid down in nearly twenty hours, and fatigue had more than set in by that point…

            “Hey, I’m done in the bathroom- oh,” Rosa stopped as she noticed her friend was already fast asleep. “Silly… you didn’t even brush your teeth yet.”

            Rosa threw her day clothes onto her dresser and sat down on her bed, breath catching in her lungs a bit as she noticed the slightly dark patch on the outside of Hugh’s bandage. She leaned in closer, examining his injury and determining the bleeding must have stopped a while ago.

            Must have strained too hard on the way home… What would you do without me? She laid down next to him, on top of the covers as not to disturb his rest, and closed her eyes.

            You really need to learn how to slow down, or one of these days…


           

            Rosa’s eyes flickered open, a surprising amount of sunlight flooding her room that morning.

            What time is it?!  She bolted upright, noticing that she was completely alone. The clock on her bedside table read 10:43 AM.

            Yikes! It’s late! The trainer hopped up out of bed, stepping into her Lillipup slippers and throwing on the pink bathrobe that was slung over her bedpost. Rosa noticed immediately that all of Hugh’s belongings were gone from her room as well. She dashed out into the hallway and careened down the stairs, hoping she hadn’t missed her friend off.

            “Oh! Good morning, Rosa.” Her mother’s voice echoed from the living room, where she and Hugh were sitting on one of the couches.

            “H-hey! I thought I’d missed you.” The girl scurried over, sitting down at Hugh’s left side. “How are you feeling?”

            “I’m fine, actually. Your mom re-bandaged my arm, like you said I should do today.” He rolled up his jacket sleeve, which was somehow clean and no longer torn, to reveal a gauze wrap much neater than Rosa’s from the previous day.

            “Good! So, mom, I’m assuming you heard the whole story…”

            “I did. I’m glad you acted so quickly, Rosa. Just how I taught you.”

            “It was nothing, really. But this one-” Rosa went in to nudge Hugh but decided against it due to his injury, “-certainly made it difficult.”

            “No, I didn’t!” he protested, crossing his arms. “You’re just too much of a worrier. I’m fine, aren’t I?”

            “Yeah, thanks to my quick thinking!”

            “You two… I thought you’d have grown out of this bickering phase by now!” Rosa’s mom laughed as the two trainers glared at each other.

            “Well, anyway, I’m glad you’re feeling better, crazy.”

            “Ugh, I thought we agreed to stop using that nickname, like, five years ago.”

            “It’s still accurate.”

            Hugh got up from the couch, throwing his backpack over one shoulder.

            “Well, I should get going. Thanks for letting me stay over, and for breakfast. Oh, and for fixing my jacket.”

            “It’s no problem at all,” Rosa’s mom replied, “tell your mother I say hi!”

            “Huh? Already?” Rosa stood up to face him, holding her bathrobe closed. “What’s the rush?”

            “I’ve got to get home, obviously,” Hugh started towards the door, Rosa close on his heels. “Mom’s probably worried sick. Then, I’m headed to Route 20. That Noctowl needs to be taught a lesson.”

            “W-what?” Rosa stammered, throwing herself between Hugh and the door. “That Noctowl attacked us because it was afraid! Don’t you think we did enough?”

            “Hm. I don’t think so. It seemed as if Team Plasma had trained it to attack people…” Hugh began to reach for the doorknob but Rosa shooed him away.

            “Didn’t you hear what Alder said? That Pokémon’s been abused! You’re just going to scare it even more… Besides, dummy. ‘Noct-owl’. It’s nocturnal, do you really expect to see it during the day?”

            “I guess not. Well, I’ll make sure to head up there when it’s dark out. If you have a change of heart, feel free to come with.” Rosa finally let Hugh leave, knowing that nothing she could say would deter his plans.

            Your skull is thicker than a Cranidos’ head!


            The sun was making its descent toward the horizon of Western Unova, casting the mountainous landscape in a rustic orange light.

            Rosa begrudgingly followed Hugh out of Flocessy town, Ellie’s Poké ball in hand.

            “What if we don’t even find it?”

            “I dunno. We can at least train out here for a while.”

            The two trainers made their way to the bridge near where they’d been attacked the previous day, Rosa sitting down on the old wooden boards with her legs dangling over the edge. She stared at her reflection in the vermilion water, the sunset making the river seem like glassy lava.

            Hugh was pacing on the riverbank, a Poké ball in hand. His dark eyes glowed with a familiar spite, something Rosa wished his Pokémon journey would rid him of.

            After nearly an hour, the sun had fully set behind the trees. Rosa’s view of herself in the water was now merely a shadow, outlined by pale moonlight. The two trainers had sparred with a few wild Patrats and Pidoves, admittedly not getting much stronger for their upcoming gym battles in Castelia.

            Sage, Rosa’s Snivy, was curled up in its trainer’s lap, brown eyes mesmerized by the stars above them. In this part of the region, the Milcery Way was completely visible, painting the sky with millions of faraway stars.

            Rosa was spacing out, only being brought back to reality as Sage gently headbutted her arm.

            “What’s wrong, boy?” she whispered, following the Snivy’s gaze to a dark silhouette in the trees just beyond the riverbank. “Oh?”

            Rosa stood up, cautiously making her way over to the treeline with Sage at her side. Hugh, who had been playfighting with his Pignite, noticed her sudden movement and hurried over.

            “What’s up?”

            “Sh, there’s a Pokémon over here.” Rosa held out one arm as to keep Hugh and Pignite back as she and Sage crept closer. The shape suddenly hopped out of the undergrowth, looking up at Rosa with wide eyes.

            “Noctowl!” she whisper-yelled, Sage running to hide behind its trainer’s legs. Rather than attacking, however, the Pokémon simply continued to stare at Rosa, the starlight reflecting in its eerie gaze.

            The trainer recognized the patch of missing feathers on its left wing. It was the same one from yesterday.

            “Pignite, Flame Charge!”

            “NO, STOP!” Rosa threw herself in front of the Noctowl, Sage following suit as the Pokémon behind them squawked nervously. Hugh’s Pignite was cloaking itself in fiery embers, ready to leap at Noctowl.

            “Rosa, move!

            “No, can’t you see? Noctowl is afraid! Pignite, you need to stop!”

            Hugh’s Pokémon stopped charging its attack, looking up at its trainer with confusion.

            “Rosa, I swear to Arceus, I didn’t come here to…” Hugh’s rambling trailed off as he noticed the Noctowl trying to completely hide itself behind the much smaller Snivy.

            Rosa turned around, taking a knee to get on the same level as the wild Pokémon.

            “Hey, it’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” Noctowl looked up once more, stepping a bit closer to the trainer. Rosa turned her head towards Hugh and Pignite, who had stopped to assess the situation.

            “You need to stop with this whole ‘revenge’ thing. I get it, Team Plasma is, like, the worst. I can agree with that. But this Pokémon was obviously abused by them, it’s not one of their cronies!” Rosa carefully reached out to Noctowl, surprised as it rested its head against her hand.

            “I… I’m sorry…” Hugh stammered.

            “You’d better be. Come apologize to Noctowl, not me.”

            “Ugh, seriously?”

            “Yes, seriously!”

            Rosa moved aside and let Hugh kneel down beside her, his gaze still cold.

            “I’m sorry, Noctowl.”

            The bird Pokémon dipped its head as if to say, “I’m sorry, too”. It then turned back towards Rosa, hopping over to her and nudging one of the Poké balls on her belt with its horns.

            “Oh? You… you want to come with me?”

            Noctowl nodded slowly as if it could understand her speech.

            “O-okay, then!” Rosa reached for an empty Poké ball, gently tapping Noctowl’s head with it to withdraw the Pokémon inside. The light on the center button blinked three times then clicked to confirm the capture.


            Much to Hugh’s distaste, Rosa insisted on Noctowl being outside of its Poké ball during the journey home. The Pokémon minded its own business, lightly fluttering at Rosa’s side while she and Hugh kept up a conversation.

            “I can’t believe we’re leaving for Castelia tomorrow… It feels like our journey’s finally about to begin, don’t you think?” Rosa chattered excitedly.

            “Yeah, I don’t think it’s hit me yet. The fact that we won’t be heading home to Aspertia every night… man, that’s really weird.”

            “I know… I’m really excited, but being on our own for real seems kinda scary.”

            “Eh, I’m not scared. It’ll just be different.”

            Of course you’re not scared… Rosa thought to herself.

            “Oh, hold up. I forgot to give Pignite a potion after that last battle.” Hugh released the aforementioned Pokémon from its ball, sitting down next to it while retrieving the medicine from his bag.

            The Noctowl at Rosa’s side suddenly flew away from her, landing beside the other trainer. The bird Pokémon watched carefully as Hugh treated Pignite’s scratches, laying its head on the trainer’s injured arm.

            “What are you…” Hugh looked down at Noctowl, whose eyes were wide and misty.

            “I think Noctowl is sad that it hurt you yesterday,” Rosa observed, taking a knee next to Hugh.

            “I… uh… it’s okay, Noctowl. Rosa patched me up just fine.”

            For the rest of their walk back to Aspertia City, Noctowl stayed between the two trainers, seeming to grow more comfortable with the presence of humans every minute.

            This time, Hugh held his house key in one hand as he and Rosa stood on his house’s doorstep.

            “Um… Hugh…”

            “What?”

            “I think… I think Noctowl wants to go with you now, not me.” Rosa pointed towards the Pokémon on her shoulder, its gaze saddened as its time with Hugh was almost over.

            “You serious?” he asked, looking warily at Noctowl. “I dunno, Rosie…”

            “I think so. After today, it seems like he really understands you.”

            Noctowl seemed to nod in agreement, further increasing Hugh’s suspicion of it.

            “You need a flying-type, though,” he explained, “especially for the next gym. Pignite has me set against bug-types, and you don’t have any type advantages-”

            “Hold on. Noctowl heard you talking about what Team Plasma did with your sister’s Purrloin, and… I think it wants to team up with you.”

            “Hm…” Hugh looked at Noctowl, suddenly feeling a possible kinship with it.

            “I… I was going to name him after you,” Rosa whispered, “but you can name him whatever you want.”

            “’Noctowl’ is fine,” Hugh insisted as Rosa withdrew the Pokémon into its ball. She handed it to him, not being able to hold back her smile.

            “I just know you two will be the perfect pair.”

            “I dunno, I hope so…”


            The spotlights in the Caravan Café were the brightest lights in the house that night, which Rosa noted as she wiped the sweat from her brow with one sleeve. She sat behind the jazz front, stocked with tons of sheet music, clicking her saxophone’s keys nervously as Hugh got up from his spot next to her to address the audience.

            “Thanks again for coming out tonight, everyone,” he began, already garnering cheers from the surprisingly packed café. “We’re going to wrap things up with a chart I threw together recently after meeting a new friend.” Hugh threw a Poké ball into the air, his Noctowl fluttering down to rest on his left shoulder. “Mind the neck strap, buddy. Anyway, here’s ‘Nocturn’, featuring the lovely Rosa on alto sax. Again, we are the Elemental Jazz Combo.”


            Backstage

“You were amazing,” Hugh exclaimed quietly as he wrapped Rosa in a hug. “I’m so glad we decided to play that tonight.”

            “You were amazing! I’m so happy you let me solo on it, seriously. Your writing is genius.”

            “Eh-hem, excuse me,” someone’s voice interrupted the friends’ congratulatory moment, causing them to break apart.

            “Oh, sorry, we’ll be- OH!” Rosa exclaimed in surprise as she recognized the man facing them, “G-Gym Leader Burgh, hello!” she stuttered, awkwardly bowing her head to the older trainer.

            “No need to apologize. Rosa, isn’t it?”

            “Yeah, that’s me. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” Rosa initiated a handshake with the gym leader, a bit starstruck that he already knew her name.

            “Please, call me Burgh,” he insisted, turning towards Hugh, “You have quite the ensemble. That last chart was an original?”

            “It was!” Hugh exclaimed as if addressing an old friend. “I wrote it specifically for Rosa to improvise over the changes. I’m glad you liked it!”

            “Yeah, thanks so much for coming to our show!” Rosa chimed in.

            “Oh, it was great fun. I always enjoy seeing up-and-coming musicians around Castelia, it gives me hope that the arts are in good hands. After Hugh over here told me about the show upon receiving his Beetle Badge, I had to see you all for myself.”

            “Huh?” Rosa turned to Hugh incredulously. “When did you challenge the Castelia Gym?!”

            “Last night… I didn’t want to psych you out before the show, so I didn’t tell you…”

            “That Noctowl of yours sure mopped the floor with my team,” Burgh interjected. “Should I expect to see you at the Gym soon, Rosa?”

            “Oh! Um, well… My team isn’t ready yet. You see, my ace is a grass-type, and we should really do some more training first.”

            “Well, if I may give a recommendation, I think you should do your training up north around Route 4,” Burgh told her, “there might be a few Pokémon among the dunes who’d be eager to join your team.”

            “O-okay! Thanks, I’ll do that.”


            “Say, it’s not even ten yet. Do you guys want to do some training?” Nate walked between Rosa and Hugh, the three trainers heading away from the café and towards the main avenue of south Castelia. Rosa eagerly looked to Hugh, as she knew he’d want to get some battles in before the day was over.

            “Uh… well, my Eevee could definitely use some more experience, but… I think I’d better head in for the night. It’s been a long day.”

            “Aw, you sure?” Nate whined, releasing his Dewott from the Poké ball in his hand. “We’ll go easy on you.”

            “I’m good, dude. My team’s been going pretty hard this week, I think it’s time we slowed down a bit. What do you think, Rosa?” Hugh turned towards her expectantly.

            “I totally agree. Although I’m surprised at you to turn down a battle…! Do you guys want to head up to Route 4 tomorrow morning?”

            “Yeah, sounds great!” Nate agreed, Dewott hopping up and down in agreement. “I’m going to try to get a taxi, you guys can go on ahead to the hotel without me. Nice job tonight!”

            “See ya, dude.”

            “Bye, Nate!”

            Rosa and Hugh walked in the direction of the Pokémon Center, unusually close to each other due to the narrowness of the sidewalk.

            “You just don’t want to get too far ahead of me in the gym challenge, do you?” Rosa teased after a long silence.

            “I don’t care. I’m already ahead, aren’t I?” Hugh zipped up his jacket as a chilled breeze from the ocean swept through the alley.

            “Yeah, you are. You deserve a break.” She nudged her friend’s arm, glad that it had healed up nicely in the past few weeks.

            “For once, I think you’re right. You and Noctowl have taught me a lot of things recently, to be honest… I think I need to stop pushing myself so hard.”

            “Not like I haven’t been telling you that for the past five years!” Rosa teased, nearly falling off the sidewalk as she laughed.

            “Hm. Well, thanks. For everything you’ve done for me, like, ever. I don’t think I tell you enough, but, thanks.”

            “You’re welcome. Now let’s hurry up and beat Nate to the hotel!”

            “Ugh, now you’re the wild one!”

            “The sooner you realize all Pokémon trainers are completely insane, the happier you’ll be!”