Chapter 9: Settling in Cerulean
Lillie felt restless as she sat on her side of the reserved private room car she and her mother were sharing aboard the train. Bill had a separate room from theirs, only a door down. First by boat, then by train, and the last of the distance would be by car, they were getting closer to Bill’s home on the cape just past Cerulean City. There she would stay with her mother and Bill until the former was settled in, before departing for her journey.
Excitement and nervousness continued to eat at Lillie, born from the contrasting feelings that left her to fiddle with her Pokégear as she watched the Battle Videos that had been saved on it—her own fight with Lt. Surge and Astra’s. The cameras had surprisingly caught a lot of details, both of the Pokémon and their trainers, and she could see firsthand just how out of her depth she was looking at the video compared to Astra. The look of horror as the Iron Tail slammed into Koko, the hesitation on deciding on whether or not to let Shuckle continue strangling that Pikachu—it was clear she just didn’t have the same composure that Elio, Hau, and Astra had in battle.
Undergoing the Gym Challenge would be harder from this point on, even with whatever technique her mother offered to teach her when they got settled in. She had to get more comfortable with battling if she was going to keep moving ahead. Lillie thought that she had after watching Elio for so long, but there was just something about being the one calling the shots that made things seem so much more visceral and tense, knowing that if she made the wrong call her Pokémon would be hurt unnecessarily.
Lillie looked up from the video to where her mother was resting on the other side of the room, with a blanket covering her body as she slept. Clefable was sitting next to her, eyes closed but a placid smile on her face. Lille wasn’t aware when she had emerged from her ball, only that the Fairy Pokémon was already out when she’d woken up sometime after the sun had risen.
It was still worrying that her mother hadn’t woken up yet. But she was breathing fine and Lillie was hesitant to disturb her sleep. She should get as much rest as she could.
The air grew chilly before Lillie could turn her attention back to the video again and she looked over to her Starter. Koko had her paws pressed against the glass and was standing on her hindlegs, watching as the scenery of Kanto passed by with her tails flickering. No doubt the Alolan Vulpix was feeling restless as well, being bound to a tiny room in the private sleeping compartment with so many new sights to see.
Lille decided they should go walking a bit, both to stretch their legs and so that Koko didn’t end up making the room too cold for her mother to sleep in. She turned off the video and removed the headphones from her ears. Then she stood up, catching the attention of both the Pokémon.
“Koko and I are going to walk around the train for a bit to stretch our legs,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon, whose eyes opened at the motion. “We’ll also stop at the Lounge Car to get you and Mother a snack for when she wakes up. Will you watch over her for me?”
Clefable nodded and Lillie took the Alolan Vulpix into her arms, letting her soft fur brush against the arm warmers they had picked up before boarding the train. She then slipped out of the compartment room silently and slid the door shut just as quietly. Then Lillie made her way through the narrow passageway towards the Lounge Car, watching as Koko took a look around in curiosity.
“Is this your first time on a train?” Lillie asked.
Koko’s attention snapped upwards and she nodded. “Vulpix.”
“Mine too. Kanto is a pretty big place compared to the islands. I wonder how long it’ll take for us to go through all the cities with Gyms? I mean, we could just take the trains from place-to-place, but then we wouldn’t really be exploring the region like a Trainer should, and we’ll probably only get this chance while we’re young.”
After all, making a living as a Trainer wasn’t exactly easy for most people, unless they participated in high-stakes battles or a professional position. That was part of why it was done when you were younger, and the costs associated with products related to training were relatively lower. Even though Lillie wasn’t exactly hurting for money, once she started her travels in earnest, train rides from one end of the region to the other and fancy hotels would be something of a luxury.
Though she at least had access to that much if she needed it. Gladion didn’t during the time that Lillie hadn’t seen him. He didn’t have someone like Professor Burnet or Professor Kukui or Hau and Elio… all of whom she missed dearly and couldn’t help but wonder how they were doing after she left?
“Sorry, I was lost in thought for a bit,” Lillie said. She hadn’t even realized that she’d stopped walking. Her pace renewed, she remembered that she still had to tell the professors thank-you for sending Koko her way. The time difference and the events leading up to the train ride were hectic, so she hadn’t had the chance to do so just yet…
“Actually, where did she find you?” Lillie asked, holding Koko out and lifting her so that she could look into the icy-blue eyes while thinking on it. She hadn’t really thought about it until now, but she doubted that Professor Burnet could make it all the way up the mountain to find wherever a den of Fox Pokémon would be nestled in just after she left. Let alone manage to get Koko away from her parents, given she had hatched only a little while ago judging by how few tails she had.
Koko knew Moonblast as an Egg Move as well, meaning that one of her parents had to know it. Not to mention how quickly she had taken to Lillie and how she’d hidden behind Frosty. That meant she had to be somewhat familiar with humans and Frosty, but Lillie hadn’t seen Koko around their home or Burnet’s office. Putting all those clues together, Koko was likely raised in captivity by someone Professor Burnet knows and was willing to let Lillie train her as a Starter.
“I’ll just ask Professor Burnet myself when we get to Bill’s place, so I can thank them as well,” Lillie said, smiling as she brought her partner closer to her chest and started walking again. They then passed through the doors linking the private compartment to the Lounge Car.
It was somewhat more elaborate than Lillie expected as the door opened—decorative, in fact. The seats alone looked as though they were made of leather, lining the sides of the car and facing one another so that the guests could easily look to the left or right and view Kanto through the large windows in comfort. There were tables between them as well, decorated with flowers in the center, and the counter where the food could be purchased was at the end of the car, before the entrance to the next one.
Then again, this lounge car is closer to the private compartment, Lillie figured as she stepped inside. There were only a handful of people in it at the moment, though she imagined it would be more active later on, as she walked towards the next exit to explore the train more. They could get something for the others on the way back.
Halfway there, she passed by a pair of occupied seats when one person in them stood up and said, “Aren’t you cute?”
“Huh?” Lillie paused mid-step at that and turned towards the voice. The next thing she knew, Koko was out of her arms and being held up high in the air, looking just as confused.
“It’s adorable!” chimed the girl who’d taken Koko, stars dancing in her eyes as she looked up to the Alolan Vulpix. “Where did you find it?”
Snapping out of her stunned silence, Lillie quickly reached up to reclaim her Pokémon from the blue-haired older girl and held Koko protectively against her chest. “You can’t just take someone’s Pokémon like that.”
The Alolan Vulpix had her hackles raised in defense as well. She obviously didn’t take kindly to being snatched up like that. “Vullll…”
“Ah, sorry,” the girl said, clasping her hands together in front of her face in an apologetic manner. “It’s just so cute that I couldn’t help myself. Are you willing to trade for it?”
“No,” Lillie said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”
“Azuria, cut it out,” said the older boy next to her nonchalantly, using his elbow on the table to prop his head up while he looked out the window. “You’re acting like a spoiled deva by asking someone you just met to give up their Pokémon like that. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
She turned to him and gave him an impressive glare. “Stop. Calling. Me. That.”
He returned the glare with one of his own. “I will when you stop acting like one.”
Lillie backed away silently as she saw sparks flying between their eyes. She didn’t know what sort of relationship they had, but they seemed to be a little barbed at each other. Better not to get involved.
However, she bumped into someone while trying to make her escape and spun around to apologize. “Ah, sorry.”
It turned out to be Bill, who only smiled good-naturedly. “No worries. There was no harm done.”
The presence of the Pokémon Storage System creator drew the attention of the other two that had been arguing. “Mister Bill, you’re here too?”
“Azuria?” He smiled as the girl nodded and then took notice of the boy as well. “And A.J. as well. When did you two get back in Kanto?”
“Last night,” Azuria said. “We took the train from Johto to Saffron City and then caught the northbound one here. What about you?”
“I had some business in the Sevii Islands and I’m making my way back home now.” He chuckled a bit before gesturing to the seat opposite of the one the pair were sitting in. “Do you mind if I take a seat?”
“Please do,” the girl said. “We were planning on visiting your home after we visited Melanie, but this is more convenient.”
“Umm, do you know these two?” Lillie asked as he took a seat by the window.
“They’re both children who grew up in Cerulean City and frequented my lab for advice when it came to Pokémon,” Bill said, extending a hand towards the girl. “Azuria has become somewhat famous as a Coordinator in Kanto Contests. She’s even appeared on a magazine the last time I checked.”
“And turned her into a deva,” the boy, A.J., noted under his breath.
“Young A.J., on the other hand, is a skilled Pokémon Trainer,” Bill continued. “He’s earned all eight badges in Kanto. After that, he left to travel other regions and stopped by every now and again. It’s hard to keep up with him at times though.”
“I don’t have any plans after Kalos, so I’ll be in Kanto for a bit,” he said, before looking over to Lillie. She got the feeling he was sizing her up. “She’s an acquaintance of yours?”
“Lillie is a new Trainer from the Alola region,” Bill explained. “She and her mother will be staying with me for some time, before she sets out on her own journey. Perhaps you can give her some advice from a veteran to a newcomer?”
“If it’s a request from you then I can’t really turn it down…” He sat up straight and eyed her Pokémon. “To start with, if that’s your Starter Pokémon then you’re in for a rough time from here on out.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lillie demanded, an unpleasant feeling stirring in her chest at that. It would be one thing to say something was wrong with her as a new Pokémon Trainer, but Koko had been doing her best at everything.
A.J. responded with calm indifference. “Leaving aside the fact that it hasn’t fully-matured yet, that Vulpix is an Ice-type. I’m guessing she’s probably from a mountain or cave, someplace out of the way?”
Lillie nodded. “That’s—”
—correct, zzztt! His question seemingly roused the slumbering Rotom Dex from Lillie’s hood. It emerged and displayed the statistics and an image of Koko’s species, as well as her evolution. The Vulpix and Ninetails of Alola are regional variants found in the Mount Lanakila.
“Wow, its evolved form looks so beautiful!” Azuria squee’d, grabbing Rotom and pulling the living Pokédex closer to get a better view of them. “Some me some other Pokémon from that region!”
Careful with screen, pleazzze! Rotom begged as she tried to navigate the different screens manually while it continued to wriggle in an attempt to get free, until A.J. liberated Rotom from her grasp. It promptly retreated into Lillie’s hood again.
That settled, he ignored Azuria’s petulant glare and continued addressing Lillie. “Ever wonder why you rarely see Ice-types around compared to the other kinds of Pokémon? It’s because they’re hard to find as a survival trait, because they’ve got so many weaknesses.”
Ice-types are the rarest types of Pokémon in terms of pure numbers, zzt. Rotom confirmed while peeking from behind Lillie’s shoulder. They make up about 5% of the known species, with Ghost and Dragon-types following, and are disadvantaged when dealing with Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel-type attacks.
“And Pokémon become set in their ways as they get stronger and older, meaning that if you screw up her training now it’ll be difficult to correct when you’ve gotten more experience in training. On top of that, Vulpix as a whole tend to be fragile against attacks that hit ‘em head-on. So not only do you have a Pokémon that’s fragile, but also one that has a lot of weaknesses.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “That’s why you’re going to have a rough time starting out if you’re serious about battling—it’d be one thing to pretty it up for a Contest, but it’s another when facing a Gym Challenge.”
Azuria, who had merely been glaring in discontent until now, took offense to that. “Don’t make it sound like Contests are easy! It takes a lot of work to get everything perfect!”
“In Contests, you’re just embarrassed if you screw up. In an actual battle, a screw-up will result in your Pokémon being injured. In a worst-case scenario, they can end up crippled for life or killed,” A.J. countered, brushing off her argument with a side-glance. “So yeah, a Contest is easy compared to that.”
“Things are getting a little intense as they stand,” Bill said as the sparks flew between their eyes again. “Perhaps you both should settle down a bit? You’ve both got valid points after all.”
They deferred to his wishes, but Lillie noted neither was pleased by it. They had contrasting opinions on how to raise up a Pokémon for their respective professions, and seemed to feel very strongly about them at that. Which left her wondering why they were traveling together, or even sitting close to one another in the first place?
Leaving that aside, now that she had some time to think on his words and her own anger waned, Lillie had to admit he had a point. At least when it came to training. Yes, Lillie knew a lot about caring for Pokémon, but not training them for battle. And Koko was a fighter—meaning she wanted to reach her full potential. Didn’t Lillie owe it to Koko to at least try to do so?
“Okay,” Lillie said. “What do you recommend then?”
He turned his attention back to her. “Getting her combat-ready means you got to cover up those weaknesses as best you can, and that requires specialized training. I started out with a Sandshrew and trained it to resist water and ice attacks by having it dive into an ice-cold pool to toughen it up on that front. Then I had it learn Sandstorm to allow it to get around fliers long enough to knock ’em down with a Rock-type move. After that, I taught it Aerial Ace to deal with Grass-types and cover up his short-comings entirely.”
“But those are physical attacks,” Lillie noted. She was Kukui’s assistant for a bit, so she knew a thing or two about the differences in moves—physical attacks were the ones that she usually had to patch the lab up afterwards. “Koko doesn’t have any of those and constantly exposing her to things that she’s weak to would just be cruel.”
“No pain, no gain. I can only tell you what I know….” He trailed off as some kind of Pokégear-like watch on his wrist began to vibrate and looked down at it for a moment. “Sorry, but I’ve got to take this in private. You’ll have to figure out the rest on your own.”
Azuria allowed him to pass by while giving him a disappointed look. He paid it no mind as he went towards the exit of the car. The blue-haired girl could only sigh before she turned back to Bill. “I’m sorry. He’s been a lot different since the last time you saw him.”
“He does seem to be a little less patient than before,” Bill admitted. “You both used to get along so well with Melanie. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Her expression turned somewhat pensive as she held her hand to her chin. “He used to be… well, not enthusiastic about me being in Contests, but he at least supported me. That was why he traded his Butterfree to me. But then something happened over the last year while he was away, and he won’t tell me or Melanie what it is.”
“I could try to see what’s bothering him?” Bill offered.
Azuria took a deep breath and shook her head, wiping away her sadness with a more neutral expression. “No, we’ve bothered you enough. And I should try to work things out with him on my own before we get back home.”
She then turned to Lillie. “Despite what he said, Coordinators usually train Pokémon for both effectiveness and elegance. His method might work on a tougher Pokémon, but for your cute little Vulpix it might be good for you to look at some Contests too and see how they work for an idea. Bill knows where we live, so come visit some time during your stay in Cerulean, okay?”
That said, she gave them both a light bow of her head and then jogged after A.J.
Lillie was left with more questions than answers in the end. She hadn’t really seen a Contest, so she couldn’t really judge the effectiveness of Azuria’s advice until she did so. And that would have to wait until she could get actual footage in order to do so.
“Don’t think too hard on it,” Bill told her after she’d gone silent for a minute. “You’ll have plenty of time and space to practice at my home on whatever method you choose.”
“Thank you for that,” Lillie said sincerely. Then she felt the air chill and looked down at Koko, still in her arms. The Alolan Vulpix had her eyes fixed on the window again, looking at the scenery just past the trees that were beneath the elevated track they were riding on. It had changed a bit more, from what were farmlands to a long upwards slope broken in two by a raised ridgeline in the center. There were small figures out along the trail, other Trainers and Pokémon accompanying them.
“That’s Route 5,” he said. “It won’t be long now before we arrive at the Cerulean City station and from there make our way back to the cape.”
“Then we’d better get back to looking over the train.” She rose to her feet and then bid Bill farewell until then as they went back to exploring the train.
Visiting the different cars, she met a lot of other people. Some found Koko to be cute like Azuria did and wanted to trade. Others asked her if she was entering a Contest at the newly built Cerulean Contest hall. Apparently, it had just opened up and Azuria would be doing some kind of performance there soon to celebrate, so she actually was a celebrity.
Lillie didn’t see either her or A.J. on the return trip to the Lounge Car, so she presumed they went back to their own private compartment to talk.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
When the train finally came to a stop in Cerulean City, there was a minivan waiting to take them towards the inlet where Bill’s Cottage was. Along the way they passed by a bridge that stretched rather far, with Trainers battling their Pokémon along the top of it. It drew Koko’s attention again, naturally, and Lillie believed she recognized it from the information she gleamed on the way there. “Is that the Nugget Bridge?”
“That’s right,” Bill responded from the driver’s seat. “It connects to Route 25 from Cerulean City, and was named because of the abundance of Nuggets that could be found in there in the past. Young Pokémon Trainers use it as a means of testing themselves, so if you want to get in some practice against other Trainers you’ll find someone there.”
“Vul!” Koko pressed her paws on the window in anticipation and then turned back to Lillie. “Pix?”
Lillie couldn’t help but smile as she gently brushed her Starter’s head. “It’ll be a bit late by the time everything is put into place, but we can try it out tomorrow, okay?“
Koko nodded, but kept her attention on the bridge until they hung a left and into a tunnel that had been carved out of the rock formation between Cerulean City and Route 25, eventually coming out over a raised bridge that connected the tunnel to what looked to be a forest, with a dirt road cutting through it.
“This pathway we’re on will lead us to the cape and my cottage,” Bill said. “The forest isn’t very big, but if you get lost then all you need to do is find it and you’ll be able to get back. Campers sometimes use the forest as well, but normally it’s pretty quiet and the Pokémon are relatively peaceful. You shouldn’t have much trouble with them.”
“Just to be safe, take at least one of my Pokémon with you whenever you go off,” her mother added. “Even if it is relatively safe, you never know how dangerous it will be. I don’t want there to be a repeat of what happened in Vermillion City.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt while we get accustomed to staying here for a while,” Lillie noted as she looked out to the greenery. It wasn’t dense enough to blot out the sun, but she could tell it was still a maze of trees off the beaten path. And every now and again she could spot several Pokémon she didn’t recognize too.
Once they left the forest, Bill’s cottage came into view. It was bigger than Lillie expected, to say the least. It bordered a single pond that was split in two by a bridge that ran between it, leading up to the entrance, and several tall trees that surrounded the backside and climbed up the mountain behind it. It wasn’t as big as their home at the Aether Foundation, but it was bigger than Professor Kukui’s home that Lillie had grown accustomed to living at over the last few months.
Before the vehicle came to a stop, the surface of the pond rippled. Then a Dragonair popped its head out of the water, turning its dark and glossy eyes towards the minivan. The moment it recognized Bill as the driver, it floated its sleek, elegant body upwards and swam through the air towards them as they came to a stop.
“I missed you too,” Bill said fondly to the Dragonair as it stuck its head through the window and began to nuzzle him in a way that reminded Lillie of her mother’s Milotic. He then turned to Lusamine and Lillie. “This is Haku. As you can see, he’s pretty energetic.”
“I think he wants to play,” Lusamine noted as the male Dragonair made a cheerful sound, pulling his head back and then floating in circles outside the minivan. Koko seemed eager enough to take the invitation, given how she began to jump up in Lillie’s lap. The moment she opened the door, the Alolan Vulpix jumped out and gave chase, trying to catch the Dragon Pokémon as a Vaporeon climbed out of the water to see what the commotion was.
“Your belongings are already inside of the house,” Bill said to Lusamine as he opened his door. “I’ll introduce you all of everyone and then help you get settled in.”
It took a surprisingly fair amount of time to introduce every one of Bill’s Pokémon. Tenebrea and Lumen had apparently been by his side for a long time, considering that their children made up the majority.
Among the boys were a Flareon named Titus, who was apparently lazy and liked to sleep around where he could. A Jolteon named Arks, who preferred to be alone from what Lillie could gather. And a Glaceon named Glacian, who seemed to take a shine to Koko right off the bat as a fellow Ice-type.
Among the girls were a Vaporeon named Nympha, who was apparently quite dutiful and took to looking after her sibling when not in the pond with Haku. A Leafeon named Viri that tended to the berry trees that were being grown on the hills as a hobby. And a Sylveon named Fee that was bashful enough that she ran the moment she saw strangers entering their home.
There was also Bill’s Clefairy, Cecilia, who seemed friendly enough to Lusamine’s Clefable. His Porygon-2, Poly, who helped him with maintaining the cyber-security for his PC system. And his Kadabra that acted as his assistant and apparently really liked music, Bard.
The cottage itself had three floors, an attic, and a basement, with some guestrooms for Lillie and her mother to stay in for a while. Bard brought up their belongings with his psychic powers, so they didn’t have to do much in terms of heavy-lifting. But Lillie hadn’t brought much with her to begin with—just her backpack and traveling bag.
Now, with that out of the way, her mother talking to Bill, and Koko in the playroom with the other Pokémon (minus Shuckle, who decided to take a page out of Titus’ book and sleep), Lillie found herself sitting in front of a video monitor in her room and deciding on who she was going to contact first. She needed to contact Professor Burnet and Professor Kukui, to tell that she made it and thank them for everything they’d done—including giving her Rotom and Koko. But there was also contacting Miss Wicke and her brother, the latter of whom she hadn’t seen in years until they’d found one another shortly before she’d left Alola. And then there was seeing if they could get in touch with Hau and Elio.
“I hope Nebby isn’t giving him too much trouble,” she muttered to herself as she thought of the little legendary she’d taken care of until recently. Nebby probably wasn’t used to her newfound strength yet. But if there was anyone who could help her it would be Elio.
Ultimately, Lillie settled on contacting Professor Burnet first. She owed it to the woman who’d taken her in when she washed up on that beach and given her Koko. So she entered her number into the console and waited until the professor appeared on the screen.
“This is Profes—” There was a notable brightening of the expression on Professor’s Burnet’s face when she recognized who was on the other end, resulting in a smile and a more casual tone. “Lillie! It’s good to see you!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Lillie said. “Sorry I didn’t get in contact sooner. I didn’t have a chance until now, after getting to Bill’s place.”
“Oh? I thought that you would be in the Sevii Islands for a little while longer?”
“Unfortunately, something happened and we had to leave straight away.” Lillie weighed telling her about the kidnapping attempt in her mind before deciding against it. “But Frosty managed to get Koko and Rotom to me before we left. Did he make it back home okay?”
“Mm-hmm.” She looked off-screen for a moment. “He’s at home, probably rummaging in the fridge as we speak. Still, Koko is a cute name for a Vulpix. I’m sure she liked it. Are you getting along with her?”
“Yes. She’s a bit more of a fighter than I expected, but she tries hard and she’s very active… which reminds me, where did you find her?”
“I asked The Masked Royal if he had a Pokémon that would suit a new Trainer and he suggested Koko, saying that you both could grow to be a great duo.”
“I’ll have to thank him too then…” Lillie took a deep breath. “If I didn’t have Koko, I think that this would have been harder than it is right now.”
Burnet’s expression softened. “It’s hard, isn’t it? Being in a new region with all the other people you know being so distant.”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “It’s still a little unnerving to think that I’ll be traveling all over this region by myself. At least I had Elio and the others before.”
“I felt the same way when I came to Alola from Unova, before I met my husband,” Burnet told her. “And I’m sure he felt the same way when he visited Kanto to challenge the Gyms as well. But as long as you meet new friends and Pokémon, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a lot.”
“Well, I did become friends with a girl named Astra, who’s about a year younger than me and also new to the region. We both challenged the Vermillion Gym at the same time, though we both lost. Oh, and I caught a Shuckle too, though it was done by chance rather than intentionally.”
“You’re making excellent progress from the sound of things then. Hau and Elio will be happy to hear that too. I’ve heard from my husband they’ve both been thinking about you and they miss traveling together. Even Hau’s asking what Kanto is like, how much a ticket would be, and things like that after he got your photo. You’ve left quite an impression on them both.”
Lillie found herself blushing. “R-Really?”
“Mm-hmm.” There was something about the way that Professor Burnet was smiling that made it seemed like she was enjoying Lillie’s reaction. “Then again, a smile like that would be enough to make even a Champion feel flustered.”
“Ah… don’t say it like that…” The heat in her cheeks spread throughout her head at the thought. Elio was normally so composed, even in the midst of danger. So the thought of him being taken by just a photo of her was a bit much for Lillie to wrap her head around.
Fortunately, a distraction presented itself when the door hinges groaned slightly. Lillie turned her attention towards it and Koko slipped inside. “Oh, Koko! Come and say hello to Professor Burnet!”
“Vul?” The Alolan Vulpix trotted over and then climbed onto Lillie’s lap, resting her forepaws on the table and staring into the screen. “Vulpix!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Burnet said. “Are you having fun with your new Trainer?”
Koko bobbed her head, her tails flicking slightly.
“H-How are they, by the way?” Lillie asked, holding Koko in her lap. “Professor Kukui, and Hau, and Elio?”
“The boys are both actually getting ready to battle each other for the Championship title soon,” Burnet told her. “Since Kukui is refereeing the match, should I tell him to pass a message to them both?”
“Ah… I guess tell them both good luck, and that I’ll be cheering them both on from here if I can.” She believed that Bill had a television that could get whatever station it was broadcasted on. If not, she’d definitely look up the video later on.
“I’m sure that’ll motivate them both to battle extra-hard,” the dimensional researcher said in a teasing tone that brought the blushing back and left Koko to look confused as Lillie began to fidget.
Wrapped up in the discussion she was having with her surrogate caretaker for the last three months, Lillie didn’t hear the door as it softly clicked shut.
Ah, the first war. A Tragedy in the making. Still, didn’t think it had been months since Roxa was infected. Time flies.
“I have more questions than there are words in the English language, Chambers.” Avalon had pressed both hands together in a praying position, both index fingers lightly touching her bottom lip. “But I think three of those words work to sum it up adequately. What. The. Fuck.”
Tristan pointed. “Uh, yeah, I’m with her. What do you mean, you’re gonna talk to the Hangman skull? First, isn’t the thing being guarded by, like, full Heretics ever since that little brat went through it? Second, aren’t they supposed to be evil? Third, and again because I cannot stress this enough, already being guarded. Not that we’re not super-awesome, but seriously?”
“Okay.” Holding up both hands, I shook my head. “There isn’t really time to explain it. Not yet. We’re kind of in a rush right now, if we’re gonna get there before the wolves take off. And I’m pretty…
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Off to kill werewolves now. Busy week, huh?
Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Fahsteth and Fossor posted a couple days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to use the Previous Chapter button above.
Somehow, three hours had passed between the time that I’d passed out and when Roxa’s call had awakened me. That was an almost absurdly long amount of sleep for me ever since I’d gained the Amarok’s power. But after the night I’d had, apparently I’d really needed the rest.
And if the first five seconds of the new day that I’d experienced so far was any indication, it wasn’t going to be any slower or less active than the last one. But hey, at least I’d had three hours of sleep. For me, that was practically like crashing for twelve straight. I’d even slept through both the usual morning workout that I had with…
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He handled that information surprisingly well.
Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Columbus posted a couple days ago. If you haven’t seen that yet, you might wish to click the Previous Chapter button above.
One thing that I obviously had to ask before we went anywhere else with this particular conversation was a simple, “How? How’d you guys get out of the house? How did you get away from the werewolves? They said–they said it looked like the wolves were killed by a bunch of Heretics, but I know it wasn’t–I mean, if it was some of Gabriel’s people, he would’ve said so.”
“Not a bunch of Heretics,” Dad corrected. “Just one, actually. A powerful one, I think. Not that I have a lot to compare it to, but from what I saw, she’s pretty damn powerful. Scary powerful. She’s the one who weakened that memory suppression thing so I’d…
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So, that’s what Hell looks like, huh? Trapped in your own body as the asshole uses it.
The following is a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Columbus. It takes place a few nights before the current situation.
Completely alone, yet without any privacy. Helplessly trapped, as he stood in the open sunlight, surrounded by friends and family. Cut off, broken and caged… while casually chatting with some of the people who meant the most in the world to him. Columbus Porter’s body held no visible chains or locks. Yet he was as much of prisoner now as any person in history had ever been.
Standing in the hallway just outside his own room in the middle of the night, Columbus’s eyes looked first one way, then the other down the corridor. As he took in the sight of the dark, empty hall, the boy strained to shout, tried to say something, anything. Making a noise, twitching a finger, blinking just once by his own volition. Just…
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Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Miranda posted yesterday. If you haven’t seen that yet, you might wish to use the Previous Chapter button above.
The way things had been explained to me, the ‘time-stop’ ability that people like Professor Dare used didn’t actually freeze time throughout the entire universe. That would be a little absurd. Instead, it created a bubble of stopped time around the user, the size of which varied depending on how powerful they were. Anything that was in or later entered that bubble who wasn’t somehow immune to the effect would be completely frozen and have no idea that any time had passed once the bubble went down. Watches and other methods of keeping time would be wrong, of course. But most people who used that ability also had ways of surreptitiously correcting them if they were actually trying to…
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The following is a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Miranda as a character outside of and apart from Flick.
About Six Months Ago
“Duck, duck, throw your duck! Come on, Randi, just try it. Right over here. I got you. I got you. I’m right on you. Just try it.”
Pacing sideways quickly, following the circular line that had been drawn over the grass a short distance from the base of the giant tree that she had called home for several years, Miranda eyed the boy who was taunting her. His name was Duane, and he was standing in the middle of the sixty-foot wide circle, right next to a wooden stump that was about two feet tall. In the middle of the stump, a softball-sized stone had been set.
Miranda held a similarly-sized rock in her left hand, as did the nine other people who were all pacing…
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Tiger & Might – Chapter 5: Partners
Izuku’s palms were sweaty. His heart was racing. Blood was pounding at his ears. The mere fact that a simple winter breeze could spell his death left a primal fear in his heart as every thought in his mind told him one thing:
You will die if you take another step.
Izuku was six stories in the air at least, standing at the ledge of a building. The average height of a fall that would be fatal was about five stories, with eight stories having a near 100% rate of death for the average person. Those who had Quirks that made them especially resilient were a different story, but for Izuku those statistics were accurate.
‘Quit being so scared and get ready to jump.’ ordered a voice through the earpiece. Mei, no doubt monitoring his vitals.
‘Don’t say it like that!’ a second reprimanded. Miss Kasumi. ‘It’s natural for him to be afraid when he has to try jumping from that height for the first time.’
Looking down he could spot the three people who had accompanied him to this near-abandoned neighborhood of buildings and complex roads. The construction of the expressway nearby had reduced the amount of traffic and a lot of businesses either relocated or closed, leaving plenty of old buildings for them to use. Less of a chance of someone calling the police also meant less time trying to explain everything.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Mei insisted. ‘If the sensor reads that he’s falling close to the ground it’ll deploy the airbag to cushion him. And Mister Kaburagi is holding the manual trigger as a backup.’
‘Well, assuming your gear doesn’t work—and I don’t—that’s why I have Hundred Power active right now. I can speed up my reaction time and movements a hundred-fold and catch him before he gets hurt.’
Why did she have to say that out loud? Izuku fought a shudder as he checked over the equipment on him now. The AR visor that Mei had made were fixed firmly on his face, information being fed into it from the tablet she had on-hand, such as his current height.
Next, he ran his fingers over the protective pads meant to shield his body from a collision, light but firm, and the airbag belt around his waist that would detect when he was falling and deploy from both sides to cushion him from an impact. That he’d seen her test as she nonchalantly pushed a crash test dummy (he didn’t ask why she had one) she had over the edge of a taller building twice and showed the results with and without using one.
He only wished she hadn’t put an image of his face on it. Both times. That did not help.
‘Are you calling my babies shabby!?’
‘Last time I checked, that watch of yours nearly took off the arm of a practice dummy.’
His fingers then drifted to the wrist-watch grappling hook model she had been urged to make and test, ensuring it was firmly in its place. The modified version prior had been cleared by whoever it was Mister Kaburagi knew that had the proper means to test it before they even conceived doing this. And Izuku knew it would on the smaller buildings already. But their argument was not helping.
‘I adjusted that flaw three iterations ago!’
‘That meant you needed three times to get it close to working right!’
‘You’re supposed to test and building things like that—it’s a process!’
Izuku closed his eyes and let out a sigh as they began to squabble in his ears. It had been about a month since they’d met Mei, and all that entailed. Her drive to invent and improve herself was somewhat akin to his drive to be a hero, but she couldn’t really find it in her to focus all that strongly on the person using it so much as she was focused on getting the optimal result. With any luck, that would get better with time, but she and Miss Kasumi were like oil and vinegar.
‘That’s enough, you two.’ Finally, a voice of reason in Mister Kaburagi. ‘Izuku-kun, if you’re uncomfortable we can stop. The first step is always the hardest, but the idea is to get you over the primal fears so you don’t freeze up in the event you do run into them.’
He swallowed before responding. “No,” he said as he exhaled deeply through his nose. “I’ll do it now. I can’t let my fears slow me down.”
‘Then let’s get started.’ Mei again. ‘I’m activating the auto-assist program now.’
No sooner than she said a crosshair appeared on the screen of his visor, set to move along with the watch through whatever monitoring system she had place into it. As Izuku moved his hand, it moved as well, no doubt predicting where the line would connect based on the length and force of the wire. On the inside of the crosshairs there was a checkmark that turned into an ‘x’ as it passed from the building to the glass, signifying whether or not it would latch.
“Firing now,” Izuku said as he took aim and confirmed it would connect before he triggered it. The moment the end of the grappling line shot out, a number displayed on the screen that displayed both the total length of the wire as well as how much was in use. The moment the end touched the building, an electric current flowed through the wire and magnetized the tip.
‘It’s connected,’ Mei said. ‘I’ll set the reeling system to automatic rather than manual control to minimize human error. Jump now.’
She put real effort into it, and they’ve all taken safety measures, so it should be okay. Izuku took a deep breath before steeling his resolve and staking it down into his fears for a single moment of courage. Then he jumped, separating from the building that had been holding gravity at bay. He plunged like a stone immediately, a scream falling out of his mouth.
Then the line began to reel in.
In an instant, everything changed as he crossed the gap in a single fluid motion, momentum and the pull of the wire carrying him across the distance. His descent transformed into an ascension. The sensation of falling was turned into one of flight. And his scream of fear turned into one of surprise as an exhilarating sensation coursed through his body as Izuku defied gravity for the first time.
It was a cross between the adrenaline-fueled thrill and the satisfaction of overcoming the limitations of his body. The realization of the impossible becoming possible. Was this what it was like for heroes like All Might as they leapt towards the rescue?
Izuku didn’t have a chance to dwell on the line of thought for too long as he was propelled over the ledge of the building he’d jumped towards. Unprepared for the landing given the unexpected rush, he ended up stumbling into a roll until the connected line snagged him. That left him flat on his back, eyes fixed to the sky.
‘Izuku-kun, are you okay?’ Mister Kaburagi asked, concerned.
“Ye…Yes…” He took heavy and hurried breaths, chest rising and falling even with a smile spread on his face. “I never… felt better…”
Kotetsu watched as Izuku was swinging through the air with relative ease. Now that his fear had been largely minimized, he was getting used to it and steadily growing more accustomed to using it. Even smiling as he gave chase after Kasumi, who had gotten bored sitting around and decided to test him as she leapt from one building to another with Hundred Power.
The veteran hero knew the feeling of excitement very well, starting out. He’d originally used the watch in order to get to locations that were normally inaccessible for him when he needed to save on using Hundred Power—even before his powers began to wane. Of course, with his age now he couldn’t indulge in that sort of behavior.
“Don’t go out of the area I designated!” Mei shouted into the earpiece as she continued tapping the tablet she was using to keep track of Izuku’s progress. “You’ll mess up the baseline I’m working on here!”
‘Quit being a stick-in-the-mud,’ Kasumi said. ‘How often does Junior get a chance like this? Let him have some fun with it before you start slapping limitations onto it and making it boring.’
“I don’t want there to be a malfunction because you’re pushing him to go faster than he can manage when he’s had it for less than three hours,” she shot back. “There’s an order to things, which I would expect someone who’s supposed to be a hero to know.”
“Calm down you two,” Kotetsu said before they started fighting one another again. “Just slow down for a bit, Izuku-kun. We’ve got time.”
He then turned to Mei. “You should be a little gentler. I can understand how important data is for your engineering, but for him this is something new and exciting.”
“I don’t want there to be any mistakes for when I present this version to that engineer from the Helios Energy company again,” Mei said, annoyance in her voice. It wasn’t directed at him of course, but rather in response to the feedback of the previous model he’d gotten analyzed—keeping with his word.
She had done an adequate job on modifying the watch he’d given her. It met all the criteria that he had set out for Izuku, so he couldn’t complain. But it clearly wasn’t her best given the functionality of her new model, so most likely she was simply trying to get to his Wild Tiger suit as quickly as possible. The engineer had likely seen that on some level, and it had stricken her pride when he rejected it.
“Even so, you should try to understand that since it’s important for you to better understand the people you’re working with,” Kotetsu told her. “Otherwise, it’ll be a little difficult for you to get along with the heroes you’ll be making the equipment for, and that might make your future plans a lot more difficult. A bad reference from one can ruin a lot of future prospects, even if the equipment you provide is top-notch.”
She opened her mouth to respond but words only came out after a pause. “…It’s easier said than done. Especially when around people who don’t see things the same way as I do.”
“Which is why you should get in practice now,” he said gently, nodding his head towards Izuku as he swung from one building to the next. “If there’s anyone here who will understand you, it will be him.”
Hours later, the practice came to an end. They had all arrived back at Mister Kaburagi’s home, the sun setting over the horizon. The veteran hero quickly retired to his home to get some rest, leaving Kasumi to get ready to drive Izuku back home, while Mei sat on her scooter and went over the footage of the day’s practice on her tablet.
Already she could see improvements that could be made. The way the grappling system’s design worked at the moment only allowed for it to attach to buildings that had metals that could be attached to by a magnet. That was sufficient for most modern buildings, but it wouldn’t be for those that were made of some sort of natural material.
She could add in a secondary attachment component. Hooks that fired off once they received the electrical charge and then dug into the building material. But the problem was that she would have to compensate for the additional weight—which also meant recalibrating the launching system, using a thicker wire, and a wider compartment to store it in—and then have a secondary system to release the hook with enough force to penetrate whatever it needed to attach to.
Her lips slightly pursed as she considered the resources she had at hand and how much harder it would be. But, before she could think on it much further, Kasumi’s phone began to ring.
“What’s up, Mom?” she answered. Mei couldn’t hear the other end from her perch, but from the way the expression on Kasumi’s face shifted, one brow raised, whatever it was must’ve been intriguing to the woman. “How did they get up there?”
Mei turned her attention away from the conversation and focused back on the footage. It was none of her business, concern, or interest after all. That was, until a shout came over the line that even she could hear, nearly causing her to fumble it.
She turned back to see Kasumi holding the phone away from her ear, wincing as the voice continued for a bit. “Okay, okay. I’ll come get them down now!”
Then she sighed and hung up, before turning to Izuku. “Sorry, Junior. I won’t be able to give you a ride home. I’ve got to go get my nephews since they managed to get themselves into some trouble.”
“It’s fine,” Izuku said. “I can walk home.”
“I really think you shouldn’t. We were going at it for a while up there, so you’d probably pass out the moment you got home…” Her eyes drifted over to Mei. “She’ll give you a ride on her scooter.”
Mei blinked. “I will?”
Kasumi gave her an insistent look at that. “You’re the only one who can drive him. It’s not that far on a set of wheels, compared to having to walk in the dark. And besides, you’re not that busy at the moment.”
Mei frowned at the presumption that she’d have free time. It was almost insulting considering how much work she had to do. She would have to rework the design of the watch, find a material that was hard and light enough to not make it cumbersome to act as a hook, and somehow maintain the discreet appearance that it being a watch entailed. Anything more fitting, like a gauntlet, would stand-out and elude the purpose of having it in that form to begin with.
The worst part was that trying to explain that to her would be an exercise in futility. People usually just didn’t get it unless they were more inclined to the engineering side of things. She turned her cross-haired gaze towards Izuku. “Come on then.”
“I really don’t want to be a bother,” Izuku said defensively, hands raised to pacify her. “Really, it’s no trouble for me to walk.”
“Just give me your address and we’ll go,” Mei insisted as she set the tablet into a slot on the front and brought up the GPS. Once the boy did and she entered the information into it, she inched forward so that he could get onto the seat behind her. “Hold onto me.”
“Wrap your arms around my waist and sit against my back,” Mei clarified as she placed her goggles over her eyes. Her Quirk may have enhanced her vision, but having the wind blow in her face tended to throw her off. “I don’t have a second helmet with me, so it’ll be bad if you fall off.”
“O-okay.” He visibly and audibly swallowed before he held his arms out towards her waist. They were shaking for some reason, even before she started the scooter up. And his grip was rather loose as he inched forward until she felt the warmth of his trembling body.
Mei looked over her shoulder to see that he was sweating lightly too. She supposed he really might have been too tired to walk back home at that rate. It really couldn’t be helped then. She turned her attention back forward and pressed down on the pedal, taking off from the residence of Mister Kaburagi.
The evening air brushed against her face, its sting more tolerable due to having a passenger behind her. Her focus was on the road, but traffic was light and so her thoughts turned back to her project. At least until she looked in her side-mirror and saw Izuku’s mouth opening and closing, as if he wanted to say something. “What is it?”
“Sorry about this and earlier,” he said with his eyes turned down and lips downturned at the corners. “I… didn’t mean to throw your calculations off when we were testing out the equipment. I know you’re working hard, so that probably didn’t help.”
Mei realized he must have been thinking about that for some time now. Had she sounded that upset with him? “…Under normal circumstances I’d be excited to see someone happy with what I’ve made like that. I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately to get this right after what the engineer said to me. since this is a big chance for me to get an ‘in’ with a major company.”
She’d been spent weeks of testing and refining it after her classes, and it had been eating up the majority of her focus. That meant she also had to ignore her other projects, which was easier said than done. New ideas came to her mind as often as she thought about a problem in need of a solution, yet she was restricted to a single one for an undefined period of time.
“Umm… can I ask why you want to get into a major company?” he asked.
She indulged his curiosity. “Because it’ll give me access to everything I need—space, equipment, resources. I mean, have you tried making half of the equipment I do in what amounts to a garage?”
He shook his head. “I live in an apartment, so I can imagine that all the noise would at least would cause a disturbance. Not to mention the safety hazards.”
“Tell me about it…” she muttered under her breath. The noise bothered the neighbors and her parents, and she could only get so much tools and materials to work with due to costs and safety regulations. “That’s why I want to get into U.A. Their Support Department is among the best. Then, once I’ve established myself, I’ll be able to get my own workshop and make whatever I want, whenever I want.”
“Still, you managed to make all of this equipment on your own, despite not having access to everything you’d want,” Izuku said, an earnest tone in his voice. “You’re amazing, Hatsume-san.”
She couldn’t help but feel a little happy when he said that, all things considered. Her babies were the product of her love of engineering, despite having so little to work with, and she had worked up from failure before—every time being a chance to improve. It was being rejected from her first major company that had pushed her out of enjoying it, but if she didn’t enjoy it… what was the point?
“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Izuku-kun,” she told him sincerely, smiling as she felt a weight lifting from her. Mister Kaburagi was right about him after all. “With you as my partner, I get the feeling we’ll make lots of great babies together.”
An awkward laugh followed from Izuku’s mouth, but he smiled as well. “I wish you’d phrase that a different way, but I’ll look forward to it, partner.”