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.”