Chapter 18: Doubles and Triples
“Heh, you took some time coming back after your last match,” said a young boy as he stood on his end of Nugget Bridge. Youngster Cole was the current third-in-line of those who served in the challenge, meant to be the opponent that Lillie would face. “Been a while since we had any new blood, so I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Sorry about that,” she told him with an apologetic gesture. “I wanted to train everyone a little more before I came back.”
Indeed, it had been about three days now since Lillie had come to the bridge. She couldn’t say they’d made immense progress in learning their new moves, but they needed practice against actual opponents too. That, and the fact that Snubbull was getting antsy to prove himself while Koko wanted to see if her Icy Wind would work in an actual battle.
“It’s fine. Let’s just get going with a Doubles Battle!” The eager Youngster held up a pair of pokéballs before tossing them into the air. “Come out, Don and Bron!”
The balls burst open and light spilled forth, giving shape to two different pokémon. The first was a Kantonian Geodude. Unlike the Alolan variant, it didn’t have the metal-like skin or protrusions but looked more like a large rock with two arms. It gave an eager smile that could match its trainer as it slammed one fist into its other’s palm.
The second pokémon was one Lillie hadn’t seen before, flat and round and rimmed by six dark blue orbs on the perimeter of its metal body. Rotom floated over toward it and began to fluster the metal pokémon with a snap of its camera, leaving the yellow, round eyes to blink rapidly for a moment. Then it spun around in a quick motion and batted Rotom away before it floated off the surface of the bridge next to the Geodude.
“Rotom,” Lillie said in a reproaching tone as the Living Pokédex bounced upon hitting the bridge and then righted itself in the air, holding one of its appendages to its frame. “I thought you learned your lesson already?”
Zzt… first time seeing a Bronzor, Rotom said, trying to justify its actions as it floated back over to her relatively unscratched. At this point, she could only be thankful those pokédex cases were built to last. It’zzz a Steel and Psychic type, for the record.
Well, at least knowing that makes it easier choosing who to send out then, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out her choices. “Bellamy, Snubbull, you’re up.”
“Sprout?” Bellamy inquired after emerging from the confines of his ball. The Flower Pokémon took a moment upon being released to take in the sight of the bridge and tried to grasp the situation, his bulbous head shifting back and forth.
Snubbull, meanwhile, stood proud as he immediately faced the pair opposite them and pointed his stubby little arm at them. “Snubbull! Snub!”
In response, the Geodude chuckled. Then it gestured towards itself with its arms before extending them out to its sides. “Dude. Geodude.”
“Remember, work with Bellamy, Snubbull,” Lillie gently reminded the puppy that had fallen onto all fours and was bristling. “It’s a Doubles Battle, not one-on-one.”
His answer was to look at his nervous, willowy partner and give him a gruff bark. “Snub!”
“All right, we got this Don and Bron,” Cole said, his rousing speech filled with passion and youthful energy before he pointed to Lillie. “Now, make your move challenger!”
Lillie obliged. “Okay, then. Bellamy, use Vine Whip on the Geodude while Snubbull goes for the other one!”
The Bellsprout released his sinuous vines from the buds between his stalk and leafy appendages, shooting them out across the gap towards the Rock Pokémon as it hovered there while Snubbull darted forward to sink his flaming fangs into solid steel. The Bronzor that had been floating next to Bellamy’s target was grabbed and used as a shield to intercept the blow, a gong-like sound ringing out as the tips of the vines slammed against the leaf-like marking upon its back. He retracted them as Snubbull lunged, fire popping into existence around his fangs as he prepared to bring them crashing down on the makeshift shield.
Fire erupted and obscured Lillie’s vision for a moment before a breeze wafted and blew away the smoke to reveal that the Bronzor was being held behind the Geodude by one of its hands, while the other was between Snubbull’s jaws. It had pulled its partner pokémon out of the way and substituted its arm, wearing the same grin it had previously as Snubbull snarled while his teeth were still wrapped around the stone limb. Then the Rock Pokémon brought its partner down on his head.
Lillie winced at the resounding metallic sound as he was knocked away. “Snubbull, are you okay?”
The puppy sat up on his rear, lightly rubbing the spot with his stumpy little arms. “Bulll…lll…”
Can you even use another pokémon as a weapon, zzt? Rotom inquired.
“No rule against it!” the Youngster shouted back. “This is just how our teamwork is!”
Snubull managed to regain his senses, shaking his head vigorously and snarling at the pair. The Geodude grinned, spinning the Bronzor on a finger like a disk with one hand and gesturing for him to come again with the other. Riled up, the puppy got back onto all fours and rushed back in to confront the pair. “BULL!”
It was predictably a trap as the Geodude flipped the Bronzor around so that it was facing Snubbull as its eyes shone with psychic power. Hypnotic waves rippled out and made the Fairy Pokémon go from a charge to a sluggish crawl before falling over, asleep. Then, tossing the Bronzor up into the air, the Geodude clasped its hands together before pulling them apart to reveal a sphere of light that transformed into a stone that began to grow until it was the size of Geodude itself.
“Bellamy, help Snubbull!” Lillie called as the Geodude then raised its hands and made a throwing motion that sent the stone flying towards Snubbull. The Flower Pokémon did so by sending his vines across the distance and snatching the sleeping puppy out of the path of the rock that shattered into fragments on impact with the bridge. “Good, now wake him up!”
Frantic in lieu of the pace of the battle, Bellamy then tried to wake his partner up by using his leafy limbs to shake Snubbull awake. But he couldn’t before the Bronzor released a Confusion attack, bundled as a ball of telekinetic energy, towards the pair. The blast knocked them apart, leaving Bellamy to land on his back while Snubbull rolled onto his feet and snarled as he woke up grumpy at taking the bulk of it.
“Snubbull, Bellamy, are you both okay?” Lillie asked. Bellamy made a slight waving motion while as he managed to get back on his tiny roots. Snubbull, meanwhile, bristled at the opposing pair and then ran in again to attack.
Sighing at his brashness, Lillie opted to try to work around Snubbull’s inability to sit still for the moment. “Bellamy, I want you to use Growth like we did in practice. I have an idea.”
The Flower Pokémon bobbed his head before looking up to the morning sun and drinking up the light.
“Rock Throw!” Her opponent bellowed, focused on the immediate threat of the Fairy Pokémon closing in with fire licking his teeth. Geodude clasped his hands again and conjured not one large stone, but three smaller ones. He then flung them towards the puppy with the intention of halting his charge.
But Snubbull proved deft on his feet this time. Even before being picked up by Lillie, he had been fighting for weeks against other pokémon and trainers before he ran out of luck—hitting and running. He dodged the rocks, bouncing from side-to-side as he closed the distance, eyes fixed on the Bronzor as flames licked his teeth. “Bull!”
“Hypnosis!” ordered the Youngster.
The Bronzor’s eyes grew luminous again as it prepared to release slumber-inducing hypnotic waves. The Geodude was already preparing to take advantage of that by clasping its hands together for another Rock Throw—
—but a pair of sinuous vines shot forward from behind Snubbull like arrows, sparkling beads of light gleaming off them from Growth. The empowered vines slammed into the Bronzor hard enough to release a metallic thong and knock the floating Bronze Pokémon astray. That left Geodude staring down a vicious pair of teeth wreathed in flames right before the jaws snapped shut.
Then flames erupted and consumed them both in smoke.
The two pokémon were hidden from view until a meaty thump was followed by a pink bundle of fur emerging from the smoke. Snubbull was thrown out of the lingering veil, having taken a retaliatory punch that hit hard enough he bounced once more on the surface of the bridge. Yet there was a grin on his face as he came to a stop and brought his stubby little paw to his cheek.
The reason why was made clear when the smoke cleared away and revealed the Rock Pokémon shaking in place as flames seeped from its body.
Don was burned!
“Gee…oooo…” Its voice came out strained as it writhed in pain. Fire-types weren’t common around these parts and, for the first time, its shell of stone had become an oven as the flames took root deeply, sinking into the muscles beneath its hard exterior as the Bronzor floated over to check on its partner.
Snubbull had never been one to pass up an advantage. While the Rock Pokémon was battling against the heat searing at its muscles, he eyed the floating Bronzor that turned its back onto him. Then he immediately fell onto all fours to lunge for it a second time with fire licking his fangs in a surprise attack.
But no sooner than he was within biting range did Geodude act in defense of its companion. It brushed aside the vulnerable Bronze Pokémon and crossed its arms to take the hit, a second explosion of heat and smoke coming about to engulf them. This time Snubbull immediately hopped out of the smokescreen and put distance between them.
Lillie took in the sight of the puppy as wisps of flames escaped his mouth. His breath was coming out heavier and it looked like a bruise was forming where he’d been hit. He needed a Potion at the very least, but he was still better off compared to his competition given scorch marks scoured Geodude’s stony exterior as it held one eye open and its arms drooped down.
It had taken a beating. And Bellamy was still in the process of using Growth while Snubbull insisted on throwing himself in front of them. If they acted now, they probably could end things. But Lillie still wanted to offer him a chance to back down before any excess damage was done.
“You’d better call back your Geodude,” she told her competition. “It can’t take another hit like that and remain conscious.”
Her offer was rejected. “Shake it off, Don! You’re not going to let a few flames snuff out your fighting spirit, are you?”
The words roused Geodude’s spirits as it eyed Snubbull and let out a sound. The Bronzor flew into one of its hands and it reeled that arm back, holding its other one out with the fingers spread as if measuring the distance while Snubbull snarled. Then it gestured for the puppy to come with a grin on its face that Lillie felt was meant to bait him in on purpose.
Unfortunately, he bought it. He charged for them as a shroud of energy seemingly blanketed the Bronzor until it was as white as a discus and then flung it at Snubbull mid-lunge. The moment it connected there was a surprisingly bright explosion that engulfed the two of them.
Don used Fling!
A Critical Hit!
Lillie brought her arm up to keep her eyes shielded until she heard a thump hit the bridge and then peered past her sleek arm to see the puppy struggling to stand up once more. “Ah! Snubbull, are you okay?”
“Sn…bu…” he groaned softly, little arms shaking as he slowly got back onto his hind legs. There he swayed, looking pretty beaten from the blow despite the fact that the heat gnawing at his foe’s muscles and the typing alone should have stemmed the worst of the throw. “Bull…”
Who turnzzz their pokémon into ammunition for Fling, zrt? Rotom inquired, limbs moving at odd angles.
“There’s no rule against it after all,” the boy insisted. “It’s like having your pokémon use a move on its partner pokémon that will help them out. Besides, Bron is tough enough to take it.”
“Even if you say that, your Geodude can’t fight anymore.” Lillie pointed to the Rock Pokémon that drooped down onto the bridge as the flames that’d continued to ravage him from the inside-out finally took their toll. It collapsed onto the bridge, unconscious.
“Bu…ll!” Snubbull huffed, victorious. Then it raised a shaking arm towards the remaining pokémon, as if to say it was its turn next. “Sn…Snubull…”
The Bronzor, having recovered from being used as live ammunition, narrowed its gaze towards Snubbull as azure light radiated from them. A ball of psychic energy built up in front of it, the Confusion directly aimed at the puppy that was barely on its feet. It released the blast with a metallic sound.
“Bellamy!” Lillie called out. Sinuous vines speared out across the distance, scooping the Fairy Pokémon up before the bundle of psychic energy hit the surface of the bridge and then came unbounded with enough force that it would have definitely knocked him out.
“Snub!” Snubbull barked towards the Flower Pokémon as it dangled him over his head, supported via his Growth-imbued vines. When Bellamy tilted his bell in confusion, the puppy made a slight circle with his arm and pointed towards the Bronze Pokémon. Bellamy made an inquiring sound, but another bark led to him abruptly spinning Snubbull around in circles with his vines before suddenly chucking him at the Bronzor while he used Fire Fang. “BUULLLLL!!”
The resulting explosion lit up with space between them before the Bronze Pokémon hit the bridge with a loud noise, unconscious. As for Snubbull, he stumbled on his feet for a moment as the smoke cleared and let out a victorious half-bark… before suddenly falling over onto his face.
“Snubbull, you’re not supposed to copy them!” Lillie said as she ran over to check on him. He was coughing out tufts of smoke as he huffed, his flesh bruised from throwing himself headfirst into a pokémon made of solid metal. Yet, as she cradled him in her arms, he let out a proud chuff. “Ah, just rest for now, okay?”
She couldn’t help but sigh as she returned him to his ball. Then she looked over to her Flower Pokémon as he waddled over while looking like he expected a scolding for such recklessness. Instead, she gently patted him on his bell. “I can’t say I approve of that plan at the end, but you still helped him as best you could. Good job, Bellamy.”
He accepted the praise with a delighted sound. Then the Youngster came over and stamped her card. It was her third step in completing the bridge challenge.
Lillie received an Orange Stamp!
Since Bellamy was relatively unharmed and she had her other pokémon wanting the chance to go, Lillie decided to press on to the fourth section of the bridge. This time there was a young woman who looked to be about Lillie’s age, if only a year or two older. She was dressed in a camping scout uniform that seemed native to the region.
She gave Lillie a slight wave and smile. “Good job making it this far. Not many people get here in such a short time. I’m Misa, by the way.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s been easy,” Lillie said, lightly brushing her arm while Koko flicked her tail and chilled the air around them. “Uh, anyway, the battle format is three-on-three for you, right?”
The Picnicker nodded her head as she held up a pair of balls in one hand and a third in her other. “Yep. No substitutions, and we’ll go until one side is unable to battle or the trainer surrenders. Agreed?”
“Sure.” Lillie consented before releasing the Mold Pokémon between Koko and Bellamy. Then she crouched down and smiled. “Win or lose, what matters is that you three remember to work together, okay?”
Koko yipped. Bellamy nodded. Shuckle bobbed his head. That agreed upon, they all turned to face their opposition when the sound of three Poké Balls bursting open reach their ears gave way to light taking shape.
Two of them were small, rodent-like pokémon that had blue and purple fur with darker spots in certain places, larger buckteeth, and spines running over their bodies. It gave the impression of them being different variants of the same species. The last was a yellow duck that stood upright, clutching its head between its paws and had a somewhat blank stare as it quirked its head.
Nidoran (Male) and Nidoran (Female), the Poison Pin Pokémon, Rotom began. The male has a larger horn than the female and is quite powerful, but the female has a more potent poison. Psyduck, the Duck Pokémon. Despite being a Water-Type, it possesses latent psychic powers. However, using them gives it a headache, so it normally passes time doing as little as possible.
Lillie took that information into account against her current team, but felt compelled to ask, “If it gets a headache when using its psychic powers, will your Psyduck be alright in a battle?”
“You’re sweet, but you don’t need to worry about him,” Misa said as she gently patted the Duck Pokémon on his head. “Psyduck trainers usually buy medicine that helps keep the worst of their headaches away until they evolve. So, you’d better treat him as a serious opponent, or you’ll regret it.”
That said, she took several steps back and pulled out a coin. “Now, to determine who’ll go first we’ll use the flip of a coin. You get heads, I get tails. Agreed?”
Lillie nodded. “Sure.”
“Here we go.” The Picnicker proceeded to flip the coin into the air before catching it and then slamming it against the back of her opposite hand. “Heads! Your move!”
“Okay then, Bellamy use Vine Whip on Psyduck!” Lillie ordered, pointing towards it. The Psyduck would be a problem for both Bellamy and Shuckle if it had access to both Psychic and Water techniques. Taking him out first while Bellamy had the advantage would be more prudent.
“Bell-ell!” The Flower Pokémon reared his sinuous body backwards and then swung forward as the little buds near his arm released the lengthy vines. They flew across the distance like lunging serpents, slithering in the air as they made for the vacant-looking Water-Type—
—when both were snatched out of the air by the Nidoran pair. Moving in near-perfect sync, both lunged to catch the vines between their mouths as they crossed one another in front of Psyduck. That left the vines crisscrossed down the middle as the pair then held the vines in place, the lengths going taut as Bellamy struggled to pull them back.
“Good job, you two~” Misa praised with a cheery tone before addressing her third pokémon. “Now, use Disable on Bellsprout!”
The Psyduck focused its vacant gaze down the vines and towards Bellamy before they were made to glow with the hue of psychic power. “Psyyyyy…”
Bellamy went rigid as that same color coated his body from root to bell. The vines that had been pulled taut then went slack, drooping down the center and eventually laying sprawled on the ground as the two Poison Pin Pokémon let go. He couldn’t retract them, which caused him to begin fidgeting with them using his leafy appendages. “Sp-sprout!?”
“Don’t panic, Bellamy,” Lillie told him. It was no different than what the Venonat had done before, meaning it would wear off. “Just give it a little time and you’ll be fine.”
She then looked to Koko as her body shone briefly, recognizing it as Snow Warning triggering to boost the power of her Ice-attacks… except the light faded out and the sky above remained clear, leaving Koko to let out a small whine of uncertainty. “Koko, what’s wrong?”
“That would be Psyduck’s Ability at work,” Misa chimed in, diverting their attention towards the Duck Pokémon as a similar shroud to Koko’s faded from his body. “It’s called Cloud Nine, and because of it the area around Psyduck is shielded from moves that change the weather. That means your cute little Vulpix’s Ability and Sunny Day, if your Bellsprout has it, won’t trigger.”
No sooner than the battle had begun Lillie was at a tremendous disadvantage as the sun and the snow that her pokémon would benefit from were denied to her. And the situation only got worse when her opponent began her counterattack with the Nidoran pair. “Use Double Kick on the Vulpix and Shuckle!”
““NIDORAN!”” The Poison Pin Pokémon broke into a sprint towards Lillie’s group of three with surprising speed. As one they both leaped forward to deliver a set of flying kicks towards their targets, an Ice-Type and Rock-Type respectively, with their legs aglow with power to deliver the Fighting-Type attacks.
Still flustered by having her Ability suppressed for the first time, Koko was ill-prepared to avoid the hit being sent her way by the female Nidoran. The hit would have caught her head-on, had Bellamy not put himself in front of the blow haphazardly. As a result, the glowing kick caught him straight in his bell-shaped head and promptly sent him sailing over Koko until he flopped on the ground.
Ironically, in contrast, Shuckle was the only one who hadn’t been slow on the uptake as he quickly wove a Protect to shield himself from the attack. The male Nidoran’s kick slammed against the fragile barrier and shattered it easily, as he hadn’t mastered the technique, but it dulled the strength and speed of the kick enough that he could Withdraw into his shell that shone in time for him to take the little damage that bled over relatively unharmed.
“Koko, push her back with Powder Snow! Shuckle, try using Constrict on the other one!” Lillie called out. The Alolan Vulpix hastily breathed out a plume of white and blue frost that forced her opponent backward towards her side of the field, while the Mold Pokémon’s own fell back to avoid the sinuous and sticky limbs that began to writhe and stretch. “Bellamy, are you okay?”
Koko gave him an inquiring poke as well. “Pix?”
“Sp…sprout…” The Flower Pokémon waved a leafy appendage upright as if attempting to say he was fine. But it was clear that hit hadn’t been soft from how he swayed in the process of rising back up.
“Don’t strain yourself,” Lillie told him before addressing Koko. “Try to catch them all with an Icy Wind!”
Koko nodded and then turned back to her opponents, inhaling deeply enough that the fur on her chest seemingly puffed out. Then she exhaled and what came out was a surging wave of white and blue frost, air chilled so deeply that it would seep past the flesh and gnaw into the muscles. It rushed down the retreating pair of Nidorans and the vacant-looking Psyduck, intent on washing over them all—
“Bunker down with Light Screen!”
—when suddenly a wonderous wall of light appeared in front of the Duck Pokémon as his eyes shone once more with the psychic hue. “Psyyyyyduck!!”
The Nidoran pair jumped over the wall and above his head before quickly hiding behind the Duck Pokémon. The bulwark forged of psychic energy strained like glass under pressure as it blunted the force of the attack, leaving only the fringes of the Icy Wind to lap at the fur of the two Poison Pin Pokémon until it petered out. The wall then shattered into motes of glowing light that hovered around them all, coating and clinging to their fur even as the Nidoran pair shook off the icy particles that did manage to catch them.
Zzzt, Light Screen will weaken any non-physical attackzzz used against them, Rotom warned. Koko’s attacks won’t be as effective until the light fades, zzrt.
Even Icy Wind won’t work now… Lillie’s lips pursed as her mind ran through the opening exchange. This is really bad. We’re at a complete disadvantage.
Those Poison-Type Pokémon were naturally strong against Fairy-Types like Snubbull, so they’d resist Koko’s strongest attack on top of most of Bellamy’s attacks. And they knew Fighting-Type moves too, which Koko and Shuckle were weak against. Add that with the fact that Psyduck’s Ability meant neither could take advantage of their own, and he knew Disable on top of Light Screen…
“The battles up until now were to teach newer trainers lessons on the different aspects of the battles,” Misa said, wearing a smile as if she’d read her mind. “Luka teaches the timing of attacks, Amaya teaches working under pressure, and Cole teaches teamwork. I bring all of those lessons together to see how well you manage when the odds are stacked against you.”
It wasn’t simply a Triple Battle between the Pokémon. It was a battle of strategy and coordination that relied on how well a trainer could adapt. Misa had the advantage of typing, experience, and even techniques. If Lillie was going to prevail, she needed a way to tip the scales back in their favor.
“Now, attack them again with Double Kick you two!” Misa ordered her pair of Nidoran. The Poison Pin Pokémon darted forward on the command, splitting apart in order to strike from the left and right of the two pokémon that happened to be weak to Fighting-Type techniques. They both lunged with their legs aglow—
—when the sinuous vines that had been lying limp on the ground abruptly flared out and caught the two midair, where they couldn’t avoid it. The Disable had worn out just in time for Bellamy’s Vine Whip to catch them both, smacking them to the side and throwing their attack off before they retracted back to Bellamy.
“Nice save, Bellamy!” Lillie cheered. “Shuckle, try to pin them down with Sticky Web!”
The Mold Pokémon’s cheeks swelled before it spat out globs of bug glue that stretched out into webbing as it met with the air friction. But both of the Poison Pin Pokémon were deft on their feet as they avoided the two bundles of webbing. They bounced around, holding the attention of the gathered until Misa gave the order to the Duck Pokémon to go on the offense.
“Water Pulse!” While she hadn’t said which one to attack, there was really only one viable target: Shuckle.
“Shuckle, Protect!” Lillie shouted as Psyduck opened its bill and water began to pool in front of it into a sphere the size of its head. The Mold Pokémon immediately began to weave its defensive shell, the air seemingly crystalizing in front of it. He barely finished just before the cannonball of water slammed into it, shattering the defensive bulwark while leaving water splashing over him uncomfortably.
“Disable!” Misa commanded. “Nido, Leer! Nina, Double Kick!”
The oppressive psychic shroud veiled Shuckle, leaving him to frown as he felt his ability to use Protect being suppressed by Psyduck. Then came a baleful glare from the male Nidoran as its eyes took on a crimson hue that meshed with the cerulean of the Disable. He shook his head at the unpleasant feeling as the female Nidoran rushed in with her legs aglow before he could shake off having his defenses compromised—
“Koko! Bellamy! Help him!”
—that was when snow-white fur darted in-between them as Koko rushed in and braced herself to release a frost-laden gale with a deep exhale of Powder Snow. Caught in a sudden snowstorm, the Nidoran faltered as it began to drape her in a blanket of encroaching ice. Then came the sinuous vines as Bellamy lashed out to rebuke her, knocking her aside.
“Pin her down, Shuckle!” Lillie ordered and the Mold Pokémon obeyed. Whipping his head around, he spat out another glob of Sticky Web and it splashed over the female Nidoran, leaving her flailing in it but unable to move. With one tied up, the odds were a little more even. “Koko, Moonblast on Psyduck now!”
The Alolan Vulpix was wreathed in a pink aura that pooled in front of her mouth before being let loose as a pink orb towards the Duck Pokémon. Psyduck stared at the incoming attack with a slightly tilted look on its face, seemingly without any intention of dodging the hit. Instead, the male Nidoran threw itself into the attack before it could hit the intended target and the pink-hued explosion wrapped him in a veil of smoke…
Then he emerged through the smoke only lightly singed, taking her strongest attack and still able to stand due to a combination of typing and the lingering glint of the Light Screen. “Nido!”
“Good boy!” the Picnicker praised. “Now, Double Kick on her Vulpix!”
Without hesitation, he rushed for Koko with his legs aglow. Koko tried to let loose a Powder Snow and bury it in the cold winds. But it bound off to the side at an angle, getting off the line of the attack, and then whipped around on its forepaws to throw its hind legs forward before she could react.
The impact was hard enough that Lillie could practically feel it when Koko was batted aside. She could only watch as her small frame hit the ground and bounced off the surface of the bridge, before tumbling to a stop next to Shuckle. Her legs curled as small tremors ran across her body and she whimpered. “Koko!”
“Sorry, but I can’t go easy!” Misa said. “Finish her with Double Kick!”
He moved to do so when the sinuous vines danced. Bellamy waddled over with his root-like legs, his vines flailing about in an effort to keep him from getting close enough to deliver the finishing blow. There was little rhyme or reason to it beyond the panicked efforts to keep her safe, but it served as a deterrent as the Nidoran focused on avoiding them.
Lillie let out a sigh of relief.
“Don’t breathe easy yet,” Misa warned. “Nina, Poison Sting and keep it coming!”
The female Nidoran trapped within the Sticky Web aimed her opened maw towards the downed Koko and let loose small needles that were a deep shade of purple. The spray was meant to be wide, weak in itself but more than enough to finish off Koko in her injured state. And Bellamy couldn’t keep the male distracted and cover her.
So Shuckle did it instead. The Mold Pokémon stretched its limbs out, wrapping Koko within his grasp and pulling her against his shell as he covered her. The rain of purple needles battered and broke where they met his tough shell, but several found the appendages and then sank in deep, coloring the points of the impacts the same shade of purple. “Kle!”
He’s been Poizzoned! Rotom exclaimed. He won’t last long, zrt!
“Vul?” a muffled sound from Koko, sheltered from the attack and out of view as the female Nidoran continued her attack between breaths.
“Shuuucklle,” he cried as more of his exposed appendages were being shaded purple while reddish wisps began to escape from his body. “Kllle!”
Shuckle is storing energy!
“Ohhh, it’s trying to use Bide before the poison can knock it out,” Misa said in recognition. “But in its current state, it can’t take a solid hit to something its weak to. Water Pulse!”
From its position, at Shuckle’s unprotected flank, Psyduck readied another sphere of compressed water and let it loose. Shuckle was sturdy enough that he could last a little longer against the spray of poisonous needles. But between the earlier attacks and his Protect being disabled, he couldn’t take a hit from that.
So Bellamy took a page out of the male Poison Pin Pokémon’s book and flung his willowy body bell-first into the attack, intercepting it. The sphere ruptured, sending Bellamy flying overhead only to plop down on the bridge, where his head struggled to rise up again.
But after a moment, it lost all strength. The collective damage had been too much. He passed out.
And with the only obstacle in his way removed, the male Nidoran moved to complete his original objective by bounding towards the turtled Shuckle with the intention of delivering its own finishing blow before the blood-tinged aura around it could be unleashed. He threw himself into a kick with both hindlegs present when a gap in-between Shuckle’s purple-stained limb appeared.
Koko used Powder Snow!
What emerged was a nearly point-blank burst of condensed frost, a wintry breath that slammed into the Poison Pin Pokémon full blast. The white veil swallowed the Nidoran’s small body as a crackling sound filled the air. And when it finally petered out, what was left was a frozen statue positioned in front of the snout of the Alolan Vulpix.
Nidoran was frozen solid!
“Pix!” Koko barked. It was a signal from what Lillie could tell, because Shuckle didn’t hesitate to act. He unleashed the built-up power he’d accumulated as he lashed out with the remainder of his strength.
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
His appendage wreathed in red shot forward, slamming into the frozen male Nidoran. The impact was so hard that the ice encasing him shattered and sent him flying. Then he crashed into his bound partner, causing the battery of Poison Stings to cease.
“Nido!, Nina!” Misa called out, but neither responded. Both had been knocked out.
“Shuu…shu…” Panting, Shuckle coughed out some purple bubbles before Koko crawled out from beneath him. Then his head drooped to the ground. The poison finished its work, robbing him of his consciousness at last.
“Bellamy… Shuckle…” They had both given their all to protect Koko when she was injured and, because of that, she was the last one standing. More than that, Lillie realized from around her mouth was what looked to be frozen berry mush that Shuckle must’ve let her eat to heal up a bit. “Come back, you two.”
She returned them to their balls as Misa did the same to her unconscious pair, leaving only Koko and Psyduck on the field.
“It’s been a while since I lost two pokémon in a Triples battle,” Misa said. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re any worse at one-on-one. Confusion!”
“PSSYYYY—” Not deterred at the lack of support from her Nidoran pair, Psyduck’s eyes shone with a cerulean hue as it bundled up into a ball of telekinetic energy. Then launched it towards the Alolan Vulpix with a quack. “DUCK!”
Koko avoided it by bounding to the side, her hackles raised as a pink aura began to build around her—
—the aura faded as she looked back and let out an inquiring, “Vul?”
“Focus on just dodging for now while I think of something,” she said. Koko’s expression made it clear she didn’t understand why. But she obeyed as Psyduck released another telekinetic cannonball towards her.
We’re in a bad spot, Lillie couldn’t help but think as Koko avoided the next Confusion attack. Psyduck was a Water-Type, meaning it had an advantage against Koko’s Ice attacks. Outside of that she only had Moonblast to use, but it could always put up a Light Screen to blunt their collective attacks, and then Disable to stop her from using it again. But… that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still affect it.
Nodding to herself, she addressed her Starter. “Koko, keep using Powder Snow on Psyduck!”
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline blue eyes narrowed as she inhaled until her tiny chest swelled. Then she let loose another stream of the frost-laden gale. The breath of winter ran forward and blanketed the Psyduck, who stood there and let it wash over him as a Light Screen appeared and caught the bulk of it before shattering to leave glimmering particles covering it.
“You’re faster than it, so just keep running circles around it and using Powder Snow!” Lillie pointed out. Speed was the one definite advantage that they had over Psyduck, allowing her to release the chilling breath as she closed the distance and left its glimmering yellow body covered with flakes of frost.
“That won’t do much of anything to Psyduck!” Misa said as her pokémon shook off the first flurry and its eyes shone with psychic power. Then it released another Confusion attack, sending yet another telekinetic bundle of energy sailing towards Koko.
The Alolan Vupix managed to hop to the side as it crashed into the bridge, retaliating with yet another blast of Powder Snow. As the frost-laden gale washed over the Duck Pokémon yet again, it was a little slower in shaking it off a second time.
“Once more!” Lillie said.
“PIXXXXX!” breathed Koko as she strained her ice pouch to let out an even strong breath until the sound of crackling ice filled the air.
Psyduck was frozen solid!
Koko stirred. “Vul?”
“Resistance isn’t immunity,” Lillie explained. “Even with Light Screen, a constant series of ice attacks would eventually give it enough grounding to freeze so it can’t use Disable or refresh the Light Screen. That’s why Lynn used Sing to get around Bellamy’s immunity to Sleep Powder, and why Pieri used Safeguard with Lynn.”
It was fortunate they had that training match after all. It was only because she remembered how Lynn had outpaced Snubbull that she opted to even thought to keep going in circles until it stuck. “Now, ready your strongest Moonblast before it thaws!”
Snow-white fur was shrouded in a veil of pink as Koko amassed her most powerful attack, a swirling orb that building up in front of her. The orb swelled until its size surpassed that of the Alolan Vulpix herself, a dense concentration of energy that she fired forward like a cannonball. “PIX!”
A Critical Hit!
The moment the swollen orb connected, it ruptured violently and sent shards of ice flying in all directions. When the pink-hued smoke cleared, Psyduck was laying on the ground while still holding onto his head. He stared towards the sky unflinching as smoke wafted off his yellow coat without making a singe movement.
“…Ahhh, he’s out cold.” Misa said after a moment, pulling out his ball and returning him. Then she sighed. “Looks like we lost this one.”
The tension holding up Lillie’s body fled her with the admission, leaving her to let out a heavy breath and slouch over as her mother’s Lilligant patted her on the back and Koko scurried back in her direction. “That was nerve-wracking…”
“If it wasn’t then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Misa said humorously as she strolled up towards them. “But look on the bright side: you just have to beat one more pokémon to pass the challenge.”
Lillie received a Green Stamp!
“You mean the final trainer only uses a single pokémon?” Lillie asked after Misa applied her stamp.
“Let me call him so you can see for yourself.” Misa went over the side of the bridge, looking down towards the under-bridge that ran beneath the large one they were on. “Kado! Come introduce yourself!”
Lillie tilted her head in curiosity as she picked up Koko, only for a young man who was maybe a few years older than her to suddenly rise into the air from over the edge of the bridge. He was wearing what looked like a Fisherman’s vest, but with no shirt beneath it, and a pair of swim trunks. There was a pair of goggles on his head as well.
Climbing over the side of the railing, he gave Lillie a bright smile as whatever hoisted him into the air sank back down to the water. “Finally, someone made it past Misa. I was getting bored.”
“You’re the final bridge trainer?” Lillie asked.
He nodded. “I used to be a Gym Trainer, back before Leader Misty got married and went off to join the Elite Four. Not too long ago the Mayor asked me to head the gauntlet and I agreed since I wanted to keep the spirit of it alive.”
If he was a Gym Trainer, then there was no doubt in Lillie’s mind he was talented. The man who gave her the stamp card mentioned earlier that the bridge would act more like an actual Gym by the end. That meant Kado was likely on par with a Gym Leader then—at least relative to her.
“Anyway, the final match will be 1-on-3 the next time you come by,” he continued. “The conditions of victory will be to the knockout or surrender. If you can beat my pokémon with even one of yours still conscious by the end, you get the final stamp and win the challenge.”
Zzzzimple enough, Rotom chimed in before floating in a circle around the former Gym Trainer. What pokémon will you be using, zrt?
To that, Kado only chuckled and then snapped his fingers. Then the water behind him exploded upwards in a spout as a long figure leaped from depths and over the railing of the bridge, streamlets cascading down its serpentine form as the blue scales along its back glistened in the light. A pair of furrowed eyes cast its gaze down upon them, reminding them all that they were very small as its shadow loomed over them and a rumble left its throat.
“Meet my Gyarados,” Kado said, resting a hand against its underbelly. “You’ll have to beat him to win.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Here you go,” Bill said as he set down a cup on a saucer atop the kitchen table for his guest.
In turn, Lusamine’s emerald eyes peered up from the tablet that was in front of her. “Thank you.”
The researcher nodded and then took a seat across from her. “Was the data different than that of the Aether Foundation’s?”
“Not quite,” she said. The screen had the data and reports about her current condition now that the man had finished examining her using the equipment within his home. “I was hoping that the diagnosis would be more positive, but it seems as though I really will have to go through the treatment you suggested.”
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the only way that we’ll be able to completely remove the remainder of the neurotoxins within your body.”
Her merger with the Ultra Beast when she’d tried to do the unspeakable had left her body in its current condition, but the toxins from that point and time had largely been removed. What was most problematic was the fact that she’d been infected from her previous contact with it, back around the time her husband disappeared. That was so long ago that her body had come to consider it something native and would require… drastic methods to remove it.
“With the teleporter and the DNA map that was provided from before you were infected with the neurotoxins, we can remove them safely. But if we were to do it all at once, your body might vehemently reject it to a potentially fatal degree.”
“Which will mean doing it systematically,” she assumed. “Treatment followed by periods of convalescence and observation. Depending on how my body reacts to the process, it might even take longer than originally predicted.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “I hope it won’t be a problem that you might have to stay here with us for a while longer. I know my facilities aren’t quite up to the standards of your own.”
A slight shake of her head was accompanied by a small smile. “On the contrary, I’ve been finding my stay here to be quite… soothing.”
The Aether Foundation had been a technological marvel, a citadel of chrome and sterilized white. The only landscapes within the artificial island were only those that had been crafted by the hands of artisans, to make the pokémon feel comfortable. It had been her home for such a long time that she considered it as much.
Yet, this inlet was gorgeous in its own way. Quiet and spacious with rich greenery surrounding them, a mountain to the north and a river to the south. A little walk to the east would bring them to a coast, and to the west was a forest.
“In addition, both yourself and your pokémon has proven to be quite welcoming,” she finished. “I could think of no better company or place for my convalescence.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said, relief threading his voice. “Still, if there’s anything that you need to get through this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I want to make your stay here as comfortable as possible considering how stressful it’ll be once we do start.”
She stared into her reflection in the tea when she considered that and her smile dropped. To be honest, while Lusamine still had her good days, she still felt horrible and it was hard for her to wake up most of the time. Those neurotoxins in her body had been pepping her up more than she realized, and she wasn’t under the illusion that she could still present the strong image that she had when her daughter was around.
“Then…can we put off starting until once Lillie leaves for her journey?” Her voice held a slight tremor in it. “I don’t imagine it’ll be longer than two or so weeks at this point, and I don’t want her to see me in that sort of state before my gift to her has arrived.”
“Of course,” he answered. Then he took a moment to register the last portion of her request. “Ah, by gift, should I take it that you had luck in finding a Ponyta?”
“Somewhat…” She lightly blew at her tea. “Tell me, are you familiar with a region known as Galar?”
“Not very,” he admitted. “They have a storage system in place, but I didn’t personally oversee it and direct trading via the Global Trading System isn’t functional.”
“Well, there’s a regional variant there that caught my eye,” she told him. “I’d like to give it to her at an ideal time to make it a truly unforgettable memory, but I don’t think anything I can manage will be similar to when she received her first pokémon.”
“Hmm… an unforgettable memory…” Bill murmured under his breath. “If that’s the case then, I might have a suggestion.”
Lusamine’s eyes perked up. “Oh?”
“Most people know there’s a colony of Clefairy and Clefable in Mt. Moon,” he began. “But what few people know is that there’s a small, hidden square where they have a sort of ritual dance every month under the full moon. They usually stay out of sight, but perhaps yourself, your daughter, and your Clefable could bear witness to it with Cecilia as a guide.”
“That sounds perfect!” A truly earnest smile blossomed across her face at that suggestion as she reached over and grabbed his hands still on the table. “Thank you for telling me.”
He only gave her a somewhat modest smile as he met her gaze in silence when the sound of Glacian barking and getting a yip back reached their ears through the pet entrance to the door. “Oh, it seems they’re back.”
Lusamine withdrew her touch as she rose from her seat and opened the door, where she spotted her daughter being ringed by the Fresh Snow and Fox Pokémon as they both ran around her. Her Flowering Pokémon was only a step away and waved upon noticing her, an act mirrored by Lillie.
Her heart quivered. It was what she wanted so much. Her family, her pokémon, all together with smiles. It was only possible because she was going through this treatment even knowing that it would be so much harder than what she was going through now.
Lusamine didn’t want to lose this a second time.
So she’d see it through.
Chapter 17: Coordination
It was afternoon by the time Lusamine woke from her slumber the next day, much to her dismay as she stared up at the clock.
This is unacceptable… She couldn’t help but frown as she buried her head into her hands and waited for the headache to settle down. It wasn’t as bad as in Vermillion City, but she still wasn’t exactly in good health at the moment. It would take time for the worst of the symptoms to pass, for her to make herself presentable, and then to ensure her own pokémon were taken care of. Time that could’ve been spent with her daughter if she hadn’t slept in so late.
A sweet scent reached her nose and cleared her mind somewhat, drawing her eyes up to her Lilligant. The Flowering Pokémon stood there with her arms held together and an apologetic look in her eyes. They’d been together long enough that Lusamine understood that it was because she’d tried to wake her up normally and, when that failed, she’d chosen to let her rest.
“It’s not your fault,” Lusamine told her. They all knew that she would have days like this the moment the majority of the toxins were flushed out of her body. The initial contact hadn’t been on purpose, but her merging with Nihilego entirely at the end had been her choice. “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”
“Lilli! Lilli!” The Flowering Pokémon shook her head vigorously and reached over to touch her hands in assurance. “Lilligant!”
Lusamine took a deep and shuddering breath before clearing her throat and putting on a smile. If not for herself, then for her kind and compassionate flower. “Can you help me get dressed for the day? I can’t go out looking like this after all.”
It took an hour to get herself presentable—her body showered, unkempt and unruly hair tamed, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt for simplicity’s sake. That took care of her own needs. Now all she needed to do was to see to her own pokémon, specifically Milotic and Bewear. The former tended to get a little upset if she didn’t give her enough attention, while the latter needed to roam around at times to alleviate her boredom.
But first she stopped by the entrance to Lillie’s room. “Lillie? Are you there?”
After a pause, during which there was no answer, Lusamine decided to head down the hall to see if she was on the first floor. That was until she heard a strange sound inside. Her curiosity led to her cracking the door open and peeking inside.
“Snnrrr…” The source of the sound was a Snubbull that was currently sleeping in the bed meant for the Alolan Vulpix, on the ground. The excess flesh on its face was pooled beneath its prone body, every breath making it rise and fall. Every now and then it snorted, feet twitching and face scrunching up. “Snubbb…bulll….”
“Aren’t you adorable?” Lusamine couldn’t help but say as she walked over to it. Drawn in by the adorable sight of its sleeping face, she reached out to pet it. Such a cute pokémon. If only it could stay that way for…eve…r…
Her fingers came to a stop inches above its pink fur the moment that thought crossed her mind, shaking. That very same thought had led to her private collection of frozen pokémon. She even had a Snubbull there for that exact same reason, frozen in time to preserve its beauty.
No, that’s not right. She pulled her arm back and held it to her chest as she backed away from the Fairy Pokémon. That’s the remnants of the toxins talking.
With the majority of it gone from her system, Lusamine was mostly rational when it came to her thoughts and actions. But every now and again the remnants did more than just leave her fatigued and in pain from withdrawal. The filters on her thoughts came off, and right or wrong stopped mattering if it was what she wanted.
That was part of why she felt so bad when Lillie had admonished her for hurting that Nurse Joy. It was an accident, which was true enough. But she could have done something differently, like having Mismagius pass through the walls and then assess the situation. It was just that… the moment she learned her daughter was in potential danger she wanted to go for the simplest solution by having Bewear brute force it.
That was what it boiled down to—what was the natural solution to her problem and how to achieve it.
She wanted to preserve their beauty forever. The natural solution was to freeze them. She wanted to find her husband and the Ultra Beasts were in the way. The natural solution was to create a pokémon that could deal with them since training others took too long. Her children kept getting in her way and were trying to stop her from enjoying her own paradise. The natural solution was to make them go away.
And when her pokémon failed… the natural solution was to do it herself.
It stabbed at her heart when she recalled everything she’d done. When she recalled what sort of monster she had become. Even now, with a second chance, she was on the verge ruining it with how jealous she’d felt when she listened to Lillie talk to that woman about her Alolan Vulpix.
That should have been me. The thought was bitter as she sat down on her daughter’s bed and brought her hands to her eyes. Petty and tinged with regret as the knife twisted in her chest because she knew it was her own fault for abandoning the two treasures that her husband had left her.
For two years she didn’t bother looking for her son. She left her daughter alone for several months to be raised by someone else. If the toxins took the filters off, then why didn’t she use the full resources at her disposal to reclaim them?
“You did it!” Her head snapped up at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Peering out of the window showed Lillie was on the bridge, the Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon by her side as they looked to the water on one side of the bridge. A sheet of ice was spread out in front of them, thin enough to be seen through but solid enough that it didn’t sink when they pressed down on it.
Koko learned Icy Wind!
The Fox Pokémon yipped as she bounced up the bridge, excited. Then she turned around to try to freeze the water on the other side of the bridge. A stream of cold air laced with glittering ice particles flowed out, but it didn’t expand and eventually petered out without freezing the surface. It left her tilting her head inquisitively. “Vul?”
Lillie crouched down to stroke the tuft of hair on her head. “You’ve only just managed for the first time, so you probably can’t do it back-to-back just yet. You need to get rest between practicing with your Ice-techniques, so your body can adjust to it. I remember Professor Kukui saying that once when Elio visited to talk about Silkie learning Aqua Jet.”
It was an accurate assessment as far as Lusamine could tell. That Alolan Vulpix was only a few months old and her internal ice pouch hadn’t developed enough naturally to do it so many times on its own, in contrast to the Glaceon. By periodically straining with Icy Wind and then resting, her internal ice-pouch would expand to handle the strain like how muscles grew stronger over time.
For Lillie to have predicted that and told her pokémon that fact before it got sad showed insight on her part, since it could leave them distraught and even ruin their training. She had grown in the time she was away so much, and yet Lusamine hadn’t been there to see it. And soon her daughter would be leaving to go on her own journey—one that would change her even more.
“Do you want to go play with Glacian for a bit until Azuria gets here?” She received a yip in response before Fresh Snow Pokémon tagged her with a paw and started running off. The game was on and the Fox Pokémon gave chase.
If only your father could see the young woman you’re growing into. The thought brought a sad frown to her face when she imagined her husband looking out on this same scene. He would no doubt have loved to see it. I miss you so much, Mohn.
Lusamine pulled away from the window and left Lillie’s room, stirring on that thought. Even now she hadn’t lost hope that her husband was out there somewhere. It was possible to survive in Ultra Space for prolonged periods as the different worlds it led to had different laws of physics governing them, so one day she would find him and reunite their family.
Part of her was worried he would be horrified of the woman she had become, just like their son was. Someone who had abandoned the most precious things he’d left behind in this world and went against the very beliefs that she’d held. But she was sure that he’d forgive her and would convince Gladion to do the same.
Until then she would keep doing her best. She’d keep her thoughts and actions in check until the remnants of the toxins were removed. She’d give her daughter as much help as she possibly could before seeing her off, even if Lusamine didn’t want her to leave at all.
Then she’d find Mohn.
Her resolve steeled, Lusamine proceeded down the stairs when a commotion coming from the backyard drew her attention to the door’s window. In the backyard that rose up a slope into the mountains, she found Bill sitting down at the table and preparing food for his pokémon. She hadn’t intended to interrupt them at all until his Kadabra spotted her and used its psychic power to open it for her in an act of courtesy.
Bill gave her a cordial smile. “I’m glad you could join us. Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, though I didn’t mean to interrupt you when you were busy,” she told him. After all, not only was Bill the one who managed the PC system in Kanto, but he was assisting with her treatment. To take even more of his time would be unacceptable.
“Company livens things up around here, so we welcome it.” He gestured to the bag of pokémon food and jars of berry powder sitting beneath the parasol that was fixed to the table. “It’s actually convenient since we’ve already got the food out and you need to feed your own pokémon.”
“Well, when you put it that way I can’t really refuse.” Taking up his invitation, she took a seat across from him and released everyone except for Mismagius. Milotic, predictably, decided to perch her head into her trainer’s lap and prod her stomach in a bade for attention. She indulged the beautiful creature with a pat. “Give me a few minutes to help the nice man with your food, okay?”
“She’s quite affectionate, isn’t she?” Bill mused as the Tender Pokémon took that as a cue to settle down for the moment. Then he noticed Haku quizzically tilting his head and making an inquiring sound. “No. Your horn is sharper, so that’d hurt me.”
“It may have been for a good cause, but I did spoil her a bit,” Lusamine admitted. “A very young child wanted a Milotic, so their parents gifted her to the child when she was a Feebas. But they underestimated the time and emotional investment it takes to evolve into one. In the end, she entered into our care and I took care of her personally.”
Imagine what it would be like to be raised knowing that it was because you would be beautiful one day? Imagine that the reason your trainer loved you and valued you above all else was because what you would become? Then imagine what would happen when words alone weren’t enough and you were unable to meet their standards?
It was only recently discovered that a Prism Scale would alter a Feebas’ genetic structure during the trading process, inducing evolution. Serious care and effort had to be put into raising a Feebas to evolve before that discovery. That was far more than an impatient child keeping her sweet Milotic in a fish tank could honestly provide on her own.
“Why won’t you evolve? Why are you still ugly? Why won’t you become beautiful?”
Those words were perhaps nothing more than a child being upset that things weren’t going their way. But pokémon were so much smarter than people gave them credit for. And for her self-esteem to have been built up with expectations only to be torn down…it took a toll on her emotional state and eventually she stopped eating.
The Pokémon Centers were trained to heal physical wounds, but they couldn’t deal with emotional trauma. The parents ultimately agreed to release the Feebas since the child wouldn’t take care of her. And it was when she entered into the Aether Foundation’s care to be rehabilitated that Lusamine found her, staring into the glass at her own reflection…
Loathing herself for the look she was born with.
“Every pokémon is beautiful in its own way. I can see that beauty in you. If evolving is the only way you’ll believe that, then I’ll help you become as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”
Lusamine could still remember the promise she made and the time she spent with her Feebas. It took so long to ensure that the Fish Pokémon could be proud of herself, going above and beyond what was necessary or expected. But she kept her promise and helped her evolve in the end.
But was it right for me to do that? That thought haunted Lusamine as Milotic started nuzzling against her leg softly. The members of the Foundation tried not to get too attached to the Pokémon they were rehabilitating because most of them were supposed to be released back out into the wild. Lusamine had done the opposite of that with the Tender Pokémon, becoming her very world instead.
Now she owned a beautiful, powerful creature. One that would never abandon or disobey her. Even if she had good intentions to start with, had she purposely taken advantage of her vulnerable state and raised Milotic to always need her after what happened to her husband? The fact that she couldn’t be sure that the good things she’d done didn’t have some sinister purpose twisted a knot into her stomach.
She distracted herself with preparing Milotic’s food. When she ran the Aether Foundation, Lusamine had imported Pamtre and Bluk Berries to spruce up her diet. It was expensive given they were rare even in their native regions, but no price was too much back then. Now, however, an Oran and Pecha Berry blend would have to suffice. “All done.”
“Miiii~” Milotic sat with her mouth opened, waiting to be handfed as she batted her eyes.
The maternal side of her trainer couldn’t resist the deliberate cuteness of it. “Okay, but only a few. I still have to prepare food for the rest.”
The Tender Pokémon laid her head into Lusamine’s lap and slowly, quietly savored each pellet she was given. Drawing out the amount of time spent between them with an expression of contentment and bliss, it would sate her need for attention for the moment. But she would want more attention later on, as was her usual behavior.
I’ll have to try to get her less dependent on me. Her eyes turned up to check on the others and found Bewear being drawn to the colorful, ribbon-like appendages that made up the Sylveon. The Intertwining Pokémon was hiding behind the Jolteon that was standing vigilant over the younger member of their family. Before she could do anything, Clefable called for Bewear to sit next to her and Bill’s Clefairy.
How innocent Bewear was happened to be attractive in a way, but now Lusamine questioned if not helping her become more mature was also intentional. Bewear was trained so that she didn’t hurt someone by accident because of how strong she was. But she was still basically a child in an adult’s body in terms of maturity.
Lusamine gently brushed the Tender Pokémon’s cream-colored head from her seat and set the bowl next to her. The others needed their food after all, both Bill’s pokémon and her own. The backyard was filled with more than a dozen pokémon happily nibbling away by the time they were both—with one exception.
“Is something wrong with your Porygon-2?” She noticed that it hadn’t moved at all since her arrival. It was just sitting there with its eyes opened. Staring off into the distance with an unblinking gaze as the world went by.
“He’s still integrating his new programming, so he has moments like this.” Bill crouched down and gently touched the smooth contour that made up the Virtual Pokémon. “Normally he fills in for me when I’m not here, or when I’m busy with something else by integrating into the PC System. That was what he was programmed for. However, due to the limitations of the time period he was made, he doesn’t socialize or function outside of his duty very well.”
In other words, it was no different than a machine that existed to carry out a function. Which was strange, considering the Aether Foundation had some under their employment who developed their own traits and personalities. “It—he, must be one of the oldest models then?”
“One of the first, actually,” Bill said. “When Porygon were first created I just had to have one. The benefits to my work and the rarity of Poly’s species were just too alluring for me to resist. It isn’t a stretch to say that he’s probably one of the oldest Porygon alive, but because of that he doesn’t have the benefits the modern ones have in their AI that make them no different than other pokémon. I commissioned a researcher to create an Up-Grade disk specifically for him to be able to match their development and work with more recent computer systems, but it’s taking him a long time to properly integrate it.”
That was one of the downsides to artificial pokémon. In taking the role that nature had to create life, they had flaws of varying kinds due to human-error. To keep a first-generation Porygon still functional and relevant after twenty years was amazing and took no shortage of effort.
She admired him for it. “You really do love your pokémon, don’t you?”
“I always have,” Bill said. “Though it was more that I loved them as a collection until a decade ago. My developing the Box System was a result of my desire to hold onto them all without even leaving my home, since I hated going outside unnecessarily. They never aged or died or changed, preserving them perfectly. The person I was back then would have left him as a Porygon and had a replacement operate the system while he stayed in a box.”
“What changed your mind?” she asked. It was only after her daughter had told her off and she had been ripped away from Nihilego that she had been able to grasp that what she had done was wrong. So she was curious to know what had done the same for him?
“The teleporter accident,” he explained. “I felt what it meant to have the mind of a pokémon and it changed my perspective on everything. I still believe in connecting the world through my network, but I also believe that pokémon should be treated better. That was why I contributed to the recent changes when it comes to their release, among other things.”
That’s also probably why he decided to help us as well. Bill didn’t need money and his time was more precious than anything. Lusamine could only assume the likely the reason he opted to help her was because he had his own revelation and was paying it forward. “I’m guessing you released the rest of your collection then?”
He nodded. “With the exception of the ones here. Poly was a special case since he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and someone else would have likely discarded him or kept him as a trophy. I owe it to him to try making sure he can live a life beyond his programming and one of these days it’ll work out.”
“I’m sure it will,” Lusamine agreed with a friendly smile. She felt a small kinship with him, knowing that they’d undergone a similar awakening, and wanted to do something to help him out. Maybe she could have Faba take a look at his Porygon?
Regardless, the conversation between the two former collectors died when they spotted the Living Pokédex approaching them, having flown around the side of the building from the front. It approached them and addressed Bill specifically.
Miss Azuria has arrived. She is requesting permission to come speak with Mister Bill, zzt.
“Tell her that she’s free to come back here if she wants,” Bill said. “It’ll be a minute before I can go out to the front and I’m sure that the others will be glad to see her.”
Rotom hovered back around to the front. Not even a few seconds later the back entrance to Bill’s Cottage opened up again to reveal a bright and cheerful-looking young woman, sporting a trendy outfit. In her hands was a basket from which a sweet smell wafted.
“Hi everyone!” she said, to which she got a response from Bill’s Pokémon. They recognized her from the mixed but mostly energetic reactions. “Sorry if I came at a bad time, but I brought Poffins for everyone. All fresh from the oven.”
“The timing couldn’t be better then,” Bill said before introduced his guest. “Azuria, this is Miss Lusamine. She’s Lillie’s mother.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, giving her a polite greeting while extending her hand for a shake. “Your daughter’s been something of an acquaintance of mine, so I came to help her out today.”
“Well, I’m glad to see she’s making friends fast.” Shaking her hand, she found herself impressed at how well the younger woman’s outfit accentuated her azure hair and eyes. “What will you be helping her with?”
“Doubles Battling.” Her gaze fell to the side and froze when they met the pristine beauty that was Milotic. She squealed and dropped down, eyes glimmering as she basked in the presence of the Tender Pokémon. “I haven’t seen a beauty-evolved Milotic since my time in the Hoenn circuit!”
“You can tell that in a glance?” Lusamine asked, while Milotic was preening from the attention being lavished on her. An acknowledgement of her beauty was always one way to get on her good side for a first impression.
She nodded. “You gain an eye for appraising pokémon by their appearance and grooming in my field, and a lot of Coordinators seek out Milotic for the Beauty Portion of the contests. But since it’s become easier to evolve them with a Prism Scale, I’ve noticed there’s a difference in the sheen when it comes to patterns on their tails.”
Azuria reached into the basket and presented a treat to the Tender Pokémon. “Want a Blukberry Poffin?”
Red eyes twinkled with hunger the moment Milotic laid eyes on it, the tantalizing scent of the baked snack carrying the aroma of her favorite berry. She cast an imploring gaze to her trainer and made a soft, pleading sound while motioning with her head. “Miii. Miii.”
“I’m sorry,” Lusamine told the younger woman. “I spoiled her a bit, so she’ll only eat it if I’ll feed her.”
Azuria took it well despite that, instead offering the Blukberry Poffin to Lusamine. “I completely understand. To raise such a beautiful pokémon, you’d have to lavish them with enough care that they’d get attached. My little Lynn was the same too back when she was a little Skitty, and it took a while before she and Gracie got along.”
“Is that so?” She found herself intrigued at the prospect as she allowed Milotic to eat the treat from her palm until a shadow draped them both. It was cast by the bulk of Bewear, holding her paw to her muzzle as she rubbed her tummy.
“Lillie told me all about you this morning, Bewear,” Azuria said with a wink. “I made sure to have some extra-sweet Poffins for you too.”
The Strong-Arm Pokémon seemed elated at the prospect. She sat down, leaving her paws open for the Coordinator to put the small treat into them. Then she plopped it into her mouth and chewed it with her eyes upturned in happiness. “Baooo.”
“You’re like a big teddy bear, aren’t you?” Azuria smiled as she carefully pressed her hand against the fur that made up the large pokémon’s body and felt her fingers sink into it. “And you have Fluffy too from the feel of it.”
Seeing how her two problem children were so easily kept satisfied by the Coordinator, Lusamine watched Azuria go around and hand the snacks out to the rest of the pokémon there. Even her Lilligant seemed familiar with the Coordinator, who mentioned something about one of her pokémon and a Mime Jr. The only one who was seemed to have trouble with her was the shy Sylveon that remained behind her brother, though she bobbed her head in gratitude as the young woman left a poffin for her a modest distance away.
“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said with a good-natured smile as she sat the basket down on the table. “They really do enjoy it when you and the others come over.”
“After everything you’ve done for us, this is the least I could do,” Azuria said. “Besides, I like baking and I got to see a lot of interesting pokémon, so it’s a fair trade. I just hope you don’t mind us using your front yard. I know Haku likes to stay in the pond.”
“I don’t think he minds too much.” Bill pointed to the Dragonair that was now floating in the air in sinuous motions, entertaining himself. “Just try to go easy on Lillie. She and her pokémon are still new to battling.”
“I’m just going to give her some advice with coordinating her pokémon by showing her how my own work together.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll come with you out front to watch,” Lusamine said. In addition to seeing her daughter and letting her know that she was awake, she wanted to see the girl’s pokémon for herself. “Behave yourself back here while I’m gone, Bewear. And try to get along with the others, Milotic.”
Bewear nodded her head enthusiastically, while Milotic gave her a reluctant look. She brushed the Tender Pokémon a final time to placate her a little more before following the Coordinator through the door and back into the hallway. That was when the scrabbling of paws coming down the stairs reached their ears as Snubbull hurried for the front door and out of the pet entrance.
“Look who finally woke up.” They heard through the door. Lillie’s voice. It was followed by a bark, then a pause, and then a response. “Well, you shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching that battle video. How did you even learn how to get it to play in a loop?”
Azuria found herself giggling as she opened the door. “It sounds like Snubbull’s being a little handful already, huh?”
“He just got a little excited, so he stayed up all night watching Elio’s battle and slept-in,” Lillie said, watching as he hastily ate the treat she’d held onto for him. The others had already finished theirs. “He hasn’t caused any trouble so far.”
“Melanie is just happy that someone will look after him.” Azuria crouched down in front of the Fairy Pokémon. “She also told me to tell you that she expects you to be a good boy, not to run off into trouble again, and to take your baths.”
Snubbull looked off to the side as he finished the snack and rubbed his stubby little arm against the back of his head while muttering, “Sn… Snubbull. Snubbull.”
Warrior pokémon do take baths, zzt. Rotom replied. In fact, given the nature of battles they would need to take them constantly.
He glared at the Living Pokédex and let a low grumble bubble up in his throat until Lillie gently patted him on his head. Then he huffed and walked away. “Bull.”
Lillie then addressed her mother who lurked in the doorway. “Mother, you’re awake now?”
“Sorry if I worried you,” she said, stepping outside and taking in the scenery. There were a variety of pokémon present, those belonging to Azuria. She could see a Bellossom waddling just out of view and a Lopunny rolling its eyes, a Delcatty lounging beneath the canopy of one the larger Berry Trees and a Butterfree flying between the ones that were flowering. “How’s your training going so far this morning?”
“Pretty well.” Her daughter looked over to the Alolan Vulpix that was poking at the surface of the water. Testing if her last attempt had succeeded. “Koko finally managed to do Icy Wind. As for Shuckle, he can do Protect pretty well but it can’t take a really hard hit before breaking.”
The Mold Pokémon in question was next to a Slowbro that stared blankly into the distance. If Lusamine had to guess, it was curious as to the nature of the shell clinging to its back. Or the fact that the shell in question was staring back at it.
Lillie then looked over the Bellsprout that was walking towards them. “Bellamy apparently knows Vine Whip, Growth, and Acid Spray already. Rotom suggested that if we helped him learn Sunny Day, they would go well with his Ability. But since he’s not used to battling, I want to get him comfortable with that first.”
“That would be wise,” Lusamine agreed. “A good number of Grass pokémon or techniques rely on strong sunlight, but since the weather in Kanto is relatively mild compared to say… Hoenn, he probably won’t be exposed to it outside of battling. And considering it also strengthens Fire attacks, it would be risky unless he had experience or Protect to cover himself.”
“Well, I’d offer to let Zinn help him adjust to using Chlorophyll, but he’s being… difficult.” The Coordinator looked over to where her Lopunny was holding the second Flower Pokémon that had been trying to go around to the back. “But we can help him with getting used to battling, if you’re ready?”
“Sure.” Lille looked between her two newest pokémon. “I’ll let Bellamy and Snubbull have a go first, since Shuckle and Koko could use a little rest.”
The Flower Pokémon quizzically tilted his head before pointing to himself. “Spout?”
At the same time, the Fairy Pokémon also pointed to the Bellsprout and let loose an incredulous, “Bull!?”
“That’s right.” Lillie gave them both an enthusiastic smile. “The best way for Bellamy to get experience is to try battling. And, Snubbull, you need to learn to do more than attack, so I’ll have to look out for him. This way both of you can grow together since we’re all on the same team. Understand?”
Bellamy nodded before turning to Snubbull and extending a leaf over for him to shake. “Sp-Sprout?”
Snubbull merely huffed at the gesture and fell onto all fours before running over to the bridge. “Snubbull! Snub!”
He’s saying he needs no help to win. Rotom translated.
Lillie frowned slightly upon seeing Bellamy’s dejected face and was quick to comfort him. “Don’t be upset. He’s just headstrong. He’ll grow out of it as we get along, but for now watch out for him. Okay?”
With a nod, the Flower Pokémon walked over to where the Fairy Pokémon stood and awaited his challenger.
“Well, if you’re going to use those two then…” Azuria made a soft thinking sound before turning over towards the trees. “Pieri! Lynn! Come on over for a quick match.”
Lusamine watched as the feline’s purple ears rose from their folded posture before the Prim Pokémon roused at the Coordinator’s call. Raising her head as the Butterfree flew over, those dark eyes stared down at the canine that barked towards it. The smile that came across her face as she stretched out her back, hopped down the tree, and came over, distinctly reminded Lusamine of how Alolan Meowth tended to play with their food.
Her daughter’s Snubbull barked and snarled in an attempt to be menacing as the feline sauntered past him. The Delcatty paid it no mind before brushing against her trainer’s leg and sitting upright before her. The Coordinator affectionately leaned down and stroked between her ears before addressing Lillie.
“We’ll battle until the surrender instead of knockout to avoid any excessive damage,” she said, puffing out her chest in pride. The makeshift battlefield that was Bill’s yard—in specific, the dirt path between the bridge-split pond and the slope that went down to the river. “To be safe, I won’t have my team attack full-force and we’ll give you the first move!”
Her daughter nodded in acceptance of the terms. “Okay then. Bellam—“
“Snubbull!!” The Fairy Pokémon darted in before the orders could be given, seeking to strike first. Flames licked the corners of his mouth as he prepared a Fire Fang and went for the feline that remained seated as she brushed her paw against her cheek. Then he lunged, maw wide and ready to clamp down, when a pair of sinuous vines caught him midway and pulled him short while causing the flames to peter out.
It was only because of that he avoided being buffered by argent winds as Pieri released a Silver Wind. The silver blades broke into glittering powder as they smashed into the ground, scattering as the Butterfly Pokémon allowed the Bellsprout to finish reeling his catch in as he lowered himself between them and the Delcatty that finally rose on all fours.
“Snubbull, you need to wait for me to give the commands,” Lillie scolded. “Remember, if you break the rules of a trainer battle, you’ll be disqualified. Then how will you prove anything?”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed as he looked away. “Snub-snub.”
He who zzztrikes first doesn’t always win in the wild, Rotom pointed out. In fact, that was exactly how you ended up getting caught, zzt.
The Fairy Pokémon snarled at the Living Pokédex again only to settle down when Lillie pouted, tapping her foot against the ground. Then he huffed and submitted. “Snub.”
“Okay, let’s try this again.” She turned back to their opponents. “Snubbull, use Scary Face to slow him down so Bellamy can use Vine Whip and tie him up!”
Snubbull listened this time, darkness masking his face. The Butterfly Pokémon’s muscles tensed up as his compound eyes met the Scary Face, leaving him to struggle against an instinctive fear. At the same time Bellamy reared back slightly before throwing his vines forwards.
“Pieri, take the lead!” Azuria commanded. “Follow him, Lynn!”
Pieri used Teleport!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Teleport!
In an instant both Pokémon blinked out of existence a moment before the attack would have connected, leaving Bellamy’s vines to pass through where the Butterfree had once been. Then they reappeared, one in front of Snubbull and one behind the Bellsprout. Pieri’s compound eyes and wings then began to glow with the hue of psychic energy as he unleashed his next attack, while the Prim Pokémon glowed with a thin shroud of colorless light that took on the same hue as Pieri’s wings.
Pieri used Confusion!
Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Confusion!
Caught by the attacks before Lillie could get a warning out, both Bellamy and Snubbull were hit by bundles of psychic energy that slammed into them from opposing sides. The Prim Pokémon’s Confusion knocked Snubbull in the snout and sent him tumbling back, while the Butterfly Pokémon’s ruptured with telekinetic force at the base of the Flower Pokémon roots and sent him flying forward. Just like that they’d been separated.
Snubbull bounced on the ground once before hopping back onto his paws and snarling as he faced the Delcatty while flames danced from the corners of his mouth. She only made a yawning motion at the implied threat, bringing a paw up to her mouth. In turn, Snubbull lunged for the Prim Pokémon with the intention of letting loose a Fire Fang—
Lynn used Tail Whip!
—only for the feline to spin on her hind legs, using a Tail Whip to slap him away and force his jaw shut. He snapped down on empty air as he staggered to the side, before shaking his head and glaring as the feline followed through with a pirouette that landed her a few feet away. The cheshire smile she wore afterwards only seemed to agitate him further. “SNUBBULL!!”
“Don’t chase her,” Lillie said. It was fruitless though as Snubbull kept going after her as she ran around in a circle, clearly humoring him. She sighed and looked back to Bellamy, who was pushing himself back onto his tiny roots with his leafy appendages. Pieri was fluttering in towards him. “Bellamy, behind you!”
The Flower Pokémon whipped his head around to see the incoming threat and instinctively tried to run away before stopping, as if realizing he was in an official battle. Then he retaliated with a small ball of sludge, gastric juices drudged up and spat out in the form of an Acid Spray.
Pieri dodged the attack with a flap of the wings, letting out a small noise that reached the ears of the feline. The Delcatty then ceased toying around with the Fairy Pokémon and then took off much faster than before as the Acid Spray hit the ground right in front of Snubbull. The splash of the frothing fluids caught his excess skin.
“Snub!” he yelped, before turning towards Bellamy and barking. “Snubbull, snub!”
“He didn’t mean it,” Lillie told the puppy as her meek flower began to wave his leaves and shake his head. “It was an accident.”
“Pieri! Lynn! Wrap this up!” Azuria ordered, grabbing their attention. “Safeguard and then Starlight Lullaby!”
The Butterfly Pokémon swooped in front of the feline and a silver sphere radiated from his soft body, becoming a glimmering forcefield. Safeguard, the gossamer-thin and silver barrier, coated the magnificent coat of the feline as she inhaled. Then Pieri flew above the battlefield, wings aglow with a pale-blue light.
Pieri used Sleep Powder!
Sleep Powder draped the battlefield from above. The luminous powder fell like a blanket over the Flower and Fairy Pokémon. Bellamy only looked confused until he spotted Snubbull toppling over, which caused him to try and wave away the powder with his leaves to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Delcatty sat amidst the falling powder while shielded from the effect due to the mystifying Safeguard coating her fur. The blend of silver glimmering amidst the sparkling blue made for a beautiful display as the light of the sun reflected. Then her soft voice rang out in a melodic song, releasing multicolored music notes.
Lynn used Sing!
Floating due to being lighter than air, they padded out the falling sedative powder and spread wide. One met with Bellamy as he tried to drag Snubbull away by the pond and popped on contact. The Flower Pokémon drooped, swaying on his thin little feet before falling over on top of Snubbull.
“That’s that,” Azuria said playfully as her Butterfly Pokémon flew back over towards her. “Pieri’s Sleep Powder is more than enough to put down a small-sized Pokémon if they aren’t prepared for it. And, while your Bellsprout is immune to Sleep Powder, the moment Lynn’s notes connected it was off to dreamland for him too.”
“Bellamy! Snubbull! Wake up!” Lillie called out fruitlessly. It was no good in the end as both remained within the sweet embrace of slumber.
“We should call the match here,” Azuria said when it was clear they wouldn’t wake up. “Pieri has Dream Eater and Lynn can Copycat it. Not to mention they’re both still pretty green. Snubbull was too aggressive, so he got baited by Lynn easy enough that she could lead him by the nose. Your Bellsprout, on the other hand, panicked and so he blindly tried to fire and didn’t consider where his partner was.”
Lillie ultimately consented to the assessment as Rotom snapped a set of photos. “I surrender.”
“Great.” Azuria clapped her hands twice as the manifestation of the Sing dissipated from existence and the remaining Sleep Powder thinned out. “Lynn, wake them up.”
The Prim Pokémon smoothly sauntered over to the sleeping duo before taking a seat. Her body grew luminous with a soft, pale glow. Then she released it in waves that rippled a short distance from her with a pleasant, bell-like sound. The two sleeping Pokémon were roused by the Heal Bell.
“The match is over you two,” Lillie told them. “We lost, so come back.”
“Snub!?” Snubbull pushed the Flower Pokémon off himself and then pointed to the Delcatty. “Snubbull! Snubb!”
Zzzleep counts as a knock-out in this case, Rotom explained.
“Sprout…” Bellamy waddled over to his trainer with his head low.
“You’ll do better next time, Bellamy,” Lillie told the Flower Pokémon. Then the sound of Snubbull snarling again grabbed their attention. They saw he still wanted to fight, facing the Delcatty that remained as unbothered as before as flames licked the corners of his mouth again. “Snubbull, don’t you dare attack her!”
Lusamine watched as he disobeyed her daughter, lunging for the Delcatty to salve what she imagined was his wounded pride—
—only to immediately be smacked aside by another Tail Whip as the feline spun again and promptly sent the Fairy Pokémon into the pond for the attempt!
“No!” Lillie shouted when he started frantically splashing and struggling to stay afloat. “Snubbull can’t swim!”
“Pieri!” Azuria called out for her Butterfree. He immediately used Teleport to displace the puppy next to Lillie, causing Snubbull to cling to her with his tiny arms while shaking. She ran over. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Snubbull’s bodies aren’t built for deep water,” Lusamine explained as she came over as well and crouched down to check on him. “They can’t even paddle until they evolve, so if they get into water that deep without some kind of floatation device they can drown easily.”
“I’m so sorry,” the Coordinator said. “We’d never want to put him in danger like that.”
“Accidents happen, though it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t attacked her like that.” Lusamine managed to wrest him from Lillie’s leg and gently patted him on the back as he whined softly in her grasp. “Poor thing’s quite shaken. I’m going to take him inside to dry him off and calm him down. You can continue with your training.”
“Just take a few deep breaths,” she told the Fairy Pokémon soothingly as she carried him back inside of the house. It was important to be gentle with frightened pokémon, something she knew quite well. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get you nice and dry.”
Lusamine carried the Fairy Pokémon into the house and made for one of the closets that were close by. Given that his Dragonair and Vaporeon could live in the pond and were constantly playing in it, Bill kept towels for them to dry off with nearby. She grabbed one and then began to tenderly rub his coat down as he shook like a leaf in the wind.
“You’re okay now,” she said in as soothing a tone as she could. “It was scary, wasn’t it?”
“Sn-Snubbull…” The puppy tried to deny it from what she could tell. The fact that he was shaking didn’t make it any more convincing.
She played along with it regardless. “Oh, my mistake. Of course you weren’t scared. You’re too brave to be scared of a little water. You were just surprised by it.”
He nodded his head, giving a little wave of his stumpy arms. “B-Bull.”
“But you know that Lillie was scared when she saw you fall in,” Lusamine pointed out as she took his tiny arms between the towel and dried them. “You must’ve heard how she felt so helpless watching you enter the water like that. She’s brave too, but she does get scared for others.”
He quickly wriggled in the direction of the pet door, a slight aggression in his bark. “Snu. Snubbull.”
“Yes, it was the Delcatty that pushed you into the water. But what we saw was that Lillie told you not to attack and when you tried, she pushed you in. Was that wrong?”
He looked away.
She’d expected it. Even though she hadn’t known the Snubbull for long, her daughter had given her an account of how she met him and the time she spent previously with the caretaker. He wasn’t even a year old from what she could tell from his teeth and size, making him a child in both body and mind.
Like most children he wanted to acknowledgement and affection. He wanted to prove himself and so when something bad happened he would shift the blame, rather than learning from what went wrong. And that would cost him dearly if things kept up as they were.
“Snubull, can you answer me something?” she asked, grabbing his attention again. “What would you have proven if you had managed to hurt her in that surprise attack? Would it have made you feel better because you would have knocked her out?”
“Even though it would have meant upsetting everyone else?”
He quirked his head in confusion at the question. “Snub?”
“Sometimes winning in the wrong way is as bad as losing,” she pointed out. “They would all be fine with things if you managed to knock her out in the match before it was called because that was the rules they set, but once the trainers state the match is over you have to stop or you’ll break those rules. It’s only if you manage to win while still acting in the bounds of the rules that you’ll prove that you’re the strongest in a way that everyone can be proud of. Understand?”
He grumbled contemplatively in thought. “Snnn…”
“You know, you remind me of my son when he was younger,” she confided. “He always wanted to do everything on his own, even if it meant putting on a brave face. But sometimes I wished he’d just ask for a little help instead of rushing to grow up.”
Then again, what choice did he have after I left him on his own? The more that thought haunted her the tighter her throat got and the more her eyes stung. So she pushed it away to keep consulting Snubbull. “I know it’s hard to endure when you feel like you’ve been wronged. But you don’t want to worry Lillie, right?”
He was silent for a moment before nodding with a small, resigned chuff. “Bull.”
“Good boy.” She delicately rubbed his head before the front door opened. It was Lillie, with Azuria accompanying her.
“Is Snubbull okay now?” the former asked.
Lusamine nodded as she finished drying him off. “It’s fortunate that he got out of the water quickly enough that he didn’t ingest too much. He just needs a little rest.”
Her daughter let out a relieved breath before taking the puppy into her arms and holding onto him tight against her chest. “Snubbull, you have to listen to me so things like that don’t happen. We were so worried about you.”
“I scolded Lynn since she could have dodged the attack instead hitting him back,” Azuria said to Lusamine. “She took playing with him a little too far. But she and I didn’t know that he couldn’t swim.”
“The anatomy of a pokémon you aren’t familiar with isn’t something I’d expect you to know off-hand and accidents do happen,” Lusamine told her. “But keep in mind that while pokémon can do amazing things, they still have physical limits. Snubbull have dense skulls and strong jaws, but their arms are short and can’t support them for very long. That’s why their hind legs are so much more developed, and they often stand upright.”
“It also means that they have trouble sticking their heads above deep water and struggle to stay afloat,” Lillie added in, rubbing her own’s head as he rested against her chest. “Professor Kukui warned me when I walked his Snubbull not to let her near shore because of it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind from now on,” Azuria promised. “I’ll also understand if you want to cut the training here because of it.”
Lillie shook her head. “Koko still wants a turn and Shuckle needs practice as well.”
“Snub! Snub!” Snubbull barked, wanting to have another go at it.
Lusamine said otherwise. “I think it’d be best if you sat down for a little while in the sun. Rest up and think about what we discussed.”
He grumbled with discontentment and pouted as Lillie carried him back outside with the Coordinator following her.
Left alone inside, Lusamine finished wiping away where the water had dripped down to the floor before she folded the wet towel and moved it over to a storage bin with other used cloths. That done she made her way back outside.
The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline-blue eyes locked onto the compound pair of the Butterfree that fluttered its wings slowly on the opposite side of the field as glittering particles of ice were falling from Snow Warning. Shuckle, on the other hand, seemed unsure as he stared at the Delcatty that was sitting up and brushing her paw against her cheek.
“Constrict on the Delcatty, Shuckle!” Lillie declared, taking the lead with Snubbull by her feet. The Mold Pokémon’s sinuous appendages stretched, crossing the space between them at a sluggish enough pace that the feline easily avoided it with a hop. “Koko, try a Moonblast!”
“Copycat, Lynn!” Azuria commanded in retaliation, resulting in the Prim Pokémon opening her mouth and imitating Koko as fairy-aspected energy swelled and took the form of a sphere of equal size. The two released their attacks at the same time and where the orbs met, they ruptured in a pink-hued explosion. “Now, Disconcerting Duet!”
Pieri used Supersonic!
Lynn used Disarming Voice!
The Butterfly Pokémon released a ring of blue soundwaves from his antenna while the Prim Pokémon braced herself on the ground and then let out a rather cute cry, sending out pink soundwaves woven into the shape of hearts. They grabbed the Supersonic soundwaves as they expanded, leaving them intermingled as they struck both Lillie’s pokémon like a physical force.
Shuckle, anchored to the ground, only had his head bounce backwards on impact. But Koko ended up being sent staggering backwards, her eyes screwed shut on impact with the ground. Then she staggered as she tried to rise up, paws crossing one another while Shuckle’s head was moving in small circles as he made bewildered sounds.
“They’re… both confused?” Lillie guessed at a glance.
Rotom spun in place, a question mark flashing on his screen. But using Supersonic offensively involvezzz using a dense and tightly focused ring of sound waves to confuse the zzzenses. If it was spread out then the potency would be reduced and only be useful for echolocation, zzt.
“Soundwaves can superposition with each other,” Azuria explained as she watched the two younger pokémon in the midst of their confusion. “Pieri is smart enough to adjust the frequency of his Supersonic so that it can ride Lynn’s Disarming Voice, so that the effects of the former can be passed onto the latter. Hence why it’s a duet made for double battles.”
Shuckle began to swat the air as if trying to grasp something that was floating around while Koko pounced on nothing and ended up crashing into the dirt. The sudden movement caught Shuckle’s attention and his beady eyes narrowed. Then his cheeks began to swell.
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Lusamine winced as Shuckle spat out a glob of bug adhesive that expanded from the air resistance, forming a net that landed right in the path of Koko’s staggering. It caught her blue paws, leaving her to collapse in the webbing as she landed on top of it. Looking to Lillie showed she had made a similar expression, while Snubbull held a stumpy arm to his head as if embarrassed for them and then barked as loud as he could. The call seemed to do the trick as Shuckle snapped out of his confusion, along with the entrapped Fox Pokémon that whimpered while trying get herself free.
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie yelled, pointing towards Pieri as he released an argent crescent towards Shuckle. The Silver Wind ended up breaking against his shell as he followed his instincts and withdrew into it, leaving Lusamine to assume it had been intentionally made weak as to not hurt him seriously. But it still served as a suitable distraction for the Delcatty to rush in.
Delcatty used Covet!
The Prim Pokemon pounced, paws covered in a white veil as she put her momentum to use and flipped him over while landing on her back. She then toyed with him like a ball of yarn before batting him away and sending him tumbling through the air. Shuckle hit the ground rolling until he stuck his limbs out and his head emerged, a frown on his face as he glared at the ball of fluid in-between her palms. “KLE!!”
Still wrapped in that white veil like a bubble was the Berry Juice he’d been fermenting, stolen by the feline that began to sip it down while he looked on with narrowed eyes—
Koko used Moonblast!
It’s a Critical Hit!
—only to then be blasted by a pink orb that closed the distance and then exploded against her, sending her tumbling away while the pilfered liquid splashed all over her face and coat before she knew what hit her. “Mmraw!?”
Lusamine turned to see the Alolan Vulpix that had been thought to be out of the fight was back on her feet. The webbing that held her in place was shattered, covered in a layer of ice. If she had to guess, it seemed like Koko had used Powder Snow to freeze it and thus take away it’s adhesiveness.
“Good job, Koko!” Lillie praised her, blissfully unaware of the smile on Snubbull’s face as he snickered upon seeing the feline knocked about. “Now, get Pieri with Powder Snow while your Snow Warning is still working!”
The Alolan Vulpix whirled on her feet as she faced him and exhaled a stream of cold, ice-particle laden air towards the Butterfly Pokémon that ascended with rapid flaps of his wings before teleporting right behind her. His wings then began to scatter Sleep Powder once more, only for a bundle of bug glue to send him sprawling onto the ground, pinned to it by his wings. He struggled to try and get free while Lynn got back up on her forepaws and was hissing with hackles raised at Koko.
“That’s enough.” The declaration was followed by a clap of Azuria’s hands, grabbing the Pokémon’s attention before they could continue. “Don’t struggle, Pieri. That webbing is too tight on your wings because Safeguard wore off, and if you Teleport wrong then you might damage them. Lynn, you can’t beat both of them without actually harming them, which isn’t what we’re here for.”
The feline gestured to herself and let out pitying noise from where the spilled Berry Juice had painted her coat.
“I’ll give you a bubble-bath later to get your coat back nice and clean, but for now go wash your face while we get Pieri free. Okay?”
The Delcatty glared at the snickering Snubbull for a moment before nodding. Then she dashed over the side of the bank towards the running water below, leaving the rest where they were as the light snowfall ceased along with the match.
“…That was harder than I thought,” Lillie said, crouching down as Koko came over and yipped. Even with the surprise attack that Koko got off, it hadn’t done nearly enough to hurt more than the feline’s pride. But she was still proud that Koko managed to free herself and get the attack off, so she smiled down at the Alolan Vulpix and brushed her hair. “Good job.”
“Lolo, can you help Pieri get free?” Azuria called out to the Slowbro sitting away from the group, who stared vacantly in her direction for a moment. Then he pointed towards the downed Butterfree and his eyes shone with a cerulean hue. Psychic waves flowed from his finger and washed over Pieri until the webbing seemingly dissolved. “Thanks!”
“Oh, that’s fairly impressive use of Psywave,” Lusamine noted as she looked over to the Hermit Crab Pokémon that proceeded to stare off into space again. “He has that much control over it?”
“Yep,” she said. “Despite how spacey he looks, Lolo’s really good at using psychic techniques. He can regulate it well enough that it wouldn’t harm anyone but still tear the adhesive apart.”
The Coordinator then watched as her Butterfree tested his wings once more to satisfaction before turning back to Lillie. “So, on the subject of Double Battles, I think that Koko will probably be the most difficult of your pokémon to find a partner with.”
“What do you mean?” Lillie asked. “I think she gets along well with the others, so they would make a good team.”
“It’s not her personality, but rather her Ability,” Azuria clarified, pointing up. “Right now, Snow Warning is underdeveloped, so it’s more of a light snowfall than anything else. But eventually that snow will become hail that will start actively hurting the Pokémon around her who aren’t like Glacian.”
The Alolan Vulpix tilted her head at that before turning over to her playmate and giving an inquiring yip. The Fresh Snow Pokémon answered back with an affirming nod. Her ears fell slightly, and she lowered her head. “Vul…”
Lillie comforted her with another pat to the head. “I can’t stop her from doing something that comes instinctively. And she likes battling a little too much for me to not include her because of it.”
Azuria agreed with a nod. “That’s why you need a workaround. Fortunately, the solution is something Rotom suggested already when he said to try and learn Sunny Day for Bellamy.”
Not only would it remove the damage from Hail, but Bellamy possesses both Chlorophyll and Growth, zzzt. Rotom floated over and displayed a graph with a Bellsprout on it, along with some diagrams. And Snubbull has Fire Fang, which would also benefit from strong sunlight.
“Speaking of Snubbull, he’s…” The Coordinator took a moment to consider her words carefully. “Headstrong. He’ll rush right into battle, but that also means he doesn’t watch out for himself or his partner. And considering that one of the most common tactics in a Double Battle is to gang up on a single pokémon, he’ll most often end up being taken out first. Especially since his favorite technique, Fire Fang, is also underdeveloped.”
Snubbull frowned at that. “Bull!”
“Sorry, but it’s true,” she told him. “You can only use it with your fangs as the foundation, which is fine for now. But a fully formed Fire Fang is done completely out of fire, just like with how Ice Fang and Thunder Fang are made out of ice and electricity. Right, Glacian?”
At the prompt, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bobbed his head before turning to Snubbull. Then the temperature abruptly dropped as the formation of jagged rows of crystalline teeth took place in less than a second. The construct jaws that were even larger than Snubbull pantomimed the Glaceon as he snapped his mouth shut and they crashed into one another, erupting in a spray of white and blue frost.
Snubbull shook his head and brushed his tiny arms over his fur to get rid of the ice particles before pointing to the Glaceon and barking. “Snubb! Snubbull! Snub!”
Lillie left it to Rotom to translate that he was demanding that he ‘give him his fangs’ before she sighed. “Snubbull, that’s not a nice way to ask someone to teach you a technique. Besides, he’s still helping Koko and you should work on what you have first.”
The Fairy Pokémon chuffed and grumbled under his breath. “Bull…”
“And as for your Shuckle, he can actually be a good supporter for the others,” Azuria continued. “For example, if he managed to learn Bind like AJ said or catch others with Sticky Web, he can tie them down so they can’t run away or dodge attacks that take time like Koko’s Moonblast. And, since he can defend himself with Protect, he’ll be able to stand his ground and play to his strengths.”
“That’s a great idea,” Lillie said, before noticing the Mold Pokémon was still looking down to where his Berry Juice had been wasted. Despite Bellamy’s awkward attempt at consoling him over the loss of his snack, he was still upset. “It’ll be okay, Shuckle.”
“Kle,” was the only response he gave while still hanging his head downcast.
“Aw, now I feel even worse about what Lynn did.” Azuria crouched down in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. “Tell you what, how about I give you a sour pokéblock now and bring you back some really sour berries the next time? You like those, right?”
His limp head perked up immediately as she pulled out a Pokéblock Case and offered him a snack. He tentatively brought it into his mouth and relished it before making a pleased sound. Azuria took that to mean he liked it as the girls continued to talk about developing their pokémon.
Overall, from what Lusamine could see, Azuria was a very caring and intelligent Coordinator. It was great that Lillie made such a wonderful friend in such a short time. She would actively try to get to know her better before she made her decision about Milotic, should the worst come to pass.
Chapter 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 9: Settling in Cerulean
Lillie felt restless as she sat on her side of the reserved private room car she and her mother were sharing aboard the train. Bill had a separate room from theirs, only a door down. First by boat, then by train, and the last of the distance would be by car, they were getting closer to Bill’s home on the cape just past Cerulean City. There she would stay with her mother and Bill until the former was settled in, before departing for her journey.
Excitement and nervousness continued to eat at Lillie, born from the contrasting feelings that left her to fiddle with her Pokégear as she watched the Battle Videos that had been saved on it—her own fight with Lt. Surge and Astra’s. The cameras had surprisingly caught a lot of details, both of the Pokémon and their trainers, and she could see firsthand just how out of her depth she was looking at the video compared to Astra. The look of horror as the Iron Tail slammed into Koko, the hesitation on deciding on whether or not to let Shuckle continue strangling that Pikachu—it was clear she just didn’t have the same composure that Elio, Hau, and Astra had in battle.
Undergoing the Gym Challenge would be harder from this point on, even with whatever technique her mother offered to teach her when they got settled in. She had to get more comfortable with battling if she was going to keep moving ahead. Lillie thought that she had after watching Elio for so long, but there was just something about being the one calling the shots that made things seem so much more visceral and tense, knowing that if she made the wrong call her Pokémon would be hurt unnecessarily.
Lillie looked up from the video to where her mother was resting on the other side of the room, with a blanket covering her body as she slept. Clefable was sitting next to her, eyes closed but a placid smile on her face. Lille wasn’t aware when she had emerged from her ball, only that the Fairy Pokémon was already out when she’d woken up sometime after the sun had risen.
It was still worrying that her mother hadn’t woken up yet. But she was breathing fine and Lillie was hesitant to disturb her sleep. She should get as much rest as she could.
The air grew chilly before Lillie could turn her attention back to the video again and she looked over to her Starter. Koko had her paws pressed against the glass and was standing on her hindlegs, watching as the scenery of Kanto passed by with her tails flickering. No doubt the Alolan Vulpix was feeling restless as well, being bound to a tiny room in the private sleeping compartment with so many new sights to see.
Lille decided they should go walking a bit, both to stretch their legs and so that Koko didn’t end up making the room too cold for her mother to sleep in. She turned off the video and removed the headphones from her ears. Then she stood up, catching the attention of both the Pokémon.
“Koko and I are going to walk around the train for a bit to stretch our legs,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon, whose eyes opened at the motion. “We’ll also stop at the Lounge Car to get you and Mother a snack for when she wakes up. Will you watch over her for me?”
Clefable nodded and Lillie took the Alolan Vulpix into her arms, letting her soft fur brush against the arm warmers they had picked up before boarding the train. She then slipped out of the compartment room silently and slid the door shut just as quietly. Then Lillie made her way through the narrow passageway towards the Lounge Car, watching as Koko took a look around in curiosity.
“Is this your first time on a train?” Lillie asked.
Koko’s attention snapped upwards and she nodded. “Vulpix.”
“Mine too. Kanto is a pretty big place compared to the islands. I wonder how long it’ll take for us to go through all the cities with Gyms? I mean, we could just take the trains from place-to-place, but then we wouldn’t really be exploring the region like a Trainer should, and we’ll probably only get this chance while we’re young.”
After all, making a living as a Trainer wasn’t exactly easy for most people, unless they participated in high-stakes battles or a professional position. That was part of why it was done when you were younger, and the costs associated with products related to training were relatively lower. Even though Lillie wasn’t exactly hurting for money, once she started her travels in earnest, train rides from one end of the region to the other and fancy hotels would be something of a luxury.
Though she at least had access to that much if she needed it. Gladion didn’t during the time that Lillie hadn’t seen him. He didn’t have someone like Professor Burnet or Professor Kukui or Hau and Elio… all of whom she missed dearly and couldn’t help but wonder how they were doing after she left?
“Sorry, I was lost in thought for a bit,” Lillie said. She hadn’t even realized that she’d stopped walking. Her pace renewed, she remembered that she still had to tell the professors thank-you for sending Koko her way. The time difference and the events leading up to the train ride were hectic, so she hadn’t had the chance to do so just yet…
“Actually, where did she find you?” Lillie asked, holding Koko out and lifting her so that she could look into the icy-blue eyes while thinking on it. She hadn’t really thought about it until now, but she doubted that Professor Burnet could make it all the way up the mountain to find wherever a den of Fox Pokémon would be nestled in just after she left. Let alone manage to get Koko away from her parents, given she had hatched only a little while ago judging by how few tails she had.
Koko knew Moonblast as an Egg Move as well, meaning that one of her parents had to know it. Not to mention how quickly she had taken to Lillie and how she’d hidden behind Frosty. That meant she had to be somewhat familiar with humans and Frosty, but Lillie hadn’t seen Koko around their home or Burnet’s office. Putting all those clues together, Koko was likely raised in captivity by someone Professor Burnet knows and was willing to let Lillie train her as a Starter.
“I’ll just ask Professor Burnet myself when we get to Bill’s place, so I can thank them as well,” Lillie said, smiling as she brought her partner closer to her chest and started walking again. They then passed through the doors linking the private compartment to the Lounge Car.
It was somewhat more elaborate than Lillie expected as the door opened—decorative, in fact. The seats alone looked as though they were made of leather, lining the sides of the car and facing one another so that the guests could easily look to the left or right and view Kanto through the large windows in comfort. There were tables between them as well, decorated with flowers in the center, and the counter where the food could be purchased was at the end of the car, before the entrance to the next one.
Then again, this lounge car is closer to the private compartment, Lillie figured as she stepped inside. There were only a handful of people in it at the moment, though she imagined it would be more active later on, as she walked towards the next exit to explore the train more. They could get something for the others on the way back.
Halfway there, she passed by a pair of occupied seats when one person in them stood up and said, “Aren’t you cute?”
“Huh?” Lillie paused mid-step at that and turned towards the voice. The next thing she knew, Koko was out of her arms and being held up high in the air, looking just as confused.
“It’s adorable!” chimed the girl who’d taken Koko, stars dancing in her eyes as she looked up to the Alolan Vulpix. “Where did you find it?”
Snapping out of her stunned silence, Lillie quickly reached up to reclaim her Pokémon from the blue-haired older girl and held Koko protectively against her chest. “You can’t just take someone’s Pokémon like that.”
The Alolan Vulpix had her hackles raised in defense as well. She obviously didn’t take kindly to being snatched up like that. “Vullll…”
“Ah, sorry,” the girl said, clasping her hands together in front of her face in an apologetic manner. “It’s just so cute that I couldn’t help myself. Are you willing to trade for it?”
“No,” Lillie said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”
“Azuria, cut it out,” said the older boy next to her nonchalantly, using his elbow on the table to prop his head up while he looked out the window. “You’re acting like a spoiled deva by asking someone you just met to give up their Pokémon like that. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
She turned to him and gave him an impressive glare. “Stop. Calling. Me. That.”
He returned the glare with one of his own. “I will when you stop acting like one.”
Lillie backed away silently as she saw sparks flying between their eyes. She didn’t know what sort of relationship they had, but they seemed to be a little barbed at each other. Better not to get involved.
However, she bumped into someone while trying to make her escape and spun around to apologize. “Ah, sorry.”
It turned out to be Bill, who only smiled good-naturedly. “No worries. There was no harm done.”
The presence of the Pokémon Storage System creator drew the attention of the other two that had been arguing. “Mister Bill, you’re here too?”
“Azuria?” He smiled as the girl nodded and then took notice of the boy as well. “And A.J. as well. When did you two get back in Kanto?”
“Last night,” Azuria said. “We took the train from Johto to Saffron City and then caught the northbound one here. What about you?”
“I had some business in the Sevii Islands and I’m making my way back home now.” He chuckled a bit before gesturing to the seat opposite of the one the pair were sitting in. “Do you mind if I take a seat?”
“Please do,” the girl said. “We were planning on visiting your home after we visited Melanie, but this is more convenient.”
“Umm, do you know these two?” Lillie asked as he took a seat by the window.
“They’re both children who grew up in Cerulean City and frequented my lab for advice when it came to Pokémon,” Bill said, extending a hand towards the girl. “Azuria has become somewhat famous as a Coordinator in Kanto Contests. She’s even appeared on a magazine the last time I checked.”
“And turned her into a deva,” the boy, A.J., noted under his breath.
“Young A.J., on the other hand, is a skilled Pokémon Trainer,” Bill continued. “He’s earned all eight badges in Kanto. After that, he left to travel other regions and stopped by every now and again. It’s hard to keep up with him at times though.”
“I don’t have any plans after Kalos, so I’ll be in Kanto for a bit,” he said, before looking over to Lillie. She got the feeling he was sizing her up. “She’s an acquaintance of yours?”
“Lillie is a new Trainer from the Alola region,” Bill explained. “She and her mother will be staying with me for some time, before she sets out on her own journey. Perhaps you can give her some advice from a veteran to a newcomer?”
“If it’s a request from you then I can’t really turn it down…” He sat up straight and eyed her Pokémon. “To start with, if that’s your Starter Pokémon then you’re in for a rough time from here on out.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lillie demanded, an unpleasant feeling stirring in her chest at that. It would be one thing to say something was wrong with her as a new Pokémon Trainer, but Koko had been doing her best at everything.
A.J. responded with calm indifference. “Leaving aside the fact that it hasn’t fully-matured yet, that Vulpix is an Ice-type. I’m guessing she’s probably from a mountain or cave, someplace out of the way?”
Lillie nodded. “That’s—”
—correct, zzztt! His question seemingly roused the slumbering Rotom Dex from Lillie’s hood. It emerged and displayed the statistics and an image of Koko’s species, as well as her evolution. The Vulpix and Ninetails of Alola are regional variants found in the Mount Lanakila.
“Wow, its evolved form looks so beautiful!” Azuria squee’d, grabbing Rotom and pulling the living Pokédex closer to get a better view of them. “Some me some other Pokémon from that region!”
Careful with screen, pleazzze! Rotom begged as she tried to navigate the different screens manually while it continued to wriggle in an attempt to get free, until A.J. liberated Rotom from her grasp. It promptly retreated into Lillie’s hood again.
That settled, he ignored Azuria’s petulant glare and continued addressing Lillie. “Ever wonder why you rarely see Ice-types around compared to the other kinds of Pokémon? It’s because they’re hard to find as a survival trait, because they’ve got so many weaknesses.”
Ice-types are the rarest types of Pokémon in terms of pure numbers, zzt. Rotom confirmed while peeking from behind Lillie’s shoulder. They make up about 5% of the known species, with Ghost and Dragon-types following, and are disadvantaged when dealing with Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel-type attacks.
“And Pokémon become set in their ways as they get stronger and older, meaning that if you screw up her training now it’ll be difficult to correct when you’ve gotten more experience in training. On top of that, Vulpix as a whole tend to be fragile against attacks that hit ‘em head-on. So not only do you have a Pokémon that’s fragile, but also one that has a lot of weaknesses.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “That’s why you’re going to have a rough time starting out if you’re serious about battling—it’d be one thing to pretty it up for a Contest, but it’s another when facing a Gym Challenge.”
Azuria, who had merely been glaring in discontent until now, took offense to that. “Don’t make it sound like Contests are easy! It takes a lot of work to get everything perfect!”
“In Contests, you’re just embarrassed if you screw up. In an actual battle, a screw-up will result in your Pokémon being injured. In a worst-case scenario, they can end up crippled for life or killed,” A.J. countered, brushing off her argument with a side-glance. “So yeah, a Contest is easy compared to that.”
“Things are getting a little intense as they stand,” Bill said as the sparks flew between their eyes again. “Perhaps you both should settle down a bit? You’ve both got valid points after all.”
They deferred to his wishes, but Lillie noted neither was pleased by it. They had contrasting opinions on how to raise up a Pokémon for their respective professions, and seemed to feel very strongly about them at that. Which left her wondering why they were traveling together, or even sitting close to one another in the first place?
Leaving that aside, now that she had some time to think on his words and her own anger waned, Lillie had to admit he had a point. At least when it came to training. Yes, Lillie knew a lot about caring for Pokémon, but not training them for battle. And Koko was a fighter—meaning she wanted to reach her full potential. Didn’t Lillie owe it to Koko to at least try to do so?
“Okay,” Lillie said. “What do you recommend then?”
He turned his attention back to her. “Getting her combat-ready means you got to cover up those weaknesses as best you can, and that requires specialized training. I started out with a Sandshrew and trained it to resist water and ice attacks by having it dive into an ice-cold pool to toughen it up on that front. Then I had it learn Sandstorm to allow it to get around fliers long enough to knock ’em down with a Rock-type move. After that, I taught it Aerial Ace to deal with Grass-types and cover up his short-comings entirely.”
“But those are physical attacks,” Lillie noted. She was Kukui’s assistant for a bit, so she knew a thing or two about the differences in moves—physical attacks were the ones that she usually had to patch the lab up afterwards. “Koko doesn’t have any of those and constantly exposing her to things that she’s weak to would just be cruel.”
“No pain, no gain. I can only tell you what I know….” He trailed off as some kind of Pokégear-like watch on his wrist began to vibrate and looked down at it for a moment. “Sorry, but I’ve got to take this in private. You’ll have to figure out the rest on your own.”
Azuria allowed him to pass by while giving him a disappointed look. He paid it no mind as he went towards the exit of the car. The blue-haired girl could only sigh before she turned back to Bill. “I’m sorry. He’s been a lot different since the last time you saw him.”
“He does seem to be a little less patient than before,” Bill admitted. “You both used to get along so well with Melanie. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” Her expression turned somewhat pensive as she held her hand to her chin. “He used to be… well, not enthusiastic about me being in Contests, but he at least supported me. That was why he traded his Butterfree to me. But then something happened over the last year while he was away, and he won’t tell me or Melanie what it is.”
“I could try to see what’s bothering him?” Bill offered.
Azuria took a deep breath and shook her head, wiping away her sadness with a more neutral expression. “No, we’ve bothered you enough. And I should try to work things out with him on my own before we get back home.”
She then turned to Lillie. “Despite what he said, Coordinators usually train Pokémon for both effectiveness and elegance. His method might work on a tougher Pokémon, but for your cute little Vulpix it might be good for you to look at some Contests too and see how they work for an idea. Bill knows where we live, so come visit some time during your stay in Cerulean, okay?”
That said, she gave them both a light bow of her head and then jogged after A.J.
Lillie was left with more questions than answers in the end. She hadn’t really seen a Contest, so she couldn’t really judge the effectiveness of Azuria’s advice until she did so. And that would have to wait until she could get actual footage in order to do so.
“Don’t think too hard on it,” Bill told her after she’d gone silent for a minute. “You’ll have plenty of time and space to practice at my home on whatever method you choose.”
“Thank you for that,” Lillie said sincerely. Then she felt the air chill and looked down at Koko, still in her arms. The Alolan Vulpix had her eyes fixed on the window again, looking at the scenery just past the trees that were beneath the elevated track they were riding on. It had changed a bit more, from what were farmlands to a long upwards slope broken in two by a raised ridgeline in the center. There were small figures out along the trail, other Trainers and Pokémon accompanying them.
“That’s Route 5,” he said. “It won’t be long now before we arrive at the Cerulean City station and from there make our way back to the cape.”
“Then we’d better get back to looking over the train.” She rose to her feet and then bid Bill farewell until then as they went back to exploring the train.
Visiting the different cars, she met a lot of other people. Some found Koko to be cute like Azuria did and wanted to trade. Others asked her if she was entering a Contest at the newly built Cerulean Contest hall. Apparently, it had just opened up and Azuria would be doing some kind of performance there soon to celebrate, so she actually was a celebrity.
Lillie didn’t see either her or A.J. on the return trip to the Lounge Car, so she presumed they went back to their own private compartment to talk.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
When the train finally came to a stop in Cerulean City, there was a minivan waiting to take them towards the inlet where Bill’s Cottage was. Along the way they passed by a bridge that stretched rather far, with Trainers battling their Pokémon along the top of it. It drew Koko’s attention again, naturally, and Lillie believed she recognized it from the information she gleamed on the way there. “Is that the Nugget Bridge?”
“That’s right,” Bill responded from the driver’s seat. “It connects to Route 25 from Cerulean City, and was named because of the abundance of Nuggets that could be found in there in the past. Young Pokémon Trainers use it as a means of testing themselves, so if you want to get in some practice against other Trainers you’ll find someone there.”
“Vul!” Koko pressed her paws on the window in anticipation and then turned back to Lillie. “Pix?”
Lillie couldn’t help but smile as she gently brushed her Starter’s head. “It’ll be a bit late by the time everything is put into place, but we can try it out tomorrow, okay?“
Koko nodded, but kept her attention on the bridge until they hung a left and into a tunnel that had been carved out of the rock formation between Cerulean City and Route 25, eventually coming out over a raised bridge that connected the tunnel to what looked to be a forest, with a dirt road cutting through it.
“This pathway we’re on will lead us to the cape and my cottage,” Bill said. “The forest isn’t very big, but if you get lost then all you need to do is find it and you’ll be able to get back. Campers sometimes use the forest as well, but normally it’s pretty quiet and the Pokémon are relatively peaceful. You shouldn’t have much trouble with them.”
“Just to be safe, take at least one of my Pokémon with you whenever you go off,” her mother added. “Even if it is relatively safe, you never know how dangerous it will be. I don’t want there to be a repeat of what happened in Vermillion City.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt while we get accustomed to staying here for a while,” Lillie noted as she looked out to the greenery. It wasn’t dense enough to blot out the sun, but she could tell it was still a maze of trees off the beaten path. And every now and again she could spot several Pokémon she didn’t recognize too.
Once they left the forest, Bill’s cottage came into view. It was bigger than Lillie expected, to say the least. It bordered a single pond that was split in two by a bridge that ran between it, leading up to the entrance, and several tall trees that surrounded the backside and climbed up the mountain behind it. It wasn’t as big as their home at the Aether Foundation, but it was bigger than Professor Kukui’s home that Lillie had grown accustomed to living at over the last few months.
Before the vehicle came to a stop, the surface of the pond rippled. Then a Dragonair popped its head out of the water, turning its dark and glossy eyes towards the minivan. The moment it recognized Bill as the driver, it floated its sleek, elegant body upwards and swam through the air towards them as they came to a stop.
“I missed you too,” Bill said fondly to the Dragonair as it stuck its head through the window and began to nuzzle him in a way that reminded Lillie of her mother’s Milotic. He then turned to Lusamine and Lillie. “This is Haku. As you can see, he’s pretty energetic.”
“I think he wants to play,” Lusamine noted as the male Dragonair made a cheerful sound, pulling his head back and then floating in circles outside the minivan. Koko seemed eager enough to take the invitation, given how she began to jump up in Lillie’s lap. The moment she opened the door, the Alolan Vulpix jumped out and gave chase, trying to catch the Dragon Pokémon as a Vaporeon climbed out of the water to see what the commotion was.
“Your belongings are already inside of the house,” Bill said to Lusamine as he opened his door. “I’ll introduce you all of everyone and then help you get settled in.”
It took a surprisingly fair amount of time to introduce every one of Bill’s Pokémon. Tenebrea and Lumen had apparently been by his side for a long time, considering that their children made up the majority.
Among the boys were a Flareon named Titus, who was apparently lazy and liked to sleep around where he could. A Jolteon named Arks, who preferred to be alone from what Lillie could gather. And a Glaceon named Glacian, who seemed to take a shine to Koko right off the bat as a fellow Ice-type.
Among the girls were a Vaporeon named Nympha, who was apparently quite dutiful and took to looking after her sibling when not in the pond with Haku. A Leafeon named Viri that tended to the berry trees that were being grown on the hills as a hobby. And a Sylveon named Fee that was bashful enough that she ran the moment she saw strangers entering their home.
There was also Bill’s Clefairy, Cecilia, who seemed friendly enough to Lusamine’s Clefable. His Porygon-2, Poly, who helped him with maintaining the cyber-security for his PC system. And his Kadabra that acted as his assistant and apparently really liked music, Bard.
The cottage itself had three floors, an attic, and a basement, with some guestrooms for Lillie and her mother to stay in for a while. Bard brought up their belongings with his psychic powers, so they didn’t have to do much in terms of heavy-lifting. But Lillie hadn’t brought much with her to begin with—just her backpack and traveling bag.
Now, with that out of the way, her mother talking to Bill, and Koko in the playroom with the other Pokémon (minus Shuckle, who decided to take a page out of Titus’ book and sleep), Lillie found herself sitting in front of a video monitor in her room and deciding on who she was going to contact first. She needed to contact Professor Burnet and Professor Kukui, to tell that she made it and thank them for everything they’d done—including giving her Rotom and Koko. But there was also contacting Miss Wicke and her brother, the latter of whom she hadn’t seen in years until they’d found one another shortly before she’d left Alola. And then there was seeing if they could get in touch with Hau and Elio.
“I hope Nebby isn’t giving him too much trouble,” she muttered to herself as she thought of the little legendary she’d taken care of until recently. Nebby probably wasn’t used to her newfound strength yet. But if there was anyone who could help her it would be Elio.
Ultimately, Lillie settled on contacting Professor Burnet first. She owed it to the woman who’d taken her in when she washed up on that beach and given her Koko. So she entered her number into the console and waited until the professor appeared on the screen.
“This is Profes—” There was a notable brightening of the expression on Professor’s Burnet’s face when she recognized who was on the other end, resulting in a smile and a more casual tone. “Lillie! It’s good to see you!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Lillie said. “Sorry I didn’t get in contact sooner. I didn’t have a chance until now, after getting to Bill’s place.”
“Oh? I thought that you would be in the Sevii Islands for a little while longer?”
“Unfortunately, something happened and we had to leave straight away.” Lillie weighed telling her about the kidnapping attempt in her mind before deciding against it. “But Frosty managed to get Koko and Rotom to me before we left. Did he make it back home okay?”
“Mm-hmm.” She looked off-screen for a moment. “He’s at home, probably rummaging in the fridge as we speak. Still, Koko is a cute name for a Vulpix. I’m sure she liked it. Are you getting along with her?”
“Yes. She’s a bit more of a fighter than I expected, but she tries hard and she’s very active… which reminds me, where did you find her?”
“I asked The Masked Royal if he had a Pokémon that would suit a new Trainer and he suggested Koko, saying that you both could grow to be a great duo.”
“I’ll have to thank him too then…” Lillie took a deep breath. “If I didn’t have Koko, I think that this would have been harder than it is right now.”
Burnet’s expression softened. “It’s hard, isn’t it? Being in a new region with all the other people you know being so distant.”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “It’s still a little unnerving to think that I’ll be traveling all over this region by myself. At least I had Elio and the others before.”
“I felt the same way when I came to Alola from Unova, before I met my husband,” Burnet told her. “And I’m sure he felt the same way when he visited Kanto to challenge the Gyms as well. But as long as you meet new friends and Pokémon, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a lot.”
“Well, I did become friends with a girl named Astra, who’s about a year younger than me and also new to the region. We both challenged the Vermillion Gym at the same time, though we both lost. Oh, and I caught a Shuckle too, though it was done by chance rather than intentionally.”
“You’re making excellent progress from the sound of things then. Hau and Elio will be happy to hear that too. I’ve heard from my husband they’ve both been thinking about you and they miss traveling together. Even Hau’s asking what Kanto is like, how much a ticket would be, and things like that after he got your photo. You’ve left quite an impression on them both.”
Lillie found herself blushing. “R-Really?”
“Mm-hmm.” There was something about the way that Professor Burnet was smiling that made it seemed like she was enjoying Lillie’s reaction. “Then again, a smile like that would be enough to make even a Champion feel flustered.”
“Ah… don’t say it like that…” The heat in her cheeks spread throughout her head at the thought. Elio was normally so composed, even in the midst of danger. So the thought of him being taken by just a photo of her was a bit much for Lillie to wrap her head around.
Fortunately, a distraction presented itself when the door hinges groaned slightly. Lillie turned her attention towards it and Koko slipped inside. “Oh, Koko! Come and say hello to Professor Burnet!”
“Vul?” The Alolan Vulpix trotted over and then climbed onto Lillie’s lap, resting her forepaws on the table and staring into the screen. “Vulpix!”
“It’s good to see you too,” Burnet said. “Are you having fun with your new Trainer?”
Koko bobbed her head, her tails flicking slightly.
“H-How are they, by the way?” Lillie asked, holding Koko in her lap. “Professor Kukui, and Hau, and Elio?”
“The boys are both actually getting ready to battle each other for the Championship title soon,” Burnet told her. “Since Kukui is refereeing the match, should I tell him to pass a message to them both?”
“Ah… I guess tell them both good luck, and that I’ll be cheering them both on from here if I can.” She believed that Bill had a television that could get whatever station it was broadcasted on. If not, she’d definitely look up the video later on.
“I’m sure that’ll motivate them both to battle extra-hard,” the dimensional researcher said in a teasing tone that brought the blushing back and left Koko to look confused as Lillie began to fidget.
Wrapped up in the discussion she was having with her surrogate caretaker for the last three months, Lillie didn’t hear the door as it softly clicked shut.
Chapter 7: Shocking Send-Off
Lillie heard someone calling for her in the midst of a deep slumber, a gentle pressure being applied to her shoulder to rouse her awake. She softly groaned as she opened her eyes and found herself staring into the seed-shaped pair of her mother’s Lilligant. Then she sat up in the bed, allowing the sheet covering her to slip down and reveal the T-shirt and sleeping pants that she’d worn to bed, and let out an unladylike yawn that she hid by covering her mouth.
“Lilligant, is it morning already?” she asked as she rubbed her eyes. The Flowering Pokémon pointed its leafy appendage towards the clock. A jolt ran through her body and woke her fully as she let out a surprised cry. “It’s almost 10!?”
The surprised shout roused her Pokémon from their slumbers as well. The Alolan Vulpix sleeping on the pillow next to her slowly opened her crystalline-blue eyes and let out a cute yawn before flicking her tails, chilling the air to a comfortable temperature as she stood up. The Shuckle that was resting on the nightstand poked his head out of one of the openings in his shell and swiveled it around to look upon them. The Rotom Dex’s screen turned on and it began to float in the air.
“We overslept!” Lillie said as she stumbled out of bed and went over to the bathroom to change into her traveling clothes. As Lillie got changed, her mother’s Lilligant took the liberty of setting out food for her Pokémon, allowing them to eat something light before she returned them into their balls left out of the room with the Flowering Pokémon. Down in the lobby they found Lusamine waiting for them in a seat.
Her mother stood up when she noticed them. “Thank you for waking them, Lilligant.”
“Lil.” The Flowering Pokémon gave her a nod in acceptance before returning to her ball.
Lusamine then addressed Lillie, the Rotom Dex resting in her hood. “You slept in awfully late. Are you feeling well?”
“I guess I was more tired than I realized,” Lillie said.
“Well, yesterday was unusually exciting, so it can’t be helped.” Lusamine looked at the clock on the wall. “Our train will still be departing within three hours, and Mister Bill has already left to have our belongings delivered to his place ahead of time. Just to be safe and save time, we’ll be taking a taxi to the Gym. But if the Gym has too many challengers, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until you begin your journey in earnest.”
“I understand,” Lillie said. They had already been delayed because of what happened in the Sevii Islands and her mother’s condition, so if she missed this chance that meant waiting until her mother had settled into her stay at Bill’s place before she left out on her journey. And that could be anywhere from a week to a month since Lillie didn’t intend to leave her mother without at least making sure that she was comfortable after all. “And how are you feeling this morning?”
“Better than yesterday,” Lusamine said. “You don’t need to worry about me. Just try to prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.”
That being said, she followed her mother out to the taxi and they rode in it towards the Gym. Along the way, she recalled what she had been discussing with her Pokémon last night. Rotom had listed the various types of electric Pokémon found around the region, so she had an idea of what they could be facing. She could only hope that would be enough as they arrived and stepped through the entrance of the Gym.
“Welcome to the Vermillion Gym,” the Gym Guide, Miss Sendou, greeted them before recognition set in. They stood out after all. “Oh, you’re back. Are you here for the challenge today?”
“Yes,” Lillie said, presenting Koko’s Premier Ball and Shuckle’s Poké Ball. “I caught a Shuckle to be my second Pokemon. Are there a lot of challengers today?”
“Just one in front of you, but they’ll have another five minutes to solve the puzzle or they’ll be disqualified.” She gestured for Lillie to come over to the counter. “You can register for your challenge here. Your mother can wait in the viewing room if she wants to observe the match.”
“I’ll head off to do just that,” Lusamine said, before looking down at her daughter. “Remember, be elegant and confident. Do you best so that you’ll be able to hold your head up high, win or lose.”
Lillie nodded and then watched her mother depart into the viewing room. It left her feeling a bit like there were Cutieflies buzzing around in her stomach at the thought. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself before going over to register for the match.
“Now then, the registration process is simple,” Miss Sendou said as she pressed a button on her desk and caused a panel to slide back, revealing a slot for six balls. “You set the balls of the Pokémon you intend to use into here and it registers them to your I.D. You’ll only be able to use those Pokémon during the match, which will be recorded, so that means you won’t be able to use that Rotom acting as your Pokédex in battle. You can also request a code to have the battle video delivered wirelessly to your Pokégear or other devices capable of playing them back, just in case you want to show them to your friends or others.”
“Right…” Lillie set the balls into the slot and handed over her Trainer I.D. The information was registered and all that was left to do was wait…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“So, you managed to make it through the electric puzzle, did you?” were the words of the Vermillion City Gym Leader, Lieutenant Surge, as Lillie stepped through the sliding door that only opened upon successfully completing the puzzle he had set up.
He was a rather large and well-built man, wearing a sleeveless shirt, cargo pants, and boots. There were shades on the top of his head, resting on his spiky blond hair, and he had a grin as he looked upon the mess that had become her hair, the strands standing on their ends from one too many failures. “It was a shocker, wasn’t it?”
“Well, I’m glad I didn’t spend time on my hair this morning,” Lillie said in a disheartened tone as she tried to straighten out her hair. She only had moderate success. “Other than that, it was just a matter of figuring out the pattern.”
“Most kids your age don’t have the patience to figure out there is one on their first time, so I’ll give you that much. But just because this is your first time in a Gym and you don’t have a badge doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on you,” he warned. “A Gym is meant to be a serious test of a trainer’s skills, so I take every match seriously no matter what age my challengers are. If you don’t want your Pokémon to get zapped, you can still quit now.”
“I know we may not have done this before, but we’re still going to try our best,” Lillie said, her fist balled in determination. She wanted to be stronger, so him holding back to spare her feelings wouldn’t help either way.
“You’ve got spunk, I’ll give you that much.” Surge nodded in approval. “But no amount of talking will get you my Thunder Badge—you’ll have to beat me to get it.”
“We’ll just do our best,” Lillie said again.
“If you’re so sure, then let’s start the match.”
LEADER LT. SURGE would like to battle!
He snapped his fingers. The monitor in the back of the gym flared to life and displayed her image on the screen, taken from her Trainer I.D. with two balls icons next to it on one side. The other side mirrored the same for him, with a counter on the center of the screen that began to count down to zero.
“The battle continues until one side is unable to battle,” Surge explained while pulling one of his Poké Balls from his belt. “You’re allowed to swap between your two, while I won’t. On zero we both throw out our first Pokémon.”
Lillie’s grasp on Koko’s Premier Ball tightened as she watched the countdown. It would be her first battle as a trainer since… well, ever. Not counting how her first wild battle had gone, it was against a Gym Leader at that.
But she wouldn’t give up. She wanted to become stronger so that she could stand on her own two feet. This was her rite of passage, her island trial to stand alongside Nebby, Elio, and Hau.
Her heart hammered in her chest as she stared at the grinning Gym Leader. He noticed her nervousness for certain. She could only guess what Pokémon he would lead with to face her, but they had done all they could to prepare… right?
Then there was no more time to doubt as the signal alarm to start the match rang out.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Pikachu!
“Stand at attention, Pikachu!” the Lieutenant ordered as he threw his ball over the field. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of the electric Mouse Pokémon.
“Koko, it’s time!” Lillie announced as she threw out the Premier Ball that contained her Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet. The Alolan Vulpix landed on the field opposite of the Pikachu. Both the Electric Mouse and Fox Pokémon stood on all fours as they faced one another and tried to take into account their opponent.
That Pikachu is slightly shorter than the average size, zzt, Rotom pointed out. It is young and most likely only recently evolved.
“That’s right,” Surge said. “Figured he could use the combat experience for when he goes against a real challenge.”
The male Pikachu’s brown eyes fell onto the Alolan Vulpix’s three tails when his trainer said that. A smug smile formed on his face as he waved the young Fox Pokémon off immaturely. “Chu-chu.”
In turn, Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes narrowed slightly as her hackles rose with a low growl. A pale aura wrapped her and then rippled outwards, causing the formation of a small, greyish cloud beneath the ceiling that sprinkled down glittering flecks of ice particles.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Once more the temperature dropped. Lillie decided to make getting those leg and arm warmers a priority after the match. But now her focus on was on the Gym Leader as their battle began. “Koko, Powder Snow!”
The Fox Pokémon led with a frosty gale from deep within. The electric Mouse Pokémon wasted no time in dodging it by darting to the side as the attack washed over the ground where it stood, leaving a thin layer of ice as it petered out. Then he rushed forward on all fours.
“Pikachu, Thunder Wave!” Surge ordered. His Pokémon’s electric pouches sparked before releasing a series of yellow rings of electricity that slammed into the Alolan Vulpix. On impact they created a dome that sent electric streamers from all angles coursing through her body, leaving them to worm over her small figure. “Atta boy, now follow it up with an offense!”
Pikachu used Thunder Shock!
“Chuuuu!!” The electric Mouse Pokémon shouted at as electricity flowed from its cheeks and shot forward, uniting into a single electric bolt that smacked into the Alolan Vulpix. The moment it struck her, Koko let out a slight yelp as the electricity surged through her body and caused her legs to buckle in pain until the attack ended.
“Are you okay, Koko?” Lillie asked.
Koko used Powder Snow!
The Fox Pokémon’s response was to counter-attack. She let loose another Powder Snow attack towards Surge’s Pikachu before he could get out of his stance from the discharge of electricity. The cold gust of wind swept over the Pikachu, battering him with the freezing temperature as the ice particles that fell from above began to scrape away at his yellow fur and slowly gain purchase to freeze him.
“Don’t just sit there and take it!” Surge demanded. “Shock and Awe!!”
Pikachu used Quick Attack!
Pikachu opened his closed eyes and parted his gritted teeth as a white shroud covered him. He shot out of the ice stream to the side with a quick bound, barely touching the ground before shooting forward for a blinding assault. Ramming into her at full speed, the male Pikachu nailed Koko from the side faster than she could stop exhaling and caught her off-guard.
Koko let out a pained cry as she hit the metal floor, whimpering a bit from the lingering pain of the blow, and then forced herself to get back on all fours to fire another Powder Snow attack. The Pikachu repeated his previous Quick Attack, darting to the side and preparing to ram into her again, but she was ready this time. She swept her head around as she continued to exhale in an attempt to catch him.
However, the attempt missed as the Pikachu jumped upwards with his momentum and then bounced off the wall to get above her. A series of sparks blossomed from his cheeks and the air was filled with the scent of ozone as Lillie’s hair began to rise again. Then they combined to form a single bolt that speared towards Koko.
Koko threw herself backwards at an angle this time, getting off the ground just as the Thunder Shock hit where she had been standing. The bolt dispersed as it hit the ground into stray streamers before fizzling out. However, that’s when the paralysis kicked in as the electricity in her body seized up her muscles.
“Finish it off while it can’t move,” Surge ordered, seeking to capitalize on the opening.
“Pika!” his Pokémon shouted as he landed and prepared to do so, cheeks sparking. But the ice covering where he landed from the Powder Snow cost him his balance. He ended up flailing about, trying to regain it as the flare-up of the paralysis ceased.
Koko was then wrapped in a pink aura that gathered in front of her mouth as a spiraling pink orb that she let loose. It sailed through the air towards the off-balance Pikachu, whose brown-eyes widened moments before he let loose his building Thunder Shock attack to intercept it. The pink orb ruptured with a same-colored explosion prematurely, but the force of it knocked the electric Mouse Pokémon back through the air.
Koko then began to pant as the aura around her faded. “Vulll…pix….”
Lillie looked confused by the turn of events. “What was that?”
That’s Moonblast, zzt! Rotom stated. It’s a powerful Fairy-type technique! Zzzhe must’ve inherited it as an egg move!
Powerful was an understatement given that Surge’s Pikachu got back up looking as worse for wear as Koko when he barely took any damage before. “Chuu…”
“Koko, can you do it again?” Lillie asked. The Alolan Vulpix nodded as she righted herself and prepared to fire another Moonblast. The pink orb swelled in front of her mouth as her three tails wavered in place.
“Pikachu, no more playing around!” Surge ordered. “It’s an Ice-Type, so you know what to do!”
The Pikachu growled before light wreathed him and he speared forward for a Quick Attack. Koko fired the Moonblast before he could fully charge in order to catch him, but the Pikachu sprung upwards and let the orb pass beneath him. The attack crashed against the wall as the electric Mouse Pokémon landed in front of the Alolan Vulpix and brought his tail around that shone with a metallic hue. “Pikachuuuu!!”
Pikachu used Iron Tail!
The Iron Tail struck home. Koko was knocked violently off her feet and sent rocketing backwards. She hit the ground next to Lillie with a thud.
Lillie crouched down to find that she was in no condition to fight. “Koko, are you okay?”
“Vul…” Koko still tried to rise up again, her legs and body trembling. But they buckled under the pain and she collapsed, left gritting her teeth and scrunching her eyes up in pain.
“That’s enough,” Lillie told her before she tried to push herself further. She scooped the Fox Pokémon up and held her close to her chest as she reached for the Premier Ball to return her. “We’ll get you back to the Pokémon Center and—”
Koko shook her head and began to struggle. “Pix! Vulpix!”
She wants to keep fighting, zzt, Rotom translated for her as she continued to struggle.
“It’s a fighter for a baby,” Surge said, watching as his Pikachu went back over to his side of the room. “It doesn’t want to surrender, but it’s reached the limit of what it can do. Any further and the damage will go beyond what it’d be capable of handling.”
Lillie… agreed with him. She didn’t want to see Koko get hurt worse than she was, and it was only by chance that the first Moonblast hit. There wouldn’t be a second time as things stood. “I’m sorry, Koko. I’ll let you watch the next match, but you can’t go back out there.”
Koko out a whine as she looked miserably into Lillie’s firm, but also sad, eyes. The Fox Pokémon settled down, her tails going limp as she looked away from her trainer. One ball icon on the screen darkened on Lillie’s side of the screen as Koko was determined unfit to battle any further.
“If you’re going to continue, send out your next Pokémon,” the Lieutenant said.
Lillie shifted her grasp on Koko and reached into her pocket for her second ball. “Shuckle, your turn. Do your best.”
The ball popped open and Shuckle appeared on the field. He looked around until he found Surge’s Pikachu waiting and tried to appear menacing by frowning. It only served to make the electric Mouse Pokémon chuckle, despite his injuries.
“One of those, huh?” Surge mused before looking down to his Pikachu. “First things first. Break its Ability by using Thunder Shock.”
Electricity surged through the Mold Pokémon as the Pikachu immediately let loose another bolt that struck him. Shuckle let out a cry at the abrupt shock, even though it probably didn’t do significant damage. He was still unused to battle and thus followed his instinct to retreat into his shell.
“Now, finish it with an Iron Tail!” Surge ordered as the previous attack ended. His Pokémon fell on all fours in response, tail taking on a metallic hue again, and charged forward to do so.
“Shuckle, don’t let it hit you with that!” Lillie shouted as the Mouse Pokémon closed the distance. “Try to stop it from getting close!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Without sticking his head out, Shuckle spat out a greyish glob from a hole that sped towards the Pikachu. He tried to do the same thing he did with the Moonblast from before, jumping over it, only for the air friction to expand the glob into a small web that caught on his tail. The moment the electric Mouse Pokémon touched down on the ground, the adhesive webbing left him stuck in place and struggling to pull his tail free.
Seeing the Pikachu struggling, Shuckle stuck his head out and blinked in surprise that it actually worked.
“Good job,” Lillie praised him, causing him to crane his head around towards her. “Now, attack while it can’t move!”
“Kle.” He nodded to her before jettisoning his arms forward. The appendages stretched out until they reached the Pikachu, wrapping around his midsection and neck. Then Shuckle squeezed.
Shuckle used Constrict!
Surge’s Pikachu let loose a strangled shriek as he tried in vain to free himself with his tiny paws as the hold Shuckle had on him grew steadily tighter. ”Ch-Chaa…”
Looking at the Pikachu as his expression went from strained to terrified soon enough, Lillie found it hard to watch. Sure, she was supposed to win the battle to get the badge. But it felt wrong strangling him until he passed out. She looked to Surge to see if he was willing to at least entertain the thought of recalling it or forfeiting his Pikachu’s right to battle, but he just looked sternly at the scene as it went on.
“Ch…chu…” Pikachu’s voice was a low rasp that could barely be heard at that point. A tinge of blue appeared on his face. He was really suffocating now.
“That’s enough, Shuckle.” Lillie said, unable to watch anymore. “Let it go.”
Shuckle did as told, loosening his grasp and pulling his elongated arms back into his shell. Pikachu took a deep breath as he collapsed onto the ground, panting. The Mold Pokémon then looked back at his trainer. “Shuckle?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Lillie told him, after Rotom translated the question.
“You should have had it continue until Pikachu had fainted,” Surge said, a frown on his face. “A battle continues until one side has been ruled unable to battle. Use whatever advantage you have to win, because if you show your enemy mercy on the battlefield, it’ll cost you.”
Lillie pursed her lips. She already knew that. But she didn’t like seeing the Pikachu being strangled like that. “I just didn’t want to win that way.”
“…Hmph. Either way, Pikachu isn’t in any condition to free himself from that webbing, and by the rules I set, returning him means that he’s registered as being unable to battle. That brings the score to one-one,” Surge said as he returned his Pikachu. Then he pulled a second ball from his belt and tossed it forward. “Magnemite, ten-hut!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Magnemite!
The ball burst open and out floated a Magnemite. The Magnet Pokémon hovered just off the ground with its two magnets slowly spinning on its sides. Its eye never left the Shuckle in front of it, attention fixed on the opponent it had to face.
“Shuckle, try to web it down like before,” Lillie ordered. “We’ll think of something else afterwards!”
Shuckle’s cheeks swelled as he spat out another glob of bug adhesive that expanded as it flew through the air. The Magnamite spun its magnets faster, increasing the amount of antigravity energy it produced in order to get higher and avoid the attack entirely. It floated up to near the ceiling as Shuckle tried firing a few more globs that got stuck there, making a mess.
“That’s going to be a pain to clean,” the Lieutenant said as he scratched his head. “Magnemite, finish this before it gets worse.”
Magnemite used Magnet Bomb!
“Magnaaamittteee.” Its magnets spun faster, until argent sparks were generated from the ends. The sparks gathered and swelled until they formed half-a-dozen metallic spheres that loitered in the air around it. Once they were fully formed, all at once they flew forward towards Shuckle.
Shuckle used Withdraw!
Shuckle ducked his appendages and head into his shell, which was shrouded in a pale light that strengthened its defense. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The Magnet Bombs detonated as they hit their target and ruptured all at once, generating a series of explosions that sent Shuckle sailing through the air until he hit the wall and then bounced off it to hit the floor.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked.
“Shuuuuccckkklllleeee…” came from within the shell.
That would be a ‘No,’ zzt, Rotom translated.
“You did well,” Lillie told the Mold Pokémon before she returned him into his ball. “Thanks for that.”
“You haven’t been at this for very long, judging by how you acted during the battle,” Surge said as he returned his Magnemite to its ball. He then approached her. “If you’re going to be a trainer, your Pokémon and your opponent’s Pokémon are going to get hurt in a lot of different ways, but that’s the only way to toughen them up. If you don’t like that, then find a battle-style that works for you, understand?”
Lillie merely nodded her head, accepting the loss silently.
“Still, you did better than most of the tykes around here and put some thought into it.” He gave her a pat on the head. “You’re free to come back and challenge my Gym after you’ve gained some real experience, yeah?”
“Okay….” Even as she said that, she couldn’t bring herself to be feel happy at her first loss as she turned and left the room. Once she was through the door and within the disabled puzzle room, she held Koko tight in her arms and apologized. “I’m sorry, Koko.”
Koko tilted her head at that. “Vulpix?”
“Even though he switched out and gave us that point, by not letting Shuckle finish off Pikachu I made all your efforts pointless, didn’t I?” If Surge really wanted to rub salt into the wounds, he could have had the Pikachu shock Shuckle too after that, but he didn’t. “All I did was get you both hurt for nothing by stopping him when I did, but I just couldn’t watch it suffer like that.”
Koko shook her head as Rotom hovered next to her and flailed its arms. Cheer up, Lillie, zzt. Next time we’ll come up with a better plan and things will be better!
Despite their best efforts, she couldn’t bring herself to feel otherwise as she tightened her grasp on the Fox Pokémon and made her way towards the waiting room, eyes downcast.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine paced outside the door that connected to the puzzle, having seen the match for herself through the tinted panes of the viewing room. She was waiting for Lillie to return, running over what she would say in light of her defeat. It was… expected, given that she hadn’t been a trainer for more than a few days against a Gym Leader.
But, more troubling, she felt a slight flutter of emotion that she wasn’t proud of buried in her chest. If Lillie had prevailed here, Lusamine feared it would have only spurred her into setting off on her journey sooner with the confidence she gained. That would shorten the time they had together, which was already dwindling.
At the same time, Lusamine still didn’t like seeing her fail. More so when she tried her hardest. She had no desire to shatter Lillie’s confidence as she did before, crushing down on her until she lost that spark she had regained while away from her mother’s eyes that made her so radiant.
She still hadn’t figured out what to say moment the door to the lobby opened and Lillie entered, so she just went with, “You did the best you could.”.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Lillie told her. “I just couldn’t stand to see that Pikachu be strangled like that.”
“You don’t like to see Pokémon getting hurt, and that’s fine.” Lusamine reached out to brush her hair down where the strands still stuck up from the electricity. “But you already know that sometimes force will be needed to defend yourself or protect someone else. You’ll have to find a way to make them both work… I’ll help you when we get to Cerulean City.”
Lillie was about to respond when the door to the Gym opened and a familiar face entered. “Astra?”
“Lillie! Miss Lusamine!” Astra grabbed hold of the older gentleman next to her and pointed to them from the entrance. “Oh, Grandpa its them! They’re the ones I told you about.”
“So, you’re the two who found my Granddaughter?” The well-aged man with gray eyes dipped his head towards the pair in a show of courtesy. “You have my thanks for that and watching over her until she awoke. She’s still getting used to the region and the dangers that entails at times.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Lusamine said. “We could relate to that, being new to the region ourselves, and she’s a very sweet girl. Should I assume she managed to catch her second Pokémon and intends to challenge the Gym Leader?”
“Yep!” Astra bobbed on her feet and pulled out her two Poké Balls. “Jet and I found that same Drowzee from before and made him one of our friends.”
“…You’ll want to be careful with it then,” Lusamine warned her. “Being wild for so long means that it likely will have some trouble adapting to eating standard Pokémon food rather than dreams, and you don’t want it to have trouble distinguishing that you’re its Trainer and not a source of food.”
The aged-gentleman nodded his head in agreement. “I had my Dusclops have a long talk with it and made sure it understands that her dreams are not food.”
Astra then turned to Lillie, leaned forward as she looked at Koko, and asked, “Did you just have a match?”
“Y-Yeah.” Lillie’s shoulders sagged. “We lost pretty badly though after I messed up.”
“Then I’ll beat him for you,” Astra said, pumping her fists in the air with an innocent joy. “You’ll watch me, won’t you?”
“Sure, if that’s what you want.”
“If you want to challenge the gym, there is an opening at present,” Miss Sendou said from her desk, having watched the exchange long enough and waited for a moment to speak. “If you’re not from this region, do you need me to explain how the Gym system works?”
Astra shook her head. “Nope. Miss Karen told me how in Lavender City when Grandpa took me to her Gym. I need to register Jet and Blysen, right?”
“That’s right.” The Gym Guide then looked to Lillie. “We have a healing machine here in the Gym for the Gym Leader and Gym Trainers to use. I’ll be happy to let you heal your Pokémon so that you can watch her in the viewing room though.”
“Oh, thank you very much,” Lillie told the woman, accepting her offer. She pulled out Koko’s Premier Ball and held it close to her Starter Pokémon. “Back in your ball for now, okay? I’ll let you out when you’re better.”
The Alolan Vulpix nodded once. Then she tapped the ball with her nose and returned herself.
Lillie then looked to her mother. “I’ll be in the room when Koko and Shuckle have finished healing.”
“Very well. I’ll see you there,” Lusamine said. As she turned towards the viewing room again, the well-aged gentlemen joined her in walking towards it.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?” he asked, igniting a conversation as they entered. “To let them grow-up, knowing that the time you’ve spent with them will be cut short. You just want to do what you can to keep them close.”
“That’s true,” she admitted. “These moments won’t come again, which makes them all the more important. You just want to preserve them for eternity, if possible.”
“That’s one way to put it.” He sighed a bit at that as he took a seat and pulled out his pocket-watch, looking at the interior of the cover. “But there’s always a price to pay for it.”
Casting a quick glance, Lusamine spotted a picture of a woman. From how his tone turned somewhat melancholy and what she’d learned last night, she quickly guessed the reason why. “You mean that child’s parents, don’t you?”
“…I tried to keep them under my wing, refusing to let them go free and trying to tie them into what I felt was best for them,” he explained. “But in doing so, I drove them to run from me. At first I thought that they would return of their own accord. Then, I decided to search for them once I’d settled my business and spent years looking. By the time that I thought I had caught up to them, they had left this world behind to elude me once more.”
His words resonated with her, as Lusamine had done the very same thing after losing Mohn. It led to Type-Null’s creation, driving off her son. When she tried even harder to make up for the loss with Lillie, she had left her too. In the final moments of her madness, she had nearly… with her own hands…
“I didn’t even know I had a granddaughter until I laid eyes on her,” he continued, closing the pocket-watch. “A sweet child with her mother’s looks and her father’s eyes. Looking at her, I can’t help but feel as though I was looking at them once again. But I’m afraid that if I try to cling to her too tightly she’ll end up leaving me behind like them.”
Lusamine nodded her head slowly, completely understanding his feeling. “…It’s a bitter feeling, knowing that if you try to hold onto something too long and too tightly, it’ll end up slipping through your fingers and you’ll only have yourself to blame. But, at the same time, you don’t want to miss anything or let go because every moment is precious.”
“Indeed.” He replaced the watch in his pocket with a TM disc and held it out to her. “Please, take this as a token of my appreciation for your daughter befriending my little Astra.”
“Are you sure you want to give her something like this?” Lusamine asked as she looked over the TM and found it was labeled ‘Protect’.
“For a new trainer, it should be a fairly important skill until she can manage to take care of herself.” He gave her a slight wink. “And she’ll need someone to teach her to use it, no?”
“…Then I’ll be sure to teach her how to use it well,” Lusamine said, putting it away as she caught the underlying mean. Every moment was precious after all, and if she could help her daughter then she would. “You have my thanks.”
The private conversation between two parents came to a close as the door opened and Lillie entered with her fully-healed Alolan Vulpix. She took a seat next to her mother and the Fox Pokémon jumped up into her lap. Lillie patted the young Pokémon on the head, looking more cheerful than before as they awaited Astra’s arrival in the Gym Leader’s chamber.
“Oh my,” Lusamine said when Astra finally did, minutes later. The girl’s dark hair was basically akin to a Jumpluff’s cotton puffs from how all the strands were all standing on end.
Even the Gym Leader looked surprised as he scratched his head. “Err… do you want to take a minute to fix your hair?”
“It’s fine,” Astra said, absolutely unbothered by her own appearance. “I’m used to it because all the Pichu I played with on the island couldn’t control their electricity too well. It’ll go back to normal eventually.”
“Okay then.” He cleared his throat and went back to his normal demeanor. “Anyway, welcome to the Vermillion Gym. You’re a bit on the short size, but to make it this far means you’ve got some nerves on you. The rules are two Pokémon each, with the challenger able to switch out while I can’t, and if you win you get my Thunder Badge. Are you ready?”
The child bobbed her head up and down. “Yep!”
“Alright then. On zero, send out your first Pokémon.” Surge snapped his fingers and the board flared to life as it did with Lillie, beginning a countdown. He then reached down for one of the balls on his belt and waited for the timer to hit zero.
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Mareep!
“Ten-hut, Mareep!” Lt. Surge said as the signal blared and he threw the ball out. The Poké Ball burst open and out popped his Pokémon. It stood maybe under two feet tall, deliciously cream-colored wool covering its body. Its black eyes were fixed on Astra’s side of the field, legs slightly out as if readying to move.
In the viewing room, Lillie looked over her shoulder from the pane and said, “Rotom, what’s that Pokémon?”
A moment pleazzze, the Living Pokédex said as it floated out of her hood and turned its camera to face the pane, snapping a picture while displaying the image of the Pokémon on its screen. Mareep, the Wool Pokémon. Its fluffy coat swells to double its size when static electricity builds up, and the more static electricity that is charged, the more brightly the bulb at the tip of its tail glows, zzt.
“It’s not native to Kanto though,” Lillie said as she read the data.
“Kanto and Johto share the same Pokémon League, so many of the Pokémon between them are shared between all of the Gyms,” Astra’s Grandfather explained. “Since there’s only one Electric-Type Gym, it’s unsurprising that he’d be the one who is in charge of training it.”
Astra sent out Blysen!
“Come on out, Blysen!” Astra threw her ball out and her newest Pokémon, a Drowzee, appeared onto the field. In contrast to the Mareep, the Hypnosis Pokémon looked nervous as he faced his opponent. His eyes shone for a brief moment as he drummed his fingers against one another timidly.
Drowzee’s Forewarn activated.
It was alerted to Mareep’s Thunder Shock.
“Do your best!” Astra encouraged him, despite it being clear he was unused to battle. Blysen looked back at her and nodded slowly before moving his legs apart and holding his hands out in front of him, palms first. Then he began moving his hands in an alluring pattern.
Blysen used Hypnosis!
As he did so he released hypnotic waves. His intention was to lull the Mareep to sleep and go from there. It was a practice he was fond of in contrast to open combat.
“Mareep, you know what to do!” Surge said in response to the incoming attack.
The Wool Pokémon stuck its tail up and electricity began building up within it. Yellow tendrils danced over the bulb until it glowed. Mareep then slammed it down into the ground and a shockwave of lightning spread out to encompass the field, permeating the ground.
Mareep used Electric Terrain!
An electric current runs across the field!
“Ah, so that’s how he intends to deal with it,” Lusamine mused as electricity saturated the entire area and dyed it a yellowish hue while the Mareep’s wool coat grew even more fluffy.
It drew her daughter’s attention. “What do you mean?”
Lusamine was about to explain when Rotom took it upon itself to do so in her stead, much to her ire. Electric Terrain prevents Pokémon from falling asleep while boosting the power of Electric-Type moves, zzt.
“Oh, so that means her Drowzee won’t be able to put the Mareep to sleep then?” Lillie guessed.
Lusamine nodded. “Yes, but it also means that the Mareep will now have an easier time affecting the Drowzee, despite their line being somewhat resilient against non-physical attacks.”
“Atta girl!” Surge said as the female Mareep weathered the bombardment of hypnotic waves, still awake and alert. “Now, advance and Tackle it!”
“Don’t let it touch you!” Astra shouted as the Mareep started running towards Blysen. “Some electric Pokémon can paralyze you with a touch! It’s not fun!”
Blysen used Confusion!
Switching tactics, Blysen centered the rushing Mareep between his outstretched palms. Then his hands shone as they launched a bundle of telekinetic waves out like a cannonball. The Confusion attack hit the Mareep like a physical object and stopped her Tackle in its tracks, instead leaving her to take several steps back and reorient herself. Having more confidence in himself after that success, Blysen prepared to release a second Confusion attack even stronger than before.
Mareep used Thunder Shock!
Then he noticed the Mareep’s entire body seemed to crackle with electricity that she began to pull from the Electric Terrain. He abandoned the attack and jumped off to the side clumsily, falling over as all the electricity that she had absorbed into her horns was launched as a bolt blue-and-yellow lightning. The attack struck where he had been moments before, arcing up from the Electric Terrain before sinking in again.
Sweat dripped from his brow at the sight. It was a close-call.
“Lillie,” Lusamine said, grabbing her daughter’s attention briefly. “Since you’re aiming to be a Trainer, you need to observe and learn from others. Can you guess why that Drowzee was able to avoid that attack?”
Lillie’s brows crinkled and folded in as she watched Blysen get back up while in thought. “Umm…he doesn’t look like he has much experience in battling and Astra didn’t tell him to. But he’s a Psychic-Type, so I guess that he saw it coming somehow. I remember reading on the island that their species had an Ability related to that.”
“That’s correct,” she said. “His Ability, Forewarn, activated the moment he sensed he was about to face an opponent and instinctively foresaw an attack that the Mareep was capable of it. That allowed for him to dodge easier since he could recognize it, but he can only use it before the battle begins in earnest because the fighting is taking the rest of his concentration. It’s a survival mechanism, you could say.”
“Good job, Blysen!” Astra praised him. “Keep it up!”
“Mareep, it’s time!” Surge said as he pulled the shades on his head over his eyes. “Flash and Tag!”
Mareep used Flash!
On command, Mareep stuck her tail up and channeled as much electricity as she could into it. The bulb flared into a brilliant and blinding blaze that radiated out for a single moment like the flash of a camera. It still left both Astra and Drowzee seeing spots, eyes stinging.
Astra rubbed her eyes and blinked away the tears she felt before looking towards the battlefield. There she saw the Mareep moving in for a Tackle. “Blysen, look out!”
Mareep used Tackle!
A Critical Hit!
The warning came too late. Mareep managed to land the attack, connecting with a vicious blow as the Wool Pokémon body-checked the Hypnosis Pokémon. The net result was that Blysen was knocked backwards and down to the ground by a good distance.
“Z-Zee…” Blysen struggled to get back up only for tendrils of electricity to dance along his body. The contact with her had activated her Ability, Static, and paralysis had set in.
“Now finish it off while it can’t move!” the Gym Leader ordered, fist clenched and arm held out.
“Mareeee!!” With a battle-cry, Mareep unleashed another Thunder Shock. The bolt drew from the Electric Terrain as it crossed the distance towards the downed Drowzee.
The bolt hit home and illuminated Blysen, stricken wide-eyed as electricity covered every inch of his body and left him crying out in pain. When the attack ended, he was smoking as he laid splayed out on the ground. “Dro-Drowzee…”
“Blysen, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Drowzee only twitched in response. He was in no condition to battle further, so the system monitoring the battle darkened his image on Astra’s side of the screen as she returned him to his ball. “Aww well, you still did good so I’ll give you a snack later.”
“That’s one down for the count,” Surge said as he put his shades back over his head. “Bring out the next one.”
“Okay, Jet! It’s your turn now!” Astra threw the next ball into the air and out popped her Sableye. In contrast to his lounging nature within the room last night, he stood ready for battle with claws tensed as he stared down at the female Mareep, who had already gone through one battle and was panting from the last attack.
“Feisty little thing, isn’t it?” Surge grinned as he gave the next order. “Mareep, use Thunder Shock on it while the Electric Terrain is still up!”
“Stop it, Jet!” Astra said as the Mareep began to ready another attack. “That’ll hurt if it hits!”
Jet used Torment!
Jet’s eyes glowed an ominous hue before he stomped his foot on the ground and yelled. A dark veil briefly overlapped the Mareep as she charged the electricity into her horns and the electricity dispersed. The Darkness Pokémon smiled in a way that bared his teeth.
“What happened to it?” Lillie asked as she watched the Mareep look around in confusion, head shaking left and right as she failed to follow her orders. Every time she tried, the dark veil would appear to restrict her.
“Torment,” Astra’s Grandfather said. “It’s a technique that places a curse on the opponent that suppresses their ability to use the same technique twice. The fact that Jet has Prankster as an Ability means that it won’t fire that Thunder Shock before Torment could take root.”
Ohhh, that’s rare, zzt, Rotom noted, before noticing the curiosity in Lillie’s eyes. It’s an Ability that makes it so that the Pokémon is capable of using moves that affect their status faster than the opponent, zzt.
“Indeed, it’s troublesome to deal with if the user is experienced.” Lusamine turned to Astra’s Grandfather. “Out of curiosity, where did you obtain a Sableye as her Starter Pokémon? I didn’t believe they were native to this region.”
“It was only recently discovered that they did have an unbothered habitat here, inside of the Lavender Tunnels,” he said. “Astra had just arrived in the Lavender City and had a bit of wanderlust to her, so she wanted to explore the cave system that was discovered when they excavated a path through the mountains around the city, to make room for the port there. I accompanied her and Jet came across us, with one thing leading to another. Once the Joy in the Pokémon Center informed us of his Ability, I had one my Pokémon practice with him using a TM I had lying around.”
“Now, attack it from a distance to be safe,” Astra told her Starter Pokémon. “Getting paralyzed will slow you down too much.”
“Saaaableyeee!” Jet shouted, a battle-cry as he reared his head back and then threw it forward. Dark beam flew from his eyes as he fired the Night Shade attack, and the beams sailed through the empty space towards Mareep.
The Wool Pokémon bleated in pain as the attack connected with her, adding to the pain of the previous Confusion attack. Her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the electricity-soaked ground, no longer able to fight. “Marreeep…”
“You did it!” Astra had nothing but praise for her Sableye’s performance. “Good job!”
“You still got one more to beat before you get my badge, girlie,” Lt. Surge warned as he recalled Mareep into her ball and then tossed out another. “Shock them into surrender, Voltorb!”
LEADER LT. SURGE sent out Voltorb!
The ball burst open and from it emerged the Ball Pokémon itself, which looked like a larger Poké Ball with eyes that were narrowed as it faced the Sableye. “Voltorb.”
Without hesitation, the Gym Leader gave his Pokémon the order to attack. “Voltorb, Spark!”
Immediately, yellow electricity shrouded the Ball Pokémon’s body, pulled from within and from the Electric Terrain around it. Covered in electricity that it wore like armor, it rocketed forward like a comet and slammed into the Darkness Pokémon with surprising speed. Jet’s tiny body was swept up in the attack, electricity coursing through him as he cried out. Then the Voltorb halted and the momentum carried Jet further out until he tumbled to a stop shortly before his trainer.
“Jet, are you okay?” Astra asked. The Sableye growled as he got back onto his feet and stared down the Voltorb. She took that as good enough. “Use Torment to stop it from hitting you with that again!”
Jet stomped and yelled once more. The same inhibiting curse that had hindered the Mareep seeped into the Ball Pokémon. The Darkness Pokémon then followed up with a Night Shade, sending a pair of dark beams wreathed in a hue of deep red from his eyes to assail the Voltorb that closed its eyes as the attack struck.
“Voltorb, Charge and Fire!” the Lieutenant ordered.
Voltorb used Charge!
“Vooolllllttttoooorbbb!” The Ball Pokémon’s eyes shot open and became wreathed in sparks as it pulled electricity from the Electric Terrain. Filled with electricity, Voltorb began to float upwards, eyes narrowed at the opposing Sableye.
“Get it, Jet!” Astra ordered.
Jet fired another Night Shade in response—
Voltorb used Shock Wave!
—and was won over as the Voltorb was wreathed in blue electricity that shot out in the form of a blistering, blue bolt snaked with yellow streamers from the Electric Terrain. The bolt punched through the Night Shade attack and struck Jet head-on faster than Astra’s eyes could track. Her Starter Pokémon was sent head over leg tumbling backwards until he ended up face-down on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Astra asked again, a little more concerned as she crouched down and set her hand over his gem-encrusted back to lightly shake him.
His only response was to twitch and groan softly. He was in no condition to fight further after that hit.
“Well, you did well too, so I’ll let you have some Rock Candy later today.” Astra lifted him up in both arms and held him against her chest. “You had fun though, right?”
“Eye…” Jet said softly before she tapped him with his ball and sent him back into it. That wasn’t a ‘no’.
With that the match ended and the siren blared, signaling her loss as the Electric Terrain faded.
“I’ll give you some credit, girlie,” the Gym Leader said as he recalled his Pokémon. “Both Mareep and Voltorb are meant to catch new trainers off-guard and paralyze them with their Ability for attacking recklessly, but you caught on and switched to a long-distance and harassment strategy. A little more experience will help you go a long way next time.”
“I was just copying something I saw Miss Karen do when she let me watch one of her Gym Matches,” Astra claimed. “But we learned a lot, so next time we’ll do better after we train more.”
Surge laughed good-heartedly. “You girls have made this morning a lot more interesting than the last few, so I’ll welcome the challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Sorry I couldn’t beat him for you,” Astra told Lillie shortly after the match was over, with an enthusiastic smile unbefitting someone who had lost. Her Pokémon were also being treated at the on-site healing machine as a special service of the Gym Guide while they were in the lobby. Their guardians were over by the doors, discussing something else.
Lillie felt a little jealous of Astra’s smile, knowing that it was born from the fact that Astra had no regrets since she and her Pokémon had done their best in the end, whereas Lillie had hesitated. “It’s fine. I was just impressed by how well you did at that point.”
Astra’s smile grew brighter at the praise. “Thanks, but next time we’ll do even better. I’m going to have Grandpa teach me more on battling when we get back to Lavender City before we head out. We’ll come back here for our fourth badge to show him how much we’ve improved before the tournament I heard about starts.”
Lillie recalled the Nurse Joy mentioning that. She still had the flyer. “Will four months be enough for that?”
“Don’t know,” Astra admitted, before shrugging her shoulders. “But Jet likes to battle, so he’ll at least have fun, and I’ll get to travel around. I’ll even stop by to visit you first when I leave, since I want to see what Cerulean City will be like. It’s supposed to be really pretty, isn’t it?”
“I think so.” She’d have to ask Bill more on the details, but if she remembered what she’d read right, it was formerly a Gym City until the Gym Leader became a member of the Elite Four. But Astra’s words about Jet reminded her what Surge had said about Koko being a fighter.
If Koko was as much of a fighter as Nebby was after she evolved, would Lillie be able to make the Pokémon that Professor Burnet entrusted to her happy as she was? Leaving Nebby behind with Elio had been… painful. But Lillie knew that it was best for them both and she didn’t regret that.
But she didn’t want to experience that pain again with Koko if she could help it. She wanted to be a trainer who could face Elio and Hau and the others with pride, so she needed to do better. Even if she couldn’t see herself facing off against the Elite Four, would it just be enough to try and enter the tournament?
…No, first she needed to find her own battling-style. A way that worked for her, so she wouldn’t have regrets after a match. A way that they could use to overcome the challenges they met along their way.
Still, it amazed Lillie at how casually Astra mentioned doing so many things because of how fun they were. “You’re as carefree as Hau, aren’t you?”
Astra tilted her head at the question. “Who’s that?”
“He’s a friend of mine from Alola,” Lillie explained. “He, Elio, and I traveled together for a short time. They became so strong that one’s the new Champion of the Alola Pokémon League, and the other will probably challenge him soon for the title, I’m sure. I want to be as strong as them.”
“They sound like they’d be fun to be around. I hope I get to meet them someday,” Astra said as her Grandfather approached. In his hands were the balls with her Sableye and Drowzee. “Are we leaving now?”
“Yes. Our train will be departing soon.” He smiled as Astra took her Pokémon back and then turned to Lillie. “You’ll be heading to Cerulean City next, won’t you?”
Lillie nodded. “We’re heading to the Cape north of Cerulean City and I’ll be there for a while before I set out on my journey.”
“That’s northwest of Lavender City,” he said. “If you ever find yourself coming that way pursuing a badge, feel free to stop by. Any friend of Astra’s will be welcomed.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thanks.”
“I’ll come to visit you first though,” Astra reminded her cheerfully. “Until then I’ll call you, so make sure you answer.”
“I will,” Lillie promised. Then she watched the two leave before her mother returned to her side and they did the same. Her defeat here had been brutal, but she learned a lot about what she needed to do to get stronger.
And the first thing she needed was to stop by a store to get some leg and arm warmers before they boarded the train to Cerulean City and the next stage of her journey.
Chapter 5: Let’s Get Along
Back on the Sevii Islands, Officer Jenny stood outside of the interrogation room and watched through the glass at the interrogation that was ongoing. The small station that was in One Town was rarely used most of the time, since nothing exciting really happened barring the occasional trouble on one of the ferry’s that they had to sort out. So imagine her surprise when one of the criminals attacking the Pokémon Center held a badge that marked them as a member of Team Dominance.
The clandestine organization was thought to be filling in the gaps left behind by the collapse of Team Rocket years ago, primarily in illegal Pokémon trading. There was suspicion that they were part of another organization in Orre that was thought to have been wiped out, but nothing concrete. The only thing that was an absolute was the badge that she found on him, a pin that served as proof of membership. This island was under her jurisdiction and the last thing that she would have is a criminal group dragging the island and its people into whatever they had planned.
“You’re in a lot of trouble, boy,” Ron, her partner, said while sitting across from the suspect. He was sitting with his elbows on the table, fingers laced in front of his mouth as he peered into the young man’s eyes with a steely glare. “Talk to us before it gets worse.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he said. “I just panicked when the power went out and called out my Pokémon.”
“Oh, don’t give us that song and dance.” He slid a picture of the badge in front of him. “You were found with that on you. You know what that is?”
“I got it from a Gym,” he lied. “Back when I was doing the Gym Challenge. It was a few years ago, but I was pretty good. Things didn’t work out though and I settled down into being a fisherman.”
“Funny, because that doesn’t belong to any gym I’ve seen.”
A cocky grin formed on his mouth and he shrugged. “How many could you have been to if you’re working out here?”
Jenny winced as she watched Ron reach across the table and grabbed him by the collar. “Listen, you brat. This isn’t a game. One call from us and the International Police will have you locked in a cell so deep underground you’ll forget what light looks like.”
No sooner than he got the words out did the light abruptly cut out and darkness shrouded the building. Jenny searched for her flashlight through her desk with one hand and picked up the phone with the other, only to find that the line was dead. Her radio didn’t seem to be getting a response either. “What’s going on?”
“Ahh!” came from the interrogation room. It was Ron’s voice. She ran for the window and held up the light, only to see the criminal sitting there and looking smug as Ron laid on the table unconscious.
Panic set in as she opened the door, only to be met with a pair of large hands and a single eye in front of her. The hands moved in a hypnotic motion and she felt… her consciousness… sinking…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Ravin waited patiently in the shadows outside of the police station with his pocket watch in hand, counting the minutes until his Pokémon finished their work. A decade ago a small station like this wouldn’t take more than three or so minutes to get in, grab the others, and get out. But time and experience dictated he take more precautions and thus he’d opted for a subtler approach, as not to disturb the peace or rouse suspicion.
Subtly was something he’d come to appreciate over these last few years. If only others could have that same appreciation. Maybe then he wouldn’t be here right now and they could let the standard protocol take place. But no, the young fool that got caught had brought his badge and made things more complicated.
A minute later a ghostly flame floated out of a window and hovered around in a fixed pattern. That was the signal from Dusclops. The well-aged gentleman stretched his back and felt the years taking their toll with audible cracks before he made his way to the door and entered into the station.
The Pokémon belonging to the officers had all been returned to their balls while their owners slept. The only other human standing upright was Officer Jenny. Her eyes were dull and lifeless from the trance she was in thanks to the efforts of the male Dusclops next to her.
“Good work as always, Ceifer,” Ravin said as he approached the pair. “Do me one more favor and clear a seat in the interrogation room. I need to have a word with the young man there before Lalka gets back.”
The Beckon Pokémon gave him a nod, adjusting the Reaper Cloth around his neck before he passed through the walls. Another good thing about these old and remote police stations was that there weren’t many counter-measures against teleportation or intangibility. It made his job so much easier.
Ravin addressed turned to the officer next. “Jenny, have you contacted the International Police or anyone else about the suspects you’ve apprehended?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Excellent,” he said in relief as he adjusted his black hat. That made it much easier to deal with. “Then be a dear and fetch that badge for us from wherever you’ve got it locked up. Will you?”
She nodded her head and then walked off to do so while Ravin entered the interrogation room. The young man was still bound to the table by the handcuffs and his Dusclops had set the other officer down against the wall. Ravin took a seat in the chair opposite of him and crossed one leg over the other to get comfortable.
Then he asked, “Do you know who I am, son?”
“One of the guys they sent to spring us,” he said.
“That’s not entirely wrong, I suppose.” He brushed his nose and ruffled his mustache. “I’m a bit higher-up in the ranks than you, but I basically just help clean up when an operation goes wrong. Things like springing the others when they get caught and passing judgment on those involved. The latter is why you and I are having a little talk right now.”
The young man seemed to get the underlying message and immediately became defensive. “We had no idea that trainer was there. Otherwise we would have been in and out.”
“That’s not the issue,” Ravin said. “The boss tends to be… forgiving, depending on the mistakes that were made during an operation because good help is hard to come by. He’s talked it over with the one in charge of the operation that managed to escape, which is why my Claydol is Teleporting them onto a nearby boat. They’ll have to do underground work since they’ll have warrants out for them, but there’s a place for them in our organization… that just leaves you.”
Fear crept into his eyes as Ceifer moved in closer, hovering behind him.
“You were specifically told you not to bring your badge,” Ravin continued. “Our organization is trying to avoid the sort of attention that led to the fall of the last one operating out of Kanto and Johto. With that in mind, you were supposed to avoid carrying a badge for this operation. That way, if something happened, it could be explained away and I wouldn’t need to waste my time and come out here personally to spring you.”
“It was a mistake,” he admitted. “I won’t make it again.”
Aged fingers began to tap on the table. “I don’t know, son. I’ve deemed the others salvageable. But you… well, if you couldn’t follow orders that the rank-and-file grunts could then there’s no need for you is there?”
The Dusclops began to open his mouth and approached the young man when he caught the gesture Ravin made with his eyes. Any human that stared into the ethereal flame for too long had their soul taken and deposited to the afterlife. Any physical thing that entered his mouth was sucked into a void from which nothing escaped.
The young man grasped that much, given he began struggling against his bonds and shaking his head. “No, no, no, you can’t!”
Ravin rose from the chair slowly. “If it’s any conciliation, it’ll be painless.”
Unable to get away, he resorted to begging now. “NO, PLEASE! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
“Have some dignity at the least,” the older man muttered as he rolled his eyes and then raised his hand to signal the Dusclops to stop. “Since you seem repentant enough, I’ll give you another chance. You’ll be working the bottom side of things from now on. The things beneath the rank-and-file. But one more mistake and that’s it. Understand?”
“F-F-Fine.” He took a staggering breath and licked his lips nervously. “Fine. I’ll do. Just don’t kill me.”
Ravin turned to Ceifer and then nodded. The Dusclops knocked the young man out using the same method that he’d done to the other officers and then broke him free of the chains to carry him out. The aged gentleman left the interrogation room and found Officer Jenny waiting for him with the badge in her hands, which he took gingerly from her grasp.
“Thank you, Jenny,” he said pleasantly. “Now go ahead and take a nap. By the time you wake up, we’ll be long gone and this peaceful little place you have will go back to normal.”
Officer Jenny nodded her head and then laid down on the ground, obediently closing her eyes and falling unconscious.
The young fool is lucky, Ravin thought to himself as he held the badge. Ten years ago, no amount of begging for his life on a blunder this big would have saved him. We’ve all changed over the decade, haven’t we?
He went left outside where his Claydol was waiting with another woman around half his age. She, like him, was higher up in the ranks. He passed the badge off to her. “Job’s done.”
“Thanks for the hard work,” she said, slipping it into her pocket as the female Claydol grabbed the young man from the Dusclops’ arms with its psychic powers. “If it’s any conciliation, the operation will be put on hold for now while we look for information on that trainer responsible for the operation blundering was. It turns out she’s—”
“Ann,” he said sharply. “I’m not as active as I used to be and I don’t bother with civilians. The only reason I even came out was because I happened to be relatively close and it came from the top.”
She at least looked apologetic. “Sorry, sorry. I won’t bug you with the details then, but do you want me to give you a lift until we’re close enough to Vermillion City for Lalka to teleport you?”
“It would save us a trip,” he conceded. Both he and Pokémon weren’t as young as they used to be.
A minute later they were all gone and One Island was quiet once more.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine sighed wearily as she made her way back to the room in the Pokémon Center where she’d left her daughter and the child, while carrying a bag in her arms. The market had several snacks that Lillie could use and even a few berries that her own Pokémon were fond of. But during the entire trip she couldn’t help but ponder her son’s words on betraying her father’s legacy.
He had placed the Aether Foundation into her care, having the same love of Pokémon that she possessed. Not only her. Even her children and her husband possessed a great love for them all. While they may have loathed her for what she did to them personally, it was ultimately her treatment of those two Pokémon they cared for that had driven them away.
Father would be ashamed if he saw me now, let alone Mohn, she couldn’t help but think bitterly as she approached the room. The sound of voices coming through the door ultimately drew her out of her dark thoughts. She opened it and peered inside.
The girl, Astra, was using a knife to cut what looked to be a giant egg as her Sableye sat down with a wooden stick in its hand, munching on the rock candy attached to it with its sharp teeth. At the same time, Lillie was holding some kind of red shell in her lap and speaking to it while her Alolan Vulpix and Rotom Dex were on opposite sides of her, observing the situation.
“Please come out, Shuckle,” she said to the shell as her Vulpix prodded at it with her paw curiously. “I need to make sure you’re okay.”
A soft sound emerged from one of the holes in the shell in response. “Kle.”
It’s no good, Rotom said. He seemzzz scared to come out since he’s somewhere unfamiliar, zzt.
Lusamine took that as her cue to enter and did so, opening the door wider and stepping through it. “I’m back.”
“You’re Lillie’s mother?” Astra tilted her head as she looked the older woman up and down. “You look like you’re her big sister more than a mother.”
“Aren’t you sweet?” She set the bag down on the table and grabbed the two Ultra Balls that housed her Bewear and Mismagius. “How are you feeling since you’ve woken?”
“Hungry, but really good otherwise,” Astra said. “A Blissey gave us an egg to eat, so I’m cutting it up enough for all of us and our Pokémon. Do yours want some too?”
“It would go well with all of the snacks I’ve bought for them.” She looked over to Lillie. “Are you having trouble with your Shuckle?”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “I let him out of the ball to see if he was feeling better, but the moment that I did he took a look around and then retreated into his shell. He’s still afraid of us.”
“Well, he was a wild Pokémon. He probably hasn’t had very much interaction with people,” Lusamine said as she reached into the bag and pulled out a carton of six Oran berries that had been chilled. Carrying it with her as she took a seat next to her daughter on the bed, Lusamine then passed it to her. “Try using these as a peace offering.”
That may actually work, zzzt, Rotom said as its screen flashed to show an image and data on Shuckle. Shuckle are known for hiding under rocks while eating berries they collect in their shells. They make a delicious juice that can be used as a medicine.
“Is that so?” She looked over the blue berry before holding the carton close to the hole. “Shuckle, I have some berries if you’re hungry.”
“…kle?” Shuckle poked his head out just enough to observe the berries and smell them, presumably. There was no visible nose. Then he began to take them into his shell, stretching what serves as his neck, and stashed them away one-by-one without pause using its mouth.
Odd, I’m registering that you have Sturdy as an Ability. Not Gluttony,
The Shuckle seemed to take offense to that, frowning. “Kle. Shuckle!”
Ah, my mistake, zzt. Rotom looked over to Lillie and explained. It zzzeems that it has been harder for him to get berries since the Combee have been more aggressive because the Sandshrew have begun to eat them, zzt.
“That must be what Nurse Joy was talking about,” Lillie said, looking down at the Mold Pokémon in her lap. “Because the Sandshrew had moved into the forest to escape from Trainers trying to catch them, they started feeding off the Combee more. So now they won’t let you near the berry trees to eat, right?”
The male Shuckle nodded his head and then began to speak, with Rotom acting as a translator. It seemed that he had complained about it before to the Sandshrew as a whole, who only mentioned trainers were bad and forced them to move—that they captured you and then threw you away if you were too weak.
“That’s not right!” Astra said as he finished, still in the process of slicing the egg. Her blade landed with a loud thunk on the platter she was using. “You can’t just throw away a Pokémon because you don’t need them anymore. They’re supposed to be your friends!”
“That’s right,” Lillie said, less fervor in her voice but a frown all the same. “We’re supposed to help one another.”
The Shuckle retorted, through Rotom, that he still lost his home because of the battle earlier. It was apparently a really nice rock.
“I guess that one is our fault, isn’t it?” Lillie said, looking over to her Alolan Vulpix while nervously scratching her cheek. The Fox Pokémon sheepishly lowered her head, but Lillie patted it gently in response. “It’s okay, I’ll take responsibility for it since I wanted to find Sandshrew in the first place.”
Shuckle crossed his limbs and looked up to her. “Kle?”
Lusamine didn’t need Rotom to guess it was saying, ‘How?’ But to her daughter’s credit, Lillie just smiled.
“How about we travel together until we find a nicer place for you to stay?” Lillie offered. “That way you’ll get to see a lot of new places and eat a bunch of different berries until then.”
“You can’t just give a Pokémon what it wants to make it happy,” Lusamine warned her daughter before the deal was sealed. “You have to actually train the Pokémon you take under your care, otherwise it won’t be that much different than those that threw them away when they were no longer useful.”
Lillie looked confused at that, but it was Astra who asked, “How’s that?”
“Let’s say that Lillie takes Shuckle with her, but doesn’t train it. Not only is she using up one of her six allowed slots, but she’s putting more pressure on her other Pokémon that have to pick up the slack. It’s not fair to them that one gets to get away with doing nothing while Shuckle is perfectly capable, and they may start to resent both their trainer and him.”
“Is it really the case?” Lillie asked.
Lusamine nodded. “In addition, it’s a disservice to Shuckle as well since the training would allow him to better defend himself in the wild. If you only feed him without training him in turn, he’ll struggle to obtain food for himself against other Pokémon, or may simply be captured by another trainer who probably won’t be so generous.”
“I see. It was different with Nebby…” She looked down to the Mold Pokémon and amended her previous offer. “You hear that Shuckle? You’ll have to help if you come along, but it’ll be good for you.”
Shuckle brought an appendage to his mouth in thought at everything that was said. Then he looked up and nodded. “Shuckle.”
“Then let’s get along from now on, okay?” Lillie extended her hand down to him and Shuckle’s limb stretched and coiled around it to shake. She smiled and then turned to her mother. “Thank you, Mother. I didn’t want Shuckle to be worse off by mistake.”
“That’s what mothers are for,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be kind, but you also have to be stern sometimes as well. The Pokémon must respect you, otherwise they won’t listen.”
Lillie seemed pensive at that until Astra finished and revealed her handiwork. She’d cut the large egg horizontally several times and then vertically twice, turning it into neat cubes and then stacking them up like a pyramid.
“Where did you learn how to cut so neatly?” Lusamine asked, impressed.
“Some of the fruit that grew on the island where I lived was big and there were a lot of Pokémon, so I learned how to cut them like this so all of them could have some,” she explained as her Sableye walked over and nonchalantly plucked one from the top. “You’re supposed to wait your turn, Mister!”
The Sableye shrugged, plopped in his mouth, and then started chewing. A smile blossomed on his face moments later. He quickly reached for another one, only to be rebuffed by his trainer.
“Wait until everyone else gets one!” She raised the platter above her head before the Pokémon could grab a second one and walked over to the pair on the bed. “Try some before Jet eats them all.”
“Sure,” Lillie said as she reached for three of them at once. She then set one down in front of the Alolan Vulpix and another in front of the Shuckle, holding the third close to her mouth. “We’ll try them together on the count of three. Okay?”
Koko nodded, her tail wavering up and down slightly in anticipation as she crouched down. The Shuckle prodded at the egg cube with one of his limbs before giving a more reserved nod. Lillie counted down and on three they all took them into their mouths.
“Mmmmnn~!” A pleasant sound slipped out of Lillie’s mouth as she chewed with a smile, joined by a practically giddy yip from the Vulpix and the Shuckle letting out a surprised gasp as his black eyes glistened with stars. “It tastes amazing!”
“If it takes that good, I suppose I should try it myself then.” Lusamine mused as she watched their reactions. Reaching down elegantly, she picked up a cube between two fingers and held her cupped palm under it as she took a bite. In an instant, it was like a world of flavors opened up. If a rainbow had a taste it would be the pure bliss rolling through her, bringing a smile to her face as joy bubbled up in her very blood. “It really is delicious.”
“Shoo good,” Astra agreed, in the process of chewing one herself. It had her so enraptured that she barely noticed the Sableye tugging at her clothes until he climbed up her back and started reaching for her arm. “Jet, you have to wait until all the Pokémon get a taste too. That includes Miss Lusamine’s!”
“You’re such a sweet girl to be so considerate.” Lusamine pulled out her Ultra Balls and set them to an enlarged and active state so that her Pokémon could hear her. “There’s snacks for everyone, but we’re in a guest’s room so I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. Now come out and introduce yourselves.”
The five balls popped open at once to release her Pokémon, much to the wide-eyed amazement of Astra. Of them, Milotic was the first move before she had even fully materialized, extending her body so that her head was pressed against Lusamine’s stomach and nuzzled her.
“I missed you too,” Lusamine said as she gently patted her on the head and then looked over to the rest of her Pokémon, spotting Bewear growing tense at her gaze. “Bewear, you know what you did wrong, don’t you?”
The Strong Arm Pokémon’s ears drooped. “Bewaooo…”
“You weren’t supposed to leave Lillie alone,” she continued. “I put my trust in you to listen to her and help her. That means staying with her until she returned, but you went off because you were impatient and then put her in danger yourself. I should punish you by taking away your snacks for the next week at least, if not the next year.”
“Bewao.” Tears welled up in her dark eyes as she whimpered. “Wao…”
“But—” Bewear’s ears head perked up at that. “—Lillie feels that you tried your best, and it would be rude to this darling girl who went and prepared the snacks for this evening to not share. So just this once I’ll let it slide, but next time do as I ordered. Understand?”
“Maa…” Mismagius huffed in a manner that spoke of her exasperation as Bewear nodded her head in joy at being forgiven. Then she noticed the girl with the Sableye on her back staring at the assembled Pokémon and floated closer, speaking in a softer tone and smiling. “Mismagius?”
Astra blinked in confusion. “Huh?”
“Mismagius wants to know who you are,” Lusamine stated as she continued rubbing the Milotic beneath her chin. “She’s fond of children.”
“I’m Astra,” she said to the Magical Pokémon, before holding up the tray. “Do you want one?”
Mismagius nodded her head and then reached for one with the cloak-like tendril to delicately pick it up and bring it to her mouth. She found it delightful to the taste, her smile growing wider as proceeded to rub the child on the head with her other appendage.
Then Bewear trotted over with her paw to her mouth, eyeing the food hungrily. “Bewao?”
“Here you go.” Astra placed one into her grasp. Bewear immediately gulped it down and then began to smile as well, reaching for another until Mismagius let out a warning growl. That stilled the massive paws for a time, much to Astra’s delight from how she smiled.
Lilligant approached next and gave her a curtsy in politeness. She was always the polite type after all. Astra tried to respond in kind, but it was somewhat difficult with her hands filled and the Sableye on her back before she held the platter low enough for Lilligant to grab it herself.
That was when Jet tried to reach for it again until Clefable waddled over next and pointed to the Sableye and then to the ground. He bared his teeth and grunted in annoyance.
The Fairy Pokémon crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Clefable. Clef, clef.”
Jet grumbled as he climbed down, complying to the Fairy Pokémon’s warning. Then he sat onto the ground and crossed his arms, looking away petulantly. “Sa!”
“Thank you,” Astra told her as Lilligant and Clefable grabbed one for themselves. “Jet’s just a bit of a spoiled sometimes.”
“Fable.” Clefable nodded in understanding before pointing over to Milotic. She then shrugged her shoulders as though to say ‘children’ and ate the egg cube along with Lilligant. From there they all mingled with one another until Astra’s Pokégear began to ring.
“That must be Grandpa.” She fiddled with it before opening it up and holding it up close to her face. “Hi, Grandpa! Are you done with your business?”
“I should be back soon enough,” he said. “Did you have any luck catching your first Pokémon?”
She laughed a bit awkwardly. “Not exactly. But I’ll have a new friend by the time you get back, and we’ll challenge the Gym in the morning!”
“Don’t push yourself,” he warned gently. “You’re young. Just take the time to enjoy what you can. I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye Grandpa.” The call disconnected then and Astra stood up. “Jet, we’re heading back out!”
“The sun has set,” Lusamine said as Milotic ate a treat out of her hand while the Sableye rose up from sitting on the ground. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
She nodded. “I want to show Grandpa that I can go out on my own so he’ll let me travel by myself on the Gym Challenge, but I need to prove myself first. And Jet can see real good in the dark. As long as we don’t go too far out, it’ll be fine.”
“…Very well,” Lusamine consented. It wasn’t as though she had any right to stop her in the first place. “Just don’t go too far away from your Pokémon and the city limits. Another Drowzee might try to repeat what happened before otherwise.”
“I won’t,” she said, before turning to Lillie and holding out her Pokégear. “Since we’re both starting out and I had a lot of fun, can we exchange numbers?”
Lillie looked surprised at the offer, but quickly consented. “There you go. Feel free to call me whenever you want.”
“Thanks.” Astra gave her smile in gratitude as Sableye climbed onto her back. “It was fun meeting you both. Thank you for everything.”
When Astra left out of the room to head towards the Route where they found her, Mismagius turned to her trainer and said, “Magius, ma?”
“I’ll be in our hotel room,” Lusamine said. “Come back when you’re ready.”
“What was that about?” Lillie asked as Mismagius disappeared through the wall.
“Mismagius intends watch over that child while she goes out to prevent what happened earlier from happening again,” Lusamine explained. “You may not be aware of it, but Drowzee are common on the island where she stayed as a Misdreavus, so she understands their habits. Between them and the more troublesome Drifloons, she had her work cut out for her because she often went against her own sleep cycle to try and keep them from causing problems for the locals for a time.”
It was how she ended up in her care after all. One Drifloon had tried to carry off Gladion when he was fairly young and she intervene, exhausting herself in the process. Lusamine had taken her into the Foundation afterwards and had made efforts to get awareness out about the potential dangers to children. She also spoke with the Kahuna of the island about it as well.
Since Verdant Cave was close to the location and the Trial Captain under the Kahuna held sway over the Totem Pokémon, which held sway over their respective species in the area, they were able to mitigate future incidences by having them warn the Pokémon against such mischief. In exchange, the Berry Farm on the route would supply berries to the Pokémon when needed on that Route, with the Aether Foundation providing funds for compensation. It was beneficial for them all.
Lusamine rose up to her feet and then clapped her hands. “Everyone, we need to clean up before we return to the hotel and get some rest early. You can have more snacks later, Bewear.”
The Strong Arm Pokémon, who was in the middle of going for the bag with snacks in them, whined but bobbed her head before she started cleaning up too. Soon they had the room the way it was before they arrived and returned to their balls, leaving Lusamine and Lillie to leave the center and head back for the Gold Sky Hotel.
When they arrived outside of their rooms next to one another, they found Bill’s Umbreon and Espeon lying next to one another. The former was awake while the latter was asleep. Once the female Umbreon noticed their arrival, she gently nudged her partner awake. The male Espeon yawned before he stared at Lusamine and his eyes shone with the gem on his head as he passed on a telepathic message.
“Yes, I’ll speak to Bill right away,” Lusamine said before she turned to her daughter. “You should go to your room and get some rest since we’ll probably be leaving in the afternoon for the train to Cerulean. If you still plan on challenging the Gym, you’ll have to wake up early.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Mismagius drifted in the air some distance away from the young trainer, shrouded by the night itself. Today had been trying for her, what with having to wake early during the day. She was only at her peak at night, or at least out of the sun. It was because she was so sluggish and lacking in strength that she’d had much more of a challenge than she should have against that Vespiquen.
It didn’t help that she only wanted to make sure that Lillie had gotten away before she retreated, opening her up for a Pursuit attack. She wasn’t very good at taking hits, much less ones that were actually super-effective against her. It wouldn’t have even been a problem if Bewear hadn’t been so careless in the first place.
Really, their trainer spoiled the Strong Arm Pokémon so much that even after she had evolved, Bewear was still a child at heart. Then again, it was nice to see that Lusamine was returning to her old self. Watching her gradually falling from someone who cherished her family and Pokémon into what she had become by the end hadn’t been pleasant, but there was little the Magical Pokémon could do to stop it.
She could have left the woman, sure enough. But considering how unhinged she became after her husband and children left, leaving her behind would have likely worsened her condition greatly. Granted, by the end Mismagius wasn’t much better off after being exposed to the totem energy when she last seriously battled, back in Ultra Space.
It was hard to describe it really. One moment she was within her ball, within stasis after the first battle with Lillie’s friend. The next her ball was being flooded with energy, every fiber of her being permeated with pure power. She’d gotten all but drunk off it before she was released to do battle again, and she had been ruthless.
The moment Lusamine had given the order for her to deal with the trainer’s Crobat, she had risen in the air above them and conjured dozens of Power Gems. It was more than she had ever done before, each packed with enough power to devastate everything beneath her. She could recall the terrified look in Lillie’s eyes as she then let them loose with enough force that everything beneath them was lost in a billowing wave of dust and stone fragments.
While she wasn’t aiming for the child she’d come to care for or her trainer friend, she hadn’t been all that concerned if they were caught in the wake of the attack. If not for Nebby for shielding both of them from the stone fragments and the force of the attack, there was a very real chance she would have hurt the children. That was the worst thing about the experience—that she couldn’t find it in her to care at the time.
It didn’t even hit the Crobat in the end, which somehow managed to evade the shots and then get behind her quick enough to blindsided her with a Bite attack. She could still recall it sinking its fangs into her ghostly body and staying there. She took to phasing through the closest wall so that it slammed into the surface before she could free herself from the Bat Pokémon.
The pain was deep. Throbbing. Aching. Annoying. Her fury fueled her next attack as conjured more Power Gems the moment she emerged from the wall in a different spot.
However, instead of finding one annoying Bat Pokémon there were dozens through the use of a Double Team attack, each one flying about at a pace her eyes struggled to keep track of. The moment that they spotted her, they rushed in to attack her en masse and she let loose the crystallized light to fill the sky with piercing, prismatic rays. Thunderous crashing resounded as the rays smashed against the distant surfaces and threw up plumes of dust while illusionary copies were snuffed out one by one in the process, until the final Crobat raced forward.
Mismagius then charged a Shadow Ball, packed with ghostly energy until it was crackling with dark streamers, and fired at the Bat Pokémon. The dark orb passed through it, revealing it to be a final copy as the actual Crobat sent a spiraling disk of air racing towards her through the dust screen thrown up by her last attack.
She couldn’t avoid it in time. The Air Slash crashed against her, sending her spiraling lower to the ground and flinching. By the time she righted herself with the intention of sharing her pain with the Crobat, it was too late.
The Bat Pokémon had crossed the distance in a flash, wings aglow with a venomous energy. It struck her down with a Cross Poison attack.
The pain was too much for her to continue fighting. In the brief moment before she was recalled into her ball, her head cleared. The pain sobered her mind that had gotten drunk off the waves of power coursing through her and she realized the full extent of everything.
She’d regretted it. Most of Lusamine’s Pokémon did, albeit the reasoning between them differed. Mismagius never wanted power to harm children, but to protect them. That was why she chose to evolve from her previous form when Lusamine presented her with a Dusk Stone.
Even so, they couldn’t undo the past. They could only work towards making the future better. And if she could help the child Lillie befriended stay safe, that was something she could take pride in.
Still, she wouldn’t interfere unless necessary. Being a trainer was something like a coming-of-age process for children. She would only intervene if the child’s Pokémon left her vulnerable.
The moment Astra reached the edge of the town and out into the fields lined with tall grass, she leaned up on her toes and tried to look through the darkness for any sign of movement. But human eyes could only see so much, so she looked over her shoulder to the Darkness Pokémon that had been clinging to her back until now. “You’re up, Jet. Go find us a new friend.”
The male Sableye slid off her back and then ran out into the grass on all fours. He was small enough that only the tall grass rustling could be made out from Mismagius’ view, let alone that of the child rocking on her toes as she fiddled with a Poké Ball in waiting. It was cute, but careless given that he was her only Pokémon.
Mismagius’ valid concerns about the child proved correct when she spied a Drowzee peeking through a bundle of tall grass opposite the girl. The Magical Pokémon had never been fond of them, but the way this one eyed the child made it clear that her sweet dreams would be a delicacy to it. The Hypnosis Pokémon slipped out of the grass and started creeping up on her, licking its lips and rubbing its grubby hands together as it prepared to use Hypnosis to put Astra to sleep.
Tempting as it was to blast the gluttonous dream eater, Mismagius reminded herself that Astra was a trainer. The child needed to learn from her mistakes and the male Sableye wasn’t that far away. So she settled for conjuring a wisp of Mystical Fire that she floated over behind it.
The moment the wisp caught it and burned, the Drowzee cried out in pain. “Zeee!!”
The sound grabbed Astra’s attention and she wheeled around towards it. “Over here, Jet!”
The tall grass rustled as the male Sableye began to race back towards her, but the Drowzee was starting to flee since it couldn’t sneak up on her. It would get away at this rate. Given it tried to feast on her dreams and leaving it in the wild would likely lead to another attempt on another child, Mismagius decided to stretch her help just a little more.
Fortunately, she had just the technique to use to stop it from escaping. She hadn’t used it in some time. After all, once she evolved she’d focused mostly on strong offensive techniques. But whenever she needed to punish one of the Drowzee on Melemele Island early on, she made sure that they couldn’t get away before she got the message across.
Mismagius used Mean Look!
Drowzee can no longer escape!
The Drowzee went stiff as her eyes glowed. A malevolent aura that prickled its skin with cold sweat wreathed its body and sank into its very being. Just like that it was bound—cursed really—into remaining within eyesight of the Magical Pokémon as the Darkness Pokémon broke through the grass and snarled at the Hypnosis Pokémon.
Drowzee let out a tiny shriek in panic as the Sableye rushed forward to attack it. Living up to its title as the Hypnosis Pokémon, it tried to stop him by releasing hypnotic psychic waves and putting it to sleep.
Drowzee used Hypnosis!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
However, the hypnotic waves broke against it like water against a shore. The Darkness Pokémon sloughed through it without any trouble at all and finished closing the distance. Panic set into the Drowzee’s eyes as it came under attack.
Jet used Scratch!
The Sableye proceeded to rake his claws against the Hypnosis Pokémon and knocked it back using the momentum of its charge. The Drowzee stumbled back from the hit and nearly tripped over itself before falling back on its rear. Another growl left the Darkness Pokémon’s mouth as it bared its teeth in recognition at that specific one.
The Drowzee extended both of its hands again as he took another step forward and flashed his claws. This time it launched a bundle of telekinetic waves, attempting to push the Sableye away and get to its feet.
Drowzee used Confusion!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Again it had no effect. Being part-Dark Type, the Sableye was immune to its power utterly. Thus it couldn’t be stricken by the Psychic-aligned attacks that the Hypnosis Pokémon’s kind was known for.
“Get it again, Jet!” Astra ordered. “Just a little more and we’ll catch it!”
“Saaaaa!!” snarled the Sableye as he moved in to strike it again with another Scratch attack.
The Drowzee, still unable to escape, closed its eyes and then threw its hand forward, finger wrapped into a tight fist as a desperation move.
Drowzee used Pound!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Though it connected, it did nothing as the Sableye was also part-Ghost type. The Darkness Pokémon followed through with his second Scratch attack, digging into its flesh and knocking the Hypnosis Pokémon down a second time. Then the diamonds that made up his eyes began to glow red.
Jet used Night Shade!
Beams as dark as the night, wreathed in a hue of deep red, struck the Drowzee. It was bombarded by the beam, causing it to let out another pained shriek until the attack ceased. The Hypnosis Pokémon then wavered on its feet and gave a slight groan before it toppled backwards.
“That’s enough, Jet!” Astra shouted as she threw the Poké Ball at the weakened target. It connected and the ball popped open, releasing a burst of energy that enshrouded the Drowzee and pulled it into the ball. The ball wriggled thrice before it made a sound to indicate it was captured. Astra ran over and scooped up the ball. “We managed to catch our first new friend!”
The Sableye let out a small snarl at the ball.
“Don’t be that way,” she told him, wagging her finger to reproach him. “Just because the last one managed to put me to sleep doesn’t mean you get to bully this one.”
The Sableye shook his head as he pointed off to the distance, with the trees far off, and then pointed to the ball.
Astra seemed to take a moment to guess what he was saying. “You mean it was the same Drowzee from before?”
He nodded. “Sableye.”
“Wow, it must’ve really like me then.” She held the ball up in the air. “I’ll take good care of it and show it to Grandpa when he gets back. Ah, but first we should name him… or is it a her? What would be a good one for a Drowzee?”
The Sableye set his claws on his head and shook it in frustration as she began to list off a bunch of different names.
Mismagius chose then to appear, silently rising out of the ground behind the Darkness Pokémon and just out of the girl’s view. She leaned over the tiny Pokémon’s shoulders and whispered into his ears to keep that Drowzee in check.
His shoulders sagged as he gave a resigned sigh. More work for him it seems. He then made his way over to Astra’s side and tugged on the hem of her dress with one limb, pointing towards the town with the other.
“Oh, we should head back and make sure that Nurse Joy heals you both, shouldn’t we?” Astra extended her arm for him to climb onto her back again. “I’ll give you Rock Candy when we get back to the room for doing good too.”
Mismagius felt a sense of satisfaction in her actions as she watched them go. She not only got to protect a child, but she managed to get one of the dream eating gluttons out of the wild and less likely to cause problems. She bore a smile as she floated after her to ensure that Astra made it back to the Pokémon Center and then called it a night.
Chapter 4: The First Capture – Part 2
Lusamine huffed as she set the dark-haired child down in one of the beds at a room in the Pokémon Center. The room was registered in the girl’s name, which they confirmed using the Trainer I.D. that her Sableye produced from… somewhere. The 10-year old wasn’t heavy, but Lusamine felt tired from the walk with her daughter to Route 11 and from it while carrying the child.
She took a seat at the desk opposite of the girl and sighed wearily. All she wanted to do was spend time with her daughter and then this happened. Not that there was anyone to fault for it unless she was willing to pin the blame onto a child or a wild Pokémon that was following its instincts, which was beneath her.
The Nurse Joy of Vermillion had stated it would be best to let the girl sleep rather than trying to force her awake, no doubt experienced with this sort of thing since they live so close to a habitat filled with the Drowzee species. Lusamine would remain to watch over her until then while the Sableye returned to its ball to rest.
The room inside of the Pokémon Center was far less grand that her hotel room. But it contained a PC that she could use. Since Lillie wouldn’t likely be back for some time, she decided to use it to check on things at the Aether Foundation and reached out to Miss Wicke using her direct line.
At least, that was her intention. The line took a moment to connect. And when it did, it wasn’t Miss Wicke who answered. It was Gladion.
“Whoever’s calling, I apologize but—” Gladion stopped when he recognized her and his expression went from professional to cold as ice. “Oh.”
It made her heart heavy in her chest just looking at him from across the screen. Her first-born child with her husband had changed so much since the day that he left home two years ago. It was only a little while ago since she had seen him, but only now was she really taking in how he seemed to have gone from a precious boy who smiled a lot to one that wore a frown that seemed as if it was most natural thing in the world.
Even so, she was relieved to see him. “You look well. I’m glad to see that.”
“Yeah, well I managed,” he said dismissively. “Anyway, Miss Wicke is handling something urgent at the moment and won’t be able to spare time until tomorrow. It’s 8 PM over here, so try again earlier tomorrow.”
Then he moved to hang up. He didn’t want to speak to her, or even see her if he didn’t have to. Not after how she had disowned both him and Lillie and tried to silence them when they got in her way.
All the same, she wanted to speak with him longer and called out for him to stop. “Gladion, wait!”
To her surprise, he stopped with his finger midway towards the disconnect button.
“Son, please,” she continued. “At least… at least let me apologize to you for everything. I wasn’t well then. Believe me, if I was I wouldn’t have let you live on your own for two years. I would have looked for you.”
He sighed, disappointment so thick that it was audible without words. “You still don’t understand. That’s not why I— wait, Silvally!”
The words barely managed to get out of his mouth before a creature appeared on the screen, running its tongue along his cheek. Lusamine recognized it. It was Type: Null without its mask, or at least it appeared to be. It was a little different from before, the coloration having changed at some point and its demeanor more playful as it nuzzled his face in hopes of having him return the affection.
Of course, the moment its eyes fell onto the screen that changed. It recognized her. It recognized her and snarled, looking as though it would have swiped at the screen if not for Gladion keeping it calm.
“Easy, Silvally,” he said, holding it close and stroking its head until its snarls turned to a low grumble. But its eyes never wavered from hers.
“Why did you remove its helmet?” Lusamine asked. “It needed that to control its power. Without it, Type: Null will be a danger to itself and everyone around it.”
“The helmet was destroyed when it evolved,” he explained. “Silvally can use the RKS system without going out of control or hurting anyone now.”
“You managed stabilize its temperament?” Even Faba didn’t believe that it was possible when he worked on it, due to the nature of its creation. “How? We tried everything we could.”
“Except treating it with respect and kindness,” he said firmly. “That’s the one thing you didn’t do. You tried to create gods and put them on a leash. And when they didn’t come out the way you wanted, you labeled them a failure and froze them so you didn’t have to look at them.”
“Gladion…I…” She trailed off in the wake of the gaze he was giving her, daring her to make an excuse. “I needed something that could fight against the Ultra Beasts, something that could fight anything that came out of Ultra Space. That way we could have explored it, found your father, and reunited our family. You have to understand that.”
“You brought three Pokémon into this world, through inhumane means at that, solely to be used as weapons,” he said, patting Silvally on the head. “And then you threw them away when they couldn’t live up to that. That’s the very thing that grandfather founded the Aether Foundation to stand against, and yet you turned an organization meant to shelter and protect Pokémon into one that exploited them. That’s why I can’t overlook what you did and why I chose to leave without regrets.”
“I just wanted to get your father back,” she said again. “I just wanted us to be a family again no matter what. It wasn’t wrong to want to be with the people you love no matter what.”
“No, it wasn’t wrong to want that,” he agreed. “But what you did trying to do so was and, because no one was able to stand up to you, it drove you further out of control. That’s why I knew I had to get strong enough to stop you and get the Foundation back on track. I hate that Elio got dragged into our family issues, but I am grateful he stopped you before you killed Cosmog and endangered us all to make yourself happy.”
“I wasn’t well then,” she said defensively. “But I’m doing better now. I’ll make things right between us. You, your sister, your father—I’ll make it all right.”
“…Just focus on your treatment,” he said to that. “Maybe then… no, nevermind. I have to go.”
“Wait,” she said, desperately hoping for him to still his hand again. It was the first time she’d spoken to him this much in so long, and there were so many things she still wanted to ask him about his life while he was away. “I just want to talk to you—”
The monitor went dead as he cut the connection before she could finish.
“…a little longer,” she finished, her voice cracking as she stared at the dead screen. There was no point in calling back. He wouldn’t answer.
She covered her eyes and then took a deep, shuddering breath as the weight of their discussion set in. Her own son felt that she needed to be stopped so strongly that he took up arms against her and trained to do it for two years. An apology for betraying the very ideals her father instilled in her, and that she instilled into him, would never be enough.
“…It’ll be okay,” she told herself as she wiped at the tears stinging the corner of her eyes. She had to keep up the appearance of being strong and not show weakness. “Lillie still needs me right now. And once I get better, I’ll find Mohn too. Once our family is whole again everything will be just fine.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Bewear… slow down…” Lillie said between heated pants as she continued chasing after the Pokémon that had decided a jaunt through the woods was appropriate at the moment. They were far enough off the Route that she couldn’t see the border of the trees they’d entered, but at least she knew the general direction and could get back within the span of maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking.
Bewear, for the most part, kept going with little reservation. She only really stopped to check the scent trail that she had and to make sure that Lillie was still in sight, a brief respite for the aching legs of the new trainer following after her.
At this point, Lillie suspected that it was because of her mother’s orders. Lusamine might have told the Pokémon to be good for Lillie, but she didn’t state for her to listen to her—only to help her find a Sandshrew and to keep her safe. That was probably what Bewear counted as ‘being a good girl for her’ as her mother ordered.
“I can’t keep up anymore…” She groaned a few minutes later as her legs began to burn and her feet ached. “I’ve got to stop.”
Lillie came to a stop at the base of a tree and just sat down for a moment. Koko and Rotom came to a stop as well, with the Fox Pokémon sitting next to her while Living Pokédex floated above her head. A breeze threaded through the trees and shook the canopy above with a gentle rustling sound that drew their eyes upwards, where they spotted these cute little pink Pokémon with a pair of leaves on their heads drifting on the Spring breeze, passing by without a care in the world as they smiled.
“Rotom, what are they?” Lillie asked, fascinated by the sight as Koko looked up along with her.
A moment pleazzze. Rotom floated close to the drifting Pokémon and then snapped a photo with a flash, causing their beady yellow eyes to shrink for a moment until they blinked and then angled themselves to the side as the breeze shifted directions and carried them that way. Hoppip, the Cottonweed Pokémon. Its body is light at 1.1 pounds and allows it to drift on the winds. Capable of sensing strong winds, Hoppip cluster together and grip the ground firmly to avoid being blown away.
“They remind me of Bounsweet,” Lillie said as she looked at the photo taken with Rotom’s Poké Finder. Koko perched her forelegs onto Lillie’s lap and took a look at well. Lillie smiled as she stroked her forehead and then closed her eyes to just bask in the cool breeze as it rolled over her heated skin, strands of her hair swaying under its power.
That was, until she felt a presence looming over her and casting a shadow. She cracked open her eyes to see Bewear staring at her with a paw to its mouth. “Bewao?”
“Just… give me a minute to rest,” Lillie said. “My legs and feet hurt. Once I’ve rested we can keep searching.”
Bewear nodded. And then proceeded to pick her up, cradling her comparatively smaller body and holding her tight. Just like that Bewear started moving again, carry her like she did with her mother last night.
“Bewear, put me down!” Lillie said, struggling to get free of the stout arms as she was carried further into the forest. Rotom and Koko were giving chase after them, but the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored them and her pleas while going deeper into the forest.
The trees here had thick roots that stuck up from below the ground and dense bushes that occasionally rustled as they neared. At least a couple of them were Rattata that quickly darted away in the wake of Bewear, having wisely decided that they would rather not attempt to pick a fight with it. Around them there were several little flying honeycombs buzzing around, some kind of Bug-Type Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Lillie asked with a sigh. After noticing that Bewear was turning in a new direction, she reached into her jacket to grab Bewear’s Ultra Ball and return her. If they lost track of the direction they entered, it could take a long time before they managed to get back… much less before nightfall.
That was when Bewear came to a stop at last in a small clearing that had big stones planted about, with one large enough to be sat on amidst small patches of flowers scattered about. Setting her down there and taking another moment to sniff the air, Bewear then ran with all her might into a bundle of bushes further ahead and dove into them with her paws outstretched. Sounds of struggle could be heard as Koko and Rotom caught up with Lillie, and when Bewear stood back up there was a flailing Pokémon in her grasp. “Beow?”
“That’s a Sandshrew,” Lillie confirmed. “You found the right one this time.”
Bewear waddled over proudly; pleased with herself for having accomplished the task she was supposed to. Then she nonchalantly dropped the Sandshrew in front of them, before holding a paw to her muzzle and looking over to the trees to the right. Several of the small bug Pokémon she’d seen before flittered in that direction.
“Where are you going now?” Lillie asked, standing up on the stone as Bewear started wandering off in that direction. Once again the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored her, causing Lillie to feel frustrated and puff out her cheeks. She reached into the pocket of her jacket and fished around for the Ultra Ball that belonged to Bewear. “Enough’s enough, Be—pbbt?”
No sooner than she had it in her grasp was a splash of sand hurled in her direction, connecting with her face. Lillie staggered backwards as she wiped the grains from her face and ended up falling off the stone and landing onto her bottom. “Ouch!”
Lillie, zzzt! Are you okay? Rotom asked, attempting to help her with its appendages to clear away the last of the sand.
“I think so…” She looked over to the source of the attack, Sandshrew. Even now an earthen-glow outlined its forearms and grains of sand appeared to form out of it. “Hey, what was that for?”
“Kujo!” it cried angrily, lashing out again with another Sand Attack. This time a chilled gust intercepted it and scattered the sand. Koko stood between it and Lillie now with her back arched, hackles raised, and head low while a slight growl slipped out of her mouth.
Lillie didn’t pretend to be the best at reading body language. But she could gather from how its eyes were narrowed that the Sandshrew was more than a bit miffed and ready to fight as it pointed over to where it had been before. “Kujo, kujoo!”
It seems mad since it was about to catch a Bug-type Pokémon to eat, zzzt, Rotom stated, pointing up towards the tree that had a Wurmple quickly climbing up the trunk near where Bewear had found it and into the canopy. Now it’s challenging you to a battle and zzzeems quite Adamant about it.
“I was hoping we could be friends rather than starting off like this, but I guess we don’t have a choice.” Lillie stood back up, dusted the back of her skirt off, and pointed towards the Sandshrew. “This is our first battle, Koko!”
Acknowledging the hostility between the Sandshrew and her trainer’s will to fight, the three-tipped wooly tail stood upright as a pale aura shrouded the Alolan Vulpix. Koko let out a battle-cry and it rippled outwards. A grayish cloud formed in the air above the battlefield as a result.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Lillie shivered as the temperature around them dropped to a sharp chill, just low enough to where glittering ice particles could barely be seen falling down if she squinted her eyes. They were fleeting though, evaporating the moment they touch down to the ground.
It zzzeems that Koko has the Ability classified as Snow Warning, Rotom stated, camera turned towards the two Pokémon as it prepared to record the battle. However, it seems to be underdeveloped judging from my records, zzzt.
It’s probably because she only has three of her tails, Lillie thought. She could ask Professor Kukui later on. He had at least one Alolan Ninetails if she recalled. All the same, she suppressed the shiver running through her body at the abrupt cold (vowing to get arm and leg warmers) to give the first command. “Koko, it should be weak to Ice-Type attacks!”
Koko used Powder Snow!
Koko exhaled a gust of chilled wind, laced with glittering white-and-blue frost particles. It sped forward, covering the grass between them with a layer of hoarfrost as it rushed towards the Sandshrew.
The Sandshrew darted to the side to avoid it. Falling onto all fours, it began to close in from an angle as the Powder Snow attack ceased. Koko turned around to face it properly and inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew made a calculated move.
Sandshrew used Sand Attack!
It slashed forward from the distance with another Sand Attack from both of its forepaws. The two waves of sand caught Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes. She jerked her head away with a whimper, frantically working to clear them with her forepaws.
“Koko, look out!” Lillie shouted. “It’s coming!”
Sandshrew used Scratch!
The warning came too little, too late as the Sandshrew closed the distance and brought its three claws around. They caught Koko head-on and she cried out from the pain from the attack, only to grit her teeth. Then she countered.
Koko used Tail Whip!
Spinning around on her forepaws, the wooly tails caught the Mouse Pokémon right in the snout. Even if it didn’t do any damage, smacking the Sandshrew in the face startled it enough that its defenses fell as it tried to back away. Koko then hopped backwards to gain enough space to exhale another Powder Snow attack at it.
The Sandshrew let out a shriek as the attack landed. The powder began to build on it, covering it in fresh snow. The Mouse Pokémon shivered violently, its pants coming out in a slight mist as Koko finished expelling her breath. But it shook it off and then curled into a tight ball.
Sandshrew used Defense Curl!
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. The Alolan Vulpix let out a small sound in acknowledgement and then inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew began to spin in place.
Zzzt, that’s bad! Rotom warned.
Sandshrew used Rollout!
Rotom couldn’t the warning out before the Sandshrew shot forward in its ball form. On instinct, Koko let loose another powder-laced gust only to have it split down the center as the Sandshrew barreled through it. Too late did she realize that she needed to stop her attack and dodge, resulting in the speeding ball slamming into her hard enough to send her tumbling through the air with a pained cry.
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Fox Pokémon landed on the large boulder and bounced off on impact to hit the ground. Her heart fell into her stomach as she watched her starter trembling from the pain and looked like she was about to cry. “Are you okay?”
Koko is an Ice-Type Pokémon and Rollout is classified as a Rock-Type technique by its nature! Rotom explained. Worse, using Defense Curl beforehand allowed it to be strengthened, so it really hurt her!
“Vul…pix…” The Alolan Vulpix struggled to get back onto her feet, legs buckling under her own weight as the Sandshrew curved around and began to rush towards her a second time. Still, Koko stood her ground and narrowed her eyes as a pink aura began to shroud her body. She was preparing another attack.
Lillie disliked seeing Pokémon being hurt as a general rule. But, seeing the speed at which the Rollout was coming, now fast enough that it was leaving a trail in the ground as it came for the Ice-Type, Lillie made a judgment call. She pulled out Koko’s ball. “Koko, return!”
In an instant, Koko’s body returned to an energy state and was pulled into the ball, leaving the Sandshrew to crash into the boulder that had been behind her. The Mouse Pokémon shattered it with a thunderous crash, leaving Lillie to cover her face as fragments of the rock were scattered about and a dust cloud was raised. The Sandshrew emerged from the rock dust unharmed and then pointed at Rotom, gesturing with its claws for it to come next.
Rotom immediately ducked behind Lillie, peeking over her shoulder to say, I’m not optimized for battle, zzzt!
It doesn’t look like it’s just going to let me run away, Lillie realized as the Sandshrew continued to glare at her, waiting for her next move. She got the impression it wanted to prove something, but what that was eluded her. Koko is hurt and I don’t know where Bewear wandered off to. Should I call out Mismagius and risk her being cranky? What if she won’t listen either?
While she pondered that, the rock dust cleared and from the remains of it emerged a creature with a red shell. Holes were in the shell from which yellow limbs emerged. It wormed its way out of the debris pile that was once a large stone and then looked upon it sadly, before craning its head around to the Sandshrew and frowning as much as it was capable of doing so.
“Shuckle?” it… asked, Lillie assumed as it pointed to the rubble with one limb. The Sandshrew briefly looked away from Lillie to respond, motioning dismissively with its claws for the turtle-looking Pokémon to leave. It frowned, beady black eyes narrowing as much as it could while somehow remaining unthreatening from how bubbly it’s upset-cry sounded.
The Sandshrew somehow managed to roll its eyes before turning to it and… holding a conversation, Lillie assumed. She didn’t speak their language. But she knew who did.
“What are they saying?” she whispered to Rotom, which was hanging over her shoulder.
Zzzzounds like the Shuckle is complaining about its rock being smashed and the Zzzandshrew is blaming it on us, Rotom explained. I think it has zzzomething against Trainers… wait, what’s that zzzzound?
Lillie strained her ears but didn’t hear anything. The Pokémon, however, did. The Sandshrew looked over to the tree line in alarm and then back to Lillie for a final time. Then it curled into a ball and rolled away as fast as it could. The Shuckle just shoved its limbs and head into its shell and went motionless, masquerading as a stone.
CRASH!!! The sound of a tree splintering sent a jolt racing up Lillie’s spine as something came lumbering forward. Her nerves were on end and the hair on her neck was rising as it sounded closer and closer…
And then it turned out to just be Bewear. The Strong Arm Pokémon staggered out in what looked to be a daze. Her paws and mouth were covered in a creamy, golden hue.
She must’ve gone searching for honey after finding the Sandshrew as a treat to herself. Lillie sighed as all the tension in her body faded. She had gotten scared for nothing. Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on her hips and called out, “Bewear!”
Bewear’s head snapped around towards the sound of her voice.
. “You know better than to go running off on your own. You should have waited for—”
“BEWAOOOOOO!!” roared the Strong Arm Pokémon in fury.
The battle-cry caught Lillie off-guard, stunning her into silence as Bewear lunged in her direction abruptly, arms raised to attack!
Bewear used Take Down!
Seeing the rushing Pokémon lunging for her, Lillie instinctively dropped down with a panicked shout and felt the wind rush over her as Bewear brushed mere inches above her head and landed with a thunderous crash that threw up a spray of stone dust, dirt, and grass as the ground trembled.
S-Something must be wrong with Bewear. she reasoned in an attempt to calm her pounding heart. She knew that her mother’s Pokémon wouldn’t intentionally hurt her. Even Milotic, who she got the impression was constantly vying with the others and her for her mother’s attention before she went insane, wouldn’t attack her like that. Given that Bewear was more friendly and treated her more like a playmate, something just had to be wrong.
“Bewear, what’s wrong?” she called out, getting back to her feet. The Strong Arm Pokémon seemed to be dizzy or something, flailing about and smashing the stones around her with her powerful arms and legs. One of the attacks even caught the poor Shuckle as it tried to get away, only to be too slow, and ended up getting launched it into the air and landing with a loud thud not too far from Lillie.
“Are you okay?’ Lillie asked it as she crouched down and took a look at the Mold Pokémon.
Its head and limbs went limp as its eyes were struggling to stay open. It was barely hanging in there. “Shu…ckle…”
Lillie pursed her lips as she reached into her jacket to retrieve Bewear’s ball. Whatever was wrong with Bewear made her far more dangerous considering that she wasn’t trying to control her strength in that state. If Lillie didn’t do something to stop Bewear, more Pokémon were going to get hurt until she settled down.
She pointed it at the rampaging Strong Arm Pokémon and popped it open. Bewear was in the process of smashing another stone when she was pulled back into it, leaving just an unsettling silence in her absence. Lillie sighed, her nerves frayed and heart pounding as she looked at the ball in her grasp tenderly. “What happened to you?”
I think that Bewear was confused, zzzt, Rotom stated as it floated back over to her. Returning her to her ball should have snapped her out of it.
“But what did that to her?” Lillie asked as she looked down to the Shuckle that looked like it was in pain. Poor thing had its home destroyed because of her battle with Sandshrew and then hurt by Bewear because she didn’t keep an eye on her in the first place. She couldn’t just let it stay hurt like this, so she pulled off her backpack and searched around for a Potion to use on it.
The Shuckle perked up in alarm before she could give it a spray and began to try and flee.
“Hold on,” Lillie said as she grabbed it to stop it from running away. “I just want heal you. Then I’ll let you go.”
“Shuuuckle!” whined the Mold Pokémon, straining itself to get free of her grasp before wincing as its injuries made it clear it wouldn’t be able to move as well as it wanted to. It then retreated into its shell.
“You don’t need to…” Lille trailed off as a loud buzzing sound finally reached her ears. She turned her gaze towards the tree line where Bewear stumbled out, small figures flitting about at the edge of her view and coming closer. “Rotom, are there any Bug-Type Pokémon that produce honey in this area?”
Reconciling with local Pokémon database… Found, zzt. A picture showed on the screen of the little flying Bug-Types that she had spotted earlier on. Combee, the Tiny Bee Pokémon. It gathers honey from flowers to please Vespiquen. It is normally docile and flees when threatened, but will not think twice about attacking all that threaten the queen with lethal force.
“Bewear must’ve disturbed their hive to get their honey,” Lillie realized. “That’s why the Sandshrew ran and Shuckle is scared. They must be getting ready to attack.”
Slinging her backpack on, Lillie picked up the Shuckle. She wasn’t willing to leave the injured Pokémon behind. Not when her failing to keep her mother’s Pokémon in check was the cause. Holding it close to her chest, she started running in the direction they came from to escape.
A sense of looming danger hovered over Lillie as she ran through the forest. The sound of the buzzing only continued to grow louder, constantly closing in as the individuals that made up the hive slipped between the trees after her. She spared a quick glance backwards to see there were so many that it was like an onrushing wall of yellow.
“Ha… Ha…. Ha…” It was only a matter of time before they caught up to her. But if they were territorial then it was just a matter of getting out of their range. She swallowed her fear, tightened her grasp on the Shuckle in her arms, and redoubled her running speed as Rotom hovered next to her.
But the uneven ground proved to be a hazard as an upturned root snared her feet mid-stride. She landed onto the ground with a painful thud, hitting her shoulder and sliding along the grass and leaves until she came to a stop. “Oww…”
Are you okay, Lillie? Rotom asked.
“My shoulder hurts a bit, but I think I’m fine.” She had barely managed to stop getting seriously hurt by twisting her body mid-fall and tucking her head in. She looked over to where the Shuckle had landed, wrenched from her grasp by the fall. “Shuckle, are you okay?”
“Shuuuuckle,” it said, looking like it was on its last legs.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you somewhere safe.” She pushed herself up off the ground only to feel a sharp jolt run through her arm the moment she put weight on her shoulder. She bore with it as she got up and went over to pick up the Mold Pokémon again, only to find she couldn’t with her shoulder hurt. That left her one real option.
“Sorry about this, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to carry you.” She pulled out the Poké Ball that she had been planning on using to capture the Sandshrew. “Once we’re safe and you’re healed, I’ll release you.”
“Kle—” She tapped the ball against its shell before it could refuse and it was sucked inside. The ball trembled weakly before the sound of the capture being successful rang out. She minimized the ball and then started running again, but it was too late as the Combee horde had closed the distance enough that she was within their attacking range.
The Combee Horde used Gust!
Their wings beat out a powerful wind. It swept her up and sent her tumbling further ahead, leaving Lillie to end up rolling on the ground until she came to a stop at the base of a tree. It was clear they wouldn’t let her escape either.
No choice. I hope she isn’t too mad at being woken up early, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out the second Ultra Ball and enlarged it as the Combee Horde rushed forward and prepared to use Bug Bite. “Mismagius, help!”
The ball popped open at her call. The cranky-looking Ghost-Type emerged and looked at the incoming attack. Then came the fire.
Mismagius used Mystical Fire!
Red flames were conjured at the Magical Pokémon’s behest and swallowed the onset of Combee. The Tiny Bee Pokémon were scorched and burned, smoldering as they dropped to the ground and twitched faintly.
The rest of the Combee seemed to get riled up in the wake of the threat that she presented. Rather than coming for them straight, they circled around them from all angles, preparing to swarm the three with Bug Bites. Mismagius merely looked annoyed before her eyes flashed and they were surrounded by what looked to be stones of light.
Mismagius used Power Gem!
Then, all at once, the light burst from the stones in the form of dense rays. The beams smashed into their surroundings, spearing through the numbers like a mallet and swept them all away, along with the trees and foliage that was in their wake. Satisfied that the horde had been quelled through the sheer force of her attack, along with a good portion of the surrounding forest, Mismagius then turned to Lillie and let out an inquiring, “Maaagus?”
Rotom took the liberty to explain, in haste, the situation. The Magical Pokémon frowned at that, drifting closer to Lillie and snaking its appendage into her jacket pocket. She pulled out Bewear’s ball and pressed the button, releasing the Strong Arm Pokémon in a flash of light.
Now freed of her confused state, Bewear looked around with a puzzled glance before noticing Mismagius. “Waooo?”
Mismagius used Astonish!
Lillie jumped at the abrupt shout directed at Bewear from the very angry Ghost-Type Pokémon, hovering right in her face. Rotom had outright vanished in the wake of it, darting into her hood and using her as a living shield against the obvious rage on display. Not that she blamed it. Even she hadn’t seen Mismagius looking as angry as she was.
“Magius!” Mismagius shouted again in a slightly lower tone, pointing one of her ribbon-like appendages towards Lillie before sweeping it around to indicate the fallen Combee. Bewear whimpered and covered her head with her paws as the Magical Pokémon continued… was she scolding her? Lillie figured it must’ve been considering that, when Bewear responded with a whine and rubbed her stomach, Mismagius growled and dark tendrils of energy began to crackle around her.
The only thing that redirect her anger was the renewed sound of buzzing. It was deeper than before, heavier, coming from a single source. The Magical Pokémon turned around to face it and found what Lillie assumed to be the hive’s queen, coming to attack after its followers proved themselves unable with floating stones hovering next to it.
Vespiquen used Power Gem!
Mismagius’ narrowed her eyes and then returned fire with a flurry of Power Gems as well. The rays of light met and exploded into expanding domes that made the air shake. The Magical Pokémon then turned back to Bewear, pointing towards Lillie once more. “Magius, Ma!”
“Bewoa!” Bewear nodded her head frantically before scooping Lillie into her arms and taking off running through the forest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Mismagius had told her to take Lillie and get to safety immediately. Given the sound of destructions coming from behind them, splintering wood and rupturing earth, it was safe to say that it was probably safest outside of the forest.
They had to have been running for maybe thirty minutes when they first entered the forest to get to the clearing. Bewear had them outside of it and back onto Route 11 in less than five, breaking through the tree line and leaving a trail of upturned earth as she skidded to a stop. Heavy pants left the Strong Arm Pokémon’s mouth and she collapsed onto her bottom in exhaustion.
“Are you okay now, Bewear?” Lillie asked as she pulled herself free from its grasp. Well, more like she tried to and failed until Bewear allowed her to slip out. Bewear let out a small whine, dark eyes glistening before bringing her paws to her eyes and starting to cry. “What’s wrong?”
Zzzhe’s upset because Mismagius got mad at her and that she’s going to be punished, Rotom translated. When Bewear continued to cry, it translated that too. She just wanted a snack because she tried so hard to find the Sandshrew for you, zzzt.
Lillie couldn’t help but still feel a bit sad for her. As strong as Bewear was, she was still rather immature compared to Mismagius or Clefable. She reached up and gently rubbed her on the head. “It’ll by okay. We probably don’t need to tell Mother about this.”
“Maaagggius…” The Magical Pokémon said in opposition to that, causing Bewear to jump up in fear as she drifted out from between the trees. She looked as though she had been through a serious fight, parts of her ethereal body looking as though it had been struck by something that left actual damage. The annoyed look and frown on her face made it clear her anger had not been lessened.
“Mismagius, you’re hurt,” Lillie said, pulling off her backpack. “Hold on, I’ll use a Potion.”
Mismagius merely shook her head and pointed towards the direction of Vermillion City before saying, according to Rotom, that they need to head back to there now and that she’d lecture them all once they found Lusamine and was fully healed.
Lillie didn’t argue. Couldn’t argue really. Not when everything had gone horribly wrong. Koko was hurt from the battle with Sandshrew. Shuckle was hurt from Bewear, still in the process of crying. And Mismagius was hurt enough that she was drifting low to the ground. Compared to the minor injury to her shoulder, they needed treatment first.
Still, she was not looking forward to explaining to her mother how she had failed to do what she set out to and gotten them all hurt. The thought depressed her because she recalled how her Mother stated she couldn’t do anything on her own back when she needed Elio to help get her to listen. For all her bravado, it would mean nothing if she could actually live up to it. That was part of why she wanted to become a trainer.
But if she couldn’t keep Bewear in control or capture a Pokémon on her own… what was the point?
What was the point in coming to a new region, away from the professors who cared for her and the friends she made in Alola?
How would she face them and Nebby after promising to be better, yet failing on her first attempt?
That thought haunted her as she followed the Magical Pokémon back into the city without a word.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Oh dear,” the local Joy said as Lillie walked up to the counter, sparing the Mismagius floating next to her a glance to judge its condition. “You both look as though you’ve had a rough day.”
“You could say that.” Lillie sighed. It was evening by the time they made it back to Vermillion City and the Pokémon Center. Mismagius garnered a few looks along the way, having refused to return to her ball even after sending Bewear back into hers earlier, and a few of the other people in the center definitely took notice since her kind wasn’t seen around these parts. “I didn’t think finding a Sandshrew would be so hard.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t have if it had been a few months ago.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, due to the Lieutenant being rather heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with rookie trainers, they’ve started retreating further out in the Route.”
Lillie’s brows rose in confusion. “How are those things related?”
“Well, there’s been an announcement that the Elite Four are planning to have promising trainers participate in a sort of mass tournament event in about four months.” She presented a flyer for Lillie to see for herself. “Those who score in the Top Four will receive a hefty prize, as well as study under a member of the Elite Four for a month. Given how they’re considered to be the most skilled trainers in the Indigo League as a whole, a lot of young trainers are attempting the Gym Challenge in hopes of having the opportunity. And since most of the local children know that the Lieutenant uses electric-types, they run off to capture a Sandshrew or Diglett.”
She looked over the flyer. It seemed like you needed a minimum of four badges to participate in it. “Okay, but why is that a problem beyond over-capturing?”
“You can’t simply catch a Pokémon and then expect them to do well against a Gym Leader untrained,” she explained. “You have to get then accustomed to their new lives under a trainer and adapt them to battling, which takes time and positive reinforcement. Since most of them don’t have the patience with the deadline so close, they can’t really win in that case unless the Gym Leader goes easy.”
“And he won’t do that,” Lillie said, recalling what she had been told earlier.
The Nurse Joy nodded. “Out of all the Gym Leaders, the Lieutenant refuses to go easy on the grounds that he holds a lot of pride as a Gym Leader and believes that those who strive to earn badges should put in enough work. So, when they lose rather handedly, young trainers tend to get frustrated as a result and end up releasing the Pokémon. The released Pokémon then go back to the rest of their kind and you can imagine how the experience looks from their point of view.”
Lillie nodded in understanding. Being Captured. Forced to fight. Then thrown away because they were too weak. Even if you could heal their wounds, it would linger in their hearts. “That explains why the Sandshrew we found was so hostile. It must’ve been one.”
“Not to mention that if they relocate too far for too long, they’ll end up shifting ecosystem,” Nurse Joy added, before presenting the ball tray for Lillie to place her Pokémon into. “Anyway, can you return your Pokémon to its ball so I can tend to it?”
“Right.” Lillie turned to Mismagius. “I’ll return you to Mother when you’ve finished healing.”
Mismagius nodded before shooting the Plasma Pokémon a sharp glance. “Magius, maa. Magius…”
Yezzz ma’am! Rotom said, fear tinging its artificial voice. I won’t let it happen again! I promise, zzt!
“Mmmm…” She tapped the button on her own ball and then returned into it.
Lillie then placed it with the other Ultra Ball, Premier Ball, and Poké Ball that belonged to Bewear, Koko, and the Shuckle she had caught to keep it safe respectively. As she handed them over to the Nurse Joy, she asked, “Do you know which room my mother is in? I believe she came in earlier with a girl who was asleep from a Drowzee feeding off her dreams.”
“Ah yes, I remember those two. They should be in the third room to the left, on the second floor.” Nurse Joy placed the Pokémon into the machine. “It’ll take a while for your Pokémon to heal fully, especially the Mismagius. I’ll have Blissey send them to the room once they’re fighting fit, so why don’t you relax until then?”
“Thank you. I think I will.” That said, Lillie left the counter and made her way towards the second floor, where the rooms were. Along the way, she looked over to Rotom and asked, “What did Mismagius say to you then?”
She threatened to do things to me if I let anything happen to you, zzt… Rotom said in horror. Unspeakable things that only a Ghost Pokémon can do to another, zzzz.
“I’m sorry for that.” She reached up and tried to reassure Rotom with a pat on its back. She couldn’t imagine what it was exactly that Mismagius would have done, but she somehow didn’t doubt it was terrifying.
Once they arrived at the room, they found her mother sitting down on the bed. She was opposite of the girl sleeping in a curled-up position, in the process of reading something. Her expression turned from gentle to concerned as she took in her daughter’s slightly disheveled appearance. “What happened?”
Lillie, somewhat nervously, rubbed the back of her head and smiled weakly. “We ran into some trouble.”
As a credit to her mother’s progressing health, she listened until the very end of what Lillie told her without blowing up in anger. Instead, she merely rubbed the bridge between her eyes and frowned. “I’m going to give her such a scolding.”
Lillie, now sitting next to her mother on the bed, shook her head at that. “No, I should have paid more attention to my surroundings and returned Bewear when she was getting away from me. I just got distracted by the Sandshrew and lost track of her. She didn’t mean for that to happen and I didn’t really get hurt.”
Which was true enough. The pain in her shoulder had eased a lot and would probably be healed with a good night’s rest. Really, all of the Pokémon were hurt worse than her.
“Maybe not, but if I don’t scold her then she won’t learn from what she did.” Lusamine sighed, placing one hand over her eye to rub it. “At least you’re safe. After the talk with Gladion, I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it if you were hurt because I didn’t stay with you.”
“You talked to Gladion?”
Her eyes softened for a moment, glistening. “Not so much a talk as him scolding me. But I’ll make things right once I’ve found your father.” She slowly shook her head and then went back to normal. “Anyway, what do you plan to do next?”
“I figured that I would set-up my Pokégear while I waited for the Pokémon to finish healing,” Lillie said. “Then I should get snacks for all of them, since they worked so hard, and I need to apologize to Shuckle for what Bewear did.”
“I recall seeing a market not too far from here.” Lusamine rose out of the bed and stood up straight. “I’ll go and pick some things up for all of them. You stay here and keep an eye on the girl. She’s been stirring in her sleep, so I assume she’ll wake soon.”
That said, Lusamine left out and Lillie proceeded go over the functions of the Pokégear through the manual. The Map Mode showed both Kanto and Johto as a whole, plus the capability to mark certain locations as important. It also had the ability to add additional apps to check on things like train routes and time as well with the proper expansion.
The Communication Mode also covered the Kanto and Johto region, but she couldn’t use it to call long-distance. That meant she’d need to use one in the center or at the hotel if she wanted to call Miss Wicke or her brother or the others in Alola. She could remember Professor Kukui and Burnet’s numbers easily enough, but not Hau or Elio—which she regretted since she missed them both.
She dwelled on the time she spent with them and felt a little nostalgic until she heard the girl in the bed across from her stirring awake. The pale-skinned girl rose up with a yawn, stretching her arms up high before opening her eyes. After taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, her ruby-red eyes eventually settled on Lillie.
“How are you feeling?” Lillie asked.
“Fine,” she said. Her stomach, however, loudly rebutted with a grumble that was audible to all of them. Having been caught in a lie, she blushed. “Okay, maybe a little hungry. But where am I and who are you?”
“My name is Lillie and you’re in a Pokémon Center,” Lillie said. “My mother and I found you on Route 11. You were asleep on the ground and a Drowzee was feeding off of your dreams. Mother and your Sableye brought you back here to rest until the Hypnosis wore off.”
“Oh… right, I remember seeing that Drowzee now.” She sat on the bed properly and looked around some more until she found the ball that had her Sableye. The lid opened when she pressed the button on it and Sableye popped out of it, splaying on the floor and sleeping. She leaned over and shook its shoulder. “Jet, it’s time to wake up.”
“Saa?” The Sableye leaned up just long enough to look around and see where it was. Then it brushed her off with a wave, turning away from her, laying back down, and scratching its hips.
She puffed out her cheek and shook it again before it could fall asleep once more. “If you’re going to be lazy then I won’t give you any Rock Candy.”
The Sableye popped up and its mouth opened, yawning and revealing its razor-sharp teeth as it scratched its back.
She bobbed her head in satisfaction at the response, causing her poofy pigtails to bounce, and asked, “Did you manage to catch that Sandshrew?”
It shook its head and pointed to Lillie. “Sable, sa.”
“One of my Mother’s Pokémon was also tracking down a Sandshrew and they caught your Sableye by mistake,” Lillie explained after Rotom translated for her what it said. “Sorry about that… Umm…”
“Astra,” the girl said. “And I suppose it’s fine. Jet and I can search again for our second Pokémon later on before Grandpa gets back in the morning. He’s better in the dark anyway.”
“Is Sableye your starter Pokémon then?”
She nodded. “Grandpa gave him to me for starting out on my journey a month or so ago, around when I arrived in Kanto through the port in Lavender City. I’ve only gotten my Trainer License a few days ago though, and so I was planning on getting my first badge here.”
“What a coincidence,” Lillie said. “I just arrived in Kanto myself to start mine as well, so it’s my first time in this region.”
She perked up at that. “Where from?”
“A group of islands known as the Alola region,” Lillie explained. “It’s pretty far away from here, but it’s a very nice and peaceful place. What about you?”
“I moved around a lot with Mommy and Daddy before we settled down in a place called the Oblivia region. It’s a pretty place, and I stayed in a village that had a bunch of Pichu. There was even a Pikachu that knew how to play a Ukulele.”
“Is that so?” She supposed that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that the Raichu in Alola could fly. “It sounds like a nice place.”
“It is.” Her expression softened, her smile turning sad. “When my parents didn’t come back during a storm, the people of the village helped take care of me until Grandpa found me. Especially Mister Nick. I hope they’re doing well…”
An awkward silence lingered for a moment afterwards until there was a knock on the door. “Blissey.”
“Ah, that must be for me.” Lillie got up and opened the door.
The Blissey that should have been at the counter was there with the tray containing the Pokémon that she left to be healed. She handed them to Lillie and shifted her gentle gaze to Astra, who still looked down after speaking of her home and family. The Pokémon waddled into the room and presented her egg to the girl. “Blissey.”
Astra grabbed it, tilting her head in confusion. “What’s this for?”
Rotom chimed in. Blissey is the Happiness Pokémon. Its fluffy fur coat acts as a sensor, enabling it to read the feelings of people and Pokémon. When it senses someone feeling sad, it will give them an egg. One bite of its egg will bring a smile to their face, zzzt.
“Oh, I see. You sensed I was feeling sad.” She put on a smile for the Happiness Pokémon. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to enjoy it.”
Lillie watched as Astra looked over the large egg in her hands while Blissey left out. She seemed ready to crack it open, which made sense when Lillie considered how her stomach had grumbled minutes ago. But the girl paused as she looked over to Lillie. “Is something wrong?”
“Actually, this is a little too big for me to eat alone.” She held the egg out towards Lillie. “Do you want to share it between me and Jet?”
“Ah, I… wouldn’t mind, but…” Lillie looked at the four balls in her care at the moment. “Can I split mine between the Pokémon and Rotom? My mother will be back soon with snacks for them, but it wouldn’t feel right to eat before them.”
“Sure,” she said with a bright smile. “The more the merrier, and I want to see what kind of Pokémon you have.”
Chapter 3: The First Capture – Part 1
As rain poured down outside at night, Lusamine was roused from her slumber upon feeling the rustle of the warm figure bundled next to her beneath the sheets. She sat up in bed and pulled back the covers to spot the tense body of her youngest child. “Lillie, is everything okay?”
Her daughter shifted around in the bed so that they faced each other and apologized. “Sorry, Mommy. Did I wake you?”
“I wasn’t that deep in my sleep,” Lusamine said in a gentle tone, placing the back of her hand over Lillie’s forehead and cheek. A few hours ago Lillie had gotten the idea to sing and dance in the rain like she had seen in a movie they watched together. Misdreavus, always being one to keep an eye on the children when she couldn’t, had alerted Lusamine and she had gone out to pull her back in. Somehow she ended up joining her and they both wound up catching a cold.
But that was fine since it seemed to make Lillie happy. “Your fever has finally broken. That’s good.”
“If I’m better, should I go back to my room?” Lillie timidly asked. “I don’t want to be in the way when Daddy comes back to bed.”
“Daddy is working on an experiment with that strange little Pokémon, so he won’t be back tonight,” Lusamine said. “You know the little one that goes ‘Pew Pew’ all the time.”
“You mean Nebby?”
That earned a slight giggle from her mother. “Your father named it Cosmog, but Nebby is so much cuter. How did you come up with it?”
“I call him that because Daddy showed me a picture of a Nebula in a book and said Nebby was like one,” she said. “Daddy said that it was a good name, and Nebby seemed to like it.”
“You’re so clever.” Lusamine looked over to the clock to see that it was after midnight now. “We should go back to sleep now.”
Lillie nodded her head and then wrapped her tiny arms around her mother’s slender frame as she laid back down, clinging to her as though she didn’t want to let go as Lusamine stroked her hair to gently coax her back asleep. “Good night, Mommy.”
“Good night, my sweet Lillie.”
As Lusamine woke from her dream of the past, her world in the present was nothing but pain.
Every inch of her body ached. A dull throbbing pain loitered in her limbs that felt heavy. And her mind was foggy, lost as it worked to form a coherent train of thought. She breathed in and out slowly, steadily gaining awareness as her memories put themselves back into place. She remembered getting on the ferry after the photo, feeling tired, and then retiring to the room to get some rest.
How long have I been under? She needed to figure that out more than anything, but she felt hot and dizzy. Thankfully, something wet touched her forehead and spread a cooling relief through her head. She exhaled a shuddering breath and managed to open her eyes, only to find the world was a blur while a pink blob grew larger.
She focused her eyes, squinting and focusing until her vision cleared to reveal the Fairy Pokémon dabbing a wet cloth to her head. “Since you let yourself out to look over me, it must be morning then?”
Clefable, her oldest Pokémon nodded, lips pulling back into a small smile as she continued to aid her trainer.
“Where are we?” Lusamine asked. It didn’t seem like the cabin of the ferry. If anything the room was larger, and she didn’t feel the minute motion of the boat.
Lilligant came over at the prompt, having also let herself out at some point. The Flowering Pokémon held a brochure of some kind between the leaves that served as her arms. It listed the name of a hotel in Vermillion City.
Since she didn’t remember arriving, Lusamine realized she must’ve drifted off at some point then and missed when the ferry arrived, due to not being easily woken since the… incident.
“In that case, Bewear must’ve carried me while Milotic and Mismagius watched over me at night, right?” A nod from them both confirmed as much. “Help me get ready to go out.”
She couldn’t show weakness in front of her daughter, and the time they had was already limited as things stood. Since Vermillion City acted as the port for a number of islands, it had a number of shops that they could visit to get Lillie’s supplies for when she began her journey. And then she may want to visit the Gym to see how they operated, or try to catch a Pokémon of her own.
Lilligant climbed onto the bed and helped her sit up. Being so close to Lusamine also allowed her to breathe in the aroma wafting from the flower, which eased the pain somewhat. Clefable brought over her traveling bags that held her clothes and helped her sort out an outfit suitable for the walking in the city.
When Lusamine rose out of bed to go take a shower, vertigo overtook her. The world turned to liquid, rolling back and forth like waves churned by a storm. She lost her balance.
Clefable managed to catch her and helped her sit down again. “Clef-clef!”
“I have to go,” Lusamine said to what she grasped was a request to take it easy, looking down at her hands. She still found it difficult to believe that the gentle hands that lovingly embraced her daughter before in the dream had been ready to squeeze the very life out of her had the Legendary Pokémon not separated her from Nihilego. That fact that she would have enjoyed doing it at the time… it filled her with horrible shame and regret.
So much so that her hands trembled at when she considered what sort of person she had become. When she was around it, she felt so much better than she had before. Some distorted part of her relished that, along with the comfort of the thought that the beast would never abandon her as her family did. Only now did she realize how irrational she had been, how she pushed them away after her husband vanished, and how she had taken advantage of those around her.
“I only have so much time before Lillie leaves me behind,” she continued. “I need to be there for her and show her that I still care. That I’m the one who was worthy of being her mother and not—”
She barely stopped herself from finishing the slip of the tongue that would have exposed the petty feeling she felt, a tiny spark of jealousy that her daughter’s first Pokémon came from another woman who had taken on her role over the last few months. No, even before then, she couldn’t be considered either Gladion or Lillie’s mother. Wicke had all but replaced her in that respect once the spiral into madness began.
There was much she had to atone for in order to be the same woman that Mohn married. She needed to make up for everything and prove to herself that she was someone worthy of being loved by those she denounced for the sake of the beasts.
Her Pokémon exchanged a look with one another. Then Lilligant grabbed her right hand while Clefable grabbed her left. They held them between their small limbs as though to comfort her and then helped her to stand back up.
The trembling in her hands stopped. “Thank you. I’m lucky to have all of you still by my side.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie found herself standing off to the side while cradling Koko’s Premier Ball in her hands within the Gold Sky Hotel, watching as Bill set up her Storage Box on the PC located there.
Since Professor Kukui had been the one who was registered her as a trainer (with the Rotom Dex acting as basically a spare ID-card), any Pokémon over the number of six that were registered as being “out” with her would normally be transferred over to the system managed in the Alola region. However, with the damage done to the Sevii Island Network Center where they communicated with one another, connecting to the Alolan system had been hindered until it could be repaired. So Bill had offered to create one for her to use until then, linked to his system.
“And done.” Bill smiled a little as she turned to face her. “I’ve only given you a single box, but that should be enough until we can connect to Alola. You shouldn’t actually need all that much box space unless you plan on doing serial collecting.”
He may have been jesting from his tone, but Lillie couldn’t help but shake her at that. She had seen her mother’s collection and was thoroughly disabused of even entertaining that thought. Though it prompted a different one that had her curious. “Um… do the Pokémon inside of the boxes stay like that forever?”
“Hmm… it depends.” He rubbed his chin in thought for a moment. “As I mentioned before, there are now systems in place to stop non-native Pokémon from being released in a non-native environment. However, there are also those that allow for transfer of ownership of the boxes or to have the Pokémon released upon a trainer’s death, if there is no one to claim them. The Professors and those who are registered to maintain a system can dictate how many boxes are assigned to a trainer and can arrange for temporary release into a habitat for them.”
“You mean like Professor Kukui?”
“I believe so. The Alolan region’s system does have such a place, with an individual who has special permission to access the storage system there if I recall correctly, so it shouldn’t be an issue since very few people have the time and resources to take care of more than a handful of Pokémon to begin with. It’s usually those who are collectors like myself or sponsored by a Professor that will often have extra boxes and will use a ranch or designated habitat for them to remain active in.”
“Do you have a lot of Pokémon in the boxes?”
“Surprisingly, I don’t since I can afford to look after them, so they mostly stay unreleased.” He reached into his pocket and pulled free two Poké Balls, from which the Umbreon and Espeon she had seen in the Sevii Islands appeared. “Tenebrea and Lumen here I keep on me when I travel for my personal protection, but at the cottage are my Dragonair, Clefairy, Kadabra, Porygon-2, and the rest of the Eevee family that I’ve hatched myself.”
“Isn’t it hard to look after them all?” She had enough trouble looking after Nebby as it was. And that was when it was a little Cosmog. She hoped that Nebby was behaving for Elio as the Umbreon and Espeon looked up to Bill at that, their ears folded back and innocent eyes that Lillie felt was practiced.
He smiled and crouched down to stroke the fur on both of their heads. “Oh, they can be a handful at times, but they’re worth it. We’re more of a rather large family than anything else.”
She pondered on that when the elevator slid open with a ding. Lillie looked up on reflex since it was next to them and spotted her mother entering the lobby, looking around and taking the hotel’s grandeur into account until their eyes met. Lillie straightened up from leaning against the wall and approached her. “Mother, you shouldn’t be walking around. You need more rest.”
Lusamine shook her head once, shifting her long hair as she crossed her arms. “I’ve slept enough. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Lillie put her hands on her hips and puffed out her cheeks. “How can I not worry when we couldn’t wake you up at all? We had to contact Miss Wicke for advice. She told us to make arrangements for the hotel and let you rest for at least another day before we got on the train to Cerulean. Mister Bill had to change his schedule just for us.”
Lusamine’s eyes softened a touch at that, slightly crestfallen.
“Don’t be too harsh. If she hadn’t helped I possibly wouldn’t be here,” Bill said, rising to his feet. “Besides, it’s only a slight delay and I can use this time to check up on some connections. You two should spend this time getting used to the Kanto region if you plan on taking the Gym challenge. The Vermillion Gym isn’t too far from here.”
“That’s an excellent idea,” Lusamine said, jumping on the suggestion. “That way I we can make sure that you have everything you need since we’ll be heading to Cerulean next.”
Lillie pursed her lips thin. “You should rest. I can wait until we get to the cottage and you’re better.”
“Lillie…” She reached out to brush her daughter’s cheek. “Don’t let what’s happened to me stand in the way of what you also came here for. At least this way I’ll be able to relax somewhat knowing you have a grasp on the basics.”
“Mmm…fine…” Lillie grabbed her mother’s hand and held it between her own tenderly as she stared into her eyes with as much determination as she could to get her point across. “But the moment I see that you’re pushing yourself, we’re coming back to the hotel.”
“I won’t push myself,” Lusamine promised. “Now, let’s go while we have the time and get your supplies. Then we’ll go to the Gym to see how they operate.”
The backpack on Lillie’s back felt a lot heavier as she walked along with her mother towards the building that the clerk helpfully pointed out as the Vermillion Gym. They had gone shopping in order to get supplies for her inevitable journey, including the standard Pokémon Refresh kit, Potions, Revives, Repels, and so on. Her mother had also gotten her the latest generation of the Pokégear, which were commonly found around Kanto and the neighboring Johto region. She’d need to go over all of the functions later tonight, but she should be able to figure that much out on her own.
The clerk had said that they couldn’t miss the Gym once it came into view. Lillie had to agree that the building definitely stood out, what with the lightning bolts crossing one another to form an arch over the entrance. She supposed that it was decorated in that manner to ensure that whoever was looking for it could find it, but it still struck her as a bit grandiose.
“Are you nervous?” her mother asked.
Lillie closed her eyes for a moment and then nodded her head. “I don’t know what to expect, so it’s a little unnerving. But I’m fine.”
Steeling herself, Lillie walked into the Gym and the lobby that awaited them there. It was rather plain-looking at a glance, with seats to the left and a desk to the right. Behind the desk was a woman with black hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing what looked to be army clothes and boots.
“Greetings,” the woman said, rising to her feet from the desk. “Are you here for the Gym Challenge? I’m afraid that another challenger has gone ahead of you and until they leave, you’ll have to wait until they’re done.”
“Actually, I’m new to this region and I was hoping to understand how the Gym system worked, Miss…”
“Sendou,” she said. “I’m a Gym Guide, as appointed by the League to both monitor the condition and conduct of the Gym, as well as aid trainers in knowing what to expect. I’ll be happy to explain things, but can you tell me what do you know so far?”
“That Gyms are essentially places where trainers can either come to improve themselves under the guidance of a Gym Leader or challengers can attempt to earn a badge from the Gym Leaders by defeating them in battle—eight of which will permit you to challenge the Elite Four in order to become the current Champion.” Lillie understood that much at least. Professor Kukui had been planning on making a League in Alola for some time and she had been around to see Elio claim the title of Alola’s Champion.
Miss Sendou nodded. “Upon entering, a Gym Guide such as myself will check the number of badges you possess and inform the Gym Leader, who will scale appropriately to ensure that you are challenged without being completely overwhelmed. If you are successful, then you’ll earn a badge as well as prize money. Or course, first you have to reach the Gym Leader to challenge him.”
“Do we not simply challenge them?”
“A Gym Leader has the authority to customize their Gym in certain ways, provided they are approved by the Pokémon League to ensure that they do not cause any permanent harm to anyone. They usually present something of a puzzle in order to add to the difficulty, ensuring that the trainer themselves are don’t simply coast using their Pokémon’s raw strength. In the case of this Gym, the Lieutenant has something of an electric puzzle set up and the challenger has to solve it in order to reach the arena within a reasonable timeframe. If you’re new, I should assume you don’t have any badges at all?”
Lillie shook her head. “I don’t.”
“Then he’d face you with a No-Badge team of two Pokémon.”
“But I only have one right now,” Lillie said. “Will that be a problem?”
“I would advise you to at least have two or more Pokémon before attempting to challenge the Lieutenant. Though he scales appropriately, you’ll still be facing off against two of the Gym’s Pokémon with one, whom are very experienced in battling. And he tends to be rather heavy-handed when it comes to all challengers, which is the reason very few trainers actually choose to face him for their first Gym.”
“I see…” It was more like an Island Trial than she thought with the puzzles. “I guess I should capture a second Pokémon first, shouldn’t I?”
“I’d recommend a Ground-type.” Miss Sendou went over to the desk again and began to operate with the computer. “Let’s see… Sandshrew can be found often in Route 11, and Diglett can be found in the tunnels on that route.”
“I understand.” She supposed it would be best to capture one if possible before attempt to match the Gym Leader. “I’ll go and try to capture a second Pokémon first.”
“Fair warning, the Lieutenant does have countermeasures against the local ones since he doesn’t like it when trainers simply try to coast by using fresh captures, so you’ll have to be clever if you face him with them,” she said. “If you want more experience with combat, or to get a feel for the sort of challenge you’ll face, you can also try challenging a Gym Trainer if they’re available.”
“I think I will.” Lillie gave her a brief bow in gratitude. “Thank you for the advice.”
“Not a problem. Good luck with your capture.”
Roughly an hour later, Lillie and her mother made it to the start of Route 11 that began at the end of the river that flowed from the sea until it reached just opposite of the entrance to the Diglett’s Cave.
It was one of the designated routes that were often traveled by trainers as they went about their way and thus a relatively well-trodden dirt path, consisting of mostly tall grass that grew in great abundance, with some patches that rose up to Lillie’s waist. The border of her vision to the left and right were thick trees, natural barriers that no doubt hid their own selection of Pokémon from prying eyes.
They couldn’t travel too far from Vermillion City if they wanted to get back by nightfall. Her mother needed her rest and Lillie didn’t want to add to the stress she was under, so she didn’t intend to push too far ahead. Still, there was an unnerving sense of excitement in her body as it would be the first time she went exploring with the intention of catching a Pokémon without Repels.
Lillie watched as a Krabby that was on the shore scuttle back into the water while a group of Pidgey took flight overhead towards the trees far back. Looking at how far the grasslands stretched and were only broken by the dirt path, she couldn’t help but wonder how long it was going to take to find a Sandshrew among the grass.
That was what she decided to try and catch instead of a Diglett, since she couldn’t see in the cave and the Mouse Pokémon would be more mobile. Off the top of her head, she only knew that they were around this route. But which part was hard to discern unless she knew a little on what a Kantonian Sandshrew’s habitat was and how active they were at this time of day. She looked over her shoulder to her backpack. “Rotom, are you awake now?”
There was a shuffling in her bag before the living Pokédex emerged from the opening and floated around to the front. I am now, User Lillie, zzt.
“Just calling me Lillie is fine,” she told it. “Do you have any information on this region’s variant of Sandshrew?”
The screen shifted as Rotom accessed the database and then displayed an image of the region’s variant. Sandshrew, the Mouse Pokémon. It burrows and lives underground, only emerging to hunt for Bug-type Pokémon. If threatened, it curls itself up into a ball for protection and can roll at high-speeds. It dislikes water.
“If it dislikes water then it’ll be further away from the river,” Lillie said as Rotom presented extra data like its footprints and the average size of their species. “But finding a burrow may take a while.”
“I’ll help you find one since you’re pressed for time.” Lusamine pulled out one of her Ultra Balls and held it forward in her palm. “Bewear, come out.”
The ball opened and light speared out. The Strong Arm Pokémon emerged and stretched its thick arms up into the air with a yawn. Then it embraced Lusamine and lifted her into a hug. That was normally risky since its species ran the risk of using too much force and breaking the spines of their trainer. But hers was well-trained to control its strength and wouldn’t harm her, even as it spun around in circles as if overjoyed that she was up and well.
“I’m happy to see you too,” Lusamine said as she brushed her hands along its head. “But first things first. We need your help in finding a Pokémon, okay?”
Bewear set her down and stood at attention, giving her a salute. Rotom flew closer and showed it the image on display. It placed its paw to its muzzle as it gazed at the picture with a dull look for a few moments. Then it fell onto all fours to sniff the ground.
Lillie reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out Koko’s ball. Even with her mother helping her in this instance, she was the one that should try to capture it properly when found. The miniaturized ball expanded into its active state with one press of the button and then popped open with the second, releasing the Alolan Vulpix.
“Vullll…” Koko yawned and brushed her head with her forepaw before sitting upright. Settling her gentle blue eyes on her trainer, her tails flicked up and the air grew a tad cooler. “Pix?”
“Morning, Koko.” Lillie crouched down and gently ran her fingers back and forth over her head, ignoring the slight chill in the air. “Did you sleep well?”
Koko nodded and leaned into the touch until Bewear’s large presence became known to the Fox Pokémon as it rose to its full height and cast a shadow over the rather small fox. Bewear, now standing on its hind legs, began running ahead and into the tall grass. A Spearow vacated the shaking grass, taking flight with quick beats of its short wings, and an Ekans slithered out afterwards, clearly agitated as it spared them a spiteful look before heading away. It must’ve been hunting.
To Lillie’s surprise, Bewear came running back with a Pokémon held in its paws, raised above its head. It was flailing around but unable to escape until the Bewear came to a stop in front of them and held out its prize proudly. It… wasn’t a Sandshrew.
No, what it had in its hands was a dark, two-legged creature roughly a foot tall. Its arms led to a pair of claws and its eyes were gemstones. There were differently-colored ones around its chest and backside as well.
Lusamine shook her head as she looked at the Darkness Pokémon. “That’s not a Sandshrew, Bewear. It’s a Sableye.”
“Waaa…” Bewear frowned as it unceremoniously dropped the Sableye and then fell onto its hind. A soft whine left its mouth as it held its paws to its muzzle dejected until Lusamine gently patted it on the head.
“You’ll do better next time,” she said to it in a soothing manner as she looked at the Sableye that rubbed its backside as it stood up. “Still, I don’t think Sableye are native to this area.”
“Saaa. Sableye,” it said in response, eyeing the women.
He says that he was chasing down a Zzzandshew for his trainer when Bewear grabbed him, Rotom helpfully translated. The Sableye gestured towards it and made a curious sound. Yes, I am a Pokémon, zzt.
“We’re sorry, Sableye,” Lillie told it—him. Bewear must’ve caught the scent of it on him and then picked him up instead. “Do you think that it’ll still be there?”
The Darkness Pokémon shook his head and, through Rotom, stated that its trainer had used some kind of radar to find it, only for it to run. By now it would be long gone.
Lusamine tapped her chin in thought with her hand that wasn’t petting the Bewear. “Do you think that your trainer would allow us to use it and get an idea of where we can find them? We’re pressed for a bit of time as the moment and would greatly appreciate it.”
The Sableye shrugged his shoulders and then gestured for them to follow as he trudged off to the northeast, beyond a veil of tall grass. Lusamine, Bewear, Lillie, and Koko followed after him through the grass until they emerged by the woodlands to the north. There they found a girl laying on the ground unconscious, a Pokémon that Lillie identified as a Drowzee standing over her with its trunk pressed against her head, eyes upturned in happiness and a smile on its lips.
The Sableye growled audibly at the sight and then rushed forward to take a swipe at it with his claws. The Drowzee was knocked away and onto the ground, unsure of what hit it until it noticed the Darkness Pokémon standing over the girl protectively and bearing his razor-sharp teeth. It wheeled around and ran past the line of trees and into the woodlands, scrambling away from them. Sableye let it go and instead tried to rouse the girl there by shaking her to no success.
Lillie crouched down next to the Sableye and turned the girl over. Her skin was pale and she had jet-black hair that was in bound into twin, poofy pigtails by two red hair bows. There were no signs of physical injury though. “I don’t think it hurt her.”
“She looks rather young, so I imagine that it wanted to eat her dreams and used Hypnosis to put her to sleep,” Lusamine said. “Children tend to be more susceptible to the hypnotic waves it uses and aren’t easily roused. It could be hours before she wakes naturally.”
The Sableye jolted at that, before coming over to both her and Lillie and pointing to his trainer while looking to Rotom to translate what he said next.
Rotom obliged. He’s asking if we can take her back into the city with him to make sure nothing bad happens to her, zzttt.
Lillie closed her eyes in thought for only a moment. Then she nodded and turned to her mother. “Mother, let’s take her back with us to Vermillion City.”
“I’m not against it, but if we help her go it would be irresponsible to leave her until she wakes up,” Lusamine answered. “That could be well until nightfall and Sandshrew are diurnal from the sound of it. You won’t be able to catch one then.”
“Nmm…” A low hum left Lillie’s throat at that. But seeing the unconscious girl and how the Sableye had now clasped his hands like he was praying towards them, she shook her head. She couldn’t just leave someone unconscious here. The professor didn’t leave her stranded on that beach after she passed out and neither would she. “Seeing to her is more important. I’ll have more time when I start my journey.”
“You’re such a good girl.” Lusamine sighed heavily and then reached for Bewear’s ball along with another one and handed them over to her. “It can’t be helped, but at the same time I don’t you to lose this chance. So I’ll let you continue to search with Bewear while I take the child back with me to the Pokémon Center. You shouldn’t have any trouble around these parts with your little fox and Bewear, but just in case take Mismagius’ ball as well. She doesn’t like being out when it’s daytime, but if you end up in an emergency she’ll help you.”
“Is that really okay?” Lillie asked. “Will you be able to make it back on your own?”
“You’re sweet to worry, but I’m not helpless,” Lusamine said as she took the child into her arms. “I have my other Pokémon with me and I’m sure her Sableye will make sure nothing harasses me on the way while I have her.”
The Sableye nodded at that.
“…Okay,” Lillie reluctantly agreed. “I’ll catch a Sandshrew and then head to the Pokémon Center.”
“If you aren’t back by nightfall, I’ll have Clefable looking for you.” She turned to Bewear. “Bewear, do you still have the scent?”
Bewear, whose attention was on the trees, perked up when it heard its name being called and nodded enthusiastically at the question.
“Then help Lillie find one and keep her safe,” Lusamine ordered. “Be a good girl for her.”
The Strong Arm Pokémon saluted once more. “Beweaoo!”
Then she was off, leaving Lillie, Koko, Rotom, and Bewear to watch as she left with the girl and Sableye.
Lillie took a deep breath to center herself. There was no one else around to help her this time. No professor, Elio, or her Mother—well, there was her Mother’s Pokémon. But she was on her own this time. “Okay, let’s go.”
Koko responded with enthusiastic hop. “Vul!”
Bewear… was already moving ahead, into the woodlands as she followed her nose.
“Wait up, Bewear!” Lillie called as she chased after her Mother’s Pokémon, with Rotom and Koko following after her
Chapter 1: Starting in the Sevii Islands
The rays of the morning light from the cabin window stirred Lillie awake. She was within the cabin of a boat that had left the Marina of Hau’oli City some time ago, heading towards the Sevii Islands. From there she would venture to the Kanto region to help her mother get well and begin a journey to explore new lands and become a Pokémon trainer as strong as her friend Elio.
Lillie stretched absentmindedly and found the fact that she had the room to do so jarring. Nebby, the little Pokémon that had been accompanying for the last few months, was no longer with her and no longer in her care. It had grown, evolved, and chosen to remain with her dear friends back on the islands.
Rising to her feet, she left out of her room and knocked on the door of the one across from hers softly. “Mother, are you awake yet?”
“I am. You can come in,” Lusamine, her mother, said. Lillie opened the door to find her still in bed, sitting up with the sheet covering her lower half. She looked well enough, even though she should still be weak from the remnants of the Ultra Beast’s neurotoxins still in her body. “Did you sleep well?”
Lillie nodded, her short ponytail bobbing in the process. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Far better than before.” She looked out of the window towards the water. “I saw a small island a little while ago, so we’re probably within the Sevii Islands now. I don’t think it’ll be long before we reach our destination.”
“That’s good.” They were traveling together in hopes that a man named Bill could purge her of the neurotoxin. He had apparently been fused to a Pokémon previously and managed to cure himself according to Wicke, who had arranged the meeting in the first place on the island while he was there helping someone named Celio making adjustments to a network machine. “Just a little longer and you’ll be as good as new.”
Lusamine’s emerald eyes grew softer as she faced Lillie. “And then you’ll leave to begin your journey as a trainer, right?”
“Yes.” Lillie’s response was said in a doubtless tone that left no uncertainty. She was actually excited at the prospect. A little nervous too, but still excited at the chance to explore more of the world.
Her mother sighed softly. “You and your brother have grown so much while you were out of my sight. It’ll take me some time to get used to that.”
That was true enough. Many things had changed while she was under the influence of Ultra Beast’s neurotoxins, and Lusamine herself had done many things that couldn’t be easily undone since their father had gone missing. Even though she returned to normal, the scars remained—in their bodies, hearts, and minds.
Even so, Lillie was glad to have her mother back. She walked over to the bed and then leaned into hug her. “It’ll be okay.”
Lusamine seemed surprised at the abrupt motion before gently wrapping her arms around her daughter and returning the affection given. “Once I’m better, I’ll continue my search for your father while you’re away. Then we’ll be waiting to welcome you home when you’ve become a splendid trainer—all of us.”
They stayed like that for some time and then spent the duration of the trip in her cabin, talking. Lusamine had been curious as to what Lillie had been up to during the time that she had left the Aether Foundation with Nebby. The same went for Gladion, her eldest child. But he was understandably… less willing to open up to her after spending two years on the run from her and didn’t even see her off.
Their talk only came to an end with the Captain of the boat announced that they were reaching their destination. Lusamine rose to her feet and wavered for a moment, swaying slightly and bringing her hand to her head.
“Should I get the wheelchair?” Lillie asked. Wicke had packed one among her mother’s belongings and suitcases they brought for the trip. Since Lillie planned on starting her journey in Kanto and intended to buy her supplies in the region, she only had the immediate necessities in her backpack while her traveling clothes were in the traveling bag in her room.
“That won’t be necessary,” Lusamine said as she straightened herself up. “It wouldn’t do for me to show such weakness in public. After all, women must be elegant and confident, especially when they’re beautiful as we are.”
“I just don’t want you to push yourself too hard.”
“I won’t.” She reached out and set a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, reassuring her with a smile. “You have my word. Now, shall we go?”
After going to her room and retrieving her bag, Lillie walked with her mother off the boat dock and into the port building. Lusamine handled the documentation and having her bags delivered to the local Inn, while Lillie picked up a pamphlet from a stand in the port to see what the island had to offer for the duration of their stay over the course of the next three days. To the north of the island was a long stretch of road that led to a hot springs at the base of the volcano, but overall it was an otherwise relaxed place with a small population. It also listed some of the commonly sighted Pokémon that could be found for tourists, some of which she hadn’t seen in Alola during her time there.
“Oh, they have natural hot springs here that’s supposed to be good for your health,” Lusamine said as she looked over her daughter’s shoulder at the pamphlet, having finished what she needed to do. “We should go in together.”
“That sounds nice, but I didn’t bring my swimsuit.”
“Dear, this is an island. They’ll have someone selling one.” She pointed to a picture of a Ponyta. “Besides, this’ll be a good chance for me to help you catch your first Pokémon. I think you’d be lovely with one of these.”
Lillie pictured riding atop of the Fire Horse Pokémon, with the wind rushing past her face as they galloped across the field. And at night she could curl next to it as she slept, coddled by the gentle flames that made up its mane and tail. “It does sound fun to have one.”
The sight of Lillie looking happy brought a smile to her mother’s face. “Then let’s go after we finish our business today.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
A soft sound left the beak of the Delibird as he flew above the water’s surface, one flipper holding a map that he checked to ensure that he was heading in the right direction. The Delivery Pokémon had come a long way from Alola to do its job at the behest of its trainer, Professor Burnet. She had entrusted him with a delivery to be made to the young human girl named Lillie a short time after the boat left, so he should be able to catch up in a short time—
—after he had a quick break to eat since he couldn’t fly on an empty stomach, of course.
Delibird landed on a rocky outcropping with a flat top and then rummaged into his tail until he found a container with food in it and a can from which he could drink his lemonade. He had nibbled on the Pokémon food and was in the process of taking a sip to wash it down when he felt a part of his important delivery move within his tail. He let out a gaw in warning for it to settle down.
Apologiezzz, it said. Just eager to meet my new User, zzrt.
The Delivery Pokémon rolled his eyes and hastened to finish his meal before setting out again towards the Sevii Islands.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
On the dock leading into One Town, a nondescript boat pulled up. Inside were a group of men and women, dressed in traveling clothes that marked them as fishers. Yet they didn’t carry themselves as such while they disembarked the boat and eyed their surroundings with far more impatience than one would expect from one who made a living fishing.
They moved out of the port building and walked in a tight circle along the concrete roads that were rather straight-forward in the small town, leading to the Pokémon Network Center. As far as they went, this one was a modest size at three stories high. The third floor likely contained the servers while the second would house any visiting trainers. There weren’t any of importance in the itinerary, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Stopping where they stood, the man in the lead looked over his shoulder towards the others and tilted his head towards the Pokémon Center. They walked forward into it while he went over to the beach and pulled free one of the compact Poké Balls on his belt and tapped his thumb against the button on the center. The ping-pong sized containment sphere expanded and took up the majority of his palm, rousing the Pokémon within it from dormancy.
Tossing it into the air above the sea as hard as he could, the lid popped open and light speared from within, sending the Poké Ball flying back into his grasp. From the depths emerged a Gyarados’ head as it swam closer to the shore, a rumble coming from its mouth as it did so. He climbed on top of it and off they went towards the distant volcano.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie hummed softly as she spent a moment mulling over which drink to choose from the vending machine within the Pokémon Network Center. She and her mother had arrived after a short walk and were informed that the researcher that they were supposed to be meeting with would be a few minutes before he would see them, so she decided to try and get something to drink. It was always important to stay hydrated in Alola and while the temperature was slightly cooler here, it was still a bright day. Eventually she settled on the bottle of Lemonade and then made her way back towards her mother.
Lusamine was standing in front of a large computer system that seemed to dominate roughly half of that side of the rectangular building. Lillie hadn’t seen a PC take up so much space before, but her mother was using it to hold a video call with Miss Wicke at the Aether Foundation.
“—so he’s still avoiding me, is he?” Lusamine asked as Lillie got into hearing range. It stilled her feet.
Miss Wicke’s eyes softened behind her glasses, giving the impression of being apologetic. “I tried to get him to answer the call, but he says he’s busy at the moment and can’t come to the video phone, I’m afraid.”
“Gladion has been put into a position he wasn’t trained for,” her mother said in turn. “I’m counting on you to do your best to support him.”
“Of course. And you just give it some time and I’m sure he’ll come around.” Wicke then noticed Lillie behind Lusamine’s shoulder and waved to her. “And how have you been, Lillie?”
Lillie bashfully stepped out from behind her mother to answer. “Fine. We just arrived not too long ago without any problems. How are things at the Foundation?”
“The restructuring is about done here,” she explained. “I’ll make sure everything is running smoothly, so you can focus on exploring the region to your heart’s content. However, make sure your mother doesn’t do anything too strenuous or elevates her blood pressure. Otherwise the effects of the lingering neurotoxins will leave her weak and tired.”
“I will,” Lillie said. “Stay well.”
Lusamine scoffed after the call ended there, somewhat offended. “A child shouldn’t be the one having to take care of their mother. You don’t need to worry about what she said.”
Lillie looked around for anything to break the tension and change the subject, before she settled on the large machine in front of her. “I wonder what this is. I don’t think I’ve seen one in Alola.”
Her mother didn’t get the chance to answer as an unfamiliar voice rose up from behind her. “It’s a global link to the PC systems of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh and Orre’s storage system. It enables trading between them, and we’ve been making strides to extend it further into Unova and Kalos as well.”
The pair turned toward the source of the voice to see that it was a man with brown hair and eyes. He extended a hand over to Lusamine. “I’m Bill. Let me be the first to welcome you both to our region.”
She shook his hand as was proper courtesy. “A pleasure to finally meet you in person. The Aether Foundation has contacted you because we’ve seen you’ve accomplished quite a lot for someone so young. It is our hope you’ll be able to assist me.”
“I believe I will be able to do so based on the data they sent me,” he said. “It’s actually fortunate timing that we could meet this soon. My colleague and I have almost finished linking Molayne’s system to the network here—with the necessary permissions, of course. Once connected, Alola will be linked to the network. That’ll make trade between the different regions easier, bringing the world together. As a researcher, I look forward to that much given how intriguing the local Pokémon there have evolved.”
“That may be true, but it’ll also bring its own set of problems for the native Pokémon there,” Lusamine said. “Regional variants have their own appeal, and while it may be okay for some to be relocated, that sort of thing inevitably invites smuggling. Considering that many Pokémon require special consideration if they are removed from their native environments, such as with an Alolan Executor, trainers who are unable or willing to provide the necessary requirements risk endangering their lives. There are more than a few of the Pokémon that ended up in the Foundation’s care because of those very circumstances and had to be cared for until they could be released back in their native regions.”
Lillie couldn’t help but give it some thought as well. Having been Professor Kukui’s assistant for some time now, she had an opportunity to read up on the subject. “And I suppose that means that introducing too many of them into the ecosystem can have a drastic effect as well. Like when Yungoos were introduced in an attempt to deal with the Rattata population and they competed with native species for resources.”
“Or the Corphish situation in Hoenn,” Bill agreed. “Measures are being taken now that there are new regulations in place to prevent that sort of thing. One among them ensures that should a trainer decide to release a Pokémon through their PC, it reads their identification and original capture location and then transfers them over to nearest Pokémon Caretaker available in the area where they were originally caught, to be released after they’ve been checked over to ensure they were being well taken care of.”
He then gave her a smile. “You must be Lillie. Should I assume you intend to take the Gym Challenge in Kanto?”
“After seeing Mother is taken care of, yes.” If she was right based on what she heard from Professor Kukui, it was like the battles against the Trial Captains back home, so it would be a way to assess how strong she had become as a trainer, much like a coming of age ceremony. “I’m mostly looking forward to seeing the Pokémon and locales of Kanto as a trainer.”
“I hope that you’ll be able to meet the challenge. They’ll likely be somewhat different from what you’re used to, but if you manage to collect all eight badges and defeat the Elite Four, you’ll become the new Champion.”
“Challenging the Elite Four is something I don’t think I’ll be ready to do for quite some time.” She didn’t exactly want fame or anything. All she wanted was to become stronger and have fun, like Elio and Hau did as they underwent their island challenges. Though, if she did become a Champion, would she be on equal terms with Nebby and Elio? “After all, I still haven’t gotten my first Pokémon yet.”
“You can do whatever you set your heart to with enough effort,” her mother said on her behalf. “Once we’ve finished talking, I’ll even help you come up with a training regiment similar to my own.”
“We can talk about the more sensitive topics in private and I’ll try to make it brief so that you can spend time with your daughter.” He gestured towards a sliding door to the side. “There’s a private room I’ve reserved through the corridor here.”
“Good.” Lusamine turned to her daughter. “I’ll be back shortly and then we’ll see about getting your first Pokémon this evening. That way we’ll have the next two days to deal with the training and searching for an adequate swimsuit.”
“You don’t have to rush it for me,” Lillie said. “Take your time.”
Lillie watched as they went through the door and then sighed when it closed. It was starting to feel like her mother was sliding into being a little overbearing again at the end. She seemed to mean well and Lillie did want to catch a Ponyta if she could, but at the same time she wanted to become her own person and couldn’t if her mother was instructing her every step of the way.
The question was how to address it while her mother was in a sensitive state?
She thought it over for a few minutes, ignoring the pair of fishermen that entered the door to the corridor after her mother and Bill. Maybe I should ask Professor Burnet for advice?
Then the power abruptly cut off, everything shutting off all at once.
“Everyone please stay calm,” Nurse Joy said as she her held a key in her hand. She stepped around the counter and was heading towards a locked door with Chansey by her side. “We’ll have the back-up power running in just a moment.”
Since Lillie could see clearly thanks to it still being the afternoon the blackout wasn’t particularly alarming to her, but it was the first time she’d seen the power go out at a Pokémon Center. She hoped that there were no Pokémon in the process of being treated. Looking around revealed that the others weren’t particularly frightened—a little agitated, but no one making a fuss.
“WAHHH!!” Then a cry of pain sounded out. It was a man’s voice, coming from the door Lusamine had gone through.
Unable to ignore it, Nurse Joy and her assistant Pokémon ran towards the door. “Is there someone hurt?”
“Ah!” Lillie jumped in fright at the abrupt crash, as did several others in the lounge area. What had answered was not a human voice, but the resounding sound of wrenching metal. Something hard impacted the metal door with enough force to dent it deeply, knocking Nurse Joy to the ground from being too close. She fell onto her back before turning on to her side and wincing as she laid a hand over where her lower ribs were.
Lillie moved over to her side with the Chansey and crouched down to help her up. “Are you okay, Miss Joy?”
“I don’t think anything’s broken,” Nurse Joy said to assure her and Chansey alike. It failed as Lillie felt there was a palpable change in the atmosphere of the room. Everyone was on edge, on the tipping point of snapping under the tension.
What finally set it off was when a second crash came from the door, leaving their imaginations to go to the worst possible conclusion. Immediately, the distinct flash of multiple Poké Balls being deployed filled the darkened room and grabbed the attention of everyone there as shapeless energy solidified into menacing shapes.
A massive purple serpent rose as high as it could, flaring it hood while releasing a hiss that sent a chill down the spines of the other visitors as it glared at them. A humanoid yellow creature, with a white ruff and a polished pendulum that hung from a simple string, scanned the room with shifty eyes. A ball of fur with arms and legs that were shackled roared, despite having no visible mouth to do so as it waved its boxing-glove like hands.
“Return those Pokémon at once,” Nurse Joy ordered sternly, rising to her feet with Chansey supporting her. She stepped forward in hopes of pacifying the situation. “There’s no need to escalate things. Just stay calm.”
Her words were falling on deaf ears. The trio of fishers weren’t panicked like the others inside of the Pokémon Center, and it showed on their faces as the single male pointed to Nurse Joy and Chansey. “Hypno, use Hypnosis!”
The Hypno immediately locked eyes with the two and swung its pendulum, using the medium to release waves of hypnotic power to ensnare them. Nurse Joy and Chansey’s eyes went dull and lifeless before slumping closed. The nurse fell backwards and would have hit the floor hard if Lillie hadn’t grabbed her to lower her gently, while the Egg Pokémon fell asleep on its feet instead. Finished with them, the Hypno then looked towards Lillie while raising its pendulum towards her. Their eyes locked and she realized it was going to try and do the same to her.
Lillie tried to look away, but was a moment too late as the hypnotic waves took hold. Her thoughts slowed. The world began to tilt and churn, like the gentle ocean at night. The dark waters drank in the light, making the world darken. Her mind felt like it was slowly fading beneath the dark curtain that rippled in the—
Lillie gasped for air like she had just been on verge of drowning when the thunderous crash ripped apart the darkness, her awareness snapping back to her surroundings. The Hypno had been flung into the wall hard enough that the metal was dented. An inhuman whispering echoed in her ears as she felt a chill running along her skin that was draped in violet fog, clinging to her like a cloak. She turned her head upwards to see her mother’s Mismagius hovering over her, dark streamers of power dissipating from where it had formed and fired a Shadow Ball.
Lusamine strode out of the corridor until she was in front of Lillie and the slumbering Nurse Joy and Chansey. Any attempt to attack her was hindered by the presence of the Lilligant by her leg and the Bewear following behind, carrying two fishers in its arms that were unmoving but moaning in pain. All eyes immediately turned their attention towards them.
“Are you okay?” her mother asked, her cold gaze never leaving the fisherman and women in front of her who had ordered the attack on them. “Lillie, are you hurt?”
Lillie gathered herself and responded. “N-No, I’m fine. I’m not hurt.”
Lusamine let a soft sigh slip out of her mouth. “Then stay with Bill and his Pokémon. I’ll deal with these hoodlums shortly.”
“What’s going on?” Lillie asked before a cerulean light shrouded her. Gravity ceased to bind her as she found herself floating in the air along with the slumbering Nurse Joy and Chansey. They were being carried by an Espeon that stood just past the entrance of the door, eyes illuminated and the ruby on its head shining.
“Get them, Arbok!” One of the fisherwomen ordered the Cobra Pokémon. It lunged for her with all the quickness its serpentine body afforded, intending constrict them—
—and was immediately beset by Mystical Fire as the Mystical Pokémon lived up to its name, before being smacked away as the Strong Arm Pokémon brought its Hammer Arm around with enough strength that it was sent flying into the global network machine, shattering the screen before it collapsed onto the ground.
Espeon finished pulling them through the corridor door and let them down. It then blocked the entrance with a wall of light that seemed almost like a pane of glass, sealing them off.
“I hope she can keep the damage contained until the authorities arrive,” Bill said as he crouched down to check on Nurse Joy, while his Umbreon did the same on Chansey.
“Mister Bill, what’s going on?” Lillie asked again.
Bill gestured to the two men now on the floor, where they’d been dropped like garbage by Bewear to free its arms. “Two of those fishermen intruded on our discussion and tried to kidnap me using their Pokémon. Your mother intervened and paralyzed them with her Lilligant. Then they mentioned they had others outside prepared to take hostages and she decided to fix that, despite the fact that I had informed the authorities of the situation with a Pokégear.”
Lillie looked at what remained of the door. It had been knocked from the frame and torn apart. Of all her Pokémon, her Bewear was the only one strong enough to do so through sheer brute strength. It wasn’t called the Strong Arm Pokémon and feared on the islands for no reason.
“Listen up,” Lusamine said as she held two more Poké Balls. “I don’t know or care who you are. All I know is that the gentleman you’re after has business with me, and your presence is sullying my daughter’s experience with this region.”
The lids popped open, releasing two masses of shapeless energy that solidified into Clefable and Milotic. The former stood at the front, flexing the protrusions on its back. The latter floated in the air around her mother, eyeing them with its red eyes.
“My Pokémon and I will have you answer for this.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Found you,” the dark-haired man said as he looked through the remote viewing mode of his visor. The image in the lenses was passed through the observation drone that peeked over the rim of the volcano. It was a recent creation of their organization, as small as a Poké Ball while being capable of hovering silently and visual camouflage using stealth technology, allowing them to observe Pokémon without being seen.
There, bathing in the lava, was the Flame Pokémon—Moltres. There had been rumors of it floating around between the Orange Archipelago and here, but they hadn’t had anything concrete until now. It would fetch a fine price if they managed to catch it. The only problem was that the temperatures it could reach and that of the lava made approaching it difficult and they would have trouble keeping it in one place.
For now he’d settle for tracking its movements until they could find an appropriate place to ambush it far enough from any source of flames it could use to recover and then capture it.
“Hm?” The vibrations coming off of his Pokégear drew his attention. After checking the name of the caller, he flipped it open to answer. “Have you secured the target?”
What met him was a cacophony on the other end, with the voice being drowned out. “We’ve run into a complication, Sir!”
“What do you mean you ran into a complication?”
“It’s a Trainer. She’s blonde and carries a—” Static followed before the line abruptly went dead.
He frowned as he looked down at the Pokégear and then closed it down. “Never send a bunch of grunts to kidnap a researcher.”
Finishing setting the data into the observation drone to track the Moltres, he made his way down towards the water and rode his Gyarados back towards the beach where he dismounted someplace where he could observe the situation from relative safety. There he found that the Pokémon Network Center crawling with officers, his grunts being carted off in cuffs while the local Jenny was having what looked to be a heated conversation with a blonde woman with long-hair, who stood with her hand on her hips.
She must be the trainer they mentioned. He reached for a second observation drone and deployed it to observe the conversation through the built-in microphones and camera rather than risk getting caught.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched from side as the green-haired policewoman who introduced herself as Officer Midori Jenny took a statement from her mother regarding the incident. It had been resolved within a matter of seconds really. Her mother’s Pokémon were awfully strong and Lilligant managed to use Stun Spore to paralyze them, but she was still being scolded by the policewoman.
“You handled that situation poorly,” Officer Jenny said after listening to everything Lusamine had to say. “Punching through the door with your Pokémon harmed Momoko Joy. That was brash.”
“I’m fine, Midori,” Nurse Joy said as she exited the center.
“Regardless, she should have waited for the police to arrive and resolve things peacefully.”
Rather than look rebuked, Lusamine stared back at her evenly. “I handled the situation as best I could given that those hoodlums managed to get into the building and were threatening to take hostages. Eliminating them quickly was the best course of action. That Miss Joy was hurt I do apologize for, but it could have been much worse.”
That caused the Jenny’s lips to curl back in annoyance. She opened her mouth to say something when one of the male officers ran up to her and whispered something into her ear while showing her something in his hand. From Lillie’s perspective all she could see was that it was a deep shade of blue, but whatever it was caused Officer Jenny to whisper something back into his ear and make him run off.
She then turned her head towards Lusamine and said, “I’m going to strongly suggest that you leave the Sevii Island as soon as possible for your own sake.” And then went off to towards where Bill was.
Lusamine watched her leave with a sour glance before turning and walking towards Lillie. She had barely made it within a few feet before her legs stalled and she rubbed her eyes.
Lillie frowned. “Miss Wicke said not to do anything strenuous or that elevated your blood-pressure because it made your symptoms return quicker. But you pushed yourself, didn’t you? “
“I’ll be fine,” Lusamine insisted as she stood straight once more. “It wouldn’t be an issue at all if that officer had done her job.”
“She couldn’t have known that would have happened,” Lillie said. “And using Bewear to get through the door was risky too. Miss Joy was hurt and you made your condition worse.”
Her mother’s lips pursed before she sighed and brought her palm over her eyes. “If something happened to you because I was slower, it wouldn’t matter if I was better or not. I wouldn’t forgive myself for that after how I’ve been these last few years. No mother would.”
“But I don’t want you to get worse for my sake,” Lillie said, softer this as she brought her hands around her mother’s waist and hugged her. “That’s why I’m doing this, to get stronger as a trainer so that I can help others instead of needing to be sheltered. So please, take care of yourself first.”
Lusamine went still for a moment as she was caught by surprise, but she quickly returned the hug. They stayed like that until Bill approached them. His conversation with Officer Jenny was over it seemed.
“Well, this has been an eventful day,” he said. “Some of the equipment was damaged during the battle, so until it gets repaired there’s nothing more I can do here. It’d be best if we headed back to Kanto and then from there we can make arrangements to head back to Cerulean City and my cottage on the cape.”
“My apologies for that,” Lusamine said sincerely. “I should have been more careful.”
“No, it’s fine.” He looked towards where the fishers were being loaded into a car. “If you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be free to make modifications to it along with Celio later on. I never imagined they would be after me of all people.”
Lusamine looked towards them as well. “Did you learn why they were after you?”
He frowned. “Yes. I believe I have. That’s part of the reason why I feel we should leave quickly as well.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” Lusamine set a hand on Lillie’s shoulders. “Though it is a shame that we won’t be able to catch a Ponyta or visit the Hot Springs.”
Bill looked apologetically towards them upon hearing that. “I’m afraid you wouldn’t have had much luck there with the Ponyta. During this season they’d be protective of their young, helping them learn how to run. They usually avoid or scare off trainers to avoid being split apart.”
“Then maybe it’s for the best. I don’t want to split a family apart…” Lillie trailed off as a shadow passed overhead and a familiar Pokémon’s cry reached her ears. It drew her eyes upwards, where she found a Delibird flying above. “A Delibird?”
Said Delibird lowered himself until its yellow feet touched the ground and waved to her. “De de!”
She recognized the way that it addressed her. “Frosty?”
The Delibird nodded.
Lusamine cast a contemplative glance at the Delivery Pokémon as her daughter ran over to it. “Why is a Delibird this far from Alola?”
“He’s Professor Burnet’s,” Lillie explained as she crouched down to stroke his head between the pointed white crests above his eyes. “She adopted one that Professor Kukui found. He must’ve been following me here for some reason.”
“Brrrr….” Frosty reached into his hollow tail and pulled out a present box. Lillie looked over the box to see that it had both Professor Burnet and Kukui’s names on it, addressed to her. The Delivery Pokémon set it on the ground and tapped on the lid.
Immediately, something red popped out and floated in the air in front of them. It moved both of its arms in a circle motion in greeting. Alola, User Lillie, zzt!
“You’re a Rotom Dex,” Lillie said as it hovered in front of her, blinking blue eyes and a smile on the screen. “Did Professor Kukui ask you to help me?”
Bingo. Its screen transitioned to a digital picture of Professor Kukui and Burnet. I look forward to completing my Kanto database with you.
“Fascinating,” Bill said with a hand on his chin as his eyes regarded it with fascination.
“Kew!” Delibird called out, grabbing their attention again as it pointed to the present box and what was inside.
There was Premier Ball. Lillie grabbed it and pressed the button to see what was inside of the Poké Ball meant to commemorate a special event. The lid popped open and eager light burst from within, arching up towards the sky before coming back down on the ground in front of her abruptly.
It took on a small shape, sitting on hind legs while its forelegs held its head and snout up. With fur as white as fresh snow and paws as blue as ice, three matching tails waggled as a pair of crystal-blue eyes took in their surroundings. “Pix?”
“It’s an Alolan Vulpix,” Lillie said as it stared up at her in the most adorable manner possible, a slight tilt of its head until the Rotom Dex floated down and snapped a photo. The flash caused the young Pokémon to flee in surprise until it ended up circling Frosty and trying to take refuge behind it. “Rotom, you have to tell other before you take a photo. It’s rude otherwise.”
Noted, zzt. Rotom Dex displayed a screen with the Pokémon on it. Vulpix, the Fox Pokémon: Alolan Regional Variant. Its beautiful fur and tails have made it very popular. As it grows, its tails split to form more tails and from its mouth spew flames that seem to resemble the spirits of the deceased. Some people mistakenly think this fire is a ghost.
“I remember Professor Kukui studying them once before, but why was it in the box?” Lillie asked the Delivery Pokémon as it caressed the Fox Pokémon’s wisp-like hair. Frosty reached into his tail and pulled out a letter for her to take. She did so and opened it up.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see you off on your journey. I wanted to. I really did. But I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying if I was there. That would have ruined the moment for you and the others seeing you off there.
You appeared into my life so abruptly with Nebby and, even though we’ve only known each other for a short few months, it felt like you were a daughter to me. Then it seemed that just as quickly as you arrived, you were leaving. I didn’t think I would have been able to hold myself together at how much you’ve grown in that short time.
However, I didn’t just sit around crying at your departure. Instead, I was trying to arrange for you to have a ‘going-away’ present. Every Pokémon Trainer needs a starter. So I went looking for a Pokémon that I felt was as beautiful as your were. She’s a little young, but I’m sure she’ll grow to be strong along with you during your journey.
With all my love,
Lillie was on the verge of tears as she finished the letter. Professor Burnet had gone out of her way to try and find such a beautiful Pokémon for her. She fell to her knees and closed her eyes to try and stem the tears, but they crept past her eyelids and began to fall to earth.
“You shouldn’t cry on your knees like that,” Lusamine said. Her emerald eyes were soft as she looked down at her daughter and the Fox Pokémon that looked on curiously from behind the Delibird. “It’s not befitting of a lady. Besides, it’s sending the wrong message to your new friend, isn’t it?”
“I’m sorry, Mother,” Lillie said as she wiped the tears away. Taking a deep breath she rose from her knees and approached Frosty and the young Pokémon. A foot away, she crouched down and greeted it. “I’m sorry to you too, Vulpix. I was just happy to hear from Professor Burnet. I’m Lillie, and I’ll be your trainer starting today.”
The Alolan Vulpix looked on for a moment before stepping out from behind the Delivery Pokémon cautiously. She flinched back when Lillie extended her hands out low to the ground, but after a moment the Fox Pokémon moved closer and gave her hand a lick.
“I guess that means you accept.” Lillie began to stroke the locks of hair on her head tenderly. “What should I call you then?”
“Pix! Vulpix! Vul!”
She’s saying to pick something cute, the Rotom helpfully translated.
“Well, let’s see… they used to have a different name for Vulpix on Alola in the past, didn’t they?” Lillie mused aloud as she stared her new partner in her eyes. “Keokeo, if I remember right. So… how about I call you Koko from now on?”
The Fox Pokémon yipped.
“Okay then. Koko it is!” Lillie lifted her newly named triple-tailed partner into her arms and cradled her close. The air around her was notable chilly. “Let’s get along, okay?”
The Rotom Dex then chose to float close. Shall I take a photo to celebrate the moment for the Profezzzor? I can send digital data to his computer in a Flash, zzt.
“That okay with you, Koko?” Lillie asked. Considering Koko started brushing her cheek, it was safe to say that the Fox Pokémon agreed wholeheartedly as Lillie cuddled her close and giggled. She then rose to her feet and moved next to her mother and Bill. “You two as well.”
And so the moment when Lillie’s grand Pokémon journey, after a bumpy start, was immortalized in a photo…