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.