Jess flinched at the sharp edge to Roxy's tone, and at her mother's shock. More people stared, only to turn away as the purple-haired woman gave them a look of pure venom. Right now, everything about Roxy screamed "back off", even more so than usual.
For a moment, Jess wanted to reassure the anchor she was helping, but thought better of it. If she said anything at all to Roxy, it would only make her angrier, make her think she wasn't listening. The anchor had put up a wall nobody could get past - a wall meant to hide something. With a shudder, Jess turned her head.
"Please... Don't worry," she told her mother, her words a mumble. "We'll... I mean, Roxy will... Uh, this will all get sorted out."
Jess was at a loss again. It seemed anything she did or said would only make things worse. Keep it together, she nagged herself, aware of several people turning in the direction of the argument. Some even moved away. The empath took a deep breath, her gaze dropping to the ground again before she looked back up, facing Roxy. She had to at least pretend to be dealing with this, make a better attempt to remedy the situation, convince her mom things weren't a complete mess. Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together...
"Umm, look... Later on, we can try and find out why this is, and if there's anything we can do about it," she suggested. What this was doing to the anchor went beyond discomfort, or a sense of failure. There was something Roxy wasn't letting on.
"It's not your fault!" Jess tried to reassure Roxy, who couldn't even bring herself to look at her. "It's just not always perfect."
She'd been prepared for this. She'd heard that how much an anchor could block varied - sometimes they could negate all emotion, but in some cases, a little still got through. It depended on how powerful the empath was, and possibly some other factors. Even with this knowledge, Jess couldn't help but do what she'd told Roxy not to do - blame herself. If this was even her own feeling of guilt.
Her mother's brow creased, concern-filled eyes flicking from the furious anchor back to Jess. "You're coping with it all, aren't you?"
Jess nodded, glancing down, not even having to look at her mom's face to know she'd failed to convince her.
Nobody could describe Kenzie as a morning person, but she was much more awake this time as she sat in the van, listening to the explanation of the upcoming task.
"Well, that must've been one memorable hotel stay for everyone, for all the wrong reasons," she commented once the mission briefing had finished. She took a small canister of holy water from a nearby box, gripping it, her face unusually serious as she steeled herself for the duty.
"Ok... I can see past events," she explained to the others. "That might help us figure out why the hotel's got its repeat guest. Especially if we find the room she was in before." She searched for the profile, glad she'd gotten a decent night's sleep for once. If she was going to go looking for information around a haunted hotel, she'd have to be careful. They all would.
In the bright glow of the Audino's Heal Pulse, Ella watched some of the colour return to Florence's face, but the medic remained unconscious.
"Let's get her to the hospital," Ella replied. How much damage had the Ekans venom done? It was difficult to say, but probably more than Florence had let on, and in this heat, it was more than likely that she'd become dehydrated too. They shouldn't have let this happen, Ella scolded herself. They shouldn't have let Florence keep pushing on like this.
The pink-haired girl glanced at the cave. "Those Pokemon, though... What do we do?" Their priority was to get their friend to safety before her condition worsened, but they couldn't just leave the Pokemon in the hideout. Florence had done this to herself in her determination to find her Chikorita. They couldn't let this all be for nothing.
"Whew..." Cici leaned against the cave wall. With the way the battle had been going, it hadn't seemed as if even the three of them would be enough to stop this one trainer. Just when he'd been on the verge of winning, though, he'd retreated, deciding it was no longer worth the effort to go after Entei. Despite Cici's relief, she knew this most likely wouldn't be the last time he'd try something like that.
"Wow." She stared in the direction he'd walked away. "More screws loose than a Magneton in need of repair."
Forte and Kymbalon staggered over, barely able to stand. Dulcet flew close by, swaying, letting out a triumphant chirp before falling to the ground. "Ah! Dulcet!" Cici crouched by the unresponsive Swablu. "All of you, you did a great job, but come on." She returned the three Pokemon, nodding at Tommy. "Yeah... Let's go."
"I'm sorry..." Jess didn't know what else to say. Why had it been so difficult for her to talk to Roxy, ever since meeting her in the cabin? Now the information she'd left out had been dropped on the other woman without warning. How much more was she going to mess up?
Traces of the fear she'd inflicted on Roxy trickled through to her. Of course nobody would want their inner feelings laid bare for a near-stranger to know about, but that level of stress meant there was something the anchor wasn't letting on - something possibly dangerous for both of them.
"Uhh... If it helps, I can't feel all that much," Jess blurted, although she knew the attempt to reassure the other woman was unlikely to work. Worry still thickened the atmosphere like fog around her, from her mother, and especially from Roxy.
Well, now it was all confirmed. Roxy hadn't known, and had just found out all of a sudden that an anchor's shield didn't always block everything. Jess could barely bring herself to look at Roxy as she struggled to think of the best way to answer.
"Umm, well..." With a sinking feeling, the empath realised there was no point in covering up the truth. So far, her lies - that she was ok, that she and the anchor got along well - hadn't convinced anyone. Besides, Roxy was bound to find out sooner or later, and would undoubtedly be less than happy at any deception.
The anchor gave her a pointed glare, radiating anger tinged with fear. Her mom looked over in concern. Tension surrounded Jess, like black clouds gathering, about to unleash a storm.
The empath took a deep breath. Way to go and make an already messy situation ten times worse, she scolded herself before replying. "Yes. A-A little."
Sableyes, it turned out, weren't the only ghosts around here. As the Gengar's Shadow Ball alerted Amber to two Gastlys and a Misdreavus floating out of the darkness, Kyra growled, then gave a yip of surprise when a little blue form began pummelling the other wild Pokemon.
Putting the empty Pokeballs into an undamaged compartment of her bag and clipping the newly occupied one to her belt, Amber kept her distance, staring ahead all the while. "I've never seen so many Ghost types before!" she commented with a mixture of wariness and fascination. "A Golett? Well that's one I wasn't expecting to see in here."
While Nyxx bonded with the clay automaton, the researcher-in-training took out her notebook and began frantically scribbling notes. "Pretty amazing to think people have been creating artificial Pokemon since the beginning of civilisation. I wonder what kind of ancient science was involved in its creation? It's something nobody's been able to figure out yet. Maybe it has things in common with Baltoy and Bronzor, Ghost types have similarities to the Psychic type after all."
She took another look, this time a somewhat sad one, at the Golett. A certain somebody, if she'd come along, would have jumped at the chance to see this manmade Pokemon for herself...
As Rachel spoke, Amber turned her head. Excitement and anxiety coursed through the researcher in equal measures. This was an opportunity she couldn't pass up - but, as she already knew, the world was to be ventured into with caution. She thought back to what she had to tell Coral, what she had to warn her about her own travels. If they weren't careful, would the group get into even more trouble? One little Sableye had been tough enough to deal with. Who knew what else would be in here?
The usually excitable woman was silent and pensive for a few moments, before nodding. "I'm in," she replied. She was here to explore. There were risks, she had to accept that, but they were worth taking. "And yeah, you have my word." She glanced down at Chalcedony and Larimar. "You've both been incredibly helpful, but please, don't dig anything up while we're in the ruins."
Turning, she faced the rest of the group. "You all ok with this?" she asked. "And here." Approaching Aedre, she held out the Dusk Stone she'd managed, with difficulty and luck, to protect. "Quick, I'd put it away before any other Pokemon try to steal it."