The Kalos trip had been a long one, and Matori was happy to see it near its end. Normally, Matori was happy to accompany Giovanni on a trip to another region- the change of setting was a pleasant one she welcomed, and it was nice to get out of her cozy yet stuffy office- but this was for a business trip. Regular, Respectable Business.
And the Respectable kind of business was just no fun to Matori. Gone were the faces that had become so familiar to her, the settings she felt most welcomed in… the stuffy world of business was somehow more constricting to her than her typical Team Rocket life.
For one, threatening people with fountain pens for their incompetence tended to be frowned upon in Respectable Business.
Still, it was from work like this that the Team continued to thrive, continued to make money in regions where the missions were less frequent and more costly, and she appreciated their necessity on that account. And if nothing else, it gave her a chance to experience the amenities such locales had to offer on a much more relaxed basis.
The two had a morning to kill before their flight back to Celadon International, and so agreed to split up in Lumiose City for a bit of shopping and sightseeing, then meet back up in Café Ultimo for drinks and to take the train to the airport.
Matori had finished a successful clothes shopping trip and was headed down North Boulevard to the café, but stopped in her tracks when she heard a small rustling noise nearby. Out of instinct, she turned her head to the source and saw only a small, grey, shadowy blur among the bushes and trash cans of the city. It looked almost… furry.
She stared at the source for a moment, wondering what it could have been.
“You can’t seriously be lost this close to the café.” Giovanni stood behind her in his signature black trenchcoat and matching hat, smirking, and startling her with his sudden remark.
Matori turned to face him immediately, embarrassed to have been seen this way.
“Sir.. I wasn’t.. there was something moving. Right there!” She pointed to where the blur had been moments earlier, realizing well she was pointing to nothing.
“A… newspaper box?” Giovanni said. “This trip has been rough on both of us. We’ll go and buy some coffee, take a well-deserved break, and we’ll be on the plane back to Kanto in no time.”
Matori simply nodded in agreement and quietly followed behind him, knowing there was more to what she’d seen than she thought. She still couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched.
The coffee had indeed proven refreshing for both of them. Matori was picky about her blends, and had long believed the stories about Kalosian cafés being superior were a lot of hype, but found herself pleasantly surprised by the smooth flavor and perfect roast of her cappucino. The snacks for sale also didn’t disappoint- it was a challenge for her to restrain herself upon seeing the great variety of macarons, eclairs, and crepes the café’s bakery produced- and any stress the stay in Kalos might have caused Matori quickly dissipated as she nibbled away at the treats without a care in the world. Giovanni was absorbed in his newspaper and Persian busied himself with a bowl of farm-fresh cream.
Even with the pleasures of Ultimo distracting her, she couldn’t get her mind off what she’d seen earlier. She felt as though it wasn’t the first time that mysterious blur had appeared behind her in Lumiose.
“Shoo, shoo! Away, you filthy furball!” A screeching male voice broke the relevant quiet of the café. It belonged to one of the waiters, at the door swinging a broom at a stray Espurr. “How many times have I had to tell you?”
Matori looked at the frightened gray kitten, feeling a little sympathy. “Excuse me, waiter?” she said.
“Yes, what do you need?” the waiter replied, his face softening a little to her request. “At your service… ma cherié.”
Matori glared at him and blew off his flirtatious advances. “I believe that Espurr is simply hungry. It most likely saw my colleague’s Persian-” she motioned to Persian, who was now happily lapping up the last drops of his bowl of cream- “and wished for a little treat of its own.”
“Terribly sorry, miss, but I don’t give a free lunch to anyone here, especially not mangy strays like that.”
Matori reached into her black patent leather handbag for her wallet and pulled out some money. “Then I’ll pay for it.” She lowered her thick, wire-rimmed glasses to make perfect, unbroken eye contact with him.
“You said you don’t give a free lunch to anyone. I’m paying for it, so it’s no longer free. You couldn’t possibly be about to turn down a paying customer, could you? What would your manager ever say if they were to find out?”
Matori’s stare remained fixed upon him, and the waiter finally, reluctantly, accepted her money. “Right away, ma’am.”
“Thank you,” she said.
She watched the waiter carefully, to make sure he actually provided Espurr with the cream she paid for, satisfied to see him lay down the bowl for the grateful Psychic Pokémon just outside the café. He returned to her table.
“As requested, one bowl of cream for the hungry Espurr. Would you like anything else, ma’am?”
“Our bill, please,” Matori said, having finished the last macaron- lime-pistachio, quite sweet and light in flavor- on her plate. “I think we’re done here.”
The two Rockets and one Persian left the café, Giovanni having paid the bill- including Espurr’s bowl of cream in the already generous tip, at Matori’s insistence- satisfied and recharged for their trip home.
“You truly do have a soft spot for cats,” Giovanni commented, amused by her earlier exchange with the waiter.
“It’s not just that,” Matori said. “There was no good reason to turn that Espurr away, it was probably scared and just needed a little something to eat. It was only a baby.”
“So you admit to having a soft spot,” he said, and Matori quickly glanced aside, knowing she couldn’t really hide anything from him.
“Persian not now, you just- oh.” Giovanni and Matori stopped dead in their tracks. The sound hadn’t come from Persian, but rather, the tiny Espurr Matori had bought the cream for in the café. It stood in front of them, its huge purple eyes full of gratitude.
“I think it wants to thank me for the snack,” Matori said. “You’re quite welcome.” She crouched down to pat Espurr behind the ears.
“Purr ess purrpurr!”
“Don’t mention it,” she said, as the two of them began walking again, towards the train station.
“Matori,” Giovanni said, finally, as they stood just outside the doorway to the station. “I think we’re being followed.”
Matori became alert and looked around her, remembering her gut feelings from earlier, and expecting to see someone suspicious.
Instead, it wasn’t until she looked at her feet that she understood what he meant.
“Purr!” Espurr was staring up at Matori again, front paws wide open as if asking for something. She realized suddenly that this was more than likely the small gray shadow she’d seen darting around before she’d entered the café, if it traveled this far.
“I guess I just can’t shake you,” she told it. “You followed me to the café, didn’t you?”
“Purr espurr purr.” Espurr was rubbing her legs with his head now.
“You’ve been adopted,” Giovanni deadpanned. “Looks like that Espurr smelled Persian on you and decided you were its new mommy. Stray cat Pokémon have a habit of that.”
“Considering I’m certain this was what I saw on the way to the café, you’re most likely right, sir,” she said. “It must have followed us in and wanted to have drinks with us.” She fought hard to hide how completely charmed she was by the prospect of this.
“Purrpurr espurrrrrrr,” Espurr continued doting on Matori, much to Persian’s annoyance. Persian began growling softly.
“Persian, cool it,” Giovanni scolded him. “Matori, let’s hurry up, we’re going to miss our train if you-”
“Do… do you…”
“Do I what?”
“…If it’s not asking too much, you wouldn’t happen to have a spare Poké Ball on you, would you?” Matori said quickly and nervously, a little embarrassed.
Giovanni wondered what Matori wanted with the Poké Ball, and it hit him. He reached into the pocket of his trenchcoat and handed her an empty Ultra Ball. Matori gratefully accepted it, with a hastily muttered “thankyousomuchsir” and lowered it in front of Espurr.
“Want to come home with me?” she asked, smiling at him.
“Purr!” Espurr replied, and he batted the Ultra Ball’s button with his tiny front paw, opening it. The ball captured him in a beam of red light.
“At least one of us made a new friend here,” Giovanni said. “Well, that’s done. The train’s not going to wait for us all day, Matori.”
Matori smiled down at the now occupied ball and tucked it in her handbag, then followed Giovanni and Persian into the station.
Maybe Kalos wasn’t so bad after all.