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(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 11

Chapter 11: Title Defense Match vs Hau – Part 2

“Sorry about that Kou,” Elio said as he returned the Bat Pokémon into his ball and wondered what went wrong. Kou’s specialty was using Double Team to confuse an opponent, either by creating a bunch of independent copies or having them deployed as he moved. Combined with shrieking from random positions to distract the opponent, it created an opening to move in silently for a decisive blow.

That Lucario was the worst opponent he could have faced from a purely-typing perspective. The steel-bones inhibited poison from working and the coverage attacks meant for dealing with psychic-types weren’t going to be effective against it. However, Kou’s speed and agility were above that of average, so he still stood the best chance and would have come out unscathed if not for the abrupt increase in his opponent’s speed.

That hadn’t been present in the previous match with Kiina, so something must’ve caused it. The only thing he could think of was an Ability, triggered at some point during the assault. He would have to ask Rotom or Hau once the last match was over, but for now he decided to remain cautious and presume that his rival had come up with a plan to counter the final Pokémon between them, their Starters.

It’s up to you now. Elio grasped Silky’s ball in his hand, feeling the cool metal against his sweaty palm as his heart raced. It all came down to this. Was he just excited? Or was he nervous too? Whatever the bundle of emotions were, they built up in his throat and forced him to swallow as he looked up to see Hau was much the same before their eyes locked and they tossed the balls out.

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Incineroar!

“It’s time to put all that training with Ilima to use, Kamala!” Hau’s ball burst open and the Heel Pokémon landed in a crouch on the ground, briefly on all fours again. Rising up to his full height that towered over his trainer and releasing a roar as he curled his fingers into fists, he flexed his muscles to show his fighting spirit.

Champion Elio sent out Primarina!

“It’s your stage, Silky!” Elio’s ball burst open and a voice as smooth as Ariados silk and sweet as Cutiefly honey rang out. The Soloist Pokémon landed on her side of the field, supporting her upper body with her flippers as her tail flicked before she settled herself in.

Looking at them both, Kukui could briefly see their previous forms from the day they’d both met their partners. They, along with the Rowlet he’d taken under his wing after they had been chosen, had all been raised along with one another and had come a long way to reach this point. “The next victory will determine who the title of Champion will go to. Are all of you ready?”

“Yeah, we’ve been waiting for this,” Hau said. “Right, Kamala?”

“Cineroar!” snarled the Heel Pokémon, fur bristling, tail down, and lips parted to show teeth as he stood ready to fight.

“Put on your best performance, Silky,” Elio said in turn.

The Primarina glanced back, batting her long lashes and smiling at her trainer as she nodded. Then she brought one of her flippers up to brush her hair behind her as she faced her opponent.

“Then let the final match begin!” Kukui announced.

Silky used Sparkling Aria!

The Soloist Pokémon took that as cue to begin her song, pushing off the ground with her fore-flippers while using the hind-pair to support herself as she stood up. Her hair came undone, blue stands wavering in the air as she spread her arms and called forth bubbles into existence that glittered in the moonlight being cast through the dome. And, with the ringing of her melodic voice that tickled the ears of all whom it reached, they flew forward towards the opposing Incineroar.

“Sunny Day!” Hau ordered, pointing to the air above him.  The Incineroar crossed his arms and raised them above his head as light radiated from within him. Then he roared, dropping his arms as that light shot upwards and into the air above the arena in the form of a flare.

Once it reached its peak, it burst out and formed an artificial sun that bore its harsh rays down on all below it. The brilliance of the light threatened to blind everyone as it reflected in the puddles on the floor, vapor rising in waves as they started evaporating. Even the bubbles in mid-flight began to shrink under the heat, reflecting the light in prismatic hues that rolled on the surface.

The sunlight is strong!

Hau brought his arm over his forehead to shield his eyes from the light as he gave his next command. “Now, wipe out those bubbles with Flamethrower!”

The Heel Pokémon let out a roar as the belt around his waist produced the flames, backed by the heat given off by the intensified sunlight. The fire that came out was blazing hot, the temperature suddenly sweltering further to fully evaporate the puddles that it lapped at as he swept the tongue of fire from the left-to-right to swallow the bubbles whole. Then he moved it towards the Primarina.

“Silky, dodge with Aqua Jet!” Elio ordered as the glare of the flames through his shades nearly overtook her.

Water wrapped the Soloist Pokémon as her hair came back together and propelled her to the right, leaving her to circle the barrier of arena’s perimeter. She was moving slower due to the sun and heat evaporating it, but managed to outpace the flames chasing her until they stopped due to strain. Then Silky redirected her Aqua Jet, taking a sharp turn to rocket towards the Heel Pokémon before he could get off another attack like that and rammed into him!

It’s Super-Effective!

“Rrrrroooaarrr!!!” He let out a pained roar as the water that was continuously shot from her snout at high-pressure and then forced behind her for propulsion grinded against his fur like a water jet as she began to drive him back. But his pained roar turned into a smug smile as he shifted his footing back to hold his balance and wrapped his arms around the shroud of water so that she couldn’t escape.

“That’s it!” Hau cheered. “Now drive her into the ground with your Darkest Lariat!”

Dark flames draped him as he held fast to her until the Aqua Jet wore off and he forced her neck into the crook of his bent arm. Then threw himself into a twister-like spin, sweeping her along with him on a trip to the center of the arena before forcing her to the ground with all of that momentum to do as much damage as possible!

A Critical Hit!

Silky let out a cry as she hit the floor, screwing her eyes shut from both the pain and the sun glaring down at her. Then she felt a weight pressed down on her and squinted them open to see that he had her pinned down, his hands keeping her fore-flippers anchored to the ground. The heat that built up at her waist and his toothy grin were the only clues that he was getting ready to fire a point-blank Flamethrower while she couldn’t fight back—a tactic truly befitting of a heel.

Elio’s voice came out near-panicked. “Hyper Voice, now!”

Silky screamed just as the flames were let loose. The Hyper Voice hit the Heel Pokémon all at once, the force of it like a battering ram that smothered the building flames and pushed him off of her. She then sat up, continuing to let her scream ring out as she narrowed her eyes in anger and focus.

Blown back by what may as well have been a wall crafted by the translucent sound waves pushing at him, the Incineroar fell onto all fours again and extended his claws to dig into the ground before he was driven back to the other side of the field. They scraped against the arena floor as he folded his ears back and gritted his teeth to wait for it to end. She couldn’t strain her voice forever after all.

Elio didn’t give him the chance. “Moonblast while he can’t move!”

Silky’s scream came to an end as she formed a large, pink spiraling sphere of power as quickly as she would a water bubble on the tip of her snout. Then she flipped over, launching it with her tail and sending it flying for the slower Heel Pokémon before he could get out of the blast range. The moment it connected a pink explosion swallowed the Incineroar.

“Rrrrraaahhh!!” The Heel Pokémon was sent flying, tendrils of smoke the hue of the attack wafting off his skin as he hit the ground hard. Never the less, he forced his hands down to the ground and began to push himself back up.

“Flare Blitz, Kamala!” Hau ordered.

INCINERRRROAAAR!!” At the command, roaring flames flared from the Heel Pokémon’s body, as if burning with the flames of his life itself. Backed by the power of the artificial sun shining above, the heat was almost suffocating and forced Silky to slide backwards before it could dry her out. Smirking, he began to charge for her while leaving behind a trail of fire.

“Push him back with Hydro Cannon!” Elio commanded, using the strongest attack in their arsenal to fight against the blazing meteor whose heat threatened to smother her.

Silky forced her head forward, facing the incoming flames and blasting out the attack with all her might. Shooting a stream of water with enough pressure behind it that even steel could be plowed through, the Hydro Cannon met with the fireball. Their clash resulted in a deafening hiss as steam billowed out, slowing the incoming attack.

But it couldn’t stop it. How could it with the sun blazing above, weakening their strongest attack and strengthening that of their opponent? Despite the strain of the technique, despite her best effort, Silky’s Hydro Cannon was devoured by the Flare Blitz and the resulting collision left nothing but a silhouette that was erased by the resulting explosion that followed!

A Critical Hit!

The flames gave rise to a plume of smoke that obscured the vision of both trainers until something broke free and shot towards Hau’s side of the field. It was his Incineroar, landing in a crouch and panting as he looked battered from the recoil damage. Yet there was a smug look in his eyes as he stared at the dissipating smoke.

Silky was on the ground and struggling to rise back up with her fore-flippers. Worse, her body was glowing red, flames occasionally leaking from her pores. She’d been burned. “Riiii…

Silky…” Elio gritted his teeth as he assessed the situation. A burn would weaken virtually every physical move she made and would eat away at her over time, until it wore her down entirely. And if she took another Flare Blitz, that would be the end…

RII-RO!!!!

Hearing Silky call his name, Elio fixed his eyes on the Soloist Pokémon as she rose again. He could see a cerulean light churning in her eyes. Determination that raged like the waves in a storm as they fixed themselves on the Z-Ring on his wrist that began to radiate the same cerulean hue.

We still haven’t lost.

That was what that look in her eyes said the last time he’d seen it. Back in Ultra Space. When they’d faced Lillie’s mother and the empowered Pokémon she had. That was probably the most intense battle he’d faced until now.

“I got it,” he said as the message carried, taking a deep breath to calm the anxiety he’d been feeling and holding up the Z-Ring. There was no need to be worried if she was that certain. They would win. He only needed to match his fighting spirit with hers. “But if we’re going all in, you need to be at full-strength.”

Her smile returned as she nodded and then let the power storming inside of her come to the front. The burning red hue was drowned out by the surging blue aura that spilled out from deep within. It draped her body, undoing her hair and allowing the blue strands to waver as though suspended in water.

Silky cured her burn so Elio wouldn’t feel sad!

Silky’s Torrent activated!

“Kamala, stop her!” Hau ordered, recognizing the threat it presented. Kamala roared before letting loose another Flamethrower. The rolling of mass of flames came barreling forward like a train that would run her down—

“Silky, Hydro Cannon again!”

—and in retaliation, Silky put her all once more into their strongest attack. The stream of water that came surging out was bolstered by her Ability, its force intensified into a focused deluge as it swelled in size to match that of the Flamethrower. Fire and water clashed once more and at the point of their impact the primal forces of nature gave birth to thick steam.

“Keep it up!” Elio ordered as he looked up at the artificial sun blazing above the two as steam rose towards it. As long as its light was shining down they wouldn’t be able to get the most out of the Z-Move. They’d have to deal with that first.

The deluge and inferno clashed, both Starters pouring as much as they could into the attacks. The steam continued to form and rise, the thick white plume ascending until it began to blot out the rays of the sun beating down on the field. The roaring flames then began to lose ground, pushed back by the spiraling rush of water with the sun being smothered.

That should be enough! If the sun’s rays and heat were blocked by the moisture and vapor it would stop her attacks from being weakened for a little while. Just long enough to put out the sun entirely. “Good, now Aqua Jet!”

Silky turned the power of the Hydro Cannon on herself, bending it back so that it wreathed her in a spiral of raging water that propelled her forward like a rocket. With the harsh rays of the sun dulled by the steam and the power of Torrent, she speared forward even faster than before. The Soloist Pokémon cut through the remainder of the Flamethrower, dispersing it entirely as she slammed into the Heel Pokémon head-on!

It’s Super-Effective!

“That’s the way!” Elio pointed to the sky. “Now, drive him into his own sun!”

With the force of the Aqua Jet overwhelming him, grinding away at his fur and pushing him back, Kamala was unable to retaliate as she angled it upwards and swept him along with her into the sky. They shot up into the air and past the scalding hot steam. With her body shielded by the swirling water as they broke through the veil, she then used his body as a battering ram to pierce through the artificial sun!

The sunlight faded!

“Ah!” Hau looked on in shock as his Sunny Day was banished before Silky’s Aqua Jet dissipated and she used her tail to bat Kamala back to his side of the field, forcing out a pained grunt from the Heel Pokémon whose fur smoldered from where his back had been forced against the mass of contained heat. “Buddy, you okay?”

Innincin…” A fiery aura encompassed the Heel Pokémon as he forced himself back up to his feet. Exhaling through his mouth, wisps of fire flew out before he took a deep breath and then let loose a mighty roar that caused fiery power burst from within him! “INCINERRRROAAAR!!

Kamala’s Blaze activated!

Hau backed away in surprise as his Starter brought forth his Ability. It was the first time he’d seen Kamala bring it out. But then their eyes had met and he understood fully why. It was the first time that they’d reached a point where they truly wanted to win and put this much effort into reaching the top. Before that they were fine with just relaxing and taking things easy, right up until Lillie had to give herself up to protect them.

He swallowed his surprise as he noticed an intense light pouring out of his Z-Crystal nestled in the band around his wrist. Then he turned back and nodded. “Okay, buddy! Go as wild as you want and I’ll back you up!”

A fearsome grin stretched across the Heel Pokémon’s face before he faced the waiting Primarina with her Torrent still active. His muscles tensed as his flame belt began to burn even brighter, releasing flames that fed off the energy of the Blaze to grow an intense shade of red. He then exploded the gathered the flames behind him, using them as a form of propulsion.

Kamala used Flame Charge!

Silky naturally responded the fiery charge with an Aqua Jet, launching herself towards him like a missile. The opposing forces released another plume of steam where they clashed, both being repulsed by it. But neither would back down as they continued to burn and surge respectively, coming around and cutting through the air to continue their bout with the same intensity as their trainers glared at each other.

We’ll give it our everything. The two youths shared that train of thought as the light coming from their Z-Rings intensified to the point of being blinding as their Pokémon danced the dance of battle, putting their pride and bonds on the line as the Z-Power reached its peak. Now!

The Starters broke off from their aerial clash and retreated to their opposing sides of the field upon hearing their trainers. The Pokémon then synchronized their breathing to match them before mimicking their moves as they performed the necessary dances. Bulging arms fanned the building flames and while lithe flippers churned the rolling waves, and the amassed power speared from the ring and into the Pokémon that became surrounded in Z-Power!

“Oceanic Operetta!” | “Inferno Overdrive!”

Silky raised her arms and let her voice ring out anew as all that power turned to water and formed a massive, pulsing sphere of water. Kamala tensed as he braced himself and formed a massive, throbbing sphere of flames. Both released them with a battle-cry and turned the arena into the epicenter of a steam explosion the moment they clashed, the thick vapor quickly bursting out and pressing against the barrier that covered the field, separating the trainers from the damage until cracks began to form in it.

“Don’t tell me they’re exceeding the barrier’s limits!?” Kukui said somewhat nervously as the cracks began to spread as the attacks continued to press against one another. The barrier technology was supposed to be top-of-the-line, capable of stopping even Hyper Beams fired point-blank. He quickly called out three of his Pokémon before it could break. “Ninetales, Braviary, Lycanroc, come out and use Protect on us!”

The Poké Balls burst open and the three Pokémon appeared as the cracks began to vent out steam. The Alolan Ninetales touched down on the ground gracefully before darting around to Elio’s side of the field as the Braviary swooped around the opposite direction to land in front of Hau, while the Midnight Lycanroc stood in front of the professor. All three then used Protect and formed it around themselves and the humans.

It had been just in time as the barrier gave away. The pressure that had been building up from the mass of flames and water reached the point where it broke through like a bursting dam and releasing a flood of hot air that howled as it surged out. The Champion’s room that stood at the top of the mountain was covered in the veil of thick steam that battered against the protective shells with a deep rumble.

Then the emergency systems kicked in. The sprinklers poured down water and the vents opened to jettison the hot air and fill it with regulated cold air instead. Together, they cleared the air and the Pokémon dropped their Protect around the three as the last of the steam vanished to reveal the outcome.

In the center of the arena, Silky panted as she struggled to keep herself upright. She looked as though she was ready to fall over. But her eyes strained to stay open and face the direction of Kamala. He was down and out, eyes blanked out in unconsciousness.

These kids are something else, Kukui thought to himself as he adjusted his hat and declared the match when it was clear the Incineroar wasn’t getting back up. “THE WINNER IS THE CHAMPION’S PRIMARINA!!

A siren sounded out signaling the end of the match entirely.

The Champion had defended his title.

 [-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

“That was a marvelous display,” Kahuna Olivia said, her voice coming out somewhat amused as she watched the kids rush over to their Pokémon now that the match had concluded. She and the other members of the Elite Four were in a private chamber within the League building that served as their gathering spot, watching the match unfold through a screen.

Her eyes turned towards Hala and she noticed the smile he had. “You must be very proud to see him come this far.”

“I was proud the moment he gained his resolve and defeated me in battle to get to that point, but this was certainly a spectacle,” Hala said, before glancing over his shoulder to their guest. “Don’t look that upset, Guzma.”

“I ain’t upset,” said the former leader of Team Skull. He had been invited as a guest by Kahili and was standing against the wall at the back of the room, hands in his coat pockets as he watched. “If the Champion was a weakling then there’s no way he would have been able to beat me.”

“It’s not just strength that was on display here,” Hala told him. “Such power would not be possible if not for the bond between them and the confidence that they could work together to surpass their limits. Even then, they have so much more room to grow. As do you.”

He said nothing to that, merely looking away.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Those Old Men must be insane if they think I’m going to stand a chance against that, Plumeria couldn’t help but think as she watched the match from the trailer her granny lived in. The Stufful they had adopted was nestled in her lap, with Lanai sitting next to her and Molo squatting on the ground so that he didn’t block their view.

She had started training again to go and get ready to face the first of the Island Trials that she had to pass in order to do a Grand Trial. That was going to be the trial taking place at the abandoned Thrifty Megamart, and even before that she had to talk to the Trial Captain and apologize to the squirt. After all, there was no getting around what they’d done there.

They’d put children at risk to get the President’s daughter and her little Pokémon. While she had been hoping that they wouldn’t resist since she didn’t want to threaten orphans, the kind of kids who Team Skull would have gladly taken in to give them a home, the President’s orders were very clearly a veiled threat on their livelihood. So if Lillie hadn’t willingly came with them then…

I shouldn’t keep putting it off. No matter what, she had to own up to what they’d done if she was going to go through with all of this for her cute little brothers and sisters. But, even leaving that aside, she didn’t have a full-team at the moment. She only had Salazzle and Golbat with her, the first being what amounted to her Starter.

Team Skull as a whole only had limited amounts of Pokémon directly in their care because they couldn’t afford to take care of too many. Drowzee fed off dreams. They preferred it to be good or fun dreams, but they could get by on a couple of bad ones before getting ill. It beat starvation, and if they had to put some people asleep to eat then it also made pinching Pokémon for the foundation easier too. Same went for the Ghost Pokémon the occasional grunts had managed to grab.

Likewise, Zubat could feed off blood in small amounts, though that changed the moment they evolved, while Fomantis drank in sunlight while they slept during the day. The rest were scavengers of sorts or small enough that a little food went a long way if they stayed in their balls. It limited the Pokémon they had, but at least they still had them.

“Yo! That match was lit! Especially how that Crobat went all-in!” Molo said excitedly. Not surprising, given that he had a Zubat under his care.  “Still, those guys got nothing on you, Big Sis. It’ll just make Team Skull better when you win.”

Lanai nodded and spoke passionately in agreement. “Yeah, you can totally take that throne from him, Big Sis!”

“Well, of course I can,” she told them, her tone of voice making it sound as though it was obvious that she would as the Stufful pushed its head against her hand to encourage her to pet it. That confidence was more for appearances than anything, but she had a role to play to the rest of them and would see it through to the best of her ability.

“Your Big Sis has got this.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

As the Pokémon League drew to a close at the top of the mountain, Elio was greeted by the biting cold the moment he walked out of the doors. He’d kept his Title, but with the barrier being broken it would take a little time to have it repaired. Time that he should probably spend training if they were going to be facing other challengers of that caliber.

Peeeaaa!”

A cry rang out from above as Nebby descended, Rotom clinging to her neck using its two appendages. The beast that calls the moon swooped down in front of him and came to a stop using her psychic powers, allowing her float.

“Did you enjoy the match?” Elio asked.

Nebby stretched her wings out in an excited manner. “Mahina-pea!”

She wants to battle too, zzt. Rotom translated.

“I figured as much.” He reached up to pet her head affectionately, despite the cold nipping at him. “You’re so strong though that it’ll be difficult to find an opponent that can keep up with you. How about we see if one of the Tapus wants to battle soon?”

She consented with a nod. “Peee.”

Elio was about to have Nebby teleport them back to the Melemele Pokémon Center to have the rest of his team healed up before he turned in for the night, given that the battle had been somewhat draining, when the doors opened and Hau came running out. “What’s wrong?”

“I got this from Professor Kukui!” He took a deep breath and then straightened up, holding a slip of paper in his grasp with numbers on them. Elio sincerely hoped it wasn’t a bill for the damage to the arena, but that fear was quickly brushed aside when he said, “It’s Lillie’s number.”

Nebby perked up immediately. “Mahii?”

“She called Professor Burnet before the match and said she’d watch. Chances are she’s still up now, so if we call her we might get to see her again tonight.”

It had been a while since she’d left to start her own journey, and both Nebby and Hau had taken her departure really hard. Not to mention Elio missed her as well, so they should call her while they had the chance with the time difference. “I guess we could go to the Pokémon Center near here, but Nebby’s too big. They won’t let her remain out of her ball to talk with Lillie. The only place that would fit her would be—”

Nebby used Teleport!

“—Professor Kukui’s lab,” he finished, looking around in mild surprise. If he had to guess, Nebby read his thoughts on where to go and then just brought them there. “Okay then.”

“Mahii!  Mahii!” She gestured to the computer, wings folded to fit without further disturbing the Midday Lycanroc that grumbled from the corner at their arrival.

“Right, right. Let’s hope the Professor won’t mind,” Elio said as he took a seat at the console and entered in the information. The video line rang three times before it connected and Lillie appeared on the screen.

“Lillie, it really is you!” Hau said, his tone and the big smile on his face making his joy evident.

It was only matched by Nebby’s own trill. “Mahii!”

“Nebby! Elio! Hau!” Lillie clasped her hands together and smiled happily. “I’m so happy to see all of you again. Your Pokémon aren’t hurt too badly from that match, are they?”

“They’re mostly just tired. Nothing a visit the Pokémon Center won’t fix,” Elio said, patting Nebby’s head. “We were going to do that, but she was really eager to see you again, so she teleported us right to the Professor’s lab.”

“I missed you too, Nebby,” Lillie said in a maternal tone as her gentle gaze fixed on the once tiny Pokémon. “Have you been a good girl for Elio?”

Nebby’s head bobbed eagerly. “Hii. Hiii!”

“That’s good.”

“So, you’ve finally made it to that place you were going to be staying at for a while, right?” Hau asked. “What’s it like?”

“It’s pretty different just from the places we’ve passed by to get here, but I want to explore it some more starting tomorrow and—” She looked off the screen for a moment when a yelp reached her ears as something white bounced up and down, trying to climb up. “Okay, I’ll introduce you to them as well.”

She lifted an Alolan Vulpix onto the screen and into her lap for all of them to see. “Everyone, this is Koko. She’s my Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet.”

“Pix!” she yelped excitedly, pushing off Lillie’s lap and placing her forepaws onto the desk to climb up it. She then started jumping up. “Vulpix! Vulpix! Vul!”

“Koko, you’ve got to settle down,” Lillie chided the Fox Pokémon gently before turning back to them. “She’s been a lot more active since she watched your matches. I think she’s a fan.”

“Pix.” Her tails flicked in agreement.

“She really seems to like battling a lot too. Even at the Gym, she wouldn’t give up easily.” Lillie’s smile wavered. “If I was a better trainer, things would have probably been different.”

The Fox Pokémon turned and tilted her head curiously, taking note of the change in her voice. “Vul?”

Nebby did much of the same. “Mahii?”

“What happened?” Elio asked.

Lillie told them of her arrival in Vermillion City and the encounter with Astra with an almost nostalgic tone. She told them of the encounter with the Sandshrew, her Mother’s Bewear being confused and how she’d had to run to avoid the Combee Horde with a somewhat sullen tone. And she told them of her defeat at the Gym in a regretful tone, noting how she should have done better with both Koko and Shuckle.

“That’s a lot to go through in a short time,” Elio said. “I always heard that Vermillion was one of the tougher places, but I didn’t think that things would be that tough. I hope it doesn’t give you a bad impression of Kanto.”

Lillie only shook her head. “It’s been fun too. And Koko’s pretty excited to go back and challenge the Gym Leader once we’ve got some more experience. So, until we leave the cape, I’m going to do my best to be a better trainer for her and Shuckle, like all of you.”

She then held her hands to her chest and closed her eyes. “Then, one day, we can all go on a journey together.”

The way she said that so earnestly left Elio feeling a bit sheepish. He looked away from the screen and scratched his cheek. “Then take your time and do the best you can. Really explore Kanto and make plenty of good memories. That’s what makes a journey special in the end.”

Nebby chirruped in agreement. “Hii. Hii.”

“Yeah!” Hau added. “And when you come back, we’ll all go out for Malasadas so you can tell us what your time in Kanto was like!”

Lillie giggled for a moment before smiling brightly enough to match the moon in the Alolan sky. “It’s a promise.”

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Fanfic Recommendation 61

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Summary: After disbanding Team Skull Guzma, the team’s former boss, decides to return to his home on Melemele Island. There, after a once in a lifetime opportunity arises, he is accepted into a teaching position at his old Pokemon school. Though with his infamous reputation, winning over his students will be a tough task. It is one that he is more than determined to take on.

 

 

Intrepid:  16B Interlude 

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.

Odyssey 2.01

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: A Vita-centric spin-off of Intrepid.

PRIMAL 3.2

A Worm / Final Fantasy XIV Fanfiction

Summary: Taylor Hebert triggers with the power to become Primals. All of the Primals.

A Change of Pace: 5.02 – 5.03

A Worm/ Dishonored Fanfiction

Summary: When Taylor went into the locker, she drew the attention of two beings. One offered an absent thought, and a broken tool that wasn’t even meant for her.  The other took a more personal approach.

 

Stacked Deck (Or, Colin Wallis vs. Single Parenting) Dec.2 – Dec.3

A Worm / Persona 4 Fanfiction

With the Ring: Headhunted 18- Do-Over 23  (Tv Tropes Page)

A Young Justice Fanfic

Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 10

Chapter 10: Title Defense Match vs Hau – Part 1

Elio sat in the Champion’s Throne nestled on the top of Mount Lanakila, struggling to sit still. He was, at the moment, torn between anticipation and excitement as he cradled Silky’s ball. After all, he’d only attained the Title of ‘Champion’ a little while ago, and now he was being challenged for it.

Yet, he couldn’t find it in him to be afraid of losing it as Hau climbed the stairs and came into view, with Professor Kukui standing next to him. He looked confidant, striding with purpose that contrasted the carefree person he’d been the day they met without changing who he was fundamentally. That was the result of having come to the top of the mountain, the culmination of the Island Trials manifesting with Hau reaching the point where he was a true rival and peer to the Champion.

That was why Elio wasn’t afraid of losing the title. It would be an excellent match and they’d both try their hardest—for their own sakes, the sakes of everyone watching, and the sakes of their Pokémon, who had put their everything into reaching this point. If he lost, it would be after he’d done his very best and there was no shame in that. It only meant there was still room to grow.

That in mind, Elio couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he rose off his throne and welcomed the one who would try and usurp it. “Glad you finally made it.”

Hau smiled as he took his place on the opposite side of the field, while Kukui made his way to the center. “Yeah. I finally beat Gramps when he’s going all out too. So, all that’s left is to overcome the Trainer in front of me right now.”

“Same for me,” Elio said as he moved to his end of the field. “The Champion must defend his Title after all.”

“It does me proud to see you two standing here today. It’s almost enough to make me Burn Up. Woo!” Kukui said with a proud smile. Then a cry rang out as a shadow passed overhead and they looked up to see that Nebby was flying over the top of the dome that gave them a view of the night sky.  “With your spirits blazing like an Inferno, this battle will be a good offering to the Legendary Pokémon of Alola that overlooks us now.”

Elio found it symbolic. The Legendary Pokémon of the Moon would oversee the match between the Champion and Challenger, looking down on them from above in a similar way that Tapu Koko had done for their first match during the festival. He clutched his first choice in a Great Ball and held it out. “Let’s go, Hau!”

“Yeah.” Hau pulled out his first Poké Ball and held it at the ready. “No holding back!”

Pokémon Trainer Hau would like to Battle!

“Alright then,” Kukui said as he stepped outside of the circle that marked the arena’s boundary. “Release your first Pokémon and we’ll get started!”

Both trainers flung their balls out high into the air and light speared forth to take form. “Go on, Pancho!” / “Come out, Palaoa!

Champion Elio sent out Pangoro!

On the Champion’s side, a rumble was heard as a male Pangoro standing a little over six feet tall landed. He stood proud, donning an Assault Vest over his frame and the bamboo shoot in his mouth shifting as he gritted his teeth. Balling his paws into fists, the Daunting Pokémon slammed them together and took on a fighting stance in preparation for his match.

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Raichu!

In contrast, on the Challenger’s side floated a male Alolan Raichu. The rotund Mouse Pokémon with gentle-blue eyes smiled as he floated on his tail, filled with psychic powers. Even in the face of such a larger opposition, he showed no fear and only looked back to Hau to nod in understanding.

“Then, the Alolan Pokémon League Title Battle between Champion Elio and Challenger Hau, will now commence in a 6-on-6 match.” Kukui snapped his fingers, causing a barely visible barrier to generate from the arena floor and outline the bounds—to protect the trainers and himself. “Begin!”

TITLE DEFENSE MATCH START!!

Elio took the initiative. “Bullet Punch, now!

The ground thundered as Pancho rushed his stocky body towards the Raichu as fast as he could, bearing down on the Mouse Pokémon like a goliath. With both fists clad in a metallic coating from the Steel-typing of the attack and backed by the power of his Iron Fist ability, the blow would be a heavy one for the lightweight opposition.

“Snake around it, Palaoa!”

The Pangoro’s attack missed, his metal fist swinging through empty space the moment Hau’s order was issued. In an instant, the Alolan Raichu had transitioned into a blur, a streak that surfed through the air while shrouded in a surge of pale energy. He circled around and slammed into Pancho’s head from behind with the nose of his board-tail, delivering the first blow!

Palaoa used Quick Attack!

A Critical Hit!

Pancho stumbled forward a step before getting his footing again and then glared towards where Palaoa had gone. “Grrr….”

The Mouse Pokémon was smiling as he came back around, dipping beneath the incoming Bullet Punch and then slamming into the knee of the Daunting Pokémon. The hit brought Pancho down to one knee, leaving his back exposed as the Alolan Raichu came around once more. Accelerating again, this time he slammed into the broad shoulder even faster and dropped the bipedal down to the ground entirely.

Goroooo!!” roared the larger Pokémon as he stood back up and began to lash out at the agile mouse. It did nothing to help.

“Me and Palaoa went to the beach and worked on his surfing technique and speed just for this. Your Pokémon’s big, but it won’t be able to hit something smaller and faster than it like that,” Hau said to the Champion with a grin as the Pangoro was assailed from different sides in rapid succession. The Alolan Raichu was just too fast to hit with random swings and, while the Quick Attacks weren’t hurting all that much, the damage added up and would chip away at Pancho’s endurance to wear him out.

“Don’t think we’ve been sitting on our tails either,” Elio said. “Don’t just lash out, Pancho! Remember the training we did in the Gardens!”

Grrrr…” Pancho grumbled as he tempered his anger. Bringing his arms close to guard his head and withstanding the blows as he calmed down, he closed his eyes and let the shoot in his mouth grasp the air. Then he began to dodge, bobbing and weaving his upper body out of the way of the attacks as they came.

Rotom had mentioned that their species could learn to read movements in the air by focusing their attention on the shoot in their mouths. Pancho had too bad of a temperament to do so at first, thinking of only punching fast and hard to end a fight. But Elio had worked on that by teaching him to calm down and focus during their training sessions in Malie Garden

“That’s the way!” Elio shouted as he thrust his fist forward. “Now, pay back everything it gave you and more!”

Reading an incoming attack, the Pangoro dodged a final time. The Mouse Pokémon passed by his head as he ducked down. Then he twisted his body, bringing his fist wreathed in dark energy into an uppercut!

Pancho used Payback!

It’s Super-Effective!

The Mouse Pokémon cried out in a shrill shriek as the blow connected and sent him not only skyward, but spiraling out of control. The Dark-typing of the attack snuffed out the psychic energy stored in the tail, leaving him unable to levitate. The Daunting Pokémon then launched himself upwards, fist extended to deliver a Sky Uppercut as the finishing blow!

“Palaoa, Focus Blast straight down!” Hau commanded. The Alolan Raichu, still in the midst of spiraling, built up a sphere of pure power within his tail and launched right down, into the path of the ascending blow. The glare of its light reflected in the Pangoro’s eyes before the contained power was set loose, rupturing on impact and rocketing the Daunting Pokémon down to the arena floor!

It’s Super-Effective!

 

Pancho hit the ground with a heavy thud on impact. Tendrils of smoke were wafting off his Assault Vest as he managed to get up to one knee and let out a groan of pain. It was just in time as the Alolan Raichu geared up to fire another one to finish the Pangoro off.

“Block it with a Stone Edge!” Elio ordered.

Gritting his teeth at the order, Pancho slammed his fist into the ground. A pillar of light-blue rock sprung up in front of him and in the middle of the projectile’s flight path as a result. It detonated on impact, scattering light-blue fragments of stone and a cloud of dust as the Pangoro got back to his feet and stood proud once more.

The Alolan Raichu mounted his tail once more, filling it with psychic energy to levitate in the air and circle around. The electric sacs on his cheeks sparked before he released a Thunderbolt to attack from behind, the lightning snaking towards the opposition’s unguarded back. But before it could hit another stone pillar rose up to intercept the attack, leaving the electricity to scorch the stone’s surface before fizzling out.

Dragging this out longer will only hurt Pancho more, Elio thought to himself before questioning what to do next. Closing the distance without an opening would put him in range for another Focus Blast, so they needed to make one. “Pancho, use Bullet Punch and send the stone flying towards him!”

Pancho reeled back and wound up a punch as metal clad his fist once more. Twisting his hips and striking with all his might, he unleashed a Bullet Punch that was strong enough to shatter the pillar entirely. The momentum sent the stone shards flying towards the aerial Mouse Pokémon in a spread pattern that encompassed most of that side of the field for a sure hit.

“Grab them with Psychic!” Hau ordered before panic could set in. Palaoa’s eyes flashed and his body was wreathed in a cerulean light as he used psychic power to send out a wave that shrouded the impromptu barrage that came flying for him in the same light. They all halted midair, now under his control. “Good job! Now send them right back!”

Rai-Rai!!” The stones all lined up and pointed towards the now defenseless Pangoro. The electric-psychic Mouse Pokémon prepared to launch them forward—

“Now Snarl!”

—when the Daunting Pokémon’s throat shone with an ebon light and he bellowed out a mighty roar that sent the darkness along the sound wave, slamming into both the Mouse Pokémon and stones. “GOOOOOOOOORRRRRRROOOOOO!!!

The Dark-type attack stripped the psychic power from both his tail and the stones as it passed through them, sending them falling towards the ground. Pancho leapt forward with all his might, metal cloaking his right fist as he took advantage of the opening. Closing the distance before his opponent could recover again, he brought it around for a singular blow!

Pancho used Bullet Punch!

A Critical Hit!

The meaty sound of metal-on-flesh was followed by a shriek cut short. The Alolan Raichu crumpled utterly under the blow and was out like a blown light as he tumbled to the ground. Pancho grabbed him before he could hit and landed with a thump, setting the defeated Pokémon that had challenged him on the ground gently.

“Raichu is unable to battle!” Kukui announced. “This round goes to the Champion’s Pangoro!”

“Rest up, buddy. You did good,” Hau said as he recalled his first Pokémon and then reached for his second. “Your turn, Koa!”

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Leafeon!

Taking the field for the Challenger’s side this time was his male Leafeon, Koa. The Verdant Pokémon’s brown eyes peered up at the Pangoro, assessing him as he waited for the match to begin. The damage that he’d taken before and labored breathing only served to decide how to end this.

“Begin!” Kukui announced.

Koa used Charm!

Koa just stared as Pancho charged forward to finish it as quickly as possible with a soft look in his eyes, sparkling innocence radiating from them. The eyes invaded the Daunting Pokémon’s mind, growing larger and overwhelming as they robbed him of his strength. They pleaded with him not to harm it as he bore down on the Verdant Pokémon, leaving his fist trembling as he pulled back the blow to soften the hit—

Koa used Leaf Blade!

—and was rewarded for his mercy with pain as Koa immediately dropped the Charm and a pale-green light wreathed his tail. The foliage became as solid as steel and was then brought around, striking Pancho. Hit with a surprising amount of force, the Daunting Pokémon was sent tumbling back on the ground.

“Pancho, Stone Edge!” Elio ordered as his Pokémon got back his footing. Enraged at being fooled, the Daunting Pokémon slammed his fists onto the ground and a stone pillar erupted from beneath Koa… or at least where Koa would have been if he hadn’t moved and dodged the attack. Infuriated, Pancho then began to charge again with dark energy teeming within his fists to pay it back.

Koa used Quick Attack!

Koa leapt backwards with a sort of grace that could only be found through practice, like a leaf blowing in the wind as his body spun in the air with a somersault. Then, as soon as he landed, he was wreathed in the pale energy of a Quick Attack and launched himself forward to ram into Pancho’s head for a decisive strike!

A Critical Hit!

Pancho wavered on his feet from the blow, taking two steps backwards before his legs gave out. He fell onto his knees and then his stocky body hit the ground, unconscious. Kukui called the battle in Koa’s victory as it was clear he could no longer fight.

“You were pushing yourself after that Focus Blast, huh? Thanks for that,” Elio said apologetically to the Daunting Pokémon as he recalled it. Then he threw his second Poké Ball into the air to release his next choice. “Don’t underestimate this one, Orika!”

Champion Elio sent out Oricorio!

Taking the field in a subdued yet elegant stance was the Dancing Pokémon. The Sensu-style female Oricorio made a reassuring gesture to her trainer with her fan-shaped wingtips as her eyes remained fixed on the Leafeon. The message carried: she wouldn’t underestimate it despite the type-advantage.

“Are both sides ready?” Kukui asked. They both gave him a nod, so he continued. “Then let the third battle of the Title Defense Match begin!”

Hau took the initiative this time. “Koa, blind her with Sand Attack!”

The Leafeon whipped his tail around, grains of sand surrounding it densely. With a lash, the collective grains were sent flying out as a stream that rushed down the Dancing Pokémon. She was forced to shield her eyes with her wings as it washed over her, before she spun around in a serene motion and flapped her fan-tipped wings.

Orika used Air Cutter!

Razor-sharp winds flew from her wings, scattering the sand and rushing towards the Verdant Pokémon. Koa shot out of the attack range before he could be hit while outlined in a shroud of white, darting for the Oricorio. She released another series of cutting winds to impede him, slicing at the Verdant Pokémon that refused to back down, before she realized she’d be overtaken and took flight to get some distance. But it was too late as the Leafeon pounced before she could get away, showing teeth tinged with dark energy!

Koa used Bite!

It’s Super-Effective!

The Leafeon bit down on Orika’s wing midair, and used his momentum and weight to drive her back into the ground. The Dancing Pokémon cried out as she was then swung around like a toy. Her serene demeanor was broken by panic as she flailed her other wing out.

“Calm down and use Air Cutter while he can’t get away!” Elio instructed. Regaining control, the Dancing Pokémon brought her other wing around and released a point-blank cutting gale down on the Leafeon’s back. The attack struck hard, causing Koa to release his grip on the Oricorio that took flight once again and fluttered out of range of another Bite. “Now, Acrobatics!”

“Try it and get it with a Razor Leaf before it can hit!” Hau counter-ordered.

The Verdant Pokémon’s spun around and flicked his tail, letting loose a barrage of spinning, razor-sharp foliage towards the Dancing Pokémon that moved with a bewitching and alluring grace, her body illuminated with a cerulean light as she danced in the sky. The leaves were dodged within a hair’s breadth between her twist and turns, discerning afterimages left in her wake as she built up momentum and speed to close the distance!

Orika used Acrobatics!

It’s Super-Effective!

Speed and power struck the Verdant Pokémon head-on and sent him into a tumble on the ground. He rolled to a stop with spirals in his eyes and moaned softly as unconsciousness took him. Kukui called it and Hau was down another Pokémon as the Oricorio landed on her trainer’s side of the field.

“Rest up,” Hau said as he recalled his Leafeon and then decided between the remaining four. “I guess it’s your turn now, Hia!”

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Komala!

A female Komala took to the field, her wooden log landing on the ground a split-second before she did. Holding onto it tightly with her little claws, she rubbed her cheek against it and mumbled softly as she continued to sleep. “Maa…”

Hia is drowsing!

“Orika, how bad are you hurt?” Elio asked before the next round began. She tilted her damaged wing, giving him a glance to examine the extent of the damage she’d taken. He nodded in understanding and then waited for the professor to announce the start of the match before gave the order to fix it. “Okay, heal up now!”

Orika used Roost!

She folded up her wings up and closed her eyes, her body glowing in a pale light. The damage began mending. Her wing that had been used as a chew toy no longer displaying the marks where the Leafeon’s fangs had bitten into it.

“Hia, use Earthquake before she can finish!” Hau ordered. The Komala’s large, round ears twitched in response before she raised her wooden log into the air and then slammed it into the ground. Shockwaves radiated out from the impact, knocking the Dancing Pokémon’s feet from beneath her before she could finish healing. “Now, Shadow Claw!”

“Back in the air!” Elio instructed as Hia then used her wooden log like a spinning top to close the distance, solidified shadows draping the claws on her toes making it like a circular saw. Orika managed to beat her wings and push off the ground with her feet before the Shadow Claw could connect.

Seeing she was out range for a Shadow Claw, Hau changed his order to the Drowsing Pokémon. “Make her sleepy!”

Hia used Yawn!

Hia sighed, releasing a number of clear bubbles as she as spun on her wooden log. Connecting with any one of them would make an opponent drowsy the moment that they popped. They began to rise up in the air to reach the Oricorio, creating an aerial minefield of sorts.

Orika began to beat her wings faster and release another Air Cutter to clear the air—

Hia used Sucker Punch!

It’s Super-Effective!

—when she was abruptly smacked in the face by the wooden log, which was tinged in Dark-type energy. The blow sent her falling back down, bursting Yawn bubbles as she made her way back towards the ground. The drowsiness overtook her even as she tried to flutter her wings and stay airborne, leaving her open for a finishing strike.

Hia used Wood Hammer!

The female Komala’s log became shrouded in viridian light this time before she launched it again towards the half-asleep Dancing Pokémon while she was unable to dodge. It struck hard and fast, despite not being very effective, hitting the rather frail bird decisively and wrenching out a shriek as she collapsed onto the ground. The wooden log then bounced back into its owner’s waiting arms and she snuggled against it with a slight smile on her face.

She’s tougher than she looks, Elio couldn’t help but think as he recalled his Oricorio and Kukui announced the win for Hau’s Komala. Yet, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it was easy. And the way things were escalating caused his heartbeat to quicken. “Let’s take it to the next level, Shussey!”

Champion Elio sent out Goodra!

For his third Pokémon, Elio sent out his male Goodra. Shussey landed onto his side of the field with a loud thump, his pudgy body bobbing before coming to a stop. Standing at over six feet tall, he rolled his neck and looked down on Drowsing Pokémon that remained fixed against her log like a security blanket.

“If both sides are ready, begin!” Kukui announced.

The two trainers immediately gave their orders at the same time.  “Use Yawn again!” / “Make it rain!

Shussey used Rain Dance!

The Goodra raised his arms to the air and let out a roar. Dark cloud began to form over the arena, dense with rain as the Yawn bubbles began to flow towards him. The poignant and fresh scent of water filled the air as the beating of the fat droplets against the floor rang out.

It started to rain!

Elio thrust his hand forward. “Now, strike it down with Power Whip!”

Shussey’s antennae were shrouded in a deep shade of purple at the command. He whipped his head around and then thrust them forward like spears towards his tiny opponent, plowing through the Yawn bubbles to strike home. The Drowsing Pokémon was knocked back into the air even as Shussey grew drowsy.

“Spin out and counter, Hia!”

Hia used Rapid Spin!

Hia landed wobbly from the attack on the flat of her log and then used her body to build up momentum as a follow-up attack came for her, turning into a literal spinning top. She darted away as the lashing antennae smashed into the ground where she had stood, throwing up a spray of water, and cut across the arena floor. Once she was in range to launch a counter-attack, Hia bounced up to slam the spinning bottom against the Dragon Pokémon!

A Critical Hit!

Shussey buckled under the assault, staggering backwards but refusing to fall as he fought against the pain and mounting lethargy that grew with each passing second to keep track of the Komala as she continued to spin. His eyes grew heavy as he craned his head around to deliver two simultaneous strikes from the upper-left and a sweep of the bottom. His attack failed to reach as the Drowsing Pokémon circled him faster than he could keep up, landing another jumping attack at his backside and bringing him to his knees. He struggled to get back up until the urge to sleep became overpowering and finally he fell asleep.

“He’s out!” Hau shouted. “Now, bring down the hammer!”

Hia shifted from a spinning top into a hammer as she angled her log to bounce into the air, scattering the rain falling onto her fur before she turned the vertical rotation into a horizontal one. Keeping the momentum, she brought the flat of the log down like a mallet to knock the dragon from sleep into unconsciousness with another Wood Hammer—

Shussey’s Hydration activated!

—when the Dragon Pokémon’s eyes snapped open again as the pouring rain soaked into his flesh and purged him of the forced slumber. The Goodra brought his antennae around, a lavender hue cloaking them like armor as he used another Power Whip that batted the Komala mid-attack. The blow sent her flying backwards in the air with a satisfying thwack.

“Perfect!” Elio said as he pulled out a pair of aviator shades and slipped them on with one hand, pointing the other to the clouds above. “Now, call down the Thunder!”

DRRRAAA!!” Shussey cried out as he raised his arms and antennae to the sky. In a split-second, the dark clouds roiled and grew pregnant with small streamers of lightning. Then they coalesced and turned the point just over where Hia reached her peak into a bright, yellow spot that mimicked the sun hiding within the churning darkness—

KRAK-A-THOOM!!

—and a bolt came down like the hammer of Arceus, a brilliant beam of electricity that lanced from above to smite the tiny Drowsing Pokémon whole as it ripped the air itself apart with a crack of thunder!

Elio squinted his eyes as the glare of the lightning that struck fast and hard was barely hindered by the shades. The scent of ozone permeated arena as the lightning faded as quickly as it appeared. The drowned-out arena lights came back into prominence, clearing their vision so that they could make the Komala that was on the ground.

K-ko…maaa…” She whimpered, smoldering and separated from her log as she laid supine on the floor with her arms and legs still extended as though holding her comfort object of choice until the remaining tendrils of electricity wormed their way into the ground. Kukui rightfully declared her unfit to battle anymore.

“Sorry, girl. I’ll give you a rainbow Poké Bean later on,” Hau promised as he recalled her into her ball. Then he took a deep breath and faced Elio with a new one in hand. “Okay, time for you to introduce yourself, Kiwa!”

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Crabominable!

The ball that was thrown into the air burst open and from it fell the male Wooly Crab Pokémon. White fur broken by segments of blue made up his body, with his legs tipped in ice that left frost where they touched. Holding his segmented arms with massive paws up like boxing gloves, he gave a few thrusts that knocked droplets off his body and made a gesture for the Dragon Pokémon to come at him.

“Shussey, use Thunder again!” Elio ordered the moment Kukui gave the clearance to begin.

“Fire an Ice Hammer above you!” Hau instructed in turn.

The Wooly Crab chambered his massive left claw as ice invaded the appendage until it was completely encased both inside and out as the dragon raised his limbs and let out a cry. Then he launched it upwards with a thrust, the claw detaching at the point where the segments met. The hammer of lightning came down as the ice-coated claw rocketed above—

PPPPOOOFF!!

—and a muffled explosion rang out when the opposites met. The bolt of lightning met with the insulator that was the ice and the force of the shockwave caused the ice to shatter with enough force that it gave birth to a shower of glittering motes that peppered the falling rain. Both Elio and his Dragon Pokémon were left to look on in shock at the improvised rocket punch, and Kiwa took advantage of the opening to act.

Kiwa used Stone Edge!

The Wooly Crab Pokémon slammed his remaining arm onto the ground and a line of stone outcroppings popped up to strike the Goodra at an angle. The blunt-edge rammed into his pudgy gut fast and hard enough that the Dragon Pokémon buckled over the stone the moment it connected. Then he was launched backwards as the jutting stone stalled, transferring the momentum.

“Now bury him!” Hau ordered.

CRABOMINA!” The roar gave birth to another dark cloud. Chunks of ice and white snow that formed within it combined with the rain and came crashing down onto the fallen dragon before he could rise again.

Kiwa used Avalanche!

It’s Super-Effective!

The smashing of ice and snow on each other caused it to billow out, creating a white veil of misty frost that covered the field. However, it was quickly thinned by the pouring rain to reveal Shussey’s defeat. The Dragon Pokémon was face down in the snow, unconscious and half-buried with the droplets rolling off his unmoving body.

Elio recalled his companion that had been with him since the Lush Jungle as Kukui announced the round in Hau’s favor before he brushed his fingers over the three remaining balls he had to decide on who to send out next. Two of his Pokémon had weaknesses to Ice, leaving his Starter. But sending her out now would still leave him at a disadvantage if she got hurt too bad.

He made his decision. “Kiina, it’s your show! Watch out for its Ice-type attacks!”

Champion Elio sent out Shiinotic!

Taking the Dragon Pokémon’s place was a Fairy/Grass-type that stood at the height of a small child, a Big Root nestled against her neck by a small holding pouch and band. The female Shiinotic turned her head slightly and nodded in understanding from the instructions she’d received. Then she faced her opponent with a placid smile and unblinking, unwavering dark ovals for eyes beneath the hood of her cap, the brim of which drops began to roll off of.

Kukui looked between them both to see if they were ready before he nodded. “Begin!”

“Use Avalanche again!” Hau commanded.

Kiwa crafted another dark cloud thick with snow and hail to bury the half-Grass opposition. However, unperturbed by the white-and-blue downpour, the Shiinotic raised her hand towards the sky before she disappeared beneath the white cloud of frost that billowed out, the rumbling akin to an avalanche drowning out all other sounds until it stopped. The pouring rain thinned the frost veil quickly to reveal that Kiina had crafted a turquoise dome to act as a forcefield that was surrounded on all sides by the running snow and ice.

Kiina protected herself!

“Good job,” Elio said. “Now, Dazzling Gleam!”

“Block it with Stone Edge!” Hau ordered, taking a page out of Elio’s book.

Kiina dropped the barrier and dipped her head forward, leaving the cap facing towards the larger Crabominable. The Wooly Crab Pokémon slammed his remaining claw into the ground to raise a stone pillar in front of him. It was just in time a bombardment shot out and blanketed that side of the field with prismatic spears of light numbering dozens, several of which wedged themselves deeply into the stone and the floor.

Phew…” Hau let out a sigh of relief at that before thrusting his fist forward. “Now, send it flying with your strongest punch!”

CRABO—” He reeled back his massive claw as it was encased in ice again and then used it as a sledgehammer against the skewered stone ahead of him.  “—MINABLE!”

The stone pillar shattered forward, large chunks launched towards Illuminating Pokémon. Kiina raised another Protect to shield herself, leaving them to break against it. Then the Wooly Crab Pokémon immediately charged in with an Ice Hammer and began wailing at the dome.

He’s keeping up the aggression to stop her from firing another Dazzling Gleam like before, Elio realized as the Crabominable kept whacking against the dome over and over, each blow hard enough that the water around the dome splashed up as the ground shook. Cracks were starting to form as the protection was reaching its limit and would fail eventually. But, then again, being up close is an advantage she can exploit.

“Blind him with Flash!” he ordered. The Shiinotic dropped her Protect after another hard whack and then lowered her mushroom cap again to release a blinding flash of light straight into his face. The sudden flare elicited a surprised and pained cry as Kiwa used his claw-less arm to shield his eyes and staggered backwards.

Kiina used Strength Sap!

She then extended her hands and her smile grew just a touch wider as pink motes and lavender streamers of light that represented what would be the Wooly Crab Pokémon’s inherent strength were ripped from his body. They flowed into the Illuminating Pokémon from the seemingly gentle touch as the protrusions that served as her fingers stretched out. Sensing this, Kiwa retaliated with an Ice Hammer by bringing the massive, ice-clad claw around in a broad circle to catch the Illuminating Pokémon in a brutal hit!

It’s Super-Effective!

The ice shattered into a spray of shards and frost as the Shiinotic was thrown back onto the side of the field that was pocked with marks from the previous Dazzling Gleam attack. She bounced as she hit the ground, only for a gentle cerulean light to swaddle her as the rain seeped into her cap and activated her ability.

Kiina’s Rain Dish activated!

The injuries began to slowly mend, fading away as she rose back up with her smile back into place. She then gestured for the Crabominable to try again. As if she was stating that nothing he could do would hurt her for good, mocking him.

Kiwa growled before he came rushing in again with another Ice Hammer. His pride was his strength, forged from the cold as he fought against the dangers of the mountain to reach this point. For it to be taken lightly was an insult, more so when the half-Fairy was smiling in a way that made it seem like she’d never felt threatened by his presence. “CRABOMINABLE!”

“Wait, don’t just rush in!” Hau warned. It was too late as Kiina reeled her hand back, a spiraling orb of pink forming between the protrusions that served as her fingers. She flung it right in the rushing Wooly Crab Pokémon’s face and his figure was engulfed in the ensuing pink-tinged explosion!

Kiina used Moonblast!

It’s Super-Effective!

He fainted, falling down as wisps of smoke wafted off of his body. But not before he used the last of his strength to thrust his ice-coated claw forward like a rocket again, sacrificing the limb. However, the desperate gamble shattered harmlessly against the Shiinotic’s Protect, his effort squandered as her smile remained wide upon seeing him fall.

I’m really going to have to do something about that habit of hers, Elio couldn’t help but think as Hau returned the downed Wooly Crab Pokémon, wondering if it really was okay to bring her from Isle Aphun for the match. Sure, she was strong. But she had something of a sadistic streak even when she was a Morelull, delighting in lording over her opponent and bringing them to their knees by taking their strength and stamina for nourishment.

Still, now it was three-to-two in terms of Pokémon available for the battle. And he knew that one of them would be Hau’s Incineroar, who Silky could handle. Looking over to Hau, he had his eyes closed and was holding an Ultra Ball in his grasp. The only question that remained was the identity of the last Pokémon he had inside of that ball.

“Challenger, send out your next Pokémon,” Kukui told him.

Hau nodded and then reeled his arm back to throw it. “Let’s show Elio what we’ve got, Kila!”

Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Lucario!

The Ultra Ball burst open and out came the female Lucario at her trainer’s call. She landed in a crouch, blue and black fur becoming moistened by the slacking rain. Then she slowly rose to her toes as she looked towards the Illuminating Pokémon with piercing red eyes. The cap of Kiina’s hood dipped as the rain continued to alleviate her wounds, her smile and confidence still remaining unshakable even in the face of a half-Steel type.

“That’s a rare one to see,” Kukui mused before he looked over to see if Elio was ready as well, or if he’d call the Shiinotic back. Once it was clear Elio wouldn’t, he declared the beginning of the next round. “Begin!”

Kila, get in close and use Metal Claw!” / “Kiina, keep it at range using Dazzling Gleam!

The two contrasting orders were met with brief responses before the Pokémon carried them out. The spike protruding from the Aura Pokémon’s right forepaw was shrouded in argent light. Then it lengthened and split into a three-pronged claw.

At the same time, the Shiinotic that stood opposite her lowered the hood of her mushroom cap that shone with a radiant, prismatic light. The Illuminating Pokémon let loose her artillery and the spear-shaped beams of solidified rainbows were fired like a hail of arrows, slicing through the air towards the Lucario.

Kila used Detect!

She closed her eyes as she ran forward, the four appendages on her head rising as though floating on invisible waves. The Lucario wove between the spears that composed the overwhelming barrage facing her, each one coming within a hair’s breadth of impaling her only to be dodged until she closed the distance and chambered her Metal Claw for a slash.

Letting up on the barrage, Kiina raised her head and then extended her arms out. A viridian dome of light sprung up to protect her from the incoming slash. However, the Lucario’s left arm glowed and she brought it around for a Feint-empowered strike that shattered the dome into shards. For the first time that night, the Shiinotic’s smile dropped as the three-pronged claw came around for a devastating slash!

It’s Super-Effective!

The Illuminating Pokémon let out a cry as the cold steel raked deep as it collided with her fibrous body. The rain that fell left her shrouded in the cerulean light of healing once more, but unlike before there was no smile as she looked up to see those red eyes fixed on her, claws raised again. Before another strike came in, she let loose a brilliant Flash point-blank once more to shut them.

The Lucario snarled as she staggered back from the stabbing pain of the light in her eyes. The Metal Claw faded in the process, as her concentration was broken. Kiina then extended her sinuous fingers to sap the strength of her opponent to mend the pain she suffered.

“Get some distance!” Hau ordered.

The Aura Pokémon avoided it in time with his shout, somersaulting backwards until she felt herself come against one of the prismatic spears of the Dazzling Gleam attack that had yet to return to motes of light as the rain stopped. She then opened her eyes to see a Moonblast coming towards her. The pink glow stemming from the attack overtook her vision and threatened to swallow her if it hit, doing massive damage.

So, using her powerful legs, she took to air with a powerful leap. The orb ruptured on impact with the ground where she’d been, the force of the explosion carrying her forward at the same time. The arch would carry her over to the Shiinotic, whose mushroom cap was illuminated once more with the prismatic light that preluded a Dazzling Gleam barrage that would skewer her from below.

Kila used Bone Rush!

But the Lucario slammed her paws together and then pulled them apart to reveal a bone staff forged of Aura as the barrage was unleashed. Twirling it around to intercept as many of the rainbow-toned spears as she could, the bulk that would strike her were battered away. Those that weren’t grazed her fur and shattered against her steel bones, earning nothing more than a light growl before she flung the bone staff towards the Illuminating Pokémon like a spear in retaliation.

“No, it’s a trap!” Elio warned as the Shiinotic raised another Protect in self-defense to block the incoming attack. While the Aura-forged staff shattered into fragments on contact, it was followed by a Feint-empowered blow that ripped open the protective field keeping the Lucario at bay.

The Aura Pokémon landed in a crouch in front of Kiina, giving her an up-close look at those intense red eyes that drove fear into the Shiinotic they honed-in with Laser Focus. The decisive blow was made in an argent flash as Kila lunged forward with her Metal Claw sweeping out to catch the fibrous body and then coming to a stop on a dime, water splashing from one of the puddles on the arena floor.

It’s Super-Effective!

A Critical Hit!

The Illuminating Pokémon stood rigid for what seemed to a frozen moment of time. Then the claw shrank back into a spike and the Aura Pokémon exhaled as Kiina collapsed onto the ground, defeated. Kukui verified her defeat a second later and Elio was down to only two Pokémon as well.

“Where’d you find her?” Elio asked as he recalled his Shiinotic into her ball. It was his loss, but there was no ill-will. It only showed he’d need to improve on Kiina’s training so that it didn’t happen again.

“She found me and Kamala while were training on Poni Island and challenged us,” Hau explained. “One thing led to another and she decided to come along to become stronger. You’re going to have a hard time beating her.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be fun otherwise…” Elio held both of his remaining balls in his hands as he decided between them. He wasn’t expecting a Steel-type being in Hau’s possession, which put both of his remaining two Pokémon at a disadvantage again. “Let’s show her what we’ve got, Kou!!”

Champion Elio sent out Crobat!

From the ball emerged the large, four-winged male Crobat. He flapped both pair of pinions as he circled around in the air a few times, getting a feel for the arena before lowering himself onto Elio’s side of the field. Then his eyes locked with that of the Lucario as they sized one another up.

“Okay. If both sides are ready, let the ninth round in the Title Defense match begin!” Kukui announced.

The Lucario darted ahead, droplets of water kicked up from the puddles as she crossed the distance in quick bounds. Her right spike warped, becoming a claw once more as she acted on her own initiative to cut down the Bat Pokémon. The claw only passed through empty space as the Crobat took advantage of his speed to maneuver around her while waiting for instructions on how to proceed against this particular opponent.

“Kou, don’t bother with Cross Poison or Leech Life! Focus on blitzing it and start with Double Team!”

Kou confirmed the order with a quiet squeaking sound as the Lucario came around again with her Metal Claw at the ready. She sent it scything around to strike him down, only to pass through the resulting illusion, much to Kila’s surprise. Then she felt pain as something hard and fast slammed into her from behind, sending her falling forward.

She caught herself, planting her arms down to flip over and then land into a crouch, only to wince from the lingering pain of the blow. Then she saw something moving on the fringes of her vision and looked around to see that she was surrounded. One had become a swarm that surrounded her, each copy flying about in the air indiscriminately. The Aura Pokémon rose back up to her full height and extended the Metal Claw to her left spike as she took a stance of her own design.

That was when the first of the swarm attacked, shrieking as he flew forward for a straight rush while wrapped in the hue of an Acrobatics attack. Kila jumped over the assault, twisting her body to bring the claws around to reap the Bat Pokémon only have them pass through the illusion. Then came another burst of pain that forced out a yelp as she was hit from behind and then sent flying back to the ground. The shrieks multiplied and came from all directions as the individuals of the swarm closed in from different angles to attack while she was downed.

Kila kicked up off the ground into a flip to escape the first one that passed by where she had been and then brought her claws around to lash at the ones coming from the left and right. That left her front seemingly open and one Crobat came for her with an Acrobatics again. She twisted her body and came around with a somersault kick before he could reach… and passed through the copy, leaving her to land in a crouch before being stricken from the right.

A cerulean comet would be the easiest way to describe Kou as he swept her up. Pain sank deep, right down to her metal bones as the Crobat sent her tumbling over the ground, leaving her to bounce twice. She used her claws to brake and then let out a low growl as the cacophony of bats increased in volume once more.

KILA!!” Hau called out over the noise. She half-turned her head so that he knew he had her attention, while not taking her eyes off the swarm itself. “You can’t rely on your eyes or ears. Ignore them and focus!

Kila nodded her head and then took on a natural stance as she closed her eyes to use Detect. The four appendages on her head began to move, bobbing on invisible waves. Then when the attacks came she just stood there, allowing the first three copies to harmlessly phase through her body before she abruptly spun out of the way of one coming from her left side, bringing claws around to catch it.

The attack missed. Not because it phased through, but because the Crobat had used his second set of wings to maneuver his oval body into going over the first that came from below and parallel to the second one that came in at a diagonal angle. Escaping from that, Kou twirled around so that he was facing the Lucario as she moved to lunge while releasing a saw-like blade of air from assault wings as the momentum carried him further back.

Crobat used Air Slash!

Kila flinched!

The blade of slicing air managed to catch the Lucario off-balance and struck her abdomen, causing her to flinch in surprise as a brief shroud of blue coated her body before fading. That was when Kou shot back around with an Acrobatics. The attack would have mowed her down if she hadn’t pivoted on her toes to get off-line of the attack, leaving him to linger a safe distance away before looking over to his trainer.

“Cage her in!” Elio commanded.

Kou nodded and then beat his wings to rise before turning over and leaving Double Team copies along his flight path as he accelerated again. The copies branched out further until they formed a dome around the Lucario, circling her as she clasped her paws together and then closed her eyes again to use Detect. Then the attacks came in earnest, blades of wind slicing through the air interspersed by the clones.

From above, from the left, from the right, from ahead, from behind, at varying degrees—the Air Slashes struck from different angles to cut down Kila and leave no avenue for escaping. Yet, in an excellent display of martial prowess from the Lucario, she avoided taking a solid hit. Instead, her claws flashed, coming into contact with the blades and separating the bonds that held them together so that they ruptured before they could so much as cut her down.

Seeing his attacks coming up short from above, Kou dropped the clones and performed a steep, slice turn. That put him level to the ground and facing the Lucario’s backside, though she turned as though she expected it. No matter, since he rapidly spun in an aileron roll while letting loose a strafing barrage of Air Slashes in rapid succession and her body flickered with a blue glow as they flinched her. He then accelerated into the opening under the effect of the Acrobatics technique, cerulean light wreathing his body as he shot forward once more and landed a heavy strike!

A Critical Hit!

“That’s the way!” Elio cheered. “Now, launch her up into the air and send her right back down!”

The blue comet rocketed upwards from beneath the Lucario and carried her into the air. Kou then stalled and let the momentum pass through her, sending her higher into the air. Finally, he looped to her backside and launched an Air Slash towards the unprotected spot.

Kila turned swiftly and brought her arms around before it could hit to shield herself using the claws. The Air Slash connected, sending her flying backwards until she landed on the ground in a roll. She got back up, only to collapse onto one knee and hold her abdomen again where the last blow had hit.

“One more hit will do it!” Elio said as Kou looped back down to follow through. He came around for the downed Lucario once more with an Acrobatics, accelerating into a decisive strike—

Kila used Metal Claw!

—only to be stricken as Kila rushed to meet him faster than he’d expected, her argent claws coming into his vision when it was too late for him to dodge. The Bat Pokémon was sent into an aerial tumble that would have sent him crashing to the ground if he hadn’t righted himself with frantic flaps of his wings. Then he looked back towards the source of his pain to find nothing there.

“Kou, use Air Slash behind you!” Elio shouted in warning, his voice panicked.

The Crobat acted in an instant. Whirling around while readying an Air Slash, he turned to find the Lucario in the air behind him. She was glaring at him with Laser Focus, so the last sight he caught as he released the blade of wind was the gleam of the arena lights on the claws as they came around. Then there was only the pain of the critical hit and the sensation of the ground knocking him unconscious.

Not that Kila was in better shape. The moment the Air Slash connected, her body buckled under the invisible blade of wind, her claws withered back into spikes, and a pained grunt was forced out of her mouth as she was sent right into the ground as well. The proud warrior tried to rise once more, but her trembling body gave out under its own weight and she fell down as well.

Looking at them both in silence for a moment, Kukui then made his declaration. “Both Pokémon are unable to battle any further. This round is a draw, meaning the next one will decide the Title Defense match.”

 


Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 9 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 9: Concerns of a Goddess and Child

“Achelois’ whereabouts?”

“I thought you might know her, given your Familia is a medicinal-type and that’s part of her dominion,” Hestia said, noting that the smell of medicines being brewed was somewhat poignant as it clung to the back of her throat.

Unaware of her child’s venture into the Dungeon, Hestia had gone to visit her friend Miach’s shop the moment she got off work. Miach once had one of the most prominent Medical Familias in all of Orario. A rival to the famed Dian Cecht Familia in its prime.

Miach’s Familia had fallen on hard times due to the fact that one of his children, Naaza, had sustained an injury that cost her an arm and left her with a crippling fear of the Dungeon. The price of replacing the arm, which was no doubt raised to unreasonable amounts by Dian Cecht to be rid of his competition, had left the Familia with a huge debt. Now, much like Hestia, he had only a single child as well.

Whereas some other Gods and Goddesses would abandon a child who was no longer able or willing to go into the Dungeon, he’d taken it upon himself to ensure the best possible treatment for his own. There was no ill will when he allowed his other children to leave the Familia so they wouldn’t be burdened. Instead, he sheltered it on his own shoulders without complaint.

Hestia actually admired him for that.

Hmm…”  Miach brought his hand to his chin in thought at Hestia’s question. “Well, it’s been some time since I’ve even heard her name. She had quite a bit of trouble establishing a Familia with myself and Dian Cecht around, and I haven’t seen her in Orario for years now at any of the functions we attend. So it’s possible that she left for greener pastures elsewhere.”

“That makes things a bit difficult then,” Hestia said, followed by a sigh. It was extremely difficult for an established Familia and Adventurers to leave the city, due to the amount of paperwork involved. Even with only one child to her name, it would take time to get clearance. “I don’t know where to begin to look for her if she’s left, but I need to find her.”

“Well, Hermes would probably be aware of her location,” Miach suggested. “I can’t be certain whether he will attend or not, but the Banquet of the Gods is tomorrow night. I hadn’t planned on attending myself, but you could go and try asking the others there if they’ve heard from her as well.”

Hestia’s lips formed into a small frown at the thought. She wasn’t really in the mood to attend the celebration either. And she knew that Loki would be there. Being the Goddess of one of the larger Familias in Orario had given her a big ego, especially when Hestia only had one child in her care…

But it was the best place to go for information. And Hephaestus would be there, which would allow Hestia to talk to her without having to wait for her schedule to be cleared. So, she supposed she had to go.

Thanking Miach for the advice, Hestia departed back for the abandoned church that she called home. It belonged to Hephaestus, but she was allowed to use it for both herself and her child. Some distance away she could see Bell opening the door to the church, peeking in through a crack as though to spy on what was inside. She opened her mouth to call out to him on reflex until she noticed… well, everything.

Bell’s clothes were in a horrible condition. The fabric of his shirt was torn, reduced to red-tinged scraps that hung off his frame and exposed his skin in patches—though his Falna was thankfully covered up. His pants had tears in them too, claws or fangs having dug into them at one point and pulled free flesh judging from the bloodstains on them.

In his hand was a long weapon wrapped in a cloth stained a disturbingly dark shade of crimson to hide the blade. It looked like the one he’d shown her yesterday from that nightmarish place that he’d went after he… after he died.

Did he die again without me knowing? Her blood ran cold at the thought until Bell opened the door further and began to enter. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and called out to him. “Bell!”

He went from a foot in the door to ramrod straight, slowly turning his head towards her with a mechanical stiffness. The expression on his face wasn’t that of the one he’d shown her yesterday when he first got back to her side, ruby-toned eyes lacking the horror they’d held before. It was just a look of shame, or guilt perhaps?

“Goddess, I….” He swallowed, and then threw himself on the ground to bow his head. “Forgive me! I went to the Dungeon today!”

…It was like a child who had been caught doing something that he wasn’t supposed to apologizing to his mother. The moment she realized that, the tension lessened. Hestia let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding in relief. Then the scolding started.

“I told you to take it easy after that happened yesterday,” she said, placing her hands on her hips. “Why did you go back to the Dungeon?”

He raised his head until he was sitting his knees, hands resting on his thighs. “I didn’t want you to have to work to support me when I was still capable of going into the Dungeon. It wouldn’t have been fair to you.”

“Going in after what you just went through isn’t any better,” Hestia pointed out, crouching down to look over his body. There wasn’t a scratch on him from what she could tell, despite some of the blood on his clothes definitely being his. The other hues were from monsters, if she had to guess. “Explain what happened to your clothes.”

“A lot of monsters came out to attack me,” he started. “The Kobolds weren’t much of a threat though. In fact, the usual ones didn’t really manage to touch me. I think it was because of the increase in my Falna. Most of the tears were from the War Shadows when they worked with the Frog Shooters, but—”

“Wait, War Shadows!?” Fear crept up her spine as she recognized the name of that kind of monster that lurked in the Dungeon. They weren’t found on the upper floors, where rookie Adventurers worked out of. She grabbed his shoulders and demanded, “Bell… how far down did you go?”

He fixed his eyes to the ground in shame before he mumbled the answer she didn’t want to hear. “The Sixth Floor.”

Her fear turned into anger born from worry. He had just died on the Fifth Floor not even a day ago. He’d died, gone to a nightmarish place of blood and beasts, and fought desperately to return to her side. And he went even lower into the Dungeon after that? “Why?”

“…because all I can do is go into the Dungeon,” he said after a moment. “I didn’t plan on going past the Fifth Floor at first, but it was too easy. The Goblins and Kobolds didn’t pose a threat, and the Minotaur was an irregularity. I was just going to go a floor or two deeper to familiarize myself with the monsters there for when I eventually did go deeper.”

Hestia wanted to say that he shouldn’t have gone there at all. That he shouldn’t force himself to do that. That she was afraid of losing him without even realizing it again. But he was an Adventurer and, as much as she wanted to keep him safe, he did have to go lower at some point.

There was no telling how long it would take for her to find Hermes or Achelois, and the number of people she could trust to tell about Bell’s ordeal could be counted on a single hand if she wanted to make sure it didn’t spread around. Even so, until they knew what was going on, she didn’t want him to put himself at risk like that. There were too many things they didn’t know about his condition: the tampering with his Falna by the Doll, the Blessing of Flora and Beasthood skills that he’d gotten, and everything else. She needed to find answers for that first so that she could help him.

Bell,” she said softly. His eyes rose to meet hers and she had a pleading look in her eyes. “Promise me that you won’t go into the Dungeon until I at least get back from the Banquet of the Gods. Okay?”

He nodded obediently. “I promise I won’t go into the Dungeon until you get back and tell me too.”

She could tell he wasn’t lying, so she placed her trust in him once more as she stood back up. Then she noticed the bag on his back and how it had a visible weight to it. “You didn’t exchange the magic stones yet, did you?”

“I was planning on going to the Guild after I got changed since I didn’t want to freak out Miss Eina again,” he said as he rose up to his feet, scratching the back of his head. “She… kind of told me not to go that deep as well just yesterday.”

The Goddess of Home and Hearth huffed. He should have listened to that advice. “Then get changed and go trade in everything you got at the Guild. You can use that money to buy yourself new clothes, pay off the loans you have, and whatever else you need.”

Her sapphire eyes then turned to the weapon he had in his hand. It was definitely different from the one she’d seen before. Taller, with the wrapping even more smeared with blood and filth. “And when you get back, you’re going to tell me how you got this one too.”

 [R-M]

I hope this’ll do as an apology to her, Bell thought to himself as he looked down to the bag he was carrying in his hands, containing not only a change of clothes to replace that he lost today in the Dungeon but gifts from a book store and accessory shop that were close to Babel. He passed by them every day but rarely gave them a glance normally, since they didn’t interest him very much. Today though, he wanted to appease Hestia after he’d disobeyed her by going that deeply into the Dungeon, so he’d spent time finding something he thought she would like.

It was getting dark now, partly due to the fact that it had taken so long to exchange his magic stones and monster drops at the Guild a little while ago. It was busier than usual, or at least by his normal standards since he only hung out in the Upper Floors and could get back to the surface relatively quickly since he didn’t often have much to carry. He supposed for people who went deeper, it was natural they’d surface later.

The valis he’d earned from the monster drops, rather than the magic stone shards. were more than enough for him to pay off the cost of the equipment and knife he’d been given by the Guild starting out. That was a testament to how ferociously the Dungeon had tried to get rid of him, since only places where the magic was extremely dense in their bodies persisted after the stones were removed from them. He would need to buy some lightweight armor before he went that deep into the Dungeon again after Hestia finished going to the banquet tomorrow.

Still, I wonder if it’ll be enough to please her? I know she likes books, but not specifically which ones would interest her the most. And while the ribbon is the same color as her normal one, it’s a bit thicker

His head snapped up as he felt eyes, heavy and hard peering down on him from somewhere. It was like the weight of an ocean pushing down on him, a whirlpool spiraling to pull him in. He looked around to see that there were others on the street, some humans, other demi-humans, none that were focused on him.

He started walking again, gaze peering over his shoulder as he tried to see if there was anyone fixated on him. Am I imagining things or maybe—

“Ow!”

Bell’s train of thought was broken when he bumped into someone by mistake, a soft and feminine voice slipping out in surprise. He looked down to see he had toppled a girl who looked slightly older than him, dressed in a pale green skirt and white blouse. Her hair was a shade of grey that was closer to blue, matching her eyes as she looked up at him with a surprised expression.

“I’m so sorry!” Bell said hastily, extending a hand for her to take. Her slender fingers found their way into his and he pulled her onto her feet. “Are you okay?”

“Just a bit startled, but nothing broken,” she said as she dusted herself off and took in his appearance. “You wouldn’t be an Adventurer, would you?”

He nodded his head. “I haven’t been one for long, but I am.”

That bit of news seemed to make her day as her inquisitive look transitioned into a smile and she clasped her hands together. “That’s lucky. I was actually coming out to look for one.”

“You were?”

“Mm-hm.” She gestured to the building made of stone, standing two stories tall with a terrace in the middle. It could honestly pass as an Inn at a glance, and there was an abundance of sounds coming through the double doors, indicating that it was lively within. “Our bar, the Hostess of Fertility, is having a special right now for new Adventurers. You’ll be able to eat one meal for free, whatever you want.”

“…I’ll have to pass,” he told her, reluctantly. The thought of eating free food appealed to him greatly, but he didn’t want to spend more valis than necessary given their living situation. However, he’d feel guilty if only he got to eat a delicious meal when she didn’t after working.

However, the girl with eyes and hair that caught a slight sheen in the encroaching moonlight bit her lower lip and gave him a pleading look. “If not you then I’ll have to wait out here in the dark until someone else comes by or Mama Mia will be upset with me.”

“I just wouldn’t feel right that I got to eat something great when my Goddess hasn’t,” Bell said, looking away and thinking about how unfair it was she was plying him with that sort of shy, cute look. “We’re not that well-off as a Familia.”

She immediately turned it around on him. “We allow you to carry out as well. You can try something and then bring another one back to her as a gift. That way we’ll both get what we want and she’ll be happy you were thinking about her.”

It… couldn’t hurt, could it? Bell opened his mouth to give her a response when the din of the Main Street in the early night was broken by the sound of his stomach rumbling, much to his embarrassment. In his defense, the last thing he’d really eaten were the snacks Hestia had gotten him as breakfast.

“Should I take that as a ‘yes,’ Mr. Adventurer?” she asked, a playful smile on her face.

He could only scratch his head and respond with a sheepish, “I guess one meal couldn’t hurt… Miss…”

“My name’s Syr Flover,” she said, introducing herself. “You can just call me Syr. And you?”

“Bell Cranel,” he answered. “Just Bell is fine.”

“Then follow me inside, Bell.” She grasped his hand with both of hers and led him inside. A warm glow was spreading throughout the wooden interior due to the lanterns burning above, giving off a contemporary atmosphere that would lift the spirits of anyone. The staff were all women, interracial ranging from Elven to Cat People, smiling as they moved with purpose between the different tables housing other Adventurers that were all sitting and reveling in their drinks and food as they chatted with one another.

It was a nice place, if Bell had to admit. One that made the dangers of the Dungeon far off and forgotten. But that feeling of being watched was still there, the pressure lessened but not completely gone. His eyes spanned the place once more, but he still couldn’t make out who was observing him. Was he just paranoid after all?

“Mama, here’s a new Adventurer for you,” Syr said as she brought him to a seat at the counter, where the Dwarfess that he presumed to be the owner was waiting. “This one’s special, so treat him well, okay?”

Then Syr was gone and Bell was alone at the counter seat. Mia’s dark eyes sized him up and Bell felt relatively small compared to her. However, she then smiled and spoke in a manner and broke the image had been forming of her in his head. “How long have you been an Adventurer?”

“Ah, a little over two weeks now,” he replied politely as he sat the bag he carried down on the floor. “I just arrived in Orario around then and joined a Familia, so I haven’t been in a bar before now.”

“Then you’re in luck. The Hostess of Fertility is one of the finest establishments in all of Orario! We serve the people during the day, and Adventurers here at night.” She passed him a menu along. “Eat to your heart’s content!”

He took it, or rather had it forced into his hands, and looked through the choices he had. The menu was rather diverse, so he placed an order to see if it was something Hestia would enjoy. It had barely been in front of him for a minute before Syr returned, dragging a stool next to him and taking a seat in it.

“So, how do you like our bar and food so far?” she asked.

“They’re both great,” he told her with a slight smile, though he’d only take a bite out of it so far. “I don’t think I’ve had food this good since I got here, and it feels nice to be somewhere with people who are just unwinding without having to watch out for the next thing trying to leap out of the shadows to kill you. I’d like to bring my Goddess here someday too.”

“Which Goddess do you serve under?”

“Hestia,” he said, to which she looked a bit unfamiliar with. Not surprising. “You probably haven’t heard of her since our Familia only started about two weeks ago and it’s just the two of us. We’re pretty poor, so I have to go into the Dungeon everyday so that we can make a living.”

“It must be hard doing all of that alone.”

“I stumbled around at first because I didn’t have someone to teach me, but I’m managing now.” Ignoring what happened yesterday, he thought privately to himself. “Besides, I’m not alone since my Goddess is there when I get back. That counts more than anything else.”

She tilted her head slightly at that, a rather playful smile forming on her face again as he took a bite of the meat next. “It sounds like you’re in love with her when you say it like that.”

Bell nearly choked at the accusation, a spot of crimson painting his cheeks. He forced down the meat and gasped before stating. “No, it’s not like that!”

“What is it like then?” Syr asked as she looked at him expectantly.

“When I came to the city, I tried to join some of the bigger Familias,” he explained. “Every single one rejected me, since I was a farm kid without any sort of experience, and I didn’t have any family since my Gramps died a year ago. If she didn’t take me in, I wouldn’t have anything at all. Since then it’s been like having a family again, even if it’s just the two of us. She’s supporting my dreams and helping me in whatever way she can, despite having so little herself. I’m really grateful to her, so I want to make her happy and repay her no matter what. Is that wrong?”

“…No, it’s not,” Syr said in a softer tone. “You’d be surprised at how many people feel that way.”

Bell thought he caught a deep meaning with the way she said that, but then she perked right back up and changed the topic to tell him a little more about the Hostess of Fertility. It turned out that Mama Mia was a former Adventurer herself and that she hired girls or women from different background. Since she liked meeting new people and learning new things, the job was one that Syr found enjoyment in as well since she’d never really get bored.

“I know the feeling,” Bell said. “It was overwhelming when I first got here. It still is, really. But you learn something new every day and there’s still a bunch left to learn as you go on. That’s what makes Orario special.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Syr agreed with a smile that seemed to brighten the room a touch more.

Bell found himself staring for a moment at the sight, before the doors opened and a group of ten or so Adventurers entered. His heart stilled as he noticed the golden-haired figure among them, one who had seen him that day on the Fifth Floor. Ais Wallenstein had arrived with other members of the Loki Familia in tow, bringing his moment of peace to an end.

 


Vim & Vigor 9 (A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)

Vim & Vigor 9


Until today, I thought that hiding a girl in my room would be exciting. In hindsight, it was just stressful. Very stressful.

Cienna had taken over my bed after eating the food that I heated up, sitting on it in a pair of track-pants. That and a t-shirt that made the outline of her chest pretty evident, for what it was. I wouldn’t say she was flat, but she wasn’t exactly stacked either.

The rest of her clothes, unmentionables and all, were in the washing machine. They needed a thorough washing just to deal with the stench of alcohol alone. Then a heavy-dry to get them back into a state that could reasonably be considered clean.

She wasn’t exactly probing every corner of my room to invade my privacy, but I wasn’t exactly expecting visitors today and didn’t clean it up too well. Not to mention she looked like she was starting to get settled in, which was a problem since I was already hoping that Dad didn’t come home early and Mom didn’t wake for the next two or so hours. I’ve caused them enough problems as it was—Mom especially, who I wanted to check up on after I thought about what I was going to say to her about everything.

I mean, I was technically attacked by members of a gang. Just not the ABB. But that’s not much better, since I went out looking for something to do. Dad would be pissed and Mom would be disappointed, both things I didn’t like dealing with or wanted them to feel.

Granted, if I hadn’t gone looking for trouble, I probably wouldn’t be in this mess… but I just wanted to do something useful with the time and power I had. That’s what a hero does, right?

I’ll have to lay low for a while until things settle down on my end. Make an effort to get home early. Spend some time with Mom and Dad. At least until Taylor finished getting a new power ready for me to test—

“So, how’d it happen?” Cienna asked out of the blue.

“What?”

“Your trigger,” she clarified. “You’re a Parahuman, but if your parents don’t know then you can’t be like the chick from the family of Blasters that got busted for being a hypocrite.”

“You mean Glory Girl and New Wave? They’re not all Blasters.”

“Either way, since you must’ve gotten your powers some other way if not from them, and you don’t seem like the type who’s gotten a raw deal from your parents, that leaves something going on outside the home. And since you don’t seem like the type to get into trouble with that baby-face of yours, I’m guessing you’re bullied in school?”

I don’t give her an answer. Partly because I was sick of lying more than I had to. And the other part was because it was a reminder that the whole reason I had these powers were because Taylor was bullied instead of me.

I was just… there. Someone people didn’t talk to unless they had to. Taylor was the exception though. She was nice like that and we usually worked together in class because we at least meshed somewhat and got work done.

“I mean, I get it,” Cienna continued. “People tend to be assholes if they can get away. See it every day.”

“Some people, yeah,” I admitted, thinking of Sophia’s gang. “Never really got why they enjoyed that. There’s not much of a point in being mean most times. Much less to people who didn’t do anything to you aside from exist.”

“It’s because it makes them feel bigger than they are.” She stretched out on my bed, shifting the pillow so that it was laying beneath her. “Some people just get off on seeing others lower than them because then they feel that they’re better than someone else.”

“I don’t see what’s so fun about putting someone else down to put yourself up—it doesn’t change anything, besides making someone else miserable.”

“Misery loves company, and as long as the other person is more miserable than you… well, you get it.”

Despite the fact that she’s getting far more comfortable than she should be on my bed, and I don’t think I’ve washed the sheets for a bit now either, I tried to think of a reason under that logic for Sophia being… herself. I couldn’t really come up with anything. She was a track-star, she didn’t do drugs or get messed with by anyone affiliated with the E88 as far as I knew. Maybe she’s had issues with her parents or I was missing something?

And whatever was going on with Emma and Taylor wasn’t something I was privy to either. Only that whatever bad-blood was between them was largely instigated by the former. And the fact that she targeted Taylor even after she got hurt and the locker thing doesn’t really make me sympathetic to whatever happened to her.

“You seem like a good kid and all, so it must be hard for you to go through things like that and people just watch it happen. They’re just as bad.”

“…Some people want to, but just can’t. The ones who don’t join in or laugh, but have sit there and watch it happen. They want to do something, but they’re afraid they’d make things worse, or they’d get hurt too. So they feel really bad about it afterwards, because they know they should have done something but couldn’t. They’re victims too, in a way.”

I knew that from personal experience. When it happened, you tell yourself that there was nothing you could do to stop it. That you’d try to make it up in some other way, like I was now. Because that was all you could do. People who exploited that were the worse.

Cienna doesn’t see it that way though. “All the guilt and pity in the world doesn’t help when you’re suffering. It just makes you feel worse when the people pitying you could be doing something.”

“It’s easy to say that, but not everyone is like us. They don’t have powers, and when they do they have to keep their heads down because no one will help them if they get into trouble. If the teachers and staff did their jobs and prevented that in the first place, it wouldn’t even be a problem.”

Mister Gladly claimed he knew that some people were giving us a hard time, but if he really did then he wouldn’t have paired us with Julia and the others. He would have been the one to report those three for what they did. Yet he didn’t, so either he was lying or he let it happen.

“In a perfect world, they would,” she said. “But we don’t live in a perfect world. Just one that sucks and you try to get through day-by-day.”

“…Can we drop this now,” I asked. “That stuff isn’t something you talk to others about in the first place and I’m already tense enough.”

She yawned and shifted the pillow again so it was just under her head. “Fine. Just wake me up when my clothes are dry.”

Wait, what? “You’re sleeping here!?”

“It’s not like I can go anywhere with my clothes wet and I can’t think of anything else to talk about with you, so…night.”

I just stared at her as she turned her head and curled up in my sheets. Judging from her breathing it sounded like she was slipping into a deep sleep already, so she was probably already tired. If she stayed up and waited for me to wake up after Circus got me, like Mom did, then it made sense. Everyone’s got limits on how long they can stay awake, and between the food and shower I guess she reached hers…

Still, who sleeps in the bed of the person they were blackmailing?

I wanted her gone, but there was no point in waking her up for no reason and when I couldn’t actually force her to. I…really hoped I was making the right decision here, considering how the last day went between being nearly crushed, set on fire, and stabbed. After which I was blackmailed by a homeless girl, who I was lying about having powers to, while lying to Taylor about the latter’s existence and role in my survival…

There’s no way this is going to end well in the long-run.

Fortunately, a bink sound from my computer distracted me from that train of thought. I had a private message waiting for me now, from GstringGirl. She must’ve just noticed I was logged in again.

GstringGirl: you missed the game last night. what happened?

Right, I was going to get in a quick game with her after I got back from practicing with Telekinesis. She could only get access to her computer for a limited time, so that was probably a hassle on her end too. Better explain so she doesn’t get upset with me too—it was hard to find people on the forums who didn’t have it out for me or accuse me of baiting for attention.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Ran into some trouble on the way back home last night. Gang dudes.

GstringGirl: Are u ok!?

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Got roughed up a bit. Woke up in alley in morning. On pain-killers but fine.

GstringGirl: it’s getting dangerous there.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: I’ll stay clear of gang territory when I can.

GstringGirl: not just gangs. new uncontrollable trigger happened last night. check uber & leet thread.

I left-clicked a link and opened it into a new tab before browsing over to that thread. Uber and Leet caused a monstrous trigger with one of their stupid pranks again. The video of them actually doing so has been taken down, but apparently Nemean and Heimal worked with the Cyborg of Brockton Bay to stop the trigger before someone could get seriously harmed.

That being said, it’s safe to say they’re getting cage’d for that one the moment they stick their heads up again. I’m actually a bit ashamed I used to like their show until that GTA episode. But things… were really getting worse, aren’t they?

The ABB and E88 were reaching a pretty bad tipping point. New Wave’s been discredited somewhat due to Glory Girl. These idiots caused someone to trigger for a stupid prank. The Undersiders got away with knocking over a bank. And then there was that thing with Circus and whoever Trainwreck was working for.

It’d be nice to be able to warn Nemean and Heimal, rather than just not saying anything and then one day reading they ended up dead in an alley somewhere. But they don’t exactly list their contact information or have a visible account. And I can’t do anything right now about the other things beyond stealing money from the Merchants to benefit Taylor, at least until she got back onto her feet and we tag-teamed the issue together.

I glanced over to the sleeping girl in my bed, now splayed out unladylike as she turned in her sleep. Her powers would be useful against bullets and anything non-organic that entered her field of influence, if I had her pegged right. We need more heroes out there, so maybe I could convince her to work with Taylor and me…

Someday, maybe.

Right now, she was treating me like a kid and blackmailing me. And Taylor was probably only reluctantly letting me continue with testing her powers after what Circus did and that screw up with the Merchants. I couldn’t push things with them by trying to bring them together to form our own team.

Realistically, I’d probably be lucky just to be able to go out at night again once Mom woke up and we had a long talk about how this would make twice that I’ve been attacked, if you include the lie I told about how Taylor got injured in the first place. I didn’t want to lie to her face again, but I have to or it’ll all come crumbling down.

This sucks, I couldn’t help but think as I replied back to the private message.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: Depressing stuff with that.

GstringGirl: i know. be careful.

XxVoid_CowboyxX: I will.

GstringGirl: k. have to go now.

After that, I spent some time just trying to get a grasp on everything I’d missed online until the dryer tumbled to a stop a few hours later, and the buzzer that signaled the laundry being done rang out. Crap, I knew I forgot something!

It was loud enough that Cienna shot up in my bed, her head whipping around and eyes wide open in alarm. I held my hands up to stop her before she activated her power and tore my room apart. She exhaled when she noticed me, tension flowing out of her body as she started to lay back down while I got up and went over to the dryer.

Her clothes… well, they were cleaner than before. I guess. I didn’t really look at them as I moved them from the washer into it. She probably does need some new clothes though. I reached down to grab them—

Greg?

—when Mom’s voice came through her door, soft but clearly. Crap, I woke her up too.

Y-Yeah, Mom. It’s me!” I shouted as I grabbed the clothes and rushed over to my door, tossing them through it and onto the bed. Cienna glared at me for that, but I pointed to the window and said, “Mom’s up. You gotta go!”

Then I shut the door and rushed over to Mom’s room before she came out to check on me. It was just in time as I heard the sound of her bed’s springs creaking, meaning she was getting out of it. I knocked on the door lightly to let her know that I was outside, not wanting to step in without permission just in case she was indecent.

“Mom, can I come in?”

Yes.”

I stepped inside, closing the door after me, to see that Mom was sitting on the bed. She looked… tired. There were rings around her eyes that were a bit bloodshot from exhaustion, and probably crying too. “Sorry I woke you up.”

She just shook her head and stood up. Then she hugged me against her body tight as though she didn’t want to let me go, sniffling as her voice came out hoarse and soft. “I didn’t know… I didn’t know what happened to you… I thought you…you…

“…I’m sorry.” It was all I could say to her as I tried to think of a way to get free when she started crying on my shoulder. I still hadn’t thought of everything I was going to say, and if Cienna was still there I’d feel even more guilty after seeing her like this. “I’ll get you some water, okay?”

She nodded and then sat back down on the bed.

I turned away as she started wiping away her tears. It was hard to look at her in that state, a far-cry from when she was happy that I was going out to my ‘gaming-club’ at night. All because of Circus.

Thankfully, when I got back to my room Cienna, her clothes, and her bag were all gone. The window was opened too, so I guessed she climbed back out that way. I hoped no one spotted her, but for now it was a relief that one thing hadn’t blown up in my face today after everything else. I shut the window closed and then went into the kitchen to get Mom some water like I said. Then I spent hours trying to convince her that everything would be okay and I was fine.

All while swearing in my head that if I ever crossed paths with Circus again, I was going to make her pay for everything.

 


Fanfic Recommendation 60

My Fanfics :

 

Calling Card 16

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:

Cissnei’s Path 71 – 72  (Tv Tropes)

A Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic

Summary:  Cissnei wanted to save Zack that night, only to find that it was too late. Though she couldn’t bring him back to life, she could keep his legacy alive. That was why she refused to abandon Cloud on his journey, despite going against her former friends and colleagues.

Whirlpool Among the Eddies 50 – 51

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: A/U: Leaves spiral in the soft eddy as Naruto meets Karin in the Forest of Death. From that moment on, the two bearing the Clan name carried with them the fate of the Uzumaki and would be forever entwined.

Devil’s Advocate 24

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: Character study. An accidental meeting brings Zetsu into Naruto’s life as his tutor. With Zetsu trying to sway Naruto to his own philosophy of “the only one you can rely on is yourself”, Naruto discovers that the world isn’t as black and white as his tutor is, that there are at least two sides to every story, and that he has a lot to learn. Hinted NaruIno and NaruTen; grey!Naruto

Ashes of the Past 236 – 239

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime.  So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving…  Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.

Path of the King 37

A FSN Fanfic

Summary: “With swords that aren’t yours, with skills that aren’t yours, for dreams that aren’t yours. Your entire existence is a lie!” – “Then I’ll show you that even fake dreams can become reality.” A different choice, a different path, a different FATE. Shirou/Multi

Promises of a Wandering Hero 20

A FSN x Love Hina Fanfic

Summary: He promised to be a Hero capable of saving everyone. But before that he made other promises he can’t remember under a different name. How will Shirou react when he finds his lost past? – Shirou/Multi Mature Contents.

Chaos Theory 37

A FSN Fanfic

Summary: Sometimes, the tiniest of changes can have the greatest impact on the world. One chance encounter goes in a new direction, and the course of the Holy Grail War is irrevocably changed…

Fairy Dance of Death 43

A SAO Fanfiction

Summary: AU reboot of the entire SAO storyline, beginning from the premise that Kayaba Akihiko was obsessed with magic and Norse Mythology rather than swords and pure melee. As a result, he created the Death Game of Alfheim Online rather than the floating castle of Aincrad—a world in which PvP is not a crime, and the nine player races are in competition to escape.

Intrepid:  16-06 –  16A Interlude

A Worm Fanfiction

Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way.

Outcry: Interlude Kid Win – Interlude Emma

A Worm/ Dark Souls Fanfiction

Summary: Nadalia, the Child of Dark, escaped the sovereign’s invasion of the Brume tower, finding refuge in the dark chasm. It was from there that her spirit wandered somewhere else. A place beyond the scope of light. Beyond the reach of Dark.Finding a very special mortal girl.Seek strength Taylor. The rest… will follow.

Stacked Deck (Or, Colin Wallis vs. Single Parenting) Nov.8 – Dec.1

A Worm / Persona 4 Fanfiction

With the Ring: Control 12 – Headhunted 17  (Tv Tropes Page)

A Young Justice Fanfic

Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.


Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 3 – Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Why are homunculi here?

That question turned over in my head again and again after Gai and I retreated back inside of the building while Ayako went to deal with the Taboo. Nemesis Q’s declaration had riled everyone up to an extent, which meant that everyone else was moving about now. Fortunately, I managed to pull myself together before we walked through the door, so at least I entered under my own power.

Still, I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with anyone, so I let Gai handle the crowd-control while I sat off to the side and went over the information I could recall. I had studied for the Holy Grail War, so I knew about the Einzbern a bit. They were a family that created the Holy Grail, while the Tohsaka’s provided the land and the Matou provided the control system. They were always guaranteed to have one of their own in the war, and while that albino brat was on the short side, the other two resembled the one Ayako had just pointed out to a greater extent.

Homunculus were artificial beings that looked humans, born complete from the start and lived short-lives within a narrow timeframe as a result. We don’t know how far we are into the future, though it must be far ahead given the drastic change in landscape and the advance weathering on the structures. But the most likely reason for the world being in this state is because of something to do with the moonlit side of things with their presence. The fact that homunculi can be found working to some extent with the Taboo also means that their creators likely share some sort of alliance, which means that the ones responsible have a potential army of artificial creatures under their beck-and-call.

Why though?

I try to drown out the noise of the people around me to answer that question. They were all eager to go back to the Present. To go back home.

The Salaryman was pacing back and forth, anxious. I could tell he wasn’t coming back, so I’ve already written him off. Couldn’t care about the three idiots sitting near the front either, who still thought it was a movie or game or something. They’d learn or die. And I still wasn’t sure what the deal was with the creep with scraggly hair that was now sitting on the counter.

The Track Trio were sitting off by themselves, talking and remaining in their own world. Well, Makidera was doing a lot of the talking anyway. The others were just listening to her go on about what she would do with her power, intending to use it to give her an edge on the track. Not that I’m against it—after all, if you’ve got to be stuck with doing this you may as well use the power how you see fit. However, I get the feeling that the Student President would object to that.

As for the others in the backrooms… they’re Gai’s problem.

I close my eyes and turn my thoughts inwards, questioning again how the world itself was even allowed to get this badly ruined. Let’s assume the current situation was some Magus’ scheme went off the rails… or, more terrifyingly, planned. I don’t see how it would lead to any family attaining the Root of All Creation, so I want to believe it was more accidental than anything. But there were supposed to be organizations to prevent this sort of thing.

So, what happened to them?

Ummm…” Before I can think on that dour topic further, Saegusa’s voice reaches my ears. I crack open an eye to see that she’s standing in front of me. She’s not looking directly at me, instead her gaze is to her fingers that are in front of her stomach, clasped together.

“What is it?”

“You, um, looked pale. So I thought I’d ask if you were okay?”

“I’m managing.”

“That’s goo—” Her words turn into a startled shout as the ground shakes again, no doubt due to the Taboo still running around. She ends up half-falling into the seat across from me on the opposite couch, leaving the table between us.

The rumbling settles and she sets her hands on the table and takes a moment to calm herself down. “…S-So, do you think that Mitsuzuru-san will be able to deal with it on her own, if both you and Gotou-san are here?”

I shrug. “That worm thing isn’t only big. It was spitting out some kind of digestive fluid that melted the ground, making it easier for it to go through. There’s no telling what that would do to us if we made direct-contact with it, and she’s the only one who can deal with it at range.”

Now that I think about it, what was the purpose of that thing? If it was artificially-created, it had to have been done for the sake of being useful—logically speaking. Considering half of Fuyuki was covered in that sand it leaves in its wake, and it works on the manmade structures too… terraforming, maybe?

“I… see…” She’s fiddling with her thumbs now. The girl is clearly uncomfortable talking to me, and with the situation in general, so I don’t see why she feels the need to push herself by dragging it out. “I hope she’ll manage soon.”

“I’m sure she’s working as fast as she can.” More so considering the homunculi lingering about. If they were anything like the ones in that castle though, Ayako could take them easily from what I’ve seen of her fighting… at least, if she didn’t see something too traumatic in my head.

I know what kind of effect it has on me, and I have exposure to it. Before getting dragged into this, I doubt she’d witnessed anything as horrifying as human nature at its worst. She’s probably going to tell the Veterans what she’d seen, so I’ll need to think of a more fitting excuse for her and the others by the time we get back.

“Ah—I didn’t mean to be rude or anything!” Saegusa hastily tacked on in response. A nervous reaction more by habit, considering I didn’t showcase any anger or annoyance in my voice. “I’m just worried about things back home. It’s been almost an entire day here, so it must’ve been at least a little while back in our time. Someone must’ve found our bodies and taken us to the hospital, so our families must be worried we won’t wake up…”

“As long as you’ve got insurance, you can frame it as trying too hard during practice as an excuse and then check out right away. If you don’t have insurance, then just foot the bill to me and I’ll take care of it.”

The money isn’t a problem for me, all things considered. And better to handle something as trivial as that than having her worried when I needed her to survive. The more of us, the better off we’ll be—whatever power she gets out of it.

“All of us are insured, but thank you for the offer.” She tries to smile meekly with her head still angled down, looking up to me with those brown eyes of hers. “Still, I hope it isn’t too late in the evening. I don’t want them to be up late worrying about me, and I did promise to make Kouta-kun whatever he wanted for dinner…”

Her smile falters as she trails off and looks back down at the table. “It’s still hard to believe that this is our future. I never really thought much about what it would be like since I was focused on the present and taking care of my brothers. But… this’ll be their future one day, won’t it?”

“That’s what we’ve been drafted to try and prevent.”

“I understand that. But…” She sucks in a sharp breath and closes her eyes tight before she can start to cry. “Umm… your sister… if something happened to you, what would happen to her?”

I sit upright as the pieces fit together.  She wants some kind of reassurance from someone who actually knows what’s going on. That means either me or Gai. And while Gai might be more sociable, he doesn’t have a sibling.

Worse, considering she overheard what happened to Kitano, she has some clue as to what it’ll be like for those who are left behind if she dies. “So, you’re afraid that if you die here it’ll affect your entire family, right?”

She nods her head meekly. “I… I don’t want my brothers to have to live in this sort of future. So, I want to change it for them. But, I’m afraid that if I die here… if I die then I won’t be able to help them, or see them. I’m… I’m scared.”

From how she acts and what she says, I gather she’s basically a dutiful daughter who looks over her siblings. Her family dynamic is completely different from mine, so that’s not something I can really relate to. Then again, it’s not like she needs to know that.

“Saegusa, that’s how you’re supposed to feel,” I tell her. “There’s no shame in not wanting to die because you’ve got other priorities. After all, I wouldn’t be here if I had that same option.”

I don’t think any of us would, barring those who felt like playing the hero just because they could. And heroes tended to die young. I didn’t have any intention of doing that if I could help it.

“You can think on all of that once we get back,” I continue. “But right now, your focus needs to be on simply surviving. If you try thinking on everything else, you’ll collapse under the pressure and be no good to anyone—and that could cost someone else their lives. Understand?”

“I… I’ll try.” She nods her head slowly and smiles again, which only further affirms that she’s like a puppy. “Thank you, Matou-san. You really are a nice person.”

Not nearly as much as you think. It’s really more that we can’t have her breaking down now or in the future. Either way, she’s satisfied with the conclusion and gets up to leave.

One problem down. Now back to this mess of a future. The easiest way to deal with it is to find out as much as I could about the ones responsible and… then what? I had no way of proving any of it, and even if I did bring it to someone who could do something, which was a stretch since the Matou had no connections to those places, there was no guarantee they would—not to mention we’d probably end up being turned into lab-rats.

Which means we’ll just have to kill them ourselves. Not a surprise. What good were powers like Ayako’s if not for that purpose? What was the point of conditioning us to kill things that looked human like the homunculi if not to ready us to kill the ones responsible?

Nemesis Q’s tools of war. Cruel, but to the point. The Veterans and Ayako have no delusions about they’ve become, so if I can get the proof I need then they’ll act on it to bring this nightmare to an end and get on with their lives. In other words, his most-effective weapons were already in place and battle-hardened—they just need a direction to be pointed in.

And outside of an actual magus or myself, how many would recognize homunculi for what they were? That had to be why Nemesis Q dragged me in. But, assuming that was the case, why did it not summon actual magus into the future to deal with it?

What am I missing?

I try to think on it further, but my train of thought stalls when the building shakes again. It’s not only closer in time to the last time, but somewhat more violent as well, knocking Saegusa onto the ground and leaving the others more startled than before. Just how long would the building last at this rate?

BANG! The door to the backrooms opens and the red-haired guy… Inui, I think he was called, emerges. He appears pale as he looks up at the ceiling before fixing his eyes to the front door and, not quite running, but hurrying over to it.

“It’s not safe to go out—” He’s out the door before I can even finish. Tempting as it would be to let him go, I rise to my feet and reach out telepathically to the person who should have been watching him and the others in the back. ‘Gotou, what happened?

I have no clue,’ he states as he peeks his head out of the door. ‘I thought he was a little bothered by all the shaking, but after that last one he got this look on his face and took off. It reminded me a bit like you when you first came up to the temple.’

That could be a pain to deal with if that’s true. Still, we didn’t block off the exit so it’ll be troublesome if he gets picked up by one of them. Plus, last quake had riled up more than him. The Salaryman looked like he was ready to bolt next and, as much as I hate the thought of playing counselor for other people when I’ve got problems of my own, I’d rather deal with one person than a group.

I’ll go bring him back inside before he gets spotted. Keep everyone calm.’ Leaving out as he plays babysitter again, I walk down the corridor and find Red Hair just past the mouth.

He’s leaning against the wall with one arm outstretched, having finished vomiting when he spots me. He brings his hand to his head and shakes it. “I just need a minute, okay?”

“Look, I can tell from a glance that something about being in the building while its shaking triggered you, but you’ve got to come back inside.”

He naturally gets defensive. “I—”

I cut him off. “I’m not going to pry into whatever happened, but we spotted other Taboo following along with the worm and they’re stronger than me or Gotou, which is why we’re inside. If they spot you while Mitsuzuri is thinning them out, everyone is as good as dead.”

He looks down at the ground at that, silent in thought as clenches his teeth. Then he exhales sharply, straightens himself out, and turns towards me. But instead of taking a step forward, he takes one back as his gaze falls on something behind me.

I stick my head out of the corridor and into the streets to look in that direction.

Then my heart and lungs stop.

…Two homunculi are there. Both females with short white-hair and ruby eyes, dressed similarly to one another. One is hefting with ease a halberd that a grown man would struggle with, while the other is seemingly unarmed but has a robotic stare that seems to peer into my soul.

Just like the two from the castle.

The moment that thought comes to mind my stalled heart hammers at my chest as the world starts to warp. Blood pounds in my ears. Sweat beads on my face. Limbs go numb and tingle. It’s starting again. “Ah…ahhh…”

The unarmed one extends her hand out in our direction and my instincts start screaming for me to move. But I can’t feel my arms and legs. They’ve gone numb from the fear. I’ll die if I have another panic attack here and now, so I have to do something. But I can barely move anything except my mouth and teeth—

Splish-shrip!

A sickening and wet sound of meat being torn joins pain flaring through my body as blood fills mouth. But it also brings clarity of mind, driving away the warping of the world. I spit out the blood and chunk of my inner mouth that I’d bitten off in desperation and fight through the pain to focus on my PSI so that—

Time slow.

—I can slow down my perception of time long enough to assess the situation. We were spotted and Ayako said they had some kind of hive mind so… well, hiding is out of the question. They all know we’re here now, meaning if Ayako hasn’t killed the majority off we’ll be overwhelmed soon.

Right, so I better call back Ayako. I can’t broadcast since I don’t know the distance and the atmosphere will erode the message, so Mind Jack it is. I don’t know the energy cost, but as long as it’s set to find her then it’ll seek her out and she’ll probably be able to deal with this at range.

But right now, I need to do something about these two before they kill us. The one pointing towards us has fired some kind of ring of Burst energy towards us while the one with the halberd is getting ready to move from the way her legs are positioned and her grip on her weapon.

I shift the Rise energy from my mind to my arms and legs to—

Time normalizes.

—grab Red Hair by his arm with my good hand and pull him behind me as I lunge forward. He falls down the small set of stairs leading down the corridor while I get out of range of the flying ring that’s roughly a foot around. It hits the building where he would have been and everything within that foot diameter abruptly gets destroyed—hollowed out entirely to reveal the interior of the club that we’d taken shelter in.

I can hear screams coming through. Did it go all the way through to the back? Did it hit someone? I can’t waste time wondering that, so I broadcast in that general direction. ‘There are two enemies! Get into the backrooms and keep your heads down!

Then I send out the Mind Jack to find Ayako. The sensation of the cord being woven from the energy permeating my body and then flowing out feels grating. But becomes a secondary concern as I use Sense-Rise in time to hear a footfall by the mouth of the corridor—

Time slows.

—and, under my lengthened perception of time, I see the other one has already made it to the entrance, coming out of a leap. Damn, she’s faster than I thought to have crossed the distance in that span of time. Was she one of the stronger ones that Ayako mentioned?

I reach into my sling for the blade of Ayako’s naginata resting against my injured arm to do something when my sharpened sense of hearing picks up the words “Straße gehen” coming from the one at range. Shifting my gaze in that direction shows she’s launched another ring of destruction. A larger one that forces me to leap to the right as—

Time normalizes.

—time goes back to normal and the ring erases the section of asphalt I was standing at. The meter-sized diameter gap runs between me and the armed homunculus that disappears down the stairs, out of my view. Damn it, I won’t be able to reach her before she gets into the building to kill them all.

THONG!!

The sound of metal being struck rings out and a white figure is sent flying from below and into the air. It’s the homunculus, rebuked by some great force considering the dent in her steel halberd being held horizontally in defense. She ends up somersaulting backwards before landing in a roll and getting back to her feet in front of me as Gotou emerges from below.

I grasp the makeshift handle of the naginata-turned-knife and pull it free, cutting through the cloth that makes up the sling for my broken arm. There’s a slight pain as the arm falls free, though not as much as the pain in my mouth. But I ignore them both as I bring the knife around for the chance to cut off her head.

She twists her body and hands, bringing the section of her halberd that was dented around to intercept it. The blade slides off it with a grating sound, deflected. She then leaps back as I flick my wrist and bring it around from the other side, removing herself from danger and staying there for a moment to assess the situation from her end.

I try to speak, but the blood pooling in my mouth nearly chokes me. So I broadcast my demand to her as I spit the blood out in front of me. ‘Where are your masters hiding, Homunculus?

A slight shift in her expression shows she heard me and her eyes glance over to the Mind Jack flowing out of my back. But her expression goes flat as Gotou rushes towards her. She jumps into the air as the German aria from the other one reaches my ears and I see the incoming attack, flying towards us in the blind-spot created by the armed doll being in front of me.

It’s slower than the last one but bigger, covering enough space that Gai will be caught in it as he lands. He might be able to strengthen his body to shrug off blows from physical attacks, but against that Burst attack it was too big of a gamble to risk. So I intercept him with a lunge that leaves us both falling in the center of the street just in time as the sidewalk and a segment of the building behind us were destroyed.

We get back onto our feet, only to find that they aren’t attacking us again just yet. The ranged one has her arm outstretched to fire again, but she hasn’t muttered a word. The one with the halberd is holding her weapon off to her side, resting the butt of it on the ground.

“Where is Atlasia?” she demands of me in a firm tone, standing maybe ten meters away. “If you surrender her location, we will spare your lives.”

 


Fanfic Recommendation 59

My Fanfics :

Tiger and Might 5

A Lily Blossoms in Kanto 9


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Fairy Dance of Death 42

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(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 9

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?

“Vulpix?”

“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.”

“But—”

“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.

Oofph.”

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.


Tiger & Might – Chapter 5

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!”

Ah, sorry!

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.”

Yes, sir.’

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.”

“Huh?”

“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.”