Chapter 19: Conquering The Bridge
“Hang in there, Shuckle!” Lillie called out. “Just a little more!”
“Shuuckkkklllleeee!” was the response to her words of encouragement as the Mold Pokémon clung to a log, his appendages coiled around the hefty hardwood as it spun in the air. It was shrouded in the cerulean hue of psychic energy as Bill’s Kadabra, Bard, moved his hand in a circle and the log followed the motions.
It was part of his training, having finally learned how to use Wrap by maintaining his grasp on the log. Not that Bard was turning it that fast to begin with, but the fact that it was moving meant that he needed a stronger grip to hold onto it than Constrict. Though in the event he was going to fall, they did have some soft materials laid out beneath him.
Since Lillie could only bring three pokémon into the battle against the former Gym Trainer to conquer Nugget Bridge in a few days, she had thought long and hard about who her choices would be. The fact that a Gyarados was their opponent basically meant all of her pokémon were pretty much at a disadvantage due to how small they were and how well-trained it most likely was, given who raised it.
But Shuckle was easily the most durable of all her pokémon. He had weathered a hit from Bewear and remained conscious, plus he knew Protect. With his help, they could come up with some way to win. Hence why he was her first choice.
“You’ll be able to rest after this,” Lillie promised. “I’ll give you as many sour pokéblocks as you want too, so just hold on for a little longer, okay?”
An elongated sound of affirmation escaped as he continued spinning while Lillie turned her attention to the next of her choices—Bellamy. Her Flower Pokémon was currently holding a small cup with his vines and drinking water from it, taking a break from his own training while watching Viri watering her lovely berry trees. He would also be a lynchpin in her plans.
“Bellamy, are you ready to keep going?” Lillie called out to her Flower Pokémon. The shy Bellsprout bobbed his bell before setting down the cup and rising onto his tiny roots. “Okay, let’s go with Sunny Day again!”
“Sprouuttttt—” His beady eyes furrowed in concentration as he raised his leafy appendages towards the sky. He had been diligent in trying to learn how to use the technique from Viri, and as proof of his hard work pale white sparkles of light rose from his frame and gathered up into the air, clumping together into a bright and shining sphere like a small sun.
“Now, use Growth!” Lillie ordered. The miniature star shone down upon him, and sparkling beads of light swaddled his body until it was shining like morning dew. Lillie clapped before turning to Viri, who gave a nod to show she was ready. “Good job! Now show me your moves!”
Bellamy then proceeded to move while under the influence of Chlorophyll, showcasing how much faster he was as he bounced around when Viri sent small leaves woven of energy, Razor Leaf, flying towards him. His lithe and slender frame nimbly avoided them all, leaving him to wriggle in pride at the improvement.
“Don’t get too complacent, Bellamy,” Lillie warned as the leaf of the Viri’s tail began to shift between hues with an almost kaleidoscopic effect. “Heads up!”
On cue, the Verdant Pokémon released the shimmering, whirling projectiles like miniature saws toward the Flower Pokémon. He attempted to dodge them, only for them to curve around after passing him by before closing in. He then began to flail his leafy appendages around as he ran in a circle while they gave chase. “Sprout, sprout, sprout!”
“Magical Leaf won’t stop until it hits,” Lillie said. “Try hitting them instead with Acid Spray.”
Bellamy turned around, his tiny roots sliding around the dirt before he reared back and fired purple globs of acid at them. They managed to catch three of the four of them, leaving one heading towards him. He panicked and sent his vines lashing out at the ground, launching him into the air and thus leaving him aerial as the remaining whirling leaf curved towards him until he managed to get a final Acid glob out and hit it…
Right as the artificial sun winked out. The period of hyperactivity was replaced with lethargy, born from how unfamiliar it was to him. Thus, exhausted while in the middle of the air, he could only let out a cry as he was left plummeting to the ground. “Sprouuuuuuu—”
His cries were cut short when the cerulean veil of psychic power shrouded him. He levitated slowly to the ground where Shuckle had been set down, his elongated head slowly turning in spirals while still wrapped around the log sitting upright. It was safe to say he’d learned Wrap at this point as Lillie came over and checked on them both.
“…Good job, both of you,” she said after making sure neither were injured. A bit tired, scared, and dizzy, but unharmed. As they got their bearings again after being sent for a loop, she presented them with their treats. “We’ll still need more work before we can say you’ve mastered your moves and abilities, but it’s safe to say we might have a shot of beating Gyarados if everything goes well.”
Bellamy’s expression turned doubtful as he carefully held a pokéblock between the tips of his leaves. His being frightful was natural given his disposition. But she saw he was probably the one who had the most potential to shine if everything went right because of how helpful he was.
She gently brushed him on his bell. “I have faith in you, Bellamy. Just do your best and I’ll be proud, no matter what.”
He nodded, beady eyes gaining some measure of bravery in the hopes of living up to her encouragement. “Sp-Sprout.”
She smiled at him and left the two of them to get some rest before heading to check on her third and final choice. Sliding down the hillside that housed the trees under Viri’s care, she came to a stop at the base of the incline and spotted Koko bouncing up and down on the surface of one side of the pond that had been frozen along with Glacian. “Koko, how’s practice going?”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled around and then darted over to her trainer. Her icy blue paws nestled against Lillie’s legs as she stared up with her crystalline eyes and barked excitedly while wagging her tail. “Pix! Pix!”
“Okay, I’ll come to look.” Lillie obliged her by picking her up and then heading over to see that the layer of ice was thicker than when she first managed to perform Icy Wind. That meant she had used it at least twice, back-to-back. It was praiseworthy progress and the bundle of white fur wriggled as Lillie brushed her affectionately in the process of doing so. “Good job. I’m so proud of you!”
Their playing came to a standstill as the sound of a distant, semi-muffled explosion came from the side of the building and out of view. “Looks like he’s woken up from his nap and started practicing again, huh?”
“Pix.” Koko nodded before the pair ventured over towards the edge of the house and peered around the corner to spot the Fairy Pokémon already hard at work after his brief nap.
“Snnnnubb…” Snubbull growled and his pink fur bristled as he stared down what was left of a log that was nearly as tall as her several meters away. It had been set up as a training post for him to practice Fire Fang on and he had been nothing if not diligent on that part. The main body was blackened, charred bark and splinters resting around it as smoke rose from places where there was a dull, orange glow.
Flames began to lick at the corners of his mouth as he snarled, embers drifting off the side before he took off into a sprint towards the log. Not a direct line, but rather zigzagging as though avoiding invisible attacks while the flames grew more intense to where his entire mouth seemed encased in flames. Then, once he was within lunging distance, the flames seemed to expand from his mouth and push out a mold of fangs that were slightly larger than his own as they crashed together against the bulk of the log’s body. “BULLL!!”
The explosion knocked loose charred splinters and gouged out pieces of it as the entire thing trembled from the force of it. Snubbull himself emerged from the resulting smoke with his fur covered in patches of soot from the burnt bits. Panting, he wobbled back towards his starting point and took deep breaths to ready himself to try it again.
He’s going to need a bath before bedtime, Lillie thought to herself as she watched him. Snubbull had been her third choice for the match, partly to synergize with her other two choices but also because of his own insistence. He was so prideful that even the thought of facing down Gyarados wasn’t enough to shake him.
Even so, there wasn’t enough time for him to learn Thunder Fang from Arks and he was insistent that he used Fire Fang. She had conferred with Professor Kukui on the subject of refining his favorite technique and he had suggested that instead of forming it solely around his own fangs, he should visualize the fangs that he wants them to become. That seemed to be having an effect given the results, but part of that could also be how much he’d been throwing himself into his training.
Lillie looked down to Koko and smiled. “I guess we should get back to our own training, huh?”
The Fox Pokémon yipped. They still had three days of training left. It would have to be enough for them to conquer the bridge.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie and her pokémon trained. And trained. And trained some more.
Then the day of the match approached. The neophyte trainer returned to the Nugget Bridge and found herself standing at the end of the bridge where the former Gym Trainer stood with an expectant grin on his face. There was an audience as the other bridge trainers and spectators had gathered to watch from just beyond the bridgehead, the flower-strewn field nearby serving as the seat for the small crowd.
I didn’t think there’d be so many people… Lillie found it a little awkward having so many eyes on her even as she tried to keep her focus on her opponent. At least with Lt. Surge only her mother and Astra and her grandfather had been there to see her defeat. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.
“Don’t focus on the crowd,” Azuria said, placing a hand on Lillie’s shoulder as she came to a stop next to her. It seemed that she’d decided to come along for moral support. Lillie wouldn’t be surprised if she managed to pick up from her body posture just how nervous she was. “Instead, focus on the ones cheering for you to have a good match.”
Lillie followed her gaze back to where Lilligant and Koko were off to the side with Rotom, since they weren’t participating this time. The trio cheered her on in their own way and encouraged her. She felt her lips forming into a soft smile as she placed a hand on her chest and took a deep breath, settling her nerves as the Coordinator went to join them. “Right. We can do this.”
The brown-haired man with glasses who had given her the card at the start of the gauntlet took to the center of the field. It seemed he would be acting as the referee for the battle. His voice came in loud and clear as he declared the start of the match. “Then let the final battle of the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet begin!”
“It’s your time to shine, Shuckle!” Lillie said as she tossed his ball out and the Mold Pokémon emerged on her side of the field.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a match, so let’s make it a good one!” Kado said in an enthusiastic tone as he enlarged his partner’s ball before tossing it up into the air. “Gyarados, let’s get started!”
The ball broke open, light spilling out and swelling to comparatively massive size as the details filled in once the conversion was done. The long, serpentine body of the Atrocious Pokémon landed on the Gym Trainer’s side of the field with its blue scales reflecting the sheen of the morning light off its back, while its yellow underbelly cast a shadow that stretched over Shuckle’s tiny frame. Then those piercing red eyes fixed onto his beady black ones and it let out a roar.
Gyarados used Intimidate!
Shuckle promptly (and understandably) withdrew into his shell.
“I-It’ll be okay, Shuckle!” Lillie tried to reassure him. “Just do like we practiced!”
“Sorry, but the match has started, we’re not going to hold back just because he’s holed up in his shell,” Kado said. “Gyarados, Water Gun!”
“Shuckle, it’s coming!” Lillie shouted as the cheeks of the Atrocious Pokémon swelled until they were bulging. “Protect yourself!”
If there was one thing that Shuckle didn’t really a prompt on, it was protecting himself. No sooner than what came from the Gyarados mouth was a lancing stream of water did it hit a solidified wall of air that cracked beneath the force of the impact. But it managed to hold against the attack long enough to leave the water scattered before the barrier itself shattered.
“Whew.” Lillie let out a breath of relief as Shuckle stuck his head out of one of the holes to reveal he was okay. “Now, Sticky Web!”
His tiny cheeks swelled as he spat out a glob of bug glue. It expanded into a web towards the massive Gyarados that promptly avoided it with contemptuous ease using its serpentine body. The webbing then smacked into the bridge behind it, where it remained.
“Sorry, but he isn’t so slow something like that could hit it,” he said. “And that weak Protect won’t stand up to an attack that has our full power behind it. Close the distance and use Bite, Gyarados!”
The Atrocious Pokémon’s fangs grew luminous and then multiplied. Rather than four fangs, there were instead glowing teeth running along the length of its upper and lower lips. Then it did as told by using the muscles beneath its scales to not slither but lunge at the tiny prey.
“Withdraw!” Lillie called out as Shuckle naturally tucked his head back into his shell out of fear. The shell then grew luminous right as the similarly hued fangs came crashing down upon him. Then Gyarados reared back, leaving Shuckle’s shell stuck between the fangs that were clenching like they were trying to bite into Rock Candy. “Now, Wrap!”
To the surprise of the Gyarados, Shuckle’s appendages burst from four of the holes and stretched so they could coil around its head in similar manner to a muzzle, leaving it unable to let go. The moment of confusion as it shook its head to try and get him to let go turned to anger when it was clear that Shuckle wouldn’t budge. It began to clamp down its grip tighter on the shell. “Grysshaa!!”
“It’ll be okay,” Lillie called out to Shuckle as his concerned cries emerged from the confines of the shell even as he held firm. That shell was hard enough to take a hit from Bewear without using Withdraw back when they’d first met. Strengthening his naturally high defense meant that it wouldn’t crack under the pressure, and as long as he held on it couldn’t toss him away—locking down one of its strongest weapons.
Now it was time to lock down the other advantage it had. “Now, use Sticky Web below!”
Shuckle’s head emerged from the rear hole, lips tinged by the hue of his Berry Juice that he’d probably drank after getting bitten—he probably hadn’t taken nearly enough damage to warrant it, but such was his nature. His tiny cheeks swelled before spitting out another glob of natural adhesive, only this time it aimed straight at the base of the bridge where Gyarados was touching it. There was a squishy sound as the Atrocious Pokémon pressed into it further inadvertently, thus leaving it stuck as it tried wrestling itself free.
“So that’s your gimmick,’” Kado said as the realization dawned. It brought a smile to his face. “Clever, but we’re not out of the fight yet. Water Gun!”
Gyarados’ extra fangs dissipated as its cheeks began to swell again, leaving Shuckle to crane its head back in concern and meet with the red, narrow eyes of the Atrocious Pokémon. Then he promptly tucked his head back into his shell as the Gyarados let loose the attack. One second there were sharp streamlets of water going around the shell.
Then next Shuckle was launched like a cannonball and slammed into the surface of the bridge. His shell bounced off the hard surface once, four long limbs trailing after him before their natural adhesiveness tethered him, and he promptly snapped back down. His head emerged from the top-most orifice in the shell, swaying after being thrown for a loop. “Shuuuccckllllee….”
“Don’t let up, Shuckle!” Lillie called out, leaving the Mold Pokémon to shake his head and regain his senses. “Stick with the plan and keep going!”
Shuckle proceeded to do just that as he took aim at the Atrocious Pokémon that was struggling to pull itself free of the gob of bug glue on the right side of its body, where its underbelly met the bridge. He then reinforced it by firing yet another glob on the opposite side, the left side it was leaning on to try and get free. It smushed into it and glued him there further.
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched in fury before reeling around towards Shuckle in time for another Sticky Web to come flying towards it, this time expanding from the air resistance and covering a portion of its upper body. In retaliation, its cheeks swelled.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie ordered. The protective wall went up just in time to meet with the streaming blast of the Water Gun that smashed into hard enough this time to shatter it whole, leaving the blunted hit to reach Shuckle. But he weathered the assault and returned fire with yet another Sticky Web, coating the Atrocious Pokémon with another layer on the center and causing it to start struggling more violently. “Just a little more!”
“Gyarados, calm down!” Kado commanded. “If you get angry and start thrashing around, you’ll only send up stuck further until you can’t move. Temper your rage and then wait for your moment!”
It was as though the atmosphere shifted in a single moment. The Gyarados quelled its furious motions and went stock still as its eyes focused on Shuckle as the Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled once more. Then it clicked. “Shuckle, wait—”
Gyarados used Dragon Rage!
No sooner than the Sticky Web came flying outwards did its maw opened wide. Then, in a manner that was too akin to how Koko would charge a Moonblast, but much faster, what formed from its maw was a reddish-orange sphere. The sphere was launched from Gyarados and cut through the air towards Shuckle who hastily attempted to weave his Protect once more to act as a bulwark against the onrushing attack. The two met and the air howled as the half-formed shield shattered under the concentrated essence of a dragon’s rage—
—and Shuckle was swallowed by the flash of red and orange as the force contained spilled out with a shockwave that knocked him loose and sent him flying. There was a loud conk as his shell hit the bridge’s surface, spinning in place upside down while his limbs and head were splayed out.
He was out cold.
“Shuckle is unable to battle!” declared the referee after observing his supine form. “Challenger, choose your next pokémon.”
We didn’t manage to get enough of the Sticky Web on it to stop it completely, but that should at least slow it down, Lillie reasoned as she recalled Shuckle back into his ball. Then she pulled out her second choice. “Your turn, Bellamy!”
The Flower Pokémon emerged onto the field and took stock of the situation, somewhat nervously fidgeting as the Gyarados glared at it, and then turned back to his trainer. “S-Sprout?”
“We have a little time while he’s still stuck!” she encouraged him. Then the referee announced they could begin, so she gave her order. “Use Sunny Day!”
Bellamy raised his leaves to the sky and began to gather energy into a sphere above him. Once it was a fairly modest size, he launched it further up transforming it into a miniature star. It shone down upon the battlefield and radiated strong sunlight.
Bellamy used Sunny Day! The sunlight turned harsh!
“Oh, that might be a problem,” Kado admitted. “Gyarados, use Dragon Rage!”
Obeying orders, the Atrocious Pokémon spat out another orb of concentrated rage at the Flower Pokémon. However, the moment it left its mouth, Bellamy was on the move. Shrouded in the viridian veil of Chlorophyll his tiny, root-like legs moved surprisingly fast and carried him out of the range of the blast as it hit the surface of the bridge and the shockwave made it tremble a little.
“Good job!” Lillie praised him. “Now, stay at a distance where you can dodge if it tries that again and start using Growth!”
“Sprout!” Bellamy bobbed his bell and then raised his leaves to the artificial sun, drinking up the light. Unlike when they fought the Bronzor and Geodude, they knew that it would be a lot faster when Sunny Day was in effect and it would be twice as effective if he had enough time. Strong enough to even take out a Gyarados.
Unfortunately, they would have the time to get that strong as Kado turned his attention to his Gyarados that was struggling to get free, and commanded, “Use Ice Fang on webbing holding you down and then close the distance to attack!”
Ice crackled as dense, glistening frost encroached over its lips and formed a jutting maw composed of two rows of razor-sharp icicles as it craned its head towards the base where it was stuck and then plowed them into the adhesive. The ice froze the globs of bug glue keeping it pinned down, leaving the Atrocious Pokémon to break free of its binding. It then lunged for Bellamy as sparkles danced off his frame from the Growth-in-progress.
“Bellamy, go up!” Lillie shouted as she saw the ice-laden maw closing in on him like a rushing train while he seemed stuck in place like a Stantler caught in headlights. Thankfully, he roused at her voice and shot his vines at the ground, using them to send him into the air as the maw of ice slammed shut where he’d been and sent shards spraying everywhere.
Bellamy winced as some of the shards slammed into him as he retracted and then launched his vines downwards again to land behind the Gyarados some distance away. It naturally reared upwards to turn and then attack him, but it began to strain as the webbing that had been layered on its underbelly caught the surface of the bridge. Bellamy took the chance to go on the offense, dredging up some of his natural gastric juices and suddenly spitting out a Growth-imbued Acid Spray towards the Gyarados. “Sprout!
A Critical Hit!
“GYASSHHAAA!!” Gyarados screeched as the moment it hit the scales covering its backside, the caustic fluids began to froth. It strained harder against the thin layer until the bond gave way under his muscles, right as another Acid Spray from the Flower Pokémon splashed against its massive body and left it in even more infuriating pain. It whirled around onto Bellamy as the Flower Pokémon began to ready another Acid Spray and fired a Dragon Rage in retaliation.
In the midst of launching another attack, Bellamy wasn’t prepared to move as the reddish-orange sphere of draconic rage closed the distance—
—and ruptured, consuming the Flower Pokémon as Bellamy’s short cry of pain was drowned out by the violent release of the condensed fury. Smoke billowed up from where the attack had landed, obscuring Lillie’s pokémon until a breeze thinned it out and revealed his prone form as tendrils of smoke wafted off of him.
“Bellsprout is unable to battle!” the referee declared after a moment. “Challenger, choose your final pokémon.”
Lillie returned Bellamy into his ball before pressing it against her forehead and whispering, “Thank you, Bellamy.”
He had done a marvelous job considering that they hadn’t managed to completely pin down the Gyarados. Just from the way it was wheezing and tremors ran along its body she could tell he managed to do a lot of damage thanks to Shuckle’s webbing holding it down long enough for him to strengthen himself a little. And the sunlight was still harsh so Gyarados’ Water Gun would be hampered for a little while longer.
We still have a chance, Lillie believed with all her heart as she enlarged the ball of her final choice and tossed it out. “It’s all up to you now, Snubbull!”
The Fairy Pokémon emerged onto the field, landing on his hind legs. He met the fierce gaze of the Atrocious Pokémon without flinching or fear. Instead, he fell on all fours and barked in defiance.
Gyarados snarled in response.
Then the referee announced, “Let the final match begin!”
Snubbull took off running towards the comparatively massive pokémon that had taken down two of his peers without fear or even waiting for Lillie’s command.
His weapons were his fangs. He couldn’t use those without getting closer to his enemy. Even if it put him directly in threat range of the Gyarados, all he could do was approach the enemy and attempt to tear it apart regardless of what kind of pokémon it was.
Likewise, in the presence of an approaching enemy, Gyarados attempted to defeat it with the same method it had done the others. It let loose the reddish-orange sphere that was its rage made manifest and sent it flying towards Snubbull. The resulting explosion swept up his tiny body entirely…
Snubbull was unaffected!
Only for Snubbull to emerge from the smoke unperturbed while flames began to crawl from between his lips with a fiendish vigor until they completely shrouded his maw. Unhindered by the ineffectiveness of his attack, the Fairy Pokémon quickly closed the distance until Gyarados was within lunging range. Then he pounced with a roar. “SNUBBULLL!!”
The temperature spiked as flames that had been caged were unleashed. They shot out and took the form of a pair of fangs that were almost twice as large as Snubbull. Then he snapped his maw together and the Fire Fang slammed down upon the surprised Gyarados.
I didn’t think it’d be that strong, Lillie thought as the sudden flare of intense heat enshrouded the pair with such intensity that she had to avert her eyes while the sound of the explosion was deafening. Snubbull had been practicing with his Fire Fang, specifically on concentrating the intensity of the flames. But the addition of Sunny Day had intensified them a lot more as the artificial sun slowly faded as the last of its energy was expended.
That was when the roar of the Atrocious Pokémon shook the air before a pink blur was launched from the dissipating smoke and landed on the surface of the bridge near Lillie, having been knocked away. Lillie saw the Fairy Pokémon was slow to get back onto his feet and asked, “Are you okay?”
He barked in confirmation and turned his attention back to the Gyarados, whose underbelly sported a large scorch mark that was spread out over a large section as it writhed in place from pain. It had done a lot of damage, no doubt due to Gyarados being caught by surprise and Sunny Day. Along with its other injuries, it didn’t look like it could take another hit and remain standing.
But with Sunny Day down now, Gyarados can use his Water Gun again, she realized. Snubbull could only attack any enemy that was in front of him. If Gyarados abused the fact that he had a ranged option, then it could simply wear him out. Then Shuckle and Bellamy’s sacrifices would be for nothing. There’s nothing else we can do but push ahead.
“Go for it, Snubbull!” Lillie ordered. The Fairy Pokémon unhesitatingly charged towards the towering pokémon with the intention of toppling the titan. The Atrocious Pokémon rose straight in response, taking aim at the oncoming threat that had wounded it.
Gyarados used Water Gun!
Water spouted from Gyarados’ mouth towards the small target, spearing through the air to strike it down. But Snubbull bound side-to-side as he had during practice, the imaginary targets now replaced by bludgeoning gouts of water. Though it slowed him down, both were aware that the moment that Gyarados had to take a breath and gave pause to his attack it would be decided.
That was why Kado forewent stalling things out longer. “Meet it head-on with Ice Fang, Gyarados!”
“Fire Fang, Snubbull!” Lillie responded in kind with the attack Snubbull was proficient with the most.
That sound of the crackling ice and sizzling flames filled the air as the two pokémon bared their fangs. Frost-laden mist roiled around the Gyarados’ head as its maw was filled with icicles that glinted in the sunlight. Tongues of flames rolled around Snubbull’s protruding maw that left the air quivering with heatwaves. Baring their respective elemental fangs, the two lunged for one another—
—and the resulting clash filled the air not with smoke but instead steam that left the air hissing as fire and ice attempted to dominate one another. The hissing overtook all sounds as the white veil spread to the edges of the bridge and was slow to thin, thus obscuring the two combatants as trainers and audience alike looked on with anticipation (and a little worry).
But then the steam thinned to where a large silhouette on the ground slowly filled in with color to reveal them. The prone form of the massive Atrocious Pokémon was strewn on the bridge surface, sporting scorch marks anew. As for Snubbull, his tiny body was also prone with his pink fur covered in thick patches of frost as his breath came out in cold puffs.
“Did they knock each other out?” Lillie wondered. Then Snubbull stirred. The Fairy Pokémon’s stubby arms slowly shifted themselves until they were underneath his tiny frame. The patches of ice began to flake as he trembled to push himself back onto his hindlegs. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Snn…Snnn…” Straining, he managed to get back up only to nearly fall over once more. But before his legs could give out, he caught himself and stood up slouching. Then he took a deep breath, straightened his back, stuck out his arms, and shouted to the heavens. “BBBBBBUULLLLL!!!”
The referee then took a moment to look over him. And then the still downed Gyarados. Then he declared the match. “THE WINNER IS THE CHALLENGER’S SNUBBULL!”
The nervous silence that had filled the air prior was replaced with clapping and cheers while Lillie approached Snubbull standing there while Kado recalled his partner into his ball. She crouched down as he turned to her with a little smile on his face and saw how badly he was trembling from just trying to stand upright. And then she extended her hands to catch him as he promptly fell over, conscious but without the strength to stand.
“You can be so stubborn sometimes,” she told him as she cradled him against her chest. Honestly, she wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d just stayed down considering how exhausted he was. Yet she gave him a grateful smile because that stubbornness was what let him stand back up again and made it so that Shuckle and Bellamy’s efforts were rewarded as well. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Now that was a match,” Kado said as he approached with the pair with the referee. “It’s been so long since we’ve had a challenge. I felt like I was back in the Gym.”
“Sorry we were hard on your Gyarados,” Lillie apologized. “There really was no way we could beat it without going so far.”
He brushed it off. “Anything less and you wouldn’t have won. It’s an insult for a trainer to not give their opponent their very best, and you managed to make the most out it. Let me see your card.”
She shifted her grip on Snubbull so that she could give him it, and he gave it the final stamp.
Lillie received the Blue Stamp!
After everything was said and done, Lillie made for the Pokémon Center immediately to get her team checked out. The news had apparently reached Nurse Joy as the caretaker asked to see her card after taking her pokémon into her care. Then she produced a small box and said, “Here are your rewards for completing the challenge. We hope that it spurs you into further greatness in the future.”
Lillie opted not to open it until the rest of her pokémon were healed. They were the ones who did the work. It was only fair that they got to see the prize together.
“Great job, everyone,” Lillie began once they were all patched up and gathered around the table for lunch. “We only managed to win because you all worked together. I’m proud of all of you.”
Shuckle took to the praise with his usual stoicism, befitting of his role as the wall that stood the longest and slowed Gyarados down. Bellamy found himself scratching his bell with the tip of his leaf somewhat abashed, still surprised that his contribution made that much of a difference. He was underselling himself considering how effective he’d been thanks to Sunny Day and Growth. As for Snubbull…
“Snub! Bull! Bull!” chuffed the Fairy Pokémon as he stood on the table, posing proudly that his fangs had brought low the mighty water serpent. “Snubbull-snub!”
“Yes, yes, you were wonderful too.” She pampered him with a head pat as Azuria, who had decided to join them, stifled a laugh. Lillie then set the box on the table so they could all see as she pulled the top off and revealed the contents. There was a TM inside of it, along with a badge that had a golden bridge on it.
Lillie received the TM for Hidden Power!
Lillie received the Nugget Bridge Badge!
“Oh, Hidden Power,” Azuria said with a rather amused note in her voice. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one.”
“You know what it does?” Lillie asked. Though she had worked under Professor Kukui for a bit, she didn’t know all of the moves that were out there.
The coordinator nodded. “It’s a technique that draws out the inner strength of a pokémon and converts it into a different nature. It, along with Secret Power and Nature Power, made for interesting combinations when coordinators would set the terrain and then make the most of it with their teams.”
“That sounds interesting,” Lillie mused before noticing Snubbull picking up the badge with his stubby little arms and holding it up to the light to get a better look at it. “Do you want to go show Miss Melanie when we’re done with lunch?”
He gave an enthusiastic bob of his head. “Bull!”
That decided, they finished their lunch before heading back over to the Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter where they rang the doorbell. Melanie answered in her same overalls and apron that effectively served as her own uniform. Snubbull immediately ran inside and held up the badge in his stubby paws to show it off and barked for attention.
“So that’s the badge you managed to earn, huh?” Melanie crouched down while sporting a soft, gentle smile as she patted him on the head. She then looked back up to Lillie. “I heard about how you won over the radio. You can imagine my surprise when I heard he fought a Gyarados and managed to walk away standing.”
Lillie could only nod her head. “It still feels a little unreal. But all of my pokémon did their best in their own way, and because of them supporting each other they managed to make it a reality. I think we might be able to win our next badge soon enough.”
“Don’t tell me you’re heading out to do the Gym Challenge tomorrow or something?” Azuria asked. “The Contest Hall’s grand opening is coming up and I’ve got seats for you, A.J., Miss Lusamine, Melanie, and Mister Bill.”
“I know,” Lillie said. “Mother said that there was some upcoming event on the night of the opening, so we were planning on visiting your show before heading to Mt. Moon for it.”
“That night on Mt. Moon?” She ruminated on the thought before something seemed to click and she smiled brightly. “Oh! I see. It’s around that time now, isn’t it?”
Lillie tilted her head in confusion. “Do you know what is it?”
“Maybe~” Azuria teased. “But if your mother hasn’t told you then she probably wants it to be a surprise, so I’ll keep quiet. But I’m sure you’ll love it.”
Now Lillie’s curiosity was really peaked. She turned to Lilligant who seemed just as clueless, but then they heard the familiar sounds of cooing coming from the gap in the doorway and spotted Mime Jr. now trying to slip out of the door. There was a smile on his tiny face as he tried to reach out for Lilligant, only for Melanie to scoop him up.
“It’s your nap time, Mr. Mime,” she scolded him gently. The child squirmed lightly in her grasp as she brought him back into the main room where there had been a small bed set aside in the little play area where he usually was. “You weren’t too fussy a few minutes ago, so be good and get some rest.”
Mime Jr. writhed in his bed until Lilligant came over and took a seat next to him, speaking in a soft tone. “Lili. Lili.”
He yawned before he could start mumbling and she began to softly brush him with her leafy appendage to coax him into sleep. “Mimi…”
Melanie seemed content to let her do so before coming back over to them and Lillie apologized. “Sorry for the trouble. It seems he really likes her.”
“I don’t really mind. He’s a good boy and it’s clear she’s not inexperienced with nurturing younger pokémon,” Melanie said. And it was true enough that her mother’s Clefable, Mismagius, and Lilligant pretty much took after that side of her. “My only concern is that it’s going to make it harder when he has to say goodbye eventually.”
That was right. The pokémon here were under her care until they could be placed into more suitable locations back in the wild. Eventually, he would be forced to say goodbye once they found a colony that would accept him since baby pokémon needed someone to look after them in the wild. That bittersweet thought lingered as Lillie watched Lilligant rock the Mime Pokémon to sleep until the door opened anew.
“Excuse me,” a young woman that looked around Azuria’s age said as she entered the room. “This is the Pokémon Shelter, isn’t it?”
She was dressed in what Lillie presumed to be rather trendy clothes, a contrast to the young man who entered along with her. His attention immediately turned to the small pokémon in the enclosures as though he were searching for something in particular. Then his eyes lingered on Koko as she looked into the one that had the Paras in the middle of regrowing their mushrooms.
It unsettled Lillie for some reason.
“Yes, it is,” Melanie said, putting on a professional smile as she greeted the pair. “How can I help you?”
The girl clasped her hands together as she asked, “Pardon me if this sounds weird, but we were looking for a particular pokémon and heard that someone spotted it wandering around here.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to be specific,” Melanie said. “If it was an owned pokémon then we would report them to the Pokémon Center so they can be returned to their trainers. But if they were abandoned or stray pokémon then they might have been in our care for a time.”
“It’s a Vulpix.”
No sooner than those words left her lips did an unseen tension thread the room. They all recalled the Vulpix that A.J. had brought to her before dawn and sent off, even though it was supposed to be registered to someone else. The fact that they knew about it when no one else had come looking since then meant…
Lillie snapped out of her thoughts when she felt the air grow chillier and heard the low growl slipping out of the Alolan Vulpix. “Koko, come here.”
Koko kept bristling at them, a sight that caused the young man to frown as he seemingly reached for a Great Ball on his belt. The young woman looked taken aback but it felt forced.
“Now, Koko,” Lillie said in a tone that was far firmer than ever in her life to one of her pokémon. It almost seemed to shock the Fox Pokémon and even Snubbull, who only now seemed to realize something was amiss. She flinched and looked at Lillie with somewhat hurtful eyes before slowly coming over.
I’m so sorry, Lillie silently thought as she picked her up and held her close before she apologized to the pair while keeping her voice level. “I’m sorry. She isn’t normally like this and I don’t know what’s gotten into her.
“Please take her out back,” Melanie said before turning to Snubbull. “You go too, Snubbull.”
Snubbull was just as confused about what was going on but he seemed to register between how the girls were acting, and even how Lilligant had risen up from Mime Jr.’s side that something was amiss. “Bull?”
“Please, be good,” Melanie pleaded with him. He let out a low grumble in confusion as he seemed to pick up that she was asking him something serious. He then let out an affirmative nod and made his way over to Lillie as they went to the back door.
“Now then,” Melanie said, grabbing their attention in an effort to de-escalate the situation. “If it’s a Vulpix then we haven’t taken one into our care as of late. However, this particular one does visit with her trainer often to play with the others, so there’s a chance someone saw that and misunderstood.”
Lillie listened to them until she slipped through the door and closed it shut. Then she went off to the side and crouched down, holding Koko to her chest and apologizing to her softly. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Pix?” Koko inquired. “Vulpix?”
“Just give me a minute before doing anything,” Lillie whispered to them both as she set her partner down hastily and reached for her Pokégear. Something about the situation was off and if something happened then a lot of innocent pokémon could get hurt, so she had to clear out of the way to do what A.J. said when he gave her his number the last time. She had only finished dialing the number and heard it ringing on his end when—
—there was a loud sound from the inside followed by surprised pokémon noises that drew the attention of not only Lillie but the other pokémon out in the yard as she dropped the device. She immediately rose to her feet and went back to the door and opened it to see that an Arbok, not unlike the one that had attacked them in the Pokémon Center in the Sevii Island was glaring down at Melanie and Azuria while Lilligant stood between them and it.
And it clearly belonged to the young man who was sporting a deeper frown. “Enough of this.”
“What. Are You. Doing?” said the woman who looked irritated more than anything.
“We don’t have time for this,” he said in a pointed tone. “There’s no point in dragging this out and you could tell from their reaction compared to the other places they know about the Vulpix. Or do you want to pay the price for losing it?”
The girl rolled her eyes and let out a sigh before reaching into her purse and then pulling out another ball. It burst open and out came a very angry looking Primeape that looked around menacingly towards the surrounding pokémon within their enclosures. “Primeape tends to be a bit jumpy so he’s prone to attacking recklessly. It’d be better for everyone if you just tell us what we want to know.”
“I told you, that Vulpix hasn’t been in our care,” Melanie said in a tone that was both firm and cold despite having the eyes of both the Arbok and the Primeape on her. “Now leave.”
The young woman looked at her with an irritated expression. “Ugh, I hate your type. Whatever. I’ll say that it ended up in a ditch somewhere but that I got her a new one.”
The message carried the moment her eyes fell onto Koko.
“BULLL!” Snubbull might have been slow on the uptake earlier but he recognized a threat. His response was just as reflexive and so he lunged with flames licking at his lips—
—and was immediately hit hard enough that he was sent sailing into the door frame, his small body hitting it hard enough that the wood splintered and he collapsed onto the ground. The hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out cold, but his body trembled in pain and he couldn’t stand up anymore.
“SNUBBULL, NO!” Lillie shouted as she picked him up while the Primeape bristled as though it was going to continue attacking, with all the pokémon recognizing that violence was occurring and started trying to get free of their enclosures to scamper off and hide.
That was when there was a rush of pink petals. So numerous that they obscured the Pig Monkey Pokémon and Cobra Pokémon entirely, the pair were swept up so abruptly that even their surprised and pained cries were drowned out by the sound of cracking wood as they were blown through the door and slammed into the tree there hard enough that it broke under the force of the attack. As the remaining petals slowly drifted down over their prone and unmoving bodies, silence filled the air once more as all eyes turned to the source.
And bore witness to Lilligant slowly striding forward with the air around her quavering from the hue of a Battle Aura.
The two trainers themselves seemed stunned at the reaction until she turned her gaze towards them and then immediately reached for more balls. But without missing a beat, Lilligant aimed her flower towards them and sent out a spume of yellowish powder—Stun Spore.
They hit the ground with their bodies twitching as their muscles went numb. Helpless as Lilligant hovered over the two and looked down at them without any expression while the aura around her seemed to swell…
…Then, as quickly as it came, it vanished as Lilligant turned towards the crying Mime Jr. He had crawled out of his bed and hidden behind it, scared at everything that had happened and thus followed his instinct to hide and go unnoticed. But now that the immediate threat had seemed to have been dealt with, he did what came naturally to scared baby pokémon.
The rest of the pokémon followed suit.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
A.J. braced himself as he strode upon the wind atop a canine that was covered in a pelt of orange with a wild mane that was taller than him. He’d gotten the call and answered but Lille had dropped her Pokégear so he was only able to hear what came through the other end and piece it together. Now he was rushing as he silently chastised himself.
Naïve. I was too naïve. I’d only thought about the main objective and kept their home under watch, but even if they didn’t spot me I should have known they would have started checking the shelters and left a guard!
He could only chew himself out silently as Arcanine came to a stop with a tug on his mane the moment he spotted the broken tree with its sign splayed on the ground, the countless petals, and heard the cries of wild pokémon in a panic from the inside. He dismounted and went bursting in through the broken door where he found them all.
“There, there. It’s okay, it’s okay now.”
“Easy there. No one is going to hurt you now.”
“Shhh. It’s all over now.”
Melanie, Azuria, Lillie, and Lilligant were all hurrying around and trying to calm the pokémon within the shelter. Azuria’s pokémon were all out of their balls, either contributing to the process or standing in alarm as though they were awaiting reprisal. It was only the fact that they recognized him that some of the tension in their bodies left.
“What happened?” he demanded of Melanie as she paced around while trying to round up the pokémon and set them into their cages to keep them safe and take count.
She stopped with a Poliwag in her arms and scowled at him. “Some thugs who owned that Vulpix came in here. When I said we didn’t have it they tried to steal Lillie’s instead.”
He frowned. “Where are they?”
“Tied up, knocked out, and stripped of their pokémon and belongings,” Azuria said, nodding her head towards a closet near a dresser that had a bag and several poke balls of differing kinds on it. She had her Slowbro keeping an eye on them and the balls themselves were covered in a thick layer of ice. “The police are on their way.”
He went over and took the bag, dumping the contents on the table before rummaging through it for a moment. Then he pulled out what looked to a small, miniature ball that was black and found a badge that left him scowling. He held the ball up to the device on his wrist and watched as it lit up before immediately pocketing them and scooping the rest back into the bag.
Then he turned to the Azuria and Melanie who just watched him and said, “When the cops get here, you don’t know anything about the Vulpix or what I just took. I know it’s a lot to ask and I’ll explain later, but if our past means anything to you, don’t say a word to them—”
“If our past meant anything, you’d come clean.” Melanie demanded as she marched up to him with her arms crossed and then stood in front of him wearing one of the coldest expressions that he had seen. “My shelter was just attacked. The pokémon in my care were endangered. My friends were endangered. And while I don’t know why that is, it’s clear you do and you’ve been hiding it from us.”
As he looked into her eyes, he saw the frustration that she felt. She’d had always been caring for abandoned pokémon and valued them above all else. She knew he was asking a lot and knew something was off when he came to her that morning and begged her to keep an eye on the Vulpix. But he knew she’d still do it without reporting it as she should have because he asked.
Because they were friends.
And she’d paid for it. “I know something happened in the last year. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding, figuring you’d tell us. But if you can’t be honest with us about this… I’m going to have to ask you to put back what you took and then leave.”
“…I’m working with the International Police on an assignment,” he admitted before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather case. Then he flipped it open to reveal a badge. “And they’re the only lead I’ve got to finding the ones who stole my Nidoking and Tyranitar from me.”
Chapter 18: Doubles and Triples
“Heh, you took some time coming back after your last match,” said a young boy as he stood on his end of Nugget Bridge. Youngster Cole was the current third-in-line of those who served in the challenge, meant to be the opponent that Lillie would face. “Been a while since we had any new blood, so I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Sorry about that,” she told him with an apologetic gesture. “I wanted to train everyone a little more before I came back.”
Indeed, it had been about three days now since Lillie had come to the bridge. She couldn’t say they’d made immense progress in learning their new moves, but they needed practice against actual opponents too. That, and the fact that Snubbull was getting antsy to prove himself while Koko wanted to see if her Icy Wind would work in an actual battle.
“It’s fine. Let’s just get going with a Doubles Battle!” The eager Youngster held up a pair of pokéballs before tossing them into the air. “Come out, Don and Bron!”
The balls burst open and light spilled forth, giving shape to two different pokémon. The first was a Kantonian Geodude. Unlike the Alolan variant, it didn’t have the metal-like skin or protrusions but looked more like a large rock with two arms. It gave an eager smile that could match its trainer as it slammed one fist into its other’s palm.
The second pokémon was one Lillie hadn’t seen before, flat and round and rimmed by six dark blue orbs on the perimeter of its metal body. Rotom floated over toward it and began to fluster the metal pokémon with a snap of its camera, leaving the yellow, round eyes to blink rapidly for a moment. Then it spun around in a quick motion and batted Rotom away before it floated off the surface of the bridge next to the Geodude.
“Rotom,” Lillie said in a reproaching tone as the Living Pokédex bounced upon hitting the bridge and then righted itself in the air, holding one of its appendages to its frame. “I thought you learned your lesson already?”
Zzt… first time seeing a Bronzor, Rotom said, trying to justify its actions as it floated back over to her relatively unscratched. At this point, she could only be thankful those pokédex cases were built to last. It’zzz a Steel and Psychic type, for the record.
Well, at least knowing that makes it easier choosing who to send out then, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out her choices. “Bellamy, Snubbull, you’re up.”
“Sprout?” Bellamy inquired after emerging from the confines of his ball. The Flower Pokémon took a moment upon being released to take in the sight of the bridge and tried to grasp the situation, his bulbous head shifting back and forth.
Snubbull, meanwhile, stood proud as he immediately faced the pair opposite them and pointed his stubby little arm at them. “Snubbull! Snub!”
In response, the Geodude chuckled. Then it gestured towards itself with its arms before extending them out to its sides. “Dude. Geodude.”
“Remember, work with Bellamy, Snubbull,” Lillie gently reminded the puppy that had fallen onto all fours and was bristling. “It’s a Doubles Battle, not one-on-one.”
His answer was to look at his nervous, willowy partner and give him a gruff bark. “Snub!”
“All right, we got this Don and Bron,” Cole said, his rousing speech filled with passion and youthful energy before he pointed to Lillie. “Now, make your move challenger!”
Lillie obliged. “Okay, then. Bellamy, use Vine Whip on the Geodude while Snubbull goes for the other one!”
The Bellsprout released his sinuous vines from the buds between his stalk and leafy appendages, shooting them out across the gap towards the Rock Pokémon as it hovered there while Snubbull darted forward to sink his flaming fangs into solid steel. The Bronzor that had been floating next to Bellamy’s target was grabbed and used as a shield to intercept the blow, a gong-like sound ringing out as the tips of the vines slammed against the leaf-like marking upon its back. He retracted them as Snubbull lunged, fire popping into existence around his fangs as he prepared to bring them crashing down on the makeshift shield.
Fire erupted and obscured Lillie’s vision for a moment before a breeze wafted and blew away the smoke to reveal that the Bronzor was being held behind the Geodude by one of its hands, while the other was between Snubbull’s jaws. It had pulled its partner pokémon out of the way and substituted its arm, wearing the same grin it had previously as Snubbull snarled while his teeth were still wrapped around the stone limb. Then the Rock Pokémon brought its partner down on his head.
Lillie winced at the resounding metallic sound as he was knocked away. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
The puppy sat up on his rear, lightly rubbing the spot with his stumpy little arms. “Bulll…lll…”
Can you even use another pokémon as a weapon, zzt? Rotom inquired.
“No rule against it!” the Youngster shouted back. “This is just how our teamwork is!”
Snubull managed to regain his senses, shaking his head vigorously and snarling at the pair. The Geodude grinned, spinning the Bronzor on a finger like a disk with one hand and gesturing for him to come again with the other. Riled up, the puppy got back onto all fours and rushed back in to confront the pair. “BULL!”
It was predictably a trap as the Geodude flipped the Bronzor around so that it was facing Snubbull as its eyes shone with psychic power. Hypnotic waves rippled out and made the Fairy Pokémon go from a charge to a sluggish crawl before falling over, asleep. Then, tossing the Bronzor up into the air, the Geodude clasped its hands together before pulling them apart to reveal a sphere of light that transformed into a stone that began to grow until it was the size of Geodude itself.
“Bellamy, help Snubbull!” Lillie called as the Geodude then raised its hands and made a throwing motion that sent the stone flying towards Snubbull. The Flower Pokémon did so by sending his vines across the distance and snatching the sleeping puppy out of the path of the rock that shattered into fragments on impact with the bridge. “Good, now wake him up!”
Frantic in lieu of the pace of the battle, Bellamy then tried to wake his partner up by using his leafy limbs to shake Snubbull awake. But he couldn’t before the Bronzor released a Confusion attack, bundled as a ball of telekinetic energy, towards the pair. The blast knocked them apart, leaving Bellamy to land on his back while Snubbull rolled onto his feet and snarled as he woke up grumpy at taking the bulk of it.
“Snubbull, Bellamy, are you both okay?” Lillie asked. Bellamy made a slight waving motion while as he managed to get back on his tiny roots. Snubbull, meanwhile, bristled at the opposing pair and then ran in again to attack.
Sighing at his brashness, Lillie opted to try to work around Snubbull’s inability to sit still for the moment. “Bellamy, I want you to use Growth like we did in practice. I have an idea.”
The Flower Pokémon bobbed his head before looking up to the morning sun and drinking up the light.
“Rock Throw!” Her opponent bellowed, focused on the immediate threat of the Fairy Pokémon closing in with fire licking his teeth. Geodude clasped his hands again and conjured not one large stone, but three smaller ones. He then flung them towards the puppy with the intention of halting his charge.
But Snubbull proved deft on his feet this time. Even before being picked up by Lillie, he had been fighting for weeks against other pokémon and trainers before he ran out of luck—hitting and running. He dodged the rocks, bouncing from side-to-side as he closed the distance, eyes fixed on the Bronzor as flames licked his teeth. “Bull!”
“Hypnosis!” ordered the Youngster.
The Bronzor’s eyes grew luminous again as it prepared to release slumber-inducing hypnotic waves. The Geodude was already preparing to take advantage of that by clasping its hands together for another Rock Throw—
—but a pair of sinuous vines shot forward from behind Snubbull like arrows, sparkling beads of light gleaming off them from Growth. The empowered vines slammed into the Bronzor hard enough to release a metallic thong and knock the floating Bronze Pokémon astray. That left Geodude staring down a vicious pair of teeth wreathed in flames right before the jaws snapped shut.
Then flames erupted and consumed them both in smoke.
The two pokémon were hidden from view until a meaty thump was followed by a pink bundle of fur emerging from the smoke. Snubbull was thrown out of the lingering veil, having taken a retaliatory punch that hit hard enough he bounced once more on the surface of the bridge. Yet there was a grin on his face as he came to a stop and brought his stubby little paw to his cheek.
The reason why was made clear when the smoke cleared away and revealed the Rock Pokémon shaking in place as flames seeped from its body.
Don was burned!
“Gee…oooo…” Its voice came out strained as it writhed in pain. Fire-types weren’t common around these parts and, for the first time, its shell of stone had become an oven as the flames took root deeply, sinking into the muscles beneath its hard exterior as the Bronzor floated over to check on its partner.
Snubbull had never been one to pass up an advantage. While the Rock Pokémon was battling against the heat searing at its muscles, he eyed the floating Bronzor that turned its back onto him. Then he immediately fell onto all fours to lunge for it a second time with fire licking his fangs in a surprise attack.
But no sooner than he was within biting range did Geodude act in defense of its companion. It brushed aside the vulnerable Bronze Pokémon and crossed its arms to take the hit, a second explosion of heat and smoke coming about to engulf them. This time Snubbull immediately hopped out of the smokescreen and put distance between them.
Lillie took in the sight of the puppy as wisps of flames escaped his mouth. His breath was coming out heavier and it looked like a bruise was forming where he’d been hit. He needed a Potion at the very least, but he was still better off compared to his competition given scorch marks scoured Geodude’s stony exterior as it held one eye open and its arms drooped down.
It had taken a beating. And Bellamy was still in the process of using Growth while Snubbull insisted on throwing himself in front of them. If they acted now, they probably could end things. But Lillie still wanted to offer him a chance to back down before any excess damage was done.
“You’d better call back your Geodude,” she told her competition. “It can’t take another hit like that and remain conscious.”
Her offer was rejected. “Shake it off, Don! You’re not going to let a few flames snuff out your fighting spirit, are you?”
The words roused Geodude’s spirits as it eyed Snubbull and let out a sound. The Bronzor flew into one of its hands and it reeled that arm back, holding its other one out with the fingers spread as if measuring the distance while Snubbull snarled. Then it gestured for the puppy to come with a grin on its face that Lillie felt was meant to bait him in on purpose.
Unfortunately, he bought it. He charged for them as a shroud of energy seemingly blanketed the Bronzor until it was as white as a discus and then flung it at Snubbull mid-lunge. The moment it connected there was a surprisingly bright explosion that engulfed the two of them.
Don used Fling!
A Critical Hit!
Lillie brought her arm up to keep her eyes shielded until she heard a thump hit the bridge and then peered past her sleek arm to see the puppy struggling to stand up once more. “Ah! Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Sn…bu…” he groaned softly, little arms shaking as he slowly got back onto his hind legs. There he swayed, looking pretty beaten from the blow despite the fact that the heat gnawing at his foe’s muscles and the typing alone should have stemmed the worst of the throw. “Bull…”
Who turnzzz their pokémon into ammunition for Fling, zrt? Rotom inquired, limbs moving at odd angles.
“There’s no rule against it after all,” the boy insisted. “It’s like having your pokémon use a move on its partner pokémon that will help them out. Besides, Bron is tough enough to take it.”
“Even if you say that, your Geodude can’t fight anymore.” Lillie pointed to the Rock Pokémon that drooped down onto the bridge as the flames that’d continued to ravage him from the inside-out finally took their toll. It collapsed onto the bridge, unconscious.
“Bu…ll!” Snubbull huffed, victorious. Then it raised a shaking arm towards the remaining pokémon, as if to say it was its turn next. “Sn…Snubull…”
The Bronzor, having recovered from being used as live ammunition, narrowed its gaze towards Snubbull as azure light radiated from them. A ball of psychic energy built up in front of it, the Confusion directly aimed at the puppy that was barely on its feet. It released the blast with a metallic sound.
“Bellamy!” Lillie called out. Sinuous vines speared out across the distance, scooping the Fairy Pokémon up before the bundle of psychic energy hit the surface of the bridge and then came unbounded with enough force that it would have definitely knocked him out.
“Snub!” Snubbull barked towards the Flower Pokémon as it dangled him over his head, supported via his Growth-imbued vines. When Bellamy tilted his bell in confusion, the puppy made a slight circle with his arm and pointed towards the Bronze Pokémon. Bellamy made an inquiring sound, but another bark led to him abruptly spinning Snubbull around in circles with his vines before suddenly chucking him at the Bronzor while he used Fire Fang. “BUULLLLL!!”
The resulting explosion lit up with space between them before the Bronze Pokémon hit the bridge with a loud noise, unconscious. As for Snubbull, he stumbled on his feet for a moment as the smoke cleared and let out a victorious half-bark… before suddenly falling over onto his face.
“Snubbull, you’re not supposed to copy them!” Lillie said as she ran over to check on him. He was coughing out tufts of smoke as he huffed, his flesh bruised from throwing himself headfirst into a pokémon made of solid metal. Yet, as she cradled him in her arms, he let out a proud chuff. “Ah, just rest for now, okay?”
She couldn’t help but sigh as she returned him to his ball. Then she looked over to her Flower Pokémon as he waddled over while looking like he expected a scolding for such recklessness. Instead, she gently patted him on his bell. “I can’t say I approve of that plan at the end, but you still helped him as best you could. Good job, Bellamy.”
He accepted the praise with a delighted sound. Then the Youngster came over and stamped her card. It was her third step in completing the bridge challenge.
Lillie received an Orange Stamp!
Since Bellamy was relatively unharmed and she had her other pokémon wanting the chance to go, Lillie decided to press on to the fourth section of the bridge. This time there was a young woman who looked to be about Lillie’s age, if only a year or two older. She was dressed in a camping scout uniform that seemed native to the region.
She gave Lillie a slight wave and smile. “Good job making it this far. Not many people get here in such a short time. I’m Misa, by the way.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s been easy,” Lillie said, lightly brushing her arm while Koko flicked her tail and chilled the air around them. “Uh, anyway, the battle format is three-on-three for you, right?”
The Picnicker nodded her head as she held up a pair of balls in one hand and a third in her other. “Yep. No substitutions, and we’ll go until one side is unable to battle or the trainer surrenders. Agreed?”
“Sure.” Lillie consented before releasing the Mold Pokémon between Koko and Bellamy. Then she crouched down and smiled. “Win or lose, what matters is that you three remember to work together, okay?”
Koko yipped. Bellamy nodded. Shuckle bobbed his head. That agreed upon, they all turned to face their opposition when the sound of three Poké Balls bursting open reach their ears gave way to light taking shape.
Two of them were small, rodent-like pokémon that had blue and purple fur with darker spots in certain places, larger buckteeth, and spines running over their bodies. It gave the impression of them being different variants of the same species. The last was a yellow duck that stood upright, clutching its head between its paws and had a somewhat blank stare as it quirked its head.
Nidoran (Male) and Nidoran (Female), the Poison Pin Pokémon, Rotom began. The male has a larger horn than the female and is quite powerful, but the female has a more potent poison. Psyduck, the Duck Pokémon. Despite being a Water-Type, it possesses latent psychic powers. However, using them gives it a headache, so it normally passes time doing as little as possible.
Lillie took that information into account against her current team, but felt compelled to ask, “If it gets a headache when using its psychic powers, will your Psyduck be alright in a battle?”
“You’re sweet, but you don’t need to worry about him,” Misa said as she gently patted the Duck Pokémon on his head. “Psyduck trainers usually buy medicine that helps keep the worst of their headaches away until they evolve. So, you’d better treat him as a serious opponent, or you’ll regret it.”
That said, she took several steps back and pulled out a coin. “Now, to determine who’ll go first we’ll use the flip of a coin. You get heads, I get tails. Agreed?”
Lillie nodded. “Sure.”
“Here we go.” The Picnicker proceeded to flip the coin into the air before catching it and then slamming it against the back of her opposite hand. “Heads! Your move!”
“Okay then, Bellamy use Vine Whip on Psyduck!” Lillie ordered, pointing towards it. The Psyduck would be a problem for both Bellamy and Shuckle if it had access to both Psychic and Water techniques. Taking him out first while Bellamy had the advantage would be more prudent.
“Bell-ell!” The Flower Pokémon reared his sinuous body backwards and then swung forward as the little buds near his arm released the lengthy vines. They flew across the distance like lunging serpents, slithering in the air as they made for the vacant-looking Water-Type—
—when both were snatched out of the air by the Nidoran pair. Moving in near-perfect sync, both lunged to catch the vines between their mouths as they crossed one another in front of Psyduck. That left the vines crisscrossed down the middle as the pair then held the vines in place, the lengths going taut as Bellamy struggled to pull them back.
“Good job, you two~” Misa praised with a cheery tone before addressing her third pokémon. “Now, use Disable on Bellsprout!”
The Psyduck focused its vacant gaze down the vines and towards Bellamy before they were made to glow with the hue of psychic power. “Psyyyyy…”
Bellamy went rigid as that same color coated his body from root to bell. The vines that had been pulled taut then went slack, drooping down the center and eventually laying sprawled on the ground as the two Poison Pin Pokémon let go. He couldn’t retract them, which caused him to begin fidgeting with them using his leafy appendages. “Sp-sprout!?”
“Don’t panic, Bellamy,” Lillie told him. It was no different than what the Venonat had done before, meaning it would wear off. “Just give it a little time and you’ll be fine.”
She then looked to Koko as her body shone briefly, recognizing it as Snow Warning triggering to boost the power of her Ice-attacks… except the light faded out and the sky above remained clear, leaving Koko to let out a small whine of uncertainty. “Koko, what’s wrong?”
“That would be Psyduck’s Ability at work,” Misa chimed in, diverting their attention towards the Duck Pokémon as a similar shroud to Koko’s faded from his body. “It’s called Cloud Nine, and because of it the area around Psyduck is shielded from moves that change the weather. That means your cute little Vulpix’s Ability and Sunny Day, if your Bellsprout has it, won’t trigger.”
No sooner than the battle had begun Lillie was at a tremendous disadvantage as the sun and the snow that her pokémon would benefit from were denied to her. And the situation only got worse when her opponent began her counterattack with the Nidoran pair. “Use Double Kick on the Vulpix and Shuckle!”
““NIDORAN!”” The Poison Pin Pokémon broke into a sprint towards Lillie’s group of three with surprising speed. As one they both leaped forward to deliver a set of flying kicks towards their targets, an Ice-Type and Rock-Type respectively, with their legs aglow with power to deliver the Fighting-Type attacks.
Still flustered by having her Ability suppressed for the first time, Koko was ill-prepared to avoid the hit being sent her way by the female Nidoran. The hit would have caught her head-on, had Bellamy not put himself in front of the blow haphazardly. As a result, the glowing kick caught him straight in his bell-shaped head and promptly sent him sailing over Koko until he flopped on the ground.
Ironically, in contrast, Shuckle was the only one who hadn’t been slow on the uptake as he quickly wove a Protect to shield himself from the attack. The male Nidoran’s kick slammed against the fragile barrier and shattered it easily, as he hadn’t mastered the technique, but it dulled the strength and speed of the kick enough that he could Withdraw into his shell that shone in time for him to take the little damage that bled over relatively unharmed.
“Koko, push her back with Powder Snow! Shuckle, try using Constrict on the other one!” Lillie called out. The Alolan Vulpix hastily breathed out a plume of white and blue frost that forced her opponent backward towards her side of the field, while the Mold Pokémon’s own fell back to avoid the sinuous and sticky limbs that began to writhe and stretch. “Bellamy, are you okay?”
Koko gave him an inquiring poke as well. “Pix?”
“Sp…sprout…” The Flower Pokémon waved a leafy appendage upright as if attempting to say he was fine. But it was clear that hit hadn’t been soft from how he swayed in the process of rising back up.
“Don’t strain yourself,” Lillie told him before addressing Koko. “Try to catch them all with an Icy Wind!”
Koko nodded and then turned back to her opponents, inhaling deeply enough that the fur on her chest seemingly puffed out. Then she exhaled and what came out was a surging wave of white and blue frost, air chilled so deeply that it would seep past the flesh and gnaw into the muscles. It rushed down the retreating pair of Nidorans and the vacant-looking Psyduck, intent on washing over them all—
“Bunker down with Light Screen!”
—when suddenly a wonderous wall of light appeared in front of the Duck Pokémon as his eyes shone once more with the psychic hue. “Psyyyyyduck!!”
The Nidoran pair jumped over the wall and above his head before quickly hiding behind the Duck Pokémon. The bulwark forged of psychic energy strained like glass under pressure as it blunted the force of the attack, leaving only the fringes of the Icy Wind to lap at the fur of the two Poison Pin Pokémon until it petered out. The wall then shattered into motes of glowing light that hovered around them all, coating and clinging to their fur even as the Nidoran pair shook off the icy particles that did manage to catch them.
Zzzt, Light Screen will weaken any non-physical attackzzz used against them, Rotom warned. Koko’s attacks won’t be as effective until the light fades, zzrt.
Even Icy Wind won’t work now… Lillie’s lips pursed as her mind ran through the opening exchange. This is really bad. We’re at a complete disadvantage.
Those Poison-Type Pokémon were naturally strong against Fairy-Types like Snubbull, so they’d resist Koko’s strongest attack on top of most of Bellamy’s attacks. And they knew Fighting-Type moves too, which Koko and Shuckle were weak against. Add that with the fact that Psyduck’s Ability meant neither could take advantage of their own, and he knew Disable on top of Light Screen…
“The battles up until now were to teach newer trainers lessons on the different aspects of the battles,” Misa said, wearing a smile as if she’d read her mind. “Luka teaches the timing of attacks, Amaya teaches working under pressure, and Cole teaches teamwork. I bring all of those lessons together to see how well you manage when the odds are stacked against you.”
It wasn’t simply a Triple Battle between the Pokémon. It was a battle of strategy and coordination that relied on how well a trainer could adapt. Misa had the advantage of typing, experience, and even techniques. If Lillie was going to prevail, she needed a way to tip the scales back in their favor.
“Now, attack them again with Double Kick you two!” Misa ordered her pair of Nidoran. The Poison Pin Pokémon darted forward on the command, splitting apart in order to strike from the left and right of the two pokémon that happened to be weak to Fighting-Type techniques. They both lunged with their legs aglow—
—when the sinuous vines that had been lying limp on the ground abruptly flared out and caught the two midair, where they couldn’t avoid it. The Disable had worn out just in time for Bellamy’s Vine Whip to catch them both, smacking them to the side and throwing their attack off before they retracted back to Bellamy.
“Nice save, Bellamy!” Lillie cheered. “Shuckle, try to pin them down with Sticky Web!”
The Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled before it spat out globs of bug glue that stretched out into webbing as it met with the air friction. But both of the Poison Pin Pokémon were deft on their feet as they avoided the two bundles of webbing. They bounced around, holding the attention of the gathered until Misa gave the order to the Duck Pokémon to go on the offense.
“Water Pulse!” While she hadn’t said which one to attack, there was really only one viable target: Shuckle.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie shouted as Psyduck opened its bill and water began to pool in front of it into a sphere the size of its head. The Mold Pokémon immediately began to weave its defensive shell, the air seemingly crystalizing in front of it. He barely finished just before the cannonball of water slammed into it, shattering the defensive bulwark while leaving water splashing over him uncomfortably.
“Disable!” Misa commanded. “Nido, Leer! Nina, Double Kick!”
The oppressive psychic shroud veiled Shuckle, leaving him to frown as he felt his ability to use Protect being suppressed by Psyduck. Then came a baleful glare from the male Nidoran as its eyes took on a crimson hue that meshed with the cerulean of the Disable. He shook his head at the unpleasant feeling as the female Nidoran rushed in with her legs aglow before he could shake off having his defenses compromised—
“Koko! Bellamy! Help him!”
—that was when snow-white fur darted in-between them as Koko rushed in and braced herself to release a frost-laden gale with a deep exhale of Powder Snow. Caught in a sudden snowstorm, the Nidoran faltered as it began to drape her in a blanket of encroaching ice. Then came the sinuous vines as Bellamy lashed out to rebuke her, knocking her aside.
“Pin her down, Shuckle!” Lillie ordered and the Mold Pokémon obeyed. Whipping his head around, he spat out another glob of Sticky Web and it splashed over the female Nidoran, leaving her flailing in it but unable to move. With one tied up, the odds were a little more even. “Koko, Moonblast on Psyduck now!”
The Alolan Vulpix was wreathed in a pink aura that pooled in front of her mouth before being let loose as a pink orb towards the Duck Pokémon. Psyduck stared at the incoming attack with a slightly tilted look on its face, seemingly without any intention of dodging the hit. Instead, the male Nidoran threw itself into the attack before it could hit the intended target and the pink-hued explosion wrapped him in a veil of smoke…
Then he emerged through the smoke only lightly singed, taking her strongest attack and still able to stand due to a combination of typing and the lingering glint of the Light Screen. “Nido!”
“Good boy!” the Picnicker praised. “Now, Double Kick on her Vulpix!”
Without hesitation, he rushed for Koko with his legs aglow. Koko tried to let loose a Powder Snow and bury it in the cold winds. But it bound off to the side at an angle, getting off the line of the attack, and then whipped around on its forepaws to throw its hind legs forward before she could react.
The impact was hard enough that Lillie could practically feel it when Koko was batted aside. She could only watch as her small frame hit the ground and bounced off the surface of the bridge, before tumbling to a stop next to Shuckle. Her legs curled as small tremors ran across her body and she whimpered. “Koko!”
“Sorry, but I can’t go easy!” Misa said. “Finish her with Double Kick!”
He moved to do so when the sinuous vines danced. Bellamy waddled over with his root-like legs, his vines flailing about in an effort to keep him from getting close enough to deliver the finishing blow. There was little rhyme or reason to it beyond the panicked efforts to keep her safe, but it served as a deterrent as the Nidoran focused on avoiding them.
Lillie let out a sigh of relief.
“Don’t breathe easy yet,” Misa warned. “Nina, Poison Sting and keep it coming!”
The female Nidoran trapped within the Sticky Web aimed her opened maw towards the downed Koko and let loose small needles that were a deep shade of purple. The spray was meant to be wide, weak in itself but more than enough to finish off Koko in her injured state. And Bellamy couldn’t keep the male distracted and cover her.
So Shuckle did it instead. The Mold Pokémon stretched its limbs out, wrapping Koko within his grasp and pulling her against his shell as he covered her. The rain of purple needles battered and broke where they met his tough shell, but several found the appendages and then sank in deep, coloring the points of the impacts the same shade of purple. “Kle!”
He’s been Poizzoned! Rotom exclaimed. He won’t last long, zrt!
“Vul?” a muffled sound from Koko, sheltered from the attack and out of view as the female Nidoran continued her attack between breaths.
“Shuuucklle,” he cried as more of his exposed appendages were being shaded purple while reddish wisps began to escape from his body. “Kllle!”
Shuckle is storing energy!
“Ohhh, it’s trying to use Bide before the poison can knock it out,” Misa said in recognition. “But in its current state, it can’t take a solid hit to something its weak to. Water Pulse!”
From its position, at Shuckle’s unprotected flank, Psyduck readied another sphere of compressed water and let it loose. Shuckle was sturdy enough that he could last a little longer against the spray of poisonous needles. But between the earlier attacks and his Protect being disabled, he couldn’t take a hit from that.
So Bellamy took a page out of the male Poison Pin Pokémon’s book and flung his willowy body bell-first into the attack, intercepting it. The sphere ruptured, sending Bellamy flying overhead only to plop down on the bridge, where his head struggled to rise up again.
But after a moment, it lost all strength. The collective damage had been too much. He passed out.
And with the only obstacle in his way removed, the male Nidoran moved to complete his original objective by bounding towards the turtled Shuckle with the intention of delivering its own finishing blow before the blood-tinged aura around it could be unleashed. He threw himself into a kick with both hindlegs present when a gap in-between Shuckle’s purple-stained limb appeared.
Koko used Powder Snow!
What emerged was a nearly point-blank burst of condensed frost, a wintry breath that slammed into the Poison Pin Pokémon full blast. The white veil swallowed the Nidoran’s small body as a crackling sound filled the air. And when it finally petered out, what was left was a frozen statue positioned in front of the snout of the Alolan Vulpix.
Nidoran was frozen solid!
“Pix!” Koko barked. It was a signal from what Lillie could tell, because Shuckle didn’t hesitate to act. He unleashed the built-up power he’d accumulated as he lashed out with the remainder of his strength.
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
His appendage wreathed in red shot forward, slamming into the frozen male Nidoran. The impact was so hard that the ice encasing him shattered and sent him flying. Then he crashed into his bound partner, causing the battery of Poison Stings to cease.
“Nido!, Nina!” Misa called out, but neither responded. Both had been knocked out.
“Shuu…shu…” Panting, Shuckle coughed out some purple bubbles before Koko crawled out from beneath him. Then his head drooped to the ground. The poison finished its work, robbing him of his consciousness at last.
“Bellamy… Shuckle…” They had both given their all to protect Koko when she was injured and, because of that, she was the last one standing. More than that, Lillie realized from around her mouth was what looked to be frozen berry mush that Shuckle must’ve let her eat to heal up a bit. “Come back, you two.”
She returned them to their balls as Misa did the same to her unconscious pair, leaving only Koko and Psyduck on the field.
“It’s been a while since I lost two pokémon in a Triples battle,” Misa said. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re any worse at one-on-one. Confusion!”
“PSSYYYY—” Not deterred at the lack of support from her Nidoran pair, Psyduck’s eyes shone with a cerulean hue as it bundled up into a ball of telekinetic energy. Then launched it towards the Alolan Vulpix with a quack. “DUCK!”
Koko avoided it by bounding to the side, her hackles raised as a pink aura began to build around her—
—the aura faded as she looked back and let out an inquiring, “Vul?”
“Focus on just dodging for now while I think of something,” she said. Koko’s expression made it clear she didn’t understand why. But she obeyed as Psyduck released another telekinetic cannonball towards her.
We’re in a bad spot, Lillie couldn’t help but think as Koko avoided the next Confusion attack. Psyduck was a Water-Type, meaning it had an advantage against Koko’s Ice attacks. Outside of that she only had Moonblast to use, but it could always put up a Light Screen to blunt their collective attacks, and then Disable to stop her from using it again. But… that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still affect it.
Nodding to herself, she addressed her Starter. “Koko, keep using Powder Snow on Psyduck!”
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline blue eyes narrowed as she inhaled until her tiny chest swelled. Then she let loose another stream of the frost-laden gale. The breath of winter ran forward and blanketed the Psyduck, who stood there and let it wash over him as a Light Screen appeared and caught the bulk of it before shattering to leave glimmering particles covering it.
“You’re faster than it, so just keep running circles around it and using Powder Snow!” Lillie pointed out. Speed was the one definite advantage that they had over Psyduck, allowing her to release the chilling breath as she closed the distance and left its glimmering yellow body covered with flakes of frost.
“That won’t do much of anything to Psyduck!” Misa said as her pokémon shook off the first flurry and its eyes shone with psychic power. Then it released another Confusion attack, sending yet another telekinetic bundle of energy sailing towards Koko.
The Alolan Vupix managed to hop to the side as it crashed into the bridge, retaliating with yet another blast of Powder Snow. As the frost-laden gale washed over the Duck Pokémon yet again, it was a little slower in shaking it off a second time.
“Once more!” Lillie said.
“PIXXXXX!” breathed Koko as she strained her ice pouch to let out an even strong breath until the sound of crackling ice filled the air.
Psyduck was frozen solid!
Koko stirred. “Vul?”
“Resistance isn’t immunity,” Lillie explained. “Even with Light Screen, a constant series of ice attacks would eventually give it enough grounding to freeze so it can’t use Disable or refresh the Light Screen. That’s why Lynn used Sing to get around Bellamy’s immunity to Sleep Powder, and why Pieri used Safeguard with Lynn.”
It was fortunate they had that training match after all. It was only because she remembered how Lynn had outpaced Snubbull that she opted to even thought to keep going in circles until it stuck. “Now, ready your strongest Moonblast before it thaws!”
Snow-white fur was shrouded in a veil of pink as Koko amassed her most powerful attack, a swirling orb that building up in front of her. The orb swelled until its size surpassed that of the Alolan Vulpix herself, a dense concentration of energy that she fired forward like a cannonball. “PIX!”
A Critical Hit!
The moment the swollen orb connected, it ruptured violently and sent shards of ice flying in all directions. When the pink-hued smoke cleared, Psyduck was laying on the ground while still holding onto his head. He stared towards the sky unflinching as smoke wafted off his yellow coat without making a singe movement.
“…Ahhh, he’s out cold.” Misa said after a moment, pulling out his ball and returning him. Then she sighed. “Looks like we lost this one.”
The tension holding up Lillie’s body fled her with the admission, leaving her to let out a heavy breath and slouch over as her mother’s Lilligant patted her on the back and Koko scurried back in her direction. “That was nerve-wracking…”
“If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Misa said humorously as she strolled up towards them. “But look on the bright side: you just have to beat one more pokémon to pass the challenge.”
Lillie received a Green Stamp!
“You mean the final trainer only uses a single pokémon?” Lillie asked after Misa applied her stamp.
“Let me call him so you can see for yourself.” Misa went over the side of the bridge, looking down towards the under-bridge that ran beneath the large one they were on. “Kado! Come introduce yourself!”
Lillie tilted her head in curiosity as she picked up Koko, only for a young man who was maybe a few years older than her to suddenly rise into the air from over the edge of the bridge. He was wearing what looked like a Fisherman’s vest, but with no shirt beneath it, and a pair of swim trunks. There was a pair of goggles on his head as well.
Climbing over the side of the railing, he gave Lillie a bright smile as whatever hoisted him into the air sank back down to the water. “Finally, someone made it past Misa. I was getting bored.”
“You’re the final bridge trainer?” Lillie asked.
He nodded. “I used to be a Gym Trainer, back before Leader Misty got married and went off to join the Elite Four. Not too long ago the Mayor asked me to head the gauntlet and I agreed since I wanted to keep the spirit of it alive.”
If he was a Gym Trainer, then there was no doubt in Lillie’s mind he was talented. The man who gave her the stamp card mentioned earlier that the bridge would act more like an actual Gym by the end. That meant Kado was likely on par with a Gym Leader then—at least relative to her.
“Anyway, the final match will be 1-on-3 the next time you come by,” he continued. “The conditions of victory will be to the knockout or surrender. If you can beat my pokémon with even one of yours still conscious by the end, you get the final stamp and win the challenge.”
Zzzzimple enough, Rotom chimed in before floating in a circle around the former Gym Trainer. What pokémon will you be using, zrt?
To that, Kado only chuckled and then snapped his fingers. Then the water behind him exploded upwards in a spout as a long figure leaped from depths and over the railing of the bridge, streamlets cascading down its serpentine form as the blue scales along its back glistened in the light. A pair of furrowed eyes cast its gaze down upon them, reminding them all that they were very small as its shadow loomed over them and a rumble left its throat.
“Meet my Gyarados,” Kado said, resting a hand against its underbelly. “You’ll have to beat him to win.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Here you go,” Bill said as he set down a cup on a saucer atop the kitchen table for his guest.
In turn, Lusamine’s emerald eyes peered up from the tablet that was in front of her. “Thank you.”
The researcher nodded and then took a seat across from her. “Was the data different than that of the Aether Foundation’s?”
“Not quite,” she said. The screen had the data and reports about her current condition now that the man had finished examining her using the equipment within his home. “I was hoping that the diagnosis would be more positive, but it seems as though I really will have to go through the treatment you suggested.”
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the only way that we’ll be able to completely remove the remainder of the neurotoxins within your body.”
Her merger with the Ultra Beast when she’d tried to do the unspeakable had left her body in its current condition, but the toxins from that point and time had largely been removed. What was most problematic was the fact that she’d been infected from her previous contact with it, back around the time her husband disappeared. That was so long ago that her body had come to consider it something native and would require… drastic methods to remove it.
“With the teleporter and the DNA map that was provided from before you were infected with the neurotoxins, we can remove them safely. But if we were to do it all at once, your body might vehemently reject it to a potentially fatal degree.”
“Which will mean doing it systematically,” she assumed. “Treatment followed by periods of convalescence and observation. Depending on how my body reacts to the process, it might even take longer than originally predicted.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “I hope it won’t be a problem that you might have to stay here with us for a while longer. I know my facilities aren’t quite up to the standards of your own.”
A slight shake of her head was accompanied by a small smile. “On the contrary, I’ve been finding my stay here to be quite… soothing.”
The Aether Foundation had been a technological marvel, a citadel of chrome and sterilized white. The only landscapes within the artificial island were only those that had been crafted by the hands of artisans, to make the pokémon feel comfortable. It had been her home for such a long time that she considered it as much.
Yet, this inlet was gorgeous in its own way. Quiet and spacious with rich greenery surrounding them, a mountain to the north and a river to the south. A little walk to the east would bring them to a coast, and to the west was a forest.
“In addition, both yourself and your pokémon has proven to be quite welcoming,” she finished. “I could think of no better company or place for my convalescence.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, relief threading his voice. “Still, if there’s anything that you need to get through this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I want to make your stay here as comfortable as possible considering how stressful it’ll be once we do start.”
She stared into her reflection in the tea when she considered that and her smile dropped. To be honest, while Lusamine still had her good days, she still felt horrible and it was hard for her to wake up most of the time. Those neurotoxins in her body had been pepping her up more than she realized, and she wasn’t under the illusion that she could still present the strong image that she had when her daughter was around.
“Then…can we put off starting until once Lillie leaves for her journey?” Her voice held a slight tremor in it. “I don’t imagine it’ll be longer than two or so weeks at this point, and I don’t want her to see me in that sort of state before my gift to her has arrived.”
“Of course,” he answered. Then he took a moment to register the last portion of her request. “Ah, by gift, should I take it that you had luck in finding a Ponyta?”
“Somewhat…” She lightly blew at her tea. “Tell me, are you familiar with a region known as Galar?”
“Not very,” he admitted. “They have a storage system in place, but I didn’t personally oversee it and direct trading via the Global Trading System isn’t functional.”
“Well, there’s a regional variant there that caught my eye,” she told him. “I’d like to give it to her at an ideal time to make it a truly unforgettable memory, but I don’t think anything I can manage will be similar to when she received her first pokémon.”
“Hmm… an unforgettable memory…” Bill murmured under his breath. “If that’s the case then, I might have a suggestion.”
Lusamine’s eyes perked up. “Oh?”
“Most people know there’s a colony of Clefairy and Clefable in Mt. Moon,” he began. “But what few people know is that there’s a small, hidden square where they have a sort of ritual dance every month under the full moon. They usually stay out of sight, but perhaps yourself, your daughter, and your Clefable could bear witness to it with Cecilia as a guide.”
“That sounds perfect!” A truly earnest smile blossomed across her face at that suggestion as she reached over and grabbed his hands still on the table. “Thank you for telling me.”
He only gave her a somewhat modest smile as he met her gaze in silence when the sound of Glacian barking and getting a yip back reached their ears through the pet entrance to the door. “Oh, it seems they’re back.”
Lusamine withdrew her touch as she rose from her seat and opened the door, where she spotted her daughter being ringed by the Fresh Snow and Fox Pokémon as they both ran around her. Her Flowering Pokémon was only a step away and waved upon noticing her, an act mirrored by Lillie.
Her heart quivered. It was what she wanted so much. Her family, her pokémon, all together with smiles. It was only possible because she was going through this treatment even knowing that it would be so much harder than what she was going through now.
Lusamine didn’t want to lose this a second time.
So she’d see it through.
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.
Chapter 1: Starting in the Sevii Islands
The rays of the morning light from the cabin window stirred Lillie awake. She was within the cabin of a boat that had left the Marina of Hau’oli City some time ago, heading towards the Sevii Islands. From there she would venture to the Kanto region to help her mother get well and begin a journey to explore new lands and become a Pokémon trainer as strong as her friend Elio.
Lillie stretched absentmindedly and found the fact that she had the room to do so jarring. Nebby, the little Pokémon that had been accompanying for the last few months, was no longer with her and no longer in her care. It had grown, evolved, and chosen to remain with her dear friends back on the islands.
Rising to her feet, she left out of her room and knocked on the door of the one across from hers softly. “Mother, are you awake yet?”
“I am. You can come in,” Lusamine, her mother, said. Lillie opened the door to find her still in bed, sitting up with the sheet covering her lower half. She looked well enough, even though she should still be weak from the remnants of the Ultra Beast’s neurotoxins still in her body. “Did you sleep well?”
Lillie nodded, her short ponytail bobbing in the process. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Far better than before.” She looked out of the window towards the water. “I saw a small island a little while ago, so we’re probably within the Sevii Islands now. I don’t think it’ll be long before we reach our destination.”
“That’s good.” They were traveling together in hopes that a man named Bill could purge her of the neurotoxin. He had apparently been fused to a Pokémon previously and managed to cure himself according to Wicke, who had arranged the meeting in the first place on the island while he was there helping someone named Celio making adjustments to a network machine. “Just a little longer and you’ll be as good as new.”
Lusamine’s emerald eyes grew softer as she faced Lillie. “And then you’ll leave to begin your journey as a trainer, right?”
“Yes.” Lillie’s response was said in a doubtless tone that left no uncertainty. She was actually excited at the prospect. A little nervous too, but still excited at the chance to explore more of the world.
Her mother sighed softly. “You and your brother have grown so much while you were out of my sight. It’ll take me some time to get used to that.”
That was true enough. Many things had changed while she was under the influence of Ultra Beast’s neurotoxins, and Lusamine herself had done many things that couldn’t be easily undone since their father had gone missing. Even though she returned to normal, the scars remained—in their bodies, hearts, and minds.
Even so, Lillie was glad to have her mother back. She walked over to the bed and then leaned into hug her. “It’ll be okay.”
Lusamine seemed surprised at the abrupt motion before gently wrapping her arms around her daughter and returning the affection given. “Once I’m better, I’ll continue my search for your father while you’re away. Then we’ll be waiting to welcome you home when you’ve become a splendid trainer—all of us.”
They stayed like that for some time and then spent the duration of the trip in her cabin, talking. Lusamine had been curious as to what Lillie had been up to during the time that she had left the Aether Foundation with Nebby. The same went for Gladion, her eldest child. But he was understandably… less willing to open up to her after spending two years on the run from her and didn’t even see her off.
Their talk only came to an end with the Captain of the boat announced that they were reaching their destination. Lusamine rose to her feet and wavered for a moment, swaying slightly and bringing her hand to her head.
“Should I get the wheelchair?” Lillie asked. Wicke had packed one among her mother’s belongings and suitcases they brought for the trip. Since Lillie planned on starting her journey in Kanto and intended to buy her supplies in the region, she only had the immediate necessities in her backpack while her traveling clothes were in the traveling bag in her room.
“That won’t be necessary,” Lusamine said as she straightened herself up. “It wouldn’t do for me to show such weakness in public. After all, women must be elegant and confident, especially when they’re beautiful as we are.”
“I just don’t want you to push yourself too hard.”
“I won’t.” She reached out and set a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, reassuring her with a smile. “You have my word. Now, shall we go?”
After going to her room and retrieving her bag, Lillie walked with her mother off the boat dock and into the port building. Lusamine handled the documentation and having her bags delivered to the local Inn, while Lillie picked up a pamphlet from a stand in the port to see what the island had to offer for the duration of their stay over the course of the next three days. To the north of the island was a long stretch of road that led to a hot springs at the base of the volcano, but overall it was an otherwise relaxed place with a small population. It also listed some of the commonly sighted Pokémon that could be found for tourists, some of which she hadn’t seen in Alola during her time there.
“Oh, they have natural hot springs here that’s supposed to be good for your health,” Lusamine said as she looked over her daughter’s shoulder at the pamphlet, having finished what she needed to do. “We should go in together.”
“That sounds nice, but I didn’t bring my swimsuit.”
“Dear, this is an island. They’ll have someone selling one.” She pointed to a picture of a Ponyta. “Besides, this’ll be a good chance for me to help you catch your first Pokémon. I think you’d be lovely with one of these.”
Lillie pictured riding atop of the Fire Horse Pokémon, with the wind rushing past her face as they galloped across the field. And at night she could curl next to it as she slept, coddled by the gentle flames that made up its mane and tail. “It does sound fun to have one.”
The sight of Lillie looking happy brought a smile to her mother’s face. “Then let’s go after we finish our business today.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
A soft sound left the beak of the Delibird as he flew above the water’s surface, one flipper holding a map that he checked to ensure that he was heading in the right direction. The Delivery Pokémon had come a long way from Alola to do its job at the behest of its trainer, Professor Burnet. She had entrusted him with a delivery to be made to the young human girl named Lillie a short time after the boat left, so he should be able to catch up in a short time—
—after he had a quick break to eat since he couldn’t fly on an empty stomach, of course.
Delibird landed on a rocky outcropping with a flat top and then rummaged into his tail until he found a container with food in it and a can from which he could drink his lemonade. He had nibbled on the Pokémon food and was in the process of taking a sip to wash it down when he felt a part of his important delivery move within his tail. He let out a gaw in warning for it to settle down.
Apologiezzz, it said. Just eager to meet my new User, zzrt.
The Delivery Pokémon rolled his eyes and hastened to finish his meal before setting out again towards the Sevii Islands.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
On the dock leading into One Town, a nondescript boat pulled up. Inside were a group of men and women, dressed in traveling clothes that marked them as fishers. Yet they didn’t carry themselves as such while they disembarked the boat and eyed their surroundings with far more impatience than one would expect from one who made a living fishing.
They moved out of the port building and walked in a tight circle along the concrete roads that were rather straight-forward in the small town, leading to the Pokémon Network Center. As far as they went, this one was a modest size at three stories high. The third floor likely contained the servers while the second would house any visiting trainers. There weren’t any of importance in the itinerary, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Stopping where they stood, the man in the lead looked over his shoulder towards the others and tilted his head towards the Pokémon Center. They walked forward into it while he went over to the beach and pulled free one of the compact Poké Balls on his belt and tapped his thumb against the button on the center. The ping-pong sized containment sphere expanded and took up the majority of his palm, rousing the Pokémon within it from dormancy.
Tossing it into the air above the sea as hard as he could, the lid popped open and light speared from within, sending the Poké Ball flying back into his grasp. From the depths emerged a Gyarados’ head as it swam closer to the shore, a rumble coming from its mouth as it did so. He climbed on top of it and off they went towards the distant volcano.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie hummed softly as she spent a moment mulling over which drink to choose from the vending machine within the Pokémon Network Center. She and her mother had arrived after a short walk and were informed that the researcher that they were supposed to be meeting with would be a few minutes before he would see them, so she decided to try and get something to drink. It was always important to stay hydrated in Alola and while the temperature was slightly cooler here, it was still a bright day. Eventually she settled on the bottle of Lemonade and then made her way back towards her mother.
Lusamine was standing in front of a large computer system that seemed to dominate roughly half of that side of the rectangular building. Lillie hadn’t seen a PC take up so much space before, but her mother was using it to hold a video call with Miss Wicke at the Aether Foundation.
“—so he’s still avoiding me, is he?” Lusamine asked as Lillie got into hearing range. It stilled her feet.
Miss Wicke’s eyes softened behind her glasses, giving the impression of being apologetic. “I tried to get him to answer the call, but he says he’s busy at the moment and can’t come to the video phone, I’m afraid.”
“Gladion has been put into a position he wasn’t trained for,” her mother said in turn. “I’m counting on you to do your best to support him.”
“Of course. And you just give it some time and I’m sure he’ll come around.” Wicke then noticed Lillie behind Lusamine’s shoulder and waved to her. “And how have you been, Lillie?”
Lillie bashfully stepped out from behind her mother to answer. “Fine. We just arrived not too long ago without any problems. How are things at the Foundation?”
“The restructuring is about done here,” she explained. “I’ll make sure everything is running smoothly, so you can focus on exploring the region to your heart’s content. However, make sure your mother doesn’t do anything too strenuous or elevates her blood pressure. Otherwise the effects of the lingering neurotoxins will leave her weak and tired.”
“I will,” Lillie said. “Stay well.”
Lusamine scoffed after the call ended there, somewhat offended. “A child shouldn’t be the one having to take care of their mother. You don’t need to worry about what she said.”
Lillie looked around for anything to break the tension and change the subject, before she settled on the large machine in front of her. “I wonder what this is. I don’t think I’ve seen one in Alola.”
Her mother didn’t get the chance to answer as an unfamiliar voice rose up from behind her. “It’s a global link to the PC systems of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh and Orre’s storage system. It enables trading between them, and we’ve been making strides to extend it further into Unova and Kalos as well.”
The pair turned toward the source of the voice to see that it was a man with brown hair and eyes. He extended a hand over to Lusamine. “I’m Bill. Let me be the first to welcome you both to our region.”
She shook his hand as was proper courtesy. “A pleasure to finally meet you in person. The Aether Foundation has contacted you because we’ve seen you’ve accomplished quite a lot for someone so young. It is our hope you’ll be able to assist me.”
“I believe I will be able to do so based on the data they sent me,” he said. “It’s actually fortunate timing that we could meet this soon. My colleague and I have almost finished linking Molayne’s system to the network here—with the necessary permissions, of course. Once connected, Alola will be linked to the network. That’ll make trade between the different regions easier, bringing the world together. As a researcher, I look forward to that much given how intriguing the local Pokémon there have evolved.”
“That may be true, but it’ll also bring its own set of problems for the native Pokémon there,” Lusamine said. “Regional variants have their own appeal, and while it may be okay for some to be relocated, that sort of thing inevitably invites smuggling. Considering that many Pokémon require special consideration if they are removed from their native environments, such as with an Alolan Executor, trainers who are unable or willing to provide the necessary requirements risk endangering their lives. There are more than a few of the Pokémon that ended up in the Foundation’s care because of those very circumstances and had to be cared for until they could be released back in their native regions.”
Lillie couldn’t help but give it some thought as well. Having been Professor Kukui’s assistant for some time now, she had an opportunity to read up on the subject. “And I suppose that means that introducing too many of them into the ecosystem can have a drastic effect as well. Like when Yungoos were introduced in an attempt to deal with the Rattata population and they competed with native species for resources.”
“Or the Corphish situation in Hoenn,” Bill agreed. “Measures are being taken now that there are new regulations in place to prevent that sort of thing. One among them ensures that should a trainer decide to release a Pokémon through their PC, it reads their identification and original capture location and then transfers them over to nearest Pokémon Caretaker available in the area where they were originally caught, to be released after they’ve been checked over to ensure they were being well taken care of.”
He then gave her a smile. “You must be Lillie. Should I assume you intend to take the Gym Challenge in Kanto?”
“After seeing Mother is taken care of, yes.” If she was right based on what she heard from Professor Kukui, it was like the battles against the Trial Captains back home, so it would be a way to assess how strong she had become as a trainer, much like a coming of age ceremony. “I’m mostly looking forward to seeing the Pokémon and locales of Kanto as a trainer.”
“I hope that you’ll be able to meet the challenge. They’ll likely be somewhat different from what you’re used to, but if you manage to collect all eight badges and defeat the Elite Four, you’ll become the new Champion.”
“Challenging the Elite Four is something I don’t think I’ll be ready to do for quite some time.” She didn’t exactly want fame or anything. All she wanted was to become stronger and have fun, like Elio and Hau did as they underwent their island challenges. Though, if she did become a Champion, would she be on equal terms with Nebby and Elio? “After all, I still haven’t gotten my first Pokémon yet.”
“You can do whatever you set your heart to with enough effort,” her mother said on her behalf. “Once we’ve finished talking, I’ll even help you come up with a training regiment similar to my own.”
“We can talk about the more sensitive topics in private and I’ll try to make it brief so that you can spend time with your daughter.” He gestured towards a sliding door to the side. “There’s a private room I’ve reserved through the corridor here.”
“Good.” Lusamine turned to her daughter. “I’ll be back shortly and then we’ll see about getting your first Pokémon this evening. That way we’ll have the next two days to deal with the training and searching for an adequate swimsuit.”
“You don’t have to rush it for me,” Lillie said. “Take your time.”
Lillie watched as they went through the door and then sighed when it closed. It was starting to feel like her mother was sliding into being a little overbearing again at the end. She seemed to mean well and Lillie did want to catch a Ponyta if she could, but at the same time she wanted to become her own person and couldn’t if her mother was instructing her every step of the way.
The question was how to address it while her mother was in a sensitive state?
She thought it over for a few minutes, ignoring the pair of fishermen that entered the door to the corridor after her mother and Bill. Maybe I should ask Professor Burnet for advice?
Then the power abruptly cut off, everything shutting off all at once.
“Everyone please stay calm,” Nurse Joy said as she her held a key in her hand. She stepped around the counter and was heading towards a locked door with Chansey by her side. “We’ll have the back-up power running in just a moment.”
Since Lillie could see clearly thanks to it still being the afternoon the blackout wasn’t particularly alarming to her, but it was the first time she’d seen the power go out at a Pokémon Center. She hoped that there were no Pokémon in the process of being treated. Looking around revealed that the others weren’t particularly frightened—a little agitated, but no one making a fuss.
“WAHHH!!” Then a cry of pain sounded out. It was a man’s voice, coming from the door Lusamine had gone through.
Unable to ignore it, Nurse Joy and her assistant Pokémon ran towards the door. “Is there someone hurt?”
“Ah!” Lillie jumped in fright at the abrupt crash, as did several others in the lounge area. What had answered was not a human voice, but the resounding sound of wrenching metal. Something hard impacted the metal door with enough force to dent it deeply, knocking Nurse Joy to the ground from being too close. She fell onto her back before turning on to her side and wincing as she laid a hand over where her lower ribs were.
Lillie moved over to her side with the Chansey and crouched down to help her up. “Are you okay, Miss Joy?”
“I don’t think anything’s broken,” Nurse Joy said to assure her and Chansey alike. It failed as Lillie felt there was a palpable change in the atmosphere of the room. Everyone was on edge, on the tipping point of snapping under the tension.
What finally set it off was when a second crash came from the door, leaving their imaginations to go to the worst possible conclusion. Immediately, the distinct flash of multiple Poké Balls being deployed filled the darkened room and grabbed the attention of everyone there as shapeless energy solidified into menacing shapes.
A massive purple serpent rose as high as it could, flaring it hood while releasing a hiss that sent a chill down the spines of the other visitors as it glared at them. A humanoid yellow creature, with a white ruff and a polished pendulum that hung from a simple string, scanned the room with shifty eyes. A ball of fur with arms and legs that were shackled roared, despite having no visible mouth to do so as it waved its boxing-glove like hands.
“Return those Pokémon at once,” Nurse Joy ordered sternly, rising to her feet with Chansey supporting her. She stepped forward in hopes of pacifying the situation. “There’s no need to escalate things. Just stay calm.”
Her words were falling on deaf ears. The trio of fishers weren’t panicked like the others inside of the Pokémon Center, and it showed on their faces as the single male pointed to Nurse Joy and Chansey. “Hypno, use Hypnosis!”
The Hypno immediately locked eyes with the two and swung its pendulum, using the medium to release waves of hypnotic power to ensnare them. Nurse Joy and Chansey’s eyes went dull and lifeless before slumping closed. The nurse fell backwards and would have hit the floor hard if Lillie hadn’t grabbed her to lower her gently, while the Egg Pokémon fell asleep on its feet instead. Finished with them, the Hypno then looked towards Lillie while raising its pendulum towards her. Their eyes locked and she realized it was going to try and do the same to her.
Lillie tried to look away, but was a moment too late as the hypnotic waves took hold. Her thoughts slowed. The world began to tilt and churn, like the gentle ocean at night. The dark waters drank in the light, making the world darken. Her mind felt like it was slowly fading beneath the dark curtain that rippled in the—
Lillie gasped for air like she had just been on verge of drowning when the thunderous crash ripped apart the darkness, her awareness snapping back to her surroundings. The Hypno had been flung into the wall hard enough that the metal was dented. An inhuman whispering echoed in her ears as she felt a chill running along her skin that was draped in violet fog, clinging to her like a cloak. She turned her head upwards to see her mother’s Mismagius hovering over her, dark streamers of power dissipating from where it had formed and fired a Shadow Ball.
Lusamine strode out of the corridor until she was in front of Lillie and the slumbering Nurse Joy and Chansey. Any attempt to attack her was hindered by the presence of the Lilligant by her leg and the Bewear following behind, carrying two fishers in its arms that were unmoving but moaning in pain. All eyes immediately turned their attention towards them.
“Are you okay?” her mother asked, her cold gaze never leaving the fisherman and women in front of her who had ordered the attack on them. “Lillie, are you hurt?”
Lillie gathered herself and responded. “N-No, I’m fine. I’m not hurt.”
Lusamine let a soft sigh slip out of her mouth. “Then stay with Bill and his Pokémon. I’ll deal with these hoodlums shortly.”
“What’s going on?” Lillie asked before a cerulean light shrouded her. Gravity ceased to bind her as she found herself floating in the air along with the slumbering Nurse Joy and Chansey. They were being carried by an Espeon that stood just past the entrance of the door, eyes illuminated and the ruby on its head shining.
“Get them, Arbok!” One of the fisherwomen ordered the Cobra Pokémon. It lunged for her with all the quickness its serpentine body afforded, intending constrict them—
—and was immediately beset by Mystical Fire as the Mystical Pokémon lived up to its name, before being smacked away as the Strong Arm Pokémon brought its Hammer Arm around with enough strength that it was sent flying into the global network machine, shattering the screen before it collapsed onto the ground.
Espeon finished pulling them through the corridor door and let them down. It then blocked the entrance with a wall of light that seemed almost like a pane of glass, sealing them off.
“I hope she can keep the damage contained until the authorities arrive,” Bill said as he crouched down to check on Nurse Joy, while his Umbreon did the same on Chansey.
“Mister Bill, what’s going on?” Lillie asked again.
Bill gestured to the two men now on the floor, where they’d been dropped like garbage by Bewear to free its arms. “Two of those fishermen intruded on our discussion and tried to kidnap me using their Pokémon. Your mother intervened and paralyzed them with her Lilligant. Then they mentioned they had others outside prepared to take hostages and she decided to fix that, despite the fact that I had informed the authorities of the situation with a Pokégear.”
Lillie looked at what remained of the door. It had been knocked from the frame and torn apart. Of all her Pokémon, her Bewear was the only one strong enough to do so through sheer brute strength. It wasn’t called the Strong Arm Pokémon and feared on the islands for no reason.
“Listen up,” Lusamine said as she held two more Poké Balls. “I don’t know or care who you are. All I know is that the gentleman you’re after has business with me, and your presence is sullying my daughter’s experience with this region.”
The lids popped open, releasing two masses of shapeless energy that solidified into Clefable and Milotic. The former stood at the front, flexing the protrusions on its back. The latter floated in the air around her mother, eyeing them with its red eyes.
“My Pokémon and I will have you answer for this.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Found you,” the dark-haired man said as he looked through the remote viewing mode of his visor. The image in the lenses was passed through the observation drone that peeked over the rim of the volcano. It was a recent creation of their organization, as small as a Poké Ball while being capable of hovering silently and visual camouflage using stealth technology, allowing them to observe Pokémon without being seen.
There, bathing in the lava, was the Flame Pokémon—Moltres. There had been rumors of it floating around between the Orange Archipelago and here, but they hadn’t had anything concrete until now. It would fetch a fine price if they managed to catch it. The only problem was that the temperatures it could reach and that of the lava made approaching it difficult and they would have trouble keeping it in one place.
For now he’d settle for tracking its movements until they could find an appropriate place to ambush it far enough from any source of flames it could use to recover and then capture it.
“Hm?” The vibrations coming off of his Pokégear drew his attention. After checking the name of the caller, he flipped it open to answer. “Have you secured the target?”
What met him was a cacophony on the other end, with the voice being drowned out. “We’ve run into a complication, Sir!”
“What do you mean you ran into a complication?”
“It’s a Trainer. She’s blonde and carries a—” Static followed before the line abruptly went dead.
He frowned as he looked down at the Pokégear and then closed it down. “Never send a bunch of grunts to kidnap a researcher.”
Finishing setting the data into the observation drone to track the Moltres, he made his way down towards the water and rode his Gyarados back towards the beach where he dismounted someplace where he could observe the situation from relative safety. There he found that the Pokémon Network Center crawling with officers, his grunts being carted off in cuffs while the local Jenny was having what looked to be a heated conversation with a blonde woman with long-hair, who stood with her hand on her hips.
She must be the trainer they mentioned. He reached for a second observation drone and deployed it to observe the conversation through the built-in microphones and camera rather than risk getting caught.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched from side as the green-haired policewoman who introduced herself as Officer Midori Jenny took a statement from her mother regarding the incident. It had been resolved within a matter of seconds really. Her mother’s Pokémon were awfully strong and Lilligant managed to use Stun Spore to paralyze them, but she was still being scolded by the policewoman.
“You handled that situation poorly,” Officer Jenny said after listening to everything Lusamine had to say. “Punching through the door with your Pokémon harmed Momoko Joy. That was brash.”
“I’m fine, Midori,” Nurse Joy said as she exited the center.
“Regardless, she should have waited for the police to arrive and resolve things peacefully.”
Rather than look rebuked, Lusamine stared back at her evenly. “I handled the situation as best I could given that those hoodlums managed to get into the building and were threatening to take hostages. Eliminating them quickly was the best course of action. That Miss Joy was hurt I do apologize for, but it could have been much worse.”
That caused the Jenny’s lips to curl back in annoyance. She opened her mouth to say something when one of the male officers ran up to her and whispered something into her ear while showing her something in his hand. From Lillie’s perspective all she could see was that it was a deep shade of blue, but whatever it was caused Officer Jenny to whisper something back into his ear and make him run off.
She then turned her head towards Lusamine and said, “I’m going to strongly suggest that you leave the Sevii Island as soon as possible for your own sake.” And then went off to towards where Bill was.
Lusamine watched her leave with a sour glance before turning and walking towards Lillie. She had barely made it within a few feet before her legs stalled and she rubbed her eyes.
Lillie frowned. “Miss Wicke said not to do anything strenuous or that elevated your blood-pressure because it made your symptoms return quicker. But you pushed yourself, didn’t you? “
“I’ll be fine,” Lusamine insisted as she stood straight once more. “It wouldn’t be an issue at all if that officer had done her job.”
“She couldn’t have known that would have happened,” Lillie said. “And using Bewear to get through the door was risky too. Miss Joy was hurt and you made your condition worse.”
Her mother’s lips pursed before she sighed and brought her palm over her eyes. “If something happened to you because I was slower, it wouldn’t matter if I was better or not. I wouldn’t forgive myself for that after how I’ve been these last few years. No mother would.”
“But I don’t want you to get worse for my sake,” Lillie said, softer this as she brought her hands around her mother’s waist and hugged her. “That’s why I’m doing this, to get stronger as a trainer so that I can help others instead of needing to be sheltered. So please, take care of yourself first.”
Lusamine went still for a moment as she was caught by surprise, but she quickly returned the hug. They stayed like that until Bill approached them. His conversation with Officer Jenny was over it seemed.
“Well, this has been an eventful day,” he said. “Some of the equipment was damaged during the battle, so until it gets repaired there’s nothing more I can do here. It’d be best if we headed back to Kanto and then from there we can make arrangements to head back to Cerulean City and my cottage on the cape.”
“My apologies for that,” Lusamine said sincerely. “I should have been more careful.”
“No, it’s fine.” He looked towards where the fishers were being loaded into a car. “If you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be free to make modifications to it along with Celio later on. I never imagined they would be after me of all people.”
Lusamine looked towards them as well. “Did you learn why they were after you?”
He frowned. “Yes. I believe I have. That’s part of the reason why I feel we should leave quickly as well.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” Lusamine set a hand on Lillie’s shoulders. “Though it is a shame that we won’t be able to catch a Ponyta or visit the Hot Springs.”
Bill looked apologetically towards them upon hearing that. “I’m afraid you wouldn’t have had much luck there with the Ponyta. During this season they’d be protective of their young, helping them learn how to run. They usually avoid or scare off trainers to avoid being split apart.”
“Then maybe it’s for the best. I don’t want to split a family apart…” Lillie trailed off as a shadow passed overhead and a familiar Pokémon’s cry reached her ears. It drew her eyes upwards, where she found a Delibird flying above. “A Delibird?”
Said Delibird lowered himself until its yellow feet touched the ground and waved to her. “De de!”
She recognized the way that it addressed her. “Frosty?”
The Delibird nodded.
Lusamine cast a contemplative glance at the Delivery Pokémon as her daughter ran over to it. “Why is a Delibird this far from Alola?”
“He’s Professor Burnet’s,” Lillie explained as she crouched down to stroke his head between the pointed white crests above his eyes. “She adopted one that Professor Kukui found. He must’ve been following me here for some reason.”
“Brrrr….” Frosty reached into his hollow tail and pulled out a present box. Lillie looked over the box to see that it had both Professor Burnet and Kukui’s names on it, addressed to her. The Delivery Pokémon set it on the ground and tapped on the lid.
Immediately, something red popped out and floated in the air in front of them. It moved both of its arms in a circle motion in greeting. Alola, User Lillie, zzt!
“You’re a Rotom Dex,” Lillie said as it hovered in front of her, blinking blue eyes and a smile on the screen. “Did Professor Kukui ask you to help me?”
Bingo. Its screen transitioned to a digital picture of Professor Kukui and Burnet. I look forward to completing my Kanto database with you.
“Fascinating,” Bill said with a hand on his chin as his eyes regarded it with fascination.
“Kew!” Delibird called out, grabbing their attention again as it pointed to the present box and what was inside.
There was Premier Ball. Lillie grabbed it and pressed the button to see what was inside of the Poké Ball meant to commemorate a special event. The lid popped open and eager light burst from within, arching up towards the sky before coming back down on the ground in front of her abruptly.
It took on a small shape, sitting on hind legs while its forelegs held its head and snout up. With fur as white as fresh snow and paws as blue as ice, three matching tails waggled as a pair of crystal-blue eyes took in their surroundings. “Pix?”
“It’s an Alolan Vulpix,” Lillie said as it stared up at her in the most adorable manner possible, a slight tilt of its head until the Rotom Dex floated down and snapped a photo. The flash caused the young Pokémon to flee in surprise until it ended up circling Frosty and trying to take refuge behind it. “Rotom, you have to tell other before you take a photo. It’s rude otherwise.”
Noted, zzt. Rotom Dex displayed a screen with the Pokémon on it. Vulpix, the Fox Pokémon: Alolan Regional Variant. Its beautiful fur and tails have made it very popular. As it grows, its tails split to form more tails and from its mouth spew flames that seem to resemble the spirits of the deceased. Some people mistakenly think this fire is a ghost.
“I remember Professor Kukui studying them once before, but why was it in the box?” Lillie asked the Delivery Pokémon as it caressed the Fox Pokémon’s wisp-like hair. Frosty reached into his tail and pulled out a letter for her to take. She did so and opened it up.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see you off on your journey. I wanted to. I really did. But I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying if I was there. That would have ruined the moment for you and the others seeing you off there.
You appeared into my life so abruptly with Nebby and, even though we’ve only known each other for a short few months, it felt like you were a daughter to me. Then it seemed that just as quickly as you arrived, you were leaving. I didn’t think I would have been able to hold myself together at how much you’ve grown in that short time.
However, I didn’t just sit around crying at your departure. Instead, I was trying to arrange for you to have a ‘going-away’ present. Every Pokémon Trainer needs a starter. So I went looking for a Pokémon that I felt was as beautiful as your were. She’s a little young, but I’m sure she’ll grow to be strong along with you during your journey.
With all my love,
Lillie was on the verge of tears as she finished the letter. Professor Burnet had gone out of her way to try and find such a beautiful Pokémon for her. She fell to her knees and closed her eyes to try and stem the tears, but they crept past her eyelids and began to fall to earth.
“You shouldn’t cry on your knees like that,” Lusamine said. Her emerald eyes were soft as she looked down at her daughter and the Fox Pokémon that looked on curiously from behind the Delibird. “It’s not befitting of a lady. Besides, it’s sending the wrong message to your new friend, isn’t it?”
“I’m sorry, Mother,” Lillie said as she wiped the tears away. Taking a deep breath she rose from her knees and approached Frosty and the young Pokémon. A foot away, she crouched down and greeted it. “I’m sorry to you too, Vulpix. I was just happy to hear from Professor Burnet. I’m Lillie, and I’ll be your trainer starting today.”
The Alolan Vulpix looked on for a moment before stepping out from behind the Delivery Pokémon cautiously. She flinched back when Lillie extended her hands out low to the ground, but after a moment the Fox Pokémon moved closer and gave her hand a lick.
“I guess that means you accept.” Lillie began to stroke the locks of hair on her head tenderly. “What should I call you then?”
“Pix! Vulpix! Vul!”
She’s saying to pick something cute, the Rotom helpfully translated.
“Well, let’s see… they used to have a different name for Vulpix on Alola in the past, didn’t they?” Lillie mused aloud as she stared her new partner in her eyes. “Keokeo, if I remember right. So… how about I call you Koko from now on?”
The Fox Pokémon yipped.
“Okay then. Koko it is!” Lillie lifted her newly named triple-tailed partner into her arms and cradled her close. The air around her was notable chilly. “Let’s get along, okay?”
The Rotom Dex then chose to float close. Shall I take a photo to celebrate the moment for the Profezzzor? I can send digital data to his computer in a Flash, zzt.
“That okay with you, Koko?” Lillie asked. Considering Koko started brushing her cheek, it was safe to say that the Fox Pokémon agreed wholeheartedly as Lillie cuddled her close and giggled. She then rose to her feet and moved next to her mother and Bill. “You two as well.”
And so the moment when Lillie’s grand Pokémon journey, after a bumpy start, was immortalized in a photo…