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Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 12 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 12: Return to the Dream

And the Hunt awaits your presence once more…

Bell found himself staring up at the moon as those words whispered in his ears on the wind, unable to move. Unable to think.

A scent that he couldn’t comprehend permeated the air. Celestial in nature. Thickening to the point of suffocating as the luminous white orb hanging in the night sky seemed so close that the glimmering moonlight reflected in his unwavering gaze.

The alluring face of the moon eclipsed his vision until he couldn’t see where it began and ended, and he was unable to look away even if he wanted to. The ivory rays themselves were like countless, tender hands grasping his head. Refusing to let him turn away, refusing to let him ignore the orb of night that seemed to swallow up the distance between Heaven and Earth just for him—

“Bell?”

—only to vanish as the night sky was replaced with solid stone. The moonlight that had been radiating down, leaving him awash in its silvery rays, turned to artificial magic-stone lights. The irrefutable presence that loomed over him now took the form of a round face, sapphire eyes gazing into his own with a concerned frown.

Hestia. His Goddess. Entrancing in a different way than… what exactly?

Bell sat up, rising on the couch and turning so that his feet touched the ground. Blinking. His head felt misty and tired. Adrift somehow. “Was I sleeping?”

Hestia took a seat next to him on the couch. “I thought you were, but your eyes were open and distant.” Fingers soft as silk reached up to brush his forehead. “Were you having a nightmare?”

“I…” He tried to find words. But the memory had already slipped from his mind. Gone like mist that evaporated in the morning light. He brought his hands to his eyes and rubbed them. “I’m not sure. I don’t even remember when I fell asleep.”

The way her frown deepened showed that answer didn’t please her at all. “Just in case, we’ll see Miach about getting you some sleeping medicine. I know he makes some that can bring about a dreamless sleep.”

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I just need to get up and move around today. That’s all.”

Hestia’s expression softened upon hearing that. “Just wait a little longer for my sake, Bell. Hephaestus told me that she would have one of her children available soon to form a party with you. Then you can go back in the Dungeon without worrying me so much.”

It had been a few days now since the Banquet of the Gods. Her proposal wasn’t exactly rejected by the two. But there were complications involved.

In the case of Take’s children, they operated as a group and had tactics, so introducing Bell into their cohesion might complicate things. And his children had to work hard given that they were also poor, on top of supporting an orphanage back in their home country. So, while he stated he could see if he could arrange something, Hestia had to admit that it would likely interfere with his own Familia’s survival unless Bell took up a role like a Supporter.

Hestia didn’t think Bell would settle for that. He wanted to be an Adventurer after all. And, while she could beg him to do so, she would be trampling on his dream more than she already had. Besides, having him be a Supporter meant that Bell would receive less valis than he would earn on his own and hamstring Take’s income as well.

It was different in the case of Hephaestus. She had several children who wanted to travel further down in the Dungeon, in order to reach Level 2. That way they could gain the Blacksmithing Developmental Ability.

But Bell had only been doing this for around two weeks, so naturally most people wouldn’t think he had that kind of ability. Hephaestus wouldn’t just order one of them to put up with Bell for Hestia’s sake, so she had to find children willing to work with someone who didn’t have nearly as much time or experience as them. That was easier said than done without exerting more pressure than she was comfortable with.

In both cases, it was a matter of Bell not appearing experienced enough. Hestia’s words that he could pull his own weight weren’t enough. While Bell could prove that he was more than capable enough, it would take time to reach that point. So, in a worst-case scenario, Hestia really might have to let him go back into the Dungeon on his own.

Still, I should find something for him to do… Oh, right! Her pigtails shot up in excitement as an idea came to mind when she remembered what today was. “You know, I have today off work and there’s a festival going on, meaning there’s a lot of food vendors and game booths out.”

Bell was naturally surprised, since he hadn’t been in the city long. “There are?”

“Yep!” Hestia hopped up onto her feet and extended her hand for him to take. “Since you need to get out, how about you and I spend the entire day together?”

A festival with just the two of us, huh? Between both of their jobs, they rarely spent time together outside of this homely little room. So how could he refuse the offer to spend time together as a Familia? “Of course.”

“Then let’s go have a lot of fun,” Hestia said before her expression bloomed into a radiant smile while their fingers intertwined. It carried a warm affection within it.

It was almost enough to make the lethargy in his mind melt away until Bell abruptly felt like he was being watched again, leaving him snap his head around for the source. Then he remembered it was just the two of them there and was left wondering if the lack of sleep really was getting to him. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it before getting dressed for their adventure outside.

In order to get to the Monster Feria, also known as the Monsterphilia,  they needed to head down the road so that they got back onto the Main Street. From there, they could head straight to the far east side of the city. That was where the festival was being held, at the colosseum, but since it was going to be busy they would likely have to forgo a Tax cart and instead go on foot.

White-hair! Over here, meow!

It just so happened that, while on the West Main, Hestia stopped them when she heard someone calling for him. “Bell, I think that girl is calling you.”

“Huh?” He looked over to see that there was a catgirl in one of the waitress uniforms for the Hostess of Fertility, waving for him to come over with her ears pointed up. Since it would have been rude to ignore her, he hurried over. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you!”

“Mya, it’s no good if kids don’t go to bed on time,” she told him after looking him over. Then she turned to Hestia and gave her a polite bow, as was etiquette Bell suspected. “Oh, you must be his Goddess. It’s nice to meet you, meow.”

“Good morning,” Hestia said, approaching her. “How do you know Bell?”

“This is the place I told you about,” Bell answered in her place. “The place with the really good food.”

“Myama will be glad to hear it.” She then produced a coin purse and handed it over to Bell. “Syr needs this. Can you give it to her, meow?”

Bell eyed it for a moment. It was a purse that definitely suited a girl, and he could picture her holding it. But he wasn’t exactly sure where to find her in the first place. “Uh…”

“Arnya, if you’re going to make a request you should at least make it as clear as possible,” said a new waitress as she appeared from behind the catgirl. It was the elfess who had chased Bell down that night to return his belongings. “Good morning, Mister Cranel and Miss Goddess. My apologies for her calling you out so early.”

“It’s not a problem, but what’s this about Syr?” he asked. “Is she not here?”

“She has the day off and went to the Monster Feria for the opening event, but she left her purse here. The rest of us are preparing to open up for the day so, if it isn’t too much trouble, could you return it to her if you see her?”

“We were heading in that direction, but the festival itself is pretty active from what I’ve heard,” Hestia said. “Will we be able to find her?”

“She just left, so I’m sure white-hair can find her.” Arnya flashed Bell a smile. “Right, meow?”

If they have that much faith in me then I’ll try. Besides, Bell knew what it was like to be walking around in a big city like this with practically no money to your name. It had been like that when he had first arrived, and there was no point in making her walk back to get it if necessary.

He turned back to Hestia and said, “Sorry, but I really should give this back to her.”

Black twin-tails swayed as Hestia shook her head. She liked the fact that he was a good boy. “I don’t mind since we have the entire day. Besides, if this Syr person is a friend of yours, we should help if we can.”

[R-M]

Eina was one of several other members of the Guild currently outside of the colosseum for the sake of the festival, acting as informants to the citizens as well as assisting the Ganesha Familia in whatever way possible to make it a success.

By far, the biggest and most important event was the monster taming that was already underway beyond the massive stone walls that rose to towering heights. As things stood, it was a unique experience that came once a year for the citizens of Orario, who likely had scant few encounters with monsters in their lives. Because, even though the Dungeon was located within the labyrinth, the average person would never set foot into it and thus had far less exposure to monsters than those who made a living out of it.

Eina was not a fan of the idea that monsters were brought out of the Dungeon for taming during the festival. Monsters, especially Dungeon-born ones, were terrifying beings who existed to kill without regard for anything but their baser instincts. She’d filed enough reports on dead adventurers to know that having even one aboveground and unchecked would spell a huge problem.

But it was not her call to make. Instead, it was that of her superiors. They were the ones who decided the Monsterphilia was necessary for the citizens, because it gave them a chance to view adventurers in a more romanticized light.

Not all adventurers were friendly. Not all people were friendly. It was the way things were in general, that the experiences and personalities of the individual determined how they acted with others. The problem was that supermortals with strength above that of the norm naturally went by their own rules, so long as it didn’t fringe on the rules of their Familia.

Maybe they decide they don’t want to pay a tab, or maybe tempers flare and a fight breaks out. The difference in strength between an ordinary citizen and an adventurer meant they couldn’t raise a hand to them and needed someone to complain to. They needed someone to deal with problems that arose, which was what the Guild existed for. So they had to manage both the frustrations of the citizens and the adventurers, trying to placate both.

That was what the festival was for. Citizens would see these highly publicized adventurers putting on a show for their amusement and think to themselves that maybe these were the norm and the ones that caused them problems were the outliers. At least until enough time passed and the next year came around, where they would do it again.

Even now, a skilled Tamer was elegantly in the process of taming one of the monsters in a show of charisma and skill. It painted the scene as a mortal dominating a monster, making it submit without seriously raising a hand or slaughtering it for its magic stone, as was ordinary. An extravagant way of undercutting the actual dangers of the profession, setting a standard for the unaware that adventurers had class and dignity.

Eina didn’t exactly blame the Ganesha Familia for giving people the wrong impression of just how dangerous both monsters and the job were. They were merely doing it at the request of the Guild in the first place, who approved and managed it. But it would have consequences later on, when those who saw them tried to replicate their feats and have their dreams, and possibly their lives, dashed.

She took a deep breath, not at all satisfied that the reservations she had about the festival, until she spotted a familiar bed of white hair and ruby eyes scouring the crowd. She hadn’t seen him in days, so a part of her had been worried that something happened to him. Seeing him in the distance, still alive, was enough for now to put on a smile on her face as she called out on him. “Bell!”

His name being called attracted the eyes of not him but the smaller girl at his side. The divine aura that was leaking out, naturally present to all the Gods and Goddesses, made it clear what she was. The relatively smaller goddess tugged on his sleeve to grab his attention and pointed to her.

Bell then spotted her, his mouth moving in a familiar enough way that Eina could make out that he was referring to her as his Advisor, and then walked over. “Miss Eina, I didn’t know you’d be out here.”

“The Guild has set aside a good deal of staff for the festival, so I’m currently acting as someone who helps guest find their way inside of the stadium,” she explained, taking in his appearance. He looked tired. Slight bags around his eyes that wouldn’t be out of place for someone four times his age. “Are you not sleeping well, Bell?”

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m sorry I haven’t been by lately. My goddess wants me to start working with others and forming a party before I start going deeper into the Dungeon.”

That bit of news actually made her somewhat happy. Rather than risking himself, if he worked with others his chances of survival increased drastically. “That’s excellent. Would you like for me to a make a posting for it through the Guild? I can’t guarantee when you’ll meet someone, but I’m sure eventually someone will apply.”

“I’ve already gone out of my way to arrange for that,” Hestia said, approaching them. “But, if you’re acting as an usher, then can we ask if you’ve seen a specific person?”

“There have been a lot of people who have come and gone, so I’ll need you to be specific.”

Bell recalled Syr’s appearance. “She’s a human girl with hair and matching eyes that are sort of ash-colored. She left her wallet behind at her workplace, but we were told she came this way not too long ago.”

Eina placed a hand on her chin in thought. There had been a lot of people, but the hair and eye color on a human were rare enough that if she had seen her then she would have remembered. Not to mention that if she had lost her wallet then she either would have doubled back and ran into them or she would have went elsewhere, since there was an admission fee to the main event.

“I can’t say that I have seen her, I’m afraid—” She was cut off when someone violently pushed past Bell, splitting him and his Goddess apart while knocking them onto the ground. She crouched down to help the two up while turning back to the figure. “Hey, apologize to them this instance!”

The figure, wearing a black cloak of all things at this time of day, turned around and smirked. Then he held up what looked to be a woman’s pouch. He tossed it up and down in his hand twice before running off to the southwest.

Bell’s eyes widened with realization before he rose to his feet. “That’s Syr’s!”

“Bell, wait!” His Goddess tried to grab him before he could give chase, but he moved faster than Eina thought would be possible for an adventurer who only started out a short time ago. Despite that, the thief moved just as quickly, and both cleared the plaza of the stadium in short order.

“Are you alright ma’am?” Eina asked, helping Hestia to her feet. She couldn’t believe that someone would so blatantly steal in front of her, wearing something so conspicuous. “I’ll have someone go after them right away.”

She didn’t have the chance before shouts of monsters being on the loose reached her ears less than a minute later.

[R-M]

Bell may have been tired, but the spike of adrenaline that coursed through his system as he gave chase after the cloaked thief helped offset that. It was enough to keep his mind focused on the present. That was the only reason he didn’t lose track of the thief, as whoever it was had to at least have been a high-end Level 1 as he ditched the Main Street for the alleyways. It was an intricate network full of twists and turns, where it would be so easy for Bell to lose track of them if he didn’t stay on top of them.

He didn’t know why the thief had chosen to take Syr’s wallet, but he knew he had to get it back. He would have probably left it to someone else if it had just been his money that was taken. But that had been entrusted to him by the others at the Hostess of Fertility, who put their faith in him to get it to her.

So he continued giving chase after the thief until they eventually left the web of alleyways and came into a plaza that was surrounded by rising buildings that seemed to be piled on top of one another. Bell hadn’t been in the city for long, but even he knew of this place. A maze within the city in itself, a manmade labyrinth that touched the city wall—Daedalus Street.

If he lost them here, he’d never find the thief again. But the thief didn’t seem to have any interest in continuing their chase at this point. They instead opted to drop the wallet onto the ground in the center of the district’s plaza and then, with a flourish of their cloak, disappear in the blink of an eye, leaving Bell there alone and confused until he felt that sensation again, like he was being watched.

Bell looked around once again for the source but didn’t find a single person in the plaza. It was starting to make him feel paranoid. So, he picked up Syr’s belongings, intent on getting out of there right away—

GRRAAHHH!

—only for something massive to come leaping down from over the perimeter of the buildings. It landed onto the ground in front of Bell with a thunderous crash that cratered the stone beneath them. The force alone had been enough to blow him off his feet, and Bell bounced backwards while slamming his head into the ground before coming to a stop several feet away.

Ngh…” Bell’s head was pounding now as he forced himself to look up, whereupon he spotted pure muscle wrapped up in a cloak of white fur and a silver mane of hair falling down its back that glinted in the light. Thick arms and legs tensed with rage as they pounded at a steel plate that was fixed over its chest. Metal knuckles and manacles with chains clanked and rattled as it glared down at him with red eyes hidden behind a visor.

Miss Eina had told Bell of some of the monsters on the lower floors, as a warning for him not to venture deeper. This was one from the deeper floors, around the Eleventh Floor. A Silverback that had somehow gotten all the way to the surface was in front of him, murderous and animalistic intention fixed on him.

How had no one noticed this thing running around? That question loitered in his mind until he saw the massive primate rushing for him with a primal gait that was faster than it had any right to be. He barely had time to roll out of the way as it closed the distance with upraised arms and then brought both its massive fists down with the intention of crushing him.

The ground shook. Stone was upturned. Jagged bits of displaced rock were sent flying outwards to pelt Bell as he got back to his feet and considered his options.

The first was that he could run. He didn’t know where the monster came from, but he was unarmed and unarmored. In the city filled with more adventurers than any other in the world, chances were he’d run into someone capable of dealing with it.

But if he fled while it was attacking him then someone innocent could be hurt. More so if it chased him while the festival was going on. He could possibly get away, but only if he were willing to sacrifice people he didn’t know. And, while he may have had his dreams of being a hero tested, battered by the time he spent in that nightmare, that was something he just couldn’t do.

I have to kill it. Bell envisioned the Hunter’s Mark in the back of his mind and called forth the Little Ones across the boundaries of this world and the Hunter’s Dream. “Please, bring me my weapons!”

GYRAAH!” His declaration carried the intention to fight, and so the Silverback responded with a roar in acceptance of his challenge. What drove it was unknown to the young adventurer, but whatever it was that keyed him onto Bell now took firm root. It would not stop until he was crushed, and with another quick gait it moved to do so.

This time, on his feet, Bell sidestepped the initial slam of the monster’s fist as it brought the right one down. But there was no time to remain stationary as it then swung the arm outwards to knock him back. Bell leapt back while bringing his own arms up to shield his chest and head, whereupon the chains that were still attached to its manacles caught him in glancing.

The thick steel that was meant to keep it bound was dense enough that he could feel the lashing it gave his forearms and felt its sting. But fortunately, his arms didn’t break from such a passing strike, even if they throbbed and he could tell it was likely to bruise. He could still fight then.

Bell’s ears then caught the unintelligible voices of the Little Ones answering his plea as a ripple in space formed just behind him. They emerged from the nearest building, sticking out of it horizontally with the Saw Cleaver and Hunter’s Pistol in hand. In a conjoined effort, the grouping of Messengers tossed them towards Bell with as much strength as their emaciated arms could muster.

Well-worn wood wrapped in fresh bandages for a grip met one hand while the curved grip shaped to fit comfortably filled the other. Both set of fingers wrapped around them tight before Bell rolled once more out of the way as the Silverback attacked with another punch that blew open the wall with a spray of stone dust.

Screams bellowed out from within. Someone’s home had just been broken into. Collateral damage in its attempt to kill Bell.

I have to lure it the center! He turned his back to the monster, presenting an opening despite his fear. Then he ran towards the center of the plaza and lure it that way, bringing the fight into safer territory.

The Silverback took the bait. Corded muscles in its lower legs released like a coiled spring and sent it forward. It lunged for Bell with its hand outstretched, intent on wrapping those stout fingers around his body to crush him like ripe fruit.

The young adventurer threw himself to the side, getting away with only his leg being clipped in escaping the fingers as they closed into a fist. The Silverback’s momentum carried it forward a little further, into the center of the plaza. It’s back was to Bell, so he rushed in with the Saw Cleaver to hack away at it.

The last he checked his Strength had just made it to E-rank after the War Shadows, even higher than before he fought the Minotaur with the Doll’s update. It had been just enough for his saw’s teeth to tear rents into its flesh deep enough for him to get its magic stone free somehow. Yet, now he couldn’t even manage to dig it past the hide beneath the silver fur before he gripped it with both hands and tensed his own muscles that seemed heavy with exhaustion to rip the metal out through the side.

The Silverback snarled as crimson ran free from a tear in its flesh, blood vessels above its thick muscles torn open so that they could start dotting that white fur with its blood. Retaliation followed. It began to move forward, pounding its strong fists down over and over again.

Bell raised the pistol loaded with a Quicksilver Bullet and fired, hoping the stopping power would be enough to halt it.  The sound of caged thunder was drowned by the shattering of earth, the faint pinging of the bullet hitting metal that either guarded its eyes or chest barely reaching his ears. Then Silverback finished its rampage with a double-hammer strike that hit the ground hard enough that it blew Bell off his feet before he could get out of range.

Ah…ahh…” Bell struggled for breath as haze of pain permeated his body, blood pounding beneath his skull as he got back onto his feet. Then he made out the glint of metal from the knuckles on the Silverback’s fist as it readied to strike. He moved to dodge, but he couldn’t.

His legs felt like they had gone to liquid. His insides felt like they were shaking from the previous hit without it even touching him directly. He couldn’t dodge like this, so he brought the Saw Cleaver’s flat around to act as a shield and braced it with his other hand to withstand the impact—

CRUNCH!! KRIK!! The sound of splintering wood and fracturing iron followed. Then came pain, a sharp and jagged thing that dug into his flesh along with a heavy weight that carried him further until Bell hit the ground a final time. Agony took on a tangible form as he struggled to breathe, only to feel something sharp tearing him apart.

With his vision blurred he looked down to see that the Saw Cleaver had been broken. The butcher’s weapon was embedded within his chest diagonally with the broken handle a little distance away. His pistol was nowhere to be found, lost on impact as something hot and wet bubbled up in his throat while crimson seeped out of his flesh around the wound and soaked his shirt.

The blood, with its scent thick, glossed over his mind as the Silverback approached slowly, as if giving him time to realize that he’d been won over before it came to deliver the killing blow. His weapons hadn’t been enough. They had broken, and his body had followed suit.

He struggled to move but couldn’t as the strength had left his body. He couldn’t even speak as blood bubbling up in his throat drowned any words that could have slipped from the orifice. With tears stinging his eyes while his vision dimmed on the sight of the Silverback raising up its fist once again, Bell realized he was going to die again and could only apologize to Hestia silently. Goddess… I’m sorry…

Then, for a second time, a fist descended. For a second time, there was a moment of pain amidst the spreading numbness, followed by the absence of every other sensation. For a second time, he woke to find himself laying amidst the moonlit flowers in bloom that were strewn over the hillside.

There, he was greeted by a sincere and serene voice that said, “Welcome Home, Good Hunter.”

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The Origins of the Pyromancy Flame (Dark Souls Lore)

Source: Here

I’m a bit of an oddball and need to know how things work from a lore perspective when it comes to media I like, despite not being exceedingly scientific in nature. Like, in the case of Dark Souls, we have Pyromancies—a form of magic that uses an item called a Pyromancy Flame in order to conjure fire-based.  But, while the game goes into details on the Witch of Izalith being the “Godmother of Pyromancy,” it never really explains where the pyromancy flames you can use come from.

I personally believe that the pyromancy flame is the internal fire that burns within Demons, a species within the series linked to Flame of Chaos, and that pyromancers have learned how to harness, channel, and split the flame so that they can wield it for themselves. I’ll be explaining why I think that and support that theory with evidence based off details found within the game via talking to NPCs, item descriptions, and some reference to others who delved in the lore elsewhere.

Heads-up as a warning, there will be spoilers for the entire franchise. So, you probably shouldn’t read this unless you’ve already played the games, watched lore videos, or your curiosity deems it worth the risk. If you’re cool with that, then read on.

And if you like the theory, then feel free to share it wherever you feel it best with a link back.

 


The Extinction of Fire Sorcery & Birth of Pyromancy

Source: Here

You’ve all seen the opening cutscene. In the beginning, there were dragons that lived forever and suddenly the First Flame popped into existence in whatever place that the Four Lords originally dwelled in. The Witch of Izalith found the Life Soul within it, through which she learned to cast a form of sorcery known as Fire Sorcery, as explained in the Izalith Catalyst’s description:

Catalyst of the Witch of Izalith of long ago, when her daughters were still flame witches, before they were engulfed by the Chaos Flame. Before the birth of pyromancy, their wands were mediums for sorcery, but knowledge of this flame sorcery has long since vanished.

Fire Sorcery itself was cast using catalysts, much like the sorceries that you can use in the middle of the games themselves. Despite Seath the Scaleless being considered the “Grandfather of all Sorceries,” it’s more likely he was the one who pioneered the most common ones found in the setting, while we see the Witch and her daughters raining storms of fire upon the Everlasting Dragons nests in the opening before then. And this form of magic was probably used only by them until the First Flame started to fade and she got the idea to use her magic to replicate the effect of it using her own Lord Soul.

The key thing to note here is that Fire Sorcery itself is largely considered an extinct form of magic by the time Dark Souls comes around, and has been succeeded by pyromancy. However, the last actual practitioner of the Fire Arts, as they are also known as, was the Demon Firesage. His item drop (Demon’s Catalyst) gives the description below:

Demon catalyst formed from Izalith molten rock. Can be used as fire weapon. The Demon Firesage was the first demon, and the last master of the original fire arts before the Witch of Izalith was engulfed by Chaos, creating pyromancy.

Now, this catalyst’s lore makes it clear that we’ve been getting some bad information in regards to being told that the Witch’s attempts at creating a second First Flame resulted in the Bed of Chaos being formed, engulfing her and her daughters, and giving birth to demons. This description alone contradicts that. There was a demon around who was capable of learning sorcery from the Witch of Izalith before she was engulfed.

At this point, I want to give credit to Hawkshaw, a youtuber who has done a video on Demons in Dark Souls. It gave me the insight to understand that there was a period where the Flame of Chaos was stable and still around, capable of giving birth to demons while the Witch was rational in mind. Her engulfment likely came from a more emotional aspect than anything, a devotion to the demonic and rejection of her ties to Gwyn.

Regarding Fire Sorcery, the fact that it went extinct is not because no one left alive can use it again. It’s more than likely that she decided not to pass that knowledge on because the Witch deemed it no longer worth teaching. After all, why bother with learning extensive sorceries when pyromancy itself was easier to use while a war is going on?

We know that Gwyn didn’t like that the demons sprung up from the Witch of Izalith’s attempt at creating her own First Flame. More so when you consider she succeeded. The Flame of Chaos is like the First Flame, in that it can be rekindled much like Gwyn does for the First Flame later on. That’s the purpose of the Demon Prince, to play the role of a Champion of Ash in Dark Souls III.

So there was a war going on between the demons and Gwyn’s forces, and time was likely of the essence. Sorceries requires knowledge to learn in-universe, and you need a high amount of aptitude for the more complex spells. Big Hat Logan states it best if you have less than 15 in intelligence:

I am afraid that you are unable to learn sorcery. The basic framework, you see. It cannot be taught.

It takes a relatively higher amount of knowledge to use sorceries (10 points). And with a fledgling race of creatures on the verge of a war against a faction who helped decimate the Everlasting Dragons, the Witch knew she didn’t have time to teach them. So rather than going off something that required advanced knowledge, she opted to teach them instead how to utilize the power that the demons shared due to their link with the Flame of Chaos.

Flames have been harvested as a source of power in Dark Souls since the beginning. The First Flame’s Lord Souls gave them the strength to topple the dragons. The Profaned Flame gave Pontiff Sulyvahn a power source that he could draw from along with the fire witches. Using their connection to the Flame of Chaos, the Witch gave her children the means to fight back, since they harbored the flames inside of them.

This was the birth of pyromancy, in my opinion.

 


Developing Pyromancy

Source: Here

Now, you’ll notice that my theory brings up an issue—Quelana, the only daughter of the witch who managed to escape the engulfment, or so she states. Quelana is largely known as being the “Mother of Pyromancy” to the outside world. After all, she was the one who taught Salaman, who established the Great Swamp around 200 years prior to Dark Souls and spread the teachings of pyromancy. However, she stated that she fled from her sisters and her mother when the engulfment happened, so… why is the Daughter of Chaos capable of using it?

She uses pyromancy instead of Fire Sorcery, despite the fact she drops a catalyst afterwards meaning she was capable. It’s because she also fought in this war, alongside most of her sisters, and thus took to using pyromancy. Which means that, while Quelana might be the one who helped create pyromancies, she didn’t do it alone. It was a family effort.

Quelana eventually faked her death—leaving her clothes on a corpse for Ceaseless Discharge to mourn, she took what she knew and left it all behind. It is possible she’s a disembodied soul who only a select few can see, but considering you can fight actual ghosts, she can be attacked by other enemies, and she can be poisoned, there’s some disconnect here. Even if that did happen, she ultimately left Izalith behind.

So here we have the initial divergence for pyromancy—Izalith developed spells that were capable of greater destructive power, Chaos Pyromancies. The Daughter of Chaos and Xanthous King Jeremiah are the only two who knew it in Dark Souls. That means it’s likely that only those who studied tomes or under the tutelage of these two would have access to it in the future—gaining the ability to do more damage by calling up fire meant to manipulate lava.

Quelana, meanwhile, went her own way to teach Salaman, who would become known as the Master Pyromancer. She would later learn to ascend her pyromancy flame instead of developing more destructive spells, likely gaining an understanding of how to enhance it after studying it on her own behalf. But until then, she taught Salaman most of the pyromancies she knew and her teachings—namely, that one should seek the knowledge of the flames, but also fear the flame and not become arrogant, lest they be consumed.

These would become part of the Great Swamp’s teachings when Salaman established it at some point and took on multiple pupils—likely having learned to divide the pyromancy flame from his teacher—with Carmina being the most accomplished pupil. Rather than focus on the pure destructive power of the flames, they would become one with nature and thus learn to have faith in the flames along with the knowledge to use it. That would lead to them learning how to use the pyromancy flame to realize the full potential of the caster, developing spells that internalized the power—Flash Sweat, Iron Flesh, and Power Within, are examples of this:

Pyromancy of Carmina, who harnessed the power of flame to actualize the inner-self. Intense sweating reduces flame damage.

Carmina, the most accomplished pupil of Salaman the Master Pyromancer, pioneered new directions for the art of pyromancy.

However, they avoided anything that gave way to excessive power that went against their teaching about being consumed. This is likely why Power Within was kept secret after its creation. However, their teachings didn’t remain solely in the Great Swamp by the time of Dark Souls.

One pyromancer wandered into Oolacile and was taken by the Abyss. He managed to gain enough insight into the darkness to create a pyromancy that used it as a weapon—Black Flame. It would later be rediscovered in Dark Souls III, which states the following:

Pyromancy discovered by grave wardens after High Lord Wolnir fell to the Abyss.

Creates a giant, black flame in hand.

Black flames born from the Abyss bear no shadow. They are said to be the impenetrable fires of humanity.

Eingyi at some point developed Poison Mist and Toxic Mist, which were seen as heretical. He was exiled as a result, finding his way to Izalith and running into the Fair Lady, whereupon she cured him of his poisoning. He later taught at least one person Poison Mist, as their corpse has it on the body in Blighttown, and it is later passed on via the Great Swamp Pyromancy Tome, despite the fact that he was exiled because of it.

In Dark Souls III, Fire Surge is considered a lost Pyromancy that Cornyx restored. But it existed in the original Dark Souls, within the Painted World of Ariamis and in the possession of a non-hostile enemy. It is likely that this was the creator of the pyromancy, since it has this tidbit of information:

Not all pyromancy originates in the Great Swamp. One hear rumors of unknown pyromancers inhabiting various lands, and this spell is the work of one such outlander.

Likewise, Acid Surge is also found in the Painted World in Dark Souls. But unlike Fire Surge, it persisted throughout history. Carthus of the Sands, a kingdom ruled by High Lord Wolnir that eventually fell into the Abyss, used not only this spell, but their own unique ones. As the Carthus Pyromancy Tome describes:

Carthus pyromancies developed in isolation from other forms, explaining their divergent evolution.

In addition, we know there was a sect of Desert Sorceress’ in the land of Jugo that took up residence in Earthen Peak. Their time passed, but by the end of the world at least one of their descendants—Desert Pyromancer Zoey—survived and carried with her a pyromancy exclusive to them, Flame Fan:

Pyromancy of Zoey, descendant of the desert pyromancers.

Use repeatedly to brush the fan left and right.

Zoey possessed true beauty, as did all the desert pyromancers, but hers did not poison, and so she became the unassuming queen of the feeble ones.

 

By the time of Dark Souls III, things are nearing their end. But new pyromancies had been created, such as Warmth. And, up to the very end, even more can be created by transposing the souls of those who possessed certain skills or knowledge. These are gained due to the transposition basically extracting the essence of the soul and then coalescing it down to something tangible.

So pyromancy developed from the moment of its creation to the very end of the Dark Souls world, with different variations coming into existence as it spread around—despite the fact that it had a bad reputation as being simple and the art of savages.

 


Flames of Demons

Source: Here

Like I mentioned before, I believe that the source of the pyromancy flame stems from demons. There’s two specific factors that led me to that conclusion: Witch’s Locks & Demon’s Scar.

Witch’s Locks is a whip made from the black hair of a daughter of the Witch, imbued with the essence of fire. The same fire that consumed the Witch herself. There’s only one daughter that we know who has long black hair, and that’s Quelaag. Unlike the Daughter of Chaos, she merged with a demon and gained the power of fire that can scale with Humanity (as her weapon explains), which is likely the reason that the war broke out in the first place.

As for the Demon’s Scar, it is a weapon made from transposing the Soul of the Demon Prince, which has the following description:

This chaotic thing, the last flame kindled by the demon prince, is shaped like the claw marks of a demon.

It is both a fiery bladed weapon and pyromancy flame.

It is both a fiery blade and a pyromancy flame. Demons are linked to the Flame of Chaos in the same way that humans are linked to the First Flame, albeit naturally rather than Gwyn’s tampering. As stated in the Soul of the Demon Prince:

The demons, birthed from a common Chaos, share almost everything between them, even the pride of their prince, and his near-faded flame.

So that the last demon standing may rekindle it.

So naturally this means that all demons are connected to the Flame of Chaos, with the internal flame being a medium through which they can express its power. I think of it as being like roots that link from the Flame of Chaos, spreading out to each demon when they were born but all of them linked to it, and this connection persists whether to demon is alive or not if the flame is extracted, which can be seen in how ordinary weapons can be imbued with the power of the flames through Fire Gems and Chaos Gems in Dark Souls III.

In the case of Fire Gems, the only one that’s a guaranteed drop is from a demon that’s known to be dying. It’s flame doesn’t burn as brightly, but the second one you kill offers up its soul and thus it can be transposed to two weapons that can also unleash fire: Demon’s Greataxe and Demon’s Fist. Fire Gems can likewise infuse weapons with inherent fire, but it doesn’t scale.

In the case of Chaos Gems, it can be obtained from demons capable of wielding pyromancy spells, the Demon Clerics, demons who are closer to the Chaos Flame and can cast pyromancies. The gems themselves not only imbue a weapon with flames but are capable of scaling with Faith and Intelligence. The weapon born from the Soul of the Old Demon King also scales with the Faith and Intelligence.

Because pyromancy flames scale with Faith and Intelligence as well, it shows a strong link between pyromancies, demons, and the flame that connects them. The Demon’s Scar is made from the last flame that is kindled from the Flame of Chaos, and thus in itself it should be the ultimate pyromancy flame. So regular pyromancy flames are essentially the flames taken from demons and then spread out into a form usable for humans—as Laurentius of the Great Swamp explained the following:

A pyromancer’s flame is a part of his own body. The flame develops right along with his skill. … When I gave you that flame, I gave you a part of myself. Please take good care of it.

Most likely, Quelana taught Salaman how to connect with the flame that she produced, nurturing it until she could split it off into another one for him. Even though the pyromancy flame can produce flames on its own, as the pyromancer gains knowledge and faith in the flame, it grows in strength. The flame itself is alive in that aspect, and thus it can be changed as well.

Quelana learned how to draw upon her own latent power to enhance the flame. Likely this is due her own nature, as she is not a human but an entirely different species and managed to find a way to infuse that into the flame. It could even be a piece of the Life Soul if the Witch of Izalith split it among her daughters like Gwyn did with his own soul, before it was warped into the Flame of Chaos.

 


Conclusion

Source: Here

To reiterate, in my opinion, the Pyromancy Flames originally stemmed from demons and their link to the Flame of Chaos. The Witch and her daughters pioneered it originally for war against Gwyn, but they lost. And, while most of them were locked away beneath Izalith, Quelana passed the knowledge to a human, Salaman.

From there, it spread until it could be found all over the world. Gaining more uses that the Witch could have dreamed and persisted until the very end of the cycle, even outlasting her children by the very end. But, it’s a theory I thought of based on a lot of evidence and if this article has been informative, feel free to spread it around with a link.

###

Thank you for reading.

The First Steps – 4.06

New chapter of Wands and Vials.

Wands and Vials

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The gate with the emblem of our family peaked in the center before us, arching downwards and then rising again to meet the columns that they were attached to at the hinges. Spellstone lanterns that radiated a somber light topped the column, attached to the stone fence that stretched around the perimeter of the manor. It was high enough that it obscured the green lawn that stretched between the entrance and the gateway, only broken up by a stone path with guiding lights leading to the end of the pathway where the estate laid.

As I stood there for a moment and stared at the emblem of feathers in motion, as if blown by the wind, the words of Alice’s mother came to mind. Twenty years ago was around the time that Grandfather died along with his eldest son, if I remember correctly. Father became the head of…

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June 2018 Grim Tales Update 1

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Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 4 – Chapter 19

Chapter 19

“Why my place specifically?”

I ask the obvious question for clarity. After all, if I’m going to tell them I don’t want them there, I need a plausible reason for it. So, it’d be better to get all the facts first.

“Well, your place is also as big as Tohsaka’s—”

“Bigger,” I say, correcting her.

Ayako goes along with it, if only to appease me. “—bigger than Tohsaka’s, it’s closer, and we don’t have to worry about being overseen or overheard if it’s done while your sister is heading the Archery Club’s practice. It’s the best place to both train them up and discuss things while the Temple is off-limits with the brothers gone, and without heading all the way out to Neko’s place.”

Well, she’s not wrong. The manor can easily fit all of us inside and, with the Old Worm long dead, we can practice in private for the most part. The additional time may prove beneficial, given we don’t know when we’ll be pulled back into the future either.

That and I’m sure it’d be thrown back in my face that I was acting hypocritical after telling them to make sacrifices for their training. Besides, I can use the opportunity to try and steer the training in a different direction since I’m calling the shots. An experimental approach to go along with the established ones.

“Okay,” I say, sitting forward. If there’s no getting out of it then I might as well dictate the rules. Resting my elbows on my desk and folding my hands in front of my mouth, I continue. “If you can agree to my terms, I’ll go along with it.”

Her brows rise in curiosity. “Name them.”

“First, we need to run it by Sakura. We don’t know how long it’ll take, and I don’t want her walking in while we have them tied to a chair and gagged like you had us.”

Makidera nearly chokes on her snack with a look of pure shock on her face. In contrast, Saegusa’s eyes are cast down at the table while there’s a red blush painting her face. Between them, Himuro is staring with a half-puzzled gaze. It’s clearly not something they expected to hear this morning.

“It makes more sense in context for their training, and it won’t apply for you three,” Ayako assures them. She follows with a slight glare towards me. ‘You worded it that way on purpose, didn’t you?

I only shrug and continue on. “Anyway, you and I will tell her that we’re doing a study session at my home. Since the newcomers and I missed yesterday due to being incapacitated, she’ll buy it if we tell her that you want to try and catch us all up.”

It honestly didn’t matter as far as getting her permission went. In terms of authority in the household, I call the shots. However, we have enough issues and Ayako has some level of trust from Sakura when it comes to keeping me in check. So if she’s vouching that it’s her idea, then Sakura won’t be needlessly worried now or in the future when we use this… study club as an alibi for psychicer business.

Ayako nods in approval. It’s a completely rational course of action, so there’s no reason to lobby against it. “Okay. What else?”

“Second, no one is allowed to wander around besides the areas I tell them to. I am a private person by nature and there are some things that need to stay private. If anyone violates that, no matter who they are, then whatever goodwill I’ve shown will disappear and everyone leaves. Understood?”

The rule is for obvious reasons. The Library and Basement are locked up when not in use, but psychic powers make opening them up a breeze. Since there’s no oversight and I can’t watch them all, I need to stress that the consequences will be dire.

Consent is given to varying degrees from all of them. Not surprising, considering my goodwill is why these five are still alive and not something they’d easily to throw away for curiosity. That’s good enough for now.

I move onto the final condition. “Last is that we divide up the training into rotations between the three of us. I think we’ll cover more ground that way and neither of them will feel pressured about the progress of the others.”

I really hated that Gotou managed to get ahead of me during Burst training. That frustration did not help the situation and, if I hadn’t managed to get Telepathy out of it while he couldn’t, there might’ve been some issues working with him so well in the future. Or at least to the extent that we had.

These three have known each other since their First Year so the chance is minimal that there will be long-term issues. But better safe than sorry. Not to mention it I’ll only have to deal with one of them at a time, meaning that I can test different approaches when it comes to Trance training to expand my options.

Ayako closes her eyes and tilts her head in thought as she sips her drink. Considering it. Then she nods. “Okay, no harm in that either.”

Excellent. “Then I’ll handle the basics of Trance, while you handle Rise, and Gotou handles Burst.”

“Why me?” Gotou asks. He sounds surprised by his role, no doubt expecting to handle Rise instead.

I count off my reasons with my fingers. “Rise is the field where they’ll get the most use in terms of immediate survivability, so we need the most experienced teacher. Mitsuzuri has more control than either of us, so she can minimize the chance of accidentally injuring one of them while the Student President isn’t available. And, while I’m the best Trance user so I have to be the one to teach it, you caught onto Burst faster than I did.”

He still seems reluctant but nods his head slowly in agreement. “Fine.”

Ayako follows suit. “Fair enough. We’ll go with your approach and see where it leads.”

That settled, I address the Track Trio. “I’ll need an hour or so to make sure everything is in order after we discuss things with Sakura, so you three use that time to handle the matter of your club attendance. Mitsuzuri knows how to get to my place after that. Oh, and bring your own Lunch.”

[-Break-]

I need the hour to go through every room of the manor and make sure that there’s nothing that could give away the fact that we were more than a wealthy family that had been around for a few centuries.

The Makiri came to Fuyuki and established themselves as one of the families that reside in the Foreigner’s District after it had been built in the late 1800s, after the country’s isolation policy was forcibly made to change. It’s possible that the Old Worm managed to sneak into the country before then. But he wouldn’t have been able to have the manor built to his specifications until the influx of foreign blood allowed him to buy the land and have the construction done.

Even so, he had the manor built so that sunlight couldn’t enter inside easily despite the number of windows. Only lanterns and later artificial lights provide illumination. Things that wouldn’t degrade his form quicker and leave him constantly hiding down in the worm pit below.

The building itself is large enough that there are entire rooms that haven’t been used since I was a child. Those rooms may have once been used to house guests or the like, but now their opulence was left to be buried beneath dust and time since we got rid of the housekeepers as an unnecessary expense. No sense in cleaning them if they weren’t going to be used.

I don’t bother checking Sakura’s room before I shut the door to it. No one should go into her room under any circumstances, but she does have a right to privacy. And it wasn’t as though she had something to hide. After all, she has no interest in magecraft.

Besides, of the guests coming over, only Gotou would be tempted by the mundane secrets of a woman’s room. And if he had the guts to do that then he would have braved asking Himuro out already instead of trying to get on her good side and winding up involved in all of this. Not that it hasn’t proven helpful for my long-term survival, so I guess I’ll call it a fair trade-off.

My room, on the other hand, requires a little work to be presentable. It’s not as clean as it could be, given my frequent night terrors and the latest bout of health issues I’ve been going through. But, just in case one of them is stupid enough to tempt fate, I won’t have to gouge out their eyes to hide the shame now.

I make sure to place a particular book inside the nightstand drawer, a bookmark between the pages to mark my progress. It’s the Old Worm’s journal from over a century back. Given he’s been involved with the Einzbern for some time now, I’m hoping it has the location of where their main castle is. It’s probably unnecessary, since it’s in German and I doubt any them could read a letter of it even if they trespassed into my room, but better safe than sorry.

I lock up the Library next. A good number of the books are in languages other than Japanese, so it probably isn’t necessary either in hindsight. The others are pretty ignorant of the world outside of Fuyuki, after all, and even I can’t read the Church Slavonic text that trace back to our family roots in Russia. But again, better than them discovering something they shouldn’t.

The Basement… is a nonfactor. Since Zouken’s death, it hasn’t been unlocked at all. Neither I, the manor’s owner, nor Sakura have any business with it anymore as neither of us has the desire or ability to continue the Art. It died when he died.

Once I finish the rest of the preparations, I change my clothes to more casual wear and head outside to wait for the others. The autumn wind blows and scatters brightly-colored leaves as I lean against the left column. It doesn’t take them too long to arrive after that.

Ayako leads the front and Gotou follows next to her, a bag from the bakery in Miyama in his hand. Makidera is behind them, looking upset as she rants to Himuro about something I don’t care about while flailing a plastic bag with what I presume to be take-out. Saegusa follows behind them last while holding a handmade lunch box.

Ayako approaches the gate and greets me. “Sorry we kept you waiting, Shinji.”

“I’ll let it slide since we managed to convince Sakura without any problems and will have plenty of time.” Though, to be honest Sakura didn’t argue against going to Emiya’s place, and he was apparently entertaining Fujimura tonight as well. So that works for us.

Gotou whistles as he looks up at the manor. “You could probably fit our entire class in here.”

I scoff at the suggestion. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem in the context of having too little space or need of supervision, but I’m not fond of guests. Emiya’s place would probably be better suited for that sort of thing.”

“Oh yeah, it’s a traditional manor, isn’t it?” Ayako muses. “The kind that has a wide-open courtyard and tatami with sliding doors. The type of place where you’d stay to feel like you took a step back in time.”

Saegusa tilts her head slightly at the description. “That sounds sort of like Maki-chan’s home.”

Makidera tenses up as we all look at her, bringing her hand to her face and covering it to an extent. It almost seems like something she’s not proud of. “My family just so happens to have a place that they got a long time ago and transformed into a store that sells traditional kimonos and stuff. It’s not that great.”

Saegusa didn’t see it that way though. “But I think you look really elegant while dressed in traditional clothes. It really suits you.”

“…I can’t see it,” Gotou says. “I mean, the Black Panther of Homurahara in a kimono is just difficult to process.”

I agree with him. Not for a lack of effort on my part. But the thought of the energetic monkey dressing regally in a high-class kimono is just… beyond my ability to rationalize. And that’s saying something considering all I’ve seen.

“It surprisingly works on her,” Himuro vouches. “I had her model for me once for a portrait that turned out well.”

“Is that so?” Ayako puts on a cheeky smile as she faces Makidera. “Then I think I might stop by and check out the selection. Maybe you can help me pick something out?”

“…It’s not like I dress like that because I want to,” she states, fist clenched as she looks away embarrassed. There’s some actual resentment in her voice. “I have to dress like that at home because my family is strict. The only time I get to wear the clothes I want is when I’m heading out for track or casual stuff, and that’s because it’s impractical to wear one during then.”

Surprisingly, Ayako’s expression changes from teasing to sympathetic. “My family has a long history when it comes to martial arts, so I don’t think that we’re different in that aspect. They’re pretty strict when it comes to things other than that for me and my brother, so if not for the fact that Issei’s brother vouches for me I wouldn’t have nearly as much free time as I do. Though, I’m pretty sure that my place is smaller than yours from the sound of it.”

“You guys have it tougher than me,” Gotou admits. He’s rubbing the back of his neck as if ashamed of that fact. “I mean, I just live in a 2LDK place closer to the residential area and my folks have ordinary jobs, so I don’t really have anything I can or can’t do as far as rules go.”

“A three-bedroom in my case, but it’s the same for me,” Saegusa adds with a nervous chuckle. “I guess we’re just typical then.”

…Huh, she’s right. Myself, a wealthy bourgeois. Himuro, the daughter of the mayor. Ayako, the daughter of a line of martial artists. Makidera, the daughter of famous merchants. Whereas these two are just… normal.

Well, as normal as a group of time-travelers with psychic powers can get. I stand up straight and push open the iron gate. “As riveting as this conversation is, we should get inside since we’ll need about six hours to feel everyone out. Follow me.”

I lead them through the front door and through the corridors to avoid one of them getting lost. If you aren’t used to the place it can get pretty confusing. Or so Emiya told me before our estrangement. I’ve lived here my entire life, so I know the place like the back of my hand and lead them all to the Dining Room first.

“This’ll be where you can eat when you get a break in the training, or before you start with Burst or Trance training with Gotou or myself.”

“What about before Rise training?” Ayako asks. Not surprising given she’s handling that lesson.

“You won’t have an issue, since you won’t be the one straining yourself. But its best if whoever you’ll be teaching don’t since Rise is the most strenuous physically and you don’t want to try that on a full stomach. By the way, Makidera will be the first one there.”

She gives me an incredulous look, remembering this morning no doubt. It pleases me. “Why do I have to do Rise first?”

“You would be working out with the Track Club around now under normal circumstances, right?”

“…Yeah,” she mutters under her breath.

“Then, since you’ve been doing that for the last three years, it’s likely a habit. I don’t think that you’d be able to sit still long enough to handle getting down Burst or Trance while so restless. So it’d be better to have you burn off all that excess energy, eat, and then focus on one of the other two while you’re digesting. I mean, don’t you do the same thing during your practice while pushing the other members of the club hard enough to leave them in tears?”

Nnn…” I can tell from the look on her face she wants to come up with an excuse, but it’d be unfair to not push the expectations she places on others on herself. So she follows the group in silence until we enter the Parlor next.

I open the thick curtains, giving them view of the backyard. The tree and bushes are dense since the Old Worm had cultivated them to house his insects. It’d serve to give them some privacy. “You can take that door by the clock to get to the backyard. Our property extends for some distance and there’s an opening in the greenery behind the tree-line. It’ll be a good training ground for one-on-one practicing.”

I take the time to float a message to Ayako as well. ‘Mitsuzuri, you’ll be able to push her the furthest because of how competitive she is and her own work ethic. Use that to your advantage, because the other two probably won’t have that same level of stamina.

She nods. “Okay.”

That established, I lean over to a table that’s in the middle of the room, wood with curved legs, and pick up a group of fifteen cards set out from the deck. “The parlor itself will be used for Burst training. From what we’ve seen so far, Telekinesis manifests in either the creation of constructs or manipulating the physical object directly. But given the trouble I had with the former, I thought I’d present the chance to explore both with playing cards since they’re light and malleable.”

Since I managed to pull that chain trick in the future, and was stuck unable to move for a day, I had the time to better grasp how to use Telekinesis. Rather than attempting to make a construct like Ayako, it was simpler for me to saturate the object. Then I could visual how I want it to react—programming it, for lack of a better term.

Holding them between my hand, I breathe slowly and concentrate my own Burst ability into them. The process of construction and rules are established in my mind and then impregnate that energy saturating the cards. Finished, I extend my hand out to put on a show.

The cards flew off to the table. Six formed a group of three triangles to create the foundation. Two formed shelves. Four more formed the second floor.  One formed the second shelf. Two formed the roof. A house of cards standing in the middle of the table, still saturated with some of the energy I dumped into them.

“Gotou. Knock it down with yours.”

He blinks before realizing where I’m going with this. Then he pulls the same trick he did when we were tied up, forming a simple construct ball that hit the house of cards. They naturally topple over before flying back up into a neat pile in the center of the table as the rest of the energy is expended.

Satisfied, I turn to Himuro and address her next. “Start small with just getting a card to move from a distance and expand from that when you get comfortable with it. If you feel you’re getting a headache then stop and just wait for it to settle. Likewise, Gotou has a trip on you, so he can put any theories you might want to test into practice better than your current ability if you explain it to him.”

Himuro briefly adjusts her glasses as she observes the cards, her mind no doubt working out the basics of what I’ve done. She’s smart enough to probably work things out on her own, so I don’t think she’ll need nearly as much handholding as the other two. A student who’ll be quicker on the uptake will help warm Gotou up for the others in his role as a first-time instructor.

And, well, he likes her for some reason. So if I reward him for saving me by allowing him to spend time with her, it might help him get over his issues quicker.  If not, I still tried.

Last, I face the third member of the group. “Saegusa, you’re with me first. We’ll be heading to a study on the other side of the manor, further away from here since you’ll need silence to be able to concentrate. During that time, I’ll mostly communicate with you through telepathy, so you can get used to it. It’s not as physically strenuous as Rise or as taxing as Burst, but it’s essential to survival so you’ll have to focus. Understand?”

She consents with a nod and as determined of a face she can make. “Yes, Matou-san. I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all I ask.” Realistically speaking, regardless of what ability she gains, Saegusa’s a liability in direct combat due to how meek she is. I get the feeling she’d break if she had to kill anything during the next trip, so I’ll work her into a supporting role for the time being.

Looking at the grandfather clock, I take into account the time. If they have Lunch now, then we can begin around to 1:30 PM. “Okay, everyone who’s going to eat now feel free to do so. In thirty-minutes we get to training.”

 

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June 2018 PPGD Update 1

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(A Boruto Fanfic) The Unknown Daughter: Chapter 2

“Naruto… was here?” The words that came out of Karin’s mouth were heavy. Distressed. If there had been anything that would undercut the joy in learning that Sasuke and Sarada had been there earlier, it was the fact that Naruto had come with them while she was away.

That he saw Hanami.

“Did you know he was coming?” she asked Orochimaru while the two were in the monitor room, alone.

“Not when you left,” he answered from his seat at the monitor desk, tapping on the keyboard. “The child sensed the arrival of others from quite a distance away, but with no reference she couldn’t identify them. Had I known that he would have been coming, then I would have respected your wish and sent her off to her room.”

Karin had a moment of doubt, but it passed. After all, he had been honest with her in every aspect since Hanami was conceived. Respecting her own wishes and requests where it was within his ability. To think that he arranged for it to happen was… ludicrous.

She changed her question. “Does he know?”

“He does.” He brought up the camera footage from her office. It showed Naruto using the DNA analysis machine and then the results. “I did try to deflect any answers and went ahead and erased the analysis from memory banks so that Hanami didn’t discover it by accident once they departed. But he left a number in my possession and asked that you contact him as soon as possible. If not, he would be visiting again.”

Of course he would. A gnawing itch prickled her chest. He knew about Hanami now, so she shouldn’t be surprised that he would try to get in contact with her. But exposing her to him now would mean…

Orochimaru observed her indecisiveness for a moment in silence before rising from his seat. “Viewing it through the lens of an experiment, there can’t be a change in the dependent variable if there is only a constant.”

She stiffened at his words because she understood the underlying meaning.

“My part in this experiment has long since been fulfilled,” he continued. “I had the chance to improve upon the modifications that you yourself underwent to a genetic level, and that data proved useful. Since I have no interest in projects that stagnate, you can proceed as you wish.”

Standing in front of her, he then held up the number for her to take. “However, if you’re going to properly test if everything you’ve done has had any merit, you must observe how the dependent variable changes in response to multiple independent ones. Ideally while they are still things you can control.”

Karin accepted it reluctantly. “I… understand.”

As Orochimaru left out, Karin found herself staring down at the direct line to Naruto’s personal cellphone. As a scientist, she understood his point perfectly. To experiment meant to expose something to different stimuli and processes to see the effects they had on it.

If Hanami was the dependent variable, she and the others in the base had been the constants. As long as nothing changed, then she would remain as she was. And that was fine as far as Karin was concerned. Let the world around them remain frozen for all she cared.

But… life wasn’t a constant. Karin knew that as well. It hadn’t been for her. It hadn’t been for her mother. That was why she put Hanami through everything she had the moment she learned she was pregnant and well after she was born.

There’s no getting around it. It was better to get it out of the way sooner than later, so Karin picked up the phone and dialed the number. Her feet paced the room while she did so, until it rang thrice.

Then Naruto’s voice came through at the end. “Hello?

Her feet stilled her. Legs locking into place and her throat tightening, she was frozen where she stood by fear. She couldn’t answer.

Hello?” he asked again.

This is pathetic, she told herself as she leaned against the wall. Letting another man stir up these feelings inside of her was something she just couldn’t help but feel ashamed at. They couldn’t be more different, yet the thought of either one of them and what they could do to her left Karin afraid enough to nearly make her legs give out.

As the silence dragged on, there was a pause. Thinking, no doubt. Then he asked, “Karin, is that you?

She forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat and answered. “It’s me.”

He sighed over the line in relief. “How have you been?”

Karin didn’t want to drag this out longer than she needed to. “Is this line secure?”

Of course.”

She took his word for it, paranoid as she may have been. If anyone had a secured line, it would be the Hokage.  “You know Hanami is—”

My daughter.” He sounded somewhere between hurt and angry. “I’ve had a few hours to think on it now that Sakura is safe. I know that Orochimaru agreed not to cause any sort of commotion, but to hold leverage like that and not use it now that I’ve succeeded Kakashi-sensei means that there had to be another reason besides his own interests.

While Orochimaru had been pardoned, that did not mean his sins were forgiven. He was constantly under watch for a reason since Kakashi had been made the Sixth Hokage officially. Now that Naruto had succeeded him…

Well, Naruto wouldn’t even consider a request that would endanger the village. But he wouldn’t endanger his daughter either. It would still be leverage that he could have used in some way or other.

Karin, why didn’t you tell me?

“You weren’t ready for it at the time,” she told him. “There was nothing between us but that night. Knowledge of a child born between you and a subordinate of Orochimaru could have cost you your reputation. You found someone else. I can give you a number of reasons why I didn’t tell you about her, and all of them would be valid.”

Which was true enough.  The last thing he needed then was for it to come out that he had a dalliance and then a child with her. Even now, if this had gone public, he could only think of the trouble it would have caused Hinata, Boruto, and Himawari. Not to mention the sort of pressure it would put on Hanami herself and that it wasn’t just him would who harbor the blame.

The last thing a child should have to suffer from is being blamed for simply existing.

Or for being an outsider.

Even Naruto, as he was now, could admit that.  “I won’t say you’re wrong. But it wasn’t just for my sake, was it?”

Karin didn’t answer him.

And the silence dragged on again until Naruto was sure he wasn’t getting an answer. So he changed the question. “…Karin, do you still think that things would have been better if you never came out of it at the end?

Burning anger welled up inside of her chest at being reminded. “I never thought going right for the jugular was a thing you would do.”

You know I didn’t mean it that way.

“The answer is no.”

Karin, if you still think you would be better off—”

I SAID NO!” Her answer came out louder and more forceful than even she expected. Her Mind’s Eye of Kagura snapped awake as she checked to make sure no one was within hearing. Then she exhaled, letting the frustration and tension leave her body as she slid down the wall until she was sitting on the ground.

“…Sorry,” he said over the line. It was even sincere.

“I never should have told you in the first place.” She pushed up her glasses to rub her eyes at an abrupt, stinging itch. Tears had formed. Sucking in a sharp breath, she held it and then let it out slowly before she spoke again.  “I just thought… that if anyone could have helped me, it would have been you.”

The Fourth War had consequences for her. Specifically, the Infinite Tsukuyomi. It was supposed to show everyone who fell under the illusion their happiest dream. But for her it was different.

She relived her past. Remembered how she and her mother were used as tools for the right to stay in a village constantly at war. They weren’t people, they were assets. Given the bare minimum to stay alive and then used up when needed. Never appreciated, never treated as one of their own.

Karin had been a tool to be used. To exhaust herself to death for the sake of letting their soldiers keep fighting. And she was supposed to do it with a smile on her face.

She only really felt elation at the end. When she finally had the chance to kill the man responsible and then died after seeing Sasuke smile, having helped him with his goal. Revenge and death afterwards. That was the only path of happiness that she could grasp in a dream where anything could happen.

The very thought haunted her afterwards when she returned to the waking world. That no matter what she did, only those two things would make her happy. If that was the case, then what was there any worth in living aside from a fear of death itself?

So many times, she had tried to change that. She couldn’t on her own. And who else could she go to?

Sasuke was either traveling or… not emotionally available. Anything he would have suggested was probably something she would have tried anyway. Juugo was nice, but not really someone she wanted to talk to about this. Suigetsu… not if the world was ending.

Orochimaru knew her past. He knew her pain. He had offered a balm to it in the past when he took her in. He made her feel as though she belonged and gave her power and knowledge. But he couldn’t offer her what she needed.

So that left Naruto. At the time he was the man who could do anything, having fought against overwhelming odds during the Fourth War and then made Sasuke change for the better. Despite Sasuke suffering so much, Naruto could relate to his pain and bring him back from the self-imposed misery he was going to put himself through to maintain peace through fear.

So, if anyone could have helped her, she was sure it was him.

She desperately wanted it to be him.

That was why she…

“…Karin, the world has changed since those times,” Naruto told her. “A lot of people our ages suffered from the war in the same way, so Sakura and Ino have established a system to help them. You don’t have to go through this alone. Let us help you.

“I don’t need it,” Karin told him. “I have been since then. I’ll handle it myself.”

Then what about Hanami?” he asked. “You can’t believe that raising her in isolation with those people is a good thing. She doesn’t even see a family as anything more than their genetic code. You can’t tell me that’s normal for a girl her age.”

“So you want to take her from me?”

That is the last thing I want to do,” he said. “I just want her to have a chance to experience the world as it is, rather than seeing it in such an inhuman way. She needs to have a chance to make friends, otherwise she might end up worse off than both of us. You can’t keep her sheltered from the world forever.”

That. That was why she didn’t tell him. She didn’t tell him because Naruto would have wanted to take her out into the world. There was no way he would keep her a secret and let her be raised in private. Not after how he had grown up.

“I can try,” Karin told him. Even if the chance was next to nothing so long as Naruto was alive and as powerful as he had been back then, she wouldn’t risk it. Hanami wouldn’t end up like Karin did. Not like her mother did.

Karin, at least—” Click!

She hung up and turned the phone off.  Nothing he could say would make her change her mind. Then, rising to her feet, she walked the long corridors of the base towards her daughter’s room.

She was sure he wouldn’t try coming for them so soon. He’d try to convince her again before he made any overt move. But most likely she’d have to move away with Hanami soon. Orochimaru had limited influence compared to when he was free, but it wasn’t as though she hadn’t made contingencies in the event it was necessary. She already knew someplace nice where no one knew who they were, and they could start over.

Karin was partway down the corridor to Hanami’s door before it opened. Suigetsu came flying out, his body in a semi-fluid state as something rummaged around inside of him, pressing against the outline of his body enough to stretch without breaking. It was almost comical as he fell to the ground, rolling down the hallway while laughs came from her daughter’s room.

Then Suigetsu spotted Karin and clung to her ankle as he demanded, “Get it out of me!

Karin sighed as she crouched down. “Vilu, what have I told you about swimming in filthy water? You might catch something.”

The rummaging stopped as out popped a slender, foot-and-a-half serpentine figure from inside of his shirt. Crimson, glistening scales that reflected the corridor light gave way to a black dorsal fin that ran along its spine until it came to a stop with a black tuft of fur on its tail.  Short legs with webbed feet and black claws flexed as it set foot on the ground next to him. Then turning around, its pointed ears unfastened from its head, and its black eyes looked towards her.

Vilu, as he was named was an artificial creation turned pet. A chimera of sorts that combined the aspects of aquatic animals, serpents, and foxes. A gift for Hanami’s birthday years ago based off some of Orochimaru’s old work. “Good boy. Now go back to her room.”

“I can’t stand that thing,” Suigetsu groaned as he rose back to his feet while the creature scurried back from whence it came. “Science goes too far sometimes.”

“Quit whining,” she told him. “I can tell from his size and chakra he didn’t absorb any of your body this time. You should be fine.”

Suigetsu looked her up and down without saying anything as he rubbed the back of his neck. Silently appraising her. Then he smiled mischievously with a shark-like grin. “So, you and Naru—”

The pointed tip of a chakra chain at the base of his throat shut him up.

One word,” she warned him. “One word and you will never recover from what I do to you.”

The lump in his throat shifted as he swallowed. A single nod showed the message carried. Then he, quickly and quietly, walked around her and went elsewhere.

Dismissing her chakra chain, Karin exhaled slowly and then forced herself to smile as she walked back down the corridor to her daughter’s room. Hanami was sitting at her desk, though her swivel chair was turned facing the doorway, allowing for the young girl to jump up.  Mother and daughter embraced.

Sorry I was gone for so long,” Karin said softly while they hugged before pulling back somewhat. “Still, what did I tell you about Vilu and Suigetsu?”

“He did that on his own,” her daughter told her. “I think he wanted to cheer me up, so when Uncle Sui came in he jumped inside of him. It was funny though.”

“Even so, he’s your pet so you should take responsibility for him,” Karin said, releasing her to just listen about her day. “And what upset you enough that he needed to cheer you up while I was gone?”

“We had guest today!” She sat back in the chair and looked up to her mother with an excited smile. She guessed Vilu’s antics did the trick after all. “There was an Uzumaki like us with really warm chakra. Then there was that man from your picture, Sasuke Uchiha. His was kind of dark, but it was calm too. And two girls around my age, with one of them being his daughter.”

“Sarada,” Karin said fondly. “Did you get along with her?”

Hanami’s smile faltered. “I… tried to. But she didn’t seem to like me.”

“Why do you say that?” Karin asked. She had something of a soft spot for Sarada after helping deliver her after all. It was probably the only time she saw Sasuke smile at her in thanks. One of the happiest notes in her miserable dream.

“Because she got upset when I suggested trying to transplant her Sharingan into my eyes, even though I was going to give one of them back when I was done evolving it.” she said, turning to face her desk and then laying her head down in her arms. “She even got mad when I was going to suggest using the eyes of that person they were chasing instead, telling me it wasn’t right.”

Karin brushed her hair. “Not everyone is comfortable about the thought of transplanting sensory organs. Especially people who have abilities related to the part in question. Losing them is terrifying, more so since they can’t be easily replaced.”

“I still don’t understand why she was so reluctant though,” Hanami said. “I mean, if she had the Rinnegan, wouldn’t that make her parents love her more?”

Karin’s brows folded in.  As far as she knew, Sarada’s relationship with her parents was very well. To imply that either could love her more was to say that they didn’t love her with every fiber of their being, which Karin very much doubted from what she knew of those two. “Why do you think that?”

“Because she won’t be able to get the Rinnegan on her own like her father,” her daughter explained. “She won’t be the perfect hybrid of her parents’ genes and pass that on in the future to her children. So they won’t love her as much as they could, and she won’t love her kids as much as she could.”

Hanami looked downcast at the very thought of a parent not loving their child. “That’s so sad, I think.”

…The phone in her pocket abruptly felt heavier as Karin found herself afraid to ask how she came to that line of thought. The hesitation ensnared her throat and wrapped its cold, clammy fingers tight. Choking her to avoid the words leading to a worse experience.

But she had to ask. “Do you really believe that a mother won’t love a child if they’re not perfect on a genetic-level?”

Hanami didn’t hesitate for a second to nod, sitting back up. “I mean, that’s why I went through all of those tests, right? So I could be perfect for you.”

Karin’s mind froze as she remembered those tests of her genetic modifications. Hanami couldn’t meet the same end as her mother had. The moment Karin found out she was pregnant, she knew she had to do everything she could to protect her.

The secrecy was one part of it. If no one else knew she existed, then no one else could take her. But that wasn’t enough. Just in case something did happen, she needed to be able to survive no matter what. That was when Karin turned to Orochimaru.

I know it hurts, but I’m doing this to make sure you’re perfect,’ Karin had told her to justify it while she cried on her lap from how painful that particular series of tests were. She explained how genetics worked and how she had the potential to be greater than both her Karin and her mother ever were. And her children would have that same potential as well.

That way Hanami didn’t end up experiencing the pain that Karin had. So she that she never needed to fear it happening to her own children either. She wouldn’t end up like her own mother had before she passed away, used up and then tossed away.

Karin didn’t love Hanami because she was perfect. Because no self-respecting mother would want her child to think that they had to be perfect to be loved. She wanted her to be perfect because she loved her.

And somewhere along the way she hadn’t passed that message along to her daughter, whereas her own mother had been able to do the same for her.  Did I make a mistake after all?

“Are you okay?” Hanami asked, her head tilting as her violet eyes stared into Karin’s crimson pair. “You’re crying.”

“I just remembered something a little painful,” Karin said as she pushed up her glasses and rubbed away her newly-formed tears. Like father, like daughter it seemed. They knew just the thing to say to hurt her in ways others couldn’t anymore.

“I’m going to need to step out for a little bit. But when I come back, you can show me that theory you were working on before I left. Okay?”

Hanami seemed enthused at the prospect.  “Sure!”

Karin gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek.

Then she headed out to redial Naruto’s number. Apologizing was never something she was fond of. And she still didn’t think that she did the wrong thing in raising Hanami as she had to keep her safe.

But that didn’t mean she hadn’t hurt her daughter in other ways without realizing it.

Hopefully it wasn’t too late.

(A Boruto Fanfic) The Unknown Daughter: Chapter 1

Summary: While searching for Shin Uchiha, Naruto paid a visit to Orochimaru to find answers. He got more than he expected when he found a child named Hanami Uzumaki there alongside of him. Long red hair set into a bun, violet eyes that mixed red and blue, and a single whisker mark on each cheek. Had it really been around thirteen years since that night? Why hadn’t Karin told him anything?


 

“Lead me to Orochimaru.” A single demand made by Sasuke as they confronted two members of his old team. They needed answers about the person who’d taken Sakura, implanted with Sharingan.

Naruto entered Sage Mode immediately to avoid others having the drop on them again. His senses expanding as he caught the presence of two other people within the base. One was further out, but the other was nearing. “It doesn’t look like that’s gonna be necessary.”

Their eyes were drawn down the corridor, whereupon Naruto laid eyes on Orochimaru with a face that looked much younger than it had any right to. That, in itself, was a surprise for Naruto given that fifteen years had passed since the Fourth Shinobi War and the pardon had been issued—albeit with a guard stationed to watch him at all time.

However, a bigger surprise awaited them as he brought them into another room. The room itself was a laboratory. Monitors lining the wall, a solid steel table to the right, and three cultivation tanks with developing bodies within the center. Nothing out of the ordinary for the man who eluded death so easily.

But, in front of the tank with the most developed body, stood a young woman with her back to them. Long red hair set into a bun and decorated with a hair accessory. Dressed in a long sleeveless shirt that was plum in color and dark pants, she held her arms folded behind her back.

“It seems you were right, child,” Orochimaru said casually as the entered the room. “We have visitors.”

“One of their chakra feels warm. Radiant, as though I’m standing beneath the sun itself.” A slight turn of the head revealed her eye was a rich shade of violet, a blend of red and blue that had a single thin line beneath it. A shock ran through Naruto the moment their eyes met.  “Are they guests?”

“I doubt they’ll here for long,” Orochimaru said simply as he came to a stop next to her in front of the tank.

“That’s too bad.” A bead of sweat rolled down from Naruto’s brow as the girl turned around to face them, the hair framing her face swaying to reveal the marking under her other eye to be a mirror image as she regarded them with curiosity. “We rarely have visitors.”

She’s a little taller than Sarada, maybe a little older. Naruto swallowed, but his throat remained dry. It can’t be…

Her curiosity drove her to approach the group. Tension threaded Naruto’s body as she passed him by. But either she didn’t notice, or she didn’t care as she came to a stop in front of Sasuke, her head tilted as she regarded him with a hand on her cheek.

“…You’re Mother’s old teammate, aren’t you?” she asked him. “Sasuke Uchiha… I’ve seen you in the picture, and Mother talked a lot about you.”

Sasuke regarded the child with a glance before shifting his gaze to Orochimaru. “Karin had a daughter?”

“Indeed,” Orochimaru said, holding his hand out towards her. “Introduce yourself, child.”

She did so. “My name’s Hanami Uzumaki. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”

“Isn’t that Lord Seventh’s family name?”  An uncomfortable number of eyes fell onto him at Chocho’s obvious question. Including that of the girl herself.

Naruto even heard Suigetsu mumble, “You know, Karin was always cagey on who the father was.”

But Orochimaru brushed it off with a dismissive, “One of my subordinates comes from the same clan as Naruto-kun.”

“Is that so?” Hanami mused as she took a step closer to him. “It doesn’t look like the dominant genes are present within his facial features or hair pigment. But I suppose some genetic variations should be expected given the different variables.”

Sasuke… couldn’t care less. Or rather, any curiosity he possibly had was buried beneath the mission. “We didn’t come here for that. We came here to find out about that man and child who had Sharingan they shouldn’t.”

“He’s an old experiment of mine named Shin,” Orochimaru explained. “You recall the arm that Danzo Shimura possessed, correct? That originally belonged to him. Since that child possessed a rare genetic trait that prevented rejection of tissue transplants, he was the ideal subject for experimentation with cloning.”

Naruto looked away from the girl at the familiar word. “Cloning?”

“Think of it as a Shadow Clone that won’t disappear,” he clarified. “A perfect replica of an individual down to their very genetics. Only it persists indefinitely.”

“If it’s like a clone that won’t disappear, then what do you do with them when you’re done?” Naruto asked.

“Your only option is to kill them, obvious.”

He naturally took offense to that. Life was sacred after all. To just dispose of them when they weren’t useful anymore disregarded the feelings and connections they formed. “Humans aren’t simple things to be discarded like that.”

“Humans are much simpler than you think.” Orochimaru turned to the cultivation tank with the largest body grown within. “Hanami has taken an interest in this particular field of study, so I suspect she can explain it.”

The girl nodded and then did so. “A person is basically determined by their genetic material. Skin color, abilities, everything can be traced to the genes that compose them. I look more like my mother and possess many of the same abilities as her because her genes were passed onto me, after all. So, for a clone who is made of the same genetic composition, there would be virtually no difference between them.”

“Exactly,” Orochimaru said. “The same applies to your daughter, Sasuke-kun. She looks like you because half of her genes were passed on from you. It’s all simply data recorded in an organic material, rather than an electronic one.”

That’s not right, Naruto thought to himself while looking at the girl who bore his clan’s name. Those words weren’t something he ever wanted to hear coming from a child.

However, Sasuke took control of the conversation before he could voice it. “Why does that person call himself an Uchiha?”

“That’s his own doing,” Orochimaru said. “Though he is not an authentic Uchiha, he possesses the Sharingan and he ended up becoming obsessed with the Uchiha name. In particular with your late brother, Itachi Uchiha.”

“I see…” Sasuke closed his eyes for only a moment. Silently considering it. “Where can I find him?”

“Hmm… I suppose it would benefit me if your village were to capture him,” Orochimaru mused, before turning to Naruto. “Besides, I do owe you, Naruto-kun. How is that child doing, by the way?”

“…He’s doing well,” Naruto answered, albeit with more hesitation than he should have. “Though, if you’d told me that there was another child in your care, we would have accepted her as well.”

Orochimaru lightly chuckled. “That wasn’t my call to make. I only helped deliver Hanami, after all. Her mother was the one who decided to raise her as she has. All the questions related to that can be answered by her.”

Naruto breathed slowly through his nose as he caught the underlying message. “I understand.”

“Good.” Then he started to walk. “As for Shin, I’ll explain more in a room with a monitor. Follow me.”

Naruto did so, occasionally glancing subtly to Hanami as she walked behind them with Sarada. He knew he should ask the question, but he couldn’t find the words. Not right now, with Sakura’s life potentially at stake. But it gnawed at the back of his skull until he heard Sarada broached a question that drew the child’s interest.

Your mother was the person in this picture, right?

Yes, when she was younger,” Hanami answered just as quietly. “I’ve seen that same picture in her office.

Is she here now?

No, she’s at a different place at the moment.”

Oh… then, can I ask you something?

Naruto watched out of the corner of his eye as the two girls went off. He knew that Sarada was doubting her connection to her mother from how she was behaving, but he had no doubts about it. Even if, by some chance, that Karin had given birth to Sasuke’s child and then passed her over to Sakura, the bonds between family through connections should be stronger.

But what about Hanami? Taking into account the nine months and Hanami’s appearance, there was very little doubt in his mind of her parentage, But, he didn’t want to think it was true, because Naruto didn’t want to believe that she lied to him thirteen years ago.  Why didn’t she tell me?

He had to know that much at least. So he followed the girls to the office in secret and listened from next to the door, peeking through carefully.

“First we need a sample of your DNA,” Hanami explained, handing Sarada a buccal swab. “Simply rub the inside of your mouth with it and it’ll collect DNA samples. I’ll do the same with mine and then we’ll use this machine to analyze the data. If there’s enough of a match, then this will show that we’re related through the same mother.”

Once Sarada did as told and the analysis began, Hanami then added. “If I have to be honest, I hope that there is a connection.”

“Why?” Sarada asked.

“Because, if we are then we’ll be compatible enough for an eye transplant.”

Sarada tensed. “Huh?”

“If I gain the Sharingan while being a descendant of the Uzumaki Clan, then I’ll be able to test a theory on awakening the Rinnegan like your father has,” Hanami explained with a smile. “It’s exciting to think about, isn’t it?”

‘…Kurama, is that true?’ he asked. Until now the fox had been silent, observing without commenting. That in itself was worrisome.

Not likely. She’s not a direct transmigration of Father’s children as you and Sasuke Uchiha are,’ Kurama answered. ‘However, given who she has been studying under, the fact that chakra does transmit through genetics to some extent, and the fact that he hasn’t dismissed the theory itself, there’s a very faint possibility. More so if he managed to procure some of Father’s chakra during the War fourteen years ago.’

The implications of what he just heard made his stomach drop. Not because of the fact that those eyes even possibly returning in the hands of a child being raised under Orochimaru possibly spelled very bad things. But because he didn’t want to think that night, thirteen years ago, had been contrived for the sole purpose of making that outcome possible.

Sarada was naturally wary at the prospect, albeit for different reasons. “You want to take my eyes!?”

“Oh, not for good!” Hanami quickly added. “I’d give you mine until I awoke them and then I’d transplant one back. That way we’ll both have one, and there’s the potential for that to pass on as well through two different family lines with a little genetic modification. Though, if the Seventh Hokage has a male child then you could have a child with him as well and they could possibly inherit it.”

“I’m not having a child with Boruto!”

“Well, if you have a brother then I suppose that I could—”

“Are you seriously offering to have a child just because of the potential of their genetics!?”

“I mean, isn’t that better than letting them die out if something happened to us?” Hanami asked. Worse, from her tone she was being sincere. “Our clans are endangered after all, but as long as our genes pass on through our reproductive cells then they can live on. That’s how life works in the end.”

“But having a child means starting a family,” Sarada argued. “It’s not just a matter of genes. There’s something more there. Something precious.”

“Families just people linked by genetic material,” Hanami counterargued. Chakra chains began emerging from arms as she held them out in proof. “It’s an assembly of DNA where strong one’s merge to become even stronger and weak ones die out. You’re a prime example of that, just like I am.”

Naruto… couldn’t listen to this any longer. It was like listening to Kabuto for a second time. He emerged from behind his cover and said otherwise, “That’s not what a family is.”

“Lord Seventh?” Sarada was taken aback. Likely because of her reasoning for coming here in the first place, despite the fact that her mother had been taken. “I…”

Before she could say anything to justify the feelings that had driven her, the computer beeped. The results were in.

“It looks like they aren’t a match after all.” Hanami sounded disappointed as her chains disappeared. Then she perked up. “Then again, if this Shin person has a Sharingan and their tissue won’t reject me, then it should be possible to transplant it that way.”

“H-Hey—” Naruto tried to stop her and explain his point, but she ran past him in the direction they’d came. Towards Orochimaru and the others. “Sarada, go with her. This is a sensitive matter, and I don’t think Sasuke would like the notion of someone transplanting those eyes at all.”

She ran off after her, leaving Naruto alone. He watched her leave before turning back to the machine. He had to know for sure.

So, he went through the motions with the buccal swab, taking out the one that Sarada had used and replaced it with his own. Then he set the analysis to begin. The results…

They were exactly as he expected.

He looked to the photo on the desk and a weight that pressed down on his shoulders. The memory of that night felt like a vice clamping around his heart when he considered everything he’d heard. He needed time to process it all.

But Sakura came first. Reuniting mother and daughter came first. Then, when that was done, he would have words with Karin.

About how she had lied. About how she hid his daughter. About how she let Orochimaru’s thoughts on genetics dictate what her definition of a family was.

He told his own son that to the Hokage, everyone in the village is family.  Because a family was the bond between people, not just history or blood. It was the love between them that dictated who your family was.

Even if she hadn’t been his daughter, the fact that a child wasn’t able to understand that…

It meant that something was very wrong.


Author’s Note: The premise of this… random thing is that sometime before Naruto paired off with Hinata after the whole moon thing (2 years after the war if I remember right), he had a one-time tryst with Karin Uzumaki. However, she never told him that she was pregnant or that she gave birth afterwards. Then, over a decade later, the Sarada Uchiha story arc happens and Naruto runs into Karin’s child.

Fanfic Recommendation 69

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A Lily Blossoms In Kanto 15

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(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 15

Chapter 15: More Bark Than Bite

Glaaaaaaaccccceeeeooonnn!”

A soft inhalation gave way to a broad sweeping gust that stirred the wind, laced with sparkling grains of ice that left the surface of one side of the pond covered in a thin veil of rime. Bringing his exhale to an end with a huff and then sitting on the bridge that split the water in two, Glacian turned to the Alolan Vulpix sitting next to him and extended a sweeping paw towards the frozen surface. “Gla?”

Koko reached down at the prompt with one paw, teetering on the edge of the bridge. She poked at the layer of ice and then bobbed her head before turning around to the other side of the pond, where the ice hadn’t spread. The Alolan Vulpix inhaled deeply until her little chest was puffed out and then let out as strong of an exhale as she could.

Unlike the Bill’s Glaceon, Koko’s attempt remained confined to a relatively narrowed stream of chilled air, glimmering particles of ice threading it as it went straight down the middle of the pond. The layer of ice that it was forming, paper-thin and transparent, ended up sinking beneath the surface as her breath petered out and left her crystalline eyes to fall.

“It was a good try, Koko,” Lillie assured her Starter, crouching down next to her as the Glaceon gave her a small pat on the back. Unaware of the events happening in Alola at present, she instead focused on training with Koko and Shuckle to help them learn their new moves for the impending Doubles match. In Koko’s case, she was attempting to learn how to use Icy Wind.

Rotom, who was currently floating around Shuckle as he tried to get the hang of Protect, explained that the technique was a natural expansion of Koko’s Powder Snow technique. Rather than breathing out a steady stream of cold air, she would be able to exhale it out over a wider area while maintaining the same level of power. Because it wasn’t as concentrated in a narrowed area, the technique would never really be able to freeze an actively moving Pokémon like Powder Snow could, but the accumulating cold slowed them down and made them more lethargic.

Koko would learn how to do it naturally as she continued to battle, since Pokémon grew stronger due how fast their bodies adapted to match the amount of trials and experience they went through until they reached a limit. That was what AJ meant by training his Pokémon through exposing them to their weakness.  But Professor Kukui had once told her that Pokémon had the potential to use a lot of different techniques to surpass those limitations if they met the requirements and pushed themselves hard enough—whether through Technical Machines or guidance in the form of training with Move Tutors.

Even so, while it was possible to teach her how to use Icy Wind prematurely by using Glacian as a Move Tutor, Glaceon as a species were naturally capable of using Icy Wind from the moment they evolved. While he could try to show Koko firsthand, there were still gaps to fill in. The best they could hope for was, with enough practice, her body would adapt to using it since it was a natural extension of her present abilities.

The problem was the fact that, among her many lovely traits, Koko was naturally energetic and eager—hasty, in other words. She didn’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time and she wanted to grasp it quickly. So, with every failure, she became more disheartened and upset, which was something Lillie hated to see.

Lillie gently brushed Koko’s head to try and alleviate some of that sadness. “I’m sure you’ll get it soon if you keep practicing.”

CRACK!!

It was then an audible shattering sound caught their ears and drew their attention further away. At the base of the slope leading to the Berry Trees, Shuckle sat with a slight frown as he shook his head while Lusamine’s Clefable stood next to him with a hand extended, the protective shield woven from Protect covering her frontside. Surrounding them were Razor Leaf that Viri had launched, slowly breaking apart on the ground.

The time length sustained was 1.4 seconds under fire from the Razor Leaf, zzrt! Rotom stated as Clefable dropped the Protect, pointing his appendage to his screen where an hourglass was shifting digital sand from top to bottom inside of a progress ring. Prepare for the next attempt in thirty seconds, zzt.

Clefable nodded before she turned to Shuckle and made a circular motion while speaking. “Clefa. Clefable. Fable?”

Shuckle bobbed his head before bracing himself in front of Viri. His beady eyes narrowed, and his mouth pursed in concentration as he moved his head in a small circle while he gathered the energy needed for Protect. It crystalized slowly, forming a half-dome over the front of his body with ragged, uneven edges.

Clefable then held out her hand and the glass-like shield formed in front of her as the last grains of sand in Rotom’s display hit the bottom and a ‘ding’ sounded, signaling the Leafeon to unleash another barrage of Razor Leaf by whipping her tail around. The leaves smashed against the pair of protective shields, the difference in their strength being evident in how Shuckle’s began cracking like glasswork under pressure, leaving him to turtle within his shell to avoid any real damage when it broke, while Clefable’s remained unblemished until the attack ceased once more.

The time length zzzzustained this time was 2.7 seconds! Rotom commented.  The next attempt will be in thirty seco—

Shuckle popped his head out of his shell to shake it. “Kle. Shuckle.”

Oh, you’ve run out of energy to do so? Shuckle bobbed his head. Too bad, zzt. You’ve made excellent progress since this morning by my records!

Lillie watched as Clefable gave the Mold Pokémon a warmhearted pat on the head with a slight smile. She presumed that because Shuckle as a species were naturally defensive he could make strides on learning the technique. Then she heard Koko’s whimpering and turned back to see the Alolan Vulpix looking downcast in comparison at her own lack of progress, due to her lack of strength more than her nature.

“Why don’t we take a break?” Lillie suggested. “You must be tired too after trying so hard.”

Glacian watched for a moment as Koko began to trod off the bridge towards the house, a disappointing frown on her face. Then he put on a mischievous smile and then darted after her, cutting her off. “Gla-gla!”

Koko tilted her head. “Vul?”

“Ceon!” He pointed over to towards the woodlands and then made a jumping motion. “Glaceon!”

Koko perked up at that and then turned to Lillie. “Pix?”

“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Lillie said before turning to Rotom, who was floating over from where Shuckle and Clefable were. “Rotom, can you translate?”

Rotom did so. She wants to go to a flower field within the forest that Glacian knows about, zzt.

It must be to cheer her up, Lillie figured before giving Koko a bright smile and nod. “Sure. We’ll go for a walk.”

She then turned to her mother’s Clefable and Shuckle. “Clefable, Shuckle, will you come with us for a walk?”

The Fairy Pokémon nodded to the offer, whereas Shuckle shook his head and then withdrew into his shell to take a nap.

So, the four of them went off to find the field, led by the Fresh Snow Pokémon. Glacian darted through the forest with a practiced stride, quickly getting ahead of Koko and then turning around to sit in place, baiting her to catch up with him. Koko tried her best, racing towards him only to lunge when he was within range. She would then end up missing as the Glaceon dodged at the last moment and then continued running ahead.

Lillie, Rotom, and Clefable followed, with the young trainer observing how the frustration that Koko had been suffering from seemed to melt away as she gave chase after the Fresh Snow Pokémon. She made another lunge when they neared a tree that had a Pineco above, observing them playing rather passively as she missed and landed by a bush.

“Koko looks like she’s having fun now,” Lillie said. “I’m glad.”

The Fairy Pokémon nodded in response. “Cleffa. Clef, Clefable.”

He makes a good playmate for her, zzzt. Rotom translated until the shuffling of the nearby bush drew Koko’s attention, leaving her to freeze in place.

“Vul?” Her nose twitched, and she tilted her head as she took slow steps towards the bush even as Glacian looked on in confusion. Then a pink figure burst out of the bush with a bark, leaving her to jump back with her hackles raised in defense.

It was a Snubbull. The second Fairy Pokémon eyed them warily for a moment before sneezing hard enough that it fell backwards and onto its rear, leaving it to try to brush its nose with its forepaws. “Snnnn…”

“That’s strange. Snubbull aren’t native to the north of Cerulean…” It clicked as she noticed all of the scratches that spoke of battle on it, contradictory to their usually passive nature. “Oh, are you the Snubbull from Miss Melanie’s place?”

He didn’t answer her, instead pressing his nose to the ground and rubbing it against the grass and dirt to the confusion of Koko and the others. Lillie recalled that Snubbull as a whole had quite keen noses, so chances were that something was bothering his sense of smell. She made to go over to him when she noticed the Pineco above now looking somewhat wary of having a trainer and so many non-native species around it, and then decided otherwise. “Snubbull, come here and I’ll look at your nose. There’s something in it bothering you, isn’t there?”

Snubb…” He lightly grumbled as he waddled over and away from the Pineco hanging overhead.

Lillie gently patted his head as she crouched down and took a look at his black, short nose. She noticed there was some kind of glimmering orange powder, a small amount but still present. Given the local Pokémon, she could hazard a guess. “Did you breathe in some Stun Spore earlier?”

“Bull,” he answered with a nod.

“A Cheri Berry would help you clear it out due to the spiciness, but I don’t have one on me. But I do have my Refresh Kit.” She pulled him onto her lap and reached for her waist pack that was the travel-standard Pokémon Refresh Kit, which she had in case her Pokémon got messy or wet during training, pulling out the medicinal sprayer and towel. She also pulled out a bottle of Fresh Water she’d placed inside of it as well. “This is going to be a little unpleasant, but you’ll feel better when I’m done.”

“Snn?” The warning was followed by a light spritz of the medicine that got into his nose, causing him to flail around. “Snubbull!!”

“Just let me flush it out and then your nose will be good as new.” Lillie stroked his head to soothe him until he settled down, only to then lightly pour a cap full of water into his nostrils. He ended up sneezing a lot more onto the ground next to her until she rubbed the towel over his nose gently. “How does that feel?”

Snubbull rubbed his face with his forepaws, cutely shifting the excess skin around before he sniffed the air and barked. He then wriggled in her grasp to get free, immediately sniffing the ground and barely paying Lillie any mind when she let go. The moment he caught whatever scent it was that he was looking for, he took off to go chasing after it. “Snubb!!

“And there he goes,” Lillie said with a sigh as she put the kit away and cleaned up. “Miss Melanie mentioned that he picked fights with others, but I hope he won’t get into anything serious before he gets healed up—”

BANG!!

Her words were cut short as a small explosion went off overhead and she noticed two figures drop down. The Pineco proceeded to bounce away on the ground, its body singed as it left charred pieces of bark it had glued to itself behind. The Living Pokédex, on the other hand, was lying face down and smoldering with thin wisps of acrid smoke.

“Rotom, did you take its picture up-close without permission?” Lillie asked as Glacian prodded the casing until the red appendage made to brush him away.

I just wanted to add its data, zzztt… Fortunately, Rotom’s Pokédex was made to be rather tough. It managed to fly back up under its own power and took shelter within her hood once more.

At least Rotom will learn to keep its distance now, Lillie thought to herself before turning back in the direction that Snubbull ran off towards for a moment. Try not to get into trouble either, Snubbull.

Then she proceeded to follow after the two Ice-types once more.

A good walk later, Glacian finally led them past a break in the trees around the north of the forest. It placed them in a meadow that had thick trees to the east and south. Combined with the mountainside to the north, it formed an isolated the field where flowers stretched out a good distance to the west beneath the azure sky above.

Oh wow.” Lillie was amazed as she took in the sight of everything. Because of the flowers and their aroma the meadow naturally attracted a variety of Pokémon, not unlike the meadows on Melemele Island. She could see fully-evolved Butterfree circling low to the ground to feed off the nectar of the flowers, one even passing by an Abra that laid slumbering amidst them. There was even a Slakoth that was perched in the tree next to them and slowly munching on a leaf.

It took Koko pressing against her leg to snap her out of the sight. “Vull?”

“Sure, you can go play for about an hour. Just don’t bother any Wild Pokémon since we didn’t come to battle,” Lillie told Koko as she felt Rotom stir in her hood. She grabbed it before it could fly off, leaving the Alolan Vulpix to run into the flowers with Glacian. “The same goes for you, Rotom. Keep your distance this time.”

Understood, zzt.

She released it with the promise and it flew off to collect data, starting with the Slakoth that didn’t pay it mind while continuing to nibble on the leaf in its mouth with the speed of a glacier, when her Pokégear rang. Lillie expected it to be her mother, calling to check up on her. But, to her surprise, the ID registered the call coming from Astra.

When she answered the call, the screen popped up to show Astra on it, “Hi Astra. How have you been?”

Jet and Blysen and me challenged Miss Karen’s Gym!” she answered with an excited smile.

“Already?” Lillie watched as Clefable bounced over into the flower field and towards a Butterfree. Unlike Rotom or Koko, she wasn’t the type to cause problems, so Lillie was sure she’d be fine. “Did you win?”

Nope!” Astra said with a far more cheerful tone than one would expect. “It turns out Dark-types are immune to Jet’s Torment because of his Ability and Blysen got really scared, so I’m going to catch some new friends before I try again. What about you?

“I’m taking a break from training with Koko.” Said Alolan Vulpix was playing tag with Glacian again, the two rolling around over one another in the bed of flowers. “She and Shuckle have been working on learning some new techniques, so we can beat the Nugget Bridge challenge.”

That sounds fun—oh, that reminds me! Auntie Ann sent me a video of the Alola Championship match since she’s gone there for business, and near the end the guy with the open shirt called out this really pretty Ninetails. Will Koko evolve into that too?

“Yes. Once she’s grown out all of her tails, I’ll let her evolve if she wants to.” It would be something that she couldn’t take back afterwards, so it was ultimately Koko’s decision. But it was better if Koko had the chance to finish growing as a Vulpix first, rather than prematurely evolving for the sake of power.

Hey, don’t eat that, Jet! That’s Grandpa’s Ghost Gem!” Astra abruptly said over the line, suddenly shaking the phone as she reached off-screen for something. It was followed by some disgruntled Sableye noises when she pulled back and had a jewel in her hand. “Geez, I’ll pick you up a snack in along the way, so just wait a little bit.

Lillie couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “Are you heading out now?”

Yeah. We’re going to head down Route 10 now. Wish us luck.”

She did. “Good luck. I hope you make a new friend.”

And I hope you can beat your challenge soon, cause when we meet again we’ll have our first badge. Bye, bye!Click.

“Sounds like she’s been keeping busy too,” Lillie said as the line went dead and the screen went black, leaving her to close her Pokégear as her mother’s Clefable returned with a crown of flowers.

The Fairy Pokémon set the ring around her head and smiled. “Faaable.”

“Thank you.” Lillie reached up to feel the crown, brushing her fingers against the stamens to see if she would have to wash her hair later to get rid of the pollen. There was none to be found. “Oh, did you have the Butterfree clean them first?”

Clefable nodded before making a compressed motion with her hands and then pointing to herself.

“You have an egg…no, I think Mother would have mentioned that.” Lillie took a moment to try and grasp the meaning since Rotom was still elsewhere. She had known her since she was a Cleffa, so she could vaguely understand the gestures…oh, right. “When you were a Cleffa, I made one for you, didn’t I?”

The Fairy Pokémon clapped her hands at that. It was indeed the correct answer. “Clefable!”

“That’s back when we were both little, just before we found Nebby.” She brought her hands together horizontally until she had what she felt was about the right height. “You were so tiny that you’d fit right between my hands. Now you’re as big as I am.”

Clefable rubbed the back of her head with a small smile, as if proud and embarrassed at the same time. “Clef, clef.”

“How did Mother find you again?” Lille placed a finger in her chin as she looked to the sky and thought. “She said that she found you on the mountain one night, didn’t she?”

The Fairy Pokémon brought her finger tips together and then broke them apart to make a half-circle before reconnecting them. Then she pointed to the sky and then made downwards motion to the ground.

“Right, she said you fell down from the moon and into her arms.” It sounded a bit silly now that she was older, but there was a lot of things that they didn’t know about her species at that point. Like being able to store moonlight to float, or their attraction to star-shaped things. Most likely she clung to a Minior and ended up falling as it flew up. “You haven’t seen too many others like yourself aside from Mister Bill’s Clefairy, have you?”

She shook her head. “Faa.”

“Well, from what I’ve heard, Mt. Moon has a Clefairy colony somewhere inside of it,” Lillie said. “Of course, we’d still have to find them. But I think it’d be lovely if you got to meet them at some point. Don’t you?”

Clefable seemed delighted at the prospect, which made Lillie glad. She had been working so hard in looking after Lusamine in her time of need, so anything that would brighten her up was worth doing. But there was the question of if her Mother could even make the trip before whatever Mister Bill did to help her was done.

When she’d talked to him after getting back to his home yesterday, he mentioned he’d need some kind of device from Saffron City. He tried to explain how it would help him get a better read on her body, but the explanation went a bit over her head. She knew a lot of things about Pokémon, but hard science was still something of a mystery to her.

Lillie then stretched her arms out and turned back to watch Koko playing around and Rotom flying about. She’d let them enjoy themselves until the hour was up before heading back.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Separated from the rest of its horde, a Bellsprout had found a spot that seemed appropriate and buried its roots into the ground to drink the moisture while waiting for a Combee to pass by. It didn’t know Sweet Scent to lure one in, but the scent it naturally gave off was still capable of allowing it to pass as a flower if it stood still. And, if one didn’t come by, the sun was out so photosynthesis could fuel it for the day if it didn’t move so much.

Then it heard the shaking of leaves. The rustle of the green as something went through the bushes. Too loud to be one Tiny Bee Pokémon, but not one of the other pollinators. It remained motionless with one beady eye fixed on the shaking bush to see what it was that would emerge.

Snubbull!” barked the Fairy Pokémon as he popped out. Aggressive and hostile. He growled on all fours, excess skin quivering as he stalked forward.

The Bellsprout waved its leaves to express non-hostility as it began to pull its roots up. It didn’t want trouble. But the Snubbull lunged forward and the Flower Pokémon panicked and attacked. “Be-Bellell!”

The sinuous vines that sprouted from tiny buds between its leaves and leathery stalk of a body lashed out, only to miss as Snubbull jumped to the side. The vines cracked down where he had been and were then caught as he darted back in to snap down on the vines with his teeth.

“Sprout!!” cried the Flower Pokémon as the pain transmitted and it tried to retract the vines back to end the pain. They took time to heal and even longer to regrow if cut, which was a problem since they were the primary way it gathered food among other things. Snubbull waited until they were taut, making it a tug of war between them until he suddenly darted forward with the vines in his mouth and then went past the Bellsprout, dragging it along the ground as he ran in circles. “Sprout! Sprout!”

Snnn—” Snubbull kept running despite its pleas until he neared a tree, whereupon he spun around hard and fast, allowing the momentum to slam the Bellsprout into the hardy bark. He then spat out the vines before lunging forward and Tackling its supple body while it was pinned against the tree. “—bull!”

Spr…out…” Its body buckled under the hit, leaving it to collapse on the ground and twitch in pain as Snubbull hopped back for some distance. Rising up slightly, until the curves of its split stalk touched the ground and its leaves were supporting its weight, it shot out an Acid Spray from its bell in an act of desperation.

The Fairy Pokémon jumped back to escape from the small ball of sludge before it could touch him. His nose then scrunched up as the acid began to froth where it hit the ground, the scent of it breaking down the grass rankling him. He cursed his excellent sense of smell and then he looked up to see that the Bellsprout had started running away and gave chase. “Snubbull!!”

“Bellsprout! Bellsprout!” The panicked cries of the Flower Pokémon could be heard as its fibrous feet darted across the woodlands, leaves shaking in terror as it fled from the terror that stalked it as it tried to get back to its horde. Surely they would protect it.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Beep-beep! Beep-beep!

The beeping of Lillie’s Pokégear’s Alarm App signaled the passing of an hour. It was time for them to head back to Mister Bill’s house for Lunch. Lillie rose to her seat on the grass next to Clefable and stretched out before brushing away any stray blades of grass.

“Koko, Rotom, Glacian! It’s time to head back!”  The Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon both came running at her beckoning. Lillie crouched down and brushed Koko’s head affectionately as Rotom slipped back into her hood. “Did you have fun?”

“Vul!”

“Good then let’s head back so we can all have Lunch.”

“Glae! Glae!” Glacian hopped forward and turned once, his tail flicking before he started running ahead of them. Koko yipped and then gave chase, wanting to continue their game until they got back.

Lillie and Clefable followed them on their way back until both Koko and Glacian abruptly stopped at a turn that would have taken them back towards Bill’s home, instead turning their heads off to the side in a southwest direction. “What’s wrong?”

Vul…vul…” Koko took a few cautious steps with her head raised before pointing in that direction. “Vulpix! Vulpix!”

Koko said she heard Snubbull’s cry in that direction, zzt. Rotom translated.

“His cry?” Lillie tried to listen for him, but it was no good. Her sense of hearing wasn’t nearly as good as Koko’s or Glacian’s. In the end, she was only human. “Is he in trouble again?”

Glacian sniffed the ground as he walked further ahead and then gestured for Rotom to look at it. The Living Pokédex hovered over a spot. Tracks identified, zzt. These tracks indicate many Bellsprouts have traveled recently in this direction, zzrt.

Hmm…” Lillie brought a hand up to her chin in thought. “You don’t think he would have picked a fight with an entire group of Bellsprouts, do you?”

Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive and he had Stun Spore in his nose before. That was a technique stronger Bellsprouts learned, along with a few other Pokémon. But, short of Butterfree, most of those Pokémon were nocturnal.

“Now I’m getting worried about him,” Lillie admitted. It was probably nothing, but if he got himself into trouble because she had helped him clear his nose then that would be her fault. “Let’s see if we can find him to make sure he isn’t getting in over his head.”

She followed Koko and Glacian as they guided her, feeling some anxiety at the situation. That feeling only doubled when she got close enough to see a Bellsprout pushing its way out of a bush that was nestled between two thick trees, tripping over its own feet and then using its leafy appendages to cover its head in fear. Lillie came to a stop at the bush and crouched down to check on it. “Are you okay?”

Sp-Sprout. Sprout.” It said, leaving Rotom to translate it as apologizing for bringing it there.

Snubbull!!” they heard past the trees and bushes. It was followed by the sound of fire popping and a pained cry from another Bellsprout that got swallowed up by an explosion, leaving the scent of smoke to reach their noses.

Lillie stood again and pushed her way through the bush, leading into what amounted to a small clearing with several Bellsprouts. Some of them were already unconscious on the ground, some that had burns on them. There were still seven left standing though.

Snubbull snarled before making a terrifying face that seemed almost like something out of a nightmare, darkness seemingly warping it and his eyes folded like he was rabid. Fear struck the instinctive part of several of the Bellsprouts, leaving them frozen in place. Then he darted towards one that was apart from the group, bearing his fangs with the intention of attacking them.

The targeted Flower Pokémon swallowed its fear to let out an Acid Spray, coughing out a ball of corrosive sludge. But he dodged it with a hop to the side and then hit it with a Tackle, the momentum bowling the lithe Pokémon down and leaving it open for the fangs that had a dark tint that followed as he then used Bite to clamp down onto it.

“Sppprroouutttttt!” The pained cry that slipped out was stretched and grew tighter as he then spun it around and tossed the poor thing into the semi-frozen group. Six left.

The Fairy Pokémon then charged for another one that tried to use a Vine Whip, only for fire to sudden flare from Snubbull’s mouth and then wreathed it. The Fire Fang burned the vines, causing the sinuous appendages to retreat and the Flower Pokémon to try fleeing instead. Turning its back on Snubbull left it open as he lunged and then clamped down, causing the separate flames that wreathed the top and bottom of his mouth to smash together and then rupture in an explosion of smoke and embers.

This is horrible, Lillie thought to herself as she watched Fairy Pokémon toss the beaten and burned Flower Pokémon that dangled from his mouth away and then fell on all fours to bark at the remaining five. No matter how she looked at it, Snubbull was the aggressor here. Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive, and that he’d pick fight with trainers before running away, but I didn’t think he was this aggressive to wild Pokémon. Not with how playful he had been yesterday.

Bell! Bell!” the Flower Pokémon in the center shouted, pointing his leaves in the opposite directions. The others began to spread out, their dark eyes never leaving Snubbull even as they split apart and forced him to look between them. Then one on the right stepped forward and released a Vine Whip, sending it right for Snubbull.

The Fairy Pokémon jumped out of the way of that one, only to get caught in the back by one that lashed out and wrapped around his waist, pulling him back even as he braced himself. He then turned around and lunged in that direction as flames shrouded his mouth for a Fire Fang again. That’s when the one he’d been targeting before released its vines to wrap around his torso, pulling him in the opposite direction to hold him still in the air and unable to bite down.

“Sprout!” ordered the leader Bellsprout, pointing to the ground in front of them. They promptly slammed Snubbull into the grass headfirst, snuffing the flames around his mouth, and the other two then proceeded to fire Acid Spray directly onto him while he couldn’t fight back.

BUUUUUULLLLLL!!!” Snubbull screamed out in a cry that sent a chill up Lillie’s spine as she watched his skin began to smolder. He struggled to get free to no avail as the leader Bellsprout raised his arm and they fired a second volley. “SNUUUBBBUULLLL!!!

“Stop it!” Lillie said, drawing their attention to her as she walked closer before they could fire a third time. Koko and Glacian were immediately in front of her, while Clefable was right behind her. In the face of the additional threats, they stopped to assess the situation and so Lillie tried to reason with them. “That’s enough. He’s beaten!”

“Sprout! Bellsprout!” the leader said in response, pointing to the fallen Bellsprouts that were injured and unconsciousness. “Bellell!”

Rotom translated. Snubbull apparently attacked them when they had done nothing, zzt.

Bu…bulll…” Snubbull muttered weakly, trembling as the acid continued nipping at his flesh. Poison hurt more than anything for a Fairy-type, and that was a corrosive acid that softened the flesh. Pokémon could handle a lot of damage, but too much of it was still harmful enough to be lethal.

Knowing that, even if he was the aggressor, she couldn’t let that keep up. “Then I’ll take him and make sure he won’t come back. Just don’t hurt him anymore.”

Pushing past the bushes, the cowering Bellsprout from before came in. It walked to them, gesturing to Snubbull and then her. “Sp-sprout. Bellsprout. Bell?”

Yes. That would work best for everyone. Right, zzrt? Rotom translated.

“Sprout!” The leader sent a vine out that wrapped around the Bellsprout and then tossed it out of the way. “Bellsprout! Bellell!”

Lillie didn’t need the translation to know it was telling the other Flower Pokémon to be silent, but learning that, apparently, he led Snubbull here did explain why the Bellsprout was apologizing afterwards. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to figure out the chain of events before the leader of the Bellsprout Horde turned back to Snubbull and drew his head back.

He was going to attack again and, given that wild Pokémon tended to be a lot more brutal when dealing with a threat than trained Pokémon, Snubbull wouldn’t get out of it without serious injuries… or worse. She had to act. So she pointed to the leader and gave the command, “Koko! Powder Snow!”

The Alolan Vulpix obeyed. A chilling gust that flowed forward hit the leader Bellsprout head-on, leaving it to writhe as the ice particles left the leathery texture of his stem covered in frost. It bowled over, shivering, and the other Flower Pokémon looked onto them with hostility.

“Th-That was a warning,” Lillie said, feeling both guilt and nervousness as they fixed their eyes onto her. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and you’ve already got wounded Pokémon within your care. So please, let us take Snubbull or… or else!”

S-S-Spr-Sprout,” the leader murmured, glaring at her as only a Bellsprout could. The ones holding Snubbull down then released their hold and instead went to grab their fallen kin. Then they began to leave, eyes fixed onto Lillie’s group in fear and anger alike. Once they were safely behind the leader and the two flanking it, the leader then pointed a final time to the cowardly Bellsprout and said, “Bellsprout! Sprout!”

She didn’t need Rotom to translate that either as the remaining Flower Pokémon was left behind. She could tell by the way he collapsed in place and then began to cry that he’d been kicked out of his horde, either for bringing the trouble to them or trying to interfere. Lillie couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor thing, even as she looked down at Snubbull.

He was still breathing, but he’d lost consciousness. This… was partly her fault for helping Snubbull earlier. He wouldn’t have run off if she hadn’t cleaned his nose, and then this wouldn’t have happened. It honestly felt like she was bullying them for defending themselves, but she couldn’t visit Miss Melanie again and say that she let it happen either.

She pulled out her towel and gently picked him up, since the acid had lost most of its caustic properties now. But he still needed to have it washed out and him healed. She then turned to the exiled Bellsprout. “Will you come with us? You’re hurt too, and I want to know what happened here.”

His dark eyes glistened as he brought one leafy appendage up to wipe the tears away. Then he nodded. “Sprout.”

The six then headed back to Mister Bill’s home.

 [-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Snubbull shifted as his consciousness surfaced from the depths of unconsciousness. The scents that reached his nose were mostly artificial, human-made surroundings with a spattering of other scents that belonged to more Pokémon. The shelter? He sat up and looked around to find that wasn’t the case.

He was in a bedroom, laying on a pillow on top of a bed. The scent of the foreign Fox Pokémon, with the nice-smelling female trainer’s scent, were all over the bed’s sheets. But he also noticed that their scents were woven with another one and brought his tiny arms to his nose to find that it clung to his own skin—soap, like the one the female caretaker covered him with before the… unpleasantness.

Snubbull huffed. He hated baths.

His ear flaps twitched as he caught the sounds coming from the window and he waddled over to the windowsill to watch the scene below. The female trainer was having the fox practice with breathing out cold air over the water. The sun was on the verge of going down too, meaning he had slept for more than six hours.

The Fairy Pokémon turned and leapt down from the windowsill to the floor, making his way to the door. It was cracked so he could open it wide with enough effort, allowing him to walk out of the room and into the hallway. More Pokémon scents could be smelled coming from above, but he ignored them to head down the stairs to get outside, where two more humans were talking.

“Still no luck in finding a breeder with the Pokémon you were looking for?” asked the human male as Snubbull peered around the corner and into the kitchen. He looked scrawny with brown hair and held some kind of tablet.

“Not in the Kanto region, at least,” answered a human female that looked like an older version of the nice-smelling trainer, sitting at a table with a mug. From the scent Snubbull presumed it to be hot leaf juice—the kind that the human child once tried to make him drink. “I had hoped one of them at least had an Egg, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.”

“Well, once the Global Trade Network is back online you may be able to find one from a breeder in a different region. Sinnoh has colder weather naturally due to being higher north, but Hoenn has more tropical weather due to being closer to the equator. I know a few reputable ones in each region that I can ask.”

“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”

“Still, I have to say I’m impressed by the strides your organization has made in exploring Ultra Space. Being able to travel the space between a network of dimensions is one avenue I haven’t explored before.”

“My husband was the one who pioneered the study of it. We were simply the ones who followed in his footsteps along with the conservation—”

Once it was clear the humans weren’t going to say anything interesting to him, Snubbull decided to continue onwards. He quickly darted for the door and then went through the hole at the bottom that had a flap, allowing him to get outside at last, where he noticed the scent of the poisonous flowers that had attacked him. One was close, but before he could sniff it out for revenge the ice fox gave away his presence to the female trainer.

She turned and came over, crouching down. He noticed she smelled of the Flower Pokémon as well. “Snubbull, are you feeling better now?”

He nodded.  “Bull.”

“Thank goodness. I was worried when you wouldn’t wake up even after we used Mister Bill’s healing machine, but he said that you must’ve been tired on top of hurt. You didn’t get any sleep since I left Miss Melanie’s place, did you?”

He huffed. Sleep was for the weak. He was strong, not tired. He could stay up all night, no matter what his pack-mother said.

Of course, that didn’t stop his blasted instincts from leaving him relishing when she gently caressed his head. A pleased grumble bubbled up in this throat before he realized it and he was leaning into the touch. Once he caught himself, he broke away and turned towards the woods again. The sun was going down, meaning there were others to hunt and do battle with to become even stronger. He fell on all fours to begin—

“Ah, wait!”

—when he was promptly picked up as the female trainer stood, leaving him an uncomfortable distance off the ground. He demanded his release, flailing his arms and legs. “Snubbull!”

“If I let you down, will you go back to picking fights with wild Pokémon again?” she asked.

“Bull,” he admitted without shame. That was how one became stronger. The weak will become prey to be beaten up so that he could become big and powerful, with mighty fangs that could crush boulders.

“Miss Melanie told me you picked fights with other Trainers and then run away,” she said. “And you were previously owned before, yet you’re running around north of Cerulean when your pack should be south. Is there a reason you’re going around fighting so much?”

It izzz peculiar to see a Snubbull with such an aggressive demeanor, the flying machine said. Normally, they are playful, if not somewhat timid, zzzrt.

Snubbull!” Snubbull barked vehemently at that, snapping his jaws at the flying machine. How dare it compare him to those weaklings, content to be pampered and lay around! Not him. He was a warrior, he needed challenge, not the luxury of a pack.

That was why he departed on his journey to become a mighty Pokémon… only to get caught by a human child, who then tried to make him a house pet that was dressed up like a toy and made to wear accessories. The shame of it still burned him to this day.

That was why, once he had his freedom, he vowed to become stronger on his own. No matter the costs or risks. For he was the mightiest of all Snubbull, and all would know of it!

“Oh, I see,” the female trainer said after the flying machine translated his tirade. “Most Snubbull are passive, so they make for good companions for non-trainers. Same with the Meowths that can be found there too. And, since they’re being taken care of, they don’t have to worry about things like gathering food or defending their territory. But you don’t want that kind of life, do you?”

He nodded enthusiastically. Finally, someone who understood.

“But, you know, you probably won’t be able to become known as the mightiest since most wild Pokémon don’t fight for sport,” she added. “Not to mention, trained Pokémon are taught to work within rules of engagement, whereas wild Pokémon fight to drive off a threat. I’m sure your parents probably told you not to go to certain places as well once you hatched, so that you didn’t enter their territory, right?”

Admittedly, his pack-mother had. Hence why he stayed away after attaining his freedom from the human child who’d trapped him in that boring life before. Totally not because he ran away stating he would become great and didn’t want them to see him before he managed to prove his point.

“Well, since you told me about you, can I tell you a bit about me now?” she asked.

He nodded. It was only fair that he gave the nice-smelling trainer some of his time since she did help him. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine on his own once he got free.

“In the past, I watched someone I love dearly try their hardest to get something precious to them. But the way they were doing it was dangerous and reckless, among other things. I knew that, but I was too scared to say or do anything to stop them. And because of that, I nearly lost them forever if not for a dear friend. I don’t want to do nothing as I watch that happen again, which is why I have to say that you can’t keep doing this, Snubbull.”

A low rumble bubbled up in his throat. “Snnn…”

“That said, I actually admire you, Snubbull,” she continued, causing his ears to perk. “Seeing a Pokémon like you doing your best and being brave is really inspiring, so it would make both me and Miss Melanie sad too if something bad happened to you. That’s why I want to take responsibility for you and make it so that you can reach your dream safely. So, I’m challenging you to a battle.”

He blinked, tilting his head. “Bull?”

She nodded, her ponytail bobbing. “That’s right, a battle. One-on-one. And, if I win, I’ll become your trainer and bring you along with me on my Gym Challenge.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Lillie watched as the Fairy Pokémon considered her offer. From what she could tell due to their little talk, Snubbull was a bit on the younger side—probably a few seasons older than Koko. He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his actions and seemed to go headfirst into whatever challenged him, so she didn’t think he would reject her offer outright since it involved a battle. That meant she had to decide which Pokémon to use.

Koko was a little tired from training, not to mention Fire Fang would hurt her a lot if it connected. Like AJ had said, Vulpix were fragile on the defensive side of the things. And, while Koko could probably outpace Snubbull, he was even more aggressive than her judging by that battle earlier so if he caught her it’d end badly.

Better not to risk it, she decided as Snubbull began wiggling his arms around and made cute, inquiring noises.

He’s asking what’s in it for him? Rotom translated.

Lillie counted off the benefits. “Well, you’ll get to travel. You’ll get to face off against a bunch of different Pokémon to improve yourself in a relatively safer manner. Not to mention Gyms have stronger opponents for you to face, and if we beat all eight then we can challenge the Elite Four, who have the strongest Pokémon in the region. If you beat them, then that means you’re one the strongest Pokémon in the entire region and everyone around the world will know it.”

A low rumble slipped out of his throat and his eyes grew distant as he pondered it over, the visions likely playing out in his head as a fantasy. Then he shook his head and made more Snubbull sounds that Rotom translated. He wanted to know what he’d get when he won instead.

He’s like a child who believes he’s invincible, Lillie figured. It did much to explain his personality though, and it was good to be enthusiastic. Even so, it only solidified her resolve that he needed someone who could help him direct that enthusiasm in a more positive direction.

“What about all the Pokéblocks you can eat?” she offered. “I’ll be visiting Cerulean tomorrow to make some, so I can make whatever kind you want to take with you then, while tonight you can have dinner with us.”

He made a huffing noise, as if that was nearly enough for his compliance. But then his stomach grumbled loudly enough that even Lillie could hear it, leaving him to stiffen up and then look away in embarrassment. “Sn.”

Lillie couldn’t help but giggle a bit. “So, can I take that as an okay?”

He awkwardly nodded, so she let him down. Snubbull then ran to the path opposite the bridge, fell onto all fours and barked. “Snub!!”

“Koko, this is Shuckle’s battle,” Lillie said when she noticed Koko getting ready to fight. The Alolan Vulpix seemed reluctant but sat down as Lillie pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it out. Light took the form of the Mold Pokémon as he landed opposite of Snubbull. “Shuckle, do your best!”

Shuckle turned and nodded his head before turning back to face the Fairy Pokémon and see that he was already rushing for him.

Snubbull used Tackle!

“Hey, we didn’t say to start yet!!” Lillie shouted as Snubbull lunged, only for Shuckle to Withdraw into his shell reflexively, leaving him to only roll back a bit without being seriously hurt. “Shuckle, use Constrict!”

The Mold Pokémon stuck his head out, frowning, and then thrust out two of his appendages to grab the Fairy Pokémon. Snubbull jumped to the side to avoid one and then exposed his teeth that had a dark-tint to Bite down into the other, causing Shuckle to flinch. “Kle!?

Snnn—” Snubbull snarled as he tried to pull Shuckle along like he had the Bellsprouts, only for Shuckle to anchor himself to the ground with his other gooey limbs. Between that and the weight of his shell, he tugged to no avail until Shuckle went for him with the other appendage and forced him to let go or be caught.

“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked. The Mold Pokémon’s waved his bitten appendage slightly to see if it was severely harmed before nodding his head, keeping his beady eyes on Snubbull. No more ambushes this time. “Okay, then let’s try pinning him down from a distance!”

Shuckle used Sticky Web!

Shuckle’s mouth shifted as it bundled its saliva, turned it into bug adhesive, and then spat it out towards the Fairy Pokémon. The glob expanded only to miss as Snubbull darted to the side, leaving it to cling to the ground as a net that would ensnare whatever was caught on it until it dissolved organically or was removed. He got ready to spit again when—

Snubbull used Scary Face!

—a terrifying face was put onto display, draped in shadows and glowing eyes that seemed to stare into the dark pit that were Shuckle’s. It caused him to tense, involuntarily swallowing his bug glue in order to Withdraw back into his shell. That allowed Snubbull to run in with embers licking at the sides of his mouth.

“Shuckle, use Bide!” Lillie ordered. A red hue began to shroud his shell as the embers around Snubbull’s mouth blossomed into flames that wreathed his mouth. Then she could only watch as he lunged for the Mold Pokémon and brought the flaming fangs down!

Snubbull used Fire Fang!

The resulting explosion when the two halves of the flames met each other didn’t do much. His shell was among the strongest natural one a Pokémon could have after all. But the wave of heat still left Shuckle to cry out in discomfort from within his shell as the red energy thickened.

Shuckle is storing energy!

Snubbull jumped back, exhaling embers before more began to wreath his mouth for another attack. Then he lunged again, allowing the second Fire Fang to be let loose ruthlessly. “Bull!!

A Critical Hit!

The flaming jaws slammed down with the glowing shell in between. The explosion was head-on and at its strongest, allowing the force and heat transferring through the shell to hurt. “K-Kle…!

Then the Fairy Pokémon to leapt back to form a third Fire Fang, the flames smoldering beneath his eyes as he was intent on breaking through Shuckle’s defenses with overwhelming force. He lunged for Shuckle once more—

Shuckle unleashed the stored energy!

—when all that pent-up pain and fury was converted to power and then released in the form of a single mighty blow. Shuckle struck out with his right appendage that was launched once more from his shell like a cannon. And, when the collective power met that of the flames, the Fire Fang lost its cohesion and ruptured directly in Snubbull’s face.

BANG!!

Detonation. From the smoke flew the Fairy Pokémon, a thin plume flowing from his mouth until he hit the ground and tumbled back into the Sticky Web net on the ground. “Bu…bull…

“Good job, Shuckle,” Lillie said as she crouched down to check on the Mold Pokémon. She gently stroked where he had been bitten as Shuckle held it up. Then, picking him up, she went over to the downed Fairy Pokémon. “It’s over, Snubbull.”

SNUBBULL!!” Snubbull said in defiance, trying to rise again. He struggled for a tense minute, pulling hard enough that it almost seemed like he would rip himself free… only for his strength to give out and the elasticity to snap him back into place.

Hungry, stuck, and helpless for the second time that day, Snubbull exhaled and finally submitted. “Snub.”

He surrenders, zzt. Rotom translated.

Lillie took that as cue to pull out a second ball that she set into its active state. “Sorry about this in advance.”

Snubbull tensed up, as if preparing for the impact of the ball. But instead she held the ball out and triggered its Return function. In an instant, Snubbull was pulled into it in an energy form and the ball snapped shut without a struggle.

 [-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

An hour later and one empty bowl of food, Snubbull was sitting apart from the rest of Lillie’s Pokémon in her room with his arms crossed. Miffed. He hadn’t taken it well that she had already caught him while he was unconscious as a matter of pride.

In order for him to be properly healed as quickly as possible, they needed to use Mister Bill’s portable healing machine. Given the amount of Pokémon he had under his care, it was only natural that he had one. But they all required the Pokémon to be in balls to use, so she put him in a ball to do so.

“Don’t be that way, Snubbull. I would have released you if you had won,” Lillie told him as she crouched next to him. Mind you, it would have been to Miss Melanie’s place or to Route 5, since she promised those Bellsprouts he wouldn’t bother them again. “I wanted it to at least be fair, and to show you that you can’t keep fighting like you would in the wild. After all, Shuckle isn’t nearly as aggressive and he managed to beat you.”

Snubbull let out a dismissive snort. He still didn’t see how he lost to the Mold Pokémon that was currently eating an Oran Berry Purée for dessert.

Shuckle’s species are among the strongest Pokémon in termzzz of defensive strength because of their shells, Rotom explained to clarify that. To make use of this and fend off predators, they have instinctual understanding of the move Bide, which compounds all the damage they receive for a short time period and allows them to return it two-fold, zzt.

“Snub. Snubbull,” mumbled Snubbull as he nodded sagely in understanding. “Snubbull. Snubbull.”

I don’t think you should try rationalizing it as it being only natural that your own attack would do so much damage, zzt.

“What you should take from it is that you’ll have to learn not to be so aggressive, Snubbull,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon as she picked him up and looked him in the eyes, her own somewhat disapproving. “Blindly attacking fast and hard might work out in the wild, but that won’t get you too far from now on. We’re going to try working on that, so you can make it all the way to being a Champion Pokémon, okay?”

Snubbull huffed in reluctant acceptance and then pointed to the other side of the room with a questioning noise. “Bull?”

In response to his inquiry about a certain other Pokémon here, the Bellsprout in question raised his head up nerviously. “B-Bell?”

“Bellsprout is coming with us, since he was exiled from his horde only because he pleaded for me to be allowed to take you to end the fighting,” Lillie explained. That and, like Bewear had left Shuckle without his home, Snubbull had left Bellsprout without his horde. The moment she decided to save Snubbull, she was willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities of that. “You two are going to be working together, so let’s all get along from now on.”

Snubbull only snorted and turned away, leaving Lillie to sigh again she set him back down. She didn’t expect them to get along right away given what happened earlier, and the fact that Snubbull wasn’t trying to attack him was better than if he was. But she still wanted them to be friends with one another.

Fortunately, Koko came over to her side after she’d finished eating and then distracted her by pointing a paw to the monitor. “Pix. Pix?”

“You want to watch the battle video again?” Lillie guessed before Rotom chimed in. She got a nod in response. “Sure.”

Snubbull’s ears perked up at that. “Snub?”

“One of my friends is the current Champion of Alola, the region I’m from,” Lillie explained. “The other became strong enough to challenge him, meaning he defeated the Elite Four as well. Their match was a little while ago and showed how they both became the strongest trainers in all of Alola.”

“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head and yipped, going on about the match that she’d seen according to Rotom. Snubbull seemed wide-eyed at how vividly she was apparently describing it. When she was done, he jumped up and pointed to the monitor as well.

Lillie set up the video to play on the monitor and occupy the two of them before she went back to Shuckle and Bellsprout. The Mold Pokémon was finishing up his dessert now, running one of his little appendages over his mouth to scoop up anything he missed and then sticking it into his mouth.  She gently stroked the length of his head. “You did very well today, Shuckle. I’m proud of you.”

Shuckle accepted it without complaint but compared to Snubbull and Koko he wasn’t as receptive to it. Likely because his interactions with humans was far more limited and he was just naturally relaxed by nature. He would probably prefer to just lounge around and ferment the berries in his shell rather than fight, but he was at least keeping to his part of the deal they made, and Lillie was sure he would warm up more to her in time. The same went for Snubbull as well.

As for Bellsprout, she noticed that a good portion of the food she’d set aside for him was untouched. Like Shuckle, he didn’t exactly have teeth, so soft foods or those he could break down quickly with his acid was best for him. But he didn’t seem to have done so. “Are you not hungry?”

He waved his verdant appendages back and forth to state otherwise, moving the tips to his stem-like body. “Bell. Bellsprout.”

He’s full at the moment, zzt. Rotom chimed in. Bellsprouts don’t have a central stomach, but instead a very long digestive track that connects to their mouthzzz. To make up for the lack of prey at times, they also draw in nutrients from the ground and create energy through their leaves. Since the sun has gone down, he isn’t as active and so he won’t digest it as quickly, zrt.

“Sp-sprout,” the Flower Pokémon nodded in agreement. Then he began tapping the tips of his leaves together. “Be…Bellell, Bellsprout?”

Rotom translated. He’s asking if you’re going to name him now, zzt.

“Do you want me too?” Lillie asked him. She didn’t name Shuckle yet because she was waiting for him to be more comfortable with them, given the circumstances they met under. Though, truth be told, her family rarely nicknamed their Pokémon to begin with—Nebby was an exception, and Koko was her Starter from Professor Burnet.

He brought his leaf to the rim of his bell before nodding slowly. “Bell.”

Hmm…” Lillie’s brows folded in concentration as she tried to figure out a name for him. For Koko, her species has a legend behind them to use as a basis. And Nebby looked like a small nebula for her to go off of as a small child. So maybe something with a part of his name in it? “How does Bellamy sound?”

“Bellsprout… Bellsprout…” He tilted his drum-like head, one leaf placed on the side as if he was tapping his cheek in thought. Then he bobbed his head. “Bell.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Lillie smiled and then offered him her hand.  “I hope we can get along together from now on, Bellamy.”

He extended a leaf in agreement and they shook on it, bringing the long day to a close.