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(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Back in Alola 2

Morning light speared through the open roof of the cavernous grove that was known as Verdant Cavern, where rushing water carved out the stone into paths and left the moist cavern rich in moss. Ilima and Hau, with their Smeargle and Incineroar respectively, entered in the wee hours of the morning, just after sunrise. In each of their arms were baskets of berries, two in the case of Incineroar, gifted from the nearby berry field to feed the Pokémon there.

“Just set them down in front of those dens,” Ilima said, pointing towards the entrance of three large rocks hollowed out by powerful fangs as his Smeargle went off towards a different one. “Those are the dens where the Yungoos live. I’ll set the one by the entrance to the Totem Den.”

“You got it, Captain.” Hau turned to his starter pokémon and gestured his head towards the other two dens in the back. “Can you get those for me?”

The Incineroar nodded and lumbered towards the dens, leaving the Kahuna’s grandson to head towards the remaining one. Once he set it down, Ilima whistled loud enough that the piercing and shrill sound resounded throughout Verdant Cavern. A breath later, out came the hungry hordes of Loitering Pokémon to swarm the baskets for berries.

“These little guys weren’t around when I did my trial,” Hau said as he watched them go at it. Some ravenously bit into the berries with their sharp teeth, tearing open the skin to devour the ripe interior in a frenzy that left their cheeks and noses covered in juices. Others, older ones, seemed to take the berries and bring them inside of their den. “What happened to the Rattata?”

“They’re in the dens that we’re leaving alone for now,” the Trial Captain explained. “My trial is the only one on this island since it serves as two instead of one, depending on the time of day. It also means that I’m responsible for keeping both the Rattata and the Yungoos in check. If I don’t feed the Yungoos during the day and the Rattata at night, they’ll start attacking each other and the Totem Pokémon will get involved.”

And when that happened, he was also the one in charge of quelling their violence. It was the duty of the Trial Captain, appointed by the Kahuna, to oversee the Totem Pokémon. It wouldn’t do to have them go on a rampage.

“Wow, so you have to do the work of two Trial Captains, huh?” Hau whistled as the Yungoos continued taking their fill until a pair began to threateningly chitter at one another over an Oran berry. It then turned to squabbling as they howled at one another, and finally violence as they began to nip and scratch at each other as an entangled mass of fur and teeth. “Whoa! Calm down guys, there’s enough to share!”

Hau managed to snatch them both up and hold them apart by the scruffs of their necks as they continued to flail about until a larger one came out and screeched at them. They immediately stopped struggling and instead sulked as best Hau could tell. To be safe, he set them down on opposite ends. They began to hiss at one another again, but the larger one hissed at them in warning and that settled them down for good.

“I admire your dedication to keeping the peace, but that was somewhat risky,” Ilima warned him. “Those teeth can do some real damage, even though the ones around here have been semi-domesticated so that they know better than to attack humans. It would have been better to have one of your pokémon calm them down.”

“Good point.” To his credit, Hau looked somewhat abashed as his gaze shifted to his starter Pokémon.

The male Incineroar, Kamala, was watching curiously as some of the Yungoos carted their berries into the Totem Den, while the basket in front of it was already empty. Then his ears twitched and his head wheeled around towards the large moss rock. The Heel Pokémon began to lumber over until the Yungoos, all of them, stopped what they were doing and began to threateningly hiss towards him.

“Ah, what’s got them all riled up?” Hau wondered as they began to leap forward, just enough to try and drive the Heel Pokémon away. If that didn’t work, they would begin to attack. “Kamala, come back over here. We’re not here to pick a fight.”

Kamala let out a low, guttural sound that bubbled up in his throat as he gave the rock a piercing glance with its emerald eyes. As chill as he was as a Litten, he could get vicious in a serious fight.

“C’mon, buddy,” Hau called again. “They’re not going to be much of a match for you. You really want to pick on a couple of Pokémon that don’t even come up to your knees when we’re getting ready to face Elio and the Elite Four?”

Kamala huffed, not at all intrigued by the prospect. He sought challenge after he’d evolved. So he turned his back on the Yungoos and made his way over to his trainer.

Ilima watched the scenario unfold with his hand on his chin, observing their behavior. “How strange. I could understand if they were being territorial with the Rattata, but this is a first.”

“Maybe they’re just antsy because they’re hungry and this is the first time we’ve been around in the morning?” Hau suggested, patting his starter on the back. “Kamala can be kind of menacing since he got so tall.”

“…Perhaps so,” Ilima conceded, though with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “Very well. For now, we’ll head back to the city and give them a chance to settle down before I return later on to check on them. If they’re still aggressive then, I’ll have to take action before the Rattata get involved as well. In the meantime, I’ll treat you both to malasadas as thanks for your help before we begin training again.”

“Whoo-hoo!” Hau cheered, a bright grin on his face. The Incineroar’s demeanor also changed, with the Heel Pokémon licking his lips at the thought. Hau had shared many malasadas since they’d been partners and the Incineroar had gained a mighty need for them.

They all made for the exit of the cavern, feeling the eyes of the Yungoos on them the entire way. Once they were outside of it, Ilima set the barricade down in front of the entrance to the cavern to stop anyone else from wandering in. Then they proceeded to walk back to Hau’oli City.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Watching the trainers and their pokémon disappear down the hill leading towards the city, a male Yungoos huffed as he darted back into Verdant Cavern and towards the large, mossy rock. Climbing behind it revealed the youngest of the group of strange pokémon that had settled into the cavern, the very same one he had basically been relegated into babysitting to keep out of trouble…which was a challenge, given that it kept sneaking out to explore the island. The Yungoos believed that it was a female, since their group as a whole gave off a scent that made a lot of the younger male Yungoos try and curry favor with them—hence that fight earlier between the brothers.

With them gone, she rose to her full height and ran her digits over her antenna nervously. She had gotten curious at the arriving trainers and slipped out of the Totem Den, where she should have remained with the others, and nearly gotten caught. Since one of the orders they had received was to keep the trainers, including the Trial Captain, unaware of their presence, they had turned on the hands that fed them.

It was risky, but at least it ended with no conflict.

Standing on top of the rock, he chittered at her for being so reckless. He understood that she was young and curious, many of their young were after all, but all of the constant running and keeping her out of trouble was tiring. The only reason he did it was because he was ordered to by their leader, the Totem Gumshoos, after her older siblings came in like a pair of Tsareena and stomped both the Totem Pokémon, while their progenitor managed to sway the rest with her scent.

She dipped her head in response, eyes and antenna drooping as she mumbled an apology. That sole act caused another uproar from the other Yungoos around them, directed at him for making her look sad. Many flung sand at him, knocking him about until he curled up to shield himself.

His charge quickly snatched him up and held him close as she released her own pheromones. While it was weaker than her siblings, due to only molting once, it served to calm and render them docile long enough for her to use her long legs to walk over them. She apologized again as she headed back to the Totem Den, gently trying to brush the sand out of his fur.

He only let a rumble leave his throat as they passed through the threshold and into the Totem Den. The Yungoos found it unpleasant since the chamber felt weird, but apparently it felt similar to the strange group’s home. They could absorb the same energy in it that made the Totem Pokémon stronger and store it for when they entered a battle.

Inside of the den, they found her siblings getting ready to spar with one another. Both had their arms out in front and legs in a readying stance as they synced their breathing together. The youngest of the group sat with the Yungoos in her arms and watched as they began.

The middle-aged one opened with a fearsome and blinding kick, bringing her rear leg around and twisting her hips to strike the oldest’s head faster than the Yungoos could track with his eyes. The impact was hard enough that it kicked up a breeze, yet it was blocked as the oldest brought her arm up for a Quick Guard. The defensive aura wrapping around her arm shielded her from the impact of the strike beautifully.

Undeterred, the middling pulled her leg back and thrust it forward twice with a Double Kick. The first of which passed by the eldest as she tilted her shoulder to avoid being kicked in the chest, and the second one she dipped her head so that it passed through empty space. Before the middling could angle her leg down for a Stomp, the eldest snapped her own rear leg around for a Low Kick and knocked her leg from beneath her.

Letting out a minor hiss of pain as she fell backwards, the middling rolled backwards to avoid the impending counter Stomp that was hard enough to leave a small crater despite how lithe their kind’s feet were. Then she snapped back up to see that the eldest was still in a defensive stance, waiting for her.

The middling then began swaying to her side as she bounced from feet-to-feet in a rhythmic manner. Her body slowly glowed with sparkles coming off her, empowered by the mystifying Quiver Dance. She then rocketed off the ground with a Jump Kick.

Bringing up another Quick Guard, the eldest intercepted the strike, only for the middling to bring her other leg around for a Feint-empowered strike that shattered the defensive shield and allowed for the attack to connect. The blow made the eldest take a few steps back, shaking her head to clear it as she tried to ignore the stinging of the blow until she saw another Jump Kick flying towards. Then the oldest sibling was gone, leaving the white blur that was the middling to crash against the wall.

The crash itself was loud, throwing up a spray of stone fragments and rubble. The middling pulled herself out of the impact crater and winced, having clearly hurt herself. But her eyes were fixed on the eldest, who was flickering from position-to-position, having bolstered her speed with an Agility.

Hissing in anger, the middling clasped her hands together and produced a white sphere that she then thrust-kicked. The sphere exploded into a gale carrying silver crescents of power. The Silver Wind attack missed despite the coverage, passing through an afterimage and slamming into the walls… including the one they were under!

The Yungoos let loose a shriek as he realized they would be stricken as one of the silver crescents bore down on them. But before it could connect, the eldest was in front of them. Faster than his eyes could track, she brought her leg upwards and shattered the silver crescent into loose, glittering powder.

She then turned towards the youngest, who had curled down and braced for impact, and inquired if she was okay. Once she got a nod in response, she turned back towards where her other reckless sibling had been and found the spot empty. She then looked around until she felt the air shift from above and found the middling rushing down for them, having used a Bounce to get that high.

Letting out a hiss of her own, she held out her hands as they shone with a white light and then released countless stars that rocketed up to meet her. The Swift attack connected, slamming home with enough power that they knocked the middling out of her attack and sent her tumbling to the ground. The eldest one then went over, pulled her up by the arm, and then marched her over to apologize to the youngest as she held the Yungoos in her arms.

The middling did the opposite. She plucked the Yungoos from her arm and held her down with one foot, leaving the youngest pinned as she dangled him in the air. All while she chided her for goofing around instead of training so that they could take back their territory.

The Yungoos struggled fruitlessly, but that only seemed to annoy the middling. She threatened to Stomp him, much to the dismay of both him and the youngest, until the eldest smacked her on the head. It startled her enough that she lost her grip and he fell down to the ground.

He took that as a cue to leave and immediately scurried out of the Totem Den, away from the terrifying one. He didn’t stop until he was far down the slope and away from them, closer to the rushing water that had carved out the deeper portions of the cavern. Then, and only then, did he stop running and collapsed by the water in exhaustion and fear.

Panting, he wondered exactly why it was him who had to deal with this. Things were so much easier when all he had to do was show up, grab a berry to eat, and lounge around. Now he was hungry and still covered in a mix of sand and silver powder that left him feeling filthy.

Sighing, he crawled into the water’s edge and laid down on the slope with his head sticking out. Letting the running water clean his fur as he ruminated on the good times in the past, he drifted off to sleep until a gnawing in his stomach roused him. The Loitering Pokémon yawned, showing his teeth, before getting ready to pull himself out of the water and finding that he wasn’t in it anymore.

Instead, he was on the shore and sitting on a rock further out with a few berries in front of him. Next to him was the youngest, curled against the wall and her eyes closed as she slowly breathed in and out whilst asleep. Had she been watching him sleep and brought him food as an apology for earlier?

He huffed at the very thought of that being enough… but supposed he could do worse if he had to be stuck babysitting.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Plumeria’s feet were aching by the time she made it back to Route 13 from visiting Po Town.

The abandoned town that had been the haven of Team Skull had been mostly cleared out, barring the three numbskulls and their Spinda in the Pokémon Center there. Unlike most of the others, they didn’t have homes to return to. So they stayed in the place and made themselves comfortable in the rooms there until they could get enough money to chase their dreams.

Plumeria could relate to them. She didn’t have her mother and father either after they’d gotten themselves locked away, not that they paid all the much attention to her before then. She only had her granny, who had taken her in when she was a runt from overseas, and it hadn’t been easy moving from Orre to Alola to live with a relative she barely knew.

Still, the rest of her dumb little brothers and sisters were scattered now that Guzma had disbanded them and it was her job to look after them. So she’d been checking on them over the last few days. They were mostly going back to their old lives and, while she was happy they were all managing given that occasionally they were too dumb for their own good, it still left her feeling a bit down.

When she arrived in Alola, she was treated like she didn’t belong and hated it. It was only when Guzma showed up that she really made a friend, even if he was a couple of years older than her. When they formed Team Skull as a place for outcasts like them, they also made a place where she could be who she was and belong with them. Now that they were disbanded, she was again without a place.

I should have known it wouldn’t last though, she thought to herself as she got into viewing distance of her granny’s camper and found Molo and Lanai outside of it. The two of them took it after themselves to watch over her granny out of a sense of loyalty to the former Admin of their group, with Molo guarding the outside and Lanai keeping her company. Plumeria was appreciative of them for it.

Lanai spotted her eventually and ran over. “Big Sis, that old dude Nanu showed up with some nerdy-looking guy! They’re inside talking to your granny!”

“What!?”

“I tried to stop them,” Molo said. “But granny told us not to be rude… and then gave us pocket-money to go get some food while she talked in private. But we didn’t spend it.”

“…Alright, I got this,” Plumeria said. “Go get something from the café in Tapu Village. You two look like you’ve been out in the sun too long. We don’t need you passing out.”

They consented and ran off as she walked up to the door of the camper and entered inside. No sooner than she did, the male Stufful that had been lying on the makeshift bedding nearby rose up and greeted her with a cheerful sound. He was happy that she’d returned.

She would have picked him up, if not for Nanu sitting on the couch with a scrawny man that had blond hair and glasses. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“My name’s Molayne.” The scrawny man stood up and held a hand out for her to shake. “So, you’re Plumeria? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She stared him down instead for a moment, before judging him as no real threat and then turning to Nanu. “Why you bugging my granny? If you got something you want to complain about, then come find me. Don’t bring her into this.”

“Be polite, Plumeria,” her granny chided her before turning to the two other men. “Forgive my little flower, please. It’s an honor to have a Kahuna and Trial Captain grace us.”

“Trial Captain?” She practically balked as the words came out and gave the man a once-over again. “Never seen you before.”

“I’m a former one,” Molayne explained. “My cousin has the position now, while I just manage the Observatory and Storage System for Alola. But I went through my island trials around the same time that Kukui and Guzma did, before he dropped out. Did he never mention me?”

“No,” she said rather bluntly as she crossed her arms. “Anyway, what’s a former Trial Captain and the Island Kahuna want with us, if not to cause problems?”

“Well, there’s something we were hoping you could assist us with,” Molayne said. “Tell me, how much did you know about the original Team Skull?”

“Granny told me a lot of the old stories when I arrived here, including about them,” Plumeria answered. “They formed around the former Kahuna of Ula’ula Island because he didn’t like the idea of being bound to serving the whims of the Tapu just because he was chosen and tradition dictated it.  Eventually, Tapu Village was leveled, leading to the battle between the four Tapu and Team Skull at the time.”

Supposedly, the former Kahuna was former royalty as well. Even after the roles of royalty fell out with Kahunas taking their place, occasionally they overlapped. However, the Kahuna didn’t want the job since it meant being chained to the island and the whim of the Tapu for the rest of his life, so he ignored its desires and allowed the island to drift from the path the Tapu set, with the village at the base of Mount Lanakila being the primary one.

Then the supermarket was built, destroying an old tree that stood there for ages and was supposedly sacred to Tapu Bulu. It finally acted towards the offense by leveling the entire village in retaliation, and Team Skull rose up around the Kahuna, who was said to have lost something dear to him in that incident. Then they stormed the desert to face Tapu Bulu, only to be met with all four of the Tapu and struck down for it.

The Kahuna was ousted from his position, but then was supposedly cursed because of it as well. He died sometime after that as eternal rain and gloom hung over Po Town. It was known as the wrath of the Tapu and served as a warning against going against their wills, fickle as they may be.

After she’d finished recounting that, Nanu decided to speak up. “So then you must know that the name of Team Skull isn’t exactly something most people would throw around lightly. Especially on this island. Even so, you were the one who came up with that name for the second group, weren’t you?”

“And what if I was?” she asked, practically challenging him as the Stufful pushed against her leg in a bade for affection after being abandoned to that motel not far from here and only recently adopted by them. Thankfully, he was trained by whoever had him before, so he didn’t bowl her over in the process. She crouched low and stroked his head to appease him.

“What we want to know is why you chose that name?” the former Trial Captain asked. “You had to know that name carried a bad reputation from the start.”

Plumeria scoffed at that. “Maybe it did to you two, being a part of the traditions of Alola. But to us it carried a different meaning. They were a group of people who felt the traditions and Tapu were unfair and outdated, outcasts who fought to change them and were labeled as being wrong because they failed. We took up their name because we felt the same. All of us were outcasts because of how things worked, the traditions and everything, and we wanted to change them.”

“Except that you were a bunch of kids who didn’t know how difficult it would be to do that and could only rebel by causing mischief,” Nanu said. “Once everyone realized that it was a bunch of teenagers running around and calling themselves Team Skull, they stopped taking you seriously. The only ones who did were the ones who flocked over to that town Guzma claimed to have taken over when it was all but abandoned. And once they were there, they were too stubborn to go back.”

“Watch it, Old Man,” Plumeria said in warning as her eyes narrowed. “Because if it’s a fight you want, we can go outside.”

Her granny looked shocked at the blatant disrespect. “Plumeria, apologize!”

“I won’t listen to him talk that way about those kids I watched over or our boss like that, Granny,” she said, rising to her feet. “Yeah, they were stubborn idiots a lot of the time. But they chose to stick around because they weren’t being judged because they didn’t live up the unfair expectations pushed onto them. They needed somewhere to go and we gave them a place to belong.”

Neither one denied it. They just listened.

“And the island trials weren’t the only traditions we rebelled against either,” Plumeria continued. “We took in anyone who was an outcast because they didn’t conform to the island ways. Whether it was because they didn’t behave a certain way, or look a certain way, or didn’t come from the islands. We looked out for them, even when it was tough and we had to get our hands dirty. So I’ll never apologize for that.”

“…It’s good to see you really have such strong convictions,” Molayne said, adjusting his glasses by the bridge. The glare of the light hid his eyes in the process. “And you’re absolutely right.”

The shock of his admission left Plumeria stunned. “What?”

Seeing her reaction brought a small smile to his face. “Like I said, I traveled around with Kukui and Guzma when we were younger. Though we didn’t think much of it at the time, when Kukui and I looked back on how Guzma changed because he couldn’t live up to the expectations placed on him to be the best among us, we realized that as great as the traditions were, they could also leave people behind.”

“If you knew all of that, why didn’t you do something sooner?” she demanded.

“Because we couldn’t just give up our traditions and throw away part of what made us who we are,” he explained. “So we decided to find a road between them. That’s part of why I worked so hard on getting the Storage System up and running, while Kukui dedicated himself to bringing a Pokémon League here. Pokémon link people around the world through a common interest, which allows for them to become more diverse and accepting.”

He then turned to Nanu. “Isn’t that right?”

Nanu sighed wearily as he stood up and rubbed his neck, only to slouch over and place his hand in his pockets. “The Kahuna were also in agreement that some of the traditions don’t mix well with the present day, such as needing to be an Alolan native to participate in the island trials. So we worked with these guys to get some of them changed, such as that any trainer under twenty-one can partake in an island trial.”

“It wasn’t that way when I got here,” Plumeria pointed out.

“Change takes time,” Molayne stated. “But now it’s come to fruition with the latest Island Challenge Champion also being our first Pokémon League Champion. Kukui’s choice proved that once someone else was given a chance that they could rise to the occasion and become great for Alola.”

A knot of guilt stirred in her stomach at that. The very thing she hated was being fought against by the people they rebelled against. If they had succeeded in crushing him, then she would have only been reinforcing the traditions.

“…Well, what does this have to do with me now?” she asked, her tone a little more hesitant upon realizing that fact.

The former Trial Captain looked over to her granny, who nodded, and then dropped a bombshell. “We want you to enter the Pokémon League.”

There was a long, pregnant pause at that as she looked at all three of them in the face. Her granny looked proud. Molayne’s were closed as he kept smiling. Nanu… well, just looked tired as always. “You’re not messing with me, are you?”

“Not at all,” Molayne assured her. “You’re under the age of twenty-one by about two years, and you’ve lived on the island for over a decade now. Who better than the person who suggested the name of Team Skull in the first place to participate and show that the traditions have changed for all of those kids who you watched over?”

Her lips pursed as she actually thought about it. Personally, she felt that it was too little too late for her own sake. She’d been shunned in her youth because she wasn’t native to Alola and wasn’t permitted to have the same chances their little Champion had now. But, at the same time, it wasn’t about her.

It was about those she considered her little brothers and sisters, who had been scattered when Team Skull separated. They disbanded without accomplishing anything in the end, failing to keep the promises of change that Guzma and she made to them. More than anything, she wanted to correct that so that it didn’t feel like it wasn’t a waste, and to make them proud of being a part of Team Skull.

“What would I have to do to get a Z-Ring?” she asked. Unlike Guzma, who had earned a Z-Ring before he threw it away, she didn’t have one. She’d never taken the trials and the Poisonium-Z crystals she had were ones her Grunts had found, much like the ones they’d gathered for Guzma.

And she had a strong suspicion that Nanu would be reclaiming those eventually.

“We may be pointing out an opportunity for you, but you’ll have to earn it under your own power,” the Kahuna said as he pulled an object out of his pocket and set it down on the table. “You know where to find me. Try not to take too long, but don’t be in a rush, okay?”

He then left out with Molayne, leaving Plumeria to stare at what was left behind. It was an Island Challenge Amulet. The unspoken message carried:

If you want to get a Z-Ring, beat my Grand Trial.

 


Fanfic Recommendation 55

My Fanfics :

 

Calling Card 14

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A Lily Blossoms in Kanto 5

 

 


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(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Let’s Get Along

Back on the Sevii Islands, Officer Jenny stood outside of the interrogation room and watched through the glass at the interrogation that was ongoing. The small station that was in One Town was rarely used most of the time, since nothing exciting really happened barring the occasional trouble on one of the ferry’s that they had to sort out. So imagine her surprise when one of the criminals attacking the Pokémon Center held a badge that marked them as a member of Team Dominance.

The clandestine organization was thought to be filling in the gaps left behind by the collapse of Team Rocket years ago, primarily in illegal Pokémon trading. There was suspicion that they were part of another organization in Orre that was thought to have been wiped out, but nothing concrete. The only thing that was an absolute was the badge that she found on him, a pin that served as proof of membership. This island was under her jurisdiction and the last thing that she would have is a criminal group dragging the island and its people into whatever they had planned.

“You’re in a lot of trouble, boy,” Ron, her partner, said while sitting across from the suspect. He was sitting with his elbows on the table, fingers laced in front of his mouth as he peered into the young man’s eyes with a steely glare. “Talk to us before it gets worse.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” he said. “I just panicked when the power went out and called out my Pokémon.”

“Oh, don’t give us that song and dance.” He slid a picture of the badge in front of him. “You were found with that on you. You know what that is?”

“I got it from a Gym,” he lied. “Back when I was doing the Gym Challenge. It was a few years ago, but I was pretty good. Things didn’t work out though and I settled down into being a fisherman.”

“Funny, because that doesn’t belong to any gym I’ve seen.”

A cocky grin formed on his mouth and he shrugged. “How many could you have been to if you’re working out here?”

Jenny winced as she watched Ron reach across the table and grabbed him by the collar. “Listen, you brat. This isn’t a game. One call from us and the International Police will have you locked in a cell so deep underground you’ll forget what light looks like.”

No sooner than he got the words out did the light abruptly cut out and darkness shrouded the building. Jenny searched for her flashlight through her desk with one hand and picked up the phone with the other, only to find that the line was dead. Her radio didn’t seem to be getting a response either. “What’s going on?”

“Ahh!” came from the interrogation room. It was Ron’s voice.  She ran for the window and held up the light, only to see the criminal sitting there and looking smug as Ron laid on the table unconscious.

Panic set in as she opened the door, only to be met with a pair of large hands and a single eye in front of her. The hands moved in a hypnotic motion and she felt… her consciousnesssinking

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Ravin waited patiently in the shadows outside of the police station with his pocket watch in hand, counting the minutes until his Pokémon finished their work. A decade ago a small station like this wouldn’t take more than three or so minutes to get in, grab the others, and get out. But time and experience dictated he take more precautions and thus he’d opted for a subtler approach, as not to disturb the peace or rouse suspicion.

Subtly was something he’d come to appreciate over these last few years. If only others could have that same appreciation. Maybe then he wouldn’t be here right now and they could let the standard protocol take place. But no, the young fool that got caught had brought his badge and made things more complicated.

A minute later a ghostly flame floated out of a window and hovered around in a fixed pattern. That was the signal from Dusclops. The well-aged gentleman stretched his back and felt the years taking their toll with audible cracks before he made his way to the door and entered into the station.

The Pokémon belonging to the officers had all been returned to their balls while their owners slept. The only other human standing upright was Officer Jenny. Her eyes were dull and lifeless from the trance she was in thanks to the efforts of the male Dusclops next to her.

“Good work as always, Ceifer,” Ravin said as he approached the pair. “Do me one more favor and clear a seat in the interrogation room. I need to have a word with the young man there before Lalka gets back.”

The Beckon Pokémon gave him a nod, adjusting the Reaper Cloth around his neck before he passed through the walls. Another good thing about these old and remote police stations was that there weren’t many counter-measures against teleportation or intangibility. It made his job so much easier.

Ravin addressed turned to the officer next. “Jenny, have you contacted the International Police or anyone else about the suspects you’ve apprehended?”

She shook her head slowly.

“Excellent,” he said in relief as he adjusted his black hat. That made it much easier to deal with. “Then be a dear and fetch that badge for us from wherever you’ve got it locked up. Will you?”

She nodded her head and then walked off to do so while Ravin entered the interrogation room. The young man was still bound to the table by the handcuffs and his Dusclops had set the other officer down against the wall. Ravin took a seat in the chair opposite of him and crossed one leg over the other to get comfortable.

Then he asked, “Do you know who I am, son?”

“One of the guys they sent to spring us,” he said.

“That’s not entirely wrong, I suppose.” He brushed his nose and ruffled his mustache. “I’m a bit higher-up in the ranks than you, but I basically just help clean up when an operation goes wrong. Things like springing the others when they get caught and passing judgment on those involved. The latter is why you and I are having a little talk right now.”

The young man seemed to get the underlying message and immediately became defensive. “We had no idea that trainer was there. Otherwise we would have been in and out.”

“That’s not the issue,” Ravin said. “The boss tends to be… forgiving, depending on the mistakes that were made during an operation because good help is hard to come by. He’s talked it over with the one in charge of the operation that managed to escape, which is why my Claydol is Teleporting them onto a nearby boat. They’ll have to do underground work since they’ll have warrants out for them, but there’s a place for them in our organization… that just leaves you.”

Fear crept into his eyes as Ceifer moved in closer, hovering behind him.

“You were specifically told you not to bring your badge,” Ravin continued. “Our organization is trying to avoid the sort of attention that led to the fall of the last one operating out of Kanto and Johto. With that in mind, you were supposed to avoid carrying a badge for this operation. That way, if something happened, it could be explained away and I wouldn’t need to waste my time and come out here personally to spring you.”

“It was a mistake,” he admitted. “I won’t make it again.”

Aged fingers began to tap on the table. “I don’t know, son. I’ve deemed the others salvageable. But you… well, if you couldn’t follow orders that the rank-and-file grunts could then there’s no need for you is there?”

The Dusclops began to open his mouth and approached the young man when he caught the gesture Ravin made with his eyes. Any human that stared into the ethereal flame for too long had their soul taken and deposited to the afterlife. Any physical thing that entered his mouth was sucked into a void from which nothing escaped.

The young man grasped that much, given he began struggling against his bonds and shaking his head. “No, no, no, you can’t!”

Ravin rose from the chair slowly. “If it’s any conciliation, it’ll be painless.”

Unable to get away, he resorted to begging now. “NO, PLEASE! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”

Have some dignity at the least,” the older man muttered as he rolled his eyes and then raised his hand to signal the Dusclops to stop. “Since you seem repentant enough, I’ll give you another chance. You’ll be working the bottom side of things from now on. The things beneath the rank-and-file. But one more mistake and that’s it. Understand?”

“F-F-Fine.” He took a staggering breath and licked his lips nervously. “Fine. I’ll do. Just don’t kill me.”

Ravin turned to Ceifer and then nodded. The Dusclops knocked the young man out using the same method that he’d done to the other officers and then broke him free of the chains to carry him out. The aged gentleman left the interrogation room and found Officer Jenny waiting for him with the badge in her hands, which he took gingerly from her grasp.

“Thank you, Jenny,” he said pleasantly. “Now go ahead and take a nap. By the time you wake up, we’ll be long gone and this peaceful little place you have will go back to normal.”

Officer Jenny nodded her head and then laid down on the ground, obediently closing her eyes and falling unconscious.

The young fool is lucky, Ravin thought to himself as he held the badge. Ten years ago, no amount of begging for his life on a blunder this big would have saved him. We’ve all changed over the decade, haven’t we?

He went left outside where his Claydol was waiting with another woman around half his age. She, like him, was higher up in the ranks. He passed the badge off to her. “Job’s done.”

“Thanks for the hard work,” she said, slipping it into her pocket as the female Claydol grabbed the young man from the Dusclops’ arms with its psychic powers. “If it’s any conciliation, the operation will be put on hold for now while we look for information on that trainer responsible for the operation blundering was. It turns out she’s—”

“Ann,” he said sharply. “I’m not as active as I used to be and I don’t bother with civilians. The only reason I even came out was because I happened to be relatively close and it came from the top.”

She at least looked apologetic. “Sorry, sorry. I won’t bug you with the details then, but do you want me to give you a lift until we’re close enough to Vermillion City for Lalka to teleport you?”

“It would save us a trip,” he conceded. Both he and Pokémon weren’t as young as they used to be.

A minute later they were all gone and One Island was quiet once more.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Lusamine sighed wearily as she made her way back to the room in the Pokémon Center where she’d left her daughter and the child, while carrying a bag in her arms. The market had several snacks that Lillie could use and even a few berries that her own Pokémon were fond of. But during the entire trip she couldn’t help but ponder her son’s words on betraying her father’s legacy.

He had placed the Aether Foundation into her care, having the same love of Pokémon that she possessed. Not only her. Even her children and her husband possessed a great love for them all. While they may have loathed her for what she did to them personally, it was ultimately her treatment of those two Pokémon they cared for that had driven them away.

Father would be ashamed if he saw me now, let alone Mohn, she couldn’t help but think bitterly as she approached the room. The sound of voices coming through the door ultimately drew her out of her dark thoughts. She opened it and peered inside.

The girl, Astra, was using a knife to cut what looked to be a giant egg as her Sableye sat down with a wooden stick in its hand, munching on the rock candy attached to it with its sharp teeth. At the same time, Lillie was holding some kind of red shell in her lap and speaking to it while her Alolan Vulpix and Rotom Dex were on opposite sides of her, observing the situation.

“Please come out, Shuckle,” she said to the shell as her Vulpix prodded at it with her paw curiously. “I need to make sure you’re okay.”

A soft sound emerged from one of the holes in the shell in response. “Kle.

It’s no good, Rotom said. He seemzzz scared to come out since he’s somewhere unfamiliar, zzt.

Lusamine took that as her cue to enter and did so, opening the door wider and stepping through it. “I’m back.”

“You’re Lillie’s mother?” Astra tilted her head as she looked the older woman up and down. “You look like you’re her big sister more than a mother.”

“Aren’t you sweet?” She set the bag down on the table and grabbed the two Ultra Balls that housed her Bewear and Mismagius. “How are you feeling since you’ve woken?”

“Hungry, but really good otherwise,” Astra said. “A Blissey gave us an egg to eat, so I’m cutting it up enough for all of us and our Pokémon. Do yours want some too?”

“It would go well with all of the snacks I’ve bought for them.” She looked over to Lillie. “Are you having trouble with your Shuckle?”

“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “I let him out of the ball to see if he was feeling better, but the moment that I did he took a look around and then retreated into his shell. He’s still afraid of us.”

“Well, he was a wild Pokémon. He probably hasn’t had very much interaction with people,” Lusamine said as she reached into the bag and pulled out a carton of six Oran berries that had been chilled. Carrying it with her as she took a seat next to her daughter on the bed, Lusamine then passed it to her. “Try using these as a peace offering.”

That may actually work, zzzt, Rotom said as its screen flashed to show an image and data on Shuckle. Shuckle are known for hiding under rocks while eating berries they collect in their shells. They make a delicious juice that can be used as a medicine.

“Is that so?” She looked over the blue berry before holding the carton close to the hole. “Shuckle, I have some berries if you’re hungry.”

“…kle?” Shuckle poked his head out just enough to observe the berries and smell them, presumably. There was no visible nose. Then he began to take them into his shell, stretching what serves as his neck, and stashed them away one-by-one without pause using its mouth.

Odd, I’m registering that you have Sturdy as an Ability. Not Gluttony,

The Shuckle seemed to take offense to that, frowning.  “Kle. Shuckle!”

Ah, my mistake, zzt. Rotom looked over to Lillie and explained. It zzzeems that it has been harder for him to get berries since the Combee have been more aggressive because the Sandshrew have begun to eat them, zzt.

“That must be what Nurse Joy was talking about,” Lillie said, looking down at the Mold Pokémon in her lap. “Because the Sandshrew had moved into the forest to escape from Trainers trying to catch them, they started feeding off the Combee more. So now they won’t let you near the berry trees to eat, right?”

The male Shuckle nodded his head and then began to speak, with Rotom acting as a translator. It seemed that he had complained about it before to the Sandshrew as a whole, who only mentioned trainers were bad and forced them to move—that they captured you and then threw you away if you were too weak.

“That’s not right!” Astra said as he finished, still in the process of slicing the egg. Her blade landed with a loud thunk on the platter she was using. “You can’t just throw away a Pokémon because you don’t need them anymore. They’re supposed to be your friends!”

“That’s right,” Lillie said, less fervor in her voice but a frown all the same. “We’re supposed to help one another.”

The Shuckle retorted, through Rotom, that he still lost his home because of the battle earlier. It was apparently a really nice rock.

“I guess that one is our fault, isn’t it?” Lillie said, looking over to her Alolan Vulpix while nervously scratching her cheek. The Fox Pokémon sheepishly lowered her head, but Lillie patted it gently in response. “It’s okay, I’ll take responsibility for it since I wanted to find Sandshrew in the first place.”

Shuckle crossed his limbs and looked up to her. “Kle?”

Lusamine didn’t need Rotom to guess it was saying, ‘How?’ But to her daughter’s credit, Lillie just smiled.

“How about we travel together until we find a nicer place for you to stay?” Lillie offered. “That way you’ll get to see a lot of new places and eat a bunch of different berries until then.”

“You can’t just give a Pokémon what it wants to make it happy,” Lusamine warned her daughter before the deal was sealed. “You have to actually train the Pokémon you take under your care, otherwise it won’t be that much different than those that threw them away when they were no longer useful.”

Lillie looked confused at that, but it was Astra who asked, “How’s that?”

“Let’s say that Lillie takes Shuckle with her, but doesn’t train it. Not only is she using up one of her six allowed slots, but she’s putting more pressure on her other Pokémon that have to pick up the slack. It’s not fair to them that one gets to get away with doing nothing while Shuckle is perfectly capable, and they may start to resent both their trainer and him.”

“Is it really the case?” Lillie asked.

Lusamine nodded. “In addition, it’s a disservice to Shuckle as well since the training would allow him to better defend himself in the wild. If you only feed him without training him in turn, he’ll struggle to obtain food for himself against other Pokémon, or may simply be captured by another trainer who probably won’t be so generous.”

“I see. It was different with Nebby…” She looked down to the Mold Pokémon and amended her previous offer. “You hear that Shuckle? You’ll have to help if you come along, but it’ll be good for you.”

Shuckle brought an appendage to his mouth in thought at everything that was said. Then he looked up and nodded. “Shuckle.”

“Then let’s get along from now on, okay?” Lillie extended her hand down to him and Shuckle’s limb stretched and coiled around it to shake. She smiled and then turned to her mother. “Thank you, Mother. I didn’t want Shuckle to be worse off by mistake.”

“That’s what mothers are for,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be kind, but you also have to be stern sometimes as well. The Pokémon must respect you, otherwise they won’t listen.”

Lillie seemed pensive at that until Astra finished and revealed her handiwork. She’d cut the large egg horizontally several times and then vertically twice, turning it into neat cubes and then stacking them up like a pyramid.

“Where did you learn how to cut so neatly?” Lusamine asked, impressed.

“Some of the fruit that grew on the island where I lived was big and there were a lot of Pokémon, so I learned how to cut them like this so all of them could have some,” she explained as her Sableye walked over and nonchalantly plucked one from the top. “You’re supposed to wait your turn, Mister!”

The Sableye shrugged, plopped in his mouth, and then started chewing. A smile blossomed on his face moments later. He quickly reached for another one, only to be rebuffed by his trainer.

“Wait until everyone else gets one!” She raised the platter above her head before the Pokémon could grab a second one and walked over to the pair on the bed. “Try some before Jet eats them all.”

“Sure,” Lillie said as she reached for three of them at once. She then set one down in front of the Alolan Vulpix and another in front of the Shuckle, holding the third close to her mouth. “We’ll try them together on the count of three. Okay?”

Koko nodded, her tail wavering up and down slightly in anticipation as she crouched down. The Shuckle prodded at the egg cube with one of his limbs before giving a more reserved nod. Lillie counted down and on three they all took them into their mouths.

Mmmmnn~!” A pleasant sound slipped out of Lillie’s mouth as she chewed with a smile, joined by a practically giddy yip from the Vulpix and the Shuckle letting out a surprised gasp as his black eyes glistened with stars. “It tastes amazing!”

“If it takes that good, I suppose I should try it myself then.” Lusamine mused as she watched their reactions. Reaching down elegantly, she picked up a cube between two fingers and held her cupped palm under it as she took a bite. In an instant, it was like a world of flavors opened up. If a rainbow had a taste it would be the pure bliss rolling through her, bringing a smile to her face as joy bubbled up in her very blood. “It really is delicious.”

Shoo good,” Astra agreed, in the process of chewing one herself. It had her so enraptured that she barely noticed the Sableye tugging at her clothes until he climbed up her back and started reaching for her arm. “Jet, you have to wait until all the Pokémon get a taste too. That includes Miss Lusamine’s!”

“You’re such a sweet girl to be so considerate.” Lusamine pulled out her Ultra Balls and set them to an enlarged and active state so that her Pokémon could hear her. “There’s snacks for everyone, but we’re in a guest’s room so I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. Now come out and introduce yourselves.”

The five balls popped open at once to release her Pokémon, much to the wide-eyed amazement of Astra. Of them, Milotic was the first move before she had even fully materialized, extending her body so that her head was pressed against Lusamine’s stomach and nuzzled her.

“I missed you too,” Lusamine said as she gently patted her on the head and then looked over to the rest of her Pokémon, spotting Bewear growing tense at her gaze. “Bewear, you know what you did wrong, don’t you?”

The Strong Arm Pokémon’s ears drooped. “Bewaooo…”

“You weren’t supposed to leave Lillie alone,” she continued. “I put my trust in you to listen to her and help her. That means staying with her until she returned, but you went off because you were impatient and then put her in danger yourself. I should punish you by taking away your snacks for the next week at least, if not the next year.”

“Bewao.” Tears welled up in her dark eyes as she whimpered. “Wao…”

“But—” Bewear’s ears head perked up at that. “—Lillie feels that you tried your best, and it would be rude to this darling girl who went and prepared the snacks for this evening to not share. So just this once I’ll let it slide, but next time do as I ordered. Understand?”

Maa…” Mismagius huffed in a manner that spoke of her exasperation as Bewear nodded her head in joy at being forgiven. Then she noticed the girl with the Sableye on her back staring at the assembled Pokémon and floated closer, speaking in a softer tone and smiling. “Mismagius?”

Astra blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

“Mismagius wants to know who you are,” Lusamine stated as she continued rubbing the Milotic beneath her chin. “She’s fond of children.”

“I’m Astra,” she said to the Magical Pokémon, before holding up the tray. “Do you want one?”

Mismagius nodded her head and then reached for one with the cloak-like tendril to delicately pick it up and bring it to her mouth. She found it delightful to the taste, her smile growing wider as proceeded to rub the child on the head with her other appendage.

Then Bewear trotted over with her paw to her mouth, eyeing the food hungrily. “Bewao?”

“Here you go.” Astra placed one into her grasp. Bewear immediately gulped it down and then began to smile as well, reaching for another until Mismagius let out a warning growl. That stilled the massive paws for a time, much to Astra’s delight from how she smiled.

Lilligant approached next and gave her a curtsy in politeness. She was always the polite type after all. Astra tried to respond in kind, but it was somewhat difficult with her hands filled and the Sableye on her back before she held the platter low enough for Lilligant to grab it herself.

That was when Jet tried to reach for it again until Clefable waddled over next and pointed to the Sableye and then to the ground. He bared his teeth and grunted in annoyance.

The Fairy Pokémon crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Clefable. Clef, clef.”

Jet grumbled as he climbed down, complying to the Fairy Pokémon’s warning. Then he sat onto the ground and crossed his arms, looking away petulantly. “Sa!”

“Thank you,” Astra told her as Lilligant and Clefable grabbed one for themselves. “Jet’s just a bit of a spoiled sometimes.”

“Fable.” Clefable nodded in understanding before pointing over to Milotic. She then shrugged her shoulders as though to say ‘children’ and ate the egg cube along with Lilligant. From there they all mingled with one another until Astra’s Pokégear began to ring.

“That must be Grandpa.” She fiddled with it before opening it up and holding it up close to her face. “Hi, Grandpa! Are you done with your business?”

I should be back soon enough,” he said. “Did you have any luck catching your first Pokémon?

She laughed a bit awkwardly. “Not exactly. But I’ll have a new friend by the time you get back, and we’ll challenge the Gym in the morning!”

Don’t push yourself,” he warned gently. “You’re young. Just take the time to enjoy what you can. I’ll see you soon.

“Bye Grandpa.” The call disconnected then and Astra stood up. “Jet, we’re heading back out!”

“The sun has set,” Lusamine said as Milotic ate a treat out of her hand while the Sableye rose up from sitting on the ground. “Are you sure that’s safe?”

She nodded. “I want to show Grandpa that I can go out on my own so he’ll let me travel by myself on the Gym Challenge, but I need to prove myself first. And Jet can see real good in the dark. As long as we don’t go too far out, it’ll be fine.”

“…Very well,” Lusamine consented. It wasn’t as though she had any right to stop her in the first place.  “Just don’t go too far away from your Pokémon and the city limits. Another Drowzee might try to repeat what happened before otherwise.”

“I won’t,” she said, before turning to Lillie and holding out her Pokégear. “Since we’re both starting out and I had a lot of fun, can we exchange numbers?”

Lillie looked surprised at the offer, but quickly consented. “There you go. Feel free to call me whenever you want.”

“Thanks.” Astra gave her smile in gratitude as Sableye climbed onto her back. “It was fun meeting you both. Thank you for everything.”

When Astra left out of the room to head towards the Route where they found her, Mismagius turned to her trainer and said, “Magius, ma?”

“I’ll be in our hotel room,” Lusamine said. “Come back when you’re ready.”

“What was that about?” Lillie asked as Mismagius disappeared through the wall.

“Mismagius intends watch over that child while she goes out to prevent what happened earlier from happening again,” Lusamine explained. “You may not be aware of it, but Drowzee are common on the island where she stayed as a Misdreavus, so she understands their habits. Between them and the more troublesome Drifloons, she had her work cut out for her because she often went against her own sleep cycle to try and keep them from causing problems for the locals for a time.”

It was how she ended up in her care after all. One Drifloon had tried to carry off Gladion when he was fairly young and she intervene, exhausting herself in the process. Lusamine had taken her into the Foundation afterwards and had made efforts to get awareness out about the potential dangers to children. She also spoke with the Kahuna of the island about it as well.

Since Verdant Cave was close to the location and the Trial Captain under the Kahuna held sway over the Totem Pokémon, which held sway over their respective species in the area, they were able to mitigate future incidences by having them warn the Pokémon against such mischief. In exchange, the Berry Farm on the route would supply berries to the Pokémon when needed on that Route, with the Aether Foundation providing funds for compensation. It was beneficial for them all.

Lusamine rose up to her feet and then clapped her hands. “Everyone, we need to clean up before we return to the hotel and get some rest early. You can have more snacks later, Bewear.”

The Strong Arm Pokémon, who was in the middle of going for the bag with snacks in them, whined but bobbed her head before she started cleaning up too. Soon they had the room the way it was before they arrived and returned to their balls, leaving Lusamine and Lillie to leave the center and head back for the Gold Sky Hotel.

When they arrived outside of their rooms next to one another, they found Bill’s Umbreon and Espeon lying next to one another. The former was awake while the latter was asleep. Once the female Umbreon noticed their arrival, she gently nudged her partner awake. The male Espeon yawned before he stared at Lusamine and his eyes shone with the gem on his head as he passed on a telepathic message.

“Yes, I’ll speak to Bill right away,” Lusamine said before she turned to her daughter. “You should go to your room and get some rest since we’ll probably be leaving in the afternoon for the train to Cerulean. If you still plan on challenging the Gym, you’ll have to wake up early.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Mismagius drifted in the air some distance away from the young trainer, shrouded by the night itself. Today had been trying for her, what with having to wake early during the day. She was only at her peak at night, or at least out of the sun. It was because she was so sluggish and lacking in strength that she’d had much more of a challenge than she should have against that Vespiquen.

It didn’t help that she only wanted to make sure that Lillie had gotten away before she retreated, opening her up for a Pursuit attack. She wasn’t very good at taking hits, much less ones that were actually super-effective against her. It wouldn’t have even been a problem if Bewear hadn’t been so careless in the first place.

Really, their trainer spoiled the Strong Arm Pokémon so much that even after she had evolved, Bewear was still a child at heart.  Then again, it was nice to see that Lusamine was returning to her old self. Watching her gradually falling from someone who cherished her family and Pokémon into what she had become by the end hadn’t been pleasant, but there was little the Magical Pokémon could do to stop it.

She could have left the woman, sure enough. But considering how unhinged she became after her husband and children left, leaving her behind would have likely worsened her condition greatly. Granted, by the end Mismagius wasn’t much better off after being exposed to the totem energy when she last seriously battled, back in Ultra Space.

It was hard to describe it really. One moment she was within her ball, within stasis after the first battle with Lillie’s friend. The next her ball was being flooded with energy, every fiber of her being permeated with pure power. She’d gotten all but drunk off it before she was released to do battle again, and she had been ruthless.

The moment Lusamine had given the order for her to deal with the trainer’s Crobat, she had risen in the air above them and conjured dozens of Power Gems. It was more than she had ever done before, each packed with enough power to devastate everything beneath her. She could recall the terrified look in Lillie’s eyes as she then let them loose with enough force that everything beneath them was lost in a billowing wave of dust and stone fragments.

While she wasn’t aiming for the child she’d come to care for or her trainer friend, she hadn’t been all that concerned if they were caught in the wake of the attack. If not for Nebby for shielding both of them from the stone fragments and the force of the attack, there was a very real chance she would have hurt the children. That was the worst thing about the experience—that she couldn’t find it in her to care at the time.

It didn’t even hit the Crobat in the end, which somehow managed to evade the shots and then get behind her quick enough to blindsided her with a Bite attack. She could still recall it sinking its fangs into her ghostly body and staying there. She took to phasing through the closest wall so that it slammed into the surface before she could free herself from the Bat Pokémon.

The pain was deep. Throbbing. Aching. Annoying. Her fury fueled her next attack as conjured more Power Gems the moment she emerged from the wall in a different spot.

However, instead of finding one annoying Bat Pokémon there were dozens through the use of a Double Team attack, each one flying about at a pace her eyes struggled to keep track of. The moment that they spotted her, they rushed in to attack her en masse and she let loose the crystallized light to fill the sky with piercing, prismatic rays. Thunderous crashing resounded as the rays smashed against the distant surfaces and threw up plumes of dust while illusionary copies were snuffed out one by one in the process, until the final Crobat raced forward.

Mismagius then charged a Shadow Ball, packed with ghostly energy until it was crackling with dark streamers, and fired at the Bat Pokémon. The dark orb passed through it, revealing it to be a final copy as the actual Crobat sent a spiraling disk of air racing towards her through the dust screen thrown up by her last attack.

She couldn’t avoid it in time. The Air Slash crashed against her, sending her spiraling lower to the ground and flinching. By the time she righted herself with the intention of sharing her pain with the Crobat, it was too late.

The Bat Pokémon had crossed the distance in a flash, wings aglow with a venomous energy. It struck her down with a Cross Poison attack.

The pain was too much for her to continue fighting. In the brief moment before she was recalled into her ball, her head cleared. The pain sobered her mind that had gotten drunk off the waves of power coursing through her and she realized the full extent of everything.

She’d regretted it. Most of Lusamine’s Pokémon did, albeit the reasoning between them differed. Mismagius never wanted power to harm children, but to protect them. That was why she chose to evolve from her previous form when Lusamine presented her with a Dusk Stone.

Even so, they couldn’t undo the past. They could only work towards making the future better. And if she could help the child Lillie befriended stay safe, that was something she could take pride in.

Still, she wouldn’t interfere unless necessary. Being a trainer was something like a coming-of-age process for children. She would only intervene if the child’s Pokémon left her vulnerable.

The moment Astra reached the edge of the town and out into the fields lined with tall grass, she leaned up on her toes and tried to look through the darkness for any sign of movement. But human eyes could only see so much, so she looked over her shoulder to the Darkness Pokémon that had been clinging to her back until now. “You’re up, Jet. Go find us a new friend.”

The male Sableye slid off her back and then ran out into the grass on all fours. He was small enough that only the tall grass rustling could be made out from Mismagius’ view, let alone that of the child rocking on her toes as she fiddled with a Poké Ball in waiting. It was cute, but careless given that he was her only Pokémon.

Mismagius’ valid concerns about the child proved correct when she spied a Drowzee peeking through a bundle of tall grass opposite the girl. The Magical Pokémon had never been fond of them, but the way this one eyed the child made it clear that her sweet dreams would be a delicacy to it. The Hypnosis Pokémon slipped out of the grass and started creeping up on her, licking its lips and rubbing its grubby hands together as it prepared to use Hypnosis to put Astra to sleep.

Tempting as it was to blast the gluttonous dream eater, Mismagius reminded herself that Astra was a trainer. The child needed to learn from her mistakes and the male Sableye wasn’t that far away. So she settled for conjuring a wisp of Mystical Fire that she floated over behind it.

The moment the wisp caught it and burned, the Drowzee cried out in pain. “Zeee!!

The sound grabbed Astra’s attention and she wheeled around towards it. “Over here, Jet!”

The tall grass rustled as the male Sableye began to race back towards her, but the Drowzee was starting to flee since it couldn’t sneak up on her. It would get away at this rate. Given it tried to feast on her dreams and leaving it in the wild would likely lead to another attempt on another child, Mismagius decided to stretch her help just a little more.

Fortunately, she had just the technique to use to stop it from escaping. She hadn’t used it in some time. After all, once she evolved she’d focused mostly on strong offensive techniques. But whenever she needed to punish one of the Drowzee on Melemele Island early on, she made sure that they couldn’t get away before she got the message across.

Mismagius used Mean Look!

Drowzee can no longer escape!

The Drowzee went stiff as her eyes glowed. A malevolent aura that prickled its skin with cold sweat wreathed its body and sank into its very being. Just like that it was bound—cursed really—into remaining within eyesight of the Magical Pokémon as the Darkness Pokémon broke through the grass and snarled at the Hypnosis Pokémon.

Drowzee let out a tiny shriek in panic as the Sableye rushed forward to attack it. Living up to its title as the Hypnosis Pokémon, it tried to stop him by releasing hypnotic psychic waves and putting it to sleep.

Drowzee used Hypnosis!

It doesn’t effect Jet!

However, the hypnotic waves broke against it like water against a shore. The Darkness Pokémon sloughed through it without any trouble at all and finished closing the distance. Panic set into the Drowzee’s eyes as it came under attack.

Jet used Scratch!

The Sableye proceeded to rake his claws against the Hypnosis Pokémon and knocked it back using the momentum of its charge. The Drowzee stumbled back from the hit and nearly tripped over itself before falling back on its rear. Another growl left the Darkness Pokémon’s mouth as it bared its teeth in recognition at that specific one.

The Drowzee extended both of its hands again as he took another step forward and flashed his claws.  This time it launched a bundle of telekinetic waves, attempting to push the Sableye away and get to its feet.

Drowzee used Confusion!

It doesn’t effect Jet!

Again it had no effect. Being part-Dark Type, the Sableye was immune to its power utterly. Thus it couldn’t be stricken by the Psychic-aligned attacks that the Hypnosis Pokémon’s kind was known for.

“Get it again, Jet!” Astra ordered. “Just a little more and we’ll catch it!”

“Saaaaa!!” snarled the Sableye as he moved in to strike it again with another Scratch attack.

The Drowzee, still unable to escape, closed its eyes and then threw its hand forward, finger wrapped into a tight fist as a desperation move.

Drowzee used Pound!

It doesn’t effect Jet!

Though it connected, it did nothing as the Sableye was also part-Ghost type. The Darkness Pokémon followed through with his second Scratch attack, digging into its flesh and knocking the Hypnosis Pokémon down a second time. Then the diamonds that made up his eyes began to glow red.

Jet used Night Shade!

It’s Super-Effective!

Beams as dark as the night, wreathed in a hue of deep red, struck the Drowzee. It was bombarded by the beam, causing it to let out another pained shriek until the attack ceased. The Hypnosis Pokémon then wavered on its feet and gave a slight groan before it toppled backwards.

“That’s enough, Jet!” Astra shouted as she threw the Poké Ball at the weakened target. It connected and the ball popped open, releasing a burst of energy that enshrouded the Drowzee and pulled it into the ball. The ball wriggled thrice before it made a sound to indicate it was captured. Astra ran over and scooped up the ball. “We managed to catch our first new friend!”

The Sableye let out a small snarl at the ball.

“Don’t be that way,” she told him, wagging her finger to reproach him. “Just because the last one managed to put me to sleep doesn’t mean you get to bully this one.”

The Sableye shook his head as he pointed off to the distance, with the trees far off, and then pointed to the ball.

Astra seemed to take a moment to guess what he was saying. “You mean it was the same Drowzee from before?”

He nodded. “Sableye.”

“Wow, it must’ve really like me then.” She held the ball up in the air. “I’ll take good care of it and show it to Grandpa when he gets back. Ah, but first we should name him… or is it a her? What would be a good one for a Drowzee?”

The Sableye set his claws on his head and shook it in frustration as she began to list off a bunch of different names.

Mismagius chose then to appear, silently rising out of the ground behind the Darkness Pokémon and just out of the girl’s view. She leaned over the tiny Pokémon’s shoulders and whispered into his ears to keep that Drowzee in check.

His shoulders sagged as he gave a resigned sigh. More work for him it seems. He then made his way over to Astra’s side and tugged on the hem of her dress with one limb, pointing towards the town with the other.

“Oh, we should head back and make sure that Nurse Joy heals you both, shouldn’t we?” Astra extended her arm for him to climb onto her back again.  “I’ll give you Rock Candy when we get back to the room for doing good too.”

Mismagius felt a sense of satisfaction in her actions as she watched them go. She not only got to protect a child, but she managed to get one of the dream eating gluttons out of the wild and less likely to cause problems. She bore a smile as she floated after her to ensure that Astra made it back to the Pokémon Center and then called it a night.

 


Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 3 – Chapter 14

Chapter 14

We make it back to the street where we’ve set up a safe zone just before nightfall. The sound of a sniffle draws my eyes behind me. The paralyzing effect from the Hound’s scream has worn off, so the three girls that stupidly got themselves involved in this are walking between myself and Gai, while Ayako takes the front as a vanguard should something pop out.

Saegusa looks like she’s on the verge of crying again. I don’t know what they’ve been through since they got here, but my attempt to find out was rebuffed by Ayako and Gai. They apparently have something against wantonly reading memories of people they considered friends and uninvolved.

Ayako looks over her shoulder to three of them and takes on a gentle tone as she addresses the crying girl. “We’re almost there. You’ll be safe then.”

Unfortunately, her words serve as the cue for the loud-mouthed one to start asking questions. “Can you guys tell us what’s happening here? Where are we? What was that exploding thing you did before?”

Ayako points to me. “Shinji will do the explaining once we get all of you squared away.”

I blink. “What now?”

“Your arm is injured and we need to get the supplies, so you’ll be watching them and the other survivors.”

Fear finds its way into the Saegusa’s eyes when she realizes that she’s going to be separated from the two heavy-hitters of our little group. “Y-You’re not going to be there?”

Ayako gives the girl a reassuring smile. “Between the two of us, it shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes to get back where we started and retrieve our supplies. We’ll block the exit again so nothing will get in, just to be safe.”

The fact that she looks a little relieved when she finds out she doesn’t have to rely on me solely is a little insulting considering the pain my arm is in because I put myself out there for them.  But, focusing on the more pressing issue, I shoot a telepathic message to Ayako.

So, to what extent am I telling them and the others?’

Give them the truth about the cards and their circumstances. But be gentle. People usually either try to deny it or panic in their circumstances since they just want it to end, and I’ve seen some commit suicide before.’

I’m more concerned with the fact that they saw us using our powers and will be just as afraid of us as they were the monsters when they settle down.’

Her expression shifts. Ah… I see, it’s happened before. ‘That’s why you’re going to explain about PSI too. They’ll be less likely to act that way if they understand they’re one of us as well. But if you need to defend yourself, I won’t hold it against you.’

“How many others have you saved?” Himuro asks, breaking into the telepathic discussion between us.

The number Ayako gives is about seventeen with them. Over half were the ones who managed to get themselves thrown into a pod and then freed by us, coming to about nine. The other five had been actively running like these three. We guided them to the very building we came to a stop at a minute later.

Ayako uses her telekinetic hands to move a large piece of debris that blocked the entrance, set into place when Gai brought the nervous wreck of a Salaryman inside. There’s a staircase going down into a corridor underground that ends in a steel door with an eye slot. It looks sketchy, but Ayako assures the others they’ll be safe here again and ushers us into the staircase before she shifts the rubble back into place.

“Is this an underground bar or something?” Makidera asks as she stares at the sign, trying to make it out in the dark as I knock on the door.

“It’s close enough. The building is mostly in one piece where it counts and sound-proof, which means it’s well-insulated. Given we don’t know how long we’ll be here, that’s a necessity since most of the Taboo we’ve seen so far track by sound and we don’t want to freeze to death.”

Plus, it looks like it would have been an elegant place of sorts. I can imagine a soft tune playing through the speakers as a hostess ran the bar for customers who just wanted to relax a bit and let the world outside of these walls drown out. Yeah, we can pass it off as an underground bar as long as they stay out of the back rooms until we can hide or destroy everything that said otherwise—though I personally think that they shouldn’t really care as long as the beds were still intact, since it meant they didn’t have to sleep on the floor.

The eye slot opens after I knock again. A pair of eyes look into mine before it closes and the door itself opens to reveal a tall guy with red hair. He reminds me a bit of a thug, despite the fact that he was cowering when we found him.

The stink of cigarette smoke slams into me like a wall when I enter. I trace the source to the three people off to one side, taken from one of the pods. There was an older girl clinging to a guy wearing sunglasses, both of whom seemed college-aged. Next to them was a tough-looking man who was in his 30s at a guess, sucking on the half-lit cigarette in his mouth.

I was not going to sit here and deal with that stench. “Put it out or get out. Your choice.”

He shifts the cigarette and steps forward like he’s going to cause problems. It would end poorly for him considering I’ve killed things bigger than him in the last few hours. Fortunate for him, the sunglasses guy places a hand on his arm to stop him from getting bounced.

“Just do it, Shibata,” he says to the man. “Don’t want to make things worse, do we?”

The tough guy grumbles under his breath about respect but listens to his younger companion and puts it out with his shoe. Sunglasses then takes a step forward. His hands are raised to show he doesn’t mean to cause trouble.

“Sorry, my friend here is just a little concerned about our situation and wanted to take the edge off a little. Not all of us are as… gifted as you and your friends seem to be, going by the stories we’ve heard from the others here, and we’re still confused. You understand, right?”

“Keep your friend in check then,” I warn him. “The other two are a lot more tolerant than I am, but until they get back I’m the one calling the shots here. Got it?”

“Crystal clear.” He gives me a slight bow of his head and then gestures to girl next to him. “My name’s Sakishita by the way, and this is my girl, Marina.”

Unlike him, who seems to be awfully relaxed all things considered, she clearly looks like she’s on the verge of having a panic attack. Her clinging to him is for security then. “Baby, I want to go home.”

“Just relax, babe. I’m sure this guy will tell us how to do that.” He looks up to me and gives me a smile that annoys me. “Right?”

“Yeah, I’ll explain that once these three get seated.” I direct the Track Trio over to a table with a long seat against the wall that could fit the three. “Get comfy, this’ll take a while.”

Himuro and Makidera head over immediately, with the latter sitting with her back straight and posture rigid. Even in this situation she remains uptight. On the other hand, the former just flops down ungracefully and exhales as though she’s relieved to get off her feet.

Saegusa is the odd one out. She hesitates, looking between the seat and me. “Umm…”

“What’s wrong?”

She bites her lower lip and grabs the hem of her track jacket nervously before she inhales and bows her head.  “I’m sorry, Matou-san.”

I try to figure out what she’s done to warrant an apology, but nothing comes to mind. She’s too timid to do something like prank me or talk ill behind my back. “What for?”

She looks at my arm. Remorse colors her eyes. Guilt.  “I always thought you were scary in school, but you still jumped in to help us and got hurt. So…”

“Oh that. Don’t apologize for something that isn’t your fault.” If anything, it’s Makidera’s fault for getting caught. And really, I was more worried about what would happen with Ayako if I didn’t save them. “This isn’t even as bad as my first trip all things considered.”

“Even so, thank you for saving us.” She raises her head and gives me an appreciative, innocent expression that wouldn’t be out of place on Sakura’s face when she was younger. Before I knew everything that I knew and did everything I did….

I look away. “Fine, you’re welcome. Now go sit with the others, so I can get started.”

She scurries over to their side and takes a seat next to Makidera, who gives her a slight smile while she looks somewhat nervous at the attention she’s gained from the others—not all of it goodwill, given she was holding up the explanation. In particular, there was a group of girls across from this trio who looked annoyed more than anything.

I was fairly sure that were also high schoolers considering their clothes were somewhat standard of a uniform, though they weren’t exactly wearing them in the proper style with their coats tied around their waists. They were the ones from the first pod we saved and were less talkative given everything they went through, so they shouldn’t cause any problems for those three. Still, it did remind me that there was a somewhat varied mix of people that we’d saved to this point.

The last of the pod people were a trio of guys that looked college-age like Sakishita, sitting in the third row of seats against the wall. One of them wore a set of glasses and was fiddling with his phone, which wasn’t working. The second had a set of headphones resting around his neck. The last one of that group had a wool cap over his head.

At the edge of the counter, sitting on the bar chair, was a black-haired man in a suit that was sitting with his elbows propped up on the table and covering his eyes. He was shuddering, tear stains marking where he’d let his fear spill out. Clearly a salaryman in over his head.

A few seats from him was a woman maybe in her mid-20s. She wore a standard outfit I’d expect from someone who worked a part-time job at a convenience store chain. The majority of her attention was fixed on her own calling card, rather than her surroundings.

Then there was the black-haired girl with a ponytail, dressed in a sports jacket and jeans. She had a cloth pressed against her cheek from where she’d been injured, a slight swelling and bruising. Unlike most of the others, we found her actually attempting to defend herself when she ran into a Taboo. It didn’t work out, but it was clear she was a fighter.

Last was a scraggly guy dressed in a jump-suit that had paint stains over it. He looked like he didn’t care much about his appearance, and his hair was long enough that it obscured half of his face. He was sitting on the floor with one hand on his knee, watching all of us in a way that creeped me out.

I take a seat at the closer end of the counter and pull out my calling card, holding it up for them to see as I get started. “Since you’re here, you clearly have one of these. And if you’ve read the back of the cards and had the dream, you know that this is the future—”

“How much did it cost to set it all up?” asks Cellphone from his seat, interrupting me. He makes a flourish with his hands to our surroundings. “Where are the cameras?”

I raise a brow at the stupidity. And I’m not the only one, given that everyone shares the sentiment. Really, the only exceptions are Saegusa, who’s too nice, and the Salaryman, who looks almost hopeful at the thought of this being a set-up. Poor fool.

“Are you an id—” I catch myself before I call him an idiot. Not a good idea right now to actively antagonize someone else after the tough guy a minute ago. “I get you’re skeptical because you didn’t see the bodies before you got thrown into a pod dragged here, but it’s not. Otherwise, how do you explain everything?”

“Movie set. And some buff extras to throw us into the pods.”

Himuro tilts her glasses up as she peers through the lenses with a more refined look than the rest of us are giving him. She still sheltered the same thoughts as us though, just better masked. “I sincerely doubt that this is some elaborate movie set.”

“And those things weren’t human,” Ponytail adds, tilting her head over to me. “Didn’t react like one when I hit a nerve cluster, and I saw his friend tear one in half without so much as a scream. And it was still moving until he smashed it in the chest afterwards.”

“Right, um…”

She sets down the cloth and straightens her back as she addresses me. “Just Nami is fine.”

“Those things are called Taboo by the Veterans, and they can survive a lot of punishment unless you hit them in their core and smash it. Whatever they are seem to play into how the future became this way, and I believe that might be part of why we were summoned after the ringing began.”

“That ringing was a pain to deal with,” Sakishita says, tapping his ear. “I tried drowning it out with music and all sorts of things, but it wouldn’t stop. I thought I was going to go deaf.”

I shake my head. “It was on the back of the card that you had a set amount of time to answer or you really would have died. Anyone who doesn’t answer the summonings does, likely to keep it a secret and to enforce participation. It’s part of the contract and we haven’t found a way out of it.”

The Salaryman jumps out of his seat at that, as though offended. “I didn’t sign a contract! Even if I did, what kind would allow for this sort of thing!?”

“The kind that kills you if you don’t obey it. When you accepted the card, you established a contract with that bird-man thing that we call Nemesis Q to change the future.” I tap my head and then my heart.  “That’s what that sensation of barbed wire coiling around your brain and heart and digging in was. You’ve all felt that, right?”

Surprisingly, they all looked at one another in confusion until Saegusa shifts in her seat and raises her hand. “Um… it felt kind of like a ribbon to me.”

“Mine felt like a silken cord,” Himuro adds.

“A kimono sash for me,” Makidera claims.

The others give their own descriptions. Not one of them had the barbed wire treatment, though there were gems like piano wire and chains. So Nemesis Q apparently just hated me that much.

“Either way,” I continue. “Once that happened you were bound to the terms of the contract you made, which was to change the future—this future. If you try to break the rules past a warning, those constrict and kill you. Those cases of Sudden Death Syndrome all over the world are likely the result of that.”

I pause a moment to let that sink in. I don’t want to rush in or give them too much information all at once. In fact, I’d prefer it if someone else took the reins, but Ayako is still a good distance out.

The silence breaks when Himuro’s curiosity gets the better of her. “Presuming that is the case, that we’re in the future, can you explain how we got from our time period to this one?”

“If I had to guess, that contract created a bridge that allowed for our souls to leave our body and be displaced them in time. Our bodies are still back in the past, unconscious but still alive. Once the trip is over, we’ll snap back to them.”

“So all those rules are real then?” asks the woman at the counter as she rises out of her seat. “If we die here, our bodies back in the past die too?”

“That’s right, Miss…?”

“Tamaki Kitano.”

“Miss Kitano, the damage to the soul is reflected onto the body. Any wounds you sustain here end up hitting your real body all at once when it jumps back and if you die here, you die there.”

She lowers her eyes. “My brother had one of these cards on his desk the day he died. It looked beat-up and worn. Does that mean one of those monsters killed him?”

If his card was as beat-up as Ayako’s then the guy was definitely an Active Drifter. “…When did it happen?”

“It was a few days ago. I took the train to my brother’s apartment in Setagaya to find him slumped over at his desk with a beat-up calling card like this in front of him. I thought he was asleep since he was still breathing, so I didn’t try to wake him as I cooked dinner for him since he worked hard… and… and…”

Considering the fact that her body was trembling as she held her free hand to her throat and how the color drained from her face as she trailed off, I’m presuming he didn’t just drop dead either. Still, if it was a few days ago, that would explain why he wasn’t here now. There must’ve been a mission that we weren’t a part of.

I float a Mind Jack over to her and gently inserted before I pulled on her memory and—

The apartment is small overall, the sort of place that a part-timer could rent with a small section in the front to serve as the kitchen, with a few cabinets, a refrigerator, and pantry. She enters through the door at that end, her key jangling as she pulls it free of the lock. She shuts the door behind her as she calls out into the darkness. “Nii-san?”

There is no answer, even as her eyes take a moment to adjust and she spots his figure at the desk. It lies against the back wall, underneath the window, in the middle of the room. The futon is folded on the right and the television, a small thing on a stand, is on the left and turned off.

“Don’t tell me you fell asleep while studying?” She huffs as she sets the bags of groceries down on the counter and goes over to his side. Lying with his head on the desk, the calling card is in front of him with his phone adjacent to it. She spots a traveling bag by his legs as well, leaving her to wonder if he planned on going somewhere or was waiting for someone when he fell asleep.

“You shouldn’t sleep at the desk,” she tells him as she tries to wake him by shaking his shoulder. When that gets no response, she tries harder. There still no response leaving her to get worried now. She checks his pulse and find that it’s still strong, so she brushes it off as him sleeping deeply and begins to cook.

As she cooks, she thinks of her brother fondly. She thinks about how he moved out of the house in Hiroshima when he was younger and how she often came over likewise, trying to see him despite him telling her not to since it was dangerous for someone her age to traveling alone on the train. He was a large part of her life, someone she cared about dearly, and so she didn’t feel a burden for helping him out like this since he tried so hard in her eyes—going so far as to make his favorite meal despite being a slight drain on her own budget.

Then there’s a crash. She looks over to the desk to see her brother had fallen out of the chair and was sprawled on the floor. Blood runs freely from beneath his clothes, a deep shade of crimson that spilled out from gashes torn in his flesh that she could barely make out. Then there was his throat, a visceral mess that reminded me of a piece of raw meat with a chunk torn out by a ravenous dog I once saw when I was overseas at the boarding school.

Despite that, he’s still alive. There’s a fleeting moment of life, a flicker in his eyes as he tries to move his mouth to say something. But that fleeting moment fades with the light in his eyes and his head turns to the side, leaving the blood pooling in his mouth to trickle out.

She’s stunned. Her mind takes a moment to grasp was truly happened in that moment as the card she eyed on the desk disappears from her view, crumbling from existence with the sound of shattering glass. The sound acts as a trigger and causes her to start screaming as the full realization sets in that her brother had died horribly, and a flood of emotions starts pouring in.

Nii-san! Be okay. Let me be dreaming. Nii-san! Wake up. Don’t leave me. Nii-san! Niisan! Niisan! Nii—

—I manage to pull myself out of her memories before I drown in her despair. It’s amazing she’s putting on a façade of being merely sad right now considering it had only been a few days. But what the hell was that?

For me, reading someone’s mind is different from reading their memories. When they’re actively thinking, it’s like listening to their thoughts or I can see what they see by actively reading what they perceive as it comes. But when it’s a memory, it’s like flipping through the pages of a book—though I could see glimpses of images if I really wanted to, sort of like taking a passage from the pages and turning them into a film.

That time was different. It was almost like I was there. Like in my… in my nightmares. Was it because the first time I was in the past, but this time I was in the future? I shelve it for later when I hear a startled gasp from Saegusa and notice how terrified she was as she listened to Kitano talk.

“—it was like some kind of large animal mauled him to death, the sort of thing seen on a nature show. The police originally thought I had done it and was in shock, until the autopsy showed that whatever it was that tore into him couldn’t have been done by a human. I wanted to know what happened so badly, then I was visited in my dream and told there were answers if I took it.”

Saegusa isn’t the only one looking horrified as she finished. Marina, the Salaryman, those three high-school girls, share in her terror. The rest at least looked disturbed by the implications of dying here without anyone realizing what happened. Except for the creep on the floor.

He was smiling even wider.

The Salaryman loses his composure at last. He rushes over to me, knocking both his chair and Kitano to the floor in the process of grabbing me by my shoulders and shaking me like a can of spray paint. “I can’t afford to die like that here! Get me out this instant!”

Nami helps Kitano up to her feet again and glares at him. “You’re the oldest one of us here at a glance, so why don’t you act the part and calm down?”

“Shut up!” he snaps at her. “I’m not like the rest of you. I have a wife and child and family and career waiting for me!”

Let…go,” I warn him through gritted teeth. Leaving aside the fact that I liked personal space, he was hurting my arm. “Now!”

He doesn’t. He just keeps demanding that I get him out and that he didn’t care what happened to the others, making things worse by panicking. Not to mention he’s spitting in my face as he does so, which is disgusting and further pisses me off.

…Well, Ayako did say I could defend myself. I grasp his wrist with my good hand and get ready to use Strength-Rise to snap it like a twig. But before I could make it happen, the guy with red hair grabs him and pulls him away.

“You’re not the only one scared, but that doesn’t give you the right to act better than the rest of us!” He forces the older man to the floor and pins him into place. “You can stay like this until you settle down.”

The Salaryman struggles to get back to his feet, but it’s just not happening. Red Hair is clearly stronger and he’s got him pinned in a way to where he can’t get leverage. As far as I was concerned, he could stay that way for a moment.

Kitano takes a seat again with Nami’s help. She doesn’t look hurt, but she’s clearly still upset. I consider my approach carefully as I wipe the spittle away and sent a message to Ayako about her brother.

I knew him,’ Ayako sends back through the connection we have. ‘Tatsumi and I ran a mission or two together, but he worked with the other Drifters around the Tokyo area. When we get back I’ll have Issei check on the others, but if he’s dead then…

They’re dead too. I had already come to that conclusion, but I can feel the bitterness in her mental voice as she trails off. Nothing I can do about that except keep the peace here for now by addressing these two first.

I start with Kitano. “Your brother was probably one of the Active Drifters who chose to fight because he wanted to change the future, so you didn’t have to one day wake up to a world like this. He has my respect for that. It won’t bring him back, but we’ll do our best to see that you get out of this alive.”

I then look over to the Salaryman, still writhing beneath Red Hair. “As for you, I get you too. You didn’t know what you were signing up for and it puts your livelihood and family at risk. But if you panic, you’ll die. If you want to get home, stay calm and listen to what I say instead of freaking out. Got it?”

His lips purse thin, but he nods and stops struggling.

“Flip out again and you’re going right back on the ground,” Red Hair warns him as he gets off of him.

The Salaryman rises to his feet and dusts himself off, silently looking disdainfully at the thug-looking high-schooler who’d pinned him down. The feeling was mutual, and not just between them. He hadn’t earned a lot of friends with that stunt just now.

My eyes span the room. They’ve seemed to calm down somewhat, or at least realize the situation better. “To get back home, we need to wait until Nemesis Q reappears. He usually assigns the Active Drifters some kind of task. If it’s to reach a location, we’ll escort you. If it’s to kill something, that’s our job. Either way, once we’ve completed it, we’ll go back to our bodies in the past. The moment you get back, you’re going to contact a number we’ll give you so that we can see about teaching you to control your powers.”

“You mean like what you and the others can do?” Sakishita asks as I take a seat on the counter again, his tone doing nothing to hide how excited he seemed at the prospect despite how much of an annoyance it was to the two next to him. “We get them too?”

“Yeah, that’s part of the contract. If you survive your first trip, you gain powers shortly after you wake up. It’s unpleasant and involves a fever, nosebleed, and more, but they grow in strength over time. We call these powers PSI.”

I decide to demonstrate just to get the point across for the skeptics. I don’t want to reveal that I could potentially read their minds, nor would I try again after that last time, so it’ll have to be telekinesis. I look over to the bar chair that was knocked over by the Salaryman and make a gesture for it to move while focusing my mind and energy enough to get results—I don’t need as much effort as I did with the chain for this.

It floats in the air and lands next to the man upright, startling him enough to jump. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy that reaction after he manhandled me. But I keep my expression schooled as I continue. “Take a seat, this’ll take some time to explain properly.”

 


Rabbit of the Moon: Interlude 1 – Orario [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Interlude 1: Orario

Hestia listened with increasing worry as her child recounted his journey into the Dungeon today. In the few hours that he had been gone, he had apparently been beset by a Minotaur on the Fifth Floor and killed before landing in a strange world where he hunted Beasts. There he died thrice, once by crushing, once by falling, and once by being devoured, before prevailing over the towering Beast responsible for those deaths. Then he returned to the Fifth Floor, where he’d first died, and slew the Minotaur responsible for it all in the first place before he left the Dungeon.

If she had to be honest, Hestia would have normally thought Bell was just exaggerating things. From what she’d been told most young Adventurers did, and if he’d died she would’ve felt her blessing vanish and know it happened. But… there were too many things that stopped her from brushing what he was saying off as an exaggeration.

To begin with, mortals couldn’t lie to Gods and Goddesses. It was an inherent ability they possessed, being able to discern a mortal’s truths from their lies. Not that it would be unforgivable if he was lying to her. Bell was the first (and only) person who joined her and he was such a sweet boy. So even if he did lie to her, she would forgive him.

But Bell had been honest with her since they had first met one another and became Familia. With how vividly he recalled the details, it was clearly something that he didn’t just come up with on the spur of the moment either. From what she could tell, he sincerely believed that all of that happened to him as an absolute truth.

And there was the scent wafting off him thickly. The lunar scent of the moon was clinging to his flesh like perfume that was rubbed off a Goddess who either held dominion or some power over it. Given that magic related to the moon tended to be based around illusions, she entertained the belief that he had been caught in one before entering the Dungeon and it took effect while he was there.

But there were only a handful of moon-based Goddesses that came down to this plane of existence. She didn’t think that Artemis was involved, and she was more known for her hunting prowess over illusions in the first place. And the only ones she could remember right off the top of her head were Metztli and Achelois. The latter was a lunar Goddess that did technically exchange blood for healing, so the very nauseous notion that he could drink or bathe in blood to heal himself certainly fit her domain. But Hestia didn’t know where she was since she came down a long time ago.

I’ll ask Hephaestus and Miach later, she decided. For now, she was more concerned about how Bell referred to that living doll possibly messing with his Falna and the effect it had on him. “Bell, I need you to strip.”

“Eh?” Bell went rigid, stunned from his position next to her on the couch and looking dumbfounded.

“Your shirt.” She reached for the hem of it with her slender fingers. “I want to look at your Falna.”

“Oh… okay.” He stripped out of his shirt to expose his torso and then laid prone on the bed they shared.

Bell Cranel

Level One

Strength: I-77 > F-392

Defense: I-13 > F-373

Dexterity: I-93 > I-96

Agility: H-148 > E-487

Magic: I-0

 

Skills:
Blessing of Flora

Beasthood

 

Hestia bit her lower lip at the unbelievable increase in his various stats. Sure, new adventurers had a heightened growth rate from what she had been told. But to jump up by several hundred points in multiple categories was unprecedented. And they lined up with what he told her happened with that Doll, who could somehow affect the Falna to change his stats even without her blood.

It didn’t make sense. Only another God or Goddess could do so and they needed her permission first. So how was this possible?

And she’d never heard of either of these inherent skills, which was also worrying. In fact, she couldn’t even read the descriptions because they were in another language that she didn’t recognize instead of the standard of Orario or hieroglyphs.

Hestia needed to know more, meaning she needed to check his excelia itself. Normally she would never invade his privacy like that since it would be like reading the events of his life itself. However, there was too much going on for her to hesitate if some other Goddess was harassing her child. She silently vowed to make it up to him somehow before mounting his back and pricking her finger, allowing a drop of her ichor—divine blood—to drop down.

The moment it came into contact with his flesh, Bell shot up. His back arched like a bow and he let out a surprised cry. “Ah!?”

“Wah!” Hestia shouted as she tumbled backwards at the sudden motion, landing on the floor with a loud thump. She groaned softly, one eye closed as she rubbed her bottom tenderly. “Ow…”

“Goddess, I’m so sorry!” Bell climbed over the edge of the bed and crouched down in front of her, sincere regret in his eyes as he extended a hand to help her up. “The moment your blood touched me I felt a really strong jolt run through my body and couldn’t control it. You’re not hurt, are you?”

“No, I’m fine.” She accepted his hand and rose up to her full height. This time she sat next to him as he lay on the bed, to avoid being tossed off again. His excelia flowed upwards and into her view, becoming like pages in a book for her to read through.

There was an immediate discrepancy to be found if she interpreted it like words on the pages of a book, with the paragraphs being the means by which the events of his life were told. Whereas the words that represented his tales were normally written in the language of the gods and possessing a white hue, it came to an abrupt stop where it read of his… of his death, at the end of the paragraph.

Then another paragraph started. The script became red as blood and was written in words that were even more foreign to her than those on his skills. In fact, just looking at them made… made her brain tremble as pictures and meanings flickered and gave her a headache.

She blinked a few times and shook her head to drive them off. Then she changed her focus to what the excelia stated afterwards. Beyond the red paragraphs that made up a third of the page so far, the script turned white again and was written in hieroglyphs. It outlined what he said happened on the Fifth Floor of the Dungeon, battling and prevailing against the Minotaur that killed him.

Hestia felt that there had to be some mistake, but the excelia didn’t lie. Or at least it shouldn’t be able to. The whole situation was strange. It stated he died and then there’s… some kind of illegible text that she couldn’t make out and got a headache just looking at. But the parts she could make out state that he really did die…

Her child, her first child, had died in terror. He died begging for someone to save him. And she, his Goddess, didn’t know. She didn’t hear his prayer and come to his aid.

Her eyes stung at the very thought, crystalline tears swelling and flowing down her cheeks to softly land on his unprotected back. She’d lost her only Familia and didn’t even know. What sort of Goddess was she?

Bell turned his head upon feeling the warm drop touch his skin. “Goddess, what’s wrong?”

“I’m so sorry, Bell.” She sniffled as she struggled to wipe away the tears. “I’m sorry I put you in danger and you had to experience dying like that…”

Bell sat up slowly and set his hands on her shoulders in a comforting manner. “I made that mistake. I shouldn’t have gone that deeply for a silly reason. I should have played it safe.”

But I sent you there first alone!” She threw herself forward, burying her head into his chest, and held him in her lithe arms as her emotions spilled out. He was her responsibility, yet she had to make him work by himself to provide for them and it got him killed horribly.

“…Goddess, I only got through it because of you,” Bell told her in a gentle, sincere voice as he took her into his grasp fully with a hug. “I just wanted to get back to be your side. And I did, so its fine.”

Her voice was muffled as she trembled, her heated breath washing against his topless and pale torso. “But… but you died because you went there to help earn money for us and look what happened….

“That doesn’t matter.” He held her tight, as if hoping that it would stop the tremors that ran through her body. “You took someone talentless and from the country like me in without caring that I had nothing to offer, and you gave me a home and a family. That’s why I was willing to go through it all—so I didn’t leave you alone like that.”

Hestia continued to cry until she couldn’t cry anymore. She didn’t know if she should be grateful that it was because of this Dream and Doll that he had a chance to come back to her, or angry that in order for him to do so they put him through Hell when he should be in Heaven rightly. But one thing she loathed was that she had been ignorant of it all and failed to help him when he need it.

Yes, she had failed him once. But she wouldn’t do so again. Whatever happened from now on, she would do her best to help him get through it. And she’d start by figuring out just who this scent belonged to and how they were able to screw around with her Blessing.

Grateful or not, no one would toy with her child and put him through all of that again…

[R-M]

As the rays of the sun graced her skin after her Familia finally emerged from the Dungeon to the streets of Orario again, many members of Ais’ group stretched and let out sighs of relief. The expedition only carried them as far as they’d been before but it took a long time to get down there and back, so many had yearned to see the sun again and rejoiced in it.

However, her thoughts were still back in the Dungeon, on the Fifth Floor, as she continued to stare at her hand in mild confusion. She couldn’t get over her encounter with the white-haired boy and the mystifying scent that filled the floor once things had settled down. It lingered even after he ran up the floors to the surface, but to her surprise none of the others could pick it up. Even Bete, who had one of the sharpest noses among their Familia, could only pick up the scent of blood and steel.

Now that she was on the surface the scent was thinning. The fresh air diffused it far more quickly than the stale Dungeon floors, and now it was faint enough that it would vanish entirely soon. If she left it to do so without chasing after it, then would she run into him again?

“Is there something still bothering you, Ais?” Riveria asked. Her name reached Bete’s ears and he turned his attention to her as well.

“That scent is here too,” she said.

Bete’s nose shifted as he tried to pick it up to no avail. “I still don’t smell anything out of the ordinary.”

“It’s leading that way,” she said, looking off in the direction that was the thickest. “I think… it’s going to the Guild.”

“Well, if that boy you mentioned was an Adventurer then he’d likely have to go there to turn in any magic stones that he earned at the Exchange,” Riveria said. “You and I can stop by if it’s bothering you that much.”

“…Sorry for the burden,” Ais said.

“It’s fine.” Riveria set a hand on her shoulder and walked off with her towards that direction until they arrived. There they found it somewhat crowded as people went back and forth, with the various employees keeping busy with the exception of one that they approached.

She straightened up when she recognized them. There were few who didn’t know the Nine Hells or Sword Princess when it came to adventuring. “Miss Wallenstein, Miss Ljos Alf, how can I be of help to you?”

“Has an Adventurer come by?” Ais asked. “He’s a boy that has white-hair. And red eyes.”

“Oh, that sounds like Eina’s Adventurer,” the woman said. “I’ll go and fetch her.”

Riveria’s expression shifted as the Guild employee retrieved the other employee, going from her normally respectful demeanor to somewhat motherly as the woman approached with hurried steps and then stood proper.

“It’s good to see you’re doing well,” Riveria told her. “You’ve grown beautifully since last we met, Eina.”

“Thank you for the high praise, Lady Riveria.” She gave a small bow of her head. “It has been a long time, but I was told you were looking for an Adventurer that I may be advising?”

“Yes, Ais here ran into a young man who has white hair and red eyes on the Fifth Floor, where one of the Minotaur’s scared by our Familia went up to. She wanted to make sure that he made it out of the Dungeon without being harmed.”

“He did a few hours ago,” Eina said. “You have my thanks for saving him.”

Ais tilted her head slightly in confusion at that. “Saving him…?”

“When he came in covered in blood I nearly had a fit,” she said before leaning in closer and speaking in a hushed whisper. “I shouldn’t reveal any personal information, but he had only been going to the Dungeon for two weeks now and shouldn’t have been on the Fifth Floor yet. It would have been terrible if you didn’t arrive and even let him keep the Minotaur’s magic stone.

That wasn’t what happened, Ais thought to herself. He killed the Minotaur himself. And he’d only be an Adventurer for two weeks? That didn’t make sense.

She looked to Riveria who have her a subtle shake of the head and then spoke in her place. “It’s good that he made it back safely. I know you can’t reveal personal information and you’re busy, but could we at least have his name before we leave?”

“It’s Bell Cranel.”

That name didn’t ring any bells to Ais, so he must not have been an elite or high-ranking Adventurer. But… two weeks and he was able to kill a Minotaur? Was he really a new Adventurer?

“Ais, you said that he killed the Minotaur on his own, correct?” Riveria asked as they departed the Guild, to not take up any more of Eina’s time. Ais nodded in response. “Strange. I’ve known Eina since she was born and she wasn’t lying.”

Then he must’ve lied to his advisor about what happened? Ais quietly thought, even though she couldn’t imagine why anyone would hide what they were capable of? In the end, she had more questions than answers. But at least she knew his name now.

She could work towards finding and asking him herself, along with what that strange scent she couldn’t place was…

[R-M]

Fury, hot and passionate, bubbled within Freya. The colorless soul that she had been observing had become dyed scant few hours ago in the Dungeon. She was watching Bell as he descended down to the Fifth Floor and then something happened as he stood there.

She couldn’t properly explain it, but she gained a massive headache while watching as his soul was colored luminous and pale, tinted with the faintest of reds. It felt like something was writhing in her skull and she was forced to look away until it settled down. The pain was unwelcomed and far from pleasant, but what truly aggravated her was that someone had taken something of hers right under her nose.

That she couldn’t let go unanswered. The question was who the target of her fury would be. The shade of his soul was still unique in that she hadn’t seen that particular color before, but she dared not observe his soul in such a manner as that for some time. But there were other ways to lure out whoever was responsible for it.

And then she’d make them pay.

 

 


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The First Capture – Part 2

Lusamine huffed as she set the dark-haired child down in one of the beds at a room in the Pokémon Center. The room was registered in the girl’s name, which they confirmed using the Trainer I.D. that her Sableye produced from… somewhere. The 10-year old wasn’t heavy, but Lusamine felt tired from the walk with her daughter to Route 11 and from it while carrying the child.

She took a seat at the desk opposite of the girl and sighed wearily. All she wanted to do was spend time with her daughter and then this happened. Not that there was anyone to fault for it unless she was willing to pin the blame onto a child or a wild Pokémon that was following its instincts, which was beneath her.

The Nurse Joy of Vermillion had stated it would be best to let the girl sleep rather than trying to force her awake, no doubt experienced with this sort of thing since they live so close to a habitat filled with the Drowzee species. Lusamine would remain to watch over her until then while the Sableye returned to its ball to rest.

The room inside of the Pokémon Center was far less grand that her hotel room. But it contained a PC that she could use. Since Lillie wouldn’t likely be back for some time, she decided to use it to check on things at the Aether Foundation and reached out to Miss Wicke using her direct line.

At least, that was her intention. The line took a moment to connect. And when it did, it wasn’t Miss Wicke who answered. It was Gladion.

“Whoever’s calling, I apologize but—” Gladion stopped when he recognized her and his expression went from professional to cold as ice. “Oh.”

It made her heart heavy in her chest just looking at him from across the screen.  Her first-born child with her husband had changed so much since the day that he left home two years ago. It was only a little while ago since she had seen him, but only now was she really taking in how he seemed to have gone from a precious boy who smiled a lot to one that wore a frown that seemed as if it was most natural thing in the world.

Even so, she was relieved to see him. “You look well. I’m glad to see that.”

“Yeah, well I managed,” he said dismissively. “Anyway, Miss Wicke is handling something urgent at the moment and won’t be able to spare time until tomorrow. It’s 8 PM over here, so try again earlier tomorrow.”

Then he moved to hang up. He didn’t want to speak to her, or even see her if he didn’t have to. Not after how she had disowned both him and Lillie and tried to silence them when they got in her way.

All the same, she wanted to speak with him longer and called out for him to stop. “Gladion, wait!”

To her surprise, he stopped with his finger midway towards the disconnect button.

“Son, please,” she continued. “At least… at least let me apologize to you for everything. I wasn’t well then. Believe me, if I was I wouldn’t have let you live on your own for two years. I would have looked for you.”

He sighed, disappointment so thick that it was audible without words. “You still don’t understand. That’s not why I— wait, Silvally!”

The words barely managed to get out of his mouth before a creature appeared on the screen, running its tongue along his cheek. Lusamine recognized it. It was Type: Null without its mask, or at least it appeared to be. It was a little different from before, the coloration having changed at some point and its demeanor more playful as it nuzzled his face in hopes of having him return the affection.

Of course, the moment its eyes fell onto the screen that changed. It recognized her. It recognized her and snarled, looking as though it would have swiped at the screen if not for Gladion keeping it calm.

“Easy, Silvally,” he said, holding it close and stroking its head until its snarls turned to a low grumble. But its eyes never wavered from hers.

“Why did you remove its helmet?” Lusamine asked. “It needed that to control its power. Without it, Type: Null will be a danger to itself and everyone around it.”

“The helmet was destroyed when it evolved,” he explained. “Silvally can use the RKS system without going out of control or hurting anyone now.”

“You managed stabilize its temperament?” Even Faba didn’t believe that it was possible when he worked on it, due to the nature of its creation. “How? We tried everything we could.”

“Except treating it with respect and kindness,” he said firmly. “That’s the one thing you didn’t do. You tried to create gods and put them on a leash. And when they didn’t come out the way you wanted, you labeled them a failure and froze them so you didn’t have to look at them.”

“Gladion…I…” She trailed off in the wake of the gaze he was giving her, daring her to make an excuse. “I needed something that could fight against the Ultra Beasts, something that could fight anything that came out of Ultra Space. That way we could have explored it, found your father, and reunited our family. You have to understand that.”

“You brought three Pokémon into this world, through inhumane means at that, solely to be used as weapons,” he said, patting Silvally on the head. “And then you threw them away when they couldn’t live up to that. That’s the very thing that grandfather founded the Aether Foundation to stand against, and yet you turned an organization meant to shelter and protect Pokémon into one that exploited them. That’s why I can’t overlook what you did and why I chose to leave without regrets.”

“I just wanted to get your father back,” she said again. “I just wanted us to be a family again no matter what. It wasn’t wrong to want to be with the people you love no matter what.”

“No, it wasn’t wrong to want that,” he agreed. “But what you did trying to do so was and, because no one was able to stand up to you, it drove you further out of control. That’s why I knew I had to get strong enough to stop you and get the Foundation back on track. I hate that Elio got dragged into our family issues, but I am grateful he stopped you before you killed Cosmog and endangered us all to make yourself happy.”

“I wasn’t well then,” she said defensively. “But I’m doing better now. I’ll make things right between us. You, your sister, your father—I’ll make it all right.”

“…Just focus on your treatment,” he said to that. “Maybe then… no, nevermind. I have to go.”

“Wait,” she said, desperately hoping for him to still his hand again. It was the first time she’d spoken to him this much in so long, and there were so many things she still wanted to ask him about his life while he was away. “I just want to talk to you—”

The monitor went dead as he cut the connection before she could finish.

“…a little longer,” she finished, her voice cracking as she stared at the dead screen. There was no point in calling back. He wouldn’t answer.

She covered her eyes and then took a deep, shuddering breath as the weight of their discussion set in. Her own son felt that she needed to be stopped so strongly that he took up arms against her and trained to do it for two years. An apology for betraying the very ideals her father instilled in her, and that she instilled into him, would never be enough.

“…It’ll be okay,” she told herself as she wiped at the tears stinging the corner of her eyes. She had to keep up the appearance of being strong and not show weakness. “Lillie still needs me right now. And once I get better, I’ll find Mohn too. Once our family is whole again everything will be just fine.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Bewearslow down…” Lillie said between heated pants as she continued chasing after the Pokémon that had decided a jaunt through the woods was appropriate at the moment. They were far enough off the Route that she couldn’t see the border of the trees they’d entered, but at least she knew the general direction and could get back within the span of maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking.

Bewear, for the most part, kept going with little reservation. She only really stopped to check the scent trail that she had and to make sure that Lillie was still in sight, a brief respite for the aching legs of the new trainer following after her.

At this point, Lillie suspected that it was because of her mother’s orders. Lusamine might have told the Pokémon to be good for Lillie, but she didn’t state for her to listen to her—only to help her find a Sandshrew and to keep her safe. That was probably what Bewear counted as ‘being a good girl for her’ as her mother ordered.

I can’t keep up anymore…” She groaned a few minutes later as her legs began to burn and her feet ached. “I’ve got to stop.”

Lillie came to a stop at the base of a tree and just sat down for a moment. Koko and Rotom came to a stop as well, with the Fox Pokémon sitting next to her while Living Pokédex floated above her head. A breeze threaded through the trees and shook the canopy above with a gentle rustling sound that drew their eyes upwards, where they spotted these cute little pink Pokémon with a pair of leaves on their heads drifting on the Spring breeze, passing by without a care in the world as they smiled.

“Rotom, what are they?” Lillie asked, fascinated by the sight as Koko looked up along with her.

A moment pleazzze. Rotom floated close to the drifting Pokémon and then snapped a photo with a flash, causing their beady yellow eyes to shrink for a moment until they blinked and then angled themselves to the side as the breeze shifted directions and carried them that way. Hoppip, the Cottonweed Pokémon. Its body is light at 1.1 pounds and allows it to drift on the winds. Capable of sensing strong winds, Hoppip cluster together and grip the ground firmly to avoid being blown away.

“They remind me of Bounsweet,” Lillie said as she looked at the photo taken with Rotom’s Poké Finder.  Koko perched her forelegs onto Lillie’s lap and took a look at well. Lillie smiled as she stroked her forehead and then closed her eyes to just bask in the cool breeze as it rolled over her heated skin, strands of her hair swaying under its power.

That was, until she felt a presence looming over her and casting a shadow. She cracked open her eyes to see Bewear staring at her with a paw to its mouth. “Bewao?”

“Just… give me a minute to rest,” Lillie said. “My legs and feet hurt. Once I’ve rested we can keep searching.”

Bewear nodded. And then proceeded to pick her up, cradling her comparatively smaller body and holding her tight. Just like that Bewear started moving again, carry her like she did with her mother last night.

“Bewear, put me down!” Lillie said, struggling to get free of the stout arms as she was carried further into the forest. Rotom and Koko were giving chase after them, but the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored them and her pleas while going deeper into the forest.

The trees here had thick roots that stuck up from below the ground and dense bushes that occasionally rustled as they neared. At least a couple of them were Rattata that quickly darted away in the wake of Bewear, having wisely decided that they would rather not attempt to pick a fight with it. Around them there were several little flying honeycombs buzzing around, some kind of Bug-Type Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before.

“Why won’t you listen to me?” Lillie asked with a sigh. After noticing that Bewear was turning in a new direction, she reached into her jacket to grab Bewear’s Ultra Ball and return her. If they lost track of the direction they entered, it could take a long time before they managed to get back… much less before nightfall.

That was when Bewear came to a stop at last in a small clearing that had big stones planted about, with one large enough to be sat on amidst small patches of flowers scattered about. Setting her down there and taking another moment to sniff the air, Bewear then ran with all her might into a bundle of bushes further ahead and dove into them with her paws outstretched. Sounds of struggle could be heard as Koko and Rotom caught up with Lillie, and when Bewear stood back up there was a flailing Pokémon in her grasp. “Beow?”

“That’s a Sandshrew,” Lillie confirmed. “You found the right one this time.”

Bewear waddled over proudly; pleased with herself for having accomplished the task she was supposed to. Then she nonchalantly dropped the Sandshrew in front of them, before holding a paw to her muzzle and looking over to the trees to the right. Several of the small bug Pokémon she’d seen before flittered in that direction.

“Where are you going now?” Lillie asked, standing up on the stone as Bewear started wandering off in that direction. Once again the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored her, causing Lillie to feel frustrated and puff out her cheeks. She reached into the pocket of her jacket and fished around for the Ultra Ball that belonged to Bewear. “Enough’s enough, Be—pbbt?”

No sooner than she had it in her grasp was a splash of sand hurled in her direction, connecting with her face. Lillie staggered backwards as she wiped the grains from her face and ended up falling off the stone and landing onto her bottom. “Ouch!”

Lillie, zzzt! Are you okay? Rotom asked, attempting to help her with its appendages to clear away the last of the sand.

“I think so…” She looked over to the source of the attack, Sandshrew. Even now an earthen-glow outlined its forearms and grains of sand appeared to form out of it. “Hey, what was that for?”

“Kujo!” it cried angrily, lashing out again with another Sand Attack. This time a chilled gust intercepted it and scattered the sand. Koko stood between it and Lillie now with her back arched, hackles raised, and head low while a slight growl slipped out of her mouth.

Lillie didn’t pretend to be the best at reading body language. But she could gather from how its eyes were narrowed that the Sandshrew was more than a bit miffed and ready to fight as it pointed over to where it had been before. “Kujo, kujoo!”

It seems mad since it was about to catch a Bug-type Pokémon to eat, zzzt, Rotom stated, pointing up towards the tree that had a Wurmple quickly climbing up the trunk near where Bewear had found it and into the canopy. Now it’s challenging you to a battle and zzzeems quite Adamant about it.

“I was hoping we could be friends rather than starting off like this, but I guess we don’t have a choice.” Lillie stood back up, dusted the back of her skirt off, and pointed towards the Sandshrew. “This is our first battle, Koko!”

Acknowledging the hostility between the Sandshrew and her trainer’s will to fight, the three-tipped wooly tail stood upright as a pale aura shrouded the Alolan Vulpix. Koko let out a battle-cry and it rippled outwards. A grayish cloud formed in the air above the battlefield as a result.

Koko activated Snow Warning.

Lillie shivered as the temperature around them dropped to a sharp chill, just low enough to where glittering ice particles could barely be seen falling down if she squinted her eyes. They were fleeting though, evaporating the moment they touch down to the ground.

It zzzeems that Koko has the Ability classified as Snow Warning, Rotom stated, camera turned towards the two Pokémon as it prepared to record the battle. However, it seems to be underdeveloped judging from my records, zzzt.

It’s probably because she only has three of her tails, Lillie thought. She could ask Professor Kukui later on. He had at least one Alolan Ninetails if she recalled. All the same, she suppressed the shiver running through her body at the abrupt cold (vowing to get arm and leg warmers) to give the first command. “Koko, it should be weak to Ice-Type attacks!”

Koko used Powder Snow!

Koko exhaled a gust of chilled wind, laced with glittering white-and-blue frost particles. It sped forward, covering the grass between them with a layer of hoarfrost as it rushed towards the Sandshrew.

The Sandshrew darted to the side to avoid it. Falling onto all fours, it began to close in from an angle as the Powder Snow attack ceased. Koko turned around to face it properly and inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew made a calculated move.

Sandshrew used Sand Attack!

It slashed forward from the distance with another Sand Attack from both of its forepaws. The two waves of sand caught Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes. She jerked her head away with a whimper, frantically working to clear them with her forepaws.

“Koko, look out!” Lillie shouted. “It’s coming!”

Sandshrew used Scratch!

The warning came too little, too late as the Sandshrew closed the distance and brought its three claws around. They caught Koko head-on and she cried out from the pain from the attack, only to grit her teeth. Then she countered.

Koko used Tail Whip!

Spinning around on her forepaws, the wooly tails caught the Mouse Pokémon right in the snout. Even if it didn’t do any damage, smacking the Sandshrew in the face startled it enough that its defenses fell as it tried to back away. Koko then hopped backwards to gain enough space to exhale another Powder Snow attack at it.

It’s Super-Effective!

The Sandshrew let out a shriek as the attack landed. The powder began to build on it, covering it in fresh snow. The Mouse Pokémon shivered violently, its pants coming out in a slight mist as Koko finished expelling her breath. But it shook it off and then curled into a tight ball.

Sandshrew used Defense Curl!

“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. The Alolan Vulpix let out a small sound in acknowledgement and then inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew began to spin in place.

Zzzt, that’s bad! Rotom warned.

Sandshrew used Rollout!

Rotom couldn’t the warning out before the Sandshrew shot forward in its ball form. On instinct, Koko let loose another powder-laced gust only to have it split down the center as the Sandshrew barreled through it. Too late did she realize that she needed to stop her attack and dodge, resulting in the speeding ball slamming into her hard enough to send her tumbling through the air with a pained cry.

“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Fox Pokémon landed on the large boulder and bounced off on impact to hit the ground. Her heart fell into her stomach as she watched her starter trembling from the pain and looked like she was about to cry. “Are you okay?”

Koko is an Ice-Type Pokémon and Rollout is classified as a Rock-Type technique by its nature! Rotom explained. Worse, using Defense Curl beforehand allowed it to be strengthened, so it really hurt her!

Vul…pix…” The Alolan Vulpix struggled to get back onto her feet, legs buckling under her own weight as the Sandshrew curved around and began to rush towards her a second time. Still, Koko stood her ground and narrowed her eyes as a pink aura began to shroud her body. She was preparing another attack.

Lillie disliked seeing Pokémon being hurt as a general rule. But, seeing the speed at which the Rollout was coming, now fast enough that it was leaving a trail in the ground as it came for the Ice-Type, Lillie made a judgment call. She pulled out Koko’s ball. “Koko, return!”

In an instant, Koko’s body returned to an energy state and was pulled into the ball, leaving the Sandshrew to crash into the boulder that had been behind her. The Mouse Pokémon shattered it with a thunderous crash, leaving Lillie to cover her face as fragments of the rock were scattered about and a dust cloud was raised. The Sandshrew emerged from the rock dust unharmed and then pointed at Rotom, gesturing with its claws for it to come next.

Rotom immediately ducked behind Lillie, peeking over her shoulder to say, I’m not optimized for battle, zzzt!

It doesn’t look like it’s just going to let me run away, Lillie realized as the Sandshrew continued to glare at her, waiting for her next move. She got the impression it wanted to prove something, but what that was eluded her.  Koko is hurt and I don’t know where Bewear wandered off to. Should I call out Mismagius and risk her being cranky? What if she won’t listen either?

While she pondered that, the rock dust cleared and from the remains of it emerged a creature with a red shell. Holes were in the shell from which yellow limbs emerged. It wormed its way out of the debris pile that was once a large stone and then looked upon it sadly, before craning its head around to the Sandshrew and frowning as much as it was capable of doing so.

“Shuckle?” it… asked, Lillie assumed as it pointed to the rubble with one limb. The Sandshrew briefly looked away from Lillie to respond, motioning dismissively with its claws for the turtle-looking Pokémon to leave. It frowned, beady black eyes narrowing as much as it could while somehow remaining unthreatening from how bubbly it’s upset-cry sounded.

The Sandshrew somehow managed to roll its eyes before turning to it and… holding a conversation, Lillie assumed. She didn’t speak their language. But she knew who did.

What are they saying?” she whispered to Rotom, which was hanging over her shoulder.

Zzzzounds like the Shuckle is complaining about its rock being smashed and the Zzzandshrew is blaming it on us, Rotom explained. I think it has zzzomething against Trainers… wait, what’s that zzzzound?

Lillie strained her ears but didn’t hear anything. The Pokémon, however, did. The Sandshrew looked over to the tree line in alarm and then back to Lillie for a final time. Then it curled into a ball and rolled away as fast as it could. The Shuckle just shoved its limbs and head into its shell and went motionless, masquerading as a stone.

CRASH!!! The sound of a tree splintering sent a jolt racing up Lillie’s spine as something came lumbering forward. Her nerves were on end and the hair on her neck was rising as it sounded closer and closer…

And then it turned out to just be Bewear. The Strong Arm Pokémon staggered out in what looked to be a daze. Her paws and mouth were covered in a creamy, golden hue.

She must’ve gone searching for honey after finding the Sandshrew as a treat to herself. Lillie sighed as all the tension in her body faded. She had gotten scared for nothing. Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on her hips and called out, “Bewear!”

Bewear’s head snapped around towards the sound of her voice.

. “You know better than to go running off on your own. You should have waited for—”

“BEWAOOOOOO!!” roared the Strong Arm Pokémon in fury.

The battle-cry caught Lillie off-guard, stunning her into silence as Bewear lunged in her direction abruptly, arms raised to attack!

Bewear used Take Down!

Seeing the rushing Pokémon lunging for her, Lillie instinctively dropped down with a panicked shout and felt the wind rush over her as Bewear brushed mere inches above her head and landed with a thunderous crash that threw up a spray of stone dust, dirt, and grass as the ground trembled.

S-Something must be wrong with Bewear. she reasoned in an attempt to calm her pounding heart. She knew that her mother’s Pokémon wouldn’t intentionally hurt her. Even Milotic, who she got the impression was constantly vying with the others and her for her mother’s attention before she went insane, wouldn’t attack her like that. Given that Bewear was more friendly and treated her more like a playmate, something just had to be wrong.

“Bewear, what’s wrong?” she called out, getting back to her feet. The Strong Arm Pokémon seemed to be dizzy or something, flailing about and smashing the stones around her with her powerful arms and legs. One of the attacks even caught the poor Shuckle as it tried to get away, only to be too slow, and ended up getting launched it into the air and landing with a loud thud not too far from Lillie.

“Are you okay?’ Lillie asked it as she crouched down and took a look at the Mold Pokémon.

Its head and limbs went limp as its eyes were struggling to stay open. It was barely hanging in there. “Shu…ckle…

Lillie pursed her lips as she reached into her jacket to retrieve Bewear’s ball. Whatever was wrong with Bewear made her far more dangerous considering that she wasn’t trying to control her strength in that state. If Lillie didn’t do something to stop Bewear, more Pokémon were going to get hurt until she settled down.

She pointed it at the rampaging Strong Arm Pokémon and popped it open. Bewear was in the process of smashing another stone when she was pulled back into it, leaving just an unsettling silence in her absence. Lillie sighed, her nerves frayed and heart pounding as she looked at the ball in her grasp tenderly. “What happened to you?”

I think that Bewear was confused, zzzt, Rotom stated as it floated back over to her. Returning her to her ball should have snapped her out of it.

“But what did that to her?” Lillie asked as she looked down to the Shuckle that looked like it was in pain. Poor thing had its home destroyed because of her battle with Sandshrew and then hurt by Bewear because she didn’t keep an eye on her in the first place. She couldn’t just let it stay hurt like this, so she pulled off her backpack and searched around for a Potion to use on it.

The Shuckle perked up in alarm before she could give it a spray and began to try and flee.

“Hold on,” Lillie said as she grabbed it to stop it from running away. “I just want heal you. Then I’ll let you go.”

“Shuuuckle!” whined the Mold Pokémon, straining itself to get free of her grasp before wincing as its injuries made it clear it wouldn’t be able to move as well as it wanted to. It then retreated into its shell.

“You don’t need to…” Lille trailed off as a loud buzzing sound finally reached her ears. She turned her gaze towards the tree line where Bewear stumbled out, small figures flitting about at the edge of her view and coming closer. “Rotom, are there any Bug-Type Pokémon that produce honey in this area?”

Reconciling with local Pokémon database… Found, zzt. A picture showed on the screen of the little flying Bug-Types that she had spotted earlier on. Combee, the Tiny Bee Pokémon. It gathers honey from flowers to please Vespiquen. It is normally docile and flees when threatened, but will not think twice about attacking all that threaten the queen with lethal force.

“Bewear must’ve disturbed their hive to get their honey,” Lillie realized. “That’s why the Sandshrew ran and Shuckle is scared. They must be getting ready to attack.”

Slinging her backpack on, Lillie picked up the Shuckle. She wasn’t willing to leave the injured Pokémon behind. Not when her failing to keep her mother’s Pokémon in check was the cause. Holding it close to her chest, she started running in the direction they came from to escape.

A sense of looming danger hovered over Lillie as she ran through the forest. The sound of the buzzing only continued to grow louder, constantly closing in as the individuals that made up the hive slipped between the trees after her. She spared a quick glance backwards to see there were so many that it was like an onrushing wall of yellow.

Ha… Ha…. Ha…” It was only a matter of time before they caught up to her. But if they were territorial then it was just a matter of getting out of their range. She swallowed her fear, tightened her grasp on the Shuckle in her arms, and redoubled her running speed as Rotom hovered next to her.

But the uneven ground proved to be a hazard as an upturned root snared her feet mid-stride. She landed onto the ground with a painful thud, hitting her shoulder and sliding along the grass and leaves until she came to a stop. “Oww…”

Are you okay, Lillie? Rotom asked.

“My shoulder hurts a bit, but I think I’m fine.” She had barely managed to stop getting seriously hurt by twisting her body mid-fall and tucking her head in. She looked over to where the Shuckle had landed, wrenched from her grasp by the fall. “Shuckle, are you okay?”

Shuuuuckle,” it said, looking like it was on its last legs.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you somewhere safe.” She pushed herself up off the ground only to feel a sharp jolt run through her arm the moment she put weight on her shoulder. She bore with it as she got up and went over to pick up the Mold Pokémon again, only to find she couldn’t with her shoulder hurt. That left her one real option.

“Sorry about this, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to carry you.” She pulled out the Poké Ball that she had been planning on using to capture the Sandshrew. “Once we’re safe and you’re healed, I’ll release you.”

“Kle—” She tapped the ball against its shell before it could refuse and it was sucked inside. The ball trembled weakly before the sound of the capture being successful rang out. She minimized the ball and then started running again, but it was too late as the Combee horde had closed the distance enough that she was within their attacking range.

The Combee Horde used Gust!

Their wings beat out a powerful wind. It swept her up and sent her tumbling further ahead, leaving Lillie to end up rolling on the ground until she came to a stop at the base of a tree. It was clear they wouldn’t let her escape either.

No choice. I hope she isn’t too mad at being woken up early, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out the second Ultra Ball and enlarged it as the Combee Horde rushed forward and prepared to use Bug Bite.  “Mismagius, help!”

The ball popped open at her call. The cranky-looking Ghost-Type emerged and looked at the incoming attack. Then came the fire.

Mismagius used Mystical Fire!

Red flames were conjured at the Magical Pokémon’s behest and swallowed the onset of Combee. The Tiny Bee Pokémon were scorched and burned, smoldering as they dropped to the ground and twitched faintly.

The rest of the Combee seemed to get riled up in the wake of the threat that she presented. Rather than coming for them straight, they circled around them from all angles, preparing to swarm the three with Bug Bites. Mismagius merely looked annoyed before her eyes flashed and they were surrounded by what looked to be stones of light.

Mismagius used Power Gem!

It’s Super-Effective!

Then, all at once, the light burst from the stones in the form of dense rays. The beams smashed into their surroundings, spearing through the numbers like a mallet and swept them all away, along with the trees and foliage that was in their wake. Satisfied that the horde had been quelled through the sheer force of her attack, along with a good portion of the surrounding forest, Mismagius then turned to Lillie and let out an inquiring, “Maaagus?”

Rotom took the liberty to explain, in haste, the situation. The Magical Pokémon frowned at that, drifting closer to Lillie and snaking its appendage into her jacket pocket. She pulled out Bewear’s ball and pressed the button, releasing the Strong Arm Pokémon in a flash of light.

Now freed of her confused state, Bewear looked around with a puzzled glance before noticing Mismagius. “Waooo?”

MAGIUS!!!”

Mismagius used Astonish!

Bewear flinched!

Lillie jumped at the abrupt shout directed at Bewear from the very angry Ghost-Type Pokémon, hovering right in her face. Rotom had outright vanished in the wake of it, darting into her hood and using her as a living shield against the obvious rage on display. Not that she blamed it. Even she hadn’t seen Mismagius looking as angry as she was.

Magius!” Mismagius shouted again in a slightly lower tone, pointing one of her ribbon-like appendages towards Lillie before sweeping it around to indicate the fallen Combee. Bewear whimpered and covered her head with her paws as the Magical Pokémon continued… was she scolding her? Lillie figured it must’ve been considering that, when Bewear responded with a whine and rubbed her stomach, Mismagius growled and dark tendrils of energy began to crackle around her.

The only thing that redirect her anger was the renewed sound of buzzing. It was deeper than before, heavier, coming from a single source. The Magical Pokémon turned around to face it and found what Lillie assumed to be the hive’s queen, coming to attack after its followers proved themselves unable with floating stones hovering next to it.

Vespiquen used Power Gem!

Mismagius’ narrowed her eyes and then returned fire with a flurry of Power Gems as well. The rays of light met and exploded into expanding domes that made the air shake. The Magical Pokémon then turned back to Bewear, pointing towards Lillie once more. “Magius, Ma!

“Bewoa!” Bewear nodded her head frantically before scooping Lillie into her arms and taking off running through the forest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Mismagius had told her to take Lillie and get to safety immediately. Given the sound of destructions coming from behind them, splintering wood and rupturing earth, it was safe to say that it was probably safest outside of the forest.

They had to have been running for maybe thirty minutes when they first entered the forest to get to the clearing. Bewear had them outside of it and back onto Route 11 in less than five, breaking through the tree line and leaving a trail of upturned earth as she skidded to a stop. Heavy pants left the Strong Arm Pokémon’s mouth and she collapsed onto her bottom in exhaustion.

“Are you okay now, Bewear?” Lillie asked as she pulled herself free from its grasp. Well, more like she tried to and failed until Bewear allowed her to slip out. Bewear let out a small whine, dark eyes glistening before bringing her paws to her eyes and starting to cry. “What’s wrong?”

Zzzhe’s upset because Mismagius got mad at her and that she’s going to be punished, Rotom translated. When Bewear continued to cry, it translated that too. She just wanted a snack because she tried so hard to find the Sandshrew for you, zzzt.

Lillie couldn’t help but still feel a bit sad for her. As strong as Bewear was, she was still rather immature compared to Mismagius or Clefable. She reached up and gently rubbed her on the head. “It’ll by okay. We probably don’t need to tell Mother about this.”

Maaagggius…” The Magical Pokémon said in opposition to that, causing Bewear to jump up in fear as she drifted out from between the trees. She looked as though she had been through a serious fight, parts of her ethereal body looking as though it had been struck by something that left actual damage. The annoyed look and frown on her face made it clear her anger had not been lessened.

“Mismagius, you’re hurt,” Lillie said, pulling off her backpack. “Hold on, I’ll use a Potion.”

Mismagius merely shook her head and pointed towards the direction of Vermillion City before saying, according to Rotom, that they need to head back to there now and that she’d lecture them all once they found Lusamine and was fully healed.

Lillie didn’t argue. Couldn’t argue really. Not when everything had gone horribly wrong. Koko was hurt from the battle with Sandshrew. Shuckle was hurt from Bewear, still in the process of crying. And Mismagius was hurt enough that she was drifting low to the ground. Compared to the minor injury to her shoulder, they needed treatment first.

Still, she was not looking forward to explaining to her mother how she had failed to do what she set out to and gotten them all hurt. The thought depressed her because she recalled how her Mother stated she couldn’t do anything on her own back when she needed Elio to help get her to listen. For all her bravado, it would mean nothing if she could actually live up to it. That was part of why she wanted to become a trainer.

But if she couldn’t keep Bewear in control or capture a Pokémon on her own… what was the point?

What was the point in coming to a new region, away from the professors who cared for her and the friends she made in Alola?

How would she face them and Nebby after promising to be better, yet failing on her first attempt?

That thought haunted her as she followed the Magical Pokémon back into the city without a word.

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

“Oh dear,” the local Joy said as Lillie walked up to the counter, sparing the Mismagius floating next to her a glance to judge its condition. “You both look as though you’ve had a rough day.”

“You could say that.” Lillie sighed. It was evening by the time they made it back to Vermillion City and the Pokémon Center. Mismagius garnered a few looks along the way, having refused to return to her ball even after sending Bewear back into hers earlier, and a few of the other people in the center definitely took notice since her kind wasn’t seen around these parts. “I didn’t think finding a Sandshrew would be so hard.”

“Oh, it wouldn’t have if it had been a few months ago.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, due to the Lieutenant being rather heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with rookie trainers, they’ve started retreating further out in the Route.”

Lillie’s brows rose in confusion. “How are those things related?”

“Well, there’s been an announcement that the Elite Four are planning to have promising trainers participate in a sort of mass tournament event in about four months.” She presented a flyer for Lillie to see for herself. “Those who score in the Top Four will receive a hefty prize, as well as study under a member of the Elite Four for a month. Given how they’re considered to be the most skilled trainers in the Indigo League as a whole, a lot of young trainers are attempting the Gym Challenge in hopes of having the opportunity. And since most of the local children know that the Lieutenant uses electric-types, they run off to capture a Sandshrew or Diglett.”

She looked over the flyer. It seemed like you needed a minimum of four badges to participate in it. “Okay, but why is that a problem beyond over-capturing?”

“You can’t simply catch a Pokémon and then expect them to do well against a Gym Leader untrained,” she explained. “You have to get then accustomed to their new lives under a trainer and adapt them to battling, which takes time and positive reinforcement. Since most of them don’t have the patience with the deadline so close, they can’t really win in that case unless the Gym Leader goes easy.”

“And he won’t do that,” Lillie said, recalling what she had been told earlier.

The Nurse Joy nodded. “Out of all the Gym Leaders, the Lieutenant refuses to go easy on the grounds that he holds a lot of pride as a Gym Leader and believes that those who strive to earn badges should put in enough work. So, when they lose rather handedly, young trainers tend to get frustrated as a result and end up releasing the Pokémon. The released Pokémon then go back to the rest of their kind and you can imagine how the experience looks from their point of view.”

Lillie nodded in understanding. Being Captured. Forced to fight. Then thrown away because they were too weak. Even if you could heal their wounds, it would linger in their hearts. “That explains why the Sandshrew we found was so hostile. It must’ve been one.”

“Not to mention that if they relocate too far for too long, they’ll end up shifting ecosystem,” Nurse Joy added, before presenting the ball tray for Lillie to place her Pokémon into. “Anyway, can you return your Pokémon to its ball so I can tend to it?”

“Right.” Lillie turned to Mismagius. “I’ll return you to Mother when you’ve finished healing.”

Mismagius nodded before shooting the Plasma Pokémon a sharp glance. “Magius, maa. Magius…”

Yezzz ma’am! Rotom said, fear tinging its artificial voice.  I won’t let it happen again! I promise, zzt!

Mmmm…” She tapped the button on her own ball and then returned into it.

Lillie then placed it with the other Ultra Ball, Premier Ball, and Poké Ball that belonged to Bewear, Koko, and the Shuckle she had caught to keep it safe respectively. As she handed them over to the Nurse Joy, she asked, “Do you know which room my mother is in? I believe she came in earlier with a girl who was asleep from a Drowzee feeding off her dreams.”

“Ah yes, I remember those two. They should be in the third room to the left, on the second floor.” Nurse Joy placed the Pokémon into the machine. “It’ll take a while for your Pokémon to heal fully, especially the Mismagius. I’ll have Blissey send them to the room once they’re fighting fit, so why don’t you relax until then?”

“Thank you. I think I will.” That said, Lillie left the counter and made her way towards the second floor, where the rooms were. Along the way, she looked over to Rotom and asked, “What did Mismagius say to you then?”

She threatened to do things to me if I let anything happen to you, zzt… Rotom said in horror.  Unspeakable things that only a Ghost Pokémon can do to another, zzzz.

“I’m sorry for that.” She reached up and tried to reassure Rotom with a pat on its back. She couldn’t imagine what it was exactly that Mismagius would have done, but she somehow didn’t doubt it was terrifying.

Once they arrived at the room, they found her mother sitting down on the bed. She was opposite of the girl sleeping in a curled-up position, in the process of reading something. Her expression turned from gentle to concerned as she took in her daughter’s slightly disheveled appearance.  “What happened?”

Lillie, somewhat nervously, rubbed the back of her head and smiled weakly. “We ran into some trouble.”

As a credit to her mother’s progressing health, she listened until the very end of what Lillie told her without blowing up in anger. Instead, she merely rubbed the bridge between her eyes and frowned. “I’m going to give her such a scolding.”

Lillie, now sitting next to her mother on the bed, shook her head at that. “No, I should have paid more attention to my surroundings and returned Bewear when she was getting away from me. I just got distracted by the Sandshrew and lost track of her. She didn’t mean for that to happen and I didn’t really get hurt.”

Which was true enough. The pain in her shoulder had eased a lot and would probably be healed with a good night’s rest. Really, all of the Pokémon were hurt worse than her.

“Maybe not, but if I don’t scold her then she won’t learn from what she did.” Lusamine sighed, placing one hand over her eye to rub it. “At least you’re safe. After the talk with Gladion, I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it if you were hurt because I didn’t stay with you.”

“You talked to Gladion?”

Her eyes softened for a moment, glistening. “Not so much a talk as him scolding me. But I’ll make things right once I’ve found your father.” She slowly shook her head and then went back to normal.  “Anyway, what do you plan to do next?”

“I figured that I would set-up my Pokégear while I waited for the Pokémon to finish healing,” Lillie said. “Then I should get snacks for all of them, since they worked so hard, and I need to apologize to Shuckle for what Bewear did.”

“I recall seeing a market not too far from here.” Lusamine rose out of the bed and stood up straight. “I’ll go and pick some things up for all of them. You stay here and keep an eye on the girl. She’s been stirring in her sleep, so I assume she’ll wake soon.”

That said, Lusamine left out and Lillie proceeded go over the functions of the Pokégear through the manual. The Map Mode showed both Kanto and Johto as a whole, plus the capability to mark certain locations as important. It also had the ability to add additional apps to check on things like train routes and time as well with the proper expansion.

The Communication Mode also covered the Kanto and Johto region, but she couldn’t use it to call long-distance. That meant she’d need to use one in the center or at the hotel if she wanted to call Miss Wicke or her brother or the others in Alola. She could remember Professor Kukui and Burnet’s numbers easily enough, but not Hau or Elio—which she regretted since she missed them both.

She dwelled on the time she spent with them and felt a little nostalgic until she heard the girl in the bed across from her stirring awake. The pale-skinned girl rose up with a yawn, stretching her arms up high before opening her eyes. After taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, her ruby-red eyes eventually settled on Lillie.

“How are you feeling?” Lillie asked.

“Fine,” she said. Her stomach, however, loudly rebutted with a grumble that was audible to all of them. Having been caught in a lie, she blushed. “Okay, maybe a little hungry. But where am I and who are you?”

“My name is Lillie and you’re in a Pokémon Center,” Lillie said. “My mother and I found you on Route 11. You were asleep on the ground and a Drowzee was feeding off of your dreams. Mother and your Sableye brought you back here to rest until the Hypnosis wore off.”

“Oh… right, I remember seeing that Drowzee now.” She sat on the bed properly and looked around some more until she found the ball that had her Sableye. The lid opened when she pressed the button on it and Sableye popped out of it, splaying on the floor and sleeping. She leaned over and shook its shoulder.  “Jet, it’s time to wake up.”

“Saa?” The Sableye leaned up just long enough to look around and see where it was. Then it brushed her off with a wave, turning away from her, laying back down, and scratching its hips.

She puffed out her cheek and shook it again before it could fall asleep once more. “If you’re going to be lazy then I won’t give you any Rock Candy.”

The Sableye popped up and its mouth opened, yawning and revealing its razor-sharp teeth as it scratched its back.

She bobbed her head in satisfaction at the response, causing her poofy pigtails to bounce, and asked, “Did you manage to catch that Sandshrew?”

It shook its head and pointed to Lillie. “Sable, sa.”

“One of my Mother’s Pokémon was also tracking down a Sandshrew and they caught your Sableye by mistake,” Lillie explained after Rotom translated for her what it said. “Sorry about that… Umm…”

“Astra,” the girl said. “And I suppose it’s fine. Jet and I can search again for our second Pokémon later on before Grandpa gets back in the morning. He’s better in the dark anyway.”

“Is Sableye your starter Pokémon then?”

She nodded. “Grandpa gave him to me for starting out on my journey a month or so ago, around when I arrived in Kanto through the port in Lavender City. I’ve only gotten my Trainer License a few days ago though, and so I was planning on getting my first badge here.”

“What a coincidence,” Lillie said. “I just arrived in Kanto myself to start mine as well, so it’s my first time in this region.”

She perked up at that. “Where from?”

“A group of islands known as the Alola region,” Lillie explained. “It’s pretty far away from here, but it’s a very nice and peaceful place. What about you?”

“I moved around a lot with Mommy and Daddy before we settled down in a place called the Oblivia region. It’s a pretty place, and I stayed in a village that had a bunch of Pichu. There was even a Pikachu that knew how to play a Ukulele.”

“Is that so?” She supposed that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that the Raichu in Alola could fly. “It sounds like a nice place.”

“It is.” Her expression softened, her smile turning sad. “When my parents didn’t come back during a storm, the people of the village helped take care of me until Grandpa found me. Especially Mister Nick. I hope they’re doing well…”

An awkward silence lingered for a moment afterwards until there was a knock on the door. “Blissey.

“Ah, that must be for me.” Lillie got up and opened the door.

The Blissey that should have been at the counter was there with the tray containing the Pokémon that she left to be healed. She handed them to Lillie and shifted her gentle gaze to Astra, who still looked down after speaking of her home and family. The Pokémon waddled into the room and presented her egg to the girl. “Blissey.”

Astra grabbed it, tilting her head in confusion. “What’s this for?”

Rotom chimed in. Blissey is the Happiness Pokémon. Its fluffy fur coat acts as a sensor, enabling it to read the feelings of people and Pokémon. When it senses someone feeling sad, it will give them an egg. One bite of its egg will bring a smile to their face, zzzt.

“Oh, I see. You sensed I was feeling sad.” She put on a smile for the Happiness Pokémon. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to enjoy it.”

Lillie watched as Astra looked over the large egg in her hands while Blissey left out. She seemed ready to crack it open, which made sense when Lillie considered how her stomach had grumbled minutes ago. But the girl paused as she looked over to Lillie. “Is something wrong?”

“Actually, this is a little too big for me to eat alone.” She held the egg out towards Lillie. “Do you want to share it between me and Jet?”

“Ah, I… wouldn’t mind, but…” Lillie looked at the four balls in her care at the moment. “Can I split mine between the Pokémon and Rotom? My mother will be back soon with snacks for them, but it wouldn’t feel right to eat before them.”

“Sure,” she said with a bright smile. “The more the merrier, and I want to see what kind of Pokémon you have.”

 


Fanfic Recommendation 54

My Fanfics :

 

Calling Card Mini-Interlude: Yukika Saegusa

Back in the Game: Chapter 8

A Lily Blossoms in Kanto 3

 

 


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

Cissnei’s Path 65 – 66 (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 44 – 45

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.

Ashes of the Past 213 – 216 

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.

Locked Away 1 – 51 

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Follows coma theory: Ash wakes up from a ten year coma to realize that all of his adventures were only a figment of his imagination; but he questions if they were more than that. Everything has changed in ten years, and he must put back all the shattered pieces while he embarks on a new journey to save the world and himself. Pokeshipping

Pokemon Radiant Sun 1 – 13

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Novelization of Pokémon Sun. After moving to Alola from the Kanto region, an 11-year old boy is immediately sent on a crash course in local culture through the Island Challenge, a unique rite of passage amongst Trainers in Alola. Join our newest hero, Sun, as he meets new friends and encounters exotic new Pokémon…even those from another world. Sun X Lillie.

Great Teacher OniGuzma 1 – 12

A Pokemon Fanfic

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.

Lillie’s Z-Powered Adventure! (Tv Tropes Page)

A Pokemon Quest

Summary: A Pokémon Sun and Moon quest running on Space Battles and Sufficent Velocity by Arkanian that follows supporting protagonist Lillie as she begins her adventure in Kanto. Having vowed to meet up with Moon at the Unova World Tournament, Lillie must complete her journey as a trainer and take the spot as the Indigo Champion in order to be guaranteed a spot and keep her promise. That mean she must do as the champions before her and gather 8 badges before taking on the Elite Four.

Fate/Reach Out 35

A Persona 4/FSN Fanfic

Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder)

Digimon: The Story We Never Told

Intrepid:  15.01 Sophia – 15.04 Emma

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.

Digimon Adventure 02: The Story We Never Told 68

A Digimon Adventure 02 Fanfic

Summary: Five years after 8 kids saved the Digital World, the gateway opens again… but it is a far darker story than we have been led to believe. Comments always welcome. Last chapter added: 68.

A Cloudy Path Interlude 22.3 – 22.4

A Worm / Supreme Commander Fanfiction

Summary: Frustrated with her school life, Taylor Hebert dons an unfinished costume and goes off into the night to fight crime as a superhero. She stumbles across an infamous crime lord, Lung, talking about killing some kids. Taylor decides she has no choice but to act……and Lung kicks her ass.Not because she’s weak. Far from it. Taylor Hebert is hamstrung by being a moral person with an exceptionally lethal power set, one with horrifying and even potentially global implications.

Seven Days Survivor: The Golden V2 001 – 004

A Devil Survivor / Persona 3 / Persona 4 Fanfiction

Summary: Midori Komaki from Devil Survivor 1 moves to Tatsumi Port Island to finish out her school year after her home school got wrecked in the Tokyo Lockdown. Less than a week later, she is drawn into the Dark Hour, and joins SEES in response with Black Frost as her Persona. Now, a year later, becomes involved with the events of Persona 4.

With the Ring: Titanfall 6 – Last Supper 2   (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 – Mid-Interlude – Yukika Saegusa

Yukika Saegusa woke that morning when she felt a prod to her cheek courtesy of her younger brothers, who claimed that they were hungry. She snapped upright at that and looked at her clock to see that she was late in waking up—far later than normal. On a normal day, she would have already made breakfast for her family and a lunch for herself before her parents saw them off to school.

“I’m so sorry!” She stumbled out of bed hastily. If she hurried she would be able to get them something to eat—eggs and toast at the very least. It was her responsibility since her parents’ worked so hard to support all five of their children. “Just give me half-an-hour and I’ll have breakfast read—Ahhhh!!”

In her haste she tripped over her own feet and would have hit the ground if not for one of her brothers, Kouta, reaching out to catch her. She wasn’t exactly heavy, but he was still on the young side and didn’t have much muscle. So he ended up beneath her rather than stopping her fall.

“Nee-chan, you’re heavy!”

She rose to her feet and helped him up. “Sorry Kouta. I’ll make your breakfast now, but you’ll have to settle for just eggs and toast this morning.”

“But I want Oyakodon!” Kouta crossed his arms and pouted. “It’s my day today! I checked the chart!”

“I’m sorry, but there’s not enough time.” She felt bad about it too. Her brothers tended to be naughty, but they liked the breakfast schedule that she came up with and had been good recently. Well, mostly good by their standards. “I’ll make it up during dinner, whatever you want.”

The smirk that formed on his face told her it’d be an outrageous demand, but as long as it silenced him for now that was all she asked before she made her way to the kitchen to cook. It was a small kitchen, but a familiar one. As much as her brothers riled her up, they left the kitchen unsullied since she was the one who did most of the cooking—though her mother helped when she had time off.

Yukika managed to get the light breakfast made in time before they left out, on their way to school. Then she was home, alone. Not enough time for her to make a lunch if she was going to make herself presentable to her classmates. And she didn’t want to spend more money than necessary, so she would have to settle for picking something up along the way if it was on sale and call that her lunch.

She could only blame herself as washed her face in front of the mirror. Ever since that night where she had that dream of that… thing and found that card in her room, she had been on edge. The thought that someone or something had slipped into her home so easily left her panicking out of fear of the unknown, jumping at shadows.

Not for her own sake, but for that of her brothers. They needed her to look after them. She was responsible for them. Yet, chasing rumors somehow led to the sanctity of their household being violated. What if whatever or whoever it was decided to do something to them?

It would be all her fault, and she couldn’t bear the thought of that happening. That was why she had left the calling card at school, in the locker that she had access to as the manager of the team. She didn’t want it anywhere near her family, but she was afraid to get rid of it since she didn’t know what that would do.

It’ll be fine, she told herself to quell the fear in her heart that bubbled up at the thought. If Kane-chan and Maki-chan aren’t worried about it, then I shouldn’t either.

Kane had assured her that it was nothing to worry about and Makidera had all but brushed it off as far as she could tell. Those two were pillars in her life, two people she found companionship with the most outside of her family. Kane was wise and regal, while Makidera was energetic and fun, but both were protective and supportive of her.

If her best friends didn’t find it terrifying, she was sure that she was just blowing things out of proportion. At least, that’s what she thought before the ringing started later that day. It was a phantasmal ringing that couldn’t be drowned out by covering their ears or using earphone and music, ever-present and resonating from within them in a haunting tone.

It wouldn’t go away, no matter what they did. It continued until the ringing became unbearable by the time they finished their afterschool track practice. By then, Yukika struggled just to string together a coherent thought.

“This can’t be happening,” she said in pain as the ringing made her head ache and left her sitting on the bench in the locker room, tears stinging her eyes.

Makidera was leaning against one of the lockers as well with strain evident on her face as she tried to bear with it. “Maybe it was something we ate?”

Kane shook her head and spoke the words they were too afraid to even think of. “It has to be the summoning toll mentioned in the dream.”

Yukika’s heart palpitated upon hearing those words. Not only because it reminded her of that creature that coiled a ribbon around her heart and mind before she woke to find the calling card on her nightstand, but because she could hear them clearly despite the ringing in her ears that wouldn’t go away. Those words and the weight they carried added credit to what she said.

Yet, she denied it. Yukika shook her head in disbelief, desperate to not let it be true. “No…”

“It’s the only reason I can think of that all three of us are like this.” Kane massaged her temples and closed her eyes. “Even if it doesn’t make sense, all we have are the rules on the back of the cards to go by.”

Makidera shot her an annoyed look. “Hold on. You said you saw that Mitsuzuri had one of those cards, right? Let’s just go ask her if it really is a part of this and see if she has some way to deal with it.”

Kane’s silver hair swayed as she gave a shake of her head. “She’s left campus already with Shinji Matou. His sister is managing the Archery Club and can’t reach them. She doesn’t even know where they’ve gone.”

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

Kane reached into her pocket slowly and pulled out her calling card. “We have to make the call. Do you have your cards?”

Makidera grimaced. “It’s in my bag.”

Yukika hesitantly nodded as well, swallowing the rising lump of fear in her throat. “My locker.”

“Go get them and we’ll make the call together.”

******

The ringing stopped the moment they dialed the number. Or was it simply forgotten? Left behind in the enclosure of the locker room rather than under the dulling, silver-lined sky of thick clouds they found themselves staring up at.

“A-Are we all having a nightmare or something?” Makidera said aloud, a bead of sweat trailing down from her brow as her eyes spanned the new landscape they were in.

“Th-That must be it.” It didn’t make sense unless they were just having a nightmare. Yukika pinched herself as a cold wind threaded the rows of buildings that were in various states of disrepair. The pain stung enough that she winced, but it didn’t make the nightmare end. Slender fingers grasped her hand and stopped her before she could try again.

It was Kane, looking through her glasses with a sad gaze. “It’s not a nightmare.”

Yukika shook her head vigorously in disbelief.  “It has to be! What else could it be!?”

“I’m not sure what this is, but if we panic we’ll only endanger ourselves. Let’s stay calm.”

Yukika didn’t hear her as she staggered back, holding her head with tears in her eyes. “I need to get home! I need to get back to my brothers! My family!”

Makidera grabbed her shoulders and held her steady. “Himuro’s right. We’ll get you home safe and sound, so keep calm, Yukicchi.”

That seemed to quell her fears somewhat. At least until Kane looked over the smaller girl’s shoulder and her eyes rose in stunned confusion and fear. Yukika took notice and turned to see what had grabbed Kane’s attention.

It was a monster. Flesh stretched over hulking muscles that exceeded what was humanly possible, combined with misshapen limbs that didn’t belong as it held an upside down body lifelessly in its grasp. On the ground next to it was a pair of monstrous dogs of some kind, sitting on their hind legs. The trio of monsters faced the three of them, lacking eyes yet somehow able to stare at them unwaveringly.

They froze in place out of the sheer abnormality of what they were seeing. Monsters and a corpse akin to the hanged man, blood flowing from a smashed head as papers floated down from the building above—a business man who committed suicide by falling in an attempt to escape the nightmare. Then the masked-headed brute opened its mouth and let a haggard breath as it dropped the corpse with a wet thunk.

Something snapped inside of Yukika and her fear spilled out in the form of a scream at the top of her lungs. “AHHHHHHH!!!

The scream acted as a starting pistol. Instincts of hunters and prey took root and blossomed, determined in an instant. The dogs moved in for them as the masked hulk screamed in place of a verbal order and the girls ran.

Kane Himuro was their jumping ace, but was good at short-sprints as well. Kaede Makidera was confident in her physical strength and excelled at mid-distance running. Between the two of them, it was entirely plausible to run long enough to escape and find somewhere to hide.

But not Yukika Saegusa, who was on the verge of passing out from fear. She was only the team manager and certain to be the first one captured by the monsters if left on her own. If it was survival of the fittest, she was only suited for serving as a distraction while the other two escaped.

Neither entertained the thought. Instead, Makidera grabbed Yukika and threw her over her shoulder. With her heart racing even though she was being carried, Yukika bore with the uncomfortable sensation of a shoulder digging into her stomach as they ran.

Fear sent adrenaline coursing through their bodies. The chill of the metallic air was all but forgotten as they burned on the inside. Pushing their trained bodies to the utmost limit they ran down the street.

“Through the alley!” Kane yelled from the front. “They shouldn’t be able to see with those things on their faces! If we move fast enough through the turns we should be able to elude them!”

They took a sharp turn down the first alley they found. The path contained two hurdles, an overturned dumpster and a half-fallen fire escape. There was no turning back without being caught, so they could only push through them.

“Maki!” Kane called, arms extended towards the fastest of the three, and the message within it carried. Without stopping, Makidera passed Yukika to the most vertically-inclined of the trio. Freed of the additional weight, Makidera then burst forward with as much speed as she was capable of and lunged forward to vault over the overturned dumpster without stopping.

“This’ll be a little rough, but bear with it!” Kane said as she followed suit with Yukika in her arms. She leapt over the makeshift hurdle despite the additional weight, a testament to the strength of her legs. The moment her feet touched the ground again, she kept running without slowing down.

The first hurdle cleared, they approached the second. The half-fallen fire escape looked as though it fell until it hit the opposite wall and collapsed downwards. The result was a net of rusted steel with just enough of a gap in it where they could make it through if they could get enough height.

Makidera stopped as she approached it and turned around, creating a foothold with her hands to give them a boost. Kane leapt forward with her leg extended out and landed in the prepared foothold. Makidera summoned whatever strength she had to throw the taller girl holding the smaller girl upwards and get enough height to clear it.

The landing was rougher than before. Kane’s knees buckled this time, leaving her to wince in pain. But she couldn’t waste time if they were going to get away. She gritted her teeth and then stood up, forcing herself forward as Makidera climbed over the second hurdle.

They made to the mouth of the alley as Kane began to pant with heated breaths. She was good at short-distances, but they were at the point where she was reaching her limit since carrying Yukika was taking its toll.

Yet she couldn’t stop running. A howl disabused her of the very thought. The monster-dogs had already entered into the other end of the alley, eating up the distance bought with their concerted efforts in a hurry.

“Get lost already!” Makidera shouted as she rammed the half-fallen fire escape with all the strength she could muster. The impact was enough to wrench the remainder of it loose, freeing it from its rusted bonds. It went crashing towards the monster-dogs chasing after them with a loud and deafening sound, obscuring her foot falls as the Black Panther started running again.

“I think I got them!” she said with a proud smile as she caught up quickly while they came out into another street and began to run down it.

We have… to keep going…into another… alley!” Kane fought to get the words as heated pants left her mouth. She was slowing down now. But they had to keep going ahead if they were going to escape.

“Kane-chan, let me down!” Yukika said, unable to stand the thought of one of her friends being caught because she was slowing them down. “I can run on my own now!”

But it was too late. One of the monster-dogs managed to pull itself free of the wreckage and gave chase after them as they neared the mouth of the second alley. It snarled as it approached the fleeing trio with a frantic gait, racing towards the slowing pair.

“What does it take to get rid of you!?” Makidera shouted as she brought her foot around from below while the other two kept running. The kick connected just below its snout and punted it backwards several feet. She then turned to run, but it got back to its feet before she could make it a step, its mouth splitting into four parts as a scream bellowed out towards her. “Agghhh!!”

Maki-chan!” Yukika screamed as all the strength seemed to leave Makidera’s body. She collapsed like a puppet with her strings cut, leaving Yukika to fear that she had died. She wriggled out of Kane’s grasp and reached out for her—

Go…” Kaede called out with a strained breath, struggling to move. Kane did just that upon seeing the other monsters approaching, grabbing Yukika by the hand and forcing her to keep moving through the narrow alley as the monster-dog screamed at Makidera again.

“We have to help Maki-chan!” Yukika cried out as she looked over her shoulder towards the shrinking figure of her fallen friend.

“We can’t do anything for her if we get caught too!” Kane argued as they cleared the mouth of the alley only to meet a dead-end in the front of a pile of rubble from a collapsed building. Before they could run the other way, one of the monster-dogs darted out from the alley and aimed for Yukika.

Kane put herself in front of a scream that left her as immobile and helpless as Makidera. She fell backwards, spared only from hitting her head on the rubble by Yukika’s lithe arms grabbing her as she fell. Using her body as a cushion as they hit the debris pile, she was trapped beneath her remaining friend.

Now there was no getting away. Yukika could barely support Kane’s limp body, let alone climb over the rubble with her in tow.  It seemed like they were doomed as the monster-dog’s mouth split open again and it prepared another horrifying scream just for her.

In those final moments, she held Kane for dear life and thought back to her family. She just wanted to see them again. She just wanted to return to her ordinary life with her family and friends… and then the last person they’d expect to see appeared.

Shinji Matou was not exactly someone who the collective trio would be happy to see under normal circumstances. He wasn’t the nicest person by any stretch of the imagination. Even when he showed up to save them, he looked annoyed more than anything.

But, as she watched him run off in the direction where Makidera had been left behind, Yukika had never been more grateful in her life to see a familiar face…

 


Back in the Game: Chapter 8


[Chapter 8 -o0o- Start]


A tantalizing scent filled the night air. It melded with the smoke that drifted skyward from the clearing, an alluring aroma that teased the senses. Irresistible to all those caught within its expanding web as it wafted on the breeze that whistled through the clearing, those whose noses it graced could not look away from the origin.

Their eyes were locked into place. Their mouths watered uncontrollably. Gnawing hunger clawing at their stomachs as it glistened off the firelight and embers that rose through the grate.

It was the scent of cooked meat, and it was easily the most magical thing that Kirito had smelled in his life at that very moment. Just watching as the shimmering heat left the cubes of meat, neatly-cut between vegetables on skewers, glistening with juices that added to the glaze, left him unable to contain himself anymore. He had to have a taste!

So he cast his dark eyes around the camp to see if there was anyone watching. Most of the attention was on the Chef of the Crescent Moon Alliance, Girov, as he worked his magic on preparing another delicious-looking meal.  The guild was relatively small, with only around nineteen players active and only four of them Level 90. But the Chef had valued experience IRL and was using it to chop up bamboo shoots to go along with the meat to the amazement of his Guild Master, Monk, Summoner—Maryelle, Violet, and Meifa respectively—and the others.

Now was his chance. He reached out for a skewer like it was sacred gold that he was pillaging from a trap-laden temple on the South American server. It couldn’t hurt to just have one skewer to soothe the ache in his stomach, right?

Thwap!

He was merely inches away when something hard caught the back of his hand, forcing him to pull back. He sucked a sharp breath and nursed the spot with his other hand, giving Klein a side-glance in annoyance. “Did you have to use your sheathe?”

“Yes,” Klein said bluntly, tapping his sheathed sword on his shoulder. “Yes I did. You can’t eat before everyone else.”

“It’s not like we don’t have extras left over,” Kirito said as he tilted his head over to where the rest of the ingredients were. They had split into groups once the Crescent Moon Alliance had arrived with their members and they’d exchanged greetings. The mobs they’d harvested weren’t strong in particular and were rather large, so they’d hunted down more than enough for this little experiment, after ensuring that each group had at least one member who could harvest the meat through either the Chef or Forager sub-class.

“Extra or not, you should eat with the group rather than on your own,” Klein said. “You’re not running Solo anymore, and you don’t see any of the others lacking in self-control, now do you?”

Thwack! “Ow!”

They turned at the sound of someone else having their attempt rebuked and turned to see that Soujiro was cradling his hand as well. His second-in-command, Nazuna, was looking at him with a slight pout as he apologized. She then looked up to Klein and sent him a look that expressed the same frustration that he did before the pair guided the two dual-wielders over to where the rest of their collective groups were gathered until everything was done.

N’awww, you’re a little cutie, aren’t you?” Maryelle said as she stroked Pina’s head gently. The Waterfowl Dragon Pup preened under the attention, much to her delight as she looked over to Kirito. “Your guild is lucky to have such a cute Pet and Summoner.”

“Ah… we aren’t actually a guild,” Kirito said. “We’re just friends who happened to have logged in at the same time and we stuck together for our own safety once the chaos began.”

“Then you should consider starting one if all of you will be staying together,” Soujiro said. “Having a Guild Hall is one of the few ways to ensure that everyone will be able to rest without fear at night and at least in some comfort.”

“That would have actually made things easier last night,” Suguha said, rubbing her shoulder as she recalled sleeping against the wall of the ruined building only to wake up and find that Kirito had gone missing. “You should start a guild, Onii-chan.”

Kirito shook his head slowly at the suggestion, eyes never leaving the crackling flames of the Salamander that Silica had summoned as it sat beneath a grill perched on two stones. “If we’re going to start a guild, Klein would be better suited for that sort of thing, given he managed a front-line guild without any casualties.”

Being put on the spot, Klein blinked in surprise before clearing his throat. “Well, I don’t mind since it would basically mean handling room and board for Silica and your sister. But didn’t you shoot down the suggestion a bit quickly?”

“It’s not that I have anything against guilds. It’s just that…” The first guild I joined was wiped out and their leader committed suicide while blaming me. “I spent most of my time in SAO playing alone, so I don’t really know how a guild would function beyond a basic-level. I’d rather leave it in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing and who I can trust, and that’d be you in this case.”

“That’s high praise coming from you.” Klein seemed abashed at the praise honestly, rubbing the back of his head. “So, does that mean you’ll actually accept a guild invitation from me this time?”

Kirito gave him a side glance and smirked, but said nothing as Girov announced the food was done. They all grabbed one of the wooden skewers lined with meat, vegetables, and the assorted additional foods. A sauce of some kind was spread over it to add to the already scintillating scent. Then they took a bite and joyous cries filled the clearing as flavor filled their mouths.

Mmm…I-It’s so tasty!” Maryelle said, holding her cheek as she savored the rich flavor filling her mouth.

At the same time, soft, grateful cries joined the tears in Klein’s eyes as his wolf-ears rose the moment he bit into the mushroom and grilled meat kebob. “I never thought I’d be so happy to eat real food again.”

“Me too,” Silica said as she ate her own as well. Pina watched curiously with its bright red eyes as she ate with a zeal that was seemingly unmatched until she took off a cube of meat and held it out in her palm. “Here Pina, you try it too.”

The young dragon sniffed at it a bit before nipping it out of her hand and chewing it. A happy chirrup left its mouth and it leapt onto her lap to beg for more. She obliged it happily, which put a smile on Kirito’s face since he was worried that she had been taking it the hardest out of their little group of four.

He then turned to Girov, who was watching with a sense of pride as they ate. “Thanks for doing this.”

“Not a problem. There’s nothing better for a chef than knowing that his food is appreciated after all.”

“Believe me when I say it is greatly appreciated,” Nazuna told him. “Is it possible for us to bring some back for the others at our guild? It’ll make them feel better about everything so far.”

“You guys gathered plenty for me to work with, so there’ll be more than enough for everyone to take home some,” Girov assured them. “It’s lucky that we met you guys since my brother and I will be able put our skills to good work now.”

Maryelle nodded enthusiastically. “Shiroe-kun really made things easier for us all by having us meet up like this.”

“That’s Shiroe-senpai for you,” Soujirou agreed.

So they’ve all got a high opinion of him, Kirito thought to himself as he listened to them. He still wasn’t fully sure about the guy with glasses just yet. He wanted to chalk that up to him just being overly-cautious though after everything he’d gone through.

Either way, he’d still have to tell Asuna that it works and they’ve solved the food issues. That was a progress, but they still didn’t have a clear goal and that worried him. People need to have a goal to strive for so they could keep going.

If there was a way in, there was a way out, he reasoned silently. They just needed to get behind the mystery of it. But first everyone needed to adjust to the circumstances so they didn’t panic, and if Shiroe could do this much in an evening then maybe he was their best bet of doing so for now.

So he’d go along with the Enchanter’s suggestion and see how it unfolded.


 [LH -o0o- SAO]


With Galantine

Galantine sat on a piece of debris that was thick enough to serve as a seat, opposite of Miss Asuna and with Mina next to him. Similar to when he was at Branch’s home, the Paladin had removed his armor and remained dressed in his casual clothing.  There was a small fire between them, being used to cook the Crab Meat that they had gathered from assisting the farmers along the coast.

It was a temporary measure at the moment though. The Ascot Crabs would surface again over the course of the season and they would be in trouble again unless measures were taken. That was a problem that Miss Asuna was hoping to rectify, apparently.

That was why she invited them over to the building she was using at the moment, ruined like the rest but not to an extent that it was unusable. There she gave them the highlights of her past while she prepared the meat for them to eat—namely of how she had been a Clearer in Sword Art Online and the Vice-Leader of one of the most prominent guilds—and her plans for Nakasu.

It made sense. She was very forward because she was in a position where giving clear and confident commands would be a necessity on the battlefield, as well as managing others. Her disdain for those who refused to act if they could and relied on others came from the fact that she was the one putting her life on the line when others wouldn’t, fighting for their freedom while they stood aside despite being able to function.

“So, what do you think?” she asked at the very end.

“…I can see you viewpoint on things as they stand,” he said after he complied his thoughts. “Having access to actual food would be an immense boon, if only because it fulfills the basic human needs. It could be used as a powerful motivation tool, so may I ask why we should keep it a secret from others?”

“Because they haven’t earned it,” she said bluntly. “We and Branch were the only ones fighting while everyone else was huddled away, waiting for someone to come and rescue them despite being capable of acting. We did the work, so why should we share the fruits of our findings freely when we had to earn it?”

“Well, I can’t argue with that logic,” Mina said. “But what if we sell it to the pansies and make a nice and tidy profit? We’d be rich within a day.”

“Because money isn’t a priority right now,” Asuna said. “Everyone has it in spades and everything they’d need for daily living is relatively cheap compared to anything else, so they’ll just sit down and eat when our priority is getting people to do something. Even if we could help Branch and his family this time, things are liable to be a nightmare elsewhere.”

“That seems to be the case.” Certainly, from their talk they’ve established how things worked back when the Adventurers were autonomous from their point of view and NPC’s were from the players. Whatever happened has torn that system apart and it’ll take them some time before they can adapt from it, which will affect their community as well. The fact that the markets were empty was proof of that.

“I’m not waiting for someone to rescue us and let things get worse,” she continued, eyes narrowed with determination as she stared unwaveringly into his. “We have to save ourselves, and to do that we need to start acting and not letting people who are capable of doing something coast freely.”

“…May I be frank with you?” Galantine asked. When she nodded her head in consent, he continued. “You carry yourself as someone who is prideful and strict, fixed on a goal and doing what it will take to achieve it. However, I feel that you come off too strongly. At the rate you’re going, you’re likely to inspire animosity with others and that will discourage them, or make enemies.”

And you talk about my manners,” Mina muttered.

“Don’t be mean to her,” her daughter said, fluttering over to him. “Mama is trying her best for everyone’s sake!”

“It’s fine, Yui. I appreciate his honesty since he pulled his own weight,” Miss Asuna said to her kindly before turning back to him. “I have my own set of circumstances that have led to my current stance, and I know that it will offend some people. That’s why I want you both to assist me like you did with Branch and his family.”

“You mean to act as your right and left hands with this?”

She nodded. “You’ve proven yourselves to be more than just talk, and I respect that you came over to help. You’ve got a way with words as well that I just don’t have the patience for anymore with someone who doesn’t show me respect. I think that with you two we can make it so that everyone can carry themselves until we can find a way out.”

“I’m only good at smashing stuff,” Mina said. “But if Galantine here agrees and you keep floating food my way, I’ll be glad to throw my axe at whatever you need.”

Galantine gave it some more thought. He had nothing against the idea, and really they did need some unifying force. At least if Mina was working with her food wouldn’t be an issue, and keeping busy would deal with her rampant boredom. Besides, he genuinely did want to help and if she’s the spark to set the fire under Nakasu, he could keep the fires of her determination from being snuffed out or going wild and burning them all.

“Very well,” he said. “If you’ll take our council to heart, we’re gladly assist you.”

Miss Asuna smiled. “Glad to have you both onboard. So, any ideals on where to start while we’re all here?”

Galantine nodded. “The first measure I would suggest is that we attain a Guild Hall tomorrow, if not for just shelter and for the sake of our own protection, but to present a unified and professional front. You’ll be able to cook in private and maintain the secret easier as well.”

“Okay, we’ll handle that first thing in the morning,” she said. “We’ll need to use all the meat we’ve obtained before it goes bad too, and we can’t eat nearly everything alone before the Ascot Crabs returned. We’ll have those two stall-girls help us distribute the food, at a modest wage of course, and use it to recruit help for the next wave.”

Galantine rubbed his chin in thought. “A taste of real food will get them interested to do that much and we can offer it in exchange for services rendered—fighting monsters or gathering ingredients based on a quota. And if we offer more in exchange for filling out a flyer with their username, class, and sub-class, we can use that information to help find others willing to help in the long run, such as chefs.”

“Most people don’t take a sub-class like that though,” Mina chimed in. “Most choose sub-classes that are immediately useful for gameplay, not role-playing. Stuff like farmers, accountants, and the like are among the lowest for a reason.”

“That will make it difficult to find many who have classes needed for certain fields,” Galantine admitted. “We’ll need a way to rectify that as well.”

“That’s easy enough,” Asuna said. “We just find anyone who has the real-world skills and then have them switch their sub-class over to it. Or we can have others act as Apprentices to the natives who have the appropriate sub-class so they can learn. And if they don’t want to do that, we can have them keep the farms safe, help them with harvesting, and escort their shipments.”

Galantine shook his head. “That’ll be like a dictatorship if we force it, providing we’re in a position to do so. However, if we can find volunteers on a small scale, maybe a small guild’s worth of individuals to test it out, they can help get others interested. Regardless, it’ll only a temporary measure. The secret will come out eventually and the food will lose its worth, so those that aren’t interested will stop.”

“As long as we actually get them moving and learning, it’ll be fine for short-term,” Asuna said. “In the long-run though, I’m hoping that the connection we’ve made with the farmers can help with learning more about this world and creating a rapport with the natives. Things are going to be hectic for a while and I believe that we can learn a lot from each other.”

“I still kind of wanted to punch that farmer’s face in though,” Mina admitted.

“That’s not nice,” Yui said from her perch on her mother’s head.

Mina just shrugged. “It’s true though. They guy was an ass, and I can’t tell you how many times I see player’s taking a swing at him on the monitor only for it to go through him.”

Galantine crossed his arms in thought at that. “He never mentioned that, so perhaps whatever filter was in place stopped players from actually doing it on this side. That restriction no longer applies and even if they can be seen as our equals in intellect, our levels make a world of difference. We won’t be able to make peace with them if someone starts abusing that because they feel as if they’re gods among men.”

Asuna sighed at that. “Yeah, someone’s going to start taking advantage unless we have people willing to keep the peace. That’s why we need to get started on this as soon as possible and take the reins. We don’t need psychopaths like Laughing Coffin starting to show up again.”


 [SAO -o0o- LH]


In Minami

Had Girasol heard Asuna’s proclamation, she would have cursed her for jinxing them.

The building in front of her was on fire, burning brightly in the night like a beacon that drew in people like moths. It was done intentionally, carefully, ensuring that each and everyone one of them could see the symbol painted onto the ground in front of the building. It was a symbol she recognized very well, a coffin that had a face on it with broad lips upturned in a smile—a laughing coffin.

She sucked in a sharp breath at the thought of one of their number slipping in and already leaving a mark. People knew that emblem and would react poorly. They’d panic and the chaos would be just what the one responsible for it wanted. That was the last thing they needed.

“First thing first, I need to put out this fire.” Wiping the sweat off her brow from the heat, she tossed back the hood of her robes to reveal tan skin emblazoned with the tattoo from her chosen race—the Race of Ritual. The tome she carried floated in front of her, pages flipping until it came to a picture of one of the spirits under contract with her.

Call Servant…” She extended her hand towards it and a cerulean magic circle formed. The sensation of her MP dwindling tickled her mind and the warmth from the tattoos glowing still took some getting used to. “Undine!

Water pulled from the air condensed into a blob around the circle and then began to take the shape of a curvaceous woman as the spirit inhabited it. Flowing hair, water woven into strands, spilled down her backside as dark eyes took in their surroundings and the fins acting as her ears shifted. Fully-formed, the Undine circled around its Summoner, swimming through the air, before coming to a stop in front of her and waiting for a command with a placid expression.

“Douse that fire,” Girasol ordered. “Take as much time as you need, but make sure it doesn’t spread.”

A smile spread across the Undine’s face as it consented with a soft sound that played on its Summoner’s ears. Then it flowed upwards and around the building, calling forth water to enclose it and work from the outside inwards.

Girasol pulled her hood back on as stray drops splashed against her face and looked around in search of anyone suspicious among the gawkers. She suspected that the one responsible for the symbol of Laughing Coffin would be watching, observing the reaction to their handiwork. Let them see this then—let them see her putting out the fire and washing away the symbol of their madness.

She refused to let another murderous group gain ground here. Just because they couldn’t die, didn’t mean they couldn’t do worse things. She wouldn’t let them put fear into everyone just to make them happy.

Three other Undines soon joined hers, courtesy of a trio of Summoners some distance away from her. They were being led by a Fox Tail woman with long black hair who watched the fire burn with her fan covering her lower lips, and a purpled-haired Elf woman with a stern expression. She gave them a nod in thanks and was met with one in return by the elf.

Once the fire was out, the elf approached her to question what she knew. It was very little, but she would find out more. That was her specialty after all.

She wasn’t once known as Argo the Rat for nothing.


 [Chapter 8 -o0o- End]


[Status]

Name: Level – Class (Species – Build) and Sub-Class

Maryelle: Lv. 90 Cleric (Elf – High Healer) with Woodcrafter sub-class.

Girasol (Argo): Lv. 55 Summoner (Race of Ritual – Eclectic Supporter) with Tracker sub-class.

 


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The First Capture – Part 1

As rain poured down outside at night, Lusamine was roused from her slumber upon feeling the rustle of the warm figure bundled next to her beneath the sheets. She sat up in bed and pulled back the covers to spot the tense body of her youngest child. “Lillie, is everything okay?”

Her daughter shifted around in the bed so that they faced each other and apologized. “Sorry, Mommy. Did I wake you?”

“I wasn’t that deep in my sleep,” Lusamine said in a gentle tone, placing the back of her hand over Lillie’s forehead and cheek. A few hours ago Lillie had gotten the idea to sing and dance in the rain like she had seen in a movie they watched together. Misdreavus, always being one to keep an eye on the children when she couldn’t, had alerted Lusamine and she had gone out to pull her back in. Somehow she ended up joining her and they both wound up catching a cold.

But that was fine since it seemed to make Lillie happy. “Your fever has finally broken. That’s good.”

“If I’m better, should I go back to my room?” Lillie timidly asked. “I don’t want to be in the way when Daddy comes back to bed.”

“Daddy is working on an experiment with that strange little Pokémon, so he won’t be back tonight,” Lusamine said. “You know the little one that goes ‘Pew Pew’ all the time.”

“You mean Nebby?”

That earned a slight giggle from her mother. “Your father named it Cosmog, but Nebby is so much cuter. How did you come up with it?”

“I call him that because Daddy showed me a picture of a Nebula in a book and said Nebby was like one,” she said. “Daddy said that it was a good name, and Nebby seemed to like it.”

“You’re so clever.” Lusamine looked over to the clock to see that it was after midnight now. “We should go back to sleep now.”

Lillie nodded her head and then wrapped her tiny arms around her mother’s slender frame as she laid back down, clinging to her as though she didn’t want to let go as Lusamine stroked her hair to gently coax her back asleep. “Good night, Mommy.”

“Good night, my sweet Lillie.”

******

As Lusamine woke from her dream of the past, her world in the present was nothing but pain.

Every inch of her body ached. A dull throbbing pain loitered in her limbs that felt heavy. And her mind was foggy, lost as it worked to form a coherent train of thought. She breathed in and out slowly, steadily gaining awareness as her memories put themselves back into place. She remembered getting on the ferry after the photo, feeling tired, and then retiring to the room to get some rest.

How long have I been under? She needed to figure that out more than anything, but she felt hot and dizzy. Thankfully, something wet touched her forehead and spread a cooling relief through her head. She exhaled a shuddering breath and managed to open her eyes, only to find the world was a blur while a pink blob grew larger.

She focused her eyes, squinting and focusing until her vision cleared to reveal the Fairy Pokémon dabbing a wet cloth to her head. “Since you let yourself out to look over me, it must be morning then?”

Clefable, her oldest Pokémon nodded, lips pulling back into a small smile as she continued to aid her trainer.

“Where are we?” Lusamine asked. It didn’t seem like the cabin of the ferry. If anything the room was larger, and she didn’t feel the minute motion of the boat.

Lilligant came over at the prompt, having also let herself out at some point. The Flowering Pokémon held a brochure of some kind between the leaves that served as her arms. It listed the name of a hotel in Vermillion City.

Since she didn’t remember arriving, Lusamine realized she must’ve drifted off at some point then and missed when the ferry arrived, due to not being easily woken since the… incident.

“In that case, Bewear must’ve carried me while Milotic and Mismagius watched over me at night, right?” A nod from them both confirmed as much. “Help me get ready to go out.”

She couldn’t show weakness in front of her daughter, and the time they had was already limited as things stood. Since Vermillion City acted as the port for a number of islands, it had a number of shops that they could visit to get Lillie’s supplies for when she began her journey. And then she may want to visit the Gym to see how they operated, or try to catch a Pokémon of her own.

Lilligant climbed onto the bed and helped her sit up. Being so close to Lusamine also allowed her to breathe in the aroma wafting from the flower, which eased the pain somewhat. Clefable brought over her traveling bags that held her clothes and helped her sort out an outfit suitable for the walking in the city.

When Lusamine rose out of bed to go take a shower, vertigo overtook her. The world turned to liquid, rolling back and forth like waves churned by a storm. She lost her balance.

Clefable managed to catch her and helped her sit down again. “Clef-clef!”

“I have to go,” Lusamine said to what she grasped was a request to take it easy, looking down at her hands. She still found it difficult to believe that the gentle hands that lovingly embraced her daughter before in the dream had been ready to squeeze the very life out of her had the Legendary Pokémon not separated her from Nihilego. That fact that she would have enjoyed doing it at the time… it filled her with horrible shame and regret.

So much so that her hands trembled at when she considered what sort of person she had become. When she was around it, she felt so much better than she had before. Some distorted part of her relished that, along with the comfort of the thought that the beast would never abandon her as her family did. Only now did she realize how irrational she had been, how she pushed them away after her husband vanished, and how she had taken advantage of those around her.

“I only have so much time before Lillie leaves me behind,” she continued. “I need to be there for her and show her that I still care. That I’m the one who was worthy of being her mother and not—”

She barely stopped herself from finishing the slip of the tongue that would have exposed the petty feeling she felt, a tiny spark of jealousy that her daughter’s first Pokémon came from another woman who had taken on her role over the last few months. No, even before then, she couldn’t be considered either Gladion or Lillie’s mother. Wicke had all but replaced her in that respect once the spiral into madness began.

There was much she had to atone for in order to be the same woman that Mohn married. She needed to make up for everything and prove to herself that she was someone worthy of being loved by those she denounced for the sake of the beasts.

Her Pokémon exchanged a look with one another. Then Lilligant grabbed her right hand while Clefable grabbed her left. They held them between their small limbs as though to comfort her and then helped her to stand back up.

The trembling in her hands stopped. “Thank you. I’m lucky to have all of you still by my side.”

[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]

Lillie found herself standing off to the side while cradling Koko’s Premier Ball in her hands within the Gold Sky Hotel, watching as Bill set up her Storage Box on the PC located there.

Since Professor Kukui had been the one who was registered her as a trainer (with the Rotom Dex acting as basically a spare ID-card), any Pokémon over the number of six that were registered as being “out” with her would normally be transferred over to the system managed in the Alola region. However, with the damage done to the Sevii Island Network Center where they communicated with one another, connecting to the Alolan system had been hindered until it could be repaired. So Bill had offered to create one for her to use until then, linked to his system.

“And done.” Bill smiled a little as she turned to face her. “I’ve only given you a single box, but that should be enough until we can connect to Alola. You shouldn’t actually need all that much box space unless you plan on doing serial collecting.”

He may have been jesting from his tone, but Lillie couldn’t help but shake her at that. She had seen her mother’s collection and was thoroughly disabused of even entertaining that thought. Though it prompted a different one that had her curious. “Um… do the Pokémon inside of the boxes stay like that forever?”

Hmm… it depends.” He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. “As I mentioned before, there are now systems in place to stop non-native Pokémon from being released in a non-native environment. However, there are also those that allow for transfer of ownership of the boxes or to have the Pokémon released upon a trainer’s death, if there is no one to claim them. The Professors and those who are registered to maintain a system can dictate how many boxes are assigned to a trainer and can arrange for temporary release into a habitat for them.”

“You mean like Professor Kukui?”

“I believe so. The Alolan region’s system does have such a place, with an individual who has special permission to access the storage system there if I recall correctly, so it shouldn’t be an issue since very few people have the time and resources to take care of more than a handful of Pokémon to begin with. It’s usually those who are collectors like myself or sponsored by a Professor that will often have extra boxes and will use a ranch or designated habitat for them to remain active in.”

“Do you have a lot of Pokémon in the boxes?”

“Surprisingly, I don’t since I can afford to look after them, so they mostly stay unreleased.” He reached into his pocket and pulled free two Poké Balls, from which the Umbreon and Espeon she had seen in the Sevii Islands appeared. “Tenebrea and Lumen here I keep on me when I travel for my personal protection, but at the cottage are my Dragonair, Clefairy, Kadabra, Porygon-2, and the rest of the Eevee family that I’ve hatched myself.”

“Isn’t it hard to look after them all?” She had enough trouble looking after Nebby as it was. And that was when it was a little Cosmog. She hoped that Nebby was behaving for Elio as the Umbreon and Espeon looked up to Bill at that, their ears folded back and innocent eyes that Lillie felt was practiced.

He smiled and crouched down to stroke the fur on both of their heads. “Oh, they can be a handful at times, but they’re worth it. We’re more of a rather large family than anything else.”

She pondered on that when the elevator slid open with a ding. Lillie looked up on reflex since it was next to them and spotted her mother entering the lobby, looking around and taking the hotel’s grandeur into account until their eyes met. Lillie straightened up from leaning against the wall and approached her. “Mother, you shouldn’t be walking around. You need more rest.”

Lusamine shook her head once, shifting her long hair as she crossed her arms. “I’ve slept enough. You don’t have to worry about me.”

Lillie put her hands on her hips and puffed out her cheeks. “How can I not worry when we couldn’t wake you up at all? We had to contact Miss Wicke for advice. She told us to make arrangements for the hotel and let you rest for at least another day before we got on the train to Cerulean. Mister Bill had to change his schedule just for us.”

Lusamine’s eyes softened a touch at that, slightly crestfallen.

“Don’t be too harsh. If she hadn’t helped I possibly wouldn’t be here,” Bill said, rising to his feet. “Besides, it’s only a slight delay and I can use this time to check up on some connections. You two should spend this time getting used to the Kanto region if you plan on taking the Gym challenge. The Vermillion Gym isn’t too far from here.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” Lusamine said, jumping on the suggestion. “That way I we can make sure that you have everything you need since we’ll be heading to Cerulean next.”

Lillie pursed her lips thin. “You should rest. I can wait until we get to the cottage and you’re better.”

“Lillie…” She reached out to brush her daughter’s cheek. “Don’t let what’s happened to me stand in the way of what you also came here for. At least this way I’ll be able to relax somewhat knowing you have a grasp on the basics.”

“Mmm…fine…” Lillie grabbed her mother’s hand and held it between her own tenderly as she stared into her eyes with as much determination as she could to get her point across. “But the moment I see that you’re pushing yourself, we’re coming back to the hotel.”

“I won’t push myself,” Lusamine promised. “Now, let’s go while we have the time and get your supplies. Then we’ll go to the Gym to see how they operate.”

******

The backpack on Lillie’s back felt a lot heavier as she walked along with her mother towards the building that the clerk helpfully pointed out as the Vermillion Gym. They had gone shopping in order to get supplies for her inevitable journey, including the standard Pokémon Refresh kit, Potions, Revives, Repels, and so on. Her mother had also gotten her the latest generation of the Pokégear, which were commonly found around Kanto and the neighboring Johto region. She’d need to go over all of the functions later tonight, but she should be able to figure that much out on her own.

The clerk had said that they couldn’t miss the Gym once it came into view. Lillie had to agree that the building definitely stood out, what with the lightning bolts crossing one another to form an arch over the entrance. She supposed that it was decorated in that manner to ensure that whoever was looking for it could find it, but it still struck her as a bit grandiose.

“Are you nervous?” her mother asked.

Lillie closed her eyes for a moment and then nodded her head. “I don’t know what to expect, so it’s a little unnerving. But I’m fine.”

Steeling herself, Lillie walked into the Gym and the lobby that awaited them there. It was rather plain-looking at a glance, with seats to the left and a desk to the right. Behind the desk was a woman with black hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing what looked to be army clothes and boots.

“Greetings,” the woman said, rising to her feet from the desk. “Are you here for the Gym Challenge? I’m afraid that another challenger has gone ahead of you and until they leave, you’ll have to wait until they’re done.”

“Actually, I’m new to this region and I was hoping to understand how the Gym system worked, Miss…”

“Sendou,” she said. “I’m a Gym Guide, as appointed by the League to both monitor the condition and conduct of the Gym, as well as aid trainers in knowing what to expect. I’ll be happy to explain things, but can you tell me what do you know so far?”

“That Gyms are essentially places where trainers can either come to improve themselves under the guidance of a Gym Leader or challengers can attempt to earn a badge from the Gym Leaders by defeating them in battle—eight of which will permit you to challenge the Elite Four in order to become the current Champion.” Lillie understood that much at least. Professor Kukui had been planning on making a League in Alola for some time and she had been around to see Elio claim the title of Alola’s Champion.

Miss Sendou nodded. “Upon entering, a Gym Guide such as myself will check the number of badges you possess and inform the Gym Leader, who will scale appropriately to ensure that you are challenged without being completely overwhelmed. If you are successful, then you’ll earn a badge as well as prize money. Or course, first you have to reach the Gym Leader to challenge him.”

“Do we not simply challenge them?”

“A Gym Leader has the authority to customize their Gym in certain ways, provided they are approved by the Pokémon League to ensure that they do not cause any permanent harm to anyone. They usually present something of a puzzle in order to add to the difficulty, ensuring that the trainer themselves are don’t simply coast using their Pokémon’s raw strength. In the case of this Gym, the Lieutenant has something of an electric puzzle set up and the challenger has to solve it in order to reach the arena within a reasonable timeframe. If you’re new, I should assume you don’t have any badges at all?”

Lillie shook her head. “I don’t.”

“Then he’d face you with a No-Badge team of two Pokémon.”

“But I only have one right now,” Lillie said. “Will that be a problem?”

“I would advise you to at least have two or more Pokémon before attempting to challenge the Lieutenant. Though he scales appropriately, you’ll still be facing off against two of the Gym’s Pokémon with one, whom are very experienced in battling. And he tends to be rather heavy-handed when it comes to all challengers, which is the reason very few trainers actually choose to face him for their first Gym.”

“I see…” It was more like an Island Trial than she thought with the puzzles. “I guess I should capture a second Pokémon first, shouldn’t I?”

“I’d recommend a Ground-type.” Miss Sendou went over to the desk again and began to operate with the computer. “Let’s see… Sandshrew can be found often in Route 11, and Diglett can be found in the tunnels on that route.”

“I understand.” She supposed it would be best to capture one if possible before attempt to match the Gym Leader. “I’ll go and try to capture a second Pokémon first.”

“Fair warning, the Lieutenant does have countermeasures against the local ones since he doesn’t like it when trainers simply try to coast by using fresh captures, so you’ll have to be clever if you face him with them,” she said. “If you want more experience with combat, or to get a feel for the sort of challenge you’ll face, you can also try challenging a Gym Trainer if they’re available.”

“I think I will.” Lillie gave her a brief bow in gratitude. “Thank you for the advice.”

“Not a problem. Good luck with your capture.”

******

Roughly an hour later, Lillie and her mother made it to the start of Route 11 that began at the end of the river that flowed from the sea until it reached just opposite of the entrance to the Diglett’s Cave.

It was one of the designated routes that were often traveled by trainers as they went about their way and thus a relatively well-trodden dirt path, consisting of mostly tall grass that grew in great abundance, with some patches that rose up to Lillie’s waist. The border of her vision to the left and right were thick trees, natural barriers that no doubt hid their own selection of Pokémon from prying eyes.

They couldn’t travel too far from Vermillion City if they wanted to get back by nightfall. Her mother needed her rest and Lillie didn’t want to add to the stress she was under, so she didn’t intend to push too far ahead. Still, there was an unnerving sense of excitement in her body as it would be the first time she went exploring with the intention of catching a Pokémon without Repels.

Lillie watched as a Krabby that was on the shore scuttle back into the water while a group of Pidgey took flight overhead towards the trees far back. Looking at how far the grasslands stretched and were only broken by the dirt path, she couldn’t help but wonder how long it was going to take to find a Sandshrew among the grass.

That was what she decided to try and catch instead of a Diglett, since she couldn’t see in the cave and the Mouse Pokémon would be more mobile. Off the top of her head, she only knew that they were around this route. But which part was hard to discern unless she knew a little on what a Kantonian Sandshrew’s habitat was and how active they were at this time of day. She looked over her shoulder to her backpack. “Rotom, are you awake now?”

There was a shuffling in her bag before the living Pokédex emerged from the opening and floated around to the front. I am now, User Lillie, zzt.

“Just calling me Lillie is fine,” she told it. “Do you have any information on this region’s variant of Sandshrew?”

The screen shifted as Rotom accessed the database and then displayed an image of the region’s variant. Sandshrew, the Mouse Pokémon. It burrows and lives underground, only emerging to hunt for Bug-type Pokémon. If threatened, it curls itself up into a ball for protection and can roll at high-speeds. It dislikes water.

“If it dislikes water then it’ll be further away from the river,” Lillie said as Rotom presented extra data like its footprints and the average size of their species. “But finding a burrow may take a while.”

“I’ll help you find one since you’re pressed for time.” Lusamine pulled out one of her Ultra Balls and held it forward in her palm. “Bewear, come out.”

The ball opened and light speared out. The Strong Arm Pokémon emerged and stretched its thick arms up into the air with a yawn. Then it embraced Lusamine and lifted her into a hug. That was normally risky since its species ran the risk of using too much force and breaking the spines of their trainer. But hers was well-trained to control its strength and wouldn’t harm her, even as it spun around in circles as if overjoyed that she was up and well.

“I’m happy to see you too,” Lusamine said as she brushed her hands along its head. “But first things first. We need your help in finding a Pokémon, okay?”

Bewear set her down and stood at attention, giving her a salute. Rotom flew closer and showed it the image on display. It placed its paw to its muzzle as it gazed at the picture with a dull look for a few moments. Then it fell onto all fours to sniff the ground.

Lillie reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out Koko’s ball. Even with her mother helping her in this instance, she was the one that should try to capture it properly when found. The miniaturized ball expanded into its active state with one press of the button and then popped open with the second, releasing the Alolan Vulpix.

Vullll…” Koko yawned and brushed her head with her forepaw before sitting upright. Settling her gentle blue eyes on her trainer, her tails flicked up and the air grew a tad cooler. “Pix?”

“Morning, Koko.” Lillie crouched down and gently ran her fingers back and forth over her head, ignoring the slight chill in the air. “Did you sleep well?”

Koko nodded and leaned into the touch until Bewear’s large presence became known to the Fox Pokémon as it rose to its full height and cast a shadow over the rather small fox. Bewear, now standing on its hind legs, began running ahead and into the tall grass. A Spearow vacated the shaking grass, taking flight with quick beats of its short wings, and an Ekans slithered out afterwards, clearly agitated as it spared them a spiteful look before heading away. It must’ve been hunting.

To Lillie’s surprise, Bewear came running back with a Pokémon held in its paws, raised above its head. It was flailing around but unable to escape until the Bewear came to a stop in front of them and held out its prize proudly. It… wasn’t a Sandshrew.

No, what it had in its hands was a dark, two-legged creature roughly a foot tall. Its arms led to a pair of claws and its eyes were gemstones. There were differently-colored ones around its chest and backside as well.

Lusamine shook her head as she looked at the Darkness Pokémon. “That’s not a Sandshrew, Bewear. It’s a Sableye.”

“Waaa…” Bewear frowned as it unceremoniously dropped the Sableye and then fell onto its hind. A soft whine left its mouth as it held its paws to its muzzle dejected until Lusamine gently patted it on the head.

“You’ll do better next time,” she said to it in a soothing manner as she looked at the Sableye that rubbed its backside as it stood up. “Still, I don’t think Sableye are native to this area.”

“Saaa. Sableye,” it said in response, eyeing the women.

He says that he was chasing down a Zzzandshew for his trainer when Bewear grabbed him, Rotom helpfully translated. The Sableye gestured towards it and made a curious sound. Yes, I am a Pokémon, zzt.

“We’re sorry, Sableye,” Lillie told it—him. Bewear must’ve caught the scent of it on him and then picked him up instead. “Do you think that it’ll still be there?”

The Darkness Pokémon shook his head and, through Rotom, stated that its trainer had used some kind of radar to find it, only for it to run. By now it would be long gone.

Lusamine tapped her chin in thought with her hand that wasn’t petting the Bewear. “Do you think that your trainer would allow us to use it and get an idea of where we can find them? We’re pressed for a bit of time as the moment and would greatly appreciate it.”

The Sableye shrugged his shoulders and then gestured for them to follow as he trudged off to the northeast, beyond a veil of tall grass. Lusamine, Bewear, Lillie, and Koko followed after him through the grass until they emerged by the woodlands to the north. There they found a girl laying on the ground unconscious, a Pokémon that Lillie identified as a Drowzee standing over her with its trunk pressed against her head, eyes upturned in happiness and a smile on its lips.

The Sableye growled audibly at the sight and then rushed forward to take a swipe at it with his claws. The Drowzee was knocked away and onto the ground, unsure of what hit it until it noticed the Darkness Pokémon standing over the girl protectively and bearing his razor-sharp teeth. It wheeled around and ran past the line of trees and into the woodlands, scrambling away from them. Sableye let it go and instead tried to rouse the girl there by shaking her to no success.

Lillie crouched down next to the Sableye and turned the girl over. Her skin was pale and she had jet-black hair that was in bound into twin, poofy pigtails by two red hair bows. There were no signs of physical injury though. “I don’t think it hurt her.”

“She looks rather young, so I imagine that it wanted to eat her dreams and used Hypnosis to put her to sleep,” Lusamine said. “Children tend to be more susceptible to the hypnotic waves it uses and aren’t easily roused. It could be hours before she wakes naturally.”

The Sableye jolted at that, before coming over to both her and Lillie and pointing to his trainer while looking to Rotom to translate what he said next.

Rotom obliged. He’s asking if we can take her back into the city with him to make sure nothing bad happens to her, zzttt.

Lillie closed her eyes in thought for only a moment. Then she nodded and turned to her mother. “Mother, let’s take her back with us to Vermillion City.”

“I’m not against it, but if we help her go it would be irresponsible to leave her until she wakes up,” Lusamine answered. “That could be well until nightfall and Sandshrew are diurnal from the sound of it. You won’t be able to catch one then.”

Nmm…” A low hum left Lillie’s throat at that. But seeing the unconscious girl and how the Sableye had now clasped his hands like he was praying towards them, she shook her head. She couldn’t just leave someone unconscious here. The professor didn’t leave her stranded on that beach after she passed out and neither would she. “Seeing to her is more important. I’ll have more time when I start my journey.”

“You’re such a good girl.” Lusamine sighed heavily and then reached for Bewear’s ball along with another one and handed them over to her. “It can’t be helped, but at the same time I don’t you to lose this chance. So I’ll let you continue to search with Bewear while I take the child back with me to the Pokémon Center. You shouldn’t have any trouble around these parts with your little fox and Bewear, but just in case take Mismagius’ ball as well. She doesn’t like being out when it’s daytime, but if you end up in an emergency she’ll help you.”

“Is that really okay?” Lillie asked. “Will you be able to make it back on your own?”

“You’re sweet to worry, but I’m not helpless,” Lusamine said as she took the child into her arms. “I have my other Pokémon with me and I’m sure her Sableye will make sure nothing harasses me on the way while I have her.”

The Sableye nodded at that.

“…Okay,” Lillie reluctantly agreed. “I’ll catch a Sandshrew and then head to the Pokémon Center.”

“If you aren’t back by nightfall, I’ll have Clefable looking for you.” She turned to Bewear. “Bewear, do you still have the scent?”

Bewear, whose attention was on the trees, perked up when it heard its name being called and nodded enthusiastically at the question.

“Then help Lillie find one and keep her safe,” Lusamine ordered. “Be a good girl for her.”

The Strong Arm Pokémon saluted once more. “Beweaoo!”

Then she was off, leaving Lillie, Koko, Rotom, and Bewear to watch as she left with the girl and Sableye.

Lillie took a deep breath to center herself. There was no one else around to help her this time. No professor, Elio, or her Mother—well, there was her Mother’s Pokémon. But she was on her own this time. “Okay, let’s go.”

Koko responded with enthusiastic hop. “Vul!”

Bewear… was already moving ahead, into the woodlands as she followed her nose.

“Wait up, Bewear!” Lillie called as she chased after her Mother’s Pokémon, with Rotom and Koko following after her