Derek took another sip from his warm Grepa juice as the Iaponese Ambassador– who he had leaned to be called Ayami, floated past by. His claymore Honedge partner was floating beside him, looking quite engrossed on his activity of observing the number of Pokémon that had attended the party. The ghost sword turned his single eye towards two certain guests that had joined them on the bar. He was surprised to see a Doublade, as his kind were quite rare, and somehow, he hadn’t seen any Honedges, Doublades, or even Aegislashes lately, even if the city had lots of them floating around.
Perhaps he ought to venture out more.
“Hi! Welcome to Avalodge.” Cael heard the ambassador's cherry voice as she greeted the two guests. “What can I get for both of you?”
"Oh, um... I'd like an Apple Cider, please!" The Braixen replied as he shifted his orange vest snugly around his torso.
"Dude. That's alcoholic. You sure?" One of the swords that followed him interjected, echoed by the other.
"Yeah man, you're a lightweight!"
The Braixen’s face pursed in annoyance. "Weren't you guys the ones to tell me to have fun once in a while?"
"... Good point." The first sword replied before turning to the Frosslass. "Two for the handsome swords too, please!"
“Sure!” Ayami giggled at their antics, feeling more than happy to oblige.
Cael chuckled to himself and decided to continue to his activity of observing the guests. The Avalodge was definitely crowded with various sorts of Pokémon he had ever seen. There was a lone, bored looking Phantump sitting by the Avalugg tables, eyeing someone who was face painting a few tables away. A pair of blue robed Lucario and Honedge walked past him, seemingly to be deep in discussion about the upcoming ice sculpting contest.
“But... a bust would be simpler, wouldn’t it?” the Lucario complained. “Come on, Ven. I’m not that skilled.”
“Which is why I purposed a Pidgeot statue.” The Honedge replied evenly. “It won’t be that hard, Zenneth. Trust me.”
Cael could hear the blue cloaked Lucario grumble and disappear from view. With that, the Honedge went back to his sight-seeing. There were sure a lot of ghost types today, he mused, with an abundant amount of fire types. Perhaps that was why Derek seemed perfectly fine when he was shivering badly at his arrival with Ardor.
And speaking of the devil...
The thickly robed Quilava nodded. The sword noted with amusement, that Ardor had a really bright yellow ‘mask’ painted on his face. It’s quite simple in design, but Cael would recognize a Verinzian styled carnival mask right away. It even had small, gold swirls around his eyes.
“Afternoon, Cael. Enjoying yourself?”
Cael’s green scarf swished lazily. “Quite, yes.” His eyes gleamed. “You got quite the artist, I see.”
Ardor chuckled. “I’m surprised myself.” He nodded to the shiny Noibat who was flying towards a bright pastry cart attended by a Zoroark. “Despite what he said, Lapis’ work surpassed mine by great lengths.”
“Lapis?” Cael blinked and looked towards the blue furred bat that was currently helping the Zoroark to sell the pastries. “Oh, I see. Interesting name... Well, have a drink Ardor. It won’t be another hour before the Ice Sculpting began.” Cael intoned brightly. “I trust you and Derek already have something in mind?”
Ardor hummed. “Actually, we will be partnering with other teams for that contest.” He said. “Derek had partnered with a Frogadier by the name Zach and his Togepi teammate..” Ardor nodded towards the hooded Bubble Frog Pokemon a few seats away. “The twins had agreed to help me and Lapis, on the other hand.”
Cael blinked his sole eye, once. “The twins? You sure the ice won’t melt before you three fire types could even begin?
A snort came from behind Ardor. “Then we will make sure the Nevermeltice wouldn’t melt, if it can melt in the first place.”
“Glad you two can make it.” Ardor grinned, turning around on his seat to greet the two newcomers, his eyes shuffled between the Houndours. Both Nicolò and Alessandro were identical in the looks department: having the same set of bright amber eyes, same face structure, and even identical V-shaped skull-helmet on their heads. Their only difference was their build and hair. Alessandro had his medium length hair tied in a short ponytail and had a more muscular build. Nicolò on the other hand had shorter hair and a leaner but sturdy frame. But more or less, it would be quite confusing to differentiate them if not for Alessandro’s ponytail.
“Stessa cosa.” Alessandro replied, grinning. He adjusted his dark brown winter coat around his shoulders as he and his twin brother took the empty seats between Derek and the Phantump. “No wonder you told us to bring some winter clothing. It’s freezing in here.” He added, grimacing slightly.
Ardor smiled wryly. “Derek didn’t bode too well with the cold either.”
“As if you fared better.” The Chimchar retorted. Ardor waved his paw dismissively.
“Well, anyway. Have you two decided on what we should sculpt?”
It was Nicolò who replied. “We have thought about several ideas, but we agreed to make the–
“Le Grandi Torri di Guardia.” Alessandro supplied.
“We had planned to make a large scale replica, which means–
“–we will need at least five large ice blocks to make it.” Alessandro added.” And did you bring those small Chargestone lanterns we asked?”
“Yes. It’s with Derek at the moment.”
Nicolò grinned. “Great! It will illuminate the tower nicely–”
“–from the inside of course–”
“–and the ice particles should reflect the lights very beautifully.”
“Perhaps we should carve an opening between the ice blocks so we could place the lanterns inside.”
“Yes, that should do the trick.”
Ardor blinked and shook his head to get rid of the impending dizziness. Watching the two talk is like observing a tennis match. “Wait, wait. Le Grandi– you meant those two famous ivory watchtowers?”
“Sì.” both intoned.
“The ones that burned down with the city?”
Both Houndours’ smiles faded, slowly replaced by a tight frown. Both looking quite uncomfortable with the subject.
“Yes... We would like something to remember and preserved from our home...” It was Alessandro who had spoken.
“Ah, alright.” Noticing their agitated body language, Ardor quickly changed the subject. He could relate with the two hellhounds. Watching your home burn and your family member die in one single day... it couldn’t be pleasant.
“Well, I think you should know, arts-and-crafts aren’t my strong subject, or even my other partner, so to speak.”
Alessandro chuckled. “Just leave the carving to us. You and that Noibat can help by cutting the basic the blocks into shape.” His eyes wandered about. “Well, we still have some time, right? I’ll just be with that Braixen over there.” He grinned, sauntering towards the fire type with the Doublade pair.
Nico let out an exasperated sigh. “Ale, this isn’t the time to flirt around!”
His words fell on deaf ears however, as Ale went to sit with the Fox Pokémon.
“Dei boni...” Nico muttered under his breath and went to order a drink with a small, annoyed scowl.
Ardor’s eyes followed Ale as he conversed with the Braixen. He couldn’t hear what they were discussing, but it would seem that the fire fox was quite amused that Ale went to flirt with him. The Houndour seemed to have invited the fox to the bar as the two stood up. The Doublade stayed where they were though, waving their magenta scarf-arms as the fire types left.
"...why not, if you don't mind a guy like me." Ardor heard the Braixen’s mirthful voice as their voices entered his hearing range.
Nico chocked slightly at his drink, stifling a laugh as he looked at his twin brother’s stunned face.
"Wait. Sei un maschio?!" the ponytailed Houndour asked.
The Braixen blinked. “What’s that mean?”
“He just asked that if you’re a guy.” Nico translated with a small snort.
"Oh, yep." The fox replied, his bushy tail swished around. "I don't mind guys though. Gotta say, you do look cute~"
Somehow, Ale managed to get through is initial surprise and his shocked face had returned to his award winning grin. With a chuckle, he replied, "Thanks. You look fine yourself."
It was Nico’s turn to look dumbstruck. Cael couldn’t help but laugh out from the amount of hilarity while Derek observed the interaction with a choked smile. Ardor just snorted and shook his head in amusement.
“Gods... I should’ve known.” Nico groaned, but there was an underlying satisfaction in his voice, as if he had solved a centuries old mystery.
Derek made a coughing noise and stood up. “W-well.” He fought to keep his face straight. “I’m going to see Zach and Drew over there.” He nodded to the Frogadier and Togepi team.
“Yeah. Go ahead.” Ardor nodded, stuffing his cold paws into his wintercoat pocket. His paw fingers immediately brushed against the ring which he had secured inside. A thought occurred to him.
“Nico, can you come with me for a second?” he requested. The Houndour in question shrugged and nodded.
Derek watched them stood. “I’ll see you later then.”
Ardor nodded as the Chimchar left the bar to join his Ice Sculpting partners. Derek observed as Ardor turned to Nico and walked slowly to the other end of the bar. “Do you remember the ring?” His voice was pensive.
The young Houndour’s ears perked up. “Yes...” he replied hesitantly. “How could I not?”
The rest of the conversation was lost to Derek’s ears as the two fire types disappeared into the crowd. He wondered if they were talking about the journey they had taken a few weeks earlier. To where, Derek didn’t know. But Ardor had returned with the twins and another ‘mon with a ring made of pure silver and a small wooden box which jingled when the Quilava handed it to Darius.
Shaking the thoughts out of his head, the Chimchar warped his loose scarf around his neck and walked past a stage which had been set up the other day. He watched in wonder at the finely dressed ‘mons bearing various musical instruments. One of them stood out from the most, seeing that the particular Zigzagoon was clad in a thin white shirt and a simple black jacket, looking quite miserable. Derek couldn’t help but feel pity to the normal type, seeing that he was shivering from the cold. But he couldn’t do anything at the moment, unfortunately.
“Hey! Over here!”
The Chimchar blinked and looked around to find who had called him. He then spotted Zach waving from his seat. Smiling a bit, the fire type went to join the two Hunters and began to discuss what they should be making tonight.
Meanwhile, Jim Holford sneezed as he drew his jacket collar over his neck. At least it provided some warmth. He huffed at his own negligence. Not only he had forgotten to wear warmer clothing, he had also forgotten his newly acquired scarf back at his flat. He had been informed that formal wear was the dress code for musicians for the night, but he had somehow forgotten that Avalodge had a concentrated winter climate.
Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk.
Shivering from the cold, the lanky Zigzagoon went to retrieve his trusty violin from the case and plucked the strings to test their pitch. He struck some notes to determine which ones would need tuning. Satisfied, he decided to play an excerpt from Ungarische Tänze No. 5 to make sure he had everything right. His violin was working well so far.
As Jim was about to test another piece to get his strings going, he started to realize that he was being watched by someone. The Zigzagoon turned with furrowed brows to see a Grovyle observing him with fascination written across his face. The Grovyle blinked when he realized that Jim was now staring back at himself, and he promptly averted his gaze away.
“F-forgive me. Er...did I bother you?” the grass type coughed, directing his gaze back to Jim sheepishly.
Jim raised his eyebrows. “No, no you didn’t.” he responded, taking in every detail of the Grovyle with his cold blue eyes. What he found was definitely interesting.
Strong, lithe build...nimble claws...subtle dent on the fingers...ink and chemical stain on sleeve... interesting way to fold a dorsal-leaf...Aaah, I see now.
“Isaac, wasn’t it?”
The stunned expression on the Grovyle’s face was enough for an answer. “Er, how did you...”
“You told me yourself. Just now.” Jim replied. “Well, that, and I’ve read every record on new members. I simply piece the facts together.” He added.
Isaac blinked. “I see...” he shifted awkwardly.
Seeing the Wood Gecko’s discomfort, Jim sighed and extended his paw for a handshake. “James Holford. I don’t believe we had met, which is strange since we are in the same guild.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Holford.” The grass type took Jim’s paws with his own claws. “And indeed? Well, in that case, your previous statement makes more sense now.” He chuckled good-naturedly.
“Right. Just call me Jim... or James. Whichever you prefer.”
Isaac smiled. “Alright.” He adjusted his white coat as he prepared his own instrument –which turned out to be a violin to Jim’s interest. “Do you play often, James?”
“Not really. I play it only when I have nothing to do or I need to think.” Jim replied, humming to himself. “Hmm... I trust you to have adequate violin skills?”
“Indeed I do.” Isaac replied. “I play my violin often, just to spend the time.” He seemed to realize something as a small frown creased on his forehead. “Are you alright? You look kinda cold.”
“Hmm? No, I’m not cold. I’m feeling quite well.” The Zigzagoon replied untruthfully. He sneezed. “I’ll be fine in a few minutes.... I think you should do some warm ups with your instrument. The cold is not good for the sound box and string.”
The Grovyle nodded, though he still looked a bit skeptical about Jim's current condition. “Thank you.” He then went to tweak and tune his violin, making sure that he had every string in the correct pitch while humming a random tune to himself. “Hmm... what should I play... oh yes... That would do.” The Grovyle grinned and began to bow a cheerful and light melody. The Researcher-slash-pseudo detective immediately recognized the bubbly serenade that practically skipped out of Isaac’s violin.
“Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major.” Jim uttered, impressed by the skill Isaac was showing.
“Eine kleine Nachtmusik” Isaac nodded in agreement once he finished the Allegro, happy that someone recognized one of his favourite Wolfgang pieces.
Jim turned around as several ‘mons applauded by the little show, his mouth quirked upwards. “Oh, look. We have an audience.” He chuckled as Isaac gave a small bow to the applauding crowd, grinning slightly.
“So it would seem.” Came the reply.
A thought occurred in Jim’s mind as they went to regroup with the other musicians. “Hmm... How’s your Sight Reading skill, Isaac?”
The grass type grinned brightly in response. “More than adequate I suppose. Why do you ask?”
With a sideways glance, Jim went to reach inside his satchel pocket and pulled out a thick manila folder. He then gave it to Isaac. “I composed this piece from an idea that I had for a while, and I haven’t had the time to test out the duet part. Would you mind playing the second violin?”
Isaac stared back and forth between Jim and the composition he held with shock written on his face. He found himself at a loss of words. It was a waltz. Slow, melodious, and hauntingly beautiful. He did not need to read through the whole composition to guess that Jim had put a lot of passion and pieced the melody brilliantly.
“I’d be honoured.” He managed to choke out.
Jim’s grin was blinding.
The sports competition went well into the night.
Tristan had never felt this spent in his life before, or feeling extremely invigorated as well. The soccer match he and Tor had participated went off and finished with a blast. Some of the participants are young ‘mons were between mid-teens to 20 year olds, but it was very fun indeed. It was too exciting that the Prinplup couldn’t recall how many goals were scored by his team that day, but he did remember Tor being a very effective and fearsome striker.
Around three in the afternoon, an exhausted Tristan decided to retire and went to get some refreshments inside the bar, while Tor –who somehow had an impossibly large amount of energy today, went to exert his remaining energy by playing a rather intense game of Dodgeball. The shaggy haired Buizel who had initiated the game had invented some really interesting variations. One of them was called Sulagest if Tristan recalled correctly.
“Right then lads! Th’ rules are simple. Anythin’ goes in this game.” The Buizel shouted, sporting a rather manic grin. “Gather dirt to throw at yer enemy's eyes? Have something to knock’em off ther’ feet? Use Protect to shield yerself? Heh! Anythin’ goes as long as yeh dun’ go maulin’ the other team!”
Needless to say, it was quite the brutal game ever.
Tor came out victorious, which wasn’t really surprising, for Tristan anyway. He supposed that his teammate’s military training and Special Ops background had helped on his timing, reflexes, and power . But the Shinx did not walk out without a scrape. Tristan counted a swollen eye, at least a dozen bruises and cuts all over his chest and legs, and a mildly sprained ankle.
And their resident doctor was not amused.
“Good gods Tor! Did you get into a bleedin’ bar fight already?!
“Dodgeball, Leo. It’s Dodgeball.” Tor replied with a loud groan as Leo forced him to sit down on the nearby bench.
The Vaporeon’s eyes widened. “And since when did a simple Dodgeball turned into some barbaric game?! No, don’t tell me. It’s the freaking Stone Age! ‘Course a harmless game would be quite brutal.” He remarked, flapping his arms about. “Vest off.” He added.
“You would want to direct that question to Slick.” Tor remarked.
“That pirate wannabe Buizel who invented the Sulagest mode.”
Leo blinked. “Sula– what?”
“Brutal mode, if you prefer,” Tristan butted in, but Leo directed his glare to the Captain.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Tristan found himself shrinking away from the angry water type. “I can’t just–“
Leo interrupted him, his paws clenched. His voice was deathly calm. “You know what? Just shut up... and let me work.”
Less than five minutes later, and a lot of hisses and yelps from Tor’s part, Leo stowed away all of his rudimentary pastes and ointments into his faithful medical bag and shooed the disgruntled, but much better Shinx and their Captain away. Packing his bag up, the Vaporeon made his way towards the bar. “Stupid, adrenaline crazy officers and crazy detectives.... I really need a break.” He muttered, straightening the hem of his jacket.
He went pass the ice sculpting corner, pausing to gawk one particular structure that was slowly taking shape. A tower, he realized. It was a detailed replica of a Renaissance bell tower. Well, it looked like a cross between a bell tower and a watchtower when he took a closer look. Leo had to admire the amount of detail that were carved into the ice blocks. Two Houndours were busy carving the tiny windows and tiny details of the façade while a Quilava and a shiny Noibat, both had at least three layers of clothing, was carefully cutting the ice blocks into smaller pieces. Leo also noticed that there was a circular hollow dent in the unfinished structure. A quick glance to the side revealed that the three fire types had planned to place two white and blue coloured lanterns inside, which would illuminate the tower in bluish white light.
This should be quite the spectacle.
The Vaporeon soon found himself sitting by the bar, conversing with the many healers and scholars from the Researcher guild while enjoying several cups of warm Iaponese beer. As Leo reached for his third glass, soft music began to waft through the lodge, drawing everyone’s attention to the stage. A quick glance told Leo that the dancing competition had started, with a Dusknoir in a formal suit announcing the rules and whatnot. Anyone could enter provided they wore suitable clothing. This is to say, formal wear.
“Hello there. I was wondering if you would be here and there you are.” Someone giggled. “Mind if I join you?”
Leo turned to face the owner of the voice. “Hmm? I don’t mind– oh.” His eyes were suddenly drawn towards the eerily familiar blue eyes which belonged to a familiar Braixen. “Ah, hello again.”
Matsuri’s face broke into a broad smile. “Hi there, doctor.” She slipped to the seat next to Leo’s. “How’s the Researchers doing for you?”
“Oh, well. Lots of experiments and pouring over old documents.” The Vaporeon shrugged. “Beer?”
“No thank you.” The Braixen replied politely, running her paws through her immaculately curled red hair which fell down through her backs in soft waves, framing around her face perfectly. And there are her brilliant blue eyes, like a storm brewing in the midst of a bottomless ocean–
‘Get a grip Leo.’ He berated himself. ‘There’s no use, and there’s definitely no chance for an old ‘mon like you.’ He sighed, slowly realizing that the Braixen had been talking for the last five minutes.
“...and I had to drag Toshi out from his room. He wasn’t so happy when I had to levitate him out.” The vixen giggled to herself. “Well, that’s old grumpy Toshi for you.”
“I see.” Leo nodded absently, sipping his beer. He blinked when he realized that Matsuri was not regarding him with a rather wistful smile. “What? Something on my face?” he wiped his mouth with the back of his paw.
“Oh, nothing, nothing.” The vixen quickly replied, looking thoughtful. “You know, I was wondering... well, it’s really out of the norm, but... would you like a dance?”
Leo choked on his beer so badly that Matsuri and a Banette had to pound his back. After he calmed down, he settled back on the stool, still coughing, and took calming breaths. “Thanks.” He muttered to both ‘mons.
“You’re welcome.” The Banette replied. Leo was trying hard not to stare at the Unown that had somehow become the ghost type’s necklace. It blinked back.
“A-anyway.” The Vaporeon turned his attention back to Matsuri, who was now looking at him in concern. “You said something about d-khf-ancing?”
“Well, if you don’t mind.” She smiled brightly.
Leo did not know what drove him into saying yes. He was quickly dragged over into the dance floor by the most beautiful Braixen he had seen in his life and was quickly engaged into a mysterious waltz with her. They twirled around, passing a tall and lanky Stunky with sharp, pinched features dancing with a rather muscly looking male Charmeleon with deep crimson scales. They had to avoid the fire type's abnormally large tail a couple of times, but perhaps it was her smile or something, but the Vaporeon was really enjoying the waltz. Though, his clumsy moves contrasted with Matsuri's gracefulness. Leo never really had the time to think why he had accepted in the first place, as he was now at the receiving end of an amused, yet inquisitive smile from Jim, who was leading the lively tunes with a Grovyle in a violin duet.
Groaning inwardly, Leo realized that Jim would be pestering him with the most embarrassing questions for the next two weeks.
But... he guessed that he could enjoy the moment. For now.