Arlo made his way through another day of takeovers, no longer even trying to restrain his sadistic smile as he approached trainers, conquered them in battle, and harvested their Pokeballs, money, and items as tribute, all while humming to himself and presenting his scripted dialogue. Previously, he'd thought it overblown, but today, it seemed to be landing, trainers' bodies tensing at his insults and recoiling at his gloating about his victory. Once, when a male Trainer demanded a rematch even though all of his battle Pokemon had plainly fainted after he'd attacked Arlo 6 distinct times, Arlo signaled for Gil to approach, calmly discussing the remarkable strength of Scizor's pincers. Did they know that Scizor's pincers could destroy nearly any hard object? Studies showed that they could clamp down at a strength of over 3,000 pounds per inch, enough to effortlessly crush a watermelon. So, if that were applied to a human neck, say...Arlo's lesson to the upstart about Pokemon biology was so effective that he fled, abandoning his entire backpack and all the spoils therein! Archer couldn't say he lacked initiative now.
While ambling down a city street, whistling along to the song playing on his earbuds and delighting in parents pulling their children close and moving to the other side of the street when they saw him coming, Arlo walked past a flyer stuck to a light post that he actually found interesting, and backtracked to investigate it. Apparently a local bar was holding a karaoke contest that night with no reservations required, which seemed like something fun to do with Spark to celebrate his victory. He pressed a button on his glasses to start a phone call.
"So, how do you feel about karaoke tonight? There's going to be a contest at 70 Summers. Winner gets ₱5000, their picture on the bar wall, and free drinks for the whole party. You in?"
"I didn't know you were into karaoke. I can see it, you do get pretty theatrical when you're really into your songs, but have you ever done it before?"
"No, but hey, there's always time to try new things, right?"
"All right. Sounds fun! Just, how about I drive this time?"
After Arlo finished his day of takeovers, Spark's minivan pulled up into the alley behind a church whose Pokestop he'd just menaced trainers at and they set off to the address designated on the flyer, which Arlo had taken a picture of. Once they entered the bar, they carefully stepped in and found a seat. It seemed the contest was in full swing, with a middle-aged man whose undercut couldn't quite disguise male pattern baldness setting in belting out a passionate cover of a classic love ballad on the stage, getting moderately enthusiastic responses from the crowd. Spark scanned the room until he found a QR code on the menu he could scan to see the songs on their karaoke machine, producing a list that he showed to Arlo on his phone.
"So, what do you think we should do? I'm thinking that if we did one of the couple's songs from High School Musical, it would be absolutely --"
"There's no need. I have a solo song already planned."
"Sweet! Can't wait to hear it!"
The sign-up sheet for who would be doing what songs came around the room to their table and Arlo wrote in his choice, waiting through the next several participants before being announced, the bar owner saying he'd be performing Raised by Wolves by Falling In Reverse, and approached the stage with uncharacteristic confidence, his shoulders back and nose turned up towards the crowd, most of whom didn't seem sure what to think. Evidently, they didn't recognize the band name. However, once Arlo got into the flow of the song, the crowd response rapidly accelerated, with even those in attendance whose appearances wouldn't have suggested they were interested in the genre matching Arlo's enthusiasm as he approached the second chorus. Spark was dutifully holding up Arlo's phone for a recording at his behest and contemplating sending it to Blanche. After all, this presented undeniable proof that his voice was notably different, so either his HRT had severely kicked in or there was something else going on.
Spark was distracted from his filming when, at the climax of the song's breakdown, Arlo picked up the stage's mic stand and kicked it down into the crowd, who stopped abruptly as they saw it approaching and stepped out of the way. It landed on the bar's concrete floor with a metallic crash, the background audio cutting off once the staff had processed what had happened, leaving Arlo still standing in the center of the stage, maniacally laughing and crowning himself King Of The Music Scene, while phones in the audience that had previously been filming video of him were now subject to furious typing as their owners documented the events that had transpired on their favored social media platforms. The crowd parted when the bar owner approached and snapped their fingers, summoning a burly bouncer in a black turtleneck who'd previously been standing in a corner.
"Well, I've got to say that you nailed your performance. You really captured the spirit of the original artist. So I'm going to respond in spirit, too. Get out of my bar."
Unnoticed by Arlo, who was still declaring his greatness to the dissipating crowd, the bouncer approached him from behind, picked him up by his underarms, and effortlessly carried him to the door as he thrashed around. Spark dutifully followed while Arlo writhed in the bouncer's grip and spat out insults and vows for revenge, none of which loosened their grip in the slightest.
"You can cancel me, but you can't cancel the music! At least they'll remember my name, unlike any of your contest winners!"
The bar owner let out a final remark before closing the door after the bouncer unceremoniously dropped Arlo off in the parking lot. "Look, Mr. Radke, you're lucky that no one was injured so I don't have to arrest you. Everybody, the karaoke contest will continue once we get things cleaned up!"
Spark directed Arlo, still seething with rage and incoherently ranting about how he was unjustly canceled by an oversensitive public who don't understand real music and couldn't handle his raw masculine energy in a world filled with soy-eating, boy band-listening losers, into the car, where he attempted to get him to engage in some reasoned discussion via tapping him on the shoulder and bringing up the issue in the most gentle tone he could muster.
"...Arlo? You did a great job with the song, but someone could have really gotten hurt. Luckily, no one did, but you've gotta be more careful."
"It's the King of the Music Scene." Arlo turned away from him, glaring out the window at the bar's sign.
"Uh...that's a bit of a mouthful to call you every time, don't you think?"
"'My liege' will suffice."
"All right, uh, my liege...how about we get some cupcakes so we end the night on a positive note?"
"That would be acceptable."
Arlo withdrew and sent a last glare out the window before curling into a ball and staring at his phone as Spark pulled out of the parking lot and in the direction of the college district to head to their favorite hangout, the Sleepless Bakery. When they entered, Lane, the manager and public face of the store, glared at Arlo from her position behind the counter.
"Oh. Hello, Arlo. Did you have a good time at the karaoke contest?"
"How do you know about that?"
"Please. It's all over the local groups. Maybe if you're lucky, they won't ban your entire genre."
Arlo growled at Lane and began producing an assortment of profanities, misogynistic slurs, and sexual threats to her for insulting his honor, which were creative at first but quickly became repetitive. Lane directed an eye roll at Spark, walked up to the door, turned the sign over to mark it "closed", and escorted them both out.
"This isn't fair! Your sign says you're open 24 hours!" Arlo beat on the glass door, prompting Lane to approach the door and open it for just long enough to produce a rebuttal before returning to their work.
"I'm the owner of this establishment. I get to decide when we're open. And for whom. Now go before I alert the Pokemon League that a Team Rocket member arrived at my establishment and threatened me."
Once they got in the car, Arlo let out an unholy scream before resuming his initial rant about how everyone was out to get him and nobody appreciated his energy, interspersed with repeats of his previous misogynistic remarks towards Lane. The kinds of words that Spark remembered Arlo bringing up in a previous infodump over text that he never used, because if he was allowed to use them, then the recipient perceived him as a woman, and if he wasn't, then he just called someone a slur. Apparently that rule wasn't stopping him from producing speculation in regards to Lane's sexual history and preferences. Spark had enough and actually spoke over him in order to quiet him.
"Can you please calm down? I get that you're frustrated that what you did ended up online like that, but it really wasn't appropriate to call Lane all of that. She's just trying to do her job."
"She crossed the line when she pissed me off."
"Okay, I guess Lane bringing it up unprovoked was a little bit rude, but it didn't give you the right to go on that whole tirade. They were right to kick you out; you were being really mean."
"Shut up and drive!"
"Look, Spark. You belong to me, got it?" He gestured towards Spark's locked collar, framed on either side by fading, but still visible bite marks. "You're supposed to be my hot, supportive boyfriend. Or will you turn against me like everyone else?"
"I'm...sorry, my liege. I'm just worried about you. You've been acting really reckless lately, and I don't want you to hurt anyone or get hurt yourself."
"Don't judge what you don't understand, plebeian. Anyway, your King of the Music Scene is still notably lacking in cupcakes."
"Okay. We can go to the malt shop down the street."
They drove another few blocks in silence before pulling into the parking lot of the Dark Alley, the bakery and malt shop run by Al, Lane's former employee who went rogue, at least if you asked them. Spark approached the bored-looking teenager at the counter while Arlo responded with the degree of tact Spark had grown to expect from him lately when Al produced a snarky remark regarding his success at the karaoke contest and choice of accessories. Intending to cut off them getting kicked out of their third establishment that night before it started, Spark picked up their milkshakes and cupcakes to go and tapped Arlo's shoulder while he detailed threats toward the shop owner, half-escorting, half-dragging him back to the car. As they left, Al shook his fist in their direction and yelled something Spark didn't listen to in detail, but got that the subject matter was Arlo's insults to him being hypocritical and his mother being just as bad.
While Arlo glumly sipped his milkshake in the car, Spark opened a calendar of local events on his phone. Arlo would probably want to do something else with him the following night, but their present activities were something Spark preferred not to repeat. Eventually, he located a concert scheduled for the next night at a restaurant known for their live music from Black Egotist, a local independent band purporting to "revive the spirit of late 2000s post-hardcore". He showed Arlo the concert description and offered to buy two tickets, to which he agreed. Spark let out a sigh of relief at having a plan that didn't drag them into anything untoward. After all, even though Arlo may have been acting oddly, he was still a fan of the genre and Spark knew he loved concerts. If anything would bring back the man Spark loved, this would be it.