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"God, Candela. You never know when to quit.”


Blanche sighs as she retrieves a Potion from her desk. The Vulpix before her mews softly, barely conscious. “They aren’t machines. They aren’t toys. You push them too hard.”


Candela stands nearby, sheepishly scratching behind her ear. “Well…I mean, she got some good hits in. Won the battle.”


“Is that ALL you think about? Being the best?”


“Look, Trainer culture’s been around for decades. I’m not the first one to fight with my Pokémon.”


Blanche sprays the Potion on the Vulpix’s wounds. Just bruises and scrapes–this time.


“I don’t mean you personally.” Some of the anger drains from her voice. Some. “I’m just tired of seeing them like this. We should respect them. Study them. Not throw them against each other. And don’t give me that crap about battle instinct. You know forcing them to fight is a far cry from the scuffles they get into in the wild.”


Candela listens to the sermon in silence. She doesn’t think Blanche’s point is completely without merit, but how could anyone live without that thrill of competition? The edge-of-your-seat excitement when both contestants are equally matched. The exultation of victory, of proving your worth to the world. The-


“Are you even listening to me?”


Candela steps up to the table next to Blanche. “Yeah, of course.”


“What did I just say?”


She swallowed. Caught again. “Well, er…” she winces.


“Mhmm.” She goes back to her work.

Candela watches her tuck a strand of her fair hair behind her ear as she carefully inspects the Vulpix’s side.


“This burn is bad. What did she fight?”


Candela takes an extra moment to respond, in which time Blanche apparently gets impatient and looks up at her, waiting. Candela shies away from the eye contact.


“Ah, uh…” she clears her throat. “It was a Dragon type, definitely. One of the little blue worm ones. Dratini, I think?”


“Fascinating. I’ve never known a Dragon Breath to leave a burn like this. I’d love to know what their Trainer’s feeding it…”


Candela watches Blanche’s deft fingers apply a poultice to the burn. The relief is apparently immediate, as the Vulpix’s breath calms down. Candela follows suit, relaxing at last.


“Thanks for your help. Again. There’s not a Center for another couple of-”


“You don’t need an excuse to stop by. You know that.”


Candela grins. Hopefully it’s wry, but she feels more dopey. “You’re right. I do.”


Blanche sighs again, this time in content as she inspects her work.


“You owe me.” She says at last.


“Yeah, I know. I’ll pay my tab someda-”


“Dinner.”


Candela blinks. “Dinner…?”


Blanche nods almost to herself. “Yes. A nice candlelight dinner. Without medical equipment.”


“Oh!”

Why is it so hot in here?

“Y-Yeah, sure. That’d be…sounds good.”


Blanche nods again and smiles. “Good.”


She lifts the nearby pokeball and returns the Vulpix to its home, tossing the device to Candela.


“Eight o'clock Saturday. Don’t be late, Candy.”

Candela almost doesn’t catch it. Almost.