Clint still hadn't fully recovered from the trip to Littledale, yet here he was ready to go nose to the grindstone again. His legs were still sore, although he could push through if needed. Clint walked up the path to Winston Ranch, where he was told by a couple of very uncivilized ranch hands that he could find some work. Although through his trainer's license he could eat and sleep at Pokemon centers at no cost, having extra cash for any unforeseen expenditures along the way was surely a necessity, and manual labor sounded easier than the other jobs Clint usually saw posted, such as waiting tables or shop keeping or any other job where you have to ugh, deal with people all day.
Clint had made his way up to the large farm house that Isaac had told him to look for, which stood perched on top of a small hill overlooking the rest of the ranch. Out front there was a group of about nine men standing in front of the stairs up to the porch, with a tenth man, who was short and stout, wearing a massive white cowboy hat, with a matching white mustache was standing on the porch, presumably he was the one running the show.
"Is there something I can help you with young man, I happen to be very busy right now," the mustached man shouted at Clint.
Suddenly all eyes were on Clint. Not the best start, as the ranch hands, other than Isaac Winston who Clint met the night before all had scowls on their faces.
"Actually sir, I was hoping to help you with something. Couple of your boys rode into town last night, said y'all was looking for a couple extra hands, told me to swing by this morning, actually it was these two fellers right here," Clint said, gesturing at Isaac and Sam Winston while he tried to defuse the situation.
"Well I sure as s*** don't remember you," Sam replied.
"Knock it off Sam, this here's the feller from the center, he looked the part so I figured I'd ask him, just like you told us Uncle," Isaac stated, whacking Sam on the shoulder.
"Well if that's the case then kid, my name's Irving Winston, and this is my ranch. As I was just explaining to the boys here, we got an order placed, need two hundred and fifty head of cattle herded in from pasture, cleaned up, tagged and have be ready to transport onto a cargo ship in the port by sundown tomorrow. Plus we got Pooch, Mighty and whatever other kind of 'yena that's out there hunting after our cattle as well. So if you can herd, we can use all the help we can get out there. Can you ride a Mudsdale, whatever your name is?" Irving explained.
"Name's Clint, and yea I know how to ride."
"Well great then Clint. Guess you boys can split into five teams of two now. Sam and Isaac, Kane and Irving Jr, Henry and Taro, John and J.P, and uh, Clint you go with Sergei, he's the scrawny looking one in the jean jacket, let's get to work boys!"
Sergei was an unimpressive looking character, brown ten gallon hat placed over ratty looking long brown hair, also strangely committed to the full denim on denim look. Clint walked over to Sergei as the rest of the group began to head out to start the day. The two of them quickly shook hands and handled introductions, before heading over to the stables.
The stables themselves were just the same as any stable Clint had seen back home, lined with stalls housing Mudsdale in them, with tack hanging on the walls. Clint and Sergei walked over to two Mudsdale in the back corner of the stables, staying out of the way of the other teams getting organized. Sergei showed Clint over to his mount for the day, which had a saddle sitting on the gate for the stall.
"Meet Penney, she's your ride for the day. Good steed, easy going compared to some of the others 'round here," Sergei handled introductions.
Clint slowly opened the stall door and slowly approached Penney. The Mudsdale was calm, and remained so as Clint rubbed her chin, and patted her slowly on the shoulder. Clint grabbed the saddle sitting nearby, and placed it on Penney's back. Clint then did up all the straps, and was ready to climb on. Penney briefly fought back as Clint got mounted, but a pat on the cheek calmed her down once again. Clint looked over at Sergei over in the stall next to him, who was all ready and waiting for Clint.
"Follow me out of here Clint, there's a crick out near back of the property, I think that's a good place to start out," Sergei said, laying out the plan.
Clint simply nodded, and the two took off.
The two had been riding for close to half an hour when Sergei pulled up on the reins and came to a stop, and Clint followed suit. The scene they stopped at was rather picturesque, the sunrise provided a bright array of colors, which were cast over seemingly endless rolling hills of the Winston Ranch pasture.
"What are we stopping for, I don't see anything here," Clint asked.
"We get paid by the day, not by the head kid, don't be in such a rush," Sergei retorted, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Sergei used the lighter to light up the cigarette then motioned the pack over to Clint as if asking him if he wanted one. Clint nodded and Sergei tossed it over. Clint then light a cigarette of his own, letting out a couple of coughs as he inhaled. Clint has smoked before, but not very often as he didn't want to get caught by his parents. Considering they were very far from here, the chances of being caught were very low to say the least.
"How'd you even end up in this wretched corner of the earth anyhow kid, you sure don't seem like a local," Sergei asked.
"That'd would be because I'm not, I grew up on a ranch in Kanto. I made my way out here to try my hand at being a Pokemon Trainer," Clint answered.
"Kanto? Why not be a trainer over there," Sergei asked, prying into Clint's life now.
"Long story," Clint quickly snapped back.
"Fine kid, be like that. Just know I used to be a pretty good trainer myself," Sergei teased.
Clint's ears perked up now. Maybe working on this ranch was going to help Clint's battling skills as well.
"Ah, now I got your interest," Sergei laughed, taking another pull from his cigarette,
"Back in my younger years, not too much older than you I had made it a good distance as a Trainer. Took it all the way to the top eight of the Hoenn League Tourney, that's when it all went downhill. Lost a lot of money, had to hide. Now I grind away in obscurity for that a-hole Mr.Winston. So have fun while you can kid, but go to school or something."
"What happened in the league tourney," Clint asked, now he was the one prying.
"Kid you got s*** you don't wanna talk about, I also have that," Sergei angrily replied.
Sergei chucked his cigarette butt on the ground, and started to ride off. Clint carefully put his out, and put it in his saddlebag before riding off to follow Sergei out to the creek. Clint had to wonder if he had screwed up his one chance to learn from a true professional, he would have to figure out a way into Sergei's good graces.
Wednesday, September 30th
“Hm, this seems like a fine spot to set up camp.”
While in reality the two have spent a lot of her day trekking through Route 103, it’s gone by a lot quicker in June’s mind. After saying goodbye to the family they met in Cottage Grove, June and Avril were gifted with scarfs knitted by Ms. Shimizu, green and pink respectively. Then, June spent most of her time along the way fixating on the various Pokemon inhabiting the environment, specifically bug-types, to nobody’s shock.
Their behaviors were different from what she observed from her last visit, like how few Ninjask buzzed about freely and instead were all clinging to tree trunks. Those that weren’t were zipping to whatever tree they could find. Definitely giving her ideas some ideas for her next report.
“Do you have any experience with camping?” June asks Avril as she rolls a tarp out onto the ground.
"Hm… not many! I never went camping by myself, and when I did, on route 102, I didn't even have a tent, and i-it was absolutely terrible!" Avril quickly replies.
“Oh my, I’m- I’m terribly sorry to hear that.” June clenches her palms against her chest in concern. “Fortunately though, I’ve gone camping many times. So if you ever have any troubles, you can always come to me for help!” She smiles. That could probably be interpreted to mean more than just camping. Not that she really minds
"It's ok, I can already tell this time will be different! Route 102 was just my mistake!" She replies, likely trying to sound reassuring herself. "You know more than me but uh, if you need any help with anything, I'm here!"
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind…” June gives an awkward giggle as she lightly blushes. “I could always use some assistance with th- huh?” When looking back to where she placed the tent, she notices it's disappeared. She panickedly looks around only to see that it was Einstein who had taken them and is folding it out across the tarp with his psychic abilities. .
“Oh, you had me worried there for a second, Einstein!” June wipes her brow. “I’m surprised how quickly you picked up on that- Although I suppose that’s on me for underestimating your intelligence.”
"Oh… wow, is there anything he can't do?" Avril giggles. "Actually thinking about it… I could work on some quick cooking in the meantime! How does that sound?"
“Orbeetle are very good at observing their environments, so it makes sense.” June replies as she figures out the poles needed to get the tent to stay up. “But yes, that sounds just swell!”
After less struggle than initially envisioned, June finally has the tent pitched up, in no small part thanks to Einstein. She briefly considered letting Heracross out to help, but giving that just a few seconds of thought was enough to know it’d be a bad idea. With that all set up, she moves as much equipment as is appropriate inside the tent, and proceeds to roll out both her and Avril’s sleeping bags, and-
Wait a second, how did she not realize this earlier? She and Avril are sharing a tent. A good while away from any sort of civilization, no less. Just the two of them together...
June can feel herself growing shaky at a rapid pace and blood rushes to her face. There’s a lot of implications to that, but she tries desperately not to entertain the idea as she very hastily unrolls their respective sleeping bags on the opposite sides of each other, trying to leave as much space between the two as she can. Even though she usually tries to do everything as neatly as she can, it’s only inevitable the way their sleeping bags are arranged is a tad sloppy, but it's nothing Einstein can’t tidy up.
I’m… not ready for that…
To take her mind off that, she decides to work on her report, but it’s incredibly difficult for her to focus considering what crossed her mind just a second ago. Since she has so much knowledge of bugs memorized it’s not at all difficult to jot ideas down, but arranging them in ways that are actually presentable is what she struggles with. She stares at her phone’s screen for what must have been five minutes before giving in with a sigh. She really hates not finishing things, but if focusing is such a chore it might be best to take a break. It’s not like Brendan gave her a deadline or anything.
Maybe she’ll check in on Avril?
With the zip of a tent door and a few steps, June is already standing behind Avril in no time, observing her as she cuts some of her fruits and berries down in slices. She stands upright in silence, wanting to say something to her, but is reluctant to do so as that might bother Avril while she’s in the middle of something. But if there’s anyone who wouldn’t be bothered by her...
“So,” June speaks up, a bit of apprehension in her voice. “I somehow never asked, but… what are you making?”
“O-oh? This is Poppy’s dinner, hehe… some of these fruits are almost as large as her so I need to slice them first! And then, we can keep some for us, too.” The blonde girl, still sitting down beside the tent, blushes as she looks up.
“I see. I tend to buy Pokemon food as much as I can, but considering Flabebe aren’t exactly common around these parts of Hoenn, food made specifically for them must be uncommon as well, isn’t it?” June twirls a strand of her hair. “I’m sure she appreciates the effort though!”
“Well… yeah, this is mostly me trying to give her some of her favorite food when I can!” Avril giggles. “She can make do with common food usually but the effort is certainly paid off by seeing how happy this makes her…”
“Aw, that’s so sweet! Although speaking of food- Were you preparing anything for us?”
“Well… as I said, I left some of this fruit for us! And then, a few more things from Littledale… and the leftovers from our lunch, right? And… uh...” Avril stops right there as her cheeks get more red. “You’ll see later.”
“Um… Y-yeah, I suppose I’ll have to!” She’s not sure how to describe it, but there’s something about the way she and Avril split two different but equally important tasks that feels… familiar maybe? That’s probably not be the right word, but she’s reminded of how Akira and Giorgia go about their chores, with Akira usually taking care of outdoor, more physically demanding jobs while Giorgia tends to cook and clean indoors. That sounds like something that’d be nice to have in the future, and June starts to get lost in that fantasy while her shakiness and intensely red face return. Even though placing her palms on her cheeks hides nothing, she still does so out of habit.
"Oh, well… it's n-nothing special!" Avril adds after a bit. "But no worries, I'm almost done… hope I'm not making you wait too long. How hungry are you?" That’s enough to snap June out of it.
“Just a tad, but it’s nothing that can’t wait.” Now that she’s asked about it, she’s starting to realize just how incredibly famished she is from all the physical and mental energy she’s used these past few hours. But for better or worse, she’s fine stretching the truth if Avril is put under less stress. “Is there anything you need help with? I mean, um, I understand why you might not want to if you’d rather keep it a surprise but… I’ll just be here if you need me, that’s what I’m trying to say!”
"Thank you… but I've almost finished anyway! Just… get the leftovers and we can start with dinner, if that's ok?" Avril smiles, looking up to June with sparkling eyes. Gosh, that gaze in her eyes has June weak in the knees. How could she refuse?
Avril’s surprise turns out to be just a small chocolate bar, which she happily shares with June after the rest of their meal. "This is for helping me today!" She explains, seemingly more confident than before. "Hope you like it… hehe."
“Oh, thank you!” June can’t actually remember the last time she’s had candy. Anything with that much sugar in it she tries to avoid, but she wouldn't want to turn Avril down. The way she was being secretive and seemed so proud to present it is quite frankly adorable. She’ll indulge herself just this once.
“You know, my dad used to come home from work every day carrying these heavy bags full of this exact brand of candy bars. Needless to say, I’m quite familiar with the taste but somehow this one tastes… better?”
“I-It does?” The blonde girl replies. “That’s, uh… interesting.” She tries to collect herself as her cheeks get more red. “But I’m glad you like it!” June, not wanting to talk with her mouth full, nods as she savors every bite of her chocolate bar before she’ll need to clean up camp.
Clean up goes smoothly and June finds herself on auto-pilot as she takes care of any trash left behind. She’s about a third of the way done before she feels a drop of rain on her nose, causing her to scurry through the rest of the process. With the exception of Einstein, every Pokemon she had out for dinner are returned to their Pokeballs, and with that she jolts into her thankfully water-proof tent, where Avril has also taken shelter from the rain.
“I suppose now would be a good time to finish my report.” June thinks aloud. The blonde girl picks up on that- she does nod as she pulls up her Holotch, and speaks up right after. “I, uhm… I should probably do the same, I had a few ideas in my head…”
“Hm?” June perks her head up. “Oh, ideas aren’t usually a problem for me. But putting them into words is what I struggle with…”
“I’m still learning how to write reports and all but usually, for me… it’s the actual research that I need help with. Once I have ideas, things seem to flow rather well…” Avril explains, a more relaxed expression on her face. “Well, I just need to translate everything into Ransei language but like, that’s no big deal…” She giggles.
“I can’t say I’ve ever really had issues researching, honestly it’s almost second nature to me!” June says as she types out information on her PokeGear at an impressive rate. “I’ve been looking into everything I could about bug Pokemon for as long as I could read, really. So these reports are a nice outlet.”
“Oh, well… the researching part was just something that could help me with my adventure, according to Brendan. He was the one who suggested writing these in the first place! But so far I haven’t had any troubles, really… he seems pretty kind. And he even gifted me, well…” Avril takes a few moments to rummage through her bag, before pulling out a pink woolen beret. “He gave me this, even!” She blushes as she tries to wear that hat.
“It… certainly looks charming…” June compliments, facing the other way. When reminded how the two of them are alone, she slowly sinks into her sleeping bag while burying her face deeper into her phone.
“T-Thanks… and right, the report, I’ll keep thinking about it…” Avril laughs nervously. A quiet giggle from Poppy and Einstein is heard before the silence. The dead air is filled with the rain and sounds of June’s thumbs rapidly pressing against the small glass screen as she non-stop organizes her notes into something that can resemble a report.
Once that’s completed, she holds back a yawn. She’s had quite the active day, so it’s only natural she’d be tired at this hour. Most nights she’d take off her glasses and change into her pajamas before nodding off, but there’s just one issue with that: There’s nowhere to change. She’d be incredibly uncomfortable having to remove any clothing outdoors, especially in the rain, and inside the tent… Well, she could just ask Avril to look the other way, but given how, for a lack of a better word, racy that thought gets her- Yeah, it'd be easier to just sleep in her day clothes.
After more somewhat awkward silence, Avril puts her Holotch away, its screen no longer there to send light towards her face. “Uhm, g-goodnight June? I’ll try to sleep now…” She whispers, before hiding inside her sleeping bag.
“Wha- oh, umm, yes! Goodnight indeed, and, um, I greatly enjoyed our time together today!” June tightly grasps onto the entrance of her sleeping bag to pull it over her beet-red face. Faint whimpers can just barely be heard under the downpour that continuously strikes the tent.
It might be awhile before she can fall asleep.
As I hiked through Route 103 on Wednesday, there were quite a few differences in the local wildlife when compared to Sunday, and that’s more than likely due to the rain that was about to fall. On most summer days, while Nincada isn't easy to find, their movements can be felt from underground, as that’s where they live to escape the bright Hoenn sun. Nothing of the sort was felt today though. The weather might be a factor in that, as I highly doubt a ground-type such as Nincada enjoys getting wet. It might be that the moisture is felt from where they normally burrow, which usually isn’t too far underground, so their solution is to dig deeper.
What was especially jarring though were the Ninjask I spotted along the way. Ninjask are mostly known for their infamously loud chirping, “singing” as some call it, which they do to attract mates. However, no such sound was heard under the overcast sky, as well as when the rain set in during the night. While Ninjask have both wings and an exoskeleton that are coated in a thin wax-like layer, all the Ninjask I laid eyes on were clinging to trees as a precaution of taking shelter from the wet weather. In-fact, most trees were completely covered with them! Very little, if any room was left on the trees closest to the main path.
Admittedly though, why they do this has me stumped, as one might think their water-proof biology would have them go about their day regardless of the weather, and I’ve somehow never been able to find any sort of reasoning for this. Perhaps it is that they simply dislike being soaked, similar to their previous evolution? Maybe it’s a habit that carries over from spending sometimes well over a decade underground as the ground-type Nincada? Humans and Pokemon might not be so different if that’s the case, and I find that quite charming.
🐞 June's Party 🐞
Einstein (Orbeetle) M|Telepathy
Struggle Bug|Super Sonic|Confusion|Light Screen|Reflect|Ally Switch
Chip (Wimpod) M|Wimp Out
Struggle Bug|Sand Attack|Defense Curl|Aqua Jet