Chapter 17: Coordination
It was afternoon by the time Lusamine woke from her slumber the next day, much to her dismay as she stared up at the clock.
This is unacceptable… She couldn’t help but frown as she buried her head into her hands and waited for the headache to settle down. It wasn’t as bad as in Vermillion City, but she still wasn’t exactly in good health at the moment. It would take time for the worst of the symptoms to pass, for her to make herself presentable, and then to ensure her own pokémon were taken care of. Time that could’ve been spent with her daughter if she hadn’t slept in so late.
A sweet scent reached her nose and cleared her mind somewhat, drawing her eyes up to her Lilligant. The Flowering Pokémon stood there with her arms held together and an apologetic look in her eyes. They’d been together long enough that Lusamine understood that it was because she’d tried to wake her up normally and, when that failed, she’d chosen to let her rest.
“It’s not your fault,” Lusamine told her. They all knew that she would have days like this the moment the majority of the toxins were flushed out of her body. The initial contact hadn’t been on purpose, but her merging with Nihilego entirely at the end had been her choice. “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”
“Lilli! Lilli!” The Flowering Pokémon shook her head vigorously and reached over to touch her hands in assurance. “Lilligant!”
Lusamine took a deep and shuddering breath before clearing her throat and putting on a smile. If not for herself, then for her kind and compassionate flower. “Can you help me get dressed for the day? I can’t go out looking like this after all.”
It took an hour to get herself presentable—her body showered, unkempt and unruly hair tamed, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt for simplicity’s sake. That took care of her own needs. Now all she needed to do was to see to her own pokémon, specifically Milotic and Bewear. The former tended to get a little upset if she didn’t give her enough attention, while the latter needed to roam around at times to alleviate her boredom.
But first she stopped by the entrance to Lillie’s room. “Lillie? Are you there?”
After a pause, during which there was no answer, Lusamine decided to head down the hall to see if she was on the first floor. That was until she heard a strange sound inside. Her curiosity led to her cracking the door open and peeking inside.
“Snnrrr…” The source of the sound was a Snubbull that was currently sleeping in the bed meant for the Alolan Vulpix, on the ground. The excess flesh on its face was pooled beneath its prone body, every breath making it rise and fall. Every now and then it snorted, feet twitching and face scrunching up. “Snubbb…bulll….”
“Aren’t you adorable?” Lusamine couldn’t help but say as she walked over to it. Drawn in by the adorable sight of its sleeping face, she reached out to pet it. Such a cute pokémon. If only it could stay that way for…eve…r…
Her fingers came to a stop inches above its pink fur the moment that thought crossed her mind, shaking. That very same thought had led to her private collection of frozen pokémon. She even had a Snubbull there for that exact same reason, frozen in time to preserve its beauty.
No, that’s not right. She pulled her arm back and held it to her chest as she backed away from the Fairy Pokémon. That’s the remnants of the toxins talking.
With the majority of it gone from her system, Lusamine was mostly rational when it came to her thoughts and actions. But every now and again the remnants did more than just leave her fatigued and in pain from withdrawal. The filters on her thoughts came off, and right or wrong stopped mattering if it was what she wanted.
That was part of why she felt so bad when Lillie had admonished her for hurting that Nurse Joy. It was an accident, which was true enough. But she could have done something differently, like having Mismagius pass through the walls and then assess the situation. It was just that… the moment she learned her daughter was in potential danger she wanted to go for the simplest solution by having Bewear brute force it.
That was what it boiled down to—what was the natural solution to her problem and how to achieve it.
She wanted to preserve their beauty forever. The natural solution was to freeze them. She wanted to find her husband and the Ultra Beasts were in the way. The natural solution was to create a pokémon that could deal with them since training others took too long. Her children kept getting in her way and were trying to stop her from enjoying her own paradise. The natural solution was to make them go away.
And when her pokémon failed… the natural solution was to do it herself.
It stabbed at her heart when she recalled everything she’d done. When she recalled what sort of monster she had become. Even now, with a second chance, she was on the verge ruining it with how jealous she’d felt when she listened to Lillie talk to that woman about her Alolan Vulpix.
That should have been me. The thought was bitter as she sat down on her daughter’s bed and brought her hands to her eyes. Petty and tinged with regret as the knife twisted in her chest because she knew it was her own fault for abandoning the two treasures that her husband had left her.
For two years she didn’t bother looking for her son. She left her daughter alone for several months to be raised by someone else. If the toxins took the filters off, then why didn’t she use the full resources at her disposal to reclaim them?
“You did it!” Her head snapped up at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Peering out of the window showed Lillie was on the bridge, the Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon by her side as they looked to the water on one side of the bridge. A sheet of ice was spread out in front of them, thin enough to be seen through but solid enough that it didn’t sink when they pressed down on it.
Koko learned Icy Wind!
The Fox Pokémon yipped as she bounced up the bridge, excited. Then she turned around to try to freeze the water on the other side of the bridge. A stream of cold air laced with glittering ice particles flowed out, but it didn’t expand and eventually petered out without freezing the surface. It left her tilting her head inquisitively. “Vul?”
Lillie crouched down to stroke the tuft of hair on her head. “You’ve only just managed for the first time, so you probably can’t do it back-to-back just yet. You need to get rest between practicing with your Ice-techniques, so your body can adjust to it. I remember Professor Kukui saying that once when Elio visited to talk about Silkie learning Aqua Jet.”
It was an accurate assessment as far as Lusamine could tell. That Alolan Vulpix was only a few months old and her internal ice pouch hadn’t developed enough naturally to do it so many times on its own, in contrast to the Glaceon. By periodically straining with Icy Wind and then resting, her internal ice-pouch would expand to handle the strain like how muscles grew stronger over time.
For Lillie to have predicted that and told her pokémon that fact before it got sad showed insight on her part, since it could leave them distraught and even ruin their training. She had grown in the time she was away so much, and yet Lusamine hadn’t been there to see it. And soon her daughter would be leaving to go on her own journey—one that would change her even more.
“Do you want to go play with Glacian for a bit until Azuria gets here?” She received a yip in response before Fresh Snow Pokémon tagged her with a paw and started running off. The game was on and the Fox Pokémon gave chase.
If only your father could see the young woman you’re growing into. The thought brought a sad frown to her face when she imagined her husband looking out on this same scene. He would no doubt have loved to see it. I miss you so much, Mohn.
Lusamine pulled away from the window and left Lillie’s room, stirring on that thought. Even now she hadn’t lost hope that her husband was out there somewhere. It was possible to survive in Ultra Space for prolonged periods as the different worlds it led to had different laws of physics governing them, so one day she would find him and reunite their family.
Part of her was worried he would be horrified of the woman she had become, just like their son was. Someone who had abandoned the most precious things he’d left behind in this world and went against the very beliefs that she’d held. But she was sure that he’d forgive her and would convince Gladion to do the same.
Until then she would keep doing her best. She’d keep her thoughts and actions in check until the remnants of the toxins were removed. She’d give her daughter as much help as she possibly could before seeing her off, even if Lusamine didn’t want her to leave at all.
Then she’d find Mohn.
Her resolve steeled, Lusamine proceeded down the stairs when a commotion coming from the backyard drew her attention to the door’s window. In the backyard that rose up a slope into the mountains, she found Bill sitting down at the table and preparing food for his pokémon. She hadn’t intended to interrupt them at all until his Kadabra spotted her and used its psychic power to open it for her in an act of courtesy.
Bill gave her a cordial smile. “I’m glad you could join us. Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, though I didn’t mean to interrupt you when you were busy,” she told him. After all, not only was Bill the one who managed the PC system in Kanto, but he was assisting with her treatment. To take even more of his time would be unacceptable.
“Company livens things up around here, so we welcome it.” He gestured to the bag of pokémon food and jars of berry powder sitting beneath the parasol that was fixed to the table. “It’s actually convenient since we’ve already got the food out and you need to feed your own pokémon.”
“Well, when you put it that way I can’t really refuse.” Taking up his invitation, she took a seat across from him and released everyone except for Mismagius. Milotic, predictably, decided to perch her head into her trainer’s lap and prod her stomach in a bade for attention. She indulged the beautiful creature with a pat. “Give me a few minutes to help the nice man with your food, okay?”
“She’s quite affectionate, isn’t she?” Bill mused as the Tender Pokémon took that as a cue to settle down for the moment. Then he noticed Haku quizzically tilting his head and making an inquiring sound. “No. Your horn is sharper, so that’d hurt me.”
“It may have been for a good cause, but I did spoil her a bit,” Lusamine admitted. “A very young child wanted a Milotic, so their parents gifted her to the child when she was a Feebas. But they underestimated the time and emotional investment it takes to evolve into one. In the end, she entered into our care and I took care of her personally.”
Imagine what it would be like to be raised knowing that it was because you would be beautiful one day? Imagine that the reason your trainer loved you and valued you above all else was because what you would become? Then imagine what would happen when words alone weren’t enough and you were unable to meet their standards?
It was only recently discovered that a Prism Scale would alter a Feebas’ genetic structure during the trading process, inducing evolution. Serious care and effort had to be put into raising a Feebas to evolve before that discovery. That was far more than an impatient child keeping her sweet Milotic in a fish tank could honestly provide on her own.
“Why won’t you evolve? Why are you still ugly? Why won’t you become beautiful?”
Those words were perhaps nothing more than a child being upset that things weren’t going their way. But pokémon were so much smarter than people gave them credit for. And for her self-esteem to have been built up with expectations only to be torn down…it took a toll on her emotional state and eventually she stopped eating.
The Pokémon Centers were trained to heal physical wounds, but they couldn’t deal with emotional trauma. The parents ultimately agreed to release the Feebas since the child wouldn’t take care of her. And it was when she entered into the Aether Foundation’s care to be rehabilitated that Lusamine found her, staring into the glass at her own reflection…
Loathing herself for the look she was born with.
“Every pokémon is beautiful in its own way. I can see that beauty in you. If evolving is the only way you’ll believe that, then I’ll help you become as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”
Lusamine could still remember the promise she made and the time she spent with her Feebas. It took so long to ensure that the Fish Pokémon could be proud of herself, going above and beyond what was necessary or expected. But she kept her promise and helped her evolve in the end.
But was it right for me to do that? That thought haunted Lusamine as Milotic started nuzzling against her leg softly. The members of the Foundation tried not to get too attached to the Pokémon they were rehabilitating because most of them were supposed to be released back out into the wild. Lusamine had done the opposite of that with the Tender Pokémon, becoming her very world instead.
Now she owned a beautiful, powerful creature. One that would never abandon or disobey her. Even if she had good intentions to start with, had she purposely taken advantage of her vulnerable state and raised Milotic to always need her after what happened to her husband? The fact that she couldn’t be sure that the good things she’d done didn’t have some sinister purpose twisted a knot into her stomach.
She distracted herself with preparing Milotic’s food. When she ran the Aether Foundation, Lusamine had imported Pamtre and Bluk Berries to spruce up her diet. It was expensive given they were rare even in their native regions, but no price was too much back then. Now, however, an Oran and Pecha Berry blend would have to suffice. “All done.”
“Miiii~” Milotic sat with her mouth opened, waiting to be handfed as she batted her eyes.
The maternal side of her trainer couldn’t resist the deliberate cuteness of it. “Okay, but only a few. I still have to prepare food for the rest.”
The Tender Pokémon laid her head into Lusamine’s lap and slowly, quietly savored each pellet she was given. Drawing out the amount of time spent between them with an expression of contentment and bliss, it would sate her need for attention for the moment. But she would want more attention later on, as was her usual behavior.
I’ll have to try to get her less dependent on me. Her eyes turned up to check on the others and found Bewear being drawn to the colorful, ribbon-like appendages that made up the Sylveon. The Intertwining Pokémon was hiding behind the Jolteon that was standing vigilant over the younger member of their family. Before she could do anything, Clefable called for Bewear to sit next to her and Bill’s Clefairy.
How innocent Bewear was happened to be attractive in a way, but now Lusamine questioned if not helping her become more mature was also intentional. Bewear was trained so that she didn’t hurt someone by accident because of how strong she was. But she was still basically a child in an adult’s body in terms of maturity.
Lusamine gently brushed the Tender Pokémon’s cream-colored head from her seat and set the bowl next to her. The others needed their food after all, both Bill’s pokémon and her own. The backyard was filled with more than a dozen pokémon happily nibbling away by the time they were both—with one exception.
“Is something wrong with your Porygon-2?” She noticed that it hadn’t moved at all since her arrival. It was just sitting there with its eyes opened. Staring off into the distance with an unblinking gaze as the world went by.
“He’s still integrating his new programming, so he has moments like this.” Bill crouched down and gently touched the smooth contour that made up the Virtual Pokémon. “Normally he fills in for me when I’m not here, or when I’m busy with something else by integrating into the PC System. That was what he was programmed for. However, due to the limitations of the time period he was made, he doesn’t socialize or function outside of his duty very well.”
In other words, it was no different than a machine that existed to carry out a function. Which was strange, considering the Aether Foundation had some under their employment who developed their own traits and personalities. “It—he, must be one of the oldest models then?”
“One of the first, actually,” Bill said. “When Porygon were first created I just had to have one. The benefits to my work and the rarity of Poly’s species were just too alluring for me to resist. It isn’t a stretch to say that he’s probably one of the oldest Porygon alive, but because of that he doesn’t have the benefits the modern ones have in their AI that make them no different than other pokémon. I commissioned a researcher to create an Up-Grade disk specifically for him to be able to match their development and work with more recent computer systems, but it’s taking him a long time to properly integrate it.”
That was one of the downsides to artificial pokémon. In taking the role that nature had to create life, they had flaws of varying kinds due to human-error. To keep a first-generation Porygon still functional and relevant after twenty years was amazing and took no shortage of effort.
She admired him for it. “You really do love your pokémon, don’t you?”
“I always have,” Bill said. “Though it was more that I loved them as a collection until a decade ago. My developing the Box System was a result of my desire to hold onto them all without even leaving my home, since I hated going outside unnecessarily. They never aged or died or changed, preserving them perfectly. The person I was back then would have left him as a Porygon and had a replacement operate the system while he stayed in a box.”
“What changed your mind?” she asked. It was only after her daughter had told her off and she had been ripped away from Nihilego that she had been able to grasp that what she had done was wrong. So she was curious to know what had done the same for him?
“The teleporter accident,” he explained. “I felt what it meant to have the mind of a pokémon and it changed my perspective on everything. I still believe in connecting the world through my network, but I also believe that pokémon should be treated better. That was why I contributed to the recent changes when it comes to their release, among other things.”
That’s also probably why he decided to help us as well. Bill didn’t need money and his time was more precious than anything. Lusamine could only assume the likely the reason he opted to help her was because he had his own revelation and was paying it forward. “I’m guessing you released the rest of your collection then?”
He nodded. “With the exception of the ones here. Poly was a special case since he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and someone else would have likely discarded him or kept him as a trophy. I owe it to him to try making sure he can live a life beyond his programming and one of these days it’ll work out.”
“I’m sure it will,” Lusamine agreed with a friendly smile. She felt a small kinship with him, knowing that they’d undergone a similar awakening, and wanted to do something to help him out. Maybe she could have Faba take a look at his Porygon?
Regardless, the conversation between the two former collectors died when they spotted the Living Pokédex approaching them, having flown around the side of the building from the front. It approached them and addressed Bill specifically.
Miss Azuria has arrived. She is requesting permission to come speak with Mister Bill, zzt.
“Tell her that she’s free to come back here if she wants,” Bill said. “It’ll be a minute before I can go out to the front and I’m sure that the others will be glad to see her.”
Rotom hovered back around to the front. Not even a few seconds later the back entrance to Bill’s Cottage opened up again to reveal a bright and cheerful-looking young woman, sporting a trendy outfit. In her hands was a basket from which a sweet smell wafted.
“Hi everyone!” she said, to which she got a response from Bill’s Pokémon. They recognized her from the mixed but mostly energetic reactions. “Sorry if I came at a bad time, but I brought Poffins for everyone. All fresh from the oven.”
“The timing couldn’t be better then,” Bill said before introduced his guest. “Azuria, this is Miss Lusamine. She’s Lillie’s mother.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, giving her a polite greeting while extending her hand for a shake. “Your daughter’s been something of an acquaintance of mine, so I came to help her out today.”
“Well, I’m glad to see she’s making friends fast.” Shaking her hand, she found herself impressed at how well the younger woman’s outfit accentuated her azure hair and eyes. “What will you be helping her with?”
“Doubles Battling.” Her gaze fell to the side and froze when they met the pristine beauty that was Milotic. She squealed and dropped down, eyes glimmering as she basked in the presence of the Tender Pokémon. “I haven’t seen a beauty-evolved Milotic since my time in the Hoenn circuit!”
“You can tell that in a glance?” Lusamine asked, while Milotic was preening from the attention being lavished on her. An acknowledgement of her beauty was always one way to get on her good side for a first impression.
She nodded. “You gain an eye for appraising pokémon by their appearance and grooming in my field, and a lot of Coordinators seek out Milotic for the Beauty Portion of the contests. But since it’s become easier to evolve them with a Prism Scale, I’ve noticed there’s a difference in the sheen when it comes to patterns on their tails.”
Azuria reached into the basket and presented a treat to the Tender Pokémon. “Want a Blukberry Poffin?”
Red eyes twinkled with hunger the moment Milotic laid eyes on it, the tantalizing scent of the baked snack carrying the aroma of her favorite berry. She cast an imploring gaze to her trainer and made a soft, pleading sound while motioning with her head. “Miii. Miii.”
“I’m sorry,” Lusamine told the younger woman. “I spoiled her a bit, so she’ll only eat it if I’ll feed her.”
Azuria took it well despite that, instead offering the Blukberry Poffin to Lusamine. “I completely understand. To raise such a beautiful pokémon, you’d have to lavish them with enough care that they’d get attached. My little Lynn was the same too back when she was a little Skitty, and it took a while before she and Gracie got along.”
“Is that so?” She found herself intrigued at the prospect as she allowed Milotic to eat the treat from her palm until a shadow draped them both. It was cast by the bulk of Bewear, holding her paw to her muzzle as she rubbed her tummy.
“Lillie told me all about you this morning, Bewear,” Azuria said with a wink. “I made sure to have some extra-sweet Poffins for you too.”
The Strong-Arm Pokémon seemed elated at the prospect. She sat down, leaving her paws open for the Coordinator to put the small treat into them. Then she plopped it into her mouth and chewed it with her eyes upturned in happiness. “Baooo.”
“You’re like a big teddy bear, aren’t you?” Azuria smiled as she carefully pressed her hand against the fur that made up the large pokémon’s body and felt her fingers sink into it. “And you have Fluffy too from the feel of it.”
Seeing how her two problem children were so easily kept satisfied by the Coordinator, Lusamine watched Azuria go around and hand the snacks out to the rest of the pokémon there. Even her Lilligant seemed familiar with the Coordinator, who mentioned something about one of her pokémon and a Mime Jr. The only one who was seemed to have trouble with her was the shy Sylveon that remained behind her brother, though she bobbed her head in gratitude as the young woman left a poffin for her a modest distance away.
“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said with a good-natured smile as she sat the basket down on the table. “They really do enjoy it when you and the others come over.”
“After everything you’ve done for us, this is the least I could do,” Azuria said. “Besides, I like baking and I got to see a lot of interesting pokémon, so it’s a fair trade. I just hope you don’t mind us using your front yard. I know Haku likes to stay in the pond.”
“I don’t think he minds too much.” Bill pointed to the Dragonair that was now floating in the air in sinuous motions, entertaining himself. “Just try to go easy on Lillie. She and her pokémon are still new to battling.”
“I’m just going to give her some advice with coordinating her pokémon by showing her how my own work together.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll come with you out front to watch,” Lusamine said. In addition to seeing her daughter and letting her know that she was awake, she wanted to see the girl’s pokémon for herself. “Behave yourself back here while I’m gone, Bewear. And try to get along with the others, Milotic.”
Bewear nodded her head enthusiastically, while Milotic gave her a reluctant look. She brushed the Tender Pokémon a final time to placate her a little more before following the Coordinator through the door and back into the hallway. That was when the scrabbling of paws coming down the stairs reached their ears as Snubbull hurried for the front door and out of the pet entrance.
“Look who finally woke up.” They heard through the door. Lillie’s voice. It was followed by a bark, then a pause, and then a response. “Well, you shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching that battle video. How did you even learn how to get it to play in a loop?”
Azuria found herself giggling as she opened the door. “It sounds like Snubbull’s being a little handful already, huh?”
“He just got a little excited, so he stayed up all night watching Elio’s battle and slept-in,” Lillie said, watching as he hastily ate the treat she’d held onto for him. The others had already finished theirs. “He hasn’t caused any trouble so far.”
“Melanie is just happy that someone will look after him.” Azuria crouched down in front of the Fairy Pokémon. “She also told me to tell you that she expects you to be a good boy, not to run off into trouble again, and to take your baths.”
Snubbull looked off to the side as he finished the snack and rubbed his stubby little arm against the back of his head while muttering, “Sn… Snubbull. Snubbull.”
Warrior pokémon do take baths, zzt. Rotom replied. In fact, given the nature of battles they would need to take them constantly.
He glared at the Living Pokédex and let a low grumble bubble up in his throat until Lillie gently patted him on his head. Then he huffed and walked away. “Bull.”
Lillie then addressed her mother who lurked in the doorway. “Mother, you’re awake now?”
“Sorry if I worried you,” she said, stepping outside and taking in the scenery. There were a variety of pokémon present, those belonging to Azuria. She could see a Bellossom waddling just out of view and a Lopunny rolling its eyes, a Delcatty lounging beneath the canopy of one the larger Berry Trees and a Butterfree flying between the ones that were flowering. “How’s your training going so far this morning?”
“Pretty well.” Her daughter looked over to the Alolan Vulpix that was poking at the surface of the water. Testing if her last attempt had succeeded. “Koko finally managed to do Icy Wind. As for Shuckle, he can do Protect pretty well but it can’t take a really hard hit before breaking.”
The Mold Pokémon in question was next to a Slowbro that stared blankly into the distance. If Lusamine had to guess, it was curious as to the nature of the shell clinging to its back. Or the fact that the shell in question was staring back at it.
Lillie then looked over the Bellsprout that was walking towards them. “Bellamy apparently knows Vine Whip, Growth, and Acid Spray already. Rotom suggested that if we helped him learn Sunny Day, they would go well with his Ability. But since he’s not used to battling, I want to get him comfortable with that first.”
“That would be wise,” Lusamine agreed. “A good number of Grass pokémon or techniques rely on strong sunlight, but since the weather in Kanto is relatively mild compared to say… Hoenn, he probably won’t be exposed to it outside of battling. And considering it also strengthens Fire attacks, it would be risky unless he had experience or Protect to cover himself.”
“Well, I’d offer to let Zinn help him adjust to using Chlorophyll, but he’s being… difficult.” The Coordinator looked over to where her Lopunny was holding the second Flower Pokémon that had been trying to go around to the back. “But we can help him with getting used to battling, if you’re ready?”
“Sure.” Lille looked between her two newest pokémon. “I’ll let Bellamy and Snubbull have a go first, since Shuckle and Koko could use a little rest.”
The Flower Pokémon quizzically tilted his head before pointing to himself. “Spout?”
At the same time, the Fairy Pokémon also pointed to the Bellsprout and let loose an incredulous, “Bull!?”
“That’s right.” Lillie gave them both an enthusiastic smile. “The best way for Bellamy to get experience is to try battling. And, Snubbull, you need to learn to do more than attack, so I’ll have to look out for him. This way both of you can grow together since we’re all on the same team. Understand?”
Bellamy nodded before turning to Snubbull and extending a leaf over for him to shake. “Sp-Sprout?”
Snubbull merely huffed at the gesture and fell onto all fours before running over to the bridge. “Snubbull! Snub!”
He’s saying he needs no help to win. Rotom translated.
Lillie frowned slightly upon seeing Bellamy’s dejected face and was quick to comfort him. “Don’t be upset. He’s just headstrong. He’ll grow out of it as we get along, but for now watch out for him. Okay?”
With a nod, the Flower Pokémon walked over to where the Fairy Pokémon stood and awaited his challenger.
“Well, if you’re going to use those two then…” Azuria made a soft thinking sound before turning over towards the trees. “Pieri! Lynn! Come on over for a quick match.”
Lusamine watched as the feline’s purple ears rose from their folded posture before the Prim Pokémon roused at the Coordinator’s call. Raising her head as the Butterfree flew over, those dark eyes stared down at the canine that barked towards it. The smile that came across her face as she stretched out her back, hopped down the tree, and came over, distinctly reminded Lusamine of how Alolan Meowth tended to play with their food.
Her daughter’s Snubbull barked and snarled in an attempt to be menacing as the feline sauntered past him. The Delcatty paid it no mind before brushing against her trainer’s leg and sitting upright before her. The Coordinator affectionately leaned down and stroked between her ears before addressing Lillie.
“We’ll battle until the surrender instead of knockout to avoid any excessive damage,” she said, puffing out her chest in pride. The makeshift battlefield that was Bill’s yard—in specific, the dirt path between the bridge-split pond and the slope that went down to the river. “To be safe, I won’t have my team attack full-force and we’ll give you the first move!”
Her daughter nodded in acceptance of the terms. “Okay then. Bellam—“
“Snubbull!!” The Fairy Pokémon darted in before the orders could be given, seeking to strike first. Flames licked the corners of his mouth as he prepared a Fire Fang and went for the feline that remained seated as she brushed her paw against her cheek. Then he lunged, maw wide and ready to clamp down, when a pair of sinuous vines caught him midway and pulled him short while causing the flames to peter out.
It was only because of that he avoided being buffered by argent winds as Pieri released a Silver Wind. The silver blades broke into glittering powder as they smashed into the ground, scattering as the Butterfly Pokémon allowed the Bellsprout to finish reeling his catch in as he lowered himself between them and the Delcatty that finally rose on all fours.
“Snubbull, you need to wait for me to give the commands,” Lillie scolded. “Remember, if you break the rules of a trainer battle, you’ll be disqualified. Then how will you prove anything?”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed as he looked away. “Snub-snub.”
He who zzztrikes first doesn’t always win in the wild, Rotom pointed out. In fact, that was exactly how you ended up getting caught, zzt.
The Fairy Pokémon snarled at the Living Pokédex again only to settle down when Lillie pouted, tapping her foot against the ground. Then he huffed and submitted. “Snub.”
“Okay, let’s try this again.” She turned back to their opponents. “Snubbull, use Scary Face to slow him down so Bellamy can use Vine Whip and tie him up!”
Snubbull listened this time, darkness masking his face. The Butterfly Pokémon’s muscles tensed up as his compound eyes met the Scary Face, leaving him to struggle against an instinctive fear. At the same time Bellamy reared back slightly before throwing his vines forwards.
“Pieri, take the lead!” Azuria commanded. “Follow him, Lynn!”
Pieri used Teleport!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Teleport!
In an instant both Pokémon blinked out of existence a moment before the attack would have connected, leaving Bellamy’s vines to pass through where the Butterfree had once been. Then they reappeared, one in front of Snubbull and one behind the Bellsprout. Pieri’s compound eyes and wings then began to glow with the hue of psychic energy as he unleashed his next attack, while the Prim Pokémon glowed with a thin shroud of colorless light that took on the same hue as Pieri’s wings.
Pieri used Confusion!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Confusion!
Caught by the attacks before Lillie could get a warning out, both Bellamy and Snubbull were hit by bundles of psychic energy that slammed into them from opposing sides. The Prim Pokémon’s Confusion knocked Snubbull in the snout and sent him tumbling back, while the Butterfly Pokémon’s ruptured with telekinetic force at the base of the Flower Pokémon roots and sent him flying forward. Just like that they’d been separated.
Snubbull bounced on the ground once before hopping back onto his paws and snarling as he faced the Delcatty while flames danced from the corners of his mouth. She only made a yawning motion at the implied threat, bringing a paw up to her mouth. In turn, Snubbull lunged for the Prim Pokémon with the intention of letting loose a Fire Fang—
Lynn used Tail Whip!
—only for the feline to spin on her hind legs, using a Tail Whip to slap him away and force his jaw shut. He snapped down on empty air as he staggered to the side, before shaking his head and glaring as the feline followed through with a pirouette that landed her a few feet away. The cheshire smile she wore afterwards only seemed to agitate him further. “SNUBBULL!!”
“Don’t chase her,” Lillie said. It was fruitless though as Snubbull kept going after her as she ran around in a circle, clearly humoring him. She sighed and looked back to Bellamy, who was pushing himself back onto his tiny roots with his leafy appendages. Pieri was fluttering in towards him. “Bellamy, behind you!”
The Flower Pokémon whipped his head around to see the incoming threat and instinctively tried to run away before stopping, as if realizing he was in an official battle. Then he retaliated with a small ball of sludge, gastric juices drudged up and spat out in the form of an Acid Spray.
Pieri dodged the attack with a flap of the wings, letting out a small noise that reached the ears of the feline. The Delcatty then ceased toying around with the Fairy Pokémon and then took off much faster than before as the Acid Spray hit the ground right in front of Snubbull. The splash of the frothing fluids caught his excess skin.
“Snub!” he yelped, before turning towards Bellamy and barking. “Snubbull, snub!”
“He didn’t mean it,” Lillie told the puppy as her meek flower began to wave his leaves and shake his head. “It was an accident.”
“Pieri! Lynn! Wrap this up!” Azuria ordered, grabbing their attention. “Safeguard and then Starlight Lullaby!”
The Butterfly Pokémon swooped in front of the feline and a silver sphere radiated from his soft body, becoming a glimmering forcefield. Safeguard, the gossamer-thin and silver barrier, coated the magnificent coat of the feline as she inhaled. Then Pieri flew above the battlefield, wings aglow with a pale-blue light.
Pieri used Sleep Powder!
Sleep Powder draped the battlefield from above. The luminous powder fell like a blanket over the Flower and Fairy Pokémon. Bellamy only looked confused until he spotted Snubbull toppling over, which caused him to try and wave away the powder with his leaves to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Delcatty sat amidst the falling powder while shielded from the effect due to the mystifying Safeguard coating her fur. The blend of silver glimmering amidst the sparkling blue made for a beautiful display as the light of the sun reflected. Then her soft voice rang out in a melodic song, releasing multicolored music notes.
Lynn used Sing!
Floating due to being lighter than air, they padded out the falling sedative powder and spread wide. One met with Bellamy as he tried to drag Snubbull away by the pond and popped on contact. The Flower Pokémon drooped, swaying on his thin little feet before falling over on top of Snubbull.
“That’s that,” Azuria said playfully as her Butterfly Pokémon flew back over towards her. “Pieri’s Sleep Powder is more than enough to put down a small-sized Pokémon if they aren’t prepared for it. And, while your Bellsprout is immune to Sleep Powder, the moment Lynn’s notes connected it was off to dreamland for him too.”
“Bellamy! Snubbull! Wake up!” Lillie called out fruitlessly. It was no good in the end as both remained within the sweet embrace of slumber.
“We should call the match here,” Azuria said when it was clear they wouldn’t wake up. “Pieri has Dream Eater and Lynn can Copycat it. Not to mention they’re both still pretty green. Snubbull was too aggressive, so he got baited by Lynn easy enough that she could lead him by the nose. Your Bellsprout, on the other hand, panicked and so he blindly tried to fire and didn’t consider where his partner was.”
Lillie ultimately consented to the assessment as Rotom snapped a set of photos. “I surrender.”
“Great.” Azuria clapped her hands twice as the manifestation of the Sing dissipated from existence and the remaining Sleep Powder thinned out. “Lynn, wake them up.”
The Prim Pokémon smoothly sauntered over to the sleeping duo before taking a seat. Her body grew luminous with a soft, pale glow. Then she released it in waves that rippled a short distance from her with a pleasant, bell-like sound. The two sleeping Pokémon were roused by the Heal Bell.
“The match is over you two,” Lillie told them. “We lost, so come back.”
“Snub!?” Snubbull pushed the Flower Pokémon off himself and then pointed to the Delcatty. “Snubbull! Snubb!”
Zzzleep counts as a knock-out in this case, Rotom explained.
“Sprout…” Bellamy waddled over to his trainer with his head low.
“You’ll do better next time, Bellamy,” Lillie told the Flower Pokémon. Then the sound of Snubbull snarling again grabbed their attention. They saw he still wanted to fight, facing the Delcatty that remained as unbothered as before as flames licked the corners of his mouth again. “Snubbull, don’t you dare attack her!”
Lusamine watched as he disobeyed her daughter, lunging for the Delcatty to salve what she imagined was his wounded pride—
—only to immediately be smacked aside by another Tail Whip as the feline spun again and promptly sent the Fairy Pokémon into the pond for the attempt!
“No!” Lillie shouted when he started frantically splashing and struggling to stay afloat. “Snubbull can’t swim!”
“Pieri!” Azuria called out for her Butterfree. He immediately used Teleport to displace the puppy next to Lillie, causing Snubbull to cling to her with his tiny arms while shaking. She ran over. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Snubbull’s bodies aren’t built for deep water,” Lusamine explained as she came over as well and crouched down to check on him. “They can’t even paddle until they evolve, so if they get into water that deep without some kind of floatation device they can drown easily.”
“I’m so sorry,” the Coordinator said. “We’d never want to put him in danger like that.”
“Accidents happen, though it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t attacked her like that.” Lusamine managed to wrest him from Lillie’s leg and gently patted him on the back as he whined softly in her grasp. “Poor thing’s quite shaken. I’m going to take him inside to dry him off and calm him down. You can continue with your training.”
“Just take a few deep breaths,” she told the Fairy Pokémon soothingly as she carried him back inside of the house. It was important to be gentle with frightened pokémon, something she knew quite well. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get you nice and dry.”
Lusamine carried the Fairy Pokémon into the house and made for one of the closets that were close by. Given that his Dragonair and Vaporeon could live in the pond and were constantly playing in it, Bill kept towels for them to dry off with nearby. She grabbed one and then began to tenderly rub his coat down as he shook like a leaf in the wind.
“You’re okay now,” she said in as soothing a tone as she could. “It was scary, wasn’t it?”
“Sn-Snubbull…” The puppy tried to deny it from what she could tell. The fact that he was shaking didn’t make it any more convincing.
She played along with it regardless. “Oh, my mistake. Of course you weren’t scared. You’re too brave to be scared of a little water. You were just surprised by it.”
He nodded his head, giving a little wave of his stumpy arms. “B-Bull.”
“But you know that Lillie was scared when she saw you fall in,” Lusamine pointed out as she took his tiny arms between the towel and dried them. “You must’ve heard how she felt so helpless watching you enter the water like that. She’s brave too, but she does get scared for others.”
He quickly wriggled in the direction of the pet door, a slight aggression in his bark. “Snu. Snubbull.”
“Yes, it was the Delcatty that pushed you into the water. But what we saw was that Lillie told you not to attack and when you tried, she pushed you in. Was that wrong?”
He looked away.
She’d expected it. Even though she hadn’t known the Snubbull for long, her daughter had given her an account of how she met him and the time she spent previously with the caretaker. He wasn’t even a year old from what she could tell from his teeth and size, making him a child in both body and mind.
Like most children he wanted to acknowledgement and affection. He wanted to prove himself and so when something bad happened he would shift the blame, rather than learning from what went wrong. And that would cost him dearly if things kept up as they were.
“Snubull, can you answer me something?” she asked, grabbing his attention again. “What would you have proven if you had managed to hurt her in that surprise attack? Would it have made you feel better because you would have knocked her out?”
“Even though it would have meant upsetting everyone else?”
He quirked his head in confusion at the question. “Snub?”
“Sometimes winning in the wrong way is as bad as losing,” she pointed out. “They would all be fine with things if you managed to knock her out in the match before it was called because that was the rules they set, but once the trainers state the match is over you have to stop or you’ll break those rules. It’s only if you manage to win while still acting in the bounds of the rules that you’ll prove that you’re the strongest in a way that everyone can be proud of. Understand?”
He grumbled contemplatively in thought. “Snnn…”
“You know, you remind me of my son when he was younger,” she confided. “He always wanted to do everything on his own, even if it meant putting on a brave face. But sometimes I wished he’d just ask for a little help instead of rushing to grow up.”
Then again, what choice did he have after I left him on his own? The more that thought haunted her the tighter her throat got and the more her eyes stung. So she pushed it away to keep consulting Snubbull. “I know it’s hard to endure when you feel like you’ve been wronged. But you don’t want to worry Lillie, right?”
He was silent for a moment before nodding with a small, resigned chuff. “Bull.”
“Good boy.” She delicately rubbed his head before the front door opened. It was Lillie, with Azuria accompanying her.
“Is Snubbull okay now?” the former asked.
Lusamine nodded as she finished drying him off. “It’s fortunate that he got out of the water quickly enough that he didn’t ingest too much. He just needs a little rest.”
Her daughter let out a relieved breath before taking the puppy into her arms and holding onto him tight against her chest. “Snubbull, you have to listen to me so things like that don’t happen. We were so worried about you.”
“I scolded Lynn since she could have dodged the attack instead hitting him back,” Azuria said to Lusamine. “She took playing with him a little too far. But she and I didn’t know that he couldn’t swim.”
“The anatomy of a pokémon you aren’t familiar with isn’t something I’d expect you to know off-hand and accidents do happen,” Lusamine told her. “But keep in mind that while pokémon can do amazing things, they still have physical limits. Snubbull have dense skulls and strong jaws, but their arms are short and can’t support them for very long. That’s why their hind legs are so much more developed, and they often stand upright.”
“It also means that they have trouble sticking their heads above deep water and struggle to stay afloat,” Lillie added in, rubbing her own’s head as he rested against her chest. “Professor Kukui warned me when I walked his Snubbull not to let her near shore because of it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind from now on,” Azuria promised. “I’ll also understand if you want to cut the training here because of it.”
Lillie shook her head. “Koko still wants a turn and Shuckle needs practice as well.”
“Snub! Snub!” Snubbull barked, wanting to have another go at it.
Lusamine said otherwise. “I think it’d be best if you sat down for a little while in the sun. Rest up and think about what we discussed.”
He grumbled with discontentment and pouted as Lillie carried him back outside with the Coordinator following her.
Left alone inside, Lusamine finished wiping away where the water had dripped down to the floor before she folded the wet towel and moved it over to a storage bin with other used cloths. That done she made her way back outside.
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline-blue eyes locked onto the compound pair of the Butterfree that fluttered its wings slowly on the opposite side of the field as glittering particles of ice were falling from Snow Warning. Shuckle, on the other hand, seemed unsure as he stared at the Delcatty that was sitting up and brushing her paw against her cheek.
“Constrict on the Delcatty, Shuckle!” Lillie declared, taking the lead with Snubbull by her feet. The Mold Pokémon’s sinuous appendages stretched, crossing the space between them at a sluggish enough pace that the feline easily avoided it with a hop. “Koko, try a Moonblast!”
“Copycat, Lynn!” Azuria commanded in retaliation, resulting in the Prim Pokémon opening her mouth and imitating Koko as fairy-aspected energy swelled and took the form of a sphere of equal size. The two released their attacks at the same time and where the orbs met, they ruptured in a pink-hued explosion. “Now, Disconcerting Duet!”
Pieri used Supersonic!
Lynn used Disarming Voice!
The Butterfly Pokémon released a ring of blue soundwaves from his antenna while the Prim Pokémon braced herself on the ground and then let out a rather cute cry, sending out pink soundwaves woven into the shape of hearts. They grabbed the Supersonic soundwaves as they expanded, leaving them intermingled as they struck both Lillie’s pokémon like a physical force.
Shuckle, anchored to the ground, only had his head bounce backwards on impact. But Koko ended up being sent staggering backwards, her eyes screwed shut on impact with the ground. Then she staggered as she tried to rise up, paws crossing one another while Shuckle’s head was moving in small circles as he made bewildered sounds.
“They’re… both confused?” Lillie guessed at a glance.
Rotom spun in place, a question mark flashing on his screen. But using Supersonic offensively involvezzz using a dense and tightly focused ring of sound waves to confuse the zzzenses. If it was spread out then the potency would be reduced and only be useful for echolocation, zzt.
“Soundwaves can superposition with each other,” Azuria explained as she watched the two younger pokémon in the midst of their confusion. “Pieri is smart enough to adjust the frequency of his Supersonic so that it can ride Lynn’s Disarming Voice, so that the effects of the former can be passed onto the latter. Hence why it’s a duet made for double battles.”
Shuckle began to swat the air as if trying to grasp something that was floating around while Koko pounced on nothing and ended up crashing into the dirt. The sudden movement caught Shuckle’s attention and his beady eyes narrowed. Then his cheeks began to swell.
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Lusamine winced as Shuckle spat out a glob of bug adhesive that expanded from the air resistance, forming a net that landed right in the path of Koko’s staggering. It caught her blue paws, leaving her to collapse in the webbing as she landed on top of it. Looking to Lillie showed she had made a similar expression, while Snubbull held a stumpy arm to his head as if embarrassed for them and then barked as loud as he could. The call seemed to do the trick as Shuckle snapped out of his confusion, along with the entrapped Fox Pokémon that whimpered while trying get herself free.
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie yelled, pointing towards Pieri as he released an argent crescent towards Shuckle. The Silver Wind ended up breaking against his shell as he followed his instincts and withdrew into it, leaving Lusamine to assume it had been intentionally made weak as to not hurt him seriously. But it still served as a suitable distraction for the Delcatty to rush in.
Delcatty used Covet!
The Prim Pokemon pounced, paws covered in a white veil as she put her momentum to use and flipped him over while landing on her back. She then toyed with him like a ball of yarn before batting him away and sending him tumbling through the air. Shuckle hit the ground rolling until he stuck his limbs out and his head emerged, a frown on his face as he glared at the ball of fluid in-between her palms. “KLE!!”
Still wrapped in that white veil like a bubble was the Berry Juice he’d been fermenting, stolen by the feline that began to sip it down while he looked on with narrowed eyes—
Koko used Moonblast!
It’s a Critical Hit!
—only to then be blasted by a pink orb that closed the distance and then exploded against her, sending her tumbling away while the pilfered liquid splashed all over her face and coat before she knew what hit her. “Mmraw!?”
Lusamine turned to see the Alolan Vulpix that had been thought to be out of the fight was back on her feet. The webbing that held her in place was shattered, covered in a layer of ice. If she had to guess, it seemed like Koko had used Powder Snow to freeze it and thus take away it’s adhesiveness.
“Good job, Koko!” Lillie praised her, blissfully unaware of the smile on Snubbull’s face as he snickered upon seeing the feline knocked about. “Now, get Pieri with Powder Snow while your Snow Warning is still working!”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled on her feet as she faced him and exhaled a stream of cold, ice-particle laden air towards the Butterfly Pokémon that ascended with rapid flaps of his wings before teleporting right behind her. His wings then began to scatter Sleep Powder once more, only for a bundle of bug glue to send him sprawling onto the ground, pinned to it by his wings. He struggled to try and get free while Lynn got back up on her forepaws and was hissing with hackles raised at Koko.
“That’s enough.” The declaration was followed by a clap of Azuria’s hands, grabbing the Pokémon’s attention before they could continue. “Don’t struggle, Pieri. That webbing is too tight on your wings because Safeguard wore off, and if you Teleport wrong then you might damage them. Lynn, you can’t beat both of them without actually harming them, which isn’t what we’re here for.”
The feline gestured to herself and let out pitying noise from where the spilled Berry Juice had painted her coat.
“I’ll give you a bubble-bath later to get your coat back nice and clean, but for now go wash your face while we get Pieri free. Okay?”
The Delcatty glared at the snickering Snubbull for a moment before nodding. Then she dashed over the side of the bank towards the running water below, leaving the rest where they were as the light snowfall ceased along with the match.
“…That was harder than I thought,” Lillie said, crouching down as Koko came over and yipped. Even with the surprise attack that Koko got off, it hadn’t done nearly enough to hurt more than the feline’s pride. But she was still proud that Koko managed to free herself and get the attack off, so she smiled down at the Alolan Vulpix and brushed her hair. “Good job.”
“Lolo, can you help Pieri get free?” Azuria called out to the Slowbro sitting away from the group, who stared vacantly in her direction for a moment. Then he pointed towards the downed Butterfree and his eyes shone with a cerulean hue. Psychic waves flowed from his finger and washed over Pieri until the webbing seemingly dissolved. “Thanks!”
“Oh, that’s fairly impressive use of Psywave,” Lusamine noted as she looked over to the Hermit Crab Pokémon that proceeded to stare off into space again. “He has that much control over it?”
“Yep,” she said. “Despite how spacey he looks, Lolo’s really good at using psychic techniques. He can regulate it well enough that it wouldn’t harm anyone but still tear the adhesive apart.”
The Coordinator then watched as her Butterfree tested his wings once more to satisfaction before turning back to Lillie. “So, on the subject of Double Battles, I think that Koko will probably be the most difficult of your pokémon to find a partner with.”
“What do you mean?” Lillie asked. “I think she gets along well with the others, so they would make a good team.”
“It’s not her personality, but rather her Ability,” Azuria clarified, pointing up. “Right now, Snow Warning is underdeveloped, so it’s more of a light snowfall than anything else. But eventually that snow will become hail that will start actively hurting the Pokémon around her who aren’t like Glacian.”
The Alolan Vulpix tilted her head at that before turning over to her playmate and giving an inquiring yip. The Fresh Snow Pokémon answered back with an affirming nod. Her ears fell slightly, and she lowered her head. “Vul…”
Lillie comforted her with another pat to the head. “I can’t stop her from doing something that comes instinctively. And she likes battling a little too much for me to not include her because of it.”
Azuria agreed with a nod. “That’s why you need a workaround. Fortunately, the solution is something Rotom suggested already when he said to try and learn Sunny Day for Bellamy.”
Not only would it remove the damage from Hail, but Bellamy possesses both Chlorophyll and Growth, zzzt. Rotom floated over and displayed a graph with a Bellsprout on it, along with some diagrams. And Snubbull has Fire Fang, which would also benefit from strong sunlight.
“Speaking of Snubbull, he’s…” The Coordinator took a moment to consider her words carefully. “Headstrong. He’ll rush right into battle, but that also means he doesn’t watch out for himself or his partner. And considering that one of the most common tactics in a Double Battle is to gang up on a single pokémon, he’ll most often end up being taken out first. Especially since his favorite technique, Fire Fang, is also underdeveloped.”
Snubbull frowned at that. “Bull!”
“Sorry, but it’s true,” she told him. “You can only use it with your fangs as the foundation, which is fine for now. But a fully formed Fire Fang is done completely out of fire, just like with how Ice Fang and Thunder Fang are made out of ice and electricity. Right, Glacian?”
At the prompt, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bobbed his head before turning to Snubbull. Then the temperature abruptly dropped as the formation of jagged rows of crystalline teeth took place in less than a second. The construct jaws that were even larger than Snubbull pantomimed the Glaceon as he snapped his mouth shut and they crashed into one another, erupting in a spray of white and blue frost.
Snubbull shook his head and brushed his tiny arms over his fur to get rid of the ice particles before pointing to the Glaceon and barking. “Snubb! Snubbull! Snub!”
Lillie left it to Rotom to translate that he was demanding that he ‘give him his fangs’ before she sighed. “Snubbull, that’s not a nice way to ask someone to teach you a technique. Besides, he’s still helping Koko and you should work on what you have first.”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed and grumbled under his breath. “Bull…”
“And as for your Shuckle, he can actually be a good supporter for the others,” Azuria continued. “For example, if he managed to learn Bind like AJ said or catch others with Sticky Web, he can tie them down so they can’t run away or dodge attacks that take time like Koko’s Moonblast. And, since he can defend himself with Protect, he’ll be able to stand his ground and play to his strengths.”
“That’s a great idea,” Lillie said, before noticing the Mold Pokémon was still looking down to where his Berry Juice had been wasted. Despite Bellamy’s awkward attempt at consoling him over the loss of his snack, he was still upset. “It’ll be okay, Shuckle.”
“Kle,” was the only response he gave while still hanging his head downcast.
“Aw, now I feel even worse about what Lynn did.” Azuria crouched down in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. “Tell you what, how about I give you a sour pokéblock now and bring you back some really sour berries the next time? You like those, right?”
His limp head perked up immediately as she pulled out a Pokéblock Case and offered him a snack. He tentatively brought it into his mouth and relished it before making a pleased sound. Azuria took that to mean he liked it as the girls continued to talk about developing their pokémon.
Overall, from what Lusamine could see, Azuria was a very caring and intelligent Coordinator. It was great that Lillie made such a wonderful friend in such a short time. She would actively try to get to know her better before she made her decision about Milotic, should the worst come to pass.
Chapter 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.