Chapter 15: More Bark Than Bite
A soft inhalation gave way to a broad sweeping gust that stirred the wind, laced with sparkling grains of ice that left the surface of one side of the pond covered in a thin veil of rime. Bringing his exhale to an end with a huff and then sitting on the bridge that split the water in two, Glacian turned to the Alolan Vulpix sitting next to him and extended a sweeping paw towards the frozen surface. “Gla?”
Koko reached down at the prompt with one paw, teetering on the edge of the bridge. She poked at the layer of ice and then bobbed her head before turning around to the other side of the pond, where the ice hadn’t spread. The Alolan Vulpix inhaled deeply until her little chest was puffed out and then let out as strong of an exhale as she could.
Unlike the Bill’s Glaceon, Koko’s attempt remained confined to a relatively narrowed stream of chilled air, glimmering particles of ice threading it as it went straight down the middle of the pond. The layer of ice that it was forming, paper-thin and transparent, ended up sinking beneath the surface as her breath petered out and left her crystalline eyes to fall.
“It was a good try, Koko,” Lillie assured her Starter, crouching down next to her as the Glaceon gave her a small pat on the back. Unaware of the events happening in Alola at present, she instead focused on training with Koko and Shuckle to help them learn their new moves for the impending Doubles match. In Koko’s case, she was attempting to learn how to use Icy Wind.
Rotom, who was currently floating around Shuckle as he tried to get the hang of Protect, explained that the technique was a natural expansion of Koko’s Powder Snow technique. Rather than breathing out a steady stream of cold air, she would be able to exhale it out over a wider area while maintaining the same level of power. Because it wasn’t as concentrated in a narrowed area, the technique would never really be able to freeze an actively moving Pokémon like Powder Snow could, but the accumulating cold slowed them down and made them more lethargic.
Koko would learn how to do it naturally as she continued to battle, since Pokémon grew stronger due how fast their bodies adapted to match the amount of trials and experience they went through until they reached a limit. That was what AJ meant by training his Pokémon through exposing them to their weakness. But Professor Kukui had once told her that Pokémon had the potential to use a lot of different techniques to surpass those limitations if they met the requirements and pushed themselves hard enough—whether through Technical Machines or guidance in the form of training with Move Tutors.
Even so, while it was possible to teach her how to use Icy Wind prematurely by using Glacian as a Move Tutor, Glaceon as a species were naturally capable of using Icy Wind from the moment they evolved. While he could try to show Koko firsthand, there were still gaps to fill in. The best they could hope for was, with enough practice, her body would adapt to using it since it was a natural extension of her present abilities.
The problem was the fact that, among her many lovely traits, Koko was naturally energetic and eager—hasty, in other words. She didn’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time and she wanted to grasp it quickly. So, with every failure, she became more disheartened and upset, which was something Lillie hated to see.
Lillie gently brushed Koko’s head to try and alleviate some of that sadness. “I’m sure you’ll get it soon if you keep practicing.”
It was then an audible shattering sound caught their ears and drew their attention further away. At the base of the slope leading to the Berry Trees, Shuckle sat with a slight frown as he shook his head while Lusamine’s Clefable stood next to him with a hand extended, the protective shield woven from Protect covering her frontside. Surrounding them were Razor Leaf that Viri had launched, slowly breaking apart on the ground.
The time length sustained was 1.4 seconds under fire from the Razor Leaf, zzrt! Rotom stated as Clefable dropped the Protect, pointing his appendage to his screen where an hourglass was shifting digital sand from top to bottom inside of a progress ring. Prepare for the next attempt in thirty seconds, zzt.
Clefable nodded before she turned to Shuckle and made a circular motion while speaking. “Clefa. Clefable. Fable?”
Shuckle bobbed his head before bracing himself in front of Viri. His beady eyes narrowed, and his mouth pursed in concentration as he moved his head in a small circle while he gathered the energy needed for Protect. It crystalized slowly, forming a half-dome over the front of his body with ragged, uneven edges.
Clefable then held out her hand and the glass-like shield formed in front of her as the last grains of sand in Rotom’s display hit the bottom and a ‘ding’ sounded, signaling the Leafeon to unleash another barrage of Razor Leaf by whipping her tail around. The leaves smashed against the pair of protective shields, the difference in their strength being evident in how Shuckle’s began cracking like glasswork under pressure, leaving him to turtle within his shell to avoid any real damage when it broke, while Clefable’s remained unblemished until the attack ceased once more.
The time length zzzzustained this time was 2.7 seconds! Rotom commented. The next attempt will be in thirty seco—
Shuckle popped his head out of his shell to shake it. “Kle. Shuckle.”
Oh, you’ve run out of energy to do so? Shuckle bobbed his head. Too bad, zzt. You’ve made excellent progress since this morning by my records!
Lillie watched as Clefable gave the Mold Pokémon a warmhearted pat on the head with a slight smile. She presumed that because Shuckle as a species were naturally defensive he could make strides on learning the technique. Then she heard Koko’s whimpering and turned back to see the Alolan Vulpix looking downcast in comparison at her own lack of progress, due to her lack of strength more than her nature.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Lillie suggested. “You must be tired too after trying so hard.”
Glacian watched for a moment as Koko began to trod off the bridge towards the house, a disappointing frown on her face. Then he put on a mischievous smile and then darted after her, cutting her off. “Gla-gla!”
Koko tilted her head. “Vul?”
“Ceon!” He pointed over to towards the woodlands and then made a jumping motion. “Glaceon!”
Koko perked up at that and then turned to Lillie. “Pix?”
“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Lillie said before turning to Rotom, who was floating over from where Shuckle and Clefable were. “Rotom, can you translate?”
Rotom did so. She wants to go to a flower field within the forest that Glacian knows about, zzt.
It must be to cheer her up, Lillie figured before giving Koko a bright smile and nod. “Sure. We’ll go for a walk.”
She then turned to her mother’s Clefable and Shuckle. “Clefable, Shuckle, will you come with us for a walk?”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded to the offer, whereas Shuckle shook his head and then withdrew into his shell to take a nap.
So, the four of them went off to find the field, led by the Fresh Snow Pokémon. Glacian darted through the forest with a practiced stride, quickly getting ahead of Koko and then turning around to sit in place, baiting her to catch up with him. Koko tried her best, racing towards him only to lunge when he was within range. She would then end up missing as the Glaceon dodged at the last moment and then continued running ahead.
Lillie, Rotom, and Clefable followed, with the young trainer observing how the frustration that Koko had been suffering from seemed to melt away as she gave chase after the Fresh Snow Pokémon. She made another lunge when they neared a tree that had a Pineco above, observing them playing rather passively as she missed and landed by a bush.
“Koko looks like she’s having fun now,” Lillie said. “I’m glad.”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded in response. “Cleffa. Clef, Clefable.”
He makes a good playmate for her, zzzt. Rotom translated until the shuffling of the nearby bush drew Koko’s attention, leaving her to freeze in place.
“Vul?” Her nose twitched, and she tilted her head as she took slow steps towards the bush even as Glacian looked on in confusion. Then a pink figure burst out of the bush with a bark, leaving her to jump back with her hackles raised in defense.
It was a Snubbull. The second Fairy Pokémon eyed them warily for a moment before sneezing hard enough that it fell backwards and onto its rear, leaving it to try to brush its nose with its forepaws. “Snnnn…”
“That’s strange. Snubbull aren’t native to the north of Cerulean…” It clicked as she noticed all of the scratches that spoke of battle on it, contradictory to their usually passive nature. “Oh, are you the Snubbull from Miss Melanie’s place?”
He didn’t answer her, instead pressing his nose to the ground and rubbing it against the grass and dirt to the confusion of Koko and the others. Lillie recalled that Snubbull as a whole had quite keen noses, so chances were that something was bothering his sense of smell. She made to go over to him when she noticed the Pineco above now looking somewhat wary of having a trainer and so many non-native species around it, and then decided otherwise. “Snubbull, come here and I’ll look at your nose. There’s something in it bothering you, isn’t there?”
“Snubb…” He lightly grumbled as he waddled over and away from the Pineco hanging overhead.
Lillie gently patted his head as she crouched down and took a look at his black, short nose. She noticed there was some kind of glimmering orange powder, a small amount but still present. Given the local Pokémon, she could hazard a guess. “Did you breathe in some Stun Spore earlier?”
“Bull,” he answered with a nod.
“A Cheri Berry would help you clear it out due to the spiciness, but I don’t have one on me. But I do have my Refresh Kit.” She pulled him onto her lap and reached for her waist pack that was the travel-standard Pokémon Refresh Kit, which she had in case her Pokémon got messy or wet during training, pulling out the medicinal sprayer and towel. She also pulled out a bottle of Fresh Water she’d placed inside of it as well. “This is going to be a little unpleasant, but you’ll feel better when I’m done.”
“Snn?” The warning was followed by a light spritz of the medicine that got into his nose, causing him to flail around. “Snubbull!!”
“Just let me flush it out and then your nose will be good as new.” Lillie stroked his head to soothe him until he settled down, only to then lightly pour a cap full of water into his nostrils. He ended up sneezing a lot more onto the ground next to her until she rubbed the towel over his nose gently. “How does that feel?”
Snubbull rubbed his face with his forepaws, cutely shifting the excess skin around before he sniffed the air and barked. He then wriggled in her grasp to get free, immediately sniffing the ground and barely paying Lillie any mind when she let go. The moment he caught whatever scent it was that he was looking for, he took off to go chasing after it. “Snubb!!”
“And there he goes,” Lillie said with a sigh as she put the kit away and cleaned up. “Miss Melanie mentioned that he picked fights with others, but I hope he won’t get into anything serious before he gets healed up—”
Her words were cut short as a small explosion went off overhead and she noticed two figures drop down. The Pineco proceeded to bounce away on the ground, its body singed as it left charred pieces of bark it had glued to itself behind. The Living Pokédex, on the other hand, was lying face down and smoldering with thin wisps of acrid smoke.
“Rotom, did you take its picture up-close without permission?” Lillie asked as Glacian prodded the casing until the red appendage made to brush him away.
I just wanted to add its data, zzztt… Fortunately, Rotom’s Pokédex was made to be rather tough. It managed to fly back up under its own power and took shelter within her hood once more.
At least Rotom will learn to keep its distance now, Lillie thought to herself before turning back in the direction that Snubbull ran off towards for a moment. Try not to get into trouble either, Snubbull.
Then she proceeded to follow after the two Ice-types once more.
A good walk later, Glacian finally led them past a break in the trees around the north of the forest. It placed them in a meadow that had thick trees to the east and south. Combined with the mountainside to the north, it formed an isolated the field where flowers stretched out a good distance to the west beneath the azure sky above.
“Oh wow.” Lillie was amazed as she took in the sight of everything. Because of the flowers and their aroma the meadow naturally attracted a variety of Pokémon, not unlike the meadows on Melemele Island. She could see fully-evolved Butterfree circling low to the ground to feed off the nectar of the flowers, one even passing by an Abra that laid slumbering amidst them. There was even a Slakoth that was perched in the tree next to them and slowly munching on a leaf.
It took Koko pressing against her leg to snap her out of the sight. “Vull?”
“Sure, you can go play for about an hour. Just don’t bother any Wild Pokémon since we didn’t come to battle,” Lillie told Koko as she felt Rotom stir in her hood. She grabbed it before it could fly off, leaving the Alolan Vulpix to run into the flowers with Glacian. “The same goes for you, Rotom. Keep your distance this time.”
She released it with the promise and it flew off to collect data, starting with the Slakoth that didn’t pay it mind while continuing to nibble on the leaf in its mouth with the speed of a glacier, when her Pokégear rang. Lillie expected it to be her mother, calling to check up on her. But, to her surprise, the ID registered the call coming from Astra.
When she answered the call, the screen popped up to show Astra on it, “Hi Astra. How have you been?”
“Jet and Blysen and me challenged Miss Karen’s Gym!” she answered with an excited smile.
“Already?” Lillie watched as Clefable bounced over into the flower field and towards a Butterfree. Unlike Rotom or Koko, she wasn’t the type to cause problems, so Lillie was sure she’d be fine. “Did you win?”
“Nope!” Astra said with a far more cheerful tone than one would expect. “It turns out Dark-types are immune to Jet’s Torment because of his Ability and Blysen got really scared, so I’m going to catch some new friends before I try again. What about you?”
“I’m taking a break from training with Koko.” Said Alolan Vulpix was playing tag with Glacian again, the two rolling around over one another in the bed of flowers. “She and Shuckle have been working on learning some new techniques, so we can beat the Nugget Bridge challenge.”
“That sounds fun—oh, that reminds me! Auntie Ann sent me a video of the Alola Championship match since she’s gone there for business, and near the end the guy with the open shirt called out this really pretty Ninetails. Will Koko evolve into that too?”
“Yes. Once she’s grown out all of her tails, I’ll let her evolve if she wants to.” It would be something that she couldn’t take back afterwards, so it was ultimately Koko’s decision. But it was better if Koko had the chance to finish growing as a Vulpix first, rather than prematurely evolving for the sake of power.
“Hey, don’t eat that, Jet! That’s Grandpa’s Ghost Gem!” Astra abruptly said over the line, suddenly shaking the phone as she reached off-screen for something. It was followed by some disgruntled Sableye noises when she pulled back and had a jewel in her hand. “Geez, I’ll pick you up a snack in along the way, so just wait a little bit.”
Lillie couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “Are you heading out now?”
“Yeah. We’re going to head down Route 10 now. Wish us luck.”
She did. “Good luck. I hope you make a new friend.”
“And I hope you can beat your challenge soon, cause when we meet again we’ll have our first badge. Bye, bye!” Click.
“Sounds like she’s been keeping busy too,” Lillie said as the line went dead and the screen went black, leaving her to close her Pokégear as her mother’s Clefable returned with a crown of flowers.
The Fairy Pokémon set the ring around her head and smiled. “Faaable.”
“Thank you.” Lillie reached up to feel the crown, brushing her fingers against the stamens to see if she would have to wash her hair later to get rid of the pollen. There was none to be found. “Oh, did you have the Butterfree clean them first?”
Clefable nodded before making a compressed motion with her hands and then pointing to herself.
“You have an egg…no, I think Mother would have mentioned that.” Lillie took a moment to try and grasp the meaning since Rotom was still elsewhere. She had known her since she was a Cleffa, so she could vaguely understand the gestures…oh, right. “When you were a Cleffa, I made one for you, didn’t I?”
The Fairy Pokémon clapped her hands at that. It was indeed the correct answer. “Clefable!”
“That’s back when we were both little, just before we found Nebby.” She brought her hands together horizontally until she had what she felt was about the right height. “You were so tiny that you’d fit right between my hands. Now you’re as big as I am.”
Clefable rubbed the back of her head with a small smile, as if proud and embarrassed at the same time. “Clef, clef.”
“How did Mother find you again?” Lille placed a finger in her chin as she looked to the sky and thought. “She said that she found you on the mountain one night, didn’t she?”
The Fairy Pokémon brought her finger tips together and then broke them apart to make a half-circle before reconnecting them. Then she pointed to the sky and then made downwards motion to the ground.
“Right, she said you fell down from the moon and into her arms.” It sounded a bit silly now that she was older, but there was a lot of things that they didn’t know about her species at that point. Like being able to store moonlight to float, or their attraction to star-shaped things. Most likely she clung to a Minior and ended up falling as it flew up. “You haven’t seen too many others like yourself aside from Mister Bill’s Clefairy, have you?”
She shook her head. “Faa.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, Mt. Moon has a Clefairy colony somewhere inside of it,” Lillie said. “Of course, we’d still have to find them. But I think it’d be lovely if you got to meet them at some point. Don’t you?”
Clefable seemed delighted at the prospect, which made Lillie glad. She had been working so hard in looking after Lusamine in her time of need, so anything that would brighten her up was worth doing. But there was the question of if her Mother could even make the trip before whatever Mister Bill did to help her was done.
When she’d talked to him after getting back to his home yesterday, he mentioned he’d need some kind of device from Saffron City. He tried to explain how it would help him get a better read on her body, but the explanation went a bit over her head. She knew a lot of things about Pokémon, but hard science was still something of a mystery to her.
Lillie then stretched her arms out and turned back to watch Koko playing around and Rotom flying about. She’d let them enjoy themselves until the hour was up before heading back.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Separated from the rest of its horde, a Bellsprout had found a spot that seemed appropriate and buried its roots into the ground to drink the moisture while waiting for a Combee to pass by. It didn’t know Sweet Scent to lure one in, but the scent it naturally gave off was still capable of allowing it to pass as a flower if it stood still. And, if one didn’t come by, the sun was out so photosynthesis could fuel it for the day if it didn’t move so much.
Then it heard the shaking of leaves. The rustle of the green as something went through the bushes. Too loud to be one Tiny Bee Pokémon, but not one of the other pollinators. It remained motionless with one beady eye fixed on the shaking bush to see what it was that would emerge.
“Snubbull!” barked the Fairy Pokémon as he popped out. Aggressive and hostile. He growled on all fours, excess skin quivering as he stalked forward.
The Bellsprout waved its leaves to express non-hostility as it began to pull its roots up. It didn’t want trouble. But the Snubbull lunged forward and the Flower Pokémon panicked and attacked. “Be-Bellell!”
The sinuous vines that sprouted from tiny buds between its leaves and leathery stalk of a body lashed out, only to miss as Snubbull jumped to the side. The vines cracked down where he had been and were then caught as he darted back in to snap down on the vines with his teeth.
“Sprout!!” cried the Flower Pokémon as the pain transmitted and it tried to retract the vines back to end the pain. They took time to heal and even longer to regrow if cut, which was a problem since they were the primary way it gathered food among other things. Snubbull waited until they were taut, making it a tug of war between them until he suddenly darted forward with the vines in his mouth and then went past the Bellsprout, dragging it along the ground as he ran in circles. “Sprout! Sprout!”
“Snnn—” Snubbull kept running despite its pleas until he neared a tree, whereupon he spun around hard and fast, allowing the momentum to slam the Bellsprout into the hardy bark. He then spat out the vines before lunging forward and Tackling its supple body while it was pinned against the tree. “—bull!”
“Spr…out…” Its body buckled under the hit, leaving it to collapse on the ground and twitch in pain as Snubbull hopped back for some distance. Rising up slightly, until the curves of its split stalk touched the ground and its leaves were supporting its weight, it shot out an Acid Spray from its bell in an act of desperation.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped back to escape from the small ball of sludge before it could touch him. His nose then scrunched up as the acid began to froth where it hit the ground, the scent of it breaking down the grass rankling him. He cursed his excellent sense of smell and then he looked up to see that the Bellsprout had started running away and gave chase. “Snubbull!!”
“Bellsprout! Bellsprout!” The panicked cries of the Flower Pokémon could be heard as its fibrous feet darted across the woodlands, leaves shaking in terror as it fled from the terror that stalked it as it tried to get back to its horde. Surely they would protect it.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The beeping of Lillie’s Pokégear’s Alarm App signaled the passing of an hour. It was time for them to head back to Mister Bill’s house for Lunch. Lillie rose to her seat on the grass next to Clefable and stretched out before brushing away any stray blades of grass.
“Koko, Rotom, Glacian! It’s time to head back!” The Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon both came running at her beckoning. Lillie crouched down and brushed Koko’s head affectionately as Rotom slipped back into her hood. “Did you have fun?”
“Good then let’s head back so we can all have Lunch.”
“Glae! Glae!” Glacian hopped forward and turned once, his tail flicking before he started running ahead of them. Koko yipped and then gave chase, wanting to continue their game until they got back.
Lillie and Clefable followed them on their way back until both Koko and Glacian abruptly stopped at a turn that would have taken them back towards Bill’s home, instead turning their heads off to the side in a southwest direction. “What’s wrong?”
“Vul…vul…” Koko took a few cautious steps with her head raised before pointing in that direction. “Vulpix! Vulpix!”
Koko said she heard Snubbull’s cry in that direction, zzt. Rotom translated.
“His cry?” Lillie tried to listen for him, but it was no good. Her sense of hearing wasn’t nearly as good as Koko’s or Glacian’s. In the end, she was only human. “Is he in trouble again?”
Glacian sniffed the ground as he walked further ahead and then gestured for Rotom to look at it. The Living Pokédex hovered over a spot. Tracks identified, zzt. These tracks indicate many Bellsprouts have traveled recently in this direction, zzrt.
“Hmm…” Lillie brought a hand up to her chin in thought. “You don’t think he would have picked a fight with an entire group of Bellsprouts, do you?”
Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive and he had Stun Spore in his nose before. That was a technique stronger Bellsprouts learned, along with a few other Pokémon. But, short of Butterfree, most of those Pokémon were nocturnal.
“Now I’m getting worried about him,” Lillie admitted. It was probably nothing, but if he got himself into trouble because she had helped him clear his nose then that would be her fault. “Let’s see if we can find him to make sure he isn’t getting in over his head.”
She followed Koko and Glacian as they guided her, feeling some anxiety at the situation. That feeling only doubled when she got close enough to see a Bellsprout pushing its way out of a bush that was nestled between two thick trees, tripping over its own feet and then using its leafy appendages to cover its head in fear. Lillie came to a stop at the bush and crouched down to check on it. “Are you okay?”
“Sp-Sprout. Sprout.” It said, leaving Rotom to translate it as apologizing for bringing it there.
“Snubbull!!” they heard past the trees and bushes. It was followed by the sound of fire popping and a pained cry from another Bellsprout that got swallowed up by an explosion, leaving the scent of smoke to reach their noses.
Lillie stood again and pushed her way through the bush, leading into what amounted to a small clearing with several Bellsprouts. Some of them were already unconscious on the ground, some that had burns on them. There were still seven left standing though.
Snubbull snarled before making a terrifying face that seemed almost like something out of a nightmare, darkness seemingly warping it and his eyes folded like he was rabid. Fear struck the instinctive part of several of the Bellsprouts, leaving them frozen in place. Then he darted towards one that was apart from the group, bearing his fangs with the intention of attacking them.
The targeted Flower Pokémon swallowed its fear to let out an Acid Spray, coughing out a ball of corrosive sludge. But he dodged it with a hop to the side and then hit it with a Tackle, the momentum bowling the lithe Pokémon down and leaving it open for the fangs that had a dark tint that followed as he then used Bite to clamp down onto it.
“Sppprroouutttttt!” The pained cry that slipped out was stretched and grew tighter as he then spun it around and tossed the poor thing into the semi-frozen group. Six left.
The Fairy Pokémon then charged for another one that tried to use a Vine Whip, only for fire to sudden flare from Snubbull’s mouth and then wreathed it. The Fire Fang burned the vines, causing the sinuous appendages to retreat and the Flower Pokémon to try fleeing instead. Turning its back on Snubbull left it open as he lunged and then clamped down, causing the separate flames that wreathed the top and bottom of his mouth to smash together and then rupture in an explosion of smoke and embers.
This is horrible, Lillie thought to herself as she watched Fairy Pokémon toss the beaten and burned Flower Pokémon that dangled from his mouth away and then fell on all fours to bark at the remaining five. No matter how she looked at it, Snubbull was the aggressor here. Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive, and that he’d pick fight with trainers before running away, but I didn’t think he was this aggressive to wild Pokémon. Not with how playful he had been yesterday.
“Bell! Bell!” the Flower Pokémon in the center shouted, pointing his leaves in the opposite directions. The others began to spread out, their dark eyes never leaving Snubbull even as they split apart and forced him to look between them. Then one on the right stepped forward and released a Vine Whip, sending it right for Snubbull.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped out of the way of that one, only to get caught in the back by one that lashed out and wrapped around his waist, pulling him back even as he braced himself. He then turned around and lunged in that direction as flames shrouded his mouth for a Fire Fang again. That’s when the one he’d been targeting before released its vines to wrap around his torso, pulling him in the opposite direction to hold him still in the air and unable to bite down.
“Sprout!” ordered the leader Bellsprout, pointing to the ground in front of them. They promptly slammed Snubbull into the grass headfirst, snuffing the flames around his mouth, and the other two then proceeded to fire Acid Spray directly onto him while he couldn’t fight back.
“BUUUUUULLLLLL!!!” Snubbull screamed out in a cry that sent a chill up Lillie’s spine as she watched his skin began to smolder. He struggled to get free to no avail as the leader Bellsprout raised his arm and they fired a second volley. “SNUUUBBBUULLLL!!!”
“Stop it!” Lillie said, drawing their attention to her as she walked closer before they could fire a third time. Koko and Glacian were immediately in front of her, while Clefable was right behind her. In the face of the additional threats, they stopped to assess the situation and so Lillie tried to reason with them. “That’s enough. He’s beaten!”
“Sprout! Bellsprout!” the leader said in response, pointing to the fallen Bellsprouts that were injured and unconsciousness. “Bellell!”
Rotom translated. Snubbull apparently attacked them when they had done nothing, zzt.
“Bu…bulll…” Snubbull muttered weakly, trembling as the acid continued nipping at his flesh. Poison hurt more than anything for a Fairy-type, and that was a corrosive acid that softened the flesh. Pokémon could handle a lot of damage, but too much of it was still harmful enough to be lethal.
Knowing that, even if he was the aggressor, she couldn’t let that keep up. “Then I’ll take him and make sure he won’t come back. Just don’t hurt him anymore.”
Pushing past the bushes, the cowering Bellsprout from before came in. It walked to them, gesturing to Snubbull and then her. “Sp-sprout. Bellsprout. Bell?”
Yes. That would work best for everyone. Right, zzrt? Rotom translated.
“Sprout!” The leader sent a vine out that wrapped around the Bellsprout and then tossed it out of the way. “Bellsprout! Bellell!”
Lillie didn’t need the translation to know it was telling the other Flower Pokémon to be silent, but learning that, apparently, he led Snubbull here did explain why the Bellsprout was apologizing afterwards. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to figure out the chain of events before the leader of the Bellsprout Horde turned back to Snubbull and drew his head back.
He was going to attack again and, given that wild Pokémon tended to be a lot more brutal when dealing with a threat than trained Pokémon, Snubbull wouldn’t get out of it without serious injuries… or worse. She had to act. So she pointed to the leader and gave the command, “Koko! Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix obeyed. A chilling gust that flowed forward hit the leader Bellsprout head-on, leaving it to writhe as the ice particles left the leathery texture of his stem covered in frost. It bowled over, shivering, and the other Flower Pokémon looked onto them with hostility.
“Th-That was a warning,” Lillie said, feeling both guilt and nervousness as they fixed their eyes onto her. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and you’ve already got wounded Pokémon within your care. So please, let us take Snubbull or… or else!”
“S-S-Spr-Sprout,” the leader murmured, glaring at her as only a Bellsprout could. The ones holding Snubbull down then released their hold and instead went to grab their fallen kin. Then they began to leave, eyes fixed onto Lillie’s group in fear and anger alike. Once they were safely behind the leader and the two flanking it, the leader then pointed a final time to the cowardly Bellsprout and said, “Bellsprout! Sprout!”
She didn’t need Rotom to translate that either as the remaining Flower Pokémon was left behind. She could tell by the way he collapsed in place and then began to cry that he’d been kicked out of his horde, either for bringing the trouble to them or trying to interfere. Lillie couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor thing, even as she looked down at Snubbull.
He was still breathing, but he’d lost consciousness. This… was partly her fault for helping Snubbull earlier. He wouldn’t have run off if she hadn’t cleaned his nose, and then this wouldn’t have happened. It honestly felt like she was bullying them for defending themselves, but she couldn’t visit Miss Melanie again and say that she let it happen either.
She pulled out her towel and gently picked him up, since the acid had lost most of its caustic properties now. But he still needed to have it washed out and him healed. She then turned to the exiled Bellsprout. “Will you come with us? You’re hurt too, and I want to know what happened here.”
His dark eyes glistened as he brought one leafy appendage up to wipe the tears away. Then he nodded. “Sprout.”
The six then headed back to Mister Bill’s home.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Snubbull shifted as his consciousness surfaced from the depths of unconsciousness. The scents that reached his nose were mostly artificial, human-made surroundings with a spattering of other scents that belonged to more Pokémon. The shelter? He sat up and looked around to find that wasn’t the case.
He was in a bedroom, laying on a pillow on top of a bed. The scent of the foreign Fox Pokémon, with the nice-smelling female trainer’s scent, were all over the bed’s sheets. But he also noticed that their scents were woven with another one and brought his tiny arms to his nose to find that it clung to his own skin—soap, like the one the female caretaker covered him with before the… unpleasantness.
Snubbull huffed. He hated baths.
His ear flaps twitched as he caught the sounds coming from the window and he waddled over to the windowsill to watch the scene below. The female trainer was having the fox practice with breathing out cold air over the water. The sun was on the verge of going down too, meaning he had slept for more than six hours.
The Fairy Pokémon turned and leapt down from the windowsill to the floor, making his way to the door. It was cracked so he could open it wide with enough effort, allowing him to walk out of the room and into the hallway. More Pokémon scents could be smelled coming from above, but he ignored them to head down the stairs to get outside, where two more humans were talking.
“Still no luck in finding a breeder with the Pokémon you were looking for?” asked the human male as Snubbull peered around the corner and into the kitchen. He looked scrawny with brown hair and held some kind of tablet.
“Not in the Kanto region, at least,” answered a human female that looked like an older version of the nice-smelling trainer, sitting at a table with a mug. From the scent Snubbull presumed it to be hot leaf juice—the kind that the human child once tried to make him drink. “I had hoped one of them at least had an Egg, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.”
“Well, once the Global Trade Network is back online you may be able to find one from a breeder in a different region. Sinnoh has colder weather naturally due to being higher north, but Hoenn has more tropical weather due to being closer to the equator. I know a few reputable ones in each region that I can ask.”
“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”
“Still, I have to say I’m impressed by the strides your organization has made in exploring Ultra Space. Being able to travel the space between a network of dimensions is one avenue I haven’t explored before.”
“My husband was the one who pioneered the study of it. We were simply the ones who followed in his footsteps along with the conservation—”
Once it was clear the humans weren’t going to say anything interesting to him, Snubbull decided to continue onwards. He quickly darted for the door and then went through the hole at the bottom that had a flap, allowing him to get outside at last, where he noticed the scent of the poisonous flowers that had attacked him. One was close, but before he could sniff it out for revenge the ice fox gave away his presence to the female trainer.
She turned and came over, crouching down. He noticed she smelled of the Flower Pokémon as well. “Snubbull, are you feeling better now?”
He nodded. “Bull.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried when you wouldn’t wake up even after we used Mister Bill’s healing machine, but he said that you must’ve been tired on top of hurt. You didn’t get any sleep since I left Miss Melanie’s place, did you?”
He huffed. Sleep was for the weak. He was strong, not tired. He could stay up all night, no matter what his pack-mother said.
Of course, that didn’t stop his blasted instincts from leaving him relishing when she gently caressed his head. A pleased grumble bubbled up in this throat before he realized it and he was leaning into the touch. Once he caught himself, he broke away and turned towards the woods again. The sun was going down, meaning there were others to hunt and do battle with to become even stronger. He fell on all fours to begin—
—when he was promptly picked up as the female trainer stood, leaving him an uncomfortable distance off the ground. He demanded his release, flailing his arms and legs. “Snubbull!”
“If I let you down, will you go back to picking fights with wild Pokémon again?” she asked.
“Bull,” he admitted without shame. That was how one became stronger. The weak will become prey to be beaten up so that he could become big and powerful, with mighty fangs that could crush boulders.
“Miss Melanie told me you picked fights with other Trainers and then run away,” she said. “And you were previously owned before, yet you’re running around north of Cerulean when your pack should be south. Is there a reason you’re going around fighting so much?”
It izzz peculiar to see a Snubbull with such an aggressive demeanor, the flying machine said. Normally, they are playful, if not somewhat timid, zzzrt.
“Snubbull!” Snubbull barked vehemently at that, snapping his jaws at the flying machine. How dare it compare him to those weaklings, content to be pampered and lay around! Not him. He was a warrior, he needed challenge, not the luxury of a pack.
That was why he departed on his journey to become a mighty Pokémon… only to get caught by a human child, who then tried to make him a house pet that was dressed up like a toy and made to wear accessories. The shame of it still burned him to this day.
That was why, once he had his freedom, he vowed to become stronger on his own. No matter the costs or risks. For he was the mightiest of all Snubbull, and all would know of it!
“Oh, I see,” the female trainer said after the flying machine translated his tirade. “Most Snubbull are passive, so they make for good companions for non-trainers. Same with the Meowths that can be found there too. And, since they’re being taken care of, they don’t have to worry about things like gathering food or defending their territory. But you don’t want that kind of life, do you?”
He nodded enthusiastically. Finally, someone who understood.
“But, you know, you probably won’t be able to become known as the mightiest since most wild Pokémon don’t fight for sport,” she added. “Not to mention, trained Pokémon are taught to work within rules of engagement, whereas wild Pokémon fight to drive off a threat. I’m sure your parents probably told you not to go to certain places as well once you hatched, so that you didn’t enter their territory, right?”
Admittedly, his pack-mother had. Hence why he stayed away after attaining his freedom from the human child who’d trapped him in that boring life before. Totally not because he ran away stating he would become great and didn’t want them to see him before he managed to prove his point.
“Well, since you told me about you, can I tell you a bit about me now?” she asked.
He nodded. It was only fair that he gave the nice-smelling trainer some of his time since she did help him. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine on his own once he got free.
“In the past, I watched someone I love dearly try their hardest to get something precious to them. But the way they were doing it was dangerous and reckless, among other things. I knew that, but I was too scared to say or do anything to stop them. And because of that, I nearly lost them forever if not for a dear friend. I don’t want to do nothing as I watch that happen again, which is why I have to say that you can’t keep doing this, Snubbull.”
A low rumble bubbled up in his throat. “Snnn…”
“That said, I actually admire you, Snubbull,” she continued, causing his ears to perk. “Seeing a Pokémon like you doing your best and being brave is really inspiring, so it would make both me and Miss Melanie sad too if something bad happened to you. That’s why I want to take responsibility for you and make it so that you can reach your dream safely. So, I’m challenging you to a battle.”
He blinked, tilting his head. “Bull?”
She nodded, her ponytail bobbing. “That’s right, a battle. One-on-one. And, if I win, I’ll become your trainer and bring you along with me on my Gym Challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched as the Fairy Pokémon considered her offer. From what she could tell due to their little talk, Snubbull was a bit on the younger side—probably a few seasons older than Koko. He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his actions and seemed to go headfirst into whatever challenged him, so she didn’t think he would reject her offer outright since it involved a battle. That meant she had to decide which Pokémon to use.
Koko was a little tired from training, not to mention Fire Fang would hurt her a lot if it connected. Like AJ had said, Vulpix were fragile on the defensive side of the things. And, while Koko could probably outpace Snubbull, he was even more aggressive than her judging by that battle earlier so if he caught her it’d end badly.
Better not to risk it, she decided as Snubbull began wiggling his arms around and made cute, inquiring noises.
He’s asking what’s in it for him? Rotom translated.
Lillie counted off the benefits. “Well, you’ll get to travel. You’ll get to face off against a bunch of different Pokémon to improve yourself in a relatively safer manner. Not to mention Gyms have stronger opponents for you to face, and if we beat all eight then we can challenge the Elite Four, who have the strongest Pokémon in the region. If you beat them, then that means you’re one the strongest Pokémon in the entire region and everyone around the world will know it.”
A low rumble slipped out of his throat and his eyes grew distant as he pondered it over, the visions likely playing out in his head as a fantasy. Then he shook his head and made more Snubbull sounds that Rotom translated. He wanted to know what he’d get when he won instead.
He’s like a child who believes he’s invincible, Lillie figured. It did much to explain his personality though, and it was good to be enthusiastic. Even so, it only solidified her resolve that he needed someone who could help him direct that enthusiasm in a more positive direction.
“What about all the Pokéblocks you can eat?” she offered. “I’ll be visiting Cerulean tomorrow to make some, so I can make whatever kind you want to take with you then, while tonight you can have dinner with us.”
He made a huffing noise, as if that was nearly enough for his compliance. But then his stomach grumbled loudly enough that even Lillie could hear it, leaving him to stiffen up and then look away in embarrassment. “Sn.”
Lillie couldn’t help but giggle a bit. “So, can I take that as an okay?”
He awkwardly nodded, so she let him down. Snubbull then ran to the path opposite the bridge, fell onto all fours and barked. “Snub!!”
“Koko, this is Shuckle’s battle,” Lillie said when she noticed Koko getting ready to fight. The Alolan Vulpix seemed reluctant but sat down as Lillie pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it out. Light took the form of the Mold Pokémon as he landed opposite of Snubbull. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle turned and nodded his head before turning back to face the Fairy Pokémon and see that he was already rushing for him.
Snubbull used Tackle!
“Hey, we didn’t say to start yet!!” Lillie shouted as Snubbull lunged, only for Shuckle to Withdraw into his shell reflexively, leaving him to only roll back a bit without being seriously hurt. “Shuckle, use Constrict!”
The Mold Pokémon stuck his head out, frowning, and then thrust out two of his appendages to grab the Fairy Pokémon. Snubbull jumped to the side to avoid one and then exposed his teeth that had a dark-tint to Bite down into the other, causing Shuckle to flinch. “Kle!?”
“Snnn—” Snubbull snarled as he tried to pull Shuckle along like he had the Bellsprouts, only for Shuckle to anchor himself to the ground with his other gooey limbs. Between that and the weight of his shell, he tugged to no avail until Shuckle went for him with the other appendage and forced him to let go or be caught.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked. The Mold Pokémon’s waved his bitten appendage slightly to see if it was severely harmed before nodding his head, keeping his beady eyes on Snubbull. No more ambushes this time. “Okay, then let’s try pinning him down from a distance!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Shuckle’s mouth shifted as it bundled its saliva, turned it into bug adhesive, and then spat it out towards the Fairy Pokémon. The glob expanded only to miss as Snubbull darted to the side, leaving it to cling to the ground as a net that would ensnare whatever was caught on it until it dissolved organically or was removed. He got ready to spit again when—
Snubbull used Scary Face!
—a terrifying face was put onto display, draped in shadows and glowing eyes that seemed to stare into the dark pit that were Shuckle’s. It caused him to tense, involuntarily swallowing his bug glue in order to Withdraw back into his shell. That allowed Snubbull to run in with embers licking at the sides of his mouth.
“Shuckle, use Bide!” Lillie ordered. A red hue began to shroud his shell as the embers around Snubbull’s mouth blossomed into flames that wreathed his mouth. Then she could only watch as he lunged for the Mold Pokémon and brought the flaming fangs down!
Snubbull used Fire Fang!
The resulting explosion when the two halves of the flames met each other didn’t do much. His shell was among the strongest natural one a Pokémon could have after all. But the wave of heat still left Shuckle to cry out in discomfort from within his shell as the red energy thickened.
Shuckle is storing energy!
Snubbull jumped back, exhaling embers before more began to wreath his mouth for another attack. Then he lunged again, allowing the second Fire Fang to be let loose ruthlessly. “Bull!!”
A Critical Hit!
The flaming jaws slammed down with the glowing shell in between. The explosion was head-on and at its strongest, allowing the force and heat transferring through the shell to hurt. “K-Kle…!”
Then the Fairy Pokémon to leapt back to form a third Fire Fang, the flames smoldering beneath his eyes as he was intent on breaking through Shuckle’s defenses with overwhelming force. He lunged for Shuckle once more—
Shuckle unleashed the stored energy!
—when all that pent-up pain and fury was converted to power and then released in the form of a single mighty blow. Shuckle struck out with his right appendage that was launched once more from his shell like a cannon. And, when the collective power met that of the flames, the Fire Fang lost its cohesion and ruptured directly in Snubbull’s face.
Detonation. From the smoke flew the Fairy Pokémon, a thin plume flowing from his mouth until he hit the ground and tumbled back into the Sticky Web net on the ground. “Bu…bull…”
“Good job, Shuckle,” Lillie said as she crouched down to check on the Mold Pokémon. She gently stroked where he had been bitten as Shuckle held it up. Then, picking him up, she went over to the downed Fairy Pokémon. “It’s over, Snubbull.”
“SNUBBULL!!” Snubbull said in defiance, trying to rise again. He struggled for a tense minute, pulling hard enough that it almost seemed like he would rip himself free… only for his strength to give out and the elasticity to snap him back into place.
Hungry, stuck, and helpless for the second time that day, Snubbull exhaled and finally submitted. “Snub.”
He surrenders, zzt. Rotom translated.
Lillie took that as cue to pull out a second ball that she set into its active state. “Sorry about this in advance.”
Snubbull tensed up, as if preparing for the impact of the ball. But instead she held the ball out and triggered its Return function. In an instant, Snubbull was pulled into it in an energy form and the ball snapped shut without a struggle.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
An hour later and one empty bowl of food, Snubbull was sitting apart from the rest of Lillie’s Pokémon in her room with his arms crossed. Miffed. He hadn’t taken it well that she had already caught him while he was unconscious as a matter of pride.
In order for him to be properly healed as quickly as possible, they needed to use Mister Bill’s portable healing machine. Given the amount of Pokémon he had under his care, it was only natural that he had one. But they all required the Pokémon to be in balls to use, so she put him in a ball to do so.
“Don’t be that way, Snubbull. I would have released you if you had won,” Lillie told him as she crouched next to him. Mind you, it would have been to Miss Melanie’s place or to Route 5, since she promised those Bellsprouts he wouldn’t bother them again. “I wanted it to at least be fair, and to show you that you can’t keep fighting like you would in the wild. After all, Shuckle isn’t nearly as aggressive and he managed to beat you.”
Snubbull let out a dismissive snort. He still didn’t see how he lost to the Mold Pokémon that was currently eating an Oran Berry Purée for dessert.
Shuckle’s species are among the strongest Pokémon in termzzz of defensive strength because of their shells, Rotom explained to clarify that. To make use of this and fend off predators, they have instinctual understanding of the move Bide, which compounds all the damage they receive for a short time period and allows them to return it two-fold, zzt.
“Snub. Snubbull,” mumbled Snubbull as he nodded sagely in understanding. “Snubbull. Snubbull.”
I don’t think you should try rationalizing it as it being only natural that your own attack would do so much damage, zzt.
“What you should take from it is that you’ll have to learn not to be so aggressive, Snubbull,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon as she picked him up and looked him in the eyes, her own somewhat disapproving. “Blindly attacking fast and hard might work out in the wild, but that won’t get you too far from now on. We’re going to try working on that, so you can make it all the way to being a Champion Pokémon, okay?”
Snubbull huffed in reluctant acceptance and then pointed to the other side of the room with a questioning noise. “Bull?”
In response to his inquiry about a certain other Pokémon here, the Bellsprout in question raised his head up nerviously. “B-Bell?”
“Bellsprout is coming with us, since he was exiled from his horde only because he pleaded for me to be allowed to take you to end the fighting,” Lillie explained. That and, like Bewear had left Shuckle without his home, Snubbull had left Bellsprout without his horde. The moment she decided to save Snubbull, she was willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities of that. “You two are going to be working together, so let’s all get along from now on.”
Snubbull only snorted and turned away, leaving Lillie to sigh again she set him back down. She didn’t expect them to get along right away given what happened earlier, and the fact that Snubbull wasn’t trying to attack him was better than if he was. But she still wanted them to be friends with one another.
Fortunately, Koko came over to her side after she’d finished eating and then distracted her by pointing a paw to the monitor. “Pix. Pix?”
“You want to watch the battle video again?” Lillie guessed before Rotom chimed in. She got a nod in response. “Sure.”
Snubbull’s ears perked up at that. “Snub?”
“One of my friends is the current Champion of Alola, the region I’m from,” Lillie explained. “The other became strong enough to challenge him, meaning he defeated the Elite Four as well. Their match was a little while ago and showed how they both became the strongest trainers in all of Alola.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head and yipped, going on about the match that she’d seen according to Rotom. Snubbull seemed wide-eyed at how vividly she was apparently describing it. When she was done, he jumped up and pointed to the monitor as well.
Lillie set up the video to play on the monitor and occupy the two of them before she went back to Shuckle and Bellsprout. The Mold Pokémon was finishing up his dessert now, running one of his little appendages over his mouth to scoop up anything he missed and then sticking it into his mouth. She gently stroked the length of his head. “You did very well today, Shuckle. I’m proud of you.”
Shuckle accepted it without complaint but compared to Snubbull and Koko he wasn’t as receptive to it. Likely because his interactions with humans was far more limited and he was just naturally relaxed by nature. He would probably prefer to just lounge around and ferment the berries in his shell rather than fight, but he was at least keeping to his part of the deal they made, and Lillie was sure he would warm up more to her in time. The same went for Snubbull as well.
As for Bellsprout, she noticed that a good portion of the food she’d set aside for him was untouched. Like Shuckle, he didn’t exactly have teeth, so soft foods or those he could break down quickly with his acid was best for him. But he didn’t seem to have done so. “Are you not hungry?”
He waved his verdant appendages back and forth to state otherwise, moving the tips to his stem-like body. “Bell. Bellsprout.”
He’s full at the moment, zzt. Rotom chimed in. Bellsprouts don’t have a central stomach, but instead a very long digestive track that connects to their mouthzzz. To make up for the lack of prey at times, they also draw in nutrients from the ground and create energy through their leaves. Since the sun has gone down, he isn’t as active and so he won’t digest it as quickly, zrt.
“Sp-sprout,” the Flower Pokémon nodded in agreement. Then he began tapping the tips of his leaves together. “Be…Bellell, Bellsprout?”
Rotom translated. He’s asking if you’re going to name him now, zzt.
“Do you want me too?” Lillie asked him. She didn’t name Shuckle yet because she was waiting for him to be more comfortable with them, given the circumstances they met under. Though, truth be told, her family rarely nicknamed their Pokémon to begin with—Nebby was an exception, and Koko was her Starter from Professor Burnet.
He brought his leaf to the rim of his bell before nodding slowly. “Bell.”
“Hmm…” Lillie’s brows folded in concentration as she tried to figure out a name for him. For Koko, her species has a legend behind them to use as a basis. And Nebby looked like a small nebula for her to go off of as a small child. So maybe something with a part of his name in it? “How does Bellamy sound?”
“Bellsprout… Bellsprout…” He tilted his drum-like head, one leaf placed on the side as if he was tapping his cheek in thought. Then he bobbed his head. “Bell.”
“I’m glad you like it.” Lillie smiled and then offered him her hand. “I hope we can get along together from now on, Bellamy.”
He extended a leaf in agreement and they shook on it, bringing the long day to a close.
Chapter 13: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 2
A little while later, Lillie found herself sitting in the Pokémon Center and was left waiting for Koko and Shuckle to finish being treated within their balls. Lilligant too, just in case she’d gotten tired from the walking and cold. Rotom was inside of her backpack, which was sitting next to her, going over the data he’d gathered.
Her eyes were fixed on the card she had from the Nugget Bridge. It was proof of how they’d managed to get two wins under their belt in a single day. After how badly Koko had gotten hurt against that Sandshrew, and how they’d been beaten by the Gym Leader in Vermillion City, it felt good to have some confirmation that she wasn’t doing so badly as a Trainer. She’d actually managed to instruct them a little better without panicking, though Koko and Shuckle had done so mostly on their own given how the battles went.
Still, I feel like I’m a little closer to Elio and Hau than I was before. Even as that thought drifted into her mind, she knew they couldn’t relax yet. They were only at the starting line, and Double Battles would require her to properly coordinate with both of her Pokémon. She didn’t doubt that the next trainer on the bridge would give them a work out.
“Chansey.” The soft chiming voice of one Pokémon Center’s Chansey reached Lillie’s ears as the Egg Pokémon waddled up to her table with a tray holding the balls for the three Pokémon.
Lillie thanked her as she reclaimed them and then watched her walk off, before releasing the three to check on them. “How does everyone feel?”
They all gave various confirmations that they were doing fine—a bob of the head from Shuckle, a yip from Koko, and a slight bow from Lilligant. Then there was a tap on the window pane next to them that drew their attention. Azuria was standing there, waving to get their attention before she entered into the Pokémon Center.
“How’d it go at the bridge?” she asked.
“Koko and Shuckle managed to beat the first two trainers.” Lillie noticed that she was now carrying a canvas tote-bag. “Did you go shopping on your way here?”
She nodded before holding up her bag. “I needed to get some Berries to use the machines upstairs.”
“Kle?” Shuckle’s head snapped up at that, his eyes fixed on the bag. From his perch on the table, he stretched out his gooey appendages and reached into it. When he pulled them back, he held in his grasp an Oran berry.
“Shuckle, no!” Lillie said as he quickly retreated into his shell with it, much to Lillie’s dismay. She was forced to apologize at the theft on his behalf. “I’m sorry, I’ve only had him for a little while now and he’s not used to being out of the wild. ”
Azuria brushed it off with a wave. “It was only one, so it’s fine. I still have enough to make Pokéblocks here for everyone and have some left over for Poffins at home. That being said, you should keep him away from Mister Bill’s trees until he’s better trained. Viri was pretty protective about them last time I checked, since some Pokémon like to take them without permission.”
That explains this morning. Lillie looked down, disappointed in the Mold Pokémon as Lilligant and Vulpix prodded at the shell to try and get him to come out with the Berry. They were at least trained to know better. When it was clear he wouldn’t, she could only frown before recalling him into his ball and silently promising to scold him later. “What are Pokéblocks and Poffins though?”
“Pokéblocks are candies and Poffins are cookies,” Azuria explained. “Both are made of berries so they’re good snacks for Pokémon. They also have certain benefits if you know what you’re doing, such as increasing the luster of their coats.”
“So, they’re like Poké Beans then?” Lillie guessed as she rose to her feet and grabbed her bag, causing Rotom to emerge and then relocate into her hood as she put it on her back. Koko then leapt into her arms once more and snuggled against the arm warmers before settling in. “If you don’t mind, can I watch you? It might be good as a treat for them when we start traveling.”
“No problem. Just follow me.”
Azuria led her up to the escalator to the second floor, where there was a machine waiting. There she explained that she wanted to make some treats for the Pokémon at the home of her friend, a woman named Melanie, closer to the south side of the city. She had a portable kit at home, but these bigger machines were also capable of making them in bulk along with Berry Powder, which could be added to make food more nutritious and appealing as well.
“So, all you have to do is insert the berries into the blender and press a button?” Lillie asked as she watched the older girl put in four Pecha berries and hit the lower-button.
“That’s enough for the type of block I’m making.” She moved to the Berry Crusher and placed an Aspear Berry into it. “The types of berries will determine what kind of flavor it has, and the blending choice determines how dense and smooth it’ll be. For Pokémon who are used to eating something like rocks or gemstones, it’ll be fine if they’re thick and hard. But for those that don’t have strong teeth, they’ll need it soft enough for them to chew.”
“Meaning you have to not only be able to cater to your Pokémon’s tastes, but whether or not they can eat it comfortably?” She watched with mild fascination as the older girl closed the top of the Crusher and pressed a button. The berry was instantly freeze-dried and then the crushing began. “That can get complicated pretty quickly if you have a lot of different Pokémon.”
When she considered the standard Pokémon food, it was basically made so that any Pokémon could eat it without considering that sort of thing. But then she remembered Astra’s Sableye and how much fonder it seemed of hard candy. Enough to be used as a bribe. In comparison, Shuckle couldn’t eat solid foods that hard due to lacking in teeth—hence why he made Berry Juice.
“She does have to look after a lot more than she likes.” Azuria’s tone carried a notable hint of somberness. “Melanie takes care of Pokémon that were abandoned by Trainers and tries to help them get back onto their feet, so they can return to the wild without fearing people. But apparently this year there’s been a lot of them.”
“You mean because of the league thing?” She could still remember the Sandshrew attacking them. The sting of sand and its disdain for her wasn’t something easy to overlook. “The Nurse Joy in Vermillion mentioned it too.”
Azuria nodded. “Cerulean doesn’t have a Gym anymore, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t just abandon Pokémon here. And if they’re released outside of a PC, finding where they came from can be hard since they aren’t registered anymore. In the past, since she couldn’t leave the city, she had to rely on others to take Pokémon not native to here where they belonged, or else they’d end up being lost in the streets.”
“That must’ve be hard on her.”
“It’s gotten a little better since Mister Bill had her listed as a Caretaker now, but it’s still hard on her since she doesn’t have much help. She’s always been like a big sister to me, so I wanted to help her out a little by doing this much.”
Lillie’s impression of Azuria improved quite a bit from how earnest she sounded. The girl had been a little pushy with Rotom and Koko on the train. But how she talked about her Butterfree and her friend showed she had a very caring side to her.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The blender came to a stop as a series of beeps signified that the first batch were done. Azuria opened it up and found about ten blocks had been made. She picked one up and plopped it into her mouth. “Hmm…”
“Did they come out well?”
Azuria swallowed it and then held out one for Lillie. “Try tasting for yourself.”
She did so. “Hmm… it’s sweet. And it feels like there’s some pulp that spreads around inside of my mouth when I bite into it.”
“That’s because of how its blended with only a single kind of berry. The sweetness is the dominant flavor, so the coloring is solid and you won’t find any variation,” she explained. “It’ll get more complicated when different berries combinations, blend settings, times, and supplemental powders get added into it, but right now I’m just making generic snacks with different flavors to them.”
Lillie looked down at the inquisitive sound to find Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes were fixed on the blocks.
“It seems like she wants to try some too.” Azuria grabbed two more and presented them to both Koko and Lilligant. “Here you both go.”
Koko sniffed the block for a moment before eating it out of her palm. Lilligant grabbed it slowly from her grasp with both leafy appendages and brought it to her tiny mouth. Their reactions to it were as different as their mannerisms. Koko practically yipped and wagged her tails, while Lilligant merely showed her gratitude with a slight curtsy.
“They say that you can tell a Pokémon’s personality from different flavors,” Azuria continued. “Your Vulpix likes things with a Sweet flavor to it, but she doesn’t seem to be Timid. So, she’s probably Hasty or Jolly. Lilligant isn’t too taken by it, but doesn’t dislike it either. Maybe she likes Dry or Bitter?”
Lillie brushed Koko’s head affectionately. “I’m not sure about Lilligant, but given how energetic Koko is she’s probably Hasty. I imagine she likes them since they help keep her running about.”
She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Can I help you make some to get a feel for it?”
The lesson on Pokéblocks continued until they had four jars of them, and several smaller jars of Berry Powders. After that it was just a matter of getting them to Melanie’s place. Lillie offered to help the Coordinator carry them with Lilligant, since it was a lot for just a single person, until they reached a somewhat modest-sized home closer to the south side of the city.
There was a large stone fence surrounding it from the back that made it too high to scale. But Lillie could make out a single large tree whose canopy stood above it and hear Pokémon sounds coming from it. In the front there was a sign that read: ‘Cerulean Abandoned Pokémon Shelter.’
Azuria rang the doorbell. A moment passed. Then the door opened and out stepped a woman with hair that was a deeper shade of teal, dressed in overalls with an apron over the front of her body. She held up the bags. “Melanie, I’m back! I got everything made too!”
“You’re a lifesaver.” She tilted her head as she turned to Lillie and the Pokémon accompanying her. “You must be the young trainer that Azuria mentioned meeting on the train.”
Lillie nodded. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. May we come in?”
“Please do.” She opened the door wider and stepped off to the side, allowing them to pass through to the inside. “I hope you didn’t go out of your way to help us.”
“It’s no problem,” Lillie said. “Everyone in my family works at a conservation organization, so we love helping Pokémon. Besides, it was fun to learn how to make Pokéblocks and I’ll try to make some in my free time for Koko and the others.”
Entering inside, Lillie found that the lobby was rather modest. The only thing that really stood out was the waist-high solid dividers that were lining the left wall. Each had a wooden gate that allowed for entry into them, modified to the specific needs of the different Pokémon.
For example, the divider that had about six Kantonian Rattata in it had a pane of plastic placed between the dividers using a slot, with another placed just in front of the wooden gate. That would stop them from climbing up and into the other sections or running free to chew at everything. Not that they seemed to entertain the thought as they played on a portable playset meant for smaller Pokémon.
Next to it was what looked to be an enclosure with a viewing pane of some kind that housed a group of Paras with undeveloped mushrooms growing on their backs. There was a layer of fresh soil on the ground through which one buried into with its forelegs, while another walked over to what looked to be a section of exposed roots. It took them into its mouth with its sharp teeth that ran vertically and made a slight trilling sound that drew the attention of the third at a water dish.
There were others that went down the rows that drew the attention of Koko and Rotom. The former bound from gate-to-gate, observing the different kinds of Pokémon that she hadn’t seen either. Rotom followed afterwards to take photos of them. Thankfully, Rotom seemed to have taken lessons from what happened in the forest and was non-intrusive in the process.
Lilligant, on the other hand, went over to an ungated section in the right corner. There, beneath the window, was a play area that had a set of building blocks being arranged by a Baby Pokémon that looked like a tiny clown. Once it noticed her, it took an immediate liking and waddled over.
“I thought there were only local abandoned Pokémon,” Lillie said as the Baby Pokémon coaxed Lilligant into picking it up and giggling.
“Normally, yes,” Melanie said. “Because my place is so small, I usually handle local Pokémon that are abandoned but don’t have any severe injuries. They’re mostly malnourished from improper care, so once they’re healthy again I arrange for them to be released. Or transferred over to a place that’s closer to their natural habitat. That way they don’t harbor as much ill-will towards people.”
She then gestured to the Flowering and Mime Pokémon. “However, sometimes people will bring over more exotic Pokémon that wind-up being abandoned or given up within the city. That Mime Jr., for example, is newly-hatched. His trainer wasn’t prepared to handle a Baby Pokémon, so she brought him here and I’m looking after him until I can send him to a Sinnoh or Kalos Caretaker, where there are local Pokémon of his kind to look after him.”
“Even so, there’s a lot of them,” Azuria added. “The ones in here are the ones closest to being released or need constant attention. The rest are out back since its rather sunny today and letting them get exercise helps keep them from being restless. But once it gets dark they’ll have to be put back into their cages in the room next to us.”
Lillie leaned over to glance through the backdoor’s window. The backyard had several different kinds of Pokémon from the local population, ranging from Bellsprouts to Poliwags. There was easily thirty or more at a glance, and for a place this small with little-to-no help meant she must’ve been overworked.
Before she could dwell on it, Koko ran over and brushed a paw against her legs to get her attention. “What’s wrong, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix gestured for her to follow and led her to one of the Pokémon that she hadn’t looked at. It was past what looked to be a brown bird with a leek tucked beneath its wing, but before what looked to be a bundle of thick vines with red feet that housed a pair of eyes in the shadows. Kanto had such strange Pokémon.
But Lillie recognized the one behind the gate Koko was pressing her paws against. Resting on a cushion that had bowl of food and water to the left, and a Poké Doll on the right, was another Fox Pokémon. She had red fur, brown eyes, and seven tails. “That’s a Kantonian Vulpix, isn’t it?”
“A what?” Azuria voice carried a note of surprise as she came over and saw the Pokémon for herself. “She wasn’t here last night.”
“A.J. brought her to me around five in the morning,” Melanie said. “He said he found her abandoned by the river and wanted me to look after her until he got back.”
Koko looked enthused at meeting her Kantonian counterpart, her tails wagging as she cheerfully yipped. A greeting to the native regional variant. But the Fox Pokémon only blankly stared at her without a response.
It was… unnatural. Disturbing enough that Lillie felt bothered by the silence. “What’s wrong with her?”
Melanie walked over slowly until she was standing next to them. “She’s malnourished, underweight, and I had to wash her to get rid of the dirt that was getting caked into her fur and nails. Whoever had her used her for battling with sparse healing at that, so it had to be someone without oversight…”
She took a deep breath after trailing off, centering herself to continue. “But the real problem is that she doesn’t show any sort of emotion or initiative. She’s not hand-shy or adverse to people or Pokémon, but she doesn’t react to any outside stimulus at all. She won’t even eat or drink anything since he found her—in all honesty, it’s almost like she’s a machine.”
“Do you know who she belonged to?” Azuria asked.
Melanie shook her head. “I don’t. We know that its registered to a Poké Ball, but when I use my scanner to check the Trainer ID, it won’t bring up a name. The only reason I haven’t taken her to the Pokémon Center is because A.J. insisted that he could arrange for a specialist to take care of whatever has happened to her within a few hours. He apparently had some experience with it during his travels.”
Lillie felt a weight in her stomach and a smoldering heat in her chest as she listened to them. The Vulpix wasn’t even fully-matured yet; only slightly older than Koko was. Yet someone had treated her so badly that she wasn’t responsive at all. “That’s so sad.”
A whimper turned her attention to the Alolan Vulpix again. Koko was now sitting down and staring at her Kantonian counterpart. The lack of response had left her crystalline-blue eyes downturned with concerned. “Vulll…”
Lillie crouched down and gently ran her hand against Koko’s head. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure that they’ll find out what’s wrong with her and she’ll be better soon.”
Koko only let out a small whine. Then her ears perked up and she turned her head towards the door. A scratching sound followed.
Curious, Melanie opened the door only to have a pink figure run between her legs. “Oh!”
It was a pink dog-looking Pokémon that had a blue ruffle around its neck that shifted as it panted, little leaves caught within it. It rose up on its hind legs to stand-up, revealing it to be bipedal with a large underbite and baggy skin that formed a hem just above its beige feet that left dirt tracks. It waved its stubby arms about, revealing there were a number of scratches and injuries that covered it, some of which looked deep, and barked towards the Pokémon Caretaker.
Melanie sighed at it. “So, you’re back again, Snubbull?”
The Fairy Pokémon barked again as she walked over to it and crouched down to inspect it.
“You’ve gotten yourself beaten up quite a bit this time too. Picking fights and running away no doubt.” She then picked it up and carried it over to the couch. “Azuria, can you hand me a Potion from the shelf?”
“Is that Snubbull wild?” asked the Coordinator while walking over to the shelves. Just above where the jars of Pokéblocks and Berry Powder had been stacked were rows of medicine—Potions, Antidotes, Burn Heals, and so on. She picked up one of the former and brought it to her.
Melanie nodded her head as she took the medicine. “He was released legally and is considered wild. I took care of him for a little while before setting him loose on the Route south of here, where he came from. He finds a way to keep sneaking back into the city though and goes around picking fights with Trainers. He’ll then come back here for me to treat him when his injuries get bad or he gets hungry.”
“That’s strange.” Lillie watched the Fairy Pokémon lick his lips while sitting in her lap, allowing her to spray him while removing the leaves in his ruffle without any problems. “Snubbull are normally docile Pokémon. It’s hard to imagine them picking fights.”
Professor Kukui had one in his lab, among the other Pokémon. That one was a female, and she warmed up to Lillie and Nebby rather quickly. She could still recall Nebby playing with her while Lillie was staying there.
“The only thing I can think of is that he’s so aggressive that his packmates wouldn’t accept it back.” Melanie continued rubbing the Potion in until the scratches were gone. “There we go.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to keep him here then?” Azuria asked.
The Caretaker shook her head as she stood up again. “I’m so busy caring for other Pokémon that I don’t have time to look after him with the level of attention that he’d need. I can only heal him when he wants me to, and if I keep him here too long he’ll start running around and barking until I let him go.”
The Fairy Pokémon turned his head towards the shelves and pointed to the Pokéblocks. “Snubb.”
“If you’re hungry, you’ll have to eat when the rest out back do,” she told him, to which a low grunt followed in response. She then looked over to the mess he’d made coming in and then Lillie. “Sorry for asking this, but can you take him out into the back. I need to clean up and then get the food ready for all of them.”
“I don’t mind, but will he be okay with the others if he gets into a lot of fights?” Lillie asked as she took him into her arms. He didn’t struggle, so she had to assume he wasn’t shy about who handled him. Whatever circumstance he was released under likely hadn’t been an abusive one then.
“Don’t worry. He knows better than to pick a fight with the Pokémon here.” She leaned down to meet his eyes and smiled. “Isn’t that right?”
The Snubbull nodded. “Bull.”
“Let’s go then.” Lillie carried the Snubbull outside, with Koko and Rotom following her into the fenced-off backyard. It was like a slice of carefully cultivated wilderness within the city itself.
The yard’s grass was neatly trimmed, allowing for the Bellsprout that wandered about on their little roots for feet to move unobstructed as they swayed. Whismur and Buneary sat within the flowers that were grown in small patches and basked in the sunlight. And where the tree’s wide canopy cast a shadow that obscured the ground beneath it, Oddish sat under it to rest.
A pond had Slowpokes, two Psyducks, and what Rotom identified as a Bidoof lounging about lazily to the right. To the left, several bushes of hearty green leaves shook as Zigzagoons scavenged in them, only poking out their heads momentarily before going back inside.
So many Pokémon and most of them were common to the area like they’d said. The kind that required a lot of training to raise and become strong, Lillie noticed as she set Snubbull onto the ground and gave it a gentle pat on the head. “Be good, okay?”
“Snnnnuubbb…” he softly grumbled as he leaned into her touch for a moment, before breaking away to run off on all fours.
“Vulpix!” Koko yipped as she ran over to a ball that had been left close to the door. She took it into her mouth and then brought it over, setting it down at Lillie’s feet.
“You want to play, huh?” Lillie picked up the ball and felt the incisions from the teeth of however many other Pokémon had toyed with it before. She then looked for an open spot before she lobbed it in that direction. “Okay, go get it!”
The Alolan Vulpix darted toward the ball so eagerly that she shot past it, before digging her paws in and then running back to scoop it up with her mouth. She then brought it back and flicked her tails in anticipation. “Pix!”
“Okay. Okay.” Lillie picked it up and tossed again, this time a little further. A smile crossed her face as she watched Koko run off to get it, only to let out a surprised chuckle when Snubbull beat her to it. He then ran back over to her and dropped it off. “So, you want to play too?”
“Okay.” She threw it a third time and watched the two go after it, only to trip over one another. They’d been too eager. “Careful you two. It’s just a game, so don’t hurt one another over it.”
The ball continued to roll as it landed, eventually coming to a stop as it lightly brushed a Buneary’s fleece. She picked it up and looked over to Lillie. “Bun?”
“You can bring it over too if you want,” Lillie told her. The Rabbit Pokémon bounced over with little hops until she was close enough to do so. Lillie took it gingerly and smiled. “Thanks, Buneary.”
The Rabbit Pokémon pulled at her fleece shyly from the thanks before bouncing away.
“Bull!” Snubbull barked, flailing his arms from where he was. Rotom translated it as, “Again!”
The game of catch continued, steadily drawing in more attention and players. From a curious Zigzagoon that ended up getting the ball caught in its fur and came over to have her pluck it out, to a Slowpoke that almost ended up eating it until Lillie coaxed it into letting the ball fall free. Their game only came to an end when the door opened and it was time to eat.
Pieri came through first, a shroud of psychic energy following as he levitated several bowls of food to place them where needed. Azuria’s Lopunny followed, also carrying a large bowl of food. The Buneary and Whismur were naturally drawn to the evolved Pokémon and she found herself crowded as she set down their food.
Lilligant came out after that with a bowl as well. She’d barely had time to set it down by the Oddish and Bellsprout before the Mime Jr. waddled out of the door and went towards her. The Flowering Pokémon picked the Baby Pokémon up before wandering over to Lillie’s side as Pieri went back inside to get more.
“It looks like the little guy’s pretty fond of you, huh?” Lillie asked, watching as he snuggled up against Lilligant before Melanie and Azuria came out. The former held the remainder of the food with Butterfree, while the latter was carrying a container with different Pokéblocks.
“Thanks for keeping them busy,” the Pokémon Caretaker said as she set the bowl down closer to them. Snubbull immediately ran over and began taking the food pellets into his mouth.
“We just got caught up in it,” Lillie said as she picked Koko up, so that she didn’t get caught in the feeding frenzy. She’d give her a treat along the way back home.
“That’s still a good thing,” Melanie said. “If they recognize that there are good people they’ll be less likely to be hostile when wandering across them. A Pokémon that only has bad experiences may start to distrust people otherwise.”
Lillie frowned. “I ran into a Pokémon like that a little while ago, near Vermillion City. Despite it attacking us, I felt bad for it because I understood why it felt that way. So, I think that what you’re doing here is a good thing, if hard.”
“It is at times. But it’s rewarding to make a difference.” The admission came with a smile as she looked out to the Pokémon that were in her backyard as Azuria handed each one a Pokéblock. “Then again, you probably know that since everyone in your family works in a conservation organization, don’t they?”
Her ponytail swayed as she nodded. “It’s called the Aether Foundation. It was started by my Grandfather for the sake of Pokémon Conservation in the Alola region. We take in both endangered and abandoned Pokémon.”
“Then I suppose you’ll inherit it someday, won’t you?”
“Mmm… probably. Right now, though, my brother is in charge of it while my mother is here for treatment with Mister Bill.” She looked down to her Starter. “We’ll be doing the Gym Challenge as soon as she’s stable and I beat Nugget Bridge. Won’t we, Koko?”
The Alolan Vulpix’s tails flicked as she nodded. Then her ears twitched. She looked towards the door as a light ringing sound reached Lillie’s ears.
“That’s the doorbell. Please excuse me,” Melanie said before she went back inside.
That left Lillie to continue to watch the various Pokémon eat. It was still such a shame that so many of them had been abandoned. If not for Melanie here, and the fact that there wasn’t an active Gym anymore, then a lot of them would probably end up in a bad place.
The sound of her Pokégear ringing grabbed Lillie’s attention, causing her to fumble around as she shifted Koko in her arms until she could pull it from her pocket and answer. “Hello?”
“Lillie, it’s me.”
“Mother. Are you awake now?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not waking up earlier to see you off. Lilligant is with you, isn’t she?”
She looked over to Lilligant to see her seed-shaped eyes were now focused on the device. “She’s been keeping me company since this morning. We’ve managed to beat two of the trainers on the bridge.”
“That’s wonderful.” There was a pause on the other end before Lusamine spoke once more. “If you still want me to help teach you how to use Protect, I had Mismagius and Clefable work on it last night. We can start training after Lunch.”
“Lunch sounds great about now. We’ll head back.”
“I’ll see you then.” Click.
“You’re leaving?” Azuria asked as Lillie placed the device back into her jacket’s pocket. The Coordinator had just finish passing along a final Pokéblock to Snubbull.
“My mother wants me to come back so that I can start teaching my Pokémon a new technique for the upcoming Double Battle,” Lillie explained as the Fairy Pokémon munched on the Pokéblock.
The Coordinator clasped her hands together in a pleading method. “Then can we exchange numbers? The Contest Hall will be finished soon, and I at least want to be able to invite you to visit one of my shows. That way I can show you how they are in person.”
Lillie received Azuria’s number!
Numbers exchanged, Lillie called Rotom back as Lilligant passed Mime Jr. to the Coordinator, bid both Azuria and Snubbull goodbye, and then turned to the exit. But when she looked through the door’s window she spotted A.J. talking to Melanie in the lobby, while holding the Vulpix in her arms. He must’ve been the one who was at the door a moment ago.
The older boy fiddled with the device on his wrist before expanding a Poké Ball from its inactive state. Then he tapped the Kantonian Vulpix with it. The moment it opened something strange happened.
What looked to be a shadowy pair of hands wrapped around the Fox Pokémon and pulled her into the ball. Once the signal to show the capture was successful triggered, the ball vanished. Transmitted like how Pokémon that exceeded the limit of six were automatically sent to a PC.
Wait, didn’t they say the Vulpix was already captured? Part of what protected Pokémon that were already captured from being captured by another person with a Poké Ball was the fact that it gave them an energy marker. It was like how each one had an ID, allowing them to know which trainer the Pokémon belonged to. The balls would naturally be rebuked if the Pokémon was caught to prevent theft. How did they remove the marker indicating she had a trainer?
The question lingered in her mind until A.J. spotted her through the door. There was no point in waiting outside anymore, so she entered and just decided to ask him about it.
“That’s not something you need to worry about,” was all he said on the subject. “But, as a word of warning, if someone approaches you and asks about that Vulpix then tell them you don’t know anything. I have a feeling that you might run across someone who fits that criteria soon, so keep that in mind.”
“W-Why’s that?” Lillie asked nervously from how stern his voice had gotten.
He pointed to Lilligant and Koko. “Someone new coming around with foreign Pokémon for the region naturally draws eyes. Beating Amaya, who’s been walling the younger trainers because of them adds to the buzz going around this morning. It’s only natural you’ll run across someone either challenging you or trying to claim them for themselves.”
Melanie frowned. “Don’t scare her like that. You make it sound as though she’s being hunted.”
Lillie felt a weight in her throat at the prospect of that happening again. Of having a Pokémon in her care being taken by someone else. But she didn’t waver. “Thank you for the warning, but even if someone comes after me I’m not going to let them take Koko or Shuckle or any of my Mother’s Pokémon.”
“…Even if you say that, as it stands you’d all be too weak to do anything if they did.” Despite how cold the words were, there was a hint of respect in his tone before he looked up to Rotom. “Come here for a second.”
Zzt? Rotom cautiously floated over and they exchanged some information as Lillie looked on. Yes, that should be possible, zzt.
He turned back to Lillie. “Ask Bill to have his Glaceon teach your Vulpix how to use Icy Wind, since it covers a wider area than Powder Snow. As for your Shuckle, have it practice its Constrict on trees until it gets to the extent of being classified as Wrap. Your Rotom can explain the details of why later on.”
She was somewhat surprised by the advice. “Umm… Thank you?”
“I’m just keeping in line with what I told Bill I’d do on the train. Whether or not you actually go through with it is on you.” He pulled out a pen and piece of paper to write a number down on before passing it off to her. “Remember what I said about the Vulpix. And if you see a Trainer that has a pure-black Poké Ball, put your Pokémon in their balls, get away and then contact this number. Tell Bill to do the same.”
Lillie received A.J.’s number!
“Umm… sure.” She watched as he left out without another word after that, confused.
Melanie could only sigh sadly as she watched the door close. “I’m sorry about him. He means well, but I think that his new job has been weighing down on him.”
“I don’t mind,” Lillie told her. “In a way, he kind of reminds me of my brother. He’s a little rough, but I think he has a good heart. And I probably should to teach them more so that they can defend themselves. Still, what did he mean by a pure-black Poké Ball?”
“I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with the Vulpix and whoever owned her.” She looked towards the empty section where the Fox Pokémon had been placed before. “Either way, I hope that wherever he sent her they’ll be able to help her.”
Lillie could only hope for the same before she bid the Pokémon Caretaker farewell and then made her way back to Bill’s Cottage on the cape. They had a lot of training to do after all.
Along the way, she didn’t notice the eyes that watched her every step until she passed through the tunnel and left the city behind.
Chapter 12: Exploring Cerulean City – Part 1
Lillie stirred awake the next morning at the sound of barking. She rose from her linen sheets, fighting down a yawn as she noticed Koko blinking awake as well on the pillow next to her. They both leaned over the side of the bed where the window was, sunlight spearing through the blinds, and parted them to see what the commotion was.
Bill’s Leafeon, Viri, was sitting atop the hill that had berry trees planted on it and barking menacingly towards a fleeing orange Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before. It had two cream-colored spots on its back, similar to the tips of its twin tails, as it darted on all fours around the trees. And it had a small branch with three Oran Berries attached to it in its mouth.
The Verdant Pokémon growled before she swung her tail around, releasing a barrage of Razor Leaf towards it. But the mysterious Pokémon was then wreathed in a pale light as it used Quick Attack to run away, rocketing towards the edge of the slope and then jumping out of sight as the leaves buried themselves into the ground. The sound of splashing faintly reached Lillie’s ears and she remembered that the tide should be high right about now.
Bill had said that past that hill was where the cape is. The inlet fed into the marsh between the tunnel and forest that went all the way down into Cerulean City, with a subterranean river that could be most evidently seen in the Cerulean Cave. He’d also said they could find several different kinds of water Pokémon there, but that it would be dangerous going down there during high tide since it was a tidal marsh and they could be swept out to sea.
Nympha, Bill’s Vaporeon, stuck her head out of the pond right about then due to the commotion. She let out an inquiring sound towards her younger sister, who responded by gesturing towards one of the berry trees and letting out a series of Leafeon noises that Rotom was needed to translate. Since the living Pokédex remained inactive inside of Lillie’s bag, hanging on the door-hook, it went undecipherable as the eldest sister dragged herself out of the pond and went towards the hill.
Lillie pulled away from the window and stretched her arms out into the air, a light ‘mmm‘ slipping through her closed lips. She then turned to her Starter that had mimicked her in rising off the pillow and stretching out. She reached over and gave the three-tailed Alolan Vulpix a gentle brush over her head, the smooth fur like silk sliding over her palm. “Good morning, Koko. Did you sleep well?”
“Pix,” the Fox Pokémon answered as she leaned into the touch.
Lillie smiled before pulling her hand back and getting out of bed. She had two—no, three Pokémon to feed at the moment before she could get ready to set out. She’d promised Koko that they would check out the Nugget Bridge after all.
She grabbed the bowls that she had in her bag and the standard dry Pokémon food, filling them halfway. The three Pokémon in her care were, after all, rather small so they didn’t need that much. Koko jumped from the top of the bed to the floor and then came over on her own accord to eat while Lillie then walked over to the corner where Shuckle had chosen to nap, head and appendages tucked away in his shell.
Gently rapping on it with her knuckles, she said, “Shuckle, it’s morning. Wake up so you can eat breakfast.”
“Kkklllle….” yawned the Mold Pokémon as he stuck his head out of an opening and looked around for a bit. Then he extended an appendage to rub his beady eyes before dragging himself over towards where Koko was eating.
Lillie then went over to her bag again and roused Rotom as well. “Rotom, wake up so you can eat too.”
The inside of her bag shifted before Rotom emerged in its base form, a body of plasma shaped like a lightning rod. Lillie could taste the ozone in the air around it that wasn’t normally present when it was in its Pokédex. It reminded her of the gym battle briefly as it flew over to a bowl and ate as well.
She took a moment to eat a travel ration herself. She figured that the others were still asleep, so she didn’t want to make too much noise or wake them up by rummaging in the Kitchen without permission. Then Lillie got changed in the bathroom, readying herself for the day ahead. She put her hair into its ponytail and took on her Z-Powered form once again.
When she emerged, the others had finished eating. “We’re heading into Cerulean City this morning to see the Nugget Bridge and then check out the rest of the city since we’ll be here for a while, but we may run into wild Pokémon along the way. I’ll have one of Mother’s Pokémon with me, but they’ll only help in an emergency, and Rotom can’t battle, so I’ll be relying on you two to keep us safe, Koko and Shuckle. Okay?”
The Alolan Vulpix gave an enthusiastic half-jump while the Shuckle gave a more subdued, hesitant nod. Rotom made a series of noises towards Lillie before realizing she couldn’t understand it. Then it darted back inside of her bag and stuck its possessed Pokédex out of the top to give her a salute. And I’m ready to record any Pokémon we come across, zzzt!
With that decided, she returned Shuckle to his ball and set in her pocket along with Koko’s ball since the Fox Pokémon preferred to walk. Then she stepped out of the room and went to her Mother’s guestroom, lightly knocking on the door.
It was Lilligant that answered, cracking the door open enough to see with her seed-shaped eyes. “Lilli?”
“Morning, Lilligant,” she said to the Flowering Pokémon. “Mother told me to bring one of you with me when I left out.”
Lilligant nodded and held one of its appendages up to ask for her patience before she closed the door again. Then there was some back and forth that Lillie could hear between her and Clefable as they discussed something on the other side. Rotom translated for her that they were deciding on who to send, ruling out Mismagius given the time of day, Bewear because of last time, and Milotic for obvious reasons.
A moment later they decided to send Lilligant since Clefable had been up all night with her Mother, who apparently stayed up late for some reason, and wouldn’t be fully alert. The Flowering Pokémon then emerged with her own Ultraball and held it out. “Lil.”
As she took it, Lillie found herself wanting to ask what her Mother was doing late last night when she needed her rest. But she decided against pressing Lilligant on it since she and Clefable were doing their best to take care of her and they wouldn’t actually tell her anyway. They were her Mother’s Pokémon after all.
Instead, she asked, “Do you want to walk with us since it’s a sunny day?”
Lilligant nodded with polite enthusiasm. “Lilli.”
That decided, they made their way out of the cottage. The moment they stepped outside, they were exposed to the gentle warming rays of the morning Spring sun. It gave Lillie a bounce in her step as they then made their way towards Route 25 and the forest that laid there.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The forest was peaceful as they walked along the dirt path, staying the course that would lead them to the far end. There they could come out near the other end of the Nugget Bridge. Towering trees rose up to the sky along the path, their trunks somewhat thinner but with dozens of branches rising up to spread their leaves wide and tint the morning rays that touched down on the greenery around the path—grass, bushes, and moss that crawled freely over fallen branches.
Lillie could only imagine that it was even more vibrant away from the well-traveled road. And then there were the Pokémon that were up that early in the morning too. She spotted some Sunkern that were sitting beneath one leafy bush, nipping at the dewdrops there.
Koko observed the curious little Seed Pokémon with an inquisitive tilt of her head before inching closer. That caused them to notice. They started shaking their leaves at her in an effort to stave her off that was less useful than one would think.
“Koko,” Lillie called, causing the Alolan Vulpix to rise up and turn her head back to her trainer. “Don’t get too close. They don’t want to be bothered while they’re eating.”
Koko nodded once before turning her attention to a nearby Caterpie instead that was hanging on a branch nearby, carefully chewing on leaves while hiding the rest of its body within the foliage. She kept her distance beneath it as she observed it, leaving Lillie to wonder just how sheltered Koko had been before she came with her.
The Worm Pokémon didn’t mind her at first. But then Rotom floated up to it and snapped a photo, startling it. It released a pungent scent that Koko proceeded to hurry away from.
“The same goes for you, Rotom,” Lillie said as he snapped a photo of the Sunkern next.
But I was just gathering data, zzt! Rotom claimed as it floated back over.
“You can say that because you don’t have a nose,” Lillie pointed out. “What would you do if one of them attacked you because of it? Koko probably isn’t going to be willing to help when she has to put up with that scent.”
The Alolan Vulpix agreed a whimper before the repulsive scent was replaced with a sweeter smell. It wafted from her mother’s Lilligant as the Flowering Pokémon used Aromatherapy. Breathing it in made both Lillie and Koko feel more relaxed, as if all the tension melted and any mental fatigue they’d had was gone.
“Thank you, Lilligant,” Lillie told her. She merely shook her head in a humble manner, as if to say that it was nothing, when a Pokémon abruptly popped into existence. Lillie stumbled back at the surprising arrival of a Butterfree that fluttered its wings menacingly… well, as menacingly as a Butterfree could manage mere inches from her face.
The newly-arrived Butterfly Pokémon protectively placed itself between the Caterpie and them. “Fre-free!”
Koko immediately got in front of her, taking on an aggressive stance with her hackles raised and a chill that permeated air, while Lilligant grabbed her arm and pulled her back in anticipation of a fight. That seemed to be the case for the Butterfree as well, considering its wings took on a light-blue hue and its eyes were starting to glow purple. It was getting ready to attack.
“Everyone calm down!” Lillie insisted. She figured that scent the Caterpie put out must’ve served as a cry for help. She knew that Alolan Pokémon did that, but she supposed it was natural for one of the older evolutions to protect a younger one even here. “It must’ve been worried that we were attacking the Caterpie and came to help it.”
Koko didn’t back down and the Butterfree looked ready to fight either way until something landed between them from above. It was a humanoid Pokémon that had dark brown fur with the exceptions of its ears that hung long and low, the fluffy bands of its wrists, and from the thighs down. It held its arms out between them.
“Lop!” it said, looking between them all. “Lop! Lopunny!”
Zzzhe’s saying not to fight, Rotom translated.
“Don’t just teleport off like that, Pieri!” Another voice called out. Human this time.
Lillie recognized that voice even before she, along with the others, turned their eyes towards the approaching figure. It was Azuria, accompanied by another Pokémon in her arms. It was one that had a pair of flowers on its heads and a skirt of leaves that reminded Lillie of when Elio’s Oricorio was in its Pa’u Style.
The Coordinator panted as she came to a stop in front of them. “I’m sorry. He didn’t interrupt your capture, did he?”
Lillie shook her head. “Rotom just startled the Caterpie behind it and the Butterfree must’ve wanted to help it. I didn’t plan on capturing or battling either of them if I could help it.”
“Thank goodness…” Azuria let out a sigh in relief before she turned to scold the Butterfree. “You can’t go around being aggressive like that to prove a point. Much less picking a fight with a Pokémon younger than you. We raised you better than that!”
The Butterfly Pokémon looked down towards the ground, properly chastised and antenna drooping as he fluttered over in front of her. “Furee, freee…”
Her expression melted, going from stern in a sort of motherly way to gentle as she patted him on the head. “Don’t let what A.J. said get to you. You’re better than that and he hasn’t been himself lately. Okay?”
“…free…” There was still no heart in its response as it sulked.
With the hostility dissipated, Lillie crouched down and picked Koko up to calm her down before she asked, “Are all of those Pokémon yours?”
“Yeah. I caught Gracie when she was a Buneary and Zinn when he was an Oddish here, while Pieri was originally raised from a Caterpie by A.J. here as well. He traded him to me when we were younger since he liked contests more than battle. I thought I would bring them here bright and early so they could unwind, since its where they all came from.”
Are most of her Contest Pokémon native Cerulean City then? Lillie wondered as Azuria took notice of the Flowering Pokémon and her expression brightened. “Oh, I should introduce you. This is my mother’s Lilligant. She came with me today for a walk as well.”
Lilligant stepped forward and gave a curtsy in greeting when Zinn leapt down from his trainer’s embrace and made his way over to her. He then extended his short arm out for her to shake. She responded in kind with one of the leaves that served as her arms, only to be surprised when he leaned forward and kissed it. “Lilligant!?”
She pulled back in surprise, made only more confusing as the Bellossom made a sweeping gesture and said something that caused her to become slightly flustered. The Lopunny rolled her eyes and gave a slight shake of the head before she grabbed him by the petals and pulled him away. It only left Azuria sighing once more.
“Uh, Rotom?” Lillie began, confused by this development.
He complimented her beauty as surpassing that of the forest in its prime and offered to take her to someplace where they could watch the sunset over the cape, zzzt.
“I’m sorry if he made her feel uncomfortable,” Azuria said, a hint of resignation in her tone. As if she’d done this before many times. “He’s… normally more mature than that.”
“Lo, lop-lop…” the Rabbit Pokémon chimed in with a sing-song tone while holding the shorter Pokémon in the air to keep him at bay, to which Rotom translated as ‘No, not really’.
Her morning could be going better, Lillie suspected as the Coordinator sighed for a third time. Still, looking at the collection of Pokémon that she had, Lillie could see they were fairly well taken care of. The Bellossom’s flowers were vivid and bright, while the Lopunny’s fur looked neatly groomed.
“So, what brings you out here this early in the morning?” Azuria asked, quickly changing the topic.
“We’re heading to Nugget Bridge,” Lillie explained as she looked down to Koko staring at the newcomers warily. She had not forgotten the handling that she had been put through on the train, it seemed. “Koko is excited to try it out since she watched the Alola Title Defense Match last night, and I promised her I would take her there.”
“If that’s the case then you’ll want to get there soon,” Azuria told her. “From what Melanie has told me, since the Gym shut down it’s been a sort of pseudo-Gym that’s been used in its place for the kids around here to train before they do that League thing. You’ll have a long wait if you get there too late.”
“Oh, then we’d better hurry since we’ve got to get back later,” Lillie said. She still had that training session that her mother wanted to do as well.
“In that case, how about we help you get there a little sooner?” Azuria offered with a wink before she looked over to Butterfree. “It’ll be our way of making up for interrupting your walk, won’t it Pieri?”
He nodded once, but didn’t look any happier than he did before. Whatever was bothering him was still weighing heavily on his mind. Even so, his eyes shone for a moment and Lillie felt a tingling sensation that reminded her of when Nebby did so as it encompassed her, Lilligant, and Koko.
“If you’ve got some free time afterwards, I’ll show you around Cerulean for a bit,” Azuria promised as she gave them a wave. “Have fun until then.”
Then they abruptly—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—appeared somewhere else.
Lillie took a moment to reorient herself after the unexpected teleportation, adjusting her grip on the Alolan Vulpix so she didn’t accidentally fall. They were past the edge of the forest, which was to her far left, on an inclined hill that led into mountainous slopes to the right and rear of them. There was a bundle of trees where a group of Pineco began to stir in surprise by their appearance—
Butterfree used Teleport!
—and then they were teleported again.
Lillie took another moment to figure out where they were this time. They were on flatter grounds, further to the south and within a field that had flowers scattered about. To the south was a stretch of tall grass that bordered the water, with a small bridge that connected that patch of land to the other side of the river and had some Fishermen on it, casting their lines into the water.
And it ran under the Nugget Bridge.
“Fufuree,” Butterfree called out, drawing their attention towards him. He was fluttering above them, looking slightly winded.
Teleporting was taxing on the mind for most Pokémon that had the psychic potential to use it. Nebby had shown Lillie that, being almost completely immobilized after having done so when it had taken them from Aether Paradise to Melemele Island. So while Butterfree managed to get them there from the woodlands in two jumps, it looked like it hadn’t been easy.
“Are you going to be okay?” she asked, to which he gave a bob of his head before making soft Butterfree noises as he nervously fiddled with his fingers. Rotom translated that as an apology for what happened in the forest. “Well, no one was harmed so I suppose it’s fine. Just make sure you apologize to your Trainer, okay?”
“Free.” He nodded twice before his eyes grew luminous again. Then the Butterfly Pokémon vanished.
“…Well,” Lillie started, grabbing the attention of Koko and Lilligant, “it was faster than we expected, but we’ve arrived at Nugget Bridge. Should we go see how things work?”
Her mother’s Lilligant nodded. “Lil.”
“Pix!” Koko yipped excitedly.
So they crossed the under-bridge that stretched across the river’s surface and proceeded down from the other side to reach the mouth of Nugget Bridge. There to greet them was a brown-haired man with glasses who looked maybe around Professor Kukui’s age, with a badge on his shirt.
“Welcome to the Nugget Bridge Gauntlet,” he said as he gave them a once over. His eyes lingered on Lilligant and Koko with curiosity. Not surprising since neither were native to Kanto. “I think I would’ve remember if I’d seen you before, so is it your first time here?”
“Yes. We just arrived in Cerulean City yesterday and wanted to try our hand at it,” Lillie explained. “Can you tell us how things work?”
“Of course.” He reached into his pocket for a small case and pulled from it what looked to be a card of sorts. “First, this is for you.”
“What is it?” Lillie asked as she accepted it.
“That card serves to mark your progress through the gauntlet,” he explained. “Since Mrs. Waterflower became a member of the Elite Four and the gym closed, it was decided that the Nugget Bridge would become something of a pseudo-Gym for young trainers who needed to prepare for the Gym Challenge. To make it to the end and face the leader of the bridge, you need to beat every trainer along the way at least once. When you beat them, they’ll stamp the card to show you passed that section, and when the person at the end stamps the card you can take it to the Pokémon Center to receive a badge and TM as a prize.”
“It’s just like a real Gym then?”
“The rules are a little laxer in the beginning, but by the time you reach the end it’ll be stricter like an actual Gym,” he clarified. “For example, the first trainer will fight you in a one-on-one battle, and the second will allow for a two-on-two battle with substitutions, but the third will challenge you to a double battle since that’s become something of a popular format to battle with around the world. However, to avoid wearing out the trainers, if you lose then you’ll have to wait at least three days to come back.”
“That sounds like it was a lot of work to organize.”
“It was, but the Mayor wanted it done in an effort to keep the tradition alive. And, since a lot of younger trainers use it to gain experience on both ends, they’re more prepared for the challenges they’ll face.” He gestured to the bridge where there was a younger boy looking towards them. “Your first opponent will be Luka, if you’re ready.”
She nodded. “Yeah. We’re ready.”
“Then I wish you the best of luck.”
With that, Lillie took her first steps onto the bridge towards the trainer. The young boy looked practically enthusiastic as he jumped up from his perch on the railing and ran over to greet his challenger. He drew close to Lilligant, unperturbed by the fact that the Flowering Pokémon was a head larger than him.
“Is this the Pokémon you’re going to be facing me with?” he asked.
“Lilligant will only be watching,” Lillie explained as her mother’s Pokémon shook her head. She then set the Alolan Vulpix down. “Koko will be your opponent.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head before taking a step forward, anticipating the challenge to come.
“Then it’ll be a one-on-one battle between it and Talon,” the boy said as he walked over to the first railing and jumped over it. “Get over to the other side so they’ll have the entire bridge to themselves.”
Lillie did so with Lilligant, leaving the central area of the bridge open for the impending battle as the boy flung his ball into the air. It burst open and light speared down to take the form of a Pidgey that spread its wings and let out a cry as it eyed Koko warily. Rotom quickly snapped a photo before floating back over to Lillie.
Since both Pokémon were out now, Luka flipped his hat backwards and gave the signal to begin. “Okay, the match is on now!”
Koko activated Snow Warning!
The air chilled as a flat layer of light-grey clouds formed, covering a radius around both the Pokémon and their trainers at the fringes. Glimmering flakes of snow began to lightly fall. The Pidgey looked up at the clouds, a fog billowing from his beak as he drummed his wings.
He then looked over to his trainer, craning his head as he tweeted, “Pidget?”
“Don’t worry about it!” Luka said, as if to alleviate any concerns the small Pokémon possessed. “Use Gust!”
At the sight of the Tiny Bird Pokémon hopping off the ground and beating his wings rapidly to kick up a powerful wind, Lillie snapped out with a counter order. “Powder Snow, Koko!”
The Alolan Vulpix inhaled and then billowed out a chilled wind laced with frost as the beating of wings stirred the wind. The two forces clashed, the winds meshing and pushing against one another for an instant that spread the chill further out. Then the Powder Snow began winning out, pushing back the Gust despite the Pidgey’s best efforts as beads of sweat formed from the exertion. He broke off his attack before it was completely overtaken, flapping harder to rise higher in the air and off to the side, narrowly avoiding the remnants of the cold wind as Koko ran out of breath.
The battle has a 95% chance of concluding in our favor, zzt! Rotom informed them after the exchange. Powder Snow and Gust have the same amount of force between them, but Snow Warning adds additional strength to the force of Ice-Type attacks, even if it isn’t fully developed yet!
“So what?” Luka said to that. “A little snow isn’t going to scare us off! Use Gust again!”
The Pidgey took two beats of his wings to fly a little further back and tried again, whipping up the wind.
“Koko, use Powder Snow again!”
Koko exhaled again and released another Powder Snow, this time aiming up at an angle to hit the aerial target. Frost spread out as it hit the rolling winds that rushed for ground-bound Pokémon, falling over the battlefield even as it pushed through the attack. Once more the Pidgey broke off his attack, getting out of the attack’s radius as it peppered out.
Maintaining his height while hovering in the air just in front of his trainer, the Pidgey looked back and gave an inquisitive, “Pigeo?”
Luka gave a slight nod. “Yeah, got it. Get a little higher and do it once more.”
He took flight into the air, closer to the cold clouds and then released a powerful Gust attack once more. Koko jumped forward as she exhaled a Powder Snow this time, trying to close the distance enough so that it wouldn’t be able to get away as her attack won over his even faster—
“Now dive!” Luka ordered.
—but there was no clash like before as the Gust died instantly when the Tiny Bird Pokémon closed its wings onto its body. He allowed himself to drop down before extending his wings again and gliding around with a turn, circling to get around to Koko’s side.
Her head traced it, refusing to lose sight of the Pidgey. The sweeping, frost-laden wind followed, like a cold hand of winter grasping for the bird to give it a freezing embrace. But then she reached her limit, her lungs stalling as the need for air forced her to stop. She inhaled to fire again, but at that point the Pidgey flapped its wings forward as though to brake and everything stung.
Talon used Sand Attack!
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Starter Pokémon was deprived of her senses. The sand-laced winds had caught her up close while she was inhaling, leaving her coughing and trying to wipe her eyes clean as the Pidgey trilled while it circled back around and picked up speed.
“First rule of battling: don’t become predictable just because you’ve got one attack that’s effective!” Luka said smugly. “If you keep using the same attack over and over, your opponent will naturally get the timing down. Now Talon, Tackle!”
“Look out!” Lillie shouted as the Pidgey took a dive for her Starter Pokémon. It was painful to listen as Koko yelped the moment she was slammed into by the Tiny Bird Pokémon and knocked down, unable to dodge since she couldn’t see. Lillie chastised herself at not having realized that something was wrong with how he kept ordering it to do the same attack over and over, despite it not working.
No, I have to support Koko. But she shook head to drive the pang of guilt down as she watched the Pidgey going for Koko again, slamming into her a second time. It was breathing faster, working its wings harder to stay aerial and active. The cold was still hampering it, so maybe…
“Koko, jump up and fire a Powder Snow down now!” Lillie ordered as it swooped down for the Fox Pokémon again. Koko still hadn’t regained her sight, so when she hopped up and fired down, she did so wide-spread to make up for the lack of sight, even as the Pidgey tried to stop its descent with frantic flaps to no avail.
The result was billowing white mist, the frigid blanket covering the section of the bridge up to their waists as it rolled past. It joined with the evaporation fog rising over the edge of the railing, born from the cold air passing through the water vapor rising from below that left Lilligant shivering slightly as she ran her arms against her body until it thinned out.
“Ah, Talon!” Luka called out as they saw the Tiny Bird Pokémon was on the surface of the bridge that was coated in hoarfrost.
His feathers were rime-coated, its small body trembling even unconscious as its shallow and shuddering breaths came out as puffs of fog. “P-P-Pigeeoo…”
“Even after we got the timing down and everything, it still wasn’t enough.” Seeing that it was unable to battle further, the youngster gritted his teeth before recalling his Pokémon and admitting defeat. “Fine, it’s my loss.”
Since the battle was over, Lillie hopped over the railing and ran over to Koko as the Fox Pokémon tried to wipe the remainder of the sand out of her eyes. She crouched down and immediately pulled out a handkerchief and bottle of Fresh Water, wetting the former and then using it to clear the sand away until crystalline-blue eyes were visible once more. Next was a Potion to remedy the damage that had been done in the battle.
“Does that feel better?” she asked afterwards, to which she received an excited yip. Relieved, Lillie brought her delicate her fingers to the soft tuft of fur on Koko’s head and rubbed affectionately. “I was so worried that we’d make a mistake. But it looks like we pulled through.”
“Vulll…” Koko purred as she leaned into the touch, her tails flicking.
Lillie then looked over to Luka as he dragged his feet on the way over to her, pouting. “Your Pidgey really surprised me with how well-trained it was.”
“Well, yeah. We’ve been doing this for a while now, so he’s gotten a lot of experience. He’ll probably be evolving soon.” He puffed out his chest a bit at that before he extended his hand. “Anyway, gimme your card and I’ll give you the first stamp.”
Lillie received a Red Stamp!
“Thanks,” she said as she looked down at the stamp on her card.
“One last thing I’ll give you is some advice, since you’re new at this,” he added. “The battles on the bridge are something that everyone can see, including the other Bridge Trainers like me. That same strategy won’t work against Amaya, so you’re going to need to switch things up or you’ll come up short.”
Lillie nodded before she felt Koko’s paw pressing against her and looked to see she was excitedly gesturing for them to go further down the bridge, where a Lass was waiting. That must’ve been Amaya. When she gestured for them to come forward, Koko started running down the bridge with Rotom following after her.
“Goodness. She’s as excitable as Nebby was,” Lillie said with a sigh, albeit not unhappily. If anything, it was a good thing for a young Pokémon to be so active. Lilligant waited patiently for her to walk as well, following after her until they arrived.
“Good job getting here on your first go, but it only gets harder from here on out,” Amaya warned her new challenger. “It’ll be a two-on-two match. Have you decided who you’ll send out first?”
“Yes,” Lillie declared, to which Koko bounced up, eager to continue despite already having been in one battle. “Koko, I want you to rest a little more first, so we’re letting Shuckle get a turn, okay?”
Koko objected, citing through Rotom she could still fight.
But Lillie stood by what she said. “You had the first battle. Now let him have his own.”
Hearing the firmness in her tone, Koko didn’t argue further and instead followed Lillie as they went over to the side of the bridge while Amaya did the same in the opposite direction. Lillie then set Shuckle’s ball into an active state with a tap of the button before she tossed it out. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle’s head twisted around as he took in his surroundings before a second ball burst open across from him. It looked like a lavender gumdrop with stubby arms and eyes that looked like plus signs, feet and ears tipped with yellow. A tiny sound that was drowned out by the passing breeze left its mouth as it waved its tiny arms towards Shuckle, a Shell Bell affixed to a band just beneath its mouth.
Zzzzrtt! A new Pokémon to analyze! Rotom floated in front of Lillie and his back-mounted camera snapped its photo to reference it against the database until a match was found. Whismur, the Whisper Pokémon. A timid Pokémon, when startled it’s normally-quiet cries become an ear-splitting shriek that leaves it tired when it stops.
“If you’re ready, we’ll start the match now!” Amaya stated. “Raphy, you know what to do!”
The male Whismur inhaled and let out a shout. “Mur!”
The attack sent out a slightly visible sound wave that barreled towards Shuckle. The Mold Pokémon barely regarded the attack with more than a discomforting look as it passed through him, beady eyes narrowing slightly at being attacked in general.
It’s not very effective, izzz it? Rotom cited while continuing his surveillance and recording the battle.
“Shuckle, use Constrict!” Lillie ordered. Then she remembered he was still slightly wild and clarified so they didn’t get a repeat of the Vermillion Gym. “Aim for his body, not his throat.”
“Whis!?” squeaked the Whisper Pokémon as Shuckle’s frontal appendages snapped forward, stretching to get across the distance between them before wrapping around his body beneath his arms. It struggled a bit before inhaling and letting out another shout.
This time the sound wave was clearer, the air distorting as it made the gummy-like appendages wobble on its run towards Shuckle. The moment it hit, the Mold Pokémon flinched as though it had been physically struck, eyes scrunching up. The soft chiming of the Shell Bell resonated afterwards, tickling the ears of all that heard it.
“It was stronger?” Lillie seemed surprised. Then she recalled what Professor Kukui had told her about some moves getting more effective over time and use. “Rotom, what moves does Whismur learn that get stronger over time!”
Accessing Moves List for Whisper Pokémon, zzzt… data found! It’s using Echoed Voice! Rotom explained. The amount of damage it can do increases with every consecutive shout until it reaches a peak!
The third shout was even stronger, actually managing to rattle Shuckle enough that he reeled back. His appendages shook loose from the Whisper Pokémon and snapped back to their normal length. The Shell Bell’s ringing was louder as well, the slight signs of flesh being bruised faded.
“That’s right,” Amaya said with a grin. “Luka’s thing is all about timing, but mine is about punishing you for taking your time. The longer the battle drags on, the stronger Raphy’s attack gets. The stronger his attack gets, the more his Shell Bell heals him for. If you can’t finish the battle quickly then your Shuckle will be knocked out and your Vulpix will have to face off against a fully powered Echoed Voice.”
“Shuckle, can do something else offensive?” Lillie asked as the Mold Pokémon got over the blow rattling him. He then turned his head and nodded. “Do that then!”
“Kle!” Shuckle’s eyes scrunched up, his frown deepening as he braced himself at the sight of the Whismur inhaling. Wisps of red seeped from his body as he did so.
Faster and stronger, the shout was loud enough that Lillie herself winced from proximity as the blow smacked Shuckle even harder. His head bobbed as though he was knocked for a loop, but he straightened up as he lightly shook his head while the blood-tinged light wreathing him grew brighter.
Shuckle is storing energy!
The fifth shout. The strongest possible shout for the tiny Pokémon to unleash met with Shuckle in the form of a sound wave loud enough that everyone else had to cover their ears, including Koko and Lilligant as they pressed their paws and leaves respectively against their ears. Shuckle was actually sent backwards by several inches, tumbling over once before getting his limbs under him again.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked, noticing the Mold Pokémon’s head was actually drooping. He barely seemed able to keep his eyes open, despite the blood-tinged aura expanding once more.
His response was to withdraw into his shell before emerging looking energized once more. The area around his mouth was covered in a bluish liquid from the Berry Juice he had ingested. They must’ve been made from fermenting the berries she had given him the first night they met.
“It might’ve been able to recover a bit, but it can’t stand up to another hit!” Amaya declared. “Raphy, finish it!”
“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie shouted as the Whismur inhaled with the intention of releasing its most powerful shout once more—
Shuckle unleashed the energy!
—but before the next attack came, Shuckle unleashed his pent-up fury. The blood-tinged aura that represented all the pain and suffering gathered onto its right appendage that stretched like it was fired out of a cannon. It hit fast enough that the Whismur didn’t even get a whisper out before he was struck head-on in the face.
A Critical Hit!
The blow propelled the Whisper Pokémon backwards until he hit the ground, bounced off it, and then tumbled back several times until he was face-down on the surface of the bridge. Silence lingered as Amaya leaned over the railing and cradled her Pokémon that had gone limp. It was unconscious.
“What was that?” Amaya asked as she returned the Whisper Pokémon into his ball.
Rotom took the liberty to helpfully explain. Shuckle used Bide, zzt. The technique storezzz the pain and damage the user receives and converts it into power. Then, when that energy is unleashed, it shoots out in a fast, singular blow that doubles all the damage it took, zzzt.
And since Shuckle had taken two of Whismur’s strongest Echoed Voice attacks, Bide was significantly strengthened, Lillie figured. Shuckle couldn’t do much damage on his own, but by taking the damage he received and sending it back two-fold, he was able to turn the tide. “Good job, Shuckle!”
“Kle,” huffed the Mold Pokémon, still looking upset as he wiped his mouth with one appendage and then stuck it into his mouth. If Lillie had to guess, he wasn’t happy about having to use his store of Berry Juice.
“We’ll get you some more berries later today, okay?” Lillie promised, to which he nodded.
“In that case, I’ll conceded that your Shuckle beat Raphy,” the Bridge Trainer said as she pulled out another ball. “But you still have to beat my second Pokémon to get my stamp.”
Amaya tossed it and out came a rotund little ball of purple fur with compound eyes and a pair of drooping antenna. Its tiny forepaws were pressed against its body and the two protruding pincers twitched as it stared at the Shuckle. “Veno?”
Rotom did his job and provided the dex entry for it. Venonat, the Insect Pokémon. Sheltered in a coat of thin, stiff hairs that cover its body for protection, its eyes can perceive even the smallest of objects in even the dark.
“Natty will be my second Pokémon,” Amaya stated. “Will you switch out yours or leave it in?”
“Get some rest, Shuckle.” Lillie decided, recalling the Mold Pokémon to his ball and then looking down to Koko. “Okay, it’s your turn.”
“Pix!” Koko crawled under the railing and darted over to the side of the field where Shuckle had been, taking his place. The pale glow that shrouded her body was dismissed with a flick of the tail, leaving the weather to cool notably and glimmering motes began to fall from above.
“Okay then let’s start the second round!” The Bridge Trainer pointed her finger towards the Alolan Vulpix. “Natty, show them our one-two combo!”
“Koko, Powder Snow!” Lillie ordered quickly.
Koko immediately exhaled the frigid attack, but Natty’s compound eyes shone with a cerulean tone before that same hue wrapped around Koko tight enough to smother her. The attack petered out before it even reached the Insect Pokémon, and when she tried again it just wouldn’t come out at all. “Vul?”
That was Disable, zzt! Rotom warned her. You can’t use Powder Snow until it wears off!
The Venonat then followed through by pointed his antenna forward and releasing a series of thin, blue rings with a tinny ringing sound. The rings hit Koko headfirst and her eyes grew glassy. She then began to shake it violently, staggering and whimpering in a panicked tone.
Lillie recognized it being the same symptoms as with Bewear in the forest. “Oh no! She’s confused too!”
“Good job!” Amaya did nothing to hide her elation at the success of her Pokémon’s techniques before giving the next order. “Now, Tackle!”
“Venonat!” Clodhooper feet pattered against the wooden surface before the Insect Pokémon threw itself into Koko for a Tackle. The blow knocked the Fox Pokémon off her powder-blue paws, leaving her to hit the ground and yelp.
“Koko, snap out of it!” Lillie called out to the Alolan Vulpix as she got back to her feet, only to start staggering as though the bridge had turned liquid. Then Lillie winced as, for some reason, Koko lunged to the side and hit the ground as though she’d been trying to pounce on something that wasn’t there, hurting herself in confusion. Her voice grew more desperate when she noticed Natty coming in for a second blow. “Look out!”
The Insect Pokémon had already thrown himself forward for another tackle when the warning came, leaving her little time to react even if she had heard it. Koko was tackled for a second time, this time hit around the center of her body and thus sent rolling after being slamming into the ground.
The Fox Pokémon whimpered softly, her legs trembling for a pause. Then she steadied herself and shook her head, crystalline-blue eyes regaining their luster. “Pix!”
Koko snapped out of Confusion!
“Koko, move!” Lillie ordered as Natty came in for a third, decisive blow. The Alolan Vulpix twisted her body and then jumped to the side, getting out of the way of the blow and leaving the Venonat to miss.
“Don’t let her escape, Natty!” Amaya ordered. “Use Supersonic again!”
The Venonant turned to do so but Koko had begun to move, circling with as much speed as she could muster until the attack missed and then pounced forward to use her forepaws to knock him back. It didn’t do any damage as his round body rolled with the momentum. But by the time he got up Koko was already forming a swelling, pink orb of Fairy-type energy.
Koko used Moonblast!
The pink hue of the Moonblast shrouded the Insect Pokémon as he tried to get out of the way, but the resulting explosion of Fairy-energy swallowed Natty whole and spit him out. Pink tendrils, like smoke clinging to his fur, trailed off as he hit the ground and rolled. But the Insect Pokémon bounced right back up, a shuddering breath following from Snow Warning remaining in effect.
It wasn’t very effective, but Koko still did some damage, Lillie noted as she looked over to Rotom’s data. There’s a type-disadvantage since Venonat is part-Poison, and the longer it takes the more of a chance Koko will get confused again and hurt. But…
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. Koko let another Moonblast fly in response, but this time the Venonat moved before it could connect since the distance between them was just enough to where it could get out of the blast range. “Get closer and fire once more!”
“Natty, use Disable before she can finish!” Amaya ordered in turn as Koko slid to a stop even closer and prepared a third shot. The Insect Pokémon used Disable once more before the next swirling pink sphere could be launched, causing it to dissipate mid-formation. “Now Tackle!”
Now’s our chance! Lillie knew that Disable could only affect a single move after looking at the data. Even if it wore off, Venonat could just disable it again unless they forced him to disable a different technique. Koko’s Moonblast took time to ready and if it landed another one it would hurt a lot, so the most logical thing to do was to stop her and use the opening to attack since Koko was already hurt. “Koko, leap backwards and use Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix jumped backwards while inhaling as the Venonat threw itself into a Tackle again, bringing it up close and with too little time to dodge. Exhaling, the frosty chill of her wintry breath was met with a shriek from the Insect Pokémon as his fur was blanketed by white frost, every strand of coarse hair serving as a foundation for it to expand upon.
A Critical Hit!
By the time that Koko had finished exhaling the shriek had died out. Only spots of faint purple could be made out while the rest of his fur was white. Ice ran up his antenna until they looked like poles sticking up from an unmoving snowball.
Natty was frozen solid!
“N-Natty?” Amaya’s voice came out softly. “Are you okay?”
Silence loomed until Koko pressed a forepaw against her opponent. Then the frost began to peel off as the foundation shifted beneath it. The Insect Pokémon let out a deep huff that came out as white mist before his body slowly fell backwards.
A whimper could only then be heard as the grey clouds above slowly dissipated. “…nat…”
“…If only I’d helped him learn Poison Powder to speed up the battle,” Amaya said, somewhat regretfully, as she held out his ball and recalled him into it with the press of a button. “Natty is unable to battle further. It’s your win.”
That would have been a nightmare if she’d been poisoned and confused at the same time. Lillie exhaled deeply in relief as Koko trotted over towards her, lacking the energy she’d had previously. Opened arms cradled the Alolan Vulpix that climb them and then held her tight. “That was another close one, but we did it. Good job.”
“Lil.” Lilligant added, giving polite applause until Amaya then came over.
Lillie received a Yellow Stamp!
“There you go,” the Bridge Trainer said as she finished applying the stamp and handing back Lillie’s card. “It was a good match. Both of your Pokémon did really well considering they were being put on the clock.”
“Yours too,” Lillie said as she looked down to see Koko was now yawning, no doubt exhausted. If Shuckle didn’t know Bide and she didn’t have Moonblast, they would have really been in trouble. “I think we’ll have to call it a day here though. We still need more training, and I want to take them to the Pokémon Center to heal and rest up.”
“That’s fine. As long as you have your card, those stamps are proof of progress. You can jump straight to the third match next time, but it’ll be a Double Battle. That’ll be a lot harder to deal with since you’ll have to command both of your Pokémon at once.”
“We’ll keep that in mind.”
Chapter 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 5: Let’s Get Along
Back on the Sevii Islands, Officer Jenny stood outside of the interrogation room and watched through the glass at the interrogation that was ongoing. The small station that was in One Town was rarely used most of the time, since nothing exciting really happened barring the occasional trouble on one of the ferry’s that they had to sort out. So imagine her surprise when one of the criminals attacking the Pokémon Center held a badge that marked them as a member of Team Dominance.
The clandestine organization was thought to be filling in the gaps left behind by the collapse of Team Rocket years ago, primarily in illegal Pokémon trading. There was suspicion that they were part of another organization in Orre that was thought to have been wiped out, but nothing concrete. The only thing that was an absolute was the badge that she found on him, a pin that served as proof of membership. This island was under her jurisdiction and the last thing that she would have is a criminal group dragging the island and its people into whatever they had planned.
“You’re in a lot of trouble, boy,” Ron, her partner, said while sitting across from the suspect. He was sitting with his elbows on the table, fingers laced in front of his mouth as he peered into the young man’s eyes with a steely glare. “Talk to us before it gets worse.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he said. “I just panicked when the power went out and called out my Pokémon.”
“Oh, don’t give us that song and dance.” He slid a picture of the badge in front of him. “You were found with that on you. You know what that is?”
“I got it from a Gym,” he lied. “Back when I was doing the Gym Challenge. It was a few years ago, but I was pretty good. Things didn’t work out though and I settled down into being a fisherman.”
“Funny, because that doesn’t belong to any gym I’ve seen.”
A cocky grin formed on his mouth and he shrugged. “How many could you have been to if you’re working out here?”
Jenny winced as she watched Ron reach across the table and grabbed him by the collar. “Listen, you brat. This isn’t a game. One call from us and the International Police will have you locked in a cell so deep underground you’ll forget what light looks like.”
No sooner than he got the words out did the light abruptly cut out and darkness shrouded the building. Jenny searched for her flashlight through her desk with one hand and picked up the phone with the other, only to find that the line was dead. Her radio didn’t seem to be getting a response either. “What’s going on?”
“Ahh!” came from the interrogation room. It was Ron’s voice. She ran for the window and held up the light, only to see the criminal sitting there and looking smug as Ron laid on the table unconscious.
Panic set in as she opened the door, only to be met with a pair of large hands and a single eye in front of her. The hands moved in a hypnotic motion and she felt… her consciousness… sinking…
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Ravin waited patiently in the shadows outside of the police station with his pocket watch in hand, counting the minutes until his Pokémon finished their work. A decade ago a small station like this wouldn’t take more than three or so minutes to get in, grab the others, and get out. But time and experience dictated he take more precautions and thus he’d opted for a subtler approach, as not to disturb the peace or rouse suspicion.
Subtly was something he’d come to appreciate over these last few years. If only others could have that same appreciation. Maybe then he wouldn’t be here right now and they could let the standard protocol take place. But no, the young fool that got caught had brought his badge and made things more complicated.
A minute later a ghostly flame floated out of a window and hovered around in a fixed pattern. That was the signal from Dusclops. The well-aged gentleman stretched his back and felt the years taking their toll with audible cracks before he made his way to the door and entered into the station.
The Pokémon belonging to the officers had all been returned to their balls while their owners slept. The only other human standing upright was Officer Jenny. Her eyes were dull and lifeless from the trance she was in thanks to the efforts of the male Dusclops next to her.
“Good work as always, Ceifer,” Ravin said as he approached the pair. “Do me one more favor and clear a seat in the interrogation room. I need to have a word with the young man there before Lalka gets back.”
The Beckon Pokémon gave him a nod, adjusting the Reaper Cloth around his neck before he passed through the walls. Another good thing about these old and remote police stations was that there weren’t many counter-measures against teleportation or intangibility. It made his job so much easier.
Ravin addressed turned to the officer next. “Jenny, have you contacted the International Police or anyone else about the suspects you’ve apprehended?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Excellent,” he said in relief as he adjusted his black hat. That made it much easier to deal with. “Then be a dear and fetch that badge for us from wherever you’ve got it locked up. Will you?”
She nodded her head and then walked off to do so while Ravin entered the interrogation room. The young man was still bound to the table by the handcuffs and his Dusclops had set the other officer down against the wall. Ravin took a seat in the chair opposite of him and crossed one leg over the other to get comfortable.
Then he asked, “Do you know who I am, son?”
“One of the guys they sent to spring us,” he said.
“That’s not entirely wrong, I suppose.” He brushed his nose and ruffled his mustache. “I’m a bit higher-up in the ranks than you, but I basically just help clean up when an operation goes wrong. Things like springing the others when they get caught and passing judgment on those involved. The latter is why you and I are having a little talk right now.”
The young man seemed to get the underlying message and immediately became defensive. “We had no idea that trainer was there. Otherwise we would have been in and out.”
“That’s not the issue,” Ravin said. “The boss tends to be… forgiving, depending on the mistakes that were made during an operation because good help is hard to come by. He’s talked it over with the one in charge of the operation that managed to escape, which is why my Claydol is Teleporting them onto a nearby boat. They’ll have to do underground work since they’ll have warrants out for them, but there’s a place for them in our organization… that just leaves you.”
Fear crept into his eyes as Ceifer moved in closer, hovering behind him.
“You were specifically told you not to bring your badge,” Ravin continued. “Our organization is trying to avoid the sort of attention that led to the fall of the last one operating out of Kanto and Johto. With that in mind, you were supposed to avoid carrying a badge for this operation. That way, if something happened, it could be explained away and I wouldn’t need to waste my time and come out here personally to spring you.”
“It was a mistake,” he admitted. “I won’t make it again.”
Aged fingers began to tap on the table. “I don’t know, son. I’ve deemed the others salvageable. But you… well, if you couldn’t follow orders that the rank-and-file grunts could then there’s no need for you is there?”
The Dusclops began to open his mouth and approached the young man when he caught the gesture Ravin made with his eyes. Any human that stared into the ethereal flame for too long had their soul taken and deposited to the afterlife. Any physical thing that entered his mouth was sucked into a void from which nothing escaped.
The young man grasped that much, given he began struggling against his bonds and shaking his head. “No, no, no, you can’t!”
Ravin rose from the chair slowly. “If it’s any conciliation, it’ll be painless.”
Unable to get away, he resorted to begging now. “NO, PLEASE! I’LL DO ANYTHING!”
“Have some dignity at the least,” the older man muttered as he rolled his eyes and then raised his hand to signal the Dusclops to stop. “Since you seem repentant enough, I’ll give you another chance. You’ll be working the bottom side of things from now on. The things beneath the rank-and-file. But one more mistake and that’s it. Understand?”
“F-F-Fine.” He took a staggering breath and licked his lips nervously. “Fine. I’ll do. Just don’t kill me.”
Ravin turned to Ceifer and then nodded. The Dusclops knocked the young man out using the same method that he’d done to the other officers and then broke him free of the chains to carry him out. The aged gentleman left the interrogation room and found Officer Jenny waiting for him with the badge in her hands, which he took gingerly from her grasp.
“Thank you, Jenny,” he said pleasantly. “Now go ahead and take a nap. By the time you wake up, we’ll be long gone and this peaceful little place you have will go back to normal.”
Officer Jenny nodded her head and then laid down on the ground, obediently closing her eyes and falling unconscious.
The young fool is lucky, Ravin thought to himself as he held the badge. Ten years ago, no amount of begging for his life on a blunder this big would have saved him. We’ve all changed over the decade, haven’t we?
He went left outside where his Claydol was waiting with another woman around half his age. She, like him, was higher up in the ranks. He passed the badge off to her. “Job’s done.”
“Thanks for the hard work,” she said, slipping it into her pocket as the female Claydol grabbed the young man from the Dusclops’ arms with its psychic powers. “If it’s any conciliation, the operation will be put on hold for now while we look for information on that trainer responsible for the operation blundering was. It turns out she’s—”
“Ann,” he said sharply. “I’m not as active as I used to be and I don’t bother with civilians. The only reason I even came out was because I happened to be relatively close and it came from the top.”
She at least looked apologetic. “Sorry, sorry. I won’t bug you with the details then, but do you want me to give you a lift until we’re close enough to Vermillion City for Lalka to teleport you?”
“It would save us a trip,” he conceded. Both he and Pokémon weren’t as young as they used to be.
A minute later they were all gone and One Island was quiet once more.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lusamine sighed wearily as she made her way back to the room in the Pokémon Center where she’d left her daughter and the child, while carrying a bag in her arms. The market had several snacks that Lillie could use and even a few berries that her own Pokémon were fond of. But during the entire trip she couldn’t help but ponder her son’s words on betraying her father’s legacy.
He had placed the Aether Foundation into her care, having the same love of Pokémon that she possessed. Not only her. Even her children and her husband possessed a great love for them all. While they may have loathed her for what she did to them personally, it was ultimately her treatment of those two Pokémon they cared for that had driven them away.
Father would be ashamed if he saw me now, let alone Mohn, she couldn’t help but think bitterly as she approached the room. The sound of voices coming through the door ultimately drew her out of her dark thoughts. She opened it and peered inside.
The girl, Astra, was using a knife to cut what looked to be a giant egg as her Sableye sat down with a wooden stick in its hand, munching on the rock candy attached to it with its sharp teeth. At the same time, Lillie was holding some kind of red shell in her lap and speaking to it while her Alolan Vulpix and Rotom Dex were on opposite sides of her, observing the situation.
“Please come out, Shuckle,” she said to the shell as her Vulpix prodded at it with her paw curiously. “I need to make sure you’re okay.”
A soft sound emerged from one of the holes in the shell in response. “Kle.”
It’s no good, Rotom said. He seemzzz scared to come out since he’s somewhere unfamiliar, zzt.
Lusamine took that as her cue to enter and did so, opening the door wider and stepping through it. “I’m back.”
“You’re Lillie’s mother?” Astra tilted her head as she looked the older woman up and down. “You look like you’re her big sister more than a mother.”
“Aren’t you sweet?” She set the bag down on the table and grabbed the two Ultra Balls that housed her Bewear and Mismagius. “How are you feeling since you’ve woken?”
“Hungry, but really good otherwise,” Astra said. “A Blissey gave us an egg to eat, so I’m cutting it up enough for all of us and our Pokémon. Do yours want some too?”
“It would go well with all of the snacks I’ve bought for them.” She looked over to Lillie. “Are you having trouble with your Shuckle?”
“A bit,” Lillie admitted. “I let him out of the ball to see if he was feeling better, but the moment that I did he took a look around and then retreated into his shell. He’s still afraid of us.”
“Well, he was a wild Pokémon. He probably hasn’t had very much interaction with people,” Lusamine said as she reached into the bag and pulled out a carton of six Oran berries that had been chilled. Carrying it with her as she took a seat next to her daughter on the bed, Lusamine then passed it to her. “Try using these as a peace offering.”
That may actually work, zzzt, Rotom said as its screen flashed to show an image and data on Shuckle. Shuckle are known for hiding under rocks while eating berries they collect in their shells. They make a delicious juice that can be used as a medicine.
“Is that so?” She looked over the blue berry before holding the carton close to the hole. “Shuckle, I have some berries if you’re hungry.”
“…kle?” Shuckle poked his head out just enough to observe the berries and smell them, presumably. There was no visible nose. Then he began to take them into his shell, stretching what serves as his neck, and stashed them away one-by-one without pause using its mouth.
Odd, I’m registering that you have Sturdy as an Ability. Not Gluttony,
The Shuckle seemed to take offense to that, frowning. “Kle. Shuckle!”
Ah, my mistake, zzt. Rotom looked over to Lillie and explained. It zzzeems that it has been harder for him to get berries since the Combee have been more aggressive because the Sandshrew have begun to eat them, zzt.
“That must be what Nurse Joy was talking about,” Lillie said, looking down at the Mold Pokémon in her lap. “Because the Sandshrew had moved into the forest to escape from Trainers trying to catch them, they started feeding off the Combee more. So now they won’t let you near the berry trees to eat, right?”
The male Shuckle nodded his head and then began to speak, with Rotom acting as a translator. It seemed that he had complained about it before to the Sandshrew as a whole, who only mentioned trainers were bad and forced them to move—that they captured you and then threw you away if you were too weak.
“That’s not right!” Astra said as he finished, still in the process of slicing the egg. Her blade landed with a loud thunk on the platter she was using. “You can’t just throw away a Pokémon because you don’t need them anymore. They’re supposed to be your friends!”
“That’s right,” Lillie said, less fervor in her voice but a frown all the same. “We’re supposed to help one another.”
The Shuckle retorted, through Rotom, that he still lost his home because of the battle earlier. It was apparently a really nice rock.
“I guess that one is our fault, isn’t it?” Lillie said, looking over to her Alolan Vulpix while nervously scratching her cheek. The Fox Pokémon sheepishly lowered her head, but Lillie patted it gently in response. “It’s okay, I’ll take responsibility for it since I wanted to find Sandshrew in the first place.”
Shuckle crossed his limbs and looked up to her. “Kle?”
Lusamine didn’t need Rotom to guess it was saying, ‘How?’ But to her daughter’s credit, Lillie just smiled.
“How about we travel together until we find a nicer place for you to stay?” Lillie offered. “That way you’ll get to see a lot of new places and eat a bunch of different berries until then.”
“You can’t just give a Pokémon what it wants to make it happy,” Lusamine warned her daughter before the deal was sealed. “You have to actually train the Pokémon you take under your care, otherwise it won’t be that much different than those that threw them away when they were no longer useful.”
Lillie looked confused at that, but it was Astra who asked, “How’s that?”
“Let’s say that Lillie takes Shuckle with her, but doesn’t train it. Not only is she using up one of her six allowed slots, but she’s putting more pressure on her other Pokémon that have to pick up the slack. It’s not fair to them that one gets to get away with doing nothing while Shuckle is perfectly capable, and they may start to resent both their trainer and him.”
“Is it really the case?” Lillie asked.
Lusamine nodded. “In addition, it’s a disservice to Shuckle as well since the training would allow him to better defend himself in the wild. If you only feed him without training him in turn, he’ll struggle to obtain food for himself against other Pokémon, or may simply be captured by another trainer who probably won’t be so generous.”
“I see. It was different with Nebby…” She looked down to the Mold Pokémon and amended her previous offer. “You hear that Shuckle? You’ll have to help if you come along, but it’ll be good for you.”
Shuckle brought an appendage to his mouth in thought at everything that was said. Then he looked up and nodded. “Shuckle.”
“Then let’s get along from now on, okay?” Lillie extended her hand down to him and Shuckle’s limb stretched and coiled around it to shake. She smiled and then turned to her mother. “Thank you, Mother. I didn’t want Shuckle to be worse off by mistake.”
“That’s what mothers are for,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be kind, but you also have to be stern sometimes as well. The Pokémon must respect you, otherwise they won’t listen.”
Lillie seemed pensive at that until Astra finished and revealed her handiwork. She’d cut the large egg horizontally several times and then vertically twice, turning it into neat cubes and then stacking them up like a pyramid.
“Where did you learn how to cut so neatly?” Lusamine asked, impressed.
“Some of the fruit that grew on the island where I lived was big and there were a lot of Pokémon, so I learned how to cut them like this so all of them could have some,” she explained as her Sableye walked over and nonchalantly plucked one from the top. “You’re supposed to wait your turn, Mister!”
The Sableye shrugged, plopped in his mouth, and then started chewing. A smile blossomed on his face moments later. He quickly reached for another one, only to be rebuffed by his trainer.
“Wait until everyone else gets one!” She raised the platter above her head before the Pokémon could grab a second one and walked over to the pair on the bed. “Try some before Jet eats them all.”
“Sure,” Lillie said as she reached for three of them at once. She then set one down in front of the Alolan Vulpix and another in front of the Shuckle, holding the third close to her mouth. “We’ll try them together on the count of three. Okay?”
Koko nodded, her tail wavering up and down slightly in anticipation as she crouched down. The Shuckle prodded at the egg cube with one of his limbs before giving a more reserved nod. Lillie counted down and on three they all took them into their mouths.
“Mmmmnn~!” A pleasant sound slipped out of Lillie’s mouth as she chewed with a smile, joined by a practically giddy yip from the Vulpix and the Shuckle letting out a surprised gasp as his black eyes glistened with stars. “It tastes amazing!”
“If it takes that good, I suppose I should try it myself then.” Lusamine mused as she watched their reactions. Reaching down elegantly, she picked up a cube between two fingers and held her cupped palm under it as she took a bite. In an instant, it was like a world of flavors opened up. If a rainbow had a taste it would be the pure bliss rolling through her, bringing a smile to her face as joy bubbled up in her very blood. “It really is delicious.”
“Shoo good,” Astra agreed, in the process of chewing one herself. It had her so enraptured that she barely noticed the Sableye tugging at her clothes until he climbed up her back and started reaching for her arm. “Jet, you have to wait until all the Pokémon get a taste too. That includes Miss Lusamine’s!”
“You’re such a sweet girl to be so considerate.” Lusamine pulled out her Ultra Balls and set them to an enlarged and active state so that her Pokémon could hear her. “There’s snacks for everyone, but we’re in a guest’s room so I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. Now come out and introduce yourselves.”
The five balls popped open at once to release her Pokémon, much to the wide-eyed amazement of Astra. Of them, Milotic was the first move before she had even fully materialized, extending her body so that her head was pressed against Lusamine’s stomach and nuzzled her.
“I missed you too,” Lusamine said as she gently patted her on the head and then looked over to the rest of her Pokémon, spotting Bewear growing tense at her gaze. “Bewear, you know what you did wrong, don’t you?”
The Strong Arm Pokémon’s ears drooped. “Bewaooo…”
“You weren’t supposed to leave Lillie alone,” she continued. “I put my trust in you to listen to her and help her. That means staying with her until she returned, but you went off because you were impatient and then put her in danger yourself. I should punish you by taking away your snacks for the next week at least, if not the next year.”
“Bewao.” Tears welled up in her dark eyes as she whimpered. “Wao…”
“But—” Bewear’s ears head perked up at that. “—Lillie feels that you tried your best, and it would be rude to this darling girl who went and prepared the snacks for this evening to not share. So just this once I’ll let it slide, but next time do as I ordered. Understand?”
“Maa…” Mismagius huffed in a manner that spoke of her exasperation as Bewear nodded her head in joy at being forgiven. Then she noticed the girl with the Sableye on her back staring at the assembled Pokémon and floated closer, speaking in a softer tone and smiling. “Mismagius?”
Astra blinked in confusion. “Huh?”
“Mismagius wants to know who you are,” Lusamine stated as she continued rubbing the Milotic beneath her chin. “She’s fond of children.”
“I’m Astra,” she said to the Magical Pokémon, before holding up the tray. “Do you want one?”
Mismagius nodded her head and then reached for one with the cloak-like tendril to delicately pick it up and bring it to her mouth. She found it delightful to the taste, her smile growing wider as proceeded to rub the child on the head with her other appendage.
Then Bewear trotted over with her paw to her mouth, eyeing the food hungrily. “Bewao?”
“Here you go.” Astra placed one into her grasp. Bewear immediately gulped it down and then began to smile as well, reaching for another until Mismagius let out a warning growl. That stilled the massive paws for a time, much to Astra’s delight from how she smiled.
Lilligant approached next and gave her a curtsy in politeness. She was always the polite type after all. Astra tried to respond in kind, but it was somewhat difficult with her hands filled and the Sableye on her back before she held the platter low enough for Lilligant to grab it herself.
That was when Jet tried to reach for it again until Clefable waddled over next and pointed to the Sableye and then to the ground. He bared his teeth and grunted in annoyance.
The Fairy Pokémon crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Clefable. Clef, clef.”
Jet grumbled as he climbed down, complying to the Fairy Pokémon’s warning. Then he sat onto the ground and crossed his arms, looking away petulantly. “Sa!”
“Thank you,” Astra told her as Lilligant and Clefable grabbed one for themselves. “Jet’s just a bit of a spoiled sometimes.”
“Fable.” Clefable nodded in understanding before pointing over to Milotic. She then shrugged her shoulders as though to say ‘children’ and ate the egg cube along with Lilligant. From there they all mingled with one another until Astra’s Pokégear began to ring.
“That must be Grandpa.” She fiddled with it before opening it up and holding it up close to her face. “Hi, Grandpa! Are you done with your business?”
“I should be back soon enough,” he said. “Did you have any luck catching your first Pokémon?”
She laughed a bit awkwardly. “Not exactly. But I’ll have a new friend by the time you get back, and we’ll challenge the Gym in the morning!”
“Don’t push yourself,” he warned gently. “You’re young. Just take the time to enjoy what you can. I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye Grandpa.” The call disconnected then and Astra stood up. “Jet, we’re heading back out!”
“The sun has set,” Lusamine said as Milotic ate a treat out of her hand while the Sableye rose up from sitting on the ground. “Are you sure that’s safe?”
She nodded. “I want to show Grandpa that I can go out on my own so he’ll let me travel by myself on the Gym Challenge, but I need to prove myself first. And Jet can see real good in the dark. As long as we don’t go too far out, it’ll be fine.”
“…Very well,” Lusamine consented. It wasn’t as though she had any right to stop her in the first place. “Just don’t go too far away from your Pokémon and the city limits. Another Drowzee might try to repeat what happened before otherwise.”
“I won’t,” she said, before turning to Lillie and holding out her Pokégear. “Since we’re both starting out and I had a lot of fun, can we exchange numbers?”
Lillie looked surprised at the offer, but quickly consented. “There you go. Feel free to call me whenever you want.”
“Thanks.” Astra gave her smile in gratitude as Sableye climbed onto her back. “It was fun meeting you both. Thank you for everything.”
When Astra left out of the room to head towards the Route where they found her, Mismagius turned to her trainer and said, “Magius, ma?”
“I’ll be in our hotel room,” Lusamine said. “Come back when you’re ready.”
“What was that about?” Lillie asked as Mismagius disappeared through the wall.
“Mismagius intends watch over that child while she goes out to prevent what happened earlier from happening again,” Lusamine explained. “You may not be aware of it, but Drowzee are common on the island where she stayed as a Misdreavus, so she understands their habits. Between them and the more troublesome Drifloons, she had her work cut out for her because she often went against her own sleep cycle to try and keep them from causing problems for the locals for a time.”
It was how she ended up in her care after all. One Drifloon had tried to carry off Gladion when he was fairly young and she intervene, exhausting herself in the process. Lusamine had taken her into the Foundation afterwards and had made efforts to get awareness out about the potential dangers to children. She also spoke with the Kahuna of the island about it as well.
Since Verdant Cave was close to the location and the Trial Captain under the Kahuna held sway over the Totem Pokémon, which held sway over their respective species in the area, they were able to mitigate future incidences by having them warn the Pokémon against such mischief. In exchange, the Berry Farm on the route would supply berries to the Pokémon when needed on that Route, with the Aether Foundation providing funds for compensation. It was beneficial for them all.
Lusamine rose up to her feet and then clapped her hands. “Everyone, we need to clean up before we return to the hotel and get some rest early. You can have more snacks later, Bewear.”
The Strong Arm Pokémon, who was in the middle of going for the bag with snacks in them, whined but bobbed her head before she started cleaning up too. Soon they had the room the way it was before they arrived and returned to their balls, leaving Lusamine and Lillie to leave the center and head back for the Gold Sky Hotel.
When they arrived outside of their rooms next to one another, they found Bill’s Umbreon and Espeon lying next to one another. The former was awake while the latter was asleep. Once the female Umbreon noticed their arrival, she gently nudged her partner awake. The male Espeon yawned before he stared at Lusamine and his eyes shone with the gem on his head as he passed on a telepathic message.
“Yes, I’ll speak to Bill right away,” Lusamine said before she turned to her daughter. “You should go to your room and get some rest since we’ll probably be leaving in the afternoon for the train to Cerulean. If you still plan on challenging the Gym, you’ll have to wake up early.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Mismagius drifted in the air some distance away from the young trainer, shrouded by the night itself. Today had been trying for her, what with having to wake early during the day. She was only at her peak at night, or at least out of the sun. It was because she was so sluggish and lacking in strength that she’d had much more of a challenge than she should have against that Vespiquen.
It didn’t help that she only wanted to make sure that Lillie had gotten away before she retreated, opening her up for a Pursuit attack. She wasn’t very good at taking hits, much less ones that were actually super-effective against her. It wouldn’t have even been a problem if Bewear hadn’t been so careless in the first place.
Really, their trainer spoiled the Strong Arm Pokémon so much that even after she had evolved, Bewear was still a child at heart. Then again, it was nice to see that Lusamine was returning to her old self. Watching her gradually falling from someone who cherished her family and Pokémon into what she had become by the end hadn’t been pleasant, but there was little the Magical Pokémon could do to stop it.
She could have left the woman, sure enough. But considering how unhinged she became after her husband and children left, leaving her behind would have likely worsened her condition greatly. Granted, by the end Mismagius wasn’t much better off after being exposed to the totem energy when she last seriously battled, back in Ultra Space.
It was hard to describe it really. One moment she was within her ball, within stasis after the first battle with Lillie’s friend. The next her ball was being flooded with energy, every fiber of her being permeated with pure power. She’d gotten all but drunk off it before she was released to do battle again, and she had been ruthless.
The moment Lusamine had given the order for her to deal with the trainer’s Crobat, she had risen in the air above them and conjured dozens of Power Gems. It was more than she had ever done before, each packed with enough power to devastate everything beneath her. She could recall the terrified look in Lillie’s eyes as she then let them loose with enough force that everything beneath them was lost in a billowing wave of dust and stone fragments.
While she wasn’t aiming for the child she’d come to care for or her trainer friend, she hadn’t been all that concerned if they were caught in the wake of the attack. If not for Nebby for shielding both of them from the stone fragments and the force of the attack, there was a very real chance she would have hurt the children. That was the worst thing about the experience—that she couldn’t find it in her to care at the time.
It didn’t even hit the Crobat in the end, which somehow managed to evade the shots and then get behind her quick enough to blindsided her with a Bite attack. She could still recall it sinking its fangs into her ghostly body and staying there. She took to phasing through the closest wall so that it slammed into the surface before she could free herself from the Bat Pokémon.
The pain was deep. Throbbing. Aching. Annoying. Her fury fueled her next attack as conjured more Power Gems the moment she emerged from the wall in a different spot.
However, instead of finding one annoying Bat Pokémon there were dozens through the use of a Double Team attack, each one flying about at a pace her eyes struggled to keep track of. The moment that they spotted her, they rushed in to attack her en masse and she let loose the crystallized light to fill the sky with piercing, prismatic rays. Thunderous crashing resounded as the rays smashed against the distant surfaces and threw up plumes of dust while illusionary copies were snuffed out one by one in the process, until the final Crobat raced forward.
Mismagius then charged a Shadow Ball, packed with ghostly energy until it was crackling with dark streamers, and fired at the Bat Pokémon. The dark orb passed through it, revealing it to be a final copy as the actual Crobat sent a spiraling disk of air racing towards her through the dust screen thrown up by her last attack.
She couldn’t avoid it in time. The Air Slash crashed against her, sending her spiraling lower to the ground and flinching. By the time she righted herself with the intention of sharing her pain with the Crobat, it was too late.
The Bat Pokémon had crossed the distance in a flash, wings aglow with a venomous energy. It struck her down with a Cross Poison attack.
The pain was too much for her to continue fighting. In the brief moment before she was recalled into her ball, her head cleared. The pain sobered her mind that had gotten drunk off the waves of power coursing through her and she realized the full extent of everything.
She’d regretted it. Most of Lusamine’s Pokémon did, albeit the reasoning between them differed. Mismagius never wanted power to harm children, but to protect them. That was why she chose to evolve from her previous form when Lusamine presented her with a Dusk Stone.
Even so, they couldn’t undo the past. They could only work towards making the future better. And if she could help the child Lillie befriended stay safe, that was something she could take pride in.
Still, she wouldn’t interfere unless necessary. Being a trainer was something like a coming-of-age process for children. She would only intervene if the child’s Pokémon left her vulnerable.
The moment Astra reached the edge of the town and out into the fields lined with tall grass, she leaned up on her toes and tried to look through the darkness for any sign of movement. But human eyes could only see so much, so she looked over her shoulder to the Darkness Pokémon that had been clinging to her back until now. “You’re up, Jet. Go find us a new friend.”
The male Sableye slid off her back and then ran out into the grass on all fours. He was small enough that only the tall grass rustling could be made out from Mismagius’ view, let alone that of the child rocking on her toes as she fiddled with a Poké Ball in waiting. It was cute, but careless given that he was her only Pokémon.
Mismagius’ valid concerns about the child proved correct when she spied a Drowzee peeking through a bundle of tall grass opposite the girl. The Magical Pokémon had never been fond of them, but the way this one eyed the child made it clear that her sweet dreams would be a delicacy to it. The Hypnosis Pokémon slipped out of the grass and started creeping up on her, licking its lips and rubbing its grubby hands together as it prepared to use Hypnosis to put Astra to sleep.
Tempting as it was to blast the gluttonous dream eater, Mismagius reminded herself that Astra was a trainer. The child needed to learn from her mistakes and the male Sableye wasn’t that far away. So she settled for conjuring a wisp of Mystical Fire that she floated over behind it.
The moment the wisp caught it and burned, the Drowzee cried out in pain. “Zeee!!”
The sound grabbed Astra’s attention and she wheeled around towards it. “Over here, Jet!”
The tall grass rustled as the male Sableye began to race back towards her, but the Drowzee was starting to flee since it couldn’t sneak up on her. It would get away at this rate. Given it tried to feast on her dreams and leaving it in the wild would likely lead to another attempt on another child, Mismagius decided to stretch her help just a little more.
Fortunately, she had just the technique to use to stop it from escaping. She hadn’t used it in some time. After all, once she evolved she’d focused mostly on strong offensive techniques. But whenever she needed to punish one of the Drowzee on Melemele Island early on, she made sure that they couldn’t get away before she got the message across.
Mismagius used Mean Look!
Drowzee can no longer escape!
The Drowzee went stiff as her eyes glowed. A malevolent aura that prickled its skin with cold sweat wreathed its body and sank into its very being. Just like that it was bound—cursed really—into remaining within eyesight of the Magical Pokémon as the Darkness Pokémon broke through the grass and snarled at the Hypnosis Pokémon.
Drowzee let out a tiny shriek in panic as the Sableye rushed forward to attack it. Living up to its title as the Hypnosis Pokémon, it tried to stop him by releasing hypnotic psychic waves and putting it to sleep.
Drowzee used Hypnosis!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
However, the hypnotic waves broke against it like water against a shore. The Darkness Pokémon sloughed through it without any trouble at all and finished closing the distance. Panic set into the Drowzee’s eyes as it came under attack.
Jet used Scratch!
The Sableye proceeded to rake his claws against the Hypnosis Pokémon and knocked it back using the momentum of its charge. The Drowzee stumbled back from the hit and nearly tripped over itself before falling back on its rear. Another growl left the Darkness Pokémon’s mouth as it bared its teeth in recognition at that specific one.
The Drowzee extended both of its hands again as he took another step forward and flashed his claws. This time it launched a bundle of telekinetic waves, attempting to push the Sableye away and get to its feet.
Drowzee used Confusion!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Again it had no effect. Being part-Dark Type, the Sableye was immune to its power utterly. Thus it couldn’t be stricken by the Psychic-aligned attacks that the Hypnosis Pokémon’s kind was known for.
“Get it again, Jet!” Astra ordered. “Just a little more and we’ll catch it!”
“Saaaaa!!” snarled the Sableye as he moved in to strike it again with another Scratch attack.
The Drowzee, still unable to escape, closed its eyes and then threw its hand forward, finger wrapped into a tight fist as a desperation move.
Drowzee used Pound!
It doesn’t effect Jet!
Though it connected, it did nothing as the Sableye was also part-Ghost type. The Darkness Pokémon followed through with his second Scratch attack, digging into its flesh and knocking the Hypnosis Pokémon down a second time. Then the diamonds that made up his eyes began to glow red.
Jet used Night Shade!
Beams as dark as the night, wreathed in a hue of deep red, struck the Drowzee. It was bombarded by the beam, causing it to let out another pained shriek until the attack ceased. The Hypnosis Pokémon then wavered on its feet and gave a slight groan before it toppled backwards.
“That’s enough, Jet!” Astra shouted as she threw the Poké Ball at the weakened target. It connected and the ball popped open, releasing a burst of energy that enshrouded the Drowzee and pulled it into the ball. The ball wriggled thrice before it made a sound to indicate it was captured. Astra ran over and scooped up the ball. “We managed to catch our first new friend!”
The Sableye let out a small snarl at the ball.
“Don’t be that way,” she told him, wagging her finger to reproach him. “Just because the last one managed to put me to sleep doesn’t mean you get to bully this one.”
The Sableye shook his head as he pointed off to the distance, with the trees far off, and then pointed to the ball.
Astra seemed to take a moment to guess what he was saying. “You mean it was the same Drowzee from before?”
He nodded. “Sableye.”
“Wow, it must’ve really like me then.” She held the ball up in the air. “I’ll take good care of it and show it to Grandpa when he gets back. Ah, but first we should name him… or is it a her? What would be a good one for a Drowzee?”
The Sableye set his claws on his head and shook it in frustration as she began to list off a bunch of different names.
Mismagius chose then to appear, silently rising out of the ground behind the Darkness Pokémon and just out of the girl’s view. She leaned over the tiny Pokémon’s shoulders and whispered into his ears to keep that Drowzee in check.
His shoulders sagged as he gave a resigned sigh. More work for him it seems. He then made his way over to Astra’s side and tugged on the hem of her dress with one limb, pointing towards the town with the other.
“Oh, we should head back and make sure that Nurse Joy heals you both, shouldn’t we?” Astra extended her arm for him to climb onto her back again. “I’ll give you Rock Candy when we get back to the room for doing good too.”
Mismagius felt a sense of satisfaction in her actions as she watched them go. She not only got to protect a child, but she managed to get one of the dream eating gluttons out of the wild and less likely to cause problems. She bore a smile as she floated after her to ensure that Astra made it back to the Pokémon Center and then called it a night.
Chapter 4: The First Capture – Part 2
Lusamine huffed as she set the dark-haired child down in one of the beds at a room in the Pokémon Center. The room was registered in the girl’s name, which they confirmed using the Trainer I.D. that her Sableye produced from… somewhere. The 10-year old wasn’t heavy, but Lusamine felt tired from the walk with her daughter to Route 11 and from it while carrying the child.
She took a seat at the desk opposite of the girl and sighed wearily. All she wanted to do was spend time with her daughter and then this happened. Not that there was anyone to fault for it unless she was willing to pin the blame onto a child or a wild Pokémon that was following its instincts, which was beneath her.
The Nurse Joy of Vermillion had stated it would be best to let the girl sleep rather than trying to force her awake, no doubt experienced with this sort of thing since they live so close to a habitat filled with the Drowzee species. Lusamine would remain to watch over her until then while the Sableye returned to its ball to rest.
The room inside of the Pokémon Center was far less grand that her hotel room. But it contained a PC that she could use. Since Lillie wouldn’t likely be back for some time, she decided to use it to check on things at the Aether Foundation and reached out to Miss Wicke using her direct line.
At least, that was her intention. The line took a moment to connect. And when it did, it wasn’t Miss Wicke who answered. It was Gladion.
“Whoever’s calling, I apologize but—” Gladion stopped when he recognized her and his expression went from professional to cold as ice. “Oh.”
It made her heart heavy in her chest just looking at him from across the screen. Her first-born child with her husband had changed so much since the day that he left home two years ago. It was only a little while ago since she had seen him, but only now was she really taking in how he seemed to have gone from a precious boy who smiled a lot to one that wore a frown that seemed as if it was most natural thing in the world.
Even so, she was relieved to see him. “You look well. I’m glad to see that.”
“Yeah, well I managed,” he said dismissively. “Anyway, Miss Wicke is handling something urgent at the moment and won’t be able to spare time until tomorrow. It’s 8 PM over here, so try again earlier tomorrow.”
Then he moved to hang up. He didn’t want to speak to her, or even see her if he didn’t have to. Not after how she had disowned both him and Lillie and tried to silence them when they got in her way.
All the same, she wanted to speak with him longer and called out for him to stop. “Gladion, wait!”
To her surprise, he stopped with his finger midway towards the disconnect button.
“Son, please,” she continued. “At least… at least let me apologize to you for everything. I wasn’t well then. Believe me, if I was I wouldn’t have let you live on your own for two years. I would have looked for you.”
He sighed, disappointment so thick that it was audible without words. “You still don’t understand. That’s not why I— wait, Silvally!”
The words barely managed to get out of his mouth before a creature appeared on the screen, running its tongue along his cheek. Lusamine recognized it. It was Type: Null without its mask, or at least it appeared to be. It was a little different from before, the coloration having changed at some point and its demeanor more playful as it nuzzled his face in hopes of having him return the affection.
Of course, the moment its eyes fell onto the screen that changed. It recognized her. It recognized her and snarled, looking as though it would have swiped at the screen if not for Gladion keeping it calm.
“Easy, Silvally,” he said, holding it close and stroking its head until its snarls turned to a low grumble. But its eyes never wavered from hers.
“Why did you remove its helmet?” Lusamine asked. “It needed that to control its power. Without it, Type: Null will be a danger to itself and everyone around it.”
“The helmet was destroyed when it evolved,” he explained. “Silvally can use the RKS system without going out of control or hurting anyone now.”
“You managed stabilize its temperament?” Even Faba didn’t believe that it was possible when he worked on it, due to the nature of its creation. “How? We tried everything we could.”
“Except treating it with respect and kindness,” he said firmly. “That’s the one thing you didn’t do. You tried to create gods and put them on a leash. And when they didn’t come out the way you wanted, you labeled them a failure and froze them so you didn’t have to look at them.”
“Gladion…I…” She trailed off in the wake of the gaze he was giving her, daring her to make an excuse. “I needed something that could fight against the Ultra Beasts, something that could fight anything that came out of Ultra Space. That way we could have explored it, found your father, and reunited our family. You have to understand that.”
“You brought three Pokémon into this world, through inhumane means at that, solely to be used as weapons,” he said, patting Silvally on the head. “And then you threw them away when they couldn’t live up to that. That’s the very thing that grandfather founded the Aether Foundation to stand against, and yet you turned an organization meant to shelter and protect Pokémon into one that exploited them. That’s why I can’t overlook what you did and why I chose to leave without regrets.”
“I just wanted to get your father back,” she said again. “I just wanted us to be a family again no matter what. It wasn’t wrong to want to be with the people you love no matter what.”
“No, it wasn’t wrong to want that,” he agreed. “But what you did trying to do so was and, because no one was able to stand up to you, it drove you further out of control. That’s why I knew I had to get strong enough to stop you and get the Foundation back on track. I hate that Elio got dragged into our family issues, but I am grateful he stopped you before you killed Cosmog and endangered us all to make yourself happy.”
“I wasn’t well then,” she said defensively. “But I’m doing better now. I’ll make things right between us. You, your sister, your father—I’ll make it all right.”
“…Just focus on your treatment,” he said to that. “Maybe then… no, nevermind. I have to go.”
“Wait,” she said, desperately hoping for him to still his hand again. It was the first time she’d spoken to him this much in so long, and there were so many things she still wanted to ask him about his life while he was away. “I just want to talk to you—”
The monitor went dead as he cut the connection before she could finish.
“…a little longer,” she finished, her voice cracking as she stared at the dead screen. There was no point in calling back. He wouldn’t answer.
She covered her eyes and then took a deep, shuddering breath as the weight of their discussion set in. Her own son felt that she needed to be stopped so strongly that he took up arms against her and trained to do it for two years. An apology for betraying the very ideals her father instilled in her, and that she instilled into him, would never be enough.
“…It’ll be okay,” she told herself as she wiped at the tears stinging the corner of her eyes. She had to keep up the appearance of being strong and not show weakness. “Lillie still needs me right now. And once I get better, I’ll find Mohn too. Once our family is whole again everything will be just fine.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Bewear… slow down…” Lillie said between heated pants as she continued chasing after the Pokémon that had decided a jaunt through the woods was appropriate at the moment. They were far enough off the Route that she couldn’t see the border of the trees they’d entered, but at least she knew the general direction and could get back within the span of maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking.
Bewear, for the most part, kept going with little reservation. She only really stopped to check the scent trail that she had and to make sure that Lillie was still in sight, a brief respite for the aching legs of the new trainer following after her.
At this point, Lillie suspected that it was because of her mother’s orders. Lusamine might have told the Pokémon to be good for Lillie, but she didn’t state for her to listen to her—only to help her find a Sandshrew and to keep her safe. That was probably what Bewear counted as ‘being a good girl for her’ as her mother ordered.
“I can’t keep up anymore…” She groaned a few minutes later as her legs began to burn and her feet ached. “I’ve got to stop.”
Lillie came to a stop at the base of a tree and just sat down for a moment. Koko and Rotom came to a stop as well, with the Fox Pokémon sitting next to her while Living Pokédex floated above her head. A breeze threaded through the trees and shook the canopy above with a gentle rustling sound that drew their eyes upwards, where they spotted these cute little pink Pokémon with a pair of leaves on their heads drifting on the Spring breeze, passing by without a care in the world as they smiled.
“Rotom, what are they?” Lillie asked, fascinated by the sight as Koko looked up along with her.
A moment pleazzze. Rotom floated close to the drifting Pokémon and then snapped a photo with a flash, causing their beady yellow eyes to shrink for a moment until they blinked and then angled themselves to the side as the breeze shifted directions and carried them that way. Hoppip, the Cottonweed Pokémon. Its body is light at 1.1 pounds and allows it to drift on the winds. Capable of sensing strong winds, Hoppip cluster together and grip the ground firmly to avoid being blown away.
“They remind me of Bounsweet,” Lillie said as she looked at the photo taken with Rotom’s Poké Finder. Koko perched her forelegs onto Lillie’s lap and took a look at well. Lillie smiled as she stroked her forehead and then closed her eyes to just bask in the cool breeze as it rolled over her heated skin, strands of her hair swaying under its power.
That was, until she felt a presence looming over her and casting a shadow. She cracked open her eyes to see Bewear staring at her with a paw to its mouth. “Bewao?”
“Just… give me a minute to rest,” Lillie said. “My legs and feet hurt. Once I’ve rested we can keep searching.”
Bewear nodded. And then proceeded to pick her up, cradling her comparatively smaller body and holding her tight. Just like that Bewear started moving again, carry her like she did with her mother last night.
“Bewear, put me down!” Lillie said, struggling to get free of the stout arms as she was carried further into the forest. Rotom and Koko were giving chase after them, but the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored them and her pleas while going deeper into the forest.
The trees here had thick roots that stuck up from below the ground and dense bushes that occasionally rustled as they neared. At least a couple of them were Rattata that quickly darted away in the wake of Bewear, having wisely decided that they would rather not attempt to pick a fight with it. Around them there were several little flying honeycombs buzzing around, some kind of Bug-Type Pokémon that Lillie hadn’t seen before.
“Why won’t you listen to me?” Lillie asked with a sigh. After noticing that Bewear was turning in a new direction, she reached into her jacket to grab Bewear’s Ultra Ball and return her. If they lost track of the direction they entered, it could take a long time before they managed to get back… much less before nightfall.
That was when Bewear came to a stop at last in a small clearing that had big stones planted about, with one large enough to be sat on amidst small patches of flowers scattered about. Setting her down there and taking another moment to sniff the air, Bewear then ran with all her might into a bundle of bushes further ahead and dove into them with her paws outstretched. Sounds of struggle could be heard as Koko and Rotom caught up with Lillie, and when Bewear stood back up there was a flailing Pokémon in her grasp. “Beow?”
“That’s a Sandshrew,” Lillie confirmed. “You found the right one this time.”
Bewear waddled over proudly; pleased with herself for having accomplished the task she was supposed to. Then she nonchalantly dropped the Sandshrew in front of them, before holding a paw to her muzzle and looking over to the trees to the right. Several of the small bug Pokémon she’d seen before flittered in that direction.
“Where are you going now?” Lillie asked, standing up on the stone as Bewear started wandering off in that direction. Once again the Strong Arm Pokémon ignored her, causing Lillie to feel frustrated and puff out her cheeks. She reached into the pocket of her jacket and fished around for the Ultra Ball that belonged to Bewear. “Enough’s enough, Be—pbbt?”
No sooner than she had it in her grasp was a splash of sand hurled in her direction, connecting with her face. Lillie staggered backwards as she wiped the grains from her face and ended up falling off the stone and landing onto her bottom. “Ouch!”
Lillie, zzzt! Are you okay? Rotom asked, attempting to help her with its appendages to clear away the last of the sand.
“I think so…” She looked over to the source of the attack, Sandshrew. Even now an earthen-glow outlined its forearms and grains of sand appeared to form out of it. “Hey, what was that for?”
“Kujo!” it cried angrily, lashing out again with another Sand Attack. This time a chilled gust intercepted it and scattered the sand. Koko stood between it and Lillie now with her back arched, hackles raised, and head low while a slight growl slipped out of her mouth.
Lillie didn’t pretend to be the best at reading body language. But she could gather from how its eyes were narrowed that the Sandshrew was more than a bit miffed and ready to fight as it pointed over to where it had been before. “Kujo, kujoo!”
It seems mad since it was about to catch a Bug-type Pokémon to eat, zzzt, Rotom stated, pointing up towards the tree that had a Wurmple quickly climbing up the trunk near where Bewear had found it and into the canopy. Now it’s challenging you to a battle and zzzeems quite Adamant about it.
“I was hoping we could be friends rather than starting off like this, but I guess we don’t have a choice.” Lillie stood back up, dusted the back of her skirt off, and pointed towards the Sandshrew. “This is our first battle, Koko!”
Acknowledging the hostility between the Sandshrew and her trainer’s will to fight, the three-tipped wooly tail stood upright as a pale aura shrouded the Alolan Vulpix. Koko let out a battle-cry and it rippled outwards. A grayish cloud formed in the air above the battlefield as a result.
Koko activated Snow Warning.
Lillie shivered as the temperature around them dropped to a sharp chill, just low enough to where glittering ice particles could barely be seen falling down if she squinted her eyes. They were fleeting though, evaporating the moment they touch down to the ground.
It zzzeems that Koko has the Ability classified as Snow Warning, Rotom stated, camera turned towards the two Pokémon as it prepared to record the battle. However, it seems to be underdeveloped judging from my records, zzzt.
It’s probably because she only has three of her tails, Lillie thought. She could ask Professor Kukui later on. He had at least one Alolan Ninetails if she recalled. All the same, she suppressed the shiver running through her body at the abrupt cold (vowing to get arm and leg warmers) to give the first command. “Koko, it should be weak to Ice-Type attacks!”
Koko used Powder Snow!
Koko exhaled a gust of chilled wind, laced with glittering white-and-blue frost particles. It sped forward, covering the grass between them with a layer of hoarfrost as it rushed towards the Sandshrew.
The Sandshrew darted to the side to avoid it. Falling onto all fours, it began to close in from an angle as the Powder Snow attack ceased. Koko turned around to face it properly and inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew made a calculated move.
Sandshrew used Sand Attack!
It slashed forward from the distance with another Sand Attack from both of its forepaws. The two waves of sand caught Koko’s crystalline-blue eyes. She jerked her head away with a whimper, frantically working to clear them with her forepaws.
“Koko, look out!” Lillie shouted. “It’s coming!”
Sandshrew used Scratch!
The warning came too little, too late as the Sandshrew closed the distance and brought its three claws around. They caught Koko head-on and she cried out from the pain from the attack, only to grit her teeth. Then she countered.
Koko used Tail Whip!
Spinning around on her forepaws, the wooly tails caught the Mouse Pokémon right in the snout. Even if it didn’t do any damage, smacking the Sandshrew in the face startled it enough that its defenses fell as it tried to back away. Koko then hopped backwards to gain enough space to exhale another Powder Snow attack at it.
The Sandshrew let out a shriek as the attack landed. The powder began to build on it, covering it in fresh snow. The Mouse Pokémon shivered violently, its pants coming out in a slight mist as Koko finished expelling her breath. But it shook it off and then curled into a tight ball.
Sandshrew used Defense Curl!
“Again, Koko!” Lillie ordered. The Alolan Vulpix let out a small sound in acknowledgement and then inhaled to try again when the Sandshrew began to spin in place.
Zzzt, that’s bad! Rotom warned.
Sandshrew used Rollout!
Rotom couldn’t the warning out before the Sandshrew shot forward in its ball form. On instinct, Koko let loose another powder-laced gust only to have it split down the center as the Sandshrew barreled through it. Too late did she realize that she needed to stop her attack and dodge, resulting in the speeding ball slamming into her hard enough to send her tumbling through the air with a pained cry.
“Koko!” Lillie cried out as her Fox Pokémon landed on the large boulder and bounced off on impact to hit the ground. Her heart fell into her stomach as she watched her starter trembling from the pain and looked like she was about to cry. “Are you okay?”
Koko is an Ice-Type Pokémon and Rollout is classified as a Rock-Type technique by its nature! Rotom explained. Worse, using Defense Curl beforehand allowed it to be strengthened, so it really hurt her!
“Vul…pix…” The Alolan Vulpix struggled to get back onto her feet, legs buckling under her own weight as the Sandshrew curved around and began to rush towards her a second time. Still, Koko stood her ground and narrowed her eyes as a pink aura began to shroud her body. She was preparing another attack.
Lillie disliked seeing Pokémon being hurt as a general rule. But, seeing the speed at which the Rollout was coming, now fast enough that it was leaving a trail in the ground as it came for the Ice-Type, Lillie made a judgment call. She pulled out Koko’s ball. “Koko, return!”
In an instant, Koko’s body returned to an energy state and was pulled into the ball, leaving the Sandshrew to crash into the boulder that had been behind her. The Mouse Pokémon shattered it with a thunderous crash, leaving Lillie to cover her face as fragments of the rock were scattered about and a dust cloud was raised. The Sandshrew emerged from the rock dust unharmed and then pointed at Rotom, gesturing with its claws for it to come next.
Rotom immediately ducked behind Lillie, peeking over her shoulder to say, I’m not optimized for battle, zzzt!
It doesn’t look like it’s just going to let me run away, Lillie realized as the Sandshrew continued to glare at her, waiting for her next move. She got the impression it wanted to prove something, but what that was eluded her. Koko is hurt and I don’t know where Bewear wandered off to. Should I call out Mismagius and risk her being cranky? What if she won’t listen either?
While she pondered that, the rock dust cleared and from the remains of it emerged a creature with a red shell. Holes were in the shell from which yellow limbs emerged. It wormed its way out of the debris pile that was once a large stone and then looked upon it sadly, before craning its head around to the Sandshrew and frowning as much as it was capable of doing so.
“Shuckle?” it… asked, Lillie assumed as it pointed to the rubble with one limb. The Sandshrew briefly looked away from Lillie to respond, motioning dismissively with its claws for the turtle-looking Pokémon to leave. It frowned, beady black eyes narrowing as much as it could while somehow remaining unthreatening from how bubbly it’s upset-cry sounded.
The Sandshrew somehow managed to roll its eyes before turning to it and… holding a conversation, Lillie assumed. She didn’t speak their language. But she knew who did.
“What are they saying?” she whispered to Rotom, which was hanging over her shoulder.
Zzzzounds like the Shuckle is complaining about its rock being smashed and the Zzzandshrew is blaming it on us, Rotom explained. I think it has zzzomething against Trainers… wait, what’s that zzzzound?
Lillie strained her ears but didn’t hear anything. The Pokémon, however, did. The Sandshrew looked over to the tree line in alarm and then back to Lillie for a final time. Then it curled into a ball and rolled away as fast as it could. The Shuckle just shoved its limbs and head into its shell and went motionless, masquerading as a stone.
CRASH!!! The sound of a tree splintering sent a jolt racing up Lillie’s spine as something came lumbering forward. Her nerves were on end and the hair on her neck was rising as it sounded closer and closer…
And then it turned out to just be Bewear. The Strong Arm Pokémon staggered out in what looked to be a daze. Her paws and mouth were covered in a creamy, golden hue.
She must’ve gone searching for honey after finding the Sandshrew as a treat to herself. Lillie sighed as all the tension in her body faded. She had gotten scared for nothing. Taking a deep breath, she put her hands on her hips and called out, “Bewear!”
Bewear’s head snapped around towards the sound of her voice.
. “You know better than to go running off on your own. You should have waited for—”
“BEWAOOOOOO!!” roared the Strong Arm Pokémon in fury.
The battle-cry caught Lillie off-guard, stunning her into silence as Bewear lunged in her direction abruptly, arms raised to attack!
Bewear used Take Down!
Seeing the rushing Pokémon lunging for her, Lillie instinctively dropped down with a panicked shout and felt the wind rush over her as Bewear brushed mere inches above her head and landed with a thunderous crash that threw up a spray of stone dust, dirt, and grass as the ground trembled.
S-Something must be wrong with Bewear. she reasoned in an attempt to calm her pounding heart. She knew that her mother’s Pokémon wouldn’t intentionally hurt her. Even Milotic, who she got the impression was constantly vying with the others and her for her mother’s attention before she went insane, wouldn’t attack her like that. Given that Bewear was more friendly and treated her more like a playmate, something just had to be wrong.
“Bewear, what’s wrong?” she called out, getting back to her feet. The Strong Arm Pokémon seemed to be dizzy or something, flailing about and smashing the stones around her with her powerful arms and legs. One of the attacks even caught the poor Shuckle as it tried to get away, only to be too slow, and ended up getting launched it into the air and landing with a loud thud not too far from Lillie.
“Are you okay?’ Lillie asked it as she crouched down and took a look at the Mold Pokémon.
Its head and limbs went limp as its eyes were struggling to stay open. It was barely hanging in there. “Shu…ckle…”
Lillie pursed her lips as she reached into her jacket to retrieve Bewear’s ball. Whatever was wrong with Bewear made her far more dangerous considering that she wasn’t trying to control her strength in that state. If Lillie didn’t do something to stop Bewear, more Pokémon were going to get hurt until she settled down.
She pointed it at the rampaging Strong Arm Pokémon and popped it open. Bewear was in the process of smashing another stone when she was pulled back into it, leaving just an unsettling silence in her absence. Lillie sighed, her nerves frayed and heart pounding as she looked at the ball in her grasp tenderly. “What happened to you?”
I think that Bewear was confused, zzzt, Rotom stated as it floated back over to her. Returning her to her ball should have snapped her out of it.
“But what did that to her?” Lillie asked as she looked down to the Shuckle that looked like it was in pain. Poor thing had its home destroyed because of her battle with Sandshrew and then hurt by Bewear because she didn’t keep an eye on her in the first place. She couldn’t just let it stay hurt like this, so she pulled off her backpack and searched around for a Potion to use on it.
The Shuckle perked up in alarm before she could give it a spray and began to try and flee.
“Hold on,” Lillie said as she grabbed it to stop it from running away. “I just want heal you. Then I’ll let you go.”
“Shuuuckle!” whined the Mold Pokémon, straining itself to get free of her grasp before wincing as its injuries made it clear it wouldn’t be able to move as well as it wanted to. It then retreated into its shell.
“You don’t need to…” Lille trailed off as a loud buzzing sound finally reached her ears. She turned her gaze towards the tree line where Bewear stumbled out, small figures flitting about at the edge of her view and coming closer. “Rotom, are there any Bug-Type Pokémon that produce honey in this area?”
Reconciling with local Pokémon database… Found, zzt. A picture showed on the screen of the little flying Bug-Types that she had spotted earlier on. Combee, the Tiny Bee Pokémon. It gathers honey from flowers to please Vespiquen. It is normally docile and flees when threatened, but will not think twice about attacking all that threaten the queen with lethal force.
“Bewear must’ve disturbed their hive to get their honey,” Lillie realized. “That’s why the Sandshrew ran and Shuckle is scared. They must be getting ready to attack.”
Slinging her backpack on, Lillie picked up the Shuckle. She wasn’t willing to leave the injured Pokémon behind. Not when her failing to keep her mother’s Pokémon in check was the cause. Holding it close to her chest, she started running in the direction they came from to escape.
A sense of looming danger hovered over Lillie as she ran through the forest. The sound of the buzzing only continued to grow louder, constantly closing in as the individuals that made up the hive slipped between the trees after her. She spared a quick glance backwards to see there were so many that it was like an onrushing wall of yellow.
“Ha… Ha…. Ha…” It was only a matter of time before they caught up to her. But if they were territorial then it was just a matter of getting out of their range. She swallowed her fear, tightened her grasp on the Shuckle in her arms, and redoubled her running speed as Rotom hovered next to her.
But the uneven ground proved to be a hazard as an upturned root snared her feet mid-stride. She landed onto the ground with a painful thud, hitting her shoulder and sliding along the grass and leaves until she came to a stop. “Oww…”
Are you okay, Lillie? Rotom asked.
“My shoulder hurts a bit, but I think I’m fine.” She had barely managed to stop getting seriously hurt by twisting her body mid-fall and tucking her head in. She looked over to where the Shuckle had landed, wrenched from her grasp by the fall. “Shuckle, are you okay?”
“Shuuuuckle,” it said, looking like it was on its last legs.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you somewhere safe.” She pushed herself up off the ground only to feel a sharp jolt run through her arm the moment she put weight on her shoulder. She bore with it as she got up and went over to pick up the Mold Pokémon again, only to find she couldn’t with her shoulder hurt. That left her one real option.
“Sorry about this, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to carry you.” She pulled out the Poké Ball that she had been planning on using to capture the Sandshrew. “Once we’re safe and you’re healed, I’ll release you.”
“Kle—” She tapped the ball against its shell before it could refuse and it was sucked inside. The ball trembled weakly before the sound of the capture being successful rang out. She minimized the ball and then started running again, but it was too late as the Combee horde had closed the distance enough that she was within their attacking range.
The Combee Horde used Gust!
Their wings beat out a powerful wind. It swept her up and sent her tumbling further ahead, leaving Lillie to end up rolling on the ground until she came to a stop at the base of a tree. It was clear they wouldn’t let her escape either.
No choice. I hope she isn’t too mad at being woken up early, Lillie thought to herself as she pulled out the second Ultra Ball and enlarged it as the Combee Horde rushed forward and prepared to use Bug Bite. “Mismagius, help!”
The ball popped open at her call. The cranky-looking Ghost-Type emerged and looked at the incoming attack. Then came the fire.
Mismagius used Mystical Fire!
Red flames were conjured at the Magical Pokémon’s behest and swallowed the onset of Combee. The Tiny Bee Pokémon were scorched and burned, smoldering as they dropped to the ground and twitched faintly.
The rest of the Combee seemed to get riled up in the wake of the threat that she presented. Rather than coming for them straight, they circled around them from all angles, preparing to swarm the three with Bug Bites. Mismagius merely looked annoyed before her eyes flashed and they were surrounded by what looked to be stones of light.
Mismagius used Power Gem!
Then, all at once, the light burst from the stones in the form of dense rays. The beams smashed into their surroundings, spearing through the numbers like a mallet and swept them all away, along with the trees and foliage that was in their wake. Satisfied that the horde had been quelled through the sheer force of her attack, along with a good portion of the surrounding forest, Mismagius then turned to Lillie and let out an inquiring, “Maaagus?”
Rotom took the liberty to explain, in haste, the situation. The Magical Pokémon frowned at that, drifting closer to Lillie and snaking its appendage into her jacket pocket. She pulled out Bewear’s ball and pressed the button, releasing the Strong Arm Pokémon in a flash of light.
Now freed of her confused state, Bewear looked around with a puzzled glance before noticing Mismagius. “Waooo?”
Mismagius used Astonish!
Lillie jumped at the abrupt shout directed at Bewear from the very angry Ghost-Type Pokémon, hovering right in her face. Rotom had outright vanished in the wake of it, darting into her hood and using her as a living shield against the obvious rage on display. Not that she blamed it. Even she hadn’t seen Mismagius looking as angry as she was.
“Magius!” Mismagius shouted again in a slightly lower tone, pointing one of her ribbon-like appendages towards Lillie before sweeping it around to indicate the fallen Combee. Bewear whimpered and covered her head with her paws as the Magical Pokémon continued… was she scolding her? Lillie figured it must’ve been considering that, when Bewear responded with a whine and rubbed her stomach, Mismagius growled and dark tendrils of energy began to crackle around her.
The only thing that redirect her anger was the renewed sound of buzzing. It was deeper than before, heavier, coming from a single source. The Magical Pokémon turned around to face it and found what Lillie assumed to be the hive’s queen, coming to attack after its followers proved themselves unable with floating stones hovering next to it.
Vespiquen used Power Gem!
Mismagius’ narrowed her eyes and then returned fire with a flurry of Power Gems as well. The rays of light met and exploded into expanding domes that made the air shake. The Magical Pokémon then turned back to Bewear, pointing towards Lillie once more. “Magius, Ma!”
“Bewoa!” Bewear nodded her head frantically before scooping Lillie into her arms and taking off running through the forest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Mismagius had told her to take Lillie and get to safety immediately. Given the sound of destructions coming from behind them, splintering wood and rupturing earth, it was safe to say that it was probably safest outside of the forest.
They had to have been running for maybe thirty minutes when they first entered the forest to get to the clearing. Bewear had them outside of it and back onto Route 11 in less than five, breaking through the tree line and leaving a trail of upturned earth as she skidded to a stop. Heavy pants left the Strong Arm Pokémon’s mouth and she collapsed onto her bottom in exhaustion.
“Are you okay now, Bewear?” Lillie asked as she pulled herself free from its grasp. Well, more like she tried to and failed until Bewear allowed her to slip out. Bewear let out a small whine, dark eyes glistening before bringing her paws to her eyes and starting to cry. “What’s wrong?”
Zzzhe’s upset because Mismagius got mad at her and that she’s going to be punished, Rotom translated. When Bewear continued to cry, it translated that too. She just wanted a snack because she tried so hard to find the Sandshrew for you, zzzt.
Lillie couldn’t help but still feel a bit sad for her. As strong as Bewear was, she was still rather immature compared to Mismagius or Clefable. She reached up and gently rubbed her on the head. “It’ll by okay. We probably don’t need to tell Mother about this.”
“Maaagggius…” The Magical Pokémon said in opposition to that, causing Bewear to jump up in fear as she drifted out from between the trees. She looked as though she had been through a serious fight, parts of her ethereal body looking as though it had been struck by something that left actual damage. The annoyed look and frown on her face made it clear her anger had not been lessened.
“Mismagius, you’re hurt,” Lillie said, pulling off her backpack. “Hold on, I’ll use a Potion.”
Mismagius merely shook her head and pointed towards the direction of Vermillion City before saying, according to Rotom, that they need to head back to there now and that she’d lecture them all once they found Lusamine and was fully healed.
Lillie didn’t argue. Couldn’t argue really. Not when everything had gone horribly wrong. Koko was hurt from the battle with Sandshrew. Shuckle was hurt from Bewear, still in the process of crying. And Mismagius was hurt enough that she was drifting low to the ground. Compared to the minor injury to her shoulder, they needed treatment first.
Still, she was not looking forward to explaining to her mother how she had failed to do what she set out to and gotten them all hurt. The thought depressed her because she recalled how her Mother stated she couldn’t do anything on her own back when she needed Elio to help get her to listen. For all her bravado, it would mean nothing if she could actually live up to it. That was part of why she wanted to become a trainer.
But if she couldn’t keep Bewear in control or capture a Pokémon on her own… what was the point?
What was the point in coming to a new region, away from the professors who cared for her and the friends she made in Alola?
How would she face them and Nebby after promising to be better, yet failing on her first attempt?
That thought haunted her as she followed the Magical Pokémon back into the city without a word.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
“Oh dear,” the local Joy said as Lillie walked up to the counter, sparing the Mismagius floating next to her a glance to judge its condition. “You both look as though you’ve had a rough day.”
“You could say that.” Lillie sighed. It was evening by the time they made it back to Vermillion City and the Pokémon Center. Mismagius garnered a few looks along the way, having refused to return to her ball even after sending Bewear back into hers earlier, and a few of the other people in the center definitely took notice since her kind wasn’t seen around these parts. “I didn’t think finding a Sandshrew would be so hard.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t have if it had been a few months ago.” She sighed. “Unfortunately, due to the Lieutenant being rather heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with rookie trainers, they’ve started retreating further out in the Route.”
Lillie’s brows rose in confusion. “How are those things related?”
“Well, there’s been an announcement that the Elite Four are planning to have promising trainers participate in a sort of mass tournament event in about four months.” She presented a flyer for Lillie to see for herself. “Those who score in the Top Four will receive a hefty prize, as well as study under a member of the Elite Four for a month. Given how they’re considered to be the most skilled trainers in the Indigo League as a whole, a lot of young trainers are attempting the Gym Challenge in hopes of having the opportunity. And since most of the local children know that the Lieutenant uses electric-types, they run off to capture a Sandshrew or Diglett.”
She looked over the flyer. It seemed like you needed a minimum of four badges to participate in it. “Okay, but why is that a problem beyond over-capturing?”
“You can’t simply catch a Pokémon and then expect them to do well against a Gym Leader untrained,” she explained. “You have to get then accustomed to their new lives under a trainer and adapt them to battling, which takes time and positive reinforcement. Since most of them don’t have the patience with the deadline so close, they can’t really win in that case unless the Gym Leader goes easy.”
“And he won’t do that,” Lillie said, recalling what she had been told earlier.
The Nurse Joy nodded. “Out of all the Gym Leaders, the Lieutenant refuses to go easy on the grounds that he holds a lot of pride as a Gym Leader and believes that those who strive to earn badges should put in enough work. So, when they lose rather handedly, young trainers tend to get frustrated as a result and end up releasing the Pokémon. The released Pokémon then go back to the rest of their kind and you can imagine how the experience looks from their point of view.”
Lillie nodded in understanding. Being Captured. Forced to fight. Then thrown away because they were too weak. Even if you could heal their wounds, it would linger in their hearts. “That explains why the Sandshrew we found was so hostile. It must’ve been one.”
“Not to mention that if they relocate too far for too long, they’ll end up shifting ecosystem,” Nurse Joy added, before presenting the ball tray for Lillie to place her Pokémon into. “Anyway, can you return your Pokémon to its ball so I can tend to it?”
“Right.” Lillie turned to Mismagius. “I’ll return you to Mother when you’ve finished healing.”
Mismagius nodded before shooting the Plasma Pokémon a sharp glance. “Magius, maa. Magius…”
Yezzz ma’am! Rotom said, fear tinging its artificial voice. I won’t let it happen again! I promise, zzt!
“Mmmm…” She tapped the button on her own ball and then returned into it.
Lillie then placed it with the other Ultra Ball, Premier Ball, and Poké Ball that belonged to Bewear, Koko, and the Shuckle she had caught to keep it safe respectively. As she handed them over to the Nurse Joy, she asked, “Do you know which room my mother is in? I believe she came in earlier with a girl who was asleep from a Drowzee feeding off her dreams.”
“Ah yes, I remember those two. They should be in the third room to the left, on the second floor.” Nurse Joy placed the Pokémon into the machine. “It’ll take a while for your Pokémon to heal fully, especially the Mismagius. I’ll have Blissey send them to the room once they’re fighting fit, so why don’t you relax until then?”
“Thank you. I think I will.” That said, Lillie left the counter and made her way towards the second floor, where the rooms were. Along the way, she looked over to Rotom and asked, “What did Mismagius say to you then?”
She threatened to do things to me if I let anything happen to you, zzt… Rotom said in horror. Unspeakable things that only a Ghost Pokémon can do to another, zzzz.
“I’m sorry for that.” She reached up and tried to reassure Rotom with a pat on its back. She couldn’t imagine what it was exactly that Mismagius would have done, but she somehow didn’t doubt it was terrifying.
Once they arrived at the room, they found her mother sitting down on the bed. She was opposite of the girl sleeping in a curled-up position, in the process of reading something. Her expression turned from gentle to concerned as she took in her daughter’s slightly disheveled appearance. “What happened?”
Lillie, somewhat nervously, rubbed the back of her head and smiled weakly. “We ran into some trouble.”
As a credit to her mother’s progressing health, she listened until the very end of what Lillie told her without blowing up in anger. Instead, she merely rubbed the bridge between her eyes and frowned. “I’m going to give her such a scolding.”
Lillie, now sitting next to her mother on the bed, shook her head at that. “No, I should have paid more attention to my surroundings and returned Bewear when she was getting away from me. I just got distracted by the Sandshrew and lost track of her. She didn’t mean for that to happen and I didn’t really get hurt.”
Which was true enough. The pain in her shoulder had eased a lot and would probably be healed with a good night’s rest. Really, all of the Pokémon were hurt worse than her.
“Maybe not, but if I don’t scold her then she won’t learn from what she did.” Lusamine sighed, placing one hand over her eye to rub it. “At least you’re safe. After the talk with Gladion, I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it if you were hurt because I didn’t stay with you.”
“You talked to Gladion?”
Her eyes softened for a moment, glistening. “Not so much a talk as him scolding me. But I’ll make things right once I’ve found your father.” She slowly shook her head and then went back to normal. “Anyway, what do you plan to do next?”
“I figured that I would set-up my Pokégear while I waited for the Pokémon to finish healing,” Lillie said. “Then I should get snacks for all of them, since they worked so hard, and I need to apologize to Shuckle for what Bewear did.”
“I recall seeing a market not too far from here.” Lusamine rose out of the bed and stood up straight. “I’ll go and pick some things up for all of them. You stay here and keep an eye on the girl. She’s been stirring in her sleep, so I assume she’ll wake soon.”
That said, Lusamine left out and Lillie proceeded go over the functions of the Pokégear through the manual. The Map Mode showed both Kanto and Johto as a whole, plus the capability to mark certain locations as important. It also had the ability to add additional apps to check on things like train routes and time as well with the proper expansion.
The Communication Mode also covered the Kanto and Johto region, but she couldn’t use it to call long-distance. That meant she’d need to use one in the center or at the hotel if she wanted to call Miss Wicke or her brother or the others in Alola. She could remember Professor Kukui and Burnet’s numbers easily enough, but not Hau or Elio—which she regretted since she missed them both.
She dwelled on the time she spent with them and felt a little nostalgic until she heard the girl in the bed across from her stirring awake. The pale-skinned girl rose up with a yawn, stretching her arms up high before opening her eyes. After taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, her ruby-red eyes eventually settled on Lillie.
“How are you feeling?” Lillie asked.
“Fine,” she said. Her stomach, however, loudly rebutted with a grumble that was audible to all of them. Having been caught in a lie, she blushed. “Okay, maybe a little hungry. But where am I and who are you?”
“My name is Lillie and you’re in a Pokémon Center,” Lillie said. “My mother and I found you on Route 11. You were asleep on the ground and a Drowzee was feeding off of your dreams. Mother and your Sableye brought you back here to rest until the Hypnosis wore off.”
“Oh… right, I remember seeing that Drowzee now.” She sat on the bed properly and looked around some more until she found the ball that had her Sableye. The lid opened when she pressed the button on it and Sableye popped out of it, splaying on the floor and sleeping. She leaned over and shook its shoulder. “Jet, it’s time to wake up.”
“Saa?” The Sableye leaned up just long enough to look around and see where it was. Then it brushed her off with a wave, turning away from her, laying back down, and scratching its hips.
She puffed out her cheek and shook it again before it could fall asleep once more. “If you’re going to be lazy then I won’t give you any Rock Candy.”
The Sableye popped up and its mouth opened, yawning and revealing its razor-sharp teeth as it scratched its back.
She bobbed her head in satisfaction at the response, causing her poofy pigtails to bounce, and asked, “Did you manage to catch that Sandshrew?”
It shook its head and pointed to Lillie. “Sable, sa.”
“One of my Mother’s Pokémon was also tracking down a Sandshrew and they caught your Sableye by mistake,” Lillie explained after Rotom translated for her what it said. “Sorry about that… Umm…”
“Astra,” the girl said. “And I suppose it’s fine. Jet and I can search again for our second Pokémon later on before Grandpa gets back in the morning. He’s better in the dark anyway.”
“Is Sableye your starter Pokémon then?”
She nodded. “Grandpa gave him to me for starting out on my journey a month or so ago, around when I arrived in Kanto through the port in Lavender City. I’ve only gotten my Trainer License a few days ago though, and so I was planning on getting my first badge here.”
“What a coincidence,” Lillie said. “I just arrived in Kanto myself to start mine as well, so it’s my first time in this region.”
She perked up at that. “Where from?”
“A group of islands known as the Alola region,” Lillie explained. “It’s pretty far away from here, but it’s a very nice and peaceful place. What about you?”
“I moved around a lot with Mommy and Daddy before we settled down in a place called the Oblivia region. It’s a pretty place, and I stayed in a village that had a bunch of Pichu. There was even a Pikachu that knew how to play a Ukulele.”
“Is that so?” She supposed that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that the Raichu in Alola could fly. “It sounds like a nice place.”
“It is.” Her expression softened, her smile turning sad. “When my parents didn’t come back during a storm, the people of the village helped take care of me until Grandpa found me. Especially Mister Nick. I hope they’re doing well…”
An awkward silence lingered for a moment afterwards until there was a knock on the door. “Blissey.”
“Ah, that must be for me.” Lillie got up and opened the door.
The Blissey that should have been at the counter was there with the tray containing the Pokémon that she left to be healed. She handed them to Lillie and shifted her gentle gaze to Astra, who still looked down after speaking of her home and family. The Pokémon waddled into the room and presented her egg to the girl. “Blissey.”
Astra grabbed it, tilting her head in confusion. “What’s this for?”
Rotom chimed in. Blissey is the Happiness Pokémon. Its fluffy fur coat acts as a sensor, enabling it to read the feelings of people and Pokémon. When it senses someone feeling sad, it will give them an egg. One bite of its egg will bring a smile to their face, zzzt.
“Oh, I see. You sensed I was feeling sad.” She put on a smile for the Happiness Pokémon. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to enjoy it.”
Lillie watched as Astra looked over the large egg in her hands while Blissey left out. She seemed ready to crack it open, which made sense when Lillie considered how her stomach had grumbled minutes ago. But the girl paused as she looked over to Lillie. “Is something wrong?”
“Actually, this is a little too big for me to eat alone.” She held the egg out towards Lillie. “Do you want to share it between me and Jet?”
“Ah, I… wouldn’t mind, but…” Lillie looked at the four balls in her care at the moment. “Can I split mine between the Pokémon and Rotom? My mother will be back soon with snacks for them, but it wouldn’t feel right to eat before them.”
“Sure,” she said with a bright smile. “The more the merrier, and I want to see what kind of Pokémon you have.”