Mysh ran ahead of you as you jogged through the woods surrounding Celadon City. The jolteon stopped at a fork in the road and turned back to look at you. Noticing the considerable gap between herself and her trainer, she whined and sat down. As you reached her, you wiped sweat out of your eyes and took a deep breath. The sign told you that the Cycling Road lay to your left and Celadon City lay to your right, but the Celadon Forest Trail you'd been following abruptly ended there.
You glanced one direction, and then the other, while you caught your breath. Mysh whined again and barked at you. This was her one day a week to have you all to herself, and she hated spending it sitting at a trail fork.
"Calm down," you told the jolteon, glancing around the forest again. It was your day off, so you really didn't want to spend it in Celadon. It had been a considerable amount of time since several of your pokémon had had a chance to stretch. And there was the matter of your braviary... He was extremely displeased with you, and hadn't been out of his pokéball in a couple weeks.
Mysh scratched at your leg with her forepaw, causing you to look down. Her spiked fur was beginning to stand on end in her frustration, and you could see the beginnings of electric sparks on the tips.
"Alright, alright!" you said. "We're going into the woods." You motioned straight ahead. "Stick close." The jolteon barked happily as you stepped off the path and began jogging down a narrow pokémon trail. You wondered silently to yourself as you jogged if this was one of the trails Damon and Toby used while they were hunting. As a clearing approached, you shook your head to rid yourself of work related thoughts.
Mysh did a lap around the clearing. Her pointed fur began to settle down as she rubbed up against bushes and trees, discharging the electricity. You sat down on the grass in the middle of the clearing and observed the surroundings. It was quieter than a forest should be, and you hadn't encountered a wild pokémon since you'd been about five miles south of the city. The soft cooing of a flock of pidgey turned your attention upwards. If they were smart pokémon, they wouldn't land until Celadon City was miles behind them.
Taking advantage of your distraction, Mysh pounced on you, knocking you onto your back. You laughed as she licked at your face. Pushing her off, you sat back up and sighed. "What should I do, Mysh?" you asked her, putting a hand on her head. For as prickly as she looked, her fur was actually extremely soft. The jolteon looked back at you reproachfully. Her glare told you what you already knew and what a couple of your other pokémon thought, too: Leave Celadon City and never go back.
"Don't look at me like that," you told her, roughing up her hair and pushing her head away playfully. "Just be happy I care about you guys and don't make you join in."
Mysh growled at you before standing up and making her way to the edge of the clearing. You shook your head. You'd give anything to just leave sometimes. Disappear, return to Unova, and put your past behind you, but you were needed, whether your pokémon understood or not.
"I still let you guys out," you told her. The jolteon continued sniffing at the bushes. Her cold shoulder gave you the message: Not often enough.
"I saved you from that awful trainer." It wasn't quite the truth; you'd traded a teddiursa for the frail, mange infested jolteon the first week of your new job. And as valiant as that sounded, it was only because the big burly man had threatened to break your neck if you didn't trade. That same pokémon, now an ursaring, terrorized the pits in Goldenrod City.
Mysh turned to look at you with fear in her eyes. You'd been together for four years, but your bond suffered due to your occupation and lack of unlimited free time. Your bonds with all of your pokémon weren't as strong as they could be.
"Come here." You coaxed her forward encouragingly with your hands. Head drooped and ears back, she walked to you slowly and lay down. "I would never put you back there. Okay? Never."
Unconvinced, the pokémon just lay next to you as you stroked her fur. You sighed and lay back, staring up at the sky. "Sometimes I wish I'd gone for badges like everyone else," you told the jolteon. She whined in response and inched closer, pressing her warm side to yours. "They'd come after me if I left. You know that right?"
You let the question fade into silence as a rustling came from one of the bushes. Mysh yipped and hid behind you. Sitting up, you watched two familiar faces walk by. Luckily, they weren't turned in your direction quite yet. Shushing your pokémon, you recalled the jolteon to her pokéball. Then you lay back down and hoped the people would pass. Unfortunately, you had no such luck; no sooner had they disappeared from view did they pop out on the opposite side of the clearing.
"Eh? What's this?" one of them asked. His companion didn't answer, but you sat up. "Oy! ____!" he called, giving you a wave. It was odd, really; in this setting, the man seemed harmless.
"Hey," you called back, standing up.
The one who had spoken, Toby, walked forward. His iridescent blue eyes sparkled mischievously as he grinned at you. "What are you doing in our hunting grounds?"
You shrugged. "Just enjoying the weather."
Toby scratched at his blond hair before glancing back at his companion. "Don't believe ya," he said, turning to you again.
"I know your game. You got secrets like the rest of us." Toby's blue eyes narrowed. "But I don't like secrets."
"Toby," his companion said coldly. "Enough." The other blonde regarded you just as coldly. His slate gray eyes seemed to pierce holes in your very soul. "____ is obviously training."
"Lord knows she needs it!" Toby cackled, distracted from his previous train of thought. "Between that blind lizard and the pincushion, it's a wonder you're one of the seven."
"You're forgetting my bird with a sense of justice," you replied sarcastically.
"That giant feather pillow?" Toby asked, waving a hand in front of his face. "Personally, I'd kill the damn thing and stuff it. Would make a nice trophy, huh Damon?"
The companion gave a slight nod, his piercing eyes never leaving your face.
"Well, we have hunting to do. Don't scare them all away~!" Toby said cheerfully as he walked back towards the other blond.
"I saw a group of bellsprout about three miles south of here," you offered.
Toby contemplated this information for a couple seconds. "Naw. I think pidgey is on the menu tonight." The pair left you with those words, and you had to suppress a shudder.
Toby gave you cause to be wary of him. Since his induction into the seven, deaths and injuries skyrocketed. And you seemed to be the only one who cared, aside from the cops. It came with the territory, you supposed, and Toby had a point about your pokémon. It was about time to square with your braviary, before the damage was irreparable.
His pokéball weighed a ton as you held it out in front of you. You weren't quite sure what he would do when he was released, but you were positive it would not be a happy reunion. After a few seconds' pause, you pressed the center button and watched the red light that came from it. When the huge bird had materialized, he let out a loud screech and spread his wings wide. The ten foot wingspan was intimidating, but the five foot tall eagle pokémon with sharp talons proved just as dangerous. The braviary turned his head slightly, and caught sight of you in the corner of his eye.
Folding his wings, Buzz turned to face you, screeching again. His discontent echoed throughout the forest. Wryly, you thought that the hunting party would be hard pressed to find a single pidgey after that display. Ruffling the white feathers around his face, Buzz clicked his beak and took a step towards you. His keen eyes had already deduced that you were in Celadon Forest, and not far away as he'd hoped.
"Before you attack me again," you began, rubbing at the bandages covering your arm, "hear me out."
Buzz stopped and cocked his head to the side, waiting for your explanation.
"I didn't kill those rattata. I was just told to get rid of them, alright?"
The braviary turned away from you, scolding you with several choice syllables of its name. When you didn't respond (how could you? he had a point), Buzz stretched his wings wide and took off in a huge gust of wind that almost knocked you over. He would be back; the draw of his pokéball would call him back eventually, if not his need to free you from the underground. But you knew he had to be hungry; even if pokémon went into a stasis inside their pokéballs, they still needed to eat.
Toby came crashing back into the clearing, his jaw set. He was about your height, but much stronger as he grabbed you by the throat and slammed you into a tree, his eyes narrowing.
"You did that on purpose. You're the goddamn mole, aren't you?" he demanded, his face only inches from yours.
You shook your head. "I was just trying to reason with him!"
Toby gave a snarled laugh. "You don't reason with those creatures. You command them!" He held you against the tree for a moment longer, before releasing you and stepping away in disgust. "If it were up to me, you would be eliminated like Caine," he spat. "Control that fucking bird, or I will."
You laughed. Toby was mostly bark and very poor at handling willful pokémon, no matter his claims.
"You think something is funny?" he snarled.
"Yes," you said, moving away from the tree. "I'm a member of the seven, too, you know. Just because I can't control a pokémon known for being valiant and just, doesn't mean you're better. We're not exactly following the rules, now, are we?"
Toby grunted "Just don't get in the way of us hunting."
You nodded half heartedly and rubbed your neck.
"Don't come to the pits tonight unless you plan on me kicking your ass," Toby said as he left, his blond head disappearing back into the trees. You sighed in relief. At least he hadn't pulled a knife on you this time. His challenge bothered you, though. You'd have to go that night, because not showing up would only make matters worse for your already precarious position. Your night off wouldn't be a night off after all.
Buzz didn't return by sundown, so you left the clearing and headed back to Celadon City. There was no way that you would miss a challenge from Toby of all people. The boy was sixteen years old, not even a man, and he was cockier than any other trainer you knew. But that night, you would put him in his place. And his words disconcerted you; Toby had called you a mole. As far as you knew, there were no moles. As much as you might want to run to the cops and tell them everything, you couldn't. Too much was at risk for you to act upon that desire.
The walk back to your apartment was quick, and the long overdue shower rinsed off all of the sweat from your jog that morning. Mysh lay on your couch taking a nap when you stepped into the living space with a towel wrapped around your head. Usually, you watched movies with the jolteon on your night off. Very seldom did you go out, and you never went to the pits. She whined at you when you didn't sit down next to her.
"I have to go somewhere, okay?" you told her as you walked into your bedroom to find appropriate clothing for the pits. "Stay here in case Buzz shows up at the window?" you asked her.
Mysh's response was to growl slightly in displeasure, but she did not move from her spot on the couch as you came back into the main room. "I'll be back by morning."
You grabbed your coat and keys and locked the door behind you. Shouldering your purse, you pulled two pokéballs out of it and swapped them for two on your belt. The pits only allowed a trainer to carry four pokémon at the time of admittance. How many a trainer left with, however, was entirely dependent upon what the trainer did that night. Personally, you preferred not to wager pokémon, but most of the clients enjoyed the thrill associated with it.
The streets of Celadon weren't super packed because it was a week night, but people still bustled to and from stores. That Sunday, the Easter Lopunny would come and hide chocolate eggs for all of the little kids. You smiled to yourself, remembering egg hunts with your brother and parents. It had been years since the last hunt. Your family had still lived in the Unova region at the time. With a sigh, you continued on your way towards the pits. As you walked, less and less people occupied the sidewalk, and the spacing of street lights became further and further apart.
Industrial districts, in general, are not known for being particularly safe after dark, but Celadon City's industrial district was not somewhere that anyone should walk alone at night. With that in mind, you pulled a pokéball from your belt and released the small otter pokémon from its ball. He looked up at you, confused, before glancing around. Normally Bubba did not come out of his pokéball on your night off, but when he recognized the area the dewott grasped a scallchop in each paw and nodded his readiness.
You nodded back and continued walking, your first pokémon at your side as the frequency of streetlights grew even smaller. At the very last light before the Celadon City limits, you turned off the road and took the familiar path to a vacant warehouse. Two huge, burly men stood on either side of the sheet metal door.
"What're ya doin' here, ____?" one of them asked as the other wrapped on the door three times with his knuckles.
"Toby challenged me. I'm going to put him in his place," you replied, patting Bubba on the head.
"'Bout time. Th' squirt things he can boss us 'round."
"I'll be sure to let you know how it goes," you told him with a smile as the door slid open and you were admitted.
Once inside, a young boy, maybe twelve, with spiked black hair ran up to you with a scowl on his face. "Toby said you'd show up."
"Good to see you too, Caleb," you told the boy.
Caleb crossed his arms and glared at you for several seconds before stating, "Toby is going to kill that little otter of yours."
Your dewott growled in response and Caleb scoffed. Another man came up behind him and put a hand on his head. "Now, now Caleb. How many times do I have to tell you? Toby is not a god."
Caleb harrumphed. Neither of you had to look up at the tall, lanky trainer with the gray baseball cap to know who it was. Jax was one of the seven, as were you and Toby. He smiled at you, and you smiled back.
"Run along. You shouldn't be pestering her," Jax said, ruffling the young boy's hair.
"I'm not a little kid," Caleb grumbled as he walked away, arms crossed.
You and Jax shared a small laugh before he put his hands on his hips and looked you up and down. "The question remains, though... What are you doing here on your night off?"
"Personal matter," you replied. As you looked him over in return, though, you noticed his bandaged cheek. "What happened?"
Jax shrugged as you brought your hand up to touch the gauze. "Battle wound. Someone set their sneasel on me as I was walking home last night."
"Seriously?" You let your hand drop from his face and regarded his brown eyes carefully. Usually there would be a hint of a joke by this point, if he were joking.
He shrugged. "I'll have some wicked scars once it's healed. Besides, that's our lives, right? Honestly, I worry more about you when you walk home."
You grinned and shook your head. Jax was probably your favorite member of the Seven, because he was a total sweetheart, despite your shared (illegal) occupation. "I wonder what you're doing in the pits if you worry about a girl walking home alone at night."
"I can't have a chivalrous streak?" he teased.
"Have you seen our line of work?" you replied incredulously.
"So? A pretty lady should always have an escort," Jax said with a wink and a hugely flirtatious grin. You smacked his arm lightly.
"It's a wonder you survive here." There was a cry from down one of the dark hallways and then the roar of the crowd. "Speaking of which... shouldn't you be working?"
Jax gave an over dramatic sigh and scratched at the bandage on his cheek. "You obviously wouldn't know since you don't normally come Thursdays, but I'm the host tonight."
You groaned. That was your least favorite thing to do: greet everyone who enters and direct them down one of three hallways: to drugs, to sex, or to battles. "I'm so sorry."
"No, no, it's alright," Jax said airily. "Where to?" he asked, bowing dramatically. "Battles, battles, or battles?"
Giving a snort of laughter, you crossed your arms. "I thought there were other choices?" you asked playfully.
Jax looked at you and grinned wide, exposing his perfectly white teeth. "Are you suggesting we get a room?"
Bubba, who had been silent through the exchange, kicked Jax hard in the shin.
"Ouch! Cool it, little guy. I'm teasing her."
Bubba growled all the same, and you thought it better to continue on your way into the battling portion of the warehouse, which was by far the largest section.
As you walked down the hallway, the chatter of the crowd grew louder. There were more cheers and you heard a trainer's whistle blow. The trainer was booed away as you came to the closed door. Sighing, you recalled Bubba to his pokéball before pushing the heavy metal door to the side.