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Hubris & Humility; Martini's Odyssey ch. 5
Topic Started: 10 Aug 2017, 08:48 AM (523 Views)
Posted Image Persimmon
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Martini's Odyssey Ch. 5
Hubris & Humility

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Pokemon Declaration

Event Plot

The rustling chorus of the incoming tide crooned like a distant lover, its salt stained lips uttering sweet nothings underneath the vast blanket of night. Come to me, it murmured softly, frilly white foam brushing against its sandy bosom. Up above, wispy clouds traversed the starry canvas in fragments of threes and fours, their grey sails soaring over the glinting sea and its ivory beaches. If one were to look hard enough, just beyond the veil of clouds, they'd find the sparkling streaks of falling stars disappear into the indigo horizon. They were fleeting visions, ghostly jewels crowning the twilight waltz. As dusk settled, the waning caws of Wingulls bled through the ocean breeze, joining the muffled symphony of far off traffic and a buzzing locale.

Night had come and Aurmouth city sparkled with a renewed zest.

Polished sandstone crested the labyrinth of gilded mansions and ivory towers, the golden glow of street lamps seeping in between the alabaster lane ways. A pervasive murmur filled the opulent city, the cacophonous tide of conversations and car engines coming together in a triumphant symphony that answered the coastal lullaby. The city itself moved like liquid butter, its inhabitants seamlessly weaving and whisking their way through Aurmouth's sun dried veins. The waterfront region was in a perpetual state of business and pleasure, the cogs of its industries running as smoothly as one would expect of such a renowned metropolis.

One such beacon of the city's opulence gleamed underneath the silver gaze of the moon, a barricade of spotlights illuminating the the ginormous building and its distinctive name.

It was hard to miss.

The Starlight Casino, a title that was much a part of Aurmouth's DNA as it was to the wallets that relinquished dians into its bountiful coffers. Black and gold steel embroidered the sleek compound in an eye catching wreath of twisted metal, its gilded archways leading into several revolving glass doors that swallowed devout gamblers like a gluttonous machine.

Holographic banners gilded the walkway with meticulously marketed advertisements, the bedazzled promos glistening underneath the shadow of night like gaudy parchments. Brief glimpses of Showgirl's Sizzling Saturdays and Milano the Magnificent were etched into the peripherals of the murmuring crowds that escaped the cool night air. It was a veritable onslaught of self promotion, the sort that did not waver by the lip of the entry either.

Crowning every entrance was a large screen detailing the night's winnings and events, ranging from blackjack tournaments and its prize pool and the opening of a freshly minted arena for those with more battle ready proclivities.

Such was to be expected of the renowned casino. To many, the pristine establishment was one that could inspire the seeds of hedonism and vice, the promise of reward hanging over the heads of its pilgrims like a bejeweled guillotine. The sweet and fickle release of success plagued the premises like a crooning wraith, tipsy patrons submitting their faith against her bosom and suckling at the teet of her bounty. Some were blessed and others were cursed. The Starlight casino did not discriminate. Anyone who waded into the maze of poker machines, overpriced alcohol and card sharks were bound to come out as either of the two. Regardless of their success, most would always stumble back into Starlight's tempting embrace.

Alas, such a constraint did not hinder one particular patron.

Swooping through the glassy maw of the casino with glossy obsidian hair trailing down her alabaster shoulders, Martini Ravensdale appeared less than beguiled by the establishment's decor and activity. None of this was new to her. She'd been here more times than she cared to count, so much so that the staff viewed her as a regular patron, a valued one at that. Such familiarity did not come from any addiction to the allure of gambling but from the seat she held in the casino's hierarchy.

This was her father's business as much as it was hers.

Garbed in a fine red dress that covered her from bust to knee and a black fur coat that framed her alabaster features, Martini looked very much like one should when attending their future domain. With a pink cashmere scarf adorning her neck and peep toe heels gracing dainty pedicured feet, the uncharacteristically colorful girl strutted through the throngs of suited gamblers with head held high and sapphire gaze flitting about her surroundings.

Offering the freshly refurbished crimson foyer little more than a squint of her eyes, the formally attired teenager swiftly whisked herself past a metal detector, its stone faced security guards and one particularly chipper looking door boy that gawked in her direction. His greeting was met with a blank gaze and the pursing of painted lips, a finely shaped brow cocking in incredulity as the casino's heir ignored the trivial pleasantry. The dreary ritual was not needed for a girl of her standing, especially when she was several minutes behind schedule.

Still, such a brisk pace could never reach its zenith with the grating accompaniment of one Alexander Huber. Now, unlike the rightfully respected Martini, Alex was but another guest in the gilded establishment and was subject to every manner of inspection his closest friend was not. Tailing after Martini, with his shirt half tucked in and his navy blazer unbuttoned, the blonde haired boy straggled behind her with eyes wide and cheeks flushed.

Even when running late, Alexander never failed to inspire the heiress' barely measured exasperation.

Tapping the heel of her shoe against the polished marble floor, Martini impatiently watched on as her oldest friend fumbled his way through the metal detector and awkwardly stripped himself of his watch and poke balls.

"Any slower, Huber?" She called out incredulously, clicking her tongue as she relinquished a sigh.

"Don't rush me!" The boy whined in response, awkwardly nodding at the guard manning the detector before collecting his belongings and stomping a foot back into one of his recently polished shoes. "We can't all breeze through here like you can, Miss Ravensdale." Alex uttered, scrunching his nose as he blabbered out her title with an accusatory jab of a finger.

"Hush up." Martini tutted, folding her arms and twirling on the heels of her feet as her unofficial date for the night finally caught up. "It's because of you that we're late in the first place." The girl grumbled, lips curling in disapproval as she tauntingly leered at her companion. How she manage to drag him this far, from all the comforts of his video games and home, without ruining their friendship still remained a mystery. Alas, such a thought came and went as fast as her little feet passed over the threshold of the inner foyer. Passing a marble pillar and flashing a knowing glance at a nearby security guard, Martini and Alex were ushered past a queue of suited individuals before being led to a singular elevator separated from the rest.

It was reserved for esteemed members and staff only.

"Perfection takes time", Alex countered underneath his breath before clearing of his throat, "besides, I can't come to your grandma's birthday without looking my best." The boy nodded to himself, fixing his bow tie in the reflective glass of the elevator's sliding doors.

The heiress did little to hide her smirk.

"Honestly, I don't even know if she'll remember who you are." Martini uttered flatly, brushing a strand of obsidian hair from her brow and tapping a manicured finger against the lift's entry. "Besides, I'm like one of three grand kids and being tardy isn't a good look." The girl mused, pursing her lips as she watched the polished metal doors open with a shrill ding!

"Since when did you care about keeping to timetables? You literally stopped your trip around Godai to stay in a Brillaya resort." Alex snorted, following the petite heiress into the elevator and jabbing a finger at 'Level 30'.

"Uh excuse me, you're staying in that resort with me? If I didn't decide to take a break from travel you wouldn't have ever met Scarlet and I know how much you two are enjoying each other." The dainty Ravensdale sniffed haughtily, watching the city of Aurmouth shrink below her as the humming glass capsule rose up the spine of the Starlight casino.

Even without looking, Martini knew Alexander's face assumed a new shade of red.

"D-Don't be weird! I'm allowed to sate my urges as much as she is. You even said you approved of her and that I was allowed to explore this thing with her and-"

A dismissive flourish of Martini's hand was enough to halt the boy's increasingly manic rant.

"Relax. I don't care what you two do together." The girl smirked, blue eyes darting back to a slightly flustered Alexander. "Just remember that if anything happens, I've called dibs on being the whoops baby's godmother." She grinned, red lips curling upwards to reveal pearly white teeth.

"You're literally the worst." Alexander groaned, eyes clenched shut as pinched the bridge of his nose.

"I know."

Before the boy could respond with his half baked witticism, an automated voice rang into the air conditioned capsule as the doors to the elevator silently slid open.

"You have reached FLOOR THIRTY. Rooftop access granted. Enjoy your time at Starlight casino!"

"Thank you machine." Alex chirped sarcastically, adjusting his eyes to the gentle glow of fairy lights just around the corner of the elevator. Deeply inhaling, the blonde haired bow tie wearing boy glanced at his diminutive compatriot and lightly nudged her in the arm. "You sure you're cool to do this? I mean, after last week's Firebird trip I thought you'd-"

"I'm fine, Alex." Martini interjected with a slight nod of her head, one brow raised in suspicion as she glanced at the lanky teenager. His empathy always vexed her. "I know this place and I know these people. There's nothing to worry about." She shrugged dismissively, offering her words a self affirming simper and stepping out of the lift.

She could already hear the smooth rhythm of the live jazz band seep out from behind the wall of the elevator's entry.

"Well, time to have some fun I guess." The girl mused quietly, dainty fists clenched as she deeply inhaled a plume of fresh night air.

How easy said fun was going to be attained was yet to be determined.

Alexander Huber's NPC profile

Reason for Edit

WC: 1729
Edited by Persimmon, 9 Sep 2017, 09:58 PM.
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Martini Ravensdale

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The casino's penthouse venue was pregnant with the chatter of esteemed guests and long forgotten relatives. Their plaid suits and elegant gowns intermingled in a shameless display of wealth and status, like an ostentatious flock of birds. All stood with drinks in hand and hors d'oeuvres passing their proudly perched nostrils, the scent of lemon soaked sashimi and horse radish tarts filling the golden canopy in a mouth watering cloud of aromatic bliss. Tepid night air settled its lazy strokes against the attendees shoulders, the fragrant whispers of the coast barely encroaching on the unsurprisingly decadent celebration.

Passing a stout waiter presenting a platter of floral canapés, Martini briefly inspected the assortment of treats before wrinkling her nose in distaste. As pretty as the food looked, none of it resonated with her gut. Clicking her tongue, the heiress slipped her way through the throng of well dressed attendees and offered a brief smile to a pair of vaguely familiar gentlemen. They were associates of her father's most likely, acquaintances that lingered in the shadow of her memory. Wading past the duo and their well dressed compatriots, the noticeably younger guest evaded several more opportunities for food before breaking through the initial crowd.

Alexander, having finally tucked his shirt in, tailed after her like a wide eyed pup. The blonde haired teenager was already half a mouthful of sashimi by the time he breached the swamp of cashmere and cologne, one hand carefully guarding a small platter of assorted treats he'd somehow concocted.

"Your grandma sure knows how to throw a party." Alex observed with a nod, smacking his lips as he engorged himself on a strange looking tart. It jiggled in protest before disappearing into his cavernous maw, the soft squelching noise joining the tide of soft jazz embracing the peak of the casino.

"She throws parties like she throws shade, Which is often." Martini mused dryly, cocking a brow at her gluttonous companion before wrenching her gaze away. There was little delight watching Alexander decimate a meal, she'd almost become numb to the occurrence,

"Sho thatsh where you gut it from..." The boy chortled, not even bothering to swallow before he sassed.

"Aren't you funny." The heiress sniffed, glancing about her surroundings and swiftly thwacking her companion in the stomach with the back of her hand. It was enough to have him him grunt and flinch. "Try to keep the comedy to a minimum when you see her. Grandma isn't really...the sort for it." The porcelain skinned girl uttered tersely, masking a smirk as she motioned for Alex to swallow his food before responding.

With an exaggerated gulp and huff, the boy did as he was ordered to. .

"Oh come on. I'm charming, I've met Adelia plenty of times and she hasn't chucked me in a cauldron." Alex sighed, stretching his arms outwards as he led the way past the four man jazz band.

"Yet. She hasn't chucked you in her cauldron, yet. Besides, you've met her but you haven't really spoken to her from what I remember." Martini corrected with a flourish of a manicured finger, dodging a slow dancing pair of octogenarians and nudging for the boy to continue walking. She didn't want him getting any ideas. Pushing her sunny haired friend further away from the dance floor, the heiress caught sight of the gleaming penthouse that crowned the thirtieth floor. Golden lamps illuminated the elevated entry to the ivory interior, the soft glow embracing a trio of glass blown Murkrows perched by the lip of the extended balcony. They'd once inhabited the grounds of the Ravensdale estate, although it was only until that moment did Martini realize they'd actually been relocated.

With a purse of her painted lips and a tilt of her head, the girl blinked the momentary discovery away and set off for the gold rimmed doors separating the festivities from the more quaint celebration inside. Flashing a sweet little simper at a pair of suited men guarding the entry, Martini cleared her throat before curling her chin upwards.

"My grandmother expects me." She tersely noted, already peering through the glass and seeing the faint silhouette of an elderly woman seated on the far side of room. The small figure was accompanied by several other familiar individuals, the most notable being the mustachioed owner of the Starlight casino...Alistair Ravensdale himself.

With a brusque nod of their bald heads, the suited guardians stepped aside. Their steely gazes did not remain on the teenage duo that crossed the threshold, for their attention was solely fixated on the obnoxious gaiety that filled the outer quarter.

Shaking her head of the uncanny muscle hired for the event, Martini deeply inhaled and strode into the lush den of snow white furniture and bubbling teapots. Her entrance was not met with silence of course, for those that sat within the exclusive circle all turned to face the event's most youthful attendees. Seated between her father and one impeccably dressed Scott Huber was a woman of alabaster skin and storm grey hair. She was garbed in a simple mint green dress and a heavy lilac shawl, the warm material floating down her slim shoulders like a cashmere waterfall. Pointed and wrinkled were her features, crows feet blossoming off of a hawkish gaze that gradually softened as the heiress tip toed closer.

"Happy Birthday Nana!" Martini sung lightly, daintily prancing past the two adult men and offering the elderly woman a quick embrace. The most senior Ravensdale smelt of lavender and tea leaves, the sort of aroma that clung to the skin after the first encounter. It was the quintessential old lady smell. "Sorry I'm late, was held up by someone." The girl sniffed, masking a grin as she squinted at Alexander.

"Oh don't worry, we're still waiting for your aunt to arrive so you didn't come last today, darling." Alistair hummed, spreading his arms open wide to receive his well overdue hug. Unlike his mother, the salt and pepper haired businessman smelt of cigars and cologne.

"Ginny has always been tardy." Adelia sighed, shaking her head as she gently clasped her granddaughter's hand in her own. "Don't be like her, young lady!" The octogenarian tutted, tapping the back of the girl's hand before firmly clutching the point of the heiress' chin. "You haven't eaten yet have you? I don't want you copying those diets I see advertised everywhere, you need some more meat on these bones if you're going travelling. Where'd you get this scar on your hand? Also, why do you look so tan?" The elderly woman uttered in a succinct string of jarring observations. What was tact when you were as old and world weary as this woman? Each would have felt like a knife to the gut if the girl weren't so familiar with the entity that was Adelia Ravensdale.

Gently squirming out of the grip of her grandmother, Martini offered the hawkish lady a polite, if wry, smile. "Nana, I'll eat soon and I got this scar from an accident, nothing to worry about." She huffed, waving the concern away with a flap of her porcelain hand.

"She has been living in Brillaya for a bit, mother...of course she'd get a tan." Alistair interjected, lightly shaking his head as he took a meandering sip of whisky from a crystal tumbler.

"Tanned skin is a sign of health, vitamin D is essential for youth." One noticeably amused Scott Huber mentioned, finally staking his place in the conversation as he leaned forward and offered Martini a quick grin. The deep timbre of his words echoed in the bowels of the penthouse, it was the sort of voice his lanky nephew could only dream of. "Besides, I'm sure it's made someone a little more popular with the ladies." He mused dryly, cocking a brow at Alexander and pulling him into a tight embrace.

"Ah...th-that's a conversation for another day!" The blonde haired boy stammered before clearing his throat and patting down his blazer. "Happy Birthday, Mrs Ravensdale. What a beautiful night to celebrate your...eightieth birthdaaaay?" He winced, wide eyes flitting between all the individuals present as his confusion was laid bare.

"Charming. I see your nephew is still as sprightly as ever." Adelia uttered curtly, dipping her chin at Scott and offering Alex little more than a slightly baffled tilt of her head. There was only a hair width of a second that passed before the lavender scented woman continued, her attention solely trained on her granddaughter. "Now, back to what I mentioned earlier. Next time I see you, Martini, I expect to see some level of care afforded to your skin. Back in my day tanned skin meant you were working in the farms, measly labour for the measly sort." The ever cynical matriarch reminisced, a withered scowl briefly rippling over the geography of her face.

Alas, the facade disappeared as quickly as it was summoned and Adelia's features reverted to a more softer visage.

"I'll do my best Nana." Martini gently conceded with a slight bow of her head, squeezing her grandmother's hand and relinquishing a sigh. There was little point in arguing, especially on the woman's birthday. Straightening her posture, the heiress glanced about the room and noted the presence of several other individuals, all absorbed in their own conversations. Each held a stake in Adelia's inner circle, an honour that separated them from the admittedly exclusive crowd outside.

Even though she was the woman's granddaughter, the mere notion of being allowed access into the lush sanctum tickled the girl's pride.

"Where's Candice?" Martini inquired, eyes narrowing as she flitted her gaze between the select few individuals held in her field of vision.

"You're step mother is outside having fun, darling. You should say hi to her, she had a lot to say about that recent trip you two shared." Alistair mused with a hint of a smile, swishing the contents of his drink before taking another measured sip.

'Oh yes, I've heard rumor about this little excursion." Scott noted, brushing a stray crumb off the lapel of his coat and offering Martini an apologetic curl of his lips.

"For the life of me, I still don't know why you married that woman, Alistair." Adelia muttered, staring into her teacup as if it held the secrets to some unspoken riddle.

"Because she's nothing like you, mother." Alistair grinned, a twinkle of satisfaction in his deep brown gaze. The comment was afforded a bemused snort from the elderly woman, a sound that sparked a guilty grin to grace its way over her grown son's lips. Clearing his throat, the owner of the Starlight casino rolled his shoulders back and offered his daughter a smile. "Go grab something to eat, darling. Hanging with all of us oldies is just fuel for depression." He chuckled, tinkling his glass against Scott's and taking the final swig of his whiskey.

Wrinkling her nose, Martini rolled her eyes.

"I get it, you want to talk business. All of you can spoil me later." The girl smirked playfully, coiling a hand through the crease of Alexander's arm. "Might as well take the ladies man here to woo some potential sugar mamas." Martini sighed, jabbing the boy in the chest before fluttering her fingers in a theatrical farewell.

"Ah Martini. Before you go!" Her father announced, already pouring himself and Scott another splash of whiskey. "We've revamped the arena downstairs, I promised your grandmother you'd be the first to try it out." He noted with a wriggle of his mustache.

"Do I win anything?" The girl squinted, gauging her father's expression.

"Our love."

"Oh, boring." Martini retorted dryly, flashing a pearly white grin in the direction of the three adults. "But sure, I'll head downstairs when it's ready." She nodded, taking in one final exhale of the near spotless penthouse as she headed back in the direction of the celebration outside.

"Make sure you eat something." Adelia Ravensdale's voice echoed into the space behind her, the demand momentarily sending a jolt down the back of the girl's spine.

It was the final thing the heiress heard before the swell of jazz music took ahold of her senses once more.

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Alistair Ravensdale's NPC roll

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"Did you hear that? Your grandma thinks I'm sprightly!" Alexander guffawed, triumphantly raising a fist in the air as the glass doors silently slid shut behind the teenage duo.

"Alex, I don't think she was complimenting you." Martini sighed, gazing upon the sea of well dressed people and shivering as the lukewarm breeze caressed her collarbones. For a moment, some part of the girl wished she could return to the warm sanctum of the penthouse and simply sit at the bar and marinate until the night was over. She wouldn't even have to interact with the adults, for they were far too deep in their business ventures to give the heiress any semblance of enjoyment.

Alas, the thought was but a brief one as she was led down the stairs by her perpetually giddy friend. With a chuffed grin etched on his features and a hop in his step, Alexander Huber merrily dragged his slightly dour companion away from any thought of curling up in the penthouse.

"I'm glad we're back, you know." The boy grinned, glancing at Martini and gently jostling her with the edge of his elbow. The heiress did little but respond with a non committal grunt. "I miss Scarlet but it's nice to be surrounded by familiar faces. I should bring her next time, get her to meet the family." He demurred wistfully, blue eyes flirting with the gaze of the moon as he strode by the lip of the outer courtyard.

The jazz music was spurring his romanticism, that much Martini knew. He was hopeless like that.

Rolling her eyes, Martini relinquished a strained breath. "Aren't you two just friends with benefits or something? Wouldn't it be a little rushed to drag her here if you've only known her for two months?" The dainty girl inquired with a furrow of her brow. The very notion of Alexander pursuing something remotely serious vexed her, to the point that it stubbornly tugged at the shadows in her mind. It was odd, to say the least, framing the perpetually adolescent Alex into that of a maturing human.

"I guess so. We do a whole lot more than that stuff though. I dunno, things feel...good?" Alexander nodded to himself slowly, plucking a glass of champagne from a nearby waiter and taking a tentative sip of the golden liquid. Swishing it around in his mouth, the suited teenager swiftly turned his back on the crowd and spat the alcohol into its glass. "Forgot I hate champagne." He grimaced, ignoring Martini's look of disgust. "Anyways, I wouldn't expect you to understand Marty, feelings are weird." He shuddered quietly, licking the bubbles off of his teeth.

"What's that supposed to mean? I have feelings." The heiress clicked, halfheartedly digging her nails into the flesh of his forearm and stifling a sigh. "I just don't sploosh my panties every time someone gives me attention." She sniffed haughtily, gingerly grabbing a tall glass of pink moscato from a stiff spined waitress. It was better than nothing, helped soothe the throat after burning Alex like so.

Mumbling something incoherent underneath his breath, the blonde haired boy led the quietly satisfied heiress past a glistening tower of champagne glasses before stopping by a table piled high with gifts of all shapes and sizes.

There remained a brief respite, with the duo ogling the smorgasbord of offerings laid out for the Ravensdale matriarch. All were neatly boxed and packaged, carefully organised so that the smaller ones laid atop the larger variety. All had been cleared of course, meticulously checked by the staff of the casino. Martini knew not whether her grandmother would care for such things, for the woman possessed far more than most could even comprehend. What was another batch of gifts to someone so wealthy?

"You reckon your grandma even lo-"

"There you two are!" A musical voice burst into the night air, shattering Alexander's train of thought and instantly forcing a groan to rupture Martini's lips.

She knew that voice..

Before the heiress could wrench her companion into the shadow of night, two slender arms coiled themselves around the duo and squeezed tightly. The warmth of a barely concealed chest flared up between Martini and Alexander's shoulders, a thick floral perfume washing over them as a streak of sun kissed hair flickered in their peripherals. Spinning them with the theatricality of a circus ringmaster, Candice Sterling stood with arms outstretched and eyes twinkling with intoxication, her form garbed in a particularly revealing beige dress.

"H-hey Candice!" Alexander stammered, brows furrowed as his blue eyes stubbornly trained themselves on the nape of the older woman's neck. "You're looking great!" The young man coughed, straightening his posture to add an extra inch.

"Oh honey, I know." The socialite giggled, her voice fluttering between a coo and a slur. "Gotta look nice for the mother in law!" She sniffed, brilliant blue eyes briefly staring into the nothingness between the trapped duo.

"Didn't know my grandma was such a fan of putting it all out there." Martini dryly demurred, the corners of her lips twitching as she motioned towards her step mother's overt garb.

Candice Sterling did little to mask a red lipped simper.

"Martini, Martini, Martini. You can't be throwing quips at me when I'm drunk, baby girl." The woman pouted, delicate shoulders rising and falling in exaggerated dismay. Even when intoxicated, the woman still managed to maintain some semblance of poise.

"And here I thought you were going to detox after that incident we had." The heiress countered, warm air filtering through her teeth as she lightly shrugged the woman's hand off of her.

"A few days was long enough. Besides, what happened is in the past and I'm such a...better person now." Candice confidently nodded to herself, taking a solemn sip of wine as her eyesmomentarily glazed over. Alas, the questionable moment of self reflection wasn't afforded much time to stew in the mind of the golden step mother, for her hand had already clasped the cheeks of one Alexander Huber. "You would not believe the shit that happened at Firebird Villa, my Arceus it was just...so terrifying and did you know that Martini gassed me and left me to fend for myself?!" The woman whimpered, clutching the boy's cheeks tighter with every word that slipped off her tongue.

"...I actually saved you, Candice." Martini interjected curtly, eyes narrowing. Although some part of her wanted to excuse the woman's theatrics on the contents of her glass, the heiress knew, rather intimately, how despicable her stepmother could be given the opportunity.

"Truuueee,,,like a brave little knight girl." The socialite cooed, bringing Alex into a tight embrace. Unsurprisingly, the young man did not refuse. "You're so lucky to have Martini," She whispered not so quietly, patting the back of his head, "just you wait until my side of the family catches up with my valiant rescuer." Candice grinned, winking at her step daughter as she stabilized herself against a very flustered looking Alex.

"Stop flirting with my sidekick." Martini groaned, wrinkling her nose in abject disapproval.

'W-Wait sidekick? I'm no-" The objection was stopped when a dainty hand clasped itself over Alexander's mouth, the waning muffle of his argument warming the heiress' palm.

"He has a lady friend now, Candice." Martini noted coolly, frowning at her companion as she flickered her gaze at their surroundings.

The girl knew that the longer she stayed the longer she'd drown in her step mother's perfume. She needed an out.

"Oooh! Someone sounds a little jealous!" The tipsy socialite sung, flourishing her arms in the air and relinquishing the captured Alex. "I know a few handsome boys that would just looooove you! Speaking of which...some are here tonight! They'll meet you under the stars, it'll be...magical!" Candice grinned manically, the alchemy of her drink curling her words.

"Gross." The girl cringed, giving the suggestion little opportunity to linger. Her attention was no longer trained on the visual obstruction that was Candice, for the heiress knew she'd used up all of her patience. Piercing blue eyes darted across the open venue, claiming faces and seeking refuge. Most of the crowd was familiar but none presented a viable escape, especially not from someone as social as her step mother. A melodious slur filtered through the mouth of the woman, words upon words that Martini chose to ignore. It was all gibberish by that point, white noise that only fueled the girl's desire to flee.

"-and he's definitely your type, his dad owns an oil company. I think he was in Jacob's grade back in school, might have to ask when he returns from his trip. Ah! I think that's him! Phillip! Over here, I have someone-"

"Yap!" A soft sound echoed into the night, the noise catching Martini's attention as Candice flailed on the spot with her arms above her head. Swiveling on her feet to where the sound arose, Martini caught sight of a lone woman standing in the shadows near an unlit heater, behind the throng of guests drinking the night away. The silver glow of moonlight was all that illuminated the isolated person, a small ball of fluff being their only companion.

It was as if Fate itself had cued the window of opportunity.

"Hold that thought Candice," Martini interrupted, wrenching herself away from the tipsy woman and one slightly confused Alex, "I just noticed an old friend and I...need to catch up with them!" The heiress lied with all the finesse of a politician, vaguely pointing into the crowd as she briefly ducked out from view of whoever it was Candice endeavored to lure over.

"I thought Alex was your only friend?" Candice mused, pursing her lips and squinting her eyes as she idly stared at her step daughter.

"Well right now he sure isn't." Martini countered, nudging the blonde haired boy forward and giving him a supportive pat on the back. "Hey why don't you interview this Phillip or whatever and get back to me later." The heiress encouraged through her teeth, raising a brow and twitching her head at her ever loyal companion. Unlike her, Alex was rather fond of Candice and all of her antics.

"Uhhh I'm kinda confus..."

"Thanks Alex, you're the best!" The girl interrupted with a grin, mimicking her step mother and roughly squeezing the young man's cheeks. He'd get the idea sooner or later. With a quaint nod of her head and feigned look of regret on her face, the porcelain skinned Ravensdale broke herself off from the two blondes and swiftly scampered into the crowd of party goers before any would be suitor was forced onto her by the half drunk socialite.

Dodging waiters and slipping through chortling groups of suited men, Martini eventually broke through the swarm of her grandmother's guests and inconspicuously joined the lone woman overlooking the bay. She was clothed in a sleek power suit, her ash blonde hair gleaming a fickle silver in the light of the full moon.

Her face was turned away, trained on the distant boats dotting the starry horizon.

She looked serene.

Now free from the blinding shackles of distance, the slightly distracted heiress could finally identify the previously unknown ball of fluff. It was a young Eevee, precariously sitting atop the barrier separating the open courtyard and the empty space outside the casino. It offered the girl a welcoming yap, its bushy tail shivering in the cool breeze.

"Sorry, could you do me a favour and pretend to talk with me for like five minutes?" Martini sheepishly uttered through her teeth, sharply inhaling as she peered at what was visible of the strange young woman.

There was a brief silence, the swell of jazz music triumphantly blaring into the night as the girl waited for her approval.

The stranger sniffed, finally turning to face the heiress. "Only if you pretend to be interested in whatever I have to say." The young woman smirked, green eyes locking Martini in place.

She was beautiful.

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There came a stiff silence that held the heiress by the root of her tongue, the invisible vice grip muting whatever stray quip nestled in the back of her throat. For a moment, Martini found herself wading through a pool of jarring self reflection. Seldom did the haughty heiress find herself weaving words with weight, for she often let her mouth speak the pointed truths of her mind. But there she stood, stunned and speechless.

She would have gagged at the notion had she not been pressured by a rise of the stranger's inquisitive brow.

Blinking away the brief paralysis, Martini cleared her throat.

"Oh thank you." She sighed, reclining against the rooftop barrier and glancing about the shrouded section of the rooftop. "I don't usually do this, please believe me. I just needed to get someone out of my hair." The girl explained sheepishly, furtively glancing at the young woman who idly sipped on a tall glass of cider. Her fingers were slim and unpolished, the only embellishment being a simple golden ring.

"I understand, I've been there before." The stranger shrugged, snapping Martini out of her focus with a lazy nod. Ashen hair bounced with the movement, the scent of roses blossoming with the gesture. "Let me guess. An ex? A stalker? A relative?" She listed with a hum, pursing her lips as she gazed upon the casino's inheritor.

"Relative." Martini grimaced, briefly glancing back into the murmuring crowd of party goers. Amidst the flock of gowns and suits, a twirl of golden hair bobbed up and down, twinkling laughter following the giddy waltz. Candice hadn't wasted anytime in her stepdaughter's absence. She was already frolicking about with a harem of young men, occasionally throwing a few pointed glances in Martini's direction.

Why aren't you here?!" She imagined her stepmother monologuing, wincing at the stray thought. What joy would a chortling troupe of suited bachelors offer? Especially one handpicked by the ever questionable Candice.

Martini shuddered.

"Ah yeah, those can be real pieces of shit." The stranger chuckled, propping her elbows against the railing and downing what was left of her cider. A veil of moonlight encased the young woman in a silvery halo, the sharp angle of her jawline casting a shadow down the nape of her neck. "I'm Piper, by the way. Just in case you needed some identification." The blonde sniffed after the brief silence, casually offering her hand to the heiress.

"Martini." The porcelain skinned girl responded slowly, gently clasping Piper's hand and offering it a frail shake. Her skin was as cold as glass, frigid enough that it sent a jolt through the heiress' wrist.

Relinquishing Martini's hand, Piper offered the slightly shorter girl a confused purse of her lips before eliciting a revelatory exclamation. "Ahhh that's your name!? Sorry, I guess I got a bit confused then. It's cool though, I dig it. Your folks must be wild." The blonde mused, cocking her head back and smirking into the night sky.

"Always nice to have someone validate my father's casual alcoholism." Martini lightly conceded with a sniff, tilting her head to the side and relinquishing a drawn out exhale.

"Oh believe me, I'd totally name my hypothetical kid after my favourite things as well." Piper grinned, blue eyes still focused on the starry canvas up above. Blindly reaching for her Eevee, the suited blonde tucked the mewling pokemon underneath her arm and began to idly stroke the creature. "Could've done the same with this little guy. But I decided to be a douchey literature student and name him after someone I studied. Isn't that right Ulysses?" She simpered, scratching the fluffy mammal's chin and offering Martini a self effacing grimace.

"I've heard worse." Martini smirked, gently cupping Ulysses' cheeks. "I probably wouldn't have excused the name if he wasn't this cute though." The girl teased, red lips curling upwards. "I know a guy who named his Vaporeon Waterthing. Talk about setting a low bar." Martini clicked, briefly glancing into the crowd to see if the man in question was present. Alas, her momentary glance offered no hint of Colin. It probably wasn't his sort of crowd anyway, too much glitz.

"You know what they say, Pokemon take after their trainers." Piper mused, a confident hum punctuating her words. Ulysses, seemingly in mutual agreement with his trainer, saluted the statement with a raise of his paw.

"Calling yourself cute now, huh?" Martini inquired with a raised brow, briefly biting on her lower lip and pivoting on her heels until she was comfortably rested with her back against the barrier.

"Let's be honest. You wouldn't have approached me if I wasn't." The blonde woman stated with a flutter of her lashes, finally tearing her attention away from the night sky and onto one slightly flustered Martini.

"Sure you're cute, but don't get ahead of yourself. This girl doesn't bend that way!" The heiress swiftly countered, taking a hefty swig of wine and stubbornly jostling the notion from her mind. She wasn't offended, for some odd reason, but her pride still would not allow any stray comment poking about her psyche. That was the sort of exposure best left for a shrink...in forty years time.

"Uh-huh." Piper simpered coyly, turning to face her new companion and resting her cheek against her fist. "Generally speaking, the bending comes later on but I digress, I'm glad you think I'm cute." The young woman acknowledged with a tilt of her brow.

Unsure of what to say, for the first time in a very long time, Martini tentatively nodded.

"So what brings you to the most exclusive event in the most exclusive casino in Aurmouth?" Piper interrogated lightly, leaning in ever so slightly as if she were devising a code in the face of the young Ravensdale. Her cool gaze was an attentive one, flirting with a self consciousness the heiress forgot she even possessed.

It should have felt invasive. But it didn't, oddly enough.

Biting her lip, Martini glanced at the distant sea. "I'm actually related the birthday girl...lady." She noted slowly, wrinkling her nose and tearing her thumb from out of the palm of her hand. "What about you?" The girl inquired, finally returning Piper's gaze.

"Oh me? I'm just an intern, it was a lucky invite I guess." The rose scented stranger shrugged, a chuffed grin stretching across her face as she returned to scratching Ulysses the Eevee. "Not to be rude, but I think these sort of parties are kinda lame." The young woman noted in a hoarse whisper, not even bothering to mask the smirk that flashed across her face.

"You think so? I know the person being celebrated doesn't particularly enjoy this sort of stuff either." Martini noted with an exhale. It was a wonder that the Ravensdale matriarch still allowed events such as this, her patience with most was famously thin and to have such a large gathering would more than enough to irritate Adelia.

"Guess she's just here for the free booze. I know I am." Piper grinned, furtively glancing at Martini's half finished glass of wine and back to the girl's face.

There was a polished confidence about the way the blonde handled herself, the wry self awareness a sheer anomaly when compared to the sea of corporate sharks and social climbers. Everyone here maintained their gilded veneers of self importance, the supercilious badge of honour a symbiotic lesion within the upper echelons of Aurmouth. But there Piper stood, bathed in moonlight and shadow, a veritable foreigner amidst the ostentatious flock.


Martini was instantly drawn from her ruminations as Ulysses giddily barked into the cool night air, his bushy tail flailing against the bust of his trainer.

"What's up buddy? You hungry?" Piper hummed, lightly twiddling a tuft of fur crowning the little creature. The Eevee gently gnawed on the young woman's finger as she slowly wrenched herself away from the rooftop barrier. Sucking in a deep breath, the intern lolled her her neck back and glanced at Martini. "So I'm gonna head downstairs for a bit, need to pick up some stuff from the center. If you still need me to be your pretend friend then you can always tag along." She chuckled, swiveling on the heels of her shoes and raising a brow.

There was a brief silence, a moment of respite for the heiress as the dulcet tones of the jazz singer guided her thoughts. What did she have to lose? In this night of revelry and celebration, not much.

"Sure...I got nothing better to do." She shrugged casually, pulling her coat closer to her body and gingerly taking a step forward. In the labyrinth of her mind, Martini was certain she felt something praise the decision. It was a quiet voice, as giddy as it was relieved.

"Good choice, Martini." Piper clapped, the crisp sound ringing in the air before melting into the starry ceiling. "Let's see if I can crack out a few more compliments from you on the way there. What do you say friendo?" The blonde teased, stifling a grin as she merrily offered the crease of her arm for Martini to latch on to.

The girl did so almost immediately, her painted nails melting into the dark navy of Piper's jacket.

It would've been rude to have refused the gesture...or so Martini told herself anyway.

Piper Chevalier's NPC roll

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Clasped within the cool metal cocoon of the glass elevator, Martini found herself idly staring out into the glinting sea. Distant lights, barely visible underneath the silver tapestry of moonlight, twinkled gently along the coastline. Even far away, Brillaya looked like a jewel. Her time spent wasting away the hours on its white sand beaches seemed like a far gone memory. Gone was the scent of salt and sunscreen, replaced instead by the aroma of perfume and wine. It was a suitable trade-off, something Martini eagerly allowed.

Following the heiress' gaze, Piper clicked her tongue and slowly rapped a knuckle against the glass hull. "You'd think a casino with its high profile clientele would invest in thicker glass." The blonde mused, glancing at Martini and firing an imaginary gun with her hand.

"That would imply the clientele are the paranoid sort." The heiress noted, feeling a smirk play on her lips. "There's no threat of that sort of stuff here. Besides, Aurmouth isn't short on important clientele if one or two suddenly go missing." Martini shrugged, twirling on the heels of her feet as the elevator doors slid open with a shrill ding.

Quirking a brow, Piper motioned for Martini to exit first before striding into the softly lit lobby. "Now that's morbid. I'd assume people would only become expendable when their pockets are completely dried up." She murmured, plucking a crumb off of her Eevee's snout before nodding towards the eastern foyer. "I'm heading towards the center, I have a pick up to do." The young woman noted, procuring a poke ball from her purse and returning Ulysses into its cozy embrace. The hum and red flash disappeared as quick as it came and Martini was left ogling the empty space where the furry creature once nestled.

Thankfully, the young Ravensdale was quick enough to avert her gaze before Piper could even notice.

"I'll tag along, there's a nice bar near the center anyways." Martini mentioned with all too casual hitch of her shoulders. She could already hear the buzz of activity within the casino's central hub, from the electric chatter of poker machines to the chorus of high strung gamblers. Part of it felt like home. The manic rush was an endorphin, a near tangible reminder that all this was to be hers. It was her own gilded labyrinth, paved by the greed of the masses.

"Are you trying to get me to drink with you?" Piper mused quizzically, leading the way past a suited trio of tipsy men.

"I didn't say that." The heiress noted pointedly, a delicate finger prancing up in the air. "But, if you're so inclined to join me then I won't refuse you." The girl hummed, affixing her gaze towards the large indoor bazaar. The center was just past the opulent indoor valley of restaurants.

"I do recall saving your ass from...what was it again? Annoying family?" Piper sniffed, slipping through the throngs of elderly women drinking through their blackjack break. "It would only be good manners to treat your gracious savior." The young woman chuckled, offering Martini a little bow.

"I'm not exactly known for my good manners." The porcelain skinned teenager said, offering Piper a roll of her eyes.

"Then I guess that drink will help me find out what you are known for." The blonde rebutted right after Martini's admittance, mimicking a gun with her hand and shooting one slightly baffled heiress.

Somewhere, deep inside the iron fortress of the girl's ego, Martini felt something splinter.

Blinking, the heiress cleared her throat and straightened her posture before darting her attention towards the glowing red beacon of the Pokemon center. "I'll...consider it." She paused, feeling something blossom in her cheeks. "Anyways! We're here, so do whatever it is you came here for." She demanded haughtily, feeling her mind swim with several conflicting voices. She'd been on the defensive with Piper since she met the woman, it was the girl's natural inclination to assert herself in whatever way possible. Was it petulant? Perhaps, but it was the heiress' bread and butter after all.

Still, the attempt felt like a hollow half measure when Piper did little more than smirk in return.

"Don't worry Martini, it's just a small errand. I know you want that drink." The blonde nodded solemnly, stifling a grin before striding into the soft and sterile embrace of the Pokemon Center.

Red carpet halted as the duo briskly encroached on the center's bleached tiles, the hollow clicks of their footsteps falling in time with the muffled bass from outside. Within, several pharmacists and nurses bustled about providing prescriptions and organizing an ever-changing archive of poke balls. There was a machine like efficiency to it all, as if the Pokemon Center was just another sleek machine in the casino's every growing arsenal. Whilst routine battles were a rarity within the Starlight's jurisdiction, there was always a need for healing and recuperation for its attendees faithful companions. Plus, it offered a safe haven for Pokemon most often lost during their trainer's descent into the glitzy labyrinth.

Wrinkling her nose, the heiress took a seat by a potted fern and offered the blonde woman a wilting grimace. "Don't you just love the smell of disinfectant?" She shuddered, blue eyes flickering towards the bustling hub of the clinic. The cool efficiency of it all was unnerving.

"Better than a few things I can name off the top of my head." The suited intern shrugged, eyeing Martini suspiciously before cracking her knuckles and swiveling on the heels of her shoes. "I'll be quick." She clapped, stretching her arms before striding forward. .

Piper, walking with purpose, brandished a small piece of paper from within her sleeve and presented it to one of the available nurses, a middle aged woman who immediately recognized the blonde. Pleasantries were exchanged, although too muffled for Martini to hear, and after several moments entering something into a gleaming data pad the young woman was presented two polished poke balls.

It was remarkably fast for a pick up job, especially in a place as busy as the Starlight Casino.

"So you can jump the queue in a Pokemon Center huh?" Martini mused with a hint of appreciation as Piper returned with the orbs now safe in her handbag.

"Believe me, special consideration is a rarity. That lady knows the person I'm working for, that's it." The blonde noted plainly, brushing her blonde hair behind the curve of her ear. "Now that's all done, I believe you owe me a drink." She sighed, motioning with an eyebrow towards the neon glow outside.

"With that confidence I'm sure you get all the guys going." Martini hummed, dainty fingers idly strumming through her obsidian locks as she slowly teetered back outside.

Piper snickered at the statement. It was a breathy laugh, the sort that lightly danced in the back of the throat and tumbled out of the mouth in flourishing octaves. It was a pretty sound, pretty enough to burn itself into Martini's consciousness. Biting her lip to compose herself, the blonde woman shook her head and cleared her throat. "I mean, in some circles I'm sure that would be the case. But I don't really pitch for that team." Piper shrugged modestly, peering out at the restaurants that blossomed on either side of the pathway.

Blinking dumbly, the heiress felt something tug at her gut. It was like a warm blender had been shoved into her abdomen and turned on to its highest speed.

"...and here I thought the power suit would give it away." Piper huffed dramatically, probably noticing Martini's mute status. Plucking at her outfit with outstretched fingers, the blonde squeezed out a theatrical sigh. "I mean, appearances are all coded but it's kind of stupid for me to expect such a thing to be obvious." The young woman shrugged, utterly casual in how she approached the reveal.

Furrowing her brow, Martini straightened her posture and deeply inhaled. "I totally saw that." She lied, composing herself and offering the older woman a quick simper. Was it a convincing bluff? Probably not, but at that point the heiress was far from caring.

"Uh-huh." Piper murmured incredulously, narrowing her gaze as she lightly cocked her head. "So you aren't at all bothered, bewildered or bamboozled?"


"And I'm still getting that first round for saving your butt earlier?" The question was proposed with a playful deftness, enough to draw Martini's attention back to reality.

"Think of it as one of those rare moments of special consideration." The girl stated calmly, offering the older woman a flash of white teeth and the fluttering of Machiavellian eyelashes.

Without wasting a breath, the suited intern shimmied her shoulders and offered Martini the crease of her elbow once more. "Well, better get to it then. I'm only getting older."

An Hour Later

A suited man sat at a grand piano in the center of the Argyle bar, his deft fingers orchestrating a soft symphony that permeated the cozily lit interior. It was intimate fare, in the way that a reading room fireplace was. Lacquered mahogany and dyed leather cloistered the feminine duo in the far corner of he room, their portion of the table crowned by a golden lamp. The bar was a relatively well hidden, serviced and stocked establishment for the more agreeable portion of individuals within the hedonistic institution. The perfect place to unwind and escape the metallic hum of poker machines and automated voices.

Gleaming under the golden glow sat two drained bottles of apple cider, a shimmering glass of what used to be the bar's cult cocktail, a bowl of complementary chocolate and an untouched martini, its olive meticulously removed. The latter was ordered by Piper, of course. The young woman chased the overdone joke with such wry self awareness that it summoned a smirk from one similarly named heiress.

The little jest shouldn't have worked, Martini knew that much. But it did, and she took it on with a roll of her eyes and a uncharacteristically gracious grin.

"So like I was saying, my little shit of a cousin stole my uncle's car on Valentine's day and drove it into a Taurus paddock. Keep in mind, he didn't have his license yet and had been 'taste testing' some moonshine. The bulls obviously took the invasion as a challenge and after totaling the vehicle, half of them jumped fence and put some babies in the neighboring Miltanks...so basically, my cousin started a revolutionary bovine orgy by sacrificing my uncle's pride and joy." Piper finished with a huff, climaxing the tale with a firm tap of her hand against the bar.

There was a brief silence, the narrative still gestating in the forefront of Martini's mind.

"Couldn't your uncle just have bought another car?" She queried with a frown, idly thumbing the lip of the cocktail glass in an attempt to focus her slightly wobbly vision.

"Um, no. No he could not have just bought another car." Piper blurted out, her tone a mix between disbelief and amusement. "I don't know what your family is driving but where I'm from that shit is expensive. My cousin had to pay off the damages over a full year i]and[/i] help rebuild the broken Taurus enclosure." The blonde sighed, clicking her tongue. "Country ass bumpkins. Can't believe that's who I'm representing." She groaned, her shoulders rising and falling in theatrical dismay.

Wetting her throat with the waterlogged remnants of her cocktail, the heiress relinquished an exhale before resting a cheek on her manicured hand.

"I don't think I can match that. I have second cousins but they're either too old or overseas." The girl admitted flatly, wrinkling her nose as a waiter passed by with a tray of what could only be tequila.

"Wait. You don't have any first cousins either?" Piper inquired slowly, a brow arched curiously.

Martini did little more than shake her head, her face as unreadable and porcelain as ever.

"So you have no siblings, no cousins, one grandparent, one dad and spent your childhood tended to by maids and butlers." The recount sounded more like an accusation and the heiress could do little more than lazily nod in return.

"Pretty much. Exciting huh?"

"How are you not a serial killer or some creepy deviant?" Piper chuckled teasingly, blue eyes searching the facade of the young woman opposite her.

"Never said I wasn't." Martini hummed, offering her companion a wide grin. "But that's the sort of thing that stays hush hush until I say so." The girl noted slyly, tapping the side of her head.

"Right. Well, in that case I guess I gotta force you out for more drinks with me until I uncover the big reveal." Piper chuckled, offering Martini and consolatory grimace and gently patting the girl's hand. "How's that sound?"

There was a brief silence, one birthed from a skittering jolt that shook the entirety of Martini's being. It was warm and wonderful and utterly jarring in how new of an experience it was.

Biting her tongue, the alabaster skinned heiress blinked twice and wrung her hands out from underneath her.

"Sure." She said, without thinking. "Sounds grand."

"Perfect." Piper smiled, catching Martini's gaze for a brief moment before her attention turned to the holocaster sitting idly underneath the lamp.

Martini wanted to grab the device and toss it into a furnace for ruining the moment. Alas, she held herself and simply gritted her teeth as the wistful moment was rudely snatched away from her.

The holocaster rattled against the table, a number and a name, 'Boss Lady', flashed on the glowing screen three times before it was slid upwards and pressed against the suited woman's opal shaped ear. There was a few muffled responses, nothing overly indicative of whatever it was Piper did for work. Gone was her cider infused playfulness, replaced instead with the crisp enunciation of a sober person.

After thirty seconds of affirmative 'yesses' and 'noes' the blonde cancelled the call and deeply exhaled.

Martini patiently waited for the inevitable, dainty fingers digging into her palms.

"Sucks to say this but looks like I gotta do another errand, a solo one." Piper frowned, drumming her fingernails against the lacquered wood and clicking her tongue. Sheepishly glancing at Martini, the intern pursed her lips and slowly nodded to herself. "If you enjoyed tonight, meet me where you found me. I'll be waiting. We can talk about all the shit we missed between now and then." The woman said slowly, scanning the remnants of their spontaneous little adventure and offering it a brief smirk.

"You aren't afraid I'm not going to kill you if I actually am a serial killer?" The young Ravensdale responded crisply, hiding the disappointment in her voice as she flickered her attention between Piper's gaze and the still untouched martini.

"Eh. What's the worst you could do to me?" The blonde woman grinned, gently jabbing the heiress' exposed shoulder. "Don't miss me too much." She concluded, placing a finger to her brow and offering the girl a small farewell salute.

"You have no idea." Martini answered quietly, watching as Piper disappeared into the light of the casino.

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In the wake of Piper's departure, Martini was left to marinate in the smog of dulled conversations and soft jazz. It was in her isolation, did the girl realize how quiet the establishment was without the tinkling of glasses and the snickering of liqueur stained conversations. With the lingering residue of alcohol gnawing at the back of her throat, the heiress sat with fingers lightly drumming into the table and eyes swiftly darting about her. She was cloistered in a den of her father's pilgrims, a thought that would've amused her had the newfound loneliness not been so uncomfortable.

It was jarring, so much so that Martini strained herself against the seat and jabbed her straw into whatever ice remained in her glass.

"Don't be an idiot." She mumbled under her breath, painted lips pursed into a thin line as hot air escaped her nostrils. In the waning tide of her slight inebriation, Martini knew that some of voices in her mind were better left ignored. Especially regarding that of a stranger, a beautiful one, but a stranger no less.

Shaking her head, the heiress wrenched herself up and away from the table. There was little point focusing on the whispers that danced in the fog of her conscious.Tossing a considerable tip into the platter by the bar, the raven haired teenager staunched her way out of the softly lit cocoon of the bar and returned to the belly of the jingling beast.

Once more, Martini was assaulted by the familiar chorus of poker machines, drunken gamblers and live music that filled the lower tier of the casino. With her eyes solely focused on the social happenings scrolling down the screen of her holocaster, the sullen teenager slipped through the throngs of well dressed visitors and attendants. None paid her any mind of course, for she was still a child floating through a flood of adults and their vices. It was preferable for the girl, however, not having to converse with those that didn't matter.

Besides, none would probably compare to the individual she'd spent the previous hour with.

Squeezing past a line of VIPs, with barely a nod towards the casino's security detail, Martini slowly ascended a marble staircase into the second floor of the Starlight casino. The conversations were far more muted here, with the palpable tension of players risking great wealth weighing heavy in the perfumed air. Dealers remained poised and cordial while waitresses weaved through the straight faced stakers like mice through a maze. It was the more refined sort of revelry Martini came to enjoy about her father's empire. Even being a bystander had its allure.

Alas, such a moment of clarity was quickly snatched when she felt a cool hand grace her shoulder.

"Not enjoying the party upstairs, darling?" A familiar voice cooed. It was the voice of a woman, a smoky voice fermented by years of hard drinking and singing.

Swiveling on the tips of her heels, Martini came face to face with an older female garbed in a sleek black dress. the plunge of her neckline revealing a shapely torso. Draped down the woman's slender, pale shoulders was a thick fur shawl that loosely fell either side of her arms. With hair as dark as midnight and hawkish eyes that snatched the girl's attention, the exquisite lady possessed the very definition of sharp elegance. Not only that, but she smelled delightful; like cinnamon and rum.

"Aunt Ginny!" Martini smiled, the response as natural as anything the heiress could put out. Clasping the woman's hand, the porcelain skinned girl cleared her throat and playfully gawked at her rather fetching relative. "You're looking so good!"

It was true, the woman barely looked a day over thirty.

"Oh I know, Martini. I can't roll up to my mother's birthday without stealing some of the spotlight from her, now can I?" She smiled a wry smile, gently cupping the side of her niece's face before planting a tender kiss on the girl's forehead. "As a matter of fact, I was told I'd find you down here by that friend of yours. Allen? Alec? The blonde boy who can't look me in the eyes." Ginny murmured, a finely shaped brow posed in mock suspicion.

"Alex." Martini sighed, slowly nodding her head. "How drunk did he look?"

"Drunk enough to flirt with someone old enough to be his mother." The woman smirked, brushing a strand of hair from her brow. "It was cute, not many are that brave. Better to be an awkward drunk than a dangerous one." She offered in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Damn, that boy's real good at first impressions huh." The heiress pouted, looping an arm into the crease of her aunt's elbow. "Have you come down here to play or...?" Martini inquired, her voice trailing off into a hum.

"No, actually, I've come down here to fetch you if you want the truth. Besides, no point me playing here and having my money end up in your father's account. He's gotta fight me for that privilege." Ginny snorted, giving the surrounds a dismissive wave of her manicured hand. "The stakes here are too low anyway, too safe. I won't waste my time."

"Look at you living dangerously." Martini teased, allowing her aunt to lead the way out of the labyrinth of poker tables and bustling waiters. "Now, be honest. Are you down here because you rocked up late?" The girl grinned, the playful accusation dancing in the space between them. It was, after all, common knowledge that her aunt Ginny was rarely beholden to the notions of keeping time for any event.

"If you're going to scold me, your father has already tried tonight." The woman chuckled, shaking her head. "I'm allowed to rock up whenever I damn well please. It's not like your grandmother is keeping record of my comings and goings anyway." She smirked, the swift taps of her heels against the marble floor carving a path of sound into a waiting elevator. "Still, the lady of the hour has specifically requested that I fetch my favorite niece for something special upstairs and before you even ask, no its not the birthday song." Ginny grinned, pressing a button and resigning herself to the cool comfort of the glass lift.

"Oh? I didn't know you were now acting messenger of the Ravensdale family." Martini giggled, easily evading a lazy flick of a finger from one slightly bemused aunt. "How's work going anyways? Dad told me your bar made it into the Durskrim local paper." Martini noted, tracing a dainty finger against the glass of the humming elevator.

"An achievement like no other." Ginny smirked, crossing her arms and offering the moment a content sigh. "Voted the best bar for, and I quote, 'keen battlers looking for a stiff drink and moody decor'. Now tell me, you're young and hip, does that sound at all appealing?" The midnight haired woman grumbled, rolling her eyes and stifling a self deprecating grin.

"I like it, sounds like my sort of dive." Martini responded with a brisk nod of her head, vaguely recalling the lavish photos of her aunt's infamous establishment. "I'll visit when I get up there! Maybe lighten up the place with my presence." She smirked, perking upwards as the shrill ding of the elevator rang into the enclosed space. It stopped on the members only floor, an area that was as exclusive as exclusive got in the Starlight Casino.

Unlike the rest of the casino, this floor remained eerily silent.

"Please do, about time some of the family came to my side of the country." The woman noted with a less than subtle roll of her eyes. "Anyways, let's get out of here. Can't let the birthday girl wait any longer." Ginny sung, striding out of the elevator and into the waiting corridor.

There was a brief moment of quiet, Martini trailing after her aunt as they passed by glass walls revealing Aurmouth in all of its twinkling glory. There it sat, prostate against the moon and the sea. It throbbed like a beacon, casting the duo's shadows across the walls like a blind painter.

"So...what exactly is it that's happening? I didn't know there was anything planned." The girl finally murmured, breaking the silence and wrenching her gaze away from her wiry silhouette.

"Your guess is as good as mine, darling." Ginny cooed into the glass corridor. "All I know is that whatever it is waits for us behind those doors." She huffed, motioning with her head towards an imposing black door at the end of the moonlit passage. Standing either side of the entry were two men, suited and large. Both were so big that Martini was sure her mass was the equivalent to one of their arms.

They were the matriarch's men, no doubt.

"Alright boys, what's the password?" Ginny playfully snarled, stopping right in front of the bulky duo with arms crossed and one heel impatiently tapping against the marble tiles.

"No such thing, Ms Ravensdale. Please enter, Adelia and Alistair await you inside." One of the suited guards uttered cordially, acknowledging both of the dark haired women with a brief nod of his bald head. With a knock, the doorway was opened from the inside, revealing a dimly lit void that occasionally flickered with light and sound.

"And here I was thinking there'd be a double battle." Ginny murmured with a disappointed sigh, gently elbowing Martini's shoulder before casually striding through the threshold with nary a glance at either man. "Hurry up, sweetie." The woman called out, her voice echoing into whatever expanse stretched out behind the obsidian door.

Perhaps a double battle would've been preferable to whatever it was that lurked in the shadows. The heiress contemplated sourly. At least then she could've gotten her mind off of the night's earlier chance encounter, one that clung to her like a perfume.

Biting her tongue and straightening her posture, Martini wrinkled her nose at the pair of guards and quickly darted after her aunt and into the cavernous maw that awaited her.

Ginny Ravensdale's NPC roll

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Wading into the air conditioned darkness, Martini became immediately conscious of her dim surroundings. Following a gleaming trail of LED lights carved into the polished black tiles, the girl tentatively continued atop the sprawling grid. The floor was like a pulsating tapestry, each interlocking rivulet of neon branching outwards like robotic veins. It expanded much further than the inconspicuous entry would've suggested, making the cavernous surrounds that much more suspicious. Although such a thing should not of been a surprise, her father did have a habit of going the extra mile.

"What the hell is my brother spending his money on." Ginny mused aloud, her mocking voice echoing into the gleaming void.

"Something tells me this may be a freshly minted toy for his favourite sort of gambler." Martini answered briskly, quickening her pace to catch up to her aunt.

Every step echoed into the gradually visible expanse, the light pitter-patter of her feet aligning with the heavy strides of the older Ravensdale ahead of her. There was a gnawing suspicion that tickled the back of the heiress' mind, it was the shadow of understanding that she knew wouldn't skip the attention of the ever-aware Ginny either. Alas, whatever revelation the girl might've grasped by herself was smothered by a disembodied voice that echoed into the darkness.

"Glad you could join us." Alistair Ravensdale announced, his cigar stained voice bounding off of speakers shrouded in the dim shadows. "Sorry if it's a little dark, still getting used to the set up here." He tutted into the microphone, the barely audible sounds of clicks and murmurs following his amplified greeting.

"Dad, want to tell us what the heck this is?" Martini called into the darkness, squinting her eyes to see if she could catch sight of the casino's seemingly elusive owner.

"Looks like the beginning to every bad rave I went to as a teen." Ginny noted dryly, tapping a heeled boot against the floor. Looping an arm around her niece's shoulder, the woman cleared her throat. "Al, mind explaining yourself? Or get mother to do it." She called out, closing the suggestion with an exasperated sigh.

Martini felt herself smile at the demand.

"One second, ladies! Just having some technical difficulties." The casino tycoon uttered from his hidden perch, his voice carrying itself throughout the entire space. "Ah, there we go! Behold, the Starlight Arena!" He beamed triumphantly, his pride palpable in cool air as the room began to glow with newfound energy.


A deep hum of energy began to swaddle the previously unlit space, the gleaming patchwork of tiles now throbbing with a soft neon luminescence. The light that once grazed the duo's feet quickly crept up the walls of the arena like automated vines, activating small hives of twirling bulbs that unfurled with crackling golden eyes. As the luminescent veins converged towards the center of the ceiling, the cavernous room was finally exposed for all of its pristine and polished glory. Clasped within the mantle of soft light were two raised podiums, each flanking the primly dressed duo standing in the middle of the arena. Crowning the upper level of the room was a viewing balcony that snaked its way around the full length of the indoor stadium, the darkened tint of its glass shell evaporating away, revealing several familiar silhouettes that all gazed down at the pair of Ravensdales.

Spread across the length of the gallery, were several noticeable figures. On the far end stood Scott Huber and a chicly dressed Laura Sato, her slinky figure dwarfed by an unfamiliar man that easily dwarfed her. Beside the imposing stranger was an elderly gentleman, grey wisps of hair framing a friendly old visage. Seated in the center, on a cushiony red throne flanked by two guards, was Adelia, her impassive gaze falling upon her daughter and grandchild.

Beside the matriarch, stood Alistair, waving down at the duo as he tapped a microphone with his spare hand

"Thought I'd christen the place with some close friends and family." He chuckled assuredly. "Now...believe me when I say that this wasn't my idea, but your grandmother's." Alistair calmly explained, nodding towards the elderly woman who simply rolled her shoulders back and laced her fingers together.

"Interesting." Martini loudly forced between her teeth, still feeling the remnants of liqueur she'd consumed earlier that night. "So is this it? Or are we gonna watch someone pop its cherry?" The girl inquired, tracing the toe of her shoe against the luminescent ground in an attempt to find her bearings.

"Odd choice of words." Ginny muttered underneath her breath as she stretched her arms out. "Well it sure as hell ain't gonna be me, I've come here to party with mum! There better be some food leftover for me." The woman huffed, raising her hands dismissively.

"Don't worry Gin, we didn't want anything sloppy for the arena's first bout anyway." Alistair teased, receiving little more than a derisive snort from his younger sibling. "Come upstairs, we saved some fancy gruel for you." He offered with a flourish of his free hand, clearing his throat before turning his attention to his daughter. Even from her lowly perch, the girl knew what her father was about to request. "Darling, Grandma and I actually thought you should be the first one to bless this arena, It needs the zest of new blood methinks." The man hummed, receiving a supportive thumbs up from Scott on the other end of the gallery.

"Are you serious?" Martini sputtered aloud, sculpted brows furrowed in momentary surprise as she glanced at her surroundings. "I didn't even bring my Pokemon with me tonight!" The girl noted as articulately as she could, offering her aunt a brief grimace before returning her gaze to her father upstairs.

"Oh yes,I thought that would be the case! That's why I got one of the help to fetch them for us!" Alistair heartily smiled, pressing an unseen panel from his nest above. Before the heiress could speak, a dull hiss momentarily broke the air, revealing a cylindrical chute that flipped open on the side of one of the podiums. "Just so you know, the system here picks the Pokemon randomly so whatever ball popped up there is whatever creature you'll be using tonight." Alistair explained pointedly, motioning with his hand for Martini to approach the awakened podium.

"Hold on a sec, I just got here, you want me to battle without knowing the conditions?" The heiress queried haughtily, feeling the liquid courage inspire her suspicions.

"Glad you asked, darling." Alistair smiled, fiddling with the unseen control panel and activating one of the monitors. The screen was now awash with colour and movement, 'Starlight's Golden Arena' watermarked in the corner. "The battlefield offers something a little different because the terrain is always randomly generated. You see all those tiles you are currently standing on? They can be elevated or sink into the ground, practically create a maze if that's what the arena's algorithm settles for." He explained proudly, his little sales pitch accompanied by an animated diagram that flashed across the screen up above.

Narrowing her gaze, Martini warily leered at the presentation.

"This is some new world shit." Ginny uttered dryly, taking a swig from a small flask previously hidden in her purse. "Mother, you really want the baby of the family to mess up these clean floors?" The woman called out, slipping the flask away and curling her fur shawl closer to her body.


The answer was crisp and assured, Adelia's voice cutting the momentary bickering as she gazed upon her progeny. Speaking from her throne within the encased gallery, the elderly Ravensdale motioned with a hand and her voice rang through the arena once more.

"Martini is capable. I have full faith she'll display what she's learned over these past few months." Adelia noted tersely, ignoring Ginny's exasperated expression. "I have also ordained an opponent for you, one fully capable in their own right." The Matriarch revealed, motioning for one of the guards who promptly spoke into his headset.

"I've been trying to get a tan in Brillaya these past few months." Martini grimaced underneath her breath, encouraging a droll snort from the woman standing next to her. Wrinkling her nose, the heiress gazed upon her grandmother and offered the imposing elder a tentative smile. "If this is what you want for your birthday then I'll do it, Nana." The girl forced through a smile, settling for a more passive sort of unenthusiasm.

There was little point arguing with Adelia Ravensdale, Martini knew that much.

"Right, well that settles it! Darling, head on over to that podium and the other lucky participant will join us shortly." Alistair announced, breaking his daughter's wariness. "Ginny, come on up here so you can have dinner and a show." The man chuckled, finally relinquishing the small microphone and tapping into the unseen control panel. A second later, a hidden elevator beneath the viewing gallery slid open.

Clicking her tongue, Ginny turned to her niece and offered a sympathetic grin. "Not going to lie, glad it isn't me experimenting with your father's new toy. I'm sure you'll do fine though, don't let the randomness freak you out, it'll just make things more exhausting for you." The woman mused lightly, cupping the girl's cheek before striding in the direction of the lift. "Give them hell, darling." She sung, inspiring a small simper to ripple across Martini's own lips.

How hard could it really be? It's just a matter of switching the odds in her own favour, regardless of the Pokemon and arena type combo.

As Ginny disappeared into the hidden lift, the heiress quietly strode over towards the humming podium and took her place atop its polished metal peak. Noteworthy utilities included an electronic menu to order food from and place bets into, a small screen depicting the arena's current biology and the cylindrical chute that randomly sorted the player's poke balls. It was all polished and refined, as delicately crafted as every prized contraption within her father's casino.

"Comfortable? I had the engineers base it off of the battle simulators in Kroy." Alistair revealed from his glassy perch, now joined by Ginny who was now lazily picking at a hors d'oeuvre.

Glancing up at the assembly of exclusive onlookers, Martini felt a slight tinge of self consciousness creep into the back of her mind. Of the individuals she knew, some were prolific battlers. Even Ginny, for all of her laid back habits, had managed to best Godai's Gym Leaders before settling into the life of a small business owner. Still, none of the assorted observers had left their place from the gallery. The heiress would not be facing uncle Scott, Laura Sato, the imposing stranger or the old man hunched beside him. Whatever hand picked opponent her grandmother had sicced on her had yet to reveal themselves.

Shaking her head of any lingering doubt, Martini clenched her jaw and gingerly clasped the poke ball containing one of her beloved Pokemon. "Just another battle." She mumbled to herself, impatiently tapping her foot against the cool metal of the podium.

"Alright, you all set?" Alistair's voice rang into the arena, the screens of the monitors now showing the full width of the humming battle field.

"Ready as I'll ever be." Martini uttered into her podium's microphone.

There was only a few seconds of reprieve before a set of doors on the opposite end of the arena flung open.

The sound of footsteps echoed into the luminescent cornucopia long before Martini could see who it was. The steps were rhythmic and quick, nothing like the imposing stomps of whatever anonymous foe the heiress' imagination had sprung. Each passing second, the tiles on that end of the arena pulsated with red, burning with a brighter glow as the figure approached. It was a dramatic scene, more than likely curated by one Alistair Ravensdale lording over the control panel in the gallery.

As the hive spotlights flared upon the figure, Martini felt herself stiffen and painfully force back a gasp. The sound coming out as little more than a squeak.

"Fancy seeing you here." Piper grinned, taking her place atop the opposite podium and offering the heiress a flutter of her fingers.

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A gnawing paranoia began to scrape the back of Martini's consciousness, the events of night replaying as she dissected every interaction shared with the blonde woman who was now her opponent. Was this all a deftly curated test? Had Piper been in on this the entire time? Was she, daughter of Alistair Ravensdale, the naive mark of a honeypot scheme? Wrinkling her nose, the heiress shook her head of the thought and steeled her nerves. The stubborn morsel of existentialism taunting her composure would be dealt with in her own time, away from the hawkish attendees in the viewing chamber.

With a smile as sharp as a dagger, the porcelain skinned heiress offered Piper a stiff curtsy. "You don't seem so surprised." Martini uttered, not even bothering to hide the accusation in her voice.

"You didn't tell me you were my boss' granddaughter." Piper swiftly countered, running a slender finger across the gleaming hull of the podium. "But I can see the resemblance now, it's uncanny." The young woman smiled, turning upwards to face Adelia and offering the elderly woman a respectful bow of her head.

"You weren't ready for that privilege!" Martini stammered, digging her thumbs into the palms of her hands to halt whatever blush may nestle into her cheeks. "This can't be a coincidence." The heiress frowned, wincing at the pain in her palms.

"What can I say? We were destined to see each other sooner or later." Piper shrugged, offering her raven haired counterpart a sympathetic grin. Stretching her arms above her head, the blonde lolled her neck back and procured a gleaming orb from the chute of her own podium.

Piper seemed entirely unfazed, either that or she was particularly talented at guarding her reactions.

Furrowing her brow and clenching her jaw till her teeth ached, Martini relinquished an exhale and gingerly activated her own chute. With a hiss of air, the metal cylinder coughed up a poke ball. Shiny, smooth and cool, the familiarity comforted her clammy hand. Alas such a thing did little sway her attention from Piper, whom she continued to warily glower at.

Who was this woman?

"So you butter a girl up with drinks and then surprise her for a battle in a new arena? Smooth." Martini grimaced, unsure about whether her father was listening to the entire exchange. It shouldn't of bothered her, but her pride was at stake. Still, her more cynical side felt vindicated by the entire turn of events...something that did not comfort the girl as much as it usually did.

"I don't kiss and tell." Piper chuckled, the sound dancing from the ruby red curl of her lips. "But like I said earlier, I'm just the intern." She shrugged, raising an arm to show the gleaming orb in her grasp. "You ready?"

Wrinkling her nose, Martini felt a tinge of warmth brush against her cheeks before stubbornly biting down on her tongue. She was not going to get lulled into a false sense of camaraderie, not yet anyway. Brandishing the poke ball in front of her, the heiress glanced upwards at the adults that ordained this fight. They were all motionless, like haughty gargoyles peering from their decadent perch. "Fine." She muttered to herself, smothering the waking voice that fluttered in the back of her mind. It murmured something sickly sweet, something hidden and longing.

Shaking her head, Martini locked eyes with Piper. "I'm not going to go easy on you." She scowled, far more fiercely than she'd wanted. Sounding like a woman scorned was the last thing she needed and the girl self consciously rubbed her face to remove any stray wrinkles that furrowed her brow.

"Oh and you were on such a roll tonight! Don't let me down!" The blonde decreed with a confident flourish of her arms, seemingly uninhibited by her opponent's simmering angst.

"...so I take it you two are ready?" Alistair Ravensdale's voice echoed into the polished cornucopia, the casino's owner offering his daughter a stern nod before audibly clearing his throat. Standing beside him, with a look of abject amusement plastered on to her feline features was Ginny, her figure casting an elegant silhouette from her place up above.

At the sound of Alistair's timely intrusion, both girls nodded in tandem, as if they'd rehearsed the response the moment the senior Ravensdale broke the growing tension.

Deeply inhaling, the heiress tore her gaze away from the glass balcony and focused on the humming stadium in front of her. Each gleaming tile whirred with renewed life, the neon lights throbbing brightly as hidden mechanisms began to shift underneath the freshly minted arena.


The automated voice echoed into the expanse, the sound sending a jolt up Martini's spine as she watched the arena begin to shift and unravel like mercury. Humming tiles rose and fell into the floor, morphing the flat geography into a labyrinth of connected pillars that rose and fell at the whims of the casino's new tech. In a matter of seconds the plain arena had been terraformed into a large basin, with the central tiles sinking into the floor. It was a death trap, a calculated formation that would punish any pokemon unlucky enough to find themselves slipping into the steep depression.

'BATTLE zero-zero-zero-one IN SESSION.'

"Guess we got to do what robot lady says." Piper called out, surveying the new arena with squinted eyes, With a flick of her wrist the suited blonde unleashed the orb from her grasp, red light glinting off of the shining metal. With a crackling flash of energy, the poke ball erupted with a static buzz, the vibrant energy crashing into the arena as it began to morph into something large and tangible.


Martini watched on, mute and aghast as the deafening roar echoed into the expanse, the imperceptible light shifting into the creature from which the fearsome noise came. Large leathery wings unraveled as the brief flash of energy dimmed, revealing a hulking mass of scales and spikes lumbering near the rim of the basin. It was an unfamiliar species, one whose alien appearance momentarily held the heiress in silent awe. There was one thing Martini did know, however, it was a dragon Pokemon.

A rare sight indeed.

Scales like darkened sapphire dully glistened underneath the haze of the arena's golden light, adorning the creature's muscular form from the tip of its spiked tail all the way up underneath its heavy jaw. Unlike the rest of its body, the Pokemon's head was bathed in a deep red with bony ridges crowning its fearsome visage. Reptilian eyes gleamed with a predatory alertness, gazing upon the strange metallic arena and the lone girl that ogled its spiny physicality. Swinging its heavy tail, the creature sniffed at the air and released a trembling rumble.

"This is Mars." Piper gestured with an open hand, speaking loud enough for Martini to hear. "Let's see if luck has you in its favour, Martini. This big girl just so happens to be my closest companion," The young woman shrugged, now solely focused on the battle before her.

Luck. A fickle mistress, perfectly at home in the lavish confines of a casino.

Biting her lip, Martini glanced at the orb held tight in her grip and sharply inhaled. She was at the mercy of the arena's whims and in full view of the adults who'd manufactured this entire event. How unfortunate if things were to go against her favour. Stifling a grimace, Martini relinquished the strain from her mind and released the poke ball. There was little point in stalling. She had a battle to win.

As light burst from her hand, Martini watched as it emblazoned itself against the rim of the sunken arena. Which unfortunate companion was saddled with performing for her grandmother today? With her thumbnails digging into her palms once more, the heiress held onto her breath as the light evaporated and revealed the sleek form of a canine with fur as black as midnight.

"Of course it was you." Martini uttered to herself, unsure whether she should smile or falter at the coincidence of it all.

Amadeus, her loyal Houndour, the chosen participant for the night's event and the gift her father had rewarded her many months ago.


Her valiant Pokemon howled, ready as always to follow his master's bidding.

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Amadeus the Houndour
Lvl 21

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Gender: Male
Type: Dark/Fire
Ability: Flash Fire
Health: Low

Mars the Druddigon
Lvl 27

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Gender: Female
Type: Dragon
Ability: Rough Skin
Health: Intermediate

Total Stats: 239 [231 +8]

Attack: 44
Defense: 16
Sp. Attack: 71 (31%)
Sp. Defense: 20
Speed: 88 [80 + 8]
Total Stats: 378

Attack: 98 (26%)
Defense: 63
Sp. Attack: 76
Sp. Defense: 85
Speed: 56

The central monitor flashed with brilliant gold text, the automated voice echoing into the gleaming coliseum as the whirring tiles locked into place. The veins of light that trickled through the grooves of the stadium dimmed to a warm glow, stretching the shadows of the two beasts that stood either end of the sunken arena.

Amadeus warily prowled at the precipice of the incline, heat pouring out of his auburn snout as a low growl rumbled in the base of his throat.

“Good boy. Don’t let that thing scare you.” Martini cooed between clenched teeth, her porcelain hands firmly planted on the edge of the metal platform.

“Show them what you got, Mars!” Piper clapped, offering Martini one final grin before settling her attention on the red headed dragon.

Like a gargoyle come to life, the Druddigon’s barbed figure shuddered out of its pensive stillness, the gnarled scales crackling against one another as it shifted its weight from one clawed foot to the other. Every movement made by the hulking reptile created a subtle scraping sound, as if its very scales were gnashing bone and granite. Leathery wings stiffened and unfurled, the dull swoop of air tussling Piper’s blonde hair.


As Mars reared her head back and relinquished her mighty roar, crackling wisps of blue flame sputtered from the back of her throat, singeing the air around her craggy crown. It was an ear shattering battle cry, the deep baritone swelling up within the glowing dome.

Martini felt something stir within her, something that desired the call of the great beast.

“Amadeus, let’s give that dragon an answer!” Martini demanded, finally tearing her attention away from Piper and the Druddigon towards the ebony canine that fearlessly stood opposite the scaled juggernaut. Even with the exclusive audience, Martini wasn’t going to abandon her focus on the Houndour. The mere thought of being watched by her extended family and their well-dressed associates wasn’t particularly inspiring, in fact, it made the ordeal that much more grating.

Thankfully, Martini's attention was forced back to the field the moment a shrill howl escaped Amadeus' throat. The sound crackled in the air as a brief torrent of heat swelled upwards from the creature's blood red tongue. With his ears standing alert and his posture ready to pounce, the growling Houndour began to methodically pace the lip of the incline.

"He's cute, Martini." Piper called from the opposite end, offering the prowling canine a nonchalant wave before turning to her own companion. "Mars, sharpen those mittens!" The young woman exclaimed with a resounding clap of her hands, her firm request answered with the Druddigon brandishing its gnarled talons and sweeping them across the ground.

Shkroooop… Shkroooop… Shkroooop…, the sound scraped against the heiress’ eardrums, forcing a grimace to form on her features. As sparks flew from the dragon's intimidating display, its claws began to glow with a renewed lustre, remnants of dead tissue now strewn across the gleaming tiles by its feet.

It would have been a concerning display had Martini not been so fixated on commanding her own Pokemon.

Without sparing another second, the heiress dug her thumbs into her palms and relinquished a curt order. "Amadeus, stay near the edge and use ember! Aim for the feet!" She crowed, wincing slightly as painted nails dug into her supple skin.

Alas, the pain was only temporary, for the immediate wave of heat that brushed against her porcelain cheeks instantly numbed the sensation.

Vibrant orange flames spurted from the maw of the ebony canine, the gout of fire dousing the opposite end of the crevice as the agile Pokemon sprinted alongside the rim of the incline. Puppy paws padded swiftly atop glowing tiles, the stray embers spooling near the creature's muzzle as tongues of fire began to lick at the heels of the hulking Druddigon. The faint scent of charred keratin wafted into the sterile air as the dragon stepped away from the smoldering flames, heavy wings flapping backwards as wisps of fire curled atop the Pokemon's scaled ankles.

Whittling away at the dragon’s hide was the immediate strategy, one that the heiress knew was her only feasible choice in the impromptu battle.

Unfortunately, her opponent seemed less than concerned.

With a half-hearted chuckle and a shake of her head, the blonde intern offered the scene a moment to wane before casually twirling a finger in the air. "Mars, let's douse that little campfire. Use rain dance!" Piper ordered with an arch of her brow, her arms crossed and her lips curled in a contented grin.

A low grumble rattled in the base of Mars' throat, her reptilian gaze never leaving the form of Amadeus as she immediately stamped out the embers. She did not flinch or recoil in pain as smouldering flames perished at the heel of her foot.

"What the hell..." Martini muttered beneath her breath, blinking dumbly as a puff of mist escaped the confines of her exclamation. Furrowing her brow, the heiress felt the fine hair on her arms curl upwards as a sudden chill settled itself into the confined arena. This was new. Clenching her jaw, the heiress watched on as moisture began to form on the metal hull of her podium and over the gleaming tiles of the arena. Small jewels of vapour blossomed atop the panelling like an infection, growing ever more rapidly as the air within the stadium murmured with wet whispers.

Glancing at Piper, Martini swallowed hard as she was met with the young woman's placating smirk, the blonde idly pointing upwards. "Look", she mouthed wordlessly, before offering the heiress a modest shrug.

Following the silent request, much to her not-so immediate chagrin, Martini watched on as a cloud began to form near the center of the high ceiling, the undulating mass of glowing mist folding in on itself again and again as if it were being deftly molded by the hands of an invisible artisan. Of which Martini quickly realized to be Mars. The sapphire dragon's tail rhythmically swished back and forth, conducting the miniature storm as the churning clouds began to spill outwards. With a great rumble, beads of water baptized the arena in a murmuring torrent, wildly splashing into the crisp tiles as the artificial canyon began to drink up the rain.


The automated voice rung into the stadium, the central screen displaying the change like a morning forecast. As if it were cued into the sudden atmospheric shift, a protective panel immediately extended around the metal podium, the heavy glass shielding the heiress from the rain that now assaulted the stadium.

Swearing underneath her breath, Martini cleared her throat and squinted through the curtain of water that ensconced the battlefield. She had not expected a direct counter, not one that would drown the arsenal of her loyal canine. Teetering over the edge of the large basin, Amadeus looked like nothing more than a soggy shadow, damp tufts of mist escaping his panting muzzle.

Fire was going to be useless in these conditions, her opponent had made sure of that.

Through the storm, Martini leered at Piper, the blonde woman motioning at her scaled companion. The orders were lost in the maelstrom of pitter-patters, but it was clear enough that the fight would continue. Water sputtered outwards as leathery wings flapped, suffocating the ashes of her Pokemon's previous assault.


Mars roar cut through the tide of rain like a cleaver, the sound bouncing off of the honeycomb interior as the great beast immediately launched itself off of the ground and into the air.

"Amadeus! Dodge, quickly!" Martini scrambled, eyes wide as the scaled silhouette hurtled through the rain, ragged claws extended outwards.

With ears perked, Amadeus yapped at the incoming reptile and quickly hopped backwards, his sodden paws perilously dashing atop the rim of the churning basin.

“Now, Amadeus! Now!” Martini cried out, clammy hands gripping the cold metal as she instinctively pulled back from the immediate collision.

With a resounding thud, Mars collided into the arena, her sinewy wings pulled back as the air billowed out from beneath her. Stinging droplets of water exploded from the point of the dragon’s impact, peppering the glistening surroundings with sharp, wet needles. Sparks flew wildly as the Druddigon's claws viciously slammed into the ground where the Houndour once teetered, her scaled grasp barely missing the young pup’s hind legs.

With an instinctive squeal, Martini steadied herself against the podium and slapped a dainty hand against the polished monitor. “Amadeus, use smog now!” The heiress cried, wincing as her open palm jolted with pain.

Shaking his ebony body, Amadeus growled at the reptile that towered over him before a heavy plume of noxious black smoke burst out of his dripping maw. The sour scent of sulphur immediately assaulted Martini’s nostrils as her hound gleefully doused the dragon in the foul smelling shroud. In a matter of seconds, Mars was fully enveloped in the smog, with only the frantic tips of her wings poking through the heavy gas.

“Good boy!” Martini cheered, offering the upper gallery a quick glance to see how the exclusive audience was responding to the bout.

Her father stood with arms crossed and lips pressed into a thin line, his suited body a stoic shadow beside the frail body of her grandmother. The grey-haired matriarch gazed upon the battlefield like a hawk, one finger silently tapping against the arm of her chair. Both their expressions were completely unreadable, the impenetrable masks untouched by any crack or vulnerability.


Beside the duo, stood a far less reserved Ginny, whose brows were threaded into a tight knot. With one hand balancing a plate of morsels, Martini’s aunt revelled in wordless exclamations, her free arm flapping up and down as she explained something to the stoic Alistair.

Why did she look so flustered?

“Martini! Focus!” Came a voice from across the arena, one that cut through the dribbling rain and into the flesh of the heiress’ gut.

Jolting back to her senses, Martini watched as Piper offered her quick shake of her head and a point of her finger.


“Now, Mars! Time to clean up shop!” The intern cried out, aiming the finger at one defenceless Houndour.

The porcelain skinned girl’s response was cut short as a glowing claws thrust out of the sulfuric cloud and into Amadeus’ soft torso. With a sickening thwack, the crackling strike sent the Houndour sprawling sideways, the canine yelping out in pain as he was swatted off the ground and into the air.

Flailing wildly, the wounded pup could do little more than miserably whimper as his body hurtled into the churning rain dish.

“Amadeus!” Martini cried out, wincing as her Pokemon collided into the wet abyss with a muted splash.
“Groooooaaahhhh…” The deep rumbling of Mars’ fearsome proclamation echoed into the soaked expanse, cold air rushing within the waning smog as the dragon battered the noxious cocoon away with three heavy thrusts of her wings.

Emerging from the piddling smokescreen, the Druddigon roughly shook its barbed head and elicited a guttural moan. The creature wavered momentarily, rivulets of purple blood dripping from its enflamed nostrils. Bloodshot eyes blinked thrice as the murmuring rain cascaded upon its maker’s visage, washing the poisonous residue from the brow of the great beast and into the gleaming basin.

“Shit, shit, shit.” Martini uttered, the stream of vulgarity fleeing her clenched teeth like bullets through glass.

Rare was the occasion that the heiress would fall out of favour with lady luck, but in that moment Martini knew she was significantly disadvantaged in this match up. Had the mechanical fates gifted her one of her stronger Pokemon then things may have been far less humiliating.

To fumble in front of her father was a disservice to his hard work.

To do so in front of her grandmother, on the woman’s birthday no less, was a travesty.

But to flail so meekly in front of Piper felt even more ego shattering. The heiress knew not what rationale her mind latched onto but something within her, deep in her liquor stained gut, berated every decision made until that point and internally wrung at her neck for the embarrassing display so far.

Victory was a pretty illusion at that point…but a vicious fight to save some face? That would be a fitting reality.

Bitterly swallowing some bile, Martini steeled herself and tracked the little black smudge that was Amadeus.

Scrambling wildly through the rippling basin, the Houndour looked like little more than a speck of soot caught in a flood. With his ebony head bobbing up and down and his front paws wildly paddling away from the Druddigon’s looming shadow, Amadeus looked far from his usual valiant self. He was nothing more than a wet puppy, caught in a barrel of her father’s making.

Biting back a grimace, Martini cleared her throat before calling out through the waning torrent. “Amadeus! Follow my voice!”

With ears perked and gleaming black eyes finding her features through his panic, the young Houndour relinquished a shrill howl and began to scramble up the slick incline.

Not even daring to look up at her captive audience, Martini’s focused on the avenues for her Pokemon’s escape. Some part of her registered Piper’s voice from across the arena, but the words evaporated into the aether. Even as the scent of ozone and burnt rubber began to cloud her senses, the heiress continued her single-minded obsession with making this fight worth the pride she held.

Her mind chittered like a slot machine, toiling out strategy after strategy. There was always a way. To ignore the fact would be to forsake all the moments that had led to this battle.

Blue light erupted from the crackling maw of Mars, the sour odour washing over Martini as thick plasma spewed outwards and into the basin where Amadeus carefully treaded.

Martini did not react, not even as the gurgling rumble of the dragon’s display assaulted her senses. It was like someone had sloshed sizzling oil into a roulette wheel.

A roulette wheel.

That was when she caught it, the idea that had skirted around her mind like a manic fly.

“Amadeus! Run against the inside of the basin and use smog!” She cried out, her voice booming with wild affirmation.

Yapping from within the sloped canyon, the Houndour clamoured away from the crackling tide of dragonfire and began to scramble against the inner rim. Streams of black smoke plumed from both sides of his open mouth, fanning outwards like a noxious parade. Poisonous gas swathed the remnants of Mars’ blue fire like a veil, obscuring the basin and masking the Houndour that sprinted within its slick walls.

“Impressive.” Piper called out, her figure barely visible through the growing column of toxic soot. “Mars, use Dragon Rage again!” The intern ordered without wasting a breath, her voice slightly more audible as the artificial storm began to peter away.

The bony spines along the creature’s back stiffened at the command, each responding with a subtle pop as a faint aura coursed its way up Mars’ scales. Snorting out a globule of thick oily blood, the Druddigon shook its spiked head and elicited a guttural growl. Tensing her leathery wings and clenching her clawed hands, the sapphire dragon began to shudder as fizzling blue flames began to form in the corners of her fanged maw.

Once again, the heavy scent of ozone and burnt rubber invaded the once pristine stadium, now made all the stronger with the aroma of Amadeus’ sulfuric smokescreen.

Covering her nose and shielding her eyes, Martini instinctively flinched as another tide of crackling blue plasma erupted out of the Druddigon’s mouth. The stream of chemical fire spewed into the wet and smoky cauldron, finding purchase somewhere in the arena’s depths…but not on the wounded pup that broke through the veil of smoke. Singed paws swiftly traversed the inner loop of the cone, the momentum carrying the panting Pokemon upwards and outwards like a slingshot into the direction of dragon.

“Amadeus! Bite her where it hurts!” Martini called out on the tips of her toes, her porcelain features illuminated by the golden lights of the arena and the blazing blue of Mars’ crackling rage.

“Arrroooooo!” The Pokemon howled, bounding up the slope of the basin and into the air with a great leap.
Waterlogged black fur sailed weightlessly in a second of silence, the canine shaped shadow wilfully lunging at the seething dragon, its unmoveable quarry.

In that brief window, Martini Ravensdale felt nothing but pride.

Hungry teeth immediately met the flesh and tendons between the Druddigon’s shoulder and wings the moment Amadeus collided with the beast, the dull wet sound sending a shiver up Martini’s spine. Slick paws scrambled against the barbed hide of the dragon, tearing fur and scales as the Houndour stubbornly latched on to the meat of its much larger prey in an attempt to find purchase.

“Mars, get him off you!” Piper clapped, her blue eyes momentarily catching Martini’s amidst the chaos.
She looked…almost exhilarated.

Roaring a deafening roar, Mars immediately choked back the gout of blue plasma and began to swat at the small creature nipping at her wing. Claws raked across the back of the Houndour, the stifled whines of the dark type echoing into the slick expanse. Gritting her teeth, Martini watched as her Pokemon endured the assault, ignoring the pain in her jaw. With one fell swoop, Amadeus was eventually caught in the grip of the sapphire dragon and torn off of the bleeding wing.

Yelping, the Houndour crashed into the gleaming tiles of the arena, his body limp as he weakly scrambled back to his paws.

Inhaling sharply, the heiress clutched the control panel and winced as her Pokemon painfully whimpered.
“C’mon buddy…” She whispered, biting on her lower lip.

“Miss Ravensdale, this has been fun!” Piper called out from the other side, her arms now crossed and her face touched by a look of appreciation. “But I think this is over. Wanna call it a night? You and your friend fought ha-”

“No.” Martini interjected curtly, ignoring the pain in her palms. “I…I’m the calling the shots. I’m not surrendering.”

There was a brief silence, one that was only broken by the pitiful whimpers of Amadeus.

“I don’t want to kick him while he’s down, Martini.” Piper noted calmly, speaking as if she were soothing a wound on a small child.

Another silence, one that seemed to last far longer than it should’ve as the intern silently beseeched her opponent from across the battlefield.

With twitching eyes, Martini surveyed the field.

Mars stood motionless, her only visible wounds being a bloodied wing and whatever foul poison she’d inhaled from Amadeus’ earlier attack. For all that had been done, the Druddigon still remained functional, even healthy. The quivering pup, on the other hand, was now a heavily breathing mess of black fur laying prostrate near the podium.

Why'd it have to be like this?

A crackle in the arena’s speaker shook Martini from her stupor, a familiar voice piercing the crumbling remnants of her pride.

“…darling, I think that’s game.” Her father’s voice softly echoed into the arena, the hollowed sympathy barely registering as he spoke from his glassy station.

Sourly glancing upwards, Martini was met with the faces of all those that stood witness to her failure. All held the same stoic mask, each more blank than the last. The only one who appeared even slightly affected by the proceedings was Ginny, whose slender hand covered her mouth.

How bad had it looked from up there?

Not even daring to look at her grandmother, the stone faced heiress bit down hard on her tongue and numbly procured Amadeus’ poke ball and returned him to its safe embrace. With sharp breaths, Martini fought the desire to scream and relinquished herself from the safety of her podium, heeled feet swiftly clicking away from the cool metal.


The automated voice boomed, the empty proclamation twisting the knife in her gut even deeper.

“Fine.” She uttered heavily, her brittle voice hanging in the air like ice. With a curt bow and a sharp exhale, Martini Ravensdale turned on her feet and fled the Starlight Arena.

WC: 3387

Battle Summary

Author's Note
Edited by Persimmon, 30 Jun 2018, 06:10 AM.
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Martini Ravensdale

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The din of the arena was little more than a mechanical whisper the moment Martini abandoned its rain slicked cornucopia. Her shrill footsteps carved the path of an ego-stricken pilgrimage, one that fled the gaze of the audience she’d so foolishly performed for.

The rational side of Martini knew it was an improper departure, but such logic was smothered in the torrent of whispered curses and ungraceful stomps.

With Amadeus’ poke ball cooling a white knuckled hand, Martini stiffly strode through the glassy corridor. Gone was any illusion of decorum in the storm of her frustration, replaced instead by a more ghoulish agitation, the kind that flared nostrils and knitted brows. Her shadow stretched and warped as the moon peaked at the disgruntled heiress through its partition of feathery clouds, the silvery glow tepidly embracing the young women.

The chill of the night was finally here, its frigid touch barely registering on the girl’s flushed skin.

Disbelief and dejectedness marinated in Martini’s brain like a noxious curry, stifling whatever semblance of self-awareness previously lingered in her mind’s periphery. The hollow weight began to coil its stubborn tendrils, provoking restless thoughts that squirmed in her conscious.

Had this all been an elaborate ruse?

Obsessively chewing on the thought, Martini hurried herself into the clammy elevator before resting her forehead against its cool metal. With a muted ding, the doors closed, offering the heiress the privacy to stew. In the silence of her tense contemplation, the girl shuddered. The slow licks of her inebriation still haunted her senses, the taste of bile and lemon vodka greasing the back of her mouth.

“You’re a fucking idiot.” She whispered into the air conditioned void, the words falling from her lips like brittle stone.

Heavily inhaling, Martini steadied herself against the walls of her glass cocoon, her painted nails carving red grooves into the palms of her hands. With eyes clenched shut and jaw tensed, the heiress swallowed down whatever agitated presence gurgled in the base of her throat.

It took a while, standing motionless and conducting her airways like she’d run a marathon. But soon enough, in the presence of the moon and the twinkling city outside her polished sarcophagus, the girl tamed the uneasy sensation.

She was not going to make a mess of herself, not yet anyways.

With a numb finger, the heiress gingerly pressed on the ‘30’ button, the little palette glowing obnoxiously at the command.

Humming, the glass elevator silently lurched upwards.

Shaking her head, Martini wriggled life back into her fingers and blew a stray strand of black hair from her brow. In the seconds before the elevator thrust her back into the real world, the porcelain skinned girl looked every bit the composed and haughty heiress she’d been when she’d first graced the night’s events. No one would know because nothing had happened, she’d simply been out having fun of her own.

With a mechanical hop in her step and a stiff look of contentment plastered on to her features, Martini exited her temporary cocoon and on to the opulent roof top.

Still dripping in the sensual baritones of the suited jazz troupe, the event was in full swing. Chattering voices, hollering laughter and the occasional tinkling of glass came together in a maelstrom of sound. Elderly couples, bereft of shame and their previous decorum, happily swayed together on the dance floor, their geriatric feet swiftly twirling and jiving in the full view of the stars and the distant sea.

The night thrived with gaiety and mirth, everything Martini did need in that moment.

Shuddering, the girl turned in the opposite direction of the party and walked away. Tracing her hand against the rim of the glass barrier, Martini slipped into the unlit shadows and continued until the riotous sound was muffled by the sea breeze. Stepping over a middle aged couple far too drunk to properly fumble with each other, the heiress elicited a disgusted grunt.

It was a completely undignified scene, but their messy passion was enough to spark the remnants of something that blossomed earlier that night.

The desire to be teased and taken to, sharing stories about broken cars, Taurus enclosures and…

Martini forcefully shook the sensation from her body, biting on her tongue as she traversed a blinking access ramp and down a set of stairs leading to the penthouse’s lower balcony. The not-too distant rush of the ocean greeted her arrival, barely masking stray voices that murmured into the night air. The conversation was close, close enough to distinguish the slightly muffled voices of two men.

Glancing about, Martini half expected to find these nameless guests carving out their own private sanctum amidst the celebrations. Alas, her brief search on the balcony was fruitless. She was alone. As if her presence wasn’t even registered, the disembodied voices continued murmuring, their pitch rising and falling as brief windows of chuckling separated the conversation. One spoke like man who’d been smoking since infancy and the other crooned like a songbird, a foreign lilt in his accent sweetening his words.

Halfway through pivoting away on her heels, Martini's ears caught a morsel of intrigue, the sort that wriggled its way through her agitation. Part of her knew nothing could be gained from eavesdropping, but the allure of potential gossip was enough to distract her ailing mind.

”…and then I tell her that the broadcast would be nationwide. You know what the broad tells me? To be prepared for any technical failures. Like our team didn’t work hard enough on hacking the system.”

“Ah yes, Miss Sato was never one to, how do you say…mince words. Worry not my friend, your work is appreciated and you’ll be reimbursed handsomely.”

“Well that’s what good ole Ravensdale is for ain’t it? Come to think of it, surprised he even extended the invite to us…considering you know who ain’t too fond of-“

“I wouldn’t concern myself with such things. Any assistance from this side of Godai is more than enough to establish a healthy base. Besides, Alistair has proven himself to be very…acquainted with how we operate. Even his daughter has proven to possess some skills, tonight being an exception of course.”

"Oh I noticed you had your eyes on her the entire time."

"Strictly professional, my friend. She is like a young boar, over-estimates her strength and easy to bait. It is fascinating."

Martini felt a burning sensation slither up her spine to her cheeks, goosebumps blossoming atop her alabaster skin as she was subjected to the shameless gossip. Pride demanded she refute the mention, but her feet tepidly continued forward out of some masochistic desire to hear more. She recognized neither of these voices, but they certainly recognized her and that alone posed more than just temporary investment in their conversation.

“But what about his old lady? She’s been a pain in the ass ever since business started here.”

“The matriarch is a traditionalist, she comes from a generation of people who engaged with such business with less grace and...wait.”

“What is it?”

“I hear someone coming.”

Stiffening, Martini swiftly clutched the rim of the balcony and caught the breath in her throat. Cool ocean wind tickled her collarbones as she stood motionless, taunting the heiress like a coquettish siren.

A pair of footsteps shuffled on the other end of the balcony’s eastern wall, the sliding of a screen door sending a chill across the girl’s skin. No more words were spoken, just the deliberate movements of the two unseen men. Frozen in place, Martini stood with her lower lip firmly clamped between her teeth and waited.

A minute passed, then another followed and as the final sails of a grey cloud strode across the face of the moon silence finally enveloped the small enclosure.

The disembodied voices had dissipated, slipping away under the veil of night.

Exhaling slowly, Martini relaxed her muscles and heaved a sigh of relief over the banister.

“The hell was that all about.” She uttered under her breath, dainty fingers pinching the bridge of her nose as the waning tide of sobriety began to return. Closing her eyes, the young woman leaned against the glass barrier, her obsidian hair twirling playfully in the wind. She wanted to waste the night away moping, but circumstance refused such a thing. Her mind was a mess of thoughts, conspiracies splattered atop one another in a maelstrom of buzzing voices that queried and questioned everything that had happened in the previous hour.

Like a young boar?

Was this all a fever dream? Had Piper spiked her drink? Was she being pranked? Such a thought made the typically composed Martini all the more paranoid.

Reaching downwards, the heiress shakily pocketed Amadeus' ball in her coat before groaning into her palms. The heat of her breath scorched the tender wounds her nails had left from earlier, the muted pain a far more pleasant alternative to everything else that had occurred that night. It was in the brief respite, away from the lunacy of the party, did the girl finally notice a pair of beady black eyes ogling up at her.


The gurgling click sent the young woman sprawling backwards, a wheezing half squeal caught in her throat as she flailed like a bird caught in a cobweb. Fumbling on to her backside with a muffled thud, Martini madly swatted at the creature that so easily snuck up on her.

"WHAT THE SHIT ARE YOU!?" The pale faced girl screamed before slapping a hand to her mouth. Was this something sent out by one of the men? With eyes wide and nostrils flared, the girl fumbled on to her hands and knees and shone the light of her holocaster on to the surprise guest.

The impromptu spotlight barely illuminated the creature, revealing little more than a thin silhouette made up of grey and black scales. Each shimmered underneath the holocaster's glow, gradually assuming a dark greenish hue as the hunched figure began to apparate from the shadows. It was only then, did Martini began to comprehend the previously camouflaged Pokemon. Beady eyes squinted at the attention, leering up at the girl as if her behavior was far from acceptable. With a low chortle, flecks of yellow began to sprout off of the unseen creature's eyes, gradually blooming under the ridges of its brow and giving shape to a stubby legged reptile that idly swayed in front of the girl.

“Ke-Ke.” The pokemon clicked, its head lolling from side to side in a curious manner. A long, curled tongue sloped out of its toothless mouth, the slick pink appendage tasting the salty sea air before retracting back into the reptile’s gullet like a yo-yo.

After an awkward moment of silence, recognition finally washed over Martini. It was a small revelation, one that loosened the strain in the agitated girl’s body.

“Waldo, why are you sneaking up on me?!” She snapped sharply, grabbing the banister and stumbling back on to her feet.

Glaring down at the Kecleon, the heiress brushed cigarette ash from her dress and offered herself a moment to recover. She’d not been ambushed by an unknown entity like she initially thought. Instead, she’d been gifted with a visitation from her grandmother’s loyal Pokémon.

Waldo had always been an enigma throughout her childhood, an ominous creature that always lingered in her periphery. He was the shadow of Adelia Ravensdale, carrying out her presence like a wraith. Where he watched so did she, or so the malignant superstitions believed anyway. Rarely was he seen in public, let alone voluntarily, and this mere fact vexed Martini more than it should’ve.

What was he doing here?

Stifling another sigh, the girl crinkled her brow and offered the expressionless reptile a dour grimace.

“How long have you been standing there?” She uttered incredulously, feeling that much more vulnerable as the roguish Pokemon responded with a lopsided blink.

Sniffing loudly, the lizard tapped the heiress’ knee and slinked back into the shadows, his scales returning to a mottled grey and black as the veil of night consumed him. In the darkness, a stream of low chitters echoed the Pokemon’s throat. A chortle perhaps...if such a thing were possible.

tap, tap, tap

Reptilian claws strummed against the concrete, beady black eyes gleaming under the veil of night as Waldo patiently waited for the girl to follow.

“Fine, fine, fine.” Martini relented with a groan, wrinkling her nose in annoyance as she tore herself off of the balcony’s glass barrier. “Stupid little lizard.” She grumbled underneath her breath, throwing the Kecleon a particularly sour glare.

She had no idea where she was being led, but the increasingly confused heiress spitefully trailed after the barely visible Pokémon with shoulders hunched and brows furrowed. Every step forward was a graceless stomp, as if her feet were weighed down by lead. She knew not the destination but she knew exactly who would be waiting for her at the end.

The birthday girl.

WC: 2164
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Martini Ravensdale

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Lacquered wooden slats guarded the windows of the penthouse’s cellar like armour, revealing nothing more than a warm orange glow that oozed from the splits in the mahogany.

The inconspicuous front entry was already unlocked by the time the heiress came upon the hidden passage. Having followed Waldo through an intricate series of twists and turns leading to the exclusive cellar, Martini wasn’t particularly sure what she should have expected. It was an expedition that required full faith in the typically unseen Pokémon, with the girl finding herself stalking through shadows and crevices of the Starlight’s upper floors, some of which she’d never encountered before.

The entire task was a chore of course, one that the flustered heiress verbally critiqued every time the Kecleon tapped its impatient little foot. Given the chance, Martini would have responded to the Kecleon’s impatience with a stomp of her own foot on its face.

Alas, her gnawing frustrations were neutered when the signature scent of tea leaves and incense washed over her in the dimly lit passage.

Nobody stood at the doorway. Gone were her grandmother’s bald sentries and the public veneer of formality. Replaced instead by the slight tinkling of a windchime and the unlocked door that silently beckoned her forward.

“Ke.” Waldo dully uttered, rapping a darkened nail against the concrete door and skittering inside the basement level without a single glance at the girl.

“Dumb lizard...” Martini mumbled hoarsely, idly tugging on her cashmere scarf as she summoned the confidence to continue onwards. To cross such a threshold required both poise and a brave face, a combination sorely lacking for the girl after her disastrous battle.

Shaking the memory from her mind, Martini adjusted her outfit and ensured she looked relatively presentable before following after the Kecleon. She couldn't keep her grandmother waiting. With her tongue caught between her teeth and her hands shoved deep into the pockets of her coat, Martini quietly slipped into the basement floor.

Candlelight immediately swathed the girl in a warm auburn glow, the welcoming scent of lavender and peppermint clutching her nose and leading her further down a hallway marked by flickering sconces and painted scenery. The cellar level possessed a sleek, albeit traditional, interior, far removed from the modern touches within the casino beneath it.

Gigantic waves illustrated in ink adorned the walls either side of the girl, the rolling water filled with golden Magikarps that leapt throughout the canvas of their scene. It was a controlled chaos put into art, a commission that would have undoubtedly cost a hefty price. The stylised fish gaped in exultation, their mouths twisted in joy as they rode the crashing waves of their storm. Each dumbly ogled the girl as she passed by, like the silent sea of observers that they were.

The painted maelstrom followed the heiress as she quickened her pace and tip toed down the hallway, the great waves rollicking either side of the black timber flooring.

Offering her holocaster a nervous glance, Martini cleared her mind and stiffly planted herself at the end of the corridor, right in front of a large sliding door. No one was going to rescue her from this encounter. She’d strode through the painted storm on her own and she’d have to wade herself out again, regardless of whether her grandmother’s summons was a friendly one or not.

Almost as if on cue, a woman’s voice called out from the other side.

"Come in."

With a tentative exhale, Martini carefully nudged her feet out of her heels and placed them by the doorway. Even at such a formal event, family tradition had to be followed. No shoes in the house.

With her bare soles free to breath atop the warm timber, the heiress slid the door open and stepped over the threshold with head held high and lips pursed into a polite smile.

Entering the room was like entering a completely different environment, one specifically catered for the elderly woman seated at the centre. Gone was the whispered chill of night air and the uproarious racket of celebration. Replaced instead by the warmth of an ovular heater and the meditative chime of an old clock. Where once the silver hue of moonlight swathed Martini’s vision, now danced an enticing smog of sweet incense and candle fire.

Seated atop a plump cushion and still garbed in her cashmere shawl, Adelia Ravensdale delicately fanned the steam from a teapot, her unreadable gaze set upon a colourful array of treats and tarts. It was a veritable procession of delicacies, the sort that would entice a hungry young woman. Lavender pies and folded lemon squares mingled with cream and custap pastries, the pastel arrangement immediately alighting the girl’s cravings that had been so thoroughly ignored until that point.

“You must be hungry.” The Matriarch noted pointedly, motioning with a hand towards a plate positioned on the opposite end of the table to her. As always, there was little time for needless pleasantries with the woman and Martini instinctively felt herself nodding.

“A little.” The heiress admitted sheepishly, self-consciously crossing her toes over one another before hurriedly seating herself where the plate awaited her.

Folding her legs underneath her thighs, the girl offered her grandmother a respectful nod and slyly ogled the sweet feast. With bare feet soaking up the warmth of the pillow and her posture leaning into the platter of treats, the girl felt like a child salivating over a well deserved dessert. Such a sensation was short lived, however, as Martini swiftly realigned herself and played the role of the ever dutiful and proper granddaughter.

“No need to play coy, you’re not in trouble.” Adelia clicked, grey eyes lifting upwards from the teapot and inspecting the girl opposite her. Crow’s feet wrinkled as the elderly woman ruminated a wordless riddle, her thin lips pressed into a hard line.

“Is there something that we need to talk about then?” Martini whispered tentatively, her brows furrowed as she cautiously leered at the vulnerable pastries in front of her. What sort of ploy was her grandmother playing?

“There is.” Adelia nodded slowly as she expertly poured the tea into two dainty cups with one smooth flourish. “It concerns your future.” She added sternly, handing her granddaughter the steaming cup of fragrant tea.

Stiffly accepting the drink with a brief simper, Martini immediately began focusing on blowing the plumes of vapour from its rim. After several seconds blasting the cup with cool air, the uncharacteristically demure girl daintily sipped its contents. It was the polite thing to do. The masterfully brewed elixir was a cocktail of sweet citrus and bitter herbs, the scalding liquid flowing down her throat with ease.

Clearing her throat of the potent aftertaste, Martini sharply inhaled and watched as her grandmother placed two pastries atop her plate. “Is this regarding my studies, travel plans or…marriage?” The girl grimaced, feeling the word fall from her lips like ash.

The Matriarch sniffed at the suggestion, the corners of her lips curling into a feline grin. “Nothing of that sort. The reason you’re here is because it is time I told you about our family and your place in it. You’re an adult now, with enough brains in your head to comprehend the reality of how things are done.” The woman noted sternly, reaching underneath the low table and procuring a book sized box.

The artefact was rosewood and garnished with silver embroidery, a simple lock adorning its narrow spine. It was old, the scuffed corners and the faded veneer telling the girl all she needed to know about the peculiar addition to her afternoon tea. An heirloom perhaps? The sort of gift that collected dust until it is passed down unto another disinterested generation.

Wrinkling her nose at the thought, Martini gingerly plucked one of the pastries from her plate and nibbled at its corners.

“Martini, indulge me as I tell you a story.” The matriarch began, her eyes glazing over the box as she rested her alabaster fingers either side of its wooden hull. “How much do you know about your great grandfather?” The woman queried, her gaze never leaving the worn capsule.

“Uhh…his name was Cyrus Ravensdale.” Martini stammered, hastily swallowing the final portion of her lavender tart and dabbing her lips with a napkin. “He worked in the shipping industry and helped import and export fishing supplies…or mining equipment or something like that.” The girl mumbled, finally realising just how bad her recollection of the man was.

“Close.” Adelia nodded slowly, offering the brief silence a sigh. “My father primarily dealt in transporting steel parts to and from central Godai, back when Aurmouth was called Shiroshire.” The elderly woman recounted slowly, her bone white fingers gently tracing over the silver filaments on the locked box.

“Back then, our family was of modest standing, comfortably flitting through the days with full bellies and fuller minds. It was a simple time, everyone lived happily since my father made a respectable income and, as a result of this, we thrived without having to worry about unpaid debts or misspent coin. My mother was able to chase her own dreams because of this safety net and she blossomed. Oh she was so beautiful and passionate, a burning fire to my father’s gentle breeze.” Adelia chuckled, spooning a small portion of teacake into her mouth and deliberately chewing, as if she were chasing a thought.

Martini mirrored the action, finishing her second pastry before her grandmother continued the tale.

“Being my father’s eldest daughter, I always wound up joining him on trips to the warehouses and the wharf, meeting every manner of person who worked for him. I felt like such a grown up, interacting with all these grizzled sailors and labourers that would only mutter one word answers to my inane questions. I knew all their names and the names of their children and their Pokémon and as the months went by I’m sure they knew all about me. It was fascinating, these constant encounters, and my father encouraged this socialness, knowing full well how much I enjoyed interacting with people who existed outside the sphere of ‘family’.” Adelia mused thoughtfully, pulling her shawl closer to her body.

“I was content with this routine during the years I accompanied the man, so much so that I immediately became aware of the differences the moment my father began dealing with a group known as the Silvertooths.” The Matriarch frowned, her expression hardening.

“Who are they?” Martini queried gently, reading her grandmother’s expressions like they were a time worn book.

Were, who were they.” Adelia corrected with a click of her tongue, the steam of her tea fogging up her jewellery. “The Silvertooths was an association of gentlemen that sought wealth through questionable means. Yes, a gang. They operated openly enough to garner enough respect from the lowlifes in this part of the country but covertly enough to avoid suspicion from the authorities of the time. They bribed like devils and extorted like rabid dogs, wounding any businesses that thought it appropriate to shake off their dealings.”

“My father’s growing success in the shipping industry was like a throbbing vein for these mosquitos and they…well they took advantage of it. He was too trusting. He was a man burdened by the curse of success and lapped up every morsel of gold the Silvertooths promised him. At first, the partnership was good, some might even say great, and the man profited quite a bit in those initial months. Alas, my father was too ignorant to realise he was a frog in a slowly boiling pot. The Silvertooths held my father by the throat and he probably believed it was for his own good.” Adelia exhaled, clenching her jaw as she brushed a fleck of dust off the wooden case.

“It was during this time, did my father come across this.” The elderly woman noted dryly, swiveling the artifact towards the center of the table and unclasping the lock. With a frail click, the rosewood lid was freed of its burden, revealing whatever mystery lurked within. For a moment, Martini expected a shiny trinket or the rights to some old property, the sort of heirloom an elderly woman would keep. What she got instead was pitch blackness. In her confusion the girl stared, hoping to find purchase and make sense of the nothingness inside the box.

“What the hell…” She whispered, feeling increasingly unnerved the longer she stared.

It was a tangible shadow, a rectangular plate of distilled darkness that consumed whatever light tip toed against the threshold of its wooden case. Something in the haze of her alcohol tainted mind told the girl she shouldn’t be looking at all, as if she were committing an act of sacrilege.

Wrenching her gaze away, Martini tried to search for an answer on her grandmother’s face.

“I too, had the same reaction the first time I saw it.” The woman admitted, offering the girl a sympathetic half smile. “But my father must’ve seen more.” Adelia murmured, shutting the box and clasping the slab of darkness back into its shell. “He never told me how he came about it. Would always change the story when my mother and I would ask him. I believe he’d won it in a gamble, risking his fortune against the Silvertooths. He went to great lengths to keep it hidden, like an addict burrowing away his stash.”

“He was consumed by it. If he was too weak to stand up against the men that used him how could he refuse his own vices? Perhaps, my father had always been an obsessive or he was experiencing early stage dementia…I’ve spent many years thinking about it. Regardless, the Silvertooths took full advantage of this vulnerability.” Adelia uttered bitterly, cooling the gnawing rage with a lengthy sip of tea. “He held tight to the belief that this artifact would give him wealth and open new avenues for business. It was like listening to a mad man babble through a conspiracy.”

The Matriarch paused, slowly shaking her head. For the briefest second, the woman’s lip quivered, an anomaly that Martini convinced herself had been a mere trick of the light.

“My father put the entire family into debt. We lost the house first and then the security that came with it. My mother, in the stress of my father’s downfall, lost her own job trying to support us. Her flame was snuffed, all her passion lost to the hungry hands that picked at what we had left. The business had to be liquidated, all the assets handed over to the Silvertooths. It was hell. Through all the chaos my father still held on to this thing. He couldn’t let it go, not even if it would have given us a few weeks in a hotel.” Adelia frowned, her anger a cold flame that brimmed within her grey gaze.

“By the end of it, my father died a pauper and my mother withered away into heartbroken nothingness.” The woman uttered curtly, as if she’d completely detached herself from the narrative. “The Silvertooths had gained their prize and I was left with the ruins of my family and this damned slab. Many times I tried to rid myself of it. But I always came back. I couldn’t part with the one remnant of my father, no matter how much it disgusted me.” The Matriarch darkly chuckled, tenderly holding the box between her rice-paper like fingers.

“In time, I came to learn that this artifact did indeed offer a modicum of power. My father was simply too frail to harness it properly. He was like a child playing with a gun and the Silvertooths gleefully watched him shoot himself.” Adelia tutted, gently reaching for her granddaughter’s hand and placing it atop the box. “But I was not my father. I grew up too quickly in those final months and I was old enough to know when to pursue a grudge. Where my father faltered, I flew and...I conquered.”

The woman paused, inspecting Martini’s wounded palms and tenderly brushing her fingers over the fresh scars.

“The Silvertooths are no more. This empire I built sits on their ashes.” Adelia uttered softly, her voice a tremulous storm that filled the candlelit silence. “For everything they took from my family I took ten times more from them. I had it in my heart to vanquish them, to bury their legacy so deep into the dirt that not even the worms could save them.”

“Nana…but why-“

“Why?” The elderly woman croaked incredulously, her silver brows furrowed into a knot. “Because I love my family enough to not see them wither away, no matter the cost.” She uttered firmly, squeezing her granddaughter’s hand.

“We love you too Nana!” Martini stammered swiftly, vigorously nodding her head as if it would help emphasize the point. “…and I’m sure your father loved you too?” The girl winced, her pitch rising as the apparent question fled her lips.

“My father was weak and foolish.” The woman uttered matter-of-factly, her lips curling into a hard line. Contemplating the amber liquid in her teacup, the Matriarch crinkled her lips and sighed. “I did love him, the idealised love only a daughter could have for a good parent. Nostalgia would have me remember him for his virtues and his kindness. But I cannot let the rosy wistfulness of a child mask the absolute truth. That my father’s actions caused great pain, pain that I hope will never grace this family again.” She noted tersely, lifting her gaze and catching Martini in a petrifying stillness.

Tapping a finger against the locked box, the elderly woman continued. “This is the vestige of your great grandfather, the reason why we Ravensdales must continue to strive.” She emphasised with a stern nod, “It is a totem of our pride and our shame. It is a reminder that success is not without pain or ugly choices. To disavow such a thing is to squander your potential and submit to a poor illusion, where life rewards passivity and meekness. I will not have that for you, Martini.” Adelia proclaimed unflinchingly, her eyes alight with burning conviction.

“Y-Yes Nana, of course.” Martini stammered, feeling overwhelmingly flustered with her grandmother’s sermon.

Offering the heiress a half-cocked smile, the elderly woman delicately placed another lavender tart on her granddaughter’s plate. The plump pastry stood triumphant atop the crumbs of its devoured brethren, beseeching the hungry girl to demolish it as well.

“I know there’s a lot to learn.” The heiress admitted stiffly, self-consciously tugging on her obsidian hair as she squirmed in place. Pins and needles relentlessly pricked at her calves, the girl wincing as she forced her legs underneath the table. “I apologise if I disappointed you tonight, during that fight I mean. Not the best show I could’ve given on your birthday.” Martini mumbled sheepishly, reflexively shrugging her shoulders in a bid to shake off her embarrassment.

“You were never going to win that fight anyways.” Adelia sighed with a consolatory nod as she carefully refilled the teapot with more steaming water. The minty vapours danced between the two women before evaporating into the aether, just as quickly as Martini’s confidence. The girl felt herself wince at the revelation. How jarring it was to hear such a thing spoken aloud.

“But Nana I-“

“It was not victory that I needed from you. It was gumption.” Adelia interjected with a firm wave of her hand. “I needed to know that when Fate deals my granddaughter an unfair hand, she fights back even harder. Yes, your performance was uninspired and your exit rather graceless but you still made that dragon bleed.” The Matriarch smirked, crow’s feet rippling around her snowy lashes. “I would rather you fail and learn from your mistakes than be perfectly lazy.” She emphasised with a clenched fist.

Squirming from her pins and needles, Martini ruminated on the thought and offered her grandmother a shallow nod. She wasn’t particularly sure if what was said was supposed to make her feel any better.

“I’ll do my best.” The heiress quietly declared, feeling a fragment of ego rebuild itself in the mess of her mind.

“Oh you will, I don’t doubt it. You are responsible and shrewd, everything I could want in a granddaughter.” Adelia smiled, sliding the box across the table. “Which is why I am giving this to you. Power and humility are a duality we must all carry and I believe it is time that you wield something more than just our name.” The woman articulated with a comforting hand against Martini’s cheek, a faint perfume cascading off her wrist.

With eyes widening and lips pressed tightly together, Martini warily stared at the artifact, unsure of how to proceed.

“Don’t fear it, darling. It will give back to you what you put into it. Harness its power and watch your companions fight like you’ve never seen before. Just don’t tell anyone you have it, best to leave these things a secret.” Adelia coaxed with several pats to the back of her granddaughter’s hands. “Oh, and before I send you off, do take this as well. Your father has had it lying around and never sought to use it for his own Pokemon.” The woman mused, procuring a vial of carbos that was still in its wrapping.

“Nana, don’t you want to keep this stuff for yourself? It’s your special day, not mine!” Martini forced out, flustered by the surprising display of her grandmother’s generosity.

Snorting, the Matriarch waved the statement away with a flap of her hand. “Nonsense. Since it is my special day I get to decide who I give my gifts to. You deserve it, you may not think it after tonight’s battle, but you do.” The woman shrugged, pushing the gifts even closer to the heiress. “Don’t you start refusing my gifts, young lady.” She tutted, an alabaster finger shaking in front of Martini’s features.

“Of course not, Nana. I would never.” Martini stammered quickly, wriggling her toes of the pins and needles that lurked by her soles.

“Good. Now go out and have fun, I’ll join the revelry later to kick all these freeloaders out.” Adelia stated, her tone tip toeing the line between utter seriousness and sarcasm.

Quickly slurping down the final remnants of tea in her cup and balancing one of the pastries atop the locked box, Martini unfolded herself off the ground and winced at the warmth that soaked up her bare legs. Feeling the blood rush back down to her feet, the heiress offered her grandmother a wincing half-grin and curtsied.

“Happy Birthday Nana, thank you for the gifts.” She stated demurely, gracelessly limping back to where her shoes were.

“Anything for you.” Adelia Ravensdale waved, her body coiled by fragrant steam and candlelight.


Martini knew it wasn’t an exaggeration.

WC: 3820

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Edited by Persimmon, 13 Jul 2018, 07:30 PM.
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