Chapter 15: More Bark Than Bite
A soft inhalation gave way to a broad sweeping gust that stirred the wind, laced with sparkling grains of ice that left the surface of one side of the pond covered in a thin veil of rime. Bringing his exhale to an end with a huff and then sitting on the bridge that split the water in two, Glacian turned to the Alolan Vulpix sitting next to him and extended a sweeping paw towards the frozen surface. “Gla?”
Koko reached down at the prompt with one paw, teetering on the edge of the bridge. She poked at the layer of ice and then bobbed her head before turning around to the other side of the pond, where the ice hadn’t spread. The Alolan Vulpix inhaled deeply until her little chest was puffed out and then let out as strong of an exhale as she could.
Unlike the Bill’s Glaceon, Koko’s attempt remained confined to a relatively narrowed stream of chilled air, glimmering particles of ice threading it as it went straight down the middle of the pond. The layer of ice that it was forming, paper-thin and transparent, ended up sinking beneath the surface as her breath petered out and left her crystalline eyes to fall.
“It was a good try, Koko,” Lillie assured her Starter, crouching down next to her as the Glaceon gave her a small pat on the back. Unaware of the events happening in Alola at present, she instead focused on training with Koko and Shuckle to help them learn their new moves for the impending Doubles match. In Koko’s case, she was attempting to learn how to use Icy Wind.
Rotom, who was currently floating around Shuckle as he tried to get the hang of Protect, explained that the technique was a natural expansion of Koko’s Powder Snow technique. Rather than breathing out a steady stream of cold air, she would be able to exhale it out over a wider area while maintaining the same level of power. Because it wasn’t as concentrated in a narrowed area, the technique would never really be able to freeze an actively moving Pokémon like Powder Snow could, but the accumulating cold slowed them down and made them more lethargic.
Koko would learn how to do it naturally as she continued to battle, since Pokémon grew stronger due how fast their bodies adapted to match the amount of trials and experience they went through until they reached a limit. That was what AJ meant by training his Pokémon through exposing them to their weakness. But Professor Kukui had once told her that Pokémon had the potential to use a lot of different techniques to surpass those limitations if they met the requirements and pushed themselves hard enough—whether through Technical Machines or guidance in the form of training with Move Tutors.
Even so, while it was possible to teach her how to use Icy Wind prematurely by using Glacian as a Move Tutor, Glaceon as a species were naturally capable of using Icy Wind from the moment they evolved. While he could try to show Koko firsthand, there were still gaps to fill in. The best they could hope for was, with enough practice, her body would adapt to using it since it was a natural extension of her present abilities.
The problem was the fact that, among her many lovely traits, Koko was naturally energetic and eager—hasty, in other words. She didn’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time and she wanted to grasp it quickly. So, with every failure, she became more disheartened and upset, which was something Lillie hated to see.
Lillie gently brushed Koko’s head to try and alleviate some of that sadness. “I’m sure you’ll get it soon if you keep practicing.”
It was then an audible shattering sound caught their ears and drew their attention further away. At the base of the slope leading to the Berry Trees, Shuckle sat with a slight frown as he shook his head while Lusamine’s Clefable stood next to him with a hand extended, the protective shield woven from Protect covering her frontside. Surrounding them were Razor Leaf that Viri had launched, slowly breaking apart on the ground.
The time length sustained was 1.4 seconds under fire from the Razor Leaf, zzrt! Rotom stated as Clefable dropped the Protect, pointing his appendage to his screen where an hourglass was shifting digital sand from top to bottom inside of a progress ring. Prepare for the next attempt in thirty seconds, zzt.
Clefable nodded before she turned to Shuckle and made a circular motion while speaking. “Clefa. Clefable. Fable?”
Shuckle bobbed his head before bracing himself in front of Viri. His beady eyes narrowed, and his mouth pursed in concentration as he moved his head in a small circle while he gathered the energy needed for Protect. It crystalized slowly, forming a half-dome over the front of his body with ragged, uneven edges.
Clefable then held out her hand and the glass-like shield formed in front of her as the last grains of sand in Rotom’s display hit the bottom and a ‘ding’ sounded, signaling the Leafeon to unleash another barrage of Razor Leaf by whipping her tail around. The leaves smashed against the pair of protective shields, the difference in their strength being evident in how Shuckle’s began cracking like glasswork under pressure, leaving him to turtle within his shell to avoid any real damage when it broke, while Clefable’s remained unblemished until the attack ceased once more.
The time length zzzzustained this time was 2.7 seconds! Rotom commented. The next attempt will be in thirty seco—
Shuckle popped his head out of his shell to shake it. “Kle. Shuckle.”
Oh, you’ve run out of energy to do so? Shuckle bobbed his head. Too bad, zzt. You’ve made excellent progress since this morning by my records!
Lillie watched as Clefable gave the Mold Pokémon a warmhearted pat on the head with a slight smile. She presumed that because Shuckle as a species were naturally defensive he could make strides on learning the technique. Then she heard Koko’s whimpering and turned back to see the Alolan Vulpix looking downcast in comparison at her own lack of progress, due to her lack of strength more than her nature.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Lillie suggested. “You must be tired too after trying so hard.”
Glacian watched for a moment as Koko began to trod off the bridge towards the house, a disappointing frown on her face. Then he put on a mischievous smile and then darted after her, cutting her off. “Gla-gla!”
Koko tilted her head. “Vul?”
“Ceon!” He pointed over to towards the woodlands and then made a jumping motion. “Glaceon!”
Koko perked up at that and then turned to Lillie. “Pix?”
“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Lillie said before turning to Rotom, who was floating over from where Shuckle and Clefable were. “Rotom, can you translate?”
Rotom did so. She wants to go to a flower field within the forest that Glacian knows about, zzt.
It must be to cheer her up, Lillie figured before giving Koko a bright smile and nod. “Sure. We’ll go for a walk.”
She then turned to her mother’s Clefable and Shuckle. “Clefable, Shuckle, will you come with us for a walk?”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded to the offer, whereas Shuckle shook his head and then withdrew into his shell to take a nap.
So, the four of them went off to find the field, led by the Fresh Snow Pokémon. Glacian darted through the forest with a practiced stride, quickly getting ahead of Koko and then turning around to sit in place, baiting her to catch up with him. Koko tried her best, racing towards him only to lunge when he was within range. She would then end up missing as the Glaceon dodged at the last moment and then continued running ahead.
Lillie, Rotom, and Clefable followed, with the young trainer observing how the frustration that Koko had been suffering from seemed to melt away as she gave chase after the Fresh Snow Pokémon. She made another lunge when they neared a tree that had a Pineco above, observing them playing rather passively as she missed and landed by a bush.
“Koko looks like she’s having fun now,” Lillie said. “I’m glad.”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded in response. “Cleffa. Clef, Clefable.”
He makes a good playmate for her, zzzt. Rotom translated until the shuffling of the nearby bush drew Koko’s attention, leaving her to freeze in place.
“Vul?” Her nose twitched, and she tilted her head as she took slow steps towards the bush even as Glacian looked on in confusion. Then a pink figure burst out of the bush with a bark, leaving her to jump back with her hackles raised in defense.
It was a Snubbull. The second Fairy Pokémon eyed them warily for a moment before sneezing hard enough that it fell backwards and onto its rear, leaving it to try to brush its nose with its forepaws. “Snnnn…”
“That’s strange. Snubbull aren’t native to the north of Cerulean…” It clicked as she noticed all of the scratches that spoke of battle on it, contradictory to their usually passive nature. “Oh, are you the Snubbull from Miss Melanie’s place?”
He didn’t answer her, instead pressing his nose to the ground and rubbing it against the grass and dirt to the confusion of Koko and the others. Lillie recalled that Snubbull as a whole had quite keen noses, so chances were that something was bothering his sense of smell. She made to go over to him when she noticed the Pineco above now looking somewhat wary of having a trainer and so many non-native species around it, and then decided otherwise. “Snubbull, come here and I’ll look at your nose. There’s something in it bothering you, isn’t there?”
“Snubb…” He lightly grumbled as he waddled over and away from the Pineco hanging overhead.
Lillie gently patted his head as she crouched down and took a look at his black, short nose. She noticed there was some kind of glimmering orange powder, a small amount but still present. Given the local Pokémon, she could hazard a guess. “Did you breathe in some Stun Spore earlier?”
“Bull,” he answered with a nod.
“A Cheri Berry would help you clear it out due to the spiciness, but I don’t have one on me. But I do have my Refresh Kit.” She pulled him onto her lap and reached for her waist pack that was the travel-standard Pokémon Refresh Kit, which she had in case her Pokémon got messy or wet during training, pulling out the medicinal sprayer and towel. She also pulled out a bottle of Fresh Water she’d placed inside of it as well. “This is going to be a little unpleasant, but you’ll feel better when I’m done.”
“Snn?” The warning was followed by a light spritz of the medicine that got into his nose, causing him to flail around. “Snubbull!!”
“Just let me flush it out and then your nose will be good as new.” Lillie stroked his head to soothe him until he settled down, only to then lightly pour a cap full of water into his nostrils. He ended up sneezing a lot more onto the ground next to her until she rubbed the towel over his nose gently. “How does that feel?”
Snubbull rubbed his face with his forepaws, cutely shifting the excess skin around before he sniffed the air and barked. He then wriggled in her grasp to get free, immediately sniffing the ground and barely paying Lillie any mind when she let go. The moment he caught whatever scent it was that he was looking for, he took off to go chasing after it. “Snubb!!”
“And there he goes,” Lillie said with a sigh as she put the kit away and cleaned up. “Miss Melanie mentioned that he picked fights with others, but I hope he won’t get into anything serious before he gets healed up—”
Her words were cut short as a small explosion went off overhead and she noticed two figures drop down. The Pineco proceeded to bounce away on the ground, its body singed as it left charred pieces of bark it had glued to itself behind. The Living Pokédex, on the other hand, was lying face down and smoldering with thin wisps of acrid smoke.
“Rotom, did you take its picture up-close without permission?” Lillie asked as Glacian prodded the casing until the red appendage made to brush him away.
I just wanted to add its data, zzztt… Fortunately, Rotom’s Pokédex was made to be rather tough. It managed to fly back up under its own power and took shelter within her hood once more.
At least Rotom will learn to keep its distance now, Lillie thought to herself before turning back in the direction that Snubbull ran off towards for a moment. Try not to get into trouble either, Snubbull.
Then she proceeded to follow after the two Ice-types once more.
A good walk later, Glacian finally led them past a break in the trees around the north of the forest. It placed them in a meadow that had thick trees to the east and south. Combined with the mountainside to the north, it formed an isolated the field where flowers stretched out a good distance to the west beneath the azure sky above.
“Oh wow.” Lillie was amazed as she took in the sight of everything. Because of the flowers and their aroma the meadow naturally attracted a variety of Pokémon, not unlike the meadows on Melemele Island. She could see fully-evolved Butterfree circling low to the ground to feed off the nectar of the flowers, one even passing by an Abra that laid slumbering amidst them. There was even a Slakoth that was perched in the tree next to them and slowly munching on a leaf.
It took Koko pressing against her leg to snap her out of the sight. “Vull?”
“Sure, you can go play for about an hour. Just don’t bother any Wild Pokémon since we didn’t come to battle,” Lillie told Koko as she felt Rotom stir in her hood. She grabbed it before it could fly off, leaving the Alolan Vulpix to run into the flowers with Glacian. “The same goes for you, Rotom. Keep your distance this time.”
She released it with the promise and it flew off to collect data, starting with the Slakoth that didn’t pay it mind while continuing to nibble on the leaf in its mouth with the speed of a glacier, when her Pokégear rang. Lillie expected it to be her mother, calling to check up on her. But, to her surprise, the ID registered the call coming from Astra.
When she answered the call, the screen popped up to show Astra on it, “Hi Astra. How have you been?”
“Jet and Blysen and me challenged Miss Karen’s Gym!” she answered with an excited smile.
“Already?” Lillie watched as Clefable bounced over into the flower field and towards a Butterfree. Unlike Rotom or Koko, she wasn’t the type to cause problems, so Lillie was sure she’d be fine. “Did you win?”
“Nope!” Astra said with a far more cheerful tone than one would expect. “It turns out Dark-types are immune to Jet’s Torment because of his Ability and Blysen got really scared, so I’m going to catch some new friends before I try again. What about you?”
“I’m taking a break from training with Koko.” Said Alolan Vulpix was playing tag with Glacian again, the two rolling around over one another in the bed of flowers. “She and Shuckle have been working on learning some new techniques, so we can beat the Nugget Bridge challenge.”
“That sounds fun—oh, that reminds me! Auntie Ann sent me a video of the Alola Championship match since she’s gone there for business, and near the end the guy with the open shirt called out this really pretty Ninetails. Will Koko evolve into that too?”
“Yes. Once she’s grown out all of her tails, I’ll let her evolve if she wants to.” It would be something that she couldn’t take back afterwards, so it was ultimately Koko’s decision. But it was better if Koko had the chance to finish growing as a Vulpix first, rather than prematurely evolving for the sake of power.
“Hey, don’t eat that, Jet! That’s Grandpa’s Ghost Gem!” Astra abruptly said over the line, suddenly shaking the phone as she reached off-screen for something. It was followed by some disgruntled Sableye noises when she pulled back and had a jewel in her hand. “Geez, I’ll pick you up a snack in along the way, so just wait a little bit.”
Lillie couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “Are you heading out now?”
“Yeah. We’re going to head down Route 10 now. Wish us luck.”
She did. “Good luck. I hope you make a new friend.”
“And I hope you can beat your challenge soon, cause when we meet again we’ll have our first badge. Bye, bye!” Click.
“Sounds like she’s been keeping busy too,” Lillie said as the line went dead and the screen went black, leaving her to close her Pokégear as her mother’s Clefable returned with a crown of flowers.
The Fairy Pokémon set the ring around her head and smiled. “Faaable.”
“Thank you.” Lillie reached up to feel the crown, brushing her fingers against the stamens to see if she would have to wash her hair later to get rid of the pollen. There was none to be found. “Oh, did you have the Butterfree clean them first?”
Clefable nodded before making a compressed motion with her hands and then pointing to herself.
“You have an egg…no, I think Mother would have mentioned that.” Lillie took a moment to try and grasp the meaning since Rotom was still elsewhere. She had known her since she was a Cleffa, so she could vaguely understand the gestures…oh, right. “When you were a Cleffa, I made one for you, didn’t I?”
The Fairy Pokémon clapped her hands at that. It was indeed the correct answer. “Clefable!”
“That’s back when we were both little, just before we found Nebby.” She brought her hands together horizontally until she had what she felt was about the right height. “You were so tiny that you’d fit right between my hands. Now you’re as big as I am.”
Clefable rubbed the back of her head with a small smile, as if proud and embarrassed at the same time. “Clef, clef.”
“How did Mother find you again?” Lille placed a finger in her chin as she looked to the sky and thought. “She said that she found you on the mountain one night, didn’t she?”
The Fairy Pokémon brought her finger tips together and then broke them apart to make a half-circle before reconnecting them. Then she pointed to the sky and then made downwards motion to the ground.
“Right, she said you fell down from the moon and into her arms.” It sounded a bit silly now that she was older, but there was a lot of things that they didn’t know about her species at that point. Like being able to store moonlight to float, or their attraction to star-shaped things. Most likely she clung to a Minior and ended up falling as it flew up. “You haven’t seen too many others like yourself aside from Mister Bill’s Clefairy, have you?”
She shook her head. “Faa.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, Mt. Moon has a Clefairy colony somewhere inside of it,” Lillie said. “Of course, we’d still have to find them. But I think it’d be lovely if you got to meet them at some point. Don’t you?”
Clefable seemed delighted at the prospect, which made Lillie glad. She had been working so hard in looking after Lusamine in her time of need, so anything that would brighten her up was worth doing. But there was the question of if her Mother could even make the trip before whatever Mister Bill did to help her was done.
When she’d talked to him after getting back to his home yesterday, he mentioned he’d need some kind of device from Saffron City. He tried to explain how it would help him get a better read on her body, but the explanation went a bit over her head. She knew a lot of things about Pokémon, but hard science was still something of a mystery to her.
Lillie then stretched her arms out and turned back to watch Koko playing around and Rotom flying about. She’d let them enjoy themselves until the hour was up before heading back.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Separated from the rest of its horde, a Bellsprout had found a spot that seemed appropriate and buried its roots into the ground to drink the moisture while waiting for a Combee to pass by. It didn’t know Sweet Scent to lure one in, but the scent it naturally gave off was still capable of allowing it to pass as a flower if it stood still. And, if one didn’t come by, the sun was out so photosynthesis could fuel it for the day if it didn’t move so much.
Then it heard the shaking of leaves. The rustle of the green as something went through the bushes. Too loud to be one Tiny Bee Pokémon, but not one of the other pollinators. It remained motionless with one beady eye fixed on the shaking bush to see what it was that would emerge.
“Snubbull!” barked the Fairy Pokémon as he popped out. Aggressive and hostile. He growled on all fours, excess skin quivering as he stalked forward.
The Bellsprout waved its leaves to express non-hostility as it began to pull its roots up. It didn’t want trouble. But the Snubbull lunged forward and the Flower Pokémon panicked and attacked. “Be-Bellell!”
The sinuous vines that sprouted from tiny buds between its leaves and leathery stalk of a body lashed out, only to miss as Snubbull jumped to the side. The vines cracked down where he had been and were then caught as he darted back in to snap down on the vines with his teeth.
“Sprout!!” cried the Flower Pokémon as the pain transmitted and it tried to retract the vines back to end the pain. They took time to heal and even longer to regrow if cut, which was a problem since they were the primary way it gathered food among other things. Snubbull waited until they were taut, making it a tug of war between them until he suddenly darted forward with the vines in his mouth and then went past the Bellsprout, dragging it along the ground as he ran in circles. “Sprout! Sprout!”
“Snnn—” Snubbull kept running despite its pleas until he neared a tree, whereupon he spun around hard and fast, allowing the momentum to slam the Bellsprout into the hardy bark. He then spat out the vines before lunging forward and Tackling its supple body while it was pinned against the tree. “—bull!”
“Spr…out…” Its body buckled under the hit, leaving it to collapse on the ground and twitch in pain as Snubbull hopped back for some distance. Rising up slightly, until the curves of its split stalk touched the ground and its leaves were supporting its weight, it shot out an Acid Spray from its bell in an act of desperation.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped back to escape from the small ball of sludge before it could touch him. His nose then scrunched up as the acid began to froth where it hit the ground, the scent of it breaking down the grass rankling him. He cursed his excellent sense of smell and then he looked up to see that the Bellsprout had started running away and gave chase. “Snubbull!!”
“Bellsprout! Bellsprout!” The panicked cries of the Flower Pokémon could be heard as its fibrous feet darted across the woodlands, leaves shaking in terror as it fled from the terror that stalked it as it tried to get back to its horde. Surely they would protect it.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The beeping of Lillie’s Pokégear’s Alarm App signaled the passing of an hour. It was time for them to head back to Mister Bill’s house for Lunch. Lillie rose to her seat on the grass next to Clefable and stretched out before brushing away any stray blades of grass.
“Koko, Rotom, Glacian! It’s time to head back!” The Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon both came running at her beckoning. Lillie crouched down and brushed Koko’s head affectionately as Rotom slipped back into her hood. “Did you have fun?”
“Good then let’s head back so we can all have Lunch.”
“Glae! Glae!” Glacian hopped forward and turned once, his tail flicking before he started running ahead of them. Koko yipped and then gave chase, wanting to continue their game until they got back.
Lillie and Clefable followed them on their way back until both Koko and Glacian abruptly stopped at a turn that would have taken them back towards Bill’s home, instead turning their heads off to the side in a southwest direction. “What’s wrong?”
“Vul…vul…” Koko took a few cautious steps with her head raised before pointing in that direction. “Vulpix! Vulpix!”
Koko said she heard Snubbull’s cry in that direction, zzt. Rotom translated.
“His cry?” Lillie tried to listen for him, but it was no good. Her sense of hearing wasn’t nearly as good as Koko’s or Glacian’s. In the end, she was only human. “Is he in trouble again?”
Glacian sniffed the ground as he walked further ahead and then gestured for Rotom to look at it. The Living Pokédex hovered over a spot. Tracks identified, zzt. These tracks indicate many Bellsprouts have traveled recently in this direction, zzrt.
“Hmm…” Lillie brought a hand up to her chin in thought. “You don’t think he would have picked a fight with an entire group of Bellsprouts, do you?”
Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive and he had Stun Spore in his nose before. That was a technique stronger Bellsprouts learned, along with a few other Pokémon. But, short of Butterfree, most of those Pokémon were nocturnal.
“Now I’m getting worried about him,” Lillie admitted. It was probably nothing, but if he got himself into trouble because she had helped him clear his nose then that would be her fault. “Let’s see if we can find him to make sure he isn’t getting in over his head.”
She followed Koko and Glacian as they guided her, feeling some anxiety at the situation. That feeling only doubled when she got close enough to see a Bellsprout pushing its way out of a bush that was nestled between two thick trees, tripping over its own feet and then using its leafy appendages to cover its head in fear. Lillie came to a stop at the bush and crouched down to check on it. “Are you okay?”
“Sp-Sprout. Sprout.” It said, leaving Rotom to translate it as apologizing for bringing it there.
“Snubbull!!” they heard past the trees and bushes. It was followed by the sound of fire popping and a pained cry from another Bellsprout that got swallowed up by an explosion, leaving the scent of smoke to reach their noses.
Lillie stood again and pushed her way through the bush, leading into what amounted to a small clearing with several Bellsprouts. Some of them were already unconscious on the ground, some that had burns on them. There were still seven left standing though.
Snubbull snarled before making a terrifying face that seemed almost like something out of a nightmare, darkness seemingly warping it and his eyes folded like he was rabid. Fear struck the instinctive part of several of the Bellsprouts, leaving them frozen in place. Then he darted towards one that was apart from the group, bearing his fangs with the intention of attacking them.
The targeted Flower Pokémon swallowed its fear to let out an Acid Spray, coughing out a ball of corrosive sludge. But he dodged it with a hop to the side and then hit it with a Tackle, the momentum bowling the lithe Pokémon down and leaving it open for the fangs that had a dark tint that followed as he then used Bite to clamp down onto it.
“Sppprroouutttttt!” The pained cry that slipped out was stretched and grew tighter as he then spun it around and tossed the poor thing into the semi-frozen group. Six left.
The Fairy Pokémon then charged for another one that tried to use a Vine Whip, only for fire to sudden flare from Snubbull’s mouth and then wreathed it. The Fire Fang burned the vines, causing the sinuous appendages to retreat and the Flower Pokémon to try fleeing instead. Turning its back on Snubbull left it open as he lunged and then clamped down, causing the separate flames that wreathed the top and bottom of his mouth to smash together and then rupture in an explosion of smoke and embers.
This is horrible, Lillie thought to herself as she watched Fairy Pokémon toss the beaten and burned Flower Pokémon that dangled from his mouth away and then fell on all fours to bark at the remaining five. No matter how she looked at it, Snubbull was the aggressor here. Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive, and that he’d pick fight with trainers before running away, but I didn’t think he was this aggressive to wild Pokémon. Not with how playful he had been yesterday.
“Bell! Bell!” the Flower Pokémon in the center shouted, pointing his leaves in the opposite directions. The others began to spread out, their dark eyes never leaving Snubbull even as they split apart and forced him to look between them. Then one on the right stepped forward and released a Vine Whip, sending it right for Snubbull.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped out of the way of that one, only to get caught in the back by one that lashed out and wrapped around his waist, pulling him back even as he braced himself. He then turned around and lunged in that direction as flames shrouded his mouth for a Fire Fang again. That’s when the one he’d been targeting before released its vines to wrap around his torso, pulling him in the opposite direction to hold him still in the air and unable to bite down.
“Sprout!” ordered the leader Bellsprout, pointing to the ground in front of them. They promptly slammed Snubbull into the grass headfirst, snuffing the flames around his mouth, and the other two then proceeded to fire Acid Spray directly onto him while he couldn’t fight back.
“BUUUUUULLLLLL!!!” Snubbull screamed out in a cry that sent a chill up Lillie’s spine as she watched his skin began to smolder. He struggled to get free to no avail as the leader Bellsprout raised his arm and they fired a second volley. “SNUUUBBBUULLLL!!!”
“Stop it!” Lillie said, drawing their attention to her as she walked closer before they could fire a third time. Koko and Glacian were immediately in front of her, while Clefable was right behind her. In the face of the additional threats, they stopped to assess the situation and so Lillie tried to reason with them. “That’s enough. He’s beaten!”
“Sprout! Bellsprout!” the leader said in response, pointing to the fallen Bellsprouts that were injured and unconsciousness. “Bellell!”
Rotom translated. Snubbull apparently attacked them when they had done nothing, zzt.
“Bu…bulll…” Snubbull muttered weakly, trembling as the acid continued nipping at his flesh. Poison hurt more than anything for a Fairy-type, and that was a corrosive acid that softened the flesh. Pokémon could handle a lot of damage, but too much of it was still harmful enough to be lethal.
Knowing that, even if he was the aggressor, she couldn’t let that keep up. “Then I’ll take him and make sure he won’t come back. Just don’t hurt him anymore.”
Pushing past the bushes, the cowering Bellsprout from before came in. It walked to them, gesturing to Snubbull and then her. “Sp-sprout. Bellsprout. Bell?”
Yes. That would work best for everyone. Right, zzrt? Rotom translated.
“Sprout!” The leader sent a vine out that wrapped around the Bellsprout and then tossed it out of the way. “Bellsprout! Bellell!”
Lillie didn’t need the translation to know it was telling the other Flower Pokémon to be silent, but learning that, apparently, he led Snubbull here did explain why the Bellsprout was apologizing afterwards. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to figure out the chain of events before the leader of the Bellsprout Horde turned back to Snubbull and drew his head back.
He was going to attack again and, given that wild Pokémon tended to be a lot more brutal when dealing with a threat than trained Pokémon, Snubbull wouldn’t get out of it without serious injuries… or worse. She had to act. So she pointed to the leader and gave the command, “Koko! Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix obeyed. A chilling gust that flowed forward hit the leader Bellsprout head-on, leaving it to writhe as the ice particles left the leathery texture of his stem covered in frost. It bowled over, shivering, and the other Flower Pokémon looked onto them with hostility.
“Th-That was a warning,” Lillie said, feeling both guilt and nervousness as they fixed their eyes onto her. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and you’ve already got wounded Pokémon within your care. So please, let us take Snubbull or… or else!”
“S-S-Spr-Sprout,” the leader murmured, glaring at her as only a Bellsprout could. The ones holding Snubbull down then released their hold and instead went to grab their fallen kin. Then they began to leave, eyes fixed onto Lillie’s group in fear and anger alike. Once they were safely behind the leader and the two flanking it, the leader then pointed a final time to the cowardly Bellsprout and said, “Bellsprout! Sprout!”
She didn’t need Rotom to translate that either as the remaining Flower Pokémon was left behind. She could tell by the way he collapsed in place and then began to cry that he’d been kicked out of his horde, either for bringing the trouble to them or trying to interfere. Lillie couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor thing, even as she looked down at Snubbull.
He was still breathing, but he’d lost consciousness. This… was partly her fault for helping Snubbull earlier. He wouldn’t have run off if she hadn’t cleaned his nose, and then this wouldn’t have happened. It honestly felt like she was bullying them for defending themselves, but she couldn’t visit Miss Melanie again and say that she let it happen either.
She pulled out her towel and gently picked him up, since the acid had lost most of its caustic properties now. But he still needed to have it washed out and him healed. She then turned to the exiled Bellsprout. “Will you come with us? You’re hurt too, and I want to know what happened here.”
His dark eyes glistened as he brought one leafy appendage up to wipe the tears away. Then he nodded. “Sprout.”
The six then headed back to Mister Bill’s home.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Snubbull shifted as his consciousness surfaced from the depths of unconsciousness. The scents that reached his nose were mostly artificial, human-made surroundings with a spattering of other scents that belonged to more Pokémon. The shelter? He sat up and looked around to find that wasn’t the case.
He was in a bedroom, laying on a pillow on top of a bed. The scent of the foreign Fox Pokémon, with the nice-smelling female trainer’s scent, were all over the bed’s sheets. But he also noticed that their scents were woven with another one and brought his tiny arms to his nose to find that it clung to his own skin—soap, like the one the female caretaker covered him with before the… unpleasantness.
Snubbull huffed. He hated baths.
His ear flaps twitched as he caught the sounds coming from the window and he waddled over to the windowsill to watch the scene below. The female trainer was having the fox practice with breathing out cold air over the water. The sun was on the verge of going down too, meaning he had slept for more than six hours.
The Fairy Pokémon turned and leapt down from the windowsill to the floor, making his way to the door. It was cracked so he could open it wide with enough effort, allowing him to walk out of the room and into the hallway. More Pokémon scents could be smelled coming from above, but he ignored them to head down the stairs to get outside, where two more humans were talking.
“Still no luck in finding a breeder with the Pokémon you were looking for?” asked the human male as Snubbull peered around the corner and into the kitchen. He looked scrawny with brown hair and held some kind of tablet.
“Not in the Kanto region, at least,” answered a human female that looked like an older version of the nice-smelling trainer, sitting at a table with a mug. From the scent Snubbull presumed it to be hot leaf juice—the kind that the human child once tried to make him drink. “I had hoped one of them at least had an Egg, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.”
“Well, once the Global Trade Network is back online you may be able to find one from a breeder in a different region. Sinnoh has colder weather naturally due to being higher north, but Hoenn has more tropical weather due to being closer to the equator. I know a few reputable ones in each region that I can ask.”
“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”
“Still, I have to say I’m impressed by the strides your organization has made in exploring Ultra Space. Being able to travel the space between a network of dimensions is one avenue I haven’t explored before.”
“My husband was the one who pioneered the study of it. We were simply the ones who followed in his footsteps along with the conservation—”
Once it was clear the humans weren’t going to say anything interesting to him, Snubbull decided to continue onwards. He quickly darted for the door and then went through the hole at the bottom that had a flap, allowing him to get outside at last, where he noticed the scent of the poisonous flowers that had attacked him. One was close, but before he could sniff it out for revenge the ice fox gave away his presence to the female trainer.
She turned and came over, crouching down. He noticed she smelled of the Flower Pokémon as well. “Snubbull, are you feeling better now?”
He nodded. “Bull.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried when you wouldn’t wake up even after we used Mister Bill’s healing machine, but he said that you must’ve been tired on top of hurt. You didn’t get any sleep since I left Miss Melanie’s place, did you?”
He huffed. Sleep was for the weak. He was strong, not tired. He could stay up all night, no matter what his pack-mother said.
Of course, that didn’t stop his blasted instincts from leaving him relishing when she gently caressed his head. A pleased grumble bubbled up in this throat before he realized it and he was leaning into the touch. Once he caught himself, he broke away and turned towards the woods again. The sun was going down, meaning there were others to hunt and do battle with to become even stronger. He fell on all fours to begin—
—when he was promptly picked up as the female trainer stood, leaving him an uncomfortable distance off the ground. He demanded his release, flailing his arms and legs. “Snubbull!”
“If I let you down, will you go back to picking fights with wild Pokémon again?” she asked.
“Bull,” he admitted without shame. That was how one became stronger. The weak will become prey to be beaten up so that he could become big and powerful, with mighty fangs that could crush boulders.
“Miss Melanie told me you picked fights with other Trainers and then run away,” she said. “And you were previously owned before, yet you’re running around north of Cerulean when your pack should be south. Is there a reason you’re going around fighting so much?”
It izzz peculiar to see a Snubbull with such an aggressive demeanor, the flying machine said. Normally, they are playful, if not somewhat timid, zzzrt.
“Snubbull!” Snubbull barked vehemently at that, snapping his jaws at the flying machine. How dare it compare him to those weaklings, content to be pampered and lay around! Not him. He was a warrior, he needed challenge, not the luxury of a pack.
That was why he departed on his journey to become a mighty Pokémon… only to get caught by a human child, who then tried to make him a house pet that was dressed up like a toy and made to wear accessories. The shame of it still burned him to this day.
That was why, once he had his freedom, he vowed to become stronger on his own. No matter the costs or risks. For he was the mightiest of all Snubbull, and all would know of it!
“Oh, I see,” the female trainer said after the flying machine translated his tirade. “Most Snubbull are passive, so they make for good companions for non-trainers. Same with the Meowths that can be found there too. And, since they’re being taken care of, they don’t have to worry about things like gathering food or defending their territory. But you don’t want that kind of life, do you?”
He nodded enthusiastically. Finally, someone who understood.
“But, you know, you probably won’t be able to become known as the mightiest since most wild Pokémon don’t fight for sport,” she added. “Not to mention, trained Pokémon are taught to work within rules of engagement, whereas wild Pokémon fight to drive off a threat. I’m sure your parents probably told you not to go to certain places as well once you hatched, so that you didn’t enter their territory, right?”
Admittedly, his pack-mother had. Hence why he stayed away after attaining his freedom from the human child who’d trapped him in that boring life before. Totally not because he ran away stating he would become great and didn’t want them to see him before he managed to prove his point.
“Well, since you told me about you, can I tell you a bit about me now?” she asked.
He nodded. It was only fair that he gave the nice-smelling trainer some of his time since she did help him. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine on his own once he got free.
“In the past, I watched someone I love dearly try their hardest to get something precious to them. But the way they were doing it was dangerous and reckless, among other things. I knew that, but I was too scared to say or do anything to stop them. And because of that, I nearly lost them forever if not for a dear friend. I don’t want to do nothing as I watch that happen again, which is why I have to say that you can’t keep doing this, Snubbull.”
A low rumble bubbled up in his throat. “Snnn…”
“That said, I actually admire you, Snubbull,” she continued, causing his ears to perk. “Seeing a Pokémon like you doing your best and being brave is really inspiring, so it would make both me and Miss Melanie sad too if something bad happened to you. That’s why I want to take responsibility for you and make it so that you can reach your dream safely. So, I’m challenging you to a battle.”
He blinked, tilting his head. “Bull?”
She nodded, her ponytail bobbing. “That’s right, a battle. One-on-one. And, if I win, I’ll become your trainer and bring you along with me on my Gym Challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched as the Fairy Pokémon considered her offer. From what she could tell due to their little talk, Snubbull was a bit on the younger side—probably a few seasons older than Koko. He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his actions and seemed to go headfirst into whatever challenged him, so she didn’t think he would reject her offer outright since it involved a battle. That meant she had to decide which Pokémon to use.
Koko was a little tired from training, not to mention Fire Fang would hurt her a lot if it connected. Like AJ had said, Vulpix were fragile on the defensive side of the things. And, while Koko could probably outpace Snubbull, he was even more aggressive than her judging by that battle earlier so if he caught her it’d end badly.
Better not to risk it, she decided as Snubbull began wiggling his arms around and made cute, inquiring noises.
He’s asking what’s in it for him? Rotom translated.
Lillie counted off the benefits. “Well, you’ll get to travel. You’ll get to face off against a bunch of different Pokémon to improve yourself in a relatively safer manner. Not to mention Gyms have stronger opponents for you to face, and if we beat all eight then we can challenge the Elite Four, who have the strongest Pokémon in the region. If you beat them, then that means you’re one the strongest Pokémon in the entire region and everyone around the world will know it.”
A low rumble slipped out of his throat and his eyes grew distant as he pondered it over, the visions likely playing out in his head as a fantasy. Then he shook his head and made more Snubbull sounds that Rotom translated. He wanted to know what he’d get when he won instead.
He’s like a child who believes he’s invincible, Lillie figured. It did much to explain his personality though, and it was good to be enthusiastic. Even so, it only solidified her resolve that he needed someone who could help him direct that enthusiasm in a more positive direction.
“What about all the Pokéblocks you can eat?” she offered. “I’ll be visiting Cerulean tomorrow to make some, so I can make whatever kind you want to take with you then, while tonight you can have dinner with us.”
He made a huffing noise, as if that was nearly enough for his compliance. But then his stomach grumbled loudly enough that even Lillie could hear it, leaving him to stiffen up and then look away in embarrassment. “Sn.”
Lillie couldn’t help but giggle a bit. “So, can I take that as an okay?”
He awkwardly nodded, so she let him down. Snubbull then ran to the path opposite the bridge, fell onto all fours and barked. “Snub!!”
“Koko, this is Shuckle’s battle,” Lillie said when she noticed Koko getting ready to fight. The Alolan Vulpix seemed reluctant but sat down as Lillie pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it out. Light took the form of the Mold Pokémon as he landed opposite of Snubbull. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle turned and nodded his head before turning back to face the Fairy Pokémon and see that he was already rushing for him.
Snubbull used Tackle!
“Hey, we didn’t say to start yet!!” Lillie shouted as Snubbull lunged, only for Shuckle to Withdraw into his shell reflexively, leaving him to only roll back a bit without being seriously hurt. “Shuckle, use Constrict!”
The Mold Pokémon stuck his head out, frowning, and then thrust out two of his appendages to grab the Fairy Pokémon. Snubbull jumped to the side to avoid one and then exposed his teeth that had a dark-tint to Bite down into the other, causing Shuckle to flinch. “Kle!?”
“Snnn—” Snubbull snarled as he tried to pull Shuckle along like he had the Bellsprouts, only for Shuckle to anchor himself to the ground with his other gooey limbs. Between that and the weight of his shell, he tugged to no avail until Shuckle went for him with the other appendage and forced him to let go or be caught.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked. The Mold Pokémon’s waved his bitten appendage slightly to see if it was severely harmed before nodding his head, keeping his beady eyes on Snubbull. No more ambushes this time. “Okay, then let’s try pinning him down from a distance!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Shuckle’s mouth shifted as it bundled its saliva, turned it into bug adhesive, and then spat it out towards the Fairy Pokémon. The glob expanded only to miss as Snubbull darted to the side, leaving it to cling to the ground as a net that would ensnare whatever was caught on it until it dissolved organically or was removed. He got ready to spit again when—
Snubbull used Scary Face!
—a terrifying face was put onto display, draped in shadows and glowing eyes that seemed to stare into the dark pit that were Shuckle’s. It caused him to tense, involuntarily swallowing his bug glue in order to Withdraw back into his shell. That allowed Snubbull to run in with embers licking at the sides of his mouth.
“Shuckle, use Bide!” Lillie ordered. A red hue began to shroud his shell as the embers around Snubbull’s mouth blossomed into flames that wreathed his mouth. Then she could only watch as he lunged for the Mold Pokémon and brought the flaming fangs down!
Snubbull used Fire Fang!
The resulting explosion when the two halves of the flames met each other didn’t do much. His shell was among the strongest natural one a Pokémon could have after all. But the wave of heat still left Shuckle to cry out in discomfort from within his shell as the red energy thickened.
Shuckle is storing energy!
Snubbull jumped back, exhaling embers before more began to wreath his mouth for another attack. Then he lunged again, allowing the second Fire Fang to be let loose ruthlessly. “Bull!!”
A Critical Hit!
The flaming jaws slammed down with the glowing shell in between. The explosion was head-on and at its strongest, allowing the force and heat transferring through the shell to hurt. “K-Kle…!”
Then the Fairy Pokémon to leapt back to form a third Fire Fang, the flames smoldering beneath his eyes as he was intent on breaking through Shuckle’s defenses with overwhelming force. He lunged for Shuckle once more—
Shuckle unleashed the stored energy!
—when all that pent-up pain and fury was converted to power and then released in the form of a single mighty blow. Shuckle struck out with his right appendage that was launched once more from his shell like a cannon. And, when the collective power met that of the flames, the Fire Fang lost its cohesion and ruptured directly in Snubbull’s face.
Detonation. From the smoke flew the Fairy Pokémon, a thin plume flowing from his mouth until he hit the ground and tumbled back into the Sticky Web net on the ground. “Bu…bull…”
“Good job, Shuckle,” Lillie said as she crouched down to check on the Mold Pokémon. She gently stroked where he had been bitten as Shuckle held it up. Then, picking him up, she went over to the downed Fairy Pokémon. “It’s over, Snubbull.”
“SNUBBULL!!” Snubbull said in defiance, trying to rise again. He struggled for a tense minute, pulling hard enough that it almost seemed like he would rip himself free… only for his strength to give out and the elasticity to snap him back into place.
Hungry, stuck, and helpless for the second time that day, Snubbull exhaled and finally submitted. “Snub.”
He surrenders, zzt. Rotom translated.
Lillie took that as cue to pull out a second ball that she set into its active state. “Sorry about this in advance.”
Snubbull tensed up, as if preparing for the impact of the ball. But instead she held the ball out and triggered its Return function. In an instant, Snubbull was pulled into it in an energy form and the ball snapped shut without a struggle.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
An hour later and one empty bowl of food, Snubbull was sitting apart from the rest of Lillie’s Pokémon in her room with his arms crossed. Miffed. He hadn’t taken it well that she had already caught him while he was unconscious as a matter of pride.
In order for him to be properly healed as quickly as possible, they needed to use Mister Bill’s portable healing machine. Given the amount of Pokémon he had under his care, it was only natural that he had one. But they all required the Pokémon to be in balls to use, so she put him in a ball to do so.
“Don’t be that way, Snubbull. I would have released you if you had won,” Lillie told him as she crouched next to him. Mind you, it would have been to Miss Melanie’s place or to Route 5, since she promised those Bellsprouts he wouldn’t bother them again. “I wanted it to at least be fair, and to show you that you can’t keep fighting like you would in the wild. After all, Shuckle isn’t nearly as aggressive and he managed to beat you.”
Snubbull let out a dismissive snort. He still didn’t see how he lost to the Mold Pokémon that was currently eating an Oran Berry Purée for dessert.
Shuckle’s species are among the strongest Pokémon in termzzz of defensive strength because of their shells, Rotom explained to clarify that. To make use of this and fend off predators, they have instinctual understanding of the move Bide, which compounds all the damage they receive for a short time period and allows them to return it two-fold, zzt.
“Snub. Snubbull,” mumbled Snubbull as he nodded sagely in understanding. “Snubbull. Snubbull.”
I don’t think you should try rationalizing it as it being only natural that your own attack would do so much damage, zzt.
“What you should take from it is that you’ll have to learn not to be so aggressive, Snubbull,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon as she picked him up and looked him in the eyes, her own somewhat disapproving. “Blindly attacking fast and hard might work out in the wild, but that won’t get you too far from now on. We’re going to try working on that, so you can make it all the way to being a Champion Pokémon, okay?”
Snubbull huffed in reluctant acceptance and then pointed to the other side of the room with a questioning noise. “Bull?”
In response to his inquiry about a certain other Pokémon here, the Bellsprout in question raised his head up nerviously. “B-Bell?”
“Bellsprout is coming with us, since he was exiled from his horde only because he pleaded for me to be allowed to take you to end the fighting,” Lillie explained. That and, like Bewear had left Shuckle without his home, Snubbull had left Bellsprout without his horde. The moment she decided to save Snubbull, she was willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities of that. “You two are going to be working together, so let’s all get along from now on.”
Snubbull only snorted and turned away, leaving Lillie to sigh again she set him back down. She didn’t expect them to get along right away given what happened earlier, and the fact that Snubbull wasn’t trying to attack him was better than if he was. But she still wanted them to be friends with one another.
Fortunately, Koko came over to her side after she’d finished eating and then distracted her by pointing a paw to the monitor. “Pix. Pix?”
“You want to watch the battle video again?” Lillie guessed before Rotom chimed in. She got a nod in response. “Sure.”
Snubbull’s ears perked up at that. “Snub?”
“One of my friends is the current Champion of Alola, the region I’m from,” Lillie explained. “The other became strong enough to challenge him, meaning he defeated the Elite Four as well. Their match was a little while ago and showed how they both became the strongest trainers in all of Alola.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head and yipped, going on about the match that she’d seen according to Rotom. Snubbull seemed wide-eyed at how vividly she was apparently describing it. When she was done, he jumped up and pointed to the monitor as well.
Lillie set up the video to play on the monitor and occupy the two of them before she went back to Shuckle and Bellsprout. The Mold Pokémon was finishing up his dessert now, running one of his little appendages over his mouth to scoop up anything he missed and then sticking it into his mouth. She gently stroked the length of his head. “You did very well today, Shuckle. I’m proud of you.”
Shuckle accepted it without complaint but compared to Snubbull and Koko he wasn’t as receptive to it. Likely because his interactions with humans was far more limited and he was just naturally relaxed by nature. He would probably prefer to just lounge around and ferment the berries in his shell rather than fight, but he was at least keeping to his part of the deal they made, and Lillie was sure he would warm up more to her in time. The same went for Snubbull as well.
As for Bellsprout, she noticed that a good portion of the food she’d set aside for him was untouched. Like Shuckle, he didn’t exactly have teeth, so soft foods or those he could break down quickly with his acid was best for him. But he didn’t seem to have done so. “Are you not hungry?”
He waved his verdant appendages back and forth to state otherwise, moving the tips to his stem-like body. “Bell. Bellsprout.”
He’s full at the moment, zzt. Rotom chimed in. Bellsprouts don’t have a central stomach, but instead a very long digestive track that connects to their mouthzzz. To make up for the lack of prey at times, they also draw in nutrients from the ground and create energy through their leaves. Since the sun has gone down, he isn’t as active and so he won’t digest it as quickly, zrt.
“Sp-sprout,” the Flower Pokémon nodded in agreement. Then he began tapping the tips of his leaves together. “Be…Bellell, Bellsprout?”
Rotom translated. He’s asking if you’re going to name him now, zzt.
“Do you want me too?” Lillie asked him. She didn’t name Shuckle yet because she was waiting for him to be more comfortable with them, given the circumstances they met under. Though, truth be told, her family rarely nicknamed their Pokémon to begin with—Nebby was an exception, and Koko was her Starter from Professor Burnet.
He brought his leaf to the rim of his bell before nodding slowly. “Bell.”
“Hmm…” Lillie’s brows folded in concentration as she tried to figure out a name for him. For Koko, her species has a legend behind them to use as a basis. And Nebby looked like a small nebula for her to go off of as a small child. So maybe something with a part of his name in it? “How does Bellamy sound?”
“Bellsprout… Bellsprout…” He tilted his drum-like head, one leaf placed on the side as if he was tapping his cheek in thought. Then he bobbed his head. “Bell.”
“I’m glad you like it.” Lillie smiled and then offered him her hand. “I hope we can get along together from now on, Bellamy.”
He extended a leaf in agreement and they shook on it, bringing the long day to a close.
Chapter 13: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 2
A little while later, Lillie found herself sitting in the Pokémon Center and was left waiting for Koko and Shuckle to finish being treated within their balls. Lilligant too, just in case she’d gotten tired from the walking and cold. Rotom was inside of her backpack, which was sitting next to her, going over the data he’d gathered.
Her eyes were fixed on the card she had from the Nugget Bridge. It was proof of how they’d managed to get two wins under their belt in a single day. After how badly Koko had gotten hurt against that Sandshrew, and how they’d been beaten by the Gym Leader in Vermillion City, it felt good to have some confirmation that she wasn’t doing so badly as a Trainer. She’d actually managed to instruct them a little better without panicking, though Koko and Shuckle had done so mostly on their own given how the battles went.
Still, I feel like I’m a little closer to Elio and Hau than I was before. Even as that thought drifted into her mind, she knew they couldn’t relax yet. They were only at the starting line, and Double Battles would require her to properly coordinate with both of her Pokémon. She didn’t doubt that the next trainer on the bridge would give them a work out.
“Chansey.” The soft chiming voice of one Pokémon Center’s Chansey reached Lillie’s ears as the Egg Pokémon waddled up to her table with a tray holding the balls for the three Pokémon.
Lillie thanked her as she reclaimed them and then watched her walk off, before releasing the three to check on them. “How does everyone feel?”
They all gave various confirmations that they were doing fine—a bob of the head from Shuckle, a yip from Koko, and a slight bow from Lilligant. Then there was a tap on the window pane next to them that drew their attention. Azuria was standing there, waving to get their attention before she entered into the Pokémon Center.
“How’d it go at the bridge?” she asked.
“Koko and Shuckle managed to beat the first two trainers.” Lillie noticed that she was now carrying a canvas tote-bag. “Did you go shopping on your way here?”
She nodded before holding up her bag. “I needed to get some Berries to use the machines upstairs.”
“Kle?” Shuckle’s head snapped up at that, his eyes fixed on the bag. From his perch on the table, he stretched out his gooey appendages and reached into it. When he pulled them back, he held in his grasp an Oran berry.
“Shuckle, no!” Lillie said as he quickly retreated into his shell with it, much to Lillie’s dismay. She was forced to apologize at the theft on his behalf. “I’m sorry, I’ve only had him for a little while now and he’s not used to being out of the wild. ”
Azuria brushed it off with a wave. “It was only one, so it’s fine. I still have enough to make Pokéblocks here for everyone and have some left over for Poffins at home. That being said, you should keep him away from Mister Bill’s trees until he’s better trained. Viri was pretty protective about them last time I checked, since some Pokémon like to take them without permission.”
That explains this morning. Lillie looked down, disappointed in the Mold Pokémon as Lilligant and Vulpix prodded at the shell to try and get him to come out with the Berry. They were at least trained to know better. When it was clear he wouldn’t, she could only frown before recalling him into his ball and silently promising to scold him later. “What are Pokéblocks and Poffins though?”
“Pokéblocks are candies and Poffins are cookies,” Azuria explained. “Both are made of berries so they’re good snacks for Pokémon. They also have certain benefits if you know what you’re doing, such as increasing the luster of their coats.”
“So, they’re like Poké Beans then?” Lillie guessed as she rose to her feet and grabbed her bag, causing Rotom to emerge and then relocate into her hood as she put it on her back. Koko then leapt into her arms once more and snuggled against the arm warmers before settling in. “If you don’t mind, can I watch you? It might be good as a treat for them when we start traveling.”
“No problem. Just follow me.”
Azuria led her up to the escalator to the second floor, where there was a machine waiting. There she explained that she wanted to make some treats for the Pokémon at the home of her friend, a woman named Melanie, closer to the south side of the city. She had a portable kit at home, but these bigger machines were also capable of making them in bulk along with Berry Powder, which could be added to make food more nutritious and appealing as well.
“So, all you have to do is insert the berries into the blender and press a button?” Lillie asked as she watched the older girl put in four Pecha berries and hit the lower-button.
“That’s enough for the type of block I’m making.” She moved to the Berry Crusher and placed an Aspear Berry into it. “The types of berries will determine what kind of flavor it has, and the blending choice determines how dense and smooth it’ll be. For Pokémon who are used to eating something like rocks or gemstones, it’ll be fine if they’re thick and hard. But for those that don’t have strong teeth, they’ll need it soft enough for them to chew.”
“Meaning you have to not only be able to cater to your Pokémon’s tastes, but whether or not they can eat it comfortably?” She watched with mild fascination as the older girl closed the top of the Crusher and pressed a button. The berry was instantly freeze-dried and then the crushing began. “That can get complicated pretty quickly if you have a lot of different Pokémon.”
When she considered the standard Pokémon food, it was basically made so that any Pokémon could eat it without considering that sort of thing. But then she remembered Astra’s Sableye and how much fonder it seemed of hard candy. Enough to be used as a bribe. In comparison, Shuckle couldn’t eat solid foods that hard due to lacking in teeth—hence why he made Berry Juice.
“She does have to look after a lot more than she likes.” Azuria’s tone carried a notable hint of somberness. “Melanie takes care of Pokémon that were abandoned by Trainers and tries to help them get back onto their feet, so they can return to the wild without fearing people. But apparently this year there’s been a lot of them.”
“You mean because of the league thing?” She could still remember the Sandshrew attacking them. The sting of sand and its disdain for her wasn’t something easy to overlook. “The Nurse Joy in Vermillion mentioned it too.”
Azuria nodded. “Cerulean doesn’t have a Gym anymore, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t just abandon Pokémon here. And if they’re released outside of a PC, finding where they came from can be hard since they aren’t registered anymore. In the past, since she couldn’t leave the city, she had to rely on others to take Pokémon not native to here where they belonged, or else they’d end up being lost in the streets.”
“That must’ve be hard on her.”
“It’s gotten a little better since Mister Bill had her listed as a Caretaker now, but it’s still hard on her since she doesn’t have much help. She’s always been like a big sister to me, so I wanted to help her out a little by doing this much.”
Lillie’s impression of Azuria improved quite a bit from how earnest she sounded. The girl had been a little pushy with Rotom and Koko on the train. But how she talked about her Butterfree and her friend showed she had a very caring side to her.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The blender came to a stop as a series of beeps signified that the first batch were done. Azuria opened it up and found about ten blocks had been made. She picked one up and plopped it into her mouth. “Hmm…”
“Did they come out well?”
Azuria swallowed it and then held out one for Lillie. “Try tasting for yourself.”
She did so. “Hmm… it’s sweet. And it feels like there’s some pulp that spreads around inside of my mouth when I bite into it.”
“That’s because of how its blended with only a single kind of berry. The sweetness is the dominant flavor, so the coloring is solid and you won’t find any variation,” she explained. “It’ll get more complicated when different berries combinations, blend settings, times, and supplemental powders get added into it, but right now I’m just making generic snacks with different flavors to them.”
Lillie looked down at the inquisitive sound to find Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes were fixed on the blocks.
“It seems like she wants to try some too.” Azuria grabbed two more and presented them to both Koko and Lilligant. “Here you both go.”
Koko sniffed the block for a moment before eating it out of her palm. Lilligant grabbed it slowly from her grasp with both leafy appendages and brought it to her tiny mouth. Their reactions to it were as different as their mannerisms. Koko practically yipped and wagged her tails, while Lilligant merely showed her gratitude with a slight curtsy.
“They say that you can tell a Pokémon’s personality from different flavors,” Azuria continued. “Your Vulpix likes things with a Sweet flavor to it, but she doesn’t seem to be Timid. So, she’s probably Hasty or Jolly. Lilligant isn’t too taken by it, but doesn’t dislike it either. Maybe she likes Dry or Bitter?”
Lillie brushed Koko’s head affectionately. “I’m not sure about Lilligant, but given how energetic Koko is she’s probably Hasty. I imagine she likes them since they help keep her running about.”
She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Can I help you make some to get a feel for it?”
The lesson on Pokéblocks continued until they had four jars of them, and several smaller jars of Berry Powders. After that it was just a matter of getting them to Melanie’s place. Lillie offered to help the Coordinator carry them with Lilligant, since it was a lot for just a single person, until they reached a somewhat modest-sized home closer to the south side of the city.
There was a large stone fence surrounding it from the back that made it too high to scale. But Lillie could make out a single large tree whose canopy stood above it and hear Pokémon sounds coming from it. In the front there was a sign that read: ‘Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter.’
Azuria rang the doorbell. A moment passed. Then the door opened and out stepped a woman with hair that was a deeper shade of teal, dressed in overalls with an apron over the front of her body. She held up the bags. “Melanie, I’m back! I got everything made too!”
“You’re a lifesaver.” She tilted her head as she turned to Lillie and the Pokémon accompanying her. “You must be the young trainer that Azuria mentioned meeting on the train.”
Lillie nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. May we come in?”
“Please do.” She opened the door wider and stepped off to the side, allowing them to pass through to the inside. “I hope you didn’t go out of your way to help us.”
“It’s no problem,” Lillie said. “Everyone in my family works at a conservation organization, so we love helping Pokémon. Besides, it was fun to learn how to make Pokéblocks and I’ll try to make some in my free time for Koko and the others.”
Entering inside, Lillie found that the lobby was rather modest. The only thing that really stood out was the waist-high solid dividers that were lining the left wall. Each had a wooden gate that allowed for entry into them, modified to the specific needs of the different Pokémon.
For example, the divider that had about six Kantonian Rattata in it had a pane of plastic placed between the dividers using a slot, with another placed just in front of the wooden gate. That would stop them from climbing up and into the other sections or running free to chew at everything. Not that they seemed to entertain the thought as they played on a portable playset meant for smaller Pokémon.
Next to it was what looked to be an enclosure with a viewing pane of some kind that housed a group of Paras with undeveloped mushrooms growing on their backs. There was a layer of fresh soil on the ground through which one buried into with its forelegs, while another walked over to what looked to be a section of exposed roots. It took them into its mouth with its sharp teeth that ran vertically and made a slight trilling sound that drew the attention of the third at a water dish.
There were others that went down the rows that drew the attention of Koko and Rotom. The former bound from gate-to-gate, observing the different kinds of Pokémon that she hadn’t seen either. Rotom followed afterwards to take photos of them. Thankfully, Rotom seemed to have taken lessons from what happened in the forest and was non-intrusive in the process.
Lilligant, on the other hand, went over to an ungated section in the right corner. There, beneath the window, was a play area that had a set of building blocks being arranged by a Baby Pokémon that looked like a tiny clown. Once it noticed her, it took an immediate liking and waddled over.
“I thought there were only local abandoned Pokémon,” Lillie said as the Baby Pokémon coaxed Lilligant into picking it up and giggling.
“Normally, yes,” Melanie said. “Because my place is so small, I usually handle local Pokémon that are abandoned but don’t have any severe injuries. They’re mostly malnourished from improper care, so once they’re healthy again I arrange for them to be released. Or transferred over to a place that’s closer to their natural habitat. That way they don’t harbor as much ill-will towards people.”
She then gestured to the Flowering and Mime Pokémon. “However, sometimes people will bring over more exotic Pokémon that wind-up being abandoned or given up within the city. That Mime Jr., for example, is newly-hatched. His trainer wasn’t prepared to handle a Baby Pokémon, so she brought him here and I’m looking after him until I can send him to a Sinnoh or Kalos Caretaker, where there are local Pokémon of his kind to look after him.”
“Even so, there’s a lot of them,” Azuria added. “The ones in here are the ones closest to being released or need constant attention. The rest are out back since its rather sunny today and letting them get exercise helps keep them from being restless. But once it gets dark they’ll have to be put back into their cages in the room next to us.”
Lillie leaned over to glance through the backdoor’s window. The backyard had several different kinds of Pokémon from the local population, ranging from Bellsprouts to Poliwags. There was easily thirty or more at a glance, and for a place this small with little-to-no help meant she must’ve been overworked.
Before she could dwell on it, Koko ran over and brushed a paw against her legs to get her attention. “What’s wrong, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix gestured for her to follow and led her to one of the Pokémon that she hadn’t looked at. It was past what looked to be a brown bird with a leek tucked beneath its wing, but before what looked to be a bundle of thick vines with red feet that housed a pair of eyes in the shadows. Kanto had such strange Pokémon.
But Lillie recognized the one behind the gate Koko was pressing her paws against. Resting on a cushion that had bowl of food and water to the left, and a Poké Doll on the right, was another Fox Pokémon. She had red fur, brown eyes, and seven tails. “That’s a Kantonian Vulpix, isn’t it?”
“A what?” Azuria voice carried a note of surprise as she came over and saw the Pokémon for herself. “She wasn’t here last night.”
“A.J. brought her to me around five in the morning,” Melanie said. “He said he found her abandoned by the river and wanted me to look after her until he got back.”
Koko looked enthused at meeting her Kantonian counterpart, her tails wagging as she cheerfully yipped. A greeting to the native regional variant. But the Fox Pokémon only blankly stared at her without a response.
It was… unnatural. Disturbing enough that Lillie felt bothered by the silence. “What’s wrong with her?”
Melanie walked over slowly until she was standing next to them. “She’s malnourished, underweight, and I had to wash her to get rid of the dirt that was getting caked into her fur and nails. Whoever had her used her for battling with sparse healing at that, so it had to be someone without oversight…”
She took a deep breath after trailing off, centering herself to continue. “But the real problem is that she doesn’t show any sort of emotion or initiative. She’s not hand-shy or adverse to people or Pokémon, but she doesn’t react to any outside stimulus at all. She won’t even eat or drink anything since he found her—in all honesty, it’s almost like she’s a machine.”
“Do you know who she belonged to?” Azuria asked.
Melanie shook her head. “I don’t. We know that its registered to a Poké Ball, but when I use my scanner to check the Trainer ID, it won’t bring up a name. The only reason I haven’t taken her to the Pokémon Center is because A.J. insisted that he could arrange for a specialist to take care of whatever has happened to her within a few hours. He apparently had some experience with it during his travels.”
Lillie felt a weight in her stomach and a smoldering heat in her chest as she listened to them. The Vulpix wasn’t even fully-matured yet; only slightly older than Koko was. Yet someone had treated her so badly that she wasn’t responsive at all. “That’s so sad.”
A whimper turned her attention to the Alolan Vulpix again. Koko was now sitting down and staring at her Kantonian counterpart. The lack of response had left her crystalline-blue eyes downturned with concerned. “Vulll…”
Lillie crouched down and gently ran her hand against Koko’s head. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure that they’ll find out what’s wrong with her and she’ll be better soon.”
Koko only let out a small whine. Then her ears perked up and she turned her head towards the door. A scratching sound followed.
Curious, Melanie opened the door only to have a pink figure run between her legs. “Oh!”
It was a pink dog-looking Pokémon that had a blue ruffle around its neck that shifted as it panted, little leaves caught within it. It rose up on its hind legs to stand-up, revealing it to be bipedal with a large underbite and baggy skin that formed a hem just above its beige feet that left dirt tracks. It waved its stubby arms about, revealing there were a number of scratches and injuries that covered it, some of which looked deep, and barked towards the Pokémon Caretaker.
Melanie sighed at it. “So, you’re back again, Snubbull?”
The Fairy Pokémon barked again as she walked over to it and crouched down to inspect it.
“You’ve gotten yourself beaten up quite a bit this time too. Picking fights and running away no doubt.” She then picked it up and carried it over to the couch. “Azuria, can you hand me a Potion from the shelf?”
“Is that Snubbull wild?” asked the Coordinator while walking over to the shelves. Just above where the jars of Pokéblocks and Berry Powder had been stacked were rows of medicine—Potions, Antidotes, Burn Heals, and so on. She picked up one of the former and brought it to her.
Melanie nodded her head as she took the medicine. “He was released legally and is considered wild. I took care of him for a little while before setting him loose on the Route south of here, where he came from. He finds a way to keep sneaking back into the city though and goes around picking fights with Trainers. He’ll then come back here for me to treat him when his injuries get bad or he gets hungry.”
“That’s strange.” Lillie watched the Fairy Pokémon lick his lips while sitting in her lap, allowing her to spray him while removing the leaves in his ruffle without any problems. “Snubbull are normally docile Pokémon. It’s hard to imagine them picking fights.”
Professor Kukui had one in his lab, among the other Pokémon. That one was a female, and she warmed up to Lillie and Nebby rather quickly. She could still recall Nebby playing with her while Lillie was staying there.
“The only thing I can think of is that he’s so aggressive that his packmates wouldn’t accept it back.” Melanie continued rubbing the Potion in until the scratches were gone. “There we go.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to keep him here then?” Azuria asked.
The Caretaker shook her head as she stood up again. “I’m so busy caring for other Pokémon that I don’t have time to look after him with the level of attention that he’d need. I can only heal him when he wants me to, and if I keep him here too long he’ll start running around and barking until I let him go.”
The Fairy Pokémon turned his head towards the shelves and pointed to the Pokéblocks. “Snubb.”
“If you’re hungry, you’ll have to eat when the rest out back do,” she told him, to which a low grunt followed in response. She then looked over to the mess he’d made coming in and then Lillie. “Sorry for asking this, but can you take him out into the back. I need to clean up and then get the food ready for all of them.”
“I don’t mind, but will he be okay with the others if he gets into a lot of fights?” Lillie asked as she took him into her arms. He didn’t struggle, so she had to assume he wasn’t shy about who handled him. Whatever circumstance he was released under likely hadn’t been an abusive one then.
“Don’t worry. He knows better than to pick a fight with the Pokémon here.” She leaned down to meet his eyes and smiled. “Isn’t that right?”
The Snubbull nodded. “Bull.”
“Let’s go then.” Lillie carried the Snubbull outside, with Koko and Rotom following her into the fenced-off backyard. It was like a slice of carefully cultivated wilderness within the city itself.
The yard’s grass was neatly trimmed, allowing for the Bellsprout that wandered about on their little roots for feet to move unobstructed as they swayed. Whismur and Buneary sat within the flowers that were grown in small patches and basked in the sunlight. And where the tree’s wide canopy cast a shadow that obscured the ground beneath it, Oddish sat under it to rest.
A pond had Slowpokes, two Psyducks, and what Rotom identified as a Bidoof lounging about lazily to the right. To the left, several bushes of hearty green leaves shook as Zigzagoons scavenged in them, only poking out their heads momentarily before going back inside.
So many Pokémon and most of them were common to the area like they’d said. The kind that required a lot of training to raise and become strong, Lillie noticed as she set Snubbull onto the ground and gave it a gentle pat on the head. “Be good, okay?”
“Snnnnuubbb…” he softly grumbled as he leaned into her touch for a moment, before breaking away to run off on all fours.
“Vulpix!” Koko yipped as she ran over to a ball that had been left close to the door. She took it into her mouth and then brought it over, setting it down at Lillie’s feet.
“You want to play, huh?” Lillie picked up the ball and felt the incisions from the teeth of however many other Pokémon had toyed with it before. She then looked for an open spot before she lobbed it in that direction. “Okay, go get it!”
The Alolan Vulpix darted toward the ball so eagerly that she shot past it, before digging her paws in and then running back to scoop it up with her mouth. She then brought it back and flicked her tails in anticipation. “Pix!”
“Okay. Okay.” Lillie picked it up and tossed again, this time a little further. A smile crossed her face as she watched Koko run off to get it, only to let out a surprised chuckle when Snubbull beat her to it. He then ran back over to her and dropped it off. “So, you want to play too?”
“Okay.” She threw it a third time and watched the two go after it, only to trip over one another. They’d been too eager. “Careful you two. It’s just a game, so don’t hurt one another over it.”
The ball continued to roll as it landed, eventually coming to a stop as it lightly brushed a Buneary’s fleece. She picked it up and looked over to Lillie. “Bun?”
“You can bring it over too if you want,” Lillie told her. The Rabbit Pokémon bounced over with little hops until she was close enough to do so. Lillie took it gingerly and smiled. “Thanks, Buneary.”
The Rabbit Pokémon pulled at her fleece shyly from the thanks before bouncing away.
“Bull!” Snubbull barked, flailing his arms from where he was. Rotom translated it as, “Again!”
The game of catch continued, steadily drawing in more attention and players. From a curious Zigzagoon that ended up getting the ball caught in its fur and came over to have her pluck it out, to a Slowpoke that almost ended up eating it until Lillie coaxed it into letting the ball fall free. Their game only came to an end when the door opened and it was time to eat.
Pieri came through first, a shroud of psychic energy following as he levitated several bowls of food to place them where needed. Azuria’s Lopunny followed, also carrying a large bowl of food. The Buneary and Whismur were naturally drawn to the evolved Pokémon and she found herself crowded as she set down their food.
Lilligant came out after that with a bowl as well. She’d barely had time to set it down by the Oddish and Bellsprout before the Mime Jr. waddled out of the door and went towards her. The Flowering Pokémon picked the Baby Pokémon up before wandering over to Lillie’s side as Pieri went back inside to get more.
“It looks like the little guy’s pretty fond of you, huh?” Lillie asked, watching as he snuggled up against Lilligant before Melanie and Azuria came out. The former held the remainder of the food with Butterfree, while the latter was carrying a container with different Pokéblocks.
“Thanks for keeping them busy,” the Pokémon Caretaker said as she set the bowl down closer to them. Snubbull immediately ran over and began taking the food pellets into his mouth.
“We just got caught up in it,” Lillie said as she picked Koko up, so that she didn’t get caught in the feeding frenzy. She’d give her a treat along the way back home.
“That’s still a good thing,” Melanie said. “If they recognize that there are good people they’ll be less likely to be hostile when wandering across them. A Pokémon that only has bad experiences may start to distrust people otherwise.”
Lillie frowned. “I ran into a Pokémon like that a little while ago, near Vermillion City. Despite it attacking us, I felt bad for it because I understood why it felt that way. So, I think that what you’re doing here is a good thing, if hard.”
“It is at times. But it’s rewarding to make a difference.” The admission came with a smile as she looked out to the Pokémon that were in her backyard as Azuria handed each one a Pokéblock. “Then again, you probably know that since everyone in your family works in a conservation organization, don’t they?”
Her ponytail swayed as she nodded. “It’s called the Aether Foundation. It was started by my Grandfather for the sake of Pokémon Conservation in the Alola region. We take in both endangered and abandoned Pokémon.”
“Then I suppose you’ll inherit it someday, won’t you?”
“Mmm… probably. Right now, though, my brother is in charge of it while my mother is here for treatment with Mister Bill.” She looked down to her Starter. “We’ll be doing the Gym Challenge as soon as she’s stable and I beat Nugget Bridge. Won’t we, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix’s tails flicked as she nodded. Then her ears twitched. She looked towards the door as a light ringing sound reached Lillie’s ears.
“That’s the doorbell. Please excuse me,” Melanie said before she went back inside.
That left Lillie to continue to watch the various Pokémon eat. It was still such a shame that so many of them had been abandoned. If not for Melanie here, and the fact that there wasn’t an active Gym anymore, then a lot of them would probably end up in a bad place.
The sound of her Pokégear ringing grabbed Lillie’s attention, causing her to fumble around as she shifted Koko in her arms until she could pull it from her pocket and answer. “Hello?”
“Lillie, it’s me.”
“Mother. Are you awake now?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not waking up earlier to see you off. Lilligant is with you, isn’t she?”
She looked over to Lilligant to see her seed-shaped eyes were now focused on the device. “She’s been keeping me company since this morning. We’ve managed to beat two of the trainers on the bridge.”
“That’s wonderful.” There was a pause on the other end before Lusamine spoke once more. “If you still want me to help teach you how to use Protect, I had Mismagius and Clefable work on it last night. We can start training after Lunch.”
“Lunch sounds great about now. We’ll head back.”
“I’ll see you then.” Click.
“You’re leaving?” Azuria asked as Lillie placed the device back into her jacket’s pocket. The Coordinator had just finish passing along a final Pokéblock to Snubbull.
“My mother wants me to come back so that I can start teaching my Pokémon a new technique for the upcoming Double Battle,” Lillie explained as the Fairy Pokémon munched on the Pokéblock.
The Coordinator clasped her hands together in a pleading method. “Then can we exchange numbers? The Contest Hall will be finished soon, and I at least want to be able to invite you to visit one of my shows. That way I can show you how they are in person.”
Lillie received Azuria’s number!
Numbers exchanged, Lillie called Rotom back as Lilligant passed Mime Jr. to the Coordinator, bid both Azuria and Snubbull goodbye, and then turned to the exit. But when she looked through the door’s window she spotted A.J. talking to Melanie in the lobby, while holding the Vulpix in her arms. He must’ve been the one who was at the door a moment ago.
The older boy fiddled with the device on his wrist before expanding a Poké Ball from its inactive state. Then he tapped the Kantonian Vulpix with it. The moment it opened something strange happened.
What looked to be a shadowy pair of hands wrapped around the Fox Pokémon and pulled her into the ball. Once the signal to show the capture was successful triggered, the ball vanished. Transmitted like how Pokémon that exceeded the limit of six were automatically sent to a PC.
Wait, didn’t they say the Vulpix was already captured? Part of what protected Pokémon that were already captured from being captured by another person with a Poké Ball was the fact that it gave them an energy marker. It was like how each one had an ID, allowing them to know which trainer the Pokémon belonged to. The balls would naturally be rebuked if the Pokémon was caught to prevent theft. How did they remove the marker indicating she had a trainer?
The question lingered in her mind until A.J. spotted her through the door. There was no point in waiting outside anymore, so she entered and just decided to ask him about it.
“That’s not something you need to worry about,” was all he said on the subject. “But, as a word of warning, if someone approaches you and asks about that Vulpix then tell them you don’t know anything. I have a feeling that you might run across someone who fits that criteria soon, so keep that in mind.”
“W-Why’s that?” Lillie asked nervously from how stern his voice had gotten.
He pointed to Lilligant and Koko. “Someone new coming around with foreign Pokémon for the region naturally draws eyes. Beating Amaya, who’s been walling the younger trainers because of them adds to the buzz going around this morning. It’s only natural you’ll run across someone either challenging you or trying to claim them for themselves.”
Melanie frowned. “Don’t scare her like that. You make it sound as though she’s being hunted.”
Lillie felt a weight in her throat at the prospect of that happening again. Of having a Pokémon in her care being taken by someone else. But she didn’t waver. “Thank you for the warning, but even if someone comes after me I’m not going to let them take Koko or Shuckle or any of my Mother’s Pokémon.”
“…Even if you say that, as it stands you’d all be too weak to do anything if they did.” Despite how cold the words were, there was a hint of respect in his tone before he looked up to Rotom. “Come here for a second.”
Zzt? Rotom cautiously floated over and they exchanged some information as Lillie looked on. Yes, that should be possible, zzt.
He turned back to Lillie. “Ask Bill to have his Glaceon teach your Vulpix how to use Icy Wind, since it covers a wider area than Powder Snow. As for your Shuckle, have it practice its Constrict on trees until it gets to the extent of being classified as Wrap. Your Rotom can explain the details of why later on.”
She was somewhat surprised by the advice. “Umm… Thank you?”
“I’m just keeping in line with what I told Bill I’d do on the train. Whether or not you actually go through with it is on you.” He pulled out a pen and piece of paper to write a number down on before passing it off to her. “Remember what I said about the Vulpix. And if you see a Trainer that has a pure-black Poké Ball, put your Pokémon in their balls, get away and then contact this number. Tell Bill to do the same.”
Lillie received A.J.’s number!
“Umm… sure.” She watched as he left out without another word after that, confused.
Melanie could only sigh sadly as she watched the door close. “I’m sorry about him. He means well, but I think that his new job has been weighing down on him.”
“I don’t mind,” Lillie told her. “In a way, he kind of reminds me of my brother. He’s a little rough, but I think he has a good heart. And I probably should to teach them more so that they can defend themselves. Still, what did he mean by a pure-black Poké Ball?”
“I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with the Vulpix and whoever owned her.” She looked towards the empty section where the Fox Pokémon had been placed before. “Either way, I hope that wherever he sent her they’ll be able to help her.”
Lillie could only hope for the same before she bid the Pokémon Caretaker farewell and then made her way back to Bill’s Cottage on the cape. They had a lot of training to do after all.
Along the way, she didn’t notice the eyes that watched her every step until she passed through the tunnel and left the city behind.
Chapter 12: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 1
Lillie stirred awake the next morning at the sound of barking. She rose from her linen sheets, fighting down a yawn as she noticed Koko blinking awake as well on the pillow next to her. They both leaned over the side of the bed where the window was, sunlight spearing through the blinds, and parted them to see what the commotion was.
Bill’s Leafeon, Viri, was sitting atop the hill that had berry trees planted on it and barking menacingly towards a fleeing orange Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before. It had two cream-colored spots on its back, similar to the tips of its twin tails, as it darted on all fours around the trees. And it had a small branch with three Oran Berries attached to it in its mouth.
The Verdant Pokémon growled before she swung her tail around, releasing a barrage of Razor Leaf towards it. But the mysterious Pokémon was then wreathed in a pale light as it used Quick Attack to run away, rocketing towards the edge of the slope and then jumping out of sight as the leaves buried themselves into the ground. The sound of splashing faintly reached Lillie’s ears and she remembered that the tide should be high right about now.
Bill had said that past that hill was where the cape is. The inlet fed into the marsh between the tunnel and forest that went all the way down into Cerulean City, with a subterranean river that could be most evidently seen in the Cerulean Cave. He’d also said they could find several different kinds of water Pokémon there, but that it would be dangerous going down there during high tide since it was a tidal marsh and they could be swept out to sea.
Nympha, Bill’s Vaporeon, stuck her head out of the pond right about then due to the commotion. She let out an inquiring sound towards her younger sister, who responded by gesturing towards one of the berry trees and letting out a series of Leafeon noises that Rotom was needed to translate. Since the living Pokédex remained inactive inside of Lillie’s bag, hanging on the door-hook, it went undecipherable as the eldest sister dragged herself out of the pond and went towards the hill.
Lillie pulled away from the window and stretched her arms out into the air, a light ‘mmm‘ slipping through her closed lips. She then turned to her Starter that had mimicked her in rising off the pillow and stretching out. She reached over and gave the three-tailed Alolan Vulpix a gentle brush over her head, the smooth fur like silk sliding over her palm. “Good morning, Koko. Did you sleep well?”
“Pix,” the Fox Pokémon answered as she leaned into the touch.
Lillie smiled before pulling her hand back and getting out of bed. She had two—no, three Pokémon to feed at the moment before she could get ready to set out. She’d promised Koko that they would check out the Nugget Bridge after all.
She grabbed the bowls that she had in her bag and the standard dry Pokémon food, filling them halfway. The three Pokémon in her care were, after all, rather small so they didn’t need that much. Koko jumped from the top of the bed to the floor and then came over on her own accord to eat while Lillie then walked over to the corner where Shuckle had chosen to nap, head and appendages tucked away in his shell.
Gently rapping on it with her knuckles, she said, “Shuckle, it’s morning. Wake up so you can eat breakfast.”
“Kkklllle….” yawned the Mold Pokémon as he stuck his head out of an opening and looked around for a bit. Then he extended an appendage to rub his beady eyes before dragging himself over towards where Koko was eating.
Lillie then went over to her bag again and roused Rotom as well. “Rotom, wake up so you can eat too.”
The inside of her bag shifted before Rotom emerged in its base form, a body of plasma shaped like a lightning rod. Lillie could taste the ozone in the air around it that wasn’t normally present when it was in its Pokédex. It reminded her of the gym battle briefly as it flew over to a bowl and ate as well.
She took a moment to eat a travel ration herself. She figured that the others were still asleep, so she didn’t want to make too much noise or wake them up by rummaging in the Kitchen without permission. Then Lillie got changed in the bathroom, readying herself for the day ahead. She put her hair into its ponytail and took on her Z-Powered form once again.
When she emerged, the others had finished eating. “We’re heading into Cerulean City this morning to see the Nugget Bridge and then check out the rest of the city since we’ll be here for a while, but we may run into wild Pokémon along the way. I’ll have one of Mother’s Pokémon with me, but they’ll only help in an emergency, and Rotom can’t battle, so I’ll be relying on you two to keep us safe, Koko and Shuckle. Okay?”
The Alolan Vulpix gave an enthusiastic half-jump while the Shuckle gave a more subdued, hesitant nod. Rotom made a series of noises towards Lillie before realizing she couldn’t understand it. Then it darted back inside of her bag and stuck its possessed Pokédex out of the top to give her a salute. And I’m ready to record any Pokémon we come across, zzzt!
With that decided, she returned Shuckle to his ball and set in her pocket along with Koko’s ball since the Fox Pokémon preferred to walk. Then she stepped out of the room and went to her Mother’s guestroom, lightly knocking on the door.
It was Lilligant that answered, cracking the door open enough to see with her seed-shaped eyes. “Lilli?”
“Morning, Lilligant,” she said to the Flowering Pokémon. “Mother told me to bring one of you with me when I left out.”
Lilligant nodded and held one of its appendages up to ask for her patience before she closed the door again. Then there was some back and forth that Lillie could hear between her and Clefable as they discussed something on the other side. Rotom translated for her that they were deciding on who to send, ruling out Mismagius given the time of day, Bewear because of last time, and Milotic for obvious reasons.
A moment later they decided to send Lilligant since Clefable had been up all night with her Mother, who apparently stayed up late for some reason, and wouldn’t be fully alert. The Flowering Pokémon then emerged with her own Ultraball and held it out. “Lil.”
As she took it, Lillie found herself wanting to ask what her Mother was doing late last night when she needed her rest. But she decided against pressing Lilligant on it since she and Clefable were doing their best to take care of her and they wouldn’t actually tell her anyway. They were her Mother’s Pokémon after all.
Instead, she asked, “Do you want to walk with us since it’s a sunny day?”
Lilligant nodded with polite enthusiasm. “Lilli.”
That decided, they made their way out of the cottage. The moment they stepped outside, they were exposed to the gentle warming rays of the morning Spring sun. It gave Lillie a bounce in her step as they then made their way towards Route 25 and the forest that laid there.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The forest was peaceful as they walked along the dirt path, staying the course that would lead them to the far end. There they could come out near the other end of the Nugget Bridge. Towering trees rose up to the sky along the path, their trunks somewhat thinner but with dozens of branches rising up to spread their leaves wide and tint the morning rays that touched down on the greenery around the path—grass, bushes, and moss that crawled freely over fallen branches.
Lillie could only imagine that it was even more vibrant away from the well-traveled road. And then there were the Pokémon that were up that early in the morning too. She spotted some Sunkern that were sitting beneath one leafy bush, nipping at the dewdrops there.
Koko observed the curious little Seed Pokémon with an inquisitive tilt of her head before inching closer. That caused them to notice. They started shaking their leaves at her in an effort to stave her off that was less useful than one would think.
“Koko,” Lillie called, causing the Alolan Vulpix to rise up and turn her head back to her trainer. “Don’t get too close. They don’t want to be bothered while they’re eating.”
Koko nodded once before turning her attention to a nearby Caterpie instead that was hanging on a branch nearby, carefully chewing on leaves while hiding the rest of its body within the foliage. She kept her distance beneath it as she observed it, leaving Lillie to wonder just how sheltered Koko had been before she came with her.
The Worm Pokémon didn’t mind her at first. But then Rotom floated up to it and snapped a photo, startling it. It released a pungent scent that Koko proceeded to hurry away from.
“The same goes for you, Rotom,” Lillie said as he snapped a photo of the Sunkern next.
But I was just gathering data, zzt! Rotom claimed as it floated back over.
“You can say that because you don’t have a nose,” Lillie pointed out. “What would you do if one of them attacked you because of it? Koko probably isn’t going to be willing to help when she has to put up with that scent.”
The Alolan Vulpix agreed a whimper before the repulsive scent was replaced with a sweeter smell. It wafted from her mother’s Lilligant as the Flowering Pokémon used Aromatherapy. Breathing it in made both Lillie and Koko feel more relaxed, as if all the tension melted and any mental fatigue they’d had was gone.
“Thank you, Lilligant,” Lillie told her. She merely shook her head in a humble manner, as if to say that it was nothing, when a Pokémon abruptly popped into existence. Lillie stumbled back at the surprising arrival of a Butterfree that fluttered its wings menacingly… well, as menacingly as a Butterfree could manage mere inches from her face.
The newly-arrived Butterfly Pokémon protectively placed itself between the Caterpie and them. “Fre-free!”
Koko immediately got in front of her, taking on an aggressive stance with her hackles raised and a chill that permeated air, while Lilligant grabbed her arm and pulled her back in anticipation of a fight. That seemed to be the case for the Butterfree as well, considering its wings took on a light-blue hue and its eyes were starting to glow purple. It was getting ready to attack.
“Everyone calm down!” Lillie insisted. She figured that scent the Caterpie put out must’ve served as a cry for help. She knew that Alolan Pokémon did that, but she supposed it was natural for one of the older evolutions to protect a younger one even here. “It must’ve been worried that we were attacking the Caterpie and came to help it.”
Koko didn’t back down and the Butterfree looked ready to fight either way until something landed between them from above. It was a humanoid Pokémon that had dark brown fur with the exceptions of its ears that hung long and low, the fluffy bands of its wrists, and from the thighs down. It held its arms out between them.
“Lop!” it said, looking between them all. “Lop! Lopunny!”
Zzzhe’s saying not to fight, Rotom translated.
“Don’t just teleport off like that, Pieri!” Another voice called out. Human this time.
Lillie recognized that voice even before she, along with the others, turned their eyes towards the approaching figure. It was Azuria, accompanied by another Pokémon in her arms. It was one that had a pair of flowers on its heads and a skirt of leaves that reminded Lillie of when Elio’s Oricorio was in its Pa’u Style.
The Coordinator panted as she came to a stop in front of them. “I’m sorry. He didn’t interrupt your capture, did he?”
Lillie shook her head. “Rotom just startled the Caterpie behind it and the Butterfree must’ve wanted to help it. I didn’t plan on capturing or battling either of them if I could help it.”
“Thank goodness…” Azuria let out a sigh in relief before she turned to scold the Butterfree. “You can’t go around being aggressive like that to prove a point. Much less picking a fight with a Pokémon younger than you. We raised you better than that!”
The Butterfly Pokémon looked down towards the ground, properly chastised and antenna drooping as he fluttered over in front of her. “Furee, freee…”
Her expression melted, going from stern in a sort of motherly way to gentle as she patted him on the head. “Don’t let what A.J. said get to you. You’re better than that and he hasn’t been himself lately. Okay?”
“…free…” There was still no heart in its response as it sulked.
With the hostility dissipated, Lillie crouched down and picked Koko up to calm her down before she asked, “Are all of those Pokémon yours?”
“Yeah. I caught Gracie when she was a Buneary and Zinn when he was an Oddish here, while Pieri was originally raised from a Caterpie by A.J. here as well. He traded him to me when we were younger since he liked contests more than battle. I thought I would bring them here bright and early so they could unwind, since its where they all came from.”
Are most of her Contest Pokémon native Cerulean City then? Lillie wondered as Azuria took notice of the Flowering Pokémon and her expression brightened. “Oh, I should introduce you. This is my mother’s Lilligant. She came with me today for a walk as well.”
Lilligant stepped forward and gave a curtsy in greeting when Zinn leapt down from his trainer’s embrace and made his way over to her. He then extended his short arm out for her to shake. She responded in kind with one of the leaves that served as her arms, only to be surprised when he leaned forward and kissed it. “Lilligant!?”
She pulled back in surprise, made only more confusing as the Bellossom made a sweeping gesture and said something that caused her to become slightly flustered. The Lopunny rolled her eyes and gave a slight shake of the head before she grabbed him by the petals and pulled him away. It only left Azuria sighing once more.
“Uh, Rotom?” Lillie began, confused by this development.
He complimented her beauty as surpassing that of the forest in its prime and offered to take her to someplace where they could watch the sunset over the cape, zzzt.
“I’m sorry if he made her feel uncomfortable,” Azuria said, a hint of resignation in her tone. As if she’d done this before many times. “He’s… normally more mature than that.”
“Lo, lop-lop…” the Rabbit Pokémon chimed in with a sing-song tone while holding the shorter Pokémon in the air to keep him at bay, to which Rotom translated as ‘No, not really’.
Her morning could be going better, Lillie suspected as the Coordinator sighed for a third time. Still, looking at the collection of Pokémon that she had, Lillie could see they were fairly well taken care of. The Bellossom’s flowers were vivid and bright, while the Lopunny’s fur looked neatly groomed.
“So, what brings you out here this early in the morning?” Azuria asked, quickly changing the topic.
“We’re heading to Nugget Bridge,” Lillie explained as she looked down to Koko staring at the newcomers warily. She had not forgotten the handling that she had been put through on the train, it seemed. “Koko is excited to try it out since she watched the Alola Title Defense Match last night, and I promised her I would take her there.”
“If that’s the case then you’ll want to get there soon,” Azuria told her. “From what Melanie has told me, since the Gym shut down it’s been a sort of pseudo-Gym that’s been used in its place for the kids around here to train before they do that League thing. You’ll have a long wait if you get there too late.”
“Oh, then we’d better hurry since we’ve got to get back later,” Lillie said. She still had that training session that her mother wanted to do as well.
“In that case, how about we help you get there a little sooner?” Azuria offered with a wink before she looked over to Butterfree. “It’ll be our way of making up for interrupting your walk, won’t it Pieri?”
He nodded once, but didn’t look any happier than he did before. Whatever was bothering him was still weighing heavily on his mind. Even so, his eyes shone for a moment and Lillie felt a tingling sensation that reminded her of when Nebby did so as it encompassed her, Lilligant, and Koko.
“If you’ve got some free time afterwards, I’ll show you around Cerulean for a bit,” Azuria promised as she gave them a wave. “Have fun until then.”
Then they abruptly—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—appeared somewhere else.
Lillie took a moment to reorient herself after the unexpected teleportation, adjusting her grip on the Alolan Vulpix so she didn’t accidentally fall. They were past the edge of the forest, which was to her far left, on an inclined hill that led into mountainous slopes to the right and rear of them. There was a bundle of trees where a group of Pineco began to stir in surprise by their appearance—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—and then they were teleported again.
Lillie took another moment to figure out where they were this time. They were on flatter grounds, further to the south and within a field that had flowers scattered about. To the south was a stretch of tall grass that bordered the water, with a small bridge that connected that patch of land to the other side of the river and had some Fishermen on it, casting their lines into the water.
And it ran under the Nugget Bridge.
“Fufuree,” Butterfree called out, drawing their attention towards him. He was fluttering above them, looking slightly winded.
Teleporting was taxing on the mind for most Pokémon that had the psychic potential to use it. Nebby had shown Lillie that, being almost completely immobilized after having done so when it had taken them from Aether Paradise to Melemele Island. So while Butterfree managed to get them there from the woodlands in two jumps, it looked like it hadn’t been easy.
“Are you going to be okay?” she asked, to which he gave a bob of his head before making soft Butterfree noises as he nervously fiddled with his fingers. Rotom translated that as an apology for what happened in the forest. “Well, no one was harmed so I suppose it’s fine. Just make sure you apologize to your Trainer, okay?”
“Free.” He nodded twice before his eyes grew luminous again. Then the Butterfly Pokémon vanished.
“…Well,” Lillie started, grabbing the attention of Koko and Lilligant, “it was faster than we expected, but we’ve arrived at Nugget Bridge. Should we go see how things work?”
Her mother’s Lilligant nodded. “Lil.”
“Pix!” Koko yipped excitedly.
So they crossed the under-bridge that stretched across the river’s surface and proceeded down from the other side to reach the mouth of Nugget Bridge. There to greet them was a brown-haired man with glasses who looked maybe around Professor Kukui’s age, with a badge on his shirt.
“Welcome to the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet,” he said as he gave them a once over. His eyes lingered on Lilligant and Koko with curiosity. Not surprising since neither were native to Kanto. “I think I would’ve remember if I’d seen you before, so is it your first time here?”
“Yes. We just arrived in Cerulean City yesterday and wanted to try our hand at it,” Lillie explained. “Can you tell us how things work?”
“Of course.” He reached into his pocket for a small case and pulled from it what looked to be a card of sorts. “First, this is for you.”
“What is it?” Lillie asked as she accepted it.
“That card serves to mark your progress through the gauntlet,” he explained. “Since Mrs. Waterflower became a member of the Elite Four and the gym closed, it was decided that the Nugget Bridge would become something of a pseudo-Gym for young trainers who needed to prepare for the Gym Challenge. To make it to the end and face the leader of the bridge, you need to beat every trainer along the way at least once. When you beat them, they’ll stamp the card to show you passed that section, and when the person at the end stamps the card you can take it to the Pokémon Center to receive a badge and TM as a prize.”
“It’s just like a real Gym then?”
“The rules are a little laxer in the beginning, but by the time you reach the end it’ll be stricter like an actual Gym,” he clarified. “For example, the first trainer will fight you in a one-on-one battle, and the second will allow for a two-on-two battle with substitutions, but the third will challenge you to a double battle since that’s become something of a popular format to battle with around the world. However, to avoid wearing out the trainers, if you lose then you’ll have to wait at least three days to come back.”
“That sounds like it was a lot of work to organize.”
“It was, but the Mayor wanted it done in an effort to keep the tradition alive. And, since a lot of younger trainers use it to gain experience on both ends, they’re more prepared for the challenges they’ll face.” He gestured to the bridge where there was a younger boy looking towards them. “Your first opponent will be Luka, if you’re ready.”
She nodded. “Yeah. We’re ready.”
“Then I wish you the best of luck.”
With that, Lillie took her first steps onto the bridge towards the trainer. The young boy looked practically enthusiastic as he jumped up from his perch on the railing and ran over to greet his challenger. He drew close to Lilligant, unperturbed by the fact that the Flowering Pokémon was a head larger than him.
“Is this the Pokémon you’re going to be facing me with?” he asked.
“Lilligant will only be watching,” Lillie explained as her mother’s Pokémon shook her head. She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Koko will be your opponent.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head before taking a step forward, anticipating the challenge to come.
“Then it’ll be a one-on-one battle between it and Talon,” the boy said as he walked over to the first railing and jumped over it. “Get over to the other side so they’ll have the entire bridge to themselves.”
Lillie did so with Lilligant, leaving the central area of the bridge open for the impending battle as the boy flung his ball into the air. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of a Pidgey that spread its wings and let out a cry as it eyed Koko warily. Rotom quickly snapped a photo before floating back over to Lillie.
Since both Pokémon were out now, Luka flipped his hat backwards and gave the signal to begin. “Okay, the match is on now!”
Koko activated Snow Warning!
The air chilled as a flat layer of light-grey clouds formed, covering a radius around both the Pokémon and their trainers at the fringes. Glimmering flakes of snow began to lightly fall. The Pidgey looked up at the clouds, a fog billowing from his beak as he drummed his wings.
He then looked over to his trainer, craning his head as he tweeted, “Pidget?”
“Don’t worry about it!” Luka said, as if to alleviate any concerns the small Pokémon possessed. “Use Gust!”
At the sight of the Tiny Bird Pokémon hopping off the ground and beating his wings rapidly to kick up a powerful wind, Lillie snapped out with a counter order. “Powder Snow, Koko!”
The Alolan Vulpix inhaled and then billowed out a chilled wind laced with frost as the beating of wings stirred the wind. The two forces clashed, the winds meshing and pushing against one another for an instant that spread the chill further out. Then the Powder Snow began winning out, pushing back the Gust despite the Pidgey’s best efforts as beads of sweat formed from the exertion. He broke off his attack before it was completely overtaken, flapping harder to rise higher in the air and off to the side, narrowly avoiding the remnants of the cold wind as Koko ran out of breath.
The battle has a 95% chance of concluding in our favor, zzt! Rotom informed them after the exchange. Powder Snow and Gust have the same amount of force between them, but Snow Warning adds additional strength to the force of Ice-Type attacks, even if it isn’t fully developed yet!
“So what?” Luka said to that. “A little snow isn’t going to scare us off! Use Gust again!”
The Pidgey took two beats of his wings to fly a little further back and tried again, whipping up the wind.
“Koko, use Powder Snow again!”
Koko exhaled again and released another Powder Snow, this time aiming up at an angle to hit the aerial target. Frost spread out as it hit the rolling winds that rushed for ground-bound Pokémon, falling over the battlefield even as it pushed through the attack. Once more the Pidgey broke off his attack, getting out of the attack’s radius as it peppered out.
Maintaining his height while hovering in the air just in front of his trainer, the Pidgey looked back and gave an inquisitive, “Pigeo?”
Luka gave a slight nod. “Yeah, got it. Get a little higher and do it once more.”
He took flight into the air, closer to the cold clouds and then released a powerful Gust attack once more. Koko jumped forward as she exhaled a Powder Snow this time, trying to close the distance enough so that it wouldn’t be able to get away as her attack won over his even faster—
“Now dive!” Luka ordered.
—but there was no clash like before as the Gust died instantly when the Tiny Bird Pokémon closed its wings onto its body. He allowed himself to drop down before extending his wings again and gliding around with a turn, circling to get around to Koko’s side.
Her head traced it, refusing to lose sight of the Pidgey. The sweeping, frost-laden wind followed, like a cold hand of winter grasping for the bird to give it a freezing embrace. But then she reached her limit, her lungs stalling as the need for air forced her to stop. She inhaled to fire again, but at that point the Pidgey flapped its wings forward as though to brake and everything stung.
Talon used Sand Attack!
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Starter Pokémon was deprived of her senses. The sand-laced winds had caught her up close while she was inhaling, leaving her coughing and trying to wipe her eyes clean as the Pidgey trilled while it circled back around and picked up speed.
“First rule of battling: don’t become predictable just because you’ve got one attack that’s effective!” Luka said smugly. “If you keep using the same attack over and over, your opponent will naturally get the timing down. Now Talon, Tackle!”
“Look out!” Lillie shouted as the Pidgey took a dive for her Starter Pokémon. It was painful to listen as Koko yelped the moment she was slammed into by the Tiny Bird Pokémon and knocked down, unable to dodge since she couldn’t see. Lillie chastised herself at not having realized that something was wrong with how he kept ordering it to do the same attack over and over, despite it not working.
No, I have to support Koko. But she shook head to drive the pang of guilt down as she watched the Pidgey going for Koko again, slamming into her a second time. It was breathing faster, working its wings harder to stay aerial and active. The cold was still hampering it, so maybe…
“Koko, jump up and fire a Powder Snow down now!” Lillie ordered as it swooped down for the Fox Pokémon again. Koko still hadn’t regained her sight, so when she hopped up and fired down, she did so wide-spread to make up for the lack of sight, even as the Pidgey tried to stop its descent with frantic flaps to no avail.
The result was billowing white mist, the frigid blanket covering the section of the bridge up to their waists as it rolled past. It joined with the evaporation fog rising over the edge of the railing, born from the cold air passing through the water vapor rising from below that left Lilligant shivering slightly as she ran her arms against her body until it thinned out.
“Ah, Talon!” Luka called out as they saw the Tiny Bird Pokémon was on the surface of the bridge that was coated in hoarfrost.
His feathers were rime-coated, its small body trembling even unconscious as its shallow and shuddering breaths came out as puffs of fog. “P-P-Pigeeoo…”
“Even after we got the timing down and everything, it still wasn’t enough.” Seeing that it was unable to battle further, the youngster gritted his teeth before recalling his Pokémon and admitting defeat. “Fine, it’s my loss.”
Since the battle was over, Lillie hopped over the railing and ran over to Koko as the Fox Pokémon tried to wipe the remainder of the sand out of her eyes. She crouched down and immediately pulled out a handkerchief and bottle of Fresh Water, wetting the former and then using it to clear the sand away until crystalline-blue eyes were visible once more. Next was a Potion to remedy the damage that had been done in the battle.
“Does that feel better?” she asked afterwards, to which she received an excited yip. Relieved, Lillie brought her delicate her fingers to the soft tuft of fur on Koko’s head and rubbed affectionately. “I was so worried that we’d make a mistake. But it looks like we pulled through.”
“Vulll…” Koko purred as she leaned into the touch, her tails flicking.
Lillie then looked over to Luka as he dragged his feet on the way over to her, pouting. “Your Pidgey really surprised me with how well-trained it was.”
“Well, yeah. We’ve been doing this for a while now, so he’s gotten a lot of experience. He’ll probably be evolving soon.” He puffed out his chest a bit at that before he extended his hand. “Anyway, gimme your card and I’ll give you the first stamp.”
Lillie received a Red Stamp!
“Thanks,” she said as she looked down at the stamp on her card.
“One last thing I’ll give you is some advice, since you’re new at this,” he added. “The battles on the bridge are something that everyone can see, including the other Bridge Trainers like me. That same strategy won’t work against Amaya, so you’re going to need to switch things up or you’ll come up short.”
Lillie nodded before she felt Koko’s paw pressing against her and looked to see she was excitedly gesturing for them to go further down the bridge, where a Lass was waiting. That must’ve been Amaya. When she gestured for them to come forward, Koko started running down the bridge with Rotom following after her.
“Goodness. She’s as excitable as Nebby was,” Lillie said with a sigh, albeit not unhappily. If anything, it was a good thing for a young Pokémon to be so active. Lilligant waited patiently for her to walk as well, following after her until they arrived.
“Good job getting here on your first go, but it only gets harder from here on out,” Amaya warned her new challenger. “It’ll be a two-on-two match. Have you decided who you’ll send out first?”
“Yes,” Lillie declared, to which Koko bounced up, eager to continue despite already having been in one battle. “Koko, I want you to rest a little more first, so we’re letting Shuckle get a turn, okay?”
Koko objected, citing through Rotom she could still fight.
But Lillie stood by what she said. “You had the first battle. Now let him have his own.”
Hearing the firmness in her tone, Koko didn’t argue further and instead followed Lillie as they went over to the side of the bridge while Amaya did the same in the opposite direction. Lillie then set Shuckle’s ball into an active state with a tap of the button before she tossed it out. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle’s head twisted around as he took in his surroundings before a second ball burst open across from him. It looked like a lavender gumdrop with stubby arms and eyes that looked like plus signs, feet and ears tipped with yellow. A tiny sound that was drowned out by the passing breeze left its mouth as it waved its tiny arms towards Shuckle, a Shell Bell affixed to a band just beneath its mouth.
Zzzzrtt! A new Pokémon to analyze! Rotom floated in front of Lillie and his back-mounted camera snapped its photo to reference it against the database until a match was found. Whismur, the Whisper Pokémon. A timid Pokémon, when startled it’s normally-quiet cries become an ear-splitting shriek that leaves it tired when it stops.
“If you’re ready, we’ll start the match now!” Amaya stated. “Raphy, you know what to do!”
The male Whismur inhaled and let out a shout. “Mur!”
The attack sent out a slightly visible sound wave that barreled towards Shuckle. The Mold Pokémon barely regarded the attack with more than a discomforting look as it passed through him, beady eyes narrowing slightly at being attacked in general.
It’s not very effective, izzz it? Rotom cited while continuing his surveillance and recording the battle.
“Shuckle, use Constrict!” Lillie ordered. Then she remembered he was still slightly wild and clarified so they didn’t get a repeat of the Vermillion Gym. “Aim for his body, not his throat.”
“Whis!?” squeaked the Whisper Pokémon as Shuckle’s frontal appendages snapped forward, stretching to get across the distance between them before wrapping around his body beneath his arms. It struggled a bit before inhaling and letting out another shout.
This time the sound wave was clearer, the air distorting as it made the gummy-like appendages wobble on its run towards Shuckle. The moment it hit, the Mold Pokémon flinched as though it had been physically struck, eyes scrunching up. The soft chiming of the Shell Bell resonated afterwards, tickling the ears of all that heard it.
“It was stronger?” Lillie seemed surprised. Then she recalled what Professor Kukui had told her about some moves getting more effective over time and use. “Rotom, what moves does Whismur learn that get stronger over time!”
Accessing Moves List for Whisper Pokémon, zzzt… data found! It’s using Echoed Voice! Rotom explained. The amount of damage it can do increases with every consecutive shout until it reaches a peak!
The third shout was even stronger, actually managing to rattle Shuckle enough that he reeled back. His appendages shook loose from the Whisper Pokémon and snapped back to their normal length. The Shell Bell’s ringing was louder as well, the slight signs of flesh being bruised faded.
“That’s right,” Amaya said with a grin. “Luka’s thing is all about timing, but mine is about punishing you for taking your time. The longer the battle drags on, the stronger Raphy’s attack gets. The stronger his attack gets, the more his Shell Bell heals him for. If you can’t finish the battle quickly then your Shuckle will be knocked out and your Vulpix will have to face off against a fully powered Echoed Voice.”
“Shuckle, can do something else offensive?” Lillie asked as the Mold Pokémon got over the blow rattling him. He then turned his head and nodded. “Do that then!”
“Kle!” Shuckle’s eyes scrunched up, his frown deepening as he braced himself at the sight of the Whismur inhaling. Wisps of red seeped from his body as he did so.
Faster and stronger, the shout was loud enough that Lillie herself winced from proximity as the blow smacked Shuckle even harder. His head bobbed as though he was knocked for a loop, but he straightened up as he lightly shook his head while the blood-tinged light wreathing him grew brighter.
Shuckle is storing energy!
The fifth shout. The strongest possible shout for the tiny Pokémon to unleash met with Shuckle in the form of a sound wave loud enough that everyone else had to cover their ears, including Koko and Lilligant as they pressed their paws and leaves respectively against their ears. Shuckle was actually sent backwards by several inches, tumbling over once before getting his limbs under him again.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked, noticing the Mold Pokémon’s head was actually drooping. He barely seemed able to keep his eyes open, despite the blood-tinged aura expanding once more.
His response was to withdraw into his shell before emerging looking energized once more. The area around his mouth was covered in a bluish liquid from the Berry Juice he had ingested. They must’ve been made from fermenting the berries she had given him the first night they met.
“It might’ve been able to recover a bit, but it can’t stand up to another hit!” Amaya declared. “Raphy, finish it!”
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie shouted as the Whismur inhaled with the intention of releasing its most powerful shout once more—
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
—but before the next attack came, Shuckle unleashed his pent-up fury. The blood-tinged aura that represented all the pain and suffering gathered onto its right appendage that stretched like it was fired out of a cannon. It hit fast enough that the Whismur didn’t even get a whisper out before he was struck head-on in the face.
A Critical Hit!
The blow propelled the Whisper Pokémon backwards until he hit the ground, bounced off it, and then tumbled back several times until he was face-down on the surface of the bridge. Silence lingered as Amaya leaned over the railing and cradled her Pokémon that had gone limp. It was unconscious.
“What was that?” Amaya asked as she returned the Whisper Pokémon into his ball.
Rotom took the liberty to helpfully explain. Shuckle used Bide, zzt. The technique storezzz the pain and damage the user receives and converts it into power. Then, when that energy is unleashed, it shoots out in a fast, singular blow that doubles all the damage it took, zzzt.
And since Shuckle had taken two of Whismur’s strongest Echoed Voice attacks, Bide was significantly strengthened, Lillie figured. Shuckle couldn’t do much damage on his own, but by taking the damage he received and sending it back two-fold, he was able to turn the tide. “Good job, Shuckle!”
“Kle,” huffed the Mold Pokémon, still looking upset as he wiped his mouth with one appendage and then stuck it into his mouth. If Lillie had to guess, he wasn’t happy about having to use his store of Berry Juice.
“We’ll get you some more berries later today, okay?” Lillie promised, to which he nodded.
“In that case, I’ll conceded that your Shuckle beat Raphy,” the Bridge Trainer said as she pulled out another ball. “But you still have to beat my second Pokémon to get my stamp.”
Amaya tossed it and out came a rotund little ball of purple fur with compound eyes and a pair of drooping antenna. Its tiny forepaws were pressed against its body and the two protruding pincers twitched as it stared at the Shuckle. “Veno?”
Rotom did his job and provided the dex entry for it. Venonat, the Insect Pokémon. Sheltered in a coat of thin, stiff hairs that cover its body for protection, its eyes can perceive even the smallest of objects in even the dark.
“Natty will be my second Pokémon,” Amaya stated. “Will you switch out yours or leave it in?”
“Get some rest, Shuckle.” Lillie decided, recalling the Mold Pokémon to his ball and then looking down to Koko. “Okay, it’s your turn.”
“Pix!” Koko crawled under the railing and darted over to the side of the field where Shuckle had been, taking his place. The pale glow that shrouded her body was dismissed with a flick of the tail, leaving the weather to cool notably and glimmering motes began to fall from above.
“Okay then let’s start the second round!” The Bridge Trainer pointed her finger towards the Alolan Vulpix. “Natty, show them our one-two combo!”
“Koko, Powder Snow!” Lillie ordered quickly.
Koko immediately exhaled the frigid attack, but Natty’s compound eyes shone with a cerulean tone before that same hue wrapped around Koko tight enough to smother her. The attack petered out before it even reached the Insect Pokémon, and when she tried again it just wouldn’t come out at all. “Vul?”
That was Disable, zzt! Rotom warned her. You can’t use Powder Snow until it wears off!
The Venonat then followed through by pointed his antenna forward and releasing a series of thin, blue rings with a tinny ringing sound. The rings hit Koko headfirst and her eyes grew glassy. She then began to shake it violently, staggering and whimpering in a panicked tone.
Lillie recognized it being the same symptoms as with Bewear in the forest. “Oh no! She’s confused too!”
“Good job!” Amaya did nothing to hide her elation at the success of her Pokémon’s techniques before giving the next order. “Now, Tackle!”
“Venonat!” Clodhooper feet pattered against the wooden surface before the Insect Pokémon threw itself into Koko for a Tackle. The blow knocked the Fox Pokémon off her powder-blue paws, leaving her to hit the ground and yelp.
“Koko, snap out of it!” Lillie called out to the Alolan Vulpix as she got back to her feet, only to start staggering as though the bridge had turned liquid. Then Lillie winced as, for some reason, Koko lunged to the side and hit the ground as though she’d been trying to pounce on something that wasn’t there, hurting herself in confusion. Her voice grew more desperate when she noticed Natty coming in for a second blow. “Look out!”
The Insect Pokémon had already thrown himself forward for another tackle when the warning came, leaving her little time to react even if she had heard it. Koko was tackled for a second time, this time hit around the center of her body and thus sent rolling after being slamming into the ground.
The Fox Pokémon whimpered softly, her legs trembling for a pause. Then she steadied herself and shook her head, crystalline-blue eyes regaining their luster. “Pix!”
Koko snapped out of Confusion!
“Koko, move!” Lillie ordered as Natty came in for a third, decisive blow. The Alolan Vulpix twisted her body and then jumped to the side, getting out of the way of the blow and leaving the Venonat to miss.
“Don’t let her escape, Natty!” Amaya ordered. “Use Supersonic again!”
The Venonant turned to do so but Koko had begun to move, circling with as much speed as she could muster until the attack missed and then pounced forward to use her forepaws to knock him back. It didn’t do any damage as his round body rolled with the momentum. But by the time he got up Koko was already forming a swelling, pink orb of Fairy-type energy.
Koko used Moonblast!
The pink hue of the Moonblast shrouded the Insect Pokémon as he tried to get out of the way, but the resulting explosion of Fairy-energy swallowed Natty whole and spit him out. Pink tendrils, like smoke clinging to his fur, trailed off as he hit the ground and rolled. But the Insect Pokémon bounced right back up, a shuddering breath following from Snow Warning remaining in effect.
It wasn’t very effective, but Koko still did some damage, Lillie noted as she looked over to Rotom’s data. There’s a type-disadvantage since Venonat is part-Poison, and the longer it takes the more of a chance Koko will get confused again and hurt. But…
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. Koko let another Moonblast fly in response, but this time the Venonat moved before it could connect since the distance between them was just enough to where it could get out of the blast range. “Get closer and fire once more!”
“Natty, use Disable before she can finish!” Amaya ordered in turn as Koko slid to a stop even closer and prepared a third shot. The Insect Pokémon used Disable once more before the next swirling pink sphere could be launched, causing it to dissipate mid-formation. “Now Tackle!”
Now’s our chance! Lillie knew that Disable could only affect a single move after looking at the data. Even if it wore off, Venonat could just disable it again unless they forced him to disable a different technique. Koko’s Moonblast took time to ready and if it landed another one it would hurt a lot, so the most logical thing to do was to stop her and use the opening to attack since Koko was already hurt. “Koko, leap backwards and use Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix jumped backwards while inhaling as the Venonat threw itself into a Tackle again, bringing it up close and with too little time to dodge. Exhaling, the frosty chill of her wintry breath was met with a shriek from the Insect Pokémon as his fur was blanketed by white frost, every strand of coarse hair serving as a foundation for it to expand upon.
A Critical Hit!
By the time that Koko had finished exhaling the shriek had died out. Only spots of faint purple could be made out while the rest of his fur was white. Ice ran up his antenna until they looked like poles sticking up from an unmoving snowball.
Natty was frozen solid!
“N-Natty?” Amaya’s voice came out softly. “Are you okay?”
Silence loomed until Koko pressed a forepaw against her opponent. Then the frost began to peel off as the foundation shifted beneath it. The Insect Pokémon let out a deep huff that came out as white mist before his body slowly fell backwards.
A whimper could only then be heard as the grey clouds above slowly dissipated. “…nat…”
“…If only I’d helped him learn Poison Powder to speed up the battle,” Amaya said, somewhat regretfully, as she held out his ball and recalled him into it with the press of a button. “Natty is unable to battle further. It’s your win.”
That would have been a nightmare if she’d been poisoned and confused at the same time. Lillie exhaled deeply in relief as Koko trotted over towards her, lacking the energy she’d had previously. Opened arms cradled the Alolan Vulpix that climb them and then held her tight. “That was another close one, but we did it. Good job.”
“Lil.” Lilligant added, giving polite applause until Amaya then came over.
Lillie received a Yellow Stamp!
“There you go,” the Bridge Trainer said as she finished applying the stamp and handing back Lillie’s card. “It was a good match. Both of your Pokémon did really well considering they were being put on the clock.”
“Yours too,” Lillie said as she looked down to see Koko was now yawning, no doubt exhausted. If Shuckle didn’t know Bide and she didn’t have Moonblast, they would have really been in trouble. “I think we’ll have to call it a day here though. We still need more training, and I want to take them to the Pokémon Center to heal and rest up.”
“That’s fine. As long as you have your card, those stamps are proof of progress. You can jump straight to the third match next time, but it’ll be a Double Battle. That’ll be a lot harder to deal with since you’ll have to command both of your Pokémon at once.”
“We’ll keep that in mind.”
Chapter 11: Title Defense Match vs Hau – Part 2
“Sorry about that Kou,” Elio said as he returned the Bat Pokémon into his ball and wondered what went wrong. Kou’s specialty was using Double Team to confuse an opponent, either by creating a bunch of independent copies or having them deployed as he moved. Combined with shrieking from random positions to distract the opponent, it created an opening to move in silently for a decisive blow.
That Lucario was the worst opponent he could have faced from a purely-typing perspective. The steel-bones inhibited poison from working and the coverage attacks meant for dealing with psychic-types weren’t going to be effective against it. However, Kou’s speed and agility were above that of average, so he still stood the best chance and would have come out unscathed if not for the abrupt increase in his opponent’s speed.
That hadn’t been present in the previous match with Kiina, so something must’ve caused it. The only thing he could think of was an Ability, triggered at some point during the assault. He would have to ask Rotom or Hau once the last match was over, but for now he decided to remain cautious and presume that his rival had come up with a plan to counter the final Pokémon between them, their Starters.
It’s up to you now. Elio grasped Silky’s ball in his hand, feeling the cool metal against his sweaty palm as his heart raced. It all came down to this. Was he just excited? Or was he nervous too? Whatever the bundle of emotions were, they built up in his throat and forced him to swallow as he looked up to see Hau was much the same before their eyes locked and they tossed the balls out.
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Incineroar!
“It’s time to put all that training with Ilima to use, Kamala!” Hau’s ball burst open and the Heel Pokémon landed in a crouch on the ground, briefly on all fours again. Rising up to his full height that towered over his trainer and releasing a roar as he curled his fingers into fists, he flexed his muscles to show his fighting spirit.
Champion Elio sent out Primarina!
“It’s your stage, Silky!” Elio’s ball burst open and a voice as smooth as Ariados silk and sweet as Cutiefly honey rang out. The Soloist Pokémon landed on her side of the field, supporting her upper body with her flippers as her tail flicked before she settled herself in.
Looking at them both, Kukui could briefly see their previous forms from the day they’d both met their partners. They, along with the Rowlet he’d taken under his wing after they had been chosen, had all been raised along with one another and had come a long way to reach this point. “The next victory will determine who the title of Champion will go to. Are all of you ready?”
“Yeah, we’ve been waiting for this,” Hau said. “Right, Kamala?”
“Cineroar!” snarled the Heel Pokémon, fur bristling, tail down, and lips parted to show teeth as he stood ready to fight.
“Put on your best performance, Silky,” Elio said in turn.
The Primarina glanced back, batting her long lashes and smiling at her trainer as she nodded. Then she brought one of her flippers up to brush her hair behind her as she faced her opponent.
“Then let the final match begin!” Kukui announced.
Silky used Sparkling Aria!
The Soloist Pokémon took that as cue to begin her song, pushing off the ground with her fore-flippers while using the hind-pair to support herself as she stood up. Her hair came undone, blue stands wavering in the air as she spread her arms and called forth bubbles into existence that glittered in the moonlight being cast through the dome. And, with the ringing of her melodic voice that tickled the ears of all whom it reached, they flew forward towards the opposing Incineroar.
“Sunny Day!” Hau ordered, pointing to the air above him. The Incineroar crossed his arms and raised them above his head as light radiated from within him. Then he roared, dropping his arms as that light shot upwards and into the air above the arena in the form of a flare.
Once it reached its peak, it burst out and formed an artificial sun that bore its harsh rays down on all below it. The brilliance of the light threatened to blind everyone as it reflected in the puddles on the floor, vapor rising in waves as they started evaporating. Even the bubbles in mid-flight began to shrink under the heat, reflecting the light in prismatic hues that rolled on the surface.
The sunlight is strong!
Hau brought his arm over his forehead to shield his eyes from the light as he gave his next command. “Now, wipe out those bubbles with Flamethrower!”
The Heel Pokémon let out a roar as the belt around his waist produced the flames, backed by the heat given off by the intensified sunlight. The fire that came out was blazing hot, the temperature suddenly sweltering further to fully evaporate the puddles that it lapped at as he swept the tongue of fire from the left-to-right to swallow the bubbles whole. Then he moved it towards the Primarina.
“Silky, dodge with Aqua Jet!” Elio ordered as the glare of the flames through his shades nearly overtook her.
Water wrapped the Soloist Pokémon as her hair came back together and propelled her to the right, leaving her to circle the barrier of arena’s perimeter. She was moving slower due to the sun and heat evaporating it, but managed to outpace the flames chasing her until they stopped due to strain. Then Silky redirected her Aqua Jet, taking a sharp turn to rocket towards the Heel Pokémon before he could get off another attack like that and rammed into him!
“Rrrrroooaarrr!!!” He let out a pained roar as the water that was continuously shot from her snout at high-pressure and then forced behind her for propulsion grinded against his fur like a water jet as she began to drive him back. But his pained roar turned into a smug smile as he shifted his footing back to hold his balance and wrapped his arms around the shroud of water so that she couldn’t escape.
“That’s it!” Hau cheered. “Now drive her into the ground with your Darkest Lariat!”
Dark flames draped him as he held fast to her until the Aqua Jet wore off and he forced her neck into the crook of his bent arm. Then threw himself into a twister-like spin, sweeping her along with him on a trip to the center of the arena before forcing her to the ground with all of that momentum to do as much damage as possible!
A Critical Hit!
Silky let out a cry as she hit the floor, screwing her eyes shut from both the pain and the sun glaring down at her. Then she felt a weight pressed down on her and squinted them open to see that he had her pinned down, his hands keeping her fore-flippers anchored to the ground. The heat that built up at her waist and his toothy grin were the only clues that he was getting ready to fire a point-blank Flamethrower while she couldn’t fight back—a tactic truly befitting of a heel.
Elio’s voice came out near-panicked. “Hyper Voice, now!”
Silky screamed just as the flames were let loose. The Hyper Voice hit the Heel Pokémon all at once, the force of it like a battering ram that smothered the building flames and pushed him off of her. She then sat up, continuing to let her scream ring out as she narrowed her eyes in anger and focus.
Blown back by what may as well have been a wall crafted by the translucent sound waves pushing at him, the Incineroar fell onto all fours again and extended his claws to dig into the ground before he was driven back to the other side of the field. They scraped against the arena floor as he folded his ears back and gritted his teeth to wait for it to end. She couldn’t strain her voice forever after all.
Elio didn’t give him the chance. “Moonblast while he can’t move!”
Silky’s scream came to an end as she formed a large, pink spiraling sphere of power as quickly as she would a water bubble on the tip of her snout. Then she flipped over, launching it with her tail and sending it flying for the slower Heel Pokémon before he could get out of the blast range. The moment it connected a pink explosion swallowed the Incineroar.
“Rrrrraaahhh!!” The Heel Pokémon was sent flying, tendrils of smoke the hue of the attack wafting off his skin as he hit the ground hard. Never the less, he forced his hands down to the ground and began to push himself back up.
“Flare Blitz, Kamala!” Hau ordered.
“INCINERRRROAAAR!!” At the command, roaring flames flared from the Heel Pokémon’s body, as if burning with the flames of his life itself. Backed by the power of the artificial sun shining above, the heat was almost suffocating and forced Silky to slide backwards before it could dry her out. Smirking, he began to charge for her while leaving behind a trail of fire.
“Push him back with Hydro Cannon!” Elio commanded, using the strongest attack in their arsenal to fight against the blazing meteor whose heat threatened to smother her.
Silky forced her head forward, facing the incoming flames and blasting out the attack with all her might. Shooting a stream of water with enough pressure behind it that even steel could be plowed through, the Hydro Cannon met with the fireball. Their clash resulted in a deafening hiss as steam billowed out, slowing the incoming attack.
But it couldn’t stop it. How could it with the sun blazing above, weakening their strongest attack and strengthening that of their opponent? Despite the strain of the technique, despite her best effort, Silky’s Hydro Cannon was devoured by the Flare Blitz and the resulting collision left nothing but a silhouette that was erased by the resulting explosion that followed!
A Critical Hit!
The flames gave rise to a plume of smoke that obscured the vision of both trainers until something broke free and shot towards Hau’s side of the field. It was his Incineroar, landing in a crouch and panting as he looked battered from the recoil damage. Yet there was a smug look in his eyes as he stared at the dissipating smoke.
Silky was on the ground and struggling to rise back up with her fore-flippers. Worse, her body was glowing red, flames occasionally leaking from her pores. She’d been burned. “Riiii…”
“Silky…” Elio gritted his teeth as he assessed the situation. A burn would weaken virtually every physical move she made and would eat away at her over time, until it wore her down entirely. And if she took another Flare Blitz, that would be the end…
Hearing Silky call his name, Elio fixed his eyes on the Soloist Pokémon as she rose again. He could see a cerulean light churning in her eyes. Determination that raged like the waves in a storm as they fixed themselves on the Z-Ring on his wrist that began to radiate the same cerulean hue.
We still haven’t lost.
That was what that look in her eyes said the last time he’d seen it. Back in Ultra Space. When they’d faced Lillie’s mother and the empowered Pokémon she had. That was probably the most intense battle he’d faced until now.
“I got it,” he said as the message carried, taking a deep breath to calm the anxiety he’d been feeling and holding up the Z-Ring. There was no need to be worried if she was that certain. They would win. He only needed to match his fighting spirit with hers. “But if we’re going all in, you need to be at full-strength.”
Her smile returned as she nodded and then let the power storming inside of her come to the front. The burning red hue was drowned out by the surging blue aura that spilled out from deep within. It draped her body, undoing her hair and allowing the blue strands to waver as though suspended in water.
Silky cured her burn so Elio wouldn’t feel sad!
Silky’s Torrent activated!
“Kamala, stop her!” Hau ordered, recognizing the threat it presented. Kamala roared before letting loose another Flamethrower. The rolling of mass of flames came barreling forward like a train that would run her down—
“Silky, Hydro Cannon again!”
—and in retaliation, Silky put her all once more into their strongest attack. The stream of water that came surging out was bolstered by her Ability, its force intensified into a focused deluge as it swelled in size to match that of the Flamethrower. Fire and water clashed once more and at the point of their impact the primal forces of nature gave birth to thick steam.
“Keep it up!” Elio ordered as he looked up at the artificial sun blazing above the two as steam rose towards it. As long as its light was shining down they wouldn’t be able to get the most out of the Z-Move. They’d have to deal with that first.
The deluge and inferno clashed, both Starters pouring as much as they could into the attacks. The steam continued to form and rise, the thick white plume ascending until it began to blot out the rays of the sun beating down on the field. The roaring flames then began to lose ground, pushed back by the spiraling rush of water with the sun being smothered.
That should be enough! If the sun’s rays and heat were blocked by the moisture and vapor it would stop her attacks from being weakened for a little while. Just long enough to put out the sun entirely. “Good, now Aqua Jet!”
Silky turned the power of the Hydro Cannon on herself, bending it back so that it wreathed her in a spiral of raging water that propelled her forward like a rocket. With the harsh rays of the sun dulled by the steam and the power of Torrent, she speared forward even faster than before. The Soloist Pokémon cut through the remainder of the Flamethrower, dispersing it entirely as she slammed into the Heel Pokémon head-on!
“That’s the way!” Elio pointed to the sky. “Now, drive him into his own sun!”
With the force of the Aqua Jet overwhelming him, grinding away at his fur and pushing him back, Kamala was unable to retaliate as she angled it upwards and swept him along with her into the sky. They shot up into the air and past the scalding hot steam. With her body shielded by the swirling water as they broke through the veil, she then used his body as a battering ram to pierce through the artificial sun!
The sunlight faded!
“Ah!” Hau looked on in shock as his Sunny Day was banished before Silky’s Aqua Jet dissipated and she used her tail to bat Kamala back to his side of the field, forcing out a pained grunt from the Heel Pokémon whose fur smoldered from where his back had been forced against the mass of contained heat. “Buddy, you okay?”
“Inn… incin…” A fiery aura encompassed the Heel Pokémon as he forced himself back up to his feet. Exhaling through his mouth, wisps of fire flew out before he took a deep breath and then let loose a mighty roar that caused fiery power burst from within him! “INCINERRRROAAAR!!”
Kamala’s Blaze activated!
Hau backed away in surprise as his Starter brought forth his Ability. It was the first time he’d seen Kamala bring it out. But then their eyes had met and he understood fully why. It was the first time that they’d reached a point where they truly wanted to win and put this much effort into reaching the top. Before that they were fine with just relaxing and taking things easy, right up until Lillie had to give herself up to protect them.
He swallowed his surprise as he noticed an intense light pouring out of his Z-Crystal nestled in the band around his wrist. Then he turned back and nodded. “Okay, buddy! Go as wild as you want and I’ll back you up!”
A fearsome grin stretched across the Heel Pokémon’s face before he faced the waiting Primarina with her Torrent still active. His muscles tensed as his flame belt began to burn even brighter, releasing flames that fed off the energy of the Blaze to grow an intense shade of red. He then exploded the gathered the flames behind him, using them as a form of propulsion.
Kamala used Flame Charge!
Silky naturally responded the fiery charge with an Aqua Jet, launching herself towards him like a missile. The opposing forces released another plume of steam where they clashed, both being repulsed by it. But neither would back down as they continued to burn and surge respectively, coming around and cutting through the air to continue their bout with the same intensity as their trainers glared at each other.
We’ll give it our everything. The two youths shared that train of thought as the light coming from their Z-Rings intensified to the point of being blinding as their Pokémon danced the dance of battle, putting their pride and bonds on the line as the Z-Power reached its peak. “Now!”
The Starters broke off from their aerial clash and retreated to their opposing sides of the field upon hearing their trainers. The Pokémon then synchronized their breathing to match them before mimicking their moves as they performed the necessary dances. Bulging arms fanned the building flames and while lithe flippers churned the rolling waves, and the amassed power speared from the ring and into the Pokémon that became surrounded in Z-Power!
“Oceanic Operetta!” | “Inferno Overdrive!”
Silky raised her arms and let her voice ring out anew as all that power turned to water and formed a massive, pulsing sphere of water. Kamala tensed as he braced himself and formed a massive, throbbing sphere of flames. Both released them with a battle-cry and turned the arena into the epicenter of a steam explosion the moment they clashed, the thick vapor quickly bursting out and pressing against the barrier that covered the field, separating the trainers from the damage until cracks began to form in it.
“Don’t tell me they’re exceeding the barrier’s limits!?” Kukui said somewhat nervously as the cracks began to spread as the attacks continued to press against one another. The barrier technology was supposed to be top-of-the-line, capable of stopping even Hyper Beams fired point-blank. He quickly called out three of his Pokémon before it could break. “Ninetales, Braviary, Lycanroc, come out and use Protect on us!”
The Poké Balls burst open and the three Pokémon appeared as the cracks began to vent out steam. The Alolan Ninetales touched down on the ground gracefully before darting around to Elio’s side of the field as the Braviary swooped around the opposite direction to land in front of Hau, while the Midnight Lycanroc stood in front of the professor. All three then used Protect and formed it around themselves and the humans.
It had been just in time as the barrier gave away. The pressure that had been building up from the mass of flames and water reached the point where it broke through like a bursting dam and releasing a flood of hot air that howled as it surged out. The Champion’s room that stood at the top of the mountain was covered in the veil of thick steam that battered against the protective shells with a deep rumble.
Then the emergency systems kicked in. The sprinklers poured down water and the vents opened to jettison the hot air and fill it with regulated cold air instead. Together, they cleared the air and the Pokémon dropped their Protect around the three as the last of the steam vanished to reveal the outcome.
In the center of the arena, Silky panted as she struggled to keep herself upright. She looked as though she was ready to fall over. But her eyes strained to stay open and face the direction of Kamala. He was down and out, eyes blanked out in unconsciousness.
These kids are something else, Kukui thought to himself as he adjusted his hat and declared the match when it was clear the Incineroar wasn’t getting back up. “THE WINNER IS THE CHAMPION’S PRIMARINA!!”
A siren sounded out signaling the end of the match entirely.
The Champion had defended his title.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“That was a marvelous display,” Kahuna Olivia said, her voice coming out somewhat amused as she watched the kids rush over to their Pokémon now that the match had concluded. She and the other members of the Elite Four were in a private chamber within the League building that served as their gathering spot, watching the match unfold through a screen.
Her eyes turned towards Hala and she noticed the smile he had. “You must be very proud to see him come this far.”
“I was proud the moment he gained his resolve and defeated me in battle to get to that point, but this was certainly a spectacle,” Hala said, before glancing over his shoulder to their guest. “Don’t look that upset, Guzma.”
“I ain’t upset,” said the former leader of Team Skull. He had been invited as a guest by Kahili and was standing against the wall at the back of the room, hands in his coat pockets as he watched. “If the Champion was a weakling then there’s no way he would have been able to beat me.”
“It’s not just strength that was on display here,” Hala told him. “Such power would not be possible if not for the bond between them and the confidence that they could work together to surpass their limits. Even then, they have so much more room to grow. As do you.”
He said nothing to that, merely looking away.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Those Old Men must be insane if they think I’m going to stand a chance against that, Plumeria couldn’t help but think as she watched the match from the trailer her granny lived in. The Stufful they had adopted was nestled in her lap, with Lanai sitting next to her and Molo squatting on the ground so that he didn’t block their view.
She had started training again to go and get ready to face the first of the Island Trials that she had to pass in order to do a Grand Trial. That was going to be the trial taking place at the abandoned Thrifty Megamart, and even before that she had to talk to the Trial Captain and apologize to the squirt. After all, there was no getting around what they’d done there.
They’d put children at risk to get the President’s daughter and her little Pokémon. While she had been hoping that they wouldn’t resist since she didn’t want to threaten orphans, the kind of kids who Team Skull would have gladly taken in to give them a home, the President’s orders were very clearly a veiled threat on their livelihood. So if Lillie hadn’t willingly came with them then…
I shouldn’t keep putting it off. No matter what, she had to own up to what they’d done if she was going to go through with all of this for her cute little brothers and sisters. But, even leaving that aside, she didn’t have a full-team at the moment. She only had Salazzle and Golbat with her, the first being what amounted to her Starter.
Team Skull as a whole only had limited amounts of Pokémon directly in their care because they couldn’t afford to take care of too many. Drowzee fed off dreams. They preferred it to be good or fun dreams, but they could get by on a couple of bad ones before getting ill. It beat starvation, and if they had to put some people asleep to eat then it also made pinching Pokémon for the foundation easier too. Same went for the Ghost Pokémon the occasional grunts had managed to grab.
Likewise, Zubat could feed off blood in small amounts, though that changed the moment they evolved, while Fomantis drank in sunlight while they slept during the day. The rest were scavengers of sorts or small enough that a little food went a long way if they stayed in their balls. It limited the Pokémon they had, but at least they still had them.
“Yo! That match was lit! Especially how that Crobat went all-in!” Molo said excitedly. Not surprising, given that he had a Zubat under his care. “Still, those guys got nothing on you, Big Sis. It’ll just make Team Skull better when you win.”
Lanai nodded and spoke passionately in agreement. “Yeah, you can totally take that throne from him, Big Sis!”
“Well, of course I can,” she told them, her tone of voice making it sound as though it was obvious that she would as the Stufful pushed its head against her hand to encourage her to pet it. That confidence was more for appearances than anything, but she had a role to play to the rest of them and would see it through to the best of her ability.
“Your Big Sis has got this.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
As the Pokémon League drew to a close at the top of the mountain, Elio was greeted by the biting cold the moment he walked out of the doors. He’d kept his Title, but with the barrier being broken it would take a little time to have it repaired. Time that he should probably spend training if they were going to be facing other challengers of that caliber.
A cry rang out from above as Nebby descended, Rotom clinging to her neck using its two appendages. The beast that calls the moon swooped down in front of him and came to a stop using her psychic powers, allowing her float.
“Did you enjoy the match?” Elio asked.
Nebby stretched her wings out in an excited manner. “Mahina-pea!”
She wants to battle too, zzt. Rotom translated.
“I figured as much.” He reached up to pet her head affectionately, despite the cold nipping at him. “You’re so strong though that it’ll be difficult to find an opponent that can keep up with you. How about we see if one of the Tapus wants to battle soon?”
She consented with a nod. “Peee.”
Elio was about to have Nebby teleport them back to the Melemele Pokémon Center to have the rest of his team healed up before he turned in for the night, given that the battle had been somewhat draining, when the doors opened and Hau came running out. “What’s wrong?”
“I got this from Professor Kukui!” He took a deep breath and then straightened up, holding a slip of paper in his grasp with numbers on them. Elio sincerely hoped it wasn’t a bill for the damage to the arena, but that fear was quickly brushed aside when he said, “It’s Lillie’s number.”
Nebby perked up immediately. “Mahii?”
“She called Professor Burnet before the match and said she’d watch. Chances are she’s still up now, so if we call her we might get to see her again tonight.”
It had been a while since she’d left to start her own journey, and both Nebby and Hau had taken her departure really hard. Not to mention Elio missed her as well, so they should call her while they had the chance with the time difference. “I guess we could go to the Pokémon Center near here, but Nebby’s too big. They won’t let her remain out of her ball to talk with Lillie. The only place that would fit her would be—”
Nebby used Teleport!
“—Professor Kukui’s lab,” he finished, looking around in mild surprise. If he had to guess, Nebby read his thoughts on where to go and then just brought them there. “Okay then.”
“Mahii! Mahii!” She gestured to the computer, wings folded to fit without further disturbing the Midday Lycanroc that grumbled from the corner at their arrival.
“Right, right. Let’s hope the Professor won’t mind,” Elio said as he took a seat at the console and entered in the information. The video line rang three times before it connected and Lillie appeared on the screen.
“Lillie, it really is you!” Hau said, his tone and the big smile on his face making his joy evident.
It was only matched by Nebby’s own trill. “Mahii!”
“Nebby! Elio! Hau!” Lillie clasped her hands together and smiled happily. “I’m so happy to see all of you again. Your Pokémon aren’t hurt too badly from that match, are they?”
“They’re mostly just tired. Nothing a visit the Pokémon Center won’t fix,” Elio said, patting Nebby’s head. “We were going to do that, but she was really eager to see you again, so she teleported us right to the Professor’s lab.”
“I missed you too, Nebby,” Lillie said in a maternal tone as her gentle gaze fixed on the once tiny Pokémon. “Have you been a good girl for Elio?”
Nebby’s head bobbed eagerly. “Hii. Hiii!”
“So, you’ve finally made it to that place you were going to be staying at for a while, right?” Hau asked. “What’s it like?”
“It’s pretty different just from the places we’ve passed by to get here, but I want to explore it some more starting tomorrow and—” She looked off the screen for a moment when a yelp reached her ears as something white bounced up and down, trying to climb up. “Okay, I’ll introduce you to them as well.”
She lifted an Alolan Vulpix onto the screen and into her lap for all of them to see. “Everyone, this is Koko. She’s my Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet.”
“Pix!” she yelped excitedly, pushing off Lillie’s lap and placing her forepaws onto the desk to climb up it. She then started jumping up. “Vulpix! Vulpix! Vul!”
“Koko, you’ve got to settle down,” Lillie chided the Fox Pokémon gently before turning back to them. “She’s been a lot more active since she watched your matches. I think she’s a fan.”
“Pix.” Her tails flicked in agreement.
“She really seems to like battling a lot too. Even at the Gym, she wouldn’t give up easily.” Lillie’s smile wavered. “If I was a better trainer, things would have probably been different.”
The Fox Pokémon turned and tilted her head curiously, taking note of the change in her voice. “Vul?”
Nebby did much of the same. “Mahii?”
“What happened?” Elio asked.
Lillie told them of her arrival in Vermillion City and the encounter with Astra with an almost nostalgic tone. She told them of the encounter with the Sandshrew, her Mother’s Bewear being confused and how she’d had to run to avoid the Combee Horde with a somewhat sullen tone. And she told them of her defeat at the Gym in a regretful tone, noting how she should have done better with both Koko and Shuckle.
“That’s a lot to go through in a short time,” Elio said. “I always heard that Vermillion was one of the tougher places, but I didn’t think that things would be that tough. I hope it doesn’t give you a bad impression of Kanto.”
Lillie only shook her head. “It’s been fun too. And Koko’s pretty excited to go back and challenge the Gym Leader once we’ve got some more experience. So, until we leave the cape, I’m going to do my best to be a better trainer for her and Shuckle, like all of you.”
She then held her hands to her chest and closed her eyes. “Then, one day, we can all go on a journey together.”
The way she said that so earnestly left Elio feeling a bit sheepish. He looked away from the screen and scratched his cheek. “Then take your time and do the best you can. Really explore Kanto and make plenty of good memories. That’s what makes a journey special in the end.”
Nebby chirruped in agreement. “Hii. Hii.”
“Yeah!” Hau added. “And when you come back, we’ll all go out for Malasadas so you can tell us what your time in Kanto was like!”
Lillie giggled for a moment before smiling brightly enough to match the moon in the Alolan sky. “It’s a promise.”