I was getting Chapter 1 vibes when she walked in and started asking uncomfortable questions.
For as long as she could remember, Roxanne ‘Roxa’ Pittman had been accustomed to eyes following her whenever she entered a room. As a child, she had been judged by the other orphans. With her pretty blonde hair and bright blue eyes, there had been plenty of others in the foster system who saw her as a threat to their own ability to be adopted. And of course, there were the parents themselves, people who were basically auditioning kids to be part of their family. Everything she said, everything she did, everything she was had constantly been judged.
Once she’d run away from her last foster family at the age of nine (after stabbing the abusive father with a knife when he tried to touch her), people had started watching Roxa for a variety of other reasons. She was a blonde girl out on the street. Some people…
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Chapter 7: Shocking Send-Off
Lillie heard someone calling for her in the midst of a deep slumber, a gentle pressure being applied to her shoulder to rouse her awake. She softly groaned as she opened her eyes and found herself staring into the seed-shaped pair of her mother’s Lilligant. Then she sat up in the bed, allowing the sheet covering her to slip down and reveal the T-shirt and sleeping pants that she’d worn to bed, and let out an unladylike yawn that she hid by covering her mouth.
“Lilligant, is it morning already?” she asked as she rubbed her eyes. The Flowering Pokémon pointed its leafy appendage towards the clock. A jolt ran through her body and woke her fully as she let out a surprised cry. “It’s almost 10!?”
The surprised shout roused her Pokémon from their slumbers as well. The Alolan Vulpix sleeping on the pillow next to her slowly opened her crystalline-blue eyes and let out a cute yawn before flicking her tails, chilling the air to a comfortable temperature as she stood up. The Shuckle that was resting on the nightstand poked his head out of one of the openings in his shell and swiveled it around to look upon them. The Rotom Dex’s screen turned on and it began to float in the air.
“We overslept!” Lillie said as she stumbled out of bed and went over to the bathroom to change into her traveling clothes. As Lillie got changed, her mother’s Lilligant took the liberty of setting out food for her Pokémon, allowing them to eat something light before she returned them into their balls left out of the room with the Flowering Pokémon. Down in the lobby they found Lusamine waiting for them in a seat.
Her mother stood up when she noticed them. “Thank you for waking them, Lilligant.”
“Lil.” The Flowering Pokémon gave her a nod in acceptance before returning to her ball.
Lusamine then addressed Lillie, the Rotom Dex resting in her hood. “You slept in awfully late. Are you feeling well?”
“I guess I was more tired than I realized,” Lillie said.
“Well, yesterday was unusually exciting, so it can’t be helped.” Lusamine looked at the clock on the wall. “Our train will still be departing within three hours, and Mister Bill has already left to have our belongings delivered to his place ahead of time. Just to be safe and save time, we’ll be taking a taxi to the Gym. But if the Gym has too many challengers, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until you begin your journey in earnest.”
“I understand,” Lillie said. They had already been delayed because of what happened in the Sevii Islands and her mother’s condition, so if she missed this chance that meant waiting until her mother had settled into her stay at Bill’s place before she left out on her journey. And that could be anywhere from a week to a month since Lillie didn’t intend to leave her mother without at least making sure that she was comfortable after all. “And how are you feeling this morning?”
“Better than yesterday,” Lusamine said. “You don’t need to worry about me. Just try to prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.”
That being said, she followed her mother out to the taxi and they rode in it towards the Gym. Along the way, she recalled what she had been discussing with her Pokémon last night. Rotom had listed the various types of electric Pokémon found around the region, so she had an idea of what they could be facing. She could only hope that would be enough as they arrived and stepped through the entrance of the Gym.
“Welcome to the Vermillion Gym,” the Gym Guide, Miss Sendou, greeted them before recognition set in. They stood out after all. “Oh, you’re back. Are you here for the challenge today?”
“Yes,” Lillie said, presenting Koko’s Premier Ball and Shuckle’s Poké Ball. “I caught a Shuckle to be my second Pokemon. Are there a lot of challengers today?”
“Just one in front of you, but they’ll have another five minutes to solve the puzzle or they’ll be disqualified.” She gestured for Lillie to come over to the counter. “You can register for your challenge here. Your mother can wait in the viewing room if she wants to observe the match.”
“I’ll head off to do just that,” Lusamine said, before looking down at her daughter. “Remember, be elegant and confident. Do you best so that you’ll be able to hold your head up high, win or lose.”
Lillie nodded and then watched her mother depart into the viewing room. It left her feeling a bit like there were Cutieflies buzzing around in her stomach at the thought. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself before going over to register for the match.
“Now then, the registration process is simple,” Miss Sendou said as she pressed a button on her desk and caused a panel to slide back, revealing a slot for six balls. “You set the balls of the Pokémon you intend to use into here and it registers them to your I.D. You’ll only be able to use those Pokémon during the match, which will be recorded, so that means you won’t be able to use that Rotom acting as your Pokédex in battle. You can also request a code to have the battle video delivered wirelessly to your Pokégear or other devices capable of playing them back, just in case you want to show them to your friends or others.”
“Right…” Lillie set the balls into the slot and handed over her Trainer I.D. The information was registered and all that was left to do was wait…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“So, you managed to make it through the electric puzzle, did you?” were the words of the Vermillion City Gym Leader, Lieutenant Surge, as Lillie stepped through the sliding door that only opened upon successfully completing the puzzle he had set up.
He was a rather large and well-built man, wearing a sleeveless shirt, cargo pants, and boots. There were shades on the top of his head, resting on his spiky blond hair, and he had a grin as he looked upon the mess that had become her hair, the strands standing on their ends from one too many failures. “It was a shocker, wasn’t it?”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t spend time on my hair this morning,” Lillie said in a disheartened tone as she tried to straighten out her hair. She only had moderate success. “Other than that, it was just a matter of figuring out the pattern.”
“Most kids your age don’t have the patience to figure out there is one on their first time, so I’ll give you that much. But just because this is your first time in a Gym and you don’t have a badge doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you,” he warned. “A Gym is meant to be a serious test of a trainer’s skills, so I take every match seriously no matter what age my challengers are. If you don’t want your Pokémon to get zapped, you can still quit now.”
“I know we may not have done this before, but we’re still going to try our best,” Lillie said, her fist balled in determination. She wanted to be stronger, so him holding back to spare her feelings wouldn’t help either way.
“You’ve got spunk, I’ll give you that much.” Surge nodded in approval. “But no amount of talking will get you my Thunder Badge—you’ll have to beat me to get it.”
“We’ll just do our best,” Lillie said again.
“If you’re so sure, then let’s start the match.”
LEADER LT. SURGE would like to battle!
He snapped his fingers. The monitor in the back of the gym flared to life and displayed her image on the screen, taken from her Trainer I.D. with two balls icons next to it on one side. The other side mirrored the same for him, with a counter on the center of the screen that began to count down to zero.
“The battle continues until one side is unable to battle,” Surge explained while pulling one of his Poké Balls from his belt. “You’re allowed to swap between your two, while I won’t. On zero we both throw out our first Pokémon.”
Lillie’s grasp on Koko’s Premier Ball tightened as she watched the countdown. It would be her first battle as a trainer since… well, ever. Not counting how her first wild battle had gone, it was against a Gym Leader at that.
But she wouldn’t give up. She wanted to become stronger so that she could stand on her own two feet. This was her rite of passage, her island trial to stand alongside Nebby, Elio, and Hau.
Her heart hammered in her chest as she stared at the grinning Gym Leader. He noticed her nervousness for certain. She could only guess what Pokémon he would lead with to face her, but they had done all they could to prepare… right?
Then there was no more time to doubt as the signal alarm to start the match rang out.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Pikachu!
“Stand at attention, Pikachu!” the Lieutenant ordered as he threw his ball over the field. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of the electric Mouse Pokémon.
“Koko, it’s time!” Lillie announced as she threw out the Premier Ball that contained her Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet. The Alolan Vulpix landed on the field opposite of the Pikachu. Both the Electric Mouse and Fox Pokémon stood on all fours as they faced one another and tried to take into account their opponent.
That Pikachu is slightly shorter than the average size, zzt, Rotom pointed out. It is young and most likely only recently evolved.
“That’s right,” Surge said. “Figured he could use the combat experience for when he goes against a real challenge.”
The male Pikachu’s brown eyes fell onto the Alolan Vulpix’s three tails when his trainer said that. A smug smile formed on his face as he waved the young Fox Pokémon off immaturely. “Chu-chu.”
In turn, Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes narrowed slightly as her hackles rose with a low growl. A pale aura wrapped her and then rippled outwards, causing the formation of a small, greyish cloud beneath the ceiling that sprinkled down glittering flecks of ice particles.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Once more the temperature dropped. Lillie decided to make getting those leg and arm warmers a priority after the match. But now her focus on was on the Gym Leader as their battle began. “Koko, Powder Snow!”
The Fox Pokémon led with a frosty gale from deep within. The electric Mouse Pokémon wasted no time in dodging it by darting to the side as the attack washed over the ground where it stood, leaving a thin layer of ice as it petered out. Then he rushed forward on all fours.
“Pikachu, Thunder Wave!” Surge ordered. His Pokémon’s electric pouches sparked before releasing a series of yellow rings of electricity that slammed into the Alolan Vulpix. On impact they created a dome that sent electric streamers from all angles coursing through her body, leaving them to worm over her small figure. “Atta boy, now follow it up with an offense!”
Pikachu used Thunder Shock!
“Chuuuu!!” The electric Mouse Pokémon shouted at as electricity flowed from its cheeks and shot forward, uniting into a single electric bolt that smacked into the Alolan Vulpix. The moment it struck her, Koko let out a slight yelp as the electricity surged through her body and caused her legs to buckle in pain until the attack ended.
“Are you okay, Koko?” Lillie asked.
Koko used Powder Snow!
The Fox Pokémon’s response was to counter-attack. She let loose another Powder Snow attack towards Surge’s Pikachu before he could get out of his stance from the discharge of electricity. The cold gust of wind swept over the Pikachu, battering him with the freezing temperature as the ice particles that fell from above began to scrape away at his yellow fur and slowly gain purchase to freeze him.
“Don’t just sit there and take it!” Surge demanded. “Shock and Awe!!”
Pikachu used Quick Attack!
Pikachu opened his closed eyes and parted his gritted teeth as a white shroud covered him. He shot out of the ice stream to the side with a quick bound, barely touching the ground before shooting forward for a blinding assault. Ramming into her at full speed, the male Pikachu nailed Koko from the side faster than she could stop exhaling and caught her off-guard.
Koko let out a pained cry as she hit the metal floor, whimpering a bit from the lingering pain of the blow, and then forced herself to get back on all fours to fire another Powder Snow attack. The Pikachu repeated his previous Quick Attack, darting to the side and preparing to ram into her again, but she was ready this time. She swept her head around as she continued to exhale in an attempt to catch him.
However, the attempt missed as the Pikachu jumped upwards with his momentum and then bounced off the wall to get above her. A series of sparks blossomed from his cheeks and the air was filled with the scent of ozone as Lillie’s hair began to rise again. Then they combined to form a single bolt that speared towards Koko.
Koko threw herself backwards at an angle this time, getting off the ground just as the Thunder Shock hit where she had been standing. The bolt dispersed as it hit the ground into stray streamers before fizzling out. However, that’s when the paralysis kicked in as the electricity in her body seized up her muscles.
“Finish it off while it can’t move,” Surge ordered, seeking to capitalize on the opening.
“Pika!” his Pokémon shouted as he landed and prepared to do so, cheeks sparking. But the ice covering where he landed from the Powder Snow cost him his balance. He ended up flailing about, trying to regain it as the flare-up of the paralysis ceased.
Koko was then wrapped in a pink aura that gathered in front of her mouth as a spiraling pink orb that she let loose. It sailed through the air towards the off-balance Pikachu, whose brown-eyes widened moments before he let loose his building Thunder Shock attack to intercept it. The pink orb ruptured with a same-colored explosion prematurely, but the force of it knocked the electric Mouse Pokémon back through the air.
Koko then began to pant as the aura around her faded. “Vulll…pix….”
Lillie looked confused by the turn of events. “What was that?”
That’s Moonblast, zzt! Rotom stated. It’s a powerful Fairy-type technique! Zzzhe must’ve inherited it as an egg move!
Powerful was an understatement given that Surge’s Pikachu got back up looking as worse for wear as Koko when he barely took any damage before. “Chuu…”
“Koko, can you do it again?” Lillie asked. The Alolan Vulpix nodded as she righted herself and prepared to fire another Moonblast. The pink orb swelled in front of her mouth as her three tails wavered in place.
“Pikachu, no more playing around!” Surge ordered. “It’s an Ice-Type, so you know what to do!”
The Pikachu growled before light wreathed him and he speared forward for a Quick Attack. Koko fired the Moonblast before he could fully charge in order to catch him, but the Pikachu sprung upwards and let the orb pass beneath him. The attack crashed against the wall as the electric Mouse Pokémon landed in front of the Alolan Vulpix and brought his tail around that shone with a metallic hue. “Pikachuuuu!!”
Pikachu used Iron Tail!
The Iron Tail struck home. Koko was knocked violently off her feet and sent rocketing backwards. She hit the ground next to Lillie with a thud.
Lillie crouched down to find that she was in no condition to fight. “Koko, are you okay?”
“Vul…” Koko still tried to rise up again, her legs and body trembling. But they buckled under the pain and she collapsed, left gritting her teeth and scrunching her eyes up in pain.
“That’s enough,” Lillie told her before she tried to push herself further. She scooped the Fox Pokémon up and held her close to her chest as she reached for the Premier Ball to return her. “We’ll get you back to the Pokémon Center and—”
Koko shook her head and began to struggle. “Pix! Vulpix!”
She wants to keep fighting, zzt, Rotom translated for her as she continued to struggle.
“It’s a fighter for a baby,” Surge said, watching as his Pikachu went back over to his side of the room. “It doesn’t want to surrender, but it’s reached the limit of what it can do. Any further and the damage will go beyond what it’d be capable of handling.”
Lillie… agreed with him. She didn’t want to see Koko get hurt worse than she was, and it was only by chance that the first Moonblast hit. There wouldn’t be a second time as things stood. “I’m sorry, Koko. I’ll let you watch the next match, but you can’t go back out there.”
Koko out a whine as she looked miserably into Lillie’s firm, but also sad, eyes. The Fox Pokémon settled down, her tails going limp as she looked away from her trainer. One ball icon on the screen darkened on Lillie’s side of the screen as Koko was determined unfit to battle any further.
“If you’re going to continue, send out your next Pokémon,” the Lieutenant said.
Lillie shifted her grasp on Koko and reached into her pocket for her second ball. “Shuckle, your turn. Do your best.”
The ball popped open and Shuckle appeared on the field. He looked around until he found Surge’s Pikachu waiting and tried to appear menacing by frowning. It only served to make the electric Mouse Pokémon chuckle, despite his injuries.
“One of those, huh?” Surge mused before looking down to his Pikachu. “First things first. Break its Ability by using Thunder Shock.”
Electricity surged through the Mold Pokémon as the Pikachu immediately let loose another bolt that struck him. Shuckle let out a cry at the abrupt shock, even though it probably didn’t do significant damage. He was still unused to battle and thus followed his instinct to retreat into his shell.
“Now, finish it with an Iron Tail!” Surge ordered as the previous attack ended. His Pokémon fell on all fours in response, tail taking on a metallic hue again, and charged forward to do so.
“Shuckle, don’t let it hit you with that!” Lillie shouted as the Mouse Pokémon closed the distance. “Try to stop it from getting close!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Without sticking his head out, Shuckle spat out a greyish glob from a hole that sped towards the Pikachu. He tried to do the same thing he did with the Moonblast from before, jumping over it, only for the air friction to expand the glob into a small web that caught on his tail. The moment the electric Mouse Pokémon touched down on the ground, the adhesive webbing left him stuck in place and struggling to pull his tail free.
Seeing the Pikachu struggling, Shuckle stuck his head out and blinked in surprise that it actually worked.
“Good job,” Lillie praised him, causing him to crane his head around towards her. “Now, attack while it can’t move!”
“Kle.” He nodded to her before jettisoning his arms forward. The appendages stretched out until they reached the Pikachu, wrapping around his midsection and neck. Then Shuckle squeezed.
Shuckle used Constrict!
Surge’s Pikachu let loose a strangled shriek as he tried in vain to free himself with his tiny paws as the hold Shuckle had on him grew steadily tighter. ”Ch-Chaa…”
Looking at the Pikachu as his expression went from strained to terrified soon enough, Lillie found it hard to watch. Sure, she was supposed to win the battle to get the badge. But it felt wrong strangling him until he passed out. She looked to Surge to see if he was willing to at least entertain the thought of recalling it or forfeiting his Pikachu’s right to battle, but he just looked sternly at the scene as it went on.
“Ch…chu…” Pikachu’s voice was a low rasp that could barely be heard at that point. A tinge of blue appeared on his face. He was really suffocating now.
“That’s enough, Shuckle.” Lillie said, unable to watch anymore. “Let it go.”
Shuckle did as told, loosening his grasp and pulling his elongated arms back into his shell. Pikachu took a deep breath as he collapsed onto the ground, panting. The Mold Pokémon then looked back at his trainer. “Shuckle?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Lillie told him, after Rotom translated the question.
“You should have had it continue until Pikachu had fainted,” Surge said, a frown on his face. “A battle continues until one side has been ruled unable to battle. Use whatever advantage you have to win, because if you show your enemy mercy on the battlefield, it’ll cost you.”
Lillie pursed her lips. She already knew that. But she didn’t like seeing the Pikachu being strangled like that. “I just didn’t want to win that way.”
“…Hmph. Either way, Pikachu isn’t in any condition to free himself from that webbing, and by the rules I set, returning him means that he’s registered as being unable to battle. That brings the score to one-one,” Surge said as he returned his Pikachu. Then he pulled a second ball from his belt and tossed it forward. “Magnemite, ten-hut!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Magnemite!
The ball burst open and out floated a Magnemite. The Magnet Pokémon hovered just off the ground with its two magnets slowly spinning on its sides. Its eye never left the Shuckle in front of it, attention fixed on the opponent it had to face.
“Shuckle, try to web it down like before,” Lillie ordered. “We’ll think of something else afterwards!”
Shuckle’s cheeks swelled as he spat out another glob of bug adhesive that expanded as it flew through the air. The Magnamite spun its magnets faster, increasing the amount of antigravity energy it produced in order to get higher and avoid the attack entirely. It floated up to near the ceiling as Shuckle tried firing a few more globs that got stuck there, making a mess.
“That’s going to be a pain to clean,” the Lieutenant said as he scratched his head. “Magnemite, finish this before it gets worse.”
Magnemite used Magnet Bomb!
“Magnaaamittteee.” Its magnets spun faster, until argent sparks were generated from the ends. The sparks gathered and swelled until they formed half-a-dozen metallic spheres that loitered in the air around it. Once they were fully formed, all at once they flew forward towards Shuckle.
Shuckle used Withdraw!
Shuckle ducked his appendages and head into his shell, which was shrouded in a pale light that strengthened its defense. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The Magnet Bombs detonated as they hit their target and ruptured all at once, generating a series of explosions that sent Shuckle sailing through the air until he hit the wall and then bounced off it to hit the floor.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked.
“Shuuuuccckkklllleeee…” came from within the shell.
That would be a ‘No,’ zzt, Rotom translated.
“You did well,” Lillie told the Mold Pokémon before she returned him into his ball. “Thanks for that.”
“You haven’t been at this for very long, judging by how you acted during the battle,” Surge said as he returned his Magnemite to its ball. He then approached her. “If you’re going to be a trainer, your Pokémon and your opponent’s Pokémon are going to get hurt in a lot of different ways, but that’s the only way to toughen them up. If you don’t like that, then find a battle-style that works for you, understand?”
Lillie merely nodded her head, accepting the loss silently.
“Still, you did better than most of the tykes around here and put some thought into it.” He gave her a pat on the head. “You’re free to come back and challenge my Gym after you’ve gained some real experience, yeah?”
“Okay….” Even as she said that, she couldn’t bring herself to be feel happy at her first loss as she turned and left the room. Once she was through the door and within the disabled puzzle room, she held Koko tight in her arms and apologized. “I’m sorry, Koko.”
Koko tilted her head at that. “Vulpix?”
“Even though he switched out and gave us that point, by not letting Shuckle finish off Pikachu I made all your efforts pointless, didn’t I?” If Surge really wanted to rub salt into the wounds, he could have had the Pikachu shock Shuckle too after that, but he didn’t. “All I did was get you both hurt for nothing by stopping him when I did, but I just couldn’t watch it suffer like that.”
Koko shook her head as Rotom hovered next to her and flailed its arms. Cheer up, Lillie, zzt. Next time we’ll come up with a better plan and things will be better!
Despite their best efforts, she couldn’t bring herself to feel otherwise as she tightened her grasp on the Fox Pokémon and made her way towards the waiting room, eyes downcast.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine paced outside the door that connected to the puzzle, having seen the match for herself through the tinted panes of the viewing room. She was waiting for Lillie to return, running over what she would say in light of her defeat. It was… expected, given that she hadn’t been a trainer for more than a few days against a Gym Leader.
But, more troubling, she felt a slight flutter of emotion that she wasn’t proud of buried in her chest. If Lillie had prevailed here, Lusamine feared it would have only spurred her into setting off on her journey sooner with the confidence she gained. That would shorten the time they had together, which was already dwindling.
At the same time, Lusamine still didn’t like seeing her fail. More so when she tried her hardest. She had no desire to shatter Lillie’s confidence as she did before, crushing down on her until she lost that spark she had regained while away from her mother’s eyes that made her so radiant.
She still hadn’t figured out what to say moment the door to the lobby opened and Lillie entered, so she just went with, “You did the best you could.”.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Lillie told her. “I just couldn’t stand to see that Pikachu be strangled like that.”
“You don’t like to see Pokémon getting hurt, and that’s fine.” Lusamine reached out to brush her hair down where the strands still stuck up from the electricity. “But you already know that sometimes force will be needed to defend yourself or protect someone else. You’ll have to find a way to make them both work… I’ll help you when we get to Cerulean City.”
Lillie was about to respond when the door to the Gym opened and a familiar face entered. “Astra?”
“Lillie! Miss Lusamine!” Astra grabbed hold of the older gentleman next to her and pointed to them from the entrance. “Oh, Grandpa its them! They’re the ones I told you about.”
“So, you’re the two who found my Granddaughter?” The well-aged man with gray eyes dipped his head towards the pair in a show of courtesy. “You have my thanks for that and watching over her until she awoke. She’s still getting used to the region and the dangers that entails at times.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Lusamine said. “We could relate to that, being new to the region ourselves, and she’s a very sweet girl. Should I assume she managed to catch her second Pokémon and intends to challenge the Gym Leader?”
“Yep!” Astra bobbed on her feet and pulled out her two Poké Balls. “Jet and I found that same Drowzee from before and made him one of our friends.”
“…You’ll want to be careful with it then,” Lusamine warned her. “Being wild for so long means that it likely will have some trouble adapting to eating standard Pokémon food rather than dreams, and you don’t want it to have trouble distinguishing that you’re its Trainer and not a source of food.”
The aged-gentleman nodded his head in agreement. “I had my Dusclops have a long talk with it and made sure it understands that her dreams are not food.”
Astra then turned to Lillie, leaned forward as she looked at Koko, and asked, “Did you just have a match?”
“Y-Yeah.” Lillie’s shoulders sagged. “We lost pretty badly though after I messed up.”
“Then I’ll beat him for you,” Astra said, pumping her fists in the air with an innocent joy. “You’ll watch me, won’t you?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want.”
“If you want to challenge the gym, there is an opening at present,” Miss Sendou said from her desk, having watched the exchange long enough and waited for a moment to speak. “If you’re not from this region, do you need me to explain how the Gym system works?”
Astra shook her head. “Nope. Miss Karen told me how in Lavender City when Grandpa took me to her Gym. I need to register Jet and Blysen, right?”
“That’s right.” The Gym Guide then looked to Lillie. “We have a healing machine here in the Gym for the Gym Leader and Gym Trainers to use. I’ll be happy to let you heal your Pokémon so that you can watch her in the viewing room though.”
“Oh, thank you very much,” Lillie told the woman, accepting her offer. She pulled out Koko’s Premier Ball and held it close to her Starter Pokémon. “Back in your ball for now, okay? I’ll let you out when you’re better.”
The Alolan Vulpix nodded once. Then she tapped the ball with her nose and returned herself.
Lillie then looked to her mother. “I’ll be in the room when Koko and Shuckle have finished healing.”
“Very well. I’ll see you there,” Lusamine said. As she turned towards the viewing room again, the well-aged gentlemen joined her in walking towards it.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?” he asked, igniting a conversation as they entered. “To let them grow-up, knowing that the time you’ve spent with them will be cut short. You just want to do what you can to keep them close.”
“That’s true,” she admitted. “These moments won’t come again, which makes them all the more important. You just want to preserve them for eternity, if possible.”
“That’s one way to put it.” He sighed a bit at that as he took a seat and pulled out his pocket-watch, looking at the interior of the cover. “But there’s always a price to pay for it.”
Casting a quick glance, Lusamine spotted a picture of a woman. From how his tone turned somewhat melancholy and what she’d learned last night, she quickly guessed the reason why. “You mean that child’s parents, don’t you?”
“…I tried to keep them under my wing, refusing to let them go free and trying to tie them into what I felt was best for them,” he explained. “But in doing so, I drove them to run from me. At first I thought that they would return of their own accord. Then, I decided to search for them once I’d settled my business and spent years looking. By the time that I thought I had caught up to them, they had left this world behind to elude me once more.”
His words resonated with her, as Lusamine had done the very same thing after losing Mohn. It led to Type-Null’s creation, driving off her son. When she tried even harder to make up for the loss with Lillie, she had left her too. In the final moments of her madness, she had nearly… with her own hands…
“I didn’t even know I had a granddaughter until I laid eyes on her,” he continued, closing the pocket-watch. “A sweet child with her mother’s looks and her father’s eyes. Looking at her, I can’t help but feel as though I was looking at them once again. But I’m afraid that if I try to cling to her too tightly she’ll end up leaving me behind like them.”
Lusamine nodded her head slowly, completely understanding his feeling. “…It’s a bitter feeling, knowing that if you try to hold onto something too long and too tightly, it’ll end up slipping through your fingers and you’ll only have yourself to blame. But, at the same time, you don’t want to miss anything or let go because every moment is precious.”
“Indeed.” He replaced the watch in his pocket with a TM disc and held it out to her. “Please, take this as a token of my appreciation for your daughter befriending my little Astra.”
“Are you sure you want to give her something like this?” Lusamine asked as she looked over the TM and found it was labeled ‘Protect’.
“For a new trainer, it should be a fairly important skill until she can manage to take care of herself.” He gave her a slight wink. “And she’ll need someone to teach her to use it, no?”
“…Then I’ll be sure to teach her how to use it well,” Lusamine said, putting it away as she caught the underlying mean. Every moment was precious after all, and if she could help her daughter then she would. “You have my thanks.”
The private conversation between two parents came to a close as the door opened and Lillie entered with her fully-healed Alolan Vulpix. She took a seat next to her mother and the Fox Pokémon jumped up into her lap. Lillie patted the young Pokémon on the head, looking more cheerful than before as they awaited Astra’s arrival in the Gym Leader’s chamber.
“Oh my,” Lusamine said when Astra finally did, minutes later. The girl’s dark hair was basically akin to a Jumpluff’s cotton puffs from how all the strands were all standing on end.
Even the Gym Leader looked surprised as he scratched his head. “Err… do you want to take a minute to fix your hair?”
“It’s fine,” Astra said, absolutely unbothered by her own appearance. “I’m used to it because all the Pichu I played with on the island couldn’t control their electricity too well. It’ll go back to normal eventually.”
“Okay then.” He cleared his throat and went back to his normal demeanor. “Anyway, welcome to the Vermillion Gym. You’re a bit on the short size, but to make it this far means you’ve got some nerves on you. The rules are two Pokémon each, with the challenger able to switch out while I can’t, and if you win you get my Thunder Badge. Are you ready?”
The child bobbed her head up and down. “Yep!”
“Alright then. On zero, send out your first Pokémon.” Surge snapped his fingers and the board flared to life as it did with Lillie, beginning a countdown. He then reached down for one of the balls on his belt and waited for the timer to hit zero.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Mareep!
“Ten-hut, Mareep!” Lt. Surge said as the signal blared and he threw the ball out. The Poké Ball burst open and out popped his Pokémon. It stood maybe under two feet tall, deliciously cream-colored wool covering its body. Its black eyes were fixed on Astra’s side of the field, legs slightly out as if readying to move.
In the viewing room, Lillie looked over her shoulder from the pane and said, “Rotom, what’s that Pokémon?”
A moment pleazzze, the Living Pokédex said as it floated out of her hood and turned its camera to face the pane, snapping a picture while displaying the image of the Pokémon on its screen. Mareep, the Wool Pokémon. Its fluffy coat swells to double its size when static electricity builds up, and the more static electricity that is charged, the more brightly the bulb at the tip of its tail glows, zzt.
“It’s not native to Kanto though,” Lillie said as she read the data.
“Kanto and Johto share the same Pokémon League, so many of the Pokémon between them are shared between all of the Gyms,” Astra’s Grandfather explained. “Since there’s only one Electric-Type Gym, it’s unsurprising that he’d be the one who is in charge of training it.”
Astra sent out Blysen!
“Come on out, Blysen!” Astra threw her ball out and her newest Pokémon, a Drowzee, appeared onto the field. In contrast to the Mareep, the Hypnosis Pokémon looked nervous as he faced his opponent. His eyes shone for a brief moment as he drummed his fingers against one another timidly.
Drowzee’s Forewarn activated.
It was alerted to Mareep’s Thunder Shock.
“Do your best!” Astra encouraged him, despite it being clear he was unused to battle. Blysen looked back at her and nodded slowly before moving his legs apart and holding his hands out in front of him, palms first. Then he began moving his hands in an alluring pattern.
Blysen used Hypnosis!
As he did so he released hypnotic waves. His intention was to lull the Mareep to sleep and go from there. It was a practice he was fond of in contrast to open combat.
“Mareep, you know what to do!” Surge said in response to the incoming attack.
The Wool Pokémon stuck its tail up and electricity began building up within it. Yellow tendrils danced over the bulb until it glowed. Mareep then slammed it down into the ground and a shockwave of lightning spread out to encompass the field, permeating the ground.
Mareep used Electric Terrain!
An electric current runs across the field!
“Ah, so that’s how he intends to deal with it,” Lusamine mused as electricity saturated the entire area and dyed it a yellowish hue while the Mareep’s wool coat grew even more fluffy.
It drew her daughter’s attention. “What do you mean?”
Lusamine was about to explain when Rotom took it upon itself to do so in her stead, much to her ire. Electric Terrain prevents Pokémon from falling asleep while boosting the power of Electric-Type moves, zzt.
“Oh, so that means her Drowzee won’t be able to put the Mareep to sleep then?” Lillie guessed.
Lusamine nodded. “Yes, but it also means that the Mareep will now have an easier time affecting the Drowzee, despite their line being somewhat resilient against non-physical attacks.”
“Atta girl!” Surge said as the female Mareep weathered the bombardment of hypnotic waves, still awake and alert. “Now, advance and Tackle it!”
“Don’t let it touch you!” Astra shouted as the Mareep started running towards Blysen. “Some electric Pokémon can paralyze you with a touch! It’s not fun!”
Blysen used Confusion!
Switching tactics, Blysen centered the rushing Mareep between his outstretched palms. Then his hands shone as they launched a bundle of telekinetic waves out like a cannonball. The Confusion attack hit the Mareep like a physical object and stopped her Tackle in its tracks, instead leaving her to take several steps back and reorient herself. Having more confidence in himself after that success, Blysen prepared to release a second Confusion attack even stronger than before.
Mareep used Thunder Shock!
Then he noticed the Mareep’s entire body seemed to crackle with electricity that she began to pull from the Electric Terrain. He abandoned the attack and jumped off to the side clumsily, falling over as all the electricity that she had absorbed into her horns was launched as a bolt blue-and-yellow lightning. The attack struck where he had been moments before, arcing up from the Electric Terrain before sinking in again.
Sweat dripped from his brow at the sight. It was a close-call.
“Lillie,” Lusamine said, grabbing her daughter’s attention briefly. “Since you’re aiming to be a Trainer, you need to observe and learn from others. Can you guess why that Drowzee was able to avoid that attack?”
Lillie’s brows crinkled and folded in as she watched Blysen get back up while in thought. “Umm…he doesn’t look like he has much experience in battling and Astra didn’t tell him to. But he’s a Psychic-Type, so I guess that he saw it coming somehow. I remember reading on the island that their species had an Ability related to that.”
“That’s correct,” she said. “His Ability, Forewarn, activated the moment he sensed he was about to face an opponent and instinctively foresaw an attack that the Mareep was capable of it. That allowed for him to dodge easier since he could recognize it, but he can only use it before the battle begins in earnest because the fighting is taking the rest of his concentration. It’s a survival mechanism, you could say.”
“Good job, Blysen!” Astra praised him. “Keep it up!”
“Mareep, it’s time!” Surge said as he pulled the shades on his head over his eyes. “Flash and Tag!”
Mareep used Flash!
On command, Mareep stuck her tail up and channeled as much electricity as she could into it. The bulb flared into a brilliant and blinding blaze that radiated out for a single moment like the flash of a camera. It still left both Astra and Drowzee seeing spots, eyes stinging.
Astra rubbed her eyes and blinked away the tears she felt before looking towards the battlefield. There she saw the Mareep moving in for a Tackle. “Blysen, look out!”
Mareep used Tackle!
A Critical Hit!
The warning came too late. Mareep managed to land the attack, connecting with a vicious blow as the Wool Pokémon body-checked the Hypnosis Pokémon. The net result was that Blysen was knocked backwards and down to the ground by a good distance.
“Z-Zee…” Blysen struggled to get back up only for tendrils of electricity to dance along his body. The contact with her had activated her Ability, Static, and paralysis had set in.
“Now finish it off while it can’t move!” the Gym Leader ordered, fist clenched and arm held out.
“Mareeee!!” With a battle-cry, Mareep unleashed another Thunder Shock. The bolt drew from the Electric Terrain as it crossed the distance towards the downed Drowzee.
The bolt hit home and illuminated Blysen, stricken wide-eyed as electricity covered every inch of his body and left him crying out in pain. When the attack ended, he was smoking as he laid splayed out on the ground. “Dro-Drowzee…”
“Blysen, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Drowzee only twitched in response. He was in no condition to battle further, so the system monitoring the battle darkened his image on Astra’s side of the screen as she returned him to his ball. “Aww well, you still did good so I’ll give you a snack later.”
“That’s one down for the count,” Surge said as he put his shades back over his head. “Bring out the next one.”
“Okay, Jet! It’s your turn now!” Astra threw the next ball into the air and out popped her Sableye. In contrast to his lounging nature within the room last night, he stood ready for battle with claws tensed as he stared down at the female Mareep, who had already gone through one battle and was panting from the last attack.
“Feisty little thing, isn’t it?” Surge grinned as he gave the next order. “Mareep, use Thunder Shock on it while the Electric Terrain is still up!”
“Stop it, Jet!” Astra said as the Mareep began to ready another attack. “That’ll hurt if it hits!”
Jet used Torment!
Jet’s eyes glowed an ominous hue before he stomped his foot on the ground and yelled. A dark veil briefly overlapped the Mareep as she charged the electricity into her horns and the electricity dispersed. The Darkness Pokémon smiled in a way that bared his teeth.
“What happened to it?” Lillie asked as she watched the Mareep look around in confusion, head shaking left and right as she failed to follow her orders. Every time she tried, the dark veil would appear to restrict her.
“Torment,” Astra’s Grandfather said. “It’s a technique that places a curse on the opponent that suppresses their ability to use the same technique twice. The fact that Jet has Prankster as an Ability means that it won’t fire that Thunder Shock before Torment could take root.”
Ohhh, that’s rare, zzt, Rotom noted, before noticing the curiosity in Lillie’s eyes. It’s an Ability that makes it so that the Pokémon is capable of using moves that affect their status faster than the opponent, zzt.
“Indeed, it’s troublesome to deal with if the user is experienced.” Lusamine turned to Astra’s Grandfather. “Out of curiosity, where did you obtain a Sableye as her Starter Pokémon? I didn’t believe they were native to this region.”
“It was only recently discovered that they did have an unbothered habitat here, inside of the Lavender Tunnels,” he said. “Astra had just arrived in the Lavender City and had a bit of wanderlust to her, so she wanted to explore the cave system that was discovered when they excavated a path through the mountains around the city, to make room for the port there. I accompanied her and Jet came across us, with one thing leading to another. Once the Joy in the Pokémon Center informed us of his Ability, I had one my Pokémon practice with him using a TM I had lying around.”
“Now, attack it from a distance to be safe,” Astra told her Starter Pokémon. “Getting paralyzed will slow you down too much.”
“Saaaableyeee!” Jet shouted, a battle-cry as he reared his head back and then threw it forward. Dark beam flew from his eyes as he fired the Night Shade attack, and the beams sailed through the empty space towards Mareep.
The Wool Pokémon bleated in pain as the attack connected with her, adding to the pain of the previous Confusion attack. Her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the electricity-soaked ground, no longer able to fight. “Marreeep…”
“You did it!” Astra had nothing but praise for her Sableye’s performance. “Good job!”
“You still got one more to beat before you get my badge, girlie,” Lt. Surge warned as he recalled Mareep into her ball and then tossed out another. “Shock them into surrender, Voltorb!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Voltorb!
The ball burst open and from it emerged the Ball Pokémon itself, which looked like a larger Poké Ball with eyes that were narrowed as it faced the Sableye. “Voltorb.”
Without hesitation, the Gym Leader gave his Pokémon the order to attack. “Voltorb, Spark!”
Immediately, yellow electricity shrouded the Ball Pokémon’s body, pulled from within and from the Electric Terrain around it. Covered in electricity that it wore like armor, it rocketed forward like a comet and slammed into the Darkness Pokémon with surprising speed. Jet’s tiny body was swept up in the attack, electricity coursing through him as he cried out. Then the Voltorb halted and the momentum carried Jet further out until he tumbled to a stop shortly before his trainer.
“Jet, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Sableye growled as he got back onto his feet and stared down the Voltorb. She took that as good enough. “Use Torment to stop it from hitting you with that again!”
Jet stomped and yelled once more. The same inhibiting curse that had hindered the Mareep seeped into the Ball Pokémon. The Darkness Pokémon then followed up with a Night Shade, sending a pair of dark beams wreathed in a hue of deep red from his eyes to assail the Voltorb that closed its eyes as the attack struck.
“Voltorb, Charge and Fire!” the Lieutenant ordered.
Voltorb used Charge!
“Vooolllllttttoooorbbb!” The Ball Pokémon’s eyes shot open and became wreathed in sparks as it pulled electricity from the Electric Terrain. Filled with electricity, Voltorb began to float upwards, eyes narrowed at the opposing Sableye.
“Get it, Jet!” Astra ordered.
Jet fired another Night Shade in response—
Voltorb used Shock Wave!
—and was won over as the Voltorb was wreathed in blue electricity that shot out in the form of a blistering, blue bolt snaked with yellow streamers from the Electric Terrain. The bolt punched through the Night Shade attack and struck Jet head-on faster than Astra’s eyes could track. Her Starter Pokémon was sent head over leg tumbling backwards until he ended up face-down on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Astra asked again, a little more concerned as she crouched down and set her hand over his gem-encrusted back to lightly shake him.
His only response was to twitch and groan softly. He was in no condition to fight further after that hit.
“Well, you did well too, so I’ll let you have some Rock Candy later today.” Astra lifted him up in both arms and held him against her chest. “You had fun though, right?”
“Eye…” Jet said softly before she tapped him with his ball and sent him back into it. That wasn’t a ‘no’.
With that the match ended and the siren blared, signaling her loss as the Electric Terrain faded.
“I’ll give you some credit, girlie,” the Gym Leader said as he recalled his Pokémon. “Both Mareep and Voltorb are meant to catch new trainers off-guard and paralyze them with their Ability for attacking recklessly, but you caught on and switched to a long-distance and harassment strategy. A little more experience will help you go a long way next time.”
“I was just copying something I saw Miss Karen do when she let me watch one of her Gym Matches,” Astra claimed. “But we learned a lot, so next time we’ll do better after we train more.”
Surge laughed good-heartedly. “You girls have made this morning a lot more interesting than the last few, so I’ll welcome the challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Sorry I couldn’t beat him for you,” Astra told Lillie shortly after the match was over, with an enthusiastic smile unbefitting someone who had lost. Her Pokémon were also being treated at the on-site healing machine as a special service of the Gym Guide while they were in the lobby. Their guardians were over by the doors, discussing something else.
Lillie felt a little jealous of Astra’s smile, knowing that it was born from the fact that Astra had no regrets since she and her Pokémon had done their best in the end, whereas Lillie had hesitated. “It’s fine. I was just impressed by how well you did at that point.”
Astra’s smile grew brighter at the praise. “Thanks, but next time we’ll do even better. I’m going to have Grandpa teach me more on battling when we get back to Lavender City before we head out. We’ll come back here for our fourth badge to show him how much we’ve improved before the tournament I heard about starts.”
Lillie recalled the Nurse Joy mentioning that. She still had the flyer. “Will four months be enough for that?”
“Don’t know,” Astra admitted, before shrugging her shoulders. “But Jet likes to battle, so he’ll at least have fun, and I’ll get to travel around. I’ll even stop by to visit you first when I leave, since I want to see what Cerulean City will be like. It’s supposed to be really pretty, isn’t it?”
“I think so.” She’d have to ask Bill more on the details, but if she remembered what she’d read right, it was formerly a Gym City until the Gym Leader became a member of the Elite Four. But Astra’s words about Jet reminded her what Surge had said about Koko being a fighter.
If Koko was as much of a fighter as Nebby was after she evolved, would Lillie be able to make the Pokémon that Professor Burnet entrusted to her happy as she was? Leaving Nebby behind with Elio had been… painful. But Lillie knew that it was best for them both and she didn’t regret that.
But she didn’t want to experience that pain again with Koko if she could help it. She wanted to be a trainer who could face Elio and Hau and the others with pride, so she needed to do better. Even if she couldn’t see herself facing off against the Elite Four, would it just be enough to try and enter the tournament?
…No, first she needed to find her own battling-style. A way that worked for her, so she wouldn’t have regrets after a match. A way that they could use to overcome the challenges they met along their way.
Still, it amazed Lillie at how casually Astra mentioned doing so many things because of how fun they were. “You’re as carefree as Hau, aren’t you?”
Astra tilted her head at the question. “Who’s that?”
“He’s a friend of mine from Alola,” Lillie explained. “He, Elio, and I traveled together for a short time. They became so strong that one’s the new Champion of the Alola Pokémon League, and the other will probably challenge him soon for the title, I’m sure. I want to be as strong as them.”
“They sound like they’d be fun to be around. I hope I get to meet them someday,” Astra said as her Grandfather approached. In his hands were the balls with her Sableye and Drowzee. “Are we leaving now?”
“Yes. Our train will be departing soon.” He smiled as Astra took her Pokémon back and then turned to Lillie. “You’ll be heading to Cerulean City next, won’t you?”
Lillie nodded. “We’re heading to the Cape north of Cerulean City and I’ll be there for a while before I set out on my journey.”
“That’s northwest of Lavender City,” he said. “If you ever find yourself coming that way pursuing a badge, feel free to stop by. Any friend of Astra’s will be welcomed.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”
“I’ll come to visit you first though,” Astra reminded her cheerfully. “Until then I’ll call you, so make sure you answer.”
“I will,” Lillie promised. Then she watched the two leave before her mother returned to her side and they did the same. Her defeat here had been brutal, but she learned a lot about what she needed to do to get stronger.
And the first thing she needed was to stop by a store to get some leg and arm warmers before they boarded the train to Cerulean City and the next stage of her journey.