Chapter 19: Conquering The Bridge
“Hang in there, Shuckle!” Lillie called out. “Just a little more!”
“Shuuckkkklllleeee!” was the response to her words of encouragement as the Mold Pokémon clung to a log, his appendages coiled around the hefty hardwood as it spun in the air. It was shrouded in the cerulean hue of psychic energy as Bill’s Kadabra, Bard, moved his hand in a circle and the log followed the motions.
It was part of his training, having finally learned how to use Wrap by maintaining his grasp on the log. Not that Bard was turning it that fast to begin with, but the fact that it was moving meant that he needed a stronger grip to hold onto it than Constrict. Though in the event he was going to fall, they did have some soft materials laid out beneath him.
Since Lillie could only bring three pokémon into the battle against the former Gym Trainer to conquer Nugget Bridge in a few days, she had thought long and hard about who her choices would be. The fact that a Gyarados was their opponent basically meant all of her pokémon were pretty much at a disadvantage due to how small they were and how well-trained it most likely was, given who raised it.
But Shuckle was easily the most durable of all her pokémon. He had weathered a hit from Bewear and remained conscious, plus he knew Protect. With his help, they could come up with some way to win. Hence why he was her first choice.
“You’ll be able to rest after this,” Lillie promised. “I’ll give you as many sour pokéblocks as you want too, so just hold on for a little longer, okay?”
An elongated sound of affirmation escaped as he continued spinning while Lillie turned her attention to the next of her choices—Bellamy. Her Flower Pokémon was currently holding a small cup with his vines and drinking water from it, taking a break from his own training while watching Viri watering her lovely berry trees. He would also be a lynchpin in her plans.
“Bellamy, are you ready to keep going?” Lillie called out to her Flower Pokémon. The shy Bellsprout bobbed his bell before setting down the cup and rising onto his tiny roots. “Okay, let’s go with Sunny Day again!”
“Sprouuttttt—” His beady eyes furrowed in concentration as he raised his leafy appendages towards the sky. He had been diligent in trying to learn how to use the technique from Viri, and as proof of his hard work pale white sparkles of light rose from his frame and gathered up into the air, clumping together into a bright and shining sphere like a small sun.
“Now, use Growth!” Lillie ordered. The miniature star shone down upon him, and sparkling beads of light swaddled his body until it was shining like morning dew. Lillie clapped before turning to Viri, who gave a nod to show she was ready. “Good job! Now show me your moves!”
Bellamy then proceeded to move while under the influence of Chlorophyll, showcasing how much faster he was as he bounced around when Viri sent small leaves woven of energy, Razor Leaf, flying towards him. His lithe and slender frame nimbly avoided them all, leaving him to wriggle in pride at the improvement.
“Don’t get too complacent, Bellamy,” Lillie warned as the leaf of the Viri’s tail began to shift between hues with an almost kaleidoscopic effect. “Heads up!”
On cue, the Verdant Pokémon released the shimmering, whirling projectiles like miniature saws toward the Flower Pokémon. He attempted to dodge them, only for them to curve around after passing him by before closing in. He then began to flail his leafy appendages around as he ran in a circle while they gave chase. “Sprout, sprout, sprout!”
“Magical Leaf won’t stop until it hits,” Lillie said. “Try hitting them instead with Acid Spray.”
Bellamy turned around, his tiny roots sliding around the dirt before he reared back and fired purple globs of acid at them. They managed to catch three of the four of them, leaving one heading towards him. He panicked and sent his vines lashing out at the ground, launching him into the air and thus leaving him aerial as the remaining whirling leaf curved towards him until he managed to get a final Acid glob out and hit it…
Right as the artificial sun winked out. The period of hyperactivity was replaced with lethargy, born from how unfamiliar it was to him. Thus, exhausted while in the middle of the air, he could only let out a cry as he was left plummeting to the ground. “Sprouuuuuuu—”
His cries were cut short when the cerulean veil of psychic power shrouded him. He levitated slowly to the ground where Shuckle had been set down, his elongated head slowly turning in spirals while still wrapped around the log sitting upright. It was safe to say he’d learned Wrap at this point as Lillie came over and checked on them both.
“…Good job, both of you,” she said after making sure neither were injured. A bit tired, scared, and dizzy, but unharmed. As they got their bearings again after being sent for a loop, she presented them with their treats. “We’ll still need more work before we can say you’ve mastered your moves and abilities, but it’s safe to say we might have a shot of beating Gyarados if everything goes well.”
Bellamy’s expression turned doubtful as he carefully held a pokéblock between the tips of his leaves. His being frightful was natural given his disposition. But she saw he was probably the one who had the most potential to shine if everything went right because of how helpful he was.
She gently brushed him on his bell. “I have faith in you, Bellamy. Just do your best and I’ll be proud, no matter what.”
He nodded, beady eyes gaining some measure of bravery in the hopes of living up to her encouragement. “Sp-Sprout.”
She smiled at him and left the two of them to get some rest before heading to check on her third and final choice. Sliding down the hillside that housed the trees under Viri’s care, she came to a stop at the base of the incline and spotted Koko bouncing up and down on the surface of one side of the pond that had been frozen along with Glacian. “Koko, how’s practice going?”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled around and then darted over to her trainer. Her icy blue paws nestled against Lillie’s legs as she stared up with her crystalline eyes and barked excitedly while wagging her tail. “Pix! Pix!”
“Okay, I’ll come to look.” Lillie obliged her by picking her up and then heading over to see that the layer of ice was thicker than when she first managed to perform Icy Wind. That meant she had used it at least twice, back-to-back. It was praiseworthy progress and the bundle of white fur wriggled as Lillie brushed her affectionately in the process of doing so. “Good job. I’m so proud of you!”
Their playing came to a standstill as the sound of a distant, semi-muffled explosion came from the side of the building and out of view. “Looks like he’s woken up from his nap and started practicing again, huh?”
“Pix.” Koko nodded before the pair ventured over towards the edge of the house and peered around the corner to spot the Fairy Pokémon already hard at work after his brief nap.
“Snnnnubb…” Snubbull growled and his pink fur bristled as he stared down what was left of a log that was nearly as tall as her several meters away. It had been set up as a training post for him to practice Fire Fang on and he had been nothing if not diligent on that part. The main body was blackened, charred bark and splinters resting around it as smoke rose from places where there was a dull, orange glow.
Flames began to lick at the corners of his mouth as he snarled, embers drifting off the side before he took off into a sprint towards the log. Not a direct line, but rather zigzagging as though avoiding invisible attacks while the flames grew more intense to where his entire mouth seemed encased in flames. Then, once he was within lunging distance, the flames seemed to expand from his mouth and push out a mold of fangs that were slightly larger than his own as they crashed together against the bulk of the log’s body. “BULLL!!”
The explosion knocked loose charred splinters and gouged out pieces of it as the entire thing trembled from the force of it. Snubbull himself emerged from the resulting smoke with his fur covered in patches of soot from the burnt bits. Panting, he wobbled back towards his starting point and took deep breaths to ready himself to try it again.
He’s going to need a bath before bedtime, Lillie thought to herself as she watched him. Snubbull had been her third choice for the match, partly to synergize with her other two choices but also because of his own insistence. He was so prideful that even the thought of facing down Gyarados wasn’t enough to shake him.
Even so, there wasn’t enough time for him to learn Thunder Fang from Arks and he was insistent that he used Fire Fang. She had conferred with Professor Kukui on the subject of refining his favorite technique and he had suggested that instead of forming it solely around his own fangs, he should visualize the fangs that he wants them to become. That seemed to be having an effect given the results, but part of that could also be how much he’d been throwing himself into his training.
Lillie looked down to Koko and smiled. “I guess we should get back to our own training, huh?”
The Fox Pokémon yipped. They still had three days of training left. It would have to be enough for them to conquer the bridge.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie and her pokémon trained. And trained. And trained some more.
Then the day of the match approached. The neophyte trainer returned to the Nugget Bridge and found herself standing at the end of the bridge where the former Gym Trainer stood with an expectant grin on his face. There was an audience as the other bridge trainers and spectators had gathered to watch from just beyond the bridgehead, the flower-strewn field nearby serving as the seat for the small crowd.
I didn’t think there’d be so many people… Lillie found it a little awkward having so many eyes on her even as she tried to keep her focus on her opponent. At least with Lt. Surge only her mother and Astra and her grandfather had been there to see her defeat. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.
“Don’t focus on the crowd,” Azuria said, placing a hand on Lillie’s shoulder as she came to a stop next to her. It seemed that she’d decided to come along for moral support. Lillie wouldn’t be surprised if she managed to pick up from her body posture just how nervous she was. “Instead, focus on the ones cheering for you to have a good match.”
Lillie followed her gaze back to where Lilligant and Koko were off to the side with Rotom, since they weren’t participating this time. The trio cheered her on in their own way and encouraged her. She felt her lips forming into a soft smile as she placed a hand on her chest and took a deep breath, settling her nerves as the Coordinator went to join them. “Right. We can do this.”
The brown-haired man with glasses who had given her the card at the start of the gauntlet took to the center of the field. It seemed he would be acting as the referee for the battle. His voice came in loud and clear as he declared the start of the match. “Then let the final battle of the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet begin!”
“It’s your time to shine, Shuckle!” Lillie said as she tossed his ball out and the Mold Pokémon emerged on her side of the field.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a match, so let’s make it a good one!” Kado said in an enthusiastic tone as he enlarged his partner’s ball before tossing it up into the air. “Gyarados, let’s get started!”
The ball broke open, light spilling out and swelling to comparatively massive size as the details filled in once the conversion was done. The long, serpentine body of the Atrocious Pokémon landed on the Gym Trainer’s side of the field with its blue scales reflecting the sheen of the morning light off its back, while its yellow underbelly cast a shadow that stretched over Shuckle’s tiny frame. Then those piercing red eyes fixed onto his beady black ones and it let out a roar.
Gyarados used Intimidate!
Shuckle promptly (and understandably) withdrew into his shell.
“I-It’ll be okay, Shuckle!” Lillie tried to reassure him. “Just do like we practiced!”
“Sorry, but the match has started, we’re not going to hold back just because he’s holed up in his shell,” Kado said. “Gyarados, Water Gun!”
“Shuckle, it’s coming!” Lillie shouted as the cheeks of the Atrocious Pokémon swelled until they were bulging. “Protect yourself!”
If there was one thing that Shuckle didn’t really a prompt on, it was protecting himself. No sooner than what came from the Gyarados mouth was a lancing stream of water did it hit a solidified wall of air that cracked beneath the force of the impact. But it managed to hold against the attack long enough to leave the water scattered before the barrier itself shattered.
“Whew.” Lillie let out a breath of relief as Shuckle stuck his head out of one of the holes to reveal he was okay. “Now, Sticky Web!”
His tiny cheeks swelled as he spat out a glob of bug glue. It expanded into a web towards the massive Gyarados that promptly avoided it with contemptuous ease using its serpentine body. The webbing then smacked into the bridge behind it, where it remained.
“Sorry, but he isn’t so slow something like that could hit it,” he said. “And that weak Protect won’t stand up to an attack that has our full power behind it. Close the distance and use Bite, Gyarados!”
The Atrocious Pokémon’s fangs grew luminous and then multiplied. Rather than four fangs, there were instead glowing teeth running along the length of its upper and lower lips. Then it did as told by using the muscles beneath its scales to not slither but lunge at the tiny prey.
“Withdraw!” Lillie called out as Shuckle naturally tucked his head back into his shell out of fear. The shell then grew luminous right as the similarly hued fangs came crashing down upon him. Then Gyarados reared back, leaving Shuckle’s shell stuck between the fangs that were clenching like they were trying to bite into Rock Candy. “Now, Wrap!”
To the surprise of the Gyarados, Shuckle’s appendages burst from four of the holes and stretched so they could coil around its head in similar manner to a muzzle, leaving it unable to let go. The moment of confusion as it shook its head to try and get him to let go turned to anger when it was clear that Shuckle wouldn’t budge. It began to clamp down its grip tighter on the shell. “Grysshaa!!”
“It’ll be okay,” Lillie called out to Shuckle as his concerned cries emerged from the confines of the shell even as he held firm. That shell was hard enough to take a hit from Bewear without using Withdraw back when they’d first met. Strengthening his naturally high defense meant that it wouldn’t crack under the pressure, and as long as he held on it couldn’t toss him away—locking down one of its strongest weapons.
Now it was time to lock down the other advantage it had. “Now, use Sticky Web below!”
Shuckle’s head emerged from the rear hole, lips tinged by the hue of his Berry Juice that he’d probably drank after getting bitten—he probably hadn’t taken nearly enough damage to warrant it, but such was his nature. His tiny cheeks swelled before spitting out another glob of natural adhesive, only this time it aimed straight at the base of the bridge where Gyarados was touching it. There was a squishy sound as the Atrocious Pokémon pressed into it further inadvertently, thus leaving it stuck as it tried wrestling itself free.
“So that’s your gimmick,’” Kado said as the realization dawned. It brought a smile to his face. “Clever, but we’re not out of the fight yet. Water Gun!”
Gyarados’ extra fangs dissipated as its cheeks began to swell again, leaving Shuckle to crane its head back in concern and meet with the red, narrow eyes of the Atrocious Pokémon. Then he promptly tucked his head back into his shell as the Gyarados let loose the attack. One second there were sharp streamlets of water going around the shell.
Then next Shuckle was launched like a cannonball and slammed into the surface of the bridge. His shell bounced off the hard surface once, four long limbs trailing after him before their natural adhesiveness tethered him, and he promptly snapped back down. His head emerged from the top-most orifice in the shell, swaying after being thrown for a loop. “Shuuuccckllllee….”
“Don’t let up, Shuckle!” Lillie called out, leaving the Mold Pokémon to shake his head and regain his senses. “Stick with the plan and keep going!”
Shuckle proceeded to do just that as he took aim at the Atrocious Pokémon that was struggling to pull itself free of the gob of bug glue on the right side of its body, where its underbelly met the bridge. He then reinforced it by firing yet another glob on the opposite side, the left side it was leaning on to try and get free. It smushed into it and glued him there further.
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched in fury before reeling around towards Shuckle in time for another Sticky Web to come flying towards it, this time expanding from the air resistance and covering a portion of its upper body. In retaliation, its cheeks swelled.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie ordered. The protective wall went up just in time to meet with the streaming blast of the Water Gun that smashed into hard enough this time to shatter it whole, leaving the blunted hit to reach Shuckle. But he weathered the assault and returned fire with yet another Sticky Web, coating the Atrocious Pokémon with another layer on the center and causing it to start struggling more violently. “Just a little more!”
“Gyarados, calm down!” Kado commanded. “If you get angry and start thrashing around, you’ll only send up stuck further until you can’t move. Temper your rage and then wait for your moment!”
It was as though the atmosphere shifted in a single moment. The Gyarados quelled its furious motions and went stock still as its eyes focused on Shuckle as the Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled once more. Then it clicked. “Shuckle, wait—”
Gyarados used Dragon Rage!
No sooner than the Sticky Web came flying outwards did its maw opened wide. Then, in a manner that was too akin to how Koko would charge a Moonblast, but much faster, what formed from its maw was a reddish-orange sphere. The sphere was launched from Gyarados and cut through the air towards Shuckle who hastily attempted to weave his Protect once more to act as a bulwark against the onrushing attack. The two met and the air howled as the half-formed shield shattered under the concentrated essence of a dragon’s rage—
—and Shuckle was swallowed by the flash of red and orange as the force contained spilled out with a shockwave that knocked him loose and sent him flying. There was a loud conk as his shell hit the bridge’s surface, spinning in place upside down while his limbs and head were splayed out.
He was out cold.
“Shuckle is unable to battle!” declared the referee after observing his supine form. “Challenger, choose your next pokémon.”
We didn’t manage to get enough of the Sticky Web on it to stop it completely, but that should at least slow it down, Lillie reasoned as she recalled Shuckle back into his ball. Then she pulled out her second choice. “Your turn, Bellamy!”
The Flower Pokémon emerged onto the field and took stock of the situation, somewhat nervously fidgeting as the Gyarados glared at it, and then turned back to his trainer. “S-Sprout?”
“We have a little time while he’s still stuck!” she encouraged him. Then the referee announced they could begin, so she gave her order. “Use Sunny Day!”
Bellamy raised his leaves to the sky and began to gather energy into a sphere above him. Once it was a fairly modest size, he launched it further up transforming it into a miniature star. It shone down upon the battlefield and radiated strong sunlight.
Bellamy used Sunny Day! The sunlight turned harsh!
“Oh, that might be a problem,” Kado admitted. “Gyarados, use Dragon Rage!”
Obeying orders, the Atrocious Pokémon spat out another orb of concentrated rage at the Flower Pokémon. However, the moment it left its mouth, Bellamy was on the move. Shrouded in the viridian veil of Chlorophyll his tiny, root-like legs moved surprisingly fast and carried him out of the range of the blast as it hit the surface of the bridge and the shockwave made it tremble a little.
“Good job!” Lillie praised him. “Now, stay at a distance where you can dodge if it tries that again and start using Growth!”
“Sprout!” Bellamy bobbed his bell and then raised his leaves to the artificial sun, drinking up the light. Unlike when they fought the Bronzor and Geodude, they knew that it would be a lot faster when Sunny Day was in effect and it would be twice as effective if he had enough time. Strong enough to even take out a Gyarados.
Unfortunately, they would have the time to get that strong as Kado turned his attention to his Gyarados that was struggling to get free, and commanded, “Use Ice Fang on webbing holding you down and then close the distance to attack!”
Ice crackled as dense, glistening frost encroached over its lips and formed a jutting maw composed of two rows of razor-sharp icicles as it craned its head towards the base where it was stuck and then plowed them into the adhesive. The ice froze the globs of bug glue keeping it pinned down, leaving the Atrocious Pokémon to break free of its binding. It then lunged for Bellamy as sparkles danced off his frame from the Growth-in-progress.
“Bellamy, go up!” Lillie shouted as she saw the ice-laden maw closing in on him like a rushing train while he seemed stuck in place like a Stantler caught in headlights. Thankfully, he roused at her voice and shot his vines at the ground, using them to send him into the air as the maw of ice slammed shut where he’d been and sent shards spraying everywhere.
Bellamy winced as some of the shards slammed into him as he retracted and then launched his vines downwards again to land behind the Gyarados some distance away. It naturally reared upwards to turn and then attack him, but it began to strain as the webbing that had been layered on its underbelly caught the surface of the bridge. Bellamy took the chance to go on the offense, dredging up some of his natural gastric juices and suddenly spitting out a Growth-imbued Acid Spray towards the Gyarados. “Sprout!
A Critical Hit!
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched as the moment it hit the scales covering its backside, the caustic fluids began to froth. It strained harder against the thin layer until the bond gave way under his muscles, right as another Acid Spray from the Flower Pokémon splashed against its massive body and left it in even more infuriating pain. It whirled around onto Bellamy as the Flower Pokémon began to ready another Acid Spray and fired a Dragon Rage in retaliation.
In the midst of launching another attack, Bellamy wasn’t prepared to move as the reddish-orange sphere of draconic rage closed the distance—
—and ruptured, consuming the Flower Pokémon as Bellamy’s short cry of pain was drowned out by the violent release of the condensed fury. Smoke billowed up from where the attack had landed, obscuring Lillie’s pokémon until a breeze thinned it out and revealed his prone form as tendrils of smoke wafted off of him.
“Bellsprout is unable to battle!” the referee declared after a moment. “Challenger, choose your final pokémon.”
Lillie returned Bellamy into his ball before pressing it against her forehead and whispering, “Thank you, Bellamy.”
He had done a marvelous job considering that they hadn’t managed to completely pin down the Gyarados. Just from the way it was wheezing and tremors ran along its body she could tell he managed to do a lot of damage thanks to Shuckle’s webbing holding it down long enough for him to strengthen himself a little. And the sunlight was still harsh so Gyarados’ Water Gun would be hampered for a little while longer.
We still have a chance, Lillie believed with all her heart as she enlarged the ball of her final choice and tossed it out. “It’s all up to you now, Snubbull!”
The Fairy Pokémon emerged onto the field, landing on his hind legs. He met the fierce gaze of the Atrocious Pokémon without flinching or fear. Instead, he fell on all fours and barked in defiance.
Gyarados snarled in response.
Then the referee announced, “Let the final match begin!”
Snubbull took off running towards the comparatively massive pokémon that had taken down two of his peers without fear or even waiting for Lillie’s command.
His weapons were his fangs. He couldn’t use those without getting closer to his enemy. Even if it put him directly in threat range of the Gyarados, all he could do was approach the enemy and attempt to tear it apart regardless of what kind of pokémon it was.
Likewise, in the presence of an approaching enemy, Gyarados attempted to defeat it with the same method it had done the others. It let loose the reddish-orange sphere that was its rage made manifest and sent it flying towards Snubbull. The resulting explosion swept up his tiny body entirely…
Snubbull was unaffected!
Only for Snubbull to emerge from the smoke unperturbed while flames began to crawl from between his lips with a fiendish vigor until they completely shrouded his maw. Unhindered by the ineffectiveness of his attack, the Fairy Pokémon quickly closed the distance until Gyarados was within lunging range. Then he pounced with a roar. “SNUBBULLL!!”
The temperature spiked as flames that had been caged were unleashed. They shot out and took the form of a pair of fangs that were almost twice as large as Snubbull. Then he snapped his maw together and the Fire Fang slammed down upon the surprised Gyarados.
I didn’t think it’d be that strong, Lillie thought as the sudden flare of intense heat enshrouded the pair with such intensity that she had to avert her eyes while the sound of the explosion was deafening. Snubbull had been practicing with his Fire Fang, specifically on concentrating the intensity of the flames. But the addition of Sunny Day had intensified them a lot more as the artificial sun slowly faded as the last of its energy was expended.
That was when the roar of the Atrocious Pokémon shook the air before a pink blur was launched from the dissipating smoke and landed on the surface of the bridge near Lillie, having been knocked away. Lillie saw the Fairy Pokémon was slow to get back onto his feet and asked, “Are you okay?”
He barked in confirmation and turned his attention back to the Gyarados, whose underbelly sported a large scorch mark that was spread out over a large section as it writhed in place from pain. It had done a lot of damage, no doubt due to Gyarados being caught by surprise and Sunny Day. Along with its other injuries, it didn’t look like it could take another hit and remain standing.
But with Sunny Day down now, Gyarados can use his Water Gun again, she realized. Snubbull could only attack any enemy that was in front of him. If Gyarados abused the fact that he had a ranged option, then it could simply wear him out. Then Shuckle and Bellamy’s sacrifices would be for nothing. There’s nothing else we can do but push ahead.
“Go for it, Snubbull!” Lillie ordered. The Fairy Pokémon unhesitatingly charged towards the towering pokémon with the intention of toppling the titan. The Atrocious Pokémon rose straight in response, taking aim at the oncoming threat that had wounded it.
Gyarados used Water Gun!
Water spouted from Gyarados’ mouth towards the small target, spearing through the air to strike it down. But Snubbull bound side-to-side as he had during practice, the imaginary targets now replaced by bludgeoning gouts of water. Though it slowed him down, both were aware that the moment that Gyarados had to take a breath and gave pause to his attack it would be decided.
That was why Kado forewent stalling things out longer. “Meet it head-on with Ice Fang, Gyarados!”
“Fire Fang, Snubbull!” Lillie responded in kind with the attack Snubbull was proficient with the most.
That sound of the crackling ice and sizzling flames filled the air as the two pokémon bared their fangs. Frost-laden mist roiled around the Gyarados’ head as its maw was filled with icicles that glinted in the sunlight. Tongues of flames rolled around Snubbull’s protruding maw that left the air quivering with heatwaves. Baring their respective elemental fangs, the two lunged for one another—
—and the resulting clash filled the air not with smoke but instead steam that left the air hissing as fire and ice attempted to dominate one another. The hissing overtook all sounds as the white veil spread to the edges of the bridge and was slow to thin, thus obscuring the two combatants as trainers and audience alike looked on with anticipation (and a little worry).
But then the steam thinned to where a large silhouette on the ground slowly filled in with color to reveal them. The prone form of the massive Atrocious Pokémon was strewn on the bridge surface, sporting scorch marks anew. As for Snubbull, his tiny body was also prone with his pink fur covered in thick patches of frost as his breath came out in cold puffs.
“Did they knock each other out?” Lillie wondered. Then Snubbull stirred. The Fairy Pokémon’s stubby arms slowly shifted themselves until they were underneath his tiny frame. The patches of ice began to flake as he trembled to push himself back onto his hindlegs. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Snn…Snnn…” Straining, he managed to get back up only to nearly fall over once more. But before his legs could give out, he caught himself and stood up slouching. Then he took a deep breath, straightened his back, stuck out his arms, and shouted to the heavens. “BBBBBBUULLLLL!!!”
The referee then took a moment to look over him. And then the still downed Gyarados. Then he declared the match. “THE WINNER IS THE CHALLENGER’S SNUBBULL!”
The nervous silence that had filled the air prior was replaced with clapping and cheers while Lillie approached Snubbull standing there while Kado recalled his partner into his ball. She crouched down as he turned to her with a little smile on his face and saw how badly he was trembling from just trying to stand upright. And then she extended her hands to catch him as he promptly fell over, conscious but without the strength to stand.
“You can be so stubborn sometimes,” she told him as she cradled him against her chest. Honestly, she wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d just stayed down considering how exhausted he was. Yet she gave him a grateful smile because that stubbornness was what let him stand back up again and made it so that Shuckle and Bellamy’s efforts were rewarded as well. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Now that was a match,” Kado said as he approached with the pair with the referee. “It’s been so long since we’ve had a challenge. I felt like I was back in the Gym.”
“Sorry we were hard on your Gyarados,” Lillie apologized. “There really was no way we could beat it without going so far.”
He brushed it off. “Anything less and you wouldn’t have won. It’s an insult for a trainer to not give their opponent their very best, and you managed to make the most out it. Let me see your card.”
She shifted her grip on Snubbull so that she could give him it, and he gave it the final stamp.
Lillie received the Blue Stamp!
After everything was said and done, Lillie made for the Pokémon Center immediately to get her team checked out. The news had apparently reached Nurse Joy as the caretaker asked to see her card after taking her pokémon into her care. Then she produced a small box and said, “Here are your rewards for completing the challenge. We hope that it spurs you into further greatness in the future.”
Lillie opted not to open it until the rest of her pokémon were healed. They were the ones who did the work. It was only fair that they got to see the prize together.
“Great job, everyone,” Lillie began once they were all patched up and gathered around the table for lunch. “We only managed to win because you all worked together. I’m proud of all of you.”
Shuckle took to the praise with his usual stoicism, befitting of his role as the wall that stood the longest and slowed Gyarados down. Bellamy found himself scratching his bell with the tip of his leaf somewhat abashed, still surprised that his contribution made that much of a difference. He was underselling himself considering how effective he’d been thanks to Sunny Day and Growth. As for Snubbull…
“Snub! Bull! Bull!” chuffed the Fairy Pokémon as he stood on the table, posing proudly that his fangs had brought low the mighty water serpent. “Snubbull-snub!”
“Yes, yes, you were wonderful too.” She pampered him with a head pat as Azuria, who had decided to join them, stifled a laugh. Lillie then set the box on the table so they could all see as she pulled the top off and revealed the contents. There was a TM inside of it, along with a badge that had a golden bridge on it.
Lillie received the TM for Hidden Power!
Lillie received the Nugget Bridge Badge!
“Oh, Hidden Power,” Azuria said with a rather amused note in her voice. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one.”
“You know what it does?” Lillie asked. Though she had worked under Professor Kukui for a bit, she didn’t know all of the moves that were out there.
The coordinator nodded. “It’s a technique that draws out the inner strength of a pokémon and converts it into a different nature. It, along with Secret Power and Nature Power, made for interesting combinations when coordinators would set the terrain and then make the most of it with their teams.”
“That sounds interesting,” Lillie mused before noticing Snubbull picking up the badge with his stubby little arms and holding it up to the light to get a better look at it. “Do you want to go show Miss Melanie when we’re done with lunch?”
He gave an enthusiastic bob of his head. “Bull!”
That decided, they finished their lunch before heading back over to the Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter where they rang the doorbell. Melanie answered in her same overalls and apron that effectively served as her own uniform. Snubbull immediately ran inside and held up the badge in his stubby paws to show it off and barked for attention.
“So that’s the badge you managed to earn, huh?” Melanie crouched down while sporting a soft, gentle smile as she patted him on the head. She then looked back up to Lillie. “I heard about how you won over the radio. You can imagine my surprise when I heard he fought a Gyarados and managed to walk away standing.”
Lillie could only nod her head. “It still feels a little unreal. But all of my pokémon did their best in their own way, and because of them supporting each other they managed to make it a reality. I think we might be able to win our next badge soon enough.”
“Don’t tell me you’re heading out to do the Gym Challenge tomorrow or something?” Azuria asked. “The Contest Hall’s grand opening is coming up and I’ve got seats for you, A.J., Miss Lusamine, Melanie, and Mister Bill.”
“I know,” Lillie said. “Mother said that there was some upcoming event on the night of the opening, so we were planning on visiting your show before heading to Mt. Moon for it.”
“That night on Mt. Moon?” She ruminated on the thought before something seemed to click and she smiled brightly. “Oh! I see. It’s around that time now, isn’t it?”
Lillie tilted her head in confusion. “Do you know what is it?”
“Maybe~” Azuria teased. “But if your mother hasn’t told you then she probably wants it to be a surprise, so I’ll keep quiet. But I’m sure you’ll love it.”
Now Lillie’s curiosity was really peaked. She turned to Lilligant who seemed just as clueless, but then they heard the familiar sounds of cooing coming from the gap in the doorway and spotted Mime Jr. now trying to slip out of the door. There was a smile on his tiny face as he tried to reach out for Lilligant, only for Melanie to scoop him up.
“It’s your nap time, Mr. Mime,” she scolded him gently. The child squirmed lightly in her grasp as she brought him back into the main room where there had been a small bed set aside in the little play area where he usually was. “You weren’t too fussy a few minutes ago, so be good and get some rest.”
Mime Jr. writhed in his bed until Lilligant came over and took a seat next to him, speaking in a soft tone. “Lili. Lili.”
He yawned before he could start mumbling and she began to softly brush him with her leafy appendage to coax him into sleep. “Mimi…”
Melanie seemed content to let her do so before coming back over to them and Lillie apologized. “Sorry for the trouble. It seems he really likes her.”
“I don’t really mind. He’s a good boy and it’s clear she’s not inexperienced with nurturing younger pokémon,” Melanie said. And it was true enough that her mother’s Clefable, Mismagius, and Lilligant pretty much took after that side of her. “My only concern is that it’s going to make it harder when he has to say goodbye eventually.”
That was right. The pokémon here were under her care until they could be placed into more suitable locations back in the wild. Eventually, he would be forced to say goodbye once they found a colony that would accept him since baby pokémon needed someone to look after them in the wild. That bittersweet thought lingered as Lillie watched Lilligant rock the Mime Pokémon to sleep until the door opened anew.
“Excuse me,” a young woman that looked around Azuria’s age said as she entered the room. “This is the Pokémon Shelter, isn’t it?”
She was dressed in what Lillie presumed to be rather trendy clothes, a contrast to the young man who entered along with her. His attention immediately turned to the small pokémon in the enclosures as though he were searching for something in particular. Then his eyes lingered on Koko as she looked into the one that had the Paras in the middle of regrowing their mushrooms.
It unsettled Lillie for some reason.
“Yes, it is,” Melanie said, putting on a professional smile as she greeted the pair. “How can I help you?”
The girl clasped her hands together as she asked, “Pardon me if this sounds weird, but we were looking for a particular pokémon and heard that someone spotted it wandering around here.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to be specific,” Melanie said. “If it was an owned pokémon then we would report them to the Pokémon Center so they can be returned to their trainers. But if they were abandoned or stray pokémon then they might have been in our care for a time.”
“It’s a Vulpix.”
No sooner than those words left her lips did an unseen tension thread the room. They all recalled the Vulpix that A.J. had brought to her before dawn and sent off, even though it was supposed to be registered to someone else. The fact that they knew about it when no one else had come looking since then meant…
Lillie snapped out of her thoughts when she felt the air grow chillier and heard the low growl slipping out of the Alolan Vulpix. “Koko, come here.”
Koko kept bristling at them, a sight that caused the young man to frown as he seemingly reached for a Great Ball on his belt. The young woman looked taken aback but it felt forced.
“Now, Koko,” Lillie said in a tone that was far firmer than ever in her life to one of her pokémon. It almost seemed to shock the Fox Pokémon and even Snubbull, who only now seemed to realize something was amiss. She flinched and looked at Lillie with somewhat hurtful eyes before slowly coming over.
I’m so sorry, Lillie silently thought as she picked her up and held her close before she apologized to the pair while keeping her voice level. “I’m sorry. She isn’t normally like this and I don’t know what’s gotten into her.
“Please take her out back,” Melanie said before turning to Snubbull. “You go too, Snubbull.”
Snubbull was just as confused about what was going on but he seemed to register between how the girls were acting, and even how Lilligant had risen up from Mime Jr.’s side that something was amiss. “Bull?”
“Please, be good,” Melanie pleaded with him. He let out a low grumble in confusion as he seemed to pick up that she was asking him something serious. He then let out an affirmative nod and made his way over to Lillie as they went to the back door.
“Now then,” Melanie said, grabbing their attention in an effort to de-escalate the situation. “If it’s a Vulpix then we haven’t taken one into our care as of late. However, this particular one does visit with her trainer often to play with the others, so there’s a chance someone saw that and misunderstood.”
Lillie listened to them until she slipped through the door and closed it shut. Then she went off to the side and crouched down, holding Koko to her chest and apologizing to her softly. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Pix?” Koko inquired. “Vulpix?”
“Just give me a minute before doing anything,” Lillie whispered to them both as she set her partner down hastily and reached for her Pokégear. Something about the situation was off and if something happened then a lot of innocent pokémon could get hurt, so she had to clear out of the way to do what A.J. said when he gave her his number the last time. She had only finished dialing the number and heard it ringing on his end when—
—there was a loud sound from the inside followed by surprised pokémon noises that drew the attention of not only Lillie but the other pokémon out in the yard as she dropped the device. She immediately rose to her feet and went back to the door and opened it to see that an Arbok, not unlike the one that had attacked them in the Pokémon Center in the Sevii Island was glaring down at Melanie and Azuria while Lilligant stood between them and it.
And it clearly belonged to the young man who was sporting a deeper frown. “Enough of this.”
“What. Are You. Doing?” said the woman who looked irritated more than anything.
“We don’t have time for this,” he said in a pointed tone. “There’s no point in dragging this out and you could tell from their reaction compared to the other places they know about the Vulpix. Or do you want to pay the price for losing it?”
The girl rolled her eyes and let out a sigh before reaching into her purse and then pulling out another ball. It burst open and out came a very angry looking Primeape that looked around menacingly towards the surrounding pokémon within their enclosures. “Primeape tends to be a bit jumpy so he’s prone to attacking recklessly. It’d be better for everyone if you just tell us what we want to know.”
“I told you, that Vulpix hasn’t been in our care,” Melanie said in a tone that was both firm and cold despite having the eyes of both the Arbok and the Primeape on her. “Now leave.”
The young woman looked at her with an irritated expression. “Ugh, I hate your type. Whatever. I’ll say that it ended up in a ditch somewhere but that I got her a new one.”
The message carried the moment her eyes fell onto Koko.
“BULLL!” Snubbull might have been slow on the uptake earlier but he recognized a threat. His response was just as reflexive and so he lunged with flames licking at his lips—
—and was immediately hit hard enough that he was sent sailing into the door frame, his small body hitting it hard enough that the wood splintered and he collapsed onto the ground. The hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out cold, but his body trembled in pain and he couldn’t stand up anymore.
“SNUBBULL, NO!” Lillie shouted as she picked him up while the Primeape bristled as though it was going to continue attacking, with all the pokémon recognizing that violence was occurring and started trying to get free of their enclosures to scamper off and hide.
That was when there was a rush of pink petals. So numerous that they obscured the Pig Monkey Pokémon and Cobra Pokémon entirely, the pair were swept up so abruptly that even their surprised and pained cries were drowned out by the sound of cracking wood as they were blown through the door and slammed into the tree there hard enough that it broke under the force of the attack. As the remaining petals slowly drifted down over their prone and unmoving bodies, silence filled the air once more as all eyes turned to the source.
And bore witness to Lilligant slowly striding forward with the air around her quavering from the hue of a Battle Aura.
The two trainers themselves seemed stunned at the reaction until she turned her gaze towards them and then immediately reached for more balls. But without missing a beat, Lilligant aimed her flower towards them and sent out a spume of yellowish powder—Stun Spore.
They hit the ground with their bodies twitching as their muscles went numb. Helpless as Lilligant hovered over the two and looked down at them without any expression while the aura around her seemed to swell…
…Then, as quickly as it came, it vanished as Lilligant turned towards the crying Mime Jr. He had crawled out of his bed and hidden behind it, scared at everything that had happened and thus followed his instinct to hide and go unnoticed. But now that the immediate threat had seemed to have been dealt with, he did what came naturally to scared baby pokémon.
The rest of the pokémon followed suit.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
A.J. braced himself as he strode upon the wind atop a canine that was covered in a pelt of orange with a wild mane that was taller than him. He’d gotten the call and answered but Lille had dropped her Pokégear so he was only able to hear what came through the other end and piece it together. Now he was rushing as he silently chastised himself.
Naïve. I was too naïve. I’d only thought about the main objective and kept their home under watch, but even if they didn’t spot me I should have known they would have started checking the shelters and left a guard!
He could only chew himself out silently as Arcanine came to a stop with a tug on his mane the moment he spotted the broken tree with its sign splayed on the ground, the countless petals, and heard the cries of wild pokémon in a panic from the inside. He dismounted and went bursting in through the broken door where he found them all.
“There, there. It’s okay, it’s okay now.”
“Easy there. No one is going to hurt you now.”
“Shhh. It’s all over now.”
Melanie, Azuria, Lillie, and Lilligant were all hurrying around and trying to calm the pokémon within the shelter. Azuria’s pokémon were all out of their balls, either contributing to the process or standing in alarm as though they were awaiting reprisal. It was only the fact that they recognized him that some of the tension in their bodies left.
“What happened?” he demanded of Melanie as she paced around while trying to round up the pokémon and set them into their cages to keep them safe and take count.
She stopped with a Poliwag in her arms and scowled at him. “Some thugs who owned that Vulpix came in here. When I said we didn’t have it they tried to steal Lillie’s instead.”
He frowned. “Where are they?”
“Tied up, knocked out, and stripped of their pokémon and belongings,” Azuria said, nodding her head towards a closet near a dresser that had a bag and several poke balls of differing kinds on it. She had her Slowbro keeping an eye on them and the balls themselves were covered in a thick layer of ice. “The police are on their way.”
He went over and took the bag, dumping the contents on the table before rummaging through it for a moment. Then he pulled out what looked to a small, miniature ball that was black and found a badge that left him scowling. He held the ball up to the device on his wrist and watched as it lit up before immediately pocketing them and scooping the rest back into the bag.
Then he turned to the Azuria and Melanie who just watched him and said, “When the cops get here, you don’t know anything about the Vulpix or what I just took. I know it’s a lot to ask and I’ll explain later, but if our past means anything to you, don’t say a word to them—”
“If our past meant anything, you’d come clean.” Melanie demanded as she marched up to him with her arms crossed and then stood in front of him wearing one of the coldest expressions that he had seen. “My shelter was just attacked. The pokémon in my care were endangered. My friends were endangered. And while I don’t know why that is, it’s clear you do and you’ve been hiding it from us.”
As he looked into her eyes, he saw the frustration that she felt. She’d had always been caring for abandoned pokémon and valued them above all else. She knew he was asking a lot and knew something was off when he came to her that morning and begged her to keep an eye on the Vulpix. But he knew she’d still do it without reporting it as she should have because he asked.
Because they were friends.
And she’d paid for it. “I know something happened in the last year. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding, figuring you’d tell us. But if you can’t be honest with us about this… I’m going to have to ask you to put back what you took and then leave.”
“…I’m working with the International Police on an assignment,” he admitted before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather case. Then he flipped it open to reveal a badge. “And they’re the only lead I’ve got to finding the ones who stole my Nidoking and Tyranitar from me.”