Chapter 8: Challenges Ahead
The cawing of the Wingulls filled the air as Plumeria sat down on the bench outside of the Malasada shop. There was a Big Malasada in her hand and another one in the bag on the bench next to her. That one was for Guzma when he got there, being the least she could do since he agreed to meet her there for a face-to-face talk after he got back from Akala Island.
Plumeria was still fixed on what Nanu and Molayne had asked of her. She had a chance to do something for the others and herself, but it wouldn’t feel right to go for it without asking Guzma first. He was their leader and she did respect him more than just about anyone else—other than her granny. So, she felt that she needed to talk to him in person about it.
She was in the middle of taking a bite of her snack when a meowing sound reached her ears. Her eyes drifted down to the ground where, right next to her leg, there was a strange feline Pokémon there. It wasn’t a native Meowth like they normally spotted, rather its fur was mostly a purple color, with the markings above its eyes being a lighter shade of violet.
Plumeria uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, looking down at it. “And what exactly are you?”
“Rroaw,” meowed the feline as it sat down in front of her.
“Hmm…” She held her hand with the malasada in it above her head and began moving it, watching as its eyes followed it. “So that’s what you’re after, huh?”
Its tail swished as it gave her a pleading look, emerald eyes seemingly glimmering.
“Yeah, yeah. No need to be cute with me.” She broke off a piece of it and held it low to the ground in her opened palm. “Here then.”
It purred happily, smiling and about to take a bite—
—when it was abruptly snatched up by the scruff of its neck by Guzma.
Plumeria sat upright and took in his appearance. He was panting, chest rising and falling. He was also soaking wet, his clothing clinging to him. She crossed her arms and asked, “What happened to you this time?”
“This scheming little furball ditched me in the Garden after tripping me into the pond!” he said, glaring at the feline. It hissed at him before taking a swing with its claw, nicking his arm and causing him to drop it. But before it could get far, he raised his other hand with a Poké Ball in it and returned it before setting the ball into an inactive state.
Guzma then sucked in a sharp breath as he sat down on the bench and looked at the blood seeping from scratch that it had made. “Damn cat.”
“Okay, what’s the story here?” Plumeria asked as she reached for her cup on the ground and then pulled off the lid.
“I told you about Hala having me training under that girl, right?” He didn’t resist as she grabbed his wrist and held it out. Nor when she poured the cold water and ice over it slowly, washing away some of the blood onto the asphalt while the cold caused the bleeding to slow. “The one who’s part of the Elite Four?”
“Yeah, the Golf Princess whose daddy runs the resort.” She then had him press a napkin against it while she pulled off her bandana to wrap around it tight. It would do for now. “What about that leads up to the cat?”
“It’s apparently a stowaway Purrloin that somehow got on one of those cruise ships that run to the resort from some far-off region and got stuck,” he said. “It started stealing crap and causing trouble around the place, so she caught it and told me to see if I could reform it as part of training—expanding my horizons and crap like that.”
Plumeria could barely stop herself from rolling her eyes at the thought as she passed the bag along to him. “So her plan is basically to make a former trouble-maker reform one?”
“It’s a devious little pain in my ass is what it is.” Guzma took a big bite out of his malasada. “Mn… It… It acts all cutesy…mmm… before running off. At least we were… mmm… straight-up about…mn… everything.”
“Finish chewing before you speak,” she told him.
He rolled his eyes and then chewed a few more times before swallowing it. A sigh followed and then he leaned back and asked, “So, what’d you call me out here for?”
“The Kahuna came to Granny’s trailer with some guy called Molayne. Said you and him went around with Kukui when you were younger.”
“That was a long time ago,” Guzma said. “Haven’t seen that scrawny guy since he made Trial Captain, though he’d been too old for the job now. What’d they want?”
She hesitated to tell him, not sure about what his reaction would be. Guzma, for all his bluster, took bad news pretty harshly on himself. Especially when he felt that he was the one to blame for everything.
Him getting back from Ultra Space should have been a celebration. But when he’d gotten back, he’d been different. Not just because of what those Ultra Beast did to him, but because he had basically been played like a fiddle by the President—she played them all, really.
As bad as their little group had been, they’d mostly been looking out for themselves. Their Grunts and their Pokémon had to eat, so they did what they had to in order to get by. It was only when she got involved that they started doing things that they wouldn’t normally do, making themselves look worse for the benefits she offered.
Plumeria hadn’t been a fan of it, but went along with it because her family came first. Yes, they were thieves. They got their hands dirty and stained their own reputation in mud, turning from outcasts to petty criminals to get by, knowing that she or Guzma would just turn the Pokémon they managed to get over to the Aether Foundation to be treated and cared for. It was a necessary evil so that she kept the place where she belonged.
But, for Guzma, he liked the praise the President gave him. The validation that came from having a rich and powerful woman telling him everything he’d wanted to hear. So he’d been devastated to be used like that, every bit of confidence he’d gained for providing for their little family and working as her left-hand man crumbling under him.
Now here Plumeria was, offered a chance to do the sort of thing he would have wanted after that.
“…Promise not to flip out?” she asked, reaching into her pocket for what laid hidden there. “None of that beating yourself up or anything, otherwise I’ll be pissed.”
His brows folded inwards at the request, but he nodded.
“They wanted me to compete in the Pokémon League,” Plumeria told him, showing him the Island Challenge Amulet. Then she told him everything else that they’d talked about. That the other adults had been working to change the traditions behind their backs and without them even realizing it. That the Kahunas were in on it too.
By the time she was done, Guzma was no longer looking at her. He was instead looking down at the ground, his hands clenched into fists so tightly they were shaking. Unable to keep it contained, but not willing to break his promise, he slammed the bottom of his fist against the bench hard enough that it shook. “DAMN IT ALL!”
“Yeah,” Plumeria said softly, ignoring the looks they were getting. She knew exactly what he was feeling, because she felt the same.
“If that goddamn Kukui had said anything about his grand plan, I wouldn’t have gone along with the woman’s schemes!” He slammed his fist into the bench again. “I wouldn’t have gone with her and ended up going through… that…”
“Yeah,” she said again, just as soft as before. “This whole mess could have been avoided if they’d said something. But the kids we watched after could have had it worse if we weren’t there and did what we had to do, so it wasn’t worthless.”
Guzma just shook his head, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his fingers before turning back to her. “…Anyway, you should go for it.”
“You sure?” she asked.
“Not going to lie to you, Plume. I wish that I was in your place,” he said, rising to his feet. “But my own screw-ups put the nails in that coffin. Even if Hala’s giving me a second chance, ain’t no way everyone else would be fine with me going for the title with my rep now. So it’s up to you to go and show everyone what you’re made of.”
“Then I guess I’ll see about starting on my Trials soon,” Plumeria said as she rose up as well, wiping her hands on a napkin. She’d also have to apologize to the girl running the trial over in the abandoned supermarket for that mess at the Aether House. “You heading back home?”
“Nah, not tonight,” he said. “I’m going to crash in Po Town for the rest of the day and see about putting this cat in its place.”
“Then come say hi to Granny first and help me carry some stuff from the store,” Plumeria said, turning towards the direction of the store. “If you’re going to be running that way, you can give the three still in that Pokémon Center something to tide them by for a few days as well.”
“Yeah, sure.” He rubbed the back of his head and followed after her.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Elio sat on the shores of Melemele Island by Kukui’s home as he watched his Starter Pokémon, a female Primarina named Silky, sit on a stone protruding from the salty water. She sung a sweet song with balloons of water hovering in the air, light gleaming off of them in a dazzling display and were kept afloat by the vibrations in the song—at least that was what Rotom explained. A lot of the local Pokémon had gathered to attend the morning concert, acting as her audience as they stuck their heads out of the water to watch her performance.
Ever since he’d arrived on the island and accepted her as his partner, Silky loved to come here and sing. Sometimes he wondered if she would be happier singing than battling, but he wouldn’t have been able to make it this far if not for her. It was only because she had been by his side since he arrived that he managed to do as much as he did, and became the Champion.
As the song came to an end, the water balloons popped into a rain of that caught the light of the morning sun and formed a rainbow. The various Pokémon lingering in the water applauded the performance as she bowed and then dispersed, going back to their normal habits. Silky then dove into the water and swam back to the shore, where she waded up towards him.
“A beautiful performance as always,” Elio told her as he brushed his fingers against her head. She leaned into it for a bit, happy at the compliment, before jumping forward and embracing him with her fins. He was left on the ground, his clothes wet as she nuzzled her head against him in return. “Hey, come on. You know Mom’s going to make me wash my clothes again if they get all wet.”
“Hahaha… she’s playful as ever, huh?” They turned to the source of the voice and found Hau standing there, a cheerful smile plastered on his face as always.
“Yeah, you know how she is,” Elio said as he sat up, returning the smile with one of his own. “I thought you’d be out training with Ilima around now?”
“I just so happened to have finished this morning,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to tell you this personally.”
Elio took notice the way his smile dropped slightly and his tone got a bit more serious, both of which were rare given how laid back Hau normally was. He gently pushed Silky aside, who also took notice of the shift in his demeanor, and rose to his feet. “What’s up?”
“I’m going to challenge the Elite Four and your Championship the day after tomorrow,” he declared. “I’ve already submitted the paperwork, so you should receive the notice later today. But I wanted to tell you in person that I’m going for your Title.”
A tense silence hung in the air for a pause. It was a declaration of war against the newly crowned Champion of Alola. He hadn’t even had the Title for a month now and it was on the verge of being taken from him.
“Whew.” The tension broke like a Hammer Arm had been taken to it as Elio let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his head. “For a second I thought it was something bad. Sure, I accept your challenge. Come at me anytime.”
Hau seemed a bit unsure of that reaction.
Seeing that, Elio just shook his head. “If there’s anything you’ve taught me, Hau, it’s that you don’t need to be overly dramatic in order to be serious. We’ve been through a lot together, and I remember what you told me the day after Lillie left, so I’d been expecting you to issue the challenge for some time now.”
After Lillie had left, Hau came by his home. It was there he told him about the Battle Tree and his intention to take the Championship, and that they’d have the best battle ever. There had been a fire kindled in his eyes unlike before—so it was impossible not to take it seriously.
“When you say it like that, you make it sound like I’ve been dragging my feet.” Hau sighed, letting his shoulders sag before he got serious again. “I’m going to come at you with everything I’ve got. You and Grandpa. So I wanted to tell you to give it everything you’ve got when we face each other—no going easy just cause we’re friends.”
“I had planned to from the start.” He reached over and patted Silky’s head. “After all, Silky and the others fought hard for me to have the chance to claim the Title in the first place. If I didn’t give it my all to defend it, it’d be doing them wrong too.”
Hau’s smile returned. That was the response he wanted to hear. “All right! No regrets, no matter what!”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Looker couldn’t help but grunt as he looked out to the island that was steadily growing closer, hand on his chin while deep in thought. It had been roughly a decade since he had been back to Alola, incidentally for the same reasons as before. More Ultra Beasts—UBs—had entered into their world after ten years, and they were tasked with eliminating or capturing them for study.
“Is there something on your mind, Mister Looker?” asked Anabel, his superior despite her relative younger age. Ten years ago, he and his superior of the time, Nanu, had found her washed up on shore and taken her back to their headquarters. It was around that time that they’d found out she was bathed in the same energy that came from the Ultra Wormholes, indicating that she’d fallen through one.
“I was wondering if the restaurants have added anything new to their menus since the last time we were here,” he lied—well, partially anyway. He was looking forward to expanding his palate with the local delicacies, and maybe catch up with his former superior who had retired after their last attempt at trying to capture an UB.
But he was more concerned over the fact that, once again, the events of ten years ago was playing out. They’d been deployed to track down an Ultra Beast with a Faller, a person who had gone through an Ultra Wormhole, and tasked with capturing it. But their Poké Balls weren’t capable of properly registering it, so they’d been forced to harm it with their Pokémon drastically in order to have a chance.
It had been excessively cruel. He couldn’t help but pity it. And that moment of pity cost the Faller their life, as she had been untrained. It was only afterwards that both he and Nanu became aware that she had been glorified bait for the purpose of drawing the UB out into the open in the first place.
Anabel merely gave him a small frown at the lie. “I’m certain you’ll have a chance to sample the cuisine after we’ve completed the mission. The Aether Foundation has set up a network to monitor for any signs of the UBs. But it would be best that we try to locate them as quickly as possible before they harm civilians. I don’t wish to eliminate them for lashing out and being confused.”
“I agree completely, Chief.” It was possible now to do so without resorting to the methods used before, since they had access to Beast Balls. For whatever madness had overtaken Miss Lusamine to sink millions into each one, there was confirmation that they worked according to the report given by her daughter to Madam Wicke before their departure. “Even so, the number of UBs is greater than before. We may need to enlist the help of another trainer to assist us in the task.”
“As tempting as that prospect is, our mission is to be classified, Mister Looker,” she said. “We do not wish for that information to fall into the wrong hands. I would hate to think of what would happen if Team Dominance learned of their existence.”
Looker’s frown deepened. Team Dominance would be the absolute worst possible people to be informed of the situation. To have even one of the UBs turned into a Shadow Pokémon would be a nightmare, both for the threat they’d present as well as the inhuman process that entailed.
However, allowing Anabel to handle it alone would be tantamount to killing her. She had bouts of weakness and fatigue, perhaps as a result of the time she spent in one of the wormholes that she could no longer recall. He refused to allow that incident from ten years prior to happen again because they were using her as bait, but he had no Pokémon of his own after the death of his Crogunk.
“Then what about enlisting one of the trainers that Madam Wicke mentioned having fallen through the wormhole? To have survived their time in Ultra Space they must be capable trainers, and the longer we operate on our own, the greater the risk of a sighting and information leak we can’t trace back or contain.”
“…You may be right.” Anabel closed her eyes and considered it for a moment. “Of the two individuals who would be aware, I cannot agree with asking the one who led a gang of hoodlums for his aid with his reputation.”
“Then we should ask the current reigning Champion of the Pokémon League for his assistance instead,” Looker insisted. “He’ll likely have the experience and battle power needed to make capturing them for their own safety easier.”
“…Very well,” she decided after a moment, crossing her arms. “Time is of the essence and if he could reasonably be of help, it would be foolish not to ask him. But I still have some reservations, so I will test the young Champion myself before we begin the operation. Should he be able to best me, I will concede in asking for his assistance. Is that acceptable to you?”
He nodded. It was better that way. The UBs would be drawn to him one way or another, given he was also a Faller. If they left him alone without informing him, he’d likely be stumbled upon by one and attacked without expecting it.
The former leader of Team Skull followed enough of a pattern that he could be observed should one be drawn to him as well. So, barring extreme circumstances he would be left out of the loop. After all, informing him may prove disastrous as he would be the sort that Team Dominance would enlist should they come to the island.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
In the air between Alola and Kanto
“So, you lost to the Vermillion Gym Leader, huh?” Ann said into her Pokégear as the ocean passed beneath the plane she was on, heading towards Alola. Since the operations to capture Bill and secure the Moltres native to the Sevii Islands were delayed, due to the fact that their organization was likely suspect after the interference of the trainer who was accompanying Bill, Ann had been sent towards the islands with two other agents. Their mission was relatively simple—find out what the Aether Foundation was hiding, and if it could be used for blackmail purposes.
They needed to capture Bill because he was the creator of the Pokémon Storage system, and bringing him under their control would essentially give them access to every single Pokémon stored in the PCs. However, with a trainer of that caliber and her daughter staying with him, it would be a hassle to do things in a way that allowed them to go unnoticed. And going unnoticed was essential since the last thing they needed was the International Police trying to gut their organization… again.
Ann had been with the organization since back when they were centered around Kanto and Johto. A few years before they were disbanded and reduced, forcing them to merge with the group from Orre they had been in business with—supplying them stolen Pokémon since the region was barren of them. Having been working in the shady side of things for as long as she could remember, Ann knew just what to look for when searching for signs of illicit dealings.
And there were some pretty big signs when she looked at the sudden change in employment done by the woman’s son almost overnight. A sudden shift in the status quo that left people unemployed would undoubtedly serve as the seedbed for animosity. And that could be exploited.
“Yeah, but we still managed to knock out his first Pokémon,” Astra said on the other end. “It was a Mareep.”
“That’s actually impressive, given you’ve only had your Sableye for a month and Drowzee for less than a day,” Ann praised her. “Those two species can be quite difficult to handle for a new trainer.”
“Jet’s just lazy most times and Blysen is shy, but they’re both good—” A slight pause followed as Astra yawned. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s getting late on your end, so you must be tired.”
“Yeah, and Grandpa is telling me I should get some rest now. Can you call me when you get there? I want to know more about Alola since Lille came from there.”
“Sure thing. Sleep tight.”
What are the chances? Ann couldn’t help but think as she stared down at the Pokégear before sighing. Astra was the granddaughter of Ravin and daughter of her best friend, a sweet girl who was all they had left of her mother. Since they found her, Astra was so… innocent, caring only about fun, traveling, and Pokémon without any ulterior motives.
It was refreshing, admittedly. She wouldn’t have been that way if her parents hadn’t run away when they did to keep her from going through the same things as them. Her mother had been born into the role of being a member whether she wanted to or not, what with Ravin having been a member already, and Ann had joined early on.
They had been the best of friends, or at least Ann had thought so. Yet, she ran away from her without telling her anything. By the time Ann and Ravin managed to find them, both she and her boyfriend—or husband at that point—were dead.
Now all that was left behind was Astra, who would undoubtedly be hurt depending on how things went in regard to her new friend. Or learning just what it was both she and her grandfather were involved in. Ann sighed again at the thought of her looking at them with betrayed eyes and then leaned back on her chair, looking out the window while deep in thought.
Well, if things go smoothly she won’t ever learn. We owe her mother that much, right?
Chapter 7: Shocking Send-Off
Lillie heard someone calling for her in the midst of a deep slumber, a gentle pressure being applied to her shoulder to rouse her awake. She softly groaned as she opened her eyes and found herself staring into the seed-shaped pair of her mother’s Lilligant. Then she sat up in the bed, allowing the sheet covering her to slip down and reveal the T-shirt and sleeping pants that she’d worn to bed, and let out an unladylike yawn that she hid by covering her mouth.
“Lilligant, is it morning already?” she asked as she rubbed her eyes. The Flowering Pokémon pointed its leafy appendage towards the clock. A jolt ran through her body and woke her fully as she let out a surprised cry. “It’s almost 10!?”
The surprised shout roused her Pokémon from their slumbers as well. The Alolan Vulpix sleeping on the pillow next to her slowly opened her crystalline-blue eyes and let out a cute yawn before flicking her tails, chilling the air to a comfortable temperature as she stood up. The Shuckle that was resting on the nightstand poked his head out of one of the openings in his shell and swiveled it around to look upon them. The Rotom Dex’s screen turned on and it began to float in the air.
“We overslept!” Lillie said as she stumbled out of bed and went over to the bathroom to change into her traveling clothes. As Lillie got changed, her mother’s Lilligant took the liberty of setting out food for her Pokémon, allowing them to eat something light before she returned them into their balls left out of the room with the Flowering Pokémon. Down in the lobby they found Lusamine waiting for them in a seat.
Her mother stood up when she noticed them. “Thank you for waking them, Lilligant.”
“Lil.” The Flowering Pokémon gave her a nod in acceptance before returning to her ball.
Lusamine then addressed Lillie, the Rotom Dex resting in her hood. “You slept in awfully late. Are you feeling well?”
“I guess I was more tired than I realized,” Lillie said.
“Well, yesterday was unusually exciting, so it can’t be helped.” Lusamine looked at the clock on the wall. “Our train will still be departing within three hours, and Mister Bill has already left to have our belongings delivered to his place ahead of time. Just to be safe and save time, we’ll be taking a taxi to the Gym. But if the Gym has too many challengers, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until you begin your journey in earnest.”
“I understand,” Lillie said. They had already been delayed because of what happened in the Sevii Islands and her mother’s condition, so if she missed this chance that meant waiting until her mother had settled into her stay at Bill’s place before she left out on her journey. And that could be anywhere from a week to a month since Lillie didn’t intend to leave her mother without at least making sure that she was comfortable after all. “And how are you feeling this morning?”
“Better than yesterday,” Lusamine said. “You don’t need to worry about me. Just try to prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.”
That being said, she followed her mother out to the taxi and they rode in it towards the Gym. Along the way, she recalled what she had been discussing with her Pokémon last night. Rotom had listed the various types of electric Pokémon found around the region, so she had an idea of what they could be facing. She could only hope that would be enough as they arrived and stepped through the entrance of the Gym.
“Welcome to the Vermillion Gym,” the Gym Guide, Miss Sendou, greeted them before recognition set in. They stood out after all. “Oh, you’re back. Are you here for the challenge today?”
“Yes,” Lillie said, presenting Koko’s Premier Ball and Shuckle’s Poké Ball. “I caught a Shuckle to be my second Pokemon. Are there a lot of challengers today?”
“Just one in front of you, but they’ll have another five minutes to solve the puzzle or they’ll be disqualified.” She gestured for Lillie to come over to the counter. “You can register for your challenge here. Your mother can wait in the viewing room if she wants to observe the match.”
“I’ll head off to do just that,” Lusamine said, before looking down at her daughter. “Remember, be elegant and confident. Do you best so that you’ll be able to hold your head up high, win or lose.”
Lillie nodded and then watched her mother depart into the viewing room. It left her feeling a bit like there were Cutieflies buzzing around in her stomach at the thought. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself before going over to register for the match.
“Now then, the registration process is simple,” Miss Sendou said as she pressed a button on her desk and caused a panel to slide back, revealing a slot for six balls. “You set the balls of the Pokémon you intend to use into here and it registers them to your I.D. You’ll only be able to use those Pokémon during the match, which will be recorded, so that means you won’t be able to use that Rotom acting as your Pokédex in battle. You can also request a code to have the battle video delivered wirelessly to your Pokégear or other devices capable of playing them back, just in case you want to show them to your friends or others.”
“Right…” Lillie set the balls into the slot and handed over her Trainer I.D. The information was registered and all that was left to do was wait…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“So, you managed to make it through the electric puzzle, did you?” were the words of the Vermillion City Gym Leader, Lieutenant Surge, as Lillie stepped through the sliding door that only opened upon successfully completing the puzzle he had set up.
He was a rather large and well-built man, wearing a sleeveless shirt, cargo pants, and boots. There were shades on the top of his head, resting on his spiky blond hair, and he had a grin as he looked upon the mess that had become her hair, the strands standing on their ends from one too many failures. “It was a shocker, wasn’t it?”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t spend time on my hair this morning,” Lillie said in a disheartened tone as she tried to straighten out her hair. She only had moderate success. “Other than that, it was just a matter of figuring out the pattern.”
“Most kids your age don’t have the patience to figure out there is one on their first time, so I’ll give you that much. But just because this is your first time in a Gym and you don’t have a badge doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you,” he warned. “A Gym is meant to be a serious test of a trainer’s skills, so I take every match seriously no matter what age my challengers are. If you don’t want your Pokémon to get zapped, you can still quit now.”
“I know we may not have done this before, but we’re still going to try our best,” Lillie said, her fist balled in determination. She wanted to be stronger, so him holding back to spare her feelings wouldn’t help either way.
“You’ve got spunk, I’ll give you that much.” Surge nodded in approval. “But no amount of talking will get you my Thunder Badge—you’ll have to beat me to get it.”
“We’ll just do our best,” Lillie said again.
“If you’re so sure, then let’s start the match.”
LEADER LT. SURGE would like to battle!
He snapped his fingers. The monitor in the back of the gym flared to life and displayed her image on the screen, taken from her Trainer I.D. with two balls icons next to it on one side. The other side mirrored the same for him, with a counter on the center of the screen that began to count down to zero.
“The battle continues until one side is unable to battle,” Surge explained while pulling one of his Poké Balls from his belt. “You’re allowed to swap between your two, while I won’t. On zero we both throw out our first Pokémon.”
Lillie’s grasp on Koko’s Premier Ball tightened as she watched the countdown. It would be her first battle as a trainer since… well, ever. Not counting how her first wild battle had gone, it was against a Gym Leader at that.
But she wouldn’t give up. She wanted to become stronger so that she could stand on her own two feet. This was her rite of passage, her island trial to stand alongside Nebby, Elio, and Hau.
Her heart hammered in her chest as she stared at the grinning Gym Leader. He noticed her nervousness for certain. She could only guess what Pokémon he would lead with to face her, but they had done all they could to prepare… right?
Then there was no more time to doubt as the signal alarm to start the match rang out.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Pikachu!
“Stand at attention, Pikachu!” the Lieutenant ordered as he threw his ball over the field. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of the electric Mouse Pokémon.
“Koko, it’s time!” Lillie announced as she threw out the Premier Ball that contained her Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet. The Alolan Vulpix landed on the field opposite of the Pikachu. Both the Electric Mouse and Fox Pokémon stood on all fours as they faced one another and tried to take into account their opponent.
That Pikachu is slightly shorter than the average size, zzt, Rotom pointed out. It is young and most likely only recently evolved.
“That’s right,” Surge said. “Figured he could use the combat experience for when he goes against a real challenge.”
The male Pikachu’s brown eyes fell onto the Alolan Vulpix’s three tails when his trainer said that. A smug smile formed on his face as he waved the young Fox Pokémon off immaturely. “Chu-chu.”
In turn, Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes narrowed slightly as her hackles rose with a low growl. A pale aura wrapped her and then rippled outwards, causing the formation of a small, greyish cloud beneath the ceiling that sprinkled down glittering flecks of ice particles.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Once more the temperature dropped. Lillie decided to make getting those leg and arm warmers a priority after the match. But now her focus on was on the Gym Leader as their battle began. “Koko, Powder Snow!”
The Fox Pokémon led with a frosty gale from deep within. The electric Mouse Pokémon wasted no time in dodging it by darting to the side as the attack washed over the ground where it stood, leaving a thin layer of ice as it petered out. Then he rushed forward on all fours.
“Pikachu, Thunder Wave!” Surge ordered. His Pokémon’s electric pouches sparked before releasing a series of yellow rings of electricity that slammed into the Alolan Vulpix. On impact they created a dome that sent electric streamers from all angles coursing through her body, leaving them to worm over her small figure. “Atta boy, now follow it up with an offense!”
Pikachu used Thunder Shock!
“Chuuuu!!” The electric Mouse Pokémon shouted at as electricity flowed from its cheeks and shot forward, uniting into a single electric bolt that smacked into the Alolan Vulpix. The moment it struck her, Koko let out a slight yelp as the electricity surged through her body and caused her legs to buckle in pain until the attack ended.
“Are you okay, Koko?” Lillie asked.
Koko used Powder Snow!
The Fox Pokémon’s response was to counter-attack. She let loose another Powder Snow attack towards Surge’s Pikachu before he could get out of his stance from the discharge of electricity. The cold gust of wind swept over the Pikachu, battering him with the freezing temperature as the ice particles that fell from above began to scrape away at his yellow fur and slowly gain purchase to freeze him.
“Don’t just sit there and take it!” Surge demanded. “Shock and Awe!!”
Pikachu used Quick Attack!
Pikachu opened his closed eyes and parted his gritted teeth as a white shroud covered him. He shot out of the ice stream to the side with a quick bound, barely touching the ground before shooting forward for a blinding assault. Ramming into her at full speed, the male Pikachu nailed Koko from the side faster than she could stop exhaling and caught her off-guard.
Koko let out a pained cry as she hit the metal floor, whimpering a bit from the lingering pain of the blow, and then forced herself to get back on all fours to fire another Powder Snow attack. The Pikachu repeated his previous Quick Attack, darting to the side and preparing to ram into her again, but she was ready this time. She swept her head around as she continued to exhale in an attempt to catch him.
However, the attempt missed as the Pikachu jumped upwards with his momentum and then bounced off the wall to get above her. A series of sparks blossomed from his cheeks and the air was filled with the scent of ozone as Lillie’s hair began to rise again. Then they combined to form a single bolt that speared towards Koko.
Koko threw herself backwards at an angle this time, getting off the ground just as the Thunder Shock hit where she had been standing. The bolt dispersed as it hit the ground into stray streamers before fizzling out. However, that’s when the paralysis kicked in as the electricity in her body seized up her muscles.
“Finish it off while it can’t move,” Surge ordered, seeking to capitalize on the opening.
“Pika!” his Pokémon shouted as he landed and prepared to do so, cheeks sparking. But the ice covering where he landed from the Powder Snow cost him his balance. He ended up flailing about, trying to regain it as the flare-up of the paralysis ceased.
Koko was then wrapped in a pink aura that gathered in front of her mouth as a spiraling pink orb that she let loose. It sailed through the air towards the off-balance Pikachu, whose brown-eyes widened moments before he let loose his building Thunder Shock attack to intercept it. The pink orb ruptured with a same-colored explosion prematurely, but the force of it knocked the electric Mouse Pokémon back through the air.
Koko then began to pant as the aura around her faded. “Vulll…pix….”
Lillie looked confused by the turn of events. “What was that?”
That’s Moonblast, zzt! Rotom stated. It’s a powerful Fairy-type technique! Zzzhe must’ve inherited it as an egg move!
Powerful was an understatement given that Surge’s Pikachu got back up looking as worse for wear as Koko when he barely took any damage before. “Chuu…”
“Koko, can you do it again?” Lillie asked. The Alolan Vulpix nodded as she righted herself and prepared to fire another Moonblast. The pink orb swelled in front of her mouth as her three tails wavered in place.
“Pikachu, no more playing around!” Surge ordered. “It’s an Ice-Type, so you know what to do!”
The Pikachu growled before light wreathed him and he speared forward for a Quick Attack. Koko fired the Moonblast before he could fully charge in order to catch him, but the Pikachu sprung upwards and let the orb pass beneath him. The attack crashed against the wall as the electric Mouse Pokémon landed in front of the Alolan Vulpix and brought his tail around that shone with a metallic hue. “Pikachuuuu!!”
Pikachu used Iron Tail!
The Iron Tail struck home. Koko was knocked violently off her feet and sent rocketing backwards. She hit the ground next to Lillie with a thud.
Lillie crouched down to find that she was in no condition to fight. “Koko, are you okay?”
“Vul…” Koko still tried to rise up again, her legs and body trembling. But they buckled under the pain and she collapsed, left gritting her teeth and scrunching her eyes up in pain.
“That’s enough,” Lillie told her before she tried to push herself further. She scooped the Fox Pokémon up and held her close to her chest as she reached for the Premier Ball to return her. “We’ll get you back to the Pokémon Center and—”
Koko shook her head and began to struggle. “Pix! Vulpix!”
She wants to keep fighting, zzt, Rotom translated for her as she continued to struggle.
“It’s a fighter for a baby,” Surge said, watching as his Pikachu went back over to his side of the room. “It doesn’t want to surrender, but it’s reached the limit of what it can do. Any further and the damage will go beyond what it’d be capable of handling.”
Lillie… agreed with him. She didn’t want to see Koko get hurt worse than she was, and it was only by chance that the first Moonblast hit. There wouldn’t be a second time as things stood. “I’m sorry, Koko. I’ll let you watch the next match, but you can’t go back out there.”
Koko out a whine as she looked miserably into Lillie’s firm, but also sad, eyes. The Fox Pokémon settled down, her tails going limp as she looked away from her trainer. One ball icon on the screen darkened on Lillie’s side of the screen as Koko was determined unfit to battle any further.
“If you’re going to continue, send out your next Pokémon,” the Lieutenant said.
Lillie shifted her grasp on Koko and reached into her pocket for her second ball. “Shuckle, your turn. Do your best.”
The ball popped open and Shuckle appeared on the field. He looked around until he found Surge’s Pikachu waiting and tried to appear menacing by frowning. It only served to make the electric Mouse Pokémon chuckle, despite his injuries.
“One of those, huh?” Surge mused before looking down to his Pikachu. “First things first. Break its Ability by using Thunder Shock.”
Electricity surged through the Mold Pokémon as the Pikachu immediately let loose another bolt that struck him. Shuckle let out a cry at the abrupt shock, even though it probably didn’t do significant damage. He was still unused to battle and thus followed his instinct to retreat into his shell.
“Now, finish it with an Iron Tail!” Surge ordered as the previous attack ended. His Pokémon fell on all fours in response, tail taking on a metallic hue again, and charged forward to do so.
“Shuckle, don’t let it hit you with that!” Lillie shouted as the Mouse Pokémon closed the distance. “Try to stop it from getting close!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Without sticking his head out, Shuckle spat out a greyish glob from a hole that sped towards the Pikachu. He tried to do the same thing he did with the Moonblast from before, jumping over it, only for the air friction to expand the glob into a small web that caught on his tail. The moment the electric Mouse Pokémon touched down on the ground, the adhesive webbing left him stuck in place and struggling to pull his tail free.
Seeing the Pikachu struggling, Shuckle stuck his head out and blinked in surprise that it actually worked.
“Good job,” Lillie praised him, causing him to crane his head around towards her. “Now, attack while it can’t move!”
“Kle.” He nodded to her before jettisoning his arms forward. The appendages stretched out until they reached the Pikachu, wrapping around his midsection and neck. Then Shuckle squeezed.
Shuckle used Constrict!
Surge’s Pikachu let loose a strangled shriek as he tried in vain to free himself with his tiny paws as the hold Shuckle had on him grew steadily tighter. ”Ch-Chaa…”
Looking at the Pikachu as his expression went from strained to terrified soon enough, Lillie found it hard to watch. Sure, she was supposed to win the battle to get the badge. But it felt wrong strangling him until he passed out. She looked to Surge to see if he was willing to at least entertain the thought of recalling it or forfeiting his Pikachu’s right to battle, but he just looked sternly at the scene as it went on.
“Ch…chu…” Pikachu’s voice was a low rasp that could barely be heard at that point. A tinge of blue appeared on his face. He was really suffocating now.
“That’s enough, Shuckle.” Lillie said, unable to watch anymore. “Let it go.”
Shuckle did as told, loosening his grasp and pulling his elongated arms back into his shell. Pikachu took a deep breath as he collapsed onto the ground, panting. The Mold Pokémon then looked back at his trainer. “Shuckle?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Lillie told him, after Rotom translated the question.
“You should have had it continue until Pikachu had fainted,” Surge said, a frown on his face. “A battle continues until one side has been ruled unable to battle. Use whatever advantage you have to win, because if you show your enemy mercy on the battlefield, it’ll cost you.”
Lillie pursed her lips. She already knew that. But she didn’t like seeing the Pikachu being strangled like that. “I just didn’t want to win that way.”
“…Hmph. Either way, Pikachu isn’t in any condition to free himself from that webbing, and by the rules I set, returning him means that he’s registered as being unable to battle. That brings the score to one-one,” Surge said as he returned his Pikachu. Then he pulled a second ball from his belt and tossed it forward. “Magnemite, ten-hut!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Magnemite!
The ball burst open and out floated a Magnemite. The Magnet Pokémon hovered just off the ground with its two magnets slowly spinning on its sides. Its eye never left the Shuckle in front of it, attention fixed on the opponent it had to face.
“Shuckle, try to web it down like before,” Lillie ordered. “We’ll think of something else afterwards!”
Shuckle’s cheeks swelled as he spat out another glob of bug adhesive that expanded as it flew through the air. The Magnamite spun its magnets faster, increasing the amount of antigravity energy it produced in order to get higher and avoid the attack entirely. It floated up to near the ceiling as Shuckle tried firing a few more globs that got stuck there, making a mess.
“That’s going to be a pain to clean,” the Lieutenant said as he scratched his head. “Magnemite, finish this before it gets worse.”
Magnemite used Magnet Bomb!
“Magnaaamittteee.” Its magnets spun faster, until argent sparks were generated from the ends. The sparks gathered and swelled until they formed half-a-dozen metallic spheres that loitered in the air around it. Once they were fully formed, all at once they flew forward towards Shuckle.
Shuckle used Withdraw!
Shuckle ducked his appendages and head into his shell, which was shrouded in a pale light that strengthened its defense. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The Magnet Bombs detonated as they hit their target and ruptured all at once, generating a series of explosions that sent Shuckle sailing through the air until he hit the wall and then bounced off it to hit the floor.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked.
“Shuuuuccckkklllleeee…” came from within the shell.
That would be a ‘No,’ zzt, Rotom translated.
“You did well,” Lillie told the Mold Pokémon before she returned him into his ball. “Thanks for that.”
“You haven’t been at this for very long, judging by how you acted during the battle,” Surge said as he returned his Magnemite to its ball. He then approached her. “If you’re going to be a trainer, your Pokémon and your opponent’s Pokémon are going to get hurt in a lot of different ways, but that’s the only way to toughen them up. If you don’t like that, then find a battle-style that works for you, understand?”
Lillie merely nodded her head, accepting the loss silently.
“Still, you did better than most of the tykes around here and put some thought into it.” He gave her a pat on the head. “You’re free to come back and challenge my Gym after you’ve gained some real experience, yeah?”
“Okay….” Even as she said that, she couldn’t bring herself to be feel happy at her first loss as she turned and left the room. Once she was through the door and within the disabled puzzle room, she held Koko tight in her arms and apologized. “I’m sorry, Koko.”
Koko tilted her head at that. “Vulpix?”
“Even though he switched out and gave us that point, by not letting Shuckle finish off Pikachu I made all your efforts pointless, didn’t I?” If Surge really wanted to rub salt into the wounds, he could have had the Pikachu shock Shuckle too after that, but he didn’t. “All I did was get you both hurt for nothing by stopping him when I did, but I just couldn’t watch it suffer like that.”
Koko shook her head as Rotom hovered next to her and flailed its arms. Cheer up, Lillie, zzt. Next time we’ll come up with a better plan and things will be better!
Despite their best efforts, she couldn’t bring herself to feel otherwise as she tightened her grasp on the Fox Pokémon and made her way towards the waiting room, eyes downcast.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine paced outside the door that connected to the puzzle, having seen the match for herself through the tinted panes of the viewing room. She was waiting for Lillie to return, running over what she would say in light of her defeat. It was… expected, given that she hadn’t been a trainer for more than a few days against a Gym Leader.
But, more troubling, she felt a slight flutter of emotion that she wasn’t proud of buried in her chest. If Lillie had prevailed here, Lusamine feared it would have only spurred her into setting off on her journey sooner with the confidence she gained. That would shorten the time they had together, which was already dwindling.
At the same time, Lusamine still didn’t like seeing her fail. More so when she tried her hardest. She had no desire to shatter Lillie’s confidence as she did before, crushing down on her until she lost that spark she had regained while away from her mother’s eyes that made her so radiant.
She still hadn’t figured out what to say moment the door to the lobby opened and Lillie entered, so she just went with, “You did the best you could.”.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Lillie told her. “I just couldn’t stand to see that Pikachu be strangled like that.”
“You don’t like to see Pokémon getting hurt, and that’s fine.” Lusamine reached out to brush her hair down where the strands still stuck up from the electricity. “But you already know that sometimes force will be needed to defend yourself or protect someone else. You’ll have to find a way to make them both work… I’ll help you when we get to Cerulean City.”
Lillie was about to respond when the door to the Gym opened and a familiar face entered. “Astra?”
“Lillie! Miss Lusamine!” Astra grabbed hold of the older gentleman next to her and pointed to them from the entrance. “Oh, Grandpa its them! They’re the ones I told you about.”
“So, you’re the two who found my Granddaughter?” The well-aged man with gray eyes dipped his head towards the pair in a show of courtesy. “You have my thanks for that and watching over her until she awoke. She’s still getting used to the region and the dangers that entails at times.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Lusamine said. “We could relate to that, being new to the region ourselves, and she’s a very sweet girl. Should I assume she managed to catch her second Pokémon and intends to challenge the Gym Leader?”
“Yep!” Astra bobbed on her feet and pulled out her two Poké Balls. “Jet and I found that same Drowzee from before and made him one of our friends.”
“…You’ll want to be careful with it then,” Lusamine warned her. “Being wild for so long means that it likely will have some trouble adapting to eating standard Pokémon food rather than dreams, and you don’t want it to have trouble distinguishing that you’re its Trainer and not a source of food.”
The aged-gentleman nodded his head in agreement. “I had my Dusclops have a long talk with it and made sure it understands that her dreams are not food.”
Astra then turned to Lillie, leaned forward as she looked at Koko, and asked, “Did you just have a match?”
“Y-Yeah.” Lillie’s shoulders sagged. “We lost pretty badly though after I messed up.”
“Then I’ll beat him for you,” Astra said, pumping her fists in the air with an innocent joy. “You’ll watch me, won’t you?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want.”
“If you want to challenge the gym, there is an opening at present,” Miss Sendou said from her desk, having watched the exchange long enough and waited for a moment to speak. “If you’re not from this region, do you need me to explain how the Gym system works?”
Astra shook her head. “Nope. Miss Karen told me how in Lavender City when Grandpa took me to her Gym. I need to register Jet and Blysen, right?”
“That’s right.” The Gym Guide then looked to Lillie. “We have a healing machine here in the Gym for the Gym Leader and Gym Trainers to use. I’ll be happy to let you heal your Pokémon so that you can watch her in the viewing room though.”
“Oh, thank you very much,” Lillie told the woman, accepting her offer. She pulled out Koko’s Premier Ball and held it close to her Starter Pokémon. “Back in your ball for now, okay? I’ll let you out when you’re better.”
The Alolan Vulpix nodded once. Then she tapped the ball with her nose and returned herself.
Lillie then looked to her mother. “I’ll be in the room when Koko and Shuckle have finished healing.”
“Very well. I’ll see you there,” Lusamine said. As she turned towards the viewing room again, the well-aged gentlemen joined her in walking towards it.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?” he asked, igniting a conversation as they entered. “To let them grow-up, knowing that the time you’ve spent with them will be cut short. You just want to do what you can to keep them close.”
“That’s true,” she admitted. “These moments won’t come again, which makes them all the more important. You just want to preserve them for eternity, if possible.”
“That’s one way to put it.” He sighed a bit at that as he took a seat and pulled out his pocket-watch, looking at the interior of the cover. “But there’s always a price to pay for it.”
Casting a quick glance, Lusamine spotted a picture of a woman. From how his tone turned somewhat melancholy and what she’d learned last night, she quickly guessed the reason why. “You mean that child’s parents, don’t you?”
“…I tried to keep them under my wing, refusing to let them go free and trying to tie them into what I felt was best for them,” he explained. “But in doing so, I drove them to run from me. At first I thought that they would return of their own accord. Then, I decided to search for them once I’d settled my business and spent years looking. By the time that I thought I had caught up to them, they had left this world behind to elude me once more.”
His words resonated with her, as Lusamine had done the very same thing after losing Mohn. It led to Type-Null’s creation, driving off her son. When she tried even harder to make up for the loss with Lillie, she had left her too. In the final moments of her madness, she had nearly… with her own hands…
“I didn’t even know I had a granddaughter until I laid eyes on her,” he continued, closing the pocket-watch. “A sweet child with her mother’s looks and her father’s eyes. Looking at her, I can’t help but feel as though I was looking at them once again. But I’m afraid that if I try to cling to her too tightly she’ll end up leaving me behind like them.”
Lusamine nodded her head slowly, completely understanding his feeling. “…It’s a bitter feeling, knowing that if you try to hold onto something too long and too tightly, it’ll end up slipping through your fingers and you’ll only have yourself to blame. But, at the same time, you don’t want to miss anything or let go because every moment is precious.”
“Indeed.” He replaced the watch in his pocket with a TM disc and held it out to her. “Please, take this as a token of my appreciation for your daughter befriending my little Astra.”
“Are you sure you want to give her something like this?” Lusamine asked as she looked over the TM and found it was labeled ‘Protect’.
“For a new trainer, it should be a fairly important skill until she can manage to take care of herself.” He gave her a slight wink. “And she’ll need someone to teach her to use it, no?”
“…Then I’ll be sure to teach her how to use it well,” Lusamine said, putting it away as she caught the underlying mean. Every moment was precious after all, and if she could help her daughter then she would. “You have my thanks.”
The private conversation between two parents came to a close as the door opened and Lillie entered with her fully-healed Alolan Vulpix. She took a seat next to her mother and the Fox Pokémon jumped up into her lap. Lillie patted the young Pokémon on the head, looking more cheerful than before as they awaited Astra’s arrival in the Gym Leader’s chamber.
“Oh my,” Lusamine said when Astra finally did, minutes later. The girl’s dark hair was basically akin to a Jumpluff’s cotton puffs from how all the strands were all standing on end.
Even the Gym Leader looked surprised as he scratched his head. “Err… do you want to take a minute to fix your hair?”
“It’s fine,” Astra said, absolutely unbothered by her own appearance. “I’m used to it because all the Pichu I played with on the island couldn’t control their electricity too well. It’ll go back to normal eventually.”
“Okay then.” He cleared his throat and went back to his normal demeanor. “Anyway, welcome to the Vermillion Gym. You’re a bit on the short size, but to make it this far means you’ve got some nerves on you. The rules are two Pokémon each, with the challenger able to switch out while I can’t, and if you win you get my Thunder Badge. Are you ready?”
The child bobbed her head up and down. “Yep!”
“Alright then. On zero, send out your first Pokémon.” Surge snapped his fingers and the board flared to life as it did with Lillie, beginning a countdown. He then reached down for one of the balls on his belt and waited for the timer to hit zero.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Mareep!
“Ten-hut, Mareep!” Lt. Surge said as the signal blared and he threw the ball out. The Poké Ball burst open and out popped his Pokémon. It stood maybe under two feet tall, deliciously cream-colored wool covering its body. Its black eyes were fixed on Astra’s side of the field, legs slightly out as if readying to move.
In the viewing room, Lillie looked over her shoulder from the pane and said, “Rotom, what’s that Pokémon?”
A moment pleazzze, the Living Pokédex said as it floated out of her hood and turned its camera to face the pane, snapping a picture while displaying the image of the Pokémon on its screen. Mareep, the Wool Pokémon. Its fluffy coat swells to double its size when static electricity builds up, and the more static electricity that is charged, the more brightly the bulb at the tip of its tail glows, zzt.
“It’s not native to Kanto though,” Lillie said as she read the data.
“Kanto and Johto share the same Pokémon League, so many of the Pokémon between them are shared between all of the Gyms,” Astra’s Grandfather explained. “Since there’s only one Electric-Type Gym, it’s unsurprising that he’d be the one who is in charge of training it.”
Astra sent out Blysen!
“Come on out, Blysen!” Astra threw her ball out and her newest Pokémon, a Drowzee, appeared onto the field. In contrast to the Mareep, the Hypnosis Pokémon looked nervous as he faced his opponent. His eyes shone for a brief moment as he drummed his fingers against one another timidly.
Drowzee’s Forewarn activated.
It was alerted to Mareep’s Thunder Shock.
“Do your best!” Astra encouraged him, despite it being clear he was unused to battle. Blysen looked back at her and nodded slowly before moving his legs apart and holding his hands out in front of him, palms first. Then he began moving his hands in an alluring pattern.
Blysen used Hypnosis!
As he did so he released hypnotic waves. His intention was to lull the Mareep to sleep and go from there. It was a practice he was fond of in contrast to open combat.
“Mareep, you know what to do!” Surge said in response to the incoming attack.
The Wool Pokémon stuck its tail up and electricity began building up within it. Yellow tendrils danced over the bulb until it glowed. Mareep then slammed it down into the ground and a shockwave of lightning spread out to encompass the field, permeating the ground.
Mareep used Electric Terrain!
An electric current runs across the field!
“Ah, so that’s how he intends to deal with it,” Lusamine mused as electricity saturated the entire area and dyed it a yellowish hue while the Mareep’s wool coat grew even more fluffy.
It drew her daughter’s attention. “What do you mean?”
Lusamine was about to explain when Rotom took it upon itself to do so in her stead, much to her ire. Electric Terrain prevents Pokémon from falling asleep while boosting the power of Electric-Type moves, zzt.
“Oh, so that means her Drowzee won’t be able to put the Mareep to sleep then?” Lillie guessed.
Lusamine nodded. “Yes, but it also means that the Mareep will now have an easier time affecting the Drowzee, despite their line being somewhat resilient against non-physical attacks.”
“Atta girl!” Surge said as the female Mareep weathered the bombardment of hypnotic waves, still awake and alert. “Now, advance and Tackle it!”
“Don’t let it touch you!” Astra shouted as the Mareep started running towards Blysen. “Some electric Pokémon can paralyze you with a touch! It’s not fun!”
Blysen used Confusion!
Switching tactics, Blysen centered the rushing Mareep between his outstretched palms. Then his hands shone as they launched a bundle of telekinetic waves out like a cannonball. The Confusion attack hit the Mareep like a physical object and stopped her Tackle in its tracks, instead leaving her to take several steps back and reorient herself. Having more confidence in himself after that success, Blysen prepared to release a second Confusion attack even stronger than before.
Mareep used Thunder Shock!
Then he noticed the Mareep’s entire body seemed to crackle with electricity that she began to pull from the Electric Terrain. He abandoned the attack and jumped off to the side clumsily, falling over as all the electricity that she had absorbed into her horns was launched as a bolt blue-and-yellow lightning. The attack struck where he had been moments before, arcing up from the Electric Terrain before sinking in again.
Sweat dripped from his brow at the sight. It was a close-call.
“Lillie,” Lusamine said, grabbing her daughter’s attention briefly. “Since you’re aiming to be a Trainer, you need to observe and learn from others. Can you guess why that Drowzee was able to avoid that attack?”
Lillie’s brows crinkled and folded in as she watched Blysen get back up while in thought. “Umm…he doesn’t look like he has much experience in battling and Astra didn’t tell him to. But he’s a Psychic-Type, so I guess that he saw it coming somehow. I remember reading on the island that their species had an Ability related to that.”
“That’s correct,” she said. “His Ability, Forewarn, activated the moment he sensed he was about to face an opponent and instinctively foresaw an attack that the Mareep was capable of it. That allowed for him to dodge easier since he could recognize it, but he can only use it before the battle begins in earnest because the fighting is taking the rest of his concentration. It’s a survival mechanism, you could say.”
“Good job, Blysen!” Astra praised him. “Keep it up!”
“Mareep, it’s time!” Surge said as he pulled the shades on his head over his eyes. “Flash and Tag!”
Mareep used Flash!
On command, Mareep stuck her tail up and channeled as much electricity as she could into it. The bulb flared into a brilliant and blinding blaze that radiated out for a single moment like the flash of a camera. It still left both Astra and Drowzee seeing spots, eyes stinging.
Astra rubbed her eyes and blinked away the tears she felt before looking towards the battlefield. There she saw the Mareep moving in for a Tackle. “Blysen, look out!”
Mareep used Tackle!
A Critical Hit!
The warning came too late. Mareep managed to land the attack, connecting with a vicious blow as the Wool Pokémon body-checked the Hypnosis Pokémon. The net result was that Blysen was knocked backwards and down to the ground by a good distance.
“Z-Zee…” Blysen struggled to get back up only for tendrils of electricity to dance along his body. The contact with her had activated her Ability, Static, and paralysis had set in.
“Now finish it off while it can’t move!” the Gym Leader ordered, fist clenched and arm held out.
“Mareeee!!” With a battle-cry, Mareep unleashed another Thunder Shock. The bolt drew from the Electric Terrain as it crossed the distance towards the downed Drowzee.
The bolt hit home and illuminated Blysen, stricken wide-eyed as electricity covered every inch of his body and left him crying out in pain. When the attack ended, he was smoking as he laid splayed out on the ground. “Dro-Drowzee…”
“Blysen, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Drowzee only twitched in response. He was in no condition to battle further, so the system monitoring the battle darkened his image on Astra’s side of the screen as she returned him to his ball. “Aww well, you still did good so I’ll give you a snack later.”
“That’s one down for the count,” Surge said as he put his shades back over his head. “Bring out the next one.”
“Okay, Jet! It’s your turn now!” Astra threw the next ball into the air and out popped her Sableye. In contrast to his lounging nature within the room last night, he stood ready for battle with claws tensed as he stared down at the female Mareep, who had already gone through one battle and was panting from the last attack.
“Feisty little thing, isn’t it?” Surge grinned as he gave the next order. “Mareep, use Thunder Shock on it while the Electric Terrain is still up!”
“Stop it, Jet!” Astra said as the Mareep began to ready another attack. “That’ll hurt if it hits!”
Jet used Torment!
Jet’s eyes glowed an ominous hue before he stomped his foot on the ground and yelled. A dark veil briefly overlapped the Mareep as she charged the electricity into her horns and the electricity dispersed. The Darkness Pokémon smiled in a way that bared his teeth.
“What happened to it?” Lillie asked as she watched the Mareep look around in confusion, head shaking left and right as she failed to follow her orders. Every time she tried, the dark veil would appear to restrict her.
“Torment,” Astra’s Grandfather said. “It’s a technique that places a curse on the opponent that suppresses their ability to use the same technique twice. The fact that Jet has Prankster as an Ability means that it won’t fire that Thunder Shock before Torment could take root.”
Ohhh, that’s rare, zzt, Rotom noted, before noticing the curiosity in Lillie’s eyes. It’s an Ability that makes it so that the Pokémon is capable of using moves that affect their status faster than the opponent, zzt.
“Indeed, it’s troublesome to deal with if the user is experienced.” Lusamine turned to Astra’s Grandfather. “Out of curiosity, where did you obtain a Sableye as her Starter Pokémon? I didn’t believe they were native to this region.”
“It was only recently discovered that they did have an unbothered habitat here, inside of the Lavender Tunnels,” he said. “Astra had just arrived in the Lavender City and had a bit of wanderlust to her, so she wanted to explore the cave system that was discovered when they excavated a path through the mountains around the city, to make room for the port there. I accompanied her and Jet came across us, with one thing leading to another. Once the Joy in the Pokémon Center informed us of his Ability, I had one my Pokémon practice with him using a TM I had lying around.”
“Now, attack it from a distance to be safe,” Astra told her Starter Pokémon. “Getting paralyzed will slow you down too much.”
“Saaaableyeee!” Jet shouted, a battle-cry as he reared his head back and then threw it forward. Dark beam flew from his eyes as he fired the Night Shade attack, and the beams sailed through the empty space towards Mareep.
The Wool Pokémon bleated in pain as the attack connected with her, adding to the pain of the previous Confusion attack. Her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the electricity-soaked ground, no longer able to fight. “Marreeep…”
“You did it!” Astra had nothing but praise for her Sableye’s performance. “Good job!”
“You still got one more to beat before you get my badge, girlie,” Lt. Surge warned as he recalled Mareep into her ball and then tossed out another. “Shock them into surrender, Voltorb!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Voltorb!
The ball burst open and from it emerged the Ball Pokémon itself, which looked like a larger Poké Ball with eyes that were narrowed as it faced the Sableye. “Voltorb.”
Without hesitation, the Gym Leader gave his Pokémon the order to attack. “Voltorb, Spark!”
Immediately, yellow electricity shrouded the Ball Pokémon’s body, pulled from within and from the Electric Terrain around it. Covered in electricity that it wore like armor, it rocketed forward like a comet and slammed into the Darkness Pokémon with surprising speed. Jet’s tiny body was swept up in the attack, electricity coursing through him as he cried out. Then the Voltorb halted and the momentum carried Jet further out until he tumbled to a stop shortly before his trainer.
“Jet, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Sableye growled as he got back onto his feet and stared down the Voltorb. She took that as good enough. “Use Torment to stop it from hitting you with that again!”
Jet stomped and yelled once more. The same inhibiting curse that had hindered the Mareep seeped into the Ball Pokémon. The Darkness Pokémon then followed up with a Night Shade, sending a pair of dark beams wreathed in a hue of deep red from his eyes to assail the Voltorb that closed its eyes as the attack struck.
“Voltorb, Charge and Fire!” the Lieutenant ordered.
Voltorb used Charge!
“Vooolllllttttoooorbbb!” The Ball Pokémon’s eyes shot open and became wreathed in sparks as it pulled electricity from the Electric Terrain. Filled with electricity, Voltorb began to float upwards, eyes narrowed at the opposing Sableye.
“Get it, Jet!” Astra ordered.
Jet fired another Night Shade in response—
Voltorb used Shock Wave!
—and was won over as the Voltorb was wreathed in blue electricity that shot out in the form of a blistering, blue bolt snaked with yellow streamers from the Electric Terrain. The bolt punched through the Night Shade attack and struck Jet head-on faster than Astra’s eyes could track. Her Starter Pokémon was sent head over leg tumbling backwards until he ended up face-down on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Astra asked again, a little more concerned as she crouched down and set her hand over his gem-encrusted back to lightly shake him.
His only response was to twitch and groan softly. He was in no condition to fight further after that hit.
“Well, you did well too, so I’ll let you have some Rock Candy later today.” Astra lifted him up in both arms and held him against her chest. “You had fun though, right?”
“Eye…” Jet said softly before she tapped him with his ball and sent him back into it. That wasn’t a ‘no’.
With that the match ended and the siren blared, signaling her loss as the Electric Terrain faded.
“I’ll give you some credit, girlie,” the Gym Leader said as he recalled his Pokémon. “Both Mareep and Voltorb are meant to catch new trainers off-guard and paralyze them with their Ability for attacking recklessly, but you caught on and switched to a long-distance and harassment strategy. A little more experience will help you go a long way next time.”
“I was just copying something I saw Miss Karen do when she let me watch one of her Gym Matches,” Astra claimed. “But we learned a lot, so next time we’ll do better after we train more.”
Surge laughed good-heartedly. “You girls have made this morning a lot more interesting than the last few, so I’ll welcome the challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Sorry I couldn’t beat him for you,” Astra told Lillie shortly after the match was over, with an enthusiastic smile unbefitting someone who had lost. Her Pokémon were also being treated at the on-site healing machine as a special service of the Gym Guide while they were in the lobby. Their guardians were over by the doors, discussing something else.
Lillie felt a little jealous of Astra’s smile, knowing that it was born from the fact that Astra had no regrets since she and her Pokémon had done their best in the end, whereas Lillie had hesitated. “It’s fine. I was just impressed by how well you did at that point.”
Astra’s smile grew brighter at the praise. “Thanks, but next time we’ll do even better. I’m going to have Grandpa teach me more on battling when we get back to Lavender City before we head out. We’ll come back here for our fourth badge to show him how much we’ve improved before the tournament I heard about starts.”
Lillie recalled the Nurse Joy mentioning that. She still had the flyer. “Will four months be enough for that?”
“Don’t know,” Astra admitted, before shrugging her shoulders. “But Jet likes to battle, so he’ll at least have fun, and I’ll get to travel around. I’ll even stop by to visit you first when I leave, since I want to see what Cerulean City will be like. It’s supposed to be really pretty, isn’t it?”
“I think so.” She’d have to ask Bill more on the details, but if she remembered what she’d read right, it was formerly a Gym City until the Gym Leader became a member of the Elite Four. But Astra’s words about Jet reminded her what Surge had said about Koko being a fighter.
If Koko was as much of a fighter as Nebby was after she evolved, would Lillie be able to make the Pokémon that Professor Burnet entrusted to her happy as she was? Leaving Nebby behind with Elio had been… painful. But Lillie knew that it was best for them both and she didn’t regret that.
But she didn’t want to experience that pain again with Koko if she could help it. She wanted to be a trainer who could face Elio and Hau and the others with pride, so she needed to do better. Even if she couldn’t see herself facing off against the Elite Four, would it just be enough to try and enter the tournament?
…No, first she needed to find her own battling-style. A way that worked for her, so she wouldn’t have regrets after a match. A way that they could use to overcome the challenges they met along their way.
Still, it amazed Lillie at how casually Astra mentioned doing so many things because of how fun they were. “You’re as carefree as Hau, aren’t you?”
Astra tilted her head at the question. “Who’s that?”
“He’s a friend of mine from Alola,” Lillie explained. “He, Elio, and I traveled together for a short time. They became so strong that one’s the new Champion of the Alola Pokémon League, and the other will probably challenge him soon for the title, I’m sure. I want to be as strong as them.”
“They sound like they’d be fun to be around. I hope I get to meet them someday,” Astra said as her Grandfather approached. In his hands were the balls with her Sableye and Drowzee. “Are we leaving now?”
“Yes. Our train will be departing soon.” He smiled as Astra took her Pokémon back and then turned to Lillie. “You’ll be heading to Cerulean City next, won’t you?”
Lillie nodded. “We’re heading to the Cape north of Cerulean City and I’ll be there for a while before I set out on my journey.”
“That’s northwest of Lavender City,” he said. “If you ever find yourself coming that way pursuing a badge, feel free to stop by. Any friend of Astra’s will be welcomed.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”
“I’ll come to visit you first though,” Astra reminded her cheerfully. “Until then I’ll call you, so make sure you answer.”
“I will,” Lillie promised. Then she watched the two leave before her mother returned to her side and they did the same. Her defeat here had been brutal, but she learned a lot about what she needed to do to get stronger.
And the first thing she needed was to stop by a store to get some leg and arm warmers before they boarded the train to Cerulean City and the next stage of her journey.
Chapter 5: Let’s Get Along
Back on the Sevii Islands, Officer Jenny stood outside of the interrogation room and watched through the glass at the interrogation that was ongoing. The small station that was in One Town was rarely used most of the time, since nothing exciting really happened barring the occasional trouble on one of the ferry’s that they had to sort out. So imagine her surprise when one of the criminals attacking the Pokémon Center held a badge that marked them as a member of Team Dominance.
The clandestine organization was thought to be filling in the gaps left behind by the collapse of Team Rocket years ago, primarily in illegal Pokémon trading. There was suspicion that they were part of another organization in Orre that was thought to have been wiped out, but nothing concrete. The only thing that was an absolute was the badge that she found on him, a pin that served as proof of membership. This island was under her jurisdiction and the last thing that she would have is a criminal group dragging the island and its people into whatever they had planned.
“You’re in a lot of trouble, boy,” Ron, her partner, said while sitting across from the suspect. He was sitting with his elbows on the table, fingers laced in front of his mouth as he peered into the young man’s eyes with a steely glare. “Talk to us before it gets worse.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he said. “I just panicked when the power went out and called out my Pokémon.”
“Oh, don’t give us that song and dance.” He slid a picture of the badge in front of him. “You were found with that on you. You know what that is?”
“I got it from a Gym,” he lied. “Back when I was doing the Gym Challenge. It was a few years ago, but I was pretty good. Things didn’t work out though and I settled down into being a fisherman.”
“Funny, because that doesn’t belong to any gym I’ve seen.”
A cocky grin formed on his mouth and he shrugged. “How many could you have been to if you’re working out here?”
Jenny winced as she watched Ron reach across the table and grabbed him by the collar. “Listen, you brat. This isn’t a game. One call from us and the International Police will have you locked in a cell so deep underground you’ll forget what light looks like.”
No sooner than he got the words out did the light abruptly cut out and darkness shrouded the building. Jenny searched for her flashlight through her desk with one hand and picked up the phone with the other, only to find that the line was dead. Her radio didn’t seem to be getting a response either. “What’s going on?”
“Ahh!” came from the interrogation room. It was Ron’s voice. She ran for the window and held up the light, only to see the criminal sitting there and looking smug as Ron laid on the table unconscious.
Panic set in as she opened the door, only to be met with a pair of large hands and a single eye in front of her. The hands moved in a hypnotic motion and she felt… her consciousness… sinking…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Ravin waited patiently in the shadows outside of the police station with his pocket watch in hand, counting the minutes until his Pokémon finished their work. A decade ago a small station like this wouldn’t take more than three or so minutes to get in, grab the others, and get out. But time and experience dictated he take more precautions and thus he’d opted for a subtler approach, as not to disturb the peace or rouse suspicion.
Subtly was something he’d come to appreciate over these last few years. If only others could have that same appreciation. Maybe then he wouldn’t be here right now and they could let the standard protocol take place. But no, the young fool that got caught had brought his badge and made things more complicated.
A minute later a ghostly flame floated out of a window and hovered around in a fixed pattern. That was the signal from Dusclops. The well-aged gentleman stretched his back and felt the years taking their toll with audible cracks before he made his way to the door and entered into the station.
The Pokémon belonging to the officers had all been returned to their balls while their owners slept. The only other human standing upright was Officer Jenny. Her eyes were dull and lifeless from the trance she was in thanks to the efforts of the male Dusclops next to her.
“Good work as always, Ceifer,” Ravin said as he approached the pair. “Do me one more favor and clear a seat in the interrogation room. I need to have a word with the young man there before Lalka gets back.”
The Beckon Pokémon gave him a nod, adjusting the Reaper Cloth around his neck before he passed through the walls. Another good thing about these old and remote police stations was that there weren’t many counter-measures against teleportation or intangibility. It made his job so much easier.
Ravin addressed turned to the officer next. “Jenny, have you contacted the International Police or anyone else about the suspects you’ve apprehended?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Excellent,” he said in relief as he adjusted his black hat. That made it much easier to deal with. “Then be a dear and fetch that badge for us from wherever you’ve got it locked up. Will you?”
She nodded her head and then walked off to do so while Ravin entered the interrogation room. The young man was still bound to the table by the handcuffs and his Dusclops had set the other officer down against the wall. Ravin took a seat in the chair opposite of him and crossed one leg over the other to get comfortable.
Then he asked, “Do you know who I am, son?”
“One of the guys they sent to spring us,” he said.
“That’s not entirely wrong, I suppose.” He brushed his nose and ruffled his mustache. “I’m a bit higher-up in the ranks than you, but I basically just help clean up when an operation goes wrong. Things like springing the others when they get caught and passing judgment on those involved. The latter is why you and I are having a little talk right now.”
The young man seemed to get the underlying message and immediately became defensive. “We had no idea that trainer was there. Otherwise we would have been in and out.”
“That’s not the issue,” Ravin said. “The boss tends to be… forgiving, depending on the mistakes that were made during an operation because good help is hard to come by. He’s talked it over with the one in charge of the operation that managed to escape, which is why my Claydol is Teleporting them onto a nearby boat. They’ll have to do underground work since they’ll have warrants out for them, but there’s a place for them in our organization… that just leaves you.”
Fear crept into his eyes as Ceifer moved in closer, hovering behind him.
“You were specifically told you not to bring your badge,” Ravin continued. “Our organization is trying to avoid the sort of attention that led to the fall of the last one operating out of Kanto and Johto. With that in mind, you were supposed to avoid carrying a badge for this operation. That way, if something happened, it could be explained away and I wouldn’t need to waste my time and come out here personally to spring you.”
“It was a mistake,” he admitted. “I won’t make it again.”
Aged fingers began to tap on the table. “I don’t know, son. I’ve deemed the others salvageable. But you… well, if you couldn’t follow orders that the rank-and-file grunts could then there’s no need for you is there?”
The Dusclops began to open his mouth and approached the young man when he caught the gesture Ravin made with his eyes. Any human that stared into the ethereal flame for too long had their soul taken and deposited to the afterlife. Any physical thing that entered his mouth was sucked into a void from which nothing escaped.
The young man grasped that much, given he began struggling against his bonds and shaking his head. “No, no, no, you can’t!”
Ravin rose from the chair slowly. “If it’s any conciliation, it’ll be painless.”
Unable to get away, he resorted to begging now. “NO, PLEASE! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
“Have some dignity at the least,” the older man muttered as he rolled his eyes and then raised his hand to signal the Dusclops to stop. “Since you seem repentant enough, I’ll give you another chance. You’ll be working the bottom side of things from now on. The things beneath the rank-and-file. But one more mistake and that’s it. Understand?”
“F-F-Fine.” He took a staggering breath and licked his lips nervously. “Fine. I’ll do. Just don’t kill me.”
Ravin turned to Ceifer and then nodded. The Dusclops knocked the young man out using the same method that he’d done to the other officers and then broke him free of the chains to carry him out. The aged gentleman left the interrogation room and found Officer Jenny waiting for him with the badge in her hands, which he took gingerly from her grasp.
“Thank you, Jenny,” he said pleasantly. “Now go ahead and take a nap. By the time you wake up, we’ll be long gone and this peaceful little place you have will go back to normal.”
Officer Jenny nodded her head and then laid down on the ground, obediently closing her eyes and falling unconscious.
The young fool is lucky, Ravin thought to himself as he held the badge. Ten years ago, no amount of begging for his life on a blunder this big would have saved him. We’ve all changed over the decade, haven’t we?
He went left outside where his Claydol was waiting with another woman around half his age. She, like him, was higher up in the ranks. He passed the badge off to her. “Job’s done.”
“Thanks for the hard work,” she said, slipping it into her pocket as the female Claydol grabbed the young man from the Dusclops’ arms with its psychic powers. “If it’s any conciliation, the operation will be put on hold for now while we look for information on that trainer responsible for the operation blundering was. It turns out she’s—”
“Ann,” he said sharply. “I’m not as active as I used to be and I don’t bother with civilians. The only reason I even came out was because I happened to be relatively close and it came from the top.”
She at least looked apologetic. “Sorry, sorry. I won’t bug you with the details then, but do you want me to give you a lift until we’re close enough to Vermillion City for Lalka to teleport you?”
“It would save us a trip,” he conceded. Both he and Pokémon weren’t as young as they used to be.
A minute later they were all gone and One Island was quiet once more.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine sighed wearily as she made her way back to the room in the Pokémon Center where she’d left her daughter and the child, while carrying a bag in her arms. The market had several snacks that Lillie could use and even a few berries that her own Pokémon were fond of. But during the entire trip she couldn’t help but ponder her son’s words on betraying her father’s legacy.
He had placed the Aether Foundation into her care, having the same love of Pokémon that she possessed. Not only her. Even her children and her husband possessed a great love for them all. While they may have loathed her for what she did to them personally, it was ultimately her treatment of those two Pokémon they cared for that had driven them away.
Father would be ashamed if he saw me now, let alone Mohn, she couldn’t help but think bitterly as she approached the room. The sound of voices coming through the door ultimately drew her out of her dark thoughts. She opened it and peered inside.
The girl, Astra, was using a knife to cut what looked to be a giant egg as her Sableye sat down with a wooden stick in its hand, munching on the rock candy attached to it with its sharp teeth. At the same time, Lillie was holding some kind of red shell in her lap and speaking to it while her Alolan Vulpix and Rotom Dex were on opposite sides of her, observing the situation.
“Please come out, Shuckle,” she said to the shell as her Vulpix prodded at it with her paw curiously. “I need to make sure you’re okay.”
A soft sound emerged from one of the holes in the shell in response. “Kle.”
It’s no good, Rotom said. He seemzzz scared to come out since he’s somewhere unfamiliar, zzt.
Lusamine took that as her cue to enter and did so, opening the door wider and stepping through it. “I’m back.”
“You’re Lillie’s mother?” Astra tilted her head as she looked the older woman up and down. “You look like you’re her big sister more than a mother.”
“Aren’t you sweet?” She set the bag down on the table and grabbed the two Ultra Balls that housed her Bewear and Mismagius. “How are you feeling since you’ve woken?”
“Hungry, but really good otherwise,” Astra said. “A Blissey gave us an egg to eat, so I’m cutting it up enough for all of us and our Pokémon. Do yours want some too?”
“It would go well with all of the snacks I’ve bought for them.” She looked over to Lillie. “Are you having trouble with your Shuckle?”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “I let him out of the ball to see if he was feeling better, but the moment that I did he took a look around and then retreated into his shell. He’s still afraid of us.”
“Well, he was a wild Pokémon. He probably hasn’t had very much interaction with people,” Lusamine said as she reached into the bag and pulled out a carton of six Oran berries that had been chilled. Carrying it with her as she took a seat next to her daughter on the bed, Lusamine then passed it to her. “Try using these as a peace offering.”
That may actually work, zzzt, Rotom said as its screen flashed to show an image and data on Shuckle. Shuckle are known for hiding under rocks while eating berries they collect in their shells. They make a delicious juice that can be used as a medicine.
“Is that so?” She looked over the blue berry before holding the carton close to the hole. “Shuckle, I have some berries if you’re hungry.”
“…kle?” Shuckle poked his head out just enough to observe the berries and smell them, presumably. There was no visible nose. Then he began to take them into his shell, stretching what serves as his neck, and stashed them away one-by-one without pause using its mouth.
Odd, I’m registering that you have Sturdy as an Ability. Not Gluttony,
The Shuckle seemed to take offense to that, frowning. “Kle. Shuckle!”
Ah, my mistake, zzt. Rotom looked over to Lillie and explained. It zzzeems that it has been harder for him to get berries since the Combee have been more aggressive because the Sandshrew have begun to eat them, zzt.
“That must be what Nurse Joy was talking about,” Lillie said, looking down at the Mold Pokémon in her lap. “Because the Sandshrew had moved into the forest to escape from Trainers trying to catch them, they started feeding off the Combee more. So now they won’t let you near the berry trees to eat, right?”
The male Shuckle nodded his head and then began to speak, with Rotom acting as a translator. It seemed that he had complained about it before to the Sandshrew as a whole, who only mentioned trainers were bad and forced them to move—that they captured you and then threw you away if you were too weak.
“That’s not right!” Astra said as he finished, still in the process of slicing the egg. Her blade landed with a loud thunk on the platter she was using. “You can’t just throw away a Pokémon because you don’t need them anymore. They’re supposed to be your friends!”
“That’s right,” Lillie said, less fervor in her voice but a frown all the same. “We’re supposed to help one another.”
The Shuckle retorted, through Rotom, that he still lost his home because of the battle earlier. It was apparently a really nice rock.
“I guess that one is our fault, isn’t it?” Lillie said, looking over to her Alolan Vulpix while nervously scratching her cheek. The Fox Pokémon sheepishly lowered her head, but Lillie patted it gently in response. “It’s okay, I’ll take responsibility for it since I wanted to find Sandshrew in the first place.”
Shuckle crossed his limbs and looked up to her. “Kle?”
Lusamine didn’t need Rotom to guess it was saying, ‘How?’ But to her daughter’s credit, Lillie just smiled.
“How about we travel together until we find a nicer place for you to stay?” Lillie offered. “That way you’ll get to see a lot of new places and eat a bunch of different berries until then.”
“You can’t just give a Pokémon what it wants to make it happy,” Lusamine warned her daughter before the deal was sealed. “You have to actually train the Pokémon you take under your care, otherwise it won’t be that much different than those that threw them away when they were no longer useful.”
Lillie looked confused at that, but it was Astra who asked, “How’s that?”
“Let’s say that Lillie takes Shuckle with her, but doesn’t train it. Not only is she using up one of her six allowed slots, but she’s putting more pressure on her other Pokémon that have to pick up the slack. It’s not fair to them that one gets to get away with doing nothing while Shuckle is perfectly capable, and they may start to resent both their trainer and him.”
“Is it really the case?” Lillie asked.
Lusamine nodded. “In addition, it’s a disservice to Shuckle as well since the training would allow him to better defend himself in the wild. If you only feed him without training him in turn, he’ll struggle to obtain food for himself against other Pokémon, or may simply be captured by another trainer who probably won’t be so generous.”
“I see. It was different with Nebby…” She looked down to the Mold Pokémon and amended her previous offer. “You hear that Shuckle? You’ll have to help if you come along, but it’ll be good for you.”
Shuckle brought an appendage to his mouth in thought at everything that was said. Then he looked up and nodded. “Shuckle.”
“Then let’s get along from now on, okay?” Lillie extended her hand down to him and Shuckle’s limb stretched and coiled around it to shake. She smiled and then turned to her mother. “Thank you, Mother. I didn’t want Shuckle to be worse off by mistake.”
“That’s what mothers are for,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be kind, but you also have to be stern sometimes as well. The Pokémon must respect you, otherwise they won’t listen.”
Lillie seemed pensive at that until Astra finished and revealed her handiwork. She’d cut the large egg horizontally several times and then vertically twice, turning it into neat cubes and then stacking them up like a pyramid.
“Where did you learn how to cut so neatly?” Lusamine asked, impressed.
“Some of the fruit that grew on the island where I lived was big and there were a lot of Pokémon, so I learned how to cut them like this so all of them could have some,” she explained as her Sableye walked over and nonchalantly plucked one from the top. “You’re supposed to wait your turn, Mister!”
The Sableye shrugged, plopped in his mouth, and then started chewing. A smile blossomed on his face moments later. He quickly reached for another one, only to be rebuffed by his trainer.
“Wait until everyone else gets one!” She raised the platter above her head before the Pokémon could grab a second one and walked over to the pair on the bed. “Try some before Jet eats them all.”
“Sure,” Lillie said as she reached for three of them at once. She then set one down in front of the Alolan Vulpix and another in front of the Shuckle, holding the third close to her mouth. “We’ll try them together on the count of three. Okay?”
Koko nodded, her tail wavering up and down slightly in anticipation as she crouched down. The Shuckle prodded at the egg cube with one of his limbs before giving a more reserved nod. Lillie counted down and on three they all took them into their mouths.
“Mmmmnn~!” A pleasant sound slipped out of Lillie’s mouth as she chewed with a smile, joined by a practically giddy yip from the Vulpix and the Shuckle letting out a surprised gasp as his black eyes glistened with stars. “It tastes amazing!”
“If it takes that good, I suppose I should try it myself then.” Lusamine mused as she watched their reactions. Reaching down elegantly, she picked up a cube between two fingers and held her cupped palm under it as she took a bite. In an instant, it was like a world of flavors opened up. If a rainbow had a taste it would be the pure bliss rolling through her, bringing a smile to her face as joy bubbled up in her very blood. “It really is delicious.”
“Shoo good,” Astra agreed, in the process of chewing one herself. It had her so enraptured that she barely noticed the Sableye tugging at her clothes until he climbed up her back and started reaching for her arm. “Jet, you have to wait until all the Pokémon get a taste too. That includes Miss Lusamine’s!”
“You’re such a sweet girl to be so considerate.” Lusamine pulled out her Ultra Balls and set them to an enlarged and active state so that her Pokémon could hear her. “There’s snacks for everyone, but we’re in a guest’s room so I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. Now come out and introduce yourselves.”
The five balls popped open at once to release her Pokémon, much to the wide-eyed amazement of Astra. Of them, Milotic was the first move before she had even fully materialized, extending her body so that her head was pressed against Lusamine’s stomach and nuzzled her.
“I missed you too,” Lusamine said as she gently patted her on the head and then looked over to the rest of her Pokémon, spotting Bewear growing tense at her gaze. “Bewear, you know what you did wrong, don’t you?”
The Strong Arm Pokémon’s ears drooped. “Bewaooo…”
“You weren’t supposed to leave Lillie alone,” she continued. “I put my trust in you to listen to her and help her. That means staying with her until she returned, but you went off because you were impatient and then put her in danger yourself. I should punish you by taking away your snacks for the next week at least, if not the next year.”
“Bewao.” Tears welled up in her dark eyes as she whimpered. “Wao…”
“But—” Bewear’s ears head perked up at that. “—Lillie feels that you tried your best, and it would be rude to this darling girl who went and prepared the snacks for this evening to not share. So just this once I’ll let it slide, but next time do as I ordered. Understand?”
“Maa…” Mismagius huffed in a manner that spoke of her exasperation as Bewear nodded her head in joy at being forgiven. Then she noticed the girl with the Sableye on her back staring at the assembled Pokémon and floated closer, speaking in a softer tone and smiling. “Mismagius?”
Astra blinked in confusion. “Huh?”
“Mismagius wants to know who you are,” Lusamine stated as she continued rubbing the Milotic beneath her chin. “She’s fond of children.”
“I’m Astra,” she said to the Magical Pokémon, before holding up the tray. “Do you want one?”
Mismagius nodded her head and then reached for one with the cloak-like tendril to delicately pick it up and bring it to her mouth. She found it delightful to the taste, her smile growing wider as proceeded to rub the child on the head with her other appendage.
Then Bewear trotted over with her paw to her mouth, eyeing the food hungrily. “Bewao?”
“Here you go.” Astra placed one into her grasp. Bewear immediately gulped it down and then began to smile as well, reaching for another until Mismagius let out a warning growl. That stilled the massive paws for a time, much to Astra’s delight from how she smiled.
Lilligant approached next and gave her a curtsy in politeness. She was always the polite type after all. Astra tried to respond in kind, but it was somewhat difficult with her hands filled and the Sableye on her back before she held the platter low enough for Lilligant to grab it herself.
That was when Jet tried to reach for it again until Clefable waddled over next and pointed to the Sableye and then to the ground. He bared his teeth and grunted in annoyance.
The Fairy Pokémon crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Clefable. Clef, clef.”
Jet grumbled as he climbed down, complying to the Fairy Pokémon’s warning. Then he sat onto the ground and crossed his arms, looking away petulantly. “Sa!”
“Thank you,” Astra told her as Lilligant and Clefable grabbed one for themselves. “Jet’s just a bit of a spoiled sometimes.”
“Fable.” Clefable nodded in understanding before pointing over to Milotic. She then shrugged her shoulders as though to say ‘children’ and ate the egg cube along with Lilligant. From there they all mingled with one another until Astra’s Pokégear began to ring.
“That must be Grandpa.” She fiddled with it before opening it up and holding it up close to her face. “Hi, Grandpa! Are you done with your business?”
“I should be back soon enough,” he said. “Did you have any luck catching your first Pokémon?”
She laughed a bit awkwardly. “Not exactly. But I’ll have a new friend by the time you get back, and we’ll challenge the Gym in the morning!”
“Don’t push yourself,” he warned gently. “You’re young. Just take the time to enjoy what you can. I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye Grandpa.” The call disconnected then and Astra stood up. “Jet, we’re heading back out!”
“The sun has set,” Lusamine said as Milotic ate a treat out of her hand while the Sableye rose up from sitting on the ground. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
She nodded. “I want to show Grandpa that I can go out on my own so he’ll let me travel by myself on the Gym Challenge, but I need to prove myself first. And Jet can see real good in the dark. As long as we don’t go too far out, it’ll be fine.”
“…Very well,” Lusamine consented. It wasn’t as though she had any right to stop her in the first place. “Just don’t go too far away from your Pokémon and the city limits. Another Drowzee might try to repeat what happened before otherwise.”
“I won’t,” she said, before turning to Lillie and holding out her Pokégear. “Since we’re both starting out and I had a lot of fun, can we exchange numbers?”
Lillie looked surprised at the offer, but quickly consented. “There you go. Feel free to call me whenever you want.”
“Thanks.” Astra gave her smile in gratitude as Sableye climbed onto her back. “It was fun meeting you both. Thank you for everything.”
When Astra left out of the room to head towards the Route where they found her, Mismagius turned to her trainer and said, “Magius, ma?”
“I’ll be in our hotel room,” Lusamine said. “Come back when you’re ready.”
“What was that about?” Lillie asked as Mismagius disappeared through the wall.
“Mismagius intends watch over that child while she goes out to prevent what happened earlier from happening again,” Lusamine explained. “You may not be aware of it, but Drowzee are common on the island where she stayed as a Misdreavus, so she understands their habits. Between them and the more troublesome Drifloons, she had her work cut out for her because she often went against her own sleep cycle to try and keep them from causing problems for the locals for a time.”
It was how she ended up in her care after all. One Drifloon had tried to carry off Gladion when he was fairly young and she intervene, exhausting herself in the process. Lusamine had taken her into the Foundation afterwards and had made efforts to get awareness out about the potential dangers to children. She also spoke with the Kahuna of the island about it as well.
Since Verdant Cave was close to the location and the Trial Captain under the Kahuna held sway over the Totem Pokémon, which held sway over their respective species in the area, they were able to mitigate future incidences by having them warn the Pokémon against such mischief. In exchange, the Berry Farm on the route would supply berries to the Pokémon when needed on that Route, with the Aether Foundation providing funds for compensation. It was beneficial for them all.
Lusamine rose up to her feet and then clapped her hands. “Everyone, we need to clean up before we return to the hotel and get some rest early. You can have more snacks later, Bewear.”
The Strong Arm Pokémon, who was in the middle of going for the bag with snacks in them, whined but bobbed her head before she started cleaning up too. Soon they had the room the way it was before they arrived and returned to their balls, leaving Lusamine and Lillie to leave the center and head back for the Gold Sky Hotel.
When they arrived outside of their rooms next to one another, they found Bill’s Umbreon and Espeon lying next to one another. The former was awake while the latter was asleep. Once the female Umbreon noticed their arrival, she gently nudged her partner awake. The male Espeon yawned before he stared at Lusamine and his eyes shone with the gem on his head as he passed on a telepathic message.
“Yes, I’ll speak to Bill right away,” Lusamine said before she turned to her daughter. “You should go to your room and get some rest since we’ll probably be leaving in the afternoon for the train to Cerulean. If you still plan on challenging the Gym, you’ll have to wake up early.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Mismagius drifted in the air some distance away from the young trainer, shrouded by the night itself. Today had been trying for her, what with having to wake early during the day. She was only at her peak at night, or at least out of the sun. It was because she was so sluggish and lacking in strength that she’d had much more of a challenge than she should have against that Vespiquen.
It didn’t help that she only wanted to make sure that Lillie had gotten away before she retreated, opening her up for a Pursuit attack. She wasn’t very good at taking hits, much less ones that were actually super-effective against her. It wouldn’t have even been a problem if Bewear hadn’t been so careless in the first place.
Really, their trainer spoiled the Strong Arm Pokémon so much that even after she had evolved, Bewear was still a child at heart. Then again, it was nice to see that Lusamine was returning to her old self. Watching her gradually falling from someone who cherished her family and Pokémon into what she had become by the end hadn’t been pleasant, but there was little the Magical Pokémon could do to stop it.
She could have left the woman, sure enough. But considering how unhinged she became after her husband and children left, leaving her behind would have likely worsened her condition greatly. Granted, by the end Mismagius wasn’t much better off after being exposed to the totem energy when she last seriously battled, back in Ultra Space.
It was hard to describe it really. One moment she was within her ball, within stasis after the first battle with Lillie’s friend. The next her ball was being flooded with energy, every fiber of her being permeated with pure power. She’d gotten all but drunk off it before she was released to do battle again, and she had been ruthless.
The moment Lusamine had given the order for her to deal with the trainer’s Crobat, she had risen in the air above them and conjured dozens of Power Gems. It was more than she had ever done before, each packed with enough power to devastate everything beneath her. She could recall the terrified look in Lillie’s eyes as she then let them loose with enough force that everything beneath them was lost in a billowing wave of dust and stone fragments.
While she wasn’t aiming for the child she’d come to care for or her trainer friend, she hadn’t been all that concerned if they were caught in the wake of the attack. If not for Nebby for shielding both of them from the stone fragments and the force of the attack, there was a very real chance she would have hurt the children. That was the worst thing about the experience—that she couldn’t find it in her to care at the time.
It didn’t even hit the Crobat in the end, which somehow managed to evade the shots and then get behind her quick enough to blindsided her with a Bite attack. She could still recall it sinking its fangs into her ghostly body and staying there. She took to phasing through the closest wall so that it slammed into the surface before she could free herself from the Bat Pokémon.
The pain was deep. Throbbing. Aching. Annoying. Her fury fueled her next attack as conjured more Power Gems the moment she emerged from the wall in a different spot.
However, instead of finding one annoying Bat Pokémon there were dozens through the use of a Double Team attack, each one flying about at a pace her eyes struggled to keep track of. The moment that they spotted her, they rushed in to attack her en masse and she let loose the crystallized light to fill the sky with piercing, prismatic rays. Thunderous crashing resounded as the rays smashed against the distant surfaces and threw up plumes of dust while illusionary copies were snuffed out one by one in the process, until the final Crobat raced forward.
Mismagius then charged a Shadow Ball, packed with ghostly energy until it was crackling with dark streamers, and fired at the Bat Pokémon. The dark orb passed through it, revealing it to be a final copy as the actual Crobat sent a spiraling disk of air racing towards her through the dust screen thrown up by her last attack.
She couldn’t avoid it in time. The Air Slash crashed against her, sending her spiraling lower to the ground and flinching. By the time she righted herself with the intention of sharing her pain with the Crobat, it was too late.
The Bat Pokémon had crossed the distance in a flash, wings aglow with a venomous energy. It struck her down with a Cross Poison attack.
The pain was too much for her to continue fighting. In the brief moment before she was recalled into her ball, her head cleared. The pain sobered her mind that had gotten drunk off the waves of power coursing through her and she realized the full extent of everything.
She’d regretted it. Most of Lusamine’s Pokémon did, albeit the reasoning between them differed. Mismagius never wanted power to harm children, but to protect them. That was why she chose to evolve from her previous form when Lusamine presented her with a Dusk Stone.
Even so, they couldn’t undo the past. They could only work towards making the future better. And if she could help the child Lillie befriended stay safe, that was something she could take pride in.
Still, she wouldn’t interfere unless necessary. Being a trainer was something like a coming-of-age process for children. She would only intervene if the child’s Pokémon left her vulnerable.
The moment Astra reached the edge of the town and out into the fields lined with tall grass, she leaned up on her toes and tried to look through the darkness for any sign of movement. But human eyes could only see so much, so she looked over her shoulder to the Darkness Pokémon that had been clinging to her back until now. “You’re up, Jet. Go find us a new friend.”
The male Sableye slid off her back and then ran out into the grass on all fours. He was small enough that only the tall grass rustling could be made out from Mismagius’ view, let alone that of the child rocking on her toes as she fiddled with a Poké Ball in waiting. It was cute, but careless given that he was her only Pokémon.
Mismagius’ valid concerns about the child proved correct when she spied a Drowzee peeking through a bundle of tall grass opposite the girl. The Magical Pokémon had never been fond of them, but the way this one eyed the child made it clear that her sweet dreams would be a delicacy to it. The Hypnosis Pokémon slipped out of the grass and started creeping up on her, licking its lips and rubbing its grubby hands together as it prepared to use Hypnosis to put Astra to sleep.
Tempting as it was to blast the gluttonous dream eater, Mismagius reminded herself that Astra was a trainer. The child needed to learn from her mistakes and the male Sableye wasn’t that far away. So she settled for conjuring a wisp of Mystical Fire that she floated over behind it.
The moment the wisp caught it and burned, the Drowzee cried out in pain. “Zeee!!”
The sound grabbed Astra’s attention and she wheeled around towards it. “Over here, Jet!”
The tall grass rustled as the male Sableye began to race back towards her, but the Drowzee was starting to flee since it couldn’t sneak up on her. It would get away at this rate. Given it tried to feast on her dreams and leaving it in the wild would likely lead to another attempt on another child, Mismagius decided to stretch her help just a little more.
Fortunately, she had just the technique to use to stop it from escaping. She hadn’t used it in some time. After all, once she evolved she’d focused mostly on strong offensive techniques. But whenever she needed to punish one of the Drowzee on Melemele Island early on, she made sure that they couldn’t get away before she got the message across.
Mismagius used Mean Look!
Drowzee can no longer escape!
The Drowzee went stiff as her eyes glowed. A malevolent aura that prickled its skin with cold sweat wreathed its body and sank into its very being. Just like that it was bound—cursed really—into remaining within eyesight of the Magical Pokémon as the Darkness Pokémon broke through the grass and snarled at the Hypnosis Pokémon.
Drowzee let out a tiny shriek in panic as the Sableye rushed forward to attack it. Living up to its title as the Hypnosis Pokémon, it tried to stop him by releasing hypnotic psychic waves and putting it to sleep.
Drowzee used Hypnosis!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
However, the hypnotic waves broke against it like water against a shore. The Darkness Pokémon sloughed through it without any trouble at all and finished closing the distance. Panic set into the Drowzee’s eyes as it came under attack.
Jet used Scratch!
The Sableye proceeded to rake his claws against the Hypnosis Pokémon and knocked it back using the momentum of its charge. The Drowzee stumbled back from the hit and nearly tripped over itself before falling back on its rear. Another growl left the Darkness Pokémon’s mouth as it bared its teeth in recognition at that specific one.
The Drowzee extended both of its hands again as he took another step forward and flashed his claws. This time it launched a bundle of telekinetic waves, attempting to push the Sableye away and get to its feet.
Drowzee used Confusion!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Again it had no effect. Being part-Dark Type, the Sableye was immune to its power utterly. Thus it couldn’t be stricken by the Psychic-aligned attacks that the Hypnosis Pokémon’s kind was known for.
“Get it again, Jet!” Astra ordered. “Just a little more and we’ll catch it!”
“Saaaaa!!” snarled the Sableye as he moved in to strike it again with another Scratch attack.
The Drowzee, still unable to escape, closed its eyes and then threw its hand forward, finger wrapped into a tight fist as a desperation move.
Drowzee used Pound!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Though it connected, it did nothing as the Sableye was also part-Ghost type. The Darkness Pokémon followed through with his second Scratch attack, digging into its flesh and knocking the Hypnosis Pokémon down a second time. Then the diamonds that made up his eyes began to glow red.
Jet used Night Shade!
Beams as dark as the night, wreathed in a hue of deep red, struck the Drowzee. It was bombarded by the beam, causing it to let out another pained shriek until the attack ceased. The Hypnosis Pokémon then wavered on its feet and gave a slight groan before it toppled backwards.
“That’s enough, Jet!” Astra shouted as she threw the Poké Ball at the weakened target. It connected and the ball popped open, releasing a burst of energy that enshrouded the Drowzee and pulled it into the ball. The ball wriggled thrice before it made a sound to indicate it was captured. Astra ran over and scooped up the ball. “We managed to catch our first new friend!”
The Sableye let out a small snarl at the ball.
“Don’t be that way,” she told him, wagging her finger to reproach him. “Just because the last one managed to put me to sleep doesn’t mean you get to bully this one.”
The Sableye shook his head as he pointed off to the distance, with the trees far off, and then pointed to the ball.
Astra seemed to take a moment to guess what he was saying. “You mean it was the same Drowzee from before?”
He nodded. “Sableye.”
“Wow, it must’ve really like me then.” She held the ball up in the air. “I’ll take good care of it and show it to Grandpa when he gets back. Ah, but first we should name him… or is it a her? What would be a good one for a Drowzee?”
The Sableye set his claws on his head and shook it in frustration as she began to list off a bunch of different names.
Mismagius chose then to appear, silently rising out of the ground behind the Darkness Pokémon and just out of the girl’s view. She leaned over the tiny Pokémon’s shoulders and whispered into his ears to keep that Drowzee in check.
His shoulders sagged as he gave a resigned sigh. More work for him it seems. He then made his way over to Astra’s side and tugged on the hem of her dress with one limb, pointing towards the town with the other.
“Oh, we should head back and make sure that Nurse Joy heals you both, shouldn’t we?” Astra extended her arm for him to climb onto her back again. “I’ll give you Rock Candy when we get back to the room for doing good too.”
Mismagius felt a sense of satisfaction in her actions as she watched them go. She not only got to protect a child, but she managed to get one of the dream eating gluttons out of the wild and less likely to cause problems. She bore a smile as she floated after her to ensure that Astra made it back to the Pokémon Center and then called it a night.
Chapter 4: The First Capture – Part 2
Lusamine huffed as she set the dark-haired child down in one of the beds at a room in the Pokémon Center. The room was registered in the girl’s name, which they confirmed using the Trainer I.D. that her Sableye produced from… somewhere. The 10-year old wasn’t heavy, but Lusamine felt tired from the walk with her daughter to Route 11 and from it while carrying the child.
She took a seat at the desk opposite of the girl and sighed wearily. All she wanted to do was spend time with her daughter and then this happened. Not that there was anyone to fault for it unless she was willing to pin the blame onto a child or a wild Pokémon that was following its instincts, which was beneath her.
The Nurse Joy of Vermillion had stated it would be best to let the girl sleep rather than trying to force her awake, no doubt experienced with this sort of thing since they live so close to a habitat filled with the Drowzee species. Lusamine would remain to watch over her until then while the Sableye returned to its ball to rest.
The room inside of the Pokémon Center was far less grand that her hotel room. But it contained a PC that she could use. Since Lillie wouldn’t likely be back for some time, she decided to use it to check on things at the Aether Foundation and reached out to Miss Wicke using her direct line.
At least, that was her intention. The line took a moment to connect. And when it did, it wasn’t Miss Wicke who answered. It was Gladion.
“Whoever’s calling, I apologize but—” Gladion stopped when he recognized her and his expression went from professional to cold as ice. “Oh.”
It made her heart heavy in her chest just looking at him from across the screen. Her first-born child with her husband had changed so much since the day that he left home two years ago. It was only a little while ago since she had seen him, but only now was she really taking in how he seemed to have gone from a precious boy who smiled a lot to one that wore a frown that seemed as if it was most natural thing in the world.
Even so, she was relieved to see him. “You look well. I’m glad to see that.”
“Yeah, well I managed,” he said dismissively. “Anyway, Miss Wicke is handling something urgent at the moment and won’t be able to spare time until tomorrow. It’s 8 PM over here, so try again earlier tomorrow.”
Then he moved to hang up. He didn’t want to speak to her, or even see her if he didn’t have to. Not after how she had disowned both him and Lillie and tried to silence them when they got in her way.
All the same, she wanted to speak with him longer and called out for him to stop. “Gladion, wait!”
To her surprise, he stopped with his finger midway towards the disconnect button.
“Son, please,” she continued. “At least… at least let me apologize to you for everything. I wasn’t well then. Believe me, if I was I wouldn’t have let you live on your own for two years. I would have looked for you.”
He sighed, disappointment so thick that it was audible without words. “You still don’t understand. That’s not why I— wait, Silvally!”
The words barely managed to get out of his mouth before a creature appeared on the screen, running its tongue along his cheek. Lusamine recognized it. It was Type: Null without its mask, or at least it appeared to be. It was a little different from before, the coloration having changed at some point and its demeanor more playful as it nuzzled his face in hopes of having him return the affection.
Of course, the moment its eyes fell onto the screen that changed. It recognized her. It recognized her and snarled, looking as though it would have swiped at the screen if not for Gladion keeping it calm.
“Easy, Silvally,” he said, holding it close and stroking its head until its snarls turned to a low grumble. But its eyes never wavered from hers.
“Why did you remove its helmet?” Lusamine asked. “It needed that to control its power. Without it, Type: Null will be a danger to itself and everyone around it.”
“The helmet was destroyed when it evolved,” he explained. “Silvally can use the RKS system without going out of control or hurting anyone now.”
“You managed stabilize its temperament?” Even Faba didn’t believe that it was possible when he worked on it, due to the nature of its creation. “How? We tried everything we could.”
“Except treating it with respect and kindness,” he said firmly. “That’s the one thing you didn’t do. You tried to create gods and put them on a leash. And when they didn’t come out the way you wanted, you labeled them a failure and froze them so you didn’t have to look at them.”
“Gladion…I…” She trailed off in the wake of the gaze he was giving her, daring her to make an excuse. “I needed something that could fight against the Ultra Beasts, something that could fight anything that came out of Ultra Space. That way we could have explored it, found your father, and reunited our family. You have to understand that.”
“You brought three Pokémon into this world, through inhumane means at that, solely to be used as weapons,” he said, patting Silvally on the head. “And then you threw them away when they couldn’t live up to that. That’s the very thing that grandfather founded the Aether Foundation to stand against, and yet you turned an organization meant to shelter and protect Pokémon into one that exploited them. That’s why I can’t overlook what you did and why I chose to leave without regrets.”
“I just wanted to get your father back,” she said again. “I just wanted us to be a family again no matter what. It wasn’t wrong to want to be with the people you love no matter what.”
“No, it wasn’t wrong to want that,” he agreed. “But what you did trying to do so was and, because no one was able to stand up to you, it drove you further out of control. That’s why I knew I had to get strong enough to stop you and get the Foundation back on track. I hate that Elio got dragged into our family issues, but I am grateful he stopped you before you killed Cosmog and endangered us all to make yourself happy.”
“I wasn’t well then,” she said defensively. “But I’m doing better now. I’ll make things right between us. You, your sister, your father—I’ll make it all right.”
“…Just focus on your treatment,” he said to that. “Maybe then… no, nevermind. I have to go.”
“Wait,” she said, desperately hoping for him to still his hand again. It was the first time she’d spoken to him this much in so long, and there were so many things she still wanted to ask him about his life while he was away. “I just want to talk to you—”
The monitor went dead as he cut the connection before she could finish.
“…a little longer,” she finished, her voice cracking as she stared at the dead screen. There was no point in calling back. He wouldn’t answer.
She covered her eyes and then took a deep, shuddering breath as the weight of their discussion set in. Her own son felt that she needed to be stopped so strongly that he took up arms against her and trained to do it for two years. An apology for betraying the very ideals her father instilled in her, and that she instilled into him, would never be enough.
“…It’ll be okay,” she told herself as she wiped at the tears stinging the corner of her eyes. She had to keep up the appearance of being strong and not show weakness. “Lillie still needs me right now. And once I get better, I’ll find Mohn too. Once our family is whole again everything will be just fine.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Bewear… slow down…” Lillie said between heated pants as she continued chasing after the Pokémon that had decided a jaunt through the woods was appropriate at the moment. They were far enough off the Route that she couldn’t see the border of the trees they’d entered, but at least she knew the general direction and could get back within the span of maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking.
Bewear, for the most part, kept going with little reservation. She only really stopped to check the scent trail that she had and to make sure that Lillie was still in sight, a brief respite for the aching legs of the new trainer following after her.
At this point, Lillie suspected that it was because of her mother’s orders. Lusamine might have told the Pokémon to be good for Lillie, but she didn’t state for her to listen to her—only to help her find a Sandshrew and to keep her safe. That was probably what Bewear counted as ‘being a good girl for her’ as her mother ordered.
“I can’t keep up anymore…” She groaned a few minutes later as her legs began to burn and her feet ached. “I’ve got to stop.”
Lillie came to a stop at the base of a tree and just sat down for a moment. Koko and Rotom came to a stop as well, with the Fox Pokémon sitting next to her while Living Pokédex floated above her head. A breeze threaded through the trees and shook the canopy above with a gentle rustling sound that drew their eyes upwards, where they spotted these cute little pink Pokémon with a pair of leaves on their heads drifting on the Spring breeze, passing by without a care in the world as they smiled.
“Rotom, what are they?” Lillie asked, fascinated by the sight as Koko looked up along with her.
A moment pleazzze. Rotom floated close to the drifting Pokémon and then snapped a photo with a flash, causing their beady yellow eyes to shrink for a moment until they blinked and then angled themselves to the side as the breeze shifted directions and carried them that way. Hoppip, the Cottonweed Pokémon. Its body is light at 1.1 pounds and allows it to drift on the winds. Capable of sensing strong winds, Hoppip cluster together and grip the ground firmly to avoid being blown away.
“They remind me of Bounsweet,” Lillie said as she looked at the photo taken with Rotom’s Poké Finder. Koko perched her forelegs onto Lillie’s lap and took a look at well. Lillie smiled as she stroked her forehead and then closed her eyes to just bask in the cool breeze as it rolled over her heated skin, strands of her hair swaying under its power.
That was, until she felt a presence looming over her and casting a shadow. She cracked open her eyes to see Bewear staring at her with a paw to its mouth. “Bewao?”
“Just… give me a minute to rest,” Lillie said. “My legs and feet hurt. Once I’ve rested we can keep searching.”
Bewear nodded. And then proceeded to pick her up, cradling her comparatively smaller body and holding her tight. Just like that Bewear started moving again, carry her like she did with her mother last night.
“Bewear, put me down!” Lillie said, struggling to get free of the stout arms as she was carried further into the forest. Rotom and Koko were giving chase after them, but the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored them and her pleas while going deeper into the forest.
The trees here had thick roots that stuck up from below the ground and dense bushes that occasionally rustled as they neared. At least a couple of them were Rattata that quickly darted away in the wake of Bewear, having wisely decided that they would rather not attempt to pick a fight with it. Around them there were several little flying honeycombs buzzing around, some kind of Bug-Type Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Lillie asked with a sigh. After noticing that Bewear was turning in a new direction, she reached into her jacket to grab Bewear’s Ultra Ball and return her. If they lost track of the direction they entered, it could take a long time before they managed to get back… much less before nightfall.
That was when Bewear came to a stop at last in a small clearing that had big stones planted about, with one large enough to be sat on amidst small patches of flowers scattered about. Setting her down there and taking another moment to sniff the air, Bewear then ran with all her might into a bundle of bushes further ahead and dove into them with her paws outstretched. Sounds of struggle could be heard as Koko and Rotom caught up with Lillie, and when Bewear stood back up there was a flailing Pokémon in her grasp. “Beow?”
“That’s a Sandshrew,” Lillie confirmed. “You found the right one this time.”
Bewear waddled over proudly; pleased with herself for having accomplished the task she was supposed to. Then she nonchalantly dropped the Sandshrew in front of them, before holding a paw to her muzzle and looking over to the trees to the right. Several of the small bug Pokémon she’d seen before flittered in that direction.
“Where are you going now?” Lillie asked, standing up on the stone as Bewear started wandering off in that direction. Once again the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored her, causing Lillie to feel frustrated and puff out her cheeks. She reached into the pocket of her jacket and fished around for the Ultra Ball that belonged to Bewear. “Enough’s enough, Be—pbbt?”
No sooner than she had it in her grasp was a splash of sand hurled in her direction, connecting with her face. Lillie staggered backwards as she wiped the grains from her face and ended up falling off the stone and landing onto her bottom. “Ouch!”
Lillie, zzzt! Are you okay? Rotom asked, attempting to help her with its appendages to clear away the last of the sand.
“I think so…” She looked over to the source of the attack, Sandshrew. Even now an earthen-glow outlined its forearms and grains of sand appeared to form out of it. “Hey, what was that for?”
“Kujo!” it cried angrily, lashing out again with another Sand Attack. This time a chilled gust intercepted it and scattered the sand. Koko stood between it and Lillie now with her back arched, hackles raised, and head low while a slight growl slipped out of her mouth.
Lillie didn’t pretend to be the best at reading body language. But she could gather from how its eyes were narrowed that the Sandshrew was more than a bit miffed and ready to fight as it pointed over to where it had been before. “Kujo, kujoo!”
It seems mad since it was about to catch a Bug-type Pokémon to eat, zzzt, Rotom stated, pointing up towards the tree that had a Wurmple quickly climbing up the trunk near where Bewear had found it and into the canopy. Now it’s challenging you to a battle and zzzeems quite Adamant about it.
“I was hoping we could be friends rather than starting off like this, but I guess we don’t have a choice.” Lillie stood back up, dusted the back of her skirt off, and pointed towards the Sandshrew. “This is our first battle, Koko!”
Acknowledging the hostility between the Sandshrew and her trainer’s will to fight, the three-tipped wooly tail stood upright as a pale aura shrouded the Alolan Vulpix. Koko let out a battle-cry and it rippled outwards. A grayish cloud formed in the air above the battlefield as a result.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Lillie shivered as the temperature around them dropped to a sharp chill, just low enough to where glittering ice particles could barely be seen falling down if she squinted her eyes. They were fleeting though, evaporating the moment they touch down to the ground.
It zzzeems that Koko has the Ability classified as Snow Warning, Rotom stated, camera turned towards the two Pokémon as it prepared to record the battle. However, it seems to be underdeveloped judging from my records, zzzt.
It’s probably because she only has three of her tails, Lillie thought. She could ask Professor Kukui later on. He had at least one Alolan Ninetails if she recalled. All the same, she suppressed the shiver running through her body at the abrupt cold (vowing to get arm and leg warmers) to give the first command. “Koko, it should be weak to Ice-Type attacks!”
Koko used Powder Snow!
Koko exhaled a gust of chilled wind, laced with glittering white-and-blue frost particles. It sped forward, covering the grass between them with a layer of hoarfrost as it rushed towards the Sandshrew.
The Sandshrew darted to the side to avoid it. Falling onto all fours, it began to close in from an angle as the Powder Snow attack ceased. Koko turned around to face it properly and inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew made a calculated move.
Sandshrew used Sand Attack!
It slashed forward from the distance with another Sand Attack from both of its forepaws. The two waves of sand caught Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes. She jerked her head away with a whimper, frantically working to clear them with her forepaws.
“Koko, look out!” Lillie shouted. “It’s coming!”
Sandshrew used Scratch!
The warning came too little, too late as the Sandshrew closed the distance and brought its three claws around. They caught Koko head-on and she cried out from the pain from the attack, only to grit her teeth. Then she countered.
Koko used Tail Whip!
Spinning around on her forepaws, the wooly tails caught the Mouse Pokémon right in the snout. Even if it didn’t do any damage, smacking the Sandshrew in the face startled it enough that its defenses fell as it tried to back away. Koko then hopped backwards to gain enough space to exhale another Powder Snow attack at it.
The Sandshrew let out a shriek as the attack landed. The powder began to build on it, covering it in fresh snow. The Mouse Pokémon shivered violently, its pants coming out in a slight mist as Koko finished expelling her breath. But it shook it off and then curled into a tight ball.
Sandshrew used Defense Curl!
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. The Alolan Vulpix let out a small sound in acknowledgement and then inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew began to spin in place.
Zzzt, that’s bad! Rotom warned.
Sandshrew used Rollout!
Rotom couldn’t the warning out before the Sandshrew shot forward in its ball form. On instinct, Koko let loose another powder-laced gust only to have it split down the center as the Sandshrew barreled through it. Too late did she realize that she needed to stop her attack and dodge, resulting in the speeding ball slamming into her hard enough to send her tumbling through the air with a pained cry.
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Fox Pokémon landed on the large boulder and bounced off on impact to hit the ground. Her heart fell into her stomach as she watched her starter trembling from the pain and looked like she was about to cry. “Are you okay?”
Koko is an Ice-Type Pokémon and Rollout is classified as a Rock-Type technique by its nature! Rotom explained. Worse, using Defense Curl beforehand allowed it to be strengthened, so it really hurt her!
“Vul…pix…” The Alolan Vulpix struggled to get back onto her feet, legs buckling under her own weight as the Sandshrew curved around and began to rush towards her a second time. Still, Koko stood her ground and narrowed her eyes as a pink aura began to shroud her body. She was preparing another attack.
Lillie disliked seeing Pokémon being hurt as a general rule. But, seeing the speed at which the Rollout was coming, now fast enough that it was leaving a trail in the ground as it came for the Ice-Type, Lillie made a judgment call. She pulled out Koko’s ball. “Koko, return!”
In an instant, Koko’s body returned to an energy state and was pulled into the ball, leaving the Sandshrew to crash into the boulder that had been behind her. The Mouse Pokémon shattered it with a thunderous crash, leaving Lillie to cover her face as fragments of the rock were scattered about and a dust cloud was raised. The Sandshrew emerged from the rock dust unharmed and then pointed at Rotom, gesturing with its claws for it to come next.
Rotom immediately ducked behind Lillie, peeking over her shoulder to say, I’m not optimized for battle, zzzt!
It doesn’t look like it’s just going to let me run away, Lillie realized as the Sandshrew continued to glare at her, waiting for her next move. She got the impression it wanted to prove something, but what that was eluded her. Koko is hurt and I don’t know where Bewear wandered off to. Should I call out Mismagius and risk her being cranky? What if she won’t listen either?
While she pondered that, the rock dust cleared and from the remains of it emerged a creature with a red shell. Holes were in the shell from which yellow limbs emerged. It wormed its way out of the debris pile that was once a large stone and then looked upon it sadly, before craning its head around to the Sandshrew and frowning as much as it was capable of doing so.
“Shuckle?” it… asked, Lillie assumed as it pointed to the rubble with one limb. The Sandshrew briefly looked away from Lillie to respond, motioning dismissively with its claws for the turtle-looking Pokémon to leave. It frowned, beady black eyes narrowing as much as it could while somehow remaining unthreatening from how bubbly it’s upset-cry sounded.
The Sandshrew somehow managed to roll its eyes before turning to it and… holding a conversation, Lillie assumed. She didn’t speak their language. But she knew who did.
“What are they saying?” she whispered to Rotom, which was hanging over her shoulder.
Zzzzounds like the Shuckle is complaining about its rock being smashed and the Zzzandshrew is blaming it on us, Rotom explained. I think it has zzzomething against Trainers… wait, what’s that zzzzound?
Lillie strained her ears but didn’t hear anything. The Pokémon, however, did. The Sandshrew looked over to the tree line in alarm and then back to Lillie for a final time. Then it curled into a ball and rolled away as fast as it could. The Shuckle just shoved its limbs and head into its shell and went motionless, masquerading as a stone.
CRASH!!! The sound of a tree splintering sent a jolt racing up Lillie’s spine as something came lumbering forward. Her nerves were on end and the hair on her neck was rising as it sounded closer and closer…
And then it turned out to just be Bewear. The Strong Arm Pokémon staggered out in what looked to be a daze. Her paws and mouth were covered in a creamy, golden hue.
She must’ve gone searching for honey after finding the Sandshrew as a treat to herself. Lillie sighed as all the tension in her body faded. She had gotten scared for nothing. Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on her hips and called out, “Bewear!”
Bewear’s head snapped around towards the sound of her voice.
. “You know better than to go running off on your own. You should have waited for—”
“BEWAOOOOOO!!” roared the Strong Arm Pokémon in fury.
The battle-cry caught Lillie off-guard, stunning her into silence as Bewear lunged in her direction abruptly, arms raised to attack!
Bewear used Take Down!
Seeing the rushing Pokémon lunging for her, Lillie instinctively dropped down with a panicked shout and felt the wind rush over her as Bewear brushed mere inches above her head and landed with a thunderous crash that threw up a spray of stone dust, dirt, and grass as the ground trembled.
S-Something must be wrong with Bewear. she reasoned in an attempt to calm her pounding heart. She knew that her mother’s Pokémon wouldn’t intentionally hurt her. Even Milotic, who she got the impression was constantly vying with the others and her for her mother’s attention before she went insane, wouldn’t attack her like that. Given that Bewear was more friendly and treated her more like a playmate, something just had to be wrong.
“Bewear, what’s wrong?” she called out, getting back to her feet. The Strong Arm Pokémon seemed to be dizzy or something, flailing about and smashing the stones around her with her powerful arms and legs. One of the attacks even caught the poor Shuckle as it tried to get away, only to be too slow, and ended up getting launched it into the air and landing with a loud thud not too far from Lillie.
“Are you okay?’ Lillie asked it as she crouched down and took a look at the Mold Pokémon.
Its head and limbs went limp as its eyes were struggling to stay open. It was barely hanging in there. “Shu…ckle…”
Lillie pursed her lips as she reached into her jacket to retrieve Bewear’s ball. Whatever was wrong with Bewear made her far more dangerous considering that she wasn’t trying to control her strength in that state. If Lillie didn’t do something to stop Bewear, more Pokémon were going to get hurt until she settled down.
She pointed it at the rampaging Strong Arm Pokémon and popped it open. Bewear was in the process of smashing another stone when she was pulled back into it, leaving just an unsettling silence in her absence. Lillie sighed, her nerves frayed and heart pounding as she looked at the ball in her grasp tenderly. “What happened to you?”
I think that Bewear was confused, zzzt, Rotom stated as it floated back over to her. Returning her to her ball should have snapped her out of it.
“But what did that to her?” Lillie asked as she looked down to the Shuckle that looked like it was in pain. Poor thing had its home destroyed because of her battle with Sandshrew and then hurt by Bewear because she didn’t keep an eye on her in the first place. She couldn’t just let it stay hurt like this, so she pulled off her backpack and searched around for a Potion to use on it.
The Shuckle perked up in alarm before she could give it a spray and began to try and flee.
“Hold on,” Lillie said as she grabbed it to stop it from running away. “I just want heal you. Then I’ll let you go.”
“Shuuuckle!” whined the Mold Pokémon, straining itself to get free of her grasp before wincing as its injuries made it clear it wouldn’t be able to move as well as it wanted to. It then retreated into its shell.
“You don’t need to…” Lille trailed off as a loud buzzing sound finally reached her ears. She turned her gaze towards the tree line where Bewear stumbled out, small figures flitting about at the edge of her view and coming closer. “Rotom, are there any Bug-Type Pokémon that produce honey in this area?”
Reconciling with local Pokémon database… Found, zzt. A picture showed on the screen of the little flying Bug-Types that she had spotted earlier on. Combee, the Tiny Bee Pokémon. It gathers honey from flowers to please Vespiquen. It is normally docile and flees when threatened, but will not think twice about attacking all that threaten the queen with lethal force.
“Bewear must’ve disturbed their hive to get their honey,” Lillie realized. “That’s why the Sandshrew ran and Shuckle is scared. They must be getting ready to attack.”
Slinging her backpack on, Lillie picked up the Shuckle. She wasn’t willing to leave the injured Pokémon behind. Not when her failing to keep her mother’s Pokémon in check was the cause. Holding it close to her chest, she started running in the direction they came from to escape.
A sense of looming danger hovered over Lillie as she ran through the forest. The sound of the buzzing only continued to grow louder, constantly closing in as the individuals that made up the hive slipped between the trees after her. She spared a quick glance backwards to see there were so many that it was like an onrushing wall of yellow.
“Ha… Ha…. Ha…” It was only a matter of time before they caught up to her. But if they were territorial then it was just a matter of getting out of their range. She swallowed her fear, tightened her grasp on the Shuckle in her arms, and redoubled her running speed as Rotom hovered next to her.
But the uneven ground proved to be a hazard as an upturned root snared her feet mid-stride. She landed onto the ground with a painful thud, hitting her shoulder and sliding along the grass and leaves until she came to a stop. “Oww…”
Are you okay, Lillie? Rotom asked.
“My shoulder hurts a bit, but I think I’m fine.” She had barely managed to stop getting seriously hurt by twisting her body mid-fall and tucking her head in. She looked over to where the Shuckle had landed, wrenched from her grasp by the fall. “Shuckle, are you okay?”
“Shuuuuckle,” it said, looking like it was on its last legs.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you somewhere safe.” She pushed herself up off the ground only to feel a sharp jolt run through her arm the moment she put weight on her shoulder. She bore with it as she got up and went over to pick up the Mold Pokémon again, only to find she couldn’t with her shoulder hurt. That left her one real option.
“Sorry about this, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to carry you.” She pulled out the Poké Ball that she had been planning on using to capture the Sandshrew. “Once we’re safe and you’re healed, I’ll release you.”
“Kle—” She tapped the ball against its shell before it could refuse and it was sucked inside. The ball trembled weakly before the sound of the capture being successful rang out. She minimized the ball and then started running again, but it was too late as the Combee horde had closed the distance enough that she was within their attacking range.
The Combee Horde used Gust!
Their wings beat out a powerful wind. It swept her up and sent her tumbling further ahead, leaving Lillie to end up rolling on the ground until she came to a stop at the base of a tree. It was clear they wouldn’t let her escape either.
No choice. I hope she isn’t too mad at being woken up early, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out the second Ultra Ball and enlarged it as the Combee Horde rushed forward and prepared to use Bug Bite. “Mismagius, help!”
The ball popped open at her call. The cranky-looking Ghost-Type emerged and looked at the incoming attack. Then came the fire.
Mismagius used Mystical Fire!
Red flames were conjured at the Magical Pokémon’s behest and swallowed the onset of Combee. The Tiny Bee Pokémon were scorched and burned, smoldering as they dropped to the ground and twitched faintly.
The rest of the Combee seemed to get riled up in the wake of the threat that she presented. Rather than coming for them straight, they circled around them from all angles, preparing to swarm the three with Bug Bites. Mismagius merely looked annoyed before her eyes flashed and they were surrounded by what looked to be stones of light.
Mismagius used Power Gem!
Then, all at once, the light burst from the stones in the form of dense rays. The beams smashed into their surroundings, spearing through the numbers like a mallet and swept them all away, along with the trees and foliage that was in their wake. Satisfied that the horde had been quelled through the sheer force of her attack, along with a good portion of the surrounding forest, Mismagius then turned to Lillie and let out an inquiring, “Maaagus?”
Rotom took the liberty to explain, in haste, the situation. The Magical Pokémon frowned at that, drifting closer to Lillie and snaking its appendage into her jacket pocket. She pulled out Bewear’s ball and pressed the button, releasing the Strong Arm Pokémon in a flash of light.
Now freed of her confused state, Bewear looked around with a puzzled glance before noticing Mismagius. “Waooo?”
Mismagius used Astonish!
Lillie jumped at the abrupt shout directed at Bewear from the very angry Ghost-Type Pokémon, hovering right in her face. Rotom had outright vanished in the wake of it, darting into her hood and using her as a living shield against the obvious rage on display. Not that she blamed it. Even she hadn’t seen Mismagius looking as angry as she was.
“Magius!” Mismagius shouted again in a slightly lower tone, pointing one of her ribbon-like appendages towards Lillie before sweeping it around to indicate the fallen Combee. Bewear whimpered and covered her head with her paws as the Magical Pokémon continued… was she scolding her? Lillie figured it must’ve been considering that, when Bewear responded with a whine and rubbed her stomach, Mismagius growled and dark tendrils of energy began to crackle around her.
The only thing that redirect her anger was the renewed sound of buzzing. It was deeper than before, heavier, coming from a single source. The Magical Pokémon turned around to face it and found what Lillie assumed to be the hive’s queen, coming to attack after its followers proved themselves unable with floating stones hovering next to it.
Vespiquen used Power Gem!
Mismagius’ narrowed her eyes and then returned fire with a flurry of Power Gems as well. The rays of light met and exploded into expanding domes that made the air shake. The Magical Pokémon then turned back to Bewear, pointing towards Lillie once more. “Magius, Ma!”
“Bewoa!” Bewear nodded her head frantically before scooping Lillie into her arms and taking off running through the forest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Mismagius had told her to take Lillie and get to safety immediately. Given the sound of destructions coming from behind them, splintering wood and rupturing earth, it was safe to say that it was probably safest outside of the forest.
They had to have been running for maybe thirty minutes when they first entered the forest to get to the clearing. Bewear had them outside of it and back onto Route 11 in less than five, breaking through the tree line and leaving a trail of upturned earth as she skidded to a stop. Heavy pants left the Strong Arm Pokémon’s mouth and she collapsed onto her bottom in exhaustion.
“Are you okay now, Bewear?” Lillie asked as she pulled herself free from its grasp. Well, more like she tried to and failed until Bewear allowed her to slip out. Bewear let out a small whine, dark eyes glistening before bringing her paws to her eyes and starting to cry. “What’s wrong?”
Zzzhe’s upset because Mismagius got mad at her and that she’s going to be punished, Rotom translated. When Bewear continued to cry, it translated that too. She just wanted a snack because she tried so hard to find the Sandshrew for you, zzzt.
Lillie couldn’t help but still feel a bit sad for her. As strong as Bewear was, she was still rather immature compared to Mismagius or Clefable. She reached up and gently rubbed her on the head. “It’ll by okay. We probably don’t need to tell Mother about this.”
“Maaagggius…” The Magical Pokémon said in opposition to that, causing Bewear to jump up in fear as she drifted out from between the trees. She looked as though she had been through a serious fight, parts of her ethereal body looking as though it had been struck by something that left actual damage. The annoyed look and frown on her face made it clear her anger had not been lessened.
“Mismagius, you’re hurt,” Lillie said, pulling off her backpack. “Hold on, I’ll use a Potion.”
Mismagius merely shook her head and pointed towards the direction of Vermillion City before saying, according to Rotom, that they need to head back to there now and that she’d lecture them all once they found Lusamine and was fully healed.
Lillie didn’t argue. Couldn’t argue really. Not when everything had gone horribly wrong. Koko was hurt from the battle with Sandshrew. Shuckle was hurt from Bewear, still in the process of crying. And Mismagius was hurt enough that she was drifting low to the ground. Compared to the minor injury to her shoulder, they needed treatment first.
Still, she was not looking forward to explaining to her mother how she had failed to do what she set out to and gotten them all hurt. The thought depressed her because she recalled how her Mother stated she couldn’t do anything on her own back when she needed Elio to help get her to listen. For all her bravado, it would mean nothing if she could actually live up to it. That was part of why she wanted to become a trainer.
But if she couldn’t keep Bewear in control or capture a Pokémon on her own… what was the point?
What was the point in coming to a new region, away from the professors who cared for her and the friends she made in Alola?
How would she face them and Nebby after promising to be better, yet failing on her first attempt?
That thought haunted her as she followed the Magical Pokémon back into the city without a word.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Oh dear,” the local Joy said as Lillie walked up to the counter, sparing the Mismagius floating next to her a glance to judge its condition. “You both look as though you’ve had a rough day.”
“You could say that.” Lillie sighed. It was evening by the time they made it back to Vermillion City and the Pokémon Center. Mismagius garnered a few looks along the way, having refused to return to her ball even after sending Bewear back into hers earlier, and a few of the other people in the center definitely took notice since her kind wasn’t seen around these parts. “I didn’t think finding a Sandshrew would be so hard.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t have if it had been a few months ago.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, due to the Lieutenant being rather heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with rookie trainers, they’ve started retreating further out in the Route.”
Lillie’s brows rose in confusion. “How are those things related?”
“Well, there’s been an announcement that the Elite Four are planning to have promising trainers participate in a sort of mass tournament event in about four months.” She presented a flyer for Lillie to see for herself. “Those who score in the Top Four will receive a hefty prize, as well as study under a member of the Elite Four for a month. Given how they’re considered to be the most skilled trainers in the Indigo League as a whole, a lot of young trainers are attempting the Gym Challenge in hopes of having the opportunity. And since most of the local children know that the Lieutenant uses electric-types, they run off to capture a Sandshrew or Diglett.”
She looked over the flyer. It seemed like you needed a minimum of four badges to participate in it. “Okay, but why is that a problem beyond over-capturing?”
“You can’t simply catch a Pokémon and then expect them to do well against a Gym Leader untrained,” she explained. “You have to get then accustomed to their new lives under a trainer and adapt them to battling, which takes time and positive reinforcement. Since most of them don’t have the patience with the deadline so close, they can’t really win in that case unless the Gym Leader goes easy.”
“And he won’t do that,” Lillie said, recalling what she had been told earlier.
The Nurse Joy nodded. “Out of all the Gym Leaders, the Lieutenant refuses to go easy on the grounds that he holds a lot of pride as a Gym Leader and believes that those who strive to earn badges should put in enough work. So, when they lose rather handedly, young trainers tend to get frustrated as a result and end up releasing the Pokémon. The released Pokémon then go back to the rest of their kind and you can imagine how the experience looks from their point of view.”
Lillie nodded in understanding. Being Captured. Forced to fight. Then thrown away because they were too weak. Even if you could heal their wounds, it would linger in their hearts. “That explains why the Sandshrew we found was so hostile. It must’ve been one.”
“Not to mention that if they relocate too far for too long, they’ll end up shifting ecosystem,” Nurse Joy added, before presenting the ball tray for Lillie to place her Pokémon into. “Anyway, can you return your Pokémon to its ball so I can tend to it?”
“Right.” Lillie turned to Mismagius. “I’ll return you to Mother when you’ve finished healing.”
Mismagius nodded before shooting the Plasma Pokémon a sharp glance. “Magius, maa. Magius…”
Yezzz ma’am! Rotom said, fear tinging its artificial voice. I won’t let it happen again! I promise, zzt!
“Mmmm…” She tapped the button on her own ball and then returned into it.
Lillie then placed it with the other Ultra Ball, Premier Ball, and Poké Ball that belonged to Bewear, Koko, and the Shuckle she had caught to keep it safe respectively. As she handed them over to the Nurse Joy, she asked, “Do you know which room my mother is in? I believe she came in earlier with a girl who was asleep from a Drowzee feeding off her dreams.”
“Ah yes, I remember those two. They should be in the third room to the left, on the second floor.” Nurse Joy placed the Pokémon into the machine. “It’ll take a while for your Pokémon to heal fully, especially the Mismagius. I’ll have Blissey send them to the room once they’re fighting fit, so why don’t you relax until then?”
“Thank you. I think I will.” That said, Lillie left the counter and made her way towards the second floor, where the rooms were. Along the way, she looked over to Rotom and asked, “What did Mismagius say to you then?”
She threatened to do things to me if I let anything happen to you, zzt… Rotom said in horror. Unspeakable things that only a Ghost Pokémon can do to another, zzzz.
“I’m sorry for that.” She reached up and tried to reassure Rotom with a pat on its back. She couldn’t imagine what it was exactly that Mismagius would have done, but she somehow didn’t doubt it was terrifying.
Once they arrived at the room, they found her mother sitting down on the bed. She was opposite of the girl sleeping in a curled-up position, in the process of reading something. Her expression turned from gentle to concerned as she took in her daughter’s slightly disheveled appearance. “What happened?”
Lillie, somewhat nervously, rubbed the back of her head and smiled weakly. “We ran into some trouble.”
As a credit to her mother’s progressing health, she listened until the very end of what Lillie told her without blowing up in anger. Instead, she merely rubbed the bridge between her eyes and frowned. “I’m going to give her such a scolding.”
Lillie, now sitting next to her mother on the bed, shook her head at that. “No, I should have paid more attention to my surroundings and returned Bewear when she was getting away from me. I just got distracted by the Sandshrew and lost track of her. She didn’t mean for that to happen and I didn’t really get hurt.”
Which was true enough. The pain in her shoulder had eased a lot and would probably be healed with a good night’s rest. Really, all of the Pokémon were hurt worse than her.
“Maybe not, but if I don’t scold her then she won’t learn from what she did.” Lusamine sighed, placing one hand over her eye to rub it. “At least you’re safe. After the talk with Gladion, I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it if you were hurt because I didn’t stay with you.”
“You talked to Gladion?”
Her eyes softened for a moment, glistening. “Not so much a talk as him scolding me. But I’ll make things right once I’ve found your father.” She slowly shook her head and then went back to normal. “Anyway, what do you plan to do next?”
“I figured that I would set-up my Pokégear while I waited for the Pokémon to finish healing,” Lillie said. “Then I should get snacks for all of them, since they worked so hard, and I need to apologize to Shuckle for what Bewear did.”
“I recall seeing a market not too far from here.” Lusamine rose out of the bed and stood up straight. “I’ll go and pick some things up for all of them. You stay here and keep an eye on the girl. She’s been stirring in her sleep, so I assume she’ll wake soon.”
That said, Lusamine left out and Lillie proceeded go over the functions of the Pokégear through the manual. The Map Mode showed both Kanto and Johto as a whole, plus the capability to mark certain locations as important. It also had the ability to add additional apps to check on things like train routes and time as well with the proper expansion.
The Communication Mode also covered the Kanto and Johto region, but she couldn’t use it to call long-distance. That meant she’d need to use one in the center or at the hotel if she wanted to call Miss Wicke or her brother or the others in Alola. She could remember Professor Kukui and Burnet’s numbers easily enough, but not Hau or Elio—which she regretted since she missed them both.
She dwelled on the time she spent with them and felt a little nostalgic until she heard the girl in the bed across from her stirring awake. The pale-skinned girl rose up with a yawn, stretching her arms up high before opening her eyes. After taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, her ruby-red eyes eventually settled on Lillie.
“How are you feeling?” Lillie asked.
“Fine,” she said. Her stomach, however, loudly rebutted with a grumble that was audible to all of them. Having been caught in a lie, she blushed. “Okay, maybe a little hungry. But where am I and who are you?”
“My name is Lillie and you’re in a Pokémon Center,” Lillie said. “My mother and I found you on Route 11. You were asleep on the ground and a Drowzee was feeding off of your dreams. Mother and your Sableye brought you back here to rest until the Hypnosis wore off.”
“Oh… right, I remember seeing that Drowzee now.” She sat on the bed properly and looked around some more until she found the ball that had her Sableye. The lid opened when she pressed the button on it and Sableye popped out of it, splaying on the floor and sleeping. She leaned over and shook its shoulder. “Jet, it’s time to wake up.”
“Saa?” The Sableye leaned up just long enough to look around and see where it was. Then it brushed her off with a wave, turning away from her, laying back down, and scratching its hips.
She puffed out her cheek and shook it again before it could fall asleep once more. “If you’re going to be lazy then I won’t give you any Rock Candy.”
The Sableye popped up and its mouth opened, yawning and revealing its razor-sharp teeth as it scratched its back.
She bobbed her head in satisfaction at the response, causing her poofy pigtails to bounce, and asked, “Did you manage to catch that Sandshrew?”
It shook its head and pointed to Lillie. “Sable, sa.”
“One of my Mother’s Pokémon was also tracking down a Sandshrew and they caught your Sableye by mistake,” Lillie explained after Rotom translated for her what it said. “Sorry about that… Umm…”
“Astra,” the girl said. “And I suppose it’s fine. Jet and I can search again for our second Pokémon later on before Grandpa gets back in the morning. He’s better in the dark anyway.”
“Is Sableye your starter Pokémon then?”
She nodded. “Grandpa gave him to me for starting out on my journey a month or so ago, around when I arrived in Kanto through the port in Lavender City. I’ve only gotten my Trainer License a few days ago though, and so I was planning on getting my first badge here.”
“What a coincidence,” Lillie said. “I just arrived in Kanto myself to start mine as well, so it’s my first time in this region.”
She perked up at that. “Where from?”
“A group of islands known as the Alola region,” Lillie explained. “It’s pretty far away from here, but it’s a very nice and peaceful place. What about you?”
“I moved around a lot with Mommy and Daddy before we settled down in a place called the Oblivia region. It’s a pretty place, and I stayed in a village that had a bunch of Pichu. There was even a Pikachu that knew how to play a Ukulele.”
“Is that so?” She supposed that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that the Raichu in Alola could fly. “It sounds like a nice place.”
“It is.” Her expression softened, her smile turning sad. “When my parents didn’t come back during a storm, the people of the village helped take care of me until Grandpa found me. Especially Mister Nick. I hope they’re doing well…”
An awkward silence lingered for a moment afterwards until there was a knock on the door. “Blissey.”
“Ah, that must be for me.” Lillie got up and opened the door.
The Blissey that should have been at the counter was there with the tray containing the Pokémon that she left to be healed. She handed them to Lillie and shifted her gentle gaze to Astra, who still looked down after speaking of her home and family. The Pokémon waddled into the room and presented her egg to the girl. “Blissey.”
Astra grabbed it, tilting her head in confusion. “What’s this for?”
Rotom chimed in. Blissey is the Happiness Pokémon. Its fluffy fur coat acts as a sensor, enabling it to read the feelings of people and Pokémon. When it senses someone feeling sad, it will give them an egg. One bite of its egg will bring a smile to their face, zzzt.
“Oh, I see. You sensed I was feeling sad.” She put on a smile for the Happiness Pokémon. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to enjoy it.”
Lillie watched as Astra looked over the large egg in her hands while Blissey left out. She seemed ready to crack it open, which made sense when Lillie considered how her stomach had grumbled minutes ago. But the girl paused as she looked over to Lillie. “Is something wrong?”
“Actually, this is a little too big for me to eat alone.” She held the egg out towards Lillie. “Do you want to share it between me and Jet?”
“Ah, I… wouldn’t mind, but…” Lillie looked at the four balls in her care at the moment. “Can I split mine between the Pokémon and Rotom? My mother will be back soon with snacks for them, but it wouldn’t feel right to eat before them.”
“Sure,” she said with a bright smile. “The more the merrier, and I want to see what kind of Pokémon you have.”
Chapter 3: The First Capture – Part 1
As rain poured down outside at night, Lusamine was roused from her slumber upon feeling the rustle of the warm figure bundled next to her beneath the sheets. She sat up in bed and pulled back the covers to spot the tense body of her youngest child. “Lillie, is everything okay?”
Her daughter shifted around in the bed so that they faced each other and apologized. “Sorry, Mommy. Did I wake you?”
“I wasn’t that deep in my sleep,” Lusamine said in a gentle tone, placing the back of her hand over Lillie’s forehead and cheek. A few hours ago Lillie had gotten the idea to sing and dance in the rain like she had seen in a movie they watched together. Misdreavus, always being one to keep an eye on the children when she couldn’t, had alerted Lusamine and she had gone out to pull her back in. Somehow she ended up joining her and they both wound up catching a cold.
But that was fine since it seemed to make Lillie happy. “Your fever has finally broken. That’s good.”
“If I’m better, should I go back to my room?” Lillie timidly asked. “I don’t want to be in the way when Daddy comes back to bed.”
“Daddy is working on an experiment with that strange little Pokémon, so he won’t be back tonight,” Lusamine said. “You know the little one that goes ‘Pew Pew’ all the time.”
“You mean Nebby?”
That earned a slight giggle from her mother. “Your father named it Cosmog, but Nebby is so much cuter. How did you come up with it?”
“I call him that because Daddy showed me a picture of a Nebula in a book and said Nebby was like one,” she said. “Daddy said that it was a good name, and Nebby seemed to like it.”
“You’re so clever.” Lusamine looked over to the clock to see that it was after midnight now. “We should go back to sleep now.”
Lillie nodded her head and then wrapped her tiny arms around her mother’s slender frame as she laid back down, clinging to her as though she didn’t want to let go as Lusamine stroked her hair to gently coax her back asleep. “Good night, Mommy.”
“Good night, my sweet Lillie.”
As Lusamine woke from her dream of the past, her world in the present was nothing but pain.
Every inch of her body ached. A dull throbbing pain loitered in her limbs that felt heavy. And her mind was foggy, lost as it worked to form a coherent train of thought. She breathed in and out slowly, steadily gaining awareness as her memories put themselves back into place. She remembered getting on the ferry after the photo, feeling tired, and then retiring to the room to get some rest.
How long have I been under? She needed to figure that out more than anything, but she felt hot and dizzy. Thankfully, something wet touched her forehead and spread a cooling relief through her head. She exhaled a shuddering breath and managed to open her eyes, only to find the world was a blur while a pink blob grew larger.
She focused her eyes, squinting and focusing until her vision cleared to reveal the Fairy Pokémon dabbing a wet cloth to her head. “Since you let yourself out to look over me, it must be morning then?”
Clefable, her oldest Pokémon nodded, lips pulling back into a small smile as she continued to aid her trainer.
“Where are we?” Lusamine asked. It didn’t seem like the cabin of the ferry. If anything the room was larger, and she didn’t feel the minute motion of the boat.
Lilligant came over at the prompt, having also let herself out at some point. The Flowering Pokémon held a brochure of some kind between the leaves that served as her arms. It listed the name of a hotel in Vermillion City.
Since she didn’t remember arriving, Lusamine realized she must’ve drifted off at some point then and missed when the ferry arrived, due to not being easily woken since the… incident.
“In that case, Bewear must’ve carried me while Milotic and Mismagius watched over me at night, right?” A nod from them both confirmed as much. “Help me get ready to go out.”
She couldn’t show weakness in front of her daughter, and the time they had was already limited as things stood. Since Vermillion City acted as the port for a number of islands, it had a number of shops that they could visit to get Lillie’s supplies for when she began her journey. And then she may want to visit the Gym to see how they operated, or try to catch a Pokémon of her own.
Lilligant climbed onto the bed and helped her sit up. Being so close to Lusamine also allowed her to breathe in the aroma wafting from the flower, which eased the pain somewhat. Clefable brought over her traveling bags that held her clothes and helped her sort out an outfit suitable for the walking in the city.
When Lusamine rose out of bed to go take a shower, vertigo overtook her. The world turned to liquid, rolling back and forth like waves churned by a storm. She lost her balance.
Clefable managed to catch her and helped her sit down again. “Clef-clef!”
“I have to go,” Lusamine said to what she grasped was a request to take it easy, looking down at her hands. She still found it difficult to believe that the gentle hands that lovingly embraced her daughter before in the dream had been ready to squeeze the very life out of her had the Legendary Pokémon not separated her from Nihilego. That fact that she would have enjoyed doing it at the time… it filled her with horrible shame and regret.
So much so that her hands trembled at when she considered what sort of person she had become. When she was around it, she felt so much better than she had before. Some distorted part of her relished that, along with the comfort of the thought that the beast would never abandon her as her family did. Only now did she realize how irrational she had been, how she pushed them away after her husband vanished, and how she had taken advantage of those around her.
“I only have so much time before Lillie leaves me behind,” she continued. “I need to be there for her and show her that I still care. That I’m the one who was worthy of being her mother and not—”
She barely stopped herself from finishing the slip of the tongue that would have exposed the petty feeling she felt, a tiny spark of jealousy that her daughter’s first Pokémon came from another woman who had taken on her role over the last few months. No, even before then, she couldn’t be considered either Gladion or Lillie’s mother. Wicke had all but replaced her in that respect once the spiral into madness began.
There was much she had to atone for in order to be the same woman that Mohn married. She needed to make up for everything and prove to herself that she was someone worthy of being loved by those she denounced for the sake of the beasts.
Her Pokémon exchanged a look with one another. Then Lilligant grabbed her right hand while Clefable grabbed her left. They held them between their small limbs as though to comfort her and then helped her to stand back up.
The trembling in her hands stopped. “Thank you. I’m lucky to have all of you still by my side.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie found herself standing off to the side while cradling Koko’s Premier Ball in her hands within the Gold Sky Hotel, watching as Bill set up her Storage Box on the PC located there.
Since Professor Kukui had been the one who was registered her as a trainer (with the Rotom Dex acting as basically a spare ID-card), any Pokémon over the number of six that were registered as being “out” with her would normally be transferred over to the system managed in the Alola region. However, with the damage done to the Sevii Island Network Center where they communicated with one another, connecting to the Alolan system had been hindered until it could be repaired. So Bill had offered to create one for her to use until then, linked to his system.
“And done.” Bill smiled a little as she turned to face her. “I’ve only given you a single box, but that should be enough until we can connect to Alola. You shouldn’t actually need all that much box space unless you plan on doing serial collecting.”
He may have been jesting from his tone, but Lillie couldn’t help but shake her at that. She had seen her mother’s collection and was thoroughly disabused of even entertaining that thought. Though it prompted a different one that had her curious. “Um… do the Pokémon inside of the boxes stay like that forever?”
“Hmm… it depends.” He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. “As I mentioned before, there are now systems in place to stop non-native Pokémon from being released in a non-native environment. However, there are also those that allow for transfer of ownership of the boxes or to have the Pokémon released upon a trainer’s death, if there is no one to claim them. The Professors and those who are registered to maintain a system can dictate how many boxes are assigned to a trainer and can arrange for temporary release into a habitat for them.”
“You mean like Professor Kukui?”
“I believe so. The Alolan region’s system does have such a place, with an individual who has special permission to access the storage system there if I recall correctly, so it shouldn’t be an issue since very few people have the time and resources to take care of more than a handful of Pokémon to begin with. It’s usually those who are collectors like myself or sponsored by a Professor that will often have extra boxes and will use a ranch or designated habitat for them to remain active in.”
“Do you have a lot of Pokémon in the boxes?”
“Surprisingly, I don’t since I can afford to look after them, so they mostly stay unreleased.” He reached into his pocket and pulled free two Poké Balls, from which the Umbreon and Espeon she had seen in the Sevii Islands appeared. “Tenebrea and Lumen here I keep on me when I travel for my personal protection, but at the cottage are my Dragonair, Clefairy, Kadabra, Porygon-2, and the rest of the Eevee family that I’ve hatched myself.”
“Isn’t it hard to look after them all?” She had enough trouble looking after Nebby as it was. And that was when it was a little Cosmog. She hoped that Nebby was behaving for Elio as the Umbreon and Espeon looked up to Bill at that, their ears folded back and innocent eyes that Lillie felt was practiced.
He smiled and crouched down to stroke the fur on both of their heads. “Oh, they can be a handful at times, but they’re worth it. We’re more of a rather large family than anything else.”
She pondered on that when the elevator slid open with a ding. Lillie looked up on reflex since it was next to them and spotted her mother entering the lobby, looking around and taking the hotel’s grandeur into account until their eyes met. Lillie straightened up from leaning against the wall and approached her. “Mother, you shouldn’t be walking around. You need more rest.”
Lusamine shook her head once, shifting her long hair as she crossed her arms. “I’ve slept enough. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Lillie put her hands on her hips and puffed out her cheeks. “How can I not worry when we couldn’t wake you up at all? We had to contact Miss Wicke for advice. She told us to make arrangements for the hotel and let you rest for at least another day before we got on the train to Cerulean. Mister Bill had to change his schedule just for us.”
Lusamine’s eyes softened a touch at that, slightly crestfallen.
“Don’t be too harsh. If she hadn’t helped I possibly wouldn’t be here,” Bill said, rising to his feet. “Besides, it’s only a slight delay and I can use this time to check up on some connections. You two should spend this time getting used to the Kanto region if you plan on taking the Gym challenge. The Vermillion Gym isn’t too far from here.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” Lusamine said, jumping on the suggestion. “That way I we can make sure that you have everything you need since we’ll be heading to Cerulean next.”
Lillie pursed her lips thin. “You should rest. I can wait until we get to the cottage and you’re better.”
“Lillie…” She reached out to brush her daughter’s cheek. “Don’t let what’s happened to me stand in the way of what you also came here for. At least this way I’ll be able to relax somewhat knowing you have a grasp on the basics.”
“Mmm…fine…” Lillie grabbed her mother’s hand and held it between her own tenderly as she stared into her eyes with as much determination as she could to get her point across. “But the moment I see that you’re pushing yourself, we’re coming back to the hotel.”
“I won’t push myself,” Lusamine promised. “Now, let’s go while we have the time and get your supplies. Then we’ll go to the Gym to see how they operate.”
The backpack on Lillie’s back felt a lot heavier as she walked along with her mother towards the building that the clerk helpfully pointed out as the Vermillion Gym. They had gone shopping in order to get supplies for her inevitable journey, including the standard Pokémon Refresh kit, Potions, Revives, Repels, and so on. Her mother had also gotten her the latest generation of the Pokégear, which were commonly found around Kanto and the neighboring Johto region. She’d need to go over all of the functions later tonight, but she should be able to figure that much out on her own.
The clerk had said that they couldn’t miss the Gym once it came into view. Lillie had to agree that the building definitely stood out, what with the lightning bolts crossing one another to form an arch over the entrance. She supposed that it was decorated in that manner to ensure that whoever was looking for it could find it, but it still struck her as a bit grandiose.
“Are you nervous?” her mother asked.
Lillie closed her eyes for a moment and then nodded her head. “I don’t know what to expect, so it’s a little unnerving. But I’m fine.”
Steeling herself, Lillie walked into the Gym and the lobby that awaited them there. It was rather plain-looking at a glance, with seats to the left and a desk to the right. Behind the desk was a woman with black hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing what looked to be army clothes and boots.
“Greetings,” the woman said, rising to her feet from the desk. “Are you here for the Gym Challenge? I’m afraid that another challenger has gone ahead of you and until they leave, you’ll have to wait until they’re done.”
“Actually, I’m new to this region and I was hoping to understand how the Gym system worked, Miss…”
“Sendou,” she said. “I’m a Gym Guide, as appointed by the League to both monitor the condition and conduct of the Gym, as well as aid trainers in knowing what to expect. I’ll be happy to explain things, but can you tell me what do you know so far?”
“That Gyms are essentially places where trainers can either come to improve themselves under the guidance of a Gym Leader or challengers can attempt to earn a badge from the Gym Leaders by defeating them in battle—eight of which will permit you to challenge the Elite Four in order to become the current Champion.” Lillie understood that much at least. Professor Kukui had been planning on making a League in Alola for some time and she had been around to see Elio claim the title of Alola’s Champion.
Miss Sendou nodded. “Upon entering, a Gym Guide such as myself will check the number of badges you possess and inform the Gym Leader, who will scale appropriately to ensure that you are challenged without being completely overwhelmed. If you are successful, then you’ll earn a badge as well as prize money. Or course, first you have to reach the Gym Leader to challenge him.”
“Do we not simply challenge them?”
“A Gym Leader has the authority to customize their Gym in certain ways, provided they are approved by the Pokémon League to ensure that they do not cause any permanent harm to anyone. They usually present something of a puzzle in order to add to the difficulty, ensuring that the trainer themselves are don’t simply coast using their Pokémon’s raw strength. In the case of this Gym, the Lieutenant has something of an electric puzzle set up and the challenger has to solve it in order to reach the arena within a reasonable timeframe. If you’re new, I should assume you don’t have any badges at all?”
Lillie shook her head. “I don’t.”
“Then he’d face you with a No-Badge team of two Pokémon.”
“But I only have one right now,” Lillie said. “Will that be a problem?”
“I would advise you to at least have two or more Pokémon before attempting to challenge the Lieutenant. Though he scales appropriately, you’ll still be facing off against two of the Gym’s Pokémon with one, whom are very experienced in battling. And he tends to be rather heavy-handed when it comes to all challengers, which is the reason very few trainers actually choose to face him for their first Gym.”
“I see…” It was more like an Island Trial than she thought with the puzzles. “I guess I should capture a second Pokémon first, shouldn’t I?”
“I’d recommend a Ground-type.” Miss Sendou went over to the desk again and began to operate with the computer. “Let’s see… Sandshrew can be found often in Route 11, and Diglett can be found in the tunnels on that route.”
“I understand.” She supposed it would be best to capture one if possible before attempt to match the Gym Leader. “I’ll go and try to capture a second Pokémon first.”
“Fair warning, the Lieutenant does have countermeasures against the local ones since he doesn’t like it when trainers simply try to coast by using fresh captures, so you’ll have to be clever if you face him with them,” she said. “If you want more experience with combat, or to get a feel for the sort of challenge you’ll face, you can also try challenging a Gym Trainer if they’re available.”
“I think I will.” Lillie gave her a brief bow in gratitude. “Thank you for the advice.”
“Not a problem. Good luck with your capture.”
Roughly an hour later, Lillie and her mother made it to the start of Route 11 that began at the end of the river that flowed from the sea until it reached just opposite of the entrance to the Diglett’s Cave.
It was one of the designated routes that were often traveled by trainers as they went about their way and thus a relatively well-trodden dirt path, consisting of mostly tall grass that grew in great abundance, with some patches that rose up to Lillie’s waist. The border of her vision to the left and right were thick trees, natural barriers that no doubt hid their own selection of Pokémon from prying eyes.
They couldn’t travel too far from Vermillion City if they wanted to get back by nightfall. Her mother needed her rest and Lillie didn’t want to add to the stress she was under, so she didn’t intend to push too far ahead. Still, there was an unnerving sense of excitement in her body as it would be the first time she went exploring with the intention of catching a Pokémon without Repels.
Lillie watched as a Krabby that was on the shore scuttle back into the water while a group of Pidgey took flight overhead towards the trees far back. Looking at how far the grasslands stretched and were only broken by the dirt path, she couldn’t help but wonder how long it was going to take to find a Sandshrew among the grass.
That was what she decided to try and catch instead of a Diglett, since she couldn’t see in the cave and the Mouse Pokémon would be more mobile. Off the top of her head, she only knew that they were around this route. But which part was hard to discern unless she knew a little on what a Kantonian Sandshrew’s habitat was and how active they were at this time of day. She looked over her shoulder to her backpack. “Rotom, are you awake now?”
There was a shuffling in her bag before the living Pokédex emerged from the opening and floated around to the front. I am now, User Lillie, zzt.
“Just calling me Lillie is fine,” she told it. “Do you have any information on this region’s variant of Sandshrew?”
The screen shifted as Rotom accessed the database and then displayed an image of the region’s variant. Sandshrew, the Mouse Pokémon. It burrows and lives underground, only emerging to hunt for Bug-type Pokémon. If threatened, it curls itself up into a ball for protection and can roll at high-speeds. It dislikes water.
“If it dislikes water then it’ll be further away from the river,” Lillie said as Rotom presented extra data like its footprints and the average size of their species. “But finding a burrow may take a while.”
“I’ll help you find one since you’re pressed for time.” Lusamine pulled out one of her Ultra Balls and held it forward in her palm. “Bewear, come out.”
The ball opened and light speared out. The Strong Arm Pokémon emerged and stretched its thick arms up into the air with a yawn. Then it embraced Lusamine and lifted her into a hug. That was normally risky since its species ran the risk of using too much force and breaking the spines of their trainer. But hers was well-trained to control its strength and wouldn’t harm her, even as it spun around in circles as if overjoyed that she was up and well.
“I’m happy to see you too,” Lusamine said as she brushed her hands along its head. “But first things first. We need your help in finding a Pokémon, okay?”
Bewear set her down and stood at attention, giving her a salute. Rotom flew closer and showed it the image on display. It placed its paw to its muzzle as it gazed at the picture with a dull look for a few moments. Then it fell onto all fours to sniff the ground.
Lillie reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out Koko’s ball. Even with her mother helping her in this instance, she was the one that should try to capture it properly when found. The miniaturized ball expanded into its active state with one press of the button and then popped open with the second, releasing the Alolan Vulpix.
“Vullll…” Koko yawned and brushed her head with her forepaw before sitting upright. Settling her gentle blue eyes on her trainer, her tails flicked up and the air grew a tad cooler. “Pix?”
“Morning, Koko.” Lillie crouched down and gently ran her fingers back and forth over her head, ignoring the slight chill in the air. “Did you sleep well?”
Koko nodded and leaned into the touch until Bewear’s large presence became known to the Fox Pokémon as it rose to its full height and cast a shadow over the rather small fox. Bewear, now standing on its hind legs, began running ahead and into the tall grass. A Spearow vacated the shaking grass, taking flight with quick beats of its short wings, and an Ekans slithered out afterwards, clearly agitated as it spared them a spiteful look before heading away. It must’ve been hunting.
To Lillie’s surprise, Bewear came running back with a Pokémon held in its paws, raised above its head. It was flailing around but unable to escape until the Bewear came to a stop in front of them and held out its prize proudly. It… wasn’t a Sandshrew.
No, what it had in its hands was a dark, two-legged creature roughly a foot tall. Its arms led to a pair of claws and its eyes were gemstones. There were differently-colored ones around its chest and backside as well.
Lusamine shook her head as she looked at the Darkness Pokémon. “That’s not a Sandshrew, Bewear. It’s a Sableye.”
“Waaa…” Bewear frowned as it unceremoniously dropped the Sableye and then fell onto its hind. A soft whine left its mouth as it held its paws to its muzzle dejected until Lusamine gently patted it on the head.
“You’ll do better next time,” she said to it in a soothing manner as she looked at the Sableye that rubbed its backside as it stood up. “Still, I don’t think Sableye are native to this area.”
“Saaa. Sableye,” it said in response, eyeing the women.
He says that he was chasing down a Zzzandshew for his trainer when Bewear grabbed him, Rotom helpfully translated. The Sableye gestured towards it and made a curious sound. Yes, I am a Pokémon, zzt.
“We’re sorry, Sableye,” Lillie told it—him. Bewear must’ve caught the scent of it on him and then picked him up instead. “Do you think that it’ll still be there?”
The Darkness Pokémon shook his head and, through Rotom, stated that its trainer had used some kind of radar to find it, only for it to run. By now it would be long gone.
Lusamine tapped her chin in thought with her hand that wasn’t petting the Bewear. “Do you think that your trainer would allow us to use it and get an idea of where we can find them? We’re pressed for a bit of time as the moment and would greatly appreciate it.”
The Sableye shrugged his shoulders and then gestured for them to follow as he trudged off to the northeast, beyond a veil of tall grass. Lusamine, Bewear, Lillie, and Koko followed after him through the grass until they emerged by the woodlands to the north. There they found a girl laying on the ground unconscious, a Pokémon that Lillie identified as a Drowzee standing over her with its trunk pressed against her head, eyes upturned in happiness and a smile on its lips.
The Sableye growled audibly at the sight and then rushed forward to take a swipe at it with his claws. The Drowzee was knocked away and onto the ground, unsure of what hit it until it noticed the Darkness Pokémon standing over the girl protectively and bearing his razor-sharp teeth. It wheeled around and ran past the line of trees and into the woodlands, scrambling away from them. Sableye let it go and instead tried to rouse the girl there by shaking her to no success.
Lillie crouched down next to the Sableye and turned the girl over. Her skin was pale and she had jet-black hair that was in bound into twin, poofy pigtails by two red hair bows. There were no signs of physical injury though. “I don’t think it hurt her.”
“She looks rather young, so I imagine that it wanted to eat her dreams and used Hypnosis to put her to sleep,” Lusamine said. “Children tend to be more susceptible to the hypnotic waves it uses and aren’t easily roused. It could be hours before she wakes naturally.”
The Sableye jolted at that, before coming over to both her and Lillie and pointing to his trainer while looking to Rotom to translate what he said next.
Rotom obliged. He’s asking if we can take her back into the city with him to make sure nothing bad happens to her, zzttt.
Lillie closed her eyes in thought for only a moment. Then she nodded and turned to her mother. “Mother, let’s take her back with us to Vermillion City.”
“I’m not against it, but if we help her go it would be irresponsible to leave her until she wakes up,” Lusamine answered. “That could be well until nightfall and Sandshrew are diurnal from the sound of it. You won’t be able to catch one then.”
“Nmm…” A low hum left Lillie’s throat at that. But seeing the unconscious girl and how the Sableye had now clasped his hands like he was praying towards them, she shook her head. She couldn’t just leave someone unconscious here. The professor didn’t leave her stranded on that beach after she passed out and neither would she. “Seeing to her is more important. I’ll have more time when I start my journey.”
“You’re such a good girl.” Lusamine sighed heavily and then reached for Bewear’s ball along with another one and handed them over to her. “It can’t be helped, but at the same time I don’t you to lose this chance. So I’ll let you continue to search with Bewear while I take the child back with me to the Pokémon Center. You shouldn’t have any trouble around these parts with your little fox and Bewear, but just in case take Mismagius’ ball as well. She doesn’t like being out when it’s daytime, but if you end up in an emergency she’ll help you.”
“Is that really okay?” Lillie asked. “Will you be able to make it back on your own?”
“You’re sweet to worry, but I’m not helpless,” Lusamine said as she took the child into her arms. “I have my other Pokémon with me and I’m sure her Sableye will make sure nothing harasses me on the way while I have her.”
The Sableye nodded at that.
“…Okay,” Lillie reluctantly agreed. “I’ll catch a Sandshrew and then head to the Pokémon Center.”
“If you aren’t back by nightfall, I’ll have Clefable looking for you.” She turned to Bewear. “Bewear, do you still have the scent?”
Bewear, whose attention was on the trees, perked up when it heard its name being called and nodded enthusiastically at the question.
“Then help Lillie find one and keep her safe,” Lusamine ordered. “Be a good girl for her.”
The Strong Arm Pokémon saluted once more. “Beweaoo!”
Then she was off, leaving Lillie, Koko, Rotom, and Bewear to watch as she left with the girl and Sableye.
Lillie took a deep breath to center herself. There was no one else around to help her this time. No professor, Elio, or her Mother—well, there was her Mother’s Pokémon. But she was on her own this time. “Okay, let’s go.”
Koko responded with enthusiastic hop. “Vul!”
Bewear… was already moving ahead, into the woodlands as she followed her nose.
“Wait up, Bewear!” Lillie called as she chased after her Mother’s Pokémon, with Rotom and Koko following after her