Chapter 13: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 2
A little while later, Lillie found herself sitting in the Pokémon Center and was left waiting for Koko and Shuckle to finish being treated within their balls. Lilligant too, just in case she’d gotten tired from the walking and cold. Rotom was inside of her backpack, which was sitting next to her, going over the data he’d gathered.
Her eyes were fixed on the card she had from the Nugget Bridge. It was proof of how they’d managed to get two wins under their belt in a single day. After how badly Koko had gotten hurt against that Sandshrew, and how they’d been beaten by the Gym Leader in Vermillion City, it felt good to have some confirmation that she wasn’t doing so badly as a Trainer. She’d actually managed to instruct them a little better without panicking, though Koko and Shuckle had done so mostly on their own given how the battles went.
Still, I feel like I’m a little closer to Elio and Hau than I was before. Even as that thought drifted into her mind, she knew they couldn’t relax yet. They were only at the starting line, and Double Battles would require her to properly coordinate with both of her Pokémon. She didn’t doubt that the next trainer on the bridge would give them a work out.
“Chansey.” The soft chiming voice of one Pokémon Center’s Chansey reached Lillie’s ears as the Egg Pokémon waddled up to her table with a tray holding the balls for the three Pokémon.
Lillie thanked her as she reclaimed them and then watched her walk off, before releasing the three to check on them. “How does everyone feel?”
They all gave various confirmations that they were doing fine—a bob of the head from Shuckle, a yip from Koko, and a slight bow from Lilligant. Then there was a tap on the window pane next to them that drew their attention. Azuria was standing there, waving to get their attention before she entered into the Pokémon Center.
“How’d it go at the bridge?” she asked.
“Koko and Shuckle managed to beat the first two trainers.” Lillie noticed that she was now carrying a canvas tote-bag. “Did you go shopping on your way here?”
She nodded before holding up her bag. “I needed to get some Berries to use the machines upstairs.”
“Kle?” Shuckle’s head snapped up at that, his eyes fixed on the bag. From his perch on the table, he stretched out his gooey appendages and reached into it. When he pulled them back, he held in his grasp an Oran berry.
“Shuckle, no!” Lillie said as he quickly retreated into his shell with it, much to Lillie’s dismay. She was forced to apologize at the theft on his behalf. “I’m sorry, I’ve only had him for a little while now and he’s not used to being out of the wild. ”
Azuria brushed it off with a wave. “It was only one, so it’s fine. I still have enough to make Pokéblocks here for everyone and have some left over for Poffins at home. That being said, you should keep him away from Mister Bill’s trees until he’s better trained. Viri was pretty protective about them last time I checked, since some Pokémon like to take them without permission.”
That explains this morning. Lillie looked down, disappointed in the Mold Pokémon as Lilligant and Vulpix prodded at the shell to try and get him to come out with the Berry. They were at least trained to know better. When it was clear he wouldn’t, she could only frown before recalling him into his ball and silently promising to scold him later. “What are Pokéblocks and Poffins though?”
“Pokéblocks are candies and Poffins are cookies,” Azuria explained. “Both are made of berries so they’re good snacks for Pokémon. They also have certain benefits if you know what you’re doing, such as increasing the luster of their coats.”
“So, they’re like Poké Beans then?” Lillie guessed as she rose to her feet and grabbed her bag, causing Rotom to emerge and then relocate into her hood as she put it on her back. Koko then leapt into her arms once more and snuggled against the arm warmers before settling in. “If you don’t mind, can I watch you? It might be good as a treat for them when we start traveling.”
“No problem. Just follow me.”
Azuria led her up to the escalator to the second floor, where there was a machine waiting. There she explained that she wanted to make some treats for the Pokémon at the home of her friend, a woman named Melanie, closer to the south side of the city. She had a portable kit at home, but these bigger machines were also capable of making them in bulk along with Berry Powder, which could be added to make food more nutritious and appealing as well.
“So, all you have to do is insert the berries into the blender and press a button?” Lillie asked as she watched the older girl put in four Pecha berries and hit the lower-button.
“That’s enough for the type of block I’m making.” She moved to the Berry Crusher and placed an Aspear Berry into it. “The types of berries will determine what kind of flavor it has, and the blending choice determines how dense and smooth it’ll be. For Pokémon who are used to eating something like rocks or gemstones, it’ll be fine if they’re thick and hard. But for those that don’t have strong teeth, they’ll need it soft enough for them to chew.”
“Meaning you have to not only be able to cater to your Pokémon’s tastes, but whether or not they can eat it comfortably?” She watched with mild fascination as the older girl closed the top of the Crusher and pressed a button. The berry was instantly freeze-dried and then the crushing began. “That can get complicated pretty quickly if you have a lot of different Pokémon.”
When she considered the standard Pokémon food, it was basically made so that any Pokémon could eat it without considering that sort of thing. But then she remembered Astra’s Sableye and how much fonder it seemed of hard candy. Enough to be used as a bribe. In comparison, Shuckle couldn’t eat solid foods that hard due to lacking in teeth—hence why he made Berry Juice.
“She does have to look after a lot more than she likes.” Azuria’s tone carried a notable hint of somberness. “Melanie takes care of Pokémon that were abandoned by Trainers and tries to help them get back onto their feet, so they can return to the wild without fearing people. But apparently this year there’s been a lot of them.”
“You mean because of the league thing?” She could still remember the Sandshrew attacking them. The sting of sand and its disdain for her wasn’t something easy to overlook. “The Nurse Joy in Vermillion mentioned it too.”
Azuria nodded. “Cerulean doesn’t have a Gym anymore, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t just abandon Pokémon here. And if they’re released outside of a PC, finding where they came from can be hard since they aren’t registered anymore. In the past, since she couldn’t leave the city, she had to rely on others to take Pokémon not native to here where they belonged, or else they’d end up being lost in the streets.”
“That must’ve be hard on her.”
“It’s gotten a little better since Mister Bill had her listed as a Caretaker now, but it’s still hard on her since she doesn’t have much help. She’s always been like a big sister to me, so I wanted to help her out a little by doing this much.”
Lillie’s impression of Azuria improved quite a bit from how earnest she sounded. The girl had been a little pushy with Rotom and Koko on the train. But how she talked about her Butterfree and her friend showed she had a very caring side to her.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The blender came to a stop as a series of beeps signified that the first batch were done. Azuria opened it up and found about ten blocks had been made. She picked one up and plopped it into her mouth. “Hmm…”
“Did they come out well?”
Azuria swallowed it and then held out one for Lillie. “Try tasting for yourself.”
She did so. “Hmm… it’s sweet. And it feels like there’s some pulp that spreads around inside of my mouth when I bite into it.”
“That’s because of how its blended with only a single kind of berry. The sweetness is the dominant flavor, so the coloring is solid and you won’t find any variation,” she explained. “It’ll get more complicated when different berries combinations, blend settings, times, and supplemental powders get added into it, but right now I’m just making generic snacks with different flavors to them.”
Lillie looked down at the inquisitive sound to find Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes were fixed on the blocks.
“It seems like she wants to try some too.” Azuria grabbed two more and presented them to both Koko and Lilligant. “Here you both go.”
Koko sniffed the block for a moment before eating it out of her palm. Lilligant grabbed it slowly from her grasp with both leafy appendages and brought it to her tiny mouth. Their reactions to it were as different as their mannerisms. Koko practically yipped and wagged her tails, while Lilligant merely showed her gratitude with a slight curtsy.
“They say that you can tell a Pokémon’s personality from different flavors,” Azuria continued. “Your Vulpix likes things with a Sweet flavor to it, but she doesn’t seem to be Timid. So, she’s probably Hasty or Jolly. Lilligant isn’t too taken by it, but doesn’t dislike it either. Maybe she likes Dry or Bitter?”
Lillie brushed Koko’s head affectionately. “I’m not sure about Lilligant, but given how energetic Koko is she’s probably Hasty. I imagine she likes them since they help keep her running about.”
She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Can I help you make some to get a feel for it?”
The lesson on Pokéblocks continued until they had four jars of them, and several smaller jars of Berry Powders. After that it was just a matter of getting them to Melanie’s place. Lillie offered to help the Coordinator carry them with Lilligant, since it was a lot for just a single person, until they reached a somewhat modest-sized home closer to the south side of the city.
There was a large stone fence surrounding it from the back that made it too high to scale. But Lillie could make out a single large tree whose canopy stood above it and hear Pokémon sounds coming from it. In the front there was a sign that read: ‘Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter.’
Azuria rang the doorbell. A moment passed. Then the door opened and out stepped a woman with hair that was a deeper shade of teal, dressed in overalls with an apron over the front of her body. She held up the bags. “Melanie, I’m back! I got everything made too!”
“You’re a lifesaver.” She tilted her head as she turned to Lillie and the Pokémon accompanying her. “You must be the young trainer that Azuria mentioned meeting on the train.”
Lillie nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. May we come in?”
“Please do.” She opened the door wider and stepped off to the side, allowing them to pass through to the inside. “I hope you didn’t go out of your way to help us.”
“It’s no problem,” Lillie said. “Everyone in my family works at a conservation organization, so we love helping Pokémon. Besides, it was fun to learn how to make Pokéblocks and I’ll try to make some in my free time for Koko and the others.”
Entering inside, Lillie found that the lobby was rather modest. The only thing that really stood out was the waist-high solid dividers that were lining the left wall. Each had a wooden gate that allowed for entry into them, modified to the specific needs of the different Pokémon.
For example, the divider that had about six Kantonian Rattata in it had a pane of plastic placed between the dividers using a slot, with another placed just in front of the wooden gate. That would stop them from climbing up and into the other sections or running free to chew at everything. Not that they seemed to entertain the thought as they played on a portable playset meant for smaller Pokémon.
Next to it was what looked to be an enclosure with a viewing pane of some kind that housed a group of Paras with undeveloped mushrooms growing on their backs. There was a layer of fresh soil on the ground through which one buried into with its forelegs, while another walked over to what looked to be a section of exposed roots. It took them into its mouth with its sharp teeth that ran vertically and made a slight trilling sound that drew the attention of the third at a water dish.
There were others that went down the rows that drew the attention of Koko and Rotom. The former bound from gate-to-gate, observing the different kinds of Pokémon that she hadn’t seen either. Rotom followed afterwards to take photos of them. Thankfully, Rotom seemed to have taken lessons from what happened in the forest and was non-intrusive in the process.
Lilligant, on the other hand, went over to an ungated section in the right corner. There, beneath the window, was a play area that had a set of building blocks being arranged by a Baby Pokémon that looked like a tiny clown. Once it noticed her, it took an immediate liking and waddled over.
“I thought there were only local abandoned Pokémon,” Lillie said as the Baby Pokémon coaxed Lilligant into picking it up and giggling.
“Normally, yes,” Melanie said. “Because my place is so small, I usually handle local Pokémon that are abandoned but don’t have any severe injuries. They’re mostly malnourished from improper care, so once they’re healthy again I arrange for them to be released. Or transferred over to a place that’s closer to their natural habitat. That way they don’t harbor as much ill-will towards people.”
She then gestured to the Flowering and Mime Pokémon. “However, sometimes people will bring over more exotic Pokémon that wind-up being abandoned or given up within the city. That Mime Jr., for example, is newly-hatched. His trainer wasn’t prepared to handle a Baby Pokémon, so she brought him here and I’m looking after him until I can send him to a Sinnoh or Kalos Caretaker, where there are local Pokémon of his kind to look after him.”
“Even so, there’s a lot of them,” Azuria added. “The ones in here are the ones closest to being released or need constant attention. The rest are out back since its rather sunny today and letting them get exercise helps keep them from being restless. But once it gets dark they’ll have to be put back into their cages in the room next to us.”
Lillie leaned over to glance through the backdoor’s window. The backyard had several different kinds of Pokémon from the local population, ranging from Bellsprouts to Poliwags. There was easily thirty or more at a glance, and for a place this small with little-to-no help meant she must’ve been overworked.
Before she could dwell on it, Koko ran over and brushed a paw against her legs to get her attention. “What’s wrong, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix gestured for her to follow and led her to one of the Pokémon that she hadn’t looked at. It was past what looked to be a brown bird with a leek tucked beneath its wing, but before what looked to be a bundle of thick vines with red feet that housed a pair of eyes in the shadows. Kanto had such strange Pokémon.
But Lillie recognized the one behind the gate Koko was pressing her paws against. Resting on a cushion that had bowl of food and water to the left, and a Poké Doll on the right, was another Fox Pokémon. She had red fur, brown eyes, and seven tails. “That’s a Kantonian Vulpix, isn’t it?”
“A what?” Azuria voice carried a note of surprise as she came over and saw the Pokémon for herself. “She wasn’t here last night.”
“A.J. brought her to me around five in the morning,” Melanie said. “He said he found her abandoned by the river and wanted me to look after her until he got back.”
Koko looked enthused at meeting her Kantonian counterpart, her tails wagging as she cheerfully yipped. A greeting to the native regional variant. But the Fox Pokémon only blankly stared at her without a response.
It was… unnatural. Disturbing enough that Lillie felt bothered by the silence. “What’s wrong with her?”
Melanie walked over slowly until she was standing next to them. “She’s malnourished, underweight, and I had to wash her to get rid of the dirt that was getting caked into her fur and nails. Whoever had her used her for battling with sparse healing at that, so it had to be someone without oversight…”
She took a deep breath after trailing off, centering herself to continue. “But the real problem is that she doesn’t show any sort of emotion or initiative. She’s not hand-shy or adverse to people or Pokémon, but she doesn’t react to any outside stimulus at all. She won’t even eat or drink anything since he found her—in all honesty, it’s almost like she’s a machine.”
“Do you know who she belonged to?” Azuria asked.
Melanie shook her head. “I don’t. We know that its registered to a Poké Ball, but when I use my scanner to check the Trainer ID, it won’t bring up a name. The only reason I haven’t taken her to the Pokémon Center is because A.J. insisted that he could arrange for a specialist to take care of whatever has happened to her within a few hours. He apparently had some experience with it during his travels.”
Lillie felt a weight in her stomach and a smoldering heat in her chest as she listened to them. The Vulpix wasn’t even fully-matured yet; only slightly older than Koko was. Yet someone had treated her so badly that she wasn’t responsive at all. “That’s so sad.”
A whimper turned her attention to the Alolan Vulpix again. Koko was now sitting down and staring at her Kantonian counterpart. The lack of response had left her crystalline-blue eyes downturned with concerned. “Vulll…”
Lillie crouched down and gently ran her hand against Koko’s head. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure that they’ll find out what’s wrong with her and she’ll be better soon.”
Koko only let out a small whine. Then her ears perked up and she turned her head towards the door. A scratching sound followed.
Curious, Melanie opened the door only to have a pink figure run between her legs. “Oh!”
It was a pink dog-looking Pokémon that had a blue ruffle around its neck that shifted as it panted, little leaves caught within it. It rose up on its hind legs to stand-up, revealing it to be bipedal with a large underbite and baggy skin that formed a hem just above its beige feet that left dirt tracks. It waved its stubby arms about, revealing there were a number of scratches and injuries that covered it, some of which looked deep, and barked towards the Pokémon Caretaker.
Melanie sighed at it. “So, you’re back again, Snubbull?”
The Fairy Pokémon barked again as she walked over to it and crouched down to inspect it.
“You’ve gotten yourself beaten up quite a bit this time too. Picking fights and running away no doubt.” She then picked it up and carried it over to the couch. “Azuria, can you hand me a Potion from the shelf?”
“Is that Snubbull wild?” asked the Coordinator while walking over to the shelves. Just above where the jars of Pokéblocks and Berry Powder had been stacked were rows of medicine—Potions, Antidotes, Burn Heals, and so on. She picked up one of the former and brought it to her.
Melanie nodded her head as she took the medicine. “He was released legally and is considered wild. I took care of him for a little while before setting him loose on the Route south of here, where he came from. He finds a way to keep sneaking back into the city though and goes around picking fights with Trainers. He’ll then come back here for me to treat him when his injuries get bad or he gets hungry.”
“That’s strange.” Lillie watched the Fairy Pokémon lick his lips while sitting in her lap, allowing her to spray him while removing the leaves in his ruffle without any problems. “Snubbull are normally docile Pokémon. It’s hard to imagine them picking fights.”
Professor Kukui had one in his lab, among the other Pokémon. That one was a female, and she warmed up to Lillie and Nebby rather quickly. She could still recall Nebby playing with her while Lillie was staying there.
“The only thing I can think of is that he’s so aggressive that his packmates wouldn’t accept it back.” Melanie continued rubbing the Potion in until the scratches were gone. “There we go.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to keep him here then?” Azuria asked.
The Caretaker shook her head as she stood up again. “I’m so busy caring for other Pokémon that I don’t have time to look after him with the level of attention that he’d need. I can only heal him when he wants me to, and if I keep him here too long he’ll start running around and barking until I let him go.”
The Fairy Pokémon turned his head towards the shelves and pointed to the Pokéblocks. “Snubb.”
“If you’re hungry, you’ll have to eat when the rest out back do,” she told him, to which a low grunt followed in response. She then looked over to the mess he’d made coming in and then Lillie. “Sorry for asking this, but can you take him out into the back. I need to clean up and then get the food ready for all of them.”
“I don’t mind, but will he be okay with the others if he gets into a lot of fights?” Lillie asked as she took him into her arms. He didn’t struggle, so she had to assume he wasn’t shy about who handled him. Whatever circumstance he was released under likely hadn’t been an abusive one then.
“Don’t worry. He knows better than to pick a fight with the Pokémon here.” She leaned down to meet his eyes and smiled. “Isn’t that right?”
The Snubbull nodded. “Bull.”
“Let’s go then.” Lillie carried the Snubbull outside, with Koko and Rotom following her into the fenced-off backyard. It was like a slice of carefully cultivated wilderness within the city itself.
The yard’s grass was neatly trimmed, allowing for the Bellsprout that wandered about on their little roots for feet to move unobstructed as they swayed. Whismur and Buneary sat within the flowers that were grown in small patches and basked in the sunlight. And where the tree’s wide canopy cast a shadow that obscured the ground beneath it, Oddish sat under it to rest.
A pond had Slowpokes, two Psyducks, and what Rotom identified as a Bidoof lounging about lazily to the right. To the left, several bushes of hearty green leaves shook as Zigzagoons scavenged in them, only poking out their heads momentarily before going back inside.
So many Pokémon and most of them were common to the area like they’d said. The kind that required a lot of training to raise and become strong, Lillie noticed as she set Snubbull onto the ground and gave it a gentle pat on the head. “Be good, okay?”
“Snnnnuubbb…” he softly grumbled as he leaned into her touch for a moment, before breaking away to run off on all fours.
“Vulpix!” Koko yipped as she ran over to a ball that had been left close to the door. She took it into her mouth and then brought it over, setting it down at Lillie’s feet.
“You want to play, huh?” Lillie picked up the ball and felt the incisions from the teeth of however many other Pokémon had toyed with it before. She then looked for an open spot before she lobbed it in that direction. “Okay, go get it!”
The Alolan Vulpix darted toward the ball so eagerly that she shot past it, before digging her paws in and then running back to scoop it up with her mouth. She then brought it back and flicked her tails in anticipation. “Pix!”
“Okay. Okay.” Lillie picked it up and tossed again, this time a little further. A smile crossed her face as she watched Koko run off to get it, only to let out a surprised chuckle when Snubbull beat her to it. He then ran back over to her and dropped it off. “So, you want to play too?”
“Okay.” She threw it a third time and watched the two go after it, only to trip over one another. They’d been too eager. “Careful you two. It’s just a game, so don’t hurt one another over it.”
The ball continued to roll as it landed, eventually coming to a stop as it lightly brushed a Buneary’s fleece. She picked it up and looked over to Lillie. “Bun?”
“You can bring it over too if you want,” Lillie told her. The Rabbit Pokémon bounced over with little hops until she was close enough to do so. Lillie took it gingerly and smiled. “Thanks, Buneary.”
The Rabbit Pokémon pulled at her fleece shyly from the thanks before bouncing away.
“Bull!” Snubbull barked, flailing his arms from where he was. Rotom translated it as, “Again!”
The game of catch continued, steadily drawing in more attention and players. From a curious Zigzagoon that ended up getting the ball caught in its fur and came over to have her pluck it out, to a Slowpoke that almost ended up eating it until Lillie coaxed it into letting the ball fall free. Their game only came to an end when the door opened and it was time to eat.
Pieri came through first, a shroud of psychic energy following as he levitated several bowls of food to place them where needed. Azuria’s Lopunny followed, also carrying a large bowl of food. The Buneary and Whismur were naturally drawn to the evolved Pokémon and she found herself crowded as she set down their food.
Lilligant came out after that with a bowl as well. She’d barely had time to set it down by the Oddish and Bellsprout before the Mime Jr. waddled out of the door and went towards her. The Flowering Pokémon picked the Baby Pokémon up before wandering over to Lillie’s side as Pieri went back inside to get more.
“It looks like the little guy’s pretty fond of you, huh?” Lillie asked, watching as he snuggled up against Lilligant before Melanie and Azuria came out. The former held the remainder of the food with Butterfree, while the latter was carrying a container with different Pokéblocks.
“Thanks for keeping them busy,” the Pokémon Caretaker said as she set the bowl down closer to them. Snubbull immediately ran over and began taking the food pellets into his mouth.
“We just got caught up in it,” Lillie said as she picked Koko up, so that she didn’t get caught in the feeding frenzy. She’d give her a treat along the way back home.
“That’s still a good thing,” Melanie said. “If they recognize that there are good people they’ll be less likely to be hostile when wandering across them. A Pokémon that only has bad experiences may start to distrust people otherwise.”
Lillie frowned. “I ran into a Pokémon like that a little while ago, near Vermillion City. Despite it attacking us, I felt bad for it because I understood why it felt that way. So, I think that what you’re doing here is a good thing, if hard.”
“It is at times. But it’s rewarding to make a difference.” The admission came with a smile as she looked out to the Pokémon that were in her backyard as Azuria handed each one a Pokéblock. “Then again, you probably know that since everyone in your family works in a conservation organization, don’t they?”
Her ponytail swayed as she nodded. “It’s called the Aether Foundation. It was started by my Grandfather for the sake of Pokémon Conservation in the Alola region. We take in both endangered and abandoned Pokémon.”
“Then I suppose you’ll inherit it someday, won’t you?”
“Mmm… probably. Right now, though, my brother is in charge of it while my mother is here for treatment with Mister Bill.” She looked down to her Starter. “We’ll be doing the Gym Challenge as soon as she’s stable and I beat Nugget Bridge. Won’t we, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix’s tails flicked as she nodded. Then her ears twitched. She looked towards the door as a light ringing sound reached Lillie’s ears.
“That’s the doorbell. Please excuse me,” Melanie said before she went back inside.
That left Lillie to continue to watch the various Pokémon eat. It was still such a shame that so many of them had been abandoned. If not for Melanie here, and the fact that there wasn’t an active Gym anymore, then a lot of them would probably end up in a bad place.
The sound of her Pokégear ringing grabbed Lillie’s attention, causing her to fumble around as she shifted Koko in her arms until she could pull it from her pocket and answer. “Hello?”
“Lillie, it’s me.”
“Mother. Are you awake now?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not waking up earlier to see you off. Lilligant is with you, isn’t she?”
She looked over to Lilligant to see her seed-shaped eyes were now focused on the device. “She’s been keeping me company since this morning. We’ve managed to beat two of the trainers on the bridge.”
“That’s wonderful.” There was a pause on the other end before Lusamine spoke once more. “If you still want me to help teach you how to use Protect, I had Mismagius and Clefable work on it last night. We can start training after Lunch.”
“Lunch sounds great about now. We’ll head back.”
“I’ll see you then.” Click.
“You’re leaving?” Azuria asked as Lillie placed the device back into her jacket’s pocket. The Coordinator had just finish passing along a final Pokéblock to Snubbull.
“My mother wants me to come back so that I can start teaching my Pokémon a new technique for the upcoming Double Battle,” Lillie explained as the Fairy Pokémon munched on the Pokéblock.
The Coordinator clasped her hands together in a pleading method. “Then can we exchange numbers? The Contest Hall will be finished soon, and I at least want to be able to invite you to visit one of my shows. That way I can show you how they are in person.”
Lillie received Azuria’s number!
Numbers exchanged, Lillie called Rotom back as Lilligant passed Mime Jr. to the Coordinator, bid both Azuria and Snubbull goodbye, and then turned to the exit. But when she looked through the door’s window she spotted A.J. talking to Melanie in the lobby, while holding the Vulpix in her arms. He must’ve been the one who was at the door a moment ago.
The older boy fiddled with the device on his wrist before expanding a Poké Ball from its inactive state. Then he tapped the Kantonian Vulpix with it. The moment it opened something strange happened.
What looked to be a shadowy pair of hands wrapped around the Fox Pokémon and pulled her into the ball. Once the signal to show the capture was successful triggered, the ball vanished. Transmitted like how Pokémon that exceeded the limit of six were automatically sent to a PC.
Wait, didn’t they say the Vulpix was already captured? Part of what protected Pokémon that were already captured from being captured by another person with a Poké Ball was the fact that it gave them an energy marker. It was like how each one had an ID, allowing them to know which trainer the Pokémon belonged to. The balls would naturally be rebuked if the Pokémon was caught to prevent theft. How did they remove the marker indicating she had a trainer?
The question lingered in her mind until A.J. spotted her through the door. There was no point in waiting outside anymore, so she entered and just decided to ask him about it.
“That’s not something you need to worry about,” was all he said on the subject. “But, as a word of warning, if someone approaches you and asks about that Vulpix then tell them you don’t know anything. I have a feeling that you might run across someone who fits that criteria soon, so keep that in mind.”
“W-Why’s that?” Lillie asked nervously from how stern his voice had gotten.
He pointed to Lilligant and Koko. “Someone new coming around with foreign Pokémon for the region naturally draws eyes. Beating Amaya, who’s been walling the younger trainers because of them adds to the buzz going around this morning. It’s only natural you’ll run across someone either challenging you or trying to claim them for themselves.”
Melanie frowned. “Don’t scare her like that. You make it sound as though she’s being hunted.”
Lillie felt a weight in her throat at the prospect of that happening again. Of having a Pokémon in her care being taken by someone else. But she didn’t waver. “Thank you for the warning, but even if someone comes after me I’m not going to let them take Koko or Shuckle or any of my Mother’s Pokémon.”
“…Even if you say that, as it stands you’d all be too weak to do anything if they did.” Despite how cold the words were, there was a hint of respect in his tone before he looked up to Rotom. “Come here for a second.”
Zzt? Rotom cautiously floated over and they exchanged some information as Lillie looked on. Yes, that should be possible, zzt.
He turned back to Lillie. “Ask Bill to have his Glaceon teach your Vulpix how to use Icy Wind, since it covers a wider area than Powder Snow. As for your Shuckle, have it practice its Constrict on trees until it gets to the extent of being classified as Wrap. Your Rotom can explain the details of why later on.”
She was somewhat surprised by the advice. “Umm… Thank you?”
“I’m just keeping in line with what I told Bill I’d do on the train. Whether or not you actually go through with it is on you.” He pulled out a pen and piece of paper to write a number down on before passing it off to her. “Remember what I said about the Vulpix. And if you see a Trainer that has a pure-black Poké Ball, put your Pokémon in their balls, get away and then contact this number. Tell Bill to do the same.”
Lillie received A.J.’s number!
“Umm… sure.” She watched as he left out without another word after that, confused.
Melanie could only sigh sadly as she watched the door close. “I’m sorry about him. He means well, but I think that his new job has been weighing down on him.”
“I don’t mind,” Lillie told her. “In a way, he kind of reminds me of my brother. He’s a little rough, but I think he has a good heart. And I probably should to teach them more so that they can defend themselves. Still, what did he mean by a pure-black Poké Ball?”
“I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with the Vulpix and whoever owned her.” She looked towards the empty section where the Fox Pokémon had been placed before. “Either way, I hope that wherever he sent her they’ll be able to help her.”
Lillie could only hope for the same before she bid the Pokémon Caretaker farewell and then made her way back to Bill’s Cottage on the cape. They had a lot of training to do after all.
Along the way, she didn’t notice the eyes that watched her every step until she passed through the tunnel and left the city behind.
Chapter 9: Settling in Cerulean
Lillie felt restless as she sat on her side of the reserved private room car she and her mother were sharing aboard the train. Bill had a separate room from theirs, only a door down. First by boat, then by train, and the last of the distance would be by car, they were getting closer to Bill’s home on the cape just past Cerulean City. There she would stay with her mother and Bill until the former was settled in, before departing for her journey.
Excitement and nervousness continued to eat at Lillie, born from the contrasting feelings that left her to fiddle with her Pokégear as she watched the Battle Videos that had been saved on it—her own fight with Lt. Surge and Astra’s. The cameras had surprisingly caught a lot of details, both of the Pokémon and their trainers, and she could see firsthand just how out of her depth she was looking at the video compared to Astra. The look of horror as the Iron Tail slammed into Koko, the hesitation on deciding on whether or not to let Shuckle continue strangling that Pikachu—it was clear she just didn’t have the same composure that Elio, Hau, and Astra had in battle.
Undergoing the Gym Challenge would be harder from this point on, even with whatever technique her mother offered to teach her when they got settled in. She had to get more comfortable with battling if she was going to keep moving ahead. Lillie thought that she had after watching Elio for so long, but there was just something about being the one calling the shots that made things seem so much more visceral and tense, knowing that if she made the wrong call her Pokémon would be hurt unnecessarily.
Lillie looked up from the video to where her mother was resting on the other side of the room, with a blanket covering her body as she slept. Clefable was sitting next to her, eyes closed but a placid smile on her face. Lille wasn’t aware when she had emerged from her ball, only that the Fairy Pokémon was already out when she’d woken up sometime after the sun had risen.
It was still worrying that her mother hadn’t woken up yet. But she was breathing fine and Lillie was hesitant to disturb her sleep. She should get as much rest as she could.
The air grew chilly before Lillie could turn her attention back to the video again and she looked over to her Starter. Koko had her paws pressed against the glass and was standing on her hindlegs, watching as the scenery of Kanto passed by with her tails flickering. No doubt the Alolan Vulpix was feeling restless as well, being bound to a tiny room in the private sleeping compartment with so many new sights to see.
Lille decided they should go walking a bit, both to stretch their legs and so that Koko didn’t end up making the room too cold for her mother to sleep in. She turned off the video and removed the headphones from her ears. Then she stood up, catching the attention of both the Pokémon.
“Koko and I are going to walk around the train for a bit to stretch our legs,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon, whose eyes opened at the motion. “We’ll also stop at the Lounge Car to get you and Mother a snack for when she wakes up. Will you watch over her for me?”
Clefable nodded and Lillie took the Alolan Vulpix into her arms, letting her soft fur brush against the arm warmers they had picked up before boarding the train. She then slipped out of the compartment room silently and slid the door shut just as quietly. Then Lillie made her way through the narrow passageway towards the Lounge Car, watching as Koko took a look around in curiosity.
“Is this your first time on a train?” Lillie asked.
Koko’s attention snapped upwards and she nodded. “Vulpix.”
“Mine too. Kanto is a pretty big place compared to the islands. I wonder how long it’ll take for us to go through all the cities with Gyms? I mean, we could just take the trains from place-to-place, but then we wouldn’t really be exploring the region like a Trainer should, and we’ll probably only get this chance while we’re young.”
After all, making a living as a Trainer wasn’t exactly easy for most people, unless they participated in high-stakes battles or a professional position. That was part of why it was done when you were younger, and the costs associated with products related to training were relatively lower. Even though Lillie wasn’t exactly hurting for money, once she started her travels in earnest, train rides from one end of the region to the other and fancy hotels would be something of a luxury.
Though she at least had access to that much if she needed it. Gladion didn’t during the time that Lillie hadn’t seen him. He didn’t have someone like Professor Burnet or Professor Kukui or Hau and Elio… all of whom she missed dearly and couldn’t help but wonder how they were doing after she left?
“Sorry, I was lost in thought for a bit,” Lillie said. She hadn’t even realized that she’d stopped walking. Her pace renewed, she remembered that she still had to tell the professors thank-you for sending Koko her way. The time difference and the events leading up to the train ride were hectic, so she hadn’t had the chance to do so just yet…
“Actually, where did she find you?” Lillie asked, holding Koko out and lifting her so that she could look into the icy-blue eyes while thinking on it. She hadn’t really thought about it until now, but she doubted that Professor Burnet could make it all the way up the mountain to find wherever a den of Fox Pokémon would be nestled in just after she left. Let alone manage to get Koko away from her parents, given she had hatched only a little while ago judging by how few tails she had.
Koko knew Moonblast as an Egg Move as well, meaning that one of her parents had to know it. Not to mention how quickly she had taken to Lillie and how she’d hidden behind Frosty. That meant she had to be somewhat familiar with humans and Frosty, but Lillie hadn’t seen Koko around their home or Burnet’s office. Putting all those clues together, Koko was likely raised in captivity by someone Professor Burnet knows and was willing to let Lillie train her as a Starter.
“I’ll just ask Professor Burnet myself when we get to Bill’s place, so I can thank them as well,” Lillie said, smiling as she brought her partner closer to her chest and started walking again. They then passed through the doors linking the private compartment to the Lounge Car.
It was somewhat more elaborate than Lillie expected as the door opened—decorative, in fact. The seats alone looked as though they were made of leather, lining the sides of the car and facing one another so that the guests could easily look to the left or right and view Kanto through the large windows in comfort. There were tables between them as well, decorated with flowers in the center, and the counter where the food could be purchased was at the end of the car, before the entrance to the next one.
Then again, this lounge car is closer to the private compartment, Lillie figured as she stepped inside. There were only a handful of people in it at the moment, though she imagined it would be more active later on, as she walked towards the next exit to explore the train more. They could get something for the others on the way back.
Halfway there, she passed by a pair of occupied seats when one person in them stood up and said, “Aren’t you cute?”
“Huh?” Lillie paused mid-step at that and turned towards the voice. The next thing she knew, Koko was out of her arms and being held up high in the air, looking just as confused.
“It’s adorable!” chimed the girl who’d taken Koko, stars dancing in her eyes as she looked up to the Alolan Vulpix. “Where did you find it?”
Snapping out of her stunned silence, Lillie quickly reached up to reclaim her Pokémon from the blue-haired older girl and held Koko protectively against her chest. “You can’t just take someone’s Pokémon like that.”
The Alolan Vulpix had her hackles raised in defense as well. She obviously didn’t take kindly to being snatched up like that. “Vullll…”
“Ah, sorry,” the girl said, clasping her hands together in front of her face in an apologetic manner. “It’s just so cute that I couldn’t help myself. Are you willing to trade for it?”
“No,” Lillie said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”
“Azuria, cut it out,” said the older boy next to her nonchalantly, using his elbow on the table to prop his head up while he looked out the window. “You’re acting like a spoiled deva by asking someone you just met to give up their Pokémon like that. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
She turned to him and gave him an impressive glare. “Stop. Calling. Me. That.”
He returned the glare with one of his own. “I will when you stop acting like one.”
Lillie backed away silently as she saw sparks flying between their eyes. She didn’t know what sort of relationship they had, but they seemed to be a little barbed at each other. Better not to get involved.
However, she bumped into someone while trying to make her escape and spun around to apologize. “Ah, sorry.”
It turned out to be Bill, who only smiled good-naturedly. “No worries. There was no harm done.”
The presence of the Pokémon Storage System creator drew the attention of the other two that had been arguing. “Mister Bill, you’re here too?”
“Azuria?” He smiled as the girl nodded and then took notice of the boy as well. “And A.J. as well. When did you two get back in Kanto?”
“Last night,” Azuria said. “We took the train from Johto to Saffron City and then caught the northbound one here. What about you?”
“I had some business in the Sevii Islands and I’m making my way back home now.” He chuckled a bit before gesturing to the seat opposite of the one the pair were sitting in. “Do you mind if I take a seat?”
“Please do,” the girl said. “We were planning on visiting your home after we visited Melanie, but this is more convenient.”
“Umm, do you know these two?” Lillie asked as he took a seat by the window.
“They’re both children who grew up in Cerulean City and frequented my lab for advice when it came to Pokémon,” Bill said, extending a hand towards the girl. “Azuria has become somewhat famous as a Coordinator in Kanto Contests. She’s even appeared on a magazine the last time I checked.”
“And turned her into a deva,” the boy, A.J., noted under his breath.
“Young A.J., on the other hand, is a skilled Pokémon Trainer,” Bill continued. “He’s earned all eight badges in Kanto. After that, he left to travel other regions and stopped by every now and again. It’s hard to keep up with him at times though.”
“I don’t have any plans after Kalos, so I’ll be in Kanto for a bit,” he said, before looking over to Lillie. She got the feeling he was sizing her up. “She’s an acquaintance of yours?”
“Lillie is a new Trainer from the Alola region,” Bill explained. “She and her mother will be staying with me for some time, before she sets out on her own journey. Perhaps you can give her some advice from a veteran to a newcomer?”
“If it’s a request from you then I can’t really turn it down…” He sat up straight and eyed her Pokémon. “To start with, if that’s your Starter Pokémon then you’re in for a rough time from here on out.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lillie demanded, an unpleasant feeling stirring in her chest at that. It would be one thing to say something was wrong with her as a new Pokémon Trainer, but Koko had been doing her best at everything.
A.J. responded with calm indifference. “Leaving aside the fact that it hasn’t fully-matured yet, that Vulpix is an Ice-type. I’m guessing she’s probably from a mountain or cave, someplace out of the way?”
Lillie nodded. “That’s—”
—correct, zzztt! His question seemingly roused the slumbering Rotom Dex from Lillie’s hood. It emerged and displayed the statistics and an image of Koko’s species, as well as her evolution. The Vulpix and Ninetails of Alola are regional variants found in the Mount Lanakila.
“Wow, its evolved form looks so beautiful!” Azuria squee’d, grabbing Rotom and pulling the living Pokédex closer to get a better view of them. “Some me some other Pokémon from that region!”
Careful with screen, pleazzze! Rotom begged as she tried to navigate the different screens manually while it continued to wriggle in an attempt to get free, until A.J. liberated Rotom from her grasp. It promptly retreated into Lillie’s hood again.
That settled, he ignored Azuria’s petulant glare and continued addressing Lillie. “Ever wonder why you rarely see Ice-types around compared to the other kinds of Pokémon? It’s because they’re hard to find as a survival trait, because they’ve got so many weaknesses.”
Ice-types are the rarest types of Pokémon in terms of pure numbers, zzt. Rotom confirmed while peeking from behind Lillie’s shoulder. They make up about 5% of the known species, with Ghost and Dragon-types following, and are disadvantaged when dealing with Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel-type attacks.
“And Pokémon become set in their ways as they get stronger and older, meaning that if you screw up her training now it’ll be difficult to correct when you’ve gotten more experience in training. On top of that, Vulpix as a whole tend to be fragile against attacks that hit ‘em head-on. So not only do you have a Pokémon that’s fragile, but also one that has a lot of weaknesses.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “That’s why you’re going to have a rough time starting out if you’re serious about battling—it’d be one thing to pretty it up for a Contest, but it’s another when facing a Gym Challenge.”
Azuria, who had merely been glaring in discontent until now, took offense to that. “Don’t make it sound like Contests are easy! It takes a lot of work to get everything perfect!”
“In Contests, you’re just embarrassed if you screw up. In an actual battle, a screw-up will result in your Pokémon being injured. In a worst-case scenario, they can end up crippled for life or killed,” A.J. countered, brushing off her argument with a side-glance. “So yeah, a Contest is easy compared to that.”
“Things are getting a little intense as they stand,” Bill said as the sparks flew between their eyes again. “Perhaps you both should settle down a bit? You’ve both got valid points after all.”
They deferred to his wishes, but Lillie noted neither was pleased by it. They had contrasting opinions on how to raise up a Pokémon for their respective professions, and seemed to feel very strongly about them at that. Which left her wondering why they were traveling together, or even sitting close to one another in the first place?
Leaving that aside, now that she had some time to think on his words and her own anger waned, Lillie had to admit he had a point. At least when it came to training. Yes, Lillie knew a lot about caring for Pokémon, but not training them for battle. And Koko was a fighter—meaning she wanted to reach her full potential. Didn’t Lillie owe it to Koko to at least try to do so?
“Okay,” Lillie said. “What do you recommend then?”
He turned his attention back to her. “Getting her combat-ready means you got to cover up those weaknesses as best you can, and that requires specialized training. I started out with a Sandshrew and trained it to resist water and ice attacks by having it dive into an ice-cold pool to toughen it up on that front. Then I had it learn Sandstorm to allow it to get around fliers long enough to knock ’em down with a Rock-type move. After that, I taught it Aerial Ace to deal with Grass-types and cover up his short-comings entirely.”
“But those are physical attacks,” Lillie noted. She was Kukui’s assistant for a bit, so she knew a thing or two about the differences in moves—physical attacks were the ones that she usually had to patch the lab up afterwards. “Koko doesn’t have any of those and constantly exposing her to things that she’s weak to would just be cruel.”
“No pain, no gain. I can only tell you what I know….” He trailed off as some kind of Pokégear-like watch on his wrist began to vibrate and looked down at it for a moment. “Sorry, but I’ve got to take this in private. You’ll have to figure out the rest on your own.”
Azuria allowed him to pass by while giving him a disappointed look. He paid it no mind as he went towards the exit of the car. The blue-haired girl could only sigh before she turned back to Bill. “I’m sorry. He’s been a lot different since the last time you saw him.”
“He does seem to be a little less patient than before,” Bill admitted. “You both used to get along so well with Melanie. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Her expression turned somewhat pensive as she held her hand to her chin. “He used to be… well, not enthusiastic about me being in Contests, but he at least supported me. That was why he traded his Butterfree to me. But then something happened over the last year while he was away, and he won’t tell me or Melanie what it is.”
“I could try to see what’s bothering him?” Bill offered.
Azuria took a deep breath and shook her head, wiping away her sadness with a more neutral expression. “No, we’ve bothered you enough. And I should try to work things out with him on my own before we get back home.”
She then turned to Lillie. “Despite what he said, Coordinators usually train Pokémon for both effectiveness and elegance. His method might work on a tougher Pokémon, but for your cute little Vulpix it might be good for you to look at some Contests too and see how they work for an idea. Bill knows where we live, so come visit some time during your stay in Cerulean, okay?”
That said, she gave them both a light bow of her head and then jogged after A.J.
Lillie was left with more questions than answers in the end. She hadn’t really seen a Contest, so she couldn’t really judge the effectiveness of Azuria’s advice until she did so. And that would have to wait until she could get actual footage in order to do so.
“Don’t think too hard on it,” Bill told her after she’d gone silent for a minute. “You’ll have plenty of time and space to practice at my home on whatever method you choose.”
“Thank you for that,” Lillie said sincerely. Then she felt the air chill and looked down at Koko, still in her arms. The Alolan Vulpix had her eyes fixed on the window again, looking at the scenery just past the trees that were beneath the elevated track they were riding on. It had changed a bit more, from what were farmlands to a long upwards slope broken in two by a raised ridgeline in the center. There were small figures out along the trail, other Trainers and Pokémon accompanying them.
“That’s Route 5,” he said. “It won’t be long now before we arrive at the Cerulean City station and from there make our way back to the cape.”
“Then we’d better get back to looking over the train.” She rose to her feet and then bid Bill farewell until then as they went back to exploring the train.
Visiting the different cars, she met a lot of other people. Some found Koko to be cute like Azuria did and wanted to trade. Others asked her if she was entering a Contest at the newly built Cerulean Contest hall. Apparently, it had just opened up and Azuria would be doing some kind of performance there soon to celebrate, so she actually was a celebrity.
Lillie didn’t see either her or A.J. on the return trip to the Lounge Car, so she presumed they went back to their own private compartment to talk.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
When the train finally came to a stop in Cerulean City, there was a minivan waiting to take them towards the inlet where Bill’s Cottage was. Along the way they passed by a bridge that stretched rather far, with Trainers battling their Pokémon along the top of it. It drew Koko’s attention again, naturally, and Lillie believed she recognized it from the information she gleamed on the way there. “Is that the Nugget Bridge?”
“That’s right,” Bill responded from the driver’s seat. “It connects to Route 25 from Cerulean City, and was named because of the abundance of Nuggets that could be found in there in the past. Young Pokémon Trainers use it as a means of testing themselves, so if you want to get in some practice against other Trainers you’ll find someone there.”
“Vul!” Koko pressed her paws on the window in anticipation and then turned back to Lillie. “Pix?”
Lillie couldn’t help but smile as she gently brushed her Starter’s head. “It’ll be a bit late by the time everything is put into place, but we can try it out tomorrow, okay?“
Koko nodded, but kept her attention on the bridge until they hung a left and into a tunnel that had been carved out of the rock formation between Cerulean City and Route 25, eventually coming out over a raised bridge that connected the tunnel to what looked to be a forest, with a dirt road cutting through it.
“This pathway we’re on will lead us to the cape and my cottage,” Bill said. “The forest isn’t very big, but if you get lost then all you need to do is find it and you’ll be able to get back. Campers sometimes use the forest as well, but normally it’s pretty quiet and the Pokémon are relatively peaceful. You shouldn’t have much trouble with them.”
“Just to be safe, take at least one of my Pokémon with you whenever you go off,” her mother added. “Even if it is relatively safe, you never know how dangerous it will be. I don’t want there to be a repeat of what happened in Vermillion City.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt while we get accustomed to staying here for a while,” Lillie noted as she looked out to the greenery. It wasn’t dense enough to blot out the sun, but she could tell it was still a maze of trees off the beaten path. And every now and again she could spot several Pokémon she didn’t recognize too.
Once they left the forest, Bill’s cottage came into view. It was bigger than Lillie expected, to say the least. It bordered a single pond that was split in two by a bridge that ran between it, leading up to the entrance, and several tall trees that surrounded the backside and climbed up the mountain behind it. It wasn’t as big as their home at the Aether Foundation, but it was bigger than Professor Kukui’s home that Lillie had grown accustomed to living at over the last few months.
Before the vehicle came to a stop, the surface of the pond rippled. Then a Dragonair popped its head out of the water, turning its dark and glossy eyes towards the minivan. The moment it recognized Bill as the driver, it floated its sleek, elegant body upwards and swam through the air towards them as they came to a stop.
“I missed you too,” Bill said fondly to the Dragonair as it stuck its head through the window and began to nuzzle him in a way that reminded Lillie of her mother’s Milotic. He then turned to Lusamine and Lillie. “This is Haku. As you can see, he’s pretty energetic.”
“I think he wants to play,” Lusamine noted as the male Dragonair made a cheerful sound, pulling his head back and then floating in circles outside the minivan. Koko seemed eager enough to take the invitation, given how she began to jump up in Lillie’s lap. The moment she opened the door, the Alolan Vulpix jumped out and gave chase, trying to catch the Dragon Pokémon as a Vaporeon climbed out of the water to see what the commotion was.
“Your belongings are already inside of the house,” Bill said to Lusamine as he opened his door. “I’ll introduce you all of everyone and then help you get settled in.”
It took a surprisingly fair amount of time to introduce every one of Bill’s Pokémon. Tenebrea and Lumen had apparently been by his side for a long time, considering that their children made up the majority.
Among the boys were a Flareon named Titus, who was apparently lazy and liked to sleep around where he could. A Jolteon named Arks, who preferred to be alone from what Lillie could gather. And a Glaceon named Glacian, who seemed to take a shine to Koko right off the bat as a fellow Ice-type.
Among the girls were a Vaporeon named Nympha, who was apparently quite dutiful and took to looking after her sibling when not in the pond with Haku. A Leafeon named Viri that tended to the berry trees that were being grown on the hills as a hobby. And a Sylveon named Fee that was bashful enough that she ran the moment she saw strangers entering their home.
There was also Bill’s Clefairy, Cecilia, who seemed friendly enough to Lusamine’s Clefable. His Porygon-2, Poly, who helped him with maintaining the cyber-security for his PC system. And his Kadabra that acted as his assistant and apparently really liked music, Bard.
The cottage itself had three floors, an attic, and a basement, with some guestrooms for Lillie and her mother to stay in for a while. Bard brought up their belongings with his psychic powers, so they didn’t have to do much in terms of heavy-lifting. But Lillie hadn’t brought much with her to begin with—just her backpack and traveling bag.
Now, with that out of the way, her mother talking to Bill, and Koko in the playroom with the other Pokémon (minus Shuckle, who decided to take a page out of Titus’ book and sleep), Lillie found herself sitting in front of a video monitor in her room and deciding on who she was going to contact first. She needed to contact Professor Burnet and Professor Kukui, to tell that she made it and thank them for everything they’d done—including giving her Rotom and Koko. But there was also contacting Miss Wicke and her brother, the latter of whom she hadn’t seen in years until they’d found one another shortly before she’d left Alola. And then there was seeing if they could get in touch with Hau and Elio.
“I hope Nebby isn’t giving him too much trouble,” she muttered to herself as she thought of the little legendary she’d taken care of until recently. Nebby probably wasn’t used to her newfound strength yet. But if there was anyone who could help her it would be Elio.
Ultimately, Lillie settled on contacting Professor Burnet first. She owed it to the woman who’d taken her in when she washed up on that beach and given her Koko. So she entered her number into the console and waited until the professor appeared on the screen.
“This is Profes—” There was a notable brightening of the expression on Professor’s Burnet’s face when she recognized who was on the other end, resulting in a smile and a more casual tone. “Lillie! It’s good to see you!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Lillie said. “Sorry I didn’t get in contact sooner. I didn’t have a chance until now, after getting to Bill’s place.”
“Oh? I thought that you would be in the Sevii Islands for a little while longer?”
“Unfortunately, something happened and we had to leave straight away.” Lillie weighed telling her about the kidnapping attempt in her mind before deciding against it. “But Frosty managed to get Koko and Rotom to me before we left. Did he make it back home okay?”
“Mm-hmm.” She looked off-screen for a moment. “He’s at home, probably rummaging in the fridge as we speak. Still, Koko is a cute name for a Vulpix. I’m sure she liked it. Are you getting along with her?”
“Yes. She’s a bit more of a fighter than I expected, but she tries hard and she’s very active… which reminds me, where did you find her?”
“I asked The Masked Royal if he had a Pokémon that would suit a new Trainer and he suggested Koko, saying that you both could grow to be a great duo.”
“I’ll have to thank him too then…” Lillie took a deep breath. “If I didn’t have Koko, I think that this would have been harder than it is right now.”
Burnet’s expression softened. “It’s hard, isn’t it? Being in a new region with all the other people you know being so distant.”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “It’s still a little unnerving to think that I’ll be traveling all over this region by myself. At least I had Elio and the others before.”
“I felt the same way when I came to Alola from Unova, before I met my husband,” Burnet told her. “And I’m sure he felt the same way when he visited Kanto to challenge the Gyms as well. But as long as you meet new friends and Pokémon, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a lot.”
“Well, I did become friends with a girl named Astra, who’s about a year younger than me and also new to the region. We both challenged the Vermillion Gym at the same time, though we both lost. Oh, and I caught a Shuckle too, though it was done by chance rather than intentionally.”
“You’re making excellent progress from the sound of things then. Hau and Elio will be happy to hear that too. I’ve heard from my husband they’ve both been thinking about you and they miss traveling together. Even Hau’s asking what Kanto is like, how much a ticket would be, and things like that after he got your photo. You’ve left quite an impression on them both.”
Lillie found herself blushing. “R-Really?”
“Mm-hmm.” There was something about the way that Professor Burnet was smiling that made it seemed like she was enjoying Lillie’s reaction. “Then again, a smile like that would be enough to make even a Champion feel flustered.”
“Ah… don’t say it like that…” The heat in her cheeks spread throughout her head at the thought. Elio was normally so composed, even in the midst of danger. So the thought of him being taken by just a photo of her was a bit much for Lillie to wrap her head around.
Fortunately, a distraction presented itself when the door hinges groaned slightly. Lillie turned her attention towards it and Koko slipped inside. “Oh, Koko! Come and say hello to Professor Burnet!”
“Vul?” The Alolan Vulpix trotted over and then climbed onto Lillie’s lap, resting her forepaws on the table and staring into the screen. “Vulpix!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Burnet said. “Are you having fun with your new Trainer?”
Koko bobbed her head, her tails flicking slightly.
“H-How are they, by the way?” Lillie asked, holding Koko in her lap. “Professor Kukui, and Hau, and Elio?”
“The boys are both actually getting ready to battle each other for the Championship title soon,” Burnet told her. “Since Kukui is refereeing the match, should I tell him to pass a message to them both?”
“Ah… I guess tell them both good luck, and that I’ll be cheering them both on from here if I can.” She believed that Bill had a television that could get whatever station it was broadcasted on. If not, she’d definitely look up the video later on.
“I’m sure that’ll motivate them both to battle extra-hard,” the dimensional researcher said in a teasing tone that brought the blushing back and left Koko to look confused as Lillie began to fidget.
Wrapped up in the discussion she was having with her surrogate caretaker for the last three months, Lillie didn’t hear the door as it softly clicked shut.