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 14: Back in Alola 3
Guzma tried to tamper down on the annoyance that simmered in his chest as he stared down at the white ball set on the sand.
It was early in the morning. The sun had barely come up from over the horizon at this point, and Guzma would like nothing more than to be back in bed. But Pyukumuku were creatures of habit and tossing them back into the water before the hotel-guests came down to the beach was how he made a living for now. Since Kahili happened to be up and saw him, she told him to follow along as she got her morning practice in before the course opened up for everyone else and then told him to give it a try.
He never understood the appeal of golf. Why folks would pay so much to try and send a ball flying into a tiny hole in the distance was something beyond him. Yet, he found himself trying to line up a shot with a golf club that reminded him a little too much of his father’s back home—only more expensive than the knock-offs that the old man boasted about as being the actual thing.
“Looks like he’s feeding you pretty well,” a soft voice came from behind him. It was followed by a playful purr.
The former leader of Team Skull cast a glance behind him to see that Kahili was crouched down to the ground, her finger gently running over the Purrloin’s stomach as it laid on its back. The Devious Pokémon writhed joyously at the attention being laved on it. Then the feline met Guzma’s eyes briefly and a glint could be seen, as if it was gloating on having that effect with women.
Deceptive furball, he couldn’t help but think as his lips pulled back into a frown. Acting all cute to deceive other people sat poorly with him for obvious reasons. He was at least honest about it.
Guzma then turned to the ball in the sand trap and took a swing at it, only for a spray of sand to follow as he put his back into it. The ball was still there. He snarled and then swung at it again. And again. And again to no avail.
Kahili stopped playing with the feline Pokémon as he took a few angrier swings only to spray more sand out of the lip and sighed. “You can’t just swing at random.”
“I don’t even see why I’m doing this,” he said in turn. “I thought you were supposed to be helping me train—how is this even related to Pokémon!?”
“It’s supposed to teach you both patience and control.” She came over and extended her hand for him to give her the club. Once he did and stepped back to where she had been, she then lined up for a shot and then took a swing that hit the ball with barely any of the sand moving.
Guzma starred as the ball hit the green in the distance and then rolled closer to the hotel end. Then his gaze turned down towards the Purrloin as he snickered, spotting that same smug look as always.
“Shaddup, you damn cat,” he murmured under his breath as she then came back over to him.
“You are a strong trainer,” Kahili said as she set down another ball from a pouch on her back. It was lined up with the one she’d just hit. “But strength needs control and patience in order to be utilized to its fullest potential. And while I can teach you how it’s done in battling, doing it this way helps to broaden yourself perspective so that you’ll be able to grasp that in matters outside of battling as well.”
She then handed him the golf club. “Now, face the ball like you’re getting ready to take a swing at it.”
He did so, going along with it despite not really getting the point. “Now what?”
“Stand with your feet at shoulders’ length apart.” She waited for him to do so. “Hold the club so that its straight with your left arm. Keep your left thumb straight, so that it goes down the center of the shaft and then place your right hand so that it overlaps the left.”
Guzma went along with it before she reached out to move his hands properly into place.
“That’s good. You’ve got it now.” She backed off as the Purrloin followed her. “Keep your eyes on the ball as you swing for it and keep the ball in the center of the swing. If you look up, it’ll change the angle of the swing. But if you keep your head as it is then the ball will go where your left shoulder is.”
He moved his arm like a pendulum going backwards and felt it to be a lot more rigid than he liked. But when he swung it there was a soft sound before the ball went sailing in the air cleanly towards the green, passing her ball…
And the smile that was forming as his eyes trailed after the ball melted the moment he spotted it.
Dawnlight rolled off the polished glass-like bell that was adorned with six-pointed stars. The blue rim undulated as though atop the surface of invisible waves, tentacles of varying sizes gently wavering as it pushed itself forward. An alien, wet sound rang out ever so slightly as it neared.
The golf club slipped from his grasp, forgotten along with everything else in the world he backed away and shook his head slowly as it came towards him. “No… not again…”
Noticing the sudden change in Guzma’s demeanor, Kahili obviously had questions. Whether or not he would answer them was secondary, however, to removing that fascinating Pokémon from the grounds. For both its own safety and that of those who intended to play the fairway later on.
To that end, she let out her Toucannon. He was a fine specimen that stood nearly four feet tall with his wings folded, peering with glaring eyes towards the alien Pokémon that continued to drift closer. Kahili then crouched low next to the Cannon Pokémon. “Pana, can you see if you can get it to leave the grounds peacefully?”
A bob of his head was followed by his wings spreading out and a push off the ground, taking flight towards it. However, midway there, the air changed. It was distorted, pressure seemingly filling the space as an aura flared to life around it.
“A totem aura?” she muttered in surprise as the shroud of energy shaded its clear body with a reddish tint that made it seem more ominous. “It looks small for a Totem Pokémon, but—”
Her musings were silenced as the creature conjured up four stones of light, condensed energy made solid. Power Gems, she recognized. “Look out!”
Her warning came out short as the stones pointed to Pana and began to fracture. Trumpets of devastation sounded out as the radiant hammers of light speared out to knock him out of the air. The glare of the bright rays drowned out the light of the sun and obscured the Toucannon’s figure as he pulled a sharp turn, narrowly dodging as spouts of turf and dirt shot into the air with a loud sound that reverberated throughout the course, leaving it to quake.
Kahili, who’d fallen backwards onto the ground, looked at the devastation and felt a weight fall into her stomach, beads of sweat falling down her brow. She then looked up to see that it was getting ready to fire again, more bundles of energy compressed to the point of crystallization hovering around it like in orbit. If even one of them was fired in the opposite direction and hit the Hotel, then their guests would be in danger.
“Pana, stay on this side of the course!” she ordered, rising to her feet once more. “Destroy those Power Gems with Bullet Seed before it can fire them off and then use Beak Blast!”
“Touuu!” Flapping his wings to stay stationary, the Cannon Pokémon opened his beak and let loose a focus fire of pinpoint accurate Bullet Seeds that cut across the air and impacted the Power Gems, breaking through them and dispersing the gems into harmless shards before they could be forced to rupture correctly. Then his fruit-eating beak glowed burning-red, tongues of fire licking the edges before it opened wide and let loose the fireball towards the glass-looking Pokémon—
Pana’s attack missed!
—then something strange happened. Right before it could hit, the creature flickered. Its entire body blinked out of view, the attack continuing on to slam into the fairway. Fire began to spread on impact as the creature then solidified once more and let out a wet, undulating sound before forming another series of Power Gems.
As her Toucannon proceeded to break the stones once more with another Bullet Seed barrage, Kahili then turned to Guzma to see that he’d fallen into the sand and was staring up at the creature with trembling eyes. As if he was reliving a waking nightmare. She crouched down on the ground and shook him by the shoulders. “Snap out of it! I need to know what I’m dealing with!”
There was no sensible response, only muttering and whimpers. Then a cry of pain as the Purrloin bit into his arm, causing him to jolt out of it. He reflexively lashed his arm out, causing the Devious Pokémon to detach itself or be swatted, and then clutch the spot where blood began to leak. “Damn cat!”
Another trumpet resounded and the ground meters away from them erupted as a vibrant ray of energy hammered it. Kahili fell forward, barely catching herself on his shoulders before she could hit the ground. She then looked him in the eyes to demand again, “Guzma, what is that Pokémon? What’s its typing?”
“It’s…” His eyes flickered over her shoulder towards it and he swallowed. “It’s an Ultra Beast. Nihilego, she called it. It’s a Rock-type with Poison as a secondary, I think. Not sure how to get around the flickering thing it does, but don’t let it touch you.”
Enough of an answer for now, Kahili pushed herself off his shoulders to stand up again and turned back to her soaring Pokémon. “Pana, close the distance and use Brick Break!”
The Toucannon went from firing a sold mass of stone from its mouth to circling around the next Power Gem ray that displaced the air. He dived down with his beak wreathed in a powerful glow as the last of them was fired, twisting to dodge as the feathers covering his body were ruffled from how close it had been to smashing him out of the air. Closing the distance, he brought the Brick Break down onto the glass bell top—
Pana’s attack missed!
—only to pass through empty space as the Nihilego flickered once more, leaving the divebomb to pass through it harmless. The Cannon Pokémon pulled open his wings and flapped before he could hit the ground, the glow of the attack leaving his beak as he turned around. Then his eyes widened slightly as he found himself facing a bloom of Nihilego that crowded the air.
“It’s using Double Team! Use Bullet Seed in a spray pattern to find the real one!” Kahili called out, watching as Pana opened his beak wide to let loose a scattering of the golden seeds to punch through the illusions to find the real one. The numbers were reduced to a mere four before the Ultra Beast attacked.
Nihilego used Psywave!
Like rippling waves ringing out from the surface of the water, the air was filled with rings of Psychic energy that closed in on the Cannon Pokémon and hit with a surprising amount of force that knocked Pana for a loop. He spiraled downwards, wings flaring out and flapping to regain balance before he could hit the ground. He’d managed to arrest his fall in time for four Power Gems to come down on him and hammer him straight into the ground with a thunderous crash that resounded throughout the course.
“Pana!” Kahili called as she shielded her eyes as the blinding flare, brought her to her knees as the ground quaked beneath her feet again. When the billowing wind ceased, and she could open her eyes, her heart sank like a stone upon seeing Pana motionless in a crater in the ground while the Nihilego contracted its bell to propel it towards them at a faster pace.
Kahili attempted to recall her downed Toucannon, only for the Nihilego to once more release the rippling waves of psychic energy directly towards her. The only reason that he didn’t connect was because Purrloin threw himself in front of the attack. The psychic energy broke apart upon connecting with his body, the Dark-typing dispersing it as he then yowled.
Purrloin used Pursuit!
Bristling as darkness draped his body, he became a black dart crossing the distance towards the Nihilego, only to pass through as it flickered in and out of reality once more. The attack failed, but it served as a distraction while Kahili finished recalling her Pokémon. The Nihilego turned its attention to the feline and its translucent tentacles lengthening to Constrict it.
“Loaa!?” he shrieked as they wrapped around his lithe and began to squeeze relentless.
“Don’t act tough if you aren’t going to follow up!” Guzma said as he pulled out an Ultra Ball. Fear had turned to anger and the means by which he would take it out on the Ultra Beast speared forth as the ball burst open. Out came his oldest Pokémon, a male Golisopod that chittered menacingly upon spotting the enemy. “Get the damn cat and show that thing how you say hello!”
“GOSO!!” The short-legged arthropod bore his claws and was shrouded within the viridian hue of Bug-typing as he then used that gathered energy to burst forth and launch a counter-attack in the blink of an eye. Bringing lengthened claws to bat, the Hard Scale Pokémon used them to land the first strike against the aura-shrouded Parasite Pokémon.
Golisopod used First Impression!
It’s not very effective!
The floating Ultra Beast was knocked back, the tiny feline falling free into the waiting set of underarms as his Golisopod landed with a loud thump. The cat scurried out of the taller Pokémon’s grasp and ran back towards them as the Nihilego prepared to retaliate, barely scratched by the attack as a quartet of Power Gems formed around it—
Golisopod used Sucker Punch!
—and was promptly smacked in its bulb by a dark, claw-shaped projectile fired from a swift thrust of his frontal arms. The impact threw its body into disarray, leaving its aim wanting as the Hard Scale Pokémon guarded with the gauntlet-like forearms and Iron Defense as the light burst out from the shells.
One ray shot past the golf course, a piercing spear that crossed the air and crashed into the mountain behind it. Another was fired into the sky, reaching the heavens above like a beacon. The third speared into the fairway itself and carved out a long strip from the sheer force. The last, however, hit Golisopod and he was forced to take the brunt of the beam with the metallic-clad scales.
Even at only one-fourth of the attack, Golisopod was nearly overwhelmed. His legs dug a trench as the attack forced him back, his desperate attempts to brace against it lasting only until the attack petered out. His legs then failed him as his Ability triggered and his body returned to its energy state.
Guzma held his Pokémon’s ball out as it retreated inside and then flung out another in his right hand. From that Ultra Ball burst a male Scizor, its metallic exoskeleton reflecting the morning sun as it clicked its pincers. “Take it out with a Bullet Punch!”
Steel wings to burst from his back and fluttered as he sped forward while his right pincer shone with a metallic light. The Nihilego that had been wavering in the air, shaking off the surprise hit, flickered before it could connect. The speeding Pincer Pokémon passed right through it and was forced to spin around so that he was facing the Parasite Pokémon that prepared another bombardment of Power Gems that forced him to skirt along the ground as the rays smashed into what was left of the fairway and caused spouts of dirt and turf to shoot up.
Guzma gritted his teeth as his Scizor evaded the sequence firing of Power Gems with deft motions. He’d gotten for it specifically so that it could be used against one of these things, its Steel-typing rendering it immune to poison and allowing it to smash through stone, though he’d hoped to never see one again in his life. “It worked before, so why can’t we hit it now?”
“The only attacks that have worked so far have been those that it couldn’t see coming or those that struck just before or after it fired off an attack,” Kahili said, crouching to check on the Purrloin that ran back over to her. “You’ll have to get the timing down perfectly and close the distance hastily. Have you taught it Agility?”
“Nah, didn’t have time to.” Guzma was regretting that now as he looked towards Scizor getting hit by a Psywave as he tried to close the distance once more and was rebutted. It didn’t look like it did a lot of damage, but the fact that a psychic attack did any notable damage spoke a lot of how strong it was.
“Then what about you?” she asked, looking down to the Devious Pokémon. “Can you stop it from attacking once at least?”
The feline bobbed his head and made a gesture where it clapped its paws together. “Purroa.”
“Fake Out,” she said in recognition. “That’ll do. When I give the signal, stop it from attacking and we’ll take care of the rest.”
“You can’t seriously expect me to rely on that furball,” Guzma said, almost insulted at the notion as the Purrloin ran after back towards the NIhilego’s backside. The cat had been nothing but trouble, and while Scizor could take a Rock-type hit better than Golisopod, he would still be knocked out if he took all of them at once.
“Trust me,” she said.
“Tch.” The former leader of Team Skull pursed his lips and drew in a deep breath. Then he shouted, “SCIZOR, IT’S ALL OR NOTHING!!”
The Pincer Pokémon’s dark-yellow eyes shot to Guzma, attention grabbed even as another onslaught of Power Gems began to form.
“THAT EXOSKELETON AIN’T MADE OF PAPER, IS IT?” Guzma shouted at the top of his lungs to get over the thunderous crashing of the rays of light trying to crush the Steel-clad Bug-Type. “GET PUMPED AND READY TO SMASH ITS FACE IN, EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO TAKE A HIT!”
Scizor came to a stop a fair distance from in front of the Nihilego as the barrage ceased, dust still lingering in the air as he acknowledged the order with a nod. He tensed up, crossing his pincers as his crimson body began to glow with a molten color. Then, with a cry that rang out like a Kiai, his metallic body radiated a blood-red aura. “ZOOOORRRR!!”
Scizor used Focus Energy!
Scizor’s getting pumped up!
Perhaps sensing the rise in Scizor’s energy similar to its own battle aura, the Nihilego let out a sharp undulating cry at the overt hostility and responded with the formation of more than a dozen stones of crystalized light—
“Now!” Kahili called out.
Purrloin used Fake Out!
—when the Purrloin leapt and slammed his aglow paws into one another. A rippling shock wave of air followed, slamming into the Parasite Pokémon and rending its concentration to make the Power Gems disperse before they could be discharged correctly.
The wild Nihilego flinched!
“Bullet Punch, now!” Guzma ordered, extending his fist. “Drive it down into the ground!”
In the blink of an eye, the Scizor was above the flinching Nihilego with a pincer raised. The aura shrouding his body gathered into it for a singular strike. Backed by its Technician Ability, the blow that followed could be heard throughout the course as it came down like a hammer!
A Critical Hit!
The Parasite Pokémon hit the ground hard enough to bounce off it. The hit had only been enough to leave it on the verge of fainting despite all the advantages stacked against it in that blow. But its aura was thinned, wavering around its clear body that struggled to get aloft on the gases that composed the air once more.
“Now, while it’s weakened!” Kahili called out as she flung an Ultra Ball towards it, seeking to capture it before it could get hurt further or lash out again. The ball connected and then opened, pulling it into the ball and snapping shut.
“That won’t work!” Guzma said as the ball hit the ground. “Only a Beast Ball can capture it!”
The warning was too little too late as the Nihilego broke free, exploding the ball from inside out while releasing a pitiful sound that was almost like a child crying. Before combat could go any further, its bell swelled to a larger size as a white gas roiled within it. Then, all at once, the bell contracted.
The wild Nihilego used Clear Smog!
Releasing a billowing cloud of white smog to obscure it from sight while propelling it away from them, the Clear Smog that came rushing out in a thick cloud would have caught both of the trainers inside of it had Scizor not came rushing in, with the Purrloin clinging to his horns. He scooped them both up before flying back towards the mountains to put distance between them and it. Long enough for Kahili to release her Mandibuzz and have it use Defog.
By the time it was dispersed to the extent of being harmless, the Nihilego was gone.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Guzma left as soon as the Ultra Beast was gone, leaving Kahili to explain the situation to her father. Those attacks had done quite a number on the course. Even with her father rushing to have the field remade, it would still take time. More than a lot of guests were willing to deal with patiently, meaning concessions were necessary.
Worse was the fact that because Guzma was spotted fleeing the scene shortly afterwards, he’d likely be associated with the attack. While a trainer couldn’t be held accountable for a random Pokémon attack, his reputation meant that they would assume him involved. And the fact that they were too far from the hotel for everything to be witnessed clearly meant that it was easy for the misconception to spread.
I can make an official statement, but I doubt father will let him anywhere near the resort or beach again if the guest really considers him “destruction in human form.” She could only sigh softly at that fact as the reigning Champion of Alola came running up to her, short on breath.
“Kahili, is everything alright?” he asked, coming to a stop.
“For the most part,” she said. “Did you hear about the attack by chance?”
He nodded. “I heard about something happening with Team Skull while I was handling something else. Word that they lured in a wild Pokémon to attack the hotel, only for it be fended off by one of the Elite Four.”
“I suppose it was wishful thinking that it was stay quiet until a statement was made.” She shook her head somberly. “I’ll have the television station report things properly before they get out of hand. That and have a warning issued about these Ultra Beasts.”
Elio winced. “Actually, can you keep the fact that the Ultra Beasts were involved in this a secret when you do?”
She tilted her head at that. “If I don’t say anything, people will only keep assuming the worst about him. That’s something I’m really not comfortable with. Much less since I’ve agreed to take him under my wing. So unless you can give me a suitable reason…”
“I’m not saying to cover it up entirely, just that it was an Ultra Beast,” Elio clarified. “The one that attacked, was it like a glass Tentacool? A Nihilego?”
She nodded. “Yes, he mentioned it by name. Seeing it nearly gave him a panic attack, so I assume he had a negative personal experience with it?”
“It’s a long story, and it’s not my place to tell you,” Elio said. “Anyway, the Ultra Beasts came from a place called Ultra Space and a few of them ended up in our world by mistake a little while ago. They’re just looking for people who have been there because they think they can get them back there.”
“And Guzma is one of them?”
He nodded. “If word got around that Pokémon like them were here, trainers would go after them. They’re powerful and we just had a league set up here, so a lot of younger or confident trainers will try to capture them to challenge the league. And if they get scared or hostile, they can do a lot of damage quickly.”
“So I’ve seen,” she said in agreement. “Had this course been opened, a great deal of people would have been caught up in the attacks and harmed. Even so, the people do need to be warned that there are dangerous Pokémon wandering around.”
“The Aether Foundation are working on setting up a hotline for people to inform them of any sightings of unusual Pokémon,” he said. “Meanwhile, I’ll start tracking them down to send them home after I explain to Guzma the situation. He really shouldn’t have been blindsided like this.”
“You should have the Kahuna speak on the matter as well,” Kahili added. “If they tell people not to approach them and to inform the hotline, the locals will listen.”
“Good point,” he said. “I’ll visit Olivia next to talk to about the situation. Let me know if it shows up again and I’ll have Nebby bring me right over, okay?”
Once she gave her word, he departed. Kahili followed shortly afterwards to talk to her father about arranging that statement. As much as she loathed concealing some things, she had to admit that the truth would be more devastating in the long run.
Not once did she notice the stealth observation drone hovering just overhead with its visual camouflage up. Not from the moment it had been deployed when the Power Gem pierced the sky above. Or even as it trailed her back to the hotel, where it flew up through a balcony door.
Into the waiting hands of Ann as she turned to her two subordinates and smiled.
“Well then. This assignment just got interesting.”
Chapter 13: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 2
A little while later, Lillie found herself sitting in the Pokémon Center and was left waiting for Koko and Shuckle to finish being treated within their balls. Lilligant too, just in case she’d gotten tired from the walking and cold. Rotom was inside of her backpack, which was sitting next to her, going over the data he’d gathered.
Her eyes were fixed on the card she had from the Nugget Bridge. It was proof of how they’d managed to get two wins under their belt in a single day. After how badly Koko had gotten hurt against that Sandshrew, and how they’d been beaten by the Gym Leader in Vermillion City, it felt good to have some confirmation that she wasn’t doing so badly as a Trainer. She’d actually managed to instruct them a little better without panicking, though Koko and Shuckle had done so mostly on their own given how the battles went.
Still, I feel like I’m a little closer to Elio and Hau than I was before. Even as that thought drifted into her mind, she knew they couldn’t relax yet. They were only at the starting line, and Double Battles would require her to properly coordinate with both of her Pokémon. She didn’t doubt that the next trainer on the bridge would give them a work out.
“Chansey.” The soft chiming voice of one Pokémon Center’s Chansey reached Lillie’s ears as the Egg Pokémon waddled up to her table with a tray holding the balls for the three Pokémon.
Lillie thanked her as she reclaimed them and then watched her walk off, before releasing the three to check on them. “How does everyone feel?”
They all gave various confirmations that they were doing fine—a bob of the head from Shuckle, a yip from Koko, and a slight bow from Lilligant. Then there was a tap on the window pane next to them that drew their attention. Azuria was standing there, waving to get their attention before she entered into the Pokémon Center.
“How’d it go at the bridge?” she asked.
“Koko and Shuckle managed to beat the first two trainers.” Lillie noticed that she was now carrying a canvas tote-bag. “Did you go shopping on your way here?”
She nodded before holding up her bag. “I needed to get some Berries to use the machines upstairs.”
“Kle?” Shuckle’s head snapped up at that, his eyes fixed on the bag. From his perch on the table, he stretched out his gooey appendages and reached into it. When he pulled them back, he held in his grasp an Oran berry.
“Shuckle, no!” Lillie said as he quickly retreated into his shell with it, much to Lillie’s dismay. She was forced to apologize at the theft on his behalf. “I’m sorry, I’ve only had him for a little while now and he’s not used to being out of the wild. ”
Azuria brushed it off with a wave. “It was only one, so it’s fine. I still have enough to make Pokéblocks here for everyone and have some left over for Poffins at home. That being said, you should keep him away from Mister Bill’s trees until he’s better trained. Viri was pretty protective about them last time I checked, since some Pokémon like to take them without permission.”
That explains this morning. Lillie looked down, disappointed in the Mold Pokémon as Lilligant and Vulpix prodded at the shell to try and get him to come out with the Berry. They were at least trained to know better. When it was clear he wouldn’t, she could only frown before recalling him into his ball and silently promising to scold him later. “What are Pokéblocks and Poffins though?”
“Pokéblocks are candies and Poffins are cookies,” Azuria explained. “Both are made of berries so they’re good snacks for Pokémon. They also have certain benefits if you know what you’re doing, such as increasing the luster of their coats.”
“So, they’re like Poké Beans then?” Lillie guessed as she rose to her feet and grabbed her bag, causing Rotom to emerge and then relocate into her hood as she put it on her back. Koko then leapt into her arms once more and snuggled against the arm warmers before settling in. “If you don’t mind, can I watch you? It might be good as a treat for them when we start traveling.”
“No problem. Just follow me.”
Azuria led her up to the escalator to the second floor, where there was a machine waiting. There she explained that she wanted to make some treats for the Pokémon at the home of her friend, a woman named Melanie, closer to the south side of the city. She had a portable kit at home, but these bigger machines were also capable of making them in bulk along with Berry Powder, which could be added to make food more nutritious and appealing as well.
“So, all you have to do is insert the berries into the blender and press a button?” Lillie asked as she watched the older girl put in four Pecha berries and hit the lower-button.
“That’s enough for the type of block I’m making.” She moved to the Berry Crusher and placed an Aspear Berry into it. “The types of berries will determine what kind of flavor it has, and the blending choice determines how dense and smooth it’ll be. For Pokémon who are used to eating something like rocks or gemstones, it’ll be fine if they’re thick and hard. But for those that don’t have strong teeth, they’ll need it soft enough for them to chew.”
“Meaning you have to not only be able to cater to your Pokémon’s tastes, but whether or not they can eat it comfortably?” She watched with mild fascination as the older girl closed the top of the Crusher and pressed a button. The berry was instantly freeze-dried and then the crushing began. “That can get complicated pretty quickly if you have a lot of different Pokémon.”
When she considered the standard Pokémon food, it was basically made so that any Pokémon could eat it without considering that sort of thing. But then she remembered Astra’s Sableye and how much fonder it seemed of hard candy. Enough to be used as a bribe. In comparison, Shuckle couldn’t eat solid foods that hard due to lacking in teeth—hence why he made Berry Juice.
“She does have to look after a lot more than she likes.” Azuria’s tone carried a notable hint of somberness. “Melanie takes care of Pokémon that were abandoned by Trainers and tries to help them get back onto their feet, so they can return to the wild without fearing people. But apparently this year there’s been a lot of them.”
“You mean because of the league thing?” She could still remember the Sandshrew attacking them. The sting of sand and its disdain for her wasn’t something easy to overlook. “The Nurse Joy in Vermillion mentioned it too.”
Azuria nodded. “Cerulean doesn’t have a Gym anymore, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t just abandon Pokémon here. And if they’re released outside of a PC, finding where they came from can be hard since they aren’t registered anymore. In the past, since she couldn’t leave the city, she had to rely on others to take Pokémon not native to here where they belonged, or else they’d end up being lost in the streets.”
“That must’ve be hard on her.”
“It’s gotten a little better since Mister Bill had her listed as a Caretaker now, but it’s still hard on her since she doesn’t have much help. She’s always been like a big sister to me, so I wanted to help her out a little by doing this much.”
Lillie’s impression of Azuria improved quite a bit from how earnest she sounded. The girl had been a little pushy with Rotom and Koko on the train. But how she talked about her Butterfree and her friend showed she had a very caring side to her.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The blender came to a stop as a series of beeps signified that the first batch were done. Azuria opened it up and found about ten blocks had been made. She picked one up and plopped it into her mouth. “Hmm…”
“Did they come out well?”
Azuria swallowed it and then held out one for Lillie. “Try tasting for yourself.”
She did so. “Hmm… it’s sweet. And it feels like there’s some pulp that spreads around inside of my mouth when I bite into it.”
“That’s because of how its blended with only a single kind of berry. The sweetness is the dominant flavor, so the coloring is solid and you won’t find any variation,” she explained. “It’ll get more complicated when different berries combinations, blend settings, times, and supplemental powders get added into it, but right now I’m just making generic snacks with different flavors to them.”
Lillie looked down at the inquisitive sound to find Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes were fixed on the blocks.
“It seems like she wants to try some too.” Azuria grabbed two more and presented them to both Koko and Lilligant. “Here you both go.”
Koko sniffed the block for a moment before eating it out of her palm. Lilligant grabbed it slowly from her grasp with both leafy appendages and brought it to her tiny mouth. Their reactions to it were as different as their mannerisms. Koko practically yipped and wagged her tails, while Lilligant merely showed her gratitude with a slight curtsy.
“They say that you can tell a Pokémon’s personality from different flavors,” Azuria continued. “Your Vulpix likes things with a Sweet flavor to it, but she doesn’t seem to be Timid. So, she’s probably Hasty or Jolly. Lilligant isn’t too taken by it, but doesn’t dislike it either. Maybe she likes Dry or Bitter?”
Lillie brushed Koko’s head affectionately. “I’m not sure about Lilligant, but given how energetic Koko is she’s probably Hasty. I imagine she likes them since they help keep her running about.”
She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Can I help you make some to get a feel for it?”
The lesson on Pokéblocks continued until they had four jars of them, and several smaller jars of Berry Powders. After that it was just a matter of getting them to Melanie’s place. Lillie offered to help the Coordinator carry them with Lilligant, since it was a lot for just a single person, until they reached a somewhat modest-sized home closer to the south side of the city.
There was a large stone fence surrounding it from the back that made it too high to scale. But Lillie could make out a single large tree whose canopy stood above it and hear Pokémon sounds coming from it. In the front there was a sign that read: ‘Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter.’
Azuria rang the doorbell. A moment passed. Then the door opened and out stepped a woman with hair that was a deeper shade of teal, dressed in overalls with an apron over the front of her body. She held up the bags. “Melanie, I’m back! I got everything made too!”
“You’re a lifesaver.” She tilted her head as she turned to Lillie and the Pokémon accompanying her. “You must be the young trainer that Azuria mentioned meeting on the train.”
Lillie nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. May we come in?”
“Please do.” She opened the door wider and stepped off to the side, allowing them to pass through to the inside. “I hope you didn’t go out of your way to help us.”
“It’s no problem,” Lillie said. “Everyone in my family works at a conservation organization, so we love helping Pokémon. Besides, it was fun to learn how to make Pokéblocks and I’ll try to make some in my free time for Koko and the others.”
Entering inside, Lillie found that the lobby was rather modest. The only thing that really stood out was the waist-high solid dividers that were lining the left wall. Each had a wooden gate that allowed for entry into them, modified to the specific needs of the different Pokémon.
For example, the divider that had about six Kantonian Rattata in it had a pane of plastic placed between the dividers using a slot, with another placed just in front of the wooden gate. That would stop them from climbing up and into the other sections or running free to chew at everything. Not that they seemed to entertain the thought as they played on a portable playset meant for smaller Pokémon.
Next to it was what looked to be an enclosure with a viewing pane of some kind that housed a group of Paras with undeveloped mushrooms growing on their backs. There was a layer of fresh soil on the ground through which one buried into with its forelegs, while another walked over to what looked to be a section of exposed roots. It took them into its mouth with its sharp teeth that ran vertically and made a slight trilling sound that drew the attention of the third at a water dish.
There were others that went down the rows that drew the attention of Koko and Rotom. The former bound from gate-to-gate, observing the different kinds of Pokémon that she hadn’t seen either. Rotom followed afterwards to take photos of them. Thankfully, Rotom seemed to have taken lessons from what happened in the forest and was non-intrusive in the process.
Lilligant, on the other hand, went over to an ungated section in the right corner. There, beneath the window, was a play area that had a set of building blocks being arranged by a Baby Pokémon that looked like a tiny clown. Once it noticed her, it took an immediate liking and waddled over.
“I thought there were only local abandoned Pokémon,” Lillie said as the Baby Pokémon coaxed Lilligant into picking it up and giggling.
“Normally, yes,” Melanie said. “Because my place is so small, I usually handle local Pokémon that are abandoned but don’t have any severe injuries. They’re mostly malnourished from improper care, so once they’re healthy again I arrange for them to be released. Or transferred over to a place that’s closer to their natural habitat. That way they don’t harbor as much ill-will towards people.”
She then gestured to the Flowering and Mime Pokémon. “However, sometimes people will bring over more exotic Pokémon that wind-up being abandoned or given up within the city. That Mime Jr., for example, is newly-hatched. His trainer wasn’t prepared to handle a Baby Pokémon, so she brought him here and I’m looking after him until I can send him to a Sinnoh or Kalos Caretaker, where there are local Pokémon of his kind to look after him.”
“Even so, there’s a lot of them,” Azuria added. “The ones in here are the ones closest to being released or need constant attention. The rest are out back since its rather sunny today and letting them get exercise helps keep them from being restless. But once it gets dark they’ll have to be put back into their cages in the room next to us.”
Lillie leaned over to glance through the backdoor’s window. The backyard had several different kinds of Pokémon from the local population, ranging from Bellsprouts to Poliwags. There was easily thirty or more at a glance, and for a place this small with little-to-no help meant she must’ve been overworked.
Before she could dwell on it, Koko ran over and brushed a paw against her legs to get her attention. “What’s wrong, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix gestured for her to follow and led her to one of the Pokémon that she hadn’t looked at. It was past what looked to be a brown bird with a leek tucked beneath its wing, but before what looked to be a bundle of thick vines with red feet that housed a pair of eyes in the shadows. Kanto had such strange Pokémon.
But Lillie recognized the one behind the gate Koko was pressing her paws against. Resting on a cushion that had bowl of food and water to the left, and a Poké Doll on the right, was another Fox Pokémon. She had red fur, brown eyes, and seven tails. “That’s a Kantonian Vulpix, isn’t it?”
“A what?” Azuria voice carried a note of surprise as she came over and saw the Pokémon for herself. “She wasn’t here last night.”
“A.J. brought her to me around five in the morning,” Melanie said. “He said he found her abandoned by the river and wanted me to look after her until he got back.”
Koko looked enthused at meeting her Kantonian counterpart, her tails wagging as she cheerfully yipped. A greeting to the native regional variant. But the Fox Pokémon only blankly stared at her without a response.
It was… unnatural. Disturbing enough that Lillie felt bothered by the silence. “What’s wrong with her?”
Melanie walked over slowly until she was standing next to them. “She’s malnourished, underweight, and I had to wash her to get rid of the dirt that was getting caked into her fur and nails. Whoever had her used her for battling with sparse healing at that, so it had to be someone without oversight…”
She took a deep breath after trailing off, centering herself to continue. “But the real problem is that she doesn’t show any sort of emotion or initiative. She’s not hand-shy or adverse to people or Pokémon, but she doesn’t react to any outside stimulus at all. She won’t even eat or drink anything since he found her—in all honesty, it’s almost like she’s a machine.”
“Do you know who she belonged to?” Azuria asked.
Melanie shook her head. “I don’t. We know that its registered to a Poké Ball, but when I use my scanner to check the Trainer ID, it won’t bring up a name. The only reason I haven’t taken her to the Pokémon Center is because A.J. insisted that he could arrange for a specialist to take care of whatever has happened to her within a few hours. He apparently had some experience with it during his travels.”
Lillie felt a weight in her stomach and a smoldering heat in her chest as she listened to them. The Vulpix wasn’t even fully-matured yet; only slightly older than Koko was. Yet someone had treated her so badly that she wasn’t responsive at all. “That’s so sad.”
A whimper turned her attention to the Alolan Vulpix again. Koko was now sitting down and staring at her Kantonian counterpart. The lack of response had left her crystalline-blue eyes downturned with concerned. “Vulll…”
Lillie crouched down and gently ran her hand against Koko’s head. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure that they’ll find out what’s wrong with her and she’ll be better soon.”
Koko only let out a small whine. Then her ears perked up and she turned her head towards the door. A scratching sound followed.
Curious, Melanie opened the door only to have a pink figure run between her legs. “Oh!”
It was a pink dog-looking Pokémon that had a blue ruffle around its neck that shifted as it panted, little leaves caught within it. It rose up on its hind legs to stand-up, revealing it to be bipedal with a large underbite and baggy skin that formed a hem just above its beige feet that left dirt tracks. It waved its stubby arms about, revealing there were a number of scratches and injuries that covered it, some of which looked deep, and barked towards the Pokémon Caretaker.
Melanie sighed at it. “So, you’re back again, Snubbull?”
The Fairy Pokémon barked again as she walked over to it and crouched down to inspect it.
“You’ve gotten yourself beaten up quite a bit this time too. Picking fights and running away no doubt.” She then picked it up and carried it over to the couch. “Azuria, can you hand me a Potion from the shelf?”
“Is that Snubbull wild?” asked the Coordinator while walking over to the shelves. Just above where the jars of Pokéblocks and Berry Powder had been stacked were rows of medicine—Potions, Antidotes, Burn Heals, and so on. She picked up one of the former and brought it to her.
Melanie nodded her head as she took the medicine. “He was released legally and is considered wild. I took care of him for a little while before setting him loose on the Route south of here, where he came from. He finds a way to keep sneaking back into the city though and goes around picking fights with Trainers. He’ll then come back here for me to treat him when his injuries get bad or he gets hungry.”
“That’s strange.” Lillie watched the Fairy Pokémon lick his lips while sitting in her lap, allowing her to spray him while removing the leaves in his ruffle without any problems. “Snubbull are normally docile Pokémon. It’s hard to imagine them picking fights.”
Professor Kukui had one in his lab, among the other Pokémon. That one was a female, and she warmed up to Lillie and Nebby rather quickly. She could still recall Nebby playing with her while Lillie was staying there.
“The only thing I can think of is that he’s so aggressive that his packmates wouldn’t accept it back.” Melanie continued rubbing the Potion in until the scratches were gone. “There we go.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to keep him here then?” Azuria asked.
The Caretaker shook her head as she stood up again. “I’m so busy caring for other Pokémon that I don’t have time to look after him with the level of attention that he’d need. I can only heal him when he wants me to, and if I keep him here too long he’ll start running around and barking until I let him go.”
The Fairy Pokémon turned his head towards the shelves and pointed to the Pokéblocks. “Snubb.”
“If you’re hungry, you’ll have to eat when the rest out back do,” she told him, to which a low grunt followed in response. She then looked over to the mess he’d made coming in and then Lillie. “Sorry for asking this, but can you take him out into the back. I need to clean up and then get the food ready for all of them.”
“I don’t mind, but will he be okay with the others if he gets into a lot of fights?” Lillie asked as she took him into her arms. He didn’t struggle, so she had to assume he wasn’t shy about who handled him. Whatever circumstance he was released under likely hadn’t been an abusive one then.
“Don’t worry. He knows better than to pick a fight with the Pokémon here.” She leaned down to meet his eyes and smiled. “Isn’t that right?”
The Snubbull nodded. “Bull.”
“Let’s go then.” Lillie carried the Snubbull outside, with Koko and Rotom following her into the fenced-off backyard. It was like a slice of carefully cultivated wilderness within the city itself.
The yard’s grass was neatly trimmed, allowing for the Bellsprout that wandered about on their little roots for feet to move unobstructed as they swayed. Whismur and Buneary sat within the flowers that were grown in small patches and basked in the sunlight. And where the tree’s wide canopy cast a shadow that obscured the ground beneath it, Oddish sat under it to rest.
A pond had Slowpokes, two Psyducks, and what Rotom identified as a Bidoof lounging about lazily to the right. To the left, several bushes of hearty green leaves shook as Zigzagoons scavenged in them, only poking out their heads momentarily before going back inside.
So many Pokémon and most of them were common to the area like they’d said. The kind that required a lot of training to raise and become strong, Lillie noticed as she set Snubbull onto the ground and gave it a gentle pat on the head. “Be good, okay?”
“Snnnnuubbb…” he softly grumbled as he leaned into her touch for a moment, before breaking away to run off on all fours.
“Vulpix!” Koko yipped as she ran over to a ball that had been left close to the door. She took it into her mouth and then brought it over, setting it down at Lillie’s feet.
“You want to play, huh?” Lillie picked up the ball and felt the incisions from the teeth of however many other Pokémon had toyed with it before. She then looked for an open spot before she lobbed it in that direction. “Okay, go get it!”
The Alolan Vulpix darted toward the ball so eagerly that she shot past it, before digging her paws in and then running back to scoop it up with her mouth. She then brought it back and flicked her tails in anticipation. “Pix!”
“Okay. Okay.” Lillie picked it up and tossed again, this time a little further. A smile crossed her face as she watched Koko run off to get it, only to let out a surprised chuckle when Snubbull beat her to it. He then ran back over to her and dropped it off. “So, you want to play too?”
“Okay.” She threw it a third time and watched the two go after it, only to trip over one another. They’d been too eager. “Careful you two. It’s just a game, so don’t hurt one another over it.”
The ball continued to roll as it landed, eventually coming to a stop as it lightly brushed a Buneary’s fleece. She picked it up and looked over to Lillie. “Bun?”
“You can bring it over too if you want,” Lillie told her. The Rabbit Pokémon bounced over with little hops until she was close enough to do so. Lillie took it gingerly and smiled. “Thanks, Buneary.”
The Rabbit Pokémon pulled at her fleece shyly from the thanks before bouncing away.
“Bull!” Snubbull barked, flailing his arms from where he was. Rotom translated it as, “Again!”
The game of catch continued, steadily drawing in more attention and players. From a curious Zigzagoon that ended up getting the ball caught in its fur and came over to have her pluck it out, to a Slowpoke that almost ended up eating it until Lillie coaxed it into letting the ball fall free. Their game only came to an end when the door opened and it was time to eat.
Pieri came through first, a shroud of psychic energy following as he levitated several bowls of food to place them where needed. Azuria’s Lopunny followed, also carrying a large bowl of food. The Buneary and Whismur were naturally drawn to the evolved Pokémon and she found herself crowded as she set down their food.
Lilligant came out after that with a bowl as well. She’d barely had time to set it down by the Oddish and Bellsprout before the Mime Jr. waddled out of the door and went towards her. The Flowering Pokémon picked the Baby Pokémon up before wandering over to Lillie’s side as Pieri went back inside to get more.
“It looks like the little guy’s pretty fond of you, huh?” Lillie asked, watching as he snuggled up against Lilligant before Melanie and Azuria came out. The former held the remainder of the food with Butterfree, while the latter was carrying a container with different Pokéblocks.
“Thanks for keeping them busy,” the Pokémon Caretaker said as she set the bowl down closer to them. Snubbull immediately ran over and began taking the food pellets into his mouth.
“We just got caught up in it,” Lillie said as she picked Koko up, so that she didn’t get caught in the feeding frenzy. She’d give her a treat along the way back home.
“That’s still a good thing,” Melanie said. “If they recognize that there are good people they’ll be less likely to be hostile when wandering across them. A Pokémon that only has bad experiences may start to distrust people otherwise.”
Lillie frowned. “I ran into a Pokémon like that a little while ago, near Vermillion City. Despite it attacking us, I felt bad for it because I understood why it felt that way. So, I think that what you’re doing here is a good thing, if hard.”
“It is at times. But it’s rewarding to make a difference.” The admission came with a smile as she looked out to the Pokémon that were in her backyard as Azuria handed each one a Pokéblock. “Then again, you probably know that since everyone in your family works in a conservation organization, don’t they?”
Her ponytail swayed as she nodded. “It’s called the Aether Foundation. It was started by my Grandfather for the sake of Pokémon Conservation in the Alola region. We take in both endangered and abandoned Pokémon.”
“Then I suppose you’ll inherit it someday, won’t you?”
“Mmm… probably. Right now, though, my brother is in charge of it while my mother is here for treatment with Mister Bill.” She looked down to her Starter. “We’ll be doing the Gym Challenge as soon as she’s stable and I beat Nugget Bridge. Won’t we, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix’s tails flicked as she nodded. Then her ears twitched. She looked towards the door as a light ringing sound reached Lillie’s ears.
“That’s the doorbell. Please excuse me,” Melanie said before she went back inside.
That left Lillie to continue to watch the various Pokémon eat. It was still such a shame that so many of them had been abandoned. If not for Melanie here, and the fact that there wasn’t an active Gym anymore, then a lot of them would probably end up in a bad place.
The sound of her Pokégear ringing grabbed Lillie’s attention, causing her to fumble around as she shifted Koko in her arms until she could pull it from her pocket and answer. “Hello?”
“Lillie, it’s me.”
“Mother. Are you awake now?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not waking up earlier to see you off. Lilligant is with you, isn’t she?”
She looked over to Lilligant to see her seed-shaped eyes were now focused on the device. “She’s been keeping me company since this morning. We’ve managed to beat two of the trainers on the bridge.”
“That’s wonderful.” There was a pause on the other end before Lusamine spoke once more. “If you still want me to help teach you how to use Protect, I had Mismagius and Clefable work on it last night. We can start training after Lunch.”
“Lunch sounds great about now. We’ll head back.”
“I’ll see you then.” Click.
“You’re leaving?” Azuria asked as Lillie placed the device back into her jacket’s pocket. The Coordinator had just finish passing along a final Pokéblock to Snubbull.
“My mother wants me to come back so that I can start teaching my Pokémon a new technique for the upcoming Double Battle,” Lillie explained as the Fairy Pokémon munched on the Pokéblock.
The Coordinator clasped her hands together in a pleading method. “Then can we exchange numbers? The Contest Hall will be finished soon, and I at least want to be able to invite you to visit one of my shows. That way I can show you how they are in person.”
Lillie received Azuria’s number!
Numbers exchanged, Lillie called Rotom back as Lilligant passed Mime Jr. to the Coordinator, bid both Azuria and Snubbull goodbye, and then turned to the exit. But when she looked through the door’s window she spotted A.J. talking to Melanie in the lobby, while holding the Vulpix in her arms. He must’ve been the one who was at the door a moment ago.
The older boy fiddled with the device on his wrist before expanding a Poké Ball from its inactive state. Then he tapped the Kantonian Vulpix with it. The moment it opened something strange happened.
What looked to be a shadowy pair of hands wrapped around the Fox Pokémon and pulled her into the ball. Once the signal to show the capture was successful triggered, the ball vanished. Transmitted like how Pokémon that exceeded the limit of six were automatically sent to a PC.
Wait, didn’t they say the Vulpix was already captured? Part of what protected Pokémon that were already captured from being captured by another person with a Poké Ball was the fact that it gave them an energy marker. It was like how each one had an ID, allowing them to know which trainer the Pokémon belonged to. The balls would naturally be rebuked if the Pokémon was caught to prevent theft. How did they remove the marker indicating she had a trainer?
The question lingered in her mind until A.J. spotted her through the door. There was no point in waiting outside anymore, so she entered and just decided to ask him about it.
“That’s not something you need to worry about,” was all he said on the subject. “But, as a word of warning, if someone approaches you and asks about that Vulpix then tell them you don’t know anything. I have a feeling that you might run across someone who fits that criteria soon, so keep that in mind.”
“W-Why’s that?” Lillie asked nervously from how stern his voice had gotten.
He pointed to Lilligant and Koko. “Someone new coming around with foreign Pokémon for the region naturally draws eyes. Beating Amaya, who’s been walling the younger trainers because of them adds to the buzz going around this morning. It’s only natural you’ll run across someone either challenging you or trying to claim them for themselves.”
Melanie frowned. “Don’t scare her like that. You make it sound as though she’s being hunted.”
Lillie felt a weight in her throat at the prospect of that happening again. Of having a Pokémon in her care being taken by someone else. But she didn’t waver. “Thank you for the warning, but even if someone comes after me I’m not going to let them take Koko or Shuckle or any of my Mother’s Pokémon.”
“…Even if you say that, as it stands you’d all be too weak to do anything if they did.” Despite how cold the words were, there was a hint of respect in his tone before he looked up to Rotom. “Come here for a second.”
Zzt? Rotom cautiously floated over and they exchanged some information as Lillie looked on. Yes, that should be possible, zzt.
He turned back to Lillie. “Ask Bill to have his Glaceon teach your Vulpix how to use Icy Wind, since it covers a wider area than Powder Snow. As for your Shuckle, have it practice its Constrict on trees until it gets to the extent of being classified as Wrap. Your Rotom can explain the details of why later on.”
She was somewhat surprised by the advice. “Umm… Thank you?”
“I’m just keeping in line with what I told Bill I’d do on the train. Whether or not you actually go through with it is on you.” He pulled out a pen and piece of paper to write a number down on before passing it off to her. “Remember what I said about the Vulpix. And if you see a Trainer that has a pure-black Poké Ball, put your Pokémon in their balls, get away and then contact this number. Tell Bill to do the same.”
Lillie received A.J.’s number!
“Umm… sure.” She watched as he left out without another word after that, confused.
Melanie could only sigh sadly as she watched the door close. “I’m sorry about him. He means well, but I think that his new job has been weighing down on him.”
“I don’t mind,” Lillie told her. “In a way, he kind of reminds me of my brother. He’s a little rough, but I think he has a good heart. And I probably should to teach them more so that they can defend themselves. Still, what did he mean by a pure-black Poké Ball?”
“I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with the Vulpix and whoever owned her.” She looked towards the empty section where the Fox Pokémon had been placed before. “Either way, I hope that wherever he sent her they’ll be able to help her.”
Lillie could only hope for the same before she bid the Pokémon Caretaker farewell and then made her way back to Bill’s Cottage on the cape. They had a lot of training to do after all.
Along the way, she didn’t notice the eyes that watched her every step until she passed through the tunnel and left the city behind.
Chapter 12: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 1
Lillie stirred awake the next morning at the sound of barking. She rose from her linen sheets, fighting down a yawn as she noticed Koko blinking awake as well on the pillow next to her. They both leaned over the side of the bed where the window was, sunlight spearing through the blinds, and parted them to see what the commotion was.
Bill’s Leafeon, Viri, was sitting atop the hill that had berry trees planted on it and barking menacingly towards a fleeing orange Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before. It had two cream-colored spots on its back, similar to the tips of its twin tails, as it darted on all fours around the trees. And it had a small branch with three Oran Berries attached to it in its mouth.
The Verdant Pokémon growled before she swung her tail around, releasing a barrage of Razor Leaf towards it. But the mysterious Pokémon was then wreathed in a pale light as it used Quick Attack to run away, rocketing towards the edge of the slope and then jumping out of sight as the leaves buried themselves into the ground. The sound of splashing faintly reached Lillie’s ears and she remembered that the tide should be high right about now.
Bill had said that past that hill was where the cape is. The inlet fed into the marsh between the tunnel and forest that went all the way down into Cerulean City, with a subterranean river that could be most evidently seen in the Cerulean Cave. He’d also said they could find several different kinds of water Pokémon there, but that it would be dangerous going down there during high tide since it was a tidal marsh and they could be swept out to sea.
Nympha, Bill’s Vaporeon, stuck her head out of the pond right about then due to the commotion. She let out an inquiring sound towards her younger sister, who responded by gesturing towards one of the berry trees and letting out a series of Leafeon noises that Rotom was needed to translate. Since the living Pokédex remained inactive inside of Lillie’s bag, hanging on the door-hook, it went undecipherable as the eldest sister dragged herself out of the pond and went towards the hill.
Lillie pulled away from the window and stretched her arms out into the air, a light ‘mmm‘ slipping through her closed lips. She then turned to her Starter that had mimicked her in rising off the pillow and stretching out. She reached over and gave the three-tailed Alolan Vulpix a gentle brush over her head, the smooth fur like silk sliding over her palm. “Good morning, Koko. Did you sleep well?”
“Pix,” the Fox Pokémon answered as she leaned into the touch.
Lillie smiled before pulling her hand back and getting out of bed. She had two—no, three Pokémon to feed at the moment before she could get ready to set out. She’d promised Koko that they would check out the Nugget Bridge after all.
She grabbed the bowls that she had in her bag and the standard dry Pokémon food, filling them halfway. The three Pokémon in her care were, after all, rather small so they didn’t need that much. Koko jumped from the top of the bed to the floor and then came over on her own accord to eat while Lillie then walked over to the corner where Shuckle had chosen to nap, head and appendages tucked away in his shell.
Gently rapping on it with her knuckles, she said, “Shuckle, it’s morning. Wake up so you can eat breakfast.”
“Kkklllle….” yawned the Mold Pokémon as he stuck his head out of an opening and looked around for a bit. Then he extended an appendage to rub his beady eyes before dragging himself over towards where Koko was eating.
Lillie then went over to her bag again and roused Rotom as well. “Rotom, wake up so you can eat too.”
The inside of her bag shifted before Rotom emerged in its base form, a body of plasma shaped like a lightning rod. Lillie could taste the ozone in the air around it that wasn’t normally present when it was in its Pokédex. It reminded her of the gym battle briefly as it flew over to a bowl and ate as well.
She took a moment to eat a travel ration herself. She figured that the others were still asleep, so she didn’t want to make too much noise or wake them up by rummaging in the Kitchen without permission. Then Lillie got changed in the bathroom, readying herself for the day ahead. She put her hair into its ponytail and took on her Z-Powered form once again.
When she emerged, the others had finished eating. “We’re heading into Cerulean City this morning to see the Nugget Bridge and then check out the rest of the city since we’ll be here for a while, but we may run into wild Pokémon along the way. I’ll have one of Mother’s Pokémon with me, but they’ll only help in an emergency, and Rotom can’t battle, so I’ll be relying on you two to keep us safe, Koko and Shuckle. Okay?”
The Alolan Vulpix gave an enthusiastic half-jump while the Shuckle gave a more subdued, hesitant nod. Rotom made a series of noises towards Lillie before realizing she couldn’t understand it. Then it darted back inside of her bag and stuck its possessed Pokédex out of the top to give her a salute. And I’m ready to record any Pokémon we come across, zzzt!
With that decided, she returned Shuckle to his ball and set in her pocket along with Koko’s ball since the Fox Pokémon preferred to walk. Then she stepped out of the room and went to her Mother’s guestroom, lightly knocking on the door.
It was Lilligant that answered, cracking the door open enough to see with her seed-shaped eyes. “Lilli?”
“Morning, Lilligant,” she said to the Flowering Pokémon. “Mother told me to bring one of you with me when I left out.”
Lilligant nodded and held one of its appendages up to ask for her patience before she closed the door again. Then there was some back and forth that Lillie could hear between her and Clefable as they discussed something on the other side. Rotom translated for her that they were deciding on who to send, ruling out Mismagius given the time of day, Bewear because of last time, and Milotic for obvious reasons.
A moment later they decided to send Lilligant since Clefable had been up all night with her Mother, who apparently stayed up late for some reason, and wouldn’t be fully alert. The Flowering Pokémon then emerged with her own Ultraball and held it out. “Lil.”
As she took it, Lillie found herself wanting to ask what her Mother was doing late last night when she needed her rest. But she decided against pressing Lilligant on it since she and Clefable were doing their best to take care of her and they wouldn’t actually tell her anyway. They were her Mother’s Pokémon after all.
Instead, she asked, “Do you want to walk with us since it’s a sunny day?”
Lilligant nodded with polite enthusiasm. “Lilli.”
That decided, they made their way out of the cottage. The moment they stepped outside, they were exposed to the gentle warming rays of the morning Spring sun. It gave Lillie a bounce in her step as they then made their way towards Route 25 and the forest that laid there.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The forest was peaceful as they walked along the dirt path, staying the course that would lead them to the far end. There they could come out near the other end of the Nugget Bridge. Towering trees rose up to the sky along the path, their trunks somewhat thinner but with dozens of branches rising up to spread their leaves wide and tint the morning rays that touched down on the greenery around the path—grass, bushes, and moss that crawled freely over fallen branches.
Lillie could only imagine that it was even more vibrant away from the well-traveled road. And then there were the Pokémon that were up that early in the morning too. She spotted some Sunkern that were sitting beneath one leafy bush, nipping at the dewdrops there.
Koko observed the curious little Seed Pokémon with an inquisitive tilt of her head before inching closer. That caused them to notice. They started shaking their leaves at her in an effort to stave her off that was less useful than one would think.
“Koko,” Lillie called, causing the Alolan Vulpix to rise up and turn her head back to her trainer. “Don’t get too close. They don’t want to be bothered while they’re eating.”
Koko nodded once before turning her attention to a nearby Caterpie instead that was hanging on a branch nearby, carefully chewing on leaves while hiding the rest of its body within the foliage. She kept her distance beneath it as she observed it, leaving Lillie to wonder just how sheltered Koko had been before she came with her.
The Worm Pokémon didn’t mind her at first. But then Rotom floated up to it and snapped a photo, startling it. It released a pungent scent that Koko proceeded to hurry away from.
“The same goes for you, Rotom,” Lillie said as he snapped a photo of the Sunkern next.
But I was just gathering data, zzt! Rotom claimed as it floated back over.
“You can say that because you don’t have a nose,” Lillie pointed out. “What would you do if one of them attacked you because of it? Koko probably isn’t going to be willing to help when she has to put up with that scent.”
The Alolan Vulpix agreed a whimper before the repulsive scent was replaced with a sweeter smell. It wafted from her mother’s Lilligant as the Flowering Pokémon used Aromatherapy. Breathing it in made both Lillie and Koko feel more relaxed, as if all the tension melted and any mental fatigue they’d had was gone.
“Thank you, Lilligant,” Lillie told her. She merely shook her head in a humble manner, as if to say that it was nothing, when a Pokémon abruptly popped into existence. Lillie stumbled back at the surprising arrival of a Butterfree that fluttered its wings menacingly… well, as menacingly as a Butterfree could manage mere inches from her face.
The newly-arrived Butterfly Pokémon protectively placed itself between the Caterpie and them. “Fre-free!”
Koko immediately got in front of her, taking on an aggressive stance with her hackles raised and a chill that permeated air, while Lilligant grabbed her arm and pulled her back in anticipation of a fight. That seemed to be the case for the Butterfree as well, considering its wings took on a light-blue hue and its eyes were starting to glow purple. It was getting ready to attack.
“Everyone calm down!” Lillie insisted. She figured that scent the Caterpie put out must’ve served as a cry for help. She knew that Alolan Pokémon did that, but she supposed it was natural for one of the older evolutions to protect a younger one even here. “It must’ve been worried that we were attacking the Caterpie and came to help it.”
Koko didn’t back down and the Butterfree looked ready to fight either way until something landed between them from above. It was a humanoid Pokémon that had dark brown fur with the exceptions of its ears that hung long and low, the fluffy bands of its wrists, and from the thighs down. It held its arms out between them.
“Lop!” it said, looking between them all. “Lop! Lopunny!”
Zzzhe’s saying not to fight, Rotom translated.
“Don’t just teleport off like that, Pieri!” Another voice called out. Human this time.
Lillie recognized that voice even before she, along with the others, turned their eyes towards the approaching figure. It was Azuria, accompanied by another Pokémon in her arms. It was one that had a pair of flowers on its heads and a skirt of leaves that reminded Lillie of when Elio’s Oricorio was in its Pa’u Style.
The Coordinator panted as she came to a stop in front of them. “I’m sorry. He didn’t interrupt your capture, did he?”
Lillie shook her head. “Rotom just startled the Caterpie behind it and the Butterfree must’ve wanted to help it. I didn’t plan on capturing or battling either of them if I could help it.”
“Thank goodness…” Azuria let out a sigh in relief before she turned to scold the Butterfree. “You can’t go around being aggressive like that to prove a point. Much less picking a fight with a Pokémon younger than you. We raised you better than that!”
The Butterfly Pokémon looked down towards the ground, properly chastised and antenna drooping as he fluttered over in front of her. “Furee, freee…”
Her expression melted, going from stern in a sort of motherly way to gentle as she patted him on the head. “Don’t let what A.J. said get to you. You’re better than that and he hasn’t been himself lately. Okay?”
“…free…” There was still no heart in its response as it sulked.
With the hostility dissipated, Lillie crouched down and picked Koko up to calm her down before she asked, “Are all of those Pokémon yours?”
“Yeah. I caught Gracie when she was a Buneary and Zinn when he was an Oddish here, while Pieri was originally raised from a Caterpie by A.J. here as well. He traded him to me when we were younger since he liked contests more than battle. I thought I would bring them here bright and early so they could unwind, since its where they all came from.”
Are most of her Contest Pokémon native Cerulean City then? Lillie wondered as Azuria took notice of the Flowering Pokémon and her expression brightened. “Oh, I should introduce you. This is my mother’s Lilligant. She came with me today for a walk as well.”
Lilligant stepped forward and gave a curtsy in greeting when Zinn leapt down from his trainer’s embrace and made his way over to her. He then extended his short arm out for her to shake. She responded in kind with one of the leaves that served as her arms, only to be surprised when he leaned forward and kissed it. “Lilligant!?”
She pulled back in surprise, made only more confusing as the Bellossom made a sweeping gesture and said something that caused her to become slightly flustered. The Lopunny rolled her eyes and gave a slight shake of the head before she grabbed him by the petals and pulled him away. It only left Azuria sighing once more.
“Uh, Rotom?” Lillie began, confused by this development.
He complimented her beauty as surpassing that of the forest in its prime and offered to take her to someplace where they could watch the sunset over the cape, zzzt.
“I’m sorry if he made her feel uncomfortable,” Azuria said, a hint of resignation in her tone. As if she’d done this before many times. “He’s… normally more mature than that.”
“Lo, lop-lop…” the Rabbit Pokémon chimed in with a sing-song tone while holding the shorter Pokémon in the air to keep him at bay, to which Rotom translated as ‘No, not really’.
Her morning could be going better, Lillie suspected as the Coordinator sighed for a third time. Still, looking at the collection of Pokémon that she had, Lillie could see they were fairly well taken care of. The Bellossom’s flowers were vivid and bright, while the Lopunny’s fur looked neatly groomed.
“So, what brings you out here this early in the morning?” Azuria asked, quickly changing the topic.
“We’re heading to Nugget Bridge,” Lillie explained as she looked down to Koko staring at the newcomers warily. She had not forgotten the handling that she had been put through on the train, it seemed. “Koko is excited to try it out since she watched the Alola Title Defense Match last night, and I promised her I would take her there.”
“If that’s the case then you’ll want to get there soon,” Azuria told her. “From what Melanie has told me, since the Gym shut down it’s been a sort of pseudo-Gym that’s been used in its place for the kids around here to train before they do that League thing. You’ll have a long wait if you get there too late.”
“Oh, then we’d better hurry since we’ve got to get back later,” Lillie said. She still had that training session that her mother wanted to do as well.
“In that case, how about we help you get there a little sooner?” Azuria offered with a wink before she looked over to Butterfree. “It’ll be our way of making up for interrupting your walk, won’t it Pieri?”
He nodded once, but didn’t look any happier than he did before. Whatever was bothering him was still weighing heavily on his mind. Even so, his eyes shone for a moment and Lillie felt a tingling sensation that reminded her of when Nebby did so as it encompassed her, Lilligant, and Koko.
“If you’ve got some free time afterwards, I’ll show you around Cerulean for a bit,” Azuria promised as she gave them a wave. “Have fun until then.”
Then they abruptly—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—appeared somewhere else.
Lillie took a moment to reorient herself after the unexpected teleportation, adjusting her grip on the Alolan Vulpix so she didn’t accidentally fall. They were past the edge of the forest, which was to her far left, on an inclined hill that led into mountainous slopes to the right and rear of them. There was a bundle of trees where a group of Pineco began to stir in surprise by their appearance—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—and then they were teleported again.
Lillie took another moment to figure out where they were this time. They were on flatter grounds, further to the south and within a field that had flowers scattered about. To the south was a stretch of tall grass that bordered the water, with a small bridge that connected that patch of land to the other side of the river and had some Fishermen on it, casting their lines into the water.
And it ran under the Nugget Bridge.
“Fufuree,” Butterfree called out, drawing their attention towards him. He was fluttering above them, looking slightly winded.
Teleporting was taxing on the mind for most Pokémon that had the psychic potential to use it. Nebby had shown Lillie that, being almost completely immobilized after having done so when it had taken them from Aether Paradise to Melemele Island. So while Butterfree managed to get them there from the woodlands in two jumps, it looked like it hadn’t been easy.
“Are you going to be okay?” she asked, to which he gave a bob of his head before making soft Butterfree noises as he nervously fiddled with his fingers. Rotom translated that as an apology for what happened in the forest. “Well, no one was harmed so I suppose it’s fine. Just make sure you apologize to your Trainer, okay?”
“Free.” He nodded twice before his eyes grew luminous again. Then the Butterfly Pokémon vanished.
“…Well,” Lillie started, grabbing the attention of Koko and Lilligant, “it was faster than we expected, but we’ve arrived at Nugget Bridge. Should we go see how things work?”
Her mother’s Lilligant nodded. “Lil.”
“Pix!” Koko yipped excitedly.
So they crossed the under-bridge that stretched across the river’s surface and proceeded down from the other side to reach the mouth of Nugget Bridge. There to greet them was a brown-haired man with glasses who looked maybe around Professor Kukui’s age, with a badge on his shirt.
“Welcome to the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet,” he said as he gave them a once over. His eyes lingered on Lilligant and Koko with curiosity. Not surprising since neither were native to Kanto. “I think I would’ve remember if I’d seen you before, so is it your first time here?”
“Yes. We just arrived in Cerulean City yesterday and wanted to try our hand at it,” Lillie explained. “Can you tell us how things work?”
“Of course.” He reached into his pocket for a small case and pulled from it what looked to be a card of sorts. “First, this is for you.”
“What is it?” Lillie asked as she accepted it.
“That card serves to mark your progress through the gauntlet,” he explained. “Since Mrs. Waterflower became a member of the Elite Four and the gym closed, it was decided that the Nugget Bridge would become something of a pseudo-Gym for young trainers who needed to prepare for the Gym Challenge. To make it to the end and face the leader of the bridge, you need to beat every trainer along the way at least once. When you beat them, they’ll stamp the card to show you passed that section, and when the person at the end stamps the card you can take it to the Pokémon Center to receive a badge and TM as a prize.”
“It’s just like a real Gym then?”
“The rules are a little laxer in the beginning, but by the time you reach the end it’ll be stricter like an actual Gym,” he clarified. “For example, the first trainer will fight you in a one-on-one battle, and the second will allow for a two-on-two battle with substitutions, but the third will challenge you to a double battle since that’s become something of a popular format to battle with around the world. However, to avoid wearing out the trainers, if you lose then you’ll have to wait at least three days to come back.”
“That sounds like it was a lot of work to organize.”
“It was, but the Mayor wanted it done in an effort to keep the tradition alive. And, since a lot of younger trainers use it to gain experience on both ends, they’re more prepared for the challenges they’ll face.” He gestured to the bridge where there was a younger boy looking towards them. “Your first opponent will be Luka, if you’re ready.”
She nodded. “Yeah. We’re ready.”
“Then I wish you the best of luck.”
With that, Lillie took her first steps onto the bridge towards the trainer. The young boy looked practically enthusiastic as he jumped up from his perch on the railing and ran over to greet his challenger. He drew close to Lilligant, unperturbed by the fact that the Flowering Pokémon was a head larger than him.
“Is this the Pokémon you’re going to be facing me with?” he asked.
“Lilligant will only be watching,” Lillie explained as her mother’s Pokémon shook her head. She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Koko will be your opponent.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head before taking a step forward, anticipating the challenge to come.
“Then it’ll be a one-on-one battle between it and Talon,” the boy said as he walked over to the first railing and jumped over it. “Get over to the other side so they’ll have the entire bridge to themselves.”
Lillie did so with Lilligant, leaving the central area of the bridge open for the impending battle as the boy flung his ball into the air. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of a Pidgey that spread its wings and let out a cry as it eyed Koko warily. Rotom quickly snapped a photo before floating back over to Lillie.
Since both Pokémon were out now, Luka flipped his hat backwards and gave the signal to begin. “Okay, the match is on now!”
Koko activated Snow Warning!
The air chilled as a flat layer of light-grey clouds formed, covering a radius around both the Pokémon and their trainers at the fringes. Glimmering flakes of snow began to lightly fall. The Pidgey looked up at the clouds, a fog billowing from his beak as he drummed his wings.
He then looked over to his trainer, craning his head as he tweeted, “Pidget?”
“Don’t worry about it!” Luka said, as if to alleviate any concerns the small Pokémon possessed. “Use Gust!”
At the sight of the Tiny Bird Pokémon hopping off the ground and beating his wings rapidly to kick up a powerful wind, Lillie snapped out with a counter order. “Powder Snow, Koko!”
The Alolan Vulpix inhaled and then billowed out a chilled wind laced with frost as the beating of wings stirred the wind. The two forces clashed, the winds meshing and pushing against one another for an instant that spread the chill further out. Then the Powder Snow began winning out, pushing back the Gust despite the Pidgey’s best efforts as beads of sweat formed from the exertion. He broke off his attack before it was completely overtaken, flapping harder to rise higher in the air and off to the side, narrowly avoiding the remnants of the cold wind as Koko ran out of breath.
The battle has a 95% chance of concluding in our favor, zzt! Rotom informed them after the exchange. Powder Snow and Gust have the same amount of force between them, but Snow Warning adds additional strength to the force of Ice-Type attacks, even if it isn’t fully developed yet!
“So what?” Luka said to that. “A little snow isn’t going to scare us off! Use Gust again!”
The Pidgey took two beats of his wings to fly a little further back and tried again, whipping up the wind.
“Koko, use Powder Snow again!”
Koko exhaled again and released another Powder Snow, this time aiming up at an angle to hit the aerial target. Frost spread out as it hit the rolling winds that rushed for ground-bound Pokémon, falling over the battlefield even as it pushed through the attack. Once more the Pidgey broke off his attack, getting out of the attack’s radius as it peppered out.
Maintaining his height while hovering in the air just in front of his trainer, the Pidgey looked back and gave an inquisitive, “Pigeo?”
Luka gave a slight nod. “Yeah, got it. Get a little higher and do it once more.”
He took flight into the air, closer to the cold clouds and then released a powerful Gust attack once more. Koko jumped forward as she exhaled a Powder Snow this time, trying to close the distance enough so that it wouldn’t be able to get away as her attack won over his even faster—
“Now dive!” Luka ordered.
—but there was no clash like before as the Gust died instantly when the Tiny Bird Pokémon closed its wings onto its body. He allowed himself to drop down before extending his wings again and gliding around with a turn, circling to get around to Koko’s side.
Her head traced it, refusing to lose sight of the Pidgey. The sweeping, frost-laden wind followed, like a cold hand of winter grasping for the bird to give it a freezing embrace. But then she reached her limit, her lungs stalling as the need for air forced her to stop. She inhaled to fire again, but at that point the Pidgey flapped its wings forward as though to brake and everything stung.
Talon used Sand Attack!
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Starter Pokémon was deprived of her senses. The sand-laced winds had caught her up close while she was inhaling, leaving her coughing and trying to wipe her eyes clean as the Pidgey trilled while it circled back around and picked up speed.
“First rule of battling: don’t become predictable just because you’ve got one attack that’s effective!” Luka said smugly. “If you keep using the same attack over and over, your opponent will naturally get the timing down. Now Talon, Tackle!”
“Look out!” Lillie shouted as the Pidgey took a dive for her Starter Pokémon. It was painful to listen as Koko yelped the moment she was slammed into by the Tiny Bird Pokémon and knocked down, unable to dodge since she couldn’t see. Lillie chastised herself at not having realized that something was wrong with how he kept ordering it to do the same attack over and over, despite it not working.
No, I have to support Koko. But she shook head to drive the pang of guilt down as she watched the Pidgey going for Koko again, slamming into her a second time. It was breathing faster, working its wings harder to stay aerial and active. The cold was still hampering it, so maybe…
“Koko, jump up and fire a Powder Snow down now!” Lillie ordered as it swooped down for the Fox Pokémon again. Koko still hadn’t regained her sight, so when she hopped up and fired down, she did so wide-spread to make up for the lack of sight, even as the Pidgey tried to stop its descent with frantic flaps to no avail.
The result was billowing white mist, the frigid blanket covering the section of the bridge up to their waists as it rolled past. It joined with the evaporation fog rising over the edge of the railing, born from the cold air passing through the water vapor rising from below that left Lilligant shivering slightly as she ran her arms against her body until it thinned out.
“Ah, Talon!” Luka called out as they saw the Tiny Bird Pokémon was on the surface of the bridge that was coated in hoarfrost.
His feathers were rime-coated, its small body trembling even unconscious as its shallow and shuddering breaths came out as puffs of fog. “P-P-Pigeeoo…”
“Even after we got the timing down and everything, it still wasn’t enough.” Seeing that it was unable to battle further, the youngster gritted his teeth before recalling his Pokémon and admitting defeat. “Fine, it’s my loss.”
Since the battle was over, Lillie hopped over the railing and ran over to Koko as the Fox Pokémon tried to wipe the remainder of the sand out of her eyes. She crouched down and immediately pulled out a handkerchief and bottle of Fresh Water, wetting the former and then using it to clear the sand away until crystalline-blue eyes were visible once more. Next was a Potion to remedy the damage that had been done in the battle.
“Does that feel better?” she asked afterwards, to which she received an excited yip. Relieved, Lillie brought her delicate her fingers to the soft tuft of fur on Koko’s head and rubbed affectionately. “I was so worried that we’d make a mistake. But it looks like we pulled through.”
“Vulll…” Koko purred as she leaned into the touch, her tails flicking.
Lillie then looked over to Luka as he dragged his feet on the way over to her, pouting. “Your Pidgey really surprised me with how well-trained it was.”
“Well, yeah. We’ve been doing this for a while now, so he’s gotten a lot of experience. He’ll probably be evolving soon.” He puffed out his chest a bit at that before he extended his hand. “Anyway, gimme your card and I’ll give you the first stamp.”
Lillie received a Red Stamp!
“Thanks,” she said as she looked down at the stamp on her card.
“One last thing I’ll give you is some advice, since you’re new at this,” he added. “The battles on the bridge are something that everyone can see, including the other Bridge Trainers like me. That same strategy won’t work against Amaya, so you’re going to need to switch things up or you’ll come up short.”
Lillie nodded before she felt Koko’s paw pressing against her and looked to see she was excitedly gesturing for them to go further down the bridge, where a Lass was waiting. That must’ve been Amaya. When she gestured for them to come forward, Koko started running down the bridge with Rotom following after her.
“Goodness. She’s as excitable as Nebby was,” Lillie said with a sigh, albeit not unhappily. If anything, it was a good thing for a young Pokémon to be so active. Lilligant waited patiently for her to walk as well, following after her until they arrived.
“Good job getting here on your first go, but it only gets harder from here on out,” Amaya warned her new challenger. “It’ll be a two-on-two match. Have you decided who you’ll send out first?”
“Yes,” Lillie declared, to which Koko bounced up, eager to continue despite already having been in one battle. “Koko, I want you to rest a little more first, so we’re letting Shuckle get a turn, okay?”
Koko objected, citing through Rotom she could still fight.
But Lillie stood by what she said. “You had the first battle. Now let him have his own.”
Hearing the firmness in her tone, Koko didn’t argue further and instead followed Lillie as they went over to the side of the bridge while Amaya did the same in the opposite direction. Lillie then set Shuckle’s ball into an active state with a tap of the button before she tossed it out. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle’s head twisted around as he took in his surroundings before a second ball burst open across from him. It looked like a lavender gumdrop with stubby arms and eyes that looked like plus signs, feet and ears tipped with yellow. A tiny sound that was drowned out by the passing breeze left its mouth as it waved its tiny arms towards Shuckle, a Shell Bell affixed to a band just beneath its mouth.
Zzzzrtt! A new Pokémon to analyze! Rotom floated in front of Lillie and his back-mounted camera snapped its photo to reference it against the database until a match was found. Whismur, the Whisper Pokémon. A timid Pokémon, when startled it’s normally-quiet cries become an ear-splitting shriek that leaves it tired when it stops.
“If you’re ready, we’ll start the match now!” Amaya stated. “Raphy, you know what to do!”
The male Whismur inhaled and let out a shout. “Mur!”
The attack sent out a slightly visible sound wave that barreled towards Shuckle. The Mold Pokémon barely regarded the attack with more than a discomforting look as it passed through him, beady eyes narrowing slightly at being attacked in general.
It’s not very effective, izzz it? Rotom cited while continuing his surveillance and recording the battle.
“Shuckle, use Constrict!” Lillie ordered. Then she remembered he was still slightly wild and clarified so they didn’t get a repeat of the Vermillion Gym. “Aim for his body, not his throat.”
“Whis!?” squeaked the Whisper Pokémon as Shuckle’s frontal appendages snapped forward, stretching to get across the distance between them before wrapping around his body beneath his arms. It struggled a bit before inhaling and letting out another shout.
This time the sound wave was clearer, the air distorting as it made the gummy-like appendages wobble on its run towards Shuckle. The moment it hit, the Mold Pokémon flinched as though it had been physically struck, eyes scrunching up. The soft chiming of the Shell Bell resonated afterwards, tickling the ears of all that heard it.
“It was stronger?” Lillie seemed surprised. Then she recalled what Professor Kukui had told her about some moves getting more effective over time and use. “Rotom, what moves does Whismur learn that get stronger over time!”
Accessing Moves List for Whisper Pokémon, zzzt… data found! It’s using Echoed Voice! Rotom explained. The amount of damage it can do increases with every consecutive shout until it reaches a peak!
The third shout was even stronger, actually managing to rattle Shuckle enough that he reeled back. His appendages shook loose from the Whisper Pokémon and snapped back to their normal length. The Shell Bell’s ringing was louder as well, the slight signs of flesh being bruised faded.
“That’s right,” Amaya said with a grin. “Luka’s thing is all about timing, but mine is about punishing you for taking your time. The longer the battle drags on, the stronger Raphy’s attack gets. The stronger his attack gets, the more his Shell Bell heals him for. If you can’t finish the battle quickly then your Shuckle will be knocked out and your Vulpix will have to face off against a fully powered Echoed Voice.”
“Shuckle, can do something else offensive?” Lillie asked as the Mold Pokémon got over the blow rattling him. He then turned his head and nodded. “Do that then!”
“Kle!” Shuckle’s eyes scrunched up, his frown deepening as he braced himself at the sight of the Whismur inhaling. Wisps of red seeped from his body as he did so.
Faster and stronger, the shout was loud enough that Lillie herself winced from proximity as the blow smacked Shuckle even harder. His head bobbed as though he was knocked for a loop, but he straightened up as he lightly shook his head while the blood-tinged light wreathing him grew brighter.
Shuckle is storing energy!
The fifth shout. The strongest possible shout for the tiny Pokémon to unleash met with Shuckle in the form of a sound wave loud enough that everyone else had to cover their ears, including Koko and Lilligant as they pressed their paws and leaves respectively against their ears. Shuckle was actually sent backwards by several inches, tumbling over once before getting his limbs under him again.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked, noticing the Mold Pokémon’s head was actually drooping. He barely seemed able to keep his eyes open, despite the blood-tinged aura expanding once more.
His response was to withdraw into his shell before emerging looking energized once more. The area around his mouth was covered in a bluish liquid from the Berry Juice he had ingested. They must’ve been made from fermenting the berries she had given him the first night they met.
“It might’ve been able to recover a bit, but it can’t stand up to another hit!” Amaya declared. “Raphy, finish it!”
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie shouted as the Whismur inhaled with the intention of releasing its most powerful shout once more—
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
—but before the next attack came, Shuckle unleashed his pent-up fury. The blood-tinged aura that represented all the pain and suffering gathered onto its right appendage that stretched like it was fired out of a cannon. It hit fast enough that the Whismur didn’t even get a whisper out before he was struck head-on in the face.
A Critical Hit!
The blow propelled the Whisper Pokémon backwards until he hit the ground, bounced off it, and then tumbled back several times until he was face-down on the surface of the bridge. Silence lingered as Amaya leaned over the railing and cradled her Pokémon that had gone limp. It was unconscious.
“What was that?” Amaya asked as she returned the Whisper Pokémon into his ball.
Rotom took the liberty to helpfully explain. Shuckle used Bide, zzt. The technique storezzz the pain and damage the user receives and converts it into power. Then, when that energy is unleashed, it shoots out in a fast, singular blow that doubles all the damage it took, zzzt.
And since Shuckle had taken two of Whismur’s strongest Echoed Voice attacks, Bide was significantly strengthened, Lillie figured. Shuckle couldn’t do much damage on his own, but by taking the damage he received and sending it back two-fold, he was able to turn the tide. “Good job, Shuckle!”
“Kle,” huffed the Mold Pokémon, still looking upset as he wiped his mouth with one appendage and then stuck it into his mouth. If Lillie had to guess, he wasn’t happy about having to use his store of Berry Juice.
“We’ll get you some more berries later today, okay?” Lillie promised, to which he nodded.
“In that case, I’ll conceded that your Shuckle beat Raphy,” the Bridge Trainer said as she pulled out another ball. “But you still have to beat my second Pokémon to get my stamp.”
Amaya tossed it and out came a rotund little ball of purple fur with compound eyes and a pair of drooping antenna. Its tiny forepaws were pressed against its body and the two protruding pincers twitched as it stared at the Shuckle. “Veno?”
Rotom did his job and provided the dex entry for it. Venonat, the Insect Pokémon. Sheltered in a coat of thin, stiff hairs that cover its body for protection, its eyes can perceive even the smallest of objects in even the dark.
“Natty will be my second Pokémon,” Amaya stated. “Will you switch out yours or leave it in?”
“Get some rest, Shuckle.” Lillie decided, recalling the Mold Pokémon to his ball and then looking down to Koko. “Okay, it’s your turn.”
“Pix!” Koko crawled under the railing and darted over to the side of the field where Shuckle had been, taking his place. The pale glow that shrouded her body was dismissed with a flick of the tail, leaving the weather to cool notably and glimmering motes began to fall from above.
“Okay then let’s start the second round!” The Bridge Trainer pointed her finger towards the Alolan Vulpix. “Natty, show them our one-two combo!”
“Koko, Powder Snow!” Lillie ordered quickly.
Koko immediately exhaled the frigid attack, but Natty’s compound eyes shone with a cerulean tone before that same hue wrapped around Koko tight enough to smother her. The attack petered out before it even reached the Insect Pokémon, and when she tried again it just wouldn’t come out at all. “Vul?”
That was Disable, zzt! Rotom warned her. You can’t use Powder Snow until it wears off!
The Venonat then followed through by pointed his antenna forward and releasing a series of thin, blue rings with a tinny ringing sound. The rings hit Koko headfirst and her eyes grew glassy. She then began to shake it violently, staggering and whimpering in a panicked tone.
Lillie recognized it being the same symptoms as with Bewear in the forest. “Oh no! She’s confused too!”
“Good job!” Amaya did nothing to hide her elation at the success of her Pokémon’s techniques before giving the next order. “Now, Tackle!”
“Venonat!” Clodhooper feet pattered against the wooden surface before the Insect Pokémon threw itself into Koko for a Tackle. The blow knocked the Fox Pokémon off her powder-blue paws, leaving her to hit the ground and yelp.
“Koko, snap out of it!” Lillie called out to the Alolan Vulpix as she got back to her feet, only to start staggering as though the bridge had turned liquid. Then Lillie winced as, for some reason, Koko lunged to the side and hit the ground as though she’d been trying to pounce on something that wasn’t there, hurting herself in confusion. Her voice grew more desperate when she noticed Natty coming in for a second blow. “Look out!”
The Insect Pokémon had already thrown himself forward for another tackle when the warning came, leaving her little time to react even if she had heard it. Koko was tackled for a second time, this time hit around the center of her body and thus sent rolling after being slamming into the ground.
The Fox Pokémon whimpered softly, her legs trembling for a pause. Then she steadied herself and shook her head, crystalline-blue eyes regaining their luster. “Pix!”
Koko snapped out of Confusion!
“Koko, move!” Lillie ordered as Natty came in for a third, decisive blow. The Alolan Vulpix twisted her body and then jumped to the side, getting out of the way of the blow and leaving the Venonat to miss.
“Don’t let her escape, Natty!” Amaya ordered. “Use Supersonic again!”
The Venonant turned to do so but Koko had begun to move, circling with as much speed as she could muster until the attack missed and then pounced forward to use her forepaws to knock him back. It didn’t do any damage as his round body rolled with the momentum. But by the time he got up Koko was already forming a swelling, pink orb of Fairy-type energy.
Koko used Moonblast!
The pink hue of the Moonblast shrouded the Insect Pokémon as he tried to get out of the way, but the resulting explosion of Fairy-energy swallowed Natty whole and spit him out. Pink tendrils, like smoke clinging to his fur, trailed off as he hit the ground and rolled. But the Insect Pokémon bounced right back up, a shuddering breath following from Snow Warning remaining in effect.
It wasn’t very effective, but Koko still did some damage, Lillie noted as she looked over to Rotom’s data. There’s a type-disadvantage since Venonat is part-Poison, and the longer it takes the more of a chance Koko will get confused again and hurt. But…
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. Koko let another Moonblast fly in response, but this time the Venonat moved before it could connect since the distance between them was just enough to where it could get out of the blast range. “Get closer and fire once more!”
“Natty, use Disable before she can finish!” Amaya ordered in turn as Koko slid to a stop even closer and prepared a third shot. The Insect Pokémon used Disable once more before the next swirling pink sphere could be launched, causing it to dissipate mid-formation. “Now Tackle!”
Now’s our chance! Lillie knew that Disable could only affect a single move after looking at the data. Even if it wore off, Venonat could just disable it again unless they forced him to disable a different technique. Koko’s Moonblast took time to ready and if it landed another one it would hurt a lot, so the most logical thing to do was to stop her and use the opening to attack since Koko was already hurt. “Koko, leap backwards and use Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix jumped backwards while inhaling as the Venonat threw itself into a Tackle again, bringing it up close and with too little time to dodge. Exhaling, the frosty chill of her wintry breath was met with a shriek from the Insect Pokémon as his fur was blanketed by white frost, every strand of coarse hair serving as a foundation for it to expand upon.
A Critical Hit!
By the time that Koko had finished exhaling the shriek had died out. Only spots of faint purple could be made out while the rest of his fur was white. Ice ran up his antenna until they looked like poles sticking up from an unmoving snowball.
Natty was frozen solid!
“N-Natty?” Amaya’s voice came out softly. “Are you okay?”
Silence loomed until Koko pressed a forepaw against her opponent. Then the frost began to peel off as the foundation shifted beneath it. The Insect Pokémon let out a deep huff that came out as white mist before his body slowly fell backwards.
A whimper could only then be heard as the grey clouds above slowly dissipated. “…nat…”
“…If only I’d helped him learn Poison Powder to speed up the battle,” Amaya said, somewhat regretfully, as she held out his ball and recalled him into it with the press of a button. “Natty is unable to battle further. It’s your win.”
That would have been a nightmare if she’d been poisoned and confused at the same time. Lillie exhaled deeply in relief as Koko trotted over towards her, lacking the energy she’d had previously. Opened arms cradled the Alolan Vulpix that climb them and then held her tight. “That was another close one, but we did it. Good job.”
“Lil.” Lilligant added, giving polite applause until Amaya then came over.
Lillie received a Yellow Stamp!
“There you go,” the Bridge Trainer said as she finished applying the stamp and handing back Lillie’s card. “It was a good match. Both of your Pokémon did really well considering they were being put on the clock.”
“Yours too,” Lillie said as she looked down to see Koko was now yawning, no doubt exhausted. If Shuckle didn’t know Bide and she didn’t have Moonblast, they would have really been in trouble. “I think we’ll have to call it a day here though. We still need more training, and I want to take them to the Pokémon Center to heal and rest up.”
“That’s fine. As long as you have your card, those stamps are proof of progress. You can jump straight to the third match next time, but it’ll be a Double Battle. That’ll be a lot harder to deal with since you’ll have to command both of your Pokémon at once.”
“We’ll keep that in mind.”
Chapter 11: Title Defense Match vs Hau – Part 2
“Sorry about that Kou,” Elio said as he returned the Bat Pokémon into his ball and wondered what went wrong. Kou’s specialty was using Double Team to confuse an opponent, either by creating a bunch of independent copies or having them deployed as he moved. Combined with shrieking from random positions to distract the opponent, it created an opening to move in silently for a decisive blow.
That Lucario was the worst opponent he could have faced from a purely-typing perspective. The steel-bones inhibited poison from working and the coverage attacks meant for dealing with psychic-types weren’t going to be effective against it. However, Kou’s speed and agility were above that of average, so he still stood the best chance and would have come out unscathed if not for the abrupt increase in his opponent’s speed.
That hadn’t been present in the previous match with Kiina, so something must’ve caused it. The only thing he could think of was an Ability, triggered at some point during the assault. He would have to ask Rotom or Hau once the last match was over, but for now he decided to remain cautious and presume that his rival had come up with a plan to counter the final Pokémon between them, their Starters.
It’s up to you now. Elio grasped Silky’s ball in his hand, feeling the cool metal against his sweaty palm as his heart raced. It all came down to this. Was he just excited? Or was he nervous too? Whatever the bundle of emotions were, they built up in his throat and forced him to swallow as he looked up to see Hau was much the same before their eyes locked and they tossed the balls out.
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Incineroar!
“It’s time to put all that training with Ilima to use, Kamala!” Hau’s ball burst open and the Heel Pokémon landed in a crouch on the ground, briefly on all fours again. Rising up to his full height that towered over his trainer and releasing a roar as he curled his fingers into fists, he flexed his muscles to show his fighting spirit.
Champion Elio sent out Primarina!
“It’s your stage, Silky!” Elio’s ball burst open and a voice as smooth as Ariados silk and sweet as Cutiefly honey rang out. The Soloist Pokémon landed on her side of the field, supporting her upper body with her flippers as her tail flicked before she settled herself in.
Looking at them both, Kukui could briefly see their previous forms from the day they’d both met their partners. They, along with the Rowlet he’d taken under his wing after they had been chosen, had all been raised along with one another and had come a long way to reach this point. “The next victory will determine who the title of Champion will go to. Are all of you ready?”
“Yeah, we’ve been waiting for this,” Hau said. “Right, Kamala?”
“Cineroar!” snarled the Heel Pokémon, fur bristling, tail down, and lips parted to show teeth as he stood ready to fight.
“Put on your best performance, Silky,” Elio said in turn.
The Primarina glanced back, batting her long lashes and smiling at her trainer as she nodded. Then she brought one of her flippers up to brush her hair behind her as she faced her opponent.
“Then let the final match begin!” Kukui announced.
Silky used Sparkling Aria!
The Soloist Pokémon took that as cue to begin her song, pushing off the ground with her fore-flippers while using the hind-pair to support herself as she stood up. Her hair came undone, blue stands wavering in the air as she spread her arms and called forth bubbles into existence that glittered in the moonlight being cast through the dome. And, with the ringing of her melodic voice that tickled the ears of all whom it reached, they flew forward towards the opposing Incineroar.
“Sunny Day!” Hau ordered, pointing to the air above him. The Incineroar crossed his arms and raised them above his head as light radiated from within him. Then he roared, dropping his arms as that light shot upwards and into the air above the arena in the form of a flare.
Once it reached its peak, it burst out and formed an artificial sun that bore its harsh rays down on all below it. The brilliance of the light threatened to blind everyone as it reflected in the puddles on the floor, vapor rising in waves as they started evaporating. Even the bubbles in mid-flight began to shrink under the heat, reflecting the light in prismatic hues that rolled on the surface.
The sunlight is strong!
Hau brought his arm over his forehead to shield his eyes from the light as he gave his next command. “Now, wipe out those bubbles with Flamethrower!”
The Heel Pokémon let out a roar as the belt around his waist produced the flames, backed by the heat given off by the intensified sunlight. The fire that came out was blazing hot, the temperature suddenly sweltering further to fully evaporate the puddles that it lapped at as he swept the tongue of fire from the left-to-right to swallow the bubbles whole. Then he moved it towards the Primarina.
“Silky, dodge with Aqua Jet!” Elio ordered as the glare of the flames through his shades nearly overtook her.
Water wrapped the Soloist Pokémon as her hair came back together and propelled her to the right, leaving her to circle the barrier of arena’s perimeter. She was moving slower due to the sun and heat evaporating it, but managed to outpace the flames chasing her until they stopped due to strain. Then Silky redirected her Aqua Jet, taking a sharp turn to rocket towards the Heel Pokémon before he could get off another attack like that and rammed into him!
“Rrrrroooaarrr!!!” He let out a pained roar as the water that was continuously shot from her snout at high-pressure and then forced behind her for propulsion grinded against his fur like a water jet as she began to drive him back. But his pained roar turned into a smug smile as he shifted his footing back to hold his balance and wrapped his arms around the shroud of water so that she couldn’t escape.
“That’s it!” Hau cheered. “Now drive her into the ground with your Darkest Lariat!”
Dark flames draped him as he held fast to her until the Aqua Jet wore off and he forced her neck into the crook of his bent arm. Then threw himself into a twister-like spin, sweeping her along with him on a trip to the center of the arena before forcing her to the ground with all of that momentum to do as much damage as possible!
A Critical Hit!
Silky let out a cry as she hit the floor, screwing her eyes shut from both the pain and the sun glaring down at her. Then she felt a weight pressed down on her and squinted them open to see that he had her pinned down, his hands keeping her fore-flippers anchored to the ground. The heat that built up at her waist and his toothy grin were the only clues that he was getting ready to fire a point-blank Flamethrower while she couldn’t fight back—a tactic truly befitting of a heel.
Elio’s voice came out near-panicked. “Hyper Voice, now!”
Silky screamed just as the flames were let loose. The Hyper Voice hit the Heel Pokémon all at once, the force of it like a battering ram that smothered the building flames and pushed him off of her. She then sat up, continuing to let her scream ring out as she narrowed her eyes in anger and focus.
Blown back by what may as well have been a wall crafted by the translucent sound waves pushing at him, the Incineroar fell onto all fours again and extended his claws to dig into the ground before he was driven back to the other side of the field. They scraped against the arena floor as he folded his ears back and gritted his teeth to wait for it to end. She couldn’t strain her voice forever after all.
Elio didn’t give him the chance. “Moonblast while he can’t move!”
Silky’s scream came to an end as she formed a large, pink spiraling sphere of power as quickly as she would a water bubble on the tip of her snout. Then she flipped over, launching it with her tail and sending it flying for the slower Heel Pokémon before he could get out of the blast range. The moment it connected a pink explosion swallowed the Incineroar.
“Rrrrraaahhh!!” The Heel Pokémon was sent flying, tendrils of smoke the hue of the attack wafting off his skin as he hit the ground hard. Never the less, he forced his hands down to the ground and began to push himself back up.
“Flare Blitz, Kamala!” Hau ordered.
“INCINERRRROAAAR!!” At the command, roaring flames flared from the Heel Pokémon’s body, as if burning with the flames of his life itself. Backed by the power of the artificial sun shining above, the heat was almost suffocating and forced Silky to slide backwards before it could dry her out. Smirking, he began to charge for her while leaving behind a trail of fire.
“Push him back with Hydro Cannon!” Elio commanded, using the strongest attack in their arsenal to fight against the blazing meteor whose heat threatened to smother her.
Silky forced her head forward, facing the incoming flames and blasting out the attack with all her might. Shooting a stream of water with enough pressure behind it that even steel could be plowed through, the Hydro Cannon met with the fireball. Their clash resulted in a deafening hiss as steam billowed out, slowing the incoming attack.
But it couldn’t stop it. How could it with the sun blazing above, weakening their strongest attack and strengthening that of their opponent? Despite the strain of the technique, despite her best effort, Silky’s Hydro Cannon was devoured by the Flare Blitz and the resulting collision left nothing but a silhouette that was erased by the resulting explosion that followed!
A Critical Hit!
The flames gave rise to a plume of smoke that obscured the vision of both trainers until something broke free and shot towards Hau’s side of the field. It was his Incineroar, landing in a crouch and panting as he looked battered from the recoil damage. Yet there was a smug look in his eyes as he stared at the dissipating smoke.
Silky was on the ground and struggling to rise back up with her fore-flippers. Worse, her body was glowing red, flames occasionally leaking from her pores. She’d been burned. “Riiii…”
“Silky…” Elio gritted his teeth as he assessed the situation. A burn would weaken virtually every physical move she made and would eat away at her over time, until it wore her down entirely. And if she took another Flare Blitz, that would be the end…
Hearing Silky call his name, Elio fixed his eyes on the Soloist Pokémon as she rose again. He could see a cerulean light churning in her eyes. Determination that raged like the waves in a storm as they fixed themselves on the Z-Ring on his wrist that began to radiate the same cerulean hue.
We still haven’t lost.
That was what that look in her eyes said the last time he’d seen it. Back in Ultra Space. When they’d faced Lillie’s mother and the empowered Pokémon she had. That was probably the most intense battle he’d faced until now.
“I got it,” he said as the message carried, taking a deep breath to calm the anxiety he’d been feeling and holding up the Z-Ring. There was no need to be worried if she was that certain. They would win. He only needed to match his fighting spirit with hers. “But if we’re going all in, you need to be at full-strength.”
Her smile returned as she nodded and then let the power storming inside of her come to the front. The burning red hue was drowned out by the surging blue aura that spilled out from deep within. It draped her body, undoing her hair and allowing the blue strands to waver as though suspended in water.
Silky cured her burn so Elio wouldn’t feel sad!
Silky’s Torrent activated!
“Kamala, stop her!” Hau ordered, recognizing the threat it presented. Kamala roared before letting loose another Flamethrower. The rolling of mass of flames came barreling forward like a train that would run her down—
“Silky, Hydro Cannon again!”
—and in retaliation, Silky put her all once more into their strongest attack. The stream of water that came surging out was bolstered by her Ability, its force intensified into a focused deluge as it swelled in size to match that of the Flamethrower. Fire and water clashed once more and at the point of their impact the primal forces of nature gave birth to thick steam.
“Keep it up!” Elio ordered as he looked up at the artificial sun blazing above the two as steam rose towards it. As long as its light was shining down they wouldn’t be able to get the most out of the Z-Move. They’d have to deal with that first.
The deluge and inferno clashed, both Starters pouring as much as they could into the attacks. The steam continued to form and rise, the thick white plume ascending until it began to blot out the rays of the sun beating down on the field. The roaring flames then began to lose ground, pushed back by the spiraling rush of water with the sun being smothered.
That should be enough! If the sun’s rays and heat were blocked by the moisture and vapor it would stop her attacks from being weakened for a little while. Just long enough to put out the sun entirely. “Good, now Aqua Jet!”
Silky turned the power of the Hydro Cannon on herself, bending it back so that it wreathed her in a spiral of raging water that propelled her forward like a rocket. With the harsh rays of the sun dulled by the steam and the power of Torrent, she speared forward even faster than before. The Soloist Pokémon cut through the remainder of the Flamethrower, dispersing it entirely as she slammed into the Heel Pokémon head-on!
“That’s the way!” Elio pointed to the sky. “Now, drive him into his own sun!”
With the force of the Aqua Jet overwhelming him, grinding away at his fur and pushing him back, Kamala was unable to retaliate as she angled it upwards and swept him along with her into the sky. They shot up into the air and past the scalding hot steam. With her body shielded by the swirling water as they broke through the veil, she then used his body as a battering ram to pierce through the artificial sun!
The sunlight faded!
“Ah!” Hau looked on in shock as his Sunny Day was banished before Silky’s Aqua Jet dissipated and she used her tail to bat Kamala back to his side of the field, forcing out a pained grunt from the Heel Pokémon whose fur smoldered from where his back had been forced against the mass of contained heat. “Buddy, you okay?”
“Inn… incin…” A fiery aura encompassed the Heel Pokémon as he forced himself back up to his feet. Exhaling through his mouth, wisps of fire flew out before he took a deep breath and then let loose a mighty roar that caused fiery power burst from within him! “INCINERRRROAAAR!!”
Kamala’s Blaze activated!
Hau backed away in surprise as his Starter brought forth his Ability. It was the first time he’d seen Kamala bring it out. But then their eyes had met and he understood fully why. It was the first time that they’d reached a point where they truly wanted to win and put this much effort into reaching the top. Before that they were fine with just relaxing and taking things easy, right up until Lillie had to give herself up to protect them.
He swallowed his surprise as he noticed an intense light pouring out of his Z-Crystal nestled in the band around his wrist. Then he turned back and nodded. “Okay, buddy! Go as wild as you want and I’ll back you up!”
A fearsome grin stretched across the Heel Pokémon’s face before he faced the waiting Primarina with her Torrent still active. His muscles tensed as his flame belt began to burn even brighter, releasing flames that fed off the energy of the Blaze to grow an intense shade of red. He then exploded the gathered the flames behind him, using them as a form of propulsion.
Kamala used Flame Charge!
Silky naturally responded the fiery charge with an Aqua Jet, launching herself towards him like a missile. The opposing forces released another plume of steam where they clashed, both being repulsed by it. But neither would back down as they continued to burn and surge respectively, coming around and cutting through the air to continue their bout with the same intensity as their trainers glared at each other.
We’ll give it our everything. The two youths shared that train of thought as the light coming from their Z-Rings intensified to the point of being blinding as their Pokémon danced the dance of battle, putting their pride and bonds on the line as the Z-Power reached its peak. “Now!”
The Starters broke off from their aerial clash and retreated to their opposing sides of the field upon hearing their trainers. The Pokémon then synchronized their breathing to match them before mimicking their moves as they performed the necessary dances. Bulging arms fanned the building flames and while lithe flippers churned the rolling waves, and the amassed power speared from the ring and into the Pokémon that became surrounded in Z-Power!
“Oceanic Operetta!” | “Inferno Overdrive!”
Silky raised her arms and let her voice ring out anew as all that power turned to water and formed a massive, pulsing sphere of water. Kamala tensed as he braced himself and formed a massive, throbbing sphere of flames. Both released them with a battle-cry and turned the arena into the epicenter of a steam explosion the moment they clashed, the thick vapor quickly bursting out and pressing against the barrier that covered the field, separating the trainers from the damage until cracks began to form in it.
“Don’t tell me they’re exceeding the barrier’s limits!?” Kukui said somewhat nervously as the cracks began to spread as the attacks continued to press against one another. The barrier technology was supposed to be top-of-the-line, capable of stopping even Hyper Beams fired point-blank. He quickly called out three of his Pokémon before it could break. “Ninetales, Braviary, Lycanroc, come out and use Protect on us!”
The Poké Balls burst open and the three Pokémon appeared as the cracks began to vent out steam. The Alolan Ninetales touched down on the ground gracefully before darting around to Elio’s side of the field as the Braviary swooped around the opposite direction to land in front of Hau, while the Midnight Lycanroc stood in front of the professor. All three then used Protect and formed it around themselves and the humans.
It had been just in time as the barrier gave away. The pressure that had been building up from the mass of flames and water reached the point where it broke through like a bursting dam and releasing a flood of hot air that howled as it surged out. The Champion’s room that stood at the top of the mountain was covered in the veil of thick steam that battered against the protective shells with a deep rumble.
Then the emergency systems kicked in. The sprinklers poured down water and the vents opened to jettison the hot air and fill it with regulated cold air instead. Together, they cleared the air and the Pokémon dropped their Protect around the three as the last of the steam vanished to reveal the outcome.
In the center of the arena, Silky panted as she struggled to keep herself upright. She looked as though she was ready to fall over. But her eyes strained to stay open and face the direction of Kamala. He was down and out, eyes blanked out in unconsciousness.
These kids are something else, Kukui thought to himself as he adjusted his hat and declared the match when it was clear the Incineroar wasn’t getting back up. “THE WINNER IS THE CHAMPION’S PRIMARINA!!”
A siren sounded out signaling the end of the match entirely.
The Champion had defended his title.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“That was a marvelous display,” Kahuna Olivia said, her voice coming out somewhat amused as she watched the kids rush over to their Pokémon now that the match had concluded. She and the other members of the Elite Four were in a private chamber within the League building that served as their gathering spot, watching the match unfold through a screen.
Her eyes turned towards Hala and she noticed the smile he had. “You must be very proud to see him come this far.”
“I was proud the moment he gained his resolve and defeated me in battle to get to that point, but this was certainly a spectacle,” Hala said, before glancing over his shoulder to their guest. “Don’t look that upset, Guzma.”
“I ain’t upset,” said the former leader of Team Skull. He had been invited as a guest by Kahili and was standing against the wall at the back of the room, hands in his coat pockets as he watched. “If the Champion was a weakling then there’s no way he would have been able to beat me.”
“It’s not just strength that was on display here,” Hala told him. “Such power would not be possible if not for the bond between them and the confidence that they could work together to surpass their limits. Even then, they have so much more room to grow. As do you.”
He said nothing to that, merely looking away.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Those Old Men must be insane if they think I’m going to stand a chance against that, Plumeria couldn’t help but think as she watched the match from the trailer her granny lived in. The Stufful they had adopted was nestled in her lap, with Lanai sitting next to her and Molo squatting on the ground so that he didn’t block their view.
She had started training again to go and get ready to face the first of the Island Trials that she had to pass in order to do a Grand Trial. That was going to be the trial taking place at the abandoned Thrifty Megamart, and even before that she had to talk to the Trial Captain and apologize to the squirt. After all, there was no getting around what they’d done there.
They’d put children at risk to get the President’s daughter and her little Pokémon. While she had been hoping that they wouldn’t resist since she didn’t want to threaten orphans, the kind of kids who Team Skull would have gladly taken in to give them a home, the President’s orders were very clearly a veiled threat on their livelihood. So if Lillie hadn’t willingly came with them then…
I shouldn’t keep putting it off. No matter what, she had to own up to what they’d done if she was going to go through with all of this for her cute little brothers and sisters. But, even leaving that aside, she didn’t have a full-team at the moment. She only had Salazzle and Golbat with her, the first being what amounted to her Starter.
Team Skull as a whole only had limited amounts of Pokémon directly in their care because they couldn’t afford to take care of too many. Drowzee fed off dreams. They preferred it to be good or fun dreams, but they could get by on a couple of bad ones before getting ill. It beat starvation, and if they had to put some people asleep to eat then it also made pinching Pokémon for the foundation easier too. Same went for the Ghost Pokémon the occasional grunts had managed to grab.
Likewise, Zubat could feed off blood in small amounts, though that changed the moment they evolved, while Fomantis drank in sunlight while they slept during the day. The rest were scavengers of sorts or small enough that a little food went a long way if they stayed in their balls. It limited the Pokémon they had, but at least they still had them.
“Yo! That match was lit! Especially how that Crobat went all-in!” Molo said excitedly. Not surprising, given that he had a Zubat under his care. “Still, those guys got nothing on you, Big Sis. It’ll just make Team Skull better when you win.”
Lanai nodded and spoke passionately in agreement. “Yeah, you can totally take that throne from him, Big Sis!”
“Well, of course I can,” she told them, her tone of voice making it sound as though it was obvious that she would as the Stufful pushed its head against her hand to encourage her to pet it. That confidence was more for appearances than anything, but she had a role to play to the rest of them and would see it through to the best of her ability.
“Your Big Sis has got this.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
As the Pokémon League drew to a close at the top of the mountain, Elio was greeted by the biting cold the moment he walked out of the doors. He’d kept his Title, but with the barrier being broken it would take a little time to have it repaired. Time that he should probably spend training if they were going to be facing other challengers of that caliber.
A cry rang out from above as Nebby descended, Rotom clinging to her neck using its two appendages. The beast that calls the moon swooped down in front of him and came to a stop using her psychic powers, allowing her float.
“Did you enjoy the match?” Elio asked.
Nebby stretched her wings out in an excited manner. “Mahina-pea!”
She wants to battle too, zzt. Rotom translated.
“I figured as much.” He reached up to pet her head affectionately, despite the cold nipping at him. “You’re so strong though that it’ll be difficult to find an opponent that can keep up with you. How about we see if one of the Tapus wants to battle soon?”
She consented with a nod. “Peee.”
Elio was about to have Nebby teleport them back to the Melemele Pokémon Center to have the rest of his team healed up before he turned in for the night, given that the battle had been somewhat draining, when the doors opened and Hau came running out. “What’s wrong?”
“I got this from Professor Kukui!” He took a deep breath and then straightened up, holding a slip of paper in his grasp with numbers on them. Elio sincerely hoped it wasn’t a bill for the damage to the arena, but that fear was quickly brushed aside when he said, “It’s Lillie’s number.”
Nebby perked up immediately. “Mahii?”
“She called Professor Burnet before the match and said she’d watch. Chances are she’s still up now, so if we call her we might get to see her again tonight.”
It had been a while since she’d left to start her own journey, and both Nebby and Hau had taken her departure really hard. Not to mention Elio missed her as well, so they should call her while they had the chance with the time difference. “I guess we could go to the Pokémon Center near here, but Nebby’s too big. They won’t let her remain out of her ball to talk with Lillie. The only place that would fit her would be—”
Nebby used Teleport!
“—Professor Kukui’s lab,” he finished, looking around in mild surprise. If he had to guess, Nebby read his thoughts on where to go and then just brought them there. “Okay then.”
“Mahii! Mahii!” She gestured to the computer, wings folded to fit without further disturbing the Midday Lycanroc that grumbled from the corner at their arrival.
“Right, right. Let’s hope the Professor won’t mind,” Elio said as he took a seat at the console and entered in the information. The video line rang three times before it connected and Lillie appeared on the screen.
“Lillie, it really is you!” Hau said, his tone and the big smile on his face making his joy evident.
It was only matched by Nebby’s own trill. “Mahii!”
“Nebby! Elio! Hau!” Lillie clasped her hands together and smiled happily. “I’m so happy to see all of you again. Your Pokémon aren’t hurt too badly from that match, are they?”
“They’re mostly just tired. Nothing a visit the Pokémon Center won’t fix,” Elio said, patting Nebby’s head. “We were going to do that, but she was really eager to see you again, so she teleported us right to the Professor’s lab.”
“I missed you too, Nebby,” Lillie said in a maternal tone as her gentle gaze fixed on the once tiny Pokémon. “Have you been a good girl for Elio?”
Nebby’s head bobbed eagerly. “Hii. Hiii!”
“So, you’ve finally made it to that place you were going to be staying at for a while, right?” Hau asked. “What’s it like?”
“It’s pretty different just from the places we’ve passed by to get here, but I want to explore it some more starting tomorrow and—” She looked off the screen for a moment when a yelp reached her ears as something white bounced up and down, trying to climb up. “Okay, I’ll introduce you to them as well.”
She lifted an Alolan Vulpix onto the screen and into her lap for all of them to see. “Everyone, this is Koko. She’s my Starter Pokémon from Professor Burnet.”
“Pix!” she yelped excitedly, pushing off Lillie’s lap and placing her forepaws onto the desk to climb up it. She then started jumping up. “Vulpix! Vulpix! Vul!”
“Koko, you’ve got to settle down,” Lillie chided the Fox Pokémon gently before turning back to them. “She’s been a lot more active since she watched your matches. I think she’s a fan.”
“Pix.” Her tails flicked in agreement.
“She really seems to like battling a lot too. Even at the Gym, she wouldn’t give up easily.” Lillie’s smile wavered. “If I was a better trainer, things would have probably been different.”
The Fox Pokémon turned and tilted her head curiously, taking note of the change in her voice. “Vul?”
Nebby did much of the same. “Mahii?”
“What happened?” Elio asked.
Lillie told them of her arrival in Vermillion City and the encounter with Astra with an almost nostalgic tone. She told them of the encounter with the Sandshrew, her Mother’s Bewear being confused and how she’d had to run to avoid the Combee Horde with a somewhat sullen tone. And she told them of her defeat at the Gym in a regretful tone, noting how she should have done better with both Koko and Shuckle.
“That’s a lot to go through in a short time,” Elio said. “I always heard that Vermillion was one of the tougher places, but I didn’t think that things would be that tough. I hope it doesn’t give you a bad impression of Kanto.”
Lillie only shook her head. “It’s been fun too. And Koko’s pretty excited to go back and challenge the Gym Leader once we’ve got some more experience. So, until we leave the cape, I’m going to do my best to be a better trainer for her and Shuckle, like all of you.”
She then held her hands to her chest and closed her eyes. “Then, one day, we can all go on a journey together.”
The way she said that so earnestly left Elio feeling a bit sheepish. He looked away from the screen and scratched his cheek. “Then take your time and do the best you can. Really explore Kanto and make plenty of good memories. That’s what makes a journey special in the end.”
Nebby chirruped in agreement. “Hii. Hii.”
“Yeah!” Hau added. “And when you come back, we’ll all go out for Malasadas so you can tell us what your time in Kanto was like!”
Lillie giggled for a moment before smiling brightly enough to match the moon in the Alolan sky. “It’s a promise.”
Chapter 10: Title Defense Match vs Hau – Part 1
Elio sat in the Champion’s Throne nestled on the top of Mount Lanakila, struggling to sit still. He was, at the moment, torn between anticipation and excitement as he cradled Silky’s ball. After all, he’d only attained the Title of ‘Champion’ a little while ago, and now he was being challenged for it.
Yet, he couldn’t find it in him to be afraid of losing it as Hau climbed the stairs and came into view, with Professor Kukui standing next to him. He looked confidant, striding with purpose that contrasted the carefree person he’d been the day they met without changing who he was fundamentally. That was the result of having come to the top of the mountain, the culmination of the Island Trials manifesting with Hau reaching the point where he was a true rival and peer to the Champion.
That was why Elio wasn’t afraid of losing the title. It would be an excellent match and they’d both try their hardest—for their own sakes, the sakes of everyone watching, and the sakes of their Pokémon, who had put their everything into reaching this point. If he lost, it would be after he’d done his very best and there was no shame in that. It only meant there was still room to grow.
That in mind, Elio couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he rose off his throne and welcomed the one who would try and usurp it. “Glad you finally made it.”
Hau smiled as he took his place on the opposite side of the field, while Kukui made his way to the center. “Yeah. I finally beat Gramps when he’s going all out too. So, all that’s left is to overcome the Trainer in front of me right now.”
“Same for me,” Elio said as he moved to his end of the field. “The Champion must defend his Title after all.”
“It does me proud to see you two standing here today. It’s almost enough to make me Burn Up. Woo!” Kukui said with a proud smile. Then a cry rang out as a shadow passed overhead and they looked up to see that Nebby was flying over the top of the dome that gave them a view of the night sky. “With your spirits blazing like an Inferno, this battle will be a good offering to the Legendary Pokémon of Alola that overlooks us now.”
Elio found it symbolic. The Legendary Pokémon of the Moon would oversee the match between the Champion and Challenger, looking down on them from above in a similar way that Tapu Koko had done for their first match during the festival. He clutched his first choice in a Great Ball and held it out. “Let’s go, Hau!”
“Yeah.” Hau pulled out his first Poké Ball and held it at the ready. “No holding back!”
Pokémon Trainer Hau would like to Battle!
“Alright then,” Kukui said as he stepped outside of the circle that marked the arena’s boundary. “Release your first Pokémon and we’ll get started!”
Both trainers flung their balls out high into the air and light speared forth to take form. “Go on, Pancho!” / “Come out, Palaoa!”
Champion Elio sent out Pangoro!
On the Champion’s side, a rumble was heard as a male Pangoro standing a little over six feet tall landed. He stood proud, donning an Assault Vest over his frame and the bamboo shoot in his mouth shifting as he gritted his teeth. Balling his paws into fists, the Daunting Pokémon slammed them together and took on a fighting stance in preparation for his match.
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Raichu!
In contrast, on the Challenger’s side floated a male Alolan Raichu. The rotund Mouse Pokémon with gentle-blue eyes smiled as he floated on his tail, filled with psychic powers. Even in the face of such a larger opposition, he showed no fear and only looked back to Hau to nod in understanding.
“Then, the Alolan Pokémon League Title Battle between Champion Elio and Challenger Hau, will now commence in a 6-on-6 match.” Kukui snapped his fingers, causing a barely visible barrier to generate from the arena floor and outline the bounds—to protect the trainers and himself. “Begin!”
TITLE DEFENSE MATCH START!!
Elio took the initiative. “Bullet Punch, now!”
The ground thundered as Pancho rushed his stocky body towards the Raichu as fast as he could, bearing down on the Mouse Pokémon like a goliath. With both fists clad in a metallic coating from the Steel-typing of the attack and backed by the power of his Iron Fist ability, the blow would be a heavy one for the lightweight opposition.
“Snake around it, Palaoa!”
The Pangoro’s attack missed, his metal fist swinging through empty space the moment Hau’s order was issued. In an instant, the Alolan Raichu had transitioned into a blur, a streak that surfed through the air while shrouded in a surge of pale energy. He circled around and slammed into Pancho’s head from behind with the nose of his board-tail, delivering the first blow!
Palaoa used Quick Attack!
A Critical Hit!
Pancho stumbled forward a step before getting his footing again and then glared towards where Palaoa had gone. “Grrr….”
The Mouse Pokémon was smiling as he came back around, dipping beneath the incoming Bullet Punch and then slamming into the knee of the Daunting Pokémon. The hit brought Pancho down to one knee, leaving his back exposed as the Alolan Raichu came around once more. Accelerating again, this time he slammed into the broad shoulder even faster and dropped the bipedal down to the ground entirely.
“Goroooo!!” roared the larger Pokémon as he stood back up and began to lash out at the agile mouse. It did nothing to help.
“Me and Palaoa went to the beach and worked on his surfing technique and speed just for this. Your Pokémon’s big, but it won’t be able to hit something smaller and faster than it like that,” Hau said to the Champion with a grin as the Pangoro was assailed from different sides in rapid succession. The Alolan Raichu was just too fast to hit with random swings and, while the Quick Attacks weren’t hurting all that much, the damage added up and would chip away at Pancho’s endurance to wear him out.
“Don’t think we’ve been sitting on our tails either,” Elio said. “Don’t just lash out, Pancho! Remember the training we did in the Gardens!”
“Grrrr…” Pancho grumbled as he tempered his anger. Bringing his arms close to guard his head and withstanding the blows as he calmed down, he closed his eyes and let the shoot in his mouth grasp the air. Then he began to dodge, bobbing and weaving his upper body out of the way of the attacks as they came.
Rotom had mentioned that their species could learn to read movements in the air by focusing their attention on the shoot in their mouths. Pancho had too bad of a temperament to do so at first, thinking of only punching fast and hard to end a fight. But Elio had worked on that by teaching him to calm down and focus during their training sessions in Malie Garden
“That’s the way!” Elio shouted as he thrust his fist forward. “Now, pay back everything it gave you and more!”
Reading an incoming attack, the Pangoro dodged a final time. The Mouse Pokémon passed by his head as he ducked down. Then he twisted his body, bringing his fist wreathed in dark energy into an uppercut!
Pancho used Payback!
The Mouse Pokémon cried out in a shrill shriek as the blow connected and sent him not only skyward, but spiraling out of control. The Dark-typing of the attack snuffed out the psychic energy stored in the tail, leaving him unable to levitate. The Daunting Pokémon then launched himself upwards, fist extended to deliver a Sky Uppercut as the finishing blow!
“Palaoa, Focus Blast straight down!” Hau commanded. The Alolan Raichu, still in the midst of spiraling, built up a sphere of pure power within his tail and launched right down, into the path of the ascending blow. The glare of its light reflected in the Pangoro’s eyes before the contained power was set loose, rupturing on impact and rocketing the Daunting Pokémon down to the arena floor!
Pancho hit the ground with a heavy thud on impact. Tendrils of smoke were wafting off his Assault Vest as he managed to get up to one knee and let out a groan of pain. It was just in time as the Alolan Raichu geared up to fire another one to finish the Pangoro off.
“Block it with a Stone Edge!” Elio ordered.
Gritting his teeth at the order, Pancho slammed his fist into the ground. A pillar of light-blue rock sprung up in front of him and in the middle of the projectile’s flight path as a result. It detonated on impact, scattering light-blue fragments of stone and a cloud of dust as the Pangoro got back to his feet and stood proud once more.
The Alolan Raichu mounted his tail once more, filling it with psychic energy to levitate in the air and circle around. The electric sacs on his cheeks sparked before he released a Thunderbolt to attack from behind, the lightning snaking towards the opposition’s unguarded back. But before it could hit another stone pillar rose up to intercept the attack, leaving the electricity to scorch the stone’s surface before fizzling out.
Dragging this out longer will only hurt Pancho more, Elio thought to himself before questioning what to do next. Closing the distance without an opening would put him in range for another Focus Blast, so they needed to make one. “Pancho, use Bullet Punch and send the stone flying towards him!”
Pancho reeled back and wound up a punch as metal clad his fist once more. Twisting his hips and striking with all his might, he unleashed a Bullet Punch that was strong enough to shatter the pillar entirely. The momentum sent the stone shards flying towards the aerial Mouse Pokémon in a spread pattern that encompassed most of that side of the field for a sure hit.
“Grab them with Psychic!” Hau ordered before panic could set in. Palaoa’s eyes flashed and his body was wreathed in a cerulean light as he used psychic power to send out a wave that shrouded the impromptu barrage that came flying for him in the same light. They all halted midair, now under his control. “Good job! Now send them right back!”
“Rai-Rai!!” The stones all lined up and pointed towards the now defenseless Pangoro. The electric-psychic Mouse Pokémon prepared to launch them forward—
—when the Daunting Pokémon’s throat shone with an ebon light and he bellowed out a mighty roar that sent the darkness along the sound wave, slamming into both the Mouse Pokémon and stones. “GOOOOOOOOORRRRRRROOOOOO!!!”
The Dark-type attack stripped the psychic power from both his tail and the stones as it passed through them, sending them falling towards the ground. Pancho leapt forward with all his might, metal cloaking his right fist as he took advantage of the opening. Closing the distance before his opponent could recover again, he brought it around for a singular blow!
Pancho used Bullet Punch!
A Critical Hit!
The meaty sound of metal-on-flesh was followed by a shriek cut short. The Alolan Raichu crumpled utterly under the blow and was out like a blown light as he tumbled to the ground. Pancho grabbed him before he could hit and landed with a thump, setting the defeated Pokémon that had challenged him on the ground gently.
“Raichu is unable to battle!” Kukui announced. “This round goes to the Champion’s Pangoro!”
“Rest up, buddy. You did good,” Hau said as he recalled his first Pokémon and then reached for his second. “Your turn, Koa!”
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Leafeon!
Taking the field for the Challenger’s side this time was his male Leafeon, Koa. The Verdant Pokémon’s brown eyes peered up at the Pangoro, assessing him as he waited for the match to begin. The damage that he’d taken before and labored breathing only served to decide how to end this.
“Begin!” Kukui announced.
Koa used Charm!
Koa just stared as Pancho charged forward to finish it as quickly as possible with a soft look in his eyes, sparkling innocence radiating from them. The eyes invaded the Daunting Pokémon’s mind, growing larger and overwhelming as they robbed him of his strength. They pleaded with him not to harm it as he bore down on the Verdant Pokémon, leaving his fist trembling as he pulled back the blow to soften the hit—
Koa used Leaf Blade!
—and was rewarded for his mercy with pain as Koa immediately dropped the Charm and a pale-green light wreathed his tail. The foliage became as solid as steel and was then brought around, striking Pancho. Hit with a surprising amount of force, the Daunting Pokémon was sent tumbling back on the ground.
“Pancho, Stone Edge!” Elio ordered as his Pokémon got back his footing. Enraged at being fooled, the Daunting Pokémon slammed his fists onto the ground and a stone pillar erupted from beneath Koa… or at least where Koa would have been if he hadn’t moved and dodged the attack. Infuriated, Pancho then began to charge again with dark energy teeming within his fists to pay it back.
Koa used Quick Attack!
Koa leapt backwards with a sort of grace that could only be found through practice, like a leaf blowing in the wind as his body spun in the air with a somersault. Then, as soon as he landed, he was wreathed in the pale energy of a Quick Attack and launched himself forward to ram into Pancho’s head for a decisive strike!
A Critical Hit!
Pancho wavered on his feet from the blow, taking two steps backwards before his legs gave out. He fell onto his knees and then his stocky body hit the ground, unconscious. Kukui called the battle in Koa’s victory as it was clear he could no longer fight.
“You were pushing yourself after that Focus Blast, huh? Thanks for that,” Elio said apologetically to the Daunting Pokémon as he recalled it. Then he threw his second Poké Ball into the air to release his next choice. “Don’t underestimate this one, Orika!”
Champion Elio sent out Oricorio!
Taking the field in a subdued yet elegant stance was the Dancing Pokémon. The Sensu-style female Oricorio made a reassuring gesture to her trainer with her fan-shaped wingtips as her eyes remained fixed on the Leafeon. The message carried: she wouldn’t underestimate it despite the type-advantage.
“Are both sides ready?” Kukui asked. They both gave him a nod, so he continued. “Then let the third battle of the Title Defense Match begin!”
Hau took the initiative this time. “Koa, blind her with Sand Attack!”
The Leafeon whipped his tail around, grains of sand surrounding it densely. With a lash, the collective grains were sent flying out as a stream that rushed down the Dancing Pokémon. She was forced to shield her eyes with her wings as it washed over her, before she spun around in a serene motion and flapped her fan-tipped wings.
Orika used Air Cutter!
Razor-sharp winds flew from her wings, scattering the sand and rushing towards the Verdant Pokémon. Koa shot out of the attack range before he could be hit while outlined in a shroud of white, darting for the Oricorio. She released another series of cutting winds to impede him, slicing at the Verdant Pokémon that refused to back down, before she realized she’d be overtaken and took flight to get some distance. But it was too late as the Leafeon pounced before she could get away, showing teeth tinged with dark energy!
Koa used Bite!
The Leafeon bit down on Orika’s wing midair, and used his momentum and weight to drive her back into the ground. The Dancing Pokémon cried out as she was then swung around like a toy. Her serene demeanor was broken by panic as she flailed her other wing out.
“Calm down and use Air Cutter while he can’t get away!” Elio instructed. Regaining control, the Dancing Pokémon brought her other wing around and released a point-blank cutting gale down on the Leafeon’s back. The attack struck hard, causing Koa to release his grip on the Oricorio that took flight once again and fluttered out of range of another Bite. “Now, Acrobatics!”
“Try it and get it with a Razor Leaf before it can hit!” Hau counter-ordered.
The Verdant Pokémon’s spun around and flicked his tail, letting loose a barrage of spinning, razor-sharp foliage towards the Dancing Pokémon that moved with a bewitching and alluring grace, her body illuminated with a cerulean light as she danced in the sky. The leaves were dodged within a hair’s breadth between her twist and turns, discerning afterimages left in her wake as she built up momentum and speed to close the distance!
Orika used Acrobatics!
Speed and power struck the Verdant Pokémon head-on and sent him into a tumble on the ground. He rolled to a stop with spirals in his eyes and moaned softly as unconsciousness took him. Kukui called it and Hau was down another Pokémon as the Oricorio landed on her trainer’s side of the field.
“Rest up,” Hau said as he recalled his Leafeon and then decided between the remaining four. “I guess it’s your turn now, Hia!”
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Komala!
A female Komala took to the field, her wooden log landing on the ground a split-second before she did. Holding onto it tightly with her little claws, she rubbed her cheek against it and mumbled softly as she continued to sleep. “Maa…”
Hia is drowsing!
“Orika, how bad are you hurt?” Elio asked before the next round began. She tilted her damaged wing, giving him a glance to examine the extent of the damage she’d taken. He nodded in understanding and then waited for the professor to announce the start of the match before gave the order to fix it. “Okay, heal up now!”
Orika used Roost!
She folded up her wings up and closed her eyes, her body glowing in a pale light. The damage began mending. Her wing that had been used as a chew toy no longer displaying the marks where the Leafeon’s fangs had bitten into it.
“Hia, use Earthquake before she can finish!” Hau ordered. The Komala’s large, round ears twitched in response before she raised her wooden log into the air and then slammed it into the ground. Shockwaves radiated out from the impact, knocking the Dancing Pokémon’s feet from beneath her before she could finish healing. “Now, Shadow Claw!”
“Back in the air!” Elio instructed as Hia then used her wooden log like a spinning top to close the distance, solidified shadows draping the claws on her toes making it like a circular saw. Orika managed to beat her wings and push off the ground with her feet before the Shadow Claw could connect.
Seeing she was out range for a Shadow Claw, Hau changed his order to the Drowsing Pokémon. “Make her sleepy!”
Hia used Yawn!
Hia sighed, releasing a number of clear bubbles as she as spun on her wooden log. Connecting with any one of them would make an opponent drowsy the moment that they popped. They began to rise up in the air to reach the Oricorio, creating an aerial minefield of sorts.
Orika began to beat her wings faster and release another Air Cutter to clear the air—
Hia used Sucker Punch!
—when she was abruptly smacked in the face by the wooden log, which was tinged in Dark-type energy. The blow sent her falling back down, bursting Yawn bubbles as she made her way back towards the ground. The drowsiness overtook her even as she tried to flutter her wings and stay airborne, leaving her open for a finishing strike.
Hia used Wood Hammer!
The female Komala’s log became shrouded in viridian light this time before she launched it again towards the half-asleep Dancing Pokémon while she was unable to dodge. It struck hard and fast, despite not being very effective, hitting the rather frail bird decisively and wrenching out a shriek as she collapsed onto the ground. The wooden log then bounced back into its owner’s waiting arms and she snuggled against it with a slight smile on her face.
She’s tougher than she looks, Elio couldn’t help but think as he recalled his Oricorio and Kukui announced the win for Hau’s Komala. Yet, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it was easy. And the way things were escalating caused his heartbeat to quicken. “Let’s take it to the next level, Shussey!”
Champion Elio sent out Goodra!
For his third Pokémon, Elio sent out his male Goodra. Shussey landed onto his side of the field with a loud thump, his pudgy body bobbing before coming to a stop. Standing at over six feet tall, he rolled his neck and looked down on Drowsing Pokémon that remained fixed against her log like a security blanket.
“If both sides are ready, begin!” Kukui announced.
The two trainers immediately gave their orders at the same time. “Use Yawn again!” / “Make it rain!”
Shussey used Rain Dance!
The Goodra raised his arms to the air and let out a roar. Dark cloud began to form over the arena, dense with rain as the Yawn bubbles began to flow towards him. The poignant and fresh scent of water filled the air as the beating of the fat droplets against the floor rang out.
It started to rain!
Elio thrust his hand forward. “Now, strike it down with Power Whip!”
Shussey’s antennae were shrouded in a deep shade of purple at the command. He whipped his head around and then thrust them forward like spears towards his tiny opponent, plowing through the Yawn bubbles to strike home. The Drowsing Pokémon was knocked back into the air even as Shussey grew drowsy.
“Spin out and counter, Hia!”
Hia used Rapid Spin!
Hia landed wobbly from the attack on the flat of her log and then used her body to build up momentum as a follow-up attack came for her, turning into a literal spinning top. She darted away as the lashing antennae smashed into the ground where she had stood, throwing up a spray of water, and cut across the arena floor. Once she was in range to launch a counter-attack, Hia bounced up to slam the spinning bottom against the Dragon Pokémon!
A Critical Hit!
Shussey buckled under the assault, staggering backwards but refusing to fall as he fought against the pain and mounting lethargy that grew with each passing second to keep track of the Komala as she continued to spin. His eyes grew heavy as he craned his head around to deliver two simultaneous strikes from the upper-left and a sweep of the bottom. His attack failed to reach as the Drowsing Pokémon circled him faster than he could keep up, landing another jumping attack at his backside and bringing him to his knees. He struggled to get back up until the urge to sleep became overpowering and finally he fell asleep.
“He’s out!” Hau shouted. “Now, bring down the hammer!”
Hia shifted from a spinning top into a hammer as she angled her log to bounce into the air, scattering the rain falling onto her fur before she turned the vertical rotation into a horizontal one. Keeping the momentum, she brought the flat of the log down like a mallet to knock the dragon from sleep into unconsciousness with another Wood Hammer—
Shussey’s Hydration activated!
—when the Dragon Pokémon’s eyes snapped open again as the pouring rain soaked into his flesh and purged him of the forced slumber. The Goodra brought his antennae around, a lavender hue cloaking them like armor as he used another Power Whip that batted the Komala mid-attack. The blow sent her flying backwards in the air with a satisfying thwack.
“Perfect!” Elio said as he pulled out a pair of aviator shades and slipped them on with one hand, pointing the other to the clouds above. “Now, call down the Thunder!”
“DRRRAAA!!” Shussey cried out as he raised his arms and antennae to the sky. In a split-second, the dark clouds roiled and grew pregnant with small streamers of lightning. Then they coalesced and turned the point just over where Hia reached her peak into a bright, yellow spot that mimicked the sun hiding within the churning darkness—
—and a bolt came down like the hammer of Arceus, a brilliant beam of electricity that lanced from above to smite the tiny Drowsing Pokémon whole as it ripped the air itself apart with a crack of thunder!
Elio squinted his eyes as the glare of the lightning that struck fast and hard was barely hindered by the shades. The scent of ozone permeated arena as the lightning faded as quickly as it appeared. The drowned-out arena lights came back into prominence, clearing their vision so that they could make the Komala that was on the ground.
“K-ko…maaa…” She whimpered, smoldering and separated from her log as she laid supine on the floor with her arms and legs still extended as though holding her comfort object of choice until the remaining tendrils of electricity wormed their way into the ground. Kukui rightfully declared her unfit to battle anymore.
“Sorry, girl. I’ll give you a rainbow Poké Bean later on,” Hau promised as he recalled her into her ball. Then he took a deep breath and faced Elio with a new one in hand. “Okay, time for you to introduce yourself, Kiwa!”
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Crabominable!
The ball that was thrown into the air burst open and from it fell the male Wooly Crab Pokémon. White fur broken by segments of blue made up his body, with his legs tipped in ice that left frost where they touched. Holding his segmented arms with massive paws up like boxing gloves, he gave a few thrusts that knocked droplets off his body and made a gesture for the Dragon Pokémon to come at him.
“Shussey, use Thunder again!” Elio ordered the moment Kukui gave the clearance to begin.
“Fire an Ice Hammer above you!” Hau instructed in turn.
The Wooly Crab chambered his massive left claw as ice invaded the appendage until it was completely encased both inside and out as the dragon raised his limbs and let out a cry. Then he launched it upwards with a thrust, the claw detaching at the point where the segments met. The hammer of lightning came down as the ice-coated claw rocketed above—
—and a muffled explosion rang out when the opposites met. The bolt of lightning met with the insulator that was the ice and the force of the shockwave caused the ice to shatter with enough force that it gave birth to a shower of glittering motes that peppered the falling rain. Both Elio and his Dragon Pokémon were left to look on in shock at the improvised rocket punch, and Kiwa took advantage of the opening to act.
Kiwa used Stone Edge!
The Wooly Crab Pokémon slammed his remaining arm onto the ground and a line of stone outcroppings popped up to strike the Goodra at an angle. The blunt-edge rammed into his pudgy gut fast and hard enough that the Dragon Pokémon buckled over the stone the moment it connected. Then he was launched backwards as the jutting stone stalled, transferring the momentum.
“Now bury him!” Hau ordered.
“CRABOMINA!” The roar gave birth to another dark cloud. Chunks of ice and white snow that formed within it combined with the rain and came crashing down onto the fallen dragon before he could rise again.
Kiwa used Avalanche!
The smashing of ice and snow on each other caused it to billow out, creating a white veil of misty frost that covered the field. However, it was quickly thinned by the pouring rain to reveal Shussey’s defeat. The Dragon Pokémon was face down in the snow, unconscious and half-buried with the droplets rolling off his unmoving body.
Elio recalled his companion that had been with him since the Lush Jungle as Kukui announced the round in Hau’s favor before he brushed his fingers over the three remaining balls he had to decide on who to send out next. Two of his Pokémon had weaknesses to Ice, leaving his Starter. But sending her out now would still leave him at a disadvantage if she got hurt too bad.
He made his decision. “Kiina, it’s your show! Watch out for its Ice-type attacks!”
Champion Elio sent out Shiinotic!
Taking the Dragon Pokémon’s place was a Fairy/Grass-type that stood at the height of a small child, a Big Root nestled against her neck by a small holding pouch and band. The female Shiinotic turned her head slightly and nodded in understanding from the instructions she’d received. Then she faced her opponent with a placid smile and unblinking, unwavering dark ovals for eyes beneath the hood of her cap, the brim of which drops began to roll off of.
Kukui looked between them both to see if they were ready before he nodded. “Begin!”
“Use Avalanche again!” Hau commanded.
Kiwa crafted another dark cloud thick with snow and hail to bury the half-Grass opposition. However, unperturbed by the white-and-blue downpour, the Shiinotic raised her hand towards the sky before she disappeared beneath the white cloud of frost that billowed out, the rumbling akin to an avalanche drowning out all other sounds until it stopped. The pouring rain thinned the frost veil quickly to reveal that Kiina had crafted a turquoise dome to act as a forcefield that was surrounded on all sides by the running snow and ice.
Kiina protected herself!
“Good job,” Elio said. “Now, Dazzling Gleam!”
“Block it with Stone Edge!” Hau ordered, taking a page out of Elio’s book.
Kiina dropped the barrier and dipped her head forward, leaving the cap facing towards the larger Crabominable. The Wooly Crab Pokémon slammed his remaining claw into the ground to raise a stone pillar in front of him. It was just in time a bombardment shot out and blanketed that side of the field with prismatic spears of light numbering dozens, several of which wedged themselves deeply into the stone and the floor.
“Phew…” Hau let out a sigh of relief at that before thrusting his fist forward. “Now, send it flying with your strongest punch!”
“CRABO—” He reeled back his massive claw as it was encased in ice again and then used it as a sledgehammer against the skewered stone ahead of him. “—MINABLE!”
The stone pillar shattered forward, large chunks launched towards Illuminating Pokémon. Kiina raised another Protect to shield herself, leaving them to break against it. Then the Wooly Crab Pokémon immediately charged in with an Ice Hammer and began wailing at the dome.
He’s keeping up the aggression to stop her from firing another Dazzling Gleam like before, Elio realized as the Crabominable kept whacking against the dome over and over, each blow hard enough that the water around the dome splashed up as the ground shook. Cracks were starting to form as the protection was reaching its limit and would fail eventually. But, then again, being up close is an advantage she can exploit.
“Blind him with Flash!” he ordered. The Shiinotic dropped her Protect after another hard whack and then lowered her mushroom cap again to release a blinding flash of light straight into his face. The sudden flare elicited a surprised and pained cry as Kiwa used his claw-less arm to shield his eyes and staggered backwards.
Kiina used Strength Sap!
She then extended her hands and her smile grew just a touch wider as pink motes and lavender streamers of light that represented what would be the Wooly Crab Pokémon’s inherent strength were ripped from his body. They flowed into the Illuminating Pokémon from the seemingly gentle touch as the protrusions that served as her fingers stretched out. Sensing this, Kiwa retaliated with an Ice Hammer by bringing the massive, ice-clad claw around in a broad circle to catch the Illuminating Pokémon in a brutal hit!
The ice shattered into a spray of shards and frost as the Shiinotic was thrown back onto the side of the field that was pocked with marks from the previous Dazzling Gleam attack. She bounced as she hit the ground, only for a gentle cerulean light to swaddle her as the rain seeped into her cap and activated her ability.
Kiina’s Rain Dish activated!
The injuries began to slowly mend, fading away as she rose back up with her smile back into place. She then gestured for the Crabominable to try again. As if she was stating that nothing he could do would hurt her for good, mocking him.
Kiwa growled before he came rushing in again with another Ice Hammer. His pride was his strength, forged from the cold as he fought against the dangers of the mountain to reach this point. For it to be taken lightly was an insult, more so when the half-Fairy was smiling in a way that made it seem like she’d never felt threatened by his presence. “CRABOMINABLE!”
“Wait, don’t just rush in!” Hau warned. It was too late as Kiina reeled her hand back, a spiraling orb of pink forming between the protrusions that served as her fingers. She flung it right in the rushing Wooly Crab Pokémon’s face and his figure was engulfed in the ensuing pink-tinged explosion!
Kiina used Moonblast!
He fainted, falling down as wisps of smoke wafted off of his body. But not before he used the last of his strength to thrust his ice-coated claw forward like a rocket again, sacrificing the limb. However, the desperate gamble shattered harmlessly against the Shiinotic’s Protect, his effort squandered as her smile remained wide upon seeing him fall.
I’m really going to have to do something about that habit of hers, Elio couldn’t help but think as Hau returned the downed Wooly Crab Pokémon, wondering if it really was okay to bring her from Isle Aphun for the match. Sure, she was strong. But she had something of a sadistic streak even when she was a Morelull, delighting in lording over her opponent and bringing them to their knees by taking their strength and stamina for nourishment.
Still, now it was three-to-two in terms of Pokémon available for the battle. And he knew that one of them would be Hau’s Incineroar, who Silky could handle. Looking over to Hau, he had his eyes closed and was holding an Ultra Ball in his grasp. The only question that remained was the identity of the last Pokémon he had inside of that ball.
“Challenger, send out your next Pokémon,” Kukui told him.
Hau nodded and then reeled his arm back to throw it. “Let’s show Elio what we’ve got, Kila!”
Pokémon Trainer Hau sent out Lucario!
The Ultra Ball burst open and out came the female Lucario at her trainer’s call. She landed in a crouch, blue and black fur becoming moistened by the slacking rain. Then she slowly rose to her toes as she looked towards the Illuminating Pokémon with piercing red eyes. The cap of Kiina’s hood dipped as the rain continued to alleviate her wounds, her smile and confidence still remaining unshakable even in the face of a half-Steel type.
“That’s a rare one to see,” Kukui mused before he looked over to see if Elio was ready as well, or if he’d call the Shiinotic back. Once it was clear Elio wouldn’t, he declared the beginning of the next round. “Begin!”
“Kila, get in close and use Metal Claw!” / “Kiina, keep it at range using Dazzling Gleam!”
The two contrasting orders were met with brief responses before the Pokémon carried them out. The spike protruding from the Aura Pokémon’s right forepaw was shrouded in argent light. Then it lengthened and split into a three-pronged claw.
At the same time, the Shiinotic that stood opposite her lowered the hood of her mushroom cap that shone with a radiant, prismatic light. The Illuminating Pokémon let loose her artillery and the spear-shaped beams of solidified rainbows were fired like a hail of arrows, slicing through the air towards the Lucario.
Kila used Detect!
She closed her eyes as she ran forward, the four appendages on her head rising as though floating on invisible waves. The Lucario wove between the spears that composed the overwhelming barrage facing her, each one coming within a hair’s breadth of impaling her only to be dodged until she closed the distance and chambered her Metal Claw for a slash.
Letting up on the barrage, Kiina raised her head and then extended her arms out. A viridian dome of light sprung up to protect her from the incoming slash. However, the Lucario’s left arm glowed and she brought it around for a Feint-empowered strike that shattered the dome into shards. For the first time that night, the Shiinotic’s smile dropped as the three-pronged claw came around for a devastating slash!
The Illuminating Pokémon let out a cry as the cold steel raked deep as it collided with her fibrous body. The rain that fell left her shrouded in the cerulean light of healing once more, but unlike before there was no smile as she looked up to see those red eyes fixed on her, claws raised again. Before another strike came in, she let loose a brilliant Flash point-blank once more to shut them.
The Lucario snarled as she staggered back from the stabbing pain of the light in her eyes. The Metal Claw faded in the process, as her concentration was broken. Kiina then extended her sinuous fingers to sap the strength of her opponent to mend the pain she suffered.
“Get some distance!” Hau ordered.
The Aura Pokémon avoided it in time with his shout, somersaulting backwards until she felt herself come against one of the prismatic spears of the Dazzling Gleam attack that had yet to return to motes of light as the rain stopped. She then opened her eyes to see a Moonblast coming towards her. The pink glow stemming from the attack overtook her vision and threatened to swallow her if it hit, doing massive damage.
So, using her powerful legs, she took to air with a powerful leap. The orb ruptured on impact with the ground where she’d been, the force of the explosion carrying her forward at the same time. The arch would carry her over to the Shiinotic, whose mushroom cap was illuminated once more with the prismatic light that preluded a Dazzling Gleam barrage that would skewer her from below.
Kila used Bone Rush!
But the Lucario slammed her paws together and then pulled them apart to reveal a bone staff forged of Aura as the barrage was unleashed. Twirling it around to intercept as many of the rainbow-toned spears as she could, the bulk that would strike her were battered away. Those that weren’t grazed her fur and shattered against her steel bones, earning nothing more than a light growl before she flung the bone staff towards the Illuminating Pokémon like a spear in retaliation.
“No, it’s a trap!” Elio warned as the Shiinotic raised another Protect in self-defense to block the incoming attack. While the Aura-forged staff shattered into fragments on contact, it was followed by a Feint-empowered blow that ripped open the protective field keeping the Lucario at bay.
The Aura Pokémon landed in a crouch in front of Kiina, giving her an up-close look at those intense red eyes that drove fear into the Shiinotic they honed-in with Laser Focus. The decisive blow was made in an argent flash as Kila lunged forward with her Metal Claw sweeping out to catch the fibrous body and then coming to a stop on a dime, water splashing from one of the puddles on the arena floor.
A Critical Hit!
The Illuminating Pokémon stood rigid for what seemed to a frozen moment of time. Then the claw shrank back into a spike and the Aura Pokémon exhaled as Kiina collapsed onto the ground, defeated. Kukui verified her defeat a second later and Elio was down to only two Pokémon as well.
“Where’d you find her?” Elio asked as he recalled his Shiinotic into her ball. It was his loss, but there was no ill-will. It only showed he’d need to improve on Kiina’s training so that it didn’t happen again.
“She found me and Kamala while were training on Poni Island and challenged us,” Hau explained. “One thing led to another and she decided to come along to become stronger. You’re going to have a hard time beating her.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be fun otherwise…” Elio held both of his remaining balls in his hands as he decided between them. He wasn’t expecting a Steel-type being in Hau’s possession, which put both of his remaining two Pokémon at a disadvantage again. “Let’s show her what we’ve got, Kou!!”
Champion Elio sent out Crobat!
From the ball emerged the large, four-winged male Crobat. He flapped both pair of pinions as he circled around in the air a few times, getting a feel for the arena before lowering himself onto Elio’s side of the field. Then his eyes locked with that of the Lucario as they sized one another up.
“Okay. If both sides are ready, let the ninth round in the Title Defense match begin!” Kukui announced.
The Lucario darted ahead, droplets of water kicked up from the puddles as she crossed the distance in quick bounds. Her right spike warped, becoming a claw once more as she acted on her own initiative to cut down the Bat Pokémon. The claw only passed through empty space as the Crobat took advantage of his speed to maneuver around her while waiting for instructions on how to proceed against this particular opponent.
“Kou, don’t bother with Cross Poison or Leech Life! Focus on blitzing it and start with Double Team!”
Kou confirmed the order with a quiet squeaking sound as the Lucario came around again with her Metal Claw at the ready. She sent it scything around to strike him down, only to pass through the resulting illusion, much to Kila’s surprise. Then she felt pain as something hard and fast slammed into her from behind, sending her falling forward.
She caught herself, planting her arms down to flip over and then land into a crouch, only to wince from the lingering pain of the blow. Then she saw something moving on the fringes of her vision and looked around to see that she was surrounded. One had become a swarm that surrounded her, each copy flying about in the air indiscriminately. The Aura Pokémon rose back up to her full height and extended the Metal Claw to her left spike as she took a stance of her own design.
That was when the first of the swarm attacked, shrieking as he flew forward for a straight rush while wrapped in the hue of an Acrobatics attack. Kila jumped over the assault, twisting her body to bring the claws around to reap the Bat Pokémon only have them pass through the illusion. Then came another burst of pain that forced out a yelp as she was hit from behind and then sent flying back to the ground. The shrieks multiplied and came from all directions as the individuals of the swarm closed in from different angles to attack while she was downed.
Kila kicked up off the ground into a flip to escape the first one that passed by where she had been and then brought her claws around to lash at the ones coming from the left and right. That left her front seemingly open and one Crobat came for her with an Acrobatics again. She twisted her body and came around with a somersault kick before he could reach… and passed through the copy, leaving her to land in a crouch before being stricken from the right.
A cerulean comet would be the easiest way to describe Kou as he swept her up. Pain sank deep, right down to her metal bones as the Crobat sent her tumbling over the ground, leaving her to bounce twice. She used her claws to brake and then let out a low growl as the cacophony of bats increased in volume once more.
“KILA!!” Hau called out over the noise. She half-turned her head so that he knew he had her attention, while not taking her eyes off the swarm itself. “You can’t rely on your eyes or ears. Ignore them and focus!”
Kila nodded her head and then took on a natural stance as she closed her eyes to use Detect. The four appendages on her head began to move, bobbing on invisible waves. Then when the attacks came she just stood there, allowing the first three copies to harmlessly phase through her body before she abruptly spun out of the way of one coming from her left side, bringing claws around to catch it.
The attack missed. Not because it phased through, but because the Crobat had used his second set of wings to maneuver his oval body into going over the first that came from below and parallel to the second one that came in at a diagonal angle. Escaping from that, Kou twirled around so that he was facing the Lucario as she moved to lunge while releasing a saw-like blade of air from assault wings as the momentum carried him further back.
Crobat used Air Slash!
The blade of slicing air managed to catch the Lucario off-balance and struck her abdomen, causing her to flinch in surprise as a brief shroud of blue coated her body before fading. That was when Kou shot back around with an Acrobatics. The attack would have mowed her down if she hadn’t pivoted on her toes to get off-line of the attack, leaving him to linger a safe distance away before looking over to his trainer.
“Cage her in!” Elio commanded.
Kou nodded and then beat his wings to rise before turning over and leaving Double Team copies along his flight path as he accelerated again. The copies branched out further until they formed a dome around the Lucario, circling her as she clasped her paws together and then closed her eyes again to use Detect. Then the attacks came in earnest, blades of wind slicing through the air interspersed by the clones.
From above, from the left, from the right, from ahead, from behind, at varying degrees—the Air Slashes struck from different angles to cut down Kila and leave no avenue for escaping. Yet, in an excellent display of martial prowess from the Lucario, she avoided taking a solid hit. Instead, her claws flashed, coming into contact with the blades and separating the bonds that held them together so that they ruptured before they could so much as cut her down.
Seeing his attacks coming up short from above, Kou dropped the clones and performed a steep, slice turn. That put him level to the ground and facing the Lucario’s backside, though she turned as though she expected it. No matter, since he rapidly spun in an aileron roll while letting loose a strafing barrage of Air Slashes in rapid succession and her body flickered with a blue glow as they flinched her. He then accelerated into the opening under the effect of the Acrobatics technique, cerulean light wreathing his body as he shot forward once more and landed a heavy strike!
A Critical Hit!
“That’s the way!” Elio cheered. “Now, launch her up into the air and send her right back down!”
The blue comet rocketed upwards from beneath the Lucario and carried her into the air. Kou then stalled and let the momentum pass through her, sending her higher into the air. Finally, he looped to her backside and launched an Air Slash towards the unprotected spot.
Kila turned swiftly and brought her arms around before it could hit to shield herself using the claws. The Air Slash connected, sending her flying backwards until she landed on the ground in a roll. She got back up, only to collapse onto one knee and hold her abdomen again where the last blow had hit.
“One more hit will do it!” Elio said as Kou looped back down to follow through. He came around for the downed Lucario once more with an Acrobatics, accelerating into a decisive strike—
Kila used Metal Claw!
—only to be stricken as Kila rushed to meet him faster than he’d expected, her argent claws coming into his vision when it was too late for him to dodge. The Bat Pokémon was sent into an aerial tumble that would have sent him crashing to the ground if he hadn’t righted himself with frantic flaps of his wings. Then he looked back towards the source of his pain to find nothing there.
“Kou, use Air Slash behind you!” Elio shouted in warning, his voice panicked.
The Crobat acted in an instant. Whirling around while readying an Air Slash, he turned to find the Lucario in the air behind him. She was glaring at him with Laser Focus, so the last sight he caught as he released the blade of wind was the gleam of the arena lights on the claws as they came around. Then there was only the pain of the critical hit and the sensation of the ground knocking him unconscious.
Not that Kila was in better shape. The moment the Air Slash connected, her body buckled under the invisible blade of wind, her claws withered back into spikes, and a pained grunt was forced out of her mouth as she was sent right into the ground as well. The proud warrior tried to rise once more, but her trembling body gave out under its own weight and she fell down as well.
Looking at them both in silence for a moment, Kukui then made his declaration. “Both Pokémon are unable to battle any further. This round is a draw, meaning the next one will decide the Title Defense match.”
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 8: Challenges Ahead
The cawing of the Wingulls filled the air as Plumeria sat down on the bench outside of the Malasada shop. There was a Big Malasada in her hand and another one in the bag on the bench next to her. That one was for Guzma when he got there, being the least she could do since he agreed to meet her there for a face-to-face talk after he got back from Akala Island.
Plumeria was still fixed on what Nanu and Molayne had asked of her. She had a chance to do something for the others and herself, but it wouldn’t feel right to go for it without asking Guzma first. He was their leader and she did respect him more than just about anyone else—other than her granny. So, she felt that she needed to talk to him in person about it.
She was in the middle of taking a bite of her snack when a meowing sound reached her ears. Her eyes drifted down to the ground where, right next to her leg, there was a strange feline Pokémon there. It wasn’t a native Meowth like they normally spotted, rather its fur was mostly a purple color, with the markings above its eyes being a lighter shade of violet.
Plumeria uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, looking down at it. “And what exactly are you?”
“Rroaw,” meowed the feline as it sat down in front of her.
“Hmm…” She held her hand with the malasada in it above her head and began moving it, watching as its eyes followed it. “So that’s what you’re after, huh?”
Its tail swished as it gave her a pleading look, emerald eyes seemingly glimmering.
“Yeah, yeah. No need to be cute with me.” She broke off a piece of it and held it low to the ground in her opened palm. “Here then.”
It purred happily, smiling and about to take a bite—
—when it was abruptly snatched up by the scruff of its neck by Guzma.
Plumeria sat upright and took in his appearance. He was panting, chest rising and falling. He was also soaking wet, his clothing clinging to him. She crossed her arms and asked, “What happened to you this time?”
“This scheming little furball ditched me in the Garden after tripping me into the pond!” he said, glaring at the feline. It hissed at him before taking a swing with its claw, nicking his arm and causing him to drop it. But before it could get far, he raised his other hand with a Poké Ball in it and returned it before setting the ball into an inactive state.
Guzma then sucked in a sharp breath as he sat down on the bench and looked at the blood seeping from scratch that it had made. “Damn cat.”
“Okay, what’s the story here?” Plumeria asked as she reached for her cup on the ground and then pulled off the lid.
“I told you about Hala having me training under that girl, right?” He didn’t resist as she grabbed his wrist and held it out. Nor when she poured the cold water and ice over it slowly, washing away some of the blood onto the asphalt while the cold caused the bleeding to slow. “The one who’s part of the Elite Four?”
“Yeah, the Golf Princess whose daddy runs the resort.” She then had him press a napkin against it while she pulled off her bandana to wrap around it tight. It would do for now. “What about that leads up to the cat?”
“It’s apparently a stowaway Purrloin that somehow got on one of those cruise ships that run to the resort from some far-off region and got stuck,” he said. “It started stealing crap and causing trouble around the place, so she caught it and told me to see if I could reform it as part of training—expanding my horizons and crap like that.”
Plumeria could barely stop herself from rolling her eyes at the thought as she passed the bag along to him. “So her plan is basically to make a former trouble-maker reform one?”
“It’s a devious little pain in my ass is what it is.” Guzma took a big bite out of his malasada. “Mn… It… It acts all cutesy…mmm… before running off. At least we were… mmm… straight-up about…mn… everything.”
“Finish chewing before you speak,” she told him.
He rolled his eyes and then chewed a few more times before swallowing it. A sigh followed and then he leaned back and asked, “So, what’d you call me out here for?”
“The Kahuna came to Granny’s trailer with some guy called Molayne. Said you and him went around with Kukui when you were younger.”
“That was a long time ago,” Guzma said. “Haven’t seen that scrawny guy since he made Trial Captain, though he’d been too old for the job now. What’d they want?”
She hesitated to tell him, not sure about what his reaction would be. Guzma, for all his bluster, took bad news pretty harshly on himself. Especially when he felt that he was the one to blame for everything.
Him getting back from Ultra Space should have been a celebration. But when he’d gotten back, he’d been different. Not just because of what those Ultra Beast did to him, but because he had basically been played like a fiddle by the President—she played them all, really.
As bad as their little group had been, they’d mostly been looking out for themselves. Their Grunts and their Pokémon had to eat, so they did what they had to in order to get by. It was only when she got involved that they started doing things that they wouldn’t normally do, making themselves look worse for the benefits she offered.
Plumeria hadn’t been a fan of it, but went along with it because her family came first. Yes, they were thieves. They got their hands dirty and stained their own reputation in mud, turning from outcasts to petty criminals to get by, knowing that she or Guzma would just turn the Pokémon they managed to get over to the Aether Foundation to be treated and cared for. It was a necessary evil so that she kept the place where she belonged.
But, for Guzma, he liked the praise the President gave him. The validation that came from having a rich and powerful woman telling him everything he’d wanted to hear. So he’d been devastated to be used like that, every bit of confidence he’d gained for providing for their little family and working as her left-hand man crumbling under him.
Now here Plumeria was, offered a chance to do the sort of thing he would have wanted after that.
“…Promise not to flip out?” she asked, reaching into her pocket for what laid hidden there. “None of that beating yourself up or anything, otherwise I’ll be pissed.”
His brows folded inwards at the request, but he nodded.
“They wanted me to compete in the Pokémon League,” Plumeria told him, showing him the Island Challenge Amulet. Then she told him everything else that they’d talked about. That the other adults had been working to change the traditions behind their backs and without them even realizing it. That the Kahunas were in on it too.
By the time she was done, Guzma was no longer looking at her. He was instead looking down at the ground, his hands clenched into fists so tightly they were shaking. Unable to keep it contained, but not willing to break his promise, he slammed the bottom of his fist against the bench hard enough that it shook. “DAMN IT ALL!”
“Yeah,” Plumeria said softly, ignoring the looks they were getting. She knew exactly what he was feeling, because she felt the same.
“If that goddamn Kukui had said anything about his grand plan, I wouldn’t have gone along with the woman’s schemes!” He slammed his fist into the bench again. “I wouldn’t have gone with her and ended up going through… that…”
“Yeah,” she said again, just as soft as before. “This whole mess could have been avoided if they’d said something. But the kids we watched after could have had it worse if we weren’t there and did what we had to do, so it wasn’t worthless.”
Guzma just shook his head, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his fingers before turning back to her. “…Anyway, you should go for it.”
“You sure?” she asked.
“Not going to lie to you, Plume. I wish that I was in your place,” he said, rising to his feet. “But my own screw-ups put the nails in that coffin. Even if Hala’s giving me a second chance, ain’t no way everyone else would be fine with me going for the title with my rep now. So it’s up to you to go and show everyone what you’re made of.”
“Then I guess I’ll see about starting on my Trials soon,” Plumeria said as she rose up as well, wiping her hands on a napkin. She’d also have to apologize to the girl running the trial over in the abandoned supermarket for that mess at the Aether House. “You heading back home?”
“Nah, not tonight,” he said. “I’m going to crash in Po Town for the rest of the day and see about putting this cat in its place.”
“Then come say hi to Granny first and help me carry some stuff from the store,” Plumeria said, turning towards the direction of the store. “If you’re going to be running that way, you can give the three still in that Pokémon Center something to tide them by for a few days as well.”
“Yeah, sure.” He rubbed the back of his head and followed after her.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Elio sat on the shores of Melemele Island by Kukui’s home as he watched his Starter Pokémon, a female Primarina named Silky, sit on a stone protruding from the salty water. She sung a sweet song with balloons of water hovering in the air, light gleaming off of them in a dazzling display and were kept afloat by the vibrations in the song—at least that was what Rotom explained. A lot of the local Pokémon had gathered to attend the morning concert, acting as her audience as they stuck their heads out of the water to watch her performance.
Ever since he’d arrived on the island and accepted her as his partner, Silky loved to come here and sing. Sometimes he wondered if she would be happier singing than battling, but he wouldn’t have been able to make it this far if not for her. It was only because she had been by his side since he arrived that he managed to do as much as he did, and became the Champion.
As the song came to an end, the water balloons popped into a rain of that caught the light of the morning sun and formed a rainbow. The various Pokémon lingering in the water applauded the performance as she bowed and then dispersed, going back to their normal habits. Silky then dove into the water and swam back to the shore, where she waded up towards him.
“A beautiful performance as always,” Elio told her as he brushed his fingers against her head. She leaned into it for a bit, happy at the compliment, before jumping forward and embracing him with her fins. He was left on the ground, his clothes wet as she nuzzled her head against him in return. “Hey, come on. You know Mom’s going to make me wash my clothes again if they get all wet.”
“Hahaha… she’s playful as ever, huh?” They turned to the source of the voice and found Hau standing there, a cheerful smile plastered on his face as always.
“Yeah, you know how she is,” Elio said as he sat up, returning the smile with one of his own. “I thought you’d be out training with Ilima around now?”
“I just so happened to have finished this morning,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to tell you this personally.”
Elio took notice the way his smile dropped slightly and his tone got a bit more serious, both of which were rare given how laid back Hau normally was. He gently pushed Silky aside, who also took notice of the shift in his demeanor, and rose to his feet. “What’s up?”
“I’m going to challenge the Elite Four and your Championship the day after tomorrow,” he declared. “I’ve already submitted the paperwork, so you should receive the notice later today. But I wanted to tell you in person that I’m going for your Title.”
A tense silence hung in the air for a pause. It was a declaration of war against the newly crowned Champion of Alola. He hadn’t even had the Title for a month now and it was on the verge of being taken from him.
“Whew.” The tension broke like a Hammer Arm had been taken to it as Elio let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his head. “For a second I thought it was something bad. Sure, I accept your challenge. Come at me anytime.”
Hau seemed a bit unsure of that reaction.
Seeing that, Elio just shook his head. “If there’s anything you’ve taught me, Hau, it’s that you don’t need to be overly dramatic in order to be serious. We’ve been through a lot together, and I remember what you told me the day after Lillie left, so I’d been expecting you to issue the challenge for some time now.”
After Lillie had left, Hau came by his home. It was there he told him about the Battle Tree and his intention to take the Championship, and that they’d have the best battle ever. There had been a fire kindled in his eyes unlike before—so it was impossible not to take it seriously.
“When you say it like that, you make it sound like I’ve been dragging my feet.” Hau sighed, letting his shoulders sag before he got serious again. “I’m going to come at you with everything I’ve got. You and Grandpa. So I wanted to tell you to give it everything you’ve got when we face each other—no going easy just cause we’re friends.”
“I had planned to from the start.” He reached over and patted Silky’s head. “After all, Silky and the others fought hard for me to have the chance to claim the Title in the first place. If I didn’t give it my all to defend it, it’d be doing them wrong too.”
Hau’s smile returned. That was the response he wanted to hear. “All right! No regrets, no matter what!”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Looker couldn’t help but grunt as he looked out to the island that was steadily growing closer, hand on his chin while deep in thought. It had been roughly a decade since he had been back to Alola, incidentally for the same reasons as before. More Ultra Beasts—UBs—had entered into their world after ten years, and they were tasked with eliminating or capturing them for study.
“Is there something on your mind, Mister Looker?” asked Anabel, his superior despite her relative younger age. Ten years ago, he and his superior of the time, Nanu, had found her washed up on shore and taken her back to their headquarters. It was around that time that they’d found out she was bathed in the same energy that came from the Ultra Wormholes, indicating that she’d fallen through one.
“I was wondering if the restaurants have added anything new to their menus since the last time we were here,” he lied—well, partially anyway. He was looking forward to expanding his palate with the local delicacies, and maybe catch up with his former superior who had retired after their last attempt at trying to capture an UB.
But he was more concerned over the fact that, once again, the events of ten years ago was playing out. They’d been deployed to track down an Ultra Beast with a Faller, a person who had gone through an Ultra Wormhole, and tasked with capturing it. But their Poké Balls weren’t capable of properly registering it, so they’d been forced to harm it with their Pokémon drastically in order to have a chance.
It had been excessively cruel. He couldn’t help but pity it. And that moment of pity cost the Faller their life, as she had been untrained. It was only afterwards that both he and Nanu became aware that she had been glorified bait for the purpose of drawing the UB out into the open in the first place.
Anabel merely gave him a small frown at the lie. “I’m certain you’ll have a chance to sample the cuisine after we’ve completed the mission. The Aether Foundation has set up a network to monitor for any signs of the UBs. But it would be best that we try to locate them as quickly as possible before they harm civilians. I don’t wish to eliminate them for lashing out and being confused.”
“I agree completely, Chief.” It was possible now to do so without resorting to the methods used before, since they had access to Beast Balls. For whatever madness had overtaken Miss Lusamine to sink millions into each one, there was confirmation that they worked according to the report given by her daughter to Madam Wicke before their departure. “Even so, the number of UBs is greater than before. We may need to enlist the help of another trainer to assist us in the task.”
“As tempting as that prospect is, our mission is to be classified, Mister Looker,” she said. “We do not wish for that information to fall into the wrong hands. I would hate to think of what would happen if Team Dominance learned of their existence.”
Looker’s frown deepened. Team Dominance would be the absolute worst possible people to be informed of the situation. To have even one of the UBs turned into a Shadow Pokémon would be a nightmare, both for the threat they’d present as well as the inhuman process that entailed.
However, allowing Anabel to handle it alone would be tantamount to killing her. She had bouts of weakness and fatigue, perhaps as a result of the time she spent in one of the wormholes that she could no longer recall. He refused to allow that incident from ten years prior to happen again because they were using her as bait, but he had no Pokémon of his own after the death of his Crogunk.
“Then what about enlisting one of the trainers that Madam Wicke mentioned having fallen through the wormhole? To have survived their time in Ultra Space they must be capable trainers, and the longer we operate on our own, the greater the risk of a sighting and information leak we can’t trace back or contain.”
“…You may be right.” Anabel closed her eyes and considered it for a moment. “Of the two individuals who would be aware, I cannot agree with asking the one who led a gang of hoodlums for his aid with his reputation.”
“Then we should ask the current reigning Champion of the Pokémon League for his assistance instead,” Looker insisted. “He’ll likely have the experience and battle power needed to make capturing them for their own safety easier.”
“…Very well,” she decided after a moment, crossing her arms. “Time is of the essence and if he could reasonably be of help, it would be foolish not to ask him. But I still have some reservations, so I will test the young Champion myself before we begin the operation. Should he be able to best me, I will concede in asking for his assistance. Is that acceptable to you?”
He nodded. It was better that way. The UBs would be drawn to him one way or another, given he was also a Faller. If they left him alone without informing him, he’d likely be stumbled upon by one and attacked without expecting it.
The former leader of Team Skull followed enough of a pattern that he could be observed should one be drawn to him as well. So, barring extreme circumstances he would be left out of the loop. After all, informing him may prove disastrous as he would be the sort that Team Dominance would enlist should they come to the island.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
In the air between Alola and Kanto
“So, you lost to the Vermillion Gym Leader, huh?” Ann said into her Pokégear as the ocean passed beneath the plane she was on, heading towards Alola. Since the operations to capture Bill and secure the Moltres native to the Sevii Islands were delayed, due to the fact that their organization was likely suspect after the interference of the trainer who was accompanying Bill, Ann had been sent towards the islands with two other agents. Their mission was relatively simple—find out what the Aether Foundation was hiding, and if it could be used for blackmail purposes.
They needed to capture Bill because he was the creator of the Pokémon Storage system, and bringing him under their control would essentially give them access to every single Pokémon stored in the PCs. However, with a trainer of that caliber and her daughter staying with him, it would be a hassle to do things in a way that allowed them to go unnoticed. And going unnoticed was essential since the last thing they needed was the International Police trying to gut their organization… again.
Ann had been with the organization since back when they were centered around Kanto and Johto. A few years before they were disbanded and reduced, forcing them to merge with the group from Orre they had been in business with—supplying them stolen Pokémon since the region was barren of them. Having been working in the shady side of things for as long as she could remember, Ann knew just what to look for when searching for signs of illicit dealings.
And there were some pretty big signs when she looked at the sudden change in employment done by the woman’s son almost overnight. A sudden shift in the status quo that left people unemployed would undoubtedly serve as the seedbed for animosity. And that could be exploited.
“Yeah, but we still managed to knock out his first Pokémon,” Astra said on the other end. “It was a Mareep.”
“That’s actually impressive, given you’ve only had your Sableye for a month and Drowzee for less than a day,” Ann praised her. “Those two species can be quite difficult to handle for a new trainer.”
“Jet’s just lazy most times and Blysen is shy, but they’re both good—” A slight pause followed as Astra yawned. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s getting late on your end, so you must be tired.”
“Yeah, and Grandpa is telling me I should get some rest now. Can you call me when you get there? I want to know more about Alola since Lille came from there.”
“Sure thing. Sleep tight.”
What are the chances? Ann couldn’t help but think as she stared down at the Pokégear before sighing. Astra was the granddaughter of Ravin and daughter of her best friend, a sweet girl who was all they had left of her mother. Since they found her, Astra was so… innocent, caring only about fun, traveling, and Pokémon without any ulterior motives.
It was refreshing, admittedly. She wouldn’t have been that way if her parents hadn’t run away when they did to keep her from going through the same things as them. Her mother had been born into the role of being a member whether she wanted to or not, what with Ravin having been a member already, and Ann had joined early on.
They had been the best of friends, or at least Ann had thought so. Yet, she ran away from her without telling her anything. By the time Ann and Ravin managed to find them, both she and her boyfriend—or husband at that point—were dead.
Now all that was left behind was Astra, who would undoubtedly be hurt depending on how things went in regard to her new friend. Or learning just what it was both she and her grandfather were involved in. Ann sighed again at the thought of her looking at them with betrayed eyes and then leaned back on her chair, looking out the window while deep in thought.
Well, if things go smoothly she won’t ever learn. We owe her mother that much, right?
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 6: Back in Alola 2
Morning light speared through the open roof of the cavernous grove that was known as Verdant Cavern, where rushing water carved out the stone into paths and left the moist cavern rich in moss. Ilima and Hau, with their Smeargle and Incineroar respectively, entered in the wee hours of the morning, just after sunrise. In each of their arms were baskets of berries, two in the case of Incineroar, gifted from the nearby berry field to feed the Pokémon there.
“Just set them down in front of those dens,” Ilima said, pointing towards the entrance of three large rocks hollowed out by powerful fangs as his Smeargle went off towards a different one. “Those are the dens where the Yungoos live. I’ll set the one by the entrance to the Totem Den.”
“You got it, Captain.” Hau turned to his starter pokémon and gestured his head towards the other two dens in the back. “Can you get those for me?”
The Incineroar nodded and lumbered towards the dens, leaving the Kahuna’s grandson to head towards the remaining one. Once he set it down, Ilima whistled loud enough that the piercing and shrill sound resounded throughout Verdant Cavern. A breath later, out came the hungry hordes of Loitering Pokémon to swarm the baskets for berries.
“These little guys weren’t around when I did my trial,” Hau said as he watched them go at it. Some ravenously bit into the berries with their sharp teeth, tearing open the skin to devour the ripe interior in a frenzy that left their cheeks and noses covered in juices. Others, older ones, seemed to take the berries and bring them inside of their den. “What happened to the Rattata?”
“They’re in the dens that we’re leaving alone for now,” the Trial Captain explained. “My trial is the only one on this island since it serves as two instead of one, depending on the time of day. It also means that I’m responsible for keeping both the Rattata and the Yungoos in check. If I don’t feed the Yungoos during the day and the Rattata at night, they’ll start attacking each other and the Totem Pokémon will get involved.”
And when that happened, he was also the one in charge of quelling their violence. It was the duty of the Trial Captain, appointed by the Kahuna, to oversee the Totem Pokémon. It wouldn’t do to have them go on a rampage.
“Wow, so you have to do the work of two Trial Captains, huh?” Hau whistled as the Yungoos continued taking their fill until a pair began to threateningly chitter at one another over an Oran berry. It then turned to squabbling as they howled at one another, and finally violence as they began to nip and scratch at each other as an entangled mass of fur and teeth. “Whoa! Calm down guys, there’s enough to share!”
Hau managed to snatch them both up and hold them apart by the scruffs of their necks as they continued to flail about until a larger one came out and screeched at them. They immediately stopped struggling and instead sulked as best Hau could tell. To be safe, he set them down on opposite ends. They began to hiss at one another again, but the larger one hissed at them in warning and that settled them down for good.
“I admire your dedication to keeping the peace, but that was somewhat risky,” Ilima warned him. “Those teeth can do some real damage, even though the ones around here have been semi-domesticated so that they know better than to attack humans. It would have been better to have one of your pokémon calm them down.”
“Good point.” To his credit, Hau looked somewhat abashed as his gaze shifted to his starter Pokémon.
The male Incineroar, Kamala, was watching curiously as some of the Yungoos carted their berries into the Totem Den, while the basket in front of it was already empty. Then his ears twitched and his head wheeled around towards the large moss rock. The Heel Pokémon began to lumber over until the Yungoos, all of them, stopped what they were doing and began to threateningly hiss towards him.
“Ah, what’s got them all riled up?” Hau wondered as they began to leap forward, just enough to try and drive the Heel Pokémon away. If that didn’t work, they would begin to attack. “Kamala, come back over here. We’re not here to pick a fight.”
Kamala let out a low, guttural sound that bubbled up in his throat as he gave the rock a piercing glance with its emerald eyes. As chill as he was as a Litten, he could get vicious in a serious fight.
“C’mon, buddy,” Hau called again. “They’re not going to be much of a match for you. You really want to pick on a couple of Pokémon that don’t even come up to your knees when we’re getting ready to face Elio and the Elite Four?”
Kamala huffed, not at all intrigued by the prospect. He sought challenge after he’d evolved. So he turned his back on the Yungoos and made his way over to his trainer.
Ilima watched the scenario unfold with his hand on his chin, observing their behavior. “How strange. I could understand if they were being territorial with the Rattata, but this is a first.”
“Maybe they’re just antsy because they’re hungry and this is the first time we’ve been around in the morning?” Hau suggested, patting his starter on the back. “Kamala can be kind of menacing since he got so tall.”
“…Perhaps so,” Ilima conceded, though with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “Very well. For now, we’ll head back to the city and give them a chance to settle down before I return later on to check on them. If they’re still aggressive then, I’ll have to take action before the Rattata get involved as well. In the meantime, I’ll treat you both to malasadas as thanks for your help before we begin training again.”
“Whoo-hoo!” Hau cheered, a bright grin on his face. The Incineroar’s demeanor also changed, with the Heel Pokémon licking his lips at the thought. Hau had shared many malasadas since they’d been partners and the Incineroar had gained a mighty need for them.
They all made for the exit of the cavern, feeling the eyes of the Yungoos on them the entire way. Once they were outside of it, Ilima set the barricade down in front of the entrance to the cavern to stop anyone else from wandering in. Then they proceeded to walk back to Hau’oli City.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Watching the trainers and their pokémon disappear down the hill leading towards the city, a male Yungoos huffed as he darted back into Verdant Cavern and towards the large, mossy rock. Climbing behind it revealed the youngest of the group of strange pokémon that had settled into the cavern, the very same one he had basically been relegated into babysitting to keep out of trouble…which was a challenge, given that it kept sneaking out to explore the island. The Yungoos believed that it was a female, since their group as a whole gave off a scent that made a lot of the younger male Yungoos try and curry favor with them—hence that fight earlier between the brothers.
With them gone, she rose to her full height and ran her digits over her antenna nervously. She had gotten curious at the arriving trainers and slipped out of the Totem Den, where she should have remained with the others, and nearly gotten caught. Since one of the orders they had received was to keep the trainers, including the Trial Captain, unaware of their presence, they had turned on the hands that fed them.
It was risky, but at least it ended with no conflict.
Standing on top of the rock, he chittered at her for being so reckless. He understood that she was young and curious, many of their young were after all, but all of the constant running and keeping her out of trouble was tiring. The only reason he did it was because he was ordered to by their leader, the Totem Gumshoos, after her older siblings came in like a pair of Tsareena and stomped both the Totem Pokémon, while their progenitor managed to sway the rest with her scent.
She dipped her head in response, eyes and antenna drooping as she mumbled an apology. That sole act caused another uproar from the other Yungoos around them, directed at him for making her look sad. Many flung sand at him, knocking him about until he curled up to shield himself.
His charge quickly snatched him up and held him close as she released her own pheromones. While it was weaker than her siblings, due to only molting once, it served to calm and render them docile long enough for her to use her long legs to walk over them. She apologized again as she headed back to the Totem Den, gently trying to brush the sand out of his fur.
He only let a rumble leave his throat as they passed through the threshold and into the Totem Den. The Yungoos found it unpleasant since the chamber felt weird, but apparently it felt similar to the strange group’s home. They could absorb the same energy in it that made the Totem Pokémon stronger and store it for when they entered a battle.
Inside of the den, they found her siblings getting ready to spar with one another. Both had their arms out in front and legs in a readying stance as they synced their breathing together. The youngest of the group sat with the Yungoos in her arms and watched as they began.
The middle-aged one opened with a fearsome and blinding kick, bringing her rear leg around and twisting her hips to strike the oldest’s head faster than the Yungoos could track with his eyes. The impact was hard enough that it kicked up a breeze, yet it was blocked as the oldest brought her arm up for a Quick Guard. The defensive aura wrapping around her arm shielded her from the impact of the strike beautifully.
Undeterred, the middling pulled her leg back and thrust it forward twice with a Double Kick. The first of which passed by the eldest as she tilted her shoulder to avoid being kicked in the chest, and the second one she dipped her head so that it passed through empty space. Before the middling could angle her leg down for a Stomp, the eldest snapped her own rear leg around for a Low Kick and knocked her leg from beneath her.
Letting out a minor hiss of pain as she fell backwards, the middling rolled backwards to avoid the impending counter Stomp that was hard enough to leave a small crater despite how lithe their kind’s feet were. Then she snapped back up to see that the eldest was still in a defensive stance, waiting for her.
The middling then began swaying to her side as she bounced from feet-to-feet in a rhythmic manner. Her body slowly glowed with sparkles coming off her, empowered by the mystifying Quiver Dance. She then rocketed off the ground with a Jump Kick.
Bringing up another Quick Guard, the eldest intercepted the strike, only for the middling to bring her other leg around for a Feint-empowered strike that shattered the defensive shield and allowed for the attack to connect. The blow made the eldest take a few steps back, shaking her head to clear it as she tried to ignore the stinging of the blow until she saw another Jump Kick flying towards. Then the oldest sibling was gone, leaving the white blur that was the middling to crash against the wall.
The crash itself was loud, throwing up a spray of stone fragments and rubble. The middling pulled herself out of the impact crater and winced, having clearly hurt herself. But her eyes were fixed on the eldest, who was flickering from position-to-position, having bolstered her speed with an Agility.
Hissing in anger, the middling clasped her hands together and produced a white sphere that she then thrust-kicked. The sphere exploded into a gale carrying silver crescents of power. The Silver Wind attack missed despite the coverage, passing through an afterimage and slamming into the walls… including the one they were under!
The Yungoos let loose a shriek as he realized they would be stricken as one of the silver crescents bore down on them. But before it could connect, the eldest was in front of them. Faster than his eyes could track, she brought her leg upwards and shattered the silver crescent into loose, glittering powder.
She then turned towards the youngest, who had curled down and braced for impact, and inquired if she was okay. Once she got a nod in response, she turned back towards where her other reckless sibling had been and found the spot empty. She then looked around until she felt the air shift from above and found the middling rushing down for them, having used a Bounce to get that high.
Letting out a hiss of her own, she held out her hands as they shone with a white light and then released countless stars that rocketed up to meet her. The Swift attack connected, slamming home with enough power that they knocked the middling out of her attack and sent her tumbling to the ground. The eldest one then went over, pulled her up by the arm, and then marched her over to apologize to the youngest as she held the Yungoos in her arms.
The middling did the opposite. She plucked the Yungoos from her arm and held her down with one foot, leaving the youngest pinned as she dangled him in the air. All while she chided her for goofing around instead of training so that they could take back their territory.
The Yungoos struggled fruitlessly, but that only seemed to annoy the middling. She threatened to Stomp him, much to the dismay of both him and the youngest, until the eldest smacked her on the head. It startled her enough that she lost her grip and he fell down to the ground.
He took that as a cue to leave and immediately scurried out of the Totem Den, away from the terrifying one. He didn’t stop until he was far down the slope and away from them, closer to the rushing water that had carved out the deeper portions of the cavern. Then, and only then, did he stop running and collapsed by the water in exhaustion and fear.
Panting, he wondered exactly why it was him who had to deal with this. Things were so much easier when all he had to do was show up, grab a berry to eat, and lounge around. Now he was hungry and still covered in a mix of sand and silver powder that left him feeling filthy.
Sighing, he crawled into the water’s edge and laid down on the slope with his head sticking out. Letting the running water clean his fur as he ruminated on the good times in the past, he drifted off to sleep until a gnawing in his stomach roused him. The Loitering Pokémon yawned, showing his teeth, before getting ready to pull himself out of the water and finding that he wasn’t in it anymore.
Instead, he was on the shore and sitting on a rock further out with a few berries in front of him. Next to him was the youngest, curled against the wall and her eyes closed as she slowly breathed in and out whilst asleep. Had she been watching him sleep and brought him food as an apology for earlier?
He huffed at the very thought of that being enough… but supposed he could do worse if he had to be stuck babysitting.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Plumeria’s feet were aching by the time she made it back to Route 13 from visiting Po Town.
The abandoned town that had been the haven of Team Skull had been mostly cleared out, barring the three numbskulls and their Spinda in the Pokémon Center there. Unlike most of the others, they didn’t have homes to return to. So they stayed in the place and made themselves comfortable in the rooms there until they could get enough money to chase their dreams.
Plumeria could relate to them. She didn’t have her mother and father either after they’d gotten themselves locked away, not that they paid all the much attention to her before then. She only had her granny, who had taken her in when she was a runt from overseas, and it hadn’t been easy moving from Orre to Alola to live with a relative she barely knew.
Still, the rest of her dumb little brothers and sisters were scattered now that Guzma had disbanded them and it was her job to look after them. So she’d been checking on them over the last few days. They were mostly going back to their old lives and, while she was happy they were all managing given that occasionally they were too dumb for their own good, it still left her feeling a bit down.
When she arrived in Alola, she was treated like she didn’t belong and hated it. It was only when Guzma showed up that she really made a friend, even if he was a couple of years older than her. When they formed Team Skull as a place for outcasts like them, they also made a place where she could be who she was and belong with them. Now that they were disbanded, she was again without a place.
I should have known it wouldn’t last though, she thought to herself as she got into viewing distance of her granny’s camper and found Molo and Lanai outside of it. The two of them took it after themselves to watch over her granny out of a sense of loyalty to the former Admin of their group, with Molo guarding the outside and Lanai keeping her company. Plumeria was appreciative of them for it.
Lanai spotted her eventually and ran over. “Big Sis, that old dude Nanu showed up with some nerdy-looking guy! They’re inside talking to your granny!”
“I tried to stop them,” Molo said. “But granny told us not to be rude… and then gave us pocket-money to go get some food while she talked in private. But we didn’t spend it.”
“…Alright, I got this,” Plumeria said. “Go get something from the café in Tapu Village. You two look like you’ve been out in the sun too long. We don’t need you passing out.”
They consented and ran off as she walked up to the door of the camper and entered inside. No sooner than she did, the male Stufful that had been lying on the makeshift bedding nearby rose up and greeted her with a cheerful sound. He was happy that she’d returned.
She would have picked him up, if not for Nanu sitting on the couch with a scrawny man that had blond hair and glasses. “Who are you and why are you here?”
“My name’s Molayne.” The scrawny man stood up and held a hand out for her to shake. “So, you’re Plumeria? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She stared him down instead for a moment, before judging him as no real threat and then turning to Nanu. “Why you bugging my granny? If you got something you want to complain about, then come find me. Don’t bring her into this.”
“Be polite, Plumeria,” her granny chided her before turning to the two other men. “Forgive my little flower, please. It’s an honor to have a Kahuna and Trial Captain grace us.”
“Trial Captain?” She practically balked as the words came out and gave the man a once-over again. “Never seen you before.”
“I’m a former one,” Molayne explained. “My cousin has the position now, while I just manage the Observatory and Storage System for Alola. But I went through my island trials around the same time that Kukui and Guzma did, before he dropped out. Did he never mention me?”
“No,” she said rather bluntly as she crossed her arms. “Anyway, what’s a former Trial Captain and the Island Kahuna want with us, if not to cause problems?”
“Well, there’s something we were hoping you could assist us with,” Molayne said. “Tell me, how much did you know about the original Team Skull?”
“Granny told me a lot of the old stories when I arrived here, including about them,” Plumeria answered. “They formed around the former Kahuna of Ula’ula Island because he didn’t like the idea of being bound to serving the whims of the Tapu just because he was chosen and tradition dictated it. Eventually, Tapu Village was leveled, leading to the battle between the four Tapu and Team Skull at the time.”
Supposedly, the former Kahuna was former royalty as well. Even after the roles of royalty fell out with Kahunas taking their place, occasionally they overlapped. However, the Kahuna didn’t want the job since it meant being chained to the island and the whim of the Tapu for the rest of his life, so he ignored its desires and allowed the island to drift from the path the Tapu set, with the village at the base of Mount Lanakila being the primary one.
Then the supermarket was built, destroying an old tree that stood there for ages and was supposedly sacred to Tapu Bulu. It finally acted towards the offense by leveling the entire village in retaliation, and Team Skull rose up around the Kahuna, who was said to have lost something dear to him in that incident. Then they stormed the desert to face Tapu Bulu, only to be met with all four of the Tapu and struck down for it.
The Kahuna was ousted from his position, but then was supposedly cursed because of it as well. He died sometime after that as eternal rain and gloom hung over Po Town. It was known as the wrath of the Tapu and served as a warning against going against their wills, fickle as they may be.
After she’d finished recounting that, Nanu decided to speak up. “So then you must know that the name of Team Skull isn’t exactly something most people would throw around lightly. Especially on this island. Even so, you were the one who came up with that name for the second group, weren’t you?”
“And what if I was?” she asked, practically challenging him as the Stufful pushed against her leg in a bade for affection after being abandoned to that motel not far from here and only recently adopted by them. Thankfully, he was trained by whoever had him before, so he didn’t bowl her over in the process. She crouched low and stroked his head to appease him.
“What we want to know is why you chose that name?” the former Trial Captain asked. “You had to know that name carried a bad reputation from the start.”
Plumeria scoffed at that. “Maybe it did to you two, being a part of the traditions of Alola. But to us it carried a different meaning. They were a group of people who felt the traditions and Tapu were unfair and outdated, outcasts who fought to change them and were labeled as being wrong because they failed. We took up their name because we felt the same. All of us were outcasts because of how things worked, the traditions and everything, and we wanted to change them.”
“Except that you were a bunch of kids who didn’t know how difficult it would be to do that and could only rebel by causing mischief,” Nanu said. “Once everyone realized that it was a bunch of teenagers running around and calling themselves Team Skull, they stopped taking you seriously. The only ones who did were the ones who flocked over to that town Guzma claimed to have taken over when it was all but abandoned. And once they were there, they were too stubborn to go back.”
“Watch it, Old Man,” Plumeria said in warning as her eyes narrowed. “Because if it’s a fight you want, we can go outside.”
Her granny looked shocked at the blatant disrespect. “Plumeria, apologize!”
“I won’t listen to him talk that way about those kids I watched over or our boss like that, Granny,” she said, rising to her feet. “Yeah, they were stubborn idiots a lot of the time. But they chose to stick around because they weren’t being judged because they didn’t live up the unfair expectations pushed onto them. They needed somewhere to go and we gave them a place to belong.”
Neither one denied it. They just listened.
“And the island trials weren’t the only traditions we rebelled against either,” Plumeria continued. “We took in anyone who was an outcast because they didn’t conform to the island ways. Whether it was because they didn’t behave a certain way, or look a certain way, or didn’t come from the islands. We looked out for them, even when it was tough and we had to get our hands dirty. So I’ll never apologize for that.”
“…It’s good to see you really have such strong convictions,” Molayne said, adjusting his glasses by the bridge. The glare of the light hid his eyes in the process. “And you’re absolutely right.”
The shock of his admission left Plumeria stunned. “What?”
Seeing her reaction brought a small smile to his face. “Like I said, I traveled around with Kukui and Guzma when we were younger. Though we didn’t think much of it at the time, when Kukui and I looked back on how Guzma changed because he couldn’t live up to the expectations placed on him to be the best among us, we realized that as great as the traditions were, they could also leave people behind.”
“If you knew all of that, why didn’t you do something sooner?” she demanded.
“Because we couldn’t just give up our traditions and throw away part of what made us who we are,” he explained. “So we decided to find a road between them. That’s part of why I worked so hard on getting the Storage System up and running, while Kukui dedicated himself to bringing a Pokémon League here. Pokémon link people around the world through a common interest, which allows for them to become more diverse and accepting.”
He then turned to Nanu. “Isn’t that right?”
Nanu sighed wearily as he stood up and rubbed his neck, only to slouch over and place his hand in his pockets. “The Kahuna were also in agreement that some of the traditions don’t mix well with the present day, such as needing to be an Alolan native to participate in the island trials. So we worked with these guys to get some of them changed, such as that any trainer under twenty-one can partake in an island trial.”
“It wasn’t that way when I got here,” Plumeria pointed out.
“Change takes time,” Molayne stated. “But now it’s come to fruition with the latest Island Challenge Champion also being our first Pokémon League Champion. Kukui’s choice proved that once someone else was given a chance that they could rise to the occasion and become great for Alola.”
A knot of guilt stirred in her stomach at that. The very thing she hated was being fought against by the people they rebelled against. If they had succeeded in crushing him, then she would have only been reinforcing the traditions.
“…Well, what does this have to do with me now?” she asked, her tone a little more hesitant upon realizing that fact.
The former Trial Captain looked over to her granny, who nodded, and then dropped a bombshell. “We want you to enter the Pokémon League.”
There was a long, pregnant pause at that as she looked at all three of them in the face. Her granny looked proud. Molayne’s were closed as he kept smiling. Nanu… well, just looked tired as always. “You’re not messing with me, are you?”
“Not at all,” Molayne assured her. “You’re under the age of twenty-one by about two years, and you’ve lived on the island for over a decade now. Who better than the person who suggested the name of Team Skull in the first place to participate and show that the traditions have changed for all of those kids who you watched over?”
Her lips pursed as she actually thought about it. Personally, she felt that it was too little too late for her own sake. She’d been shunned in her youth because she wasn’t native to Alola and wasn’t permitted to have the same chances their little Champion had now. But, at the same time, it wasn’t about her.
It was about those she considered her little brothers and sisters, who had been scattered when Team Skull separated. They disbanded without accomplishing anything in the end, failing to keep the promises of change that Guzma and she made to them. More than anything, she wanted to correct that so that it didn’t feel like it wasn’t a waste, and to make them proud of being a part of Team Skull.
“What would I have to do to get a Z-Ring?” she asked. Unlike Guzma, who had earned a Z-Ring before he threw it away, she didn’t have one. She’d never taken the trials and the Poisonium-Z crystals she had were ones her Grunts had found, much like the ones they’d gathered for Guzma.
And she had a strong suspicion that Nanu would be reclaiming those eventually.
“We may be pointing out an opportunity for you, but you’ll have to earn it under your own power,” the Kahuna said as he pulled an object out of his pocket and set it down on the table. “You know where to find me. Try not to take too long, but don’t be in a rush, okay?”
He then left out with Molayne, leaving Plumeria to stare at what was left behind. It was an Island Challenge Amulet. The unspoken message carried:
If you want to get a Z-Ring, beat my Grand Trial.