Chapter 17: Coordination
It was afternoon by the time Lusamine woke from her slumber the next day, much to her dismay as she stared up at the clock.
This is unacceptable… She couldn’t help but frown as she buried her head into her hands and waited for the headache to settle down. It wasn’t as bad as in Vermillion City, but she still wasn’t exactly in good health at the moment. It would take time for the worst of the symptoms to pass, for her to make herself presentable, and then to ensure her own pokémon were taken care of. Time that could’ve been spent with her daughter if she hadn’t slept in so late.
A sweet scent reached her nose and cleared her mind somewhat, drawing her eyes up to her Lilligant. The Flowering Pokémon stood there with her arms held together and an apologetic look in her eyes. They’d been together long enough that Lusamine understood that it was because she’d tried to wake her up normally and, when that failed, she’d chosen to let her rest.
“It’s not your fault,” Lusamine told her. They all knew that she would have days like this the moment the majority of the toxins were flushed out of her body. The initial contact hadn’t been on purpose, but her merging with Nihilego entirely at the end had been her choice. “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”
“Lilli! Lilli!” The Flowering Pokémon shook her head vigorously and reached over to touch her hands in assurance. “Lilligant!”
Lusamine took a deep and shuddering breath before clearing her throat and putting on a smile. If not for herself, then for her kind and compassionate flower. “Can you help me get dressed for the day? I can’t go out looking like this after all.”
It took an hour to get herself presentable—her body showered, unkempt and unruly hair tamed, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt for simplicity’s sake. That took care of her own needs. Now all she needed to do was to see to her own pokémon, specifically Milotic and Bewear. The former tended to get a little upset if she didn’t give her enough attention, while the latter needed to roam around at times to alleviate her boredom.
But first she stopped by the entrance to Lillie’s room. “Lillie? Are you there?”
After a pause, during which there was no answer, Lusamine decided to head down the hall to see if she was on the first floor. That was until she heard a strange sound inside. Her curiosity led to her cracking the door open and peeking inside.
“Snnrrr…” The source of the sound was a Snubbull that was currently sleeping in the bed meant for the Alolan Vulpix, on the ground. The excess flesh on its face was pooled beneath its prone body, every breath making it rise and fall. Every now and then it snorted, feet twitching and face scrunching up. “Snubbb…bulll….”
“Aren’t you adorable?” Lusamine couldn’t help but say as she walked over to it. Drawn in by the adorable sight of its sleeping face, she reached out to pet it. Such a cute pokémon. If only it could stay that way for…eve…r…
Her fingers came to a stop inches above its pink fur the moment that thought crossed her mind, shaking. That very same thought had led to her private collection of frozen pokémon. She even had a Snubbull there for that exact same reason, frozen in time to preserve its beauty.
No, that’s not right. She pulled her arm back and held it to her chest as she backed away from the Fairy Pokémon. That’s the remnants of the toxins talking.
With the majority of it gone from her system, Lusamine was mostly rational when it came to her thoughts and actions. But every now and again the remnants did more than just leave her fatigued and in pain from withdrawal. The filters on her thoughts came off, and right or wrong stopped mattering if it was what she wanted.
That was part of why she felt so bad when Lillie had admonished her for hurting that Nurse Joy. It was an accident, which was true enough. But she could have done something differently, like having Mismagius pass through the walls and then assess the situation. It was just that… the moment she learned her daughter was in potential danger she wanted to go for the simplest solution by having Bewear brute force it.
That was what it boiled down to—what was the natural solution to her problem and how to achieve it.
She wanted to preserve their beauty forever. The natural solution was to freeze them. She wanted to find her husband and the Ultra Beasts were in the way. The natural solution was to create a pokémon that could deal with them since training others took too long. Her children kept getting in her way and were trying to stop her from enjoying her own paradise. The natural solution was to make them go away.
And when her pokémon failed… the natural solution was to do it herself.
It stabbed at her heart when she recalled everything she’d done. When she recalled what sort of monster she had become. Even now, with a second chance, she was on the verge ruining it with how jealous she’d felt when she listened to Lillie talk to that woman about her Alolan Vulpix.
That should have been me. The thought was bitter as she sat down on her daughter’s bed and brought her hands to her eyes. Petty and tinged with regret as the knife twisted in her chest because she knew it was her own fault for abandoning the two treasures that her husband had left her.
For two years she didn’t bother looking for her son. She left her daughter alone for several months to be raised by someone else. If the toxins took the filters off, then why didn’t she use the full resources at her disposal to reclaim them?
“You did it!” Her head snapped up at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Peering out of the window showed Lillie was on the bridge, the Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon by her side as they looked to the water on one side of the bridge. A sheet of ice was spread out in front of them, thin enough to be seen through but solid enough that it didn’t sink when they pressed down on it.
Koko learned Icy Wind!
The Fox Pokémon yipped as she bounced up the bridge, excited. Then she turned around to try to freeze the water on the other side of the bridge. A stream of cold air laced with glittering ice particles flowed out, but it didn’t expand and eventually petered out without freezing the surface. It left her tilting her head inquisitively. “Vul?”
Lillie crouched down to stroke the tuft of hair on her head. “You’ve only just managed for the first time, so you probably can’t do it back-to-back just yet. You need to get rest between practicing with your Ice-techniques, so your body can adjust to it. I remember Professor Kukui saying that once when Elio visited to talk about Silkie learning Aqua Jet.”
It was an accurate assessment as far as Lusamine could tell. That Alolan Vulpix was only a few months old and her internal ice pouch hadn’t developed enough naturally to do it so many times on its own, in contrast to the Glaceon. By periodically straining with Icy Wind and then resting, her internal ice-pouch would expand to handle the strain like how muscles grew stronger over time.
For Lillie to have predicted that and told her pokémon that fact before it got sad showed insight on her part, since it could leave them distraught and even ruin their training. She had grown in the time she was away so much, and yet Lusamine hadn’t been there to see it. And soon her daughter would be leaving to go on her own journey—one that would change her even more.
“Do you want to go play with Glacian for a bit until Azuria gets here?” She received a yip in response before Fresh Snow Pokémon tagged her with a paw and started running off. The game was on and the Fox Pokémon gave chase.
If only your father could see the young woman you’re growing into. The thought brought a sad frown to her face when she imagined her husband looking out on this same scene. He would no doubt have loved to see it. I miss you so much, Mohn.
Lusamine pulled away from the window and left Lillie’s room, stirring on that thought. Even now she hadn’t lost hope that her husband was out there somewhere. It was possible to survive in Ultra Space for prolonged periods as the different worlds it led to had different laws of physics governing them, so one day she would find him and reunite their family.
Part of her was worried he would be horrified of the woman she had become, just like their son was. Someone who had abandoned the most precious things he’d left behind in this world and went against the very beliefs that she’d held. But she was sure that he’d forgive her and would convince Gladion to do the same.
Until then she would keep doing her best. She’d keep her thoughts and actions in check until the remnants of the toxins were removed. She’d give her daughter as much help as she possibly could before seeing her off, even if Lusamine didn’t want her to leave at all.
Then she’d find Mohn.
Her resolve steeled, Lusamine proceeded down the stairs when a commotion coming from the backyard drew her attention to the door’s window. In the backyard that rose up a slope into the mountains, she found Bill sitting down at the table and preparing food for his pokémon. She hadn’t intended to interrupt them at all until his Kadabra spotted her and used its psychic power to open it for her in an act of courtesy.
Bill gave her a cordial smile. “I’m glad you could join us. Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, though I didn’t mean to interrupt you when you were busy,” she told him. After all, not only was Bill the one who managed the PC system in Kanto, but he was assisting with her treatment. To take even more of his time would be unacceptable.
“Company livens things up around here, so we welcome it.” He gestured to the bag of pokémon food and jars of berry powder sitting beneath the parasol that was fixed to the table. “It’s actually convenient since we’ve already got the food out and you need to feed your own pokémon.”
“Well, when you put it that way I can’t really refuse.” Taking up his invitation, she took a seat across from him and released everyone except for Mismagius. Milotic, predictably, decided to perch her head into her trainer’s lap and prod her stomach in a bade for attention. She indulged the beautiful creature with a pat. “Give me a few minutes to help the nice man with your food, okay?”
“She’s quite affectionate, isn’t she?” Bill mused as the Tender Pokémon took that as a cue to settle down for the moment. Then he noticed Haku quizzically tilting his head and making an inquiring sound. “No. Your horn is sharper, so that’d hurt me.”
“It may have been for a good cause, but I did spoil her a bit,” Lusamine admitted. “A very young child wanted a Milotic, so their parents gifted her to the child when she was a Feebas. But they underestimated the time and emotional investment it takes to evolve into one. In the end, she entered into our care and I took care of her personally.”
Imagine what it would be like to be raised knowing that it was because you would be beautiful one day? Imagine that the reason your trainer loved you and valued you above all else was because what you would become? Then imagine what would happen when words alone weren’t enough and you were unable to meet their standards?
It was only recently discovered that a Prism Scale would alter a Feebas’ genetic structure during the trading process, inducing evolution. Serious care and effort had to be put into raising a Feebas to evolve before that discovery. That was far more than an impatient child keeping her sweet Milotic in a fish tank could honestly provide on her own.
“Why won’t you evolve? Why are you still ugly? Why won’t you become beautiful?”
Those words were perhaps nothing more than a child being upset that things weren’t going their way. But pokémon were so much smarter than people gave them credit for. And for her self-esteem to have been built up with expectations only to be torn down…it took a toll on her emotional state and eventually she stopped eating.
The Pokémon Centers were trained to heal physical wounds, but they couldn’t deal with emotional trauma. The parents ultimately agreed to release the Feebas since the child wouldn’t take care of her. And it was when she entered into the Aether Foundation’s care to be rehabilitated that Lusamine found her, staring into the glass at her own reflection…
Loathing herself for the look she was born with.
“Every pokémon is beautiful in its own way. I can see that beauty in you. If evolving is the only way you’ll believe that, then I’ll help you become as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”
Lusamine could still remember the promise she made and the time she spent with her Feebas. It took so long to ensure that the Fish Pokémon could be proud of herself, going above and beyond what was necessary or expected. But she kept her promise and helped her evolve in the end.
But was it right for me to do that? That thought haunted Lusamine as Milotic started nuzzling against her leg softly. The members of the Foundation tried not to get too attached to the Pokémon they were rehabilitating because most of them were supposed to be released back out into the wild. Lusamine had done the opposite of that with the Tender Pokémon, becoming her very world instead.
Now she owned a beautiful, powerful creature. One that would never abandon or disobey her. Even if she had good intentions to start with, had she purposely taken advantage of her vulnerable state and raised Milotic to always need her after what happened to her husband? The fact that she couldn’t be sure that the good things she’d done didn’t have some sinister purpose twisted a knot into her stomach.
She distracted herself with preparing Milotic’s food. When she ran the Aether Foundation, Lusamine had imported Pamtre and Bluk Berries to spruce up her diet. It was expensive given they were rare even in their native regions, but no price was too much back then. Now, however, an Oran and Pecha Berry blend would have to suffice. “All done.”
“Miiii~” Milotic sat with her mouth opened, waiting to be handfed as she batted her eyes.
The maternal side of her trainer couldn’t resist the deliberate cuteness of it. “Okay, but only a few. I still have to prepare food for the rest.”
The Tender Pokémon laid her head into Lusamine’s lap and slowly, quietly savored each pellet she was given. Drawing out the amount of time spent between them with an expression of contentment and bliss, it would sate her need for attention for the moment. But she would want more attention later on, as was her usual behavior.
I’ll have to try to get her less dependent on me. Her eyes turned up to check on the others and found Bewear being drawn to the colorful, ribbon-like appendages that made up the Sylveon. The Intertwining Pokémon was hiding behind the Jolteon that was standing vigilant over the younger member of their family. Before she could do anything, Clefable called for Bewear to sit next to her and Bill’s Clefairy.
How innocent Bewear was happened to be attractive in a way, but now Lusamine questioned if not helping her become more mature was also intentional. Bewear was trained so that she didn’t hurt someone by accident because of how strong she was. But she was still basically a child in an adult’s body in terms of maturity.
Lusamine gently brushed the Tender Pokémon’s cream-colored head from her seat and set the bowl next to her. The others needed their food after all, both Bill’s pokémon and her own. The backyard was filled with more than a dozen pokémon happily nibbling away by the time they were both—with one exception.
“Is something wrong with your Porygon-2?” She noticed that it hadn’t moved at all since her arrival. It was just sitting there with its eyes opened. Staring off into the distance with an unblinking gaze as the world went by.
“He’s still integrating his new programming, so he has moments like this.” Bill crouched down and gently touched the smooth contour that made up the Virtual Pokémon. “Normally he fills in for me when I’m not here, or when I’m busy with something else by integrating into the PC System. That was what he was programmed for. However, due to the limitations of the time period he was made, he doesn’t socialize or function outside of his duty very well.”
In other words, it was no different than a machine that existed to carry out a function. Which was strange, considering the Aether Foundation had some under their employment who developed their own traits and personalities. “It—he, must be one of the oldest models then?”
“One of the first, actually,” Bill said. “When Porygon were first created I just had to have one. The benefits to my work and the rarity of Poly’s species were just too alluring for me to resist. It isn’t a stretch to say that he’s probably one of the oldest Porygon alive, but because of that he doesn’t have the benefits the modern ones have in their AI that make them no different than other pokémon. I commissioned a researcher to create an Up-Grade disk specifically for him to be able to match their development and work with more recent computer systems, but it’s taking him a long time to properly integrate it.”
That was one of the downsides to artificial pokémon. In taking the role that nature had to create life, they had flaws of varying kinds due to human-error. To keep a first-generation Porygon still functional and relevant after twenty years was amazing and took no shortage of effort.
She admired him for it. “You really do love your pokémon, don’t you?”
“I always have,” Bill said. “Though it was more that I loved them as a collection until a decade ago. My developing the Box System was a result of my desire to hold onto them all without even leaving my home, since I hated going outside unnecessarily. They never aged or died or changed, preserving them perfectly. The person I was back then would have left him as a Porygon and had a replacement operate the system while he stayed in a box.”
“What changed your mind?” she asked. It was only after her daughter had told her off and she had been ripped away from Nihilego that she had been able to grasp that what she had done was wrong. So she was curious to know what had done the same for him?
“The teleporter accident,” he explained. “I felt what it meant to have the mind of a pokémon and it changed my perspective on everything. I still believe in connecting the world through my network, but I also believe that pokémon should be treated better. That was why I contributed to the recent changes when it comes to their release, among other things.”
That’s also probably why he decided to help us as well. Bill didn’t need money and his time was more precious than anything. Lusamine could only assume the likely the reason he opted to help her was because he had his own revelation and was paying it forward. “I’m guessing you released the rest of your collection then?”
He nodded. “With the exception of the ones here. Poly was a special case since he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and someone else would have likely discarded him or kept him as a trophy. I owe it to him to try making sure he can live a life beyond his programming and one of these days it’ll work out.”
“I’m sure it will,” Lusamine agreed with a friendly smile. She felt a small kinship with him, knowing that they’d undergone a similar awakening, and wanted to do something to help him out. Maybe she could have Faba take a look at his Porygon?
Regardless, the conversation between the two former collectors died when they spotted the Living Pokédex approaching them, having flown around the side of the building from the front. It approached them and addressed Bill specifically.
Miss Azuria has arrived. She is requesting permission to come speak with Mister Bill, zzt.
“Tell her that she’s free to come back here if she wants,” Bill said. “It’ll be a minute before I can go out to the front and I’m sure that the others will be glad to see her.”
Rotom hovered back around to the front. Not even a few seconds later the back entrance to Bill’s Cottage opened up again to reveal a bright and cheerful-looking young woman, sporting a trendy outfit. In her hands was a basket from which a sweet smell wafted.
“Hi everyone!” she said, to which she got a response from Bill’s Pokémon. They recognized her from the mixed but mostly energetic reactions. “Sorry if I came at a bad time, but I brought Poffins for everyone. All fresh from the oven.”
“The timing couldn’t be better then,” Bill said before introduced his guest. “Azuria, this is Miss Lusamine. She’s Lillie’s mother.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, giving her a polite greeting while extending her hand for a shake. “Your daughter’s been something of an acquaintance of mine, so I came to help her out today.”
“Well, I’m glad to see she’s making friends fast.” Shaking her hand, she found herself impressed at how well the younger woman’s outfit accentuated her azure hair and eyes. “What will you be helping her with?”
“Doubles Battling.” Her gaze fell to the side and froze when they met the pristine beauty that was Milotic. She squealed and dropped down, eyes glimmering as she basked in the presence of the Tender Pokémon. “I haven’t seen a beauty-evolved Milotic since my time in the Hoenn circuit!”
“You can tell that in a glance?” Lusamine asked, while Milotic was preening from the attention being lavished on her. An acknowledgement of her beauty was always one way to get on her good side for a first impression.
She nodded. “You gain an eye for appraising pokémon by their appearance and grooming in my field, and a lot of Coordinators seek out Milotic for the Beauty Portion of the contests. But since it’s become easier to evolve them with a Prism Scale, I’ve noticed there’s a difference in the sheen when it comes to patterns on their tails.”
Azuria reached into the basket and presented a treat to the Tender Pokémon. “Want a Blukberry Poffin?”
Red eyes twinkled with hunger the moment Milotic laid eyes on it, the tantalizing scent of the baked snack carrying the aroma of her favorite berry. She cast an imploring gaze to her trainer and made a soft, pleading sound while motioning with her head. “Miii. Miii.”
“I’m sorry,” Lusamine told the younger woman. “I spoiled her a bit, so she’ll only eat it if I’ll feed her.”
Azuria took it well despite that, instead offering the Blukberry Poffin to Lusamine. “I completely understand. To raise such a beautiful pokémon, you’d have to lavish them with enough care that they’d get attached. My little Lynn was the same too back when she was a little Skitty, and it took a while before she and Gracie got along.”
“Is that so?” She found herself intrigued at the prospect as she allowed Milotic to eat the treat from her palm until a shadow draped them both. It was cast by the bulk of Bewear, holding her paw to her muzzle as she rubbed her tummy.
“Lillie told me all about you this morning, Bewear,” Azuria said with a wink. “I made sure to have some extra-sweet Poffins for you too.”
The Strong-Arm Pokémon seemed elated at the prospect. She sat down, leaving her paws open for the Coordinator to put the small treat into them. Then she plopped it into her mouth and chewed it with her eyes upturned in happiness. “Baooo.”
“You’re like a big teddy bear, aren’t you?” Azuria smiled as she carefully pressed her hand against the fur that made up the large pokémon’s body and felt her fingers sink into it. “And you have Fluffy too from the feel of it.”
Seeing how her two problem children were so easily kept satisfied by the Coordinator, Lusamine watched Azuria go around and hand the snacks out to the rest of the pokémon there. Even her Lilligant seemed familiar with the Coordinator, who mentioned something about one of her pokémon and a Mime Jr. The only one who was seemed to have trouble with her was the shy Sylveon that remained behind her brother, though she bobbed her head in gratitude as the young woman left a poffin for her a modest distance away.
“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said with a good-natured smile as she sat the basket down on the table. “They really do enjoy it when you and the others come over.”
“After everything you’ve done for us, this is the least I could do,” Azuria said. “Besides, I like baking and I got to see a lot of interesting pokémon, so it’s a fair trade. I just hope you don’t mind us using your front yard. I know Haku likes to stay in the pond.”
“I don’t think he minds too much.” Bill pointed to the Dragonair that was now floating in the air in sinuous motions, entertaining himself. “Just try to go easy on Lillie. She and her pokémon are still new to battling.”
“I’m just going to give her some advice with coordinating her pokémon by showing her how my own work together.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll come with you out front to watch,” Lusamine said. In addition to seeing her daughter and letting her know that she was awake, she wanted to see the girl’s pokémon for herself. “Behave yourself back here while I’m gone, Bewear. And try to get along with the others, Milotic.”
Bewear nodded her head enthusiastically, while Milotic gave her a reluctant look. She brushed the Tender Pokémon a final time to placate her a little more before following the Coordinator through the door and back into the hallway. That was when the scrabbling of paws coming down the stairs reached their ears as Snubbull hurried for the front door and out of the pet entrance.
“Look who finally woke up.” They heard through the door. Lillie’s voice. It was followed by a bark, then a pause, and then a response. “Well, you shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching that battle video. How did you even learn how to get it to play in a loop?”
Azuria found herself giggling as she opened the door. “It sounds like Snubbull’s being a little handful already, huh?”
“He just got a little excited, so he stayed up all night watching Elio’s battle and slept-in,” Lillie said, watching as he hastily ate the treat she’d held onto for him. The others had already finished theirs. “He hasn’t caused any trouble so far.”
“Melanie is just happy that someone will look after him.” Azuria crouched down in front of the Fairy Pokémon. “She also told me to tell you that she expects you to be a good boy, not to run off into trouble again, and to take your baths.”
Snubbull looked off to the side as he finished the snack and rubbed his stubby little arm against the back of his head while muttering, “Sn… Snubbull. Snubbull.”
Warrior pokémon do take baths, zzt. Rotom replied. In fact, given the nature of battles they would need to take them constantly.
He glared at the Living Pokédex and let a low grumble bubble up in his throat until Lillie gently patted him on his head. Then he huffed and walked away. “Bull.”
Lillie then addressed her mother who lurked in the doorway. “Mother, you’re awake now?”
“Sorry if I worried you,” she said, stepping outside and taking in the scenery. There were a variety of pokémon present, those belonging to Azuria. She could see a Bellossom waddling just out of view and a Lopunny rolling its eyes, a Delcatty lounging beneath the canopy of one the larger Berry Trees and a Butterfree flying between the ones that were flowering. “How’s your training going so far this morning?”
“Pretty well.” Her daughter looked over to the Alolan Vulpix that was poking at the surface of the water. Testing if her last attempt had succeeded. “Koko finally managed to do Icy Wind. As for Shuckle, he can do Protect pretty well but it can’t take a really hard hit before breaking.”
The Mold Pokémon in question was next to a Slowbro that stared blankly into the distance. If Lusamine had to guess, it was curious as to the nature of the shell clinging to its back. Or the fact that the shell in question was staring back at it.
Lillie then looked over the Bellsprout that was walking towards them. “Bellamy apparently knows Vine Whip, Growth, and Acid Spray already. Rotom suggested that if we helped him learn Sunny Day, they would go well with his Ability. But since he’s not used to battling, I want to get him comfortable with that first.”
“That would be wise,” Lusamine agreed. “A good number of Grass pokémon or techniques rely on strong sunlight, but since the weather in Kanto is relatively mild compared to say… Hoenn, he probably won’t be exposed to it outside of battling. And considering it also strengthens Fire attacks, it would be risky unless he had experience or Protect to cover himself.”
“Well, I’d offer to let Zinn help him adjust to using Chlorophyll, but he’s being… difficult.” The Coordinator looked over to where her Lopunny was holding the second Flower Pokémon that had been trying to go around to the back. “But we can help him with getting used to battling, if you’re ready?”
“Sure.” Lille looked between her two newest pokémon. “I’ll let Bellamy and Snubbull have a go first, since Shuckle and Koko could use a little rest.”
The Flower Pokémon quizzically tilted his head before pointing to himself. “Spout?”
At the same time, the Fairy Pokémon also pointed to the Bellsprout and let loose an incredulous, “Bull!?”
“That’s right.” Lillie gave them both an enthusiastic smile. “The best way for Bellamy to get experience is to try battling. And, Snubbull, you need to learn to do more than attack, so I’ll have to look out for him. This way both of you can grow together since we’re all on the same team. Understand?”
Bellamy nodded before turning to Snubbull and extending a leaf over for him to shake. “Sp-Sprout?”
Snubbull merely huffed at the gesture and fell onto all fours before running over to the bridge. “Snubbull! Snub!”
He’s saying he needs no help to win. Rotom translated.
Lillie frowned slightly upon seeing Bellamy’s dejected face and was quick to comfort him. “Don’t be upset. He’s just headstrong. He’ll grow out of it as we get along, but for now watch out for him. Okay?”
With a nod, the Flower Pokémon walked over to where the Fairy Pokémon stood and awaited his challenger.
“Well, if you’re going to use those two then…” Azuria made a soft thinking sound before turning over towards the trees. “Pieri! Lynn! Come on over for a quick match.”
Lusamine watched as the feline’s purple ears rose from their folded posture before the Prim Pokémon roused at the Coordinator’s call. Raising her head as the Butterfree flew over, those dark eyes stared down at the canine that barked towards it. The smile that came across her face as she stretched out her back, hopped down the tree, and came over, distinctly reminded Lusamine of how Alolan Meowth tended to play with their food.
Her daughter’s Snubbull barked and snarled in an attempt to be menacing as the feline sauntered past him. The Delcatty paid it no mind before brushing against her trainer’s leg and sitting upright before her. The Coordinator affectionately leaned down and stroked between her ears before addressing Lillie.
“We’ll battle until the surrender instead of knockout to avoid any excessive damage,” she said, puffing out her chest in pride. The makeshift battlefield that was Bill’s yard—in specific, the dirt path between the bridge-split pond and the slope that went down to the river. “To be safe, I won’t have my team attack full-force and we’ll give you the first move!”
Her daughter nodded in acceptance of the terms. “Okay then. Bellam—“
“Snubbull!!” The Fairy Pokémon darted in before the orders could be given, seeking to strike first. Flames licked the corners of his mouth as he prepared a Fire Fang and went for the feline that remained seated as she brushed her paw against her cheek. Then he lunged, maw wide and ready to clamp down, when a pair of sinuous vines caught him midway and pulled him short while causing the flames to peter out.
It was only because of that he avoided being buffered by argent winds as Pieri released a Silver Wind. The silver blades broke into glittering powder as they smashed into the ground, scattering as the Butterfly Pokémon allowed the Bellsprout to finish reeling his catch in as he lowered himself between them and the Delcatty that finally rose on all fours.
“Snubbull, you need to wait for me to give the commands,” Lillie scolded. “Remember, if you break the rules of a trainer battle, you’ll be disqualified. Then how will you prove anything?”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed as he looked away. “Snub-snub.”
He who zzztrikes first doesn’t always win in the wild, Rotom pointed out. In fact, that was exactly how you ended up getting caught, zzt.
The Fairy Pokémon snarled at the Living Pokédex again only to settle down when Lillie pouted, tapping her foot against the ground. Then he huffed and submitted. “Snub.”
“Okay, let’s try this again.” She turned back to their opponents. “Snubbull, use Scary Face to slow him down so Bellamy can use Vine Whip and tie him up!”
Snubbull listened this time, darkness masking his face. The Butterfly Pokémon’s muscles tensed up as his compound eyes met the Scary Face, leaving him to struggle against an instinctive fear. At the same time Bellamy reared back slightly before throwing his vines forwards.
“Pieri, take the lead!” Azuria commanded. “Follow him, Lynn!”
Pieri used Teleport!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Teleport!
In an instant both Pokémon blinked out of existence a moment before the attack would have connected, leaving Bellamy’s vines to pass through where the Butterfree had once been. Then they reappeared, one in front of Snubbull and one behind the Bellsprout. Pieri’s compound eyes and wings then began to glow with the hue of psychic energy as he unleashed his next attack, while the Prim Pokémon glowed with a thin shroud of colorless light that took on the same hue as Pieri’s wings.
Pieri used Confusion!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Confusion!
Caught by the attacks before Lillie could get a warning out, both Bellamy and Snubbull were hit by bundles of psychic energy that slammed into them from opposing sides. The Prim Pokémon’s Confusion knocked Snubbull in the snout and sent him tumbling back, while the Butterfly Pokémon’s ruptured with telekinetic force at the base of the Flower Pokémon roots and sent him flying forward. Just like that they’d been separated.
Snubbull bounced on the ground once before hopping back onto his paws and snarling as he faced the Delcatty while flames danced from the corners of his mouth. She only made a yawning motion at the implied threat, bringing a paw up to her mouth. In turn, Snubbull lunged for the Prim Pokémon with the intention of letting loose a Fire Fang—
Lynn used Tail Whip!
—only for the feline to spin on her hind legs, using a Tail Whip to slap him away and force his jaw shut. He snapped down on empty air as he staggered to the side, before shaking his head and glaring as the feline followed through with a pirouette that landed her a few feet away. The cheshire smile she wore afterwards only seemed to agitate him further. “SNUBBULL!!”
“Don’t chase her,” Lillie said. It was fruitless though as Snubbull kept going after her as she ran around in a circle, clearly humoring him. She sighed and looked back to Bellamy, who was pushing himself back onto his tiny roots with his leafy appendages. Pieri was fluttering in towards him. “Bellamy, behind you!”
The Flower Pokémon whipped his head around to see the incoming threat and instinctively tried to run away before stopping, as if realizing he was in an official battle. Then he retaliated with a small ball of sludge, gastric juices drudged up and spat out in the form of an Acid Spray.
Pieri dodged the attack with a flap of the wings, letting out a small noise that reached the ears of the feline. The Delcatty then ceased toying around with the Fairy Pokémon and then took off much faster than before as the Acid Spray hit the ground right in front of Snubbull. The splash of the frothing fluids caught his excess skin.
“Snub!” he yelped, before turning towards Bellamy and barking. “Snubbull, snub!”
“He didn’t mean it,” Lillie told the puppy as her meek flower began to wave his leaves and shake his head. “It was an accident.”
“Pieri! Lynn! Wrap this up!” Azuria ordered, grabbing their attention. “Safeguard and then Starlight Lullaby!”
The Butterfly Pokémon swooped in front of the feline and a silver sphere radiated from his soft body, becoming a glimmering forcefield. Safeguard, the gossamer-thin and silver barrier, coated the magnificent coat of the feline as she inhaled. Then Pieri flew above the battlefield, wings aglow with a pale-blue light.
Pieri used Sleep Powder!
Sleep Powder draped the battlefield from above. The luminous powder fell like a blanket over the Flower and Fairy Pokémon. Bellamy only looked confused until he spotted Snubbull toppling over, which caused him to try and wave away the powder with his leaves to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Delcatty sat amidst the falling powder while shielded from the effect due to the mystifying Safeguard coating her fur. The blend of silver glimmering amidst the sparkling blue made for a beautiful display as the light of the sun reflected. Then her soft voice rang out in a melodic song, releasing multicolored music notes.
Lynn used Sing!
Floating due to being lighter than air, they padded out the falling sedative powder and spread wide. One met with Bellamy as he tried to drag Snubbull away by the pond and popped on contact. The Flower Pokémon drooped, swaying on his thin little feet before falling over on top of Snubbull.
“That’s that,” Azuria said playfully as her Butterfly Pokémon flew back over towards her. “Pieri’s Sleep Powder is more than enough to put down a small-sized Pokémon if they aren’t prepared for it. And, while your Bellsprout is immune to Sleep Powder, the moment Lynn’s notes connected it was off to dreamland for him too.”
“Bellamy! Snubbull! Wake up!” Lillie called out fruitlessly. It was no good in the end as both remained within the sweet embrace of slumber.
“We should call the match here,” Azuria said when it was clear they wouldn’t wake up. “Pieri has Dream Eater and Lynn can Copycat it. Not to mention they’re both still pretty green. Snubbull was too aggressive, so he got baited by Lynn easy enough that she could lead him by the nose. Your Bellsprout, on the other hand, panicked and so he blindly tried to fire and didn’t consider where his partner was.”
Lillie ultimately consented to the assessment as Rotom snapped a set of photos. “I surrender.”
“Great.” Azuria clapped her hands twice as the manifestation of the Sing dissipated from existence and the remaining Sleep Powder thinned out. “Lynn, wake them up.”
The Prim Pokémon smoothly sauntered over to the sleeping duo before taking a seat. Her body grew luminous with a soft, pale glow. Then she released it in waves that rippled a short distance from her with a pleasant, bell-like sound. The two sleeping Pokémon were roused by the Heal Bell.
“The match is over you two,” Lillie told them. “We lost, so come back.”
“Snub!?” Snubbull pushed the Flower Pokémon off himself and then pointed to the Delcatty. “Snubbull! Snubb!”
Zzzleep counts as a knock-out in this case, Rotom explained.
“Sprout…” Bellamy waddled over to his trainer with his head low.
“You’ll do better next time, Bellamy,” Lillie told the Flower Pokémon. Then the sound of Snubbull snarling again grabbed their attention. They saw he still wanted to fight, facing the Delcatty that remained as unbothered as before as flames licked the corners of his mouth again. “Snubbull, don’t you dare attack her!”
Lusamine watched as he disobeyed her daughter, lunging for the Delcatty to salve what she imagined was his wounded pride—
—only to immediately be smacked aside by another Tail Whip as the feline spun again and promptly sent the Fairy Pokémon into the pond for the attempt!
“No!” Lillie shouted when he started frantically splashing and struggling to stay afloat. “Snubbull can’t swim!”
“Pieri!” Azuria called out for her Butterfree. He immediately used Teleport to displace the puppy next to Lillie, causing Snubbull to cling to her with his tiny arms while shaking. She ran over. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Snubbull’s bodies aren’t built for deep water,” Lusamine explained as she came over as well and crouched down to check on him. “They can’t even paddle until they evolve, so if they get into water that deep without some kind of floatation device they can drown easily.”
“I’m so sorry,” the Coordinator said. “We’d never want to put him in danger like that.”
“Accidents happen, though it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t attacked her like that.” Lusamine managed to wrest him from Lillie’s leg and gently patted him on the back as he whined softly in her grasp. “Poor thing’s quite shaken. I’m going to take him inside to dry him off and calm him down. You can continue with your training.”
“Just take a few deep breaths,” she told the Fairy Pokémon soothingly as she carried him back inside of the house. It was important to be gentle with frightened pokémon, something she knew quite well. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get you nice and dry.”
Lusamine carried the Fairy Pokémon into the house and made for one of the closets that were close by. Given that his Dragonair and Vaporeon could live in the pond and were constantly playing in it, Bill kept towels for them to dry off with nearby. She grabbed one and then began to tenderly rub his coat down as he shook like a leaf in the wind.
“You’re okay now,” she said in as soothing a tone as she could. “It was scary, wasn’t it?”
“Sn-Snubbull…” The puppy tried to deny it from what she could tell. The fact that he was shaking didn’t make it any more convincing.
She played along with it regardless. “Oh, my mistake. Of course you weren’t scared. You’re too brave to be scared of a little water. You were just surprised by it.”
He nodded his head, giving a little wave of his stumpy arms. “B-Bull.”
“But you know that Lillie was scared when she saw you fall in,” Lusamine pointed out as she took his tiny arms between the towel and dried them. “You must’ve heard how she felt so helpless watching you enter the water like that. She’s brave too, but she does get scared for others.”
He quickly wriggled in the direction of the pet door, a slight aggression in his bark. “Snu. Snubbull.”
“Yes, it was the Delcatty that pushed you into the water. But what we saw was that Lillie told you not to attack and when you tried, she pushed you in. Was that wrong?”
He looked away.
She’d expected it. Even though she hadn’t known the Snubbull for long, her daughter had given her an account of how she met him and the time she spent previously with the caretaker. He wasn’t even a year old from what she could tell from his teeth and size, making him a child in both body and mind.
Like most children he wanted to acknowledgement and affection. He wanted to prove himself and so when something bad happened he would shift the blame, rather than learning from what went wrong. And that would cost him dearly if things kept up as they were.
“Snubull, can you answer me something?” she asked, grabbing his attention again. “What would you have proven if you had managed to hurt her in that surprise attack? Would it have made you feel better because you would have knocked her out?”
“Even though it would have meant upsetting everyone else?”
He quirked his head in confusion at the question. “Snub?”
“Sometimes winning in the wrong way is as bad as losing,” she pointed out. “They would all be fine with things if you managed to knock her out in the match before it was called because that was the rules they set, but once the trainers state the match is over you have to stop or you’ll break those rules. It’s only if you manage to win while still acting in the bounds of the rules that you’ll prove that you’re the strongest in a way that everyone can be proud of. Understand?”
He grumbled contemplatively in thought. “Snnn…”
“You know, you remind me of my son when he was younger,” she confided. “He always wanted to do everything on his own, even if it meant putting on a brave face. But sometimes I wished he’d just ask for a little help instead of rushing to grow up.”
Then again, what choice did he have after I left him on his own? The more that thought haunted her the tighter her throat got and the more her eyes stung. So she pushed it away to keep consulting Snubbull. “I know it’s hard to endure when you feel like you’ve been wronged. But you don’t want to worry Lillie, right?”
He was silent for a moment before nodding with a small, resigned chuff. “Bull.”
“Good boy.” She delicately rubbed his head before the front door opened. It was Lillie, with Azuria accompanying her.
“Is Snubbull okay now?” the former asked.
Lusamine nodded as she finished drying him off. “It’s fortunate that he got out of the water quickly enough that he didn’t ingest too much. He just needs a little rest.”
Her daughter let out a relieved breath before taking the puppy into her arms and holding onto him tight against her chest. “Snubbull, you have to listen to me so things like that don’t happen. We were so worried about you.”
“I scolded Lynn since she could have dodged the attack instead hitting him back,” Azuria said to Lusamine. “She took playing with him a little too far. But she and I didn’t know that he couldn’t swim.”
“The anatomy of a pokémon you aren’t familiar with isn’t something I’d expect you to know off-hand and accidents do happen,” Lusamine told her. “But keep in mind that while pokémon can do amazing things, they still have physical limits. Snubbull have dense skulls and strong jaws, but their arms are short and can’t support them for very long. That’s why their hind legs are so much more developed, and they often stand upright.”
“It also means that they have trouble sticking their heads above deep water and struggle to stay afloat,” Lillie added in, rubbing her own’s head as he rested against her chest. “Professor Kukui warned me when I walked his Snubbull not to let her near shore because of it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind from now on,” Azuria promised. “I’ll also understand if you want to cut the training here because of it.”
Lillie shook her head. “Koko still wants a turn and Shuckle needs practice as well.”
“Snub! Snub!” Snubbull barked, wanting to have another go at it.
Lusamine said otherwise. “I think it’d be best if you sat down for a little while in the sun. Rest up and think about what we discussed.”
He grumbled with discontentment and pouted as Lillie carried him back outside with the Coordinator following her.
Left alone inside, Lusamine finished wiping away where the water had dripped down to the floor before she folded the wet towel and moved it over to a storage bin with other used cloths. That done she made her way back outside.
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline-blue eyes locked onto the compound pair of the Butterfree that fluttered its wings slowly on the opposite side of the field as glittering particles of ice were falling from Snow Warning. Shuckle, on the other hand, seemed unsure as he stared at the Delcatty that was sitting up and brushing her paw against her cheek.
“Constrict on the Delcatty, Shuckle!” Lillie declared, taking the lead with Snubbull by her feet. The Mold Pokémon’s sinuous appendages stretched, crossing the space between them at a sluggish enough pace that the feline easily avoided it with a hop. “Koko, try a Moonblast!”
“Copycat, Lynn!” Azuria commanded in retaliation, resulting in the Prim Pokémon opening her mouth and imitating Koko as fairy-aspected energy swelled and took the form of a sphere of equal size. The two released their attacks at the same time and where the orbs met, they ruptured in a pink-hued explosion. “Now, Disconcerting Duet!”
Pieri used Supersonic!
Lynn used Disarming Voice!
The Butterfly Pokémon released a ring of blue soundwaves from his antenna while the Prim Pokémon braced herself on the ground and then let out a rather cute cry, sending out pink soundwaves woven into the shape of hearts. They grabbed the Supersonic soundwaves as they expanded, leaving them intermingled as they struck both Lillie’s pokémon like a physical force.
Shuckle, anchored to the ground, only had his head bounce backwards on impact. But Koko ended up being sent staggering backwards, her eyes screwed shut on impact with the ground. Then she staggered as she tried to rise up, paws crossing one another while Shuckle’s head was moving in small circles as he made bewildered sounds.
“They’re… both confused?” Lillie guessed at a glance.
Rotom spun in place, a question mark flashing on his screen. But using Supersonic offensively involvezzz using a dense and tightly focused ring of sound waves to confuse the zzzenses. If it was spread out then the potency would be reduced and only be useful for echolocation, zzt.
“Soundwaves can superposition with each other,” Azuria explained as she watched the two younger pokémon in the midst of their confusion. “Pieri is smart enough to adjust the frequency of his Supersonic so that it can ride Lynn’s Disarming Voice, so that the effects of the former can be passed onto the latter. Hence why it’s a duet made for double battles.”
Shuckle began to swat the air as if trying to grasp something that was floating around while Koko pounced on nothing and ended up crashing into the dirt. The sudden movement caught Shuckle’s attention and his beady eyes narrowed. Then his cheeks began to swell.
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Lusamine winced as Shuckle spat out a glob of bug adhesive that expanded from the air resistance, forming a net that landed right in the path of Koko’s staggering. It caught her blue paws, leaving her to collapse in the webbing as she landed on top of it. Looking to Lillie showed she had made a similar expression, while Snubbull held a stumpy arm to his head as if embarrassed for them and then barked as loud as he could. The call seemed to do the trick as Shuckle snapped out of his confusion, along with the entrapped Fox Pokémon that whimpered while trying get herself free.
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie yelled, pointing towards Pieri as he released an argent crescent towards Shuckle. The Silver Wind ended up breaking against his shell as he followed his instincts and withdrew into it, leaving Lusamine to assume it had been intentionally made weak as to not hurt him seriously. But it still served as a suitable distraction for the Delcatty to rush in.
Delcatty used Covet!
The Prim Pokemon pounced, paws covered in a white veil as she put her momentum to use and flipped him over while landing on her back. She then toyed with him like a ball of yarn before batting him away and sending him tumbling through the air. Shuckle hit the ground rolling until he stuck his limbs out and his head emerged, a frown on his face as he glared at the ball of fluid in-between her palms. “KLE!!”
Still wrapped in that white veil like a bubble was the Berry Juice he’d been fermenting, stolen by the feline that began to sip it down while he looked on with narrowed eyes—
Koko used Moonblast!
It’s a Critical Hit!
—only to then be blasted by a pink orb that closed the distance and then exploded against her, sending her tumbling away while the pilfered liquid splashed all over her face and coat before she knew what hit her. “Mmraw!?”
Lusamine turned to see the Alolan Vulpix that had been thought to be out of the fight was back on her feet. The webbing that held her in place was shattered, covered in a layer of ice. If she had to guess, it seemed like Koko had used Powder Snow to freeze it and thus take away it’s adhesiveness.
“Good job, Koko!” Lillie praised her, blissfully unaware of the smile on Snubbull’s face as he snickered upon seeing the feline knocked about. “Now, get Pieri with Powder Snow while your Snow Warning is still working!”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled on her feet as she faced him and exhaled a stream of cold, ice-particle laden air towards the Butterfly Pokémon that ascended with rapid flaps of his wings before teleporting right behind her. His wings then began to scatter Sleep Powder once more, only for a bundle of bug glue to send him sprawling onto the ground, pinned to it by his wings. He struggled to try and get free while Lynn got back up on her forepaws and was hissing with hackles raised at Koko.
“That’s enough.” The declaration was followed by a clap of Azuria’s hands, grabbing the Pokémon’s attention before they could continue. “Don’t struggle, Pieri. That webbing is too tight on your wings because Safeguard wore off, and if you Teleport wrong then you might damage them. Lynn, you can’t beat both of them without actually harming them, which isn’t what we’re here for.”
The feline gestured to herself and let out pitying noise from where the spilled Berry Juice had painted her coat.
“I’ll give you a bubble-bath later to get your coat back nice and clean, but for now go wash your face while we get Pieri free. Okay?”
The Delcatty glared at the snickering Snubbull for a moment before nodding. Then she dashed over the side of the bank towards the running water below, leaving the rest where they were as the light snowfall ceased along with the match.
“…That was harder than I thought,” Lillie said, crouching down as Koko came over and yipped. Even with the surprise attack that Koko got off, it hadn’t done nearly enough to hurt more than the feline’s pride. But she was still proud that Koko managed to free herself and get the attack off, so she smiled down at the Alolan Vulpix and brushed her hair. “Good job.”
“Lolo, can you help Pieri get free?” Azuria called out to the Slowbro sitting away from the group, who stared vacantly in her direction for a moment. Then he pointed towards the downed Butterfree and his eyes shone with a cerulean hue. Psychic waves flowed from his finger and washed over Pieri until the webbing seemingly dissolved. “Thanks!”
“Oh, that’s fairly impressive use of Psywave,” Lusamine noted as she looked over to the Hermit Crab Pokémon that proceeded to stare off into space again. “He has that much control over it?”
“Yep,” she said. “Despite how spacey he looks, Lolo’s really good at using psychic techniques. He can regulate it well enough that it wouldn’t harm anyone but still tear the adhesive apart.”
The Coordinator then watched as her Butterfree tested his wings once more to satisfaction before turning back to Lillie. “So, on the subject of Double Battles, I think that Koko will probably be the most difficult of your pokémon to find a partner with.”
“What do you mean?” Lillie asked. “I think she gets along well with the others, so they would make a good team.”
“It’s not her personality, but rather her Ability,” Azuria clarified, pointing up. “Right now, Snow Warning is underdeveloped, so it’s more of a light snowfall than anything else. But eventually that snow will become hail that will start actively hurting the Pokémon around her who aren’t like Glacian.”
The Alolan Vulpix tilted her head at that before turning over to her playmate and giving an inquiring yip. The Fresh Snow Pokémon answered back with an affirming nod. Her ears fell slightly, and she lowered her head. “Vul…”
Lillie comforted her with another pat to the head. “I can’t stop her from doing something that comes instinctively. And she likes battling a little too much for me to not include her because of it.”
Azuria agreed with a nod. “That’s why you need a workaround. Fortunately, the solution is something Rotom suggested already when he said to try and learn Sunny Day for Bellamy.”
Not only would it remove the damage from Hail, but Bellamy possesses both Chlorophyll and Growth, zzzt. Rotom floated over and displayed a graph with a Bellsprout on it, along with some diagrams. And Snubbull has Fire Fang, which would also benefit from strong sunlight.
“Speaking of Snubbull, he’s…” The Coordinator took a moment to consider her words carefully. “Headstrong. He’ll rush right into battle, but that also means he doesn’t watch out for himself or his partner. And considering that one of the most common tactics in a Double Battle is to gang up on a single pokémon, he’ll most often end up being taken out first. Especially since his favorite technique, Fire Fang, is also underdeveloped.”
Snubbull frowned at that. “Bull!”
“Sorry, but it’s true,” she told him. “You can only use it with your fangs as the foundation, which is fine for now. But a fully formed Fire Fang is done completely out of fire, just like with how Ice Fang and Thunder Fang are made out of ice and electricity. Right, Glacian?”
At the prompt, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bobbed his head before turning to Snubbull. Then the temperature abruptly dropped as the formation of jagged rows of crystalline teeth took place in less than a second. The construct jaws that were even larger than Snubbull pantomimed the Glaceon as he snapped his mouth shut and they crashed into one another, erupting in a spray of white and blue frost.
Snubbull shook his head and brushed his tiny arms over his fur to get rid of the ice particles before pointing to the Glaceon and barking. “Snubb! Snubbull! Snub!”
Lillie left it to Rotom to translate that he was demanding that he ‘give him his fangs’ before she sighed. “Snubbull, that’s not a nice way to ask someone to teach you a technique. Besides, he’s still helping Koko and you should work on what you have first.”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed and grumbled under his breath. “Bull…”
“And as for your Shuckle, he can actually be a good supporter for the others,” Azuria continued. “For example, if he managed to learn Bind like AJ said or catch others with Sticky Web, he can tie them down so they can’t run away or dodge attacks that take time like Koko’s Moonblast. And, since he can defend himself with Protect, he’ll be able to stand his ground and play to his strengths.”
“That’s a great idea,” Lillie said, before noticing the Mold Pokémon was still looking down to where his Berry Juice had been wasted. Despite Bellamy’s awkward attempt at consoling him over the loss of his snack, he was still upset. “It’ll be okay, Shuckle.”
“Kle,” was the only response he gave while still hanging his head downcast.
“Aw, now I feel even worse about what Lynn did.” Azuria crouched down in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. “Tell you what, how about I give you a sour pokéblock now and bring you back some really sour berries the next time? You like those, right?”
His limp head perked up immediately as she pulled out a Pokéblock Case and offered him a snack. He tentatively brought it into his mouth and relished it before making a pleased sound. Azuria took that to mean he liked it as the girls continued to talk about developing their pokémon.
Overall, from what Lusamine could see, Azuria was a very caring and intelligent Coordinator. It was great that Lillie made such a wonderful friend in such a short time. She would actively try to get to know her better before she made her decision about Milotic, should the worst come to pass.
Chapter 16: Dominion Advances
Space distorted. Warped as a force nudged aside everything within range of it to create a void. That void was when filled with a flash of violet light as Elio stood there, his body eclipsed by the outstretched pinions of the Moone Pokémon as the Teleport was complete.
Touching down, the Champion found himself at the entrance of Diglett’s Tunnel at the south end of Heahea City. The pavement road turned sharply and gave way to one made of grass and dirt. It would lead into the heart of the tunnel carved into the mountains that split it off from the coastal city of merchants, Konikoni.
“Piii…” Nebby growled as she peered into the darkness.
“Yeah, I know,” Elio said. He didn’t need Rotom to translate the fact that Nebby wasn’t comfortable in such a confined space. “Return to your ball for now. I’ll leave it in an active state, so you can stay aware of the situation.”
Though it wasn’t necessary, all things considered. Maybe it was because Nebby’s species was once that of an Ultra Beast if those legends in the Library were anything to go by, but even if her ball was in an inactive state she could get out if she wanted. But for now, she allowed herself to be Returned.
“That was fast,” a feminine voice drew his eyes. He turned to see that Olivia was approaching him from behind, the short-sleeved jacket draping her torso rustling with every step she took. “I expected you to take a little longer to get ready.”
“I’ve been expecting the call since yesterday, so I was ready to go just in case it appeared somewhere with a larger population,” he explained as Rotom poked its antenna out of his backpack. Taking into consideration what he knew, he had already swapped out his team to be able to deal with the threat a Nihilego presented. “The tunnel wasn’t one of them, though. That could be a problem.”
Olivia nodded slowly as her dark brown eyes folded in. “Judging from the damage at the Golf Course, there’s a strong risk of a cave-in should it unleash that level of power here. However, it’s better that a confrontation occurs here rather than one of the cities. I’ve already gone ahead and evacuated the workers in the cave, but…”
She then turned her gaze to him and her eyes softened. “I’ll be coming with you. Not that you aren’t capable, but there’s no sense in letting you take the risk on your own.”
“I don’t mind, but will you be alright if there is a cave-in?” he asked. Nebby could connect with his thoughts, so if she sensed he was in danger she could teleport him out. And Rotom would stay in his backpack to hitch a ride and translate what was said, so he’d be ready in if it decided to attack.
“It’s sweet of you to worry, but I’ll be fine.” Olivia smiled. “Shall we head in then? If we manage to finish this quickly, we can stop by Mallow’s restaurant. I’ll treat you to a meal.”
That said, the Kahuna of Akala Island and Champion of Alola ventured into the tunnels carved out by man and pokémon. The dark caverns were illuminated by artificial lights, the sound of drilling off the beaten path absent and instead replaced by an unsettling quiet. It was almost haunting, really.
“Where to look?” he muttered to himself. Elio suspected the Nihilego was going to find him no matter what, given he was also a Faller. But, ideally, he should know where it would be coming from so it didn’t catch him by surprise.
“If it’s these caves then it would be best to ask would be a local pokémon,” Olivia said, prompting him to look over his shoulder to see the Kahuna looking around for something in the dark. She then smiled and called out in a sing-song tone, “Diglett, it’s Olivia.”
Elio shifted his gaze to the distance, where he could make out a trio of golden strands sticking out of the dirt that seemed to quiver as the sound waves reached it. The dirt around it parted as a half-buried Mole Pokémon stuck its head out, blinking while its hairs wobbled. “Dig?”
She waved it over. “Come here for a bit, will you?”
The tiny thing dove back into the ground, vanishing from sight entirely for a moment before popping back out right next to her. It then rubbed its head against her ankle affectionately. “Diglett!”
“It’s nice to see you too.” Olivia crouched down to carefully pet the tiny pokémon along its side before she pulled out a Big Root from her coat’s pocket and placed it down in front of the Alolan Diglett. “Can you help lead us to a pokémon that you haven’t seen in the tunnels before now?”
“Dig! Dig!” The Mole Pokémon bobbed its head before it grabbed the snack with its mouth and sank under the ground with only its hairs sticking out. Then the hairs began to move, the ground lightly upturned as it made a guiding path.
“Now we just have to follow it,” she said, taking the lead.
“I’m surprised it helped you out so willingly,” Elio admitted, following behind her. “They caused some trouble a little while ago, didn’t they?”
“The Kahuna not only serves as the link between the Tapus and the humans, but also the local pokémon,” she explained. “Adding to that, they help me when I search the tunnels to mine for jewels, fossils, and evolutionary stones. So, if there’s a foreign pokémon that’s been here for long, they’d know where.”
“That’ll be helpful,” he said. “If it comes down to it, I should be able to stop it from causing immense damage to their tunnels as well. Though I don’t think it’ll have the strength to fight back much, so if I can keep it calm I might be able to lure it into a ball.”
“I’ll trust whatever you have in mind. After all, none of us want to hurt them, but we can’t overlook the damage they can cause if left unchecked,” she said. In the end, to be a Kahuna meant acting in the best interest for both the humans and the pokémon. “That said, I haven’t had much luck in finding the ones that caused trouble here before so far.”
She nodded. “There were two of them. Tapu Lele and I drove them off after a hard battle, but there’s been no signs of them so far. Without access to the Pokémon Centers, most likely they’re recovering from their battles in hiding, like the one that attacked the Golf Course.”
“In which case they’ll be active soon,” Elio guessed. In the end, he might have to look around the islands just to see if he could draw them out before they attacked again.
The talking tapered off there as they continued following the Alolan Diglett until it brought them to a section of the tunnels Elio hadn’t been to before. If he had to guess, it was somewhere away from the excavating and machinery, where it would be quieter. A place where the Nihilego could recover from the beating it took.
“It’s up ahead then?” she asked, earning a nod from the Mole Pokémon. Olivia then turned to Elio. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” he told her before pressing ahead until he caught sight of it.
The Nihilego was almost like a deflated balloon. It was wobbling as it struggled to rise off the ground, the membrane of its bell looking crinkled and slowly inflating. Had it been sleeping until just now?
“Easy,” Elio said, taking slow steps forward. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’m here to help you. Can you understand me?”
A soft, undulating sound reached his ears in response as it warily drifted backwards from him.
It says its hurting, zzt.
Like he’d thought, between the Battle Aura and taking those hits from Guzma’s Pokémon, it was still injured and tired. If they left it alone, it would likely take a while to recover. He crouched low and set an Oran Berry down before backing up four steps. “Eat this. It’ll ease the pain.”
It warily remained in place, waiting to see if he’d approach regardless until he took three more steps back. Then it slowly drifted forward, the tips of its tentacles dragging along the hard-packed dirt until they brushed the berry. Lowering itself until it managed to bring the berry into its bell, the fruit began to dissolve within it.
Elio waited until it was completely dissolved before he crouched back down. Then he rolled another Oran Berry along the ground to it. He didn’t want to approach it just yet, but he made sure to roll it enough so that it was halfway between them. “You can have another, if you want.”
It approached cautiously and then picked it up this time with its lower set of tentacles, bringing the fruit into its bell once again. The berry dissolved even faster than before. Then a wet sound rang out when it was done eating, rippling on his ears as it warily observed him—asking for another one according to Rotom.
“You want to go home, right?” Elio asked as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a third Oran Berry. He moved the hand holding it around to make sure that the Ultra Beast was following it. “It’s uncomfortable here for you, isn’t it?”
The Nihilego said nothing, but the way its body shifted told him that it was interested. When he did a light, underhanded toss that was meant to come up just a bit short, the Parasite Pokémon reached out to grab the berry midair before dragging the berry into its bell. It was dissolved in no time at all and the Nihilego gently gurgled expectantly.
“Here’s a fourth one,” Elio told it, holding out another one without throwing it. The Nihilego made a begging noise, but he just held his hand out a little more to encourage it to come a little closer. It began floating over to him slowly in response and Elio felt Nebby’s ball shake.
Nebby, calm down. He directed his thoughts to the Moone Pokémon. I know you don’t like them in your territory, and especially not Nihilego. But this one hasn’t hurt anyone yet, it’s just scared of being in someplace unfamiliar and wants to go home. Just give me a chance, and if it does bond with me you can force it off.
Nebby settled down in her ball, leaving Elio to work as he finally gave the berry a light toss when the Nihilego was within three yards. It deftly plucked the berry out of the air and immediately took it within its bell to consume. Elio then silently slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a miniaturized Beast Ball this time.
He wasn’t sure how the Ultra Beast sensed the world around it, but it could clearly recognize a pattern. The Beast Ball had been stored with them long enough to have its scent masked by the berries. Between that, the similar coloration, and its lack of experience with this world, he should be able to fool it… and if not, he had Nebby.
“Here you go,” he said, holding it out with a closed fist and facing downwards. “Last one.”
The Parasite Pokémon drifted closer again as he brushed his thumb over the button to set it in an active state and then tossed it upwards. The Ultra Beast naturally reacted by grasping and forcing it into its bell, causing the capturing function to trigger. The Nihilego was then sucked into the Beast Ball abruptly and it fell to the ground.
Miss Wicke said that the Beast Ball should be at least more comfortable to this Ultra Beast, given that Lillie’s mother had originally had them commissioned to capture a Nihilego, Elio reasoned silently. It probably won’t try to break out. But get ready just in case, Nebby…
“Whew.” Elio breathed out a sigh of relief as the ball went still. It was captured without a fuss.
“That was a little more reckless than I’d like,” Olivia said. He turned to see that she had her own Ultra Ball out, likely getting ready to act if he had been slow. “It worked out this time, but I don’t think the rest will be as easy.”
“I know, but I really didn’t want to beat down on an already injured pokémon,” he said, turning to the ball and reaching for it. “Come on, Nihilego. Let’s get you back—”
He didn’t get the chance to finish before the dirt beneath the Beast Ball erupted. A long, sinuous body jutted out of the ground and it took a moment for Elio to recognize it was a Pokémon. One that he hadn’t seen before. In that moment, it grabbed Nihilego’s ball in its mouth, and then dove right back into the ground.
It stole Nihilego! The moment that thought registered Elio reached for the Nebby’s ball. “Get it back!”
The Lunala burst free, filling up the space between Elio and the hole as its pink eyes turned crimson. A wave of telepathic power washed through the ground, probing it for the life beneath the surface. Then Nebby used Psychic in earnest, gripping the serpent in a telekinetic stranglehold before ripping it out the very ground with enough force that the spray of dirt this time was like a geyser going off.
The captured pokémon strained as it was then floated in place. It was a serpent like an Arbok, only it had longer fangs the color of blood, with matching eyes. And the tail was shaped like a blade, partially red and sharp-looking to boot.
Rotom snapped a photograph. Pokémon data not found in the local database, zzt. Remotely accessing national database. Accezzing. Accezzing. Accezzing. Data found, zzrt. Seviper, the Fang Snake Pokémon. Native region is Hoenn, with sightings in Unova and Kalos—
“Later Rotom,” Elio said, eyes fixed onto the Seviper’s mouth. The ball was missing. “You didn’t swallow it, did you?”
“Ssss-ssseee…” It let out a low, hissing sound as it glared at him in a way that Nebby didn’t appreciate given she stretched its sinuous body out straight and began to wrest its maw open against its will.
“You don’t need to hurt it, Nebby,” Elio said before she could go too far. “We’ll have Melon put it asleep and then take it with us—”
His words were smothered when wall next to them exploded as another pokémon emerged, plowing through solid stone in a display of sheer force. It was a large pokémon whose green hide covered it like armor with spikes jutting out. Elio recognized this one from a documentary he’d seen on Johto—a Tyranitar.
“RRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHH!” The roar it let out threatened to deafen them all as the Armor Pokémon was abruptly wreathed in a veil of shadows that billowed out. Then it threw it itself forward, directly towards the Legendary Pokémon.
Nebby only had enough time to bat her trainer away with a wave of psychic energy before the attack connected and the shadowy aura violently expanded. Her pained screeched was drowned out by a thunderous crash as she was driven into the opposing wall by the rushing pokémon hard enough that a plume of stone fragments and dirt obscured their forms. Only one silhouette moved afterwards, and it wasn’t hers.
“Nebby—” He was about to recall her when a firm grasp on his arm jerked him back. It was all that saved him as a flash of venomous light scythed where his torso had been, a Poison Tail from the muscular and sinuous serpent that had been freed from the psychic grip that held it captive. He fell back into Olivia’s arms and she held him close while tossing out her own Ultra Ball.
“Ferrin, Magnet Bomb!” The ball burst open and out came her Probopass. The female Compass Pokémon appeared between the humans and the opposing Fang Snake Pokémon and immediately dispatched her Mini-Noses, whose eyes turned orange as they flew towards the target. The moment they got close they detonated and blew the serpent backwards. “Now, Dazzling Gleam on the other one!”
“Passs.” Facing the larger Armor Pokémon as its narrowed eyes fixed onto the newest target of its rage, the Mini-Noses took up a triangular formation before unleashing prismatic rays from their noses. Each one slammed into the hard armor of the Tyranitar… only for it to not even flinch as they broke against its hide and left rainbow-hued streamers to tear into the ground around it.
Zzt? That should’ve been Super-Effective! Rotom noted, only to then point its appendage over to the entrance where it burst through. The Zzzzzeviper is escaping!
Elio finished recalling Nebby into her ball before twisting his head to see the slithering serpent vanish beyond the entrance. If they lost Nihilego now then… no, he couldn’t let that happen. He grabbed his Ride Pager and then shot out towards the opening.
“Cover him, Ferrin!” Olivia ordered as the Tyranitar twisted its head towards the boy and lunged with fangs shrouded in darkness. The Compass Pokémon rocketed forward to intercept it, using its magnetic field as propulsion to bring the bulk of its mass crashing against the relatively lighter pokémon.
The blow managed to knock it off to the side from the momentum. The levitating drones then spread out and unleashed lancing rays of argent light. They slammed into its hard body and kept it pinned down.
“Sorry, but I have to leave this one to you!” Elio said over the hum of the Flash Cannon attacks as he flipped through the selection of available Ride Pokémon. Tauros had trouble turning and Mudsdale was better in rough terrain than a place like this. So that left…
“Just be careful!” Olivia shouted in response.
“Same to you!” He pressed the button as he jumped through the opening and there was a flash of light. His ride gear materialized over his body and a Stoutland appeared beneath him. Gripping the handles, he then directed the Big-Hearted Pokémon to give chase. “Don’t let that snake get away!”
The Stoutland barked and then took off as fast as it could.
Elio felt guilt weighing down his stomach as the sound of the battle between Olivia and that odd Tyranitar grew distant while they navigated the tunnels. That darkness around it felt like… hatred and malice and sadness and pain. Such negative emotions, bundled together so thickly that they took on a tangible form, had almost suffocated him when it hit Nebby.
I’m sorry, Nebby. He passed that thought along, feeling the touch of her mind to his as he reached for another two of his Poké Balls while keeping his eyes on the slithering Seviper. We’ll handle it from here, so just rest for now. Okay?
The Fang Snake Pokémon briefly glanced back as the sound of one of the balls bursting open signaled the release of Kou, who swooped past it and then whirled around to intercept it from the front. The serpent bared its fangs and lunged to Crunch down on the Bat Pokémon in response, only for the Crobat to twist out of the way while releasing an Air Slash that slammed into the serpent. It was sent sprawling into a mining cart hard enough that the metal audibly crunched inwards on impact.
“Now pin it down by the tail and mouth, Melon!” Elio ordered as he tossed out the second Poké Ball and released the pokémon inside. The lights from above cast a shadow as the energy state was converted into a round mass of bulk that came down on the rear section of the Seviper’s body hard enough that the ground shook.
“Sevvviiiipppeerr!” The Fang Snake Pokémon shrieked in pain, thrashing as it tried to get free. Then, as the shadow loomed over its head, it whirled around and spat the baleful, venomous liquid that was Toxic towards the face of the female Snorlax.
“Lax…” The Sleeping Pokémon wiped it off, not remotely bothered. Immunity was one of the reasons Elio brought her in the first place to deal with Nihilego. She finished leaning forward and then pinned its head down to the ground with both of her stout paws.
“Now, use Yawn,” Elio said, pulling Stoutland to a stop as Kou fluttered in the air next to him. “We’ll take it to the Aether Foundation and have them get Nihilego out while its asleep. They should also be able to find out who its trainer is and what they did to that Tyranitar.”
“Snorrrlax…” Melon opened her mouth to release the sleep-inducing bubble. It smacked the Seviper that struggled to get away, drowsiness washing over it. She held it down until the jerking slowed to a crawl and then stopped.
That was when Stoutland started barking.
Incoming! Rotom’s translation drew their eyes up to the air where the lamps strung up by orange cords ran along the ceiling. It was there that what looked be a black Poké Ball burst open. The purple and grey plates that were like armor shook the earth the moment the Nidoking landed and it let loose a mad roar that echoed off the walls.
Melon’s attention fell onto the new threat as darkness burst from the near-invisible gaps in its plates and it tried to run all of them down. The Ride Pokémon immediately forced itself to move and dart out of the way to avoid its rider coming to harm while Kou flew upwards, inadvertently leaving Melon exposed to the full-brunt of its attack. The moment it connected, that darkness expanded like an explosion going off and she was sent crashing into the floor behind her.
Elio regained controlled of Stoutland as Kou flew back towards him. “Melon, are you okay!?”
“L-Lax…” Her body shuddered as she tried to push herself back onto her feet, still willing to fight. But the blow had hurt her badly enough that she was barely able to move. Much less take the next hit as the Nidoking stomped towards her with a raised fist that was shrouded in bright light—a Mega Punch.
Elio recalled her, holding out her ball and triggering the Return function. Red light speared out and converted the Sleeping Pokémon back into her energy state in time to avoid the hit that blew out the ground as the condensed power was unleashed, resulting in a geyser of dirt that covered it. Noticing the absence of its target, the Nidoking’s seething gaze fell onto Elio and darkness wrapped its frame once more. “Kou, use Haze!”
The Bat Pokémon responded by exhaling a thick, dark mist that rolled over the battlefield they’d turned the cavern into to create an obscuring veil. The maddened Nidoking still charged into it, only to find emptiness as the trainer and his pokémon vanished. That was when the Crobat swooped in with a shriek, fangs bared.
The Nidoking brought its venomous horn around and lunged forward. The point pierced through the comparatively soft-bodied pokémon and its form unraveled, only for there to be a burst of pain as what felt like a solid slab of metal struck the side of its head. The blow was hard enough that the pokémon staggered a few steps back, despite its massive frame. The pain only doubled as the Acrobatics attack that followed made everything disappear as the wings caught its unprotected face next. “NIDOOOO!”
Momentarily blinded, the Drill Pokémon thrashed madly as shrieks began to bounce off the walls. More than one, it sounded like there were dozens, if not hundreds of Bat Pokémon surrounding it. A fact that it bore witness to as its vision returned, filled with countless purple figures fluttering within the lingering veil of smoke.
It lashed out against them all as they swooped in—swinging its armored claws to bat them aside, thrusting its venomous horn to impale those that came towards its face again, and whipping its massive tail around to crush those that were caught in its wake. The thrashing was only stopped when a blade of wind cut across its head hard enough to flinch it, and something caught its tail in an iron grip.
Patches of black-and-white were the last thing the Nikdoking spotted before it was pulled off its feet and whirled around in a circle. The rotations built up momentum until it was abruptly flung into the cavern wall, hard enough that the solid stone cratered. Hurt and enraged, the Drill Pokémon peered through the dissipated Haze to see the face of its true opposition.
The Bat Pokémon hadn’t been the only thing lurking in the dark. The Daunting Pokémon had been called into the fight, given the urgency. Cracking his knuckles, Pancho stood between the Nidoking and his trainer while taking on a boxer’s stance.
“We’re going all out, Pancho!” Elio crossed his arms as a fierce, orange light began to radiate from his wrists. Punching the air with righteous fury, the energy from within him flared to its peak. Then it was focused through the Z-Crystal into the Daunting Pokémon.
Every muscle in the Drill Pokémon’s body tensed, its attention drawn to Z-Power that shrouded the Pangoro. Accepting the challenge, the shadowy aura around it thickened until the pokémon beneath was almost completely obscured. Devoting every ounce of its enforced rage and anger into power, it exploded in movement with the most powerful Shadow Break it could to run them all down as the All-Out Pummeling was unleashed through piston-like jabs.
Every hit met the oncoming mass of shadows as it drew closer, the air shaking from with every impact and battering it down. The body beneath the veil was exposed as more and more of it was whittled away by the overwhelming power, leaving the armor-like body to feel the force of the blows strike through. The penultimate strike managed to completely blow the last of the shadow aura away by the time it was within mere feet of the Daunting Pokémon.
Yet, it didn’t stop. The Nidoking kept moving its body that had been battered by the Z-Move headfirst and readied a Mega Punch, even as it bore witnesses to the fact that the Pangoro was rearing back with a chambered first that gathered the remainder of his Z-Power to do the same. Attacking without regard for its own care, the Nidoking struck out with the fist brimming with power—
—only for the blow to be magnificently cross-countered by Pancho as he read the telegraphed punch. The moment his fist connected, the air ruptured for a final time. A shockwave hard enough to rattle Elio’s bones from a distance was let loose as the remaining Z-Power all came rushing forward in a stream of power that swept up the Drill Pokémon.
The orange surge thrust the Drill Pokémon right back into the wall that it had been wrenched itself free of earlier, leaving the entire cavern to shake as it was blown through the solid stone this time. The collapse of loose rubble on top of it drowned out both the Champion and his pokémon’s pants from the exertion. Yet the rubble that had collapsed over the Nidoking burst apart as it forced itself out not even a few seconds late.
“Oh, come on!” Elio was exasperated as the Drill Pokémon stomped out of where it had been buried. It had taken their best blow headfirst and was still moving. At least until he readied to give Kou the order to attack with another Air Slash, whereupon it staggered and fell to one knee.
The Nidoking glared at them with heavy eyes as it swayed. It stilled wanted to fight. But its body couldn’t hold up any longer. The fearsome pokémon collapsed after a final snarl, landing face-first with a thud.
It didn’t get back up.
There wasn’t any thrill of victory or excitement as the Nidoking laid unconscious. Only relief that it was over and… pity. Whatever had been done to it had turned it into the same kind of thing that Tyranitar had become—a relentless machine that kept attacking—until its body broke down.
But he didn’t have time to lament its fate as Kou screeched before throwing himself into Elio’s body, knocking him out of the way as a Psychic blast instead met the Bat Pokémon in his place. The Crobat was immediately sent flying into the nearest mound of excavated dirt and then slid down, unconscious, as a purple beam connected to the Nidoking.
“Kou!” Elio whipped his head around as Pancho stood in front of him for protection to see the Drill Pokémon had been recalled by a man dressed in a miner’s outfit. The hard-hat covered his face from view while another foreign pokémon hovered in the air next to him, along with the dozing Seviper. “Were you the one who did that to these Pokémon!?”
The only answer he received was the man flinging a Smoke Ball as Rotom turned to snap their picture, obscuring them from view. The rattle of Nebby’s ball preceded her forcing it open, bursting out and taking form above him. She used her own psychic powers to disperse the smoke, only to reveal that they were gone.
The man. The Seviper. The foreign Pokémon. Nihilego… all of them were gone.
The moment that realization set it, Elio felt his heart in a vice.
He’d failed utterly.
“Elio!” a voice called, echoing from the path he’d taken to get here. Eyes turned to see that Olivia was clinging to her Probopass as it levitated through the tunnels towards them. The three Mini-Noses were floating around in a defensive formation in case of another attack. “Are you okay?”
“I couldn’t get Nihilego back,” he confessed, returning Kou and Pancho into their balls while Nebby hovered over his shoulders. “A man who was in a miner’s outfit attacked us with a strange Nidoking and stole Nihilego right from under us. Then he disappeared using a psychic pokémon I haven’t seen before.”
She stepped down onto the ground as her Probopass came to a stop. “But you’re okay, right?”
“Yeah, but I still couldn’t save Nihilego even after I promised to get it home.” His hands balled into fists as he looked down to the ground, his expression obscured by his hat to hide the tears that gnawed at the corner of his eyes. He knew that whatever reason they’d kidnapped it for, it wouldn’t be good. Not after he’d seen the other two pokémon. “If whatever that man did to that Nidoking and Tyranitar is done to Nihilego… then its my fault for not helping it.”
Olivia’s lips fell into a soft frown before she gently laid her hands on his shoulders. “Champion or not, we all fail sometimes. Even if we do our best. What matters is that we try to do better going forward.”
Nebby, likewise, lowered her head. Her mind was still linked to his and so she knew the weight of his guilt. She brushed against his cheek in an effort to cheer him up, despite her own disdain for the Parasite Pokémon. “Mahiii.”
Elio swallowed the lump in his throat before he caressed Nebby’s head in return. “… I should report this to those two from the International Police. They might know something about what’s going on since those pokémon aren’t native here.”
The Kahuna’s lips turned up in approval. “You do that. I’ll talk to the other Kahuna, the local miners, the police, and have Molayne check the log of the PC System to see if any of those pokémon were registered into the local system by tourists or healed in a Pokémon Center. We’ll find whoever is responsible.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Ann sat on the edge of her bed in the Hano Grand Resort with her fingers dancing over her laptop, a cord running from the USB port connected to the portable transfer station on the nightstand.
She had gone on the tour of the Aether Foundation earlier to have a chance to get her Porygon-Z into their systems. Now she just needed to set up the relay network so that the data could be transmitted beneath their rather impressive security without notice once it got through the firewall. After that she just needed to do an analysis to find out just how many skeletons were hidden in this so-called conservation organization’s closet.
She was only just finished setting up the device when the abrupt appearance of Agent Arlo and her pokémon drew her attention. Her Beeheyem made a series of noises to announce its arrival as floated over, the sleeping Seviper being set onto the ground in front of her through its psychic power. “What happened?”
“There was interference from the Champion and local…Kahuna, was it?” He removed his stolen hard-hat, revealing yellow eyes that were more common in his native homeland of Orre. “I was forced to use both of my shadow assets in Reverse Mode. They were both defeated but the mission was a success.”
The shadow assets were pokémon that had undergone Shadowization. It was a process developed by Team Cipher before they integrated with the remnants of Team Rocket, after both organizations had been crippled. In recent years they had made numerous improvements to the process—including the creation of Shadow Balls, which integrated Snag-Tech into them. That allowed them to instantly turn a stolen pokémon into a shadow one, ensuring its immediate compliance to whoever owned its ball, though it was only as effective as an Ultra Ball and far costlier to produce.
Shadow Pokémon were stronger and faster than normal ones. Type disadvantages became a thing of the past, and in the process of enter Reverse Mode their strength increased further at the expense of damaging their bodies and driving them into a berserker rage that would attack just about anything but the trainer. They made for the perfect weapons to use in battle because of it.
However, they also had their weaknesses. A Shadow Pokémon lost its independence and became nothing more than a shell of its former-self. The will to act of their own initiative outside of battle was broken, which made them useless for complicated or intricate work. They also couldn’t used Mega Stones for some reason.
The two Shadow Pokémon that Arlo carried were the two he’d snagged himself from an Ace Trainer, who was a candidate to compete against the Elite Four. She didn’t have any doubts that he outright set them to be released in Reverse Mode from the start to accomplish the mission. So for both of them to have been defeated spoke heavily of the opposition.
“Plug them in and I’ll send them with the Ultra Beast while you work on your report,” Ann ordered. Since Shadow Pokémon were illegal to own without a license, let alone the use of Reverse Mode, the authorities would obviously be on the lookout for the pokémon in question. They would have to use the portable station to send them away to recover, which would take time given how extensively damaging Reverse Mode was on the Pokémon’s bodies.
While he did so, Ann looked over her Seviper’s body and found his injuries to be deep. “They did a number on you, didn’t they?”
Her gentle touch roused the Fang Snake Pokémon from his slumber. Flicking his tongue out to taste the air, only the familiar scent stopped him from attacking. He then let out a retching sound as he started to regurgitate the Beast Ball unprompted so that he could be returned into his own ball to make the pain stop.
Ann grabbed a towel to clean it off, taking the unique shape and coloration into account. Then she set it inside of the remaining slot on the ball transfer platform and double-checked the network with her laptop before activating the transfer. The Beast Ball and Shadow Balls were transformed into data and sent through the cord into the network.
I guess that means that ball was made to be compatible with the same systems that normal balls use then, she mused silently while returning her Seviper into his ball as the transfer was completed. Truth be told, she had been worried it wouldn’t go through since there was no telling how it was constructed without the schematics. And those would take time to decrypt depending on how secured the data was once her Porygon-Z retrieved it. Well, hopefully that should quiet Lovrina down for the moment.
“Can you put in a requisition for additional shadow assets and Shadow Balls?” Arlo asked. “From what I overheard and observed, there were more Ultra Beasts. I believe that if we snag some of his pokémon to use as incentive, we could have that naïve child they call a Champion capture these creatures for us. With any luck, we could also obtain the Legendary in his care as well and gain a foothold in this region.”
She briefly entertained the thought. Arlo was well-positioned due to his success rate on missions, so if he managed to succeed in obtaining whatever remaining Ultra Beasts there were and a Legendary there was no doubt in her mind that he would be promoted to an Admin position. Ann herself would also likely be put into a higher position—an Executive position right beneath the Leaders.
Yet, despite how tempting that may have sounded, Ann refused out of pure pragmatism. Being too ambitious was just setting yourself up for a fall, especially when you underestimated a trainer just because of their ages. That’s how Team Rocket and Team Cipher were undone in the past, and she wouldn’t let the organization born from their ashes meet the same end because she wanted to climb the ranks.
“Our original mission was to gather information that would further other plans, the Ultra Beast was just an opportunity that we capitalized on. There’s no need to endanger the mission by attempting something that ambitious when we have no way of obtaining them without direct conflict.”
“…Very well,” Arlo conceded, bowing his head. “What would you ask of me next then?”
“For now, it’s best if you lay low until things die down and your shadow assets are returned.” She turned her attention back to her laptop. “Let the Champion go about his business until Hari finishes gathering information on this Guzma individual and we decide how we’re going to approach him.”
From what they could tell he was a somewhat infamous figure on the island as the leader of a team of misfits that supposedly disbanded recently. He obviously knew more about both the Aether Foundation and these Ultra Beasts, given he knew exactly what it was and what was needed to capture it. He was a resource they could tap without drawing too much attention.
Hari had a way with talking to people and getting them to let their guard drop. And she was young enough to ask around without drawing suspicion unlike Ann, who had recently turned thirty. That made the younger agent the best-suited to the task of gathering information under the guise of a mere tourist.
And even if he was reluctant to talk, Beeheeyem was immensely useful for making people more agreeable.
They’d get the information they needed either way.